Syrian Internal Security Forces are sworn in during their graduation ceremony, at Ain Issa desert base, in Raqqa province, northeast Syria, Thursday, July 20, 2017. Some 250 residents of Syria’s Raqqa province are the latest batch to graduate from a brief U.S-training course that is preparing an internal security force to hold and secure areas as they are captured from Islamic State militants. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla) ~MintPress, 10/17
by Judith Bello
All the news today is about Turkey attacking Afrin, a Kurdish governed city in northern Syria and threatening another Kurdish run city named Manbj. This is a very dangerous situation and another devastating assault on the Syrian people who have already suffered so much from a war that that was started by foreign manipulation and fed by foreign fighters, foreign weapons and foreign cash. The war should have ended by now and be winding down, but Syria’s enemies are persistent and cunning. We should not forget, however, that the foremost enemy of Syria, the strongest, most powerful country, the managing force in this war to destroy Syria is the United States […A Brief Analysis]
US Occupation Forces
The United States has announced that the US is preparing a ‘border force’ of 30,000 fighters to “keep the peace in Syria”. The plan is for these forces to have the US backed, Kurdish led forces of the SDF (Syrian Defense Forces) at their core, and will occupy nearly a third of sovereign Syrian territory. This region is not the traditional Kurdish homeland in Syria, but rather the area east of the Euphrates that the SDF was able to occupy with US assistance while the Syrian Arab Army and their allies were busy liberating the rest of Syrian including the more densely populated regions in the west, reintegrating neighborhoods, towns and villages one by one, demining and removing dangerous remnants of the war while providing whatever services and resources they could to local civilians.
According to a report in Bloomberg, US Secretary of State Tillerson said that the US is not into ‘nation building’ but they will assist with rebuilding Syria AFTER Assad is gone. In any case, Syrians will wait a long time for any constructive US aid. So far, the US has done little or nothing to assist with recovering Mosul or Raqqa, not even demining, and certainly nothing that would encourage the return of the civilian population.
The Kurdish forces, originally allied with the Syrian Government, were independent enough to operate on their own with government provision of arms and other resources when they were adopted and offered an independent state by the United States. The YPG fighting forces emerged from a small sliver of land on the Turkish border inhabited by several ancient Christian sects, Arabs and Turkomen, indigenous Kurds and Kurdish immigrants who have been arriving in waves throughout the 20th century, escaping pogroms targeting Kurds in Turkey. The recent immigrants from the 1980s, affiliated with the PKK, a Kurdish resistance organization in Turkey, form the nucleus of the YPG. Since the Syrian war began they have been increasingly dominating the other residents of their region, and they now they have spread well beyond it to occupy Raqqa and other cities in a largely Arab region.
US Proxies on the Move
Today the US backed SDF centers around the Kurdish YPG, but also includes local tribal leaders who want to keep control of their own territories and ISIS members rescued from previous war zones by the US for future use. According to an article on the World Socialist Organization website, the US has about 2,000 forces in Syria though I have heard estimates as high as 5,000. They currently claim to have 230 men in training. US actions in Syria are spreading chaos and risking a wider regional war – or worse. According to the WSW:
[Turkish President] Erdogan condemned US support for the YPG, declaring on the weekend: “The US sent 4,900 trucks of weapons in Syria. We know this. This is not what allies do.” At a rally yesterday he reiterated his determination to “vanquish” the Kurdish militia. “We have finished our preparations,” he said. “The operation can start any time.” Erdogan accused the US of “creating a terror army on our border,” adding: “What we have to do is nip this terror army in the bud.”
The Syrian government denounced the planned pro-US border force as a “blatant assault” on the country’s sovereignty. The state-run news agency, SANA, cited a foreign ministry spokesperson as insisting that the army was determined to thwart the US “conspiracy, end the presence of the US, its agents and tools in Syria, establish full control over the entire Syria territory and preserve the country’s sovereignty.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday accused the US of seeking to split up Syria, saying it “does not want to keep Syria as a state in its current borders.” Washington was helping “the Syrian Democratic Forces to set up some border security zones.”
An investigation by a couple of Russian journalists has been published on Sputnik reports that the US has a training camp for jihadists near al Tanf, a primary border crossing between Syria and Iraq. They claim that there are as many as 1,500 fighters there including SDF, New Syrian Army (perhaps represented by the Free Syria Army leaders in Washington last week) and over 200 ISIS fighters. These men are on the payroll. Another 5,000 potential fighters reside in nearby Rukban refugee camp which is cut off from all outside access including the United Nations and other NGOS. Syrian and Russian forces are bombed if they approach the area. Civilians in Rukban and the US controlled territories are in a desperate situation. They are lacking the basic necessities while members of criminal gangs control the wells and sell water at inflated prices. Restless fighters rob local homes and attack trucks passing on the highway.
It must be noted that the United States has invested not a penny in rebuilding any part of Syria. Secretary of State Tillerson has said that we will assist rebuilding AFTER Assad has left. Since this is unlikely to occur, this responsibility will not fall on them in the foreseeable future. The Arab population of Raqqa has been driven from the city to local refugee camps, and some into the government controlled areas of Syria. Meanwhile, Syrians living in territories under the control of US forces and US proxies remain in the rubble of the war just as Palestinians in Gaza live in the rubble of the communities that Israel has destroyed.
Fox News has reported that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) members have been in Washington this week meeting with US officials. These are the same ‘moderates’ who have consistently fought side by side with ISIS and al Qaeda from the beginning of the war, and who could not be separated from those organizations to create functioning deconfliction zones. The article says these FSA leaders claim to have 60,000 fighters. This is absurd given that they didn’t have that many fighters before they lost the war, and according the investigative report below, they had only a couple of checkpoints in the remaining center of Syrian Opposition, which is controlled by al Qaeda (under various names) and an extremist group called Ahrar al Sham.
One of these FSA leaders in Washington is quoted as saying “Iran and Assad contributed to the creation of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups,” another absurdity since we know that the United States created Al Qaeda in the 80s to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, while Turkey, Qatar, Saudia Arabia and their US backers are responsible for transporting these foreign fighters into Syria as well as training the FSA forces. Today, Syria is terrorized by fighters from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, and Iraq, Uighers from China, Chechens from Russia, rebellious youth from France, Germany, UK, USA and other western countries, and around the globe. In fact, it’s big news when somebody takes out one of our own.
Official: German ISIS fighter Denis Cuspert (also kown as Deso Dogg) is dead pic.twitter.com/X6POzzuqL9
— Syrian Civil War Map (@CivilWarMap) January 18, 2018
Syria for Syrians
The Syrian Government, after recovering Deir Ezzor, long under siege by ISIS, and clearing the Baghdad Damascus road across the border with Iraq, has turned it’s attention to Idlib province. A strategy of restoring control to urban areas, towns and villages through reconciliation programs has been effective in freeing up the army to move from one area to another, and it has saved many lives. Although the western media has focused on the use of siege to induce surrender in reconciliation areas, the program is more robust than that.
Areas under the control of Al Qaeda or criminal gangs affiliated with one militant organization or another are not well provisioned even in the best cases because the fighters keep the majority of supplies for themselves and govern through force. The reconciliation programs attempt to create back channels to deliver resources to the civilian population. By empowering the civilian population they can convince them to stand against the occupying forces. The final resolution is negotiated for an end where as many civilians as possible will be protected; where Syrian citizens fighting against the government are given an opportunity to restore their citizenship. Concessions are made. In some areas, sharia courts continue under the governance of local fundamentalists. Those who might otherwise fight to the death are given an opportunity to leave.
Those who chose to leave are allowed a personal firearm and bused with the families to Idlib province on the Turkish border. Today, as the Syrian state moves to liberate Idlib, the situation there is dire. The province is completely under the control of al Qaeda forces (under various names) and flooded with foreign fighters. The following is a video produced about a year ago by Jenan Mousa, a roving reporter for Al Aan TV, a pan Arab TV station in out of Dubai.
The reconciliation program will work in Idlib, and has been ongoing for some time. It is clear the civilians there have many unmet needs. The recent change of face implemented by al Nusra/Hayit Tahir al Sham seems superficial and clearly an initiative to influence western backers and not for the benefit of the locals. The one difference from other reconciliation plans is that there will be no buses to an Al Qaeda haven. Instead, extremists and mercenaries with families and those who do not want to die in Syria will be driven back across the Turkish border to their training camps and refuges where President Erdogan and the Turkish people will have to deal with the consequences of his folly just as the people of Pakistan continue to deal with the consequences of Zia al Haq’s collaboration with US plans to build an army of fanatics to fight the soviets in Afghanistan.
At the moment, Turkish President Erdogan is far more concerned about the Kurdish forces being trained by the US to occupy land in Syria that he once coveted for Turkish occupation. He is quite beside himself over the US empowerment of Kurdish militias affiliated with the Turkish PKK in Syria. The Turkish army has begun an attack on the largely Kurdish city of Afrin in northern Syria, and Erdogan has stated that once he has ‘liberated’ Afrin (from the US backed Kurdish forces) he will move on to occupy Manbj, another city in the original Kurdish region of Syria. The YPG Kurds of the US backed SDF are followers of a Abdullah Ocalan, a Turkish dissident currently residing in a high security Turkish prison. The Turkish state has been persecuting the Kurdish people and fighting Kurdish rebellions within its borders since it’s inception. At that time, an angry and disappointed Kurdish population found themselves denied a promised state in an area (Turkey) where they represented nearly a third of the population, unlike Syria, where Kurds, including recent immigrants, represent less that a tenth of the population.
Increasingly at odds with the US government, and engaged through Russian diplomacy in a tenuous detente with his erstwhile victims in Syria, Turkish President Erdogan is an easy target. Turkey is the largest military power in the region, with a history of western alliances, and as the war has wound down he has been increasingly isolated and under threat. They lost and he is holding the bag. This is not to say that his own bad choices didn’t bring him to this place, but it certainly makes him a dangerous force in the Syrian conflict. Denied the fruits of his support for the international attack on Syria, he is also faced with the reinforcement of an archetypal enemy of the Turkish state. His reaction to the latter problem may well give him at least some of the rewards that providing services for the anti-Syrian forces did not.
US officials should have seen this coming. Well, of course, they did see it coming. What we are seeing here is politically a Turkish civil war being played out on Syrian territory at the expense of the Syrian people. Two Turkish forces are fighting for control of northern Syria, one enabled by US backing. If you look at US objectives, this situation is surely advantageous. Even as the Syrian forces and their allies move in to clear out the last holdout of Al Qaeda and the other Turkish proxies, Turkey is moving in to occupy Syrian towns and villages along the border in areas where the US can’t hold them.
How convenient is that for US objectives, which include the breakup and destruction of the Syrian state. In his rage and frustration, Erdogan continues or support the needs of US military strategists who do not really have the forces to hold the large swathe of Syria they have announced their intention to occupy. Yesterday, Tillerson again softened his line. But he well knows that at this point, it doesn’t matter what he says. He is blowing wind, talking to the press and the people of the United States. There has been no significant diplomatic engagement with Turkey since Trump came in to office. Meanwhile, the diplomatic initiative of the Russians has been disrupted and a loose cannon is pivoting out of control on the northern border of Syria.
US Policy in Syria
The US policy of destruction and devastation is clear in Syria as in Libya and Iraq, Afghanistan and even Yugoslavia. They really only need enough land to put their regional military bases. Destruction jand chaos are the goal. Destruction by ISIS, by Al Qaeda/Al Nusra/…/Hayat Tahir, by Turkey, by the Kurds, by the French and British, by our own forces, it really doesn’t matter. It’s all the same to US strategists. Blaming Russia, blaming Muslims, blaming the Turks blaming Iran, blaming Assad – its a ll a pretext for the destruction of an ancient land and culture, of a society that is at the root of our own culture. This policy has not changed one iota since the beginning of the war fueled by Libyan fighters with US weapons in the south and Turkish trained proxies armed and funded by the Saudi Arabia and Qatar in in the north.
We need to stand up and set aside our confusion NOW. The US role and that of the Kurdish militias in Syria has no upside. It is a bold initiative to create chaos and destruction in Syria and to continue the war that was started by the United States and its allies to crush the independent sovereign Republic of Syria.
Hands Off Syria! Hands off the Middle East!
Stand up today against the vicious policy of destruction adopted by the US government!