Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 15, 2018

Syria - U.S. Traps Itself , Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement

The Trump administration policy in Syria is finally coming into daylight. It has decided to permanently separate north-east of Syria from the rest of Syria with the rather comical idea that this will keep Iranian influence out of Syria and give the U.S. a voice in a final Syrian settlement. This move lacks strategical foresight:

The U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State is currently training a force to maintain security along the Syrian border as the operation against ISIS shifts focus. The 30,000-strong force will be partly composed of veteran fighters and operate under the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces, CJTF-OIR told The Defense Post.
...
“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale said.
...
Veale acknowledged that more Kurds will serve in the areas of northern Syria, while more Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq.

The SDF and the Kurds are under control of the PKK/YPK, a terrorist organization that is nearly daily fighting and killing Turkish forces within Turkey. The Arabs which ostensibly shall seal the area off from the rest of Syria are most likely tribal forces that were earlier aligned with the Islamic State.

The Turks were not consulted before the U.S. move and are of course not amused that a "terrorist gang", trained and armed by the U.S., will control a long stretch of their southern border. Any Turkish government would have to take harsh measures to prevent such a strategic threat to the country:

Such initiatives endangering our national security and Syria’s territorial integrity through the continuation of cooperation with PYD/YPG in contradiction with the commitments and statements made by the US are unacceptable. We condemn the insistence on this flawed approach and remind once again that Turkey is determined and capable to eliminate any threats targeting its territory.

Russia noted that such a U.S. occupation has no legal basis:

The Russian foreign minister stressed decisions of the kind were taken without any grounds, coming from a UN Security Council resolution, or from some agreements reached during the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.

Syria warned that any Syrian taking part in this move will be in trouble:

The Ministry considered any Syrian citizen who takes part in the US-backed militia as a traitor to the Syrian state and people and will be treated as one, adding that these militias will hinder reaching to a political solution to the situation in Syria.

The U.S.Congress is concerned about this move:

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, outlined US goals in Syria as finishing off IS, stabilizing northeastern Syria and countering Iranian influence.
...
“That won’t pass muster,” committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., interjected.
...
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who initially asked Satterfield the question he declined to answer, expressed concerns that eliminating Iranian influence from Syria entirely was a fool’s errand that could keep US troops tied up in Syria forever.
...
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the committee, also voiced concern that the Trump administration does not have the necessary legal authorization from Congress to keep US troops in Syria beyond the defeat of IS.

Just two month back, in a phone call with the Russian President Putin, the President Trump seemed to be against such a move:

The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character, as defined in UNSCR 2254, ...

The U.S. move comes at the right time for Syria. The Russian, Turkish, Iranian and Syrian agreement of Astana set up a de-escalation zone in Idleb governorate but committed the parties to continue the fight against al-Qaeda. The agreement was in imminent danger of breaking down as Turkey protested against the current Syrian operation against al-Qaeda in east-Idleb. Turkey cooperates with al-Qaeda to keep its options open for a take-over of some Syrian land. It is also concerned about the north-western Kurdish enclave of Afrin which is protected by Russian forces.

But the U.S.move in the east constitutes a greater threat to Turkey than tiny Afrin. The east is more important to Turkey than Idelb in the west. The whole eastern half of Turkey is now endangered by a Kurdish force at its underbelly. The U.S. move increases Turkey's incentive to keep the Astana agreement about Idleb intact and to re-unite with Syria, Russia and Iran against the U.S.-Kurdish alliance. Erdogan, with his usual rage, was clear that he can not and will not let the U.S. move stand:

“A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders,” Erdogan said of the United States in a speech in Ankara. “What can that terror army target but Turkey?”

“Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.”

Joshua Landis believes that the U.S. has given up on Turkey as an ally and is solely committed to do Israel's and Saudi Arabia's bidding. It is completely concentrated on countering Iran. But there are few if any Iranian troops in Syria and the supply line from Tehran to Damascus is via air and sea and can not be influenced from an enclosed Kurdish enclave. Moreover, the U.S. presence in the north-east is not sustainable.

The north-eastern U.S. held area of Syria is surrounded by forces hostile to it. Turkey in the north, Syria in the west and south, Iraq, with a pro-Iranian government, in the east. It has no ports and all its air-supplies have to cross hostile air space.

Internally the area consists of a Kurdish core but has nearly as many Arab inhabitants as Kurds. The Kurds are not united, there are many who are against the PKK/YPG and support the Syrian government. Probably half of the Arabs in the area were earlier Islamic State fighters and the other half favors the rule by Damascus. What all Arabs there have in common is hatred for their new Kurdish overlords. This all is fertile ground for an insurgency against the U.S. occupation and its Kurdish YPG proxy forces. It will need only little inducement and support from Damascus, Ankara or elsewhere to draw the U.S. presence into a chaotic fight for survival.

Turkey's wannabe Sultan Erdogan has long tried to play Russia against the U.S. and vice versa. He ordered Russian air defense systems which will enable him to withstand a U.S. air attack. At the same time he allowed U.S. ships to pass the Bosporus Straits into the Black Sea and to threaten Russia in Crimea even when the Montreux Convention would have allowed him to restrict their passages. The U.S. now leaves him no choice. Russia is the one force that can help him to handle the new threat.

The NATO bigwigs in Brussels must be nervous. Turkey has the second biggest army within NATO. It controls the passage to the Black Sea and with Incirlik the most important NATO airbase in the south-eastern realm. All these give Turkey leverage that it can use when Russia offers it a decent alternative to NATO membership.

One wonders who in the White House developed this idea. It goes against everything Trump had said about U.S. engagement in the Middle East. It goes against NATO's interests. There is no legal basis for the move. It has little chance of being sustainable.

My guess is that National Security Advisor McMaster (pushed by his mentor General Petraeus) is the brain behind this. He has already proven to lack any strategic vision beyond moving military brigades here and there. What will he do next? Order the CIA to restart arming al-Qaeda aka the "Syrian rebels" who just sent their emissaries to Washington to beg for renewed support? Turkey needs Russia and Russia is fighting those "Syrian rebels". Why should Turkey, which controls the border to Syria, allow new CIA weapons to pass?

It is beyond me how the U.S. expects to sustain its positions in the north-east of Syria. It is hard to understand why it believes that such a position will give it any influence over Iran's commitment to Syria. The move robs it of any political flexibility. It is a trap of its own design.

In the end the U.S. military will have to retreat from the area. The Kurds will have to crawl to Damascus to beg for forgiveness. The strategic shortsightedness of both, the U.S. administration and the YPG leadership, amazes me. What do these people think when they make such decisions?

 

Posted by b on January 15, 2018 at 01:42 PM | Permalink

Comments
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As long as Turkey hinders Syria from cleaning up the Idlib mess, Syria wont be able to assist in a confrontation between Turkey and the Kurds.

Posted by: redrooster | Jan 16, 2018 3:24:28 PM | 101

100

You must have looked in the mirror kiddy.

Posted by: CarlD | Jan 16, 2018 3:27:19 PM | 102

CarlDunce...

I can keep it up as long as you can...actually much much longer...

Posted by: FB | Jan 16, 2018 4:40:17 PM | 103

@99

After the drone attack on their air base, Russia may want to make it clear that the US is not allowed to extend its corridor to the Med.

Posted by: financial matters | Jan 16, 2018 4:42:42 PM | 104

FB

My , oh my,

your button is bigger' n mine, eh!

Posted by: CarlD | Jan 16, 2018 5:09:37 PM | 105

CarlDuncecap...

I didn't say it...but since you mention it I would not be surprised...

Posted by: FB | Jan 16, 2018 6:17:56 PM | 106

LOL!

FB criticized james for writting survey comments, calling him a self-appointed moderator. @89 FB writes a survey comment - only in a bigger and more brash way.

@FB: Do you attack james because you want to replace him?

@james: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 16, 2018 7:33:45 PM | 107

frances @89

That article quotes US spokesperson as saying of the Kurds in Afrin: “We don’t support them, we have noting to do with them.” I’m actually inclined to believe this statement because US needs the Kurds right now.

Who gains from Erdogan’s attack on Afrin?
1) Turkey demonstrates its strategic interest in Idlib.

2) Kurds are reminded of the benefits of having a powerful ally (USA).

Will Turkey actually take Afrin? Let’s see.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 16, 2018 8:01:13 PM | 108

Hey Jackassrabbit...

My comment at #89 said simply 'great comments here...'

'And one noteworthy comment'...on which context I then based my own comment...

Since when is it a crime to agree with a comment...?

This is far different from our little James making a silly little list...with pithy little comments on the order of 'like' and 'dislike'...

Your characterization of my opening remark in that comment is so far fetched that it is disconnected from reality by an unhealthy margin...

I also note that you say nothing about what I actually said in the comment...


Posted by: FB | Jan 16, 2018 9:01:15 PM | 109

@107 jr...it seems impossible for the kid to see how talking shit about others here is the wrong approach to take.. not sure he's going to figure it out either...

Posted by: james | Jan 16, 2018 9:23:01 PM | 110

FB: Since when is it a crime to agree to a comment? This is far different from our little James ...

“far different”? Nope.

I also note that you say nothing about what I actually said in the comment...

I think it was clear that I was commenting on the style not the substance (and indirectly on your overall attitude as well).

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 16, 2018 9:57:04 PM | 111

Perimetr @12

Thanks for reminding those at MoA of the Nuclear Winter issue now that the US is radically increasing its military budget. For those that would discount the Nuclear Winter scenario the soot from a full-scale nuclear war is different from soot oil well fires such as the second Iraq war, in the latter remains in the lower atmosphere and is rapidly washed out. In contrast, soot from nuclear detonation fires are entrained into the upper atmosphere resulting in much longer residence times. Washout would be reduced by the sudden decrease in rainfall that would occur along with the blocking of solar radiation. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2008JD011652/full

Furthermore, Nuclear Winter would be worse than predicted due to massive quantities of nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and dust entering the upper atmosphere.

An air burst, for example, is estimated to produce about 1032 molecules of nitrogen oxides per megaton TNT equivalent. This corresponds to about 2.25E6 tons of NO, or 3.5E6 tons of NO2 per megaton of explosive power. For nuclear explosions of intermediate and moderately high yield in the air or near the surface, the cloud reaches into the altitude range of 50,000 to 100,000 feet. Hence, the nitrogen oxides, along with increased upper atmosphere moisture, from such explosions would be expected to enhance mechanisms that decrease the ozone concentration.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013EF000205/full

Between the US and Russia there are deployed about 3196 nuclear warheads with another 8518 stockpiled and assigned for potential use on military delivery vehicles. This figure does not include the 1115nuclear warheads maintained by the other nuclear powers (perhaps more as Israel is rumored to have up to 400 nuclear warheads). Assuming that each warhead has an average yield of 100KT, a full-scale war between the US and Russia and China (260 warheads) would result in 3456 targeted areas hit with air blasts yielding about 350 megatons of TNT. https://www.armscontrol.org (https://www.armscontrol.org)

Assuming 50-180 million tons of soot generated from this nuclear exchange there will also be 7.9E8 tons of NO or 1.2E9 tons of NO2 released just from the reactions with atmospheric nitrogen gas. Additional nitrogen compounds from materials within the blast and forest fire zones will slightly add to this total: https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/pdf1983/baker83a.pdf

Assuming that about 50% of the carbon soot is derived from housing in the blast zone there is an additional sulfur dioxide release from gypsum (sheet rock). Assuming that the sulfur of 0.8x that of the wood mass in buildings there is another 20-70 million tons of sulfur dioxide entering the atmosphere. By comparison, the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption generated some 20 million tons of SO2, yielding a global temperature reduction of 0.5 degrees C.: https://history.aip.org/history/climate/aerosol.htm

Toon et al. in 2007 also indicate that the soot (carbon black) “is likely to become coated with sulfates, organics, and other nonabsorbing materials, which could act as lenses, refracting light onto the soot. This effect might increase absorption by ∼50%, leading to potentially greater impacts than those we modeled.”

A portion of the nuclear weapon targets are hardened facilities where a ground blast would be employed. Some of these are nuclear weapons facilities (naval bases, etc) containing considerable nuclear materials. Other sites, include Hanford spent fuel storage and nuclear waste tanks along with the 4000 spent fuel ponds on the planet cumulatively represent the radiation of over 60,000,000 Hiroshima sized bombs if targeted.
Ground blasts would be used to prevent the opposition from recovering within the next couple hundred years. It would also project dust into the upper atmosphere containing hundreds of secondary radionuclides. The dust would add to the solar dimming effect to a marginal degree.

After a decade or so, the washout of nuclear wastes from the atmosphere will result in wide-scale acid rain due to sulfuric acid and nitric acid atmospheric washout. Once the light penetration increases the elevated carbon dioxide will cause a rapid surface heating below 10,000 ft and a cooling above 10,000 ft.

Biomass accumulation of residual radiation, especially uranium-238, strontium and cesium will add to the suffering of those who manage to survive.

Posted by: Krollchem | Jan 16, 2018 10:22:10 PM | 112

@ Little Master James...

Like I give a crap about the circle jerk you've going here...

Posted by: FB | Jan 16, 2018 11:04:14 PM | 113

Krollchem@ 112

Sorry I underestimated the megatonnage of a large nuclear war. It is closer to 5,000 megatons (which is the figure used by Perimetr @12). Thus I underestimated the NO and NO2 by a factor or 14-times. Sulfur release, as SO2 is also higher but only by 2-5 times as sheet rock only atomizes to sulfur dioxide in the blast radius which is not proportional to megatonnage.

The amount of soot was taken from the article "Catastrophic C
limatic Consequences of Nuclear Conflict" and is correct in comment #112
https://www.icnnd.org/Documents/Starr_Nuclear_Winter_Oct_09.pdf

Posted by: Krollchem | Jan 17, 2018 1:07:24 AM | 114

The figures given for the nitric oxide effects of nuclear explosions seem too severe. There were apparently some 500Megatons released by atmospheric nuclear tests before these stopped, somewhat more than you estimate for a big war, without noticable climate effects. Whilst US tests were over sea or desert and will have released less carbon than they might over a city, the Soviets tested over land with vegetation or peeat overlay which must have put a lot of particulate carbon aloft. Did this produce any detectable climate effect?

Posted by: Paul Cockshott | Jan 17, 2018 3:54:13 AM | 115

@112 to get a megatonage over 5000 from circa 3000 bombs they would have to be 1.6 mt or so each. My reading is that US missile warheads now are closer to 300kt. Are you assuming Russian ones are more like 2Mt?

Posted by: Paul Cockshott | Jan 17, 2018 4:02:50 AM | 116

@ Paul Cockshott...

Thanks for offering a dissenting view...that's what discussion is supposed to be about...

I'm not any kind of expert in the nuclear field...[and looking at your bio on your blog neither are you...although we do note your bona fide academic credentials in a hard science field...]

It is true that a lot of atmospheric nuclear testing was done over the years...which had no big atmospheric effect of the kind talked about in the citations mentioned by others in this thread...such as blocking of significant amounts of solar energy...

I'm just wondering about the 500 MT figure you provided...can you give a little more granularity on this...?

PS: I generally think it is healthy for people, especially those with solid technical credentials in one field or another...to question some of the 'received wisdom' that is regularly circulated among the non-technical public...

Many of the agencies of the UN for example are highly politicized...mostly under the influence of the US and its allies...I find it prudent to scratch the surface of 'scientific' pronouncements from these kinds of sources...

Some of these 'conclusions' from these kinds of sources warrant a little skepticism...

Posted by: FB | Jan 17, 2018 4:21:42 AM | 117

The source for >500Mt atmospheric tests is https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-662-03610-5_17

The 60 million fold radioactivity in spent fuel compared to hiroshima bomb also seems implausible.

Let us allow roughly 60 years since hiroshima as an order of magnitude. That implies that the average production of fission products per year since then has been a million times that of the hiroshima bomb - ignoring decay of short life products which makes up the great bulk of it. Now we know that the Hiroshima bomb had a 64Kg core an fissioned just over 1% of that, which gives say 1Kg of highly enriched uranium going to produce fission products. For the million fold figure to be right we would have to assume that the nuclear power industry was using 1 million Kg of U235 per year, or around 150,000 tons of natural uranium a year. World civil use of Uranium has never exceeded 60,000 a year and for most of the last 60 years has been much smaller. I think your 60,000,0000 fold figure must be out by an order of magnitude.

Posted by: Paul Cockshott | Jan 17, 2018 8:45:42 AM | 118

Paul Cockshott@116

You are correct that the 5000MT figure is excessively high. The 5000MT yield represents all currently deployed warheads and those in storage and readily deployed. I took that number from the following article: https://www.icnnd.org/Documents/Starr_Nuclear_Winter_Oct_09.pdf

Standard Russian warheads are generally 800KT although larger ones exist for ground blasts. US nuclear warheads generally have lower yields. Typically, they average out at about 500KT. For maximum damage lots of 100KT warheads do more damage than fewer larger yield weapons of the same kilotonnage. Higher yield warheads would generally be used for hardened military targets and would be able to penetrate up to 100 meters of rock.

Carbon black, or soot, would be more pronounced over areas with high flammable loadings such as cities and forests. Much of the soot is from carbonaceous material entrained in the fireball. In the case of a air burst the soil carbon would be much less than that from cities.

As for the oxides of nitrogen issue. Remember that the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen and all nitrogen in the fireball would be atomized and reacted with the entrained oxygen sucked into the fireball. Even temperatures as low as 5000 degrees K will atomize diatomic oxygen, nitrogen and water. I will get back to you on the citation.

Posted by: Krollchem | Jan 17, 2018 10:32:53 AM | 119

News today that Erdogan is seeking to extend the State of Emergency - which gives him dictatorial powers - again. The need to justify extending SoE every 3 months means he has to exaggerate threats.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 17, 2018 12:56:23 PM | 120

Turkish expert on BBC: "Russia has to open its air space for this operation. Otherwise it might be very costly.

"Also, there are around 300 Russian soldiers in Afrin. If Russia gives a green light, then Turkish forces could clear out Afrin in one day. Otherwise, it could turn into a nightmare," he says.

Ahmet Kasim Han agrees that an operation without Russia's approval would be very costly for Turkey. But he thinks Moscow's approval could have very serious consequences as well.

====

There was also a Twitter that Kurdish reinforcements for Aftin crossed the territory controlled by Damascus. This is not the first time. Also, a peace of news that USA will not interfere in Afrin. To me it means that Russia will maintain a "protectorate" which is a bit ambigous -- does it follow wishes of Damascus government? In the longer run, a complex dependency and rather rational behaviour of "YPG terrorists" will let the SDF territory to be integrated with the rest of Syria.

Ironically, to extend the duration of their NE Syria project, USA has to rely on Russia, but that also makes that project rather wobbly. Which is OK if there are no long term plans. "Let us keep what we can, and see later what will be possible."

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 17, 2018 1:34:34 PM | 121

Evidently Erdogan is obsessed by the danger of the Kurds. The most important point is to prevent the Syrian Kurds from developing a power which could influence the Kurds within Turkey.

The American idea of a Kurdish border force is against his interests, even though it is ridiculous. I suspect more havering rather than a full-blown attack on Afrin.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 17, 2018 3:44:01 PM | 122

@119 jr.. i wonder if this centcom idea of the border police was a gift to extend erdogans emergency powers? looks like it..

Posted by: james | Jan 17, 2018 3:54:32 PM | 123

The idea of a neo-Ottoman empire in North Syria is long dead. More trouble than it's worth. Turkicising north Syria would be a big job, possible in the 1930s but not today. Erdogan's objectives are more defensive - he doesn't want to lose SE Turkey.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 17, 2018 3:56:24 PM | 124

@119 jr.. i wonder if this centcom idea of the border police was a gift to extend erdogans emergency powers? looks like it..

Posted by: james | Jan 17, 2018 3:54:32 PM | 122

As if Erdogan could not manufacture any other excuse that deputies from his own party, AKP, a well disciplined bunch, would not find convincing -- their votes suffice to extend the emergency. And if Erdogan after 15 years of packing courts, purging his party from less zealous followers etc. would need emergency powers to be a virtual dictator.

Reminds me of my excursion in Istanbul. The guide: "this is a palace build by Mehmed VI, the last sultan". I wondered aloud "but didn't we see several other palaces of that sultan", and a Turk seating next to me explained "this is why he was the last sultan".

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 17, 2018 7:01:24 PM | 125

Correction: the maniac palace builder was Abdulhamid II; Ottoman empire lasted 7 years after his death. Perhaps if we was more focused on something else...

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 17, 2018 7:04:50 PM | 126

@124 piotr... good story and yes - i have to agree with you, help or not - he will continue to be the crazy egotist he is here demanding everyone sees it his way and his way only.. i enjoyed istanbul a lot when their in 2012...

Posted by: james | Jan 17, 2018 7:15:38 PM | 127

SecState Tillerson just gave an important speech at Stanford, including five US goals.

Tillerson's five key US Syria goals, backed up by US troops:...in my words
1.Defeat ISIS & al-Qaeda
2. Obtain a new government via a UN-led political process
3. Diminish Iran influence, eliminate Shia crescent and protect Israel
4. Facilitate return of refugees
5. Syria is free of WMD . . .here

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 17, 2018 7:43:30 PM | 128

@ 127 don bacon.. not sure if you read the joshua landis article that b linked to in his post.. it covers it well and is more nuanced then your quick run down.. check it out, unless you already have... the usa seems hell bent on becoming an empire in steady decline continuing to serve israel while eroding what little currency they have remaining on the world stage today...

Posted by: james | Jan 17, 2018 8:25:00 PM | 129

@james 128
Landis: "Dividing Syrians and keeping them poor may ensure short-term US interests; it pleases some of America’s allies; but in the long-term, it will ensure failure and more wars."

Landis is good on history, but he doesn't get the depth (literally) of current US policy. Instability and more wars is the objective. Just look at where we have been and where we are!

For one thing, they need some dead soldiers to verify the sanctity of their evil deeds, so the US troops have to be there. Washington doesn't care much about an empire in decline or Israel or currency on the world stage etc, they care about being in charge of the world and making a buck doing it.

Iran is the necessary appointed enemy. Tillerson: "Through its position in Syria, Iran is in a stronger position to extend its track record of attacking U.S. interests, allies, and personnel in the region. It is spending billions of dollars a year to prop up Assad and wage proxy wars at the expense of supporting its own people."

Hey, substitute Trump for Assad in the last sentence and . . .what happened to Making America Great Again? Hundreds of homeless people getting sick and some dying from hepatitis because the American streets are literally a shithole in "the nation's finest city" - San Diego (which isn't in Africa). . . .that ain't MAGA.

Sorry james, didn't mean to pile on you. Got me started with Landis, the academic.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 17, 2018 9:48:31 PM | 130

Don Bacon @127

This is only confirming what was already evident. Will Assad actually try to take back Easter Syria? I can’t see him doing so with Russian and Iranian support. And I don’t think the Russians and Iranians are interested.

Instead we now see China taking the lead with actions in the economic sphere.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 17, 2018 9:55:45 PM | 131

@129 don bacon.. hey - i agree with everything you say and share that view.. i recall reading landis over the past couple of years.. he always seemed like he was carrying water for the empire.. however, he is pretty dark on the long term prospects for a continuation of same by the usa at this point.. i think he is articulating it well, even if he is a bit late to a recognition of this... tillersons comments are completely fucked up! the bullshite from the usa never stops does it? and as jackrabbit says to @127, i also say to you @129... regardless how things unfold short term - long term doesn't bode well for the usa given what seems like a very static and inflexible international foreign policy objective...

Posted by: james | Jan 17, 2018 10:25:03 PM | 132

@Jackrabbit 130
"Will Assad actually try to take back Eastern Syria?"

It seems to me that Americanstan in eastern Syria would die on the vine, isolated. But I haven't been there, don't know the place which in this case is essential. Perhaps we'll hear from Laguerre on it, if we haven't, he's been there, or nearby.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 17, 2018 10:46:18 PM | 133

There is a substantial SAA presence in Qamishli and Hasakah. For the US to fully control its “protectorate”, it would have to dislodge it using its SDF proxies. I dont see that happening without serious backlash..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 18, 2018 1:45:50 AM | 134

IMHO, Syrian Kurds were not "loyal citizens", but so far, they maintained their standing as an opposition that can be negotiated with. Yea, they were backstabbing at times, but in moderation, with an eye for tomorrow. After all, in this region "kill and kiss" is the way of live: blood feuds start, blood feud end (or are suspended).

An agreement granting "autonomy" that is de-facto independence, like with Kurdistan Region of Iraq has some dangers, but as long as an autonomous state does not become a bandit republic and a den of terrorists who operate outside, this is something that one can live with. Foreign military bases is probably too much for the most liberally minded government to agree upon, unless they belong to an allied country -- like Russian posts in Afrin!

The main danger that such federal solutions pose to Turkish government is that it posed itself for an forever war for the deepest of principles, while the opposition, temporarily weak, will argue that a nonsensical war that should be finished with a negotiated compromise, and why not using Syrian template. Turkey will survive, and with its current border, but not necessarily with Erdogan at the reign. Although he may flip once more. That guy belongs to international figure skating competitions, his piruettes would finish a lesser man.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 18, 2018 8:43:14 AM | 135

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataille_de_Carrhes#/media/File:Roman_East_50-en.svg

Historical tidbit: SDF territory that is dominated/protected by USA overlaps an ancient kingdom of Osrhoene, see the map above. Close to the center (now on Syrian/Turkish border) was Carrhae, the place of a famous battle. Crassus, an ambitious Roman general trying to improve his position in the struggle of power in the Roman Republic lead an army against Parthian (Persian) Empire and he met a smaller Parthian force at Carrhae. That force was led by a military genius and a scion of one of the finest Parthian families, Surena. Romans were wiped out, Crassus and his son have fallen in the battle, while Surena was killed within one year by his envious king. That king lead Parthian armies against Romans with initial successes (local Romans being wiped out) but got clobbered at the end. Status quo returned roughly to the one before that war.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 18, 2018 8:59:25 AM | 136

from al-Monitor

Syrian opposition iced out of White House
A delegation of leading opposition figures touched down in Washington this week hoping to convince White House officials to protect rebel-held zones in northwestern Syria from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Instead, even as the Donald Trump administration announced plans today to leave US troops in Syria and attempt to transition Assad from power, the White House passed on the meeting. The group of four representatives from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a 20,000-strong bloc of Arab fighters based in Syria’s northwest, had to take their case to the State Department, Congress and a series of think tanks to salvage their weeklong trip. . .here


Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 18, 2018 9:56:00 AM | 137

Re: Don Bacon @ 136

In the same time, Turkey issued a demand to stop attacking Idlib jihadists that pose as FSA when they talk with Americans. These jihadists allowed Turkish troops to enter and position themselves along the southern side of Afrin and they probably got a nice dollop of supplies for their gracious attitude, and they are attacking SDF. So Administration had to choose the sides, and to a degree, Damascus coalition (Syria, Russia, Iran-supported forces) had to do it too, and they are not amused by the price paid by Erdogan for Idlib-stan cooperation.

At the moment, there seems to be a short stop in all fighting around Idlib because of sand storm. I suspect that secret threats are being exchanged while we merrily chat here (this is my theory about actual diplomacy, important stuff is only hinted in public).

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 18, 2018 10:26:39 AM | 138

What a difference a few days makes!

Jan 13, 2018 -- “The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale said. “The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close.”. . .here

Jan 17, 2018 -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied that the United States had any intention of building a Syria-Turkey border force and said the issue had been "misportrayed, misdescribed". "Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all," Tillerson told reporters on board an aircraft taking him back to Washington from Vancouver, where he had attended a meeting on North Korea. . . .here

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 18, 2018 10:28:25 AM | 139

@138 "... there seems to be a short stop in all fighting around Idlib because of sand storm."

Nothing wrong with a little time out. It gives the guys time to switch uniforms and some of them probably haven't been paid in a while.

Posted by: dh | Jan 18, 2018 10:48:16 AM | 140

Great post and great comments. Wish the comment section would allow us to comment on the comments. To understand US foreign policy today you always need to keep in mind how the neoconservatives' rational plan to conquer the world is constructed. Plan A is now and always has been to create chaos and disorder not so much to change regimes but to destroy civil society so that life devolves into a Hobbsian nightmare.

Posted by: Banger | Jan 18, 2018 10:54:56 AM | 141

"...the PKK/YPK, a terrorist organization that is nearly daily fighting and killing Turkish forces within Turkey..."

I had a long post, but MoA did not take it.
Therefore in short: This Erdogan/AKP propaganda what MoA should not adopt. Reality is much more complicate. Shame on You to violate truth in such an extent.

Posted by: Hans-Peter Zepf | Jan 18, 2018 3:47:25 PM | 142

123/131

There is not a RRCHs difference between Rodham the NeoLiberal and Trump the Crypto NeoLiberal, between Rodham the NYC Mafiya money-laundering politician and Trump the NYC Mafiya money-laundering developer. USians were given a 'choice' between ZioWarPig A and ZioWarPig B. The outcome was the same for USaians, completely it regardless of the Corporate media.

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 18, 2018 5:35:54 PM | 143

Paul Cockshott @118...

Thanks for the reference...

I found some info on testing at the Novaya Zemlya test site in Russia's far north...

A Review of Nuclear Testingby the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya, 1955--1990

https://web.archive.org/web/20060908073452/https://www.princeton.edu/~globsec/publications/pdf/13_1-2khalturin%20NZ%201-42%20.pdf">https://www.princeton.edu/~globsec/publications/pdf/13_1-2khalturin%20NZ%201-42%20.pdf">https://web.archive.org/web/20060908073452/https://www.princeton.edu/~globsec/publications/pdf/13_1-2khalturin%20NZ%201-42%20.pdf


'...a total of 130 tests were carried out high in the atmosphere, at low levels above water, at the water/air interface, below water, and underground.

These 130 tests entailed 224 separate explosive devices, including by far the largest atmospheric and underground tests of the Soviet Union, and that country’s only tests above and below water.

About 265 megatons of nuclear explosive
energy was released at Novaya Zemlya from 1955 to 1990...'

It doesn't break down the number of test in the atmosphere [as opposed to underground after the test 1963 ban treaty]...

Or if any of those were actually over land instead of water...which would make a difference as far as soot release...

this wasn't the only site of course...but not sure if any atmospheric tests were over land and vegetation...

Krollchem @ 119...

O2 will start to dissociate into O2 atoms starting at 2000 K...Nitrogen starts at 4000 K...

At 9000 K ionization would commence in both...ie losing an electron...

But from what I understand the hottest temperatures would be within a few meters of the center of the explosion...where temps could reach over 300,000...

within 50 meters it would already be down to about 9000 to 11,000...

At ground level beneath hypocenter...on the order of 6000 K...

Not sure what yield weapon that is...big ones may have a larger temp radius...

This is an interesting topic and merits further investigation...

Posted by: FB | Jan 18, 2018 9:20:42 PM | 144

Yet I am concerned that the Russian Federation's military police seem to have been evacuated from Afrin?

That leaves the NE Kurds vulnerable. As MoA said, this may be a play. They will need to talk to Damascus.

Posted by: Ant. | Jan 20, 2018 9:51:05 AM | 145

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