Syrian Army begins storming strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:00 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has begun the important battle to capture the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun in southern Idlib.

Led by the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army began storming Khan Sheikhoun from its western axis after securing much of the territory around the city.

According to a military source near the front-lines, the Syrian Arab Army has already scored an advance at the western outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun, capturing a checkpoint from the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham.

The source added that the Russian Air Force is also active in the southern countryside of Idlib, as they help the Syrian military by bombing the militant reinforcements and bases around Khan Sheikhoun.

The Syrian Arab Army lost Khan Sheikhoun during the 2014 militant offensive in southern Idlib.

Khan Sheikhoun is a high priority for the Syrian military’s high command because of its location along the strategic Hama-Idlib Highway.

If the Syrian Arab Army is successful in this military endeavor, they will not only control a major city along the Hama-Idlib Highway, but they will also have cutoff the main militant supply line to the northern countryside of the Hama Governorate.

Furthermore, by capturing Khan Sheikhoun, the Syrian Army will also isolate the Turkish military’s observation post in the town of Morek.

However, a source from the Syrian Army told Al-Masdar that the Turkish military will still have access to the Hama-Idlib Highway because of their deal with the Russian Armed Forces.

MAP UPDATE: TIGER FORCES CONTINUE THEIR PUSH TO ENCIRCLE KHAN SHAYKHUN

18.08.2019

Map Update: Tiger Forces Continue Their Push To Encircle Khan Shaykhun

Click to see the full-size image

The Tiger Forces and their allies have liberated the farms of Nijm, Nisr and al-Safar, as well as the Nar Hill (Tal Nar) in southern Idlib. By this advance, government forces made another step in a long road to cut off the M5 highway and encircle the town of Khan Shaykhun and other militant positions to the south of it.

Syrian Army within 1 km of Khan Sheikhoun after new advance

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:35 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is within one kilometer of the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun in southern Idlib, a military source told Al-Masdar News this evening.

According to the source, the Syrian Arab Army’s advance this evening has put them in position for a potential attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

The Cost of Dental Implants in Montreal Might Surprise You
Led by the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army was able to capture the Khan Sheikhoun Farms this evening after resuming their offensive in the southern countryside of the Idlib Governorate.

At the same time, the Syrian Army has begun storming the nearby town of Rakaya and the hilltop of Tal Nar, which are both located northwest of Khan Sheikhoun.

If the Syrian Army does storm Khan Sheikhoun, it will be from the city’s western axis, as their advance to the eastern flank of the city has currently been forestalled by the jihadist rebels near Sukayk.

The jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Rouse the Believers launched a big counter-offensive on Saturday morning to retake Sukayk.

While they were unable to retake Sukayk, they did manage to retake some points north of the town.

Syrian War Report – August 16, 2019: Militant Groups Lose Lots Of Equipment In Southern Idlib

Units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Tiger Forces, backed up by the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces, have liberated Umm Zaytunah and Kafr Tab, and advanced on Abedin and Madaya in southern Idlib.

Meanwhile, the SAA repelled an militants attack on its positions around Sukayk and Tell Sukayk. The attack was conducted by joint forces of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Wa Harid al-Muminin, known for their links with al-Qaeda, and the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation.

So-called ‘democratic rebels’ used a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device driven by a suicide bomber to blow up SAA positions near Sukayk, but were not able to develop this tactical success and turn the situation in the area to own favor.

The SAA liberated Sukayk last week. Since then, militants have undertaken several attempts to recapture it. All of them failed.

Two battle tanks, two up-armored vehicles and three pick-up trucks belonging to militants were eliminated by the SAA in recent clashes west of Khan Shaykhun.

Units of the Russian Military Police and the Turkish military conducted on August 14 a joint patrol around the key city of Tell Rifaat in northern Aleppo, chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria announced.

“On August 14, 2019, from 12:00 to 12:40, the Russian and Turkish military police units jointly patrolled the Tell Rifaat deconfliction zone,” Maj. Gen. Alexei Bakin said adding that the patrol’s route ran between the villages of Herbol and Shaykh Issa, east of Tell Rifaat.

Tell Rifaat is one of the biggest urban centers in northern Aleppo. It is jointly controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the SAA. Units of the Russian Military Police have been deployed near the city for more than two years now.

At the same time, the Turkish military and Turkish proxies see the town as one of the high priority targets in the even of escalation in the area.

Last year, Russia and Turkey reached an initial agreement that would allow civilians to return to their houses in Tell Rifaat and de-escalate the situation. The recent developments may indicate that the sides have reached some kind of understanding on the situation in the Tell Rifaat area.

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Syria warns US-Turkey safe zone deal is a plot for “expansionist ambitions”

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Syria warns US-Turkey safe zone deal is a plot for “expansionist ambitions”

Monday, August 12, 2019

After three days of intense negotiations in Ankara, US and Turkish officials reached an agreement on Wednesday to create a joint operations center and set up a safe zone east of the Euphrates in north eastern Syria. Deal details have not yet been disclosed.

This last minute deal between Washington and Ankara is in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement on Sunday that Turkey was prepared to carry out a unilateral cross-border operation to push back Kurdish militias on the Syrian Turkish border east of the Euphrates river, if the Washington didn’t cut ties with the Kurdish militias and create a safe zone in northern Syria.

The two NATO allies agreed that the Turkish based joint operations center would be created as soon as possible to address Turkey’s security concerns.  The safe zone would become a “peace corridor”, and efforts would be made so that Syrian refugees could return home.

However, wanting peace is just a front for Erdogan’s true motives. The Syrian government categorically rejects the deal as a blatant attack on Syria’s territorial sovereignty and warns of Erdogan’s real reasons for establishing a so-called safe-zone on Syrian soil.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said “The agreement constitutes a partnership between the US and Turkey over aggression against Syria that would serve the interest of the Israeli occupation entity. It also reflects how evasive and misleading the policies of the Turkish regime are.”

On Thursday an official Syrian source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told SANA “Syria expresses categorical rejection of the agreement announced by the US and Turkish occupations on establishing the so-called [safe zone] which constitutes a blatant aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and a flagrant violation of the principles of international law and the UN Charter,”.

Turkey is using the excuse of protecting its borders against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who Turkey views as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to fulfill its long-term mission of expanding its territory by invading and balkanizing its sovereign neighbor.

Many nations including the United States, who designated the PKK as a terrorist group in 1997, and Turkey who has been in conflict with the PKK since their inception in 1984, consider them to be a terrorist organization.

Another Turkish goal is to replace the indigenous diverse ethnic population in northern Syrian with extremists that are sympathetic to Erdogan, like we have seen in Afrin and other towns on Turkey’s border in northern Syria.

Erdogan’s plans for invasion and annexation will put Christian minorities in danger, some of whom can trace their lineage back to the original inhabitants of this land. However, Kurdish militias have also targeted them by using forced conscription and other Daesh-like intimidation tactics. The Kurdish Connection: Israel, ISIS And U.S. Efforts To Destabilize Iran explains more about how Kurdish militias have been used by the US to achieve their own objectives in the Middle East.

statement issued by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states “This agreement has very clearly exposed the US-Turkish partnership in the aggression against Syria which serves the interest of the Israeli occupation entity and the Turkish expansionist ambitions and it unequivocally exposed the misleading and evasiveness which govern the policies of the Turkish regime.”

“Syria calls on the Arab people to be aware of the dangers of the expansionist ambitions of the Turkish regime which is spreading the killing and chaos in different parts of the Arab world from Syria to Libya and the Sudan and it will not stop till it will satisfy its illusions on reviving the Ottoman Sultanate,” the source said.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative concluded by saying that “Syria calls on the international community and the UN to condemn the US-Turkish flagrant aggression which constitutes a dangerous escalation and poses a threat to peace and security in the region and the world and hinders all positive efforts for finding a solution to the crisis in Syria.”

All the major players involved in the proxy war in Syria, including Turkey, Russia, and Iran want the US to leave, except of course the US-backed Kudish SDF which are just a rebranding of the YPG.

US President Donald Trump has expressed interest multiple times in a swift troop withdrawal ,and to let the local regional players figure things out. However, the war hawks surrounding him in Washington, along with the Pentagon have derailed his plans since last December. They have stressed that US interests need to be protected by having a long-term presence in the oil-rich, agriculturally rich, breadbasket of Syria, to keep an eye on Iran while protecting their ally, Israel.

As I have stated previously establishing an independent Kurdish state in Syria is just part of the decades-long Israeli-American plan to weaken and divide all the nations neighboring Israel.

Although it might seem like Russia has been uncharacteristically quiet this week regarding the latest developments with Turkey and the US in north eastern Syria, Russia has consistently stood by the Syrian government’s right to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Whether its occupation and annexation by the Kurds or Turks, Kurdification or Turkification, the Syrian government and military categorically reject any infringement on their land, and have adamantly stated they will take back every inch of Syrian territory from terrorists or occupiers.

Source: InfoBrics

 

Turkey Will Get a Chunk of Syria: An Advantage of Being in NATO

Source

July 14, 2019

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker Blog

The success of Turkey’s takeover of Syria’s most pro-jihadist province, Idlib, is making less and less likely that Syria will be able to continue maintaining Idlib as being a part of Syria. (This is something I had predicted, back on 14 September 2018, to be possible or even likely, and now it is actually happening.) On July 10th, Reuters headlined “Assad hits a wall in Syrian war as front lines harden”, and reported that, “More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded little or nothing for Assad’s side. It marks a rare case of a military campaign that has not gone his way since Russia intervened in 2015. While resisting government attacks, the insurgents have managed to carve out small advances of their own, drawing on ample stocks of guided anti-tank missiles that opposition and diplomatic sources say have been supplied by Turkey.” It continues:

Moscow has appeared keen to preserve its ties with Ankara even as its air force bombs in support of Assad: Turkey says Russia has intervened to stop attacks on Turkish forces from Syrian government-held territory. … The Idlib area is dominated by Tahrir al-Sham, the jihadists formerly known as the Nusra Front. [And before that, they were called Al Qaeda in Syria, but Western news-agencies, such as Reuters, prefer not to mention that fact, especially because the U.S. used_Nusra to train ‘our’ proxy boots-on-the-ground ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria to bring down Syria’s Government. Elsewhere, the Reuters article calls them ‘insurgents’.] Some 300,000 people fleeing bombardment have moved toward the Turkish border since April, prompting the United Nations to warn that Idlib was on the brink of a “humanitarian nightmare”.

For Ankara, the Syrian opposition’s last major state sponsor, preventing another major influx of Syrian refugees is of paramount importance: Turkey already hosts 3.6 million of them. …

A Russian private military contractor who was based near Idlib province told Reuters that rebel fighters there are far more professional and motivated than their adversary. Pro-government forces cannot win the battle for Idlib unless Moscow helps them on the ground, he said. …

Of course the regime [that’s the legitimate Government, but Western ‘news’-agencies such as Reuters call it ‘the regime’, and most of their audience don’t even recognize that their own intelligence has just been insulted by calling Syria’s Government a ‘regime’ while calling the invading regimes, Turkey and U.S., not that] has the desire to recover Idlib by force [as if the sovereign Government of Syria doesn’t have this right], but … without the Russians it can’t[those nasty Russians, who are defending Syria from U.S.-Saud-backed proxy-armies that are led mostly by Al Qaeda in Syria], because there are many militants and the Russians are completely committed to the Turks,” the source said.

Syria’s Government is fighting hard against jihadist forces in Idlib who meet Turkey’s standard of being ‘moderate rebels’ against Syria’s Government, but unless Russian forces there — which were invited in by Syria’s Government, instead of being invaders there like Turkey and the United States are — will commit far more forces for the defense of Syria (which seems increasingly unlikely), Turkey will win Idlib as being a part of Turkey.

Consequently, Turkey is already starting to build infrastructure even immediately to the north and east of Idlib in order to stake its claim to a yet larger portion of Syria than just Idlib. This might not have been part of the deal that was worked out by Russia’s Putin, Iran’s Rouhani, and Turkey’s Erdogan, in Tehran, on 9 September 2018, which agreement allowed Turkey only to take over — and only on a temporary basis — Idlib province, which is by far the most pro-jihadist (and the most anti-Assad) of Syria’s 14 provinces. Turkey was instead supposed to hold it only temporarily, but the exact terms of the Turkey-Russia-Iran agreement have never been publicly disclosed.

Until that 9 September 2018 Tehran conference, Idlib had been the province to which Syria’s Government was busing defeated jihadists who had surrendered instead of choosing to stay and die where they were. Syria’s Government had given its surrounded jihadists this final option, in order to reduce as much as possible the numbers of jihadists’ civilian hostages who would also likely be killed in an all-out bombing campaign there. So, the existing population of Idlib, which was already the most pro-jihadist in Syria, was now starting to overflow with the additional thousands of defeated jihadists who had chosen to surrender instead of to be immediately killed.

At that time, just prior to the Tehran conference — and this was actually the reason why the conference was held — the U.S. and its allies, and the U.N., were demanding that an all-out invasion of Idlib, which had been planned by the Governments of Syria and of Russia, must not take place, for ‘humanitarian’ reasons. There was all that ‘humanitarian’ concern (led by the United States) for the world’s biggest concentration of Nusra and Nusra-led jihadists — and for Syria’s most jihadist-supporting civilian population. So much ‘kindness’, such ‘admirable’ ‘humanitarianism’. Furthermore the U.S. Government was threatening to greatly increase its forces against Syria if that invasion by Syria and by Russia into Idlib (which is, after all, part of Syria — so, what business is it, even of the U.N., at all?) were to be carried out. The Tehran conference was meeting in order to resolve that emergency situation (mainly America’s threats of a possible war against Russia), so as to forestall this attack.

However, now that it’s clear that Erdogan will not  follow through on his generally understood promise that this would be only a temporary military occupation of Idlib, the question is: what can Syria and Russia and Iran do to keep Idlib inside Syria, and whether they even want to do so. If Syria loses those jihadists, then not only will it lose the perhaps hundred thousand surviving jihadists there — many of whom came from other countries in order to fight against Syria’s secular Government — but also will lose some of those Idlib natives, who were always against Syria’s secular Government. Since those people would no longer be voting against Bashar al-Assad, because they would become Turks, this would actually be a Syrian political advantage for Assad. Yet, he has been resisting it, in order to hold Syria together. He has always been committed to holding Syria together.

Turkey’s negotiating position is exceptionally strong, because Turkey now is riding the fence between the U.S. alliance, NATO (of which Turkey has been the only predominantly Muslim member ever since it joined in 1952), versus Russia. According to a major report in English from Iran’s Fars News Agency — which had translated from published Arab sources in many countries and which report hasn’t been denied by any of them — Russia had saved Erdogan’s life on 15 June 2016, when there was a coup-attempt to get rid of him. Headlining on 20 July, just five days after the failed coup, “Erdogan Warned of Incoming Coup by Russian Alert”, Fars said that,

Several Arab media outlets, including Rai Alyoum, quoted diplomatic sources in Ankara as saying that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known locally as the MIT, received intel from its Russian counterpart that warned of an impending coup in the Muslim state.

The unnamed diplomats said the Russian army in the region had intercepted highly sensitive army exchanges and encoded radio messages showing that the Turkish army was readying to stage a coup against the administration in Ankara.

The exchanges included dispatch of several army choppers to President Erdogan’s resort hotel to arrest or kill the president.

In any case, after that event, Turkey’s foreign policies definitely switched away from being clearly U.S.-allied, to being on the fence and calculated purely to serve Turkey’s advantage, no longer tied, at all, to NATO or the U.S., and, in many important respects, very much contrary to the U.S. regime. In fact, Erdogan has been emphatic that this coup had been led by Fethullah Gulen, a billionaire Muslim cleric, formerly allied with Erdogan, who since moving to the U.S. in 1999 has been his bitter enemy. In fact, some of NATO’s forces in Turkey were participating in the attempted coup. However, Erdogan holds on tenaciously to that NATO membership, because it gives Turkey enormous leverage it can use in order to grab territory from Syria, which the U.S. regime wants Turkey to do.

Here is how Erdogan has clearlly committed Turkey to taking at least parts of Syria’s northeast:

On 6 June 2018, Reuters headlined “Turkish university to open campus in northern Syria” and reported that, “Turkey’s Harran University, in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa [Turkey], said it is preparing to open a faculty in Al-Bab [Syria] for students in towns under Turkish control. … The Turkish cabinet has also approved opening a vocational high school in Jarablus [Syria] affiliated with Gaziantep University, Turkey’s official gazette said on Tuesday.”

On 30 July 2018, Syria.LiveuaMap headlined “Turkey start[s] to build highways starting from Cobanbey-al-Bab to Jarablus-Manbij in Syria” — all of which is in the parts of Syria’s north that Turkey controls.

On 23 May 2019, Gaziantep University posted an announcement of “The Global Syrian Refugee Crisis” conference to be held in Gaziantep, Turkey, on 14-18 October 2019, and also announced that: “The medium of instruction of our university is entirely English in %80 of faculties and Turkish in some faculties. However, after the ferocious civil war in Syria, we opened four departments (Engineering, Architecture, Administration and Theology) that teach in Arabic language. This was achieved by hiring Syrian academic staff in these programs which created opportunities for refugee students who want to continue their studies in Arabic.” So, it does seem to be Erdogan’s intention that directly across the border in Syria, this part of what has, until recently, been a part of Syria, is to be instead a part of Turkey. This would be the chief favorable outcome for the U.S. regime resulting from the Syrian portion of the CIA-planted “Arab Spring” rebellions in 2011.

On 27 May 2019, the Daily Sabah headlined “Turkey to Build New Faculties to Promote Higher Education in Northern Syria” and reported that

Gaziantep University, located in southern Turkey close to the Syrian border, decided to offer education for Syrians living in the northern part of the war-torn country, the areas that were liberated by Turkey’s two cross-border operations. … 

The university applied to Turkish education officials to set up four faculties in northern Syria’s al-Bab, Azaz and Mare districts, which is planned to focus on economics, business, teaching and engineering; some 2,700 prospective students have already taken proficiency exams. The faculties will be the second move by Gaziantep University as it previously opened a vocational school last year in Aleppo’s Jarablus district. While vocational education currently continues in five departments, the university is planning to expand it with four more and to provide education for 500 students.

In 2016, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield and cleared about 2,000 kilometers of area in northern Syria, which was once dragged into darkness by the Daesh terrorist organization.

This seems to reflect Syria’s actual capitulation to Turkey, which henceforth is to control that area — permanently. The only question now is how large the seized area will turn out to be.

The first person, it seems, who recognized quickly the significance of this takeover was the tweeter “domihol” who on 28 May 2019 posted

Turkey is also throwing serious money at its seemingly permanent slice of Syria.

You don’t build universities just so Damascus can take it over soon.

Right below that is his:

I’m sorry to say – my prediction for Syria’s near and possibly medium term future still holds …

Dominic | دومينيك added,

[15 December 2018]  prediction:

TRUMP gets the oil & gas

ERDOGAN gets the water

PUTIN gets the “mission accomplished” moment …

9:49 AM – 28 May 2019

However, his predictions there (as is routine for tweets, which are good for communicating only bumper-stickers) are unsupported by anything. For example: Where is Turkey’s oil and gas? Is it actually anywhere near to the Turkish border? Here’s a map which shows where it is, and that’s certainly not near the Turkish border.

In addition, the U.S. regime is evidently preparing to assist Turkey’s takeover of parts of Syria, but focuses it specifically against Iran. On 24 May 2019, the U.S. State Department advertised a “Grant Opportunity” for NGOs to be “Supporting Local Governance and Civil Society in Syria” and are offering up to $75 million to each, in order to “Counter extremism and disinformation perpetuated by Iranian forces” and “End the presence of Iranian forces and proxies in Syria” and otherwise support America’s war against Iran. Perhaps the U.S. and Turkey have agreed that U.S. operations against Syria will continue in the Turk-seized areas after the U.S. occupation of the remaining parts of Syria has ended.

If Assad were to give a press conference now, the first question to ask would be: “Is Syria going to allow Turkish universities and highways to be built on Turk-seized Syrian territory?” Because, if the answer to that is anything like yes, then not only would it seem that Turkey has won against Syria and Russia and Iran, but so too has the U.S., whose fall-back position, ever since it first tried a coup in Syria in 1949, has been to at least break off a piece of Syria, when and if it failed to take the whole thing. The construction of a Turkish university, highway, and/or etc., in Syria, would be a huge apparent win for Donald Trump, but an even bigger apparent victory for Tayyip Erdogan, who now seems to be, yet again, a member of America’s alliance against Russia. (And Iran, too, would seem to be endangered by Syria’s apparent defeat in that part of Syria. But maybe not: is Turkey going to end altogether its alliance with the U.S.?)

Usually, successful aggression is impossible without allies, and the U.S., again, seems to have Turkey as one — and as an extremely important one (more important, perhaps, than ever before).

The U.S. Government wants to remove land from Syria’s Government. The Turkish Government wants to be the Government that actually takes it. So, U.S. and Turkey seem to have made a deal. Turkey took Syrian territory while promising (as the Qatar regime’s Al Jazeera headlined on 5 June 2018 — “YPG confirms withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij after Turkey-US deal”). Al Jazeera reported there that, “The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said its military advisers would leave the town of Manbij a day after Turkey and the United States said they reached an agreement on the armed group’s withdrawal.” Those two foreign invaders against Syria (Turkey and U.S.) came to this agreement in Washington DC, regarding their respective invasions: Turkish forces won’t conquer YPG (separatist-Kurd) forces in any part of Syria unless and until that part has already become instead a part of Turkey — swallowed-up by Turkey. The U.S. will be protecting those Kurds until the U.S. ends its military occupation of Syria. After that, those Kurds will be on their own.

Back on 10 January 2018, Elijah J. Magnier had commented,

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad also considers Turkey to be another occupying force in northern Syria. He would like to liberate the entire Syrian territory, which is not the case with Russia, which would prefer to end the war as soon as possible and undertake the work at the negotiating table.”

Magnier seems to have been correct: Russia appears not to be objecting to Turkey’s land-seizures in Syria. Therefore, Turkey is a “middle-man” between both U.S. and Russia — strategizing with both.

On 19 January 2018, Tony Cartalucci commented,

The Syrian government with support from its Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies has embarked on a major military operation to retake parts of Syria’s northern governorate of Idlib. As it does so, the US and its regional allies are rushing to position themselves to ensure the permanent partition of Syria is achieved.”

He continued (all of which has likewise subsequently been borne out):

It should be noted that Afrin is located between [Idlib and] territory Turkey is currently occupying. Turkish troops, should they seize Afrin [which they soon did], would effectively have expanded Turkey’s “Euphrates Shield” by 30 miles (53 km) and present an opportunity for its troops to link up with troops of Turkey’s “Idlib Shield.” This would create a large, singular buffer zone within which US-NATO forces could harbor militants driven back by Syria’s most recent offensive.

Depending on Turkey’s success, the zone could be expanded even further, even as far as including Idlib city itself[which happened in September of that year] – thus granting the US an opportunity to present it as a second Syrian “capital” much in the way Benghazi was used in Libya during US-led regime change there. There remains, however, the fact that Idlib is openly occupied and administered by Al Qaeda, making the proposal of transforming it into an “opposition capital” particularly dubious.

Meanwhile, the US itself continues its own uninvited, illegal occupation of Syrian territory east of the Euphrates, having previously justified the invasion and occupation of Syrian territory under the guise of fighting the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS). …

The US occupation of Syrian territory will be difficult for Damascus and its allies to contest without being drawn into a direct military confrontation. Turkey’s occupation may be easier to confound, but if sufficient political will exists to maintain it along with US backing, it could effectively result in a Golan Heights-style occupation of Syrian territory [by Turkey] that provides a long-term geopolitical pressure point versus Damascus for years to come.

And while US efforts to destroy Syria have fallen short, the US now permanently occupies territory within one of Iran’s closest and most important regional allies. Like a splinter under the skin turning septic, the US occupation will remain a constant potential source of wider infection both for Syria and the rest of the region.

Perhaps Cartalucci was the first person publicly to recognize what has been happening here.

On 8 February 2018, Russia’s RT bannered, “US-led coalition conducts ‘defensive’ airstrikes against Syrian forces”, and reported,

The US-led coalition has also firmly stressed its ‘non-negotiable right to act in self-defense,’ since its service members are embedded with the [anti-Syrian] ‘partners’ on ground in Syria. … ‘It’s very likely that the Americans have taken a course of dividing the country. They just gave up their assurances, given to us, that the only goal of their presence in Syria – without an invitation of the legitimate government – was to defeat Islamic State and the terrorists,’ Lavrov said.

All of this, likewise, has since been borne out. Key was the September 2018 Tehran summit of Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani (Syria not even being represented there), to decide how to handle Syria’s most pro-jihadist province: Idlib. (It’s even more jihadist than Raqqah, where ISIS was headquartered, and which is the second-most-jihadist.)

On 9 September 2018, the Turkish-Government-controlled (and this also means anti-Syrian) Daily Sabah newspaper bannered “The outcome of the Tehran summit” and reported that:

We know for a fact that Erdoğan’s goal was to prevent the Russians and the Assad regime from carrying out a comprehensive operation in Idlib. In this sense, he got what he wanted. At the joint press conference, the Russian president announced that the three countries, at the request of President Erdoğan, urged all parties to lay down their arms. As such, it became possible to prevent another humanitarian disaster, a new influx of refugees, the collapse of the Astana process [which Putin had established to replace the U.N.’s peace process immediately after Obama bombed on 17 September 2016 Syria’s Army at Deir Ezzor, thus violating the ceasefire agreement that his Secretary of State John Kerry had just signed with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on 9 September 2016and the radicalization of moderate opposition, who would have moved closer to the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) [Al Qaeda in Syria]. At the same time, a clear distinction was made between ‘terrorists’ and opposition groups. At the same time, there is no doubt that the Iranian president’s proposal to remove the United States from the east of the Euphrates river was in line with Erdoğan’s own agenda.

Actually, however, the truthfulness of that last sentence is still very much in doubt.

The ultra-reliable Al Masdar News reported on 10 September 2018 that

Russia and Iran have already informed Turkey that they will not accept any jihadist factions inside of Idlib; however, the latter is attempting to convince Moscow and Tehran to avoid carrying out the attack in favor of Ankara clearing these groups.”

Putin and Rouhani accepted Erdogan’s promise there (of “Ankara clearing those groups”), and consequently allowed Turkey’s troops to handle Idlib. But, evidently, Erdogan had been lying about that. He didn’t eliminate the jihadists — he has instead been protecting them (except that his forces attack the Kurdish-independence forces against Syria’s Government, the anti-Assad fighters whom Erdogan authentically has been obsessed to kill).

The very next day, on September 11th, Paul Mansfield at Syria News headlined “Erdogan Buys Time for Terrorists at the Tehran Summit” and he observed that

The Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah released the components of Turkey’s plan for Idlib. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it effectively means annexing Syrian territory, entrenching Turkish proxy Free Syrian Army forces, while falsely legitimizing their presence through a trilateral agreement, one made (it should be mentioned) without the presence of the country it concerns: Syria.

On 18 September 2018, another of the Turkish regime’s major newspapers, Yeni Safak, headlined “Turkey tells 50,000 FSA fighters to be ready for deployment as tensions rise in Idlib” and reported that,

As the Assad regime and Russian warplanes viciously attack the last opposition-held stronghold of Syria’s Idlib, Turkey ramped up its military reinforcements in northern Syria and instructed over 50,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) [that being the Turkish-led anti-Assadfighters stationed in Afrin, Azaz, Jarabulus, al-Bab and al-Rai to ‘be ready for military deployment.’”

This anti-Syrian report continued, “The Bashar al-Assad regime recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive in Idlib, which is controlled by various armed opposition groups.” It didn’t mention that those “armed opposition groups” were the members of Al Qaeda-led forces defeated elsewhere in Syria who had chosen to be bused by the Syrian Government into the most pro-jihadist Syrian province, Idlib, instead of to be outright shot to death on-the-spot by Syrian troops, where they had been fighting. Such crucial information was left out of Western news-reports.

It went on: “An attack on Syria’s Idlib, the last opposition-held stronghold, would be a massacre,” and (since this newspaper reflected Erdogan’s anti-Assad, meaning anti-Syrian, viewpoint) it alleged that “Russia and Assad regime target civilians” instead of try to exterminate jihadists — especially now in Idlib itself, to which Syria’s Government had, indeed, been busing the surviving defeated jihadists. (As was previously noted, the only alternative that Syria’s Government had had regarding those hold-out fighters would have been simply to go in and slaughter not only them but the human shields behind whom they were fighting, which would have enormously increased the civilian casualties, which the ‘barbaric’ Assad-led Government was always trying to avoid doing. So: that’s how and why so many of the Al Qaeda-led forces came to be collected inside Idlib to begin with.)

NOTE:

Erdogan might be a double-agent here. But how could Turkey be building infrastructure in Syria and not be permanently taking that land? All of those “seems to be” could be wrong, but it’s hard to see how Syria’s Government could accept any such blatant grab of land away from their nation. I had written on 14 September 2018 about Erdogan’s duplicity, headlining “U.S. Protects Al Qaeda in Syria, Proven”:

Erdogan is in both camps — America’s and Russia’s — and playing each side against the other, for what he wants. But he could turn out to be the biggest loser from ‘his’ success here.

If he exterminates Idlib’s jihadists, then the U.S. side will condemn him for it. But if he instead frees those jihadists to return to their home-countries, then both sides will condemn him for having done so.

The biggest apparent ‘winner’ from all this, Erdogan, could thus turn out to be the biggest real loser from it. And the biggest apparent ‘loser’ from it, Assad, could turn out to be the biggest real winner from it.

Then, three days later, on September 17th, I argued that the big winners from this will probably be Putin, Erdogan, Rouhani, and Assad. The headline of that was “Putin and Erdogan Plan Syria-Idlib DMZ as I Recommended”, and the basic case was presented that this would turn out to be only a feint on Erdogan’s part, and that he and Putin and Rouhani (and Assad) would all benefit from this feint by Erdogan, and take home the win. It still could be that. But only Erdogan himself probably knows. And who can read his mind? The main sign I would look at is whether Putin and Rouhani just ignore, as much as possible, Turkey’s ‘seizures’ of Idlib and of the most-jihadist parts of Aleppo province bordering Idlib to Idlib’s immediate east. (For example, this fundamentalist-Sunni family from Sweida — which is perhaps the most pro-jihadist southern province — migrated during the war to Al-Bab, which is Turk-controlled.) If Putin and Rouhani ignore Turkey’s solidification of its control over those areas of northwestern Syria, then this is how the U.S. side and proxy forces — jihadists and Kurdish fanatics — might lose in Syria, and be forced out of there. This Turkish ‘win’ would entail a loss for both the U.S. and its proxy-forces, especially the Kurds. But it would also entail Syria’s loss of the areas that were always the greatest thorn in Assad’s side. In that case, America’s former proxy-forces in northwest Syria — Al Qaeda’s surviving Syrian forces, plus the separatist Kurdish forces — would henceforth be under Erdogan’s control. If Putin, Rouhani and Assad won’t object to that, then the main loser could be the U.S. regime, which would cede to Erdogan not only America’s last holdout in Syria but also all of its proxy-forces in Syria, henceforth to be totally subject to whatever Erdogan has in mind for them. However, the biggest losers could still be the Turkish and the American regimes. But that would be true only if the surrounded U.S. forces in Syria’s northeast become forced out. If the U.S. occupation stays in Syria, then the U.S. and Turkey will have taken all of northern Syria. But no oil or gas is there, either. (It’s south of there.) What, consequently, is this war even about, any longer? Is it about contending national leaders who refuse to acknowledge defeat? Is that now the only real reason for all of this ongoing death, and destruction? Is it just pure ego?

If Turkey quits NATO, then the biggest loser from the end-part of the Syrian war would be the U.S. and its allies. But, of course, the biggest losers from the entire war are the Syrian people. There’s no doubt, whatsoever, about that.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Iran’s battle strategy in Syria and its impact

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:30 A.M.) – At the start of 2013, the Syrian War was looking unfavorable for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), as a militant offensive in Aleppo cutoff the city from all government supply lines and the strategic East Ghouta region had all but fallen to Jaysh Al-Islam and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Making matters worse, the government had lost most of Syria’s northern border with Turkey and their western border with Lebanon. This would later prove to be a major issue for the military as foreign militants were pouring into the country from these regions.

Enter Hezbollah and Iran

The Spring of 2013 would prove to be an important period in the Syrian War. Both Hezbollah and Iran would enter the conflict on the side of the government and help the Syrian military regain the initiative in Homs, Aleppo, and Damascus.

Hezbollah’s deployment to Syria helped the government regain the Lebanese border by capturing the strategic crossing at Al-Qusayr, followed by Tal Kalakh and the majority of the Qalamoun Mountains.

The Lebanese group also provided reinforcements to several areas across the country in order to help stabilize these fronts.

While Hezbollah’s entry into the Syrian conflict is often viewed as the first time foreign fighters had entered the war, this is indeed false. Militants from several countries across the world had already entered Syria and began fighting alongside the rebel forces.

Several of these foreign fighters would later join jihadist groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh).

However, unlike Hezbollah, Iran would play a pivotal role behind the scenes in 2013, offering their military advisers to help Damascus concoct a new battle plan.

The plan would focus on a four-corners strategy that would see the Syrian military maintain a presence in four corners of the country, giving the government an area of influence despite the absence of supply routes.

Four Corners Strategy

From 2013 to 2017, the Syrian government maintained a presence in several parts of the country. Since it was difficult to maintain control over the vast desert and mountainous regions, the strategy was to focus on the major cities and spreading out the militants so that the army could regain critical areas around the capital city.

It may appear a bit unorthodox, but the strategy ultimately helped the Syrian military maintain a presence in eastern Syria, where the U.S. and its allies attempted to expand across during the war with ISIS.

For example, the Syrian military kept a presence in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, despite the fact they were surrounded by the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG)

While the Syrian military and the YPG were not fighting each other and their presence in Al-Hasakah was only threatened by ISIS, the army’s decision to stay inside Deir Ezzor city after losing their supply lines from Homs raised a few questions at the time.

Thousands of Syrian troops were besieged in Deir Ezzor and ordered to continue fighting ISIS from 2015 to 2017 when the siege was finally lifted. Prior to the arrival of the Russian Armed Forces in September of 2015, the Deir Ezzor front was under daily attacks by the Islamic State, leaving many to fear for the lives of the people and troops inside the city.

Had the army made the decision to retreat from Deir Ezzor city, ISIS could have sent their forces to other fronts and expanded their presence inside of Syria. Furthermore, it allowed the Syrian Army to maintain control of the city once the U.S.-led Coalition began expanding south of Al-Hasakah.

Finally, the entry of the Russian Armed Forces would play a decisive role in the conflict, as the Syrian Arab Army was able to finally launch multiple offensives to regain most of the country.

Present Day

Iran still desires a complete military victory in Syria, but with the continued Israeli attacks on their positions in the country and U.S. economic pressure through sanctions, the Islamic Republic has been forced to take a more defensive role in the region.

This defensive role has allowed Russia to champion the recent Syrian military operations, while they concentrate on other matters, including the proxy war in the eastern part of the country.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JULY 5, 2019: BRITISH MARINES SEIZED IRANIAN OIL TANKER

South Front

On July 4, a detachment of Royal Marines and the authorities in Gibraltar seized a supertanker suspected of carrying oil to Syria on the belief it was breaching EU sanctions. 30 Royal Marines from 42 Commando were involved in the operation targeting Grace 1 that had sailed from Iran. The operation was made upon request from the US and the UK. If the oil on board is confirmed to be Iranian, the tanker would also be violating a US ban on Iranian oil exports.

Later, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran, Rob Macaire, over the incident describing it as an “illegal seizure”. Nonetheless, it’s unlikely that the tanker will be released soon. Such operations mark the start of a new round of pressure campaign on the government of the Bashar al-Assad as well as Iranian oil exports in the region.

On July 3 and July 4, a fighting broke out between the Turkish-backed militant group known as the National Syrian Army and joint forces of the Syrian Army and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) near the town of Hazwan in northern Aleppo. Turkish-backed militants admitted that at least 2 of their fighters were killed.

The army and the YPG jointly control an area between Afrin and the eastern countryside of al-Bab. Some Russian Military Police units are also deployed in key positions there. Tensions at the contact line between this area and the Turkish-occupied part of Syria grow after every successful attack of Kurdish rebels on Turkish targets in Afrin.

Several senior commanders of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) have inspected the frontlines with the Syrian Army in northwestern Hama. The TIP released photos of the visit on July 2. They faces of the commanders are blurred but they may have been Abu Rida al-Turkistani and Ibrahim Mansour, the top commanders of the TIP.

The interesting fact is that the visit took place in the area near to the Turkish military observation post in Shir Mughar. It confirms the freedom of movement that terrorist groups have under the nose of Turkish troops that allegedly deployed there to prevent such developments. Under the demilitarized zone agreement radicals like the TIP and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham have to be withdrawn from the contact line. Nonetheless, this has never happened.

Explaining Russia’s Position on Idlib

June 04, 2019

by Ollie Richardson for The Saker Blog

Explaining Russia’s Position on Idlib

Over the past five years my work in the information space has been consciously aimed at explaining why the Russian military does and doesn’t do certain things, whether it be in relation to Ukraine, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, etc, and why demanding that Putin bombs everything in sight is exactly what the CIA wants so-called “pro-Russians” to say. Yet I haven’t exhausted (maybe I never will exhaust it?) this topic because it is so vast and, ultimately, complex. And it is because of this seemingly insurmountable complexity that questions like “Why doesn’t Russia liberate all of Ukraine”“Why doesn’t Russia save Donetsk and Lugansk in the same way it saved Crimea?”“Why doesn’t Russia boot America out of Syria?”, etc are asked on social media.

But one statement that I haven’t really addressed (until now) is “Why doesn’t Russia liberate all of Idlib in one fell swoop?”. Many “geniuses” like to say that Putin is in bed with the “Ottoman butcher” Erdogan and has thus “betrayed Syria”, similar to how shaking hands with Netanyahu means that Putin is a Zionist and has “betrayed Syria”, or even that a visit of the Saudi King to Moscow means that Putin has the blood of Yemen on his hands.

So, those “pro-Russian” readers who fear that they may be one step ahead of the Kremlin and can see an iceberg on the horizon needn’t worry – another Putin-esque zugswang is in progress!

When Russia sent its aviation to Hmeymim airbase in Syria in 2015 the primary mission was simple: remove Turkey – the main belligerent – from the game. Ankara benefited from ISIS’ theft of Syrian oil and controlled many jihadist groups on the ground (Ahrar al-Sham being the main one). Then in November 2015 the CIA (via the PM at the time Ahmet Davutoğlu) decided to float a test balloon and see how Russia would react to a carefully designed scenario. A Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24. It didn’t matter if the Turkish jet was in Syrian airspace or not, as Moscow knew exactly what had happened, and all the other players knew that Moscow knew. The actual murder of one of the ejecting Russian pilots was carried out by a proxy (a Grey Wolf), and not by a Turkish soldier. But in any case, this test miserably failed, because Russia did not react in a way that would contravene international law (the immediate response happened hours after the shootdown – Russian “advisors” and Syrian troops went to Latakia with MLRS and wiped out the “terrorists who were responsible”, who just happened to be Turkmen). Since military operations generally take place within the framework of economic conflicts (securing assets), the manner in which Russia responded to Turkey in the format état-à-état was the equivalent of what the lunatic Zhirinovsky suggested to do, just without the war crimes.

The sanctions on Turkey (aimed at the CIA-Gulen bloc in reality) negated what Ankara was gaining from stealing Syrian oil, and so the Syrian theater became a zero-sum game for Erdogan. In May 2016 Davutoğlu was removed from the picture. Erdogan was forced to take part in the Astana Agreement and start the process of throwing his proxies in Syria under the bus (or onto green buses!) within the framework of what was given the reputation-saving name of “de-escalation zones”.

This was Moscow’s way of countering the game orchestrated by John Kerry, where a pocket in Eastern Syria would magically open (ISIS would go on an offensive) at a time when al-Nusra was on the ropes in Western Syria. This tactic hoped to tire out the Syrian Army and Russian “advisors” and maximise their casualties. Whilst never admitted in public by Moscow (naturally), “de-escalation zones” actually meant “we will liberate Aleppo and thus recapture all of the ‘useful’ (where most people live, in the West) part of Syria, after which the pace of the theater will have been slowed down enough to start work on eliminating the other players”.

After Aleppo was liberated (the Turkish-controlled groups magically withdrew), Russia continued, via the “de-escalation zones”, to whittle down the large list of terrorist groups into two categories: terrorists no longer supported by Turkey (loyal to al-Nusra leader Jolani) and tame terrorists still supported by Turkey. The former category would be shipped to Idlib via green buses, and the latter category would be used to keep the trecherous Kurds and the CIA-Mossad “Rojava” plan at bay.

In parallel to this, the Astana group managed to smash the Gulf bloc into fragments, liquidating their pet terrorist proxies in Syria and forcing them one by one to normalise relations with Assad, since the dollar is becoming a suitcase without a handle.

The question of the S-400 is more complex and isn’t just about defending Turkish skies. It symbolises more a commitment to play by the rules of the newly emerging world order (based on self-defence and international law) and to no longer indulge in the casino known as “Responsibility to Protect” (or in simpler terms – multipolarity vs unipolarity). Similarly, Turkish Stream is another example of Moscow thrusting a lance through the rotting corpse of NATO. In general, Turkey is geographically positioned almost in the center of the battle of superpowers. For Ankara, bearing in mind that the US tried to stage a coup there in 2016 and had a hand in the assasination of Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, it is more profitable to look East than it is to look West, and this was why Turkey wasn’t in a hurry to join the EU, since it saw the geopolitical storm brewing on the horizon and wasn’t prepared to kiss the ass of the IMF anymore.

So, returning back to the Syrian timeline, whilst al-Nusra was being herded into Idlib, and since Trump cut aid to US-backed terrorists, Turkey was able to monopolise the “Free Syrian Army” aesthetics (abandoned by the US) and occupy areas of Northern Syria whilst making it look like they are “Syrian rebels” and not Turkish proxies, all for the purpose of preventing the Kurds from travelling any more Westward than they already have. And here is where the array of interests becomes interesting:

  • Russia and Iran have basic diplomatic relations with the YPG/SDF (they are Syrian citizens after all) and want them to abandon the US/Tel Aviv/Riyadh;
  • The Syrian State wants the YPG/SDF to return to the bosom of the state and hand over the territories they occupy back to the Syrian Army;
  • Turkey wants the YPG/SDF removed from the picture/disbanded entirely, but has developed ties with Russia and Iran;
  • The YPG/SDF will not negotiate with Turkey unless it can hide behind America’s skirt;
  • Formally, Syria views Turkey as an aggressor, although behind the curtain Damascus has a pragmatic consensus with Moscow, which gave Turkey the green light to enter Syria in order to quell Rojava, and which is trying to stabilise the region and include all regional players in the Eurasian bloc;

Yes, it’s complicated. But here is a simple fact that helps the layperson to understand the situation: America has nuclear weapons. This is why Russia cannot stop the US from occupying Northeast Syria (which was plan B, plan A being a replica of Gaddafi’s removal, which failed after Russia cemented the Minsk Agreements in Ukraine). It can squash its proxies that are West of the Euphrates, yes, but it cannot touch US (non-proxy) assets, in the same way that Washington cannot touch Russian (non-proxy) assets. Or rather – they can directly touch each other’s assets, but any “victory” will be completely pyrrhic. From Russia’s perspective, the aim is to make friends with everyone, since the fewer enemies one has, the better.

While the core of the Turkish proxies is busy caging in (so-called “outposts”) al-Nusra militants in Idlib governorate, repelling the Kurds, and occasionally killing US soldiers, a kind of negotiation game between Turkey and Russia is ongoing:

  • Turkey needs a terroristified Idlib as leverage against all players but is happy to hand the governorate over to Assad piece by piece in exchange for pieces of the S-400/Turk Stream/general Eurasian bloc project;
  • Russia occasionally bombs Idlib in order to exercise its superior leverage over Turkey (the media presents this as “there were talks, but Russia continues to bomb Idlib”), the interim “ceasefire deals” are simply checkpoints in these grand negotiations;
  • Turkey turns a blind eye to al-Nusra’s oil operations (which feed their occupation of the governorate);
  • As an act of “hybrid war”, Russia and friends assist in the process of assassinating the commanders of al-Nusra in Idlib, since the less leverage Turkey has, the quicker the Idlib circus can end;
  • The West broadcasts propaganda about hospitals being bombed simply to cover up the fact that they have been arming and funding Al Qaeda for decades.

The “x-factor” in this conundrum is Trump’s “pull-out”. If US troops pull out of Northeast Syria completely, it would be in Russia’s interests if Turkey filled the void and proverbially herded the Kurds back towards Assad. For America, the sooner this war ends the quicker US troops can return home, but Trump won’t exit without getting something in return. However, there is a big problem – Zionism. Tel Aviv tries to keep America in Syria. Netanyahu didn’t spend all that time begging Uncle Sam to invade Iraq just for him to leave when the going got tough. Moreover, Iraq is already falling into the hands of Iran, and sooner or later the S-400 will be sat in Mesopotamia. Not to mention the fact that Russia is entrenching itself in Lebanon. Did I mention that Trump’s (purposeful?) decisions (and failed “deals of the century”) are strengthening the Palestinian resistance (example)? So what in all honesty does Israel hope to do?

Well, since everything that happened in the Middle East since 2001 (and arguably even earlier) is mainly in Israel’s interests, especially the Syrian war, it’s not a surprise that 8 years of full-scale local proxy warfare has reduced to… Israel taking aerial pot shots at a limited slice of Syrian territory. I have already explained why Russia doesn’t react to these airstrikes in the way that social media guerrillas would like, and all that has happened since is Netanyahu’s election victory. I would only add that bombing Syria became even riskier for Tel Aviv, since the SAA air defence units gain more experience with each new raid. Moscow managed to make a nice gesture to Israel, recovering from Syria the remains of an Israeli soldier missing since the 1982 war in Lebanon, but it wasn’t done for the purpose of stopping the airstrikes. It was simply a typical Russian diplomatic move based on the concept of “violence doesn’t beget violence”. Deflecting Israel’s airstrikes is the job of the Syrian air defences. The Israeli media presents this as “Russia has friendly relations with Israel and knows that Jerusalem considers Iran its leading existential threat, so does not block Israeli strikes at Iranian targets and those of its proxies, but on one condition: Stay out of Russia’s way and give ample warning so there won’t be a repeat of incidents like the one in which Syria shot down a Russian spy plane, possibly because of confusing signals by Israel”. However, in reality Russia wants Syria to become an independent adult, capable of defending itself without requiring Russia’s help, and it is only in this way that Syria will be able to successfully integrate itself into the Eurasian bloc. Of course, logically speaking, if Israel just left Syria alone and minded its own business, then Iranian forces wouldn’t even be in Syria. But I think that most know by now that Israel wanted (and maybe still wants) to carve Syria into 3 pieces along sectarian lines.

Another layer of the Israel problem is the fact that America is standing behind it (and thus the diplomatic support of many banana republics) and an illegal nuclear program, so it’s leverage when compared to Syria’s is superior, hence why the airstrikes happen in the first place. The incident with the downing of the Russian surveillance plane didn’t really change much, because Moscow knows that apartheid Israel is the main troublemaker in the Middle East (and even more so in Ukraine – those who truly understand Ukrainian history will understand why I say this), and the Syrian war coming to an end (whilst strengthening Israel’s neighbours in parallel) is in itself a blow to Tel Aviv.

What is very common to see now is countries seemingly sat on two chairs – the West and Eurasia. For example: Serbia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia show signs of looking both West and East. What is going on in reality is many tugs of war between superpowers, and the stronger Russia’s military and China’s economy become, the more it tips the scales in their favour, and the more “multipolar” the world becomes. It’s not that the US’ influence in a “converted” country disappears (the creation of NGOs is not illegal, and liberalism as an ideology cannot be physically destroyed), but more that the influence becomes less as the country adjusts to the new global economic reality. Although if Trump is indeed playing 4D chess with the “deep state” and is deliberately de-globalising the planet, then this shrinking of influence may be more fluid and less volatile than it seems.

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In summary: Turkey – the driving force behind the Anglo-Israeli proxies in Syria – was forced to abandon its plans in Syria after NATO’s Su-24 shootdown gambit failed; Ankara and Moscow now mutually exchange a piece of Idlib for a piece of S-400; the Syrian war is now at the “exit negotiations” stage, but Israel doesn’t want to be left alone with a stronger Syrian Army, Hezbollah, and Palestinian resistance at its border; Russia isn’t in a hurry to liberate Idlib, since an alternative plan is to let the jihadists kill each other like spiders in a jar, thus the lives of SAA soldiers are not put in danger unnecessarily.

PS I am well aware that Turkey creates local councilsmilitary adminstrations, and civilian infrastructure in North Syria, and I am not an advocate of such behavior but I don’t pretend to be more qualified than the Kremlin when it comes to solving such problems. I doubt that the Kurds would have behaved any different had they succeeded to create “rojava” in the summer of 2016. As for America, just look at what it has done to Raqqa and Mosul. Out of these options, I would prefer a temporary Turkish occupation, knowing that in the near future the situation would improve.

Foreign backed terrorism in Iran: Part two – US/Israeli backed insurgency and separatism in western Iran

April 18, 2019

By Aram Mirzaei for the Saker blog

Foreign backed terrorism in Iran: Part two – US/Israeli backed insurgency and separatism in western Iran

In the previous article, we examined the prevalence of US/Israeli backed terrorism in eastern Iran where Baluchi Salafists have received arms and funding from the CIA and Mossad. In this second part of the article series we will examine the US/Israeli support for terrorists and separatists in western Iran among the Kurdish ethnic group.

The Kurdish situation in western Iran

The Kurdish question in Iran is a long running one that stretches back to the WWII era. While Kurdish revolts occurred already during the 1920s these were not motivated out of nationalist sentiment but rather out of tribal opposition to the monarchy’s attempts to centralize the state of Iran. The Qajar dynasty and later the Pahlavi dynasty attempted to consolidate power around Tehran in a time when the Iranian nation was fragmented into areas of tribal and ethnic influence. Simko Shikak was one of the powerful Kurdish chieftains that with Ottoman backing led the first revolt in 1918, against the Qajar dynasty, as the Ottoman’s were fierce rivals of the severely weakened Iranian state, attempted to gain influence over western Iran. Another reason for the Ottoman involvement was motivated by the slaughter of the large Iranian Armenian population in the West Azerbaijan province of Iran. But it was not only the Ottomans that backed these separatist tribal ambitions as Tehran repeatedly called out British influence and support for the tribal rebellions. The British role was mainly motivated by their desire to remove the Qajar dynasty from power and install a new Shah that they could more easily control, thus also triumphing over the Russian Empire in the struggle for influence over Iran.

British intervention in Persia was at its height during the coup d’etat of 1921. Although the coup itself was executed by Persians, it received vital assistance from, and was probably actually initiated by, certain British military officers and officials in Iran, most importantly Major-General Sir Edmund Ironside, Commander of Norperforce, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Smyth, who was unofficially and “almost secretly” attached to the Cossacks at Qazvin, and Walter A Smart, the Oriental Secretary.

After the coup, Reza Shah Pahlavi, the new Shah of Iran ultimately crushed the Kurdish tribal rebellion and the subsequent ones imitated during 1929 and 1941. It wasn’t until 1946 when the real danger of separatism became prevalent in Iran with the Iranian crisis of 1946 and the aftermath of the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran during WWII. One of the first crises of the Cold War was initiated in 1946 when Stalin refused to relinquish occupied Iranian territory as the Soviets felt that the successor to Reza Shah Pahlavi, his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a staunch anti-communist was a danger to Soviet interests, especially with regards to the Truman doctrine. By mid-December 1945, with the use of troops and secret police, they had set up two pro-Soviet “People’s Democratic Republics” in northwestern Iran, the Azerbaijan People’s Republic headed by Sayyid Jafar Pishevari and the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad under Pesheva Qazi Muhammad and Mustafa Barzani, father to current US puppet Mahmoud Barzani who was the previous president of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq before last year’s scandalous attempt at independence for the KRG (Kurdish regional government). Though Mustafa Barzani fled Iran and went back to Iraq, so called Marxist oriented parties such as Komala and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDP-I) continued their hostilities not just with the Pahlavi regime but also later on with Islamic Republic after 1979, although these parties moved on from advocating separatism to specific demands and requests. This is due to the relatively low interest in separatism among the Kurdish public in Iran, mainly because of the close cultural, linguistic and historical relations that the Kurdish people and the rest of the Iranian society share.

Kurdish Insurrection after the Islamic Revolution and Israeli activities in western Iran

Since 2004, an armed conflict has been ongoing in the western provinces of Iran between the Iranian government forces and the so called “Party for a free life in Kurdistan” (PJAK). The group is said to be a branch of the PKK terrorist group in Turkey. The group settled in the area controlled by the PKK on the slopes of Mount Qandil, less than 16 kilometres from the Iranian border. Once established at Qandil and operating under the PKK’s security umbrella, the group began conducting sporadic attacks on Iranian border guards and security forces until a ceasefire commenced in 2011.

With the outbreak of the Syrian and Iraqi wars against terrorism, and with Iran focusing heavily on supporting the Syrian and Iraqi governments, the conflict resurged and intensified in 2016, this time with several other Kurdish militant groups also joining in, as US and Israeli support for Kurdish groups across the Middle East escalated. In an obvious show of solidarity with the Zionist state’s growing worries about the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal), the KDP-I stated that it was returning to militancy after two decades of cessation of hostilities: “Since Iran has signed the atomic [nuclear deal] agreement, Iran thinks whatever they do, the outside world does not care. That is why we were forced to choose this approach,” Hassan Sharafi, the deputy leader of the PDKI said. Conveniently for the Zionist state and Washington, PJAK and leftist group Komalah immediately expressed their support for renewed hostilities and began attacking Iranian security forces respectively in the midst of Iran’s struggle against Takfiri terrorists across the region.

The Zionist state has for long had close relations to Kurdish groups across the Middle East as part of their “Alliance of the periphery” doctrine which calls for Israel to develop close strategic alliances with non-Arab Muslim states in the Middle East to counteract the united opposition of Arab states. After the fall of the Iranian monarchy and with Turkey’s recent Islamic resurgence, the strategy is mainly applied towards the Kurdish people, with Israeli government officials providing extensive support to Kurdish political parties and their aspirations for greater self-government and even independence. The government of Iraqi Kurdistan has maintained open ties with Israel and is an influential lobby for the establishment of normal diplomatic relations between Israel and Iraq. Israel remains today the closest regional ally of the YPG forces in Syria as well as the KRG in Iraq.

Documents leaked in 2010 by Wikileaks prove that Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan wanted to use Kurds and ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government. The Israeli spy service wanted to have a weak divided Iran, like in Iraq where the Kurds have their own government, the spy chief told an U.S. official. According to a memo from August 2007, Dagan described to Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns the five pillars of Israel’s Iran policy, among them the desire to spark a revolution. The memo noted, ‘instability in Iran is driven by inflation and tension among ethnic minorities. This, Dagan said, “presents unique opportunities, and Israelis and Americans might see a change in Iran in their lifetimes.”

Dagan noted that Iran could end up like Iraq. “As for Iraq, it may end up a weak, federal state comprised of three cantons or entities, one each belonging to the Kurds, Sunnis and Shias.” He added that Iran’s minorities are “raising their heads, and are tempted to resort to violence.”

“It’s Realpolitik. By aligning with the Kurds Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran,” observed a former Israeli intelligence officer. Interestingly, PJAK themselves claim they receive no support from Washington or Tel Aviv. In an interview with Slate magazine in June 2006, PJAK spokesman Ihsan Warya stated that he “nevertheless points out that PJAK really does wish it were an agent of the United States, and that [PJAK is] disappointed that Washington hasn’t made contact.” The Slate article continues stating that the PJAK wishes to be supported by and work with the United States in overthrowing the government of Iran in a similar way to the US eventually cooperated with Kurdish organisations in Iraq in overthrowing the government of Iraq. Surely by now it is no secret that Kurdish chieftains and officials love to be the staunch vassals of Washington and Tel Aviv.

The KRG has even been so generous to offer its territory as a base for Mossad terrorists to launch operations inside Iran. According to several sources, the Mossad operates in the KRG to launch covert operations inside Iran and acquire intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. “Israeli drones are said to be operating against Iran from bases inside the KRG,” wrote Patrick Seale, a British expert on the Middle East.

The London-based Sunday Times reported that, according to “Western intelligence sources,” during early 2012 Israeli commandos and special forces members carried out missions in Iran that were launched from the KRG. The Zionist terrorists, dressed in Iranian military uniforms, entered Iran in modified Black Hawk helicopters and travelled to Parchin, the site of an Iranian military complex just 30 kilometres southeast of Tehran, and Fordow, an Iranian military base with an underground uranium enrichment facility. The report claims that these forces utilized advanced technology to monitor radioactivity levels and record explosive tests carried out at the military facilities. Whether this report is true or part of a psychological war, I guess we’ll never know.

In addition to all of this, Arab separatism is on the rise in the western Khuzestan province where a large Arab minority reside. The 2018 Ahvaz Military Parade terrorist attack where 29 people were killed was evidence of a recent surge in Arab separatist activities. The Islamic Republic suspects that both Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states offer political and financial support to Arab separatist groups and personalities operating in the West, who in turn funnel the cash to militant networks inside Iran. Suspicions that regional rivals had a hand in the terror attack was intensified by pathetic comments made by Abdul Khaliq Abdullah, a former advisor to the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, that the Ahvaz attack did not constitute an act of terrorism since it was aimed at a military target. The significance of this inflammatory remark lies in Saudi Crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s statement that Saudi Arabia would take the battle “inside” Iran. Since the Saudi monarchy themselves are Zionist agents, we should again look for Washington and Tel Aviv’s hand in this latest campaign targeting yet another minority group in Iran.

The Islamic Republic is under attack from all sides with Washington and Tel Aviv specifically targeting ethnic minorities living in the border areas in the eastern and western regions of Iran. As Washington and Tel Aviv have admitted in the past, a full scale invasion of Iran is highly unlikely due to the size of the country and the large popular support the Islamic Republic enjoys, instead the Zionist Empire has deemed insurgency and fomenting a civil war to be the best way to weaken their adversaries, just like they did in Syria and Iraq. I expect these campaigns to escalate as the Islamic Republic gains more influence across the region and the Zionist Empire growing more and more frustrated each day.

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