KURDISH MILITIAS START NEW DANGEROUS GAME IN NORTHERN SYRIA

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An armed group named the Islamic Revenge Movement (IRM), hostile towards both Turkish forces and the Syrian Army announced its existence in northern Syria. In a video message released on March 20, the IRM claimed that in 2019 its members conducted 118 attacks killing 13 Turkish officers, 187 Turkish-backed militants and 24 pro-government fighters. The IRM also vowed to continue its fight against the “tyrant state” of Turkey and the “Assad regime” in 2020. The claims of the IRM are very questionable, as the group provided no evidence with which to confirm them.

Furthermore, pro-Kurdish sources were first to release the IRM video arguing that the group consisted of former al-Qaeda members. They also released the name of the supposed group leader:  “Abu Osama al-Shami.” Syrian opposition and pro-al-Qaeda sources called the group fake. According to them, the video is just a coverup for actions by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Both groups prefer to distance themselves from acts of direct aggression against the Syrian military and the Turkish Army in northern Syria. In the public sphere, the YPG plays a victim oppressed by the bloody Assad regime and Erdogan the Invader. In reality, it already has a special brand created to distance the group from attacks on Turkish troops and proxies in Afrin – the Afrin Liberation Forces. The Turkish-rooted PKK pretends that it has no bases and fighters in the region despite the fact that a large part of YPG commanders and members is linked with the PKK.

Iran reportedly increased its military presence in southern Damascus. According to pro-opposition sources, the Shiite-majority area of Set Zaynab was turned into a stronghold of pro-Iranian forces. Syrian government sources deny these reports.

On the evening of March 26, Israel shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of Hezbollah, which allegedly violated “Israeli airspace”. The photo released by the Israeli military allows to identify the UAV as a modified variant of the commercially-available Skywalker X8. Armed groups across the entire Middle East modify such drones for combat purposes installing on them submunitions as well as use such UAVs for reconnaissance.

In Iraq, the United States withdrew its forces from the al-Qayyarah Air Base and handed it over to the Iraqi military. A spokesman for the US-led coalition, Col. Myles B. Caggins III, said hundreds of coalition troops will “temporarily” evacuate the base as a protective measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. About 800 troops of the U.S.-led coalition were deployed at the airbase, which hosted approximately $1,7 million dollars worth of coalition equipment. The al-Qayyarah Air Base became the 2nd important military facility abandoned by US forces in March. The withdrawal of US troops from the previous one – al-Qaim – took place last week. These developments are being carried out under the pretext of the COVID-19 outbreak and the defeat of ISIS, but local sources link them with the increasing number of attacks on US forces across the country that the Pentagon cannot contain successfully without a large-scale military escalation.

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ISIS Threat Revives In Eastern Syria. Idlib Militants Kill Each Other Over Security Zone Deal Contradictions

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ISIS cells are once again active in eastern Syria. Late on March 17, the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces epelled an ISIS attack in the area between the town of al-Sukhna and the T3 station. The attack involved over two dozen ISIS members supported by at least 6 vehicles equipped with heavy weapons. Pro-opposition sources claim that at least 20 Syrian soldiers were killed in the clashes. Pro-government sources deny casualties and say that terrorists were forced to retreat after they had been targeted by artillery and mortar fire.

The ISIS presence in the desert area of eastern Syria had been slowly decreasing over the past year. Additionally, government forces carried out several security operations cracking down on the remaining ISIS cells in southeastern Deir Ezzor and eastern Homs. However, the terrorist threat was not removed. Syria and Russia say that ISIS members use the US-controlled zone of al-Tanf as a safe haven to hide from Syrian Army operations.

Five civilians were reportedly killed and 15 others injured in a rocket strike on the city of Afrin on March 18. Pro-Turkish sources say that the rockets were launched by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) or affiliated rebels. The YPG created the brand of the Afrin Liberation Forces in December 2018 in order to distance themselves from regular attacks on the Turkish-controlled part of northwestern Syria. In this way, the YPG, which is the core of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, was seeking to distance itself from operations against Turkish forces. The goal was to continue receiving military and financial support from the United States, while simultaneously using the same resources to carry out attacks on the formal ally of the US under another brandname.

Alaa al-Omar, a commander of one of the largest units in the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham Movement, was assassinated near Jisr al-Shughur in the southwestern part of Greater Idlib. Al-Omar was among commanders of Turkish proxy groups involved in sabotaging joint Russian-Turkish patrols along the M4 highway. Pro-government sources claim that his assassination is a result of the contradiction between al-Omar’s unit and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party, which controls Jisr al-Shughur. According to this theory, al-Omar was not active enough in organizing protests against the safe zone deal.

Regardless of the contradictions among the Idlib armed groups, the M4 highway remains closed and the Turkish-Russian agreement on the safe zone in the area is not being implemented.

Combat Footage: Kurdish Forces Strom Turkish Position In Southern Afrin (18+)

Image result for Combat Footage: Kurdish Forces Strom Turkish Position In Southern Afrin (18+)

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On March 15, the Afrin Liberation Forces (ALF) released a video of a recent attack by its cells on a position of Turkish-backed militants in the southern part of occupied Afrin in northern Aleppo

The video shows the Kurdish group’s fighters storming the position, which is located in the town of Berade in the district of Sherawa. The fighters can be seen shooting and killing many Turkish-backed militants from a close range after infiltrating the position.

See Video Here

The attack is an example of the ALF’s excellent guerilla warfare tactics. It also reveals the poor training and low morale of Turkey’s proxies in northern Syria, which appear to be incapable of repelling even a small-scale attack.

The ALF is launching most of its attacks from a region in southern Afrin jointly controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Both sides appear to be supporting the group. However, the extent of their support is still unclear.

The last few months witnessed a surge in ALF attacks on Turkish forces in northern Aleppo. However, the Turkish military and its proxies are yet to take any serious measures to confront the growing threat of the Kurdish group.

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WHICH TARGET AFTER SYRIA?

Source

19 years of “war without end”

President George W. Bush decided to radically transform the Pentagon’s missions, as Colonel Ralph Peters explained in the Army magazine Parameters on September 13, 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Admiral Arthur Cebrowski to train future officers. Cebrowski spent three years touring military universities so that today all general officers have taken his courses. His thoughts were popularized for the general public by his deputy, Thomas Barnett.

The areas affected by the US war will be given over to “chaos”. This concept is to be understood in the sense of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, i.e. as the absence of political structures capable of protecting citizens from their own violence (“Man is a wolf to man”). And not in the biblical sense of making a clean slate before the creation of a new order.

This war is an adaptation of the US Armed Forces to the era of globalization, to the transition from productive capitalism to financial capitalism. “War is a Racket,” as Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated general, used to say before World War II [1]. From now on, friends and enemies will no longer count; war will allow for the simple management of natural resources.

This form of war involves many crimes against humanity (including ethnic cleansing) that the US Armed Forces cannot commit. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld therefore hired private armies (including Blackwater) and developed terrorist organizations while pretending to fight them.

The Bush and Obama administrations followed this strategy: to destroy the state structures of entire regions of the world. The US war is no longer about winning, but about lasting (the “war without end”). President Donald Trump and his first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, have questioned this development without being able to change it. Today, the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski thinkers pursue their goals not so much through the Defence Secretariat as through NATO.

After President Bush launched the “never-ending war” in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), there was strong contestation among Washington’s political elites about the arguments that had justified the invasion of Iraq and the disorder there. This was the Baker-Hamilton Commission (2006). The war never stopped in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it took five years for President Obama to open new theatres of operation: Libya (2011), Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015).

Two external actors interfered with this plan.
 In 2010-11, the United Kingdom launched the “Arab Spring”, an operation modeled on the “Arab Revolt” of 1915, which allowed Lawrence of Arabia to put the Wahhabi in power on the Arabian Peninsula. This time it was a question of placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power with the help not of the Pentagon, but of the US State Department and NATO.
 In 2014, Russia intervened in Syria, whose state had not collapsed and which it helped to resist. Since then, the British – who had tried to change the regime there during the “Arab Spring” (2011-early 2012) – and then the Americans – who were seeking to overthrow not the regime, but the state (mid-2012 to the present) – have had to withdraw. Russia, pursuing the dream of Tsarina Catherine, is today fighting against chaos, for stability – that is to say, for the defence of state structures and respect for borders.

Colonel Ralph Peters, who in 2001 revealed the Pentagon’s new strategy, published Admiral Cebrowski’s map of objectives in 2006. It showed that only Israel and Jordan would not be affected. All other countries in the “Broader Middle East” (i.e., from Morocco to Pakistan) would gradually be stateless and all major countries (including Saudi Arabia and Turkey) would disappear.

Noting that its best ally, the United States, was planning to cut its territory in two in order to create a “free Kurdistan”, Turkey unsuccessfully tried to get closer to China, and then adopted the theory of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Zero problems with its neighbours”. It distanced itself from Israel and began to negotiate peace with Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Iraq etc. It also distanced itself from Israel. Despite the territorial dispute over Hatay, it created a common market with Syria. However, in 2011, when Libya was already isolated, France convinced Turkey that it could escape partition if it joined NATO’s ambitions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a political Islamist of the Millî Görüş, joined the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was not a member, hoping to recoup the fruits of the ’Arab Spring’ for his own benefit. Turkey turned against one of its main clients, Libya, and then against one of its main partners, Syria.

In 2013, the Pentagon adapted the “endless war” to the realities on the ground. Robin Wright published two corrective maps in the New York Times. The first dealt with the division of Libya, the second with the creation of a “Kurdistan” affecting only Syria and Iraq and sparing the eastern half of Turkey and Iran. It also announced the creation of a “Sunnistan” straddling Iraq and Syria, dividing Saudi Arabia into five and Yemen into two. This last operation began in 2015.

The Turkish General Staff was very happy with this correction and prepared for the events. It concluded agreements with Qatar (2017), Kuwait (2018) and Sudan (2017) to set up military bases and surround the Saudi kingdom. In 2019 it financed an international press campaign against the “Sultan” and a coup d’état in Sudan. At the same time, Turkey supported the new project of “Kurdistan” sparing its territory and participated in the creation of “Sunnistan” by Daesh under the name of “Caliphate”. However, the Russian intervention in Syria and the Iranian intervention in Iraq brought this project to a halt.

In 2017, regional president Massoud Barzani organised a referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Immediately, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran understood that the Pentagon, returning to its original plan, was preparing to create a “free Kurdistan” by cutting up their respective territories. They coalesced to defeat it. In 2019, the PKK/PYG announced that it was preparing for the independence of the Syrian ’Rojava’. Without waiting, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran once again joined forces. Turkey invaded the “Rojava”, chasing the PKK/YPG, without much reaction from the Syrian and Russian armies.

In 2019, the Turkish General Staff became convinced that the Pentagon, having temporarily renounced destroying Syria because of the Russian presence, was now preparing to destroy the Turkish state. In order to postpone the deadline, it tried to reactivate the “endless war” in Libya, then to threaten the members of NATO with the worst calamities: the European Union with migratory subversion and the United States with a war with Russia. To do this, it opened its border with Greece to migrants and attacked the Russian and Syrian armies in Idleb where they bombed the Al Qaeda and Daesh jihadists who had taken refuge there. This is the episode we are living through today.

Robin Wright’s "Reshaping the Broader Middle East" map, published by Robin Wright.
Robin Wright’s “Reshaping the Broader Middle East” map, published by Robin Wright.

The Moscow Additional Protocol

The Turkish army caused Russian and Syrian casualties in February 2020, while President Erdoğan made numerous phone calls to his Russian counterpart, Putin, to lower the tension he was causing with one hand.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to curb the Pentagon’s appetites if Turkey helped the Pentagon restart the “endless war” in Libya. This country is divided into a thousand tribes that clash around two main leaders, both CIA agents, the president of the Presidential Council, Fayez el-Sarraj, and the commander of the National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

Last week, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Professor Ghassan Salame, was asked to resign for “health reasons”. He complied, not without expressing his bad mood at a press conference. An axis has been set up to support al-Sarraj by the Muslim Brotherhood around Qatar and Turkey. A second coalition was born around Haftar with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but also Saudi Arabia and Syria.

It is the great return of the latter on the international scene. Syria is the culmination of nine years of victorious resistance to the Brotherhood and the United States. Two Libyan and Syrian embassies were opened with great pomp and circumstance on 4 March, in Damascus and Benghazi.

Moreover, the European Union, after having solemnly condemned the “Turkish blackmail of refugees”, sent the President of the Commission to observe the flow of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border and the President of the Council to survey President Erdoğan in Ankara. The latter confirmed that an arrangement was possible if the Union undertook to defend the ’territorial integrity’ of Turkey.

With keen pleasure, the Kremlin has staged the surrender of Turkey: the Turkish delegation is standing, contrary to the habit where chairs are provided for guests; behind it, a statue of Empress Catherine the Great recalls that Russia was already present in Syria in the 18th century. Finally, Presidents Erdoğan and Putin are seated in front of a pendulum commemorating the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.
With keen pleasure, the Kremlin has staged the surrender of Turkey: the Turkish delegation is standing, contrary to the habit where chairs are provided for guests; behind it, a statue of Empress Catherine the Great recalls that Russia was already present in Syria in the 18th century. Finally, Presidents Erdoğan and Putin are seated in front of a pendulum commemorating the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.

It was thus on this basis that President Vladimir Putin received President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Kremlin on March 5. A first, restricted, three-hour meeting was devoted to relations with the United States. Russia would have committed itself to protect Turkey from a possible partition on the condition that it signs and applies an Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area [2]. A second meeting, also of three hours duration but open to ministers and advisers, was devoted to the drafting of this text. It provides for the creation of a 12-kilometre-wide security corridor around the M4 motorway, jointly monitored by the two parties. To put it plainly: Turkey is backing away north of the reopened motorway and losing the town of Jisr-el-Chogour, a stronghold of the jihadists. Above all, it must at last apply the Sochi memorandum, which provides for support only for the Syrian armed opposition, which is supposed to be democratic and not Islamist, and for combating the jihadists. However, this “democratic armed opposition” is nothing more than a chimera imagined by British propaganda. In fact, Turkey will either have to kill the jihadists itself, or continue and complete their transfer from Idleb (Syria) to Djerba (Tunisia) and then Tripoli (Libya) as it began to do in January.

In addition, on March 7, President Putin contacted former President Nazerbayev to explore with him the possibility of deploying Kazakh “blue chapkas” in Syria under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This option had already been considered in 2012. Kazakh soldiers have the advantage of being Muslims and not orthodox.

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Missiles were fired this week against the royal palace in Riyadh. Prince Mohamed ben Salmane (known as “MBS”, 34 years old) had his uncle, Prince Ahmed (70 years old), and his former competitor and ex-heir prince, Prince Mohamed ben Nayef (60 years old), as well as various other princes and generals arrested. The Shia province of Qatif, where several cities have already been razed to the ground, has been isolated. Official explanations of succession disputes and coronavirus are not enough [4].

Notes:

[1] “I had 33 years and 4 months of active service, and during that time I spent most of my time as a big shot for business, for Wall Street, and for bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster in the service of capitalism. I helped secure Mexico, especially the city of Tampico, for the American oil companies in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a suitable place for the men of the National City Bank to make a profit. I helped rape half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the American bank Brown Brothers from 1902 to 1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the benefit of American sugar companies in 1916. I delivered Honduras to American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped the Standard Oil company do business in peace.” Smedley Butler in War Is a Racket, Feral House (1935)

[2] “Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area”, Voltaire Network, 5 March 2020.

[3] “Taking Saudi out of Arabia“, Powerpoint by Laurent Murawiec for a meeting of the Defence Policy Board (July 10, 2002).

[4] “Two Saudi Royal Princes Held, Accused of Plotting a Coup”, Bradley Hope, Wall Street Journal; “Detaining Relatives, Saudi Prince Clamps Down”, David Kirkpatrick & Ben Hubbard, The New Yok Times, March 7, 2020.


By Thierry Meyssan
Source: Voltaire Network

Ceasefire in Idlib to Hold, But Will it be Enough to Bridge Gaps Between Syria and Turkey?

GMT 11.03.2020

Sputnik

Elizabeth Blade

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said there have been no violations registered in Syria’s northern province of Idlib since Thursday, 5 March, when Ankara sealed a ceasefire deal with Moscow in an attempt to contain the conflict that displaced nearly a million people in three months in north-west of the country.

As the situation around Idlib, escalated, threatening to drag all the conflicting sides into a deeper crisis, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Moscow last week to meet with his Russian counterpart and establish new rules of the game.

The measures, which entered into force on 6 March, include an agreement to establish joint patrols of one of Idlib’s two key highways (the M4), along which a Russian-Turkish security corridor will be established.

Pinning Hopes for Better Future

And this time around, thinks Yusuf Erim, a Turkish affairs analyst for TRT World who is close to governmental circles, the chances that both sides will adhere to the agreement are high.

“First of all, [the Idlib agreement presupposed that] Turkey is leaving behind a sizable deployment of troops to secure its area of control and be able to retaliate if Syrian forces violate the agreement. And, secondly, the Syrian army has absorbed huge losses so they don’t have the capability to deal with Turkish troops. Assad understands the repercussions that would follow if he breached the deal”, he said referring to Ankara’s claims that it has “neutralised” hundreds of Syrian soldiers.

In the end of February, 34 Turkish soldiers were neutralised by Syrian troops resulting in Turkey’s decision to launch a full-scale offensive – operation Spring Shield – that claimed the lives of more than two thousand Syrian soldiers and dealt a severe blow to Syria’s military equipment, Turkish sources said.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has justified the operation by saying that Ankara aimed at “putting an end to the carnage” it blamed on Damascus and prevent radicalisation and migration – an opinion shared by Erim, who suggests that Ankara’s involvement in Syria was dictated by purely “national security concerns”.

“Ankara’s first cross border operation into Syria in 2016 was to push back Daesh militants, while the operations in 2018 and 2019 targeted the YPG (Kurdish fighters considered terrorist by Ankara – ed.),” adding that Turkey took great care to avoid skirmishes with the Syrian armed forces. “However, allowing Idlib to collapse and watch a humanitarian disaster unfold on its borders was not an option.”

Is Turkey a True Partner?

But not everyone agreed with this depiction of events. Dr. Nidal Kabalan, Syria’s last ambassador to Turkey, who held this post for more than a year after the eruption of the Arab Spring in 2011, argues that Ankara has successfully disguised its “expansionist intentions” under the preface of fighting for human rights and democracy.

“They didn’t come to Syria to protect civilians,” Kabalan said, adding that the real intention of Ankara was to fight President Assad. In doing so, the former diplomat thinks, Turkey supported various kinds of militants in the war-stricken country, ranging from moderates to extremists.

Since the eruption of the war in Syria nine years ago, Damascus has repeatedly stated that it was fighting terrorists who had flocked to the war-torn country from abroad to wage jihad.

Many, according to Syria, came from Turkey. In 2014, for example, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, a New York based think-tank, published research suggesting Ankara has not only turned a blind eye to its own citizens travelling to Syria to fight alongside the rebels linked to terrorist groups but has also helped foreign fighters to bypass the lax security on the Syrian border.

Ankara, for its part, denies these allegations: being one of the first countries that designated Daesh* and its branches as terrorist organisations, Turkey positions itself as a country that has eliminated over 6,000 Daesh-affiliated terrorists, more, it claims, than any other state.

In addition, Turkey has also collaborated with the international community to find political solutions to the ongoing  crisis, participating in various talks that aimed at protecting civilians and helping millions of Syrian refugees who had entered the country since the beginning of the war.

Refugees as Means of Extortion?

But in the case of the Syrian refugees, as in other cases, Ankara and Damascus agree to disagree.

Recently, Ankara, which is said to be hosting the largest refugee population in the world, including more than two million from Syria, decided to open its borders for hundreds of asylum-seekers who have amassed at the Turkish-Greek border in a bid to cross into Europe.

Turkey justified its decision by its inability to cope with the growing number of asylum seekers and accused the EU of violating a 2016 agreement, under which Ankara agreed to host thousands in exchange for financial support from Brussels – cash that was too little and came too late.

Reaction of the European bloc was quick to follow. It pointed a finger of blame at Turkey for using the issue as a “bargaining chip” in talks with Brussels and Syria’s former ambassador believes Brussels couldn’t have formulated it better.

“Refugees are only a tool in the hands of Erdogan to extort money from the EU,” the former top diplomat said, while referring to the Turkish president’s comments that his country needs some $40 billion to handle the crisis.

But for the Turkish analyst, Erdogan’s demands made perfect sense.

“Turkey has almost single-handedly been forced to shoulder the migrant crisis with very little outside support. Migration is not Turkey’s problem, its an international issue. The EU has had many opportunities to address the root cause of the crisis but it chose to stay silent. The situation has now reached a point where Turkey can no longer handle it by itself. If the EU will not support Turkey in its initiatives to create solutions inside Syria to curb the displacement of people – then it will have to face the consequences of its inaction,” he summed up.

The EU, for its part, rejects Turkey’s claims, saying the bloc has stuck to its 2016 agreement with Ankara, injecting billions of Euro to assist Turkey to finance schools, housing and medical centres for the refugees it hosts on its soil. 

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Crisis in Syrian Idlib Has Firmly Put Turkey Back into NATO’s Sphere

Global Research, February 13, 2020

Syria was the very reason why relations between Turkey and the United States deteriorated as the latter openly backed the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), that Ankara considers a terrorist organization. Although Turkey has always been a loyal ally and member of the U.S.-led NATO, the Syrian War saw relations between Ankara and Moscow flourish despite an initial speedbump when Turkey downed a Russian jet in Syria in 2015, leading to the murder of the pilot by Turkish-backed terrorists. Russia not only improved relations by selling Turkey the powerful S-400 missile defense system, but sympathized with Turkish concerns against the YPG and partnered with Turkey in Syria-related discussions through the Astana and Sochi formats. The S-400 sale triggered the wrath of NATO, and many within the political establishment in Washington considered the option of kicking Turkey out of the Atlanticist organization.

It appeared that with Russo-Turkish relations strengthening, Turkey would join the new Multipolar World System. However, at the end of January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had an outburst against Russia, revealing his frustration by stating “Russia is not abiding by Astana or Sochi” as Moscow refused to discourage their Syrian allies from fighting Turkish-backed terrorist forces operating in Idlib province in Syria’s northwest. However, the Astana and Sochi agreements allow for operations against terrorist organizations – the Syrian Army are battling against Al-Qaeda affiliated formations like the Turkestan Islamic Party and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

With Russia refusing to step away from backing its Syrian ally, Turkey has escalated the situation in Idlib by mobilizing thousands of soldiers to illegally occupy large swathes of the province. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wasted no time and during a press discussion yesterday after the first day’s session of the Meeting of NATO Defense Ministers, he announced that NATO is giving support to Turkey against Syria in Idlib. This came when on the same day U.S. Special Representative for Syria, James Jeffrey said in an interview with the Turkish news channel NTV that Turkish soldiers that are currently stationed in Idlib have the right to defend themselves and that Washington and Ankara have a common geostrategic goal in Syria and Libya.

Effectively, as Russia and Turkey find huge differences in not only Idlib, but also in Libya, both NATO and the U.S. have pounced at the opportunity to bring Turkey firmly back into its camp and away from Russia – Ankara has been more than happy to oblige. As Turkey occupies a strategic space in Eurasia, serving as the bridge between East and West, while also controlling the Bosporus and Dardanelles, the straits where Turkey holds huge leverage against the Great Powers.

There is little doubt that the Syrian Army’s offensive in Idlib has deepened the rift between Russia and Turkey, so-much-so that Erdoğan, emboldened by support from Stoltenberg and Jeffrey, claimed that “most of the attacks carried out by the [Syrian] regime and Russia in Idlib target civilians rather than terrorists.” Of course, he had no evidence to back this claim and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the charge.

Ankara claims that it is deeply concerned by the danger posed by a new wave of refugees and its concerns for Syrian civilians in Idlib. However, the de facto currency of Idlib is no longer the Syrian pound, but rather the Turkish lira. This is in conjunctions to the installation of Turkish communication systems in the province, duty free Turkish goods flooding in and Syrian industry dismantled and taken into Turkey. These actions would suggest that Turkey is planning to permanently control the region. Syrians remember when its Hatay province was stolen by Turkey in 1939 and also remember when the northern portion of maritime neighbor Cyprus was invaded by Turkey in 1974. In the minds of Syrians, a permanent Turkish occupation of Idlib is not an exaggeration as many officials in Ankara openly proclaim their dreams for a neo-Ottoman Empire and a Syrian jihadist leader even said on Turkish television that the so-called Free Syrian Army will fight “wherever jihad is” and for the “Ottoman Caliphate.”

As Turkey has been insubordinate to NATO over the YPG issue and strengthened relations in Russia as a reaction, both NATO and the U.S. have jumped at the opportunity to bring Ankara out of Moscow’s orbit. This was an inevitable result as Russia would not abandon its Syrian ally or accept a permanent occupation. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed in 2016 that “every inch of Syria” would be liberated, and Moscow has always supported the notion that full Syrian sovereignty must be restored and the country not Balkanized. As Turkey’s long-term goal to replace Assad with a Muslim Brotherhood and Turkish-sympathetic leader has failed, it is likely that the occupation of Idlib is Plan B as a consolation prize towards the neo-Ottoman Empire project. As Washington desperately wants Erdoğan back within its sphere of influence, it is willing to allow Turkey to occupy Idlib and perhaps even annex the region. As NATO and Washington have given their blessing for Erdoğan to military engage in Idlib, something that Russia has condemned, there is little doubt that the Idlib crisis has put Turkey firmly back into the NATO sphere and away from Russia.

*

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

The One Insurmountable Obstacle to Peace in Syria

MIKE WHITNEY • DECEMBER 4, 2019

The Turkish army did not invade Syria to attack the Kurds. That’s simply not true. The actual target of the Turkish operation (Peace Spring) was a group of separatist militants (The YPG) who have waged a bloody 30 year-long terrorist war on the Turkish state killing upwards of 40,000 people. With the assistance of US Special Forces, the YPG has seized most of the territory east of the Euphrates River including the area along Turkey’s southern border. Turkey could not allow a hostile militia to occupy towns and cities along its border any more than the United States could allow members of al Qaida to occupy bases along the Mexican border. It’s a matter of national security. The YPG was given the choice to either voluntarily withdraw or be removed by force. The United States would not have acted any differently.

The media would like people to believe that the Turkish incursion was driven by a pathological hatred of ethnic Kurds, but this isn’t true either. Keep in mind that 18 percent of Turkey’s population, roughly 14 million people, is Kurdish. If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to launch a war on Kurds, he didn’t have to go through the trouble of crossing the border to do so. He could have attacked them in his own country and been done with it. But that is not what Erdogan is doing. The Turkish operation is focused on one particular group, the People’s Protection Units or YPG, who rebranded themselves as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to conceal the fact that they are the Syrian affiliate of the notorious PKK, the Marxist-Leninist group that is on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Washington formed an alliance with this sketchy group to achieve its strategic objectives in Syria while avoiding US casualties. The obvious downside of the arrangement is that, in exchange for their assistance, the US has helped to create an autonomous Kurdish statelet at the center of the Arab world that is vehemently opposed by every other country in the region. As you can see, the strategy was poorly-thought out from the beginning which is why it nearly exploded into a full-blown crisis.

Fortunately, President Trump was smart enough to respect Turkey’s legitimate security concerns and withdraw US troops from the conflict zone 20 miles deep into Syria. In doing so, Trump avoided a tragic and unnecessary conflagration with its 67-year NATO ally, Turkey. Not surprisingly, the US Congress, the foreign policy establishment and virtually the entire media lined up against Trump’s withdrawal proposal preferring instead to engage in a potentially catastrophic confrontation with Turkey rather than make reasonable and entirely painless concessions to a vital strategic partner in the region. Is it any wonder why US foreign policy is such a hopeless shambles?

In any event, the media has convinced the American people that Trump should not withdraw the troops. Instead, the US should remain in Syria in order to plunder Syria’s oil, defend its terrorist friends, and make a general nuisance out of itself for the foreseeable future. This is madness. The position of the United States is not only morally abhorrent it is also strategically absurd. Turkey is not only an ally, it is also a critical landbridge between Europe and Asia, an indispensable part of Washington’s “pivot” strategy. Turkey has emerged as the southern corridor’s primary ‘energy hub’, the vital crossroads for Middle East and Asian gas pipelines headed for the European market. Imagine if Turkey chose to abandon the dollar in future energy transactions delivering a blow to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Such a move would unavoidably put pressure on the sale of US Treasuries which rely on the recycling of dollars into US debt markets. Is Washington willing to forgo its “exorbitant privilege” to defend its fledgling proxy army in Syria? The idea is ridiculous.

Even so, there is no denying that the American people have been effectively bamboozled by the media’s relentless disinformation campaign. According to a University of Michigan critical issues poll, a mere 21 percent of Americans support Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from northern Syria. In contrast, more than twice as many respondents (46%) oppose withdrawing US troops. (33% either ‘don’t know’ or are ‘indifferent’) What are we to make of these results given the fact that a clear majority of Americans are sick and tired of the country’s endless wars and foreign interventions?

It’s not hard to explain. Propaganda works, that’s all one needs to know. The media was given the task of garnering support for an unpopular and counterproductive military occupation, and they succeeded. The majority of people now believe that withdrawing US troops is “betraying the Kurds” which is a tacit admission of cowardice and disloyalty. Therefore, we must keep troops in Syria. End of story.

But what if we can show that Turkey is not attacking the Kurds, and that the US should not be supporting groups that are on its own list of terrorist organizations, and that, most importantly, the US deployment in Syria, however small, is still the main obstacle to peace in the country? Would that change any minds?

We have already mentioned that there are roughly 14 million Kurds living in Turkey all of who enjoy the same rights and benefits as other Turkish citizens. And while its true that the Kurds have suffered persecution in the past, it is also true that ” there are more than 100 Kurdish politicians serving in the Turkish Parliament, more than 10,000 Kurdish soldiers serving in the Turkish Army, more than 4 million marriages between Turks and Kurds, and the Director of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency is Kurdish.”

Erdogan’s AK Party also passed reforms that provide Kurds with “the right to education in Kurdish in private schools, the right to choose Kurdish as a selective course in public schools, the right to use Kurdish names in official documents, the right to have election campaign materials in Kurdish, (and) the establishment of a public television channel …which broadcasts only in Kurdish 24/7,.” (The Daily Sabah)

Does this sound like a government that hates the Kurds enough to wage war on them?

Of course not. And then there’s the checkered history of the YPG which has its own bloody baggage to deal with. Take a look at this excerpt from an article in The Nation that sheds a bit of light on the activities of this shadowy group:

“The Kurdish militia that supplies the ground troops in the US air war against the Islamic State has been a systematic violator of human rights in the area it controls in northern Syria, causing the displacement of tens of thousands of Arabs and even more massive flight by Kurds from the region….

As the collaboration with the United States increased in 2015, the YPG stepped up its expulsion of Arabs from the northern border area. This peaked in mid-2015 with the displacement or denial of return of at least 60,000 Arabs after the YPG captured Tal Abyad on the Turkish border, according to Sa’ad Shwish, exiled head of the local governing council in Raqqa.

The pace of the expulsions picked up dramatically after the United States began joint operations against the Islamic State in Syria in mid-2015, as the Kurdish militia threatened Arabs with air strikes if they didn’t leave their villages. While they slowed in 2016, expulsions continue even as the militia turns on its political rivals and jails, tortures, or expels them….

At least 200,000 Syrian Kurds have fled to Turkey rather than submit to forced conscription and political repression….At least 300,000 Syrian Kurds have also fled the region to neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan, according to officials there, and no fewer than 200,000 have fled to Turkey rather than submit to forced conscription and political suppression by a group that insists on ruling as a one-party state, according to Kurdish human-rights monitors in Turkey. …

One high-level official in the Obama administration called the region under YPG control a “mini-totalitarian state.” (“Have the Syrian Kurds Committed War Crimes?”, Roy Gutman, The Nation)

Should the United States be joined-at-the-hip with an organization that is involved in mass killing, human rights violations and ethnic cleansing? And would we be “betraying the Kurds” if we severed relations with the YPG, withdrew our troops from Syria, and let the Turks and Syrians sort this mess out for themselves??

On a personal level, I am sympathetic to the idea of a Kurdish state. The Kurds, after all, are the largest ethnic minority in the world without their own state. What I am not sympathetic to is the US using militant proxies who the State Department has identified as terrorists to carve up and occupy another country in the Middle East. That is a policy that wreaks of hypocrisy.

None of this is meant to infer that Turkey’s role in Syria has been helpful or productive. Quite the contrary, Turkey has supported many of the disparate jihadist militias that have prolonged the war, sent millions of civilians fleeing for cover, and reduced vast swathes of the country to rubble. Without question, Turkey shares a very large part of the blame for Syria’s current (desperate) predicament. At present, Turkey occupies a large part of Northern Syria both east and west of the Euphrates. The government has recently begun an ambitious resettlement program which has already returned more than half a million Syrian refugees to locations in Syria that are now under Turkish rule. And although Erdogan signed a memorandum with Putin that promises to respect the territorial integrity of Syria’s prewar borders, it’s clear that Turkey will not abide by that agreement. Instead, Erdogan will continue to resettle areas in Syria that he now controls, he will install local leaders that are loyal to Ankara, and he will eventually redraw Turkey’s borders so they include large tracts of what used to be northern Syria. But while Turkey’s army will not give up the ground they have already captured,
Erdogan has shown that he will make concessions if the price for achieving his ambitions is too high. The same cannot be said for Washington’s foreign policy establishment that wants to continue the occupation whatever the cost. Accordingly, the US has adopted an operational strategy of “forward deterrence” which means the focus has shifted from removing Assad, which is no longer possible, to preventing Russia and Iran from restoring Syria’s sovereign borders and security. Washington’s current role in Syria is that of “a spoiler.”

And this is what needs to change because the war in Syria cannot end until the American troops leave. When the US finally withdraws, the Syrian army, with the help of the Russian airforce, will swiftly retake east Syria stopping the Turkish advance in its tracks. The Kurds will then be forced to make a deal with Damascus that includes a mutually acceptable agreement for home rule within the confines of the Syrian state. The Russians may challenge Turkey’s land-grab in northern Syria, but Putin will not start another war to enforce his demands. That means Syria’s borders will be redrawn, even while the prospects for peace steadily improve. The Assad government will reassert control over most of its territory, 10 million refugees will return to their homes, and the reconstruction of the battered country will finally begin.

The one insurmountable obstacle to peace in Syria is the US occupation. Trump can create the conditions for ending the war, but only if he is courageous enough to confront his adversaries in the media, the Congress and the foreign policy establishment. That’s the only way forward.

Note–Here is a link to the censored 5 minute video that Erdogan showed to Trump on his IPAD in his recent visit to the White House. The video was blasted as “propaganda” by the media because it provides a chilling summary of the bloody terrorist attacks conducted by the YPG. The video also conflicts with the media’s narrative that Turkey has launched a war on the Kurds, which isn’t true.

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