Kurds face stark options after US pullback

Forget an independent Kurdistan: They may have to do a deal with Damascus on sharing their area with Sunni Arab refugees

October 14, 2019

By Pepe Escobar : Posted with Permission

Kurds face stark options after US pullback

Forget an independent Kurdistan: They may have to do a deal with Damascus on sharing their area with Sunni Arab refugees

In the annals of bombastic Trump tweets, this one is simply astonishing: here we have a President of the United States, on the record, unmasking the whole $8-trillion intervention in the Middle East as an endless war based on a “false premise.” No wonder the Pentagon is not amused.
Trump’s tweet bisects the surreal geopolitical spectacle of Turkey attacking a 120-kilometer-long stretch of Syrian territory east of the Euphrates to essentially expel Syrian Kurds. Even after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cleared with Trump the terms of the Orwellian-named “Operation Peace Spring,” Ankara may now face the risk of US economic sanctions.

The predominant Western narrative credits the Syrian Democratic Forces, mostly Kurdish, for fighting and defeating Islamic State, also known as Daesh. The SDF is essentially a collection of mercenaries working for the Pentagon against Damascus. But many Syrian citizens argue that ISIS was in fact defeated by the Syrian Arab Army, Russian aerial and technical expertise plus advisers and special forces from Iran and Hezbollah.

As much as Ankara may regard the YPG Kurds – the “People’s protection units” – and the PKK as mere “terrorists” (in the PKK’s case aligned with Washington), Operation Peace Spring has in principle nothing to do with a massacre of Kurds.

Facts on the ground will reveal whether ethnic cleansing is inbuilt in the Turkish offensive. A century ago few Kurds lived in these parts, which were populated mostly by Arabs, Armenians and Assyrians. So this won’t qualify as ethnic cleansing on ancestral lands. But if the town of Afrin is anything to go by the consequences could be severe.

Into this heady mix, enter a possible, uneasy pacifier: Russia. Moscow previously encouraged the Syrian Kurds to talk to Damascus to prevent a Turkish campaign – to no avail. But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov never gives up. He has now said: “Moscow will ask for the start of talks between Damascus and Ankara.” Diplomatic ties between Syria and Turkey have been severed for seven years now.

With Peace Spring rolling virtually unopposed, Kurdish Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi did raise the stakes, telling the Americans he will have to make a deal with Moscow for a no-fly zone to protect Kurdish towns and villages against the Turkish Armed Forces. Russian diplomats, off the record, say this is not going to happen. For Moscow, Peace Spring is regarded as “Turkey’s right to ensure its security,” in the words of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. As long as it does not turn into a humanitarian disaster.

No independent Kurdistan

From Washington’s perspective, everything happening in the volatile Iran-Iraq-Syria-Turkey spectrum is subject to two imperatives: 1) geopolitically, breaking what is regionally regarded as the axis of resistance: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah; and 2) geostrategically, breaking the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative from being incorporated in both Iraq and Syria, not to mention Turkey.

When Erdogan remarked that the trilateral Ankara summit last month was “productive,” he was essentially saying that the Kurdish question was settled by an agreement among Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Diplomats confirmed that the Syrian Constitutional Committee will work hard towards implementing a federation – implying that the Kurds will have to go back to the Damascus fold. Tehran may even play a role to smooth things over, as Iranian Kurds have also become very active in the YPG command.

The bottom line: there will be no independent Kurdistan – as detailed in a map previously published by the Anadolu news agency.

From Ankara’s point of view, the objective of Operation Peace Spring follows what Erdogan had already announced to the Turkish Parliament – that is, organizing the repatriation of no fewer than two million Syrian refugees to a collection of villages and towns spread over a 30km-wide security zone supervised by the Turkish army.

Yet there has been no word about what happens to an extra, alleged 1.6 million refugees also in Turkey.

Kurdish threats to release control of 50 jails holding at least 11,000 ISIS/Daesh jihadis are just that. The same applies to the al-Hol detention camp, holding a staggering 80,000 ISIS family members. If let loose, these jihadis would go after the Kurds in a flash.

Veteran war correspondent and risk analyst Elijah Magnier provides an excellent summary of the Kurds’ wishful thinking, compared with the priorities of Damascus, Tehran and Moscow:

The Kurds have asked Damascus, in the presence of Russian and Iranian negotiators, to allow them to retain control over the very rich oil and gas fields they occupy in a bit less than a quarter of Syrian territory. Furthermore, the Kurds have asked that they be given full control of the enclave on the borders with Turkey without any Syrian Army presence or activity. Damascus doesn’t want to act as border control guards and would like to regain control of all Syrian territory. The Syrian government wants to end the accommodations the Kurds are offering to the US and Israel, similar to what happened with the Kurds of Iraq.

The options for the YPG Kurds are stark. They are slowly realizing they were used by the Pentagon as mercenaries. Either they become a part of the Syrian federation, giving up some autonomy and their hyper-nationalist dreams, or they will have to share the region they live in with at least two million Sunni Arab refugees relocated under Turkish Army protection.

The end of the dream is nigh. On Sunday, Moscow brokered a deal according to which the key, Kurdish-dominated border towns of Manbij and Kobane go back under the control of Damascus. So Turkish forces will have to back off, otherwise, they will be directly facing the Syrian Arab Army. The game-changing deal should be interpreted as the first step towards the whole of northeast Syria eventually reverting to state control.

The geopolitical bottom line does expose a serious rift within the Ankara agreement. Tehran and Moscow – not to mention Damascus – will not accept Turkish occupation of nearly a quarter of sovereign, energy-rich Syrian territory, replacing what was a de facto American occupation. Diplomats confirm Putin has repeatedly emphasized to Erdogan the imperative of Syrian territorial integrity. SANA’s Syrian news agency slammed Peace Spring as “an act of aggression.”

Which brings us to Idlib. Idlib is a poor, rural province crammed with ultra-hardcore Salafi jihadis – most linked in myriad levels with successive incarnations of Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria. Eventually, Damascus, backed by Russian airpower, will clear what is in effect the Idlib cauldron, generating an extra wave of refugees. As much as he’s investing in his Syrian Kurdistan safe zone, what Erdogan is trying to prevent is an extra exodus of potentially 3.5 million mostly hardcore Sunnis to Turkey.

Turkish historian Cam Erimtan told me, as he argues in this essay, that it’s all about the clash between the post-Marxist “libertarian municipalism” of the Turkish-Syrian PKK/PYD/YPG/YPJ axis and the brand of Islam defended by Erdogan’s AKP party: “The heady fusion of Islamism and Turkish nationalism that has become the AKP’s hallmark and common currency in the New Turkey, results in the fact that as a social group the Kurds in Syria have now been universally identified as the enemies of Islam.” Thus, Erimtan adds, “the ‘Kurds’ have now taken the place of ‘Assad’ as providing a godless enemy that needs to be defeated next door.”

Geopolitically, the crucial point remains that Erdogan cannot afford to alienate Moscow for a series of strategic and economic reasons, ranging from the Turk Stream gas pipeline to Ankara’s interest in being an active node of the Belt & Road as well as the Eurasia Economic Union and becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, all geared towards Eurasian integration.

‘Win-win’

And as Syria boils, Iraq simmers down.

Iraqi Kurdistan lives a world apart, and was not touched by the Iraqi protests, which were motivated by genuine grievances against the swamp of corrupt-to-the-core Baghdad politics. Subsequent hijacking for a specific geopolitical agenda was inevitable. The government says Iraqi security forces did not shoot at protesters. That was the work of snipers.

Gunmen in balaclavas did attack the offices of plenty of TV stations in Baghdad, destroying equipment and broadcast facilities. Additionally, Iraqi sources told me, armed groups targeted vital infrastructure, as in electricity grids and plants especially in Diwaniyah in the south. This would have plunged the whole of southern Iraq, all the way to Basra, into darkness, thus sparking more protests.

Pakistani analyst Hassan Abbas spent 12 days in Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala. He said heavily militarized police dealt with the protests, “opting for the use of force from the word go – a poor strategy.” He added: “There are 11 different law enforcement forces in Baghdad with various uniforms – coordination between them is extremely poor under normal circumstances.”

But most of all, Abbas stressed: “Many people I talked to in Karbala think this is the American response to the Iraqi tilt towards China.”

That totally fits with this comprehensive analysis.

Iraq did not follow the – illegal – Trump administration sanctions on Iran. In fact it continues to buy electricity from Iran. Baghdad finally opened the crucial Iraq-Syria border post of al-Qaem. Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi wants to buy S-400 missile systems from Russia.

He also explicitly declared Israel responsible for the bombing of five warehouses belonging to the Hashd al-Shaabi, the people mobilization units. And he not only rejected the Trump administration’s “deal of the century” between Israel and Palestine but also has been trying to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

And then there’s – what else? – China. On a state visit to Beijing on September 23, Mahdi clinched a proverbial win-win deal: plenty of oil supplies traded with investment in rebuilding infrastructure. And Iraq will be a certified Belt & Road node, with President Xi Jinping extolling a new “China-Iraq strategic partnership”. China is also looking to do post-reconstruction work in Syria to make it a key node in the New Silk Roads.

It ain’t over till the fat (Chinese) lady sings while doing deals. Meanwhile, Erdogan can always sing about sending 3.6 million refugees to Europe.

What’s happening is a quadruple win. The US performs a face saving withdrawal, which Trump can sell as avoiding a conflict with NATO alley Turkey. Turkey has the guarantee – by the Russians – that the Syrian Army will be in control of the Turkish-Syrian border. Russia prevents a war escalation and keeps the Russia-Iran-Turkey peace process alive.  And Syria will eventually regain control of its oilfields and the entire northeast.

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Washington abandons its Kurdish proxies as Ankara and Damascus step in

October 13, 2019

By Aram Mirzaei

Washington abandons its Kurdish proxies as Ankara and Damascus step in

Even though I have my doubts over whether Washington will actually withdraw from Syria fully, it seems as if their Kurdish proxies in northern Syria have been left to defend for themselves against the ongoing Turkish offensive. I can’t say I’m surprised since Washington has done this to their Kurdish “partners” many times before, yet the Kurdish leadership across Iraq and Syria have failed to learn from history yet again.

Once more, the Kurdish leadership have been proven to have put their faith in the wrong allies. When Moscow stepped into the Syrian war four years ago, Moscow gave the YPG the same offer that Assad had given before: reconcile with Damascus and join forces against terrorism. They refused. Moscow tried again by offering them to set up a consulate in Moscow, inviting them to peace talks in Astana and offering them safety from Turkish attacks, if they agreed to a deal with Damascus, one that respects Syria’s territorial integrity. Moscow even offered talks on a guarantee for future Kurdish participation in Syrian politics. They refused once again, with a spokesperson for the YPG explaining that Washington does not allow them to talk to Moscow. Such was the nature of the US-Kurdish “alliance”.

When the so called “Islamic State” terrorist group was about to collapse in 2017, the US backed “Syrian Democratic Forces”, of which YPG is part of, was quick to grab as much land as possible. Then came the threats against Damascus and the Syrian Army, to back off from entering the eastern shores of the Euphrates. Fortunately, Moscow, Tehran and Damascus saw Washington’s moves early on as they managed to capture the imperative city of Albukamal, located exactly at the Syrian-Iraqi border, before Washington could. In capturing this city, Damascus and Baghdad have been able to re-open the Tehran-Damascus highway stretching from Iran, through Iraq and into Syria, connecting the three countries and enabling the transportation of supplies from Iran to Syria.

The SDF managed to secure many of Syria’s oil fields in their push to capture the eastern parts of the Deir Ezzor province. Having grabbed such a large part of Syria, the Kurdish leadership felt safe with US forces backing them against Damascus.

This stance didn’t seem to change when Turkish forces together with their proxy jihadists launched the Afrin offensive. US forces did nothing to protect their Kurdish vassals from harm as Turkish forces easily captured the entire Afrin Canton within weeks. The Kurdish leadership was offered a deal with Damascus in which control over the Afrin area would be handed over to the Syrian Army before Turkish forces could capture it. Alas this suggestion was refused by the stubborn Kurdish leadership who would rather let Ankara and the Jihadists capture that area.

So 18 months later, the US has seemingly withdrawn and abandoned the Kurdish-led militias to fend for themselves against Ankara and a hostile Damascus. Not so surprising considering Washington’s track record. The Turkish Army and its proxies launched their offensive on Wednesday and quickly announced gains that same day. Since then, several towns along with the border city of Tal Abyad have fallen into Turkish hands as reports have emerged that imprisoned ISIS militants have escaped from their prisons as a result of Turkish bombardments of several prisons in the Hasakah province.

The offensive has caught an enormous amount of media attention, as the Kurds have for long been the Western Media darlings, capturing many people’s hearts with footage of young armed women battling the perverted terrorist forces of the “Islamic State”.

Washington and the European vassals have all howled and voiced their “concerns” over Turkey’s offensive. Some have called for resolutions and embargoes on Turkey for “violating international law” and “endangering the region”. What a joke! Look at the people expressing their “concern”: Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham and Nikki Haley. These are some of the people that are concerned that Turkey is “endangering the region”.

Now when Twitter is being filled with videos of executed Kurdish fighters, these people recognize the same “FSA” militants that they used to cheer for to execute Syrian soldiers, for what they are, barbarian scum.

Just a few days after the commencement of the offensive, Kurdish officials began contemplating the idea of turning to Moscow and Damascus for help, but not before asking Washington one last time to confirm their betrayal. SDF General Mazloum Kobani openly indicated in an interview with CNN that dealing with Moscow and Damascus is an option if the US fails to protect the Kurds from Turkey. “I need to know if you are capable of protecting my people, of stopping these bombs falling on us or not. I need to know, because if you’re not, I need to make a deal with Russia and the regime now and invite their planes to protect this region”, Kobani said.

What a sad statement. He needs a receipt of Washington’s betrayal, as if it was a surprise when he and his colleagues have been warned for years about Washington’s treacherous nature. Reports have previously suggested the amassing of Syrian Army forces near Manbij in the Aleppo province, with the aim of entering and taking over the area. The same has been said about Hasakah and Qamishli in the northeastern parts of the country. If true, then this would create a situation similar to the one two years ago when the Islamic State was collapsing. As mentioned before, back in 2017, as the Islamic State was collapsing, the SAA and the US-backed SDF were racing to capture as much territory as possible. This resulted in the Euphrates turning into a demarcation line between SAA and SDF controlled territory, a line that has been in place since 2017. Now, it seems as if a new race is on, as the Syrian Army is racing against time, with the jihadists rapidly advancing and are inching closer to Raqqa city.

If the Kurdish militias are willing to cooperate, then Damascus must be harsh in its demands. The Kurdish militias must hand over their weapons and the territory they’re occupying if they want to have any chance of surviving the Turkish-led onslaught. But they need to act quickly, time is running out for the Kurdish militiamen.

Will the Kurds choose poorly again?

Turkey bombed US special forces by mistake in northern Syria: Newsweek

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:00 P.M.) – The Turkish military struck some U.S. Special Forces personnel in northern Syria this week while they were attacking the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Newsweek reported on Friday.

Citing an Iraqi-Kurdish intelligence official and a senior Pentagon official, the Turkish military mistakenly hit some U.S. Special Forces personnel that were embedded with the SDF troops in the border city of Kobani (var. ‘Ayn Al-‘Arab).

The attack consisted of artillery fire and was reportedly carried out at Mashtenour Hill in Kobani.

According to Newsweek, the senior Pentagon official said that the Turkish Armed Forces should be conscious of the U.S. positions in the region.

The report did not specify if there were any casualties as a result of this attack.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense and U.S. Defense Department have not commented about the alleged incident in northern Syria.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Turkish Armed Forces kicked off “Operation Peace Spring” against the Syrian Democratic Forces and their allies from the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Since launching this offensive, the Turkish Armed Forces and their allies from the so-called “Syrian National Army” have captured several areas around the cities of Ras Al-‘Ayn (Al-Hasakah Governorate) and Tal Abyad (Al-Raqqa Governorate).

 

TURKISH OPERATION PEACE SPRING IN NORTHEASTERN SYRIA, EXPLAINED

South Front

10.10.2019

Turkey officially announced that it had launched a military operation in northeastern Syria. Over the past years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other representatives of the country’s leadership have repeatedly announced this idea. However, this time promises were turned into reality.

On October 6, the administration of US President Donald Trump released a statement saying that Turkey will soon carry out its “long-planned operation” into northern Syria. According to the statement, US forces will not “support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area”. The announcement came following a phone conversation between the US and Turkish presidents.

On October 7, US forces started withdrawing from their positons along a large chunk of the Syrian-Turkish border. US military garrisons in Tel Abyad, Tel Musa, Tel Hinzir and Tel Arqam were abandoned. US patrols in the border area were halted. The Pentagon provided no details regarding the number of troops withdrawn from the border. US mainstream media outlets mention the numbers from 50 to 100.

This US decision caused a kind of panic among leaders and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They simultaneously called the US decision a backstab, asked the US-led coalition to establish a no-fly zone ‘like in Iraq’ and declared their readiness to resume negotiations with Russia and the Assad government, which they just a few weeks ago were calling a ‘bloody regime’.

Kurdish armed groups, mainly the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), are the core of the SDF. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) dominates in the self-proclaimed administration of northeastern Syria. Ankara names the YPG, the YPJ and the PYD terrorist groups because of their links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This separatist group is engaged in a long-standing guerrilla war against the Turkish state in an attempt to establish an independent Kurdish state on territory of southeastern Turkey. The PYD and its military wings pursue similar goals in northeastern Syria.

Ankara has reasonable concerns that funds, weapons, equipment and training provided by the US to Kurdish armed groups in northern Syria will later be used by the PKK in its fight against the Turkish government. The US-Turkish ‘safe zone’ agreement on northern Syria was designed to remove these concerns. Turkey insisted that Kurdish armed groups should be removed from the border and disarmed, or, at least, the US should stop supplying them with weapons and equipment. However, this did not happen. The peak of the US-Turkish coordination over this question was several joint patrols along the border.

By evening of October 9, Turkey had put its proxy forces on a high alert and the Turkish Air Force had bombed SDF positions near Tell Abyad, Ras al-Ayn, Kobane and al-Qamishli. The Operation Peace Spring started.

President Erdogan says that its goals are to neutralize “terror threats” along the border, establish a real safe zone and facilitate return of Syrian refugees to their homes. Besides the anti-terror declarations, one of the main points of the Turkish public rhetoric is the oppression of Arab locals by Kurdish militias.

If the Operation Peace Spring develops like Turkish operations in al-Bab and Afrin, Ankara will use its proxy groups as a first line of the ground advance and a shield for Turkish personnel deployed on the ground. Artillery, warplanes and special forces of the Turkish military will be the main striking power. Pro-Turkish sources say that about 15,000-20,000 members of pro-Turkish groups have already been mobilized. If this is true, the total number of personnel, including Turkish servicemembers, involved in the operation may reach 30,000.

At the first phase of the advance, Turkey will likely to get control of the area of the non-implemented US-Turkish safe zone. Some Turkish sources speculate that in the event of success the Turkish Army may push even towards Deir Ezzor. However, this remains unlikely in the current military and diplomatic situation in the region.

Syria News Briefs: SDF Child Soldiers, Landmines, and Economy

Source

 

Syria SDF YPG Asayish Recruiting Child Soldiers Kurds
US-run ‘SDF’ continues to kidnap Syrian children to make them ‘soldiers.’

In Syria news briefs today, two children were injured in another landmine blast; a child fleeing from US ‘SDF’ criminal militia was shot to death; Reconciliation continues; an increase in olive production is expected.

Two children were injured by shrapnel from another exploding landmine left behind by terrorists in al Swaiaa, Deir Ezzor. They are expected to recover. Despite the UN Mine Action Service has signed an MoU to assist the Syrian government more than a year ago, terrorists’ buried landmines continue to kill and maim.

Also on 21 August, Syria continued with its Reconciliation program. In Homs, 115 men had their legal statuses settled, upon turning themselves in, and handing over their weapons, so they could “return to their normal lives.”

Syria’s Ministry of Agriculture announced the expectation of olive and olive oil production to be increased this year. Since last year, when crops were decreased because farmlands were injured by terrorists, the Ministry has engaged in rehabilitation and ongoing maintenance to return to normal production. The expected output is 830,000 tons of olives, and 150 tons of olive oil.

olive economy sanctions syria

The vilest of news from Syria, on 21 August, will never be reported in NATO media. The US-run ‘SDF‘ murdered a Syrian child who attempted to escape kidnapping. Three of his family members were also shot by these separatist-terrorists, trying to protect him.

The murdered child was 13 years old Osama Obeid, who lived in the village of al-Gharb in Hasaka. The ‘SDF‘ stormtroopers have been raiding homes in Hasaka countryside, to kidnap young men and children to incarcerate them in “coercive recruitment camps” — brainwash centers to force Syrian children to become armed terrorists.

Syria SDF YPG Asayish Recruiting Child Soldiers Kurds
Syria SDF YPG Asayish Recruiting Child Soldiers Kurds
child-soldier
kidnapped-girls-soldiers

The YPG precursor to the ‘SDF’ criminals promised to end their war criminal activity of creating ‘child soldiers,’ back in 2014. NATO media swooned, then, and swooned again late June, when an ‘SDF commander’ was invited to the UN to sign an agreement to end the destruction of children’s psyches.

How utterly shameless that that which should be considered normal among civilized human beings should be lauded, instead.

NATO media supporting the US-sponsored ‘SDF’ against Syria has a two-pronged effect: The ability to subsequently ignore more war crimes, and to feed into the wretched western colonial mindset, attracting the Lilliputian serfs to support the attempted destruction of the sovereignty of Syria.

This insidious propaganda permits western media to ignore the murder of Osama Obeid, 13, who tried to escape kidnapping, as they have ignored the ‘SDF’ torching thousands of hectares of wheat and barley farmland in Syria, and as they have ignored the attempt of ‘ethnic cleansing‘ of Syrians in Qamishli.

Syriac Qamishli Church Explosion - Syria

Do an internet search, “Syria news,” and you will not find a single western medium to report on Tuesday’s murder of the Syrian child, nor anything except ongoing, anti-Syria war propaganda.

The time is past overdue for westerners to stop being colonial serfs, to stand upright, on hind legs, and to acknowledge that Syria continues to fight terrorism on behalf of humanity.

— Miri Wood

NB: Today is the anniversary of the Ghouta massacre, committed by the FSA moderate terrorists who admitted having received their chemical weapons from “Prince Bandar [who should have instructed the killers in their proper usage so as not to have slaughtered some of their own, also].”

Syrian War Report – August 19, 2019: Tiger Forces Advance To Encircle Khan Shaykhun

South Front

Government forces are rapidly advancing in southern Idlib inflicting large casualties to radical militant groups.

During the weekend, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies have liberated the villages of Khirbat Abidin, Hursh al-Tawilah, Mughr Hunta, the farms of Nijm, Nisr and al-Safar, and the Nar Hill. According to pro-government sources, at least 7 units of military equipment and 2 dozens of militants were eliminated in recent clashes.

In own turn, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies carried out several counter-attacks involving suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in Madayah and northwest of Khan Shaykhun. Despite some tactical successes, they were not able to turn the tide of the battle and stop the SAA advance.

Government forces are currently aiming to cut off the M5 highway and encircle the town of Khan Shaykhun and other militant positions to the south of it.

On August 17, members of the Turkish-backed National Syrian Army (NSA) shelled positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) at the town of Tell Rifaat and the nearby villages of Zyuan, Nyrabia and Tell Madiq in northern Aleppo. According to pro-YPG sources, the shelling also targeted a positions of the Russian Military Police near Tell Rifaat. No casualties among Russian personnel were reported.

The NSA shelling started in response to an attack by YPG-linked Kurdish rebels in the Afrin Region. The rebels’ attack resulted in the deaths of 5 Turkish-backed militants. Tell Rifaat and its surroundings are under the joint control of the YPG and the SAA. YPG-linked cells use this area as a safe heaven to carry out attacks on Turkey-led forces in northern Aleppo thus provoking Turkish responses and increasing tensions between Damascus and Ankara.

Russian forces are establishing several positions in the southern Deir Ezzor countryside, pro-opposition media reported on August 16 citing local sources. The reports claimed that Russian units are working to establish new positions in the town of al-Jalaa.

Located less than 30km away from the border with Iraq, al-Jalaa is one of the largest towns in the western part of the Middle Euphrates River Valley. A highway leading to al-Qa’im border crossing passes through the town.

The deployment of Russian forces in al-Jalaa could be related to the near opening of the Syrian-Iraqi border as well as the ongoing security operations against the remaining ISIS cells in the region.

GOVERNMENT TROOPS ARE STORMING KHAN SHAYKHUN AFTER CUTTING OFF M5 HIGHWAY NORTH OF IT (MAPS)

Government Troops Are Storming Khan Shaykhun After Cutting Off M5 Highway North Of It (Maps)

Click to see the full-size image

Late on August 19, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and other pro-government factions started storming the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib.

Earlier on the same day, government troops seized several important hills north of Khan Shaykhun and cut off the M5 highway, which Turkish forces attempted to use to enter the town.

According to some pro-government sources, members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other radical groups have started withdrawing from Khan Shaykhun. Reports are also circulating that militants are planning to withdraw from the entire northern Hama parea. Nonetheless, these reports still have to be confirmed.

The situation is developing.

Government Troops Are Storming Khan Shaykhun After Cutting Off M5 Highway North Of It (Maps)

Click to see the full-size image

Syrian Army breaks through militant lines to advance on Khan Sheikhoun: video

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:00 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) scored a big advance in the southern countryside of the Idlib Governorate this past week after cracking the militant lines near the key city of Khan Sheikhoun.

Chronicling the Syrian Arab Army’s advance in southern Idlib was the Anna News Agency, who captured exclusive footage of the military’s operations and push towards Khan Sheikhoun.

“On August 13, the Tiger Forces faced a challenge. In one night, they had to go half the distance between the cities of Hobeit and Khan Sheikhoun,” the Anna News said.

“When the last gleams of the sun went out over the horizon, the Tiger Forces set their machine in motion. But the Syrian movements did not go unnoticed. Detachments of militants prepared to meet the Tigers with everything they had,” they continued.

“We were especially struck by the number of artillery shells that the militants fired at us. After taking the strategic height of Tel Ays, the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun was clearly visible. Everyone expected that the troops would go to storm the city, but instead the troops turned north,” they added.

Since this video was posted, the Syrian Arab Army has begun their attack to capture Khan Sheikhoun from the militant forces in southern Idlib.

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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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