With Trump’s lightning betrayal of the largely Kurdish/Christian Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the SDF quickly patched things up with the Damascus government of Bashar al-Assad, and the Russians. As a result while Turkish forces and their terrorist militia allies were genociding their way across Syria north and east of the Euphrates River, the Syrian forces backed by Russia were able to secure much of their lost territory in N. Syria south of the Euphrates.
These newly regained territories included the Afrin region which Turkey had captured well over a year ago and had ethnic cleansed the place of the original population and replaced them with Turkic-speaking peoples. So, the loss of this region to the Assad regime constitutes a huge loss for Erdogan. The quick, painless victory there by Syrian and Russian forces were perhaps aided by Erdogan previously having pulled troops from that region to take part in his newest ethnic cleansing operation east and north of the Euphrates.
Another key area recently re-taken by the Assad folks, is the city, and region, of Minbij. This city had been held by the SDF backed by a small number of American forces. These American forces, in spite of the Trump pullout, remained in place until a peaceful transition of authority could take place. The Americans left only when the Assad forces arrived accepted “keys to the city” (and cohesion) from the SDF. With the Russian guarding the perimeters to keep the Turks and their terrorist allies out, the American forces were able to withdraw peacefully.
The Minbij operation is a clear example of what the Trump administration could have, and should have, negotiated and set up prior to its acquiescence to Erdogan’s dictate to get lost. People can debate the pros and cons of an American withdrawal (I personally was and am against any sort of withdrawal from Syria for a whole host of reasons), but an orderly withdraw and transfer of power without bloodshed as was done in Minbij is vastly superior to the conduction of geo-strategic foreign policy via spur-of-the moment twitter tweets, and/or spur-of-the moment policy reversals because of a phone call from Erdogan. But most important, it would have kept Turkey in Turkey and out of their neighbors farm (and oil) belt.
Giving a fascist expansionist state like Turkey a green light to invade another country gave the world Trump’s darkest Neville Chamberlain moment. How did that “peace in our times” deal work out?
SUSPENSION OF BLOODSHED
Turkey claims it has achieved what it wanted to. It originally said it wanted a “safe” zone of 25 miles inside Syria. That figure was often expressed as 18 miles and 20 miles in the media. It actual fact, there are reports that Turkey penetrated up to 60 miles inside Syria east of the Euphrates. However, based on this alleged agreement with the U.S., Turkey has agreed to a “cease fire.” The term used in the Arabic media describing what Turkey agreed to is ta’leeq, meaning “suspension” with the context of “hanging” as in “hanging in the balance.” This leaves a lot of doubt as to how long this “suspension” of bloodletting will last.
Turkey has publically stated that it is okay with the Syrians and Russians taking control of formerly Turkish controlled areas in northern Syria south of the Euphrates. In turn the Russians have done nothing to oppose Erdogan’s moves north and east of the Euphrates.
How long that stalemate will last is another issue that remains to be seen.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT ISIS?
The vast majority of ISIS survivors being held in camps controlled by the SDF are from countries other than Syria. As the Kurdish components of the SDF were forced to concentrate all of their manpower and resources on defending Kurdish towns and villages from the Turkish/militia rapaciousness many of the camps holding ISIS personnel were left unguarded. Most of these folks are now running loose.
There are some reports of the Turks arresting some ISIS personnel. The guess here is that the Turks will just recycle them into new militias with different names and then reassign them to the “Free Syrian Army” which has become the “shock troops” of Turkish military endeavors. That has been the Turkish SOP since the beginning with ISIS.
Anyone who thinks that Trump’s withdrawal from Syria will not result in our having to return there in strength a hundred, or two hundred times more than the 1,000 he withdrew . . . does not understand the dynamics of the Middle East. And, more specifically, does not understand Turkey’s history and motives.
The U.S. forces, however small they were, were playing a role in keeping a modicum of peace in the areas of their deployment, after the military defeat of ISIS. Most important, they kept Turkey and Iran at bay. As for the “endless wars” excuse some have offered up as justification for Trump’s move, the U.S. withdrawal has only guaranteed that there will be, in fact, “endless wars” in the Middle East–which, sooner or later we will be forced to re-enter with a much larger expense in both lives lost, and finances lost, than all of our previous excursions into the Middle East combined.
One of ‘Usama bin laden’s primary goals was to get the U.S. out of the Middle East. Our last two presidents, Obama, and now Trump, have gladly acceded to that demand. We must understand how this is going to be interpreted throughout the Islamic world, as we get ready for the next round of jihad that will be bigger and badder than the previous one.
It is for that reason that I would have favored maintaining an American presence in Syria pending a comprehensive settlement of the Syria problem which would include keeping both Turkey and Iran out of Syria, while obtaining guarantees from whatever Syrian government would emerge from such an agreement that a firm thumb would be kept on any possible resurgence of ISIS. Only then should U.S. and other NATO forces be withdrawn from Syria.
Coincidentally, Ms. Hervin Khelaf, a Syrian Kurd pro-democracy and human rights activist, had drawn up a constitution for a post-war Syria that would have done just that.
Unfortunately, as a direct result of Trump’s granting a green light to Erdogan to genocide the Kurds, one of Erdogan’s terrorist militia groups drug her from her car and executed her, along with members of her staff this past week.
Several years ago Vladimir Putin had drawn up an almost identical constitution for a post war Syria which was ignored by the West. Like it or not, Assad and the Russians are the only logical and workable solution for Syria and the U.S. should have been actively working towards such a solution, instead of running from it.
CEASE FIRE UPDATE
The Saudi-owned al-arabiyya TV channel on Sunday, 22 October, quoted an officer from the Syrian Democratic Forces claiming that Turkey has already broken the “ceasefire” several days prior to their previously announced date for breaking the “ceasefire.”
Turkey is also now demanding that SDF and Syrian forces be withdrawn from Minbij and Kobani–in violation for their above-mentioned agreement with Putin. Minbij is the above-mentioned town U.S. forces pulled out while the SDF handed authority to the Syrian regular army, and joined forces with them.
Kobani is the town to the north of the Minbij region, and is the town where ISIS suffered its first military defeat–and this at the hands of the brave Kurdish fighters, which included every able-bodied man and woman. It was this battle, and the heroism of the Kurds in this town that gave birth to the idea of using local troops on the ground to do most of the fighting against ISIS which resulted in the formation of the SDF, without which ISIS would still be hanging on to its caliphate and making beheading videos of people it captures.
While the U.S. continues to look the other way, Putin, also, appears to be willing to jettison his new-found Kurdish allies, as well as double cross his older Syrian regime allies, by acceding to the Turkish request.
Getting Russian, American, Kurdish, and Syrian government forces and personnel out of this entire region, which is Erdogan’s goal, will create his much ballyhooed “safe” zone of anywhere between 20 and 60 miles deep into Syrian territory.
Erdogan claims he wants to resettle Syrian refugees into this region. That sounds like an admirable purpose. And, he might actually do some of that (resettle legitimate Civilian Syrian refugees, perhaps as a cover for his greater goal). So, I have to ask: Exactly which “Syrians” does Erdogan really plan to settle in is so-called “safe” zone. The guess here is that this “safe” zone will soon become a zone “safe” for reconstituting ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Muslim Brotherhood leftovers (of all nationalities) into a new militia in preparation for the next stage of jihad for the purpose of expanding Erdogan’s Neo-Ottoman Empire Caliphate.
In contrast to Syria, I am very much in favor of pulling American troops out of Afghanistan with or without treaty or solution, and ASAP. Unlike in Syria, in Afghanistan there are no “good” guys. The side we’ve been aiding there is almost as bad as the Taliban in terms of human rights. But worse, the vast majority of American and NATO casualties in Afghanistan do not come from the Taliban, ISIS, or al-Qaeda. They come from the very Afghans “allies” we are training and fighting side-by-side with–to the tune of 75% or more of our casualties.
This casualty rate is not a result of accidental “friendly” fire, but rather as a result of a surprising number of individual Afghans suddenly deciding that they want to do their duty for Allah and yell “Allahu Akbar” while opening fire, or blowing themselves up, amongst the very Western infidels they’ve been training with, fighting with, and eating lunch and differ with.
Furthermore, as I’ve reported previously on this site, American troops are being killed and having their body parts blown off for one reason, and one reason only–and this is to make China rich.
China is building a pair of trade corridors to connect western China with a Pakistani port on the Indian ocean, and an Iranian port on the Arabian sea. Both of these trade corridors closely skirt by Afghanistan territory. The last thing China wants are terrorist groups operating out of a failed state attacking those trade corridors. Therefore, China is thrilled to death having Americans there to do the dirty work of fighting and dying for them.
If we had a modicum of good sense, we would pull out and let the Chinese be the ones to get bogged down in the “graveyard of empires.”
Arab Spring 2.0 has broken out in Lebanon. Arabic TV stations have been covering it almost around the clock. It has included massive demonstrations in Beirut and other Lebanese cities, and there have been acts of violence between some of the protestors and the security personnel.
The crowds are chaning ash-sha’b yoreed asqaat an-nizhaam (the people want to topple the regime). This is the exact wording of the chants uttered by the crowds in the first Arab Spring back in 2011.
Another chant the Lebanese are now yelling is waahed, waahed, waahed, ash-sha’ab
al-lubnaani waahed. (One, one, one, the Lebanese people are one!).
To understand the meaning of that last chant, we have to dig back into Lebanon’s ethnic, religious, and political make-up and background. At the end of WWII when the French colonial rulers were preparing to depart, they set up a political system which they thought would satisfy all of the ethnic and religious groups in Lebanon. Democratic elections would be held, but each major ethnic/religious group would have exclusive rights to certain positions in the government.
The Christians at that time had a slight majority of the population, so they were given the Presidency, which was the head of state. Sunni Muslims, the next largest ethnic group, were given the exclusive rights to the office of Prime Minister. The position of Speaker of Parliament was given to the Shi’a Muslims.
That system seemed to work fine for a couple of decades, but by the mid-70s it was all out of whack, with the population of the Christians having fallen to 3rd rate status while the Muslim populations had soared. In addition the population of the Palestinian “refugee” camps had also soared causing even more friction.
These discrepancies resulted in the Lebanese civil war which pitted Muslims against Christians, Sunnis against Shi’a, Maronite Christians against Catholic Christians, Shi’a against Shi’a, and Sunnis against Sunnis, each of these sects against all of the others, and all of them against the Palestinians, and the various Palestinian factions fighting each other as well. In the end in became nothing but a free for all everyone killing everyone else just for the sake of killing.
The Arab league finally stepped in, and in 1990 held a big confab with the all of the Lebanese factions in the Saudi Arabian city of Taif. The Taif agreement that resulted from that tweaked the Lebanese government a bit so that power would fall to the most populous group. Christians still kept the presidency, but it now became more of a figurehead position. The true head of state would now be the Prime Minister which would still go to a Sunni Muslim.
Currently, the President of Lebanon, Michel ‘Aun, though a Christian, has allied himself with Hizbollah to guarantee that he gets enough votes to keep rivals out of that position. As a result, the Christian block votes with Hizbollah increasing Hizbollah’s power.
The position of Speaker of Parliament is a U.S./Lebanese dual citizen named Nabih Berri, who is an Amal Shi’a. The Amal Shi’a led by Mr. Berri fought bitterly against the more radical Hizbollah during the Lebanese civil war, However, the current edition of Amal (still led by Mr. Berri) has become a docile partner to Hizbollah.
Meanwhile, Hizbollah and its allies have gained a commanding majority of the seats in parliament, leaving the moderate Sunni Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri virtually powerless, while the entire country has been turned into a virtual colony of Hizbollah’s patron Iran.
Thus, the current demonstrators in Lebanon are demanding an end to the apportioning of political positions based on Religious affiliation. That is the meaning of “The Lebanese people are one.”
However, if they get their wishes and bring down the government, what happens next? Will the Iranian/Hizbollah takeover become even more blatant? Or will Erdogan, already sitting up there on chunks of Syria just sit and wait like a spider for Lebanon to fall into his Neo-Ottoman Caliphate too? Will Erdogan’s Neo-Ottoman “Caliphate” ally itself with Iran for the next great jihadi push through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel?
The Muslim Brotherhood allied an-nahdhah party has inched closer to forming its government after having won last month’s parliamentary elections. Last week’s presidential elections have given them an at least moderately friendly president to work with.
A Muslim Brotherhood affiliated party is also poised to win upcoming elections in Algeria.
Erdogan’s ruling AKP party in Turkey is a clone of the Arab Muslim Brotherhood. His goal is to play midwife to emerging Muslim Brotherhood governments in most, if not all, Arab states. The MB-controlled Arab states would then join with Turkey in reconstituting the old Ottoman Empire Caliphate.
Therefore, Erdogan can afford a temporary “suspension” of ethnic cleansing and bloodshed in Syria at this time, while waiting for the dynamics swirling in several Arab states to fall his way. At some point, he hopes, Russia will get tired of propping up the Assad regime in Damascus and he can sweep through the rest of Syria and hook-up with the hoped-for Ottoman Caliphate-friendly MB governments in the other Arab states.
We must bear in mind also, that Hasan al-Banna, when he founded the MB in 1928 conceived it as potentionally evolving into a pan-Islamic organization in which both Sunnis and Shi’a would be welcome and feel at home. We must bear in mind also that during the brief MB rule in Egypt 2012-2013, the MB President M. Mursi was planning to form just exactly that sort of an alliance with Iran prior to his dethronement.
We must bear in mind also, that Iran cooperated with the MB-influenced al-Qaeda for the 9/11 operation and helped train the hijackers. So, a Turkey AKP/MB/al-Qaeda grand alliance with Iran is not as far-fetched an idea as policy-makers of both parties in Washington would like to delude themselves with.
If the West thinks it has trouble with Islam now, just wait until that scenario plays out.
Many of these issues, and much more, are discussed in depth with sources in the book mentioned below:
Barry Webb has logged a 25-year career as an Arabist for the NSA, has two MA degrees in related subject matter, and is currently a Senior Fellow with Americans for Intelligence Reform www.intelreform.org. He is the author of Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror. His website is www.barrywebbauthor.com