Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 18, 2017

Syria Summary - Crossing The Euphrates At Deir Ezzor

The last three weeks in Syria were marked by further consolidation of the Syrian government positions. While this will likely continue, a new front of contention with the U.S. occupation force in north-east Syria is building up over Deir Ezzor city and the oil-rich rural areas east of it.


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

Last week the Syrian army liberated Sukhnah east of Palmyra from the Islamic State occupation. The fighting was less severe than anticipated. After nearly surrounding the city and the killing of the local ISIS commander the enemy forces mostly fled towards the Euphrates and Deir Ezzor.

Two large ISIS held pockets are forming in the east-Hama area. The 3,000 square-kilometer western encirclement is by now complete and remaining ISIS forces within the pocket are hunted down by Russian helicopters and Syrian army commandos. This will eliminate any danger for the narrow supply route to Aleppo city. The second pocket will soon close too. Within the next week the Syrian army will have consolidated the whole area. Troops currently concerned with surrounding the pockets will be freed for the push further east towards Deir Ezzor. There will be no more danger of large surprise attacks in the back of advancing forces.

One such attack recently overran a desert outpost and killed 18 fighters from an Iran-supported group on the Syrian government side. These lost units were replaced by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The injection of IRGC units is a new phenomenon. So far IRGC involvement was restricted to commanders of irregular units recruited from Iraq or Afghanistan or as advisors to Syrian army units, While Iran adds forces to the Syrian government side the Lebanese Hizbullah has reportedly reduced its involvement from a peak 20,000 forces to about 5,000. This was possible after several "rebel" held areas in west-Syria and near the Lebanese border were pacified and consolidated. The only area in the western part of Syria with active fighting is now the east-Ghouta enclave to the east of Damascus. A mix of fighters from al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) and Salafists of the Faylaq Al-Rahman continued to reject ceasefire offers. After increasing losses over the past weeks and a difficult supply situation Faylaq Al-Rahman today gave up its resistance. It is only a question of time until the al-Qaeda elements will also agree to give up their fight and accept offers for an evacuation to Idleb province.

After the total defeat of Ahrar al-Sham Salafist groups Idleb has become the al-Qaeda refuge and stronghold in Syria. Turkey has limited supplies to the area to humanitarian goods and infighting between various local groups and al-Qaeda is causing daily carnage. For now no party - Syria, Turkey or the U.S. and its Kurdish proxies - is interested in the costly venture of liberating the area. It will be left to rot until spring.

Strategically the U.S. has lost the war it waged against Syria. All that is left is to defeat ISIS at Raqqa and to leave. But the imperial U.S. military, the neoconservatives and the liberal interventionists will not be happy with that outcome. They attempt to resist the inevitable.

The U.S. occupation force in the north east of Syria and its Kurdish proxy forces make slow progress in their assault on Raqqa. ISIS resistance continues to be strong and the city is being "destroyed to save it". The Kurdish forces assume that a prolonged fighting might be to their advantage in accumulating more U.S. support and equipment.

The U.S. has set up 12 smaller and bigger bases in the Kurdish held north-east Syria. The Kurds, under control of the authoritarian, anarcho-marxist YPG group, hope for a long lasting support and a permanent stationing of U.S. forces. But the U.S. is an unreliable partner and its strategic interest is determined by its relations to Turkey which vehemently opposes any Kurdish control over any parts of Syria.

The U.S. military has plans to move from Raqqa along the Euphrates towards Deir Ezzor and further east to the border city of Abu Kamal. A second front would move from the north towards the Euphrates and capture the al-Omar oil fields. That would consolidate the significant oil reserves north of the Euphrates and currently under ISIS control into the U.S. occupied zone. It seems unlikely that these U.S plans will succeed. The (assumed) Syrian plan (below) currently looks more viable.


Map by Fabrice Balanche - bigger (with legend)

In these plans the Syrian army will approach Deir Ezzor from the north-west along the southern bank of the Euphrates and from the south-west through the Syrian semi-desert. After liberating Deir Ezzor the Syrian army would cross the Euphrates and continue on both banks of the river up to the Iraqi border until it has liberated all areas under ISIS control. The crossing of the Euphrates would require significant Russian support.

The U.S. does not have enough proxy forces to move towards the east and south and to attack Deir Ezzor. The areas are Arab and U.S. recruiting of Arab proxy forces there has proven abysmal. A few hundred more or less reliable fighters is insufficient for any larger endeavor. Attempts to move tribal proxy fighters from the Jordanian border area towards the northern Kurdish held areas have mostly failed. Everyone anticipates the U.S. engagement in east-Syria, surrounded by countries which reject a Kurdish controlled entity in Syria, will be temporary. The long term interests of the Arab tribes lie with the Syrian government.

Israel is pressing for further U.S. engagement. A full reestablishment of Syrian government control over Syria is seen as a "nightmare scenario". The preferred outcome is a balkanized Syria in which Israel can play off various sectarian or ethnic groups against each other. While its optimal outcome is now unlikely to be achievable Israel will continue to press for an autonomous Kurdish area under U.S. control. To be economical viable that area needs the oil fields north of the Euphrates. We can therefore expect some resistance from the U.S. military and Israel influenced experts against a Syrian army move across the Euphrates and to capture the oil fields.

I expect the Euphrates crossing and the consolidation of the oil-fields to become the next contentious issue between the U.S. and Russia in the Syrian war theater.

Posted by b on August 18, 2017 at 02:45 PM | Permalink

Comments

thanks b... trust the usa to try to fuck things up more for syria... israel is pressing for further us engagement.. well, what israel wants from us, they usually get! "But the U.S. is an unreliable partner and its strategic interest is determined by its relations to Turkey which vehemently opposes any Kurdish control over any parts of Syria." tell that to the kurds, as they haven't figured it out yet!

can someone take down the statue of liberty when they get a chance? lol...

Posted by: james | Aug 18, 2017 2:58:05 PM | 1

To cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor city, the SAA would first be bogged down in urban fighting. Perhaps they will cross further north to block the US before clearing the Euphrates and retaking the oil fields?

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Aug 18, 2017 3:03:51 PM | 2

The crossing will be complicated by the fact most (all?) bridges on the Euphrates have been destroyed by Daesh or the coalition. Otherwise, the SDF will inevitably have to show its true colors when it meets the SAA east of the river. Hopefully soon new maps will show all areas in yellow switch to red..

Posted by: Lozion | Aug 18, 2017 3:10:37 PM | 3

Have the US forces left al-Tanf and returned to Jordan?

As a matter of curiousity, why didn't the Syrian Gov't demand (with Russian and Chinese support in the UNSC) that the US leave southern Syria where they had no legal right to be?

Posted by: chet380 | Aug 18, 2017 3:36:52 PM | 4

When a US F18 attacked and destroyed a Syrian airforce fighter south of Raqqa, Russia warned that attacks on Syrian government forces left of the Euphrates river are unacceptable and the US more or less conceded. Given that, it's reasonable to assume that necessary Russian airfoce support to free the right side of the Euphrates river will never materialize. Maybe Iran will further increase its involvement in that area but that's doubtfull.

Posted by: xor | Aug 18, 2017 3:43:27 PM | 5

chet380 @4--

There was no UNSC challenge thanks to the veto, although Syria's raised many objections within the GA, with the GS and to UNSC. Globally however, people understand and know that the biggest threat to global peace is the Outlaw US Empire if the polls on the subject are to be believed.

It looks like Idlib and the Kurdish issue will be the main problems to be resolved during 2018. I highly suggest Pepe Escobar's latest, http://www.atimes.com/article/winners-post-daesh-era/

As for bridging equipment, some months ago I read the Russians had already sent enough for such an operation, but I don't know where it's currently staged. Given the security of the roadnet, they could rapidly be brought to theatre and employed. The recent air mobile assault I believe was a tune-up for the bridging operation with the air-head establishing the opposite bank bridgehead. When? Soon, before September, IMO.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 18, 2017 3:54:58 PM | 6

b said:"But the imperial U.S. military, the neoconservatives and the liberal interventionists will not be happy with that outcome. They attempt to resist the inevitable."

Maybe you should make that, "neoconservatives" and the "neoliberal" interventionists.

Maybe it's just semantics b, but TRUE liberals should never be interventionists. Just as true liberals should never favor corporate interests over peoples interests.

Posted by: ben | Aug 18, 2017 3:57:32 PM | 7

For future reference:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/liberal

What is Neoliberalism?

http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

Posted by: ben | Aug 18, 2017 4:05:08 PM | 8

Sounds about right. YPG states the US wants a "long term" presence in Syria. Let's see what Russia, Iran and China have to say about it. As for Hezbeollah scaling back their forces in Syria I believe they are preparing for the upcoming attack by Israel and this time they are not going to back off in destroying the Israeli army.

Posted by: NewYorker | Aug 18, 2017 4:06:32 PM | 9

@9 newyorker - lol.. lets see what turkey has to say about it for starters..

Posted by: james | Aug 18, 2017 4:33:13 PM | 10

The area reportedly held by the SDF/Kurdish proxy forces is probably exaggerated. A Russian military map a while back showed the disposition around al Shaddadi amounted to little more than control of the road linking it to al Hasakah. The US has moved some of the forces it placed at al Tanf to al Hasakah. This seems to support that hypothesis.

The Syrian airforce is now operating helicopters from the reopened Jirah airbase near Maskanah on the west bank of the Euphrates. This is less than 100 km from al Raqqa, and is preparing for air control east of the Euphrates. I guess T-4 airbase should also come online soon. That would perform a similar function in the south east. Both will dramatically reduce flight time for the ground attack helicopters based there.

Once the SAA gains access to the Euphrates at Deir ez Dor, there will be pressure (moral and political) to liberate the Syrian Arab cities of al Hasakah and al Qamishli, currently being ethnically cleansed by the Kurds. This would be done by following the communication routes north east of Deir ez Zor. This would also drive a split right through the middle of Zion's Kurdistan.

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 18, 2017 4:35:38 PM | 11

A small geographical point - Deir ez-Zor city is located on the south bank of the Euphrates. I was never quite sure where the city is located at the junction of the Khabur and Euphrates (although I've been there nearly forty years ago). The bridges are destroyed. This explains why events are happening as they are. The Syrians can run and relieve Deir ez-Zor, while relatively protected from the SDF move. It would be difficult for the Kurds/SDF to cross the Euphrates against the Syrian garrison's opposition without coming out openly as anti-Asad, which I doubt that the Kurds want to do.

Similar for Raqqa. The reason it is not taken is that I doubt that the Kurds are willing to take many casualties in order to achieve it. Arab city never Kurdish. So more civilian deaths from air-strikes.

As for the oil-fields on the Khabur, they're more difficult for the Syrians to get back.

The US position is likely to end up as a stalemate - they get the Kurdish territory and a bit more, but that's all. When will they get bored?

Posted by: Laguerre | Aug 18, 2017 4:42:13 PM | 12

The Iranians have sent a delegation to Turkey to discuss common strategies for dealing with Zion's attempt to create a Kurdistan. The Turks will later send an equivalent group to Tehran.

https://z5h64q92x9.net/proxy_u/ru-en.en/colonelcassad.livejournal.com/3618745.html

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 18, 2017 4:44:48 PM | 13

re 11 anonymous

The area reportedly held by the SDF/Kurdish proxy forces is probably exaggerated. A Russian military map a while back showed the disposition around al Shaddadi amounted to little more than control of the road linking it to al Hasakah.
This is a basic point of map presentation, which has been mentioned before, but not enough. As they say, you can draw anything you like on a map. In the case of Syria and Iraq, the Kurds are always shown as fully owning all the territory they want. On the other hand, the Syrian government and Da'ish are always shown as owning only thin threads, the minimum you can allot them. It's part of the propaganda. We're supposed to be wise enough to read the maps for what they really mean - that the Kurds also own only thin threads of territory.

Posted by: Laguerre | Aug 18, 2017 5:09:16 PM | 14

“The Kurds, under control of the authoritarian, anarcho-marxist YPG group, hope for a long lasting support and a permanent stationing of U.S. forces.”

Dear B. I read your worthy portal a long time and used some informative contents in different essays which I write for our own website in Farsi (Tadarok ) which is a critical platform for rebuilding the communist movement. I mentioned in all your writings about Kudristan-Syria (or Rojava) you refer to YPG as anarcho-marxist group or streaming. This is factual not correct and political at least not useful.
YPG as part of the Kurdish movement in Turkey and Syria is ideologically not a Marxist streaming rather an Anti-Marxist one. There was a kind of ideological shift in the Weltanschaung of this movement as whole and in PKK in particular. This can be dated in the 90s after capturing the Godfather of the movement, Abdullah Ocalan. Ocalan spent his time in jail with studying the works of Murray Bookchin and adapted complete his point of view. Bookchin himself is a bigot Anti-Marxist. The later development of the Kurdish movement in Turkey and Syria cannot be understood without considering this shift.
In his court case formulated Ocalan a full defense of his view in damning revolutionary fight and praising democracy as the ideal form of governance. The point is, he associated this ideal explicitly with the governments in Great Britain and in the USA.
Related to this shift which was based on the tectonic changes after the fall of Berlin wall, PKK and the civil organizations related to it, started a big campaign for propagating Bookchin’s ideas. There were dozens of summer camps and seminars focused on his ideas and finding the new forms of organization based on these ideas. According to this shift has everything changed also in the praxis. The good, old Anti-Imperialism was replaced with a kind of root democracy in which socialism doesn’t play any role more. Considering this shift is the current love affair of Kurds with the West generally and with the Jewel of Democracy, USA, in particular understandable.
The YPG is not anarcho-marxist but anarcho-libertarian. The pseudo Marxian phraseology is just a remnant of old times and not more.
P.S.: meine English ist nicht so gut. Auf Deutsch könnte ich mich besser audrucken. Hoffentlich is es aber verständlich.

Posted by: bs | Aug 18, 2017 6:20:44 PM | 15

Anarcho-Marxist Kurdistan under US military cover? Seems like that relationship could go south in a hurry! Not that the Kurds have ever gained anything from US sponsorship in the past (e.g. Iraq in the 1990s).

The Mosul, Raqqa, and Jobar - Ayn Tarma (eastern Damascus suburbs) battles are all the same type of warfare. Close-quarters urban combat with fortified positions is just nasty, destructive, costly, and slow Stalingrad-style rat war with any civilians in the mix getting shredded. Fortunately Jobar-Ayn Tarma is essentially a ghost town.

Posted by: Thirdeye | Aug 18, 2017 7:48:10 PM | 16

Not really any insight in this article.

Any discussion of Syria's next steps in securing the north and east of the country without an extensive summary of the the Iraq PMU is fruitless.

If the US regime is unable to put a stop to the Iraq PMU securing the entire Iraq/Syria border then it doesn't matter what the US regime wants. Their plans for a occupying the north of Syria are completely and utterly dead.

If the US regime manages to force the Iraq government to put halt or severely retard the PMU's actions on the border then the Syrian war is years away from concluding.

Posted by: Vannok | Aug 18, 2017 7:53:27 PM | 17

bs @15

Appears to be correct about the form of government of the Rojava Kurds of Syria.

From what I understand one must not confuse Iraqi Kurds under the warlord Masoud Barzani, who is allied with Turkey, with the Rojava Kurds of Syria. The Rojava Kurds follow the Communalism philosophy of Murray Bookchin from Vermont

Murray Bookchin died at the age of 85. He was a major leader of the libertarian left and promoted Communalism in books such as The Ecology of Freedom:
https://libcom.org/files/Murray_Bookchin_The_Ecology_of_Freedom_1982.pdf

His daughter Debbie Bookchin explains the impact of this philosophy on the Rojava kurds.
https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2644-debbie-bookchin-kurds-are-practicing-the-most-democratic-form-of-government-there-is-on-the-planet


In other news here is an update on the Syrian advance on Sakr Island East of Deir Ezzor:
"The Syrian Army has crossed the Euphrates River to attack ISIL's lines at Sakr Island" http://en.farsnews.com/player.aspx?nn=13960527000598

Posted by: Krollchem | Aug 18, 2017 8:03:33 PM | 18

Thanks for the update article.

Somehow I'm not sure if your assumptions about the Kurds are correct:

"The Kurdish forces assume that a prolonged fighting might be to their advantage in accumulating more U.S. support and equipment."
...or maybe they know that once Raqqa is under control, their US backers will expect them to move south towards Deir ez-Zor, which they are not keen on? It was often said that 'the Kurds have no interest in capturing non-Kurdish regions', and so far my impression was that they are indeed very reluctant to expand their territory. The US military surely has "plans to move from Raqqa along the Euphrates towards Deir Ezzor and further east to the border city of Abu Kamal", but I doubt the Kurds will play along.

The Kurds are not stupid; they know full well that Washington uses them as a mere expandable tool imo. And they also know that they have to get along with Damascus in the future, and that Ankara will go nuts if they do form a state of sorts.

'You and whose army' - I don't actually see a contentious development over who ends up controlling the area east of the Euphrates. The US would have to send their own if they really wanted it, which would be a completely illegal and strategically rather pointless move.

Posted by: smuks | Aug 18, 2017 8:47:27 PM | 19

@ 19

There already are US and their NATO-allies soldiers on the ground. Quite a few of them.

Posted by: Alexander Grimsmo | Aug 18, 2017 8:53:47 PM | 20

b, you are a damn fine journalist. This is an excellent update, thanks.

As to whether or not the US can actually succeed with any of its aspirations, weighing the opinions here it seems the only answer that explains the struggle of the US in a thoroughly lost cause is that the US is essentially living one day at a time, doing what it can with the long-held plans that it has. It's not creating any new plans. Corruption and the saturation of amorality have destroyed its creative energy.

By analogy, or maybe reverse engineering, one could speculate that the once brilliant Jewish people, now locked inside their prison ghetto of Israel and living in continuous fear, have also lost their creative power. All that's left to the global players of either country is cunning, calculation, deception and treachery - modes that in this age have lost much of their usefulness.


Posted by: Grieved | Aug 18, 2017 9:53:13 PM | 21

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-08-18/bannon-s-path-from-trusted-attack-dog-to-toxic-liability
Steve Bannon’s firing as White House chief strategist abruptly severs Donald Trump’s most important political relationship — at a pivotal moment in his presidency.

Exactly a year and a day ago, on Aug. 17, Bannon, a fiery populist who ran the right-wing Breitbart News, took over Trump’s struggling presidential campaign. The two outsiders joined forces to pull off the most shocking upset in U.S. presidential history.

Posted by: okie farmer | Aug 19, 2017 1:55:35 AM | 22

As in any war a black and white paint can only be used to depict lies.

Kurds, fierce anti ISIS/Al-Qeada fighters are case in point. They, in Orwellian style, forgot their own past to control present narrative i.e. that friendship with American is good, at least for their immediate interests, forgetting history of US-Saddam-Kurds relationship.

Saddam, a best friend of the US against Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1980-ties, gassed Kurds using US and German chemical WMD. Few years later US became Kurds' "friend" saving them from Saddam, a formerly US puppet, and allowing Iraqi national treasure, oil, to be stolen by Kurd mafias.

What PYD/YPG is doing tells us two things. First that Kurds, as a nation, have no plans or even notion of national statehood and are just conflicted clans greedy for western money and would kill one another for profit.

The second that they could likely be on the receiving end of another chemical WMD attacks again by Turks, Barzai gang or even US, or Assad in the future.

Impossible? Think twice. US has no problem to change alliances and definitely will not let Turkey go out of their sphere a of military influence while Russia is vehemently against great Kurdish state.

Kurds should be examining their own history and listen to themselves since as they say "Kurds have no friends" and ironically they make sure it stays that way.

Posted by: Kalen | Aug 19, 2017 3:30:25 AM | 23

@ smuks | 19

It was often said that 'the Kurds have no interest in capturing non-Kurdish regions', and so far my impression was that they are indeed very reluctant to expand their territory.

Not only Kurds are very much interested in occupying non-kurdish territories in Syria and Iraq (especially oil rich regions), they have been doing it for YEARS! Its like some havent noticed Kurds expanded their territory 10x since the war started, and vast majority of it never had Kurds as dominant ethnicity.

US "two-punch" strategy is in action for a long time. First come their useful idiots from Al Qaeda/ISIS, and 80% of civilians run away. Then come "the good guys" Kurds who "liberate" the territory and start ethnically cleansing remaining arabs/christians, while denying the right to return of refugees to their homes.

The US military surely has "plans to move from Raqqa along the Euphrates towards Deir Ezzor and further east to the border city of Abu Kamal", but I doubt the Kurds will play along.

They will if they can muster enough forces to do so, many people said Kurds will never go for Raqqa as its not kurdish region, guess what happened next? Oh, and both US and Kurds claimed Raqqa wont be returned to Syria either.

The Kurds are not stupid; they know full well that Washington uses them as a mere expandable tool imo.

Really? You call serving US and Israel interests as smart, including Kurds attacks on SAA, ethnic cleansing (with committed genocide atrocities in the past), and recent overtures with Saudis, while making hateful remarks against Iran and starting attacking Iran's borders? Do tell which of it is smart.

They remind me of a lot of many other "smart" useful idiots around the World, used by the Outlaw Empire. Those kurds who are actually smart - they get sidelined or killed. While puppets get the money, weapons, political and military cover, and the prospect of independence is dangled in front of them.

Posted by: Harry | Aug 19, 2017 9:12:19 AM | 24

It was often said that 'the Kurds have no interest in capturing non-Kurdish regions', and so far my impression was that they are indeed very reluctant to expand their territory.
Not only Kurds are very much interested in occupying non-kurdish territories in Syria and Iraq (especially oil rich regions), they have been doing it for YEARS! Harry @24

I am more familiar with the history of east-central Europe. Surprising (well, really?) proportion of numerous border changes were restoring "historical borders". In Wikipedia comments on Aleppo you can learn that this is the historical capital of Kurds. And try to ponder who is the most correct heir of Mitanni empire (that would somewhat fit Rojava, with suitably blurred borders).

On more practical plane, Rojava Kurds had problems controlling ethnic Arab regions. They face IEDs, when they respond with reprisals they get (muted) criticism and when they do not, the control is perhaps tenuous. Efficient control requires local support, and realistically, in more marginal areas of Damascus, Baghdad etc. it requires a combination of inducement and intimidation, and as any cook knows, getting the proportion and spices right is somewhat of an art. An example from the other end of the region: KSA strongly believed in inducements, and they were bribing the Sunni tribes of Yemen for decades. And when the "hour was right" they added reprisals "defending the legitimate government", with pitiful results -- seem that majority of those tribes stick with Huthis. One can explain it in at least two ways -- millenia old south-north opposition in the Arab peninsula never went away, Wahhabism is not attractive to the big majority of south Arab Sunnis.

Whether communists, communalists or nationalists, Rojava Kurds are at best fellow travelers for USA. They have to choose the best foreign support, and they can always have some reckoning with Damascus, and get as much as possible from USA/NATO while the source is available. As they share "Turkish problem" with Damascus, the situation is delicate and quite foggy. To chagrin of the brigade of armchair strategists of the "West", Russia's role as least distrusted intermediary between Turkey, Assad government, PKK, YPD, etc. etc. (all the way to Iran, including) seems to grow with the expense of less trusted NATO alliance.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Aug 19, 2017 10:09:58 AM | 25

Abdullah Öcalan's "updated" philosophy he calls "Democratic Confederalism". A free brochure of the same name where he explains the basics can be found here near the bottom of the page, in several languages.

Posted by: CE | Aug 19, 2017 10:34:14 AM | 26

@Harry 24

Some valid points, but I disagree with your conclusions.

Yes, the Kurds occupied non-Kurdish territory and used ethnic cleansing - because they wanted to eliminate the immediate ISIS threat to their enclaves.
True, I had not expected them to conquer Raqqa either - but they didn't do it out of their free will, only after the Turkish army started attacking them and the Americans apparently reacted by saying "well yes, we might protect you from the Turks, but only if..."

There is some interpretation involved here of course, but it looks rather plausible to me.
The US will not be there forever, the regional powers will - so it's only logical for the Kurds to strike a deal with Damascus. Advance much further south...methinks not.

(attack Iran's borders? How so, with Iraq in between?)

@Piotr Berman 25

"Rojava Kurds are at best fellow travellers for USA. They have to choose the best foreign support, and they can always have some reckoning with Damascus, and get as much as possible from USA/NATO while the source is available."

That's pretty much the way I see it too. Unfortunately, they risk becoming too dependent on US support, which would alienate them ever further from every single neighbour, turning them into a mere tool...it's an open question whether they can avoid it, but they are very aware of this imo.

Interesting that you bring up Mitanni. I was often thinking about how in the Bronze Age, there were the three big empires (Hethite, Egypt, Babylon) vying for control of the fertile crescent and thus Mid-East hegemony. The region was only stable for a relatively brief period, and thanks to the emergence of a fourth power right in the middle: Mitanni. When Mitanni collapsed and the Hethites grew too powerful, this led to what is sometimes called 'World War Zero', incl. the fall of Troy, Sea Peoples etc.

The situation today looks astonishingly similar: Turkey, Iran and KSA as the rivals for regional hegemony, with a pretty big mess in the middle. The difference of course is that external powers, mostly Russia and the US, also play a key role. But same as back then, whoever controls eastern Syria/ northern Iraq (through proxies) controls the Middle East.

The power structure can only be stabilized if there is an independent fourth, central player to balance the scales. This used to be Iraq, but Saddam's short-sightedness took the country out of the game. A Kurdish state could theoretically fill the gap, but much more probable is that a re-emerging Iraq will once again assume its traditional role. The recent talk about Baghdad brokering Saudi-Iran talks clearly points in that direction.

@Alexander 20

Not nearly enough to conquer SE Syria - plus, the US has no legitimacy whatsoever to do this, and no intent.

Posted by: smuks | Aug 19, 2017 12:44:50 PM | 27

Starving Arabs begging for Israeli and US tourists to come back. The destruction of Syria bearing its fruits.
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/275657/Egypt/Politics-/Delay-in-IsraeliPalestinian-peace-process-must-be-.aspx

Posted by: Mina | Aug 19, 2017 4:49:39 PM | 28

@ Piotr Berman | 25

and get as much as possible from USA/NATO while the source is available.

It doesnt work this way. US isnt some benevolent master, whom you can use and drop when you wish. Sadam was initially US puppet, but when he turned them down - you know what happened next. Gaddafi tried to play nice with US and have an independent policy, you know what happened too. Yanukovich played both sides to get the best deal for Ukraine, and when Russia won the bidding war, you also know what happened next. Iraq expelled US army and turned towards Iran, guess what followed?

There are hundreds of such examples, US never ever walks away just like that. If Kurdistan decide they dont want to be puppets anymore, they better be prepared for the shi*storm which follows and hundreds of thousands of dead kurds.

@ smuks | 27

Yes, the Kurds occupied non-Kurdish territory and used ethnic cleansing - because they wanted to eliminate the immediate ISIS threat to their enclaves.

Kurds do ethnic cleansing of arabs/christians/etc. to consolidate their occupied non-kurdish territories, same as pretty much all occupants do. ISIS threat has nothing to do with it.

Nowadays another reason for cleansing is because when playing of democracy starts, you dont want to have majority of other ethnic groups, thats why Israel will never agree to single state solution either, they rather drive away palestinians from occupied territories.

True, I had not expected them to conquer Raqqa either - but they didn't do it out of their free will

Who said anything about puppets having free will? They do as their master says, "or else". Of course, the hope of independence is also strong, and to have any semblance of viable state they want to steal as much land and oil from Syria/Iraq as they possibly can.

attack Iran's borders? How so, with Iraq in between?

Do you want me to answer that? Really?

Posted by: Harry | Aug 19, 2017 7:06:36 PM | 29

I am thankful that Syria has been successful recently. I also believe that Trump has changed the policy albeit under the table with the only news being the leak of the order to CIA to stop their funding. It reminds me of Obama's deal with Iran. That too was done on the sly. But as we've seen these things can be undone.
And thanks for the insights on the Kurdish situation.

Posted by: Curtis | Aug 19, 2017 8:47:33 PM | 30

https://southfront.org/us-led-coalition-warplanes-bomb-syrian-army-in-kadir-vilalge-in-central-syria-isis-attack-follows-reports/

Southfront brief article on US coalition bombing Syrian Arab Army, seemingly coordinated with ISIS attacks following on. With map.

Al Masdar News also reports same day bombing by coalition--

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-us-coalition-bombs-syrian-army-near-isil-lines-southern-raqqa-unconfirmed/

According to a journalist embedded with the Tiger Forces in southern Al-Raqqa, the U.S. Coalition bombed the Syrian Arab Army’s Tarameeh Group inside the town of Al-Kader, which is located along the Raqqa-Homs border.

Another "mistake" or just US operating as usual.

Posted by: jawbone | Aug 20, 2017 10:51:28 AM | 31

US forces are on record of bombing Canadians in Afghanistan, ramming civilian ships and even sea mounts, so there is always a potential for good old screwup (military screwups probably predates history, e.g. wrongly applied war paint causing a friendly chop with a stone axe). So far, this incident did not lead to any changes in lines of control.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Aug 20, 2017 11:19:30 AM | 32

"US isn't some benevolent master, whom you can use and drop when you wish. Sadam was initially US puppet, but when he turned them down - you know what happened next. "

On one hand, US is a weirdly sentimental master. Surely, Kurds cannot rise to the level of Israel, but they compete well with Banderistas. Supporting Rojava has a benefit of keeping Turkey from being to uppity, a lever that you can press gently but with an effect. On the other hand, a landlocked country cannot survive while quarreling with ALL neighbors (check The War of Triple Alliance).

One may get a "frozen conflict" there, or some type of amicable resolution. Time will tell. Right now PYD is not rushing to get more territory, my impression is that they want to preserve "Syria-Russia" card for the eventuality that the conflict with Turkey gets hotter.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Aug 20, 2017 11:37:05 AM | 33

"the oil-rich rural areas east of it"

Syria is 32nd in the world for oil reserves. Below it on the list are countries that just don't have oil.

Syria's little oil is of very high quality, light sweet crude. It exported that, and in return imported much cheaper, lower quality oil for its own use. That trade off allowed it to just get by with its very modest oil needs, in a non-modern economy.

So there are some small oil fields, and they represent some cash in a broken country. That is easily exaggerated, which misleads ourselves.

Posted by: Mark Thomason | Aug 20, 2017 12:42:50 PM | 34

bs@15 - "...The YPG is not anarcho-marxist but anarcho-libertarian..."

Thanks for your interesting thoughts on this bs. I would only add "...for now." When an emerging society is resource-poor except for seized Syrian resources/infrastructure, has no economy to speak of and nearly everyone has a Kalashnikov, it is a grand idea. But I don't see any features in the Northern Syrian model that will recognize or prevent power-seeking individuals from corrupting the system. In fact, it's already happening.

I already see this in the PYD (Democratic Union Party). They are reluctantly beholden to their current US/Western financiers and will be to their future ones (probably Goldman Sachs) for an eternity. Anarchy and libertarianism are nice ideals until the psychopaths show up to run things. The PYD is well on the way to creating a rentier state. I'm sure little of that revenue be redistributed to the little people producers. There is a certain brand of parasitic oligarch that thrives by feeding off of socialist countries. Those parasites are always to be found somewhere in or near the ruling party.

The PYD is also curiously authoritarian and intolerant of political opposition. They were the de facto government in Kurdish areas after the Syrian government essentially withdrew, establishing not only the militia (YPG/YPJ) and federal police (Asayish), but also administrative bureaucracy to manage the thousands of committees and collect a myriad of taxes from citizens and businesses - all without any real oversight or accountability. They provide few social services if any; the Syrian state still (for now) runs the dams, provides electricity, water and roads and runs the hospitals.

The PYD also established courts, fines, prisons and 'black sites'. And like nearly any other 'government', bribing PYD officials is common and isn't going away. I would guess corruption and embezzlement will drain what little state revenue is produced with the parasitic oligarchs claiming the rest. The little people will simply need to be 'encouraged' to produce more so they can get a few pennies themselves.

All the PYD organizations (except the party) were suppose to be temporary and transitional, to eventually be replaced/taken over by the confederation of cantons. That's never going to happen in reality, and I'm guessing the 'will of the people will never change that. The little people will still be allowed to form local councils to argue amongst themselves about 'little people' issues. The higher levels of councils/committees in the state hierarchy will eventually be elected from and filled with PYD loyalists and party elite. It has been said that three degrees of separation -
via elected officials/committees - is all that's needed to usurp the 'will of the people' in a democratically elected government. Democracy (at least in the USA) is a proven failure at weeding out power- and control-seeking psychopaths. Voting will turn into a mindless ritual of the little people Kurds - it will been reduced to a combination of a popularity contest and morality freak show, just like it is in the west.

Any promise of anarcho-libertarianism in the Democratic Federation of North Syria died the day the PYD took over the cantons and once again when the US showed up. The concept will only exist in footnotes to the PYD's historical PKK roots. I really hope the best for the Syrian Kurds, but they seem oblivious to the government's vulnerability to psychopaths and parasitic oligarchs (as are Americans).

Posted by: PavewayIV | Aug 20, 2017 1:34:31 PM | 35

of course the US is not planning to ever leave and no one can push it out

Posted by: paul | Aug 20, 2017 9:10:55 PM | 36

'The Kurds, under control of the authoritarian, anarcho-marxist YPG group, hope for a long lasting support and a permanent stationing of U.S. forces. B'

US aiding anarcho-marxists?! war makes strange bedfellows, but YPG should remember what happened to US friend Saddam

Posted by: brian | Aug 20, 2017 9:55:16 PM | 37

pity Bannon is now gone from US govt

Posted by: brian | Aug 20, 2017 9:59:50 PM | 38

Looks like athe second pocket is being closed, according to some twitter chatter..

Posted by: Lozion | Aug 21, 2017 3:34:15 PM | 39

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