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Turkish proxies and US Kurdish proxies are engaged in heavy combat in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate

This is a further symptom of Russia’s pivot away from the Kurds and a pragmatic move closer to Turkey.

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As of 17.30 Damascus time, intense fighting continues between Turkish proxy militants and the Kurdish led US proxy militia group SDF in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate.

Although Turkish backed militants had previously exchanged fire with the SDF, the ensuring battle in the town of Ain Daknah appears to be the most intense instance of fighting to-date, between Turkish and US proxies.

Al-Masdar reports that heavy artillery fire is being exchanged between the SDF and Turkomen dominated groups flying under the SDF flag in addition to the pro-Turkish Sunni militant group Ahrar Al-Sham.

This development does not come as surprise, as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has remarked that among the top priorities for Turkey in Syria is fighting Kurdish militants who in many cases have openly expressed solidarity with the Turkey based Kurdish terrorist group PKK.

Turkey prepares military operation against Syrian Kurds as Iraqi Kurds surrender

Erdgoan has been unambiguous in his refusal to allow Syrian Kurds the ability to gain any territorial or geo-political upper hand in Syria and other members of his government have been even more abrasive in stating their lack of reservations in respect of directly confronting a proxy militia of the United States, a fellow NATO member.

Turkey’s own position as a US “ally” and NATO member has become increasingly tenuous over the Kurdish issue, over which Ankara and Washington find themselves on opposite sides of what for Turkey is a supremely important issue of national security, something that both Erdogan’s AKP and the secular Kemalist opposition CHP agree upon. While Erdogan does and likely will still occasionally offer domestically aimed anti-Ba’athist rhetoric in respect of Syria, at this point this is just fodder for Erdogan’s core supporters who continue to represent a Muslim Brotherhood style ideology with Turkish characteristics.

As for Turkey’s actual role in Syria, it is now to restrain or even make gains against Kurdish militias. While this has caused extreme friction between Ankara and Washington, with Ankara accusing Washington of being behind Gulenist plots against Turkish sovereignty, the real decisive factor in Turkey’s war against Syria Kurds will be Russia.

Turkey is next in line to be a Pakistan style “frenemy” of the US

Turkey’s relationship with Russia continues to grow strong and crucially, Russia itself seems to be pivoting away from its historic sympathies with Middle Eastern Kurds and towards a cautious and pragmatic embrace of the reality that all of the major regional players, except for Israel, are now dead set against any Kurdish ethno-nationalist agitations. This is one of the few things that both Syria and Turkey agree upon, even though Ankara and Damascus still do not have diplomatic relations, stemming from Turkey’s erstwhile support for Takfiri lead illegal regime change in Damascus.

On Monday of this week, Presidents Erdogan and Putin met in Sochi, a symbolic Russian city on the north cost of the Black Sea which is just a warm water boat-ride away from Turkey.

In the aftermath of the meeting, I described Russia’s pivot away from latent Kurdish sympathies in the following way,

“During the most recent Astana meeting, Turkey openly objective to the participation of Kurdish groups in the so-called “pan-Syrian dialogue” which Russia has called for.

These objections are one of the unique areas where Iran, Turkey and Syria have a clear point of view while Russia’s view is far more nuanced. Iran, Turkey and Syria are now on the same page in so far as they consider armed Kurdish led, US proxy militias in Syria to be a terrorist threat and a long-term security issue.

Russia by contrast, has previously welcomed the participation of “moderate” Kurdish factions in a political process to end the Syrian conflict and had previously been somewhat sympathetic to Kurdish demands for federal autonomy in post-conflict Syria.

The rationale for this much over-hyped and gradually closing schism is obvious enough. Syria, Iran and Turkey all have militant Kurdish terrorist groups operating on their own soil and the clear fear is that if one group gets an upper-hand over their respective central government, this could set a dangerous precedent in the region. This is why Turkey and Iran cooperated with Iraq on subduing ethno-nationalist Kurds in northern Iraq in the autumn of 2017.

Russia has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, but at the same time, due to historic links with Kurdish groups, Russia was willing to facilitate the meeting of some Kurdish demands, if possible. This is because, Russia would prefer Kurdish groups to see Russia as a guarantor of peace, rather than the United Stats which Iraqi Kurds have openly said let them down. It is also because in the past, Russia had explored the possibility of a Kurdish buffer-zone between traditional Arab allies and Turkey in order to add one more layer of protection against a once hostile NATO member in the region.

Today, both of these Russian rationales have largely been changed due to new realities on the ground. Russia’s long-time ally Syria has recently stated that it views armed Kurdish groups occupying Syrian territory as no different than Takfiri groups doing the same, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. In naming Kurdish militants as terrorists, Syria has affirmed that it is not planning on taking a soft-line against Kurdish ethno-nationalists after the conflict against Takfiri groups is inevitably won. With Iraq, Iran and Turkey all taking the same line, Russia is not about to fight for a non-state group against four states whose friendship with Russia is key to Moscow’s ability to have good relations in the region and balance out would-be power struggles in the Middle East.

Secondly, with Turkey’s relationship with Russia and its relationship with Iran improving at a fast pace and with Ankara’s relations with Washington downgrading at an equally frantic pace, the idea of a ‘buffer zone’ is becoming largely outdated. Any would-be Kurdish statelete would be US/Israeli puppet state that would only strain the regional balance of power that Russia is so keen to stabilise.

Turkey and Iran will both be happy by Russia abandoning its moderate version of Project Kurd. In return, Russia will no be well placed to insure that after remaining issues are settled, Turkey does not end up permanently occupying Syria’s Idlib, thus alleviating a grave concern of Damascus.

A longer term issue will be balancing out Iran’s legal partnership with Syria against Israel’s illegal but seemingly unstoppable threat to continue to occupy and strike Syrian targets under the pretext of Iran’s presence (however limited) in Syria.

In this sense, Russia’s deal-making with Turkey, could prove to be a useful precedent in working out a solution that keeps Syria safe once the conflict formally ends, while also insuring that Russia maintains good will with Iran, while acting to quietly restrain Israeli aggression. The progress Russia has made in terms of turning Turkey from an outspoken enemy of Syria into a country that cooperates with both Russia and Iran (as Syrian allies) is a significant achievement. Convincing Israel to cease its hostility against Syria while allowing Syria and Iran to pursue their alliance will be the next great task of Russia, as Russia is the only power capable of speaking on friendly terms with all parties in the Middle East, including the occupier entity.

It is clear that while Turkey and Russia still have a fair share of disagreements on regional security, that Turkey and Russia are now the key leaders on ‘both sides’ of the international community who will help to bring the conflict to the close in Syria”.

Turkey replaces the US as Russia’s key Middle Eastern partner from the “other side”

This is not to say that Russia gave Erdogan a “green light” for further attacks on the Kurdish dominated SDF such as the one currently taking place, however it does indicate that Russia will not step in, even in a quiet capacity to restrain such attacks as it may have done previously. To be sure, Russia will continue to seek a balance of powers in the region, but Russia’s patience with the Kurds appears to have run out.

Instead, Russia is moving into a position whereby, Moscow will use the Kurds as leverage against protecting Syrian territory from future Turkish incursions. Turkey has been quietly setting up shop in Syria’s Idlib Governorate  in what can only be described as a prelude to an attempt at long term occupation. This has included the appearance of state-run Turkish post offices on Syrian territory. This is something Syria finds totally unacceptable and it is something that increasingly frustrates both Russia and Iran.

The United States, which previously endorsed Turkey’s military adventurism in Syria, now realises that the presence of Turkish Army troops and paid up Turkish proxies in Idlib and elsewhere in Syria, is going to be one of the biggest long-term stumbling blocs to setting up a Kurdish zone of occupation in northern Syria, one which Kurds have said they hope will stretch from eastern Syria to the Mediterranean.

Against this background, Russia is in a position to both effectively guarantee a hands-off ‘wink and a nod’ approach to Turkey going after the SDF in Syria, while using this as future leverage to force a Turkish withdrawal from Idlib and nearby areas of occupation in Syria.

Turkey cannot afford to alienate Russia and the US at the same time and as Turkey and Russia’s relationship is steadily becoming one of strategic and economic importance, while Ankara’s relationship with the US is becoming one that is increasingly seen by Turkey as an infuriating dead-end, the choice for Turkey is becoming obvious.

Turkey has already expressed solidarity with Russia’s calls for the US to leave Syria. This became most clearly expressed when the Turkish Prime Minister slammed the US for helping ISIS terrorist to safely evacuate from Raqqa. The statement was crucially made only hours after Sergey Lavrov blasted the US along roundly similar lines.

Russian FM Lavrov slams “most dangerous” illegal US presence in Syria – seeks US withdrawal

Turkey therefore is demonstrating that its statements on Syria are increasingly in-line with those of Russia, this is especially true in respect of statements intended for an international audience, as opposed to Erdogan’s domestic rhetoric which ought to always been listened to in its appropriate context. Russian political leaders tend to speak in generally similar styles whether their remarks are intended for domestic or international consumption. The opposite is true of many Turkish leaders, including Erdogan.

Ultimately, Russia is allowing Turkey to do Syria’s ‘dirty work’ while preserving the public status quo of Turkey and Syria being at odds, something which serves the domestic purposes of both the leaders of Turkey and Syria. At the same time, in failing to restrain Turkey, Russia is showing that it has dropped its opposition to Turkey’s hard-line against Syrian Kurds, which itself is an admission of Syrian Kurds being disproportionately loyal to the United States whose goals in Syria are becoming increasingly and ever more stridently opposed by Russia.

Russia does not want Turkey to expand its influence in Syria but nor does Russia want a permanent or semi-permanent occupation of Syria by a US military using Kurdish ethno-nationalists as a fig leaf for their ambitions.

Syria, Turkey and the Kurds: A Devil’s Triangle that only Russia can navigate

In this sense, just as Turkey under Erdgoan has chosen Russia over the US as an important superpower with whom to form a strategic partnership, so too has Russia chosen to deal with Turkey’s concerns regarding Syria as a priority over those of the US with whom Russia cannot see eye to eye. By contrast, Russia can make important “win-win” or near “win-win” compromises with Turkey. This appears to be the immediate result of the most recent Putin-Erdogan meeting.

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The Only Regime Change that Is Needed Is in Washington

The only regime change that is needed is in Washington and it would include Jeffrey, Bolton, Haley, Pompeo, and Miller.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Ron Paul Institute:


Secretary Pompeo officiates the Swearing-In Ceremony for Ambassador James F. Jeffrey. Image credit: U.S. Department of State/ flickr)

One of the things to look forward to in the upcoming holiday season is the special treats that one is allowed to sample. Fruitcake and nuts are Thanksgiving and Christmas favorites. They usually come in tins or special packages but it seems that this season some of the nuts have escaped and have fled to obtain sanctuary from the Trump Administration.

Currently, there is certainly a wide range of nuts available on display in the West Wing. There is the delicate but hairy Bolton, which has recently received the coveted “Defender of Israel” award, and also the robust Pompeo, courageously bucking the trend to overeat during the holidays by telling the Iranian people that they should either surrender or starve to death. And then there is the always popular Haley, voting audaciously to give part of Syria to Israel as a holiday treat.

But my vote for the most magnificent nut in an Administration that is overflowing with such talent would be the esteemed United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey. The accolade is in part due to the fact that Jeffrey started out relatively sane as a career diplomat with the State Department, holding ambassadorships in Iraq, Turkey, and Albania. He had to work hard to become as demented as he now is but was helped along the way by signing on as a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Jeffrey set the tone for his term of office shortly after being appointed back in August when he argued that the Syrian terrorists were “. . . not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, who must have somehow missed a lot of the head chopping and rape going on, subsequently traveled to the Middle East and stopped off in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been suggested that Jeffrey received his marching orders during the visit.

James Jeffrey has been particularly active during this past month.  On November 7th he declared that he would like to see Russia maintain a “permissive approach” to allowing the Israelis to attack Iranian targets inside Syria.  Regarding Iran’s possible future role in Syria, he observed that “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.”

What Jeffrey meant was that because Israel had been “allowed” to carry out hundreds of air attacks in Syria ostensibly directed against Iran-linked targets, the practice should be permitted to continue. Israel had suspended nearly all of its airstrikes in the wake of the shoot-down of a Russian aircraft in September, an incident which Moscow has blamed on Israel even though the missile that brought down the plane was fired by Syria. Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed. Israel reportedly was deliberately using the Russian plane to mask the presence of its own aircraft.

Russia responded to the incident by deploying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria, which can cover most of the more heavily developed areas of the country. Jeffrey was unhappy with that decision, saying “We are concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level. Who will control it? what role will it play?” And he defended his own patently absurd urging that Russia, Syria’s ally, permit Israel to continue its air attacks by saying “We understand the existential interest and we support Israel” because the Israeli government has an “existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles.”

On November 15th James Jeffrey was at it again, declaring that U.S. troops will not leave Syria before guaranteeing the “enduring defeated” of ISIS, but he perversely put the onus on Syria and Iran, saying that “We also think that you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013, 2014.”

As virtually no one but Jeffrey and the Israeli government actually believes that Damascus and Tehran were responsible for creating ISIS, the ambassador elaborated, blaming President Bashar al-Assad for the cycle of violence in Syria that, he claimed, allowed the development of the terrorist group in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

He said “The Syrian regime produced ISIS. The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population.”

Jeffrey’s formula is just another recycling of the myth that the Syrian opposition consisted of good folks who wanted to establish democracy in the country. In reality, it incorporated terrorist elements right from the beginning and groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliates rapidly assumed control of the violence. That Jeffrey should be so ignorant or blinded by his own presumptions to be unaware of that is astonishing. It is also interesting to note that he makes no mention of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, knee-jerk support for Israel and the unrelenting pressure on Syria starting with the Syrian Accountability Act of 2003 and continuing with the embrace of the so-called Arab Spring. Most observers believe that those actions were major contributors to the rise of ISIS.

Jeffrey’s unflinching embrace of the Israeli and hardline Washington assessment of the Syrian crisis comes as no surprise given his pedigree, but in the same interview where he pounded Iran and Syria, he asserted oddly that “We’re not about regime change. We’re about a change in the behavior of a government and of a state.”

Actually, the only regime change that is needed is in Washington and it would include Jeffrey, Bolton, Haley, Pompeo, and Miller. And while we’re at it, get rid of son-in-law Jared Kushner and his claque of Orthodox Jews, Jason Greenblatt the “peace negotiator” and David Friedman the U.S. Ambassador in Israel. None of them are capable of acting to advance any American national interest, which they wouldn’t recognize even if it hit them in the butt. Once they are gone the U.S. can bid the Middle East goodbye and leave its constituent nations to sort out their own problems. Jeffrey’s ridiculous prescriptions for the Syrians and Russians are symptomatic of what one gets from a team of yes-men who have latched onto some dystopic ideas and pursued them relentlessly, blinded by what they believe to be American power. Someone should tell them that their antics have made that power a commodity that is dramatically depreciating in value, but it is clear that they are not listening.

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‘Iron’ Mike Pence Stares-Down Putin In APEC Showdown

Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton were seen shaking hands and chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Singapore.

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Via Zerohedge


Forget the All-Blacks ‘Haka’, ignore Foreman-Frasier, Drago-Balboa, and Ortiz-Liddell, the honor of the greatest (or perhaps most awkward) staredown in history now goes to US Vice President Mike Pence…

Having been blamed for everything from Trump’s election victory to USA soccer team’s loss to England last week, Russia faced accusations all weekend and was reportedly confronted by the US contingent over “meddling.”

As The Sun reports, Pence and Putin “discussed the upcoming G20 Summit and touched on the issues that will be discussed when President Trump and President Putin are both in Argentina for the summit,” according to the vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah.

An NBC reporter tweeted: “New per the @VP’s Office—> The VP’s office says Vice President Pence directly addressed Russian meddling in the 2016 election in a conversation with Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Singapore.

“The conversation took place following the plenary session this afternoon at ASEAN.”

But, it was the following clash of the titans that caught most people’s attention.

As the Russian president joined the that Pence shook Putin’s ‘deadly’ hand, met his ‘steely KGB-trained’ gaze, and desperately tried not to smile or blink for 20 seconds as Putin appeared to chat amicably with the US VP…

While Putin has (if his accusers are to be believed) grappled his opponents to death with his bare hands (remember he is a sinister KGB agent and jiu-jitsu expert); we suspect the only thing VP Pence has gripped tightly in his hands is his bible.

Sadly, John Bolton then blew the tough guy act (or is he Mike Pence’s ‘good cop’) as he does his best impression of a teenage girl meeting their popstar idol for the first time…

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Orthodox Churches begin to respond forcefully to Ukrainian situation

Two jurisdictions, including one with a difficult history with Russia, move to condemn uncanonical acts in Ukraine.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Two local jurisdictions within the Eastern Orthodox Church announced their refusal to accept the legitimization of two schismatic groups in Ukraine, a move authorized by the Ecumenical Patriarch, but spurred by powers in the United States and Petro Poroshenko’s secularist-oriented Ukraine.

On October 11th, 2018, the Ecumentical Patriarch, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, authorized his legates to pronounce two schismatic Orthodox “churches” in Ukraine to be restored to canonical communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and by extension, across the entire Orthodox world.

This move was strongly condemned by the authorities of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has the only canonically accepted church presence in Ukraine, a situation that the Ecumenical Patriarch himself agreed with only a few years ago.

Russia moved to break communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, creating a split in the Orthodox Church, but a split that at first risked Russia standing alone in their statement of disapproval of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s actions.

For a time the reaction of the other “local” Orthodox Churches was cautious, with the vast majority (excepting only the Greek Church in the USA) coming out in support of the canonical group in Ukraine, but without taking similar action to Moscow.

That appears to be changing.

On November 12 and 16, respectively, the Churches of Serbia and Poland issued strong statements. They both categorically refused to recognize the Ukrainian schismatic groups and they forbade their clergy to concelebrate with the “clergy” within these groups. The Serbs’ statement on this was as follows:

“The Assembly does not recognize the mentioned figures and their followers as Orthodox bishops and clergy and, consequently, does not accept liturgical and canonical communion with them and their supporters.”

The Polish Church made a similar announcement, but with even more force:

“The Holy Bishops’ Council forbids the priests of the Polish Orthodox Church from having liturgical and prayerful contact with the ‘clergy’ of the so-called Kiev Patriarchate and the so-called ‘Autocephalous Orthodox Church,’ which have committed much evil in the past,” the statement reads.

According to the Polish hierarchs, persons deprived of episcopal and clerical ordination cannot be leaders in establishing peace in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Only the observance of the dogmatic and canonical norms of the Church and the preservation of the centuries-old tradition will protect Orthodoxy from severe ecclesiastical consequences on an international scale. The Polish Orthodox Church prays fervently for the unity of the holy Orthodox Church and for peace for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the message further reads.

And while yet officially under the omophorion of Constantinople, several Greek monasteries on Mount Athos, the Orthodox monastic republic that is the spiritual center of all of Eastern Orthodoxy, inserted special petitions in their services to pray for Metropolitan Onufry and the people of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – that is, the canonical group that is a highly autonomous, or independent, Church while yet under the Moscow Patriarchate.

This is an interesting situation because in terms of ecclesial jurisdiction, Mount Athos is actually under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. However, the monasteries there often are known for taking the hardest of hardline stances when even their own Patriarchate takes actions they feel to be wrong:

Thousands of Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians go on pilgrimage to Mt. Athos, which is under the jurisdiction of Constantinople, every year. However, the Russian Church, of which the Ukrainian Church is an autonomous, self-governing part, broke communion with Constantinople on October 15, which the Ukrainian Church confirmed yesterday, due to unilateral Constantinople’s interference in ecclesiastical life in Ukraine.

We know that the majority of the abbots of the Athonite monasteries do not agree with the anti-canonical decisions of the Phanar,” Met. Anthony said.

“In several monasteries—Greek ones, by the way—they have included a special petition in the Litany of Peace in the morning and evening services: ‘For His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry with his suffering flock.,’” he explained, adding, “We are very grateful to the Athonites for their brotherly love and prayers.”

This is a story that it still developing, but the recent moves by Poland and Serbia may be outlining the path that other local Orthodox Churches will take.

That move is to deny recognition to the schismatics that Patriarch Bartholomew lifted the anathemas and depositions for. If this step were to be taken by all the local Churches that have expressed support for the canonical Ukrainian Church, the result would be not much different than where the schismatics were on October 10th:

Filaret Denisenko’s group and Makary’s group would indeed have communion with Constantinople, and presumably the Greek Orthodox Church in the USA, but with no one else.

This move would be a severe repudiation of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s repeated declaration that he has the sole authority to grant autocephaly to anyone anywhere in the Orthodox world (or even to take it away), which is a canonical absurdity.

Given the substantial problems that Filaret Denisenko continues to create, such as refusing to be considered only a Metropolitan (this was the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s order), and to still consider himself a patriarch, blessing a blasphemous “icon” that is really just a monument to Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and secularism (note the neo-Nazi wolfsangel and machine guns in the upper right of this photo:

And given the ideations of Patriarch Bartholomew himself, who is also recently reported to be pushing towards creating unity with the Roman Catholic Church, while acting like a pope himself by insisting that all the local Orthodox Churches will accept his decisions, it does not look like this situation is going to go away by itself.

However, by placing the problem of the schismatics squarely in Patriarch Bartholomew’s hands (since he created the problem), the pressure created by other churches refusing to concelebrate with the Ukrainian schismatics may be enough to isolate the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, rather than fulfilling the highly likely goal that the US, Ukraine and Patriarch Bartholomew may have had initially – to isolate Russia and create a situation where Russia is made to look like the bad guy, once again.

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