Connect with us

RussiaFeed

News

Politics

Russia has a delicate role to play in Turkey’s incursion into Syria

Turkey’s intervention into the Kurdish-held Afrin region has Moscow needing to appease both sides

Published

on

0 Views

(Al-Monitor) – The Syrian civil war is far from over, and the participants aren’t shy to apply the quid pro quo principle to the ongoing fighting.

In 2016, Turkey was allowed to take control of Syria’s northern Aleppo province and the city of al-Bab in exchange for turning eastern Aleppo over to the troops of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Back then, the swap wasn’t blatantly obvious. But just days ago, on Jan. 20, the Turkish General Staff officially announced the launch of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin; later that day Syrian government forces conveniently seized the Abu al-Duhur air base in Idlib governorate — one of the largest airports and an important air base in northern Syria.

The very fact that the opposition groups surrendered the air base practically without a single shot, and that the Turkish military used its air force along with barreled and reactive artillery without any objections from Russia, proves that an agreement had been reached and that steps had been coordinated. Hours before Turkey’s Afrin operation, the Russian Defense Ministry relocated its military police and the center for reconciliation of the warring parties to the Tell Adjar area of the Tel Rifaat deconfliction zone “to prevent potential provocations, to exclude threats to the life and health of Russian servicemen.”

It appears Ankara had informed Moscow of the targets in advance, given that the Russian military was able to move 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away from Menagh air base, which Turkey bombed soon after.

Moreover, it would have been too risky for Ankara to launch a major operation in Afrin, drawing considerable opposition forces, unless it had received certain guarantees.

The first days of Operation Olive Branch have shown that the Turkish army and allied opposition forces seek to seize some areas bordering the Afrin canton by advancing from several directions — Turkey, Idlib and the Azaz district. They aim to avoid a frontal assault and to establish bridgeheads allowing them to move forward and to conceal the axis of the main thrusts.

In the summer of 2017, Ankara and Moscow pondered the possible scenarios of their engagement in the Afrin canton. It was fully conditional on the delineation of the Idlib de-escalation zone, the terms of which were worked out during the sixth round of peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The guarantor states virtually divided the territory into several parts, one of which — east of Abu al-Duhur air base — was to become a demilitarized zone. However, given that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Islamic State militants are still operating there, it will be probably be mopped up over time.

While the motive behind Turkey’s actions in Afrin is clear — Ankara seeks to weaken the Kurds to the greatest extent possible — Russia’s standing is much more complex. Moscow, which supports Assad, has to voice its commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity and publicly urge Turkey to halt the operation. Moscow has publicly mentioned that Operation Olive Branch began virtually on the eve of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. Vladimir Shamanov, chairman of the Russian State Duma’s Defense Committee, said such an “undesirable precedent” could affect the event, scheduled for Jan. 29-30.

Given the possible risk to its reputation, Russia resorted to the surefire strategy of shifting the blame for the Turkish operation onto the United States. The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the operation in northern Syria was triggered by “the Pentagon’s uncontrolled supply of modern weapons,” including shoulder-launched missiles, to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Arab alliance in which the People’s Protection Units (YPG) play a large role. Turkey says both groups are Syrian branches of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which Turkey considers a terrorist group.

“The US’ provocative steps aimed at isolating the areas with the predominantly Kurdish population were the crucial factors contributing to the crisis in this part of Syria,” the Russian Defense Ministry said, emphasizing the opportunistic nature of the operation. “Ankara’s extremely negative reaction was sparked by Washington’s statements about creating ‘frontier forces’ [near the Syrian-Turkey border], as well as other steps of the US that undermine Syrian statehood and support the armed militant groups.”

The Defense Ministry piled on the accusations, adding that “the US steps derailed the peace process and the Geneva inter-Syrian talks, which the Kurds should rightfully join.” Russia’s military establishment blamed Washington for Ankara’s decadeslong and well-known position regarding the Kurds, even though Washington calls for Kurdish engagement in the political negotiations. The United States has also said it isn’t supporting the YPG, as the group is no longer part of the fight against the Islamic State.

But Moscow continues its attempts to publicly discredit American efforts in Syria and emphasize what is seen as the illegitimate US presence on the ground. It is clear Moscow seeks America’s exit from Syria, to bolster the Assad regime and create a greater rift in relations between the United States and Turkey, which are NATO allies.

Yet the main question Russian journalists and experts ask on social networks is what has compelled Russia to distance itself from the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, as the Kurds constitute a major component in resolving the Syrian conflict?

First, with its military police operating in the Tel Rifaat deconfliction zone, Moscow still stands a chance of establishing itself as a peacemaker in the conflict over Afrin. Second, the canton’s defense lines are well fortified. Despite all the forces involved in the operation and the Syrian opposition’s contribution of almost 25,000 fighters to Turkey’s troops, the outcome of the military campaign remains unclear. Third, by distancing itself, Moscow may be sending signals to Kurds in other Syrian enclaves, giving them a hint as to the price tag for taking actions inconsistent with the country’s territorial integrity.

Aldar Khalil said Russia had asked the Syrian Kurds to hand over Afrin to the Syrian regime to be “safe and far from the Turkish attacks.” However, the Kurds refused to do so. Khalil is co-president of the executive council of the Movement for a Democratic Society, the governing body of Rojava — the secular, Arab-Kurdish, autonomous but unrecognized area also known as the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria. Rojava, which sits along Turkey’s border, includes Afrin.

Some media also reported that Russia had promised to shield the Kurds from Turkish assaults in exchange for allowing the deployment of pro-regime forces along the lines of contact in Afrin, Manbij and Tabqa. According to pro-Assad Al-Masdar News, shortly before the start of Operation Olive Branch, Damascus — in response to the Kurds’ refusal to support the government’s initiative — rejected the Kurdish proposal to re-establish state institutions and raise the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic over strategic sites in the Afrin canton.

If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan honors his threat to move on Manbij next, this might bring change to the political landscape, if not an end to the Kurdish dream in Syria. The media are reporting that Damascus has allowed Kurdish militiamen in eastern Aleppo to send reinforcements to Afrin. However, Ankara’s real intentions have yet to be seen. The country’s harsh terrain and the fierce Kurdish resistance may limit the operation and create a buffer zone or corridor from Idlib to northern Aleppo. Besides, in a bid to alleviate the plight of the besieged canton, the Syrian Democratic Forces have redeployed its Raqqa-based fighters — who are capable of attacking pro-Turkish factions from the rear — to Manbij.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

Published

on

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

EU’s ‘toothless’ response to creation of Kosovo army risks worsening the crisis – Moscow

Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army.

RT

Published

on

By

Via RT…


The creation of Kosovo’s own 5,000-strong army is a threat to peace and security in a turbulent region and may lead to a new escalation, Russia’s UN envoy has warned, calling the EU’s lackluster response irresponsible.

Speaking at the UN Security Council emergency meeting on Kosovo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army to replace its lightly armed emergency response force.

“The EU reaction to the decision by Pristina cannot be described as other than toothless. This irresponsible policy has crossed the line,” Nebenzya said, after the UNSC meeting on Monday.

The diplomat said the lack of decisive action on the part of the 28-member bloc was a “great disappointment,” adding that the EU seems to “have turned a blind eye on the illegal creation of Kosovo’s ‘army.’”

The law, approved by Kosovo lawmakers on Friday, paves the way for doubling the size of the current Kosovo Security Force and for turning it into a de facto army, with 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists.

The move did not go down well even with Kosovo’s usual backers, with both NATO and the EU voicing their indignation. NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “ill-timed” and lamented that Kosovo’s authorities had ignored “the concerns expressed by NATO.”

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, has echoed those concerns, saying in a statement that the mandate of Kosovo’s forces “should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process” in accordance with the state’s constitution.

The only nation to openly applaud the controversial move was the US, with its ambassador to Kosovo, Phillip Kosnett, saying that Washington “reaffirms its support” for the upgrade as it is “only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country” to have a full-fledged army.

The Kosovo MPs’ decision has drawn anger in the Serbian capital Belgrade and provoked a strong response from Moscow, which calledon the UN mission in Kosovo to demilitarize the area in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244, and to disband any armed units.

Nebenzya pointed out that the UN resolution does not allow any Kosovo Albanian military units to be present in the region’s territory. He accused Western countries, including members of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR), of “condoning and supporting” the violation by Pristina of the resolution.

It is feared that the army, though a relatively small force, might inflame tensions in the region and impede attempts at reconciliation between Pristina and Belgrade. Serbia has warned that it might consider an armed intervention if the army becomes a threat to the 120,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo.

“The advance of Kosovo’s army presents a threat to the peace and security in the region, which may lead to the recurrence of the armed conflict,” Nebenzya stated.

In addition to creating its own army, Kosovo in November hit Serbia with a 100 percent import tariff on goods, defying calls by the US and the EU to roll the measure back.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

Published

on

Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending