Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 25, 2017

Turkish Airstrikes On Kurds Complicate U.S. Operations In Iraq And Syria

A few hour ago the Turkish airforce hit Kurdish and Yezidi positons on both sides of the Singal mountains in east-Syria and west-Iraq. Near Derik in east-Syria more than 20 bombs destroyed a YPG headquarter, a radio station and a media center. At least nine YPK fighters were killed. The YPG is the Syrian sister organization of the Kurdish PKK in Turkey. The PKK is a designated terrorist organization. Within Syria U.S. special forces are embedded with the YPG and are coordinating YPG moves against the Islamic State in Raqqa. YPK and PKK follow the anarcho-marxist theories of their leader Abdullah Öcalan who is in isolation detention in Turkey.

The Turkish airstrike in Iraq hit YPG and Peshmerga positions near Shingal where they protect a displaced person camp of Yezidis. The Yezidis are an ancient religious minority. The Peshmerga are the main Kurdish militia in Iraq. They are controlled by Kurdish regional government. At least five Peshmerga fighters, all followers of Barzani clan, were killed and several more wounded. The Barzani family holds all important position in Iraq's Kurdistan - president, premier, intelligence chief and several others. Its election mandate has long run out but it simply ignores the regional parliament and rules through force and bribes. The Barzani clan is allied with Turkey and the U.S. It allows the Turkish army to operate several bases within its area. The U.S. is operating from Erbil airport in the Iraqi-Kurdish area. The oil pumped from wells in the Kurdish area is sold by the Barzanis to Turkey. The Turkish hit on Barzani fighters is deeply embarrassing for them and may incite new protest against the Barzani' quasi dictatorship.

The YPK is training Yezidi self defense forces. This is against the Barzanis' interest who sees their monopoly force in the area endangered.

Turkey is a U.S. ally and the U.S. has several bases in Turkey which it uses to fight the Islamic State. The U.S. is also allied and operates with the YPG in Syria and the Peshmerga of the Barzani clan in Iraq. The airspace in east Syria and north-west Iraq supposedly under U.S. control. There will be some serious explaining to do why the U.S. did not prevent one of its allies from bombing its other allies. Did it agree to this Turkish attack? Either way U.S. operation in the area will experience new difficulties.

Turkey has also threatened to invade the Kurdish held areas in east-Syria at Tal Abjad to move onto Raqqa and thereby split the Kurdish held areas.

Map by Winep - bigger

The primary winner of these Turkish operations is the Islamic State.

The YPK is now likely to divert forces from the U.S. led attack on the Islamic State in Raqqa to protect against further Turkish adventures. The PKK within Turkey may restart its guerrilla campaign against the Turkish military. The Barzani clan will come under renewed pressure by Kurdish people in Iraq as well as by the Iraqi government to loosen its ties with Turkey. All sides will blame the U.S. and its operations against Syria and the Islamic State.

The whole mess in Syria and Iraq thus becomes even more complicate than it already was.

Posted by b on April 25, 2017 at 8:05 UTC | Permalink

next page »

Not sure why Russia doesn't take any of it's forces in the Afrin pocket out of there (Why are they there? Are Russia allied with the Kurds? If so, why would the Russians 'let' the Kurds(SDF) take Raqqa?)

The Russians could withdraw their forces from the Afrin pocket and invite the Turks to come into that pocket.

Why wouldn't the Turks do this?

Why wouldn't the Russians?

I'm not saying make a public announcement about this - just let the Turks no they would find no opposition from Russia for doing this.

Posted by: Jules | Apr 25 2017 9:24 utc | 1

Thanks for the update, b!

@Jules - this game is much more complicated than that. Have on mind Russia hosts the first unofficial Kurdish embassy (even hosted the first ever Kurdish Conferensce this february) and after establishing a local HQ in Manbij, Russia has reportedly negotiated a military base in Afrin(.

IMO, Russia is acting smart by playing its waiting game with regards to the Kurdish question. Putin is well aware that sooner rather than later, USSA will throw Kurds under the bus simply because the Empire can't afford losing Turkey as a strategic ZATO partner (in crime).

The Turkish assault can also be seen as Sultan Erdogan's negotiating tactics ahead of his planned meeting with the Clown-In-Chief. Turkey is trying to put pressure on ziocons to drop all support of Kurdish forces in Syria (YPG and PYG)in exchange for a complete implementation of the new "Syria strategy", where Turkey (along with Jordan) is the main recruiter and provider of the proverbial "Sunni militias" that will "defeat ISIS and liberate Syria"...

Posted by: LXV | Apr 25 2017 10:05 utc | 2

@b "The primary winner of these Turkish operations is the Islamic State"

Precisely. DAESH is in many ways, Turkey's proxy. Robert Fisk alludes in an article today to simarities between DAESH and the Turkish military a century ago when it slaughtered Armenians. Today it is all non-Turkish Sunni groups. We've seen before Turkey providing air support to extremists facilitating the slaughter of civilians and evacuation of vast tracts of land near the Turkish border. What is difficult to understand is Turkeys aim in attacking Barzani. Barzani will emerge stronger and Erdogans 'favoured' kurds and turkmen will start undermining other Kurdish influence in Northern Iraq. Am I reading that right?
Anyway. Excellent article. Cheers.

The fisk article.

A more relevant article reporting the reaction from a Turkish minister

b, you question whether the US knew about the strike. I would ask thr same of Russia. And could this be in any way linked to Ersogans meeting with Putin next week?

Posted by: AtaBrit | Apr 25 2017 10:12 utc | 3

ISIS benefits but possibly the Syria/Russia/Iran coalition benefits too.

No reason that Russia and Iran can't play the same kind of double/triple game that the US is playing with proxies.

When the Syrian coalition begins to make advances to the east in Syria, new fronts magically open up in the west, stalling their eastern progress.

Isn't it possible that the same strategy could work for the other side? US makes progress in Raqqa, and new fronts magically open up to the east?

Just a thought.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Apr 25 2017 11:32 utc | 4


One of the Turkish strikes in Syria was really close to the Rmelan airbase controlled by the US. Eyeing it up on a map, it looks to be about 15mi away. That's really strange.

Also, aren't there Iraqi PMU in this area too? I seem to remember many calls for Iraqi PMU to leave the Sinjar area in the name of allowing the Yazidis to return to their homelands. Iraqi PMU were in the area to prevent ISIS from exiting Mosul through an unguarded corridor from Mosul to Syria. Maybe this isn't the same area or maybe PMU is no longer there.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Apr 25 2017 11:39 utc | 5

Reuters story now emphasizes Turkish strikes on "PKK" (18 "fighters and media officials" aka journalists killed). The hit on the Peshmerga is only mentioned at the very end as an "apparent accident".

Barzani blames the YPG Kurds for the Turkish bombing of his fighters. Always true to form that dude.
Turkish warplanes strike Kurdish militants in Syria, Iraq's Sinjar

Posted by: b | Apr 25 2017 12:14 utc | 6

@5 Turkey/Barzanistan are preventing Yezidi/YPG/PMU forces from closing the gap to the north allowing Daesh to infiltrate Syria via Kurdistan..

Bilad Al Sham has become a effin' mess..

Posted by: Lozion | Apr 25 2017 12:17 utc | 7

Here's an interesting update thread - seems as though Turkey is indeed trying to separate the 'compliant Kurds' from all others including PKK. Turkish news is carrying the 'Breaking' "Kuridsh Iraqi authorities (read Barzani) are calling for PKK to leave Iraq".
Of course "PKK" is used for Turkish audiences, but it is clearly much broader than that.

Posted by: AtaBrit | Apr 25 2017 12:20 utc | 8

b @6
VoA story doesn't mention the Peshmerga casualties either. I wonder if they'll update.

Does cite the YPG at the end saying Turkish strike was meant to undermine the Raqqa operation.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Apr 25 2017 13:20 utc | 9

Rudaw now says 39 positions were bombed by Turkey

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Apr 25 2017 13:29 utc | 10

Macron, France's future president, made his first political gesture before even being elected: he went to put flowers at an Armenian genocide memorial yesterday.

Posted by: Mina | Apr 25 2017 13:36 utc | 11

On the Syrian side, Here's an article bearing out b's comments on Raqqa. Turkey wants the chance to save its proxy militias maybe!

On a slightly parallel note, there seems to be more pressure building up on Turkey at the moment. Todays EU Parliament decision has been described as an 'historic mistake' by Cavuaoglu (!! Hmmm). But Trump stopped short of using the 'g' word and described the Armenian massacre as “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.” Coward!

Posted by: AtaBrit | Apr 25 2017 14:06 utc | 12

And finally disclosed- Accidentally::
ISIS once ‘apologized’ to Israel for attacking IDF soldiers – former Defense Minister

Tel Aviv remains so “neutral” in the Syrian conflict that even Islamic State terrorists have on at least one occasion “apologized” to Israel for mistakenly attacking IDF soldiers in the occupied Golan Heights, according to a former Israeli Defense Minister.

Speaking about the wider Israeli policy of “neutrality” in Syria, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon accidentally acknowledged that Israel has an open communications channel with an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) cell which operates in Gollan Heights.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
((neutrality)) yes, in 2017 that's the descriptor. AND
yes, we must protect the other half of the Golan where the oil bubbles and we need to steal it.

Posted by: likklemore | Apr 25 2017 14:27 utc | 13

Here's my 2 cents:

The Kurds (YPG/J) are reluctant to conquer further (non-Kurdish) territories from ISIS, i.e. do more dirty work for the US. From Washington's perspective, they need some 'gentle' pressure to keep on fighting, which is why it allowed the Turkish strikes.
This also explains Ankara's threats to invade Syria and 'liberate' Raqqa, which would destroy all prospects for Kurdish autonomy. And it could explain the 'friendly fire' incident two weeks ago, which weakened (or broke up?) the SDF coalition.


Posted by: smuks | Apr 25 2017 14:52 utc | 14

It is always good to know who is doing what to whom in this cluster fuck. The Israelis are also big backers of the Barzani clan in supplying all means of succor to its mafia style operations. What is apparent is that this many sided war is a long way from over even if the western and GCC backed international mercenary terrorist's days are numbered.

Posted by: BRF | Apr 25 2017 14:55 utc | 15

@ Joanne Leon | Apr 25, 2017 7:32:25 AM | 4

Not really. The Turkish strikes needed an 'ok' from Washington, whose air force controls the region. Also, the brief flirt between Moscow and Ankara seems to be over, so I don't see them colluding in this way.

Posted by: smuks | Apr 25 2017 14:59 utc | 16

smuks | 15
"the brief flirt between Moscow and Ankara seems to be over"
No way. Russia may be watching and waiting but Putin and Germany have Erdogan by the proverbials.

Posted by: AtaBrit | Apr 25 2017 15:23 utc | 17

smuks @15

"the brief flirt between Moscow and Ankara seems to be over, so I don't see them colluding in this way."

Putin and Erdogan are due to discuss a potential contract for the delivery of S-400 complexes during the meeting scheduled for May 3 in Sochi [I would expect Russia to be 100% confident in Turkey if that actually goes ahead]. Russia recognizes Turkey's legitimate national security interests (ie the threats from a Kurdish state along the whole Syria/Turkish border) as it is in Syria for its own national security interests (ie eliminating all terrorists in Syria to stop them being sent on to Russia).

Posted by: Yonatan | Apr 25 2017 15:25 utc | 18

Posted by: smuks | Apr 25, 2017 10:52:46 AM | 14

Good analysis. Cui bono: Any power that does not have to put boots on the ground because of available mercenaries/proxy fighters.

Remember that HRC declared the goal to "take back" Raqqa during her campaign. Was she speaking to Erdo? Or the broader coalition including the zionist entity/GCC?

Posted by: stumpy | Apr 25 2017 15:29 utc | 19

Posted by: Yonatan | Apr 25, 2017 11:25:24 AM | 17

Not to mention the opportunity to grab a previous US asset. The ballerinas will be getting splinters from so many pirouettes. I doubt Erdo can juggle being a client to both the West and Russian interests for long, just an opinion of course. As Afghanistan comes under the anti-Russian searchlight by the US invaders who have to justify their continued loss to the Taliban, Russia appears to be patiently building out its skirt out of reach of the Western contractors.

Posted by: stumpy | Apr 25 2017 15:39 utc | 20

In question is how soon must US decide to spill its own blood and how will the backtracking occur when it loses confidence? Or not...

Posted by: stumpy | Apr 25 2017 15:41 utc | 21

Turkey is a U.S. ally and the U.S. has several bases in Turkey which it uses to fight the Islamic State.

That should read bases which the US uses to supply the Islamic State.

The key question is, what does President KUSHNER have to say about this?

Posted by: Greg Bacon | Apr 25 2017 16:10 utc | 22

The Guardian keeps banging on about Fake News from RT and Sputnik. There is no mention of this bombing raid on the "front page" on The Guardian website although they do find space therefor articles about an alleged hummus shortage in British supermarkets and complaints by Aeroflot customers that they don't want overweight cabin crew. RT and Sputnik both cover this, so which is the real fake news source?

Posted by: Ghostship | Apr 25 2017 16:37 utc | 23

Question for the experts who frequent MoA:

Why would Russia turn over its S-400s to Turkey. Isn't that a guaranteed special deliver to the US?
Seriously, why would Russia even risk such a move?

Posted by: Perimetr | Apr 25 2017 17:23 utc | 24

Perimetr @23

I was wondering the same thing.

Posted by: spudski | Apr 25 2017 17:51 utc | 25

@ 23 & 24

Indeed. Tho they do have 'limited' export versions for such situations ... Unacceptable risk, IMV. Tho, perhaps a form of loyalty/reliability test using a limited/detuned complex ? Even then, the Turks are not to be trusted, under Erdo ... Whilst still in NATO ... Actually recall similar previously where NATO nixed a proposed deal for S300 based on lack of 'interoperability' ... Empire simply acquires such systems directly/indirectly from vassals/NATO members and then conducts live exercises to technically assess re capabilities/weaknesses/vulnerabilities

Posted by: Outraged | Apr 25 2017 18:15 utc | 26

>>>> Perimetr | Apr 25, 2017 1:23:25 PM | 23

Why would Russia turn over its S-400s to Turkey. Isn't that a guaranteed special deliver to the US? Seriously, why would Russia even risk such a move?

I don't know for certain but I'd guess that with the S-400 having a modular design the domestic seekers and software would be swapped out for less capable "export" versions. In the past the Russians rarely if ever delivered their most capable kit to their Warsaw Pact allies and kept it on Russian territory so that it was unlikely to fall into NATO's hands. When the Warsaw Pact did break up some of the countries had S-300s which were handed over to the US but I recall reading that the Russians simply upgraded the seekers. The same happened with the Russian's most advanced air-to-air missiles with the Germans so impressed by their performance that they tried to produce knockoff copies.
The Russians could be running a disinformation exercise to persuade the Americans that the seekers aren't all they're made out to be. With the current state of hysteria in the United States I can see the Pentagon regarding the acquisition of S-400s as such a coup and themselves as so clever to have put one over on the Russians that they don't even suspect that it's the Russians putting one over on them until one day a lot of their aircraft go missing.
That Turkey might order some S-400s is one matter. Like the Iranians they might be kept waiting for several years before delivery commences.
The mathematics for stealth technology was developed by a Russian but the Russians have never really been that bothered about stealth technology which suggests either they see no need for it as they're not going to attack anyone or they know it's not the war changer it's made out to be. Instead, they have invested in developing cruise missile so the question is how long will F-22s and F-35s last in a war between Russia and the United States. If they can only get in one mission then they're an awfully expensive way of getting a couple of tons of explosive to a target. I don't know what the price of the Kalibr SLCM is but I'd guess you could buy several hundred for the price of an F-22 or F-35 and the NATO has little defensive capability against cruise missiles at least according to recent whining from the Pentagon.

Posted by: Ghostship | Apr 25 2017 18:50 utc | 27

@23 / 24 / 25

Similar questions arose when Turkey wanted to buy a missile system from the Chinese a few years ago. At the time I remember there being the aim to eventually build a domestic system using 'knowledge' gleened from the Chinese project and Turkey had stated it would not seek to integrate the system into NATO systems, However. NATO - Obama, if I remember rightly - gave Turkey no option but to cancel the deal.

The situation is different now in that Turkey has purged its military of NATO friendly senior personel, so NATO may not have the influence to prevent Turkey from going ahead with the Russia deal.
What has not changed is Turkey's determination to become a player in the arms market, so your concerns are well-founded.

Is this just anti-NATO provocation?
Is it positioning for the meeting with Trump?
Is it a further step away from NATO and a further nail in NATOs coffin?
Is it a sweetner from Russia? Turkey's big concern is its security against Kurds but primarily countries that seek to 'divide it'. Given that it perceives those countries to be US and its allies it would make sense to have a defense syatem not integrated with the systems those counrties use ...

Also saw this in Sputnik earlier today about a German tank factory in Turkey!! - in my opinion its wise to be careful with Sputnik reports, but worth reading nonetheless.

Posted by: AtaBrit | Apr 25 2017 18:57 utc | 28
U.S. says raised deep concerns with Turkey over air strikes
The United States on Tuesday expressed "deep concern" over Turkish air strikes against Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq and said they were not authorized by the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State.
The raids in Iraq's Sinjar region and northeast Syria killed at least 20 in a campaign against groups linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkey for Kurdish autonomy.
Turkey is part of the U.S.-led military coalition fighting militants in Syria.
Ankara has strongly opposed Washington's support for Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters who are part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been closing in on the Islamic State bastion of Raqqa.
"We have expressed those concerns with the government of Turkey directly," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on a conference call.
"These air strikes were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against" Islamic State, he said. etc

Posted by: okie farmer | Apr 25 2017 19:19 utc | 29

@23, 24

I'm pretty sure the S-400 deal is dead. Erdogan has pooped in the nest a lot since it was first proposed.

On the Kurdish thing, Syria seems to be making a play for influence by selecting two Kurds for the ruling council of the Ba'ath Party.

Posted by: Thirdeye | Apr 25 2017 19:23 utc | 30

thanks b and to the comments given here..

@ 26 ghostship... yes to your 2nd paragraph.. i would be very surprised if that wasn't the way this game is being played... thanks for articulating my general view on this..

Posted by: james | Apr 25 2017 19:45 utc | 31

And everyone has probably heard this from me before, but Mt. Singal is crucial for the Mosel-Haifa oil pipeline v2.0 that will have to run on one side of it or the other. I think north is the plan.

In addition, U.S. has bribed mob boss Barzani to kill as many Yezidis as it takes to hold that mountain. It will house a massive U.S. radar and signals intelligence installation in the future since the current one in Turkey is kind of 'iffy'. The Sinjar spy post will allow snooping on most of Syria and Iraq, and a good portion of Turkey and Iran.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Apr 25 2017 19:54 utc | 32

Talking about mess, confusion. It is middle East war, consult Lebanon war 1975-1991.
Talking about Turkey irrationality consult Crimean war and earlier wars of Ottoman empire. Answers are there in plain sight.

The chaos and stalemate was predicted already half a year ago:


The free press “loving” US, EU legislators will shut down free information access, not to enemy but to their own constituency who will be denied the truth and freedom of choice of the news source replaced by MSM daily propaganda pabulum of unreality, a necessary feed for new cannon fodder.

While WWIII propaganda preparations are ongoing, Syrian conflict deteriorates and transforms itself into a Global confrontation as I wrote before:

Syrian conflict rapidly is turning into hot military confrontation between elites of Russia, Iran and to a degree China and the elites of the West. So far all the players, are believing in their own propaganda, and as expected they are making the same deadly mistake, they see themselves as potential winners and/or beneficiaries of human pain and suffering in their oligarchs’ country club global cricket game of blood.

So will they do it? Will another generation of American grunts oblivious to their predecessors’ pleas for peace spill their blood and others for corporate profits?

Now at least Russian rhetoric came back to reality and not fantasy of possibility of any honest agreement with US which from the start Russian intervention was all about, hopelessness of talks with US that just want to topple Assad that’s it, with ISIL caliphate or without.

This is no longer about Syria, it is about last global confrontation of dying US empire, feeling that it is the last moment of their military advantage/superiority to subdue Russian and Chinese as emerging world powers. To wait means to lose global hegemony due to collapsing of US monetary and economic/military power.

The only scenario of confrontation is global war, nothing else so Russians/Syrian should keep fighting declare no fly zone for illegal NATO and allies airplanes take over the Turkish/Syrian border, nothing will happen what has not already been decided in Washington to happened namely MIC spending orgy, except of escalation propaganda of white helmets phony civilian casualties in MSM.

Last march SAA was about a year from completely defeating terrorists not we back to at least 18 months. If weapons/money supplies cut to terrorists.

The de-escalation of East West tensions is not about Syria or Ukraine is it is about global confrontation, nukes, and nuclear submarines old cold war stuff, back to square one, negotiate stop to nuke arms race.

Tying it to local conflicts is mistake that will only extend people suffering.

Posted by: Kalen | Apr 25 2017 21:08 utc | 33

Thanks to all responders, most informative and useful replies.
I love this site, I learn more from the conversations here than I do anywhere else on the net..

Posted by: Perimetr | Apr 25 2017 21:10 utc | 34

@17 turkey and Russia are not getting on; there is not any real trust there as far as I can see.

"Turkish deputy PM flies to Russia to discuss remaining sanctions". An article in the Hurriyet daily paper on 18/4/27

(Apologies for not being able topost the hyperlink)

Seems the key sanctions imposed January 2016 after the shoot down of the plane have not been removed and Russia is threatening more.

Regarding the talks about the S400 seem very odd in the light of all that's going on.
But then I can never work out what Russia strategy is about anything.

Posted by: James lake | Apr 25 2017 21:50 utc | 35

@ 2 LXV The US will not throw the Kurds under the bus this time. Turkey is using this for two reasons 1) to demonstrate to the Kurds that their position is tenuous 2) to test how the US will respond & to know how far they can push before getting slapped down.

The Kurds will use this to make sure the US will back them all the way for an autonomous zone/state. Israel will have a hand in this as a Kurdish entity with US troop support means Israel will keep the land it has occupied in the Golan

Remember the pipeline that will unlock Hormuz and the European dependency on Gulf oil. With the pipeline in place the US can attack Iran (who will blockade Hormuz) and control the energy flow to China. The pipeline was to run through Turkey. Having lost the coup and with Turkey turning away from EU dependency, the US (long-term) will use the Kurdish entity as the alternative route, as a thorn to keep Turkey & Syria line (Kurdish ethnicities make up 30-40% of turkey's population), and as a source of potential Turkish spring recruits should Turkey forget its' place in the geopolitical world.

The same pipeline will allow the US to push Europe away from Russian energy.

The pipeline serves up a lot of birds with one stone.

Posted by: les7 | Apr 25 2017 22:29 utc | 36

Regarding "Cui bono"

In western relationships trust is offered and should it be betrayed, responded to with a sense of moral indignation and aggrieved force.

In the East, relational trust is earned... and often measured with a series of increasing provocations that are intended to determine just where your 'friends' red lines really are. The intent is not to cross the 'red line', but to know precisely where it is that your 'friend' will pull out the big guns and slap you down.

Turkey has been launching these increasing provocations using the Kurds for a year now. Likewise with Russia, they found one 'red line' and are pushing to see just where things have been 'reset' to.

That relational communication confusion is one that has led to many wrong responses and even wars in the ME. It is one that Russia does seem to understand, which is why it is patient and biding its' time in responding.

My read is that they do not seek to alienate the US... but the US sees each of those 'provocations' as reason to increasingly suspect what used to be a 'friend' collaborator in things Middle Eastern. I see the US using the emerging Kurdish entity as is it will be more dependent, more reliable, and a better 5th column for destabilizing Turkey/Iran/ and whatever will remain of Syria - should they get their way.

Posted by: les7 | Apr 25 2017 22:53 utc | 37

@ Posted by: wayoutwest | Apr 25, 2017 7:06:53 PM | 37

lol, or did you perhaps forget, /snark ?

Posted by: Outraged | Apr 25 2017 23:17 utc | 38

RE: wayoutwest | Apr 25, 2017 7:06:59 PM | 38

It is my understanding that the Russian systems have a number of components, some of which were not available at the point of attack, as Russia has not provided them to Syria; that is, the Russians have comprehensive systems set up at their air and naval bases, but with the given range of the systems, combined with a saturation attack, these systems were not capable of providing a comprehensive defense to the point of the US attack.

I would suspect that many of the Tomahawks were destroyed or made ineffective by Russian systems. Once Russia beefs up the Syrian defenses, then you might see a much different level of protection.

Posted by: Perimetr | Apr 25 2017 23:19 utc | 39

for those who don't know - wow used to hang here and is a freak, lol.. they aren't smart enough to collect a paycheque from hasbara central and i doubt the cia would bother either..

Posted by: james | Apr 26 2017 0:10 utc | 40

About the S-400 defense system, it seems that Erdo was quite prudent : all the airstrikes occured outside its range - which goes up to Qamlishi. He hit further east.

Posted by: DemiJohn | Apr 26 2017 0:14 utc | 41

I meant qamishli - or qamishlo

Posted by: DemiJohn | Apr 26 2017 0:21 utc | 42

@AtaBrit 16 / Yonatan 17

"Discussing a potential contract" is not the same as "selling" S-400.
These talks are just Erdogan's attempt to exert concessions from the US. He can't seriously buy the system, this would be equivalent to leaving NATO and joining the SCO. What a lousy bluff, what a lousy strategist.

@stumpy 19

Even if it sounds like the usual anti-Russia hysteria - Moscow supporting the Taliban would actually make a lot of sense. This would put pressure on the US, draw its resources and could serve as leverage in negotiations. Don't dismiss it too quickly.

@Thirdeye 29

Good observation!

@les7 36

Interesting thought, but I'm not quite convinced: It's pretty obvious where everyone's 'red lines' are, so there's no need for and risky 'testing'. Yes, the Kurds would be a reliable ally due to their utter dependence, but the US wants both them and Turkey to play them against each other.

Posted by: smuks | Apr 26 2017 0:29 utc | 43


That's "any risky testing". ;-)
Erdogan is just trying to play both sides, using Turkey's strategic position as leverage to maximise his gains / concessions from US and Russia. Trouble is he's too brutish and blunt; he'd need to be much more subtle and diplomatic, rather than overplay his hand every other week and get spanked.
I really don't see the communication problem - it's just the Sultan trying to play with the big boys.

Posted by: smuks | Apr 26 2017 0:40 utc | 44

Very good article. Thank you.

Posted by: Hermius | Apr 26 2017 1:07 utc | 45

Generally, I believe this is all theater to provide justification for the next criminal act on the part of the US. Turkey has always been and always will be a US puppet. The more disruptive their actions, the stronger is the need for the US to be there. Russia understands this just fine but US congress hasn't a clue. Casualty numbers can be whatever they want them to be. The US controls the narrative.

Posted by: RC | Apr 26 2017 1:30 utc | 46

@26 I could just imagine the conversation..
Turkey: That's one sweeeeet missile, Vlad.
Russia: Yeah, sure, we're happy to sell it.
USA: No Way!! It won't integrate with ÑATO systems.
Russia: No problems. We know as much about NATO systems as the Yanks. Too easy. Primitive, even.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | Apr 26 2017 3:27 utc | 47

mark toners comments today from the state dept... "Now, turning to Turkey, and I think it was your last question, so we are very concerned – deeply concerned – that Turkey conducted airstrikes earlier today in northern Syria, as well as northern Iraq, without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat ISIS. And we’ve expressed those concerns to the Government of Turkey directly. These airstrikes were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against ISIS that includes members of the Kurdish Peshmerga. I would also note that the concerns – or rather note the concerns expressed by the Government of Iraq and reaffirm our view that military action in Iraq should respect Iraqi sovereignty.

And just finally, given the very complex battle space in these areas, it’s vital that Turkey and all partners in the effort to defeat ISIS coordinate their actions as closely as possible as we work together to maintain pressure to destroy ISIS on the battlefield in order to ensure that we meet that goal but also that we ensure the safety of all coalition personnel who are operating in that – as I said, in that theater.

and further down the question and answer period -

QUESTION: If I could, can I do one follow-up on Turkey as well?


QUESTION: Just wanted to ask if you could speak a little more of expand upon the way in which it was communicated to Turkey, the U.S. concerns. Was that in a phone call at all made by Secretary Tillerson? Or was there any conversation with Erdogan?

MR TONER: So I don’t necessarily want to say at what level our concern was conveyed. I can simply confirm that it was conveyed to the Turkish Government. But since you brought up the topic again, I do want to stress, again, this is a very complex battle space. We’re cognizant of that, and we’re also cognizant of the threat that the PKK poses to Turkey.

But again, the point we made to Turkey and I’m making now is that Turkey cannot pursue that fight at the expense of our common fight against the terrorists that threaten us all, and that obviously means ISIS. So we’ve conveyed this to Turkey. This is part of our ongoing dialogue with them. Again, we recognize their concerns about the PKK, but these kinds of actions, frankly, harm the coalition’s efforts to go after ISIS and, frankly, harm our partners on the ground, who are conducting that fight."

the last part at the link has a longer conversation about this same topic for those interested in reading further, the state depts. views..

Posted by: james | Apr 26 2017 5:17 utc | 48

Re: Posted by: james | Apr 26, 2017 1:17:52 AM | 49

They gave Kirby the flick with the change of administrations - why didn't they give Toner the flick as well?

The continuity between Obama & Trump like this just highlights the similarities of the two regimes!

Posted by: Julian | Apr 26 2017 5:41 utc | 49

@les7 36

Interesting theory, but I still can't see why USA would risk losing a major regional ZATO ally (and throwing Erdogan right into Russia's open arms) in exchange for a Kurdish entity that will face enormous diplomatic problems the moment it decides to unilaterally proclaim independence. An independent Kurdistan without approval from Syria and Russia is a fairy-tale project, even hardcore ziocons understand that...

Also, your "Kurdistan pipeline theory" implies that Kurds need to retake the landstrip occupied by Turkey in op. "Euphrates Shield". Good luck with that!

Posted by: LXV | Apr 26 2017 5:46 utc | 50

@51... There seems to be positioning for a trade. Russia guards the Afrin block - preventing Turkish aggression. The Syrian army and the Kurds will unite to push Turkey & friends out of the Afrin - Manbij zone once ISIS is finished off. The Kurdish forces in Manbij already turned some villages over to the Syrian army near Manbij - perhaps as an indication that they would eventually do a mutually beneficial deal. Raqqa, perhaps Tabqa, and all points south (which are not Kurdish populations zones and the Kurds could not hold them without some ethnic cleansing) in exchange for a connection/corridor between Afrin and Manbij, limited autonomy, and royalties on the pipeline that will traverse their zone of control.

Posted by: les7 | Apr 26 2017 7:37 utc | 51


Totally illogical! Why would the SAA help US puppets YPG/PYG throw out the Turks, so that the Anglo-Zionists can achieve their goal of breaking up the Shia Crescent and building the Qatari pipeline?

There are 2 main reasons that justify Russian presence in Kurdish territories - preventing further Turkish attacks (which is well documented by this stage) and the much more important, though often forgotten goal (which, btw, is umbillically connected to the first goal) of acting as a mediator between Kurds and al-Assad in order to prevent Kurdish irredentism. As Thirdeye correctly pointed out in his post (@29), "Syria seems to be making a play for influence by selecting two Kurds for the ruling council of the Ba'ath Party."

Posted by: LXV | Apr 26 2017 8:29 utc | 52

Is it a 'warning' from the Gulenists to Erdogan after the fabricated referendum's result?

There are certainly elements within the Turkish army who want to put Erdogan is a more difficult position and to spread to instability to the KRG in order to remove Barzani, Erdogan's most useful ally. Barzani's mandate has been over for a while and he and his mafia are still holding the power of the KRG thanks to Erdogan.
The removal of Barzani will be a huge blow to Turkey.
Therefore the 'friendly fire' may just be another 'plot' of Gulen's supporters to undermine Erdogan by weakening his positions toward his "allies".

Posted by: virgile | Apr 26 2017 8:41 utc | 53

@49 James, I note that in the prepared portion of Toner's mini-hissy-fit he stressed the "view that military action in Iraq should respect Iraqi sovereignty".

Apparently those same Westphalian concerns don't extend to the other country which is "as I said, in that theatre".

If ya' wanna go BOOM inside Iraq then ya' need to get Iraq's OK, OK?
Ya' wanna drop bombs in Syria? Why, go fer' it, good buddy, bomb's away.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | Apr 26 2017 11:22 utc | 54

Atabrit 27
I think the Saudis also bought Chinese missile systems at one time. In the source I read years ago, the alleged idea was to get the missiles and use a Pak nuke warhead (from a program the Saudis majority funded). According to that source, the US discovered this when signals from the missile systems were detected. Why are they buying Chinese missiles?

This is a 2014 FP (CFR rag) version:

This version is even more bizarre because it claims the US "backed" the purchase (as long as missiles not nuclear)

Posted by: Curtis | Apr 26 2017 12:35 utc | 55

Speaking of MIC kill-a-ma-jig sales, Russia isn't doing so hot:

Putin's Arms Bazaar Is in a Serious Sales Slump

US sells (and subsidizes or gives away) expensive weapons while Moscow focuses on "'cheap and deadly' weapons within the price range of buyers in the devleoping world." It's bad enough some people are making their own weapons like IEDs and car bombs. (or weapons are shifted from one country like Libya to another like Syria) What's a weapons dealer to do?

Posted by: Curtis | Apr 26 2017 12:41 utc | 56

France wants the U.S. to go in , all the way :

National evaluation
Chemical attack of 4 April 2017 (Khan Sheikhoun)
Clandestine Syrian chemical weapons programme

Posted by: Marko | Apr 26 2017 15:05 utc | 57

@55 yeah, right... yes - indeed! i read those manuscripts are they are informative from the point of view of getting inside how the usa thinks.. i totally agree with you.. what the fuck is the usa still doing in iraq, or afganistan, and etc. etc. etc.? these guys are so busy maintaining the 'good' ( or evil depending on how you look at it) empire - they can't see what bs they regularly dish out..

Posted by: james | Apr 26 2017 15:31 utc | 58

Curtis 57

Thanks for posting, needed a good laugh! What a paradigm of objectivity and insight *snark snark* that Bloomberg is, eh?

The "serious slump"? The exponentially expanding sales are no longer exponential. Wow, better ring the Kremlin!

"Russia will now have to compete with high-tech American products" like the cost-effective F35 and the bleeding-edge, one-third-reach-their-target Tomahawks? What a joke.

As for Turkey shooting itself in the foot, I say praise Ataturk and pass the ammunition, it still has more feet. I fail to see a prospective gain other than domestic consumption and Erdo's own paranoia. In the immediate term this will only give the YPG pause at advancing on Raqqa (if they hadn't already), kickstart the PKK guerrilla campaign, and put Barzani in a political pickle. Russia should continue to let the Kurd's 'allies' melt away, then step in to pull then from under the bus.

Posted by: Don Wiscacho | Apr 26 2017 15:42 utc | 59

Russia has withdrawn half of its Fighter Jet Group from Syria

Hopefully not another move to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Posted by: Perimetr | Apr 26 2017 16:05 utc | 60

@57 Perimetr

I'm just baffled as to why they would announce this now. Didn't they just add four Su-34's only a couple days ago?

-demonstrating they can shape the outcome militarily if required, yet desire a political settlement
-acting unpredictably in response to Trumps Kissinger madman policy, perhaps hoping for the US to overextend itself in Syria (as the US has NK, Afghanistan and Yemen in their plate as well)
-keeping a wedge between Turkey and US by giving Erdogan 'hope' he can achieve some of his goals in Syria by continuing to pursue a policy at odds with the US/NATO

That's all I can come up with right now, anyone else have any ideas how this will help Russia?

Posted by: WG | Apr 26 2017 16:20 utc | 61

@62 wg, Perimetr

maybe they'll make it up with air defense weapons, and perhaps aircraft, to syria? it is certainly in everyone's interest to build up the hezbollah, syrian, iraqi, and iranian forces in the area. the russians have a bit of territory to defend themselves at home.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 26 2017 16:32 utc | 62

Don Wiscacho@60. Good job Turkey never signed on to buy the US F35c, the naval version costs $337 million dollars per plane. Turkey may have been able to buy one of its wings.
"A single Air Force F-35A costs a whopping $148 million. One Marine Corps F-35B costs an unbelievable $251 million. A lone Navy F-35C costs a mind-boggling $337 million. Average the three models together, and a 'generic' F-35 costs $178 million,".

"It gets worse. These are just the production costs. Additional expenses for research, development, test and evaluation are not included,".

Posted by: harrylaw | Apr 26 2017 16:42 utc | 63

@56 curtis, 'I think the Saudis also bought Chinese missile systems at one time ...'

yeah, but don't worry, the chinese are gonna save us ... right. they're just like the us, eager for that do re mi, boys ... and of course, for that saudi oil.

but that's about who's in charge of geopolitics now, isn't it? the financiers, the fusiliers, and the fossil-fuelers ... all wrapped up in their red checkerboard headress.

it could be rolled back, right to left, by developing photosynthetic hydrogen and putting tee-rex and his brotherhood of fossil-fuelers, fusiliers, and financiers out of business.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 26 2017 16:43 utc | 64

@60 dw, 'Russia should continue to let the Kurd's 'allies' melt away, then step in to pull then from under the bus.'

i'd like to see that, too.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 26 2017 16:45 utc | 65


who does erdogan think has got his back, kicking the indispensable nation in the shins like that? israel, i guess.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 26 2017 16:47 utc | 66

Trump to visit Saudi Arabia next month.

So who is the Sucker and who is the Suckee?

Posted by: ALberto | Apr 26 2017 16:56 utc | 67

Please note, half of the 'Fighter' group has been withdrawn.

The facilities and infrastructure are still in place. The actual airframes can be returned at very short notice indeed, along with ground support crews via accompanying transport aircraft, and be immediately operational, should a defined threat evolve.

In fact, the Evil Russkies have been doing such rapid 'bug-outs' and rapid 'deployments' on a cyclical basis throughout the Syrian Campaign. Priceless experiential development & training. After all, the RF is running the entire deployment utilizing its existing training budget. Further, dedicated 'Fighter' aircraft have had and so far continue to have, little utility in the Syria conflict. If as it would seem, there has been a significant reduction in US/Coalition air sorties since the suspension by RF of the De-confliction MOU, following the Tomahawk cruise missile strike that wasn't, needed even less, now.

MOAns may recall a previous combat aircraft withdrawal the MSM jumped on and misrepresented ... light & medium bombers were replaced with a smaller number of superior 'dedicated ground attack' aircraft, capable of sortie rates 3-4 times higher and far, far more effective in the close-support role. RF adjusts and changes its limited expeditionary Airframe mix as the situ develops & requires. Demonstrable record of operational agility & flexibility, & 'sufficient' application of combat force, as circumstances 'on the ground', evolve, IMV.

S400/S300 are still in place with integrated/overlapping AD systems at Tartus & Latakia. More AD systems/complexes on the way ? Have no doubt RF/Iran/Hezbollah is committed for the long haul. They have not knelt down yet, quite the opposite re a number of calibrated responses/escalations.

Further this talk of a 'quagmire' in Syria ... even if the RF inserted additional ground forces, is mis-attributed. The Evil Russkies are the invited, they are welcome 'fish' amongst the 'Sea' of the Syrian populace and across denominations. The moderate & immoderate 'head-Chopper' terrorist Wahhabist proxies as well as their 'foreign advisers', and most certainly any potential uninvited conventional ground troops from other nations are not in any way in such a situation ... This is not Afghanistan '79-'89 redux, not at all. And there is no Syrian Civil War, as the Syrians are not fighting themselves, they are predominantly fighting 'inserted' mercenaries/terrorist proxies and other States, 'Advisors', so far.

Also the head-choppers cannot simply magically promptly transform from pseudo light infantry fighters with a hodgepodge of 'Technicals' & intermittent arty/armor elements in support, to a guerilla campaign, among the 'sea' ... that requires dramatic operational/doctrinal/command/training changes as well as a period of significant preparation ... out of the line ...

As has been amply demonstrated and in any escalation re the ground war by 3rd party State actors SF & conventional forces, it will be the RF/SAA/Iran/Hezbollah elements that will continue to benefit from Syrian government/people, infrastructure & logistical support, and interior lines of supply/communication, as well as that of the actual Syrian populace, the 'sea', not the Jihadis and advisors, who do not benefit from any the former ... especially as SAA continues geographic consolidation. The biggest issue is limited SAA manpower, open fractured borders & multiple combat fronts/zones, tho the latter has been progressively & will continue to be dramatically reduced, which offsets the former.

An actual deployment of boots on the ground by the Empire may ultimately just be a bridge too far in the E/NE, beyond any very limited short-term deployment ... just sayin', YMMV.

Posted by: Outraged | Apr 26 2017 17:34 utc | 68

@62 wg... keeping everyone confused and uncertain, with those who think they know more likely to mess up in the strategy here. that's mostly what i think.. i could be wrong.. that is how i would play this, in a long game sorta way..

Posted by: james | Apr 26 2017 17:49 utc | 69

@69, or

i think there's a lot of truth in your both your points on the rf deployment and the respective relationships between the 'evil' russians and the 'good' terrorists in syria and with the syrians. inexorably adds up to a loss for the 'good' terrorists, and their 'good' patron states. just like vietnam. what the world needs is a lot fewer 'good' people.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 26 2017 18:38 utc | 70

Starting to see a lot of tweets on this:

@geopolitiquee - The #YPG suspends all military operations aimed at capturing Tabqa and Raqqah until further notice. #Syrie

Twitter just changed the way they allow hashtags to make it difficult to find topic-specific information without wading through thousands of sock-puppet/troll tweets. Facebook is banning accounts that show American volunteers killed in the YPG - probably more to come with Turkish aggression. And CJTF-OIR has never permitted publicity about US SF troops killed in Syria, and is damn well sure to ban any mention of US SF imbedded with the YPG dying by the hand of Turkey.

Many (including me) have speculated that the YPG/YPJ was somewhat incented to fight in Tabqa, Raqqa and other traditionally non-Kurdish areas in exchange for 1) arms and 2) protection from the US against Turk aggression. Now it looks like the US has finally back-stabbed the Kurds (as expected) and given explicit permission for the Turks to attack. The only thing the US-backed CJTF-OIR coalition seems pissed about is that they were not notified ahead of time about the strikes.

These do not look like isolated, punitive strikes to send the Kurds a message, but something more like the beginning of widespread ops against the Syrian Kurds. Note that they are happening in Afrin and Kobane as well as far northeastern tip of Syria and Sinjar. The US has finally thrown Kurds under the bus, but forgot to withdraw our troops there first.

I am truly baffled by these developments. Did Townsend and the rest of the Pentagram brain-trust honestly think the Kurds wouldn't be pissed? With all the US officials traveling to Turkey recently, you KNOW the US green-lighted these strikes to some degree.

Just when you think nothing could possibly get MORE screwed up in Syria, the US secretly sells out the Kurds but insists on denying that fact. Gen. Townsend and the rest of his evil coalition are making half-hearted objections to the Turkish bombing and 'reaffirm' their support to the Kurds. Do they really think the Kurds are that stupid?

Posted by: PavewayIV | Apr 26 2017 19:12 utc | 71

Kurdish troops destroy 4 Turkish tanks amid major escalation

Now, Washington is expected to mediate between the warring parties, both of whom are considered close allies of the United States.

erdogan seems to be saying it's them or me. when will the poor dupes realize the washington shares none of their interests?

@72 pw, 'Did Townsend and the rest of the Pentagram brain-trust honestly think ...'

people in the pentagon are paid not to think, remember? it's a click of the high-heels and a sharp salute ... all the way down.

i hope the kurds and the syrians and the russians do discover their common interests.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 26 2017 19:26 utc | 72

>>>> WG | Apr 26, 2017 12:20:19 PM | 62
I wonder if the Russians are rotating air force units through Syria and this is a changeover, so Moscow has announced the departure of part of its forces but not the arrival of a different part in a few days. I don't know how busy Hmeymim is but it would make life easier to withdraw one unit before replacing it with another. Furthermore, at some point the Russian crews need a bit of R&R and the aircraft need maintenance and I doubt Hmeymim is equipped for either. Finally, I am sure the terrorists monitor the Internet so news that some of the Russian air force has allegedly departed back home might encourage them to be a little less careful. The Russians do like their deception operations.

Posted by: Ghostship | Apr 26 2017 19:42 utc | 73

>>>> Marko | Apr 26, 2017 11:05:44 AM | 58
The Guardian has been ejaculating all over the place about this "news".

Posted by: Ghostship | Apr 26 2017 19:46 utc | 74


and right after - shucks, before is ok, too - i hope the scales fall from the long suffering iraqis eyes ... or that the clear-sighted ones dispatch the ones who cannot understand that the americans are the worst thing that ever happened to iraq because their salaries - to say nothing of their outright theft - depends on their not understanding that.

and that goes for the iraqi kurds as well, in spades.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 26 2017 19:57 utc | 75

Meanwhile British tabloids (Daily Mail, Sun, Daily Star, etc.) are ejaculating about an RN destroyer entering the Black Sea and visiting Romania. The big question is which will happen first? The Type-45 destroyer will break down or twenty-one days expire. In the event of the former, I'm sure Putin would lend the RN the services of a tugboat to remove it from the Black Sea before it contravenes the terms of the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits.

Posted by: Ghostship | Apr 26 2017 20:00 utc | 76

Just to be clear... in that part of the world the Kurds have always been under the bus.

In the 1990-1991 war in Iraq, the US stopped short of deposing Saddam. In the fall, as Saddam's "destroyed army' was crushing all non-sunni minorities, the US offered to partner with the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south; to equip and supply them while they overthrew Saddam (the US did not want to be seen overthrowing the leader of a country?). the Shiites took up the US offer, the Kurds did not. Just as the Shiites of the south started to make headway the US abandoned them. In the resulting slaughter Saddam wiped out over 1 million Iraqi Shiites in the southern marshes.

In 1993 the Kurdish minister of education in the Iraqi Kurdish enclave briefed a visiting group including a close personal friend of mine. The minister said "in the winter of 1991 the US offered us a choice. If we joined in the insurrection against Saddam, they would bring relief supplies to the 500,000 Kurdish refugees huddled in the mountains. If we did not join in the battle, those refugees would face the winter without any aid whatsoever. We calculated we would lose 250,000 of the refugees if we did not fight, and a minimum of 400,000 - 500.000 people if we did. We chose not to fight Saddam."

True to their word, the media was stunningly silent that first winter as close to 200,000 Kurds froze and starved in the mountains of N. Iraq. The following year (winter of 1992-3), after Saddam had crushed the Shiites and after the US had its' deal with the Saudi's, Saddam set about entrenching himself. There was a a second wave of refugees and a dramatic campaign of heroic US troops airlifting supplies to a Kurdish refugees was televised and used to justify their establishment of the northern Kurdish autonomous zone in Iraq. That zone coincidentally supported special operations against Iran.

The Kurds are not fools.

In Syria, the US partnership inspired them to crawl half-way out from under that bus. If the Kurds have to crawl back under, they just may drag the US in there with them.

Posted by: les7 | Apr 26 2017 20:02 utc | 77


the US secretly sells out the Kurds
It's only a 'secret' if you believe that the July 2016 coup against Erdogan was real.

How important was the coup to keeping the Kurds neutralized and/or "on side"? And how important was it to do THAT during 'Assad must go!' change in strategy?

Is there any similarity with the previous time that the 'Assad must go! Coalition strategy was in transition? (That is, the period between Russia's blocking Obama's bombing of Syria in September 2013 and the establishment of ISIS in June 2014 when they took Mosul.)

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Apr 26 2017 20:27 utc | 78

re 78. The Kurds have been on top since 2003. They don't have anything to complain about. But they haven't always run a good policy. And it's difficult handling the pressures coming from Washington.

Posted by: Laguerre | Apr 26 2017 20:31 utc | 79

Many denounce SAA's limited personnel. Why doesn't Assad mandate compulsory conscription of all males between 16 and 30 into the Syrian Army?

A move like this has many virtues: it robs Isis and the FSA of possible recruits, keeps them under control of the cadres, furnishes fresh manpower that can at least keep control over regained areas and fixes all these young males into known positions.

Posted by: CarlD | Apr 26 2017 20:48 utc | 80

Meanwhile, in Turkey, the journalist Zeynep Gurcanli wonders whether the US have blackmailed Erdo through findings in the Reza Zarrab case to play hard against Iran. She argues that the US aim at weakening both countries in order to impose their plans in the region - and sell a weapon or two whilst in the process of doing that. She is probably right.

Posted by: Ron | Apr 26 2017 21:36 utc | 81

Mark Toner said: "We are very concerned, deeply concerned that Turkey conducted air strikes earlier today in northern Syria as well as northern Iraq without proper co-ordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat IS." Sounds like the US government when they are 'concerned' about the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, they usually say "this is not helpful' in other words they couldn't care less.

Posted by: harrylaw | Apr 26 2017 21:38 utc | 82

Re: Tabqa/Raqqa ops and YPG/YPJ:

The last few house of tweets from @vvanwilgenburg suggest this was a threat made by the head of the YPJ (YPJ members were killed in the airstrike). But the ongoing ops are not actually halted, via and SDF 'adviser'(?): Nasser Haj Mansour in this oddly-worded tweet:

Wladimir‏ @vvanwilgenburg 2 hours ago

Nasser Haj Mansour, an adviser to the SDF, told me this news is 'never true' #raqqa #tabqa #ISIS

It's not like this claim is randomly made every week, so not sure what to make of 'never true'.

Van Wilgenburg's reporting on this has been solid, so I'm more inclined to trust his take. Unfortunately the SDF has been in intensive spin-control PR mode lately, so I would expect them to minimize or discount any trouble affecting ops like this. Truth probably somewhere in the middle. Easy to see how the Kurds would be livid about these attacks inside Syria.

Haven't seem much from mob boss Barzani in response to the Iraqi Sinjar attacks which reportedly killed KDP Peshmerga.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Apr 26 2017 22:08 utc | 83

Sort of off-topic but important I think:

A few years ago I met a man whose job it was to kill Islamist extremists for the Egyptian government, or Mubarak more precisely. There were a lot of rumours of a death squad operating in Egypt but nothing concrete has ever appeared - to my knowledge.

I wrote down the testimony of this man who was the leader of this tiny, highly secret, but extremely professional death squad. Though a very old and trusted friend from the Middle East vouched for everything he said I still found it hard to believe. Could he really be for real? He showed me his official uniform (not the black boiler suits or coveralls they wore for the jobs) and a sweater with bullet burns in the sleeves - when he had nearly been killed. With his enormous hands, muscular build and very wide shoulders he certainly looked the part. And he is a very smart dude and the epitome of cool. It took some months of hearing grisly details of dawn raids on terrorist houses and sniper work to thoroughly assuage my doubts about his authenticity. Targets were dispatched - or “popped” as he called it - with two bullets to the chest from a Heckler & Koch P90. When targets had built an extra “security” wall round their house the team would pull along an old Russian Grunev machine gun with enormous bullets that would quickly shatter any barrier. Two took the front of the dwelling, two the back. The smell of cigarette smoke from inside was good because an AK is hard to operate properly with a cigarette in one hand.

After the Luxor massacre of 1997 where dozens of tourists were slaughtered Mubarak was in a fix. Putting extreme Islamists in jail served only to give them a platform to convert others.

To keep the operation quiet only seven men were selected from the police force - four for active duty and three in reserve. They went through extremely rigorous training and were thoroughly tested, with, for example, lectures on advanced ballistics in the early hours of the morning. They were bullied, beaten and sleep-deprived for months. One task involved carrying a stinking dead dog in the desert for miles with no water allowed. Those selected were assigned code names of Caribbean islands and the team was backed up by an intelligence team and a clean-up team. They travelled separately to ops in Mercedes bullet-proof SUVs.

I found it hard to empathize with this man’s experiences at first, though he is a very normal, rather kind person - until he is provoked. The “Arab Spring” was yet to happen and my knowledge of Wahhabism was pretty basic. Now I completely understand why he did what he did.

After the jihadists had been eliminated the squad were tasked with eliminating other types of people the regime wanted rid of such as drug lords and even Palestinians in weapons workshops at the Rafah crossing in Sinai. They were also expected to torture US “rendition” victims. This was where my friend drew the line and left Egypt.

It was he who opened my eyes to the Syria situation very early on.

Posted by: Lochearn | Apr 26 2017 22:30 utc | 84

@85 lochearn.. interesting.. thanks.. sounds completely realistic and plausible..

Posted by: james | Apr 26 2017 23:15 utc | 85

Thanks james. It really happened and was quite weird.

Posted by: Lochearn | Apr 26 2017 23:17 utc | 86

james, I lived in Spain for years and met some really good conmen. So after that it would be difficult.

Two stories of Sherif:

Ten days on top of a mosque, beard growing, creeping down at night for a pee. Waiting, tenth day, shot, target gone.

Wedding of Drug Lord: Sherif gets a taxi to a nearby building, waits for the shogtuns to go off in celebration then shoots the dude.

Posted by: Lochearn | Apr 26 2017 23:31 utc | 87

Canthama at SyrPers reports on Iraq's PMU forces new offensive--activity I applaud!

"I wrote the comment below yesterday sharing the Iraq militia/PMU new offensive toward al Hatra district and mentioned it would be fast one. Few hours ago the PMU announced it met all the objectives and ISIS collapsed all over and all the district is ISIS free, only two days and some 20 villages liberated plus the magnificent ruins of al Hatra.

"Al Ba’aj area will be next (tougher offensive), but the Iraqi desert is wide open all the way to Der ez Zor Province now.

"Some important events in Iraq that may imply in bigger moves inside Syria in the future.

"The Iraqi militia (PMU) has started an offensive toward western Nineveh Province (Hatra district), they have advanced from Ashwa area (south of Tal Afar) moving south toward the ancient city of Hatra (magnificent ruins by the way), the intention it to create a cauldron then a pocket eliminating all ISIS west of Qayyarah west airbase. The area in the red box was liberated today, as may as 11-12 villages. This offensive will be swift and fast, the progress has been awesome today, desert warfare with adequate vehicles and strategy.

"At the same time the offensive toward the key desert town of of al Ba’aj has also started, this is south of Sinjar. The Iraq desert is, as the Syrian desert, an empty place, very few villages and when there is any they are near the larger centers such as al Ba’aj and Hatra, beyond them there is empty desert and no major ISIS existence.

"The two offensives above will try to clear the Iraqi Nineveh desert, see the map below and the impact toward Syria.

"Iraq PMU will enter Syria in the right time, hold the SDF in Hasaka, while advancing toward Der ez Zor city, liberating all the oil and gas fields in the way. It is possible this future Iraq-Syria offensive, to be also coordinated with the one in Anbar up north to al Bukamal and the upper the Euphrates.

"Worth following the progress of this offensive and communications by the PMU leaders, which we know some factions are highly influenced by IRGC."

I removed the links to the referenced wikimaps as they weren't properly formatted. They can be accessed by going to the SyrPers link below.

Having PMU storming into the desert was certainly unanticipated and might be a game-changer!

Posted by: karlof1 | Apr 26 2017 23:42 utc | 88

lochearn - good stories! the guy was a pro..

from hurriyet today..

also, here is the daily briefing transcript from the usa state dept..

“Two hours before this operation, we shared information with the U.S. and Russia that we would undertake an operation” in the region, and warned the U.S. to withdraw its soldiers in the region to 20-30 kilometers away, Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Uzbekistan on April 26. Ankara told Washington in the “last few weeks” that it would undertake military operations he said but did not give further detail.

“Turkey acts transparently on all issues. We have no secret agenda... We respect Syria and Iraq’s territorial integrity,” he said. Ankara had “a legitimate right with these interventions” because of the threats to Turkey from these areas and urged its allies to support the efforts, he said. “There are terrorists that enter Turkey via different paths.”

Posted by: james | Apr 26 2017 23:44 utc | 89

some of the data in my 2nd link @90

"MR TONER: Sorry, let me finish. So regardless of what Russia may or may not say about an investigation into this activity. We’re convinced – and you saw today the French conducted their own investigation, they’re convinced as well – of what took place. In the interest of greater transparency, we would welcome, as I said, these existing mechanisms within the UN to carry out a thorough investigation, because what’s also important here going forward is that there’s a measure of accountability here and that we are able to – we being the international community – are able to pin these crimes on the Syrian regime who carried them out."

and further down

"QUESTION: -- I’m a little bit confused on this because there is the current investigation mechanism that did determine there was a chemical weapon discharged, but there is a need or a call for a more investigative body to go and determine the means by which it was delivered, whether it’s from the air, by airplane, or from the ground. It could conceivably have been used by the rebel groups and so on. Could you clarify that for us? Could you – I mean, what is --


QUESTION: You said that --


QUESTION: -- you have – you pinned this on the regime, so other than communication, interception that you guys cited --

MR TONER: Sure, and --

QUESTION: -- what do you have?

MR TONER: And this speaks, frankly, to the previous question a little bit. The OPCW – not just the United States, but the OPCW’s executive council rejected a Russian-Iranian proposal for a new mechanism to investigate the attack on Khan Shaykhun, and in fact, States Parties signaled their ongoing support for the impartial investigation into the attack, and that’s already underway. The fact-finding mission, the OPCW fact-finding mission, is already conducting the investigation, is already empowered to investigate chemical weapons attacks. It’s already been doing this and cataloging these, and frankly, that’s important because, as I said, we need a record – historical record that frankly holds the perpetrators accountable – in this respect, the Syrian regime.

QUESTION: Can I move on --

MR TONER: Your question was specifically about investigating how it was delivered?


MR TONER: I mean, look, we’re convinced – we’ve done the research, our intelligence is strong on this, we’ve briefed that on background – but we’re convinced that it was delivered by Syrian jets from that airstrip that was attacked by U.S. cruise missiles.

QUESTION: But it is based on the interception of communications between the pilot and some scientists on the ground, right?

MR TONER: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Is that – that’s the only evidence cited, is that there were communications intercepted by you?

MR TONER: I’d refer you – I don’t want to recount --


MR TONER: -- but I’d refer you to that April 11th background briefing."

Posted by: james | Apr 26 2017 23:56 utc | 90

last post on this..

the april 11th press briefing seems to essentially boil down to this :

"QUESTION: What’s his response to Vladimir Putin’s claim today that the chemical weapons attack in Idlib province was a false flag operation and more may follow? And related to that, can you provide more detail on Secretary Tillerson’s statement there were similar chemical attacks on March 25 and 30 in Hama?

MR TONER: Sure. With respect to President Putin’s remarks, look, we’ve been very clear about our assessment with respect to the chemical weapons attack last week in Idlib province. We stand by our assessment. I know that the White House earlier today held a backgrounder talking about some of the intelligence that led to our assessment, and I said it’s – it was crystal clear to us that this was carried out and it was carried out by the Syrian regime. There’s no false flag with respect to calling this for what it was, which was a gross attack in violation of international norms and standards, and one that justified the response that we took. Because as I said earlier in this briefing, chemical weapons, their use in Syria is a redline. And if used again, then we reserve the right to act in the same capacity.

With respect to this – these additional attacks that you mentioned on March 25th and 30th, as I said, we have a high degree of confidence that the Syrian regime used a chemical nerve agent consistent with sarin in the attack on Khan Shaykhun in Idlib on April 4th, but that’s not an isolated incident. In the same 10-day period, there have been allegations of the Assad regime, rather, has carried out chemical weapons attacks in Hama governate, I think on March 25th and March 30th, and these events are part of a larger trend of allegations of regime use of chemical weapons going back to 2014, including I think three that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the United Nations’ joint investigative mechanism, attributed to the Assad regime.

So what does this mean? It means it’s clear that Syria’s failed to comply with its most fundamental legal obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118 not to use chemical weapons and to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal in its entirety. So we’re going to continue to work with partners in the region to investigate reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, and we’re going to support the OPCW fact finding mission’s effort to do the same. Again, the idea here is to build a solid body of evidence as to whether these were chemical weapons attacks, confirming that, who were the perpetrators, and eventually, to hold these people accountable.

Next question, please."

Posted by: james | Apr 27 2017 0:03 utc | 91

@Paveway 72

This was always a possibility (which I had all but dismissed in recent months) - but it begs the question:
Why now?
The Kurds were never keen on conquering non-Kurdish territories, but somehow they were 'convinced' to do it. Until they decided to halt their advance? How come?

Posted by: smuks | Apr 27 2017 1:13 utc | 92

Posted by: Lochearn | Apr 26, 2017 6:30:53 PM | 85

Get out of here with your war porn man. Your just detailing this exciting story/fantasy about killing. It doesn't add anything and belittles very serious events.

Posted by: George Smiley | Apr 27 2017 3:20 utc | 93

Jackrabbit @79

1. I did some research to see if Kurd treatment during major transitions in 'Assad must go! Coalition strategy are similar. I didn't see any obvious similarities.

Still think the Kurds have been played, though.

2. Also thought a lot about my "it's no secret" comment. To me, the coup being a set-up is just application of Occam's razor. But the Flynn fiasco gave me pause.

What was Flynn's secretive (he didn't report it, or report it promptly), work for the Turkish govt - paid for by an Israeli company - all about? On its face (what we are told) it reinforces the view that Turkey/Erdogan believes that CIA/Gulen was behind the coup. But it came out after Flynn was already discredited and powerless so the ONLY real effect that it had was to support the notion that Gulen was behind the coup.

Seems too neat and convenient but I have no info that contradicts it. It could well be that:

> Flynn allowed himself to be compromised just weeks before the election or thought that there was a good chance that Trump would lose the election.

> Flynn was willing to a) work secretly against CIA wishes (once in office) or b) pocket the money - producing no results.

> an Israeli company was willing to pay Flynn (who was disliked by CIA) to work against CIA wishes and risk that Flynn would simply pocket the money.

> the CIA thought that replacing Erdogan with a Gulen crony would somehow be workable (no civil war) and accepted by other powerful interests (like Qatar and KSA).

3. All the 'Assad must go!' Coalition countries know - and have always known - that what they are engaged in is against the interests of Iran and Russia. They have made deals and committed to each other. And the Kurds are NOT part of that club (unless I am missing a BIG part of the puzzle). Others have noted the truism that Turkey is simply more important a potential ally (to either side) than the Kurds.

So betrayal of the Kurds was always on the table, but if the coup was not "real" then it would be inevitable, wouldn't it?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Apr 27 2017 3:37 utc | 94

@70 Maskirovka? Could very well be..
@89 If true PMU moving into Syria could be a casus belli for Barzani/US. Did Abadi vouch for this (or Sadr)?

Posted by: Lozion | Apr 27 2017 4:04 utc | 95

Israeli strike hits Iranian arms supply depot in Damascus: source

Posted by: okie farmer | Apr 27 2017 6:01 utc | 96

Pro-Hezbollah al-Manar TV says Damascus blast likely Israeli air strike
04/27/2017 0:54
BEIRUT, April 27 (Reuters) - The pro-Hezbollah al-Manar television channel said that an explosion at fuel tanks and warehouses near Syria's Damascus International Airport early on Thursday had likely been caused by an Israeli air strike.
It added that initial indications were that the blast had caused only material damage and not deaths.
Hezbollah, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, is involved in the fighting in Syria's civil war. (Reporting By Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Posted by: okie farmer | Apr 27 2017 8:06 utc | 97

Here's an interesting article on the reasoning behind the Turkish attack on Sinjar.
What strikes me are the following:
Turkey will not accept the 'wrong Kurds' establishimg themselves there. Barzani is the tool to split the Kurds into good and bad maybe.
If you rrcall it was originally Barzani's forces that 'lost' or 'ran from' Sinjar and it fell to ISIS who then slaughtered Yazdi Kurds. Barzani is now blaming the bombings on the presence of PKK who were key to retaking Sinjar and to protecting it!. The dog is doing Erdogans bidding.
Native Yazdi Kurds are still unable to return to Sinjar, and are less likely to now.
Another interesting point raised is, as others have mentioned here, that Iran sees Sinjar as part of its Shia Crescent and that this may be 'a regional contest'
What does not ring true is the US's condemnation of the attack. I don't believe for a minute that they were not 'supportive' of the attack though they have secured a degree of deniability. After all this attack has been rumoured for weeks if not months - the US could have stopped it had it wanted to.
I do not believe that Turkey is going to go into full out war because it simply can not. It will continue opportunistically to purge areas around its border of all but he right muslim to facilitate a growth in Turkeys influence.
Another theory is that this may well have been a celebratory show for the nationalists that supported him in the referendum. :-)

Posted by: AtaBrit | Apr 27 2017 10:35 utc | 98

@james | 90

"Erdoğan said it was a “source of sadness for us” that five or six Peshmerga forces were killed in the attack despite the warnings."

The Barzani - Erdogan show is becoming more obvious.
Interstimg that Erdogan will defend Barzani's right to claim a Kurdish state but is bombing those that want to achieve the same elsewhere. I think he is loathe to allow anyone but Turkey to manage resource rich areas anywhere near its southern borders!!

Posted by: AtaBrit | Apr 27 2017 10:48 utc | 99

@99 atabrit.. that is a valid observation.. erdogan is confusing or worse at the best of times.. barzani is like mafia and erdogan functions that way as well.. i guess that is the value in the connection their..

Posted by: james | Apr 27 2017 15:41 utc | 100

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