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Russia Squelches Trump’s New Plan to Invade Syria

Eric Zuesse

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On Friday, August 31st, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia has handed to the OPCW (Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), and to the U.N., “proof” that the U.S. Government has been working with Al Qaeda to set up a chemical incident that the U.S. and its allies can then use as a supposed justification for invading Syria as a ‘humanitarian’ response to a chemical attack allegedly by Syria’s Government, but actually done by U.S.-backed forces, to re-ignite the 7-year-old ‘civil war’ between Syria’s Government and U.S.-backed ‘rebels’, who consist almost exclusively of fundamentalist-Sunni jihadists that are trained and led by Al Qaeda in Syria, with U.S. help and Saudi financing.

On August 29th Global Research headlined “Video: US Creates Strike Force to Attack Syria”, and posted an August 28th report from South Front saying:

Reports are appearing that the Syrian Air Defense Forces (SADF) have already started preparing to repel an expected US-led missile strike by deploying additional specialists and air defense systems near the crucial objects of the infrastructure, which they expect may be targeted.

On August 22, US National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed that

“if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

This was only one of a series of threats to the Syrian government issued by the US, the UK and France. While all these threats are clearly exploiting the chemical weapons narrative, their main goal is to prevent the defeat of the terrorists in Idlib by delaying the Syrian Army operation.

On August 25, a source close to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told the Kurdish news outlet Bas News that the US-led coalition began deploying radar stations at its bases in the governorates of al-Hasakah and Aleppo as part of a new plan to increase its control of Syrian airspace. The report  pointed out the airbases in Kobani and Rmelan as places where the radars were installed.

Also on August 28th, the U.S.-backed Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was informed by reliable sources that negotiations are underway between the Turkish intelligence services and between Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham [Syria’s Al Qaeda branch, formerly called “Al Nusra”], The Islamic Turkestani Party, and other jihadi groups, with the aim of reaching agreement and consensus for these factions to resolve themselves, where these endeavors coincide with accelerated preparations by the regime forces and their loyal fighters for the start of the grand battle of Idlib [the place to which the surrendered jihadists in Syria have been sent], through which the regime forces seek to control the province and other areas in its surroundings of Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia provinces, and the continuation of negotiation comes after the conflicted information about reaching consensus on this issue, where Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and the rest of the groups continue to experience confusion among their leaders and members, as a section of which has agreed to the demands of the Turkish authorities to resolve themselves, while the larger section rejects this process and refuses to approve any of the Turkish terms within the Negotiations. …

[In the] Idlib battle, … Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham controls the largest part of Idlib province, and shares it with other 3 parties: the rebel and Islamic factions, the Islami Turkestani Party, and the regime forces and militiamen loyal to them.

The military operation to be conducted in Idlib province, … the regime forces and their allies have been significantly preparing over the past weeks, by bringing in thousands of members of their forces and loyal gunmen as well as hundreds of faction fighters who have recently joined the “reconciliation”, and hundreds of vehicles, armored vehicles, ammunition, and machinery. …

Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham … is one of the renewed names of al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda Organization in the Levant). …

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored the regime forces bringing more vehicles, members, materiel and ammunition, to these lines, and in conjunction with these mobilizations by the regime forces, the SOHR monitored on the 21st of August 2018 the leader of Al-Nusra Front (Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham) Abu Mohammad al-Julani, taking a military tour in the northern mountains of Lattakia, where al-Julani reviewed with a number of the commanders of the first and second rank in Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, the members of Tahrir Al-Sham and the front lines.

Like other reports by U.S.-allied organizations, Syria’s Government is called “the regime” instead of “the Government,” and the jihadists (except for ISIS) are accepted as being the U.S. alliance’s boots-on-the-ground in Syria to ‘liberate’ the Syrian people from Syria’s Government.

So, the U.S. Government can hardly call this allegation of U.S. working in conjunction with Al Qaeda, ‘Russian propaganda’. However, on that very same day, August 28th, RT bannered “US army accuses RT of ‘ridiculous misinformation’ over Syria, but not UN or NBC”, and reported: “A US Army colonel has accused RT of ‘ridiculous misinformation’ for reporting a Russian government suggestion that Islamic State is operating inside a US-controlled zone in Syria, despite the UN and NBC reporting the same.”

On August 25th, RT had headlined “Terrorists readying chemical attack to frame Damascus & provide pretext for US strikes – Russian MoD”, and reported:

The US and its allies are preparing new airstrikes on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that militants are poised to stage a chemical weapons attack in order to frame Damascus and provide a pretext for the strikes.

The attack would be used as a pretext for US, UK and French airstrikes on Syrian targets, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said. USS ‘The Sullivans,’ an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago, he added.

The destroyer has 56 cruise missiles on board, according to data from the Russian Defence Ministry. A US Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a supersonic bomber equipped with 24 cruise missiles, has also been deployed at the Qatari Al Udeid Airbase. 

On August 24th, RT had headlined “ISIS & Al-Nusra terrorists are hiding in Syrian refugee camp within US-controlled zone – Moscow”, and reported that “Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and the Al-Qaeda proxy group Jabhat al-Nusra found quiet shelter in one of the biggest camps, Rukban, near the Syria-Jordan border. … The same refugee camp was listed in a recent UN Security Council’s Sanctions Monitoring Team report as one of the sources of IS reemergence. The same document reported that ISIS had been defeated in most of the Syrian Arab Republic during 2017, but ‘rallied in early 2018’ due to ‘loss of momentum’ by forces fighting in the east of Syria, where the US base is located.”

The Wikipedia article on “Rukban” opens by saying that its population is 75,000, and that: “Rukban … is an arid remote area near the extreme northeast of Jordan, close to the joint borders with Syria and Iraq. The area contains a refugee camp lying along the demilitarized berm between Jordan and Syria, a no man’s land.” That would be an ideal place for the U.S. and its allies to be assembling the materials for what will be alleged to be a chemical weapons attack ‘by the Assad regime’. Rukban is located in Jordan, a U.S. ally, and adjoining Syria, of which the U.S. has been an enemy ever since first failing in 1949 to turn Syria into a land controlled by the Saud family, as Obama and now Trump are again trying to do.

I had reported, on August 25th, the history of this sort of operation by the U.S. Government, going back to 1949, and mentioning recent faked ‘chemical attacks’ set up by the U.S. Government working in conjuction with Al Qaeda in Syria. So: with that lengthy history as background, there exists very sound reason for Syria and its allies to be expecting now yet another invasion of Syiria by U.S.-and-allied missiles, to be ‘justified’ on the basis of lies.

The latest of America’s missile-invasions of Syria occurred back on 14 April 2018, allegedly in response to a Syrian Government ‘chemical weapons attack’ in the city of Douma, which had allegedly occurred on April 7th. Russia tried to get the U.N. Security Council to announce that no invasion of Syria should occur until after the OPCW would enter Douma and collect samples and testimony to determine whether any such attack had actually occurred; and, if so, who had done it. The U.S. blocked that proposal, and invaded on the 14th. Despite that, the OPCW rushed in, to examine Douma, even after the invasion. On April 18th, America’s jihadist allies in Douma shot at OPCW inspectors, who courageously continued their work, despite the U.S. Government’s repeated efforts to stop it. The OPCW’s findings have been kept secret, so that the public still doesn’t know what the evidence about that April 7th matter actually showed. Also on April 18th, Turkey’s newspaper Yeni Safak headlined “US to build Arab force in NE Syria as part of new ploy: The US is seeking to amass an Arab force in northeastern Syria comprised of funding and troops from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.” That effort by Trump failed; so, the only path forward for him on Syria now is a U.S. invasion, but this one will have to be much larger than the last one, which was done on April 14th, and in which UK and France also supplied a few of the 100+ missiles. Perhaps, if the U.S. does that, Russia will this time target and maybe destroy some U.S. planes and warships. Then, the question would be whether to go to all-out nuclear war, over the Syrian matter and, of course, over America’s other excuses for its aggressions against Russia and its allies, such as America’s 2014 conquest of Ukraine and turning that country over to nazis.

Perhaps these are the reasons why Russia is announcing clearly, ahead of time, that it won’t simply acquiesce if the U.S. tries this faked accusation against Syria, yet again. Perhaps things won’t be so easy, if there is a “next time” on this particular matter.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Turkey and the time bomb in Syria

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The Turkish attack on northern Syria has provided conditions for ISIS militants held in camps in the region to escape and revitalize themselves.

Turkey launched “Operation Peace Spring” on Wednesday October 9, claiming to end the presence of terrorists near its borders in northern Syria. Some countries condemned this illegal action of violation of the Syrian sovereignty.

The military attack has exacerbated the Syrian people’s living condition who live in these areas. On the other hand, it has also allowed ISIS forces to escape and prepare themselves to resume their actions in Syria. Before Turkish incursion into northern Syria, There were many warnings that the incursion would prepare the ground for ISIS resurgence. But ignoring the warning, Turkey launched its military attacks.

Currently, about 11,000 ISIS prisoners are held in Syria. ISIS has claimed the responsibility for two attacks on Qamishli and Hasakah since the beginning of Turkish attacks.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump said that Turkey and the Kurds must stop ISIS prisoners from fleeing. He urged European countries to take back their citizens who have joined ISIS.

It should be noted that the U.S. is trying to prove that ISIS has become stronger since the U.S. troops pulled out before the Turkish invasion, and to show that Syria is not able to manage the situation. But this fact cannot be ignored that ISIS militants’ escape and revival were an important consequence of the Turkish attack.

Turkish troops has approached an important city in the northeast and clashed with Syrian forces. These events provided the chance for hundreds of ISIS members to escape from a camp in Ayn Issa near a U.S.-led coalition base.

 The camp is located 35 kilometers on the south of Syria-Turkey border, and about 12,000 ISIS members, including children and women, are settled there. The Kurdish forces are said to be in charge of controlling these prisoners.

Media reports about the ISIS resurgence in Raqqa, the former ISIS stronghold, cannot be ignored, as dozens of terrorists have shot Kurdish police forces in this city. The terrorists aimed to occupy the headquarters of the Kurdish-Syrian security forces in the center of Raqqa.  One of the eyewitnesses said the attack was coordinated, organized and carried out by several suicide bombers, but failed.

In response to Turkey’s invasion of Syria, the Kurds have repeatedly warned that the attack will lead to release of ISIS elements in the region. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyib Erdogan denied the reports about the escape of ISIS prisoners and called them “lies”.

European officials fear that ISIS prisoners with European nationality, who have fled camps, will come back to their countries.

Kurdish forces are making any effort to confront Turkish troops in border areas, so their presence and patrol in Raqqa have been reduced.

Interestingly, the Turkish military bombarded one of temporary prisons and caused ISIS prisoners escaping. It seems that ISIS-affiliated covert groups have started their activities to seize the control of Raqqa. These groups are seeking to rebuild their so-called caliphate, as Kurdish and Syrian forces are fighting to counter the invading Turkish troops. Families affiliated with ISIS are held in Al-Hol camp, under the control of Kurdish forces. At the current situation, the camp has turned into a time bomb that could explode at any moment. Under normal circumstances, there have been several conflicts between ISIS families in the camp, but the current situation is far worse than before.

There are more than 3,000 ISIS families in the camp and their women are calling for establishment of the ISIS caliphate. Some of SDF forces have abandoned their positions, and decreased their watch on the camp.

The danger of the return of ISIS elements is so serious, since they are so pleased with the Turkish attack and consider it as an opportunity to regain their power. There are pictures of ISIS wives in a camp in northern Syria, under watch of Kurdish militias, showing how happy they are about the Turkish invasion.

In any case, the Turkish attack, in addition to all the military, political and human consequences, holds Ankara responsible for the escape of ISIS militants and preparing the ground for their resurgence.

Currently, the camps holding ISIS and their families are like time bombs that will explode if they all escape. Covert groups affiliated with the terrorist organization are seeking to revive the ISIS caliphate and take further actions if the Turkish attacks continue. These attacks have created new conflicts in Syria and undermined Kurdish and Syrian power to fight ISIS.

From our partner Tehran Times

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The Turkish Gambit

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The only certainty in war is its intrinsic uncertainty, something Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could soon chance upon.  One only has to look back on America’s topsy-turvy fortunes in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Syria for confirmation.

The Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria has as its defined objective a buffer zone between the Kurds in Turkey and in Syria.  Mr. Erdogan hopes, to populate it with some of the 3 million plus Syrian refugees in Turkey, many of these in limbo in border camps.  The refugees are Arab; the Kurds are not.

Kurds speak a language different from Arabic but akin to Persian.  After the First World War, when the victors parceled up the Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire, Syria came to be controlled by the French, Iraq by the British, and the Kurdish area was divided into parts in Turkey, Syria and Iraq, not forgetting the borderlands in Iran — a brutal division by a colonial scalpel severing communities, friends and families.  About the latter, I have some experience, having lived through the bloody partition of India into two, and now three countries that cost a million lives.   

How Mr. Erdogan will persuade the Arab Syrian refugees to live in an enclave, surrounded by hostile Kurds, some ethnically cleansed from the very same place, remains an open question.  Will the Turkish army occupy this zone permanently?  For, we can imagine what the Kurds will do if the Turkish forces leave.

There is another aspect of modern conflict that has made conquest no longer such a desirable proposition — the guerrilla fighter.  Lightly armed and a master of asymmetric warfare, he destabilizes. 

Modern weapons provide small bands of men the capacity and capability to down helicopters, cripple tanks, lay IEDs, place car bombs in cities and generally disrupt any orderly functioning of a state, tying down large forces at huge expense with little chance of long term stability.  If the US has failed repeatedly in its efforts to bend countries to its will, one has to wonder if Erdogan has thought this one through.

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 is another case in point.  Forever synonymous with the infamous butchery at Sabra and Shatila by the Phalange militia facilitated by Israeli forces, it is easy to forget a major and important Israeli goal:  access to the waters of the Litani River which implied a zone of occupation for the area south of it up to the Israeli border.

Southern Lebanon is predominantly Shia and at the time of the Israeli invasion they were a placid group who were dominated by Christians and Sunni, even Palestinians ejected from Israel but now armed and finding refuge in Lebanon.  It was when the Israelis looked like they were going to stay that the Shia awoke.  It took a while but soon their guerrillas were harassing Israeli troops and drawing blood.  The game was no longer worth the candle and Israel, licking its wounds, began to withdraw ending up eventually behind their own border.

A colossal footnote is the resurgent Shia confidence, the buildup into Hezbollah and new political power.  The Hezbollah prepared well for another Israeli invasion to settle old scores and teach them a lesson.  So they were ready, and shocked the Israelis in 2006.  Now they are feared by Israeli troops.   

To return to the present, it is not entirely clear as to what transpired in the telephone call between Erdogan and Trump.  Various sources confirm Trump has bluffed Erdogan in the past.  It is not unlikely then for Trump to have said this time, “We’re leaving.  If you go in, you will have to police the area.  Don’t ask us to help you.”  Is that subject to misinterpretation?  It certainly is a reminder of the inadvertent green light to Saddam Hussein for the invasion of Kuwait when Bush Senior was in office. 

For the time being Erdogan is holding fast and Trump has signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Turkish officials and institutions.  Three Turkish ministers and the Defense and Energy ministries are included.  Trump has also demanded an immediate ceasefire.  On the economic front, he has raised tariffs on steel back to 50 percent as it used to be before last May.  Trade negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey have also been halted forthwith.  The order also includes the holding of property of those sanctioned, as well as barring entry to the U.S.

Meanwhile, the misery begins all over again as thousands flee the invasion area carrying what they can.  Where are they headed?  Anywhere where artillery shells do not rain down and the sound of airplanes does not mean bombs.

Such are the exigencies of war and often its surprising consequences. 

Author’s Note:  This piece appeared originally on Counterpunch.org

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Could Turkish aggression boost peace in Syria?

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On October 7, 2019, the U.S. President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from northeast Syria, where the contingent alongside Kurdish militias controlled the vast territories. Trump clarified that the decision is connected with the intention of Turkey to attack the Kurdish units, posing a threat to Ankara.

It’s incredible that the Turkish military operation against Kurds – indeed the territorial integrity of Syria has resulted in the escape of the U.S., Great Britain, and France. These states essentially are key destabilizing components of the Syrian crisis.

Could this factor favourably influence the situation in the country? For instance, after the end of the Iraqi war in 2011 when the bulk of the American troops left the country, the positive developments took place in the lives of all Iraqis. According to World Economics organization, after the end of the conflict, Iraq’s GDP grew by 14% in 2012, while during the U.S. hostilities the average GDP growth was about 5,8%.

Syria’s GDP growth should also be predicted. Not right away the withdrawal of U.S., French, British, and other forces, but a little bit later after the end of the Turkish operation that is not a phenomenon. The Turkish-Kurdish conflict has been going on since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire when Kurds started to promote the ideas of self-identity and independence. Apart from numerous human losses, the Turks accomplished nothing. It is unlikely that Ankara would achieve much in Peace Spring operation. The Kurds realize the gravity of the situation and choose to form an alliance with the Syrian government that has undermined the ongoing Turkish offensive.

Under these circumstances, Erdogan could only hope for the creation of a narrow buffer zone on the Syrian-Turkish border. The withdrawal of the Turkish forces from the region is just a matter of time. However, we can safely say that the Turkish expansion unwittingly accelerated the peace settlement of the Syrian crisis, as the vital destabilizing forces left the country. Besides, the transfer of the oil-rich north-eastern regions under the control of Bashar Assad will also contribute to the early resolution of the conflict.

It remains a matter of conjecture what the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia agreed on during the high-level talks. Let’s hope that not only the Syrians, but also key Gulf states are tired of instability and tension in the region, and it’s a high time to strive for a political solution to the Syrian problem.

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