SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES’ SHORT-TERM THINKING PROBLEM

Soutb Front

The political and military leadership of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has appeared to be in a shaky situation since the withdrawal of US troops from Syria’s north and the start of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring. Since the start of the US invasion of Syria, Kurdish armed groups, primarily the People’s Protection Units (YPG), relied on foreign power to fend off the ISIS offensive and expand their control across northern and eastern Syria. The US military, political and financial support made Kurdish leaders believe that Kurdish armed groups were a kind of “integral” part of Washington’s strategy and that they had a voice to decide their future under a US protectorate. This illusion predetermined the YPG-SDF stance towards cooperation with the Damascus government and its allies.

In January-March 2018, YPG forces in Afrin were defeated by the Turkish Army and pro-Turkish armed groups and were forced to flee towards Syrian Army positions near Aleppo city. Prior to Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch, YPG leaders once again rejected Syrian-Russian proposals to settle their status and re-integrate into the Syrian state. Instead, they repeatedly asked the US and the so-called ‘international community’ for help – help which was not forthcoming.

The very same approach led to the start of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in northeastern Syria in 2019. On January 19, the so-called Autonomous Administration of Eastern Syria, a political body created by the SDF/YPG to manage the seized areas, issued a de-facto ultimatum to the Damascus government. Besides formal claims about the need to keep the unity of Syrian land and ensure rights to minorities, the 10-point long list included such demands as:

  • to accept the Autonomous Administration as a legal part of the Syrian political system;
  • to guarantee the Autonomous Administration representation in the Syrian Parliament;
  • to use the Autonomous Administration flag alongside the Syrian flag;
  • to allow the Autonomous Administration to conduct its own independent foreign policy;
  • to allow SDF units to keep control of the Syrian border;
  • to keep the SDF security force Asayish as the main security force within northeastern Syria;
  • to distribute “Syrian wealth to the Syrian regions in a fair manner.”

Summing up these claims, the SDF demanded Damascus should legally recognize a de-facto independent US-backed pseudo-state and its military force within Syria and fund this state from the Syrian state budget. This behavior undermined Damascus attempts to launch a real political dialogue to settle differences and the SDF became even more dependent on the US amid open preparations of Turkey for a military action in northeastern Syria. So, when US troops withdrew and the Turkish Army crossed the border, there was nobody to protect the Kurds. President Donald Trump turned up the heat even more by advising the Kurds, if they want US protection, to resettle into oil areas, control of which its administration sees as one of its main priorities.

Therefore, the SDF leaders rushed to reach a protection agreement with Damascus and Russia. Syrian Army troops and Russian Military Police were deployed along the border and the M4 highway limiting the Turks to the area that they had already captured. Moscow negotiated with Ankara a safe zone agreement. The Turkish Army limited its actions to the aforementioned chunk of the border. Rescued SDF units started withdrawal from a 30km zone away from the Turkish border.

Despite this, the SDF and its political representatives continue insisting that the agreement with Damascus is solely a security agreement and political terms and conditions are yet to be negotiated. The group also expressed hopes that it will be able to ‘restore’ dialogue with the US to the level that they had before the troop withdrawal. The SDF even criticized statements by the Syrian Defense and Interior Ministries suggesting SDF members should settle their legal status within the Syrian state and join the army if they want. The SDF claimed that it will not accept any deal that would not “recognize and preserve” the group’s “privacy and structure.” These actions demonstrate that at least a part of the Kurdish leadership has learned little from the Afrin and northeastern Syria cases and still believes that it is in a position to use the language of ultimatums. The involvement of Kurdish leaders in the US-run oil smuggling operations also play a role. It is likely that they do not want to lose revenues from their illegal cooperation with the foreign power that is looting Syrian natural resources.

These factors add additional instability to the situation in northeastern Syria and complicate its further de-escalation. Developments south of Ras al-Ayn where clashes between Kurdish and Turkish-backed fighters have recently erupted, are a result of the lack of coordination in the implementation of the safe zone agreement additionally to the aggressive behavior of both sides.

Nonetheless, the SDF will have to find a kind of political understanding with Damascus because the main and most likely alternative is the resumption of the Turkish offensive.

The Kurdish armed groups known as the SDF have recent experience of betraying the Syrian nation. In the most precarious situation, they abandoned Syria and made a pact with the US, the foreign power that seeks to undermine the country’s territorial integrity and, at that stage of the conflict,  was supporting the actions of al-Qaeda in Syria. There were – as there ought to be – consequences and the SDF suffered them. Washington abandoned its proxies, when it was deemed of higher value to the US to enable Turkey to carry out its offensive, than it was to protect them.

The US is not leaving Syria and the SDF is once again demonstrating that it may be prepared to sell its loyalty for American coin if a proposal were to come their way. However, if such a proposal is made and the SDF sabotages the reconciliation with Damascus, what guarantee is there that the US won’t abandon them once again?

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Kilichdaroglu: Dialogue with Assad is the Key to Solving the Problems Erdogan Created

 

Turkey CHP Party Leader CHP lideri Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (Kilichdaroglu)

Kilichdaroglu, the CHP Republic People’s Party leader in Turkey met with Al-Mayadeen’s and Turkish veteran journalist Husni Mahali, the talks covered the blunders caused by Erdogan which harmed the Syrian people and harmed Turkey as well, tarnishing its image, causing severe financial hardship on the Turkish people, and isolating the country regionally and on the international political arena.

Husni Mahali is, himself, a victim of the Turkish pariah Erdogan and his oppression and dictatorship, Mahali was imprisoned by the highly flawed Turkish judicial system which fell under the influence of Erodgan and his anti-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood AK Party. Mahali’s crime was expressing his opinion in articles and interviews criticizing Turkish policies against Syria.

The following is from Al-Mayadeen Net, first published in Arabic on November 01, 2019:

Turkey CHP Party Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu Kilichdaroglu with Al Mayadeen Husni Mahali
Turkey CHP Party Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu Kilichdaroglu with Al-Mayadeen Husni Mahali

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the Republican People’s Party CHP in Turkey and its leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroglu (Kilichdaroglu), have taken a clear and decisive stance against the Turkish President’s policies and his direct intervention in Syria.

This is the position taken by a number of Turkish politicians, including former Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Shinar of the Erdogan government (2002-2007). in addition to Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis in the first government of justice and development after the 2002 elections, with them are a number of journalists, academics, generals and retired diplomats.

One of them is Turkey’s former ambassador to Washington, Faruk Lugoglu, who met President Bashar al-Assad on 5 September 2011 in Damascus as a representative of Kilichdar Oglu.

Since that date, Kilichdaroglu has taken a clear position against the policies of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Syria and the region in general, “He is following America’s instructions in Syria as a partner in the Greater Middle East project,” he said.

From this point of view, the question of Syria was necessarily the main topic during our long meeting with Kilichdaroglu, where we discussed the details of Turkish domestic policy as well.

The CHP leader blamed the Arab media for his lack of interest in his anti-Erdogan party since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. I said to him, “In this case, I will summarize what I hear from you for Al-Mayadeen Net, at least the resistance media, you also resisted the so-called Arab Spring. Our host smiled and said, “You also paid the price. They put you in prison but you still write and talk here and abroad.”

We started our interview from the talk of the hour, the first was the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Kilichdaroglu’s response was swift and decisive: “The threat of IS continues, despite the killing of its leader, Baghdadi and several of his aides, this is because the organization has sleeping cells in Syria, Iraq, and other countries. Thousands of ISIS members and their families are in camps protected by Kurdish militias after hundreds have been transferred to Turkey, others were transferred to US bases in western Iraq.”

“The organization had cells and rings in 76 Turkish states,” he continued, “for ideological reasons, Erdogan did not see ISIS as a terrorist organization. ISIS carried out a number of terrorist acts in Turkish cities including Istanbul, Ankara, and Gaziantep, these operations resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Turkish and foreign citizens, which the Turkish authorities could have prevented, but it did not do so by government order, If it had seriously confronted ISIS since 2014, when it threatened to destroy the mausoleum of Suleiman Shah near Raqqa, the organization would not have reached its point in Syria and Iraq.”

Kilichdaroglu reiterated his stated position on more than one occasion regarding Turkish military operations east of the Euphrates, “Erdogan’s logic is fundamentally wrong because he and his followers are talking about conquests as if Ankara were fighting to annex the eastern Euphrates to Turkey,” he said, “Nor does he draw lessons from his failed experiences in Syria. He spoke of a safe area along the 480-kilometer border with Syria. but he settled for to two narrow areas between the Ras Al Ain and the Tal Abyad, he was forced to end military operations on the instructions of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.”

He added: “He (Erdogan) should have discussed this issue from the beginning with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, because Turkey can get rid of terrorism and terrorists except through reconciliation with, and thus direct coordination and cooperation with the Syrian state as the landowner east of the Euphrates, because the elimination of terrorism and terrorists is primarily the responsibility of the state and the people of Syria, We must help them in their fight against terrorists of any name, from Nusra to ISIS, the Free Army (FSA), the YPG, the SDF, and others. Moreover, Turkey can only address the refugee problem with Damascus without forgetting that Erdogan is primarily the cause of this problem.”

Erdogan’s Policies in Syria Are a Sign of the Total Bankruptcy of Foreign Policy

Regarding the background and reasons for accusing President Erdogan on this subject, Kilichdaroglu has again made clear: “Erdogan is the one who sent weapons and combat equipment to terrorist groups in Syria in cooperation with some Gulf (Gulfies) and Western countries, he incited Muslims to kill each other, he allowed thousands of foreign terrorists enter into Syria via the shared border and their wounded were taken to Turkish hospitals for treatment, he then sent them back to Syria and announced that he would pray at the Umayyad Mosque, to this end he pursued racist, sectarian and nationalist policies, and acted as a sultan who decided everything.”

Kilichdaroglu blamed Erdogan for the isolation of Turkey because of his provocative and hostile policies, as he put it. And he said, “Thanks to these policies, we no longer have any friends not only in the region but in the world, including those countries that were allies of Ankara at the beginning of the Syrian war.”

Kilichdaroglu expressed surprise at Erdogan’s repeated talk of his commitment to the unity, sovereignty, and independence of Syria, he said: “Erdogan himself continues his adventures inside Syria and sends his troops inside Syria, he supports, equips and funds tens of thousands of armed men within the framework of the so-called Syrian National Army, which Damascus considers a terrorist organization as we consider the Kurdish militias in Syria terrorists.”

Kilichdaroglu appealed to President Erdogan to stop his military plans and projects and to consider a gradual withdrawal from Syria, and to establish diplomatic relations, friendship and good neighborliness with the Syrian state and people, this will contribute to the consolidation of broader regional relations with neighboring countries, especially with Iraq and Iran, “It is time for these countries to cooperate and agree to address their crises together away from any outside interference of any form, this will be in Turkey’s favor in all fields,” Kilichdaroglu confirms.

The Turkish opposition figure emphasizes the need to create the conditions for a final solution to the Syrian crisis within the framework of UN resolutions and recommendations of the Astana, Sochi and Geneva platforms, and calls for the assistance of the Syrian people of all ethnic, religious, sectarian, social and tribal groups in order to determine their fate freely and democratically without any external interference; he also stresses the need to protect their secular, pluralistic, and civilized system within the framework of the new Constitution without any external interference or pressure, which is the constitution that will be agreed upon by the members of the Constitutional Commission that started its work in Geneva.”

Kilichdaroglu says: “Erdogan should explain why he suddenly became a bitter enemy of President Assad and the Syrian people, and why he antagonized the Syrian state, which did not do anything against Turkey, despite all that Erdogan did against it, although he still supports and protects the terrorists in Idlib, despite his pledges in Sochi.”

Kilichdaroglu considered that Ataturk’s slogan “Peace at home and peace in the world” is very important and serves as a basis for Turkey’s relations with neighboring countries. He said: “Ataturk was also careful not to interfere in the affairs of other countries, he recommended not to interfere in Arab-Arab differences.”

Cleggadoglu expressed his dismay at President Donald Trump’s style in his letter to Erdogan, also his tweets in which he threatened Erdogan and Turkey. He clarified that: “In diplomatic relations, there is what is known as reciprocity, if Trump insulted Erdogan, Erdogan should reciprocate, not only in his name but also in the name of the Turkish state and nation.”

He added: “It seems that Erdogan is afraid of being pursued by the US judiciary because of his personal wealth and the wealth of his sons and family. Trump’s treatment of President Erdogan is a subject that deserves to be taught in the faculties of politics and international relations after he proved for some reason that he is afraid of Trump. He will only have to cancel his scheduled visit to Washington on July 13th.”

Kilichdaroglu considered that Erdogan’s policies in Syria and the region are an indicator of the total bankruptcy of foreign policy, which leads him to distract the Turkish people with outside matters so that they do not think about their daily problems, that is the financial crisis and its repercussions on the high prices, taxes, and the deterioration of the value of the Turkish lira. According to Kilichdaroglu, these issues were a reason for Erdogan’s defeat in the last municipal elections, where CHP candidates won in a number of important cities notably Istanbul and Ankara, in alliance with the democratic forces.

At the end of the meeting, I thanked Kilichdaroglu for his personal interest during my continued detention and trials, more than ever, he seemed optimistic that his party would come to power in the upcoming elections, after all polls show Erdogan’s popularity continues to decline because of his blunders, the most important his endeavors to control all state institutions and facilities, especially the judiciary, that Erdogan expects to help him get rid of all his opponents and put them in prison, as long as they object to his policies at home and abroad, especially in Syria.


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Revisiting the win-win-win-win outcome in Syria

Revisiting the win-win-win-win outcome in Syria

The Saker

[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]

In his recent article “The Road to Damascus: How the Syria War Was Won” Pepe Escobar summarized the outcome of the war in Syria in the following way:

It’s a quadruple win. The U.S. performs a face saving withdrawal, which Trump can sell as avoiding a conflict with NATO ally 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 the entire northeast.”

This otherwise excellent summary overlooks two out of three members of the “Axis of Kindness”, including Israel and the KSA.  Of course, later in his analysis Pepe does address these actors, and also includes Kuwait. Furthermore, a thorough discussion of what took place would have to also include China, Hezbollah, Yemen and the EU (well, the ones that matter, the UK and France.  The rest are just voiceless colonies of the USA).

Most of the analyses of what just took place focused on the “what”.  I will try to look into the “why” and the “how” of what just happened in Syria.  Still,  I don’t propose to make such a detailed analysis, but I do want to re-classify the actors in a somewhat different way: by their relative strength.

Actor Theoretical Strength
The “Axis of Kindness”:United States+CENTCOM+NATO+Israel+KSA by far the most powerful actor almost by any measure: a bigger military force then all the other actors combined (at least when looked at regionally), huge economic power (the dollar is still THE #1 currency on the planet), total control of the region (via CENTCOM) and quasi unconditional support from Europe (via NATO).  Finally, Israel does pack a powerful military punch.  This actor has only ONE weakness, but more about that later.
Iran+Hezbollah+Houthi+Shia forces in Iraq in regional terms, Iran is the local superpower which can even successfully defy the Axis of Kindness forces (and has done so since the Islamic Revolution of 1979).
Russia+Syria I placed Russia and Syria in the same group and I could have added Iran, but since I believe that Russia objectively has more power over the Syrian government than Iran, I think that it is important to put Russia and Syria together simply because Damascus cannot say “no” to Moscow, but could do so, at least in theory, to Tehran.  Finally, Russia and Iran agree on the main issues, but have different visions for the future of the Middle-East.  Thus this is another reason to look at them separately, even if not necessarily in opposition to each other.  In military terms, Russia is very strong, then very vulnerable, then very strong again, it all depends on your level of analysis (see below)
Turkey+pro-Turkish factions in Syria That one is a difficult one to classify.  On one hand, Turkey does not have any regional allies (the Ottoman Empire left only hatred and deep resentment in its former colonies).  For a while, the pro-Turkish factions, which were liberally showered with weapons, money, training, logistical support, etc, by the US and the KSA, but eventually these factions grew weaker and weaker until they reached a state of advanced impotence leaving Turkey pretty much alone (we will also look into that below).
The Kurds For a while, they sure looked potentially powerful: not only did the Kurds have a pretty big military power (albeit mostly one restricted to infantry), they had the support of Axis of Kindness and, especially, Israel which saw any form of Independent Kurdistan as a great tool to weaken and even threaten Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.  Furthermore, the Kurds happened to control a lot of oil rich regions and they could always retreat in the mountainous areas if needed.
The Takfiris (i.e. the many and constantly name-changing franchises of what used to be called “al-Qaeda”). In reality, the Takfiris really ought to be classified together with the Axis of Kindness since they have been the foot-soldiers/cannon-fodder for the AngloZionist since the 1980s (from Afghanistan then to modern day Syria).  Nonetheless, we will consider them as distinct from the rest of the Axis of Kindness forces.

Of course, and just like any other taxonomy, this one is necessarily somewhat subjective and others might use different criteria or categories.  Now let’s look at what I believe is the key to the control of the entire region: the ability to place “boots on the ground” or the lack of such an ability:

Actor Ability to place boots on the ground
The “Axis of Kindness”:United States+CENTCOM+NATO+Israel+KSA This is The One Big Weakness of the Axis of Kindness members: while they have huge armed forces, and even nuclear weapons, while they can deploy numerically very large forces, while they can (arguably) achieve air and naval supremacy/superiority pretty much anywhere in the region, they cannot follow up any of these options with a credible ground force.  While this is always carefully obfuscated by the legacy AngloZionist propaganda, the US, Israeli and KSA ground forces are only capable of murdering civilians or primitive resistance forces en masse.  But as soon as any of these militaries meets a halfway decent enemy force which is willing to fight on the ground, they are defeated (name me ONE meaningful victory of these Axis of Kindness forces in the last couple of decades or more!).
Iran+Hezbollah+Houthi+Shia forces in Iraq The Iranians and their local allies (calling them “proxies” completely misses the real nature of the relationship between Iran and these regional forces!) are all capable of deploying very capable ground forces.  In fact, they have all done so with tremendous success (especially Hezbollah).  What Iran provides to this informal alliance is the capability to augment it with new, high-tech and modern weapons, including anti-shipping missiles, air defenses, ATGMs, communications, drones, etc.  In terms of ground forces, this alliance is the #1 power in the region.
Russia+Syria Both Russia and Syria have very competent and well-balanced forces deployed in Syria.  However, truth be told, I believe that Hezbollah+Iran currently have even more military weight, at least in terms of ground forces in Syria.  The thing to keep in mind is this: if only Russian forces existed inside Syria (Tartus, Khmeimin, plus assorted special units all over Syria) then Russia is definitely weaker than the Axis of Kindness.  But if we assume that Russian forces outside Syria could (and probably would!) intervene to defend the Russian forces inside Syria, then we would have to flip much of this equation around and categorize Russia as even more powerful than the Axis of Kindness (I will explain in more detail why and how below).
Turkey+pro-Turkish factions in Syria There can be no doubt that at the initiation of the international aggression against Syria, Turkey had a credible and powerful military.  Then something went very wrong and with each new development (starting with the coup attempt against Erdogan) Turkey only got weaker and weaker.  The country which dared to shoot down a Russian Su-24 eventually found itself in the humiliating position to have to ask for Russian help not once, but over and over again.  The latest Turkish invasion of northern Syria has proven that, while the Turks can still beat the Kurds, that’s about all they can do, and even that not very well.
The Kurds Frankly, I never believed in the chances of the Kurds for anything even remotely resembling an independent Kurdistan.  Oh sure, my sympathies were often with the Kurds (at least in their struggle against Turkey), but I always knew that the notion of imposing some new (and very artificial) state against the will of ALL the regional powers was both naive and self-defeating.  The truth is that the US and Israel simply *used* the Kurds if and when needed, and ditched them as soon as it became obvious that the Kurds outlived their utility.  The best the Kurds will ever get is a regional autonomy in Iran, Iraq and Syria.  Anything else is a dangerous pipe dream.
The Takfiris (i.e. the many and constantly name-changing franchises of what used to be called “al-Qaeda”). Just like the Turks, the various Takfiris appeared as a formidable force when the aggression against Syria was initiated.  And if the the US GWOT appeared to be a true blessing for the “good terrorists” (that’s, of course, all the terrorists in this region) it is because it was.  Then something went very very wrong, and now they look as weak and clueless as the Kurds.

Now let’s sum this up.  This is how the relative strength of these regional actors has changed since the initiation of the AngloZionist aggression against Syria:

Actor Evolution of strength of each regional power
The “Axis of Kindness”:United States+CENTCOM+NATO+Israel+KSA DOWN: from strongest to one of the weakest in the region
Iran+Hezbollah+Houthi+Shia forces in Iraq UP: arguably the most balanced military force in the region
Russia+Syria UP: in a process which only *looked* like sheer “good luck” Russia and Syria grew stronger and stronger with each passing year.
Turkey+pro-Turkish factions in Syria DOWN: in sharp contrast to Russia, a weird process of what *looked* like sheer “bad luck” Turkey and its allies in Syria just seemed to get weaker and weaker with each passing year.
The Kurds DOWN: the Kurds made the immense mistake of believing all the empty promises (often called “plan B”, “plan C”, “plan D”, etc.) made by the AngloZionists.  Now all their dreams are over and they will have to settle for autonomy inside Iraq and Syria.
The Takfiris (i.e. the many and constantly name-changing franchises of what used to be called “al-Qaeda”). DOWN: their situation is almost as bad as the one of the Kurds.  Their sole advantage is that they are not linked to any one piece of land and that they can try to regroup somewhere else in the region (or even the world); never say never again, but it looks to me like this will not happen in the foreseeable future.

It is now time to try to make sense of all this and try answer the question of why one group of relatively strong actors had so much bad luck as to become weaker and weaker, while the weaker became stronger and stronger.

The first thing we need to agree upon is that irrespective of the public posturing, everybody is, and has been, talking to everybody else.  This “conversation” could be official and public, or behind closed doors, or even by means of intermediaries and, last but not least, a state version of “body language”: by means of actions which send a message to the other party or parties.  Still, while this is certainly true, it is the quality of the communications between the various parties which made all the difference.  When, say, Netanyahu or Trump publicly proclaim they they don’t give a damn about anything at all (including international law) and that they reserve the right to threaten or even attack anybody, at any time, for any reason whatsoever, this is a very clear message to, say, the Iranians.  But what is that message, really?  It says a couple of things:

  1. Resistance is futile because we are so much stronger than you and therefore
  2. We don’t give a damn about you or your national interests and therefore
  3. We are not interested in negotiating with you (or anybody else for that matter).  Your only solution is to submit to us

This is really crucial.  The USA and Israel have proclaimed their total superiority over the entire planet and, specifically, over every single actor in the Middle-East.  Furthermore, their entire worldview and ideology is predicated on this very strong sense of military superiority.   Ask any Israeli or US American what their countries will do if some coalition of local powers is successful in attacking them: they will reply something along the lines of “we will simply nuke all the friggin’ ragheads and sand-niggers – f**k them!”.  This line is always delivered with a tone of absolute finality, a total certitude and the mental equivalent of “’nuff said!”.

Alas, for the Axis of Kindness, this is a completely counter-factual belief.  Why?

First, the quick appeal to nukes is an implicit admission that there is something very wrong with the rest of the armed forces of the Axis of Kindness.  Furthermore, the real regional powers all understand that it is not in their interest to give the US or Israel a pretext to use nukes.  Thus, while, say, the Iranians sure have the means to strike Israel or any one of the many CENTCOM facilities in the Middle-East, they have been very careful to keep their counter-attacks below the dangerous threshold in which the legacy AngloZionist corporate media would be unable to conceal the magnitude of the disaster and demand that nukes be used (yes, if it comes to that, both the Israeli and the US media will demand nuclear strikes just as they cheered for every war of aggression ever committed by the USA and Israel).

Second, precisely because the US and Israel are unable to have real allies (they only have colonies run by comprador elites), they cannot operate successfully in a multi-lateral kind of relationship with other actors.  The contrast between the US/Israel, on one hand, and Russia and Iran, on the other, could not be greater.  Both Russia and Iran understand that having real allies is much more advantageous than having puppets.  Why?  Because in order to convince somebody to become your ally you absolutely have to offer that party something tangible as part of a compromise goal setting.  When this is done, the weaker ally feels that it is defending its own interests and not the interests of a patron which might be unreliable or which might even backstab you.

Third, one of the best US experts on the theory of negotiations, Professor William Zartman, wrote in his seminal book “The Practical Negotiator” that

One of the eternal paradoxes of negotiations is that it allows the weak to confront the strong and still come away with something which should not be possible if weakness and strength were all that mattered (…).  Weaker parties tend to seek more formal negotiating forums and to strengthen their hand through organizations (…).  Weak states can afford erratic or irresponsible behavior more easily than stronger parties, particularly when the rules of regularity and responsibility favor the strong (…).  Weak states do best by rewarding stronger states’ concessions rather than than by “hanging tough” and by opening high to indicate needs and to facilitate rewards (…).  The tactics of toughness and softness vary according to the strength of the parties: under symmetry, toughness tends to lead to toughness and under asymmetry to softness, with weaker parties following the leader of stronger parties.

There is a lot to unpack here (and there is much more in this book which I highly recommend to everybody!).

First, let’s compare and contrast the Russia and US approaches to creating negotiation fora.  The US cooked up the “Friends of Syria” forum which was most remarkable in two unique ways:  first, in spite of calling itself “Friends of Syria” this group only contained a who’s who of Syria’s, Iran’s and Russia’s enemies (just like to “Friends of Libya” was a cornucopia of countries hostile to Libya).  Secondly, the self-evident (and not really denied) purpose and function of this group was to bypass the UNSC.  There is nothing new here, the US has been trying to replace the UN and its role in upholding international law with all sorts of gimmicks including “coalition of the willing” or appeals for a “rules-based international order”.  Needless to say, with the possible exception of a few truly dim propagandists, all these tricks are designed to avoid the already existing international fora, beginning with the United Nations.  Russia, in contrast, not only used the UN for all its (admitted limited) worth and succeeded in forcing the USA to accept resolutions on Syria (or the Ukraine for that matter) which the US did not want to agree to, but which they could not veto on political considerations.  Not only that, Russia also created the Astana peace process which, unlike the US created fantasies, brought together different parties including parties hostile to each other.  The most brilliant move of the Russians was to impose on all parties the notion that “those willing to negotiate are legitimate parties whose interests must be considered while those who refused to sit down are all terrorists“.  Of course, the many al-Qaeda franchises tried to play the “rebranding game”, but this did not help: you can change names once every 24 hours if you want, but if you ain’t sitting down at the negotiating table you are a terrorist and, therefore, a legitimate target for Russian/Iranian/Syrian attacks.  Once the Empire had to accept these terms, backed by a UNSC resolution, it became locked-in in a process which they could only stop by means of a military victory.

And here we come back to the boots on the ground issue.  For all its combined military power, the Axis of Kindness does not have a ground force it can put on the ground.  Whereas the Syrians, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia very neatly and most effectively (even if informally) agreed to the following assignment of tasks:

  1. The Syrians will let the Russians reorganize their armed forces, especially a few elite units, and slowly, step-by-step liberate their lands.
  2. The Iranians and Hezbollah will act like a fire-brigade and will directly support the Syrian operations with their own forces in crucial sectors of the line of contact.
  3. The Russians will take control of the Syrian airspace and provide the Syrians, Iran and Hezbollah protection from AngloZionist missile and bomb strikes.  Finally, Russian special operation forces will be engaged in high priority operations which are beyond Iranian or Hezbollah capabilities.

What was the biggest obstacle to the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah-Russian plans?

Turkey, of course.  The Turks have always hated Assad (father and son) and their Neo-Ottoman delusions still give them a, shall we say, “special desire” to intervene beyond their own borders.  Furthermore, Turkey also very much saw Syria as a contributing factor to their “Kurdish problem”.  Finally, Turkey did have the kind of military which made it possible for it to threaten intervention or even intervene in Iraq and Syria (obviously not against Iran).  Thus, what Russia needed to do was take Turkey out of the equation or, at least, weaken Turkey as much as possible.  And that is exactly what Russia did.

For the Kremlin the shooting down of the Su-24 was tantamount to a declaration of war.  Except that the Russians, quite aware of their relative weakness if compared to the US+NATO+CENTCOM+Turkey, wisely decided not to retaliate in kind and, say, strike Turkish military facilities.  But Putin did promise “you won’t get away with just not selling us tomatoes” (Russia imposed an embargo on a number of Turkish export goods).  Besides a number of political and economic sanctions, you can be sure that the Russians decided to use all their methods and means to weaken and destabilize both Erdogan personally and Turkey as a whole.  Then, here is what happened:

  • On November 24th, 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24
  • In the next days, Russia closed down the north Syrian airspace, severed all contacts with the Turkish military, promised to shoot down any other Turkish aircraft attacking any target in Syria (regardless from what airspace) and imposed political and economic sanctions.
  • In December Putin ominously declared “Если кто-то думает, что, совершив подлое военное преступление: убийство наших людей — они отделаются помидорами, или какими-то ограничениями в строительной и других отраслях, то они глубоко заблуждаются” (“if somebody thinks that by committing a vile war crime they will get away with tomatoes or some type of restrictions in the construction and other industries, they are profoundly mistaken“).
  • In June 2016,  Erdogan sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing sympathy and ‘deep condolences’.
  • On 15 July 2016, a coup d’état was attempted against Erdogan and almost cost him his life.  By all accounts, Russia played some kind of behind-the-scenes role and saved Erdogan’s life and power.
  • Following the failed coup, Turkey embarked on a major re-alignment and cast its lot with Russia and Iran, even if that meant having to accept Assad in power in Syria.

What exactly Russia did behind the scenes (versions range from warning Erdogan to actually using Russian special forces to evacuate him in extremis) will probably remain a secret for many years, but neither does it really matter.  All we know for sure, is that after the coup, Erdogan made a 180 and completely changed his tune.  My personal belief is that the Russians used their covert means to entice the US and its Gulenist CIA puppets to try to overthrow Erdogan only to then foil their coup attempt.  I find the two other main options (the US is fantastically stupid and incompetent and Russia is an amazingly lucky country) much harder to believe.  But even if we accept these options, or some combination thereof, Russia still superbly played her cards (by, for example, using the pretext of Turkey’s downing the Su-24 to strongly beef up Russian air defense capabilities in Syria) and Turkey was removed as a “powerful hostile actor” from the Russian equation of the Middle-East.

After that, what was left was only a kind of “political and military mopping-op operation.

Russia repeatedly tried to make the Kurds realize that their strategy of fighting every single neighbor they had was a non-starter which will inevitably backfire.  Alas for the Kurdish people, their leaders were either too delusional, or too corrupt, to understand this.  In the meantime, Erdogan and the rest of the Turkish political establishment were adamant they Turkey would under no circumstances allow the Syrian (or Iraqi) Kurds to ever establish their own state.

[Sidebar: I really feel sad for the Kurds, but I also have to say that they really did it to themselves.  This ought to be systematically studied, but their appears to be two kinds of small nations: those who are smart enough to play one big neighbor against the other while collaborating with both (say Kazakhstan or Mongolia) and then there are those who have no sense of history at all and who end up repeating the same mistakes over and over again like, say, the Poles or the Kurds.  These nations always have a bloated sense of self-worth which leads them to act as if they were the big guys on the block and every time all they achieve is alienating all their truly big neighbors.  Apparently, irrespective of the number of times these folks were smacked down by others in history, their narcissistic self-aggrandizement and, frankly, arrogance, gets them invaded, then invaded again and then invaded some more.  You could say that they are born losers or that they “failed to learn the lessons of history”.  Same difference, really]

For the Kremlin, the solution was obvious: use the Turks to force the Kurds to accept the inevitable but don’t let the Turks establish a permanent invasion force in northern Syria.

True, the Russians have voiced their rather flaccid disapproval of the Turkish operation and they called everybody to come back to the negotiation table.  This is one rather rare example in which Russia’s rhetoric did not match her actions because in reality the Turkish operation would have been absolutely impossible if the Russians had not given Ankara an unofficial, but very trustworthy, go ahead beforehand.  Furthermore, according to at least one report (which I find reasonably credible) the Russian Aerospace Forces even scrambled a pair of Su-35S to engage a Turkish pair of F-16 which, as soon as they saw what was about to happen, decided to make a run for their lives.  Yet, in other instances, we know for a fact that F-16’s were used against Kurdish targets.  It is pretty clear that the Russians not only told Erdogan what was acceptable and what was not, they also “fine tuned” the Turkish operation just so it would force the Kurds to negotiate while not making it possible for the Turks to establish any kind of meaningful presence in northern Syria.

What happened next was a domino effect.  The Kurds tried to fight as best they could, but everybody realized that they were doomed.  The US Americans, very predictably and, I would argue, very logically, also ran for their lives.  Trump used this (totally true, but nevertheless pretext) to get out of Syria (at least officially) not only to protect US lives, but to also get out of the political quicksand which Syria has become for the Axis of Kindness.

Last but not least, the Israelis were absolutely livid, and for good reason: there is no doubt that they are the biggest losers in this entire process and they now find themselves in the situation of depending on a pretend superpower which cannot deliver anything of value (except loads of dollars which the Israelis spend on a lot of useless hardware).  The recent events in the region have not only shown that US ground forces plainly suck, they have also show that US guarantees are worthless while US weapons systems are vastly over-rated.

Here we come to what I believe is the single most important development of this conflict: ALL the many Israeli plans for the region collapsed one after the other.  Most pathetically, all the trips Netanyahu made to Russia to try to con the Russians into taking Israel seriously have failed.  Why?  Because the Russians have long understood that Israel is a paper tiger with impressive “roar” (aka the massive international Zionist propaganda machine known as the “western free media” among infants and dull people) but who is unable to follow up its loud roaring with anything more tangible.  Yes, I know, the worse things go for the Israelis, the bigger their boastful propaganda becomes: after having promised that the “invincible IDF” conducted “hundreds” of strikes in Syria and Iraq they now make noises about having a “killing list” which includes Hassan Nasrallah.  Right.  As for their “hundreds” of airstrikes, they must be the most inept and poorly executed air campaign since the total failure of NATO’s air campaign in Kosovo.  Ask yourself this basic question:

If the Israelis have been conducting “hundreds” of airstrikes in Syria – why have they not resulted in any tangible effects on the military situation on the ground?

After all, when the Russians intervened, they changed the course of the entire war.  In fact, the (very small) Russian Aerospace task force in Syria reversed the course of that war.

Why did the Russian air campaign yield such truly phenomenal results and why did the Israel air campaign yield absolutely nothing (except some much needed psychotherapy for the many Zionists who suffer form what Gilad Atzmon brilliantly referred to as “pre-traumatic stress disorder”)?

The answer is simple: one was a real military campaign while the other was just “feel good” PR.

A very good example of Zartman’s thesis that “Weak states can afford erratic or irresponsible behavior more easily than stronger parties, particularly when the rules of regularity and responsibility favor the strong” can be found in the relative position of, on one hand, Iran, Hezbollah and the Houthis and, on the other, the US and Israel.  Not that Iran or its allies have acted irresponsibly, they have not, but when they reacted, it was always with a double message: we don’t want war, but we are ready for it.  But when the US engages in rather crude threats (just think of all the silly threats Trump has made during his presidency, including the most recent ones to wage war on Turkey if needed, not a joke, check here), these threats always end up further weakening the USA.  It is a true blessing for Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrians that their enemies are not only so inept, but also so good at cornering themselves in the worst kind of situations.  In the end, the US still managed to lose face, even if you were never told about it.  What do I mean?

Just look at what just took place:  Trump sent Erdogan such a crude and rude letter (he sounds like a 10 year old), which was so insulting to Erdogan that he not only tossed it in the trash bin, but he also made sure to tell his aides to “leak” to the media how Erdogan treated Trump’s silly threats and insults.   Turkey also launched a full-scale invasion and clearly challenged the USA to do something about it.  At this point, the two other “geniuses” in the White House (Pompeo and VP Pence) had to scramble to Ankara in what was clearly a desperate “damage control” mission, beg for a meeting, and then beg the Turks to agree to an entirely symbolic ceasefire which gave just enough time for the Kurds to agree to all the Syrian terms and to let the Syrian army take control of huge swaths of land without firing a single shot.  Now here is the beauty of it all:

Pompeo and Pence demanded that Erdogan agree exactly to the kind of balanced outcome the Russians have been advocating all along!  I am amazed that the Dem-media has not accused Pompeo and Pence of being Russian agents because what they just “demanded” and “obtained” from Turkey is exactly what Putin wanted 🙂

Of course, this was all wrapped in all sorts of threats and promises to wipe out this or that country (including Turkey, a NATO member state which could, in theory, invoke Art 5 and ask NATO to defend it against the USA!  Of course, this would not happen as this would mark the end of NATO) and all the rest of the obligatory barking we always hear from the US when the “best military in world history” fails to achieve anything at all (even if Trump seriously claims that the US – not Russia – defeated the Takfiris the West has so lovingly been federating, supporting, I strongly believe, directing them for decades).  Yes, Trump did the right thing when he declared that he wanted the US forces out of Syria, but let’s not be naive about that either: he did not order that because he is some great humanitarian, but because if the Turks, the Kurds, the Syrians or anybody else had taken a hard shot at the US forces in the region, this would have resulted in a bigger war which would certainly cost Trump his presidency.

Which brings us to the Russian task force in Syria.  As I said, it is strong, then weak and then strong again.  It all depends on your assumptions:

If we look just at the Russian task force in Khmeinim and Tartus, we see that it is protected by cutting edge Russian weapons systems including S-400s, Su-34s, Su-35S, EW stations, battle management stations, etc.  This is more than enough to beat back a pretty powerful missile and/or bombing strike.  In this case we can think of the Russian task force in Syria as very powerful and capable of dealing with many types of attack.

On the next level, however, it becomes obvious that the biggest weakness of the Russian task force in Syria has been, from day 1, its very small size.  Irrespective of its sophistication, the Russian air defenses can be over-run by a determined attack by any combination of Axis of Kindness forces simply because at the end of the day, air defenses are always a part of a numbers game.  Even in the best of cases, one Russian air defense missile can only engage one attacking missile or aircraft.  For an attack to be successful, all the Axis of Kindness forces need to do is calculate how many missiles the Russians have, then shoot about 1.5x that number of (rather antiquated) Tomahawks, and once the Russians use up their stores, follow up with a second wave of missiles, this time modern and difficult to target ones.  At this point the Russians would have to reply with only their AA artillery and their EW capabilities.  Inevitably, there will come a point when they will be overwhelmed.  In this scenario, Russia is the weaker party and the Russian task force is doomed in case of a sustained US/NATO/CENTCOM attack.

Finally, there is a third level which the AngloZionists have to consider: the Russians have made it pretty clear that in case of an attack on the Russian task force in Syria, Russia will use her strategic striking capabilities to protect her task force.  Such measures could include: long range cruise missile attack and air strikes (possibly coming from the Iranian airspace).  In this case, as my friend Andrey Martyanov explained many times, including in his article “Russia’s Stand-Off Capability: the 800 Pound Gorilla in Syria” which he concluded by the follow words:

“This simple, single operational fact shows precisely why for two years a relatively small Russian military contingent has been able to operate so effectively in Syria and, in fact, dictate conditions on the ground and in the area of its operations. The answer is simple—many adrenaline junkies are lowered in a cage into the water to face sharks, with only metal rods separating them and sharks’ deadly jaws. Yet, up there, in the boat one can always put a man with a gun which can be used in case of emergency to a deadly effect should the cage give. The Russian military contingent in Syria is not just some military base—it is the force tightly integrated with Russian Armed Forces that have enough reach and capability to make anyone face some extremely unpleasant choices, including the fact that it is Russia, not the US, who controls escalation to a threshold and that can explain a non-stop anti-Russian hysteria in US media since the outcome of the war in Syria became clear”

Here, again, we have the same stance as Iran’s: we don’t want war, but we are ready for it.  One could say that the US stance is the polar opposite: we do want war (heck, we *need* it for political and economic reasons!), but we are completely unprepared for it (including psychologically).

Conclusion: remember all those who are now proven wrong!

Remember all the folks who predicted with absolute confidence that Russia was “selling out” Syria?  They began their tune when Russia prevented a US attack on Syria by catching the US at its word and offering to remove all chemical weapons from Syria.  Not only were these weapons useless, they were a prefect pretext for the Axis of Kindness to strike Syria.  The US was livid, but had to accept.  Well, all the “Putin/Russia is/are selling out” Syria immediately claimed that Russia was disarming Syria to make it easier for Israel to attack.

Yet, in reality, no (meaningful) Israeli attack ever materialized.

Then the same folks claimed that Russia “allowed” Israel to strike Syria, that the Russians turned off their S-300s/S-400s, etc, etc, etc.

Yet, in reality, the US pretty much gave up, while the Israelis claimed “hundreds” of sorties.  Maybe they even did hit a few empty and therefore unprotected buildings, who knows?

Then there was the massive choir of trolls declaring that Russia would partition Syria.  Yet, for all the convincing sounding arguments (at least to those who did not understand Russia or the Middle-East), one by one the various “good terrorists” strongholds fell to the Syrian military.  Now more Syrian land has been liberated than ever before.  As for the Turks, they can dream on about a bigger Turkey or about creating some kind of security/buffer zone, but they understand that they cannot do that if Russia and Syria both oppose this.  In fact, Turkey has officially promised to respect the territorial integrity of Syria (see here, in Russian)

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of The Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin agreed on the following points:

1. The two sides reiterate their commitment to the preservation of the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the protection of national security of Turkey.

2. They emphasize their determination to combat terrorism in all forms and manifestations and to disrupt separatist agendas in the Syrian territory.

3. In this framework, the established status quo in the current Operation Peace Spring area covering Tel Abyad and Ras Al Ayn with a depth of 32 km will be preserved.

4. Both sides reaffirm the importance of the Adana Agreement. The Russian Federation will facilitate the implementation of the Adana Agreement in the current circumstances.

5. Starting 12.00 noon of October 23, 2019, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will enter the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, outside the area of Operation Peace Spring, to facilitate the removal of YPG elements and their weapons to the depth of 30 km from the Turkish-Syrian border, which should be finalized in 150 hours. At that moment, joint Russian-Turkish patrols will start in the west and the east of the area of Operation Peace Spring with a depth of 10 km, except Qamishli city.

6. All YPG elements and their weapons will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat.

7. Both sides will take necessary measures to prevent infiltrations of terrorist elements.

8. Joint efforts will be launched to facilitate the return of refugees in a safe and voluntary manner.

9. A joint monitoring and verification mechanism will be established to oversee and coordinate the implementation of this memorandum.

10. The two sides will continue to work to find a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict within Astana Mechanism and will support the activity of the Constitutional Committee.

 

Memorandum of Understanding Between Turkey and the Russian Federation

http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5452

October 22, 2019 (emphasis added by me, VS)

President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of The Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin agreed on the following points:

1. The two sides reiterate their commitment to the preservation of the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the protection of national security of Turkey.

2. They emphasize their determination to combat terrorism in all forms and manifestations and to disrupt separatist agendas in the Syrian territory.

3. In this framework, the established status quo in the current Operation Peace Spring area covering Tel Abyad and Ras Al Ayn with a depth of 32 km will be preserved.

4. Both sides reaffirm the importance of the Adana Agreement. The Russian Federation will facilitate the implementation of the Adana Agreement in the current circumstances.

5. Starting 12.00 noon of October 23, 2019, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will enter the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, outside the area of Operation Peace Spring, to facilitate the removal of YPG elements and their weapons to the depth of 30 km from the Turkish-Syrian border, which should be finalized in 150 hours. At that moment, joint Russian-Turkish patrols will start in the west and the east of the area of Operation Peace Spring with a depth of 10 km, except Qamishli city.

6. All YPG elements and their weapons will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat.

7. Both sides will take necessary measures to prevent infiltrations of terrorist elements.

8. Joint efforts will be launched to facilitate the return of refugees in a safe and voluntary manner.

9. A joint monitoring and verification mechanism will be established to oversee and coordinate the implementation of this memorandum.

10. The two sides will continue to work to find a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict within Astana Mechanism and will support the activity of the Constitutional Committee.

The key elements of this MoU are

  1. USA out, Russia in
  2. Syria’s borders cannot be changed

You can see the full press conference of Putin and Erdogan by clicking here.

Finally, this is the reaction of one of the worst AngloZionist propaganda outlets in Europe:

Title: The capitulation of the West

“Die Kapitulation des Westens” (The Capitulation of the West).

I can’t say that I disagree with their conclusion 🙂

Finally, does this “capitulation talk” not remind you of something else we have all seen recently?

Yes, of course, the Ukronazi “Ні капітуляції!” (no to the capitulation!).

Again, what does all that talk of “capitulation” strongly suggest?

If this is not a triumph of Russian diplomacy then I don’t know what this is!

And, just for those who disagree, let me throw in a rhetorical question:

If Putin is such a loser who “sells out” everything and who works with/for Israel and for Netanyahu specifically, if Russia is so weak and clueless, why is it that it is not the Russian people who are denouncing a “capitulation” but, instead, why are all the enemies of Russia freaking out about capitulating?

*******

And now, where do we go from here?

Actually, I am very cautiously optimistic since there is a huge difference between Russia and the USA: the USA needs constant wars simply in order to survive, whereas Russia needs peace to flourish.  Now that the Russians are the biggest player in the Middle-East (well, with the Iranians, of course), they will use the fact that they have pretty good relationships with everybody, including (former?) enemies of Russia like the KSA or the UAE.

Of course, there shall be no peace between Israel and the rest of the Middle-East, if only because by its very nature Israel is a mortal threat to every country in the region, even for countries which currently eagerly collaborate with Israel (like the KSA). The only way for the long suffering Middle-East to finally live in peace again would be for  the Zionist “occupation regime over Jerusalem to vanish from the arena of time” to use the famous, and often mistranslated, words of Ayatollah Khomeini.  The current Iranian Supreme leader also clearly spelled out the only manner in which the Palestinian question can be solved peace will be achieved in the Middle-East:

“The Islamic Republic’s proposal to help resolve the Palestinian issue and heal this old wound is a clear and logical initiative based on political concepts accepted by world public opinion, which has already been presented in detail. We do not suggest launching a classic war by the armies of Muslim countries, or throwing immigrant Jews into the sea, or mediation by the UN and other international organizations. We propose holding a referendum with [the participation of] the Palestinian nation. The Palestinian nation, like any other nation, has the right to determine their own destiny and elect the governing system of the country.”

Both Iranian leaders are absolutely correct.  There shall never be peace in the region as long as a crazed racist regime which has only contempt for the rest of the planet continues its slow motion genocide of the indigenous population of Palestine.

In the meantime, now that Syria, Russia, Iran, the Houthis, Hezbollah and the Shia forces in Iraq have successfully shown Uncle Shmuel the door out of Syria, the last Israeli plan (a “plan Z” perhaps) has now collapsed along with any hopes of creating an independent Kurdistan.

Israel is in no condition to take on such a powerful coalition.  I would argue that even the US cannot win against this force, even if it still is capable of triggering a bloodbath (just like the Israelis did in 2006).

Of all the strategic collapses we have seen under the Obama and Trump presidencies, the loss of influence in the Middle-East is probably the biggest one of them all.  This is a very positive development for the region and for the world.  Now let’s just hope that whoever makes it into the White House in 2020 will understand that this is a done deal and will not try to make “the Empire great again” and reverse that course as any such attempts will result in a major regional war.

The Saker

PS: here is a video of the “best military in history” being pelted by stones and veggies by disgusted Kurds while the US forces evacuate in a hurry.  Really says it all, doesn’t it?  Feel the love 😉

It also appears that the same sentiment is shared by the Iraqis who are now trying to take legal action to finally also give the boot to Uncle Shmuel, see here: https://www.rt.com/news/471645-iraq-pleads-un-help-us-troops/

Again, feel the love, the respect and the (lack) of fear 🙂

 

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – OCTOBER 23, 2019: ERDOGAN, PUTIN REACH ‘HISTORIC DEAL’ ON NORTHERN SYRIA

South Front

On October 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement to settle the situation in northeastern Syria.

According to the agreement, Turkey’s Operation ‘Peace Spring’ will continue in a limited area between Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn with a depth of 32km. Starting from 12:00 October 23, units of the Russian Military Police and the Syrian Army will be deployed along the rest of the Turkish border to the east of the Euphrates.

Syria and Russia should facilitate the removal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their weapons from to the depth of 30km from the Turkish-Syrian border. After this, joint Russian-Turkish patrols will start to the east and the west of the area of Operation Peace Spring.

A joint monitoring and verification mechanism to oversee these processes will be established.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to the territorial integrity of Syria and protection of the national security of Turkey, and vowed to combat terrorism in all forms and disrupt separatist agendas in the Syrian territory.

Turkey and Russia emphasized the importance of the 1998 Adana accord, a security pact between Syria and Turkey. Among other things, it allows Turkish to carry out cross-border operations against terrorists in Syria, while Damascus promises not to harbor members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Other points of the agreement include the need to facilitate return of refugees to Syria and find a long-standing political solution of the conflict in Syria.

On October 22, Syrian government forces completed deployment along the Hasakah-Aleppo highway. On the same day, President Bashar al-Assad inspected frontlines in southern Idlib. During the visit, he called Turkish President Erdogan a “thief” stealing Syrian land. Nevertheless, such statements are typical for the Damascus government, when it comments on Turkish military actions in Syria.

Developments on the ground and actions of the Syrian government demonstrate that Damascus supports the settlement of the situation in northeastern Syria through cooperation with Turkey.

Related

The Mother of Messes in Syria

Image result for The Mother of Messes in Syria

October 20, 2019

Eric S. MARGOLIS

What a mess. The imperial cooks in Washington have turned poor Syria into a poison pit of warring factions, with disastrous results for all.

Henry Kissinger once quipped that it is more dangerous being America’s ally than its enemy. A good example is how Washington used the Kurds in Syria to fight ISIS and then ditched them to face the wrath of the mighty Turkish military alone.

A great hue and cry has gone up from the US corporate media and Congress that the Kurds are being betrayed. The evangelical far right and Israel’s supporters are leading this charge. Israel has secretly been arming and aiding Kurds in Iraq, Iran and Syria since 1975 as a dandy way of splintering the fragile Arab Mideast.

But President Trump was right when he said that the Kurds had been richly paid by Washington for their services, adding ‘they are no angels.’ Some facts ignored by the US media:

– Kurds, a tribal, non-Semitic people of Persian origin are, like Palestinians, a stateless people who are sand in the eye of the Mideast. They inhabit the uplands of Syria, Iraq, Armenia, and Iran. Kurds are a handsome, warlike people renowned for their fighting abilities and courage. They have long battled neighboring Arab and Iranian tribes over pasture land and water resources.

– The Obama administration got talked into arming and financing the extremist Islamic State group by the deep state and Israel as a way of overthrowing Syria’s secular government, an ally of Iran. The US-equipped Iraqi Army sent to fight IS ran for their lives. When Islamic State threatened Baghdad, the US Air Force intervened and crushed it. Rogue elements of Islamic State ran amok, creating all sorts of atrocities. Some IS units still receive covert Israeli cross-border support.

The US found it expedient to pay Kurdish militias, known as YPG, to fight remnants of the rag-tag IS, an armed mob whose danger was wildly exaggerated by western media. IS was a perfect excuse to keep US military forces in the Mideast. Turkey helped arm IS.

– Turkey’s Kurdish minority is 15-20% of its 80 million people. The dangerous Marxist PKK movement has been calling for an independent Kurdish state since the 1980’s. I covered the war in Turkey’s southern Anatolia between the PKK and the Turkish Army, a bloody affair of bombings and massacres that left over 40,000 dead. Turks go ballistic at the very mention of an independent Kurdish state, calling Kurds ‘mountain Turks’ and Marxist `terrorists.’

Kurds were harshly repressed by various Turkish governments and their generals. But when the Ottoman Turks marched tens of thousands of Armenian prisoners to Syria during World War I, Kurdish tribes raped and massacred them in great numbers. In the 1920’s, the sainted Winston Churchill authorized use of poison gas against ‘unruly’ Kurdish and Afghan tribes.

– US attempts to overthrow Syria’s government created national chaos. The scrubby eastern third of Syria had a mixed tribal population, but the Kurdish YPG militia declared it independent from Syria, declaring a new Kurdish state called Rojava. To no surprise, a confusing melee developed between Syrian forces and Arab tribal fighters, US units, Kurdish militias, IS and tribes aligned to Damascus. Turkey, aghast at the prospects of an independent Kurdish state next door, decided to send in its army which had been demanding action against armed Kurdish groups.

Into this maelstrom strode Donald Trump, who knew nothing about Syria. There were only about 1,000 US troops in Syria, but they could call down the US Air Force based in nearby Qatar. These token troops are being withdrawn to neighboring Iraq, which remain a US-occupied nation with a puppet government, an American garrison of at least 5,000 troops, and oceans of oil.

In short, Syria is being ground up by wars for no good purpose. Turkey made a grave error by joining efforts to overthrow Syria’s Assad regime. The US, France, Britain and Israel have no business at all there. Only Russia has a legitimate geopolitical interest in Syria, which is close to its southern border. So far, Vlad Putin has played a very skillful game of big power chess in Syria while the US has blundered time and again.

ericmargolis.com

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

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.

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?

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