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The reasons and perils of Israel’s dangerous game in Syria

Israel’s bombing of Syrian positions in the Golan Heights is part of a strategy of creating an Al-Qaeda controlled buffer zone as Israel’s strategic position deteriorates in light of the pending victory of the Syrian government in the Syrian war.

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the most important things to have happened in the Syrian war over the last few months is that the veil of Israel’s neutrality in the war has been thrown off.

This veil was always very thin.  It is no secret in the Middle East that the Syrian conflict has been all about breaking the ‘Axis of Resistance’ of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah by attacking Syria, which was supposed to be its weakest link.

The ‘Axis of Resistance’ of course gets its name because of its ‘resistance’ to Israel.  It is not surprising therefore that Israel is implacably hostile to it, and has long sought to break it up. Since the ‘Axis of Resistance’ – and the extension of Iranian power that comes with it – is also seen as a threat by the conservative Arab Gulf States and by the US, that explains the de facto alliance between them and Israel which has been the main driver of the Syrian war.

Our contributor Afra’a Dagher – who is Syrian and who writes from Syria – has written about all this extensively.   Israeli leaders have also spoken about all it with refreshing directness and frankness which one never gets from the leaders of the West.  Consider for example the public admission in January 2016 of Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon that he would rather see the victory of ISIS in Syria than the perpetuation of Iranian influence there.

It is clear by now however that this plan has badly miscarried.

Following the intervention of Russia in 2015 it became increasingly clear that the Syrian government was going to survive.  Following the liberation of eastern Aleppo last December it also became clear that the Syrian government was likely to regain control of the populous regions of ‘useful Syria’ on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.  Following the Russian-Turkish-Iranian ceasefire plan agreed in May the Syrian government’s control of ‘useful Syria’ has been consolidated.  Following the offensives of the Syrian army in eastern Syria it is becoming clear that the plan to hive off eastern Syria in order to create a Sunni client state there has also failed.  The US has now publicly admitted as much.

All of this from an Israeli point of view is serious enough.  However of even greater concern must be that the result of the Syrian war is leaving Israel’s strategic position much weaker than it was before the war started.  To see why consider the following four facts:

(1) The Syrian army is now a far more formidable force than it was before the war

The Syrian army before 2011 was like most Arab armies inefficient and shot through with corruption.  Six years of war have however cut out the dead and rotten wood, improving discipline and morale, and giving the army’s commanders battlefield experience exceeding anything the Israeli army now has.  It has also massively improved the Syrian army’s command and control systems.

The blisteringly fast parallel advance of three large Syrian military columns across the desert of central and eastern Syria towards Deir Ezzor which is currently underway speaks of the very highest quality of staff work.  This is not something the Syrian army was capable of before the war.

Quite probably much of this staff work – perhaps all of it – is being done for the Syrian army by the Russians, who have historically excelled at staff work.  However even if Syrian commanders involved in the operation are purely beneficiaries of staff work being done for them by the Russians, they will be experiencing the effect of first class staff work for the first time and will be learning vital lessons from it.

There are also reports of the wholesale retraining of Syrian officers and soldiers by Russian advisers and of the Syrians being supplied by Russia with sophisticated weapons such as T90 tanks, BTR82 armoured vehicles, Igla man portable surface to air missiles (MANPADS) and by Iran with sophisticated Iranian drones.

The Syrian army has also gained for the first time in its history experience of close air support for ground troops engaged in both offensive and defensive operations, with the Syrians learning all about how to train and position forward air controllers and how to maintain communications during ground fighting between ground forces and air forces.

(2) President Assad’s prestige and authority is being increased

The Syrian government has been the most consistent opponent of Israel amongst the governments of the Arab states since at least the 1960s.  Whereas Egypt and Jordan have concluded peace treaties with Israel, Syria has consistently refused to do so.

President Bashar Al-Assad inherited this policy from his father, former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.  Until the outbreak of the Syrian war he was however widely seen as a weak leader, too intellectual and too westernised to replace his father in leading Syria effectively.

In the event President Assad rose to the challenge of the war.  His success in holding Syria together through the extraordinary stresses of the war, the leadership he has provided to his people, to his government and to his army, and his skilful diplomacy, which has won him the vital backing of Russia, will inevitably once the war is over increase his prestige, not just within Syria but in the Arab world as a whole.  He will be seen as the man who at the risk of his own life stayed at his post even as his official residence was almost entirely surrounded by Jihadi fighters, and who stood up to the US, Israel, the Gulf Arab States, NATO, Turkey, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and against all the odds won.

The war has transformed President Assad – amongst Arab leaders Israel’s most implacable enemy – into a potentially towering figure, arguably the most imposing the Arab world has had since the death of Gamal Nasser.  Moreover unlike tyrannical and blustering figures like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Al-Assad – dignified, educated and articulate in both Arabic and English – looks like someone Arabs can identify with, and who like Nasser the outside world can take seriously.

The Israelis must be worried as to what use President Assad will put his newly found authority and prestige when the Syrian war is over and his hands are finally freed.  Will he become a beacon of opposition to them as Nasser once was?  The possibility is there.

(3) The Syrian-Iranian alliance has been massively strengthened

In my opinion the ultimate origin of the Syrian war is the 2006 conflict in Lebanon when the Lebanese Shiite resistance group Hezbollah successfully held off the assault of the Israeli army.  This event spread alarm not just in Israel but in the US and amongst the Gulf Arab States about the powerful Iranian led ‘Axis of Resistance’ which was in the process of forming.  As discussed above, the Syrian war was essentially launched to break it.

I will now state my view that this pre-2011 fear about the emergence of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ – often conflated with the somewhat different concept of the so-called ‘Shia Crescent’ – was overdone.  Before 2011 Hezbollah was a purely Lebanese movement, which posed no threat to the existence of Israel, whilst Syria, though Israel’s enemy and allied to both Hezbollah and Iran, posed no threat to Israel either.  As for Iran, though it did have a powerful military, it was also far away and was then and – in my opinion still is now – overwhelmingly focused on its own security.

As for the idea of some sort of territorially contiguous ‘Shia Crescent‘ forming a ‘land-bridge’ linking Iran with Hezbollah across Syria and Iraq, this was a concept which before 2011 had no reality.  Certainly no such ‘land-bridge’ could have existed in 2006 when Hezbollah defeated Israel’s assault in Lebanon because Iraq at that time was under US occupation following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, ensuring that the US would intercept whatever supplies Iran might have tried to send to Hezbollah through there.

The effect of the Syrian war is however that it has actually brought all the elements of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ together and is adding Iraq to them, making the concept of a ‘land-bridge’ from Iran to Hezbollah across Syria and Iraq finally into a potential reality.

Iranian influence has markedly increased in Syria as a result of the war.  Iranian troops are now present in Syria where before 2011 there were none.  There are also now large numbers of Iranian commanded Shia militia from Iraq there.  Hezbollah is now also fighting alongside the Syrian army there. Syria and Iraq have discovered a commonality of interest in fighting ISIS and other Jihadi movements which they never had before, and are now de facto allies.  Both are allies of Iran.

With the coordinated arrival of Syrian and Iraqi troops at their common border for the first time in years, the much feared and talked about ‘land-bridge’ linking Iran with Hezbollah across Iraq and Syria is now finally close to becoming a reality.  Not only is it now theoretically possible to send supplies by road from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but there is now for the first time a real possibility of it actually happening.

(4) Israel is losing its strategic dominance in the region because of the coming of Russia 

If the arrival of the Russians in Syria in 2015 was the single event which decisively turned the tide of the war in Syria, Russia’s recent decision to set up a huge network of bases in Syria – a fully fledged naval base in Tartus, a permanent air base in Khmeimim, and a huge supporting complex of advanced surface to air missiles, electronic warfare systems, radars, and listening stations – means that Israel’s hitherto unchallenged strategic dominance in this region is being lost.

To be clear, the Russian presence in Syria is not directed at Israel, and the Russians have been at pains to make clear that they are not Israel’s enemy.  However the presence of the sophisticated military of a nuclear superpower so close to Israel’s territory cannot but fill the Israelis with foreboding since over time, as the situation in Syria stabilises, it will inevitably come to constrain Israel’s actions.

The US has twice been obliged to limit its air operations in Syria after the Russians turned off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria (see here and here).

There is a separate ‘de-confliction’ hotline in existence between the militaries of Israel and Russia.  Since it is hardly plausible that Israel will be prepared to send its aircraft to places where the mighty US air force refuses to go, the Israelis must dread the day when the Russians decide to do the same to them, forcing them like the US to limit their flights in Syrian airspace.

That day may not be so far off.

The Russians during the Syrian war have shown that they will act strongly if either the US or Israel take military action which directly threatens the Syrian government, or which interferes with the offensive operations of the Syrian army.

Thus the Russians reacted sharply last October when the US seemed to be considering strikes on Syrian forces to break the siege of Jihadi controlled eastern Aleppo and following a US air attack on Syrian troops defending Deir Ezzor, and more recently they also reacted sharply when the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter during the ongoing Syrian army offensive in northern Syria against ISIS.  They also reacted sharply when Israel recently bombed Syria’s vital Tiyas air base, calling in the Israeli ambassador to protest an action which was clearly intended to obstruct the Syrian army’s eastern campaign against ISIS.

The Russians have however shown far greater forbearance in responding to attacks that they consider pinpricks ie. occasional US or Israeli strikes on Syrian troops or facilities which pose no direct threat to the Syrian government, and which do not affect the conduct of Syrian army operations which the Russians consider important.  The muted Russian response to the recent US shooting down of an Iranian drone was merely one example of this.

However once the situation in Syria stabilises and the country is at peace the Russians are unlikely to go on showing the same forbearance.  Israeli attacks on Syria will then be attacks on Russia’s most important friend and ally in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean, a country which will be hosting Russia’s biggest network of bases outside former Soviet territory, and one which will also be hosting tens of thousands of Russian visitors, not just military personnel manning the bases but civilian visitors and tourists visiting a friendly country which will no longer be a war zone.

In light of this there has to be an overwhelming likelihood that the Russians will at some point tell the Israelis that further attacks on Syria will no longer be tolerated, and must stop.

Beyond this there is there is the change in the regional balance caused by the mere presence of the Russian bases in Syria.

Already there are reports in the Israeli media of Israeli concern that Russian radars in Syria already possess the ability to track the flight of every Israeli aircraft taking off from every air base in Israel.  It is highly likely Russian listening stations in Syria and in Russia monitoring signals that might affect the operation of Russia’s Syrian bases will before long start listening to Israeli signals traffic even if they are not doing so already.  Meanwhile the electronic warfare systems the Russians have already deployed to Syria – notably the Krasukha-S4 – are probably already capable of jamming Israeli signals traffic and the operation of some Israeli weapons systems.

The Israelis must also worry about what might happen if the Russians one day start passing on some of the information their intelligence gathering systems in Syria are providing them to the Syrians.  After all it is standard practice for a country operating bases in another country to share intelligence it obtains through use of these bases with the host country.  The Syrians might in that case obtain intelligence about Israel of a quality they have never had before.

Regardless of that, with the Russians already in Syria and listening in to Israel’s signals traffic the possibility of Israel mounting a surprise attack on Syria like the one it carried off so spectacularly in 1967 has gone, probably forever.

It is not difficult therefore to see why Israel should be so concerned about recent developments in Syria.  A war which was at least in part intended to make Israel’s position stronger is ending up by making it much weaker.

It is these concerns which undoubtedly lie behind Israel’s most recent actions.

Despite Israeli denials the recent Israeli bombing raids on Syrian military positions in the Golan Heights are clearly intended to support an Al-Qaeda offensive against Syrian troops there.  The plan appears to be to create an Al-Qaeda controlled buffer zone between Israel and the Syrian military in the Golan Heights, the one area where Syria and Israel territorially adjoin each other, and where their militaries directly confront each other.

The Israelis after all tried to do the same thing when they set up the so-called ‘South Lebanese Army” in southern Lebanon to control a buffer zone there after their invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

If that is the Israeli plan – and everything suggests that it is – then the Lebanese experience ought to serve as a warning.

Al-Qaeda led Jihadi fighters are scarcely reliable allies for Israel, and in trying to manipulate them Israel is holding a scorpion by the tail.

By meddling in the Golan Heights Israel risks becoming bogged down in a prolonged war there, allied to Jihadi fighters who are its sworn enemy.  It is easy to see how this could turn out disastrously, with Israel over time becoming bogged down in a war in the Golan Heights similar to the war it fought and lost in southern Lebanon, which gave rise to Hezbollah.

Rather than engage in these dangerous games in Syria Israel would be far better advised to start looking at serious options to make peace, both with Syria and with the Palestinians.  Given that both of the two superpowers currently engaged in the Middle East – the US and Russia – are at present friendly towards Israel, there is no better time to do so than now.  Delaying doing it risks leaving Israel in a much weaker position than the one it is in now, as the situation in the Middle East following the end of the Syrian war starts to turn against it.

Unfortunately there is no sign that the present Israeli leadership – made complacent by long years of having things always go its way – has any thought of doing this.

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gbardizbanian
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gbardizbanian

I greatly appreciate your comments on President Assad. I truly think he is an extraordinary political figure. He has never given up, he has not deserted his residence in Syria. He has stood up against a formidable alliance of treacherous ennemies: the US, the EU, Turkey, the Arab vassals of the US, NATO, etc…This is an incredible achievement. The Russians played their part but they wouldn’t have achieved anything if Assad had been a weak leader.

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Fake news media FREAK OUT over Trump and NATO (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 172.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the media meltdown over remarks that U.S. President Trump may have made with regard to NATO, and how neo-liberal war hawks championing the alliance as some sort of foreign policy projection of peace and democracy, are really just supporting aggression, war, and the eventual weakening of the United States.

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Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO, Authored by David Swanson:


The New York Times loves NATO, but should you?

Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

1. NATO is not a war-legalizing body, quite the opposite. NATO, like the United Nations, is an international institution that has something or other to do with war, but transferring the UN’s claimed authority to legalize a war to NATO has no support whatsoever in reality. The crime of attacking another nation maintains an absolutely unaltered legal status whether or not NATO is involved. Yet NATO is used within the U.S. and by other NATO members as cover to wage wars under the pretense that they are somehow more legal or acceptable. This misconception is not the only way in which NATO works against the rule of law. Placing a primarily-U.S. war under the banner of NATO also helps to prevent Congressional oversight of that war. Placing nuclear weapons in “non-nuclear” nations, in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, is also excused with the claim that the nations are NATO members (so what?). And NATO, of course, assigns nations the responsibility to go to war if other nations go to war — a responsibility that requires them to be prepared for war, with all the damage such preparation does.

2. NATO is not a defensive institution. According to the New York Times, NATO has “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is an article of faith, based on the unsubstantiated belief that Soviet and Russian aggression toward NATO members has existed for 70 years and that NATO has deterred it rather than provoked it. In violation of a promise made, NATO has expanded eastward, right up to the border of Russia, and installed missiles there. Russia has not done the reverse. The Soviet Union has, of course, ended. NATO has waged aggressive wars far from the North Atlantic, bombing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. NATO has added a partnership with Colombia, abandoning all pretense of its purpose being in the North Atlantic. No NATO member has been attacked or credibly threatened with attack, apart from small-scale non-state blowback from NATO’s wars of aggression.

3. Trump is not trying to destroy NATO. Donald Trump, as a candidate and as U.S. President, has wondered aloud and even promised all kinds of things and, in many cases, the exact opposite as well. When it comes to actions, Trump has not taken any actions to limit or end or withdraw from NATO. He has demanded that NATO members buy more weapons, which is of course a horrible idea. Even in the realm of rhetoric, when European officials have discussed creating a European military, independent of the United States, Trump has replied by demanding that they instead support NATO.

4. If Trump were trying to destroy NATO, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Trump has claimed to want to destroy lots of things, good and bad. Should I support NAFTA or corporate media or the Cold War or the F35 or anything at all, simply because some negative comment about it escapes Trump’s mouth? Should I cheer for every abuse ever committed by the CIA or the FBI because they investigate Trump? Should I long for hostility between nuclear-armed governments because Democrats claim Trump is a Russian agent? When Trump defies Russia to expand NATO, or to withdraw from a disarmament treaty or from an agreement with Iran, or to ship weapons to Ukraine, or to try to block Russian energy deals in Europe, or to oppose Russian initiatives on banning cyber-war or weapons in space, should I cheer for such consistent defiance of Trump’s Russian master, and do so simply because Russia is, so implausibly, his so-inept master? Or should I form my own opinion of things, including of NATO?

5. Trump is not working for, and was not elected by, Russia.According to the New York Times, “Russia’s meddling in American elections and its efforts to prevent former satellite states from joining the alliance have aimed to weaken what it views as an enemy next door, the American officials said.” But are anonymous “American officials” really needed to acquire Russia’s openly expressed opinion that NATO is a threatening military alliance that has moved weapons and troops to states on Russia’s border? And has anyone produced the slightest documentation of the Russian government’s aims in an activity it has never admitted to, namely “meddling in American elections,” — an activity the United States has of course openly admitted to in regard to Russian elections? We have yet to see any evidence that Russia stole or otherwise acquired any of the Democratic Party emails that documented that party’s rigging of its primary elections in favor of Clinton over Sanders, or even any claim that the tiny amount of weird Facebook ads purchased by Russians could possibly have influenced the outcome of anything. Supposedly Trump is even serving Russia by demanding that Turkey not attack Kurds. But is using non-military means to discourage Turkish war-making necessarily the worst thing? Would it be if your favorite party or politician did it? If Trump encouraged a Turkish war, would that also be a bad thing because Trump did it, or would it be a bad thing for substantive reasons?

6. If Trump were elected by and working for Russia, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Imagine if Boris Yeltsin were indebted to the United States and ended the Soviet Union. Would that tell us whether ending the Soviet Union was a good thing, or whether the Soviet Union was obsolete for serious reasons? If Trump were a Russian pawn and began reversing all of his policies on Russia to match that status, including restoring his support for the INF Treaty and engaging in major disarmament negotiations, and we ended up with a world of dramatically reduced military spending and nuclear armaments, with the possibility of all dying in a nuclear apocalypse significantly lowered, would that too simply be a bad thing because Trump?

7. Russia is not a military threat to the world. That Russia would cheer NATO’s demise tells us nothing about whether we should cheer too. Numerous individuals and entities who indisputably helped to put Trump in the White House would dramatically oppose and others support NATO’s demise. We can’t go by their opinions either, since they don’t all agree. We really are obliged to think for ourselves. Russia is a heavily armed militarized nation that commits the crime of war not infrequently. Russia is a top weapons supplier to the world. All of that should be denounced for what it is, not because of who Russia is or who Trump is. But Russia spends a tiny fraction of what the United States does on militarism. Russia has been reducing its military spending each year, while the United States has been increasing its military spending. U.S. annual increases have sometimes exceeded Russia’s entire military budget. The United States has bombed nine nations in the past year, Russia one. The United States has troops in 175 nations, Russia in 3. Gallup and Pew find populations around the world viewing the United States, not Russia, as the top threat to peace in the world. Russia has asked to join NATO and the EU and been rejected, NATO members placing more value on Russia as an enemy. Anonymous U.S. military officials describe the current cold war as driven by weapons profits. Those profits are massive, and NATO now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing on the globe.

8. Crimea has not been seized. According to the New York Times, “American national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on undermining solidarity between the United States and Europe after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Its goal was to upend NATO, which Moscow views as a threat.” Again we have an anonymous claim as to a goal of a government in committing an action that never occurred. We can be fairly certain such things are simply made up. The vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia is commonly called the Seizure of Crimea. This infamous seizure is hard to grasp. It involved a grand total of zero casualties. The vote itself has never been re-done. In fact, to my knowledge, not a single believer in the Seizure of Crimea has ever advocated for re-doing the vote. Coincidentally, polling has repeatedly found the people of Crimea to be happy with their vote. I’ve not seen any written or oral statement from Russia threatening war or violence in Crimea. If the threat was implicit, there remains the problem of being unable to find Crimeans who say they felt threatened. (Although I have seen reports of discrimination against Tartars during the past 4 years.) If the vote was influenced by the implicit threat, there remains the problem that polls consistently get the same result. Of course, a U.S.-backed coup had just occurred in Kiev, meaning that Crimea — just like a Honduran immigrant — was voting to secede from a coup government, by no means an action consistently frowned upon by the United States.

9. NATO is not an engaged alternative to isolationism. The notion that supporting NATO is a way to cooperate with the world ignores superior non-deadly ways to cooperate with the world. A nonviolent, cooperative, treaty-joining, law-enforcing alternative to the imperialism-or-isolationism trap is no more difficult to think of or to act on than treating drug addiction or crime or poverty as reason to help people rather than to punish them. The opposite of bombing people is not ignoring them. The opposite of bombing people is embracing them. By the standards of the U.S. communications corporations Switzerland must be the most isolationist land because it doesn’t join in bombing anyone. The fact that it supports the rule of law and global cooperation, and hosts gatherings of nations seeking to work together is simply not relevant.

10. April 4 belongs to Martin Luther King, Jr., not militarism. War is a leading contributor to the growing global refugee and climate crises, the basis for the militarization of the police, a top cause of the erosion of civil liberties, and a catalyst for racism and bigotry. A growing coalition is calling for the abolition of NATO, the promotion of peace, the redirection of resources to human and environmental needs, and the demilitarization of our cultures. Instead of celebrating NATO’s 70thanniversary, we’re celebrating peace on April 4, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech against war on April 4, 1967, as well as his assassination on April 4, 1968.

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Turkey prepared to take Syria’s Manbij, won’t let it turn into ‘swamp’ like N. Iraq

Turkey sees the US-backed Kurdish YPG militias as an extension of the PKK and considers them terrorists as well.

RT

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Ankara has “almost completed” preparations for another military operation in Syria and will launch it if “promises” made by other parties about the protection of its borders are not kept, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Turkey still hopes that talks with the US, Russia and “other parties” will allow it to ensure its security without resorting to force but it is still ready to proceed with a military option and will not “wait forever,” Erdogan said. He was referring to Ankara’s plans for the northern Syrian territories east of the Euphrates River, which it seeks to turn into a “security zone”free of any Kurdish militias.

“We are on our border with our forces and following developments closely. If promises made to us are kept and the process goes on, that’s fine. Otherwise, we inform that we have almost completed our preparations and will take steps in line with our own strategy,” the president said, addressing a group of businessmen in Ankara on Monday.

He did not elaborate on the promises made. However, they are apparently linked to the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia from the Manbij area and the regions along the border with Turkey. “We will never allow a safe zone to turn into a new swamp,” Erdogan said, referring to the northern Syrian territories and comparing them to the northern Iraq, where the militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – an organization that Ankara considers a terrorist group – have been entrenched for decades.

Turkey sees the US-backed Kurdish YPG militias, which form the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as an extension of the PKK and considers them terrorists as well. “Our proposal for a security zone under Turkey’s control aims to keep terror organizations away from our borders,” the Turkish president said.

He went on to explain that Ankara does not seek any territorial gains in its military campaigns in Syria but merely seeks to restore order in the war-ravaged country. “We will provide security for Manbij and then we will hand over the city to its real owners,” Erdogan said. “Syria belongs to Syrians.”

Turkey also seeks to establish a “security zone 20 miles [32 kilometers] deep” into Syria, Erdogan said, adding that he already discussed this issue with the US President Donald Trump. “Those who insistently want to keep us away from these regions are seeking to strengthen terror organizations,” he added.

Ankara has been long planning to push YPG units out of the area east of the Euphrates River. Its operation was delayed by the US withdrawal from Syria. However, Erdogan repeatedly hinted that his patience is wearing thin and he is not ready to wait much longer. He warned Trump against backtracking on his pledge to withdraw some 2,000 US forces out of Syria following a suicide attack in Manbij that killed four Americans. If the US president halted the withdrawal, it would mean that Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) had won, Erdogan argued.

He has also reiterated that Turkey is ready to take over Manbij “without delay.” The US military is currently working on security arrangements with the Turkish forces to create a buffer zone between Turkey and the Kurdish fighters. The Kurds, meanwhile, invited the Syrian government to take over the city and have reportedly begun to leave the area. Turkey has dismissed the reports saying its a “psyop”.

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Political Knives Dull Themselves on the Rock of Brexit Article 50

The invocation of Article 50 was undertaken by an act of Parliament. And it will take another act of Parliament to undo it.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored Tom Luongo via Strategic Culture Foundation:


Theresa “The Gypsum Lady” May went through an extraordinary twenty-four hours. First, seeing her truly horrific Brexit deal go down in historic defeat and then, somehow, surviving a ‘No-Confidence’ vote which left her in a stronger position than before it.

It looks like May rightly calculated that the twenty or so Tory Remainers would put party before the European Union as their personal political positions would be terminally weakened if they voted her out of office.

While there is little stomach in the British Parliament for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, there is less for allowing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister. And that is the crux of why the incessant calls to delay Brexit, call for a ‘people’s vote’ or, in Corbyn’s case, “take a no-deal Brexit off the table,’ ultimately lead to a whole lot of political knife-fighting and very little substantive action.

The day-to-day headline spam is designed to wear down people’s resistance and make it feel like Brexit getting betrayed is inevitable. That has been the British Deep State’s and EU’s game plan all along and they hoped they could arm-twist enough people in parliament to succeed.

But the problem for them now, since the clock has nearly run out, is the invocation of Article 50 was undertaken by an act of Parliament. And it will take another act of Parliament to undo it.

And I don’t see anyone on the Remainer side working towards that end. That should be your clue as to what happens next.

Why? Because they know they don’t have the time to get that act past Parliament. So, the rest of this is simply a PR campaign to push public opinion far enough to allow for an illegal canceling or postponing of Brexit.

But it’s not working.

According to the latest polls, Brits overwhelmingly want the original Brexit vote respectedLeave even has a 5-6 point lead over Remain.

And, I think Theresa May now realizes this. It is why she invited the no-confidence vote against her. She knew she had the votes and it would give her the ammunition to ignore Corbyn’s hysterical ranting about taking a no-deal Brexit off the table.

Whether she realizes that the only negotiating tool she has with the EU is the threat of a No-Deal Brexit, exactly like Nigel Farage and those committed to Brexit have been telling her for two years is still, however, up in the air.

It looks like she’s finally starting to get it.

The net result is we are seeing a similar outing of the nefarious, behind-the-scenes, power brokers in the public eye similar to what’s been happening in the US with Donald Trump and Russiagate.

May has been singularly unimpressive in her handling of Brexit. I’ve been convinced from the beginning that betraying Brexit was always her goal. Negotiating a deal unacceptable to anyone was meant to exhaust everyone into the position to just throwing up their hands and canceling the whole thing.

The EU has been in the driver’s seat the entire time because most of the British establishment has been on their side and it was only the people who needed to be disrespected.

So, after all of these shananigans we are back to where we were last week. May has cut off all avenues of discussion. She won’t commit to taking ‘no-deal’ off the table to tweak Corbyn. She won’t substantively move on any other issue. This is likely to push her deal through as a last-minute panic move.

Corbyn is still hoping to get new elections to take power, and the majority of MP’s who don’t want to leave the EU keep fighting among themselves to cock up the entire works.

All they are doing is expending pound after pound of political capital beating themselves against their own act of Parliament which goes into effect on March 29th.

By the time that date comes around the frustration, shame and humiliation of how Parliament has mishandled Brexit will make it difficult for a lot of Remainers to hold together their majority as public opinion has decidedly turned against them.

In the past the EU has had that façade of democratic support undermining any change at the political level. With Brexit (and with budget talks in Italy) that is not the case. The people are angry.

The peak moment for Remainers to stage a bipartisan political coup against May should have been the most recent no-confidence vote.

With May surviving that it implies that Remainers are not willing to die politically for their cause.

This should begin to see defectors over the next couple of weeks as they realize they don’t have a hand to play either.

And by May refusing to rule out a ‘no-deal’ Brexit it has finally brought the EU around to throw a bone towards the British. Their admitting they would extend Article 50 is just that. But they know that’s a non-starter as that is the one thing May has been steadfast in holding to.

On March 29th with or without a deal the U.K. is out of the EU. Because despite the European Court of Justice’s decision, Britain’s parliament can only cancel Article 50 at this point by acting illegally.

Not that I would put that past these people, but then that opens up a can of worms that most British MP’s will not go along with. The personal stakes are simply too high.

When dealing with politicians, never bet against their vanity or their pocketbook. In May’s case she may finally have realized she could have the legacy of getting Britain out of the EU just before it collapses.

And all she has to do between now and the end of March is, precisely, nothing.

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