Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 10, 2017

Syria - Preparing For The Big Move On Idlib

During the last week significant moves in Syria have taken place east of Aleppo. But the situation there will likely soon calm down. The next intense phase of the war may well be a Syrian army attack on al-Qaeda's position in Idlib governate in the north-west of the country.

One objective of the Syrian Arab Army move east of Aleppo city was to block the invading Turkish forces from reaching further south. This had been achieved as of last week. The main objective though was to reach the pumping stations at the Euphrates which supply Aleppo city with drinking water. This aim was achieved yesterday. The SAA managed to evict the Islamic State from the shut-down station before it could blow it up. The generators and pumps were booby trapped but seem otherwise operational. After 40 days of strictly rationed water Aleppo city and its nearly 2 million people will soon be back on a normal water supply.

map by Peto Lucem bigger

I expect that the SAA contingent in east-Aleppo will now move further south and then east along the Euphrates towards Raqqa. This move though will no longer have a high priority. There is no longer an urgent need to continue in the area. Should the Islamic State stop its retreat in the area and show significant resistance the SAA is likely to stop and only hold its line.

The Turkish government still insists on taking Manbij currently held by the Kurdish YPK (under the label "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF)) which is now a U.S. proxy force under U.S. military command. Russia moved to insert Syrian army forces between the Turkish forces west of Manbij and the city. Thereby a buffer has been created between the Turkish (proxy) forces of "moderate rebels" and U.S. proxy forces of the Kurdish SDF. A few Russian special forces entered the area. As no SAA soldiers were readily available some local Arabs and Kurds were asked to put up a Syrian flag and to call themselves "Syrian border guard". They happily agreed to do so.

map via WaPo bigger

Parallel to the Russian move a U.S. sub-unit of the 75th Ranger Regiment made a show of force by driving five 8-wheeler Stryker vehicles with U.S. flags through some towns around Manbij. The signal to Turkey is clear. There are Russian and U.S. forces here. Do not dare to proceed into the area and to attack their Kurdish friends. A meeting was held in Ankara between the Turkish military command and the U.S. and Russian chiefs of staff. It is not yet known what the outcome was.

Despite the clear signals some proxy units under Turkish command opened fire on the "Syrian border guard" in the area. The Syrian government says that a a few of them were killed and it again raised the issue of the Turkish invasion with the United Nations. I expect the situation around Manbij to calm down. It would be very dangerous for Turkey to continue attacking in the area against the clear position of Russia and the U.S. military.

Further to the east the SDF continued to move towards Raqqa which is last bigger city in Syria held by the Islamic State. It is likely that ISIS will defend the city when it gets attacked.  Turkey would like to take part in the attack on the city but the U.S. military has blocked that idea. It prefers to continue with its Kurdish partners. As these do not have heavy weapons the U.S. is introducing new forces into the area.

Already some 500 U.S. special forces (Green Berets) are training and leading the 10,000+ strong SDF proxy force. A small army unit is with them and provides artillery support with two long range MLRS missile systems. Added to these were the Ranger elements seen around Manbij. 400 U.S. Marines (11th MEU) were announced to soon enter the area. They will mostly provide 155mm artillery support and will take care of resupplies. 2,500 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne are currently staging in Kuwait. It is not yet known what their task might be. The U.S. now has four military air fields in the Syrian Kurdish area north-east of the Euphrates. Two are for helicopters and two will soon be able to also service larger fixed-wing transport planes.

All this build up is taking place without a definite decision by the White House on how to proceed in Syria. The Wall Street Journal reports of discussions about a model where the U.S. and its proxies take Raqqa from the Islamic State and then concede it to the Syrian government. This would make a lot of sense but will surely be opposed by the Israeli/Saudi lobby in Washington as well as by some U.S. military. No final decision is expected before mid April when Turkey will hold a referendum about a presidential constitution. Other reports cite the U.S. commander in the area talking about a bigger "U.S. stabilization force" that will take over the area when the Islamic State is defeated.

Such a force would clearly be consider a U.S. occupation hostile to the Syrian government. It would be met with intense guerilla operations aimed at evicting the occupiers.

East of Homs the Syrian army has retaken Palmyra and the surrounding mountain and oil-field areas. Russian special forces were involved in this operation. I do not expect further large moves from there for the time being.

In the Damascus area the Syrian army continues to squeeze a few "rebel" held enclaves. These are binding many Syrian soldiers. When they are eliminated a sizable reserve will be available to be used in further battles.

There have recently been no significant movements in the southern areas around Daraa and near the Jordanian border. Jordan is involved in talks with Russia. Other talks have been held in Moscow between Putin and Netanyahoo. Some plans are obviously made to evict the Islamic State and al-Qaeda from the Jordan-Israel-Lebanon borderline but especially the Israeli position is difficult to manage. It prefers to keep al-Qaeda in the area as a pressure group against the Syrian state. No results from the recent talks have been announced.

West of Aleppo city around Idlib city al-Qaeda has continued fighting with other Islamist groups like Ahrar al Sham. The al-Qaeda led "rebel" alliance in Idlib is some 10,000 strong and the biggest force in the area. It will be difficult to defeat or evict. Retaking Idlib governate and city requires a large operation by the Syrian army. But currently al-Qaeda is losing support with the population and is involved in infighting. Its support from the outside has diminished. But outside support for al-Qaeda, by Turkey, the U.S., Saudi Arabia or Qatar, could come back when the Syrian army attacks the area.

Main operations by the Syrian army in east-Aleppo and east-Homs have achieved their immediate aims. The units involved in these could now be moved to other areas. When the "rebel" pockets around Damascus are eliminated, hopefully soon, more forces become available. The large force and reserve the Syrian army needs to attack Idlib will soon be available.

Curiously the NY Times just published a somewhat sympathetic portrait of a U.S. born al-Qaeda propagandist who operates as al-Qaeda's English language media channel in the area. Are we back to the "cuddly, moderate al-Qaeda" caricature that was earlier used to justify U.S. support for Takfiri terrorists? Will the U.S. again support al-Qaeda should the Syrian army finally move to retake Idlib?

Posted by b on March 10, 2017 at 19:33 UTC | Permalink

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Danial McAdames reckons the US insertion of all 4 US services inEastern Syria to help take Raqqa is a very important development.
"What is important to understand about this sudden escalation of US involvement is that if this “race to Raqqa” is won by the US military rather than by Syrian government forces, the chance that the US will hand the territory back to the Assad government is virtually nil. In other words, this is an operation far less about wiping ISIS out from eastern Syria and much more about the United States carving out eastern Syria as a permanent outpost from where it can, for example, continue the original neocon/Israeli/Saudi plan for “regime change” in Syria".
I agree with him Idlib should wait, the US is the danger.

Posted by: harrylawh | Mar 10 2017 19:43 utc | 1

Above Daniel McAdams. Sorry.

Posted by: harrylawh | Mar 10 2017 19:49 utc | 2

Thanks b, as always MoA is the place to go on Syrian developments..

Sure looks like the empire wants it's piece of Syrian real estate. Are we looking at a divided Syria, with Russia keeping it's military bases? Time will tell.

Posted by: ben | Mar 10 2017 19:52 utc | 3

I don't know why Russia moved to insert Syrian army forces between the Turkish forces west of Manbij and risk their lives (unless they're all local and kurds "Syrian border guards". They want to show their good faith to the U.S.? But whatever they'll do, they'll be blamed later on. Would have been better not creating this buffer zone and let the U.S. and Turkey deal with each other.

Posted by: jean | Mar 10 2017 20:09 utc | 4

There's also the suggestion that anarchy, via local Syrian warlords
is complicating the situation- if Der Dpiegel can be trusted to be objective

Posted by: DavidKNZ | Mar 10 2017 20:25 utc | 5

The 82nd Airborne in Kuwait has traditionally been the "point of the spear". They are being moved into position for whatever the US decides to do. It's worth remembering that there is a sizable Marine contingent kept in Kuwait on a permanent basis. There are also Us ships in the region similar to the French Mistral class packed with troops and vehicles that have been sitting on spot waiting orders.

It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall at the meeting between the military chiefs in Ankara. But I think it's fair to say that if the US deploys significant troops to eastern Syria that they will be there for a while. Trump may be pumping Syrian oil yet.

Posted by: peter | Mar 10 2017 20:27 utc | 6

Netanyahus meeting with Putin explains what chutzpah means.
The request of the Israeli leader to Moscow is "relatively modest," the analyst says: Israel wants the withdrawal from Syria of the major contingent of Iranian forces and the forces of Iraqi Hezbollah units, which are under the control of Iran."The prime minister said he told Putin once again that Israel has no intention of ever leaving the Golan Heights, and wants the world to recognize that reality," The Jerusalem Post quotes Netanyahu as saying after the meeting with the Russian President.

Posted by: harrylawh | Mar 10 2017 20:28 utc | 7

Such interviews have led critics to brand Mr. Abdul Kareem a jihadist propagandist.
The Syrian government and its Russian allies say he cavorts with terrorists. Although the United States has taken no public stance on his work, terrorism analysts say he provides an uncritical, English-language platform for jihadists.

Posted by: okie farmer | Mar 10 2017 20:31 utc | 8

One should take into account that IS will graciously evaporate when confronted by its masters while resisting to the death the Syrian army. The idea that there some sort of race to defeat IS is absurd; the US troops being inserted are the vanguard of an occupation force.

Posted by: nationofbloodthirstysheep | Mar 10 2017 20:34 utc | 9

I agree with harrylawh @ 1, it would be worse for Syria to lose East to Sunnistan than Idlib. ISIS (with US help) tried their best to evict SAA from DZ, but my fear is, next step up could be with Kurds instead. If they take Raqqa and DZ, these backstabbers could very well hand over the territory to another US proxy who creates Sunnistan. Cut off of path Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon could be devastating to Resistance, and a huge win for the Terror axis.

Posted by: Harry | Mar 10 2017 20:35 utc | 10

Thanks b, excellent update as usual.
Don't know how you do it ... Just don't stop!

"U.S. stabilization force" - someone has a dark sense of humour!

One thing I'd like to ask on the US deployment is whether you think this was done with or without Russia's knowledge or approval. I ask because there seems, despite denials, to be more apparent cooperation between the US and RF.

Posted by: AtaBrit | Mar 10 2017 20:42 utc | 11

The "FSA" component of the Turkish army will not stay idle faced with the Syrian army in Manbij.
Saudis and Qataris are paying them to destroy the Russian/US plan and encourage them to move on to Al Raqqa.
I expect more confrontations in Manbij that may oblige the Turks to cut off the FSA or withdraw altogether from Manbij.

Posted by: virgile | Mar 10 2017 20:47 utc | 12

@11 gift of U.S. cooperation with Russia = Trojan Horse of escalating U.S. presence, takeover after mission INHERENT RESOLVE complet, occupation, safe zones, imposing boundaries to accommodate U.S. interests.

@12 U.S./Russian plan - There is no plan except the one the U.S. hasn't revealed to anyone yet.

@10 Cut off of path Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon could be devastating to Resistance, and a huge win for the Terror axis.

Yeah, that's definitely part of the plan, however, don't call it Resistance. Syria is still a sovereign country; whatever occupation is happening under the guise of IS is a ruse and a hostile takeover of the Syrian government and occupation of Syrian people.

The moment there are U.S. casualties - troops will be sent in from all directions. This is going to get very ugly. The U.S. has no business whatsoever in Syria. They could have finished up the Mosul operation and the Russian coalition could have taken Raqqa with its coalition and Kurdish help.

Allowing for U.S. interference in Syria at the 11th hour is a blunder that Putin will live to regret. This so-called cooperation is a U.S. Trojan Horse.

Posted by: Circe | Mar 10 2017 21:20 utc | 13

Kareem is clearly CIA, with military training. His mannerisms, hell his LOCATIONS prove it. Doesn't everyone remember his woeful farewell video that he livestreamed from his terrorist hidey hole as Aleppo "fell"???? Did he help with the mass executions too, I wonder?

We're well past absurd territory. To think US boots on the ground are somehow divorced from the "Kareems" of the plan is foolish. Every last American accent in Syria is there to DESTROY.

Posted by: L Bean | Mar 10 2017 21:20 utc | 14

Any U.S. occupation of northern Syria has to be with the tacit approval of the Syrian government. If there is going to be a de facto partition of the nation maybe Assad is willing to accept a PKK Kurdistan with a Bagram-like U.S. air base rapid reaction force as long as it keeps the peace and protects the north from constant jihadi attacks. Granted consideration of peace is fantastical at this point, maybe there is some kind of bargain that is going to be struck over Raqqa.

One thing to watch is if the YPG gets the armored vehicles and heavy weapons it wants from the U.S. Provided the Kurds get a little air-power support, they could defend themselves for a long time against Turkey.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Mar 10 2017 21:25 utc | 15

DavidKNZ 5
That was certainly depressing and surprising. Der Spiegel does make it sound like anarchy with Assad as a figurehead. It's not as though it hasn't happened before like in Afghanistan. But anything else I find about Desert Hawks make it sound like a sort of Black Water/Xe but there isn't mention of what Der Spiegel reports. And what I'm reading/seeing has them reporting battlefield work with Hezbollah. Maybe the truth is a bit of both?

Posted by: Curtis | Mar 10 2017 21:26 utc | 16

thanks b... excellent overview... i agree strongly with @1 harrylawh regarding us intent and bigger picture dynamic here..

Posted by: james | Mar 10 2017 21:30 utc | 17

Her is my take on what is going on currently in the Middle East theater of operations:

1) Turkey is in a real jam, and appears to be the major looser given recent events- Turkey and it's proxy forces have been blocked from a path to Raqqa by SAA & Russia on one side, and SDF & US army on the other- no way forward unless they decide to attack one of them and either choice is not a good option with escalation leading to unknown consequences. It seems that the US has chosen to back the Kurds in Syria instead of the Turks and Erdogan has paid the price for his frequent policy changes and allegiance flips. The Kurds are taking a big gamble. Will they be betrayed again if the Americas sell them out to Turkey in the future? The US has consistently sold out others in the past when their interests demand it. The Kurds are not in the clear, and President Erdogan still has the Barzani card- the Kurd who is closer to Turkey than his fellow Kurds. Remember that he made an alliance in the 90s with Saddam Hussein against his fellow Kurds in Northern Iraq, resulting in the expulsion of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan into Iran. He seems to be a bit of a mini-Erdogan.

2) Talk is that SAA & Russia are making their way steadily to Raqqa in order to have a "seat at the table" on any settlement in the East of Syria after defeat of ISIS. If the Kurds/US take control of the whole area, the Syrian leadership will have to make major concessions in order for it to be given some say regarding the future of this area. The Battle for Raqqa will not be easy, but should be easier than Aleppo or Mosul given that smaller area and population size. Nonetheless, the US isn't taking any chances, and I suspect the 2500 US troops in Kuwait will have some role to play.

3) Iraqi forces are making steady progress in Western Mosul after a long pause following the liberation the East side. I think PM Abadi delayed the liberation of West Mosul as he was waiting for an American Green light while president Trump was getting his house in order- America is the major player in Iraq even after the withdrawal of the US troops in 2011. There is no real Iraqi political independence on major regional issues, and American influence extends to internal matters as well. PM Abadis' decision to bomb ISIS in Syria and his recent announcement that Iraq will target ISIS outside its borders could NOT have been made without explicit American approval- I would go as far as saying that the Americans have requested Iraq get involved across the border in Syria- is there a plan to utilise Iraqi forces in Syria to the benefit of the US? This is distinctly different from the Popular Mobilisation Units' plan to go to Syria, which certainly would not benefit the Americans and so far has NOT. Received approval from PM Abadi.

4) No green light yet from PM Abadi on Popular Mobilisation Units liberating the ISIS stronghold of Tel Afar after a veto by Turkey. The government in Baghdad being too weak to assert its control over the entirety of Iraqi territory. No one is sure about the future of Iraq post ISIS with talk of autonomous regions and decentralisation. Some say there are plans by regional and global powers to unite areas of Iraq and Syria under a new entity and form a "buffer zone" against Iran. This might fit in with the plans for Deir Ez-zur (more on this bellow).

5) Rumours of Syrian opposition troops being trained in Jordan in large numbers (tens of thousands), and organised under the title of "New Army of Syria", currently being deployed in the Daraa area. If this is true then these could pose a serious risk to Damascus. Time will tell if this materialises.

6) A new coalition forming against Iran comprising Gulf states, Jordan, US, Israel and possibly Turkey. I think the visit of the Saudi foreign Minister to Iraq recently came in order to isolate Iran further by offering incentives to the Iraqi leadership. Some quarters of Iraqi society that have traditionally been either friendly to Iran or otherwise neutral have been recently calling for an "Iran out" policy. I find this surprising as this would not have occurred spontaneously, and I have a feeling that wealthy powers from the Gulf are behind this. As part of the plan to Isolate Iran, there is talk of the Syrian leadership being accepted internationally once more and a "burying of the hatchet" by its former enemies including the Gulf States provided they ask for the withdrawal of all Iranian backed forces out of Syria. I don't think this would happen under President Assad, as similar offers have been made in the past, even before the advent of the Syrian conflict and they were rejected. Not sure if a similar stance would be taken by another Syrian leader should President Assad steps down or is somehow removed.

7) An escape route for ISIS out of Mosul is still open- North part of West Mosul still open, and ISIS fighters can escape North through the area controlled by Masoud Barzani - a good friend of President Erdogan. They can then be utilised elsewhere as needed, after all, Masoud Barzani was instrumental in the fall of Mosul and the rise of ISIS in 2014. My personal belief is that ISIS will be pushed out of Mosul, Raqqa and all other areas to congregate in Deir Ez-zur for one final showdown.

I hope you have found my take on things useful and look forward to your opinions on this.

Thoughts of an Iraqi abroad...

Posted by: Hayder | Mar 10 2017 21:41 utc | 18

Hmm.....!..more arm chair generals advising the 'regime'? keep musing about the regime change happening in the cesspool called D.C :-)the barrel bombing regime leader will free his country from the foreign supported moderate head choppers and in his own time.American exceptionalism and warmongering ended in SYRIA and now the DC regime has only its own natives to terrorize.Idlip will be the animal farm maintained by the regime for the moderate head choppers till their supporters run out of money or till hell freezes over!

Posted by: Nur Adlina | Mar 10 2017 21:45 utc | 19

The Russian and Syrian generals should have made U.S. cooperation in Syria conditional on the U.S. disclosing their safe zones plan with them. Without knowing what the plan is after Raqqa falls, how on earth could Putin have greenlighted this U.S. intervention after what happened with Libya AND Iraq???

Iran can also forget about the pipeline through Syria, because the pipeline Israel and KSA wanted instead is almost a done deal. Oh, and Iran should prepare to be the next to be neutralized by the Empire.

Posted by: Circe | Mar 10 2017 21:58 utc | 20

b wrote There is no longer an urgent need to continue in the area.[of Raqqa]

I must disagree. I have to agree with the two harry's above. If US led forces (the SDF) capture Raqqa along with the US special forces and US marines then that would be the foothold for creating a new US backed state in what is now eastern Syria. Syria with Russian backing should move its forces as quickly as possible into that region to block that from happening. It is also critically important for Syria to take the province of Idleb. This has to be a very tough decision if Idleb and Raqqa were an either or choice.

Maybe it is time for a Russian armored combat brigade to enter the war. In order for Syrian forces to get to Raqqa in the next few weeks will require very heavily armed and mobile troops.

Posted by: ToivoS | Mar 10 2017 22:04 utc | 21

I have stated what I think the plan is for months. The US and proxies take Raqqa. Trump's gonna pump oil cuz he's a fucking thief. He'll call it payment for kicking out ISIS.

The Shia Crescent will be severed. Hezbollah's supply of Iranian arms will dry up. Israel will be ecstatic and with good reason. Hezbollah's become very battle-hardened and proficient with sophisticated weapons and tactics. If they worried Israel before they terrify them now.

I think Putin gets to keep his bases at Latakia and Tartus. Sovereign Syria gets the good bits by the coast. Assad gets to say fuck-all about any of it. If he wants to end up with .45 shoved up his arse like Gaddafi that can be arranged.

The Kurds should end up with a chunk. Who knows, maybe after they've served their purpose they get thrown back under the bus. Happens all the time.

I'm sure the US has plans to compromise Iran but I don't think they want to tangle with them. Iran can absolutely block the Straits of Hormuz. Hello, $300 oil. One small crew with a Silkworm can take out any lumbering tanker stupid enough to attempt passage. They wouldn't be able to get crews or insurance anyway US naval assets in the Persian Gulf would be at unacceptable levels of risk. Besides, China won't sit still for having their oil supply compromised.

The last thing either Russia or the US want is war with each other. They will work a deal. Besides, Russia knows that Turkey is going to side with the US if it comes to that. Things will probably end up about the same as if Hillary were prez. Only difference will be on the home front. She would have left the riff-raff with their healthcare and social security. Trump's gonna fuck them out of it and all the while they will sing his praises.

Posted by: peter | Mar 10 2017 23:28 utc | 22

Well said Hayder @ 18. It seems as if the Saudis will have to get Yemen in order before they can mess directly with Iran.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Mar 10 2017 23:41 utc | 23

b, Your work is inavaluable to me. I would like to contribute with your effort.
How can i do it?

Posted by: Maria Luiza Costa | Mar 10 2017 23:46 utc | 24

My views (from the open thread):

"Most probably what will happen is the SDF will move in on Raqqah from the East covered by the US 75th regiment's artillery deployed within a firezone of 30 to 40km of the city. The brunt of the work will be done by the SDF. The few strykers and troops in the Manbij area are solely there as a warning to Turkey to not overplay their hand against Kurdish held territory (not that it seems to be working as fighting as erupted along the border with reports of 8 SAA kia). OTOH, the SAA is already at the Euphrates west riverbank and will also focus soon on Raqqah so the race is on as who controls Raqqah will have political leverage on the IS held zone. With both parties converging on the city, who knows whats going to happen if & when there is contact. Not sure it will be like Torgau in '45.."

Posted by: Lozion | Mar 10 2017 23:50 utc | 25

@18 Hayder, txs for your input. What are your sources for point #5?

Posted by: Lozion | Mar 10 2017 23:59 utc | 26

Hard to discern what will happen next. As Canthama at Syrpers observed several days ago, usual sources of information have gone silent with a higher level of secrecy on future operations imposed. Meanwhile, lots of interior mop-up operations occurring: the discovery and elimination of a vast tunnel complex in the Harastaa district of greater Damascus and associated military operation in East Ghouta; the surrender of the last terrorist pocket in Homs at al-Waer and bussing of its 300 holdouts to Idlib. I'd expect the pocket created by the SAA move to Euphrates to be completed and terrorist forces around Dier Hafer attacked from its rear, avoiding its heavily fortified western-facing forward positions. Personally, I think a big push will be made from Palmyra to Dier ez-Zor now that the North and South flanks around Palmyra are secure.

IMO, Idlib will be the last terrorist bastion to be eliminated, forcing them to retreat into Turkey to give Erdogan well deserved headaches. Of course, we'll soon see which of our Tarot displays matches reality.

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 11 2017 0:06 utc | 27


Barzani's 10 years mandate has been over since 2015 so he is illegally holding the presidency.
It is a time bomb.
Erdogan is fully supporting him as the arrival of someone else could change the business relation that is benefiting Turkey and annoying the Iraqi government.
A regime change in the KRG could contribute further to the isolation of Erdogan
Is Iraqi Kurdistan heading toward civil war?

Posted by: virgile | Mar 11 2017 0:17 utc | 28

b, 'I expect the situation around Manbij to calm down.'

gosh, i hope you're right there. 'Turkish command opened fire on the "Syrian border guard" in the area. The Syrian government says that a a few of them were killed and it again raised the issue of the Turkish invasion ...'

a few of them were killed. easy for us to say. they were syrians killed by turks in syria.

'The Wall Street Journal reports of discussions about a model where the U.S. and its proxies take Raqqa from the Islamic State and then concede it to the Syrian government.'

that sounds just off-the-wall. flung to see if it would stick, i suppose.

'Are we back to the "cuddly, moderate al-Qaeda" caricature that was earlier used to justify U.S. support for Takfiri terrorists? Will the U.S. again support al-Qaeda should the Syrian army finally move to retake Idlib? '

yeah. i'd say so. neverending war. daesh is history. there's alway al-cia-duh.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 11 2017 0:19 utc | 29

i agree with Daniel McAdams via harrylawh @1 and with harry @10. idlib can wait. the us invasion cannot.

i also think there is going to be more 'trouble' from the turks around manbij. that's their role in the the battle of raqqa.

i cannot see the syrians prevailing in raqqa, though, without the cooperation of the kurds. if there are going to be deals made, the syrians need to make them with the syrian kurds. they have to live together in any case after 'all this' is ended.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 11 2017 0:46 utc | 30

jfl @29--

"yeah. i'd say so. neverending war. daesh is history. there's alway al-cia-duh."

As happened with al-Ciada, Daesh franchises have popped up in several important places--Afghanistan, Malaysia, Egypt, Libya, to name several. IMO, the Big Picture question is: Will tRump continue or discontinue the established Outlaw US Empire's Imperial Policy quest for Full Spectrum Dominance? That answer will determine how genuine his vow to eliminate terrorism is, given the policy's need for such proxies. Of course, there are very powerful players wanting the neoliberalcon imperial policy continued until it reaches its bitter end in ignominious defeat at the hands of the very robustly emerging multipolar world order and its re-establishment of International Law based on the principal of national sovereignty. And the tug-of-war to reach that answer has only just begun.

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 11 2017 0:59 utc | 31

@30 We may also see an offensive on other to divert SAA attention and ressources off from Raqqah, thereby allowing the SDF/US the Prize..

Posted by: Lozion | Mar 11 2017 1:01 utc | 32

..oups.. front. To quote a fellow bar patron, "too many home brews"..

Posted by: Lozion | Mar 11 2017 1:03 utc | 33

@ karlof1 who wrote that the big picture tRump question is whether to continue imperialism or not. I keep believing the big picture is between slow and steady imperialism or pedal to the metal type of imperialism. tRump is trying to shift US into the latter from the former, IMO....he never was anti-imperialism.

And when you bring all this back to the situation in the ME, specifically Syria, I always ask, who is to gain. b has done his usual great job of reporting on the factions and their current and project movements. What continues to be a stake is control of resources, mostly oil. Secondarily is managing the geopolitical pot so that control is never challenged by the "natives" or their governments......keep them fighting among themselves. Next comes population control and compliant/cheap workforce.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 11 2017 2:08 utc | 34

The Russians and Syrians should have a significant presence in Raqqa. Raqqa should not be left to the U.S. devices. The U.S. is not to be trusted. The Kurds will have to fight the Turks in Manbij, and if they need back-up they can turn to the U.S., and the U.S. will have no choice but to send forces there to help this ally or sort things out there with the Turks. Syrian forces need to get out of there. This is the smart thing to do. The Syrian Army needs to get out of Manbij and get to Raqqa to plant the Syrian flag there once Raqqa falls like the Iraqis are doing in Mosul. The U.S. needs to be reminded who Syria belongs to. The Iranians and Hezbollah should focus on regions bordering Iraq and Lebanon, because these are areas that need to be held by the Syrian Government for geopolitical reasons i.e. the survival of its sovereignty after the Raqqa Operation is over. Israel would love nothing better than for the U.S. to set up safe zones in those areas. Russians forces should be ready with back up for those regions as well.

I agree that Russia needs to beef up its presence now that the U.S. in more involved. This is a very critical time. If Russia doesn't assert itself, the U.S. is going to stake a claim in Syria. The U.S. should have no choice but to put up with greater Russian presence. After all, the U.S. is late in joining the fight, therefore, it can't expect to call the shots at this stage.

The Russians and Syrians need to think smart, look at recent history to understand how the Empire operates and assert themselves in consequence letting the U.S. know that it's strictly there for ISIS and afterwards it'll be asked to leave.

The Iranians and Hezbollah should not go near Raqqa giving U.S. operatives an opportunity to create a false flag against them or drop a bomb on them and then pretend it was faulty conflict intelligence.

Posted by: Circe | Mar 11 2017 4:00 utc | 35

The SAA appears to be focused on a race to Raqqa as are the US SDF. The goal for the US is to carve out a Sunnistan puppet satrap that serves as a secure territory for the transport of natural gas from Qatar to Turkey and ultimately to Southern Europe. This will allow Qatar to exploit the South Pars gas field more effectively thus cutting into the Iranian profits from this shared reserve.

Trump personally supports this geopolitical goal as he has businesses in Qatar (a newly opened golf course) and Saudi Arabia.


Andrew Korybko has analyzed the USA’s Race for Raqqah strategy in great detail:
The Race For Raqqa And America’s Geopolitical Revenge In “Syraq”–1

The Race For Raqqa And America’s Geopolitical Revenge In “Syraq”–2

Posted by: Krollchem | Mar 11 2017 4:25 utc | 36

jfl 29

dont write off IS yet, they'r all over sea it seems.

recently some were 'caught redhanded in batam, setting up mortar to bomb singapore',

uncle scam sez
the terror is real, everybody better fall in line
to fight my wot ,

Posted by: denk | Mar 11 2017 4:41 utc | 37

well, if its not daesh it will be another group. the saudis and qataris have deep pockets. for the moment it seems al-cia-duh is still the saudi favorite, and is being reinvigorated, while daesh seems to be fading.

the 'secret' is in the funding. as long as the us is committed to death, devastation, and destruction as its foreign policy, and as long as the saudis and others of the gcc are willing and able to fund it, the never-ending wars will never end.

meanwhile israel, trump/us, and the saudis all claim it's iran that is the terrorist nation.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 11 2017 5:45 utc | 38

@18 hayder.. not too shabby.. thanks for your input..interesting conjecture/s on your part. i agree with @28 virgile on the questions presented in your #1.. you seem to be speaking like an iraqi insider in this post, although your english is quite good!

Posted by: james | Mar 11 2017 6:26 utc | 39

@Hayder | 18

"The Kurds are taking a big gamble. Will they be betrayed again if the Americas sell them out to Turkey...?"
The Kurds are also supported by Russia, so the gamble is less than it appears. The key is to keep Turkey at bay - RF does this through coercion, US does this by providing Kurds with support.

"Erdogan still has the Barzani card"
Which he is attemtping to use to divide and conquer the collective Kurdish community. But Barzani is weak and supported only by Erdogan, not even supported by a majority of Iraqi Kurds anymore. Therefore its a very weak card in my view. It facilitates cheap oil, but little more.

"A new coalition forming against Iran comprising Gulf states, Jordan, US, Israel and possibly Turkey". Just don't see it happening as there is so much at risk for the gulf states given large Shia communities and Jordan especially as it is already struggling with its massive share of refugees. None of the gulf states would want a return to the Gulf war days. As for Turkey, it would have to betray even yesterday's RF talks and risk so much more ...

Posted by: AtaBrit | Mar 11 2017 7:57 utc | 40

Thankyou Krollchem for those links@46 and also the many excellent comments so far in this thread. Although dated from Oct 2015. the last link is still relevant today.
"The US, fresh from licking its wounds and reluctantly accepting its junior status in the Mideast, is back for one last hurrah, albeit one of a much less geographic scope that before. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous, however, since its latest scheme is aimed at dividing the Coalition of the Righteous right down the middle and splintering Syria from Iraq via a faux “Sunni” sectarian “state” that runs between both of their borders. This semi-institutionalization of what amounts to literally the exact same thing that ISIL had been trying to build (albeit a non-genocidal entity in this latest iteration) would finally attain the long sought-after goal of realizing the Qatar-Turkey gas pipeline. The trans-border sub-state that the US wants to preserve and internationally recognize would directly abut Turkey and Saudi Arabia, thus establishing the perfect geo-energy corridor for its creation.
All of this hinges on who captures Raqqa, ISIL’s ‘capital’, first, and the race is now on between the Syrian Arab Army and the US’ newly assembled “Democratic Forces of Syria”. If the Syrian government succeeds in this enormously symbolic task, then there’s no doubt that the US will complete its retreat from the Mideast’s heartland with a whimper and its tail between its legs, but if the US’ proxies do it first, then the entire strategic balance is recalibrated, as they’d then evoke enough ‘facts on the ground’ to solidify their presence in the northeast of the country and move forward with the Brookings Institute’s plan for the post-war federalization of the country".

Posted by: harrylawh | Mar 11 2017 9:35 utc | 41

Since the analysis above was made the Russians and Turks have agreed on a gas pipeline through Turkey 'Turkstream'
"Russia and Turkey have put tensions over Syria behind them to agree a gas pipeline deal which would open a new route for Russian energy to western Europe".This from FT [paywall] Here also

Posted by: harrylawh | Mar 11 2017 9:44 utc | 42

@ karlof1 | 27

terrorist forces around Dier Hafer attacked from its rear, avoiding its heavily fortified western-facing forward positions. Personally, I think a big push will be made from Palmyra to Dier ez-Zor now that the North and South flanks around Palmyra are secure.

SAA wont touch Dier Hafer at the moment, just cut it off and let ISIS starve for a while. There are bigger and more immediate targets for now, like Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Idlib. IMHO Deir Ezzor is the most important as it prevents Sunnistan and gas pipeline from Qatar, and finally relieves besieged SAA there.

IMHO it depends a lot what Russia will decide (or already agreed upon) with its "Western partners". Unfortunately for Syria, everyone of them could benefit from Balkanization of it one way or another. Its not like Assad can say no to Russia, "or else" as RIP Churkin expressed not so veiled threat.

@ harrylawh | 42

Russia and Turkey already had a pipeline deal before, till Erdogan broke it off. It was again agreed upon few months back till Erdogan again got back in US camp a month later. Whether the deal will go through or not its anybodies guess. Erdo (US will heavily push for it too) would prefer to buy from Qatar than Russia. Hence the rush by US proxies to "liberate" the East of Syria... from Syria itself.

Posted by: Harry | Mar 11 2017 10:25 utc | 43
Assad says yet to see real steps from Trump on Islamic State
Asked about a deployment of U.S. forces near the northern city of Manbij, Assad said: "Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation ... are invaders."
"We don't think this is going to help".

Posted by: okie farmer | Mar 11 2017 10:35 utc | 44

@23 Mike Maloney : I agree, the Saudis have got themselves into a quagmire that they cant win militarily. What the Saudis do have is money and lots of it, and they will continue to use it in the false belief that they can win militarily. They have hired several foreign mercenary armies, as well as militias from Sudan- all to no avail. The problem of the Saudis (Royal Family I mean) is their mentality- they have no concept of diplomacy and their arrogance will be their undoing. This will be a long and protracted war, and I believe will end with the fall of the House of Saud.

@26 Lozion : A respected Arab analyst that has good sources as well as extensive contacts. He has been right about events in the past, so I take his opinion with high regard. This has also been expressed by Syrians’ former ambassador to Jordan, Brigadier Bahjat Suleiman, who has contacts in the Hashimite Kingdom. He also states that the Jordan based “Military Operations Centre” (M.O.C), a collaboration of several foreign intelligence and military agencies that plan and advise the Syrian groups has been re-activated. (It is said that there are two M.O.Cs, one in Jordan that covers the rebel operations in South Syrian, with a similar MOC in Turkey to cover Northern Syria). I have the advantage of utilising both Arabic and English sources.

@28 Virgile & @40 AtaBrit : Yes, Barzani is an illegitimate President, but who is listening? He has thrown out the position from Irbil, his family members hold ALL the important positions of power, and those whom he did not bribe, he terrorises. Turkey is not the only one who strongly supports Barzani. He also has strong support from Israel, the US and France, as well as a strong lobby in the Western media. He serves an important role as an agitator in the region and is readily able to provide services to anyone as long as it keeps him in power. I don't see a rebellion/ overthrow happening in Kurdistan- the other 2 major players: the PUK under the leadership of Jalal Talabani is close to Iran, as as such, will not be supported by the US / Turkey etc, and the “Movement for Change” which is closer to a true patriotic Kurdish movement have been sidelined and marginalised by Barzani, with its leaders chased out of Irbil. As long as Barzani agrees to serve the interests of major powers, he and his clan will remain in power and there is absolutely no indication that this will ever change.

@39 James : I don't class myself as being on the "inside" BUT I have close contacts with those who are. Suffice to say that I have been in the same circles as a lot of the major players in Iraq such as PM Abadi, FM Jafary, the current Iraqi National Security Advisor and Chairman of the PMU Falih al-Fayyadh, former National Security Advisor​ Mowaffak al-Rubaie as well as several others, including past and currently serving Iraqi parliamentarians.

Thoughts of an Iraqi abroad...

Posted by: Hayder | Mar 11 2017 11:28 utc | 45

harrylawh @7

Putin isn't taken in by scamsters like Nuttyahu. Boobie laid it on thick:

"Thank you for your congratulations on the upcoming Purim holiday. In ancient Persia, an attempt was made to destroy the Jewish people 2,500 years ago, and it failed. This is what this holiday celebrates. Today, ancient Persia’s successor, Iran, continues attempts to destroy the Jewish state."

To which Putin replied:

"... those events had taken place “in the fifth century BC,” added that “we now live in a different world” and suggested discussing the actual up-to-date problems in the region."

Posted by: Yonatan | Mar 11 2017 12:20 utc | 46

Bashar al-Assad first interviewed with friendly China PHOENIX TV.

Text and Video

Video only

11 March 2017

Damascus, SANA-President Bashar al-Assad said that the solution to the crisis in Syria should be through two parallel ways: the first one is to fight the terrorists, and this is our duty as government, to defend the Syrians and use any means in order to destroy the terrorists who’ve been killing and destroying in Syria, and the second one is to make dialogue.

The president added in an interview given to Chinese PHOENIX TV that any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one.

Posted by: OJS | Mar 11 2017 12:37 utc | 47

The impetus for the action in Syria was to break the land bridge between Iran and Syria/Lebanon. That remains in toto. The original plan was to use ISIS and its variants to reduce Syria to an anarchic mess. The plan for a pipeline from Qatar to Turkey would stand as much success in such an environment as the purported Unocal pipeline through destabilized Afghanistan.

Following the unanticipated demolition of ISIS by Russia, the Anglo-Zionists have fallen on to Plan B, using the Kurds to take over Syria east of the Euphrates. The USAF has been blowing up bridges over the river for many months in order to impede or prevent SAA passage over the river. ISIS in the west has been discarded and left to fester.

The terrorists in Idlib are a minor problem. They are happily killing each other and are suffering from diminishing funding and arms supplies. The main threat they pose relates to short term cuts they create on the road route from Damascus to Aleppo. As for the idea of letting the terrorists move from Idlib to Turkey, that is the last thing Russia wants. It wants them destroyed in place so they can't get to the Russian Federation. If they get to Turkey en masse, the existing NATO/Gladio pipeline will feed them to the RF along the routes used by the earlier Chechen Islamist proxies.

Russian - Turkish rapprochement is proceeding - Turk Stream is going ahead, Turkey is looking at diversifying from NATO weapons, specifically the S-400 for self-defense, Russia has re-opened fruit and vegetable trade links from Turkey. This latter was imposed following the Su-24 shootdown. Coupled with the Russian tourism block, it nearly brought down the Turkish economy, leading to Erdogan's turn-about.

The key issue is to maintain Syria territorial integrity, especially east of the Euphrates. If the Iran - Syria - Lebanon land bridge is broken, look forward to Israeli rampages against Lebanon and extended occupation of the Golan. Israel has tolerated and supported terrorists next to the occupied Golan using them as guardians for land it covets. Israel has started releasing videos showing it attacking alleged ISIS positions in the Golan as part of the preparation for action against these terrorist who will suddenly become a 'national security' threat.

As for a purported pipeline through a Kurdish occupied territory carved out of Syria by force, that would create enormous legal difficulties, particularly should the territory be regained by Syria. Would the Kurds be able to rely on US protection? Would Syria regard the Kurds as illegal occupants of Syrian territory? Would the Kurds be regarded as terrorists if they resorted to force against the SAA? Would the fees arising from oil transit be regarded as funding terrorism? Would Syria do the same to this source of funding that Russia did to the ISIS equivalent? Russia has stated that Syrian territorial integrity is sacrosanct, so would it support Syria against the Kurds? If there is one thing oil majors hate, it is uncertainty leading to them losing 'their' assets.

Posted by: Yonatan | Mar 11 2017 12:57 utc | 48

Erdogan just tried to get thrown out of NATO calling the Netherlands Nazis because they do not want his ministers speak their country.

He gave the treatment to Germany before.

It seems Russia granted Turkey's security vs the Kurds and Russia's support of the Syrian Kurds depends on their cooperation with the Syrian government.

What the US think they are doing in this context is their problem.

But, yes, the green table planners who want to split Syria will need an entity that is economically viable.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 11 2017 13:29 utc | 49

@45 hayder.. thanks for your participation and good commentary here..

@48 yonatan... thanks. excellent commentary and much appreciated..

Posted by: james | Mar 11 2017 16:40 utc | 50

The carve-up of Syria is proceeding and details are being worked out. How much of the north and east will belong to the US and its proxies? How much does Turkey get? Will Jordan get any? How much will Israel get? Russia's chunk will basically be what Assad gets, so Russia is trying to improve its bargaining position a little. The broad strokes are set, though. Iran and Hezbollah will be cut out completely, it seems. It will be interesting to see how Putin finesses his withdrawal from alliance with Iran and China now that he is moving back towards alliance with the US. Iran looks to be the big loser, as China too will ultimately move back towards the US. Belarus is playing an interesting role as a sword of damocles over Putin, just to make sure he gets with the US program.

No sooner than the ink dries on whatever agreement is made, US proxies will be gnawing away at Assad again. I suppose his only hope is that the Russian knife in his back might accidentally cross the US knife in his gut, each being forced out.

Posted by: paul | Mar 11 2017 16:57 utc | 51

Yonatan@45 Thanks, good comment. In my opinion the Kurds would be better off throwing in their lot with Assad. Whatever arrangement they can cobble together with Assad [for instance a degree of automomy, not too much or they would be forever at the mercy of the Turks. With a fully sovereign,complete and secular Syria.

Posted by: harrylawh | Mar 11 2017 17:23 utc | 52

Outstanding comments and insights by all. Such discussion is so helpful to those of us lacking military background, the subtle maneuvering on the ground and educated guesses at what comes next. What some may wish to add to this conversation is the recent announcement that Hamas is rewriting its charter accepting Israel's 1967 borders and Abbas' invite to the White House. Although these moves may be peripheral to the Raqqa discussion, they are nonetheless somehow part of all of the jiggling going on in US Mideast policy.

Here are some more nuggets of info regarding Raqqa -

Snippets from McCain - Votel at this weeks Sen Armed Forces hearing...

“I’m not sure there’s an understanding of how seriously Erdogan views this issue, and I’m not sure we appreciate the role that Turkey plays in our effort to retake Raqqa, particularly in the use of Incirlik [Air Base] and other activities that require Turkish cooperation,” McCain said.

VOTEL - “I’m pretty confident the situation in Manbij, where we are located, is stabilizing,” said Votel. “The whole idea here, is keep people focused on the mission at hand, which is defeating ISIS,” he added.

"As with fighting in Mosul, Iraq, current plans for Raqqa will require cooperation between varying forces in defeating ISIS. It is very likely that as the offensive begins, Kurdish fighters will near Turkish forces. As the U.S. works towards a plan for Raqqa, it does not want to have to keep the peace between the two groups, while trying to engage ISIS."

Assad is demanding UNSC remove it's forces -

And Russia is making sure US/Turkey know they are also in/near Manbij via releasing photos of Russian units - photos can be found at Southfront

Lastly, looks like the US is holding a coalition meeting and Russia isn't invited -

"Washington is set to host a ministerial meeting of 68 US-led coalition nations fighting against Daesh (Islamic State/ ISIS) on March 22-23. However two key players in the region actively fighting against the jihadists, Russia and Iran, have not been invited to the gathering because, according to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, "they’re not part of the global coalition."

Would love to be a fly on the wall during this meeting.

Posted by: h | Mar 11 2017 17:35 utc | 53

The EU is ramping up more humiliation in response to Erdogan and Cavusoglu's aggressive tone.
These two have become virtually 'persona non grata'
After Germany,now the Netherland. Will other coutries with significant turkish population follow?

Turkish FM calls Netherlands’ decision to cancel flight permit ‘scandal’

Posted by: virgile | Mar 11 2017 17:41 utc | 54

CORRECTION 'Assad is demanding UNSC remove it's forces' SHOULD READ 'Assad is demanding TURKEY removes its forces via UNSC'

And language means everything - McCain says 'retake' Raqqa and Votel says 'defeating ISIS'. Retake implies occupation whereas defeating ISIS suggests possible territorial integrity remains...maybe?

Posted by: h | Mar 11 2017 17:47 utc | 55

@ harrylawh | 52

Fully agree. It is not the time for a Kurdish state as it would simply prove too divisive regionally.
Just like to add that what we mustn't forget also is that whatever solution the Syrian Kurds can achieve is likely to become an automatic demand of Turkish Kurds from the Turkish government hence Turkey's paranoia and aggression toward Syrian Kurds.
Turkey can not oppress its own Kurdish population so harshly ad infinitum ... And what happens then?

Posted by: AtaBrit | Mar 11 2017 18:56 utc | 56

Posted by: AtaBrit | Mar 11, 2017 1:56:29 PM | 56

Everybody is supporting PKK/PYD nowadays for different reasons. Erdogan has a huge problem.

Barzani might have a small one, too.

Daraji reportedly said that Hezbollah Brigade would support the oppressed from all religious and ethnic groups and no border could stop them.

The YBS commander, Saeed Hassan, said, as quoted by the Hezbollah website, "The delay to deploy security forces and Hashd al-Shaabi in our area is a clear shortcoming of our rights."

The Head of PKK-backed Shignal Council, Khidhir Salih, praised the role of the "Islamic Resistance" in protecting the country against extremists.

Salih stated that they were working on building an autonomy in their areas to get rid of Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) rule, the website concluded.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 11 2017 19:31 utc | 57

It should be quite clear by now that Russia has betrayed Syria, and agreed to partition Syria with the US.
Worse, they have forced the SAA to act as border guards between the FSA & SDF, two of their enimies. Incredible cruel. Turkey, along with Syria are the two countries against partition. Hence, TR had to be blocked so the US-RUS plan could be implemented.
US will get to occupy north and east of Euphrates with all the oil and water ressources.
Meanwhile, Russia is taunting Turkey outside Manbij. They usually do this when they want some concession from TR. RUS probably want Turkey to become an ally of Assad once the war is over, he will need that with no ressources.
I hope that Putin will suffer from his betrayal and I look forward to see the US bogged down, nationbuilding their long for desired, Kurdish state in an area where very few Kurds leve. Of course its very difficult to carve out the obvious Kurdish state in Turkey, so the US had to settle for Syria. This entire war has been disgusting and the ending even worse.

Posted by: Christina | Mar 11 2017 20:11 utc | 58

Christina 58

Syria had anywhere between two weeks and two months before it was totally overrun by AQ and ISIS.
Russia was the only country willing to take on the US and their numerous proxies and vassals to help Syria survive. US tried to use it as, or hoped it would be another Afghanistan for Russia.
Now Syria once again has control of large sections of their country and the headchoppers are on the Run everywhere.
Incredibly cruel country Russia. Should've stayed out of Syria.

Posted by: Peter AU | Mar 11 2017 20:39 utc | 59

Clearly, while there are clear groups of allies, and some tacit alliances, there is a lot of backstabbing or more innocent squabbles, and thus the picture of the situation is fuzzy, and there is a lot of room for "glass half-full/half-empty" type of quibbling.

Erdogan's ambitions are being cut to size with the combination of force and negotiations. Restoration of Sunni-Ottoman empire was reduced first to "march on Raqqa", then "march on Manbij", and the latter is in the process of further reduction. Putin was just visited by Erdogan and treated his guest in proper imperial style, as befits the ego of the First Citizen of Turkey. Turkey clearly can gain from Russian good will, various energy issues, agriculture and other economic aspects, support or obstruction of Turkish ambitions for influence in Central Asia (with Turkic nations there) etc. From that point of view, engagement in Syria and Iraq is just a weird pass time, so Putin (and Iranians?) have decent hopes of keeping Erdogan's mischief within some limits.

It is unclear if the military supplies to Idlib armed groups decreased. I doubt that it was reduced to zero, but the infighting suggest that supplies are limited. In "fatter times" more moderate groups are better supplied and the more organized (and radical) groups squeeze the supplies from the "moderates" as the price of forbearance. In "lean times" it makes more sense to squeeze every single drop from the "moderates" as there is no continuity of supplies to lose. Additionally, the project of "safe zone under Turkish aegis" sufficiently distracted Erdogan, and sucked away some fighters and weapon supplies.

However, there are only so many offensive actions that SAA and allies can perform simultaneously. Recently there were almost simultaneous offensive toward Assad Lake and to regain Palmyra and positions around Palmyra. The latter, according to some sources (Ivan Sidorenko on Twitter) involved an intricate deal that Russian supply weapons and Iran pays for the ammunition and provides some troops. Part of the deal was that the operation will not advance much beyond Palmyra (although there are still actions to secure gas field and more defensible flank positions). So no march onto Deir-ez-Zor (but probably improved supplies). In the meantime, the pace of operations in the Damascus area seems decreased, although the project of removing heavily fortified enclave of Qaboun/Barzeh is perhaps just difficult. After that enclave, the troops that are involved will perhaps focus on South Damascus pocket (with Yarmouk Camp in the center).

I suspect that the next major offensive of SAA and allies will be indeed Idlib.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Mar 11 2017 20:48 utc | 60

@ somebody | 57
Thanks, Somebody.
Very interesting development.
Can't help but think that its a direct response to the latest Erdogan Barzani love-in which, economic and pipeline issues aside, was yet further attempt at driving a wedge between Iraqi Kurds and the i
Iraqi government - poigniantly illustrated by the 'scandal' of the Iraq Kurdistani flag flying alongside the Iraqi and Turkish flags at AtaTurk airport to greet Barzani! A tacit acceptance of an Iraqi Kurdish State? - But also, purely my view, the meeting wqs an attempt to present Barzani as the Leader of all Turkish Kurds - maybe Syrian Kurds too.
Why do I say this? Because at the time, a couple of weeks ago there were two very strange 'statements'; one was Barzani openly supporting Demirtas (HDP) and calling for his release from Turkish imprisonment on charges of terrorism (this statement made the day before Barzani's meeting with Erdogan! Had anyome else said such a thing Erdogan would have gone ballistic); and the other statement, Erdogan's fawning recomendation of Barzani as a global leader, an exemplar Kurd and all that.
The statements were clearly staged, but why?
I can only think that Erdogan seeks to replace Ocalan with Barzani as the de facto leader of the Turkish Kurds and maybe all Kurds.
The implicated blackmail / bargain being that if Demirtas accepts such leadership, he and his HDP ministers can go free.
Imagine the implications!
I think your article is a response to this attempted manipulation.

But then, I could be wrong ... ;-)

Posted by: AtaBrit | Mar 11 2017 21:02 utc | 61

Posted by: AtaBrit | Mar 11, 2017 4:02:08 PM | 61

That Turkey accepting Barzani as Kurdish leader play has been going on for quite a while even during Erdogan's attempt to strike a deal with Öcalan.
Erdogan might return to negotiating with Öcalan if he wins the referendum and does not need the right wing nationalist coalition.

I think Iran is hedging against Turkey joining the "against Iran" alliance same as Russia hedging against Turkey joining the "against Russia" axis.

Turkey seems to have got rid of all its Western educated NATO military officers after the coup so Erdogan might join the Russia China Iran alliance in the end - if he survives.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 11 2017 21:27 utc | 62

Hayder | Mar 10, 2017 4:41:48 PM | 18

7) Deir Ezzor. It has been very noticeable that while ISIS are falling back everywhere, they are persisting in suicidal attacks on Dier Ezzor.
Dier Ezzor province I take it is rich in oil.

Kurdistan? Creating a Kurdistan breaks up Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey. Has not been possible before as Turkey is/was NATO/US ally.
With Erdogan trying to go his own way, and US losing its grip on Turkey, US controlled Kurdistan may well be on the cards. A Kurdistan would be totally reliant on and subservient to the US as it would be surrounded by enemies.
Oil fields would be required for Kurdistan so that it will turn a profit for the US rather than be a drain on funds.

Posted by: Peter AU | Mar 11 2017 21:34 utc | 63

Yonatan is right. Strategically speaking, the conflict in Syria was over the moment Russia started its intervention on September 30th 2015. One of the tenets for this intervention was and is still to maintain the Syrian state's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Since I have yet to read any documents stating otherwise, imo the shenanigan's of various foreign actors involved are just so..

Posted by: Lozion | Mar 11 2017 21:36 utc | 64

Atabrit #61

Very sensible analysis. But then we may all be wrong. As an arm chair analyst I am usually wrong. But over the years I came to a few conclusions against the grain that were somewhat correct: One was that after the US invaded Iraq was that a resistance would develop that would prevent the US from winning. Another was that Russia would never allow Sevastopol to become a NATO naval base after the 2014 Ukrainian coup.

When it comes to predicting how Erdogan will respond that is almost impossible IMHO.

Posted by: ToivoS | Mar 11 2017 21:51 utc | 65

An excellent clutch of commentary!

SANA has published a transcript of an interview between Assad and Chinese TV company that contains a great deal of info about Assad's/Syria's attitude toward the negotiations in Geneva and Astana, plus a hint that SAA will now focus on Raqqa and Deir Ez-zor. Assad also made very clear that any foreign entity present within Syria without the express invitation of the Syrian government is an invader--an outlaw under International Law--and no friend of Syria despite what the entity might express as its reasons for its presence,

Just to highlight one of the Q&As, #7, provides insight into how events might unfold:

"Question 7: As we speak, top generals from Turkey, Russia, and the United States are meeting somewhere in Turkey to discuss tensions in northern Syria, where mutually- suspicious forces are allied with these countries. So, do you have a plan for a final attack on Daesh when the main players actually do need an effective coordination in order to clear Syria of all terror groups?"

Assad: "Yeah, if you want to link that meeting with ISIS in particular, it won’t be objective, because at least one party, which is Turkey, has been supporting ISIS till this moment, because Erdogan, the Turkish President, is Muslim Brotherhood. He’s ideologically linked and sympathetic with ISIS and with al-Nusra, and everybody knows about this in our region, and he helped them either through armaments, logistically, through exporting oil ... So, we have more hopes now regarding the American party because of the new administration, while in Turkey nothing has changed in that regard. ISIS in the north have only one route of supply, it’s through Turkey, and they’re still alive and they’re still active and they’re still resisting different kinds of waves of attacks, because of the Turkish support."

Hopefully, what Assad has to say will sway the opinions of a few commentators who think he's not his own man--an opinion I think is very mistaken.

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 11 2017 21:58 utc | 66

The Syrian Kurds and the Syrian army have the same enemies: Turkey, the "Turkisized" FSA, the Sunni GCC, and ISIS.
They also share one friend, Russia.
There is no reason why the Syrian Kurds would not ally with the Syrian army to fight their common enemies. Once they won, they could negotiate a status for the Syrian Kurds
The Syrian army brings in additional forces: the Hezbollah, the Iraqi Shia militias and the Iraqi Airforce
The Syrian Kurds brings in US advisors and US weapons.
If they join, they win against ISIS, the FSA and the Turkish army.

Posted by: virgile | Mar 11 2017 22:01 utc | 67

One other important highlight from Assad interview:

"Question 14: How many days do you think this war is going to last?

"President Assad: if we presume that you don’t have foreign intervention, it will take a few months. It’s not very complicated internally. The complexity of this war is the foreign intervention. This is the problem. So, in the face of that intervention, the good thing that we gained during the war is the unity of the society. At the very beginning, the vision for many Syrians wasn’t very clear about what’s happening. Many believed the propaganda of the West about the reality, about the real story, that this is against the oppression. If it’s against the oppression, why the people in Saudi Arabia didn’t revolt, for example? So, now what we gained is this, this is our strongest foundation to end that war. We always have hope that this year is going to be the last year. But at the end, this is war and you can’t expect what is going to happen precisely." [Emphasis mine.]

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 11 2017 22:13 utc | 68

Piotr Berman | Mar 11, 2017 3:48:46 PM | 60

The on the ground military aspect of Russia's involvement in Syria is subservient to their diplomatic progress. A particular military offensive only goes ahead when the geo-political scene has been set. East Aleppo was taken quickly and easily only after it had been isolated from its international backers. Sometimes small military moves will be used to help the diplomats achieve the right geo-political scene before the main offensive goes ahead. Much of the military success in Syria so far is due to Russian diplomacy - perhaps the reason why Russian diplomats have been dying like flies recently.

Posted by: Peter AU | Mar 11 2017 22:19 utc | 69

@67 virgile

The US will not cooperate in any manner or fashion with an alliance that includes Hezbollah. It's probably just as unlikely they would have any commonality with Iran. Hezbollah gave the Marines their bloodiest day since Iwo Jima when they bombed their barracks in Lebanon in 1983.

Besides that, Hezbollah fought Israel to a standstill in 2006. That would have been impossible without Iranian arms. You won't see any daylight between the US and Israel with this administration. They both aim to see the Iran-Hezbollah land bridge, the Shia Crescent, cut once and for all.

Posted by: peter | Mar 11 2017 22:29 utc | 70

Thanks Hayder @18, excellent insightful post!

@Yonatan 48
Thanks for reminding us how unrealistic the idea of a Qatar-Turkey pipeline through a war zone is.

I disagree on a few points however:

Syria has been transferring lots of surrendering jihadis to Idlib, from where they can easily get to Turkey. It seems to me that they are deliberately offered this option to get them out of Syria. Of course they can then be re-deployed somewhere (same old story...), but imo Russia is not the most likely target.

Russian-Turkish rapprochement has its limits. Ankara's interest in the S-400 is empty talk, meant to extract concessions from its western allies. If it really bought those, this would be equivalent to leaving NATO, as it would make any future confrontation against Russia impossible.

Should the US-SDF take control over all the northern banks of the Euphrates (which is probable), there would still be a land bridge from Iran to Lebanon via Rutba, or via al-Qaim if the former is unsafe.

I'm not sure what 'pipeline through a Kurdish occupied territory' you are referring to, since it wouldn't border Jordan. The US-SDF controlled territory in NE Syria will be enemies with every single surrounding state. Thus, it will depend entirely on US protection and military presence, becoming the new 'unsinkable US aircraft carrier' in the region. This would prove especially important should Israel become unreliable or side with Russia in earnest.

carved out of Syria by force, that would create enormous legal difficulties, particularly should the territory be regained by Syria. Would the Kurds be able to rely on US protection? Would Syria regard the Kurds as illegal occupants of Syrian territory? Would the Kurds be regarded as terrorists if they resorted to force against the SAA? Would the fees arising from oil transit be regarded as funding terrorism? Would Syria do the same to this source of funding that Russia did to the ISIS equivalent? Russia has stated that Syrian territorial integrity is sacrosanct, so would it support Syria against the Kurds? If there is one thing oil majors hate, it is uncertainty leading to them losing 'their' assets.

Posted by: Yonatan | Mar 11, 2017 7:57:57 AM | 48

Posted by: smuks | Mar 11 2017 22:40 utc | 71

@virgile 67:

Yes, there is a reason: US military bases - see above post.

Posted by: smuks | Mar 11 2017 22:42 utc | 72

@ Yonatan 71

Agree with this. All the wailing about the Shia crescent and pipelines seems to ignore that you need to secure and protect a corridor across eastern Homs and Dier ez Zour from the border with Jordan north to the Euphrates before it even gets to Kurdish territory bordering Turkey. The pipeline could go entirely through Libya north to Turkey or through Jordan to Israel (highly unlikely). Same with supplies. The entire eastern desert of Homs and Dier ez Zour province borders Iraq and is wide open between At Tanf and Abu Kamal. This is why the Russians are so focused on Palmyra since it controls this area. There is no way the Kurds or anyone else is capable of holding this area short of an armed invasion through Jordan. So neither pipelines nor Shia crescent represent a compelling need to destroy and partition Syria. Simply resisting the hegemon was enough for that.

Posted by: Sad Canuck | Mar 11 2017 23:23 utc | 73

28 civilians killed, 45 wounded by twin bombings in Damascus

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:00 P.M.) – Minutes ago, massive explosions were heard throughout the Syrian capital of Damascus, as ambulances rushed to the area where the impact took place.

Update (12:20 P.M.) – Both explosions as a result of two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in the Bab Moussallah area of Damascus.

Update (12:27 P.M.) – 8 dead and 15 wounded.

Update (12:35 P.M.) – 28 dead and 45+ wounded.

bombing attacks. just as in baghdad iraq. obama's 'contribution', after bush's invading and occupying troops 'left' the country. endless death, devastation, and destruction. working with al-cia-duh,

Over 40 civilians killed by deadliest bombing in Syria’s capital this year

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:50 P.M.) – The death toll is quickly rising from this afternoon’s twin bombings in Syria’s capital, making today’s attack the deadliest to hit Damascus this year.

According to Al-Masdar’s field correspondents in Damascus, two IEDs were detonate near the Bab Al-Shughour Cemetery area of the capital, killing more than 40 civilians and wounding 65 others.

Today’s attack is the third time this year that terrorists have terrorized the Syrian capital and its residents.

suffering the same fate as iraq, after obama's proxy invasion and occupation syria is now in for endless death, devastation, and destruction at the hands of al-cia-duh, saudi arabia's foreign legions, supplied by, trained by, and in service to the usofa in iraq, syria, yemen ...

US declares newly merged Syrian jihadist group a terrorist organization

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (6:10 P.M.) – On Friday, the United States officially declared the newly formed Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) a terrorist group in a written statement. The jihadist coalition consists of Jabhat al-Nusra and some opposition groups that formerly enjoyed US support, including Harakat Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki.

death, devastation, and destruction ... and deceit. the usofa's chief exports. the torch is passed to tee-rump. i guess they're celebrating?

Posted by: jfl | Mar 11 2017 23:26 utc | 74

@31 karlof, 'Will tRump continue or discontinue the established Outlaw US Empire's Imperial Policy quest for Full Spectrum Dominance? That answer will determine how genuine his vow to eliminate terrorism is, given the policy's need for such proxies.'

i don't think tee-rump has much to do with what his administration does. his mission, as he sees it, is to strut and posture, and then to fire this or that 'apprentice' when things go wrong. flynnn was just number 1 of many. the faces will change, the policies will not.

so i agree with psycho @34 on that.

on the longevity of isis ... yes there have been isis stakes and flags announced all over, i see there are isis checkpoints in egypt ... sinai along the israeli border ... hmm. is isis primarily israeli now? it does seem to me that the us/ksa are back with their tried and true al-cia-duh. but these are just different 'security companies', wearing different uniforms. like tee-rump's secreatry of education vos' brother's, but at one further arm's length. all working for the same consortium. protecting their 'security'.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 11 2017 23:43 utc | 75

American Kurdistan would be the thing for US. The perfect shit fan for Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

Posted by: slirs | Mar 11 2017 23:53 utc | 76

@40 atabrit

i agree with all three of your takes, on the kurds, erdogan, and the gcc ... and i wonder if we aren't going to see the end of the gcc? little dwarf 'states' ... pumping stations, really ... setup by us/uk to control the oil of the me? they are western compradors surrounded by a sea of 'natives' ... they are now openly allied with israel ... how much longer can they last? they have plenty of us weapons to hand ... but will the us come, in full-fledged invasion, to operate them for them? the uk surely won't. will the eu? unlikely, in my view. will the generals running tee-rump's 'foreign policy' ride the bombs down, a la slim pickins? i hope not.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 11 2017 23:57 utc | 77

@46 yonatan, '"... those events had taken place “in the fifth century BC,” '

yes indeed. that was so refreshing to hear putin say to netanyahoo and to his face. that kind of talk goes over in the usa, where us zioinists ... who believe that the us is the new land of zion ... believe in their 'essential' qualifications as 'the chosen people' as well. putin is a russian and a nationalist ... but he has no such vain and stupid illusions.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 12 2017 0:10 utc | 78

@48 yonatan

my only question is on your paragraph four, on russian-turkish detente. i agree that it is a natural ... but erdogan is unpredictable and, unfortunately, in power in turkey at the same time. i think putin is more aware than anyone of that fact, and is nursing the relationship with turkey along until something can really be made of it, when erdogan is gone. but for now, turkey under erdogan is a rogue country. at least that's how it seems to me.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 12 2017 0:19 utc | 79

@55 h

thanks for the news on raqqa from the us. i saw a piece on merkel ... and mccain ... Germany’s sinister role in global politics

The first time I wrote about the Munich Security Conference was 15 years ago, on 11 February 2002 (“Der Weltkrieg ist geplant [The World War is planned]”). Already then US Senator John McCain was a speaker at the conference and it was clear that he was one of the hawks.

For the US Senator the war against Afghanistan, which had started only a few weeks before, was only the first front in a global war. McCain’s goal at the time was to “forge a new world”. The USA and their military allies, he told the conference, “stand now before history with this mission”.

John McCain has remained true to his old plans, also this year. He has still not realised that the US government’s old plan has become impracticable, that the world has changed since then and that the hawks, still at the height of their own power in early 2002, have left behind such a wreckage of victims and destruction in so many places of the world in the past 15 years that their global reputation has been ruined. Nevertheless, people like McCain still believe in an “ultimate victory”, maybe also by the use of “wonder weapons”.

i really think that guys like mccain are out of the action. the imperial presidency has a lock on 'foreign policy' ... that is universal and unending warfare ... and they don't see things mccain's way. their views seem not much, if at all better, but they're different from mccain's.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 12 2017 0:33 utc | 80

@64 lozion 'One of the tenets for this intervention was and is still to maintain the Syrian state's sovereignty and territorial integrity.'

Putin praises highest level of cooperation on Syria with Turkey

According to Putin, “naturally, the principle of the territorial integrity of states must be observed for peace and calmness to persist in the region and for the start of the process of rebuilding Syria and other countries of the region.”

“In this sense, the restoration of the territorial integrity of Syria is, in our mind, an obligatory condition for full-fledged settlement,” Putin said.

straight from the horse's mouth. i think putin is not in the habit of making statements he knows he's going to immediately contradict in action. so not only have we not heard differently ...

Posted by: jfl | Mar 12 2017 0:53 utc | 81

Posted by: Sad Canuck | Mar 11, 2017 6:23:49 PM | 73

ISIS seems to have been able to hold all the necessary territory up to the Saudi border for quite a while. Like a Turkish Saudi corridor. Saudi had to build a barrier against them, Turkey for some reason didn't.

Posted by: somebody | Mar 12 2017 1:19 utc | 82

Rand partition map,...Euphrates /Syria East - International Administration zone.
Syria gets to keep Deir Ezzor City.
Turkey has its Safe Zone already, ...Israhell has safe zone via Daraa region and Golan,

Putin and Assad already conceeded to this, ...the rest is Kabuki Theatre.

Posted by: Brad | Mar 12 2017 1:28 utc | 83

i agree with all the others who've noted what a solid thread this is. no trump - other than as the current resident. no fake news. just the facts. from engaged and knowledgeable commentators. just like the good ole days. thank you one and all. i'm enriched and informed.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 12 2017 1:29 utc | 84

>>>> Brad | Mar 11, 2017 8:28:15 PM | 83
It's nothing more than a proposal from one of many Washington think tanks that don't have a clue about what they're writing about.

Putin and Assad already conceeded to this, ...the rest is Kabuki Theatre.

And your evidence for this is what exactly? Have you seen an agreement signed by both Putin and Assad.
Putin has to finish the job against Al Nusrah and ISIS in Syria because if he doesn't it'll be regarded as a sign of weakness by the fuckwits in Washington, Riyadh, Doha, Paris and France and the civil + proxy was will continue. The only way to end this war is to persuade the above fuckwits that they have no chance of success at the price they're prepared to pay.

Posted by: Ghostship | Mar 12 2017 2:38 utc | 85

@85 Correct. Moreover, its well known the Caucusus is the Bear's soft underbelly through which Salafists can destabilise it. I've read reports of 6000+ russian djihadists on the Syrian soil. Remember Beslan? Or Grozny?

@84 jfl. Indeed..

Posted by: Lozion | Mar 12 2017 3:12 utc | 86

Grrr Caucasus. Damn iPad keyboard..

Posted by: Lozion | Mar 12 2017 3:13 utc | 87

jfl @78

Putin's rebuff was spot on, but Netanyahu's request that Putin end Iranian influence in Syria is no less concerning.

This was a meeting and a request that was covered well by Western media that endlessly repeats that Iran is a terrorist state. I get the sense that many Jewish fundamentalists and hardliners really do see the world through a warped 2500-year old lens.

Netanyahu's anti-Iranian mission seemed rather quixotic. It was unlikely that he would get what he was seeking. So why did he persist? Was there an "or else" that we are not privy to? (attack on Iran or false-flag?)* Will Putin now be smeared as a "supporter of terrorists? Will Putin's rebuff be used to derail better US-Russian relations?

* Funny that a false-flag is alluded to by our hasbara minder @35 who thinks it might come from "U.S. operatives" (LOL!).

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Mar 12 2017 4:13 utc | 88

>>>> Jackrabbit | Mar 11, 2017 11:13:23 PM | 88
Netanyahu should be far more frightened of Trump than he is of the Iranians.

Posted by: Ghostship | Mar 12 2017 4:30 utc | 89

Interesting that when people notice what a solid thread this is, Jackrabbit immediately pounces in with name-calling to try to disrupt the thread. I have seen him do this many times before.

Posted by: Interesting Observation | Mar 12 2017 4:34 utc | 90

Jackrabbit 88

Getting rid of Trump will crack the foundations of empire. As Trump has a burr wedged in his arse over China and Iran, empire will drop Russia and use Toupee to go after Iran and China.

Posted by: Peter AU | Mar 12 2017 4:43 utc | 91

Well, at first glance, these series of quotes might seem off topic, but in fact they're 100% germane. Posted by Tom at ICH, words seldom learned by students of US History at any level:

"We are the ruling race of the world. . . . We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world. . . . He has marked us as his chosen people. . . . He has made us adept in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples." :Sen. Alfred Beveridge

"I firmly believe that when any territory outside the present territorial limits of the United States becomes necessary for our defense or essential for our commercial development, we ought to lose no time in acquiring it." :Sen. Orville Platt of Connecticut 1894.

"If the people are not convinced (that the Free World is in mortal danger) it would be impossible for Congress to vote the vast sums now being spent to avert danger. With the support of public opinion, as marshalled by the press, we are off to a good start. It is our Job - yours and mine -- to keep our people convinced that the only way to keep disaster away from our shores is to build up America's might." -- Charles Wilson, Chairman of the Board of General Electric and Truman appointee to head the Office of Defence Mobilization, in a speech to the Newspaper Publishers Association, 1950" {Emphasis in original]

I know Tom could have included many similar quotations from powerful US politicos and business magnates. The point being is the fundamental sentiments of the neoliberalcon persuasion have existed for much longer than most people know, which makes them hard to eradicate due to ongoing socialization/indoctrination. Platt and McCain could easily exchange places and not miss a beat.

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 12 2017 5:29 utc | 92

karlof1 @92

Drawing historical parallels is dangerous business.

Are we the same people that we were 100 or 200 years ago? No. I don't think so.

Cui bono? Who benefits from such a message? IMO attempts to conflate who we are today with the 'settler' past can be traced to Zionist neocons. They seek to demoralize and defeat critics with the message that "this is who you are" and "it has always been such". They also seek to justify their own world view: "don't criticize us - you did the same!"

People of 100 or 200 years ago were racists. The neolibcons are racist parasites. Most of us are not like either.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Mar 12 2017 6:15 utc | 93

@ Posted by: Jackrabbit | Mar 12, 2017 1:15:22 AM | 93

IMO attempts to conflate who we are today with the 'settler' past can be traced to Zionist neocons. They seek to demoralize and defeat critics...


Common soldiers, from the polyglot, 'most of us', refer to the 'Others' as 'Sand Niggers', 'Towel-heads', & worse ... just as we referred to Filipinos as 'Kakiak-ladrones' when we executed any male above 12 years old in reprisals 1898-1913 ...

The objectives of our Empires policies are remarkably consistent, going back generations ... some relevant on-topic 'Policy' perspective less than 30 years ago, and still driving policy decisions today ... in Syria, the ME and throughout Central Asia.

We made a deliberate choice. At first , everyone thought, there’s no way to beat the Soviets. So what we have to do is to throw the worst crazies against them that we can find, and there was a lot of collateral damage. We knew exactly who these people were, and what their organizations were like, and we didn’t care. Then, we allowed them to get rid of, just kill all the moderate leaders. The reason we don’t have moderate leaders in Afghanistan today is because we let the nuts kill them all. They killed the leftists, the moderates, the middle-of-the-roaders. They were just eliminated, during the 1980s and afterwards. - RAND expert Cheryl Benard, whose husband, Zalmay Khalilzad, served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan

Zalmay Khalilzad, is a former American diplomat and a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and president of Gryphon Partners and Khalilzad Associates, an international business consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. He was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. He has been involved with U.S. policy makers at the White House, State Department and Pentagon since the mid-1980s, and was the highest-ranking Muslim American in the Administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.[1] Khalilzad's previous assignments in the Administration include U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. He is Director on 'The Atlantic Council'.

A Dem Prez...

The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance:
It contains more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to with in 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world’s oil must flow. The Soviet Union is now attempting to consolidate a strategic position, therefore, that poses a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.

Let our position be absolutely clear:
An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

- State of the Union address, Carter, Jan 23 1980

A GOP Prez...

The Pentagon’s master plan under Reagan for 1984–1988 ranked defense of the Middle East second only to the defense of North America and Western Europe:

Our principal objectives are to assure continued access to Persian Gulf oil and to prevent the Soviets from acquiring political-military control of the oil directly or through proxies. It is essential that the Soviet Union be confronted with the prospect of a major conflict should it seek to reach oil resources of the Gulf. Whatever the circumstances, we should be prepared to introduce American forces directly into the region should it appear that the security of access to Persian Gulf oil is threatened. - Richard Halloran, NYT

In the 19th Century it was the British Empire playing the 'Great Game'. The US after 1898 entered the 'Great Game' too and became an enemy of the Russian Empire and subsequently USSR, concurrent with the British Empire, a brief respite whilst the Russians bled for them in WWII, then the 'New Great Game' resumed, with the master 'baton' passed from the Brits to the US. When the USSR collapsed, the 'New Great Game Pt2' continued, with ever more vigor, relentlessly, and continues to this very day.

The language, public terminology, political codewords/phrases/euphemisms, and fraudulent justifications may change over the last 100-140 years plus ... yet the primary 'interests' & objectives of Empire, remain the same.

PS The amoral Israeli/Zionist war criminals, terrorists and enemies of Humanity, human dignity & life didn't exist in any strength until 1947 ... they are bit-part players, though not insignificant, in a much larger, long running geopolitical conflict by UK then US Empire for global hegemony on Terra, on behalf of the 0.01%, IMV.

History matters.

Posted by: Outraged | Mar 12 2017 8:01 utc | 94

@ Posted by: ProPeace | Mar 12, 2017 4:10:13 AM | 95

As the once 'Sleeping Dragon' awakens, the world begins to tremble ...

Posted by: Outraged | Mar 12 2017 8:20 utc | 96


Yes, history matters. What you say is true to some extent. But America is a different place today than it was 100 years ago.

Over the course of the last several months I've seen many more references to US racism and western expansion than I have previously. Who might benefit from drawing a false equivalence between US of today and US of 100-200 years ago? The country that readily comes to mind sees itself as a 'settler' nation and practices institutional racism in the form of apartheid.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Mar 12 2017 9:29 utc | 97

@93 jr

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz wrote Indian country at the time of the 2003 invasion of iraq - actually the bush xli's war - to help other americans, us settler americans - she's half and half herself - understand the reality that we live and breathe, and don't even notice. as she never noticed, growing up in oklahoma. it's in our blood.

John Marciano gave a series of lectures on Empire as a way of life, based upon William Appleman Williams’s book of the same name, in an attempt to deliver the same message. that's where i first heard of roxanne dunbar-ortiz. this is what the us is all about, an extension and enlargement of its racist imperial anglo roots. i certainly believe that it's important to understand how we got this way, and exactly what 'this way' is, if we want to haul ourselves out of the hole we're in.

Gerald Horne has written many very good books on the american settler / slaver, one of which is The counter-revolution of 1776.

the story of america put into our heads as children in grade school ... and high school ... and college ... is simply wrong, completely wrong. the first thing we must do is learn to forget, and pick up the trail ourselves. these traits are built in to all of us on our conquered turtle island, and until we realize, understand, and accept our history moving on from here will be impossible.

as far as i can see there is no 'debate' in america about the series of aggressive wars begun at the start of the new american century. sure, there is a minority, talking to themselves about the war criminal, terrorist nation the us has become since the turn of the millennium, but society at large is deaf, dumb, and blind to it. just as were the subjects of the third reich.

nothing can change until that's accepted ... and the unbroken string a wars stretching back through central and south america, through indonesia and vietnam and lao, through korea ... back through both world wars, the 'spanish-american war', the boxer rebellion, the civil war, the genocide of indingenous americans ... it's like a string of beads. it's not an accident. all were the result of purposeful actions, and ordinary americans, isolated on their stolen turtle island, bought it all. ate it up like candy. and we're still eating it up like candy. what prosperity is left to americans now is the direct result of the endless war.

things cannot change without first accepting things as they are. and then changing them.

Posted by: jfl | Mar 12 2017 10:42 utc | 98

@jfl 79

Not only Putin - everyone has a problem with this, so everybody is trying to play both sides (Turkey and Kurds) to gain leverage. Erdogan does have a plan: He wants an independent foreign policy aka seesaw policy. But he's not very apt at it, and Turkey is too dependent economically.

@Peter AU 91
That's what everyone says, but it's wrong. Russia is and will always be the #1 geopolitical enemy bc it commands the same strategic resources as the US. China is no competitor, but Russia is.

@all/ Yonatan 48
Sorry for my confusing post #48, the last paragraph was Yonatan's of course. I didn't realize that I still had part of his post copy-pasted that I was replying to. ;-)

Posted by: smuks | Mar 12 2017 12:07 utc | 99

It's a very positive sign that Putin was much ruder to Bibi than Trump was. Of course, with the Israel Lobby & the Jew-controlled MSM watching him like a hawk and smearing him 24/7, Trump doesn't have the same freedom of expression as Putin enjoys.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 12 2017 13:09 utc | 100

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