Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 28, 2018

Syria Sitrep - Army To Regain Northeastern Territory - Political Isolation Ends

The fallout from U.S. president Trump's decision to retreat from Syria develops as expected.

Trump had announced a rapid draw down of U.S. troops in Syria. Later he spoke of a controlled process that would allow Turkey to take over the U.S. occupied areas in northeast Syria. That plan, probably initiated by National Security Advisor John Bolton, is totally unrealistic. Such an wide ranging occupation, which would be resisted by many powerful forces, is not in Turkey's interest. Nevertheless, the Turkish president Erdogan will use the threat of a Turkish invasion to press for a dismantling of the Kurdish YPG forces which the U.S. trained and equipped.


This morning the Syrian Arab Army (red) announced that it entered Manbij, west of the Euphrates. It established itself on the contact line between the Turkish supported forces (green) and the U.S. supported Kurdish YPG (yellow). The Syrian flag was raised in Manbij city. The move comes after U.S. troops and their Kurdish proxy forces voluntarily retreated from the area. Manbij was threatened by the Turkish military and its Jihadi proxy forces. To prevent a Turkish onslaught, the local armed groups, who collaborated with the U.S. military, invited the Syrian army to take over. This pattern will repeat elsewhere.

A Kurdish delegation is currently in Russia to negotiate a further take over of the U.S. occupied northeastern provinces of Hasaka and Qamishli by Syrian government forces. The Kurds still hope for some autonomy from the Syrian government that allows them to keep their armed forces. But neither Damascus, nor anyone else, will ever agree to that. There will only be one armed force in Syria, the Syrian Arab Army. It is possible though, that some Kurdish units will be integrated within it.

A Turkish delegation is also in Moscow and tomorrow Erdogan will visit there. Russia spoke out against the U.S. plan to let Turkey take Syria's northeast or even parts of it. Erdogan will not get Russian or Iranian support for any such move. Moreover, he will be pressed to leave the other areas of Syria Turkey currently occupies.

U.S. troops are for now expected to continue the occupation near the Euphrates where the fight against remains of the Islamic State is ongoing. They wont stay long. Trump successfully insisted, against the wish of his military, to completely pull out of Syria. The people who argue against the move are, not coincidentally, the same people who furthered the rise of Islamic State. After Secretary of Defense Mattis resigned over the issue further efforts by the military to delay the retreat will likely be futile.


To cover the withdrawal from Syria the U.S. military established two new bases in Iraq. These are also blocking positions designed to prevent over land traffic between the Levant and Iran. It is unlikely that the U.S. will occupy those bases for long. The Iraqi parliament is already moving to again throw out all U.S. forces from its country.

The military moves come along with new political ones which reestablish Syria as a pivotal Arab state.

Yesterday the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus. Bahrain will follow next. Kuwait will reopen its embassy in January. Oman never closed its embassy in Damascus. Of the Gulf countries only Qatar, allied with Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have jet to announce a revival of their relations with Syria. Before the war on Syria started, the UAE and other gulf countries financed several large investment projects in Syria. These will be revived and help the country's economy back onto its feet. Egypt is expected to follow the move of its Gulf sponsors.

Underlying the UAE move is a strategy of countering Turkey's neo-ottoman ambition. Syria is (again) seen as the bulwark that protects the larger Arabia from Turkish marauders. It signals to Turkey that any attempt to take over more of Syria will be resisted by the Gulf states and possibly even by Egypt's army. Egypt is, together with Russia, mediating between the Kurds and the Syrian government.

The Arab move is also perceived as a counter to Iranian influence in Syria. In this it will fail. Syria was rescued from the all out attack on it by Iran's intervention. It was the Iranian General Soleimani who convinced Russia to commit troops to Syria. It was Iran that spent billions to prop up the Syrian government while the Gulf Arabs spent even more to take it down. Syria will not forget who are its foes and who are its real friends.

Air traffic connections from Damascus to Arab countries are coming back. Last week a direct connection with Tunisia was revived. In January Gulf-Air, the official airline carrier for Bahrain, will again offer flights from Damascus. The Arab League, which in 2012 kicked out Syria, will invite it back in. Syria may well accept the offer, but only in exchange for a large compensation.

An Israeli air attack on Syrian military installations on December 25 largely failed. The Israeli jets fired some 16 stand-off bombs from Lebanese air space. They cowardly hid behind two commercial airliners which were on their way from the Gulf to Europe. This made it impossible for the Syrian air defense to directly attack the Israeli jets. Most of the Israeli projectiles were destroyed by the Syrian short-range air defenses. A Syrian missile was fired against Israel proper. It was a reminder that new rules of engagement, as announced, have been established. Attacks on Syria will be replied to by direct attacks on Israel. The missile shot ended the Israeli attack.

Israel, like others, will learn that any further attacks on Syria are futile and will only lead to effective retaliations. The war on Syria, while not yet over, is drawing down. Syria's political isolation is ending. Those who insist on continuing it will in the end lose out.

Posted by b on December 28, 2018 at 13:53 UTC | Permalink

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Gruff @ 187 - Lol thanks for the one last chance....appreciate it. You are very kind

There is definitely propaganda from the corporate MSM no question about it. I don't believe you follow my posting very closely. No worries about that but I'm on record as stating there is propaganda spewed across all countries (of course). Al Jazeera should probably be on your list too. They have published pieces which reference Assad's strategic use of Al Qaeda and ISIS to advance his war for self preservation. I believe he has been brilliant in so doing. Not sure why people get all touchy when presented with the obvious.

My take on following the media and propaganda especially through the fog of war is goes something like this (emphasis mine):

Prof Robinson has a rather charitable view of Russia's English-language media, such as RT and Sputnik News. He doesn't deny they are propaganda channels but objects to the idea that western media are somehow different. Writing in the Guardian, he says:

"Whatever the accuracy, or lack thereof, of RT and whatever its actual impact on western audiences, one of the problems with these kinds of arguments is that they fall straight into the trap of presenting media that are aligned with official adversaries as inherently propagandistic and deceitful, while the output of 'our' media is presumed to be objective and truthful. Moreover, the impression given is that our governments engage in truthful 'public relations', 'strategic communication' and 'public diplomacy' while the Russians lie through 'propaganda'."

He goes on to say: "One can gain useful insights and information from a variety of news sources – including those that are derided as 'propaganda' outlets: Russia Today, al-Jazeera and Press TV should certainly not be off-limits." Separately, when various British politicians were criticised for appearing on RT, Robinson rose to their defence:

"People are coming on RT in order to express legitimate political views and they are coming onto RT because they are probably having great difficulty getting onto existing ‘legitimate’ mainstream media in the west. In many ways RT is providing an important outlet for these people who are not getting their voices heard elsewhere."

But Putin clearly doesn't fund RT in order to support free speech, and suggesting the key difference between western propaganda and Russian propaganda is in the way they are perceived misses an important point. The Russians have been developing new propaganda techniques for the internet age and applying them to the Syrian conflict – which is one reason why they are worth studying.

RT's slogan is "Question More" – and it's brilliantly mischievous, because questioning more sounds like something we all should be doing. Scepticism is healthy, but only up to a point. Obviously, people should be encouraged to view media – in the west as elsewhere – with a critical eye and look out for attempts to manipulate them. Problems start, though, when people become so sceptical that they can't recognise truth when it's presented to them.

This is where RT's mischief-making comes in. Questioning more – Moscow style – is about manufacturing uncertainty.

Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 31 2018 1:39 utc | 201

Jackrabbit @199

A treaty of any any sort is just a delaying tactic regardless
of ratification. It's obvious. Don't try and close this stable door, it was you that opened it.

Every treaty is about power projection and agreements to limit this and that. If it was anything else all that would be needed would be a handshake.

If you consider the peace treaties with Germany and Japan at the end of the war. Both defeated Countries didn't want to sign but they did so to buy time to recover. It was not a fair agreement between equals and all treaties are effectively the same.

So there was some benefit in the Treaty with Iran. Both sides were gaining respite and postponing conflict and that's all a treaty ever really is.

Posted by: ADKC | Dec 31 2018 1:49 utc | 202


Well some treaties are longer lasting than others. JCPOA was one of the flimsier one's. Restating my theory for why that is so: it was a delaying tactic.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 31 2018 1:54 utc | 203

donkey shows us what an ass he is

Points finger at Russia for "manufacturing uncertainty" @200 while engaging in manufacturing uncertainty @151 (see my reply @158).

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 31 2018 2:16 utc | 204

Donkeytale @200

I truly despair. You link an article from Al Jazeera without any caution. You accuse RT of being propaganda without applying the same to Al Jazeera, who are really OTT hostile towards Syria. You don't seem to see that the article is a complete whitewash of Western/US/KSA involvement and you fail to notice the article's authors links to Iran International TV (an "anti-Iranian government" propaganda outfit) and The Atlantic Council.

You are doing exactly what you accuse (via highlighting) RT of doing:- mischief making and manufacturing uncertainty. And you wonder why people get touchy!

Posted by: ADKC | Dec 31 2018 2:18 utc | 205

Those were blockquotes guys. Read the article then be fair about your reporting. Lmao. Don't despair ADKC!!

Be fair and balanced. Max Blumenthal is on that propaganda panel too. Or is he now trash?

Of course RT is propaganda as much as the Washington Post, AJ and NY Times.

Sorry you only seem to swallow on one side of your throats....

Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 31 2018 2:29 utc | 206

What is the "caution" required for linking Al Jazeera btw?


Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 31 2018 2:32 utc | 207

blockquotes with your emphasis donkey

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 31 2018 2:58 utc | 208

donkeytake @14O

It's your omission of "caution" regarding the Al Jazeera article while at the same you are "cautioning" about RT propaganda. It's hypocritic.

Here is a more sensible article by Robert Fisk that is not supportive of Assad but has reporting that indicates that what happened is not what you imagine. It also has a bit about Al Jazeera refusing to broadcast footage of a massacre of Syrian soldiers.

Posted by: ADKC | Dec 31 2018 3:02 utc | 209

Donkeytake @206

Here's the article

Posted by: ADKC | Dec 31 2018 3:08 utc | 210

Jackrabbit ADKC
Both Obama and Kerry, in separate speeches stated that the nuke deal was required to preserve the US dollar. This may have been a rare moment when both spoke the truth, as most of their terms was spent running around trying to prop up the crumbling petro dollar.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 31 2018 3:09 utc | 211

I would like to formally apologize to the readers for having fed what I can now quite clearly see as the donkey troll. I promise to never again engage with that salaried troll and I deeply regret the tangents to this thread that my engagement with it to this point has caused.

This said, the donkey troll did respond precisely as I expected by attempting to balance the entire mountain ranges worth of propaganda from the corporate mass media with the tiny molehill that RT might represent. This deliberate obfuscation of scale reveals that the donkey troll persona is unquestionably a paid spokesperson for the empire. Perhaps this is something more perceptive readers than myself already knew, but I like to think that exhibiting it clearly for all to see has some value that partially offsets the annoyance from the tangents to the discussion that my engagement with the troll caused.

Posted by: William Gruff | Dec 31 2018 15:26 utc | 212

William Gruff @212

I may be wrong but I think donkeytale is an anarchist who believes all states, leaders are wrong. His focus on Assad is annoying, disregarding anything that contradicts his predetermined view. Donkeytale fails to be objective and balanced on Assad; if you're going to engage with home you would have to check everything he says/provides and frequently, while plausible, it fails to stand up. This makes him very annoying and frustrating.

He also appears to have strong objections to Trump as well, which gets a better response.

As for being paid by the Empire; wouldn't they be asking for their money back? I think they'd be a bit more subtle.

However, I do wish Donkeytale would change his approach; it's really boring and fails to move the discussion on (everything just rotates). I don't blame anyone for tuning him out.

Posted by: ADKC | Dec 31 2018 18:00 utc | 213

#186-i agree with your insight, as my eyes keep getting bigger and bigger #187--for the American audience, let's not forget NPR from your list

Posted by: Rod | Jan 1 2019 21:22 utc | 214

Circe @ 154

You made a number of observations in that particular commentary all of which I agree with but most especially the following:
'The error in judgment Assad made was to ever trust the U.S. on anything and especially during Bush I and II years.'

This is absolutely accurate and had he been less trusting, Assad might certainly have done a better job preparing his country for the coming existential avalanche being readied by the the GCC and other minions of FUKUS. Since well before 9/11, Syrian Intelligence shared a tremendous amount of information about Al-Qaida with the US in what seems to have been a campaign effort to curry favor with Washington in the hopes of escaping the fate of Iraq's 1991 Desert Storm invasion. He also may have naively believed it might be possible to ingratiate his country into the non-existent good graces of the Neocon-addled Empire.

Keep in mind, however, that such an approach makes some sense for a country which supported not only the Lebanese Resistance Hezballah and the armed struggle by Hamas but was also a staunch and perennial ally of Iran. Russia's reluctance to assert a more forceful role in the global arena and witnessing uncontested US aggression against its next-door neighbor was a major factor in Assad's calculus of pursuing a policy of limited appeasement toward the threats of the warmongering western behemoth. He may have invested more than a modicum of trust in this approach in the quixotic hope that it would give his country a reprieve perhaps even to the point of being exempted from the Empire's hit list.

In view of the prevailing power dynamics of the time, there was little maneuvering available to stave off a twisted, ideologically-driven policy juggernaut which had Syria in its cross hairs. What I think he may also have failed to factor in was the extent to which the failed insurrection by the Moslem Brotherhood in the late 70's had still been festering and exploited by the Wahabist revival supported by Saudi tyrants. That in combination with a period of economic hardship and western interference helped create a perfect catalyst for what took place in Der'a in 2011. What had begun as a minor flicker was quickly doused with high octane interventionist fuel turning it into the raging inferno I have anguished over for seven years.I was born in Syria and I can never forget what they did to my birthplace.

Posted by: metni | Jan 2 2019 5:50 utc | 215

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