The war in Syria

Someone mentioned that the war in Syria (2011 to present) should get a thread, so here's one.

With the sudden decision of the US to withdraw its protection of Rojava, a host of confusing events have piled up. The Turkish-backed forces, as many predicted, didn't take long to start committing atrocities. What seems to have been largely forgotten in Western media though is that the jihadist gangs in Turkey's employ are the same rebels that Western governments were enthusiastically supporting a few years ago.

The Rojava leadership seems to have finally made a decision that had been considered at various junctures before, which is strike some kind of deal with the Syrian government and Russia. The details of the deal have not been made available but it seems likely that Rojava would have made grave concessions and the autonomy of Rojava would be off the table.

Syrian and Russian troops have been moving into important cities like Kobane and Manbij to stem further Turkish advances but the situation is still pretty dicey. Russia is in a tricky position because, while its primary ally is Syria, it needs to have a decent relationship with Turkey. Erdogan for his part has a domestic political problem- namely the thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey, resentment of whom partly drove the AKP's loss in the Istanbul mayoral race. Getting them out of Turkey is a priority for them.

Overall though it seems that the US is increasingly out of the picture in determining Syria's fate, and the final settlement will be between Russia, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. A Russian journalist recently posted a video of him touring an abandoned American base in Manbij.

IMO Trump's betrayal of Rojava was a grave crime and the atrocities already committed by the advancing Turkey-backed jihadists could have been avoided by a less precipitous withdrawal. The US could have spent the past few years working with the Russian and Syrian governments to get the best possible deal for Rojava. But the withdrawal of US troops is something that needed to happen and it may well spell an unexpectedly quick end to an 8-year-long war.
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Comments

  • For anyone who shares my unwholesome fascination for such things, there is a constantly updated battle map of Syria with news items constantly appearing from a wide range of sources. This map has been up for a few years now and I have found it helpful in giving context to news about Syria.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Kudos on that map, Sir P!
  • Thanks. Just to be clear, I have nothing to do with the making of that map.

    Apart from some bright moments in Rojava, the story of this war is pretty unmitigated grimness. All in all, the victory of the government is the least bad of possible outcomes. Many Syrians who, with good reason, hate the Assad government nevertheless came to see it as the lesser evil. Some clues as to why are in this NYT article from 2 years ago, which interviews people in Aleppo after the government seized back control of the city from the rebels.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Time for Turkey to leave NATO? Pax Russiana rolls. Who'd have thought it 30 years ago? Or 20, 10 even?
  • Now that the Rojava experiment is in all likelihood going to be dissolved, or at least severely curtailed, it is worth remembering what the SDF- not just Kurds but allied Assyrians and Arabs- were attempting there, a bold egalitarian, feminist, radically democratic socialist society. There are a lot of good articles about it;here's one.
  • SirPalomidesSirPalomides Shipmate
    edited October 16
    I thought I'd also dig up this article from 2 years ago as it illustrates so much that has been wrong with Anglo-American coverage of the war. For instance,
    The White House had no comment. But the decision is bound to be welcomed by the Russians, whose military has backed Mr. Assad’s government and relentlessly attacked some of the rebel groups that the United States was supplying, under the guise of helping to eradicate terrorists.

    There is no serious attempt in the article to scrutinize the nature of these rebels, with the "terrorist" label being brushed aside as a mere talking point. The decision to cease arming them is, typically, framed as a gift to Russia, because everything in the world revolves around Trump and Putin. The fact that these groups not only fought alongside with, but shared the same Salafi jihadist ideology as Al Qaeda, is barely hinted at.

    Perhaps most egregious is the uncritical citation of Charles Lister as a "Syria analyst". His Middle East Institute is a Saudi, UAE, and Qatar funded think tank and he has been essentially a jihadist lobbyist in DC, promoting some of the creepiest groups as "moderate rebels", as he labeled Nour al-Din al-Zenki shortly before they released a video of themselves beheading a Palestinian teenager.

    This group- and others like it- integrated into Turkey's "Syrian National Army" that is now invading Rojava. This time the Western media and politicians are- correctly- describing these guys as the jihadist thugs that they are. But it's quite a bit of whiplash from the time they were cheerleading for them
  • It's hard to form a clear overall picture of what's going on but there are quite a few reports of Turkey's proxies getting killed or captured, and tanks and APC's getting destroyed. This might not be going as well as Erdogan hoped.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Just watching the Kurdish fighters, men and women, they aim to shoot much more than than Turkish proxies. Like, at all. They defeated ISIS on the ground. With a little help from US air supremacy, true. I'm sure I shouldn't wish them well, but I do. Trump has a point, they fought ISIS for themselves. They were 'our' enemy's enemy.
  • Another one from the memory hole- an article from Foreign Affairs, entitled "The Good and Bad of Ahrar al-Sham: An al Qaeda-linked group worth befriending." I could dig up articles like this all day from various Western "Syria analysts" over the past 8 years. As with the cheerleaders of the Iraq war (sometimes the same people), these hacks will likely never be held accountable for what they have done. It's not just a short memory in our culture- it's a Men in Black style memory zapper. *BZZZT* and 8 years of shilling for some of the creepiest groups on the planet, forgotten. They will continue in their cushy jobs at think tanks or "papers of record"; they will continue to be consulted by journalists or TV pundits as Middle East experts, veteran analysts, etc. Some of them might even get promoted. Failing up is a recurring feature in punditland. Sometimes you can be disastrously wrong about almost everything and that just means you're an outside-the-box visionary maverick. Ask Tom Friedman.
  • Turkey is claiming that they anticipate false flag chemical attacks so that Turkey can be accused of using chemical weapons. It's worth noting that in 2013 Turkish police arrested several members of Al Nusra Front in Istanbul and elsewhere. Turkish media reported that small amounts of sarin had been found with them, though the Turkish authorities denied this. Seymour Hersh later published an article in the London Review of Books discussing his findings that Turkish intelligence may have been helping its Syrian proxies in the manufacture of sarin.
  • Oh, also worth noting that Turkish opposition MP Eren Erdem claimed that sarin was passing through Turkey to jihadists in Syria, with Turkish intelligence either complicit or incompetent. He backed up his claims with leaked recordings. He is currently in prison.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    So apparently Turkey has agreed to a five day ceasefire in northern Syria. The catch?
    “The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” [ U.S. Vice President Mike ] Pence said.

    Why should Turkey bother ethnically cleansing the Kurds when they can get the U.S. to do it for them? And yes, they're not particularly subtle about it.
    “They’ve had terrorists, they had a lot of people in there that they couldn’t have… They had to have it cleaned out,” Trump said, defending Turkey’s actions. “This outcome is something they’ve been trying to get for 10 years.... It’s a great day for civilization.”
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Lord have mercy!
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Turkey has broken out the semantics and explained that the ceasefire isn't really a "ceasefire" but rather a "pause in operations". The difference being that, according to Turkey, a ceasefire can only occur between "two legitimate sides".

    It doesn't seem likely Turkey's Syrian proxies will feel compelled to abide by this ceasefire pause in operations either. Once Turkish-controlled irregulars Syrian militias start shooting at the withdrawing SDF and the SDF shoots back, how long do you suppose operations will remain paused?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Dear God. NW Europeans seem to be the last bastion of civilization.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    Dear God. NW Europeans seem to be the last bastion of civilization.

    I would argue that only civilization could produce a clusterfuck of this magnitude.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    That NYT article seems to have it. It's about social injustice. A weak Syrian state could not assimilate the poor, with the poor, flooding in to the cities if Aleppo is anything to go by. Social justice is secondary to strong government, hence Russian and Turkish success. They will never lack the will that America does: they are stakeholders. With Iran third and Saudi fourth.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 18
    Yeahhh. Thanks Obama. The drone killer king... and of course I loved him. But Bush created ISIS.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited October 18
    To what extent are the 'crazy militias' actually undisciplined mercenaries? Would they change sides or sit the fight out for more cash, I wonder?
  • A lot of them seem to be genuine fanatics. Those who aren’t have nowhere left to go. Turkey doesn’t want them, Europe doesn’t want them, Syria sure as hell doesn’t want them. Might as well carve out a little jihadist emirate or die trying.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    A friend who "did some work" with the Kurds decades ago reckoned they and the Yazidi's were the biggest bunch of Godless Barbarians* he'd ever met. As well as being unreliable as in "Meet you here at 10pm, OK"...turns up and drinks all the coffee by himself

    *Godless Barbarians meaning - there had no lower (or higher for that matter) limits of behaviour in military action (or outside of it either). So, on a good day, there was noone better you'd want with you.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Sayeret Matkal then?
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    No. More special. More forceful.
    Anyway he's 80 now (and could probably still do it all if he wasn't so often drunk and PTSD)
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Wow. Yeah, my best mate was that good.
  • {Slight tangent.}

    Petraeus should've gone to prison for knowingly giving classified info to his journalist-girlfriend. Chelsea Manning went to prison, and she was just a lowly...private (?). He was a general, and should've been held more responsible.
  • hear hear
  • An analysis of the recent agreement between Russia and Turkey over Turkey's "safe zone" in Syria. Damascus must be fuming. Turkey is assuring everyone that they respect Syria's territorial integrity but Syrians remember what happened to Hatay province, where France ceded the territory to Turkey and it has been a Turkish province ever since. Combined with Erdogan's none-too-subtle neo-Ottoman chest-thumping this will surely make people quite nervous.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Meanwhile, American troops today re-entered Syria to protect the oil fields from ISIS. Trump wanted only 200 servicemen initially, but the Pentagon says there will be at least 500, maybe more.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    And tanks
  • It’s really just to make sure Syria can’t use it. The ISIS angle is just spin to cover up the indefensible bare aim of preventing a sovereign country from accessing its own resources.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    It’s really just to make sure Syria can’t use it. The ISIS angle is just spin to cover up the indefensible bare aim of preventing a sovereign country from accessing its own resources.

    Ya think?
  • SirPalomidesSirPalomides Shipmate
    edited October 27
    Supposedly Al-Baghdadi has been killed (though it’s not the first time someone has claimed it). If it’s true, he was in Idlib a few miles from the Turkish border.

    Which occasions me to pull another bit from the memory hole- this puff piece from the Guardian last year.. Of course it’s possible to find tons of pieces in Western corporate media- even in the past couple of months- referring to the Idlib jihadists innocuously as “rebels”, “opposition forces,” etc. That Men in Black memory eraser hard at work again.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    edited October 27
    even in the past couple of months- referring to the Idlib jihadists innocuously as “rebels”, “opposition forces,” etc. That Men in Black memory eraser hard at work again.

    Almost as if Weiss et al were full of it.
  • SirPalomidesSirPalomides Shipmate
    edited October 27
    Listening to the press conference. Naturally no one is asking why Al-Baghdadi was trying to rebuild ISIS in Idlib, even after Trump says Idlib was the ideal place for him to do it. No one asks, why? Of course there are questions about “what did you tell Russia?” Once again our press, who never tire of trumpeting their importance in bringing us the truth, fail to face some basic, uncomfortable facts.

    I’m wondering if there will be any “killing ISIS leader was a gift to Russia” takes in the next few days.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited October 28
    Surely they are pursuing project Get Donald. It's a worthwhile endeavor in my book, and more important than whether this bloke actually was killed. To me, Baghdadi's death is merely symbolic, rather than important in the fight against terrorism, or even the narrower struggle against ISIS in the Middle East.

    Baghdad reminds me of Greg Davies' mate, who is nicknamed Baghdad not because he was arab, but because he came to school one day with a new bag,and when asked from whence it came, advised that it came from his Dad.
  • Project Get Donald is decidedly a secondary issue to the matter of the US and NATO aiding and protecting Al Qaeda and related groups in Syria for years. Eventually one way or another Donald will be gone; the damage from (bipartisan) US policy in Syria and Libya will reverberate for much longer, just as it did from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Why is blaming the US and NATO for what happened in the past more important than getting an unstable President with a horrible agenda out of office?
  • Because the policy is ongoing and continuously damaging. It is possible to trace a continuous line from the support for Afghan mujahideen to the present support for jihadists in Syria, in terms of the same thinking and sometimes the same people. The national security state has learned nothing and will continue to do its stupid, evil work as long as lapdog media provide cover for it. There are more important things in the world than US domestic political circus.
  • I mean, if it’s really important to get the Donald, you can pin support for Al Qaeda on him too. True, he was just carrying the torch from Obama there but he certainly did it.
  • For once, Michael Weiss is right about something- this hilarious WaPo headline referring to Baghdadi as “austere religious scholar” (WaPo has since change the title).
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    War is so much cheaper than pursuing social justice obviously. ISIS is a direct consequence of Iraqi sectarianism after US destruction of Iraqi institutions. Unless you're at a French or UK concert.
  • Over the course of the war, very few Western journalists were willing to travel into rebel-held territory. The few who did risked being kidnapped for ransom, or worse. For that reason so many Western reports were made from Damascus, or outside the country in Beirut or Istanbul. One of the rare US journalists who actually dared to go into rebel territory is Lindsey Snell. Two articles of hers here:

    I visited Al Qaeda's Syria stronghold and saw how US backing of 'moderate' rebels is bolstering jihadists

    Kidnapped by Al Qaeda, jailed by Turkey
  • Because the policy is ongoing and continuously damaging. It is possible to trace a continuous line from the support for Afghan mujahideen to the present support for jihadists in Syria, in terms of the same thinking and sometimes the same people. The national security state has learned nothing and will continue to do its stupid, evil work as long as lapdog media provide cover for it. There are more important things in the world than US domestic political circus.

    Please unpack "the policy is ongoing and continuously damaging" in your own words.
  • Read the thread, Simon.
  • The thread doesn't bear out your contention. I'm looking for your best argument on the point.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    It's the same basic policy imperialist powers have been using for centuries all over: decide which of "the rotters" to support in your own best interests ... until it's not. Then change horses mid-stream ("jump the waka") ... and so on and so on
  • Simon Toad wrote: »
    The thread doesn't bear out your contention. I'm looking for your best argument on the point.

    It would appear you and Trump have one very important thing in common: you both believe the world revolves around Donald Trump. I don’t reckon any amount of evidence can disabuse you of this delusion.
  • It's a pity you don't want to support your own contention. I'm planning to post something on why I think getting rid of Trump is more important. Galilit has the right of it though. Shifting allegiances is as old as humanity. Judging the alliance and the shift is what we are doing here I think.
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