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Syrian-Kurdish clashes: new conflict or “new Détente”?

Far from being the “democratic-leftist freedom fighters” that most Western audiences have been misled into believing that they are, the Syrian Kurds are a unipolar geopolitical proxy designed to carry out the post-war partition of the Arab Republic.

Andrew Korybko

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He Says, She Says

The US shot down a Syrian anti-terrorist jet near Raqqa yesterday, which prompted the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to send in a rescue mission to retrieve the downed pilot. Unfortunately, Al Masdar News (AMN) reported that they encountered intense resistance from the majority-Kurdish “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), which if true, would mark the most serious escalation between these two sides. There’s no reason to doubt AMN’s coverage of this event because they’ve proven time and again to have reliable information acquired from on-the-ground and government sources, so it should be taken as a fact that the SAA and SDF did indeed clash last night.

The events leading up to that battle are unclear, however.

The SAA claims that they were on an anti-terrorist bombing mission near Daesh’s “capital”, while the US says that Damascus was in fact attacking its SDF proxies near Tabqa. These narratives aren’t mutually exclusive, and it’s very possible that the SAA rightly conflates the SDF with Daesh due to the Kurds’ documented connection with this terrorist organization. Moreover, the Kurds are ethnically cleansing Arabs from Raqqa en mass in order to pave the way for the city’s annexation to their unilaterally declared “federation” after its forthcoming capture, so it makes sense why Damascus could implicitly recognize them as terrorists without publicly declaring them as such for reasons of sensitive political optics.

Before going any further, I want to reaffirm what I wrote last week and remind the reader that I am solely referring to Kurdish militant groups when I use the word “Kurds”, NOT the law-abiding and peaceful majority of this demographic. This is important to always bear in mind because there’s a major difference between a regular Kurdish civilian and a militant conspirator treacherously trying to carve out a separatist “Kurdistan” from the Syrian Arab Republic; the first poses no threat whatsoever to the state, while the latter is an imminent existential threat to the country and could be targeted for elimination by the armed forces.

Considering what just unfolded last night, it’s beginning to look like Syria has finally begun to act against the Kurds, having largely refrained from doing so over the past 6 years of the war both because of more urgent priorities and due to being geographically cut off from the separatists by Daesh. It can’t be known for certain what changed Damascus’ calculations and – if the US report is to be believed – prompted them to bomb the SDF-YPG Kurds, but it wouldn’t be surprising if there were some behind-the-scenes ultimatums being passed along to the group to withdraw from its trans-Euphrates beachhead in Tabqa and return to the other side of the river.

Moscow’s Motives

There’s a very high chance that Syria will be internally partitioned after the defeat of Daesh via the “internationally acceptable” mechanism of “federalization”, and there isn’t much that the SAA can do to stop it at this point because Russia has no political will to fight the Kurds. The opposite is true, in fact; Russia stands to reap what its leaders expect will be certain strategic benefits through the sub-state transnational formation of “Kurdistan”, first and foremost the pressure that this will indirectly put on Turkey to remain within the Great Power Tripartite between itself, Russia, and Iran, stymying any chance that Ankara will ever enter into any meaningfully significant rapprochement with Washington.

There are also energy considerations as well. Like I explained in my article about “Russia’s Mideast Energy Diplomacy: Boom Or Bust?”, Russia has been making several silent moves over the past year to position itself as an indispensable power in the Mideast energy market, and two of the most relevant pertain to Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria. Moscow just signed an enormous deal with Erbil to develop and export their oil, whereas it has an agreement in place with Damascus to rebuild its entire energy infrastructure after the war. Seeing as how a large portion of this lies in the YPG-occupied areas of northeastern Syria, it can’t be ruled out that Russia has some sort of unstated understanding in place with the Kurds to have them respect this arrangement.

Continuing with this track of thought, Russia has already shown deference to this demographic by making the volte face of formally supporting “decentralization” in Syria as evidenced by the terms contained in the Russian-written “draft constitution” for Syria. Moscow, unlike Washington, isn’t actively seeking the de-facto internal partitioning of the country, but has probably resigned itself to accepting that it’s all but inevitable so long as Russia doesn’t expand its anti-terrorist military mandate in Syria to include the Kurds, which it won’t ever do. Therefore, it proposed the “compromise” of “decentralization” in an attempt to peacefully bridge Damascus’ unitary position with the Kurds’ “federal” one.

The “draft constitution” has yet to be accepted and has been put on the backburner over the past half a year since its proposal, but it will probably receive a second wind of life at the upcoming Astana and Geneva talks given what’s transpired over the past day. Without Russian military backing, there is no way that the SAA will defeat the American-armed and –supported YPG Kurds, let alone forcibly remove the couple of US bases which have purportedly popped up in Kurdish-occupied territory. Therefore, what will probably happen is that the SAA and SDF-YPG will accept the ‘frontline’ between them as the de-facto internally partitioned border following the defeat of Daesh, with this tense state of affairs being nominally formalized through the transformation of a future Kurdish “de-escalation zone” into a “decentralization unit”.

The Birth Pangs Of A “New Détente’”?

A “gentleman’s agreement” between Russia and the US would freeze this state of affairs, and given how Moscow’s actions (or lack thereof) arguably indicate that it’s already acceded to this, it’s plausible that the formation of a sub-state transnational “Kurdistan” might be the first outcome of a “New Détente” between the two Great Powers, each going along with it for different reasons. As was explained, Russia believes that this would provide the necessary leverage for indirectly pressuring unreliable and wily Turkey to remain in the Great Power Tripartite with itself and Iran, as well as protect the energy investments in northern Syria that Damascus promised it last year. The US, however, has vastly different intentions because it wants to create a “second geopolitical ‘Israel’” in the heart of the Mideast which it can then use as a springboard for exerting divide-and-rule unipolar influence in this tri-continental geostrategic pivot space.

Paradoxically, Russia and the US’ long-term interests converge – for polar opposite reasons – in the sub-state creation of “Kurdistan”. Moscow wagers that “Kurdistan” is an irreversible eventuality which isn’t worth sacrificing Russian lives to postpone, hence why it proposed Kurdish “decentralization” in the Russian-written “draft constitution”. Washington, while not stating it publicly, is probably elated by Moscow’s suggestion because it would peacefully formalize its proxy’s geopolitical claims in the region. For this reason, Russia and the US will probably use their influence on the SAA and SDF-YPG, respectively, to get both of them to recognize the ‘frontlines’ between them as the post-Daesh starting point for a “political (‘decentralized’) solution” to the overall war.

I actually forecast this in June 2016 in my article about “The ‘Democratic’ Partitioning Of Syria”, where I analyzed the following:

“Of course, the Kurds will fight to prevent the SAA from liberating any of their occupied territory in the run-up to the new constitution and related elections, but they wouldn’t have any ‘plausible’ reason for further expanding their conquests after Daesh’s defeat and will predictably sit still and try to formalize their gains instead.

The reason that the SAA wouldn’t move forward with liberating the rest of the country during this time is because the US and Russia might enter into an agreement to strictly enforce the SAA-YPG “line of control” immediately after the Race for Raqqa is finished.

Chances are that Washington would move first by declaring that it would unilaterally strike the SAA if it encroaches on the Kurds’ conquered territories, with Moscow replying that it would do the same against the YPG if they attack the SAA.

Through this manner, a very cold and fragile ‘peace’ will settle over Syria, with the threat of decisive military intervention by each of the two most important Great Powers being the only thing that keeps the SAA and YPG from attacking one another and transforming the War on Syria into an actual civil war for the first time since it started.”

Nevertheless, the “gentleman’s agreement” only works so long as both Great Powers’ on-the-ground partners agree to respect it, and thus far, that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not when it comes to the SAA. To be clear, the Syrian Arab Republic is a sovereign and independent state, and it isn’t Russia’s place to possibly strike agreements with the US on Damascus’ behalf, let alone about its internal political-administrative post-war composition regardless of Moscow’s “good intentions” in terms of the “bigger picture”. If Syria agreed with what Russia was doing, then it clearly wouldn’t have ordered the SAA to attack the SDF-YPG.

Last night’s strike indicates that Syria and Russia aren’t coordinating with one another on the level that observers might have initially thought, no matter how much either side publicly denies this. There is no way that Russia would have advised Syria to bomb the SDF-YPG; similarly, there apparently wasn’t anything that Russia could do in convincing the SAA to stand down after the order from Damascus was given. The SDF-YPG Kurds issued a statement shortly thereafter vowing to “retaliate” against the SAA if such an occurrence ever happens again, thereby strongly signaling that an Arab-Kurdish War might soon be on the horizon, provided of course that Damascus doesn’t back down first.

Turkish-Iranian Backup

And that’s the determining factor, whether or not President Assad will recognize that the internal partition of his country might already be a fait accompli, with Syria’s fate possibly sealed at the highest levels due to an implied “gentleman’s agreement” between Russia and the US. If the combined (but not necessarily coordinated) pressure of Moscow and Washington succeeds in getting Damascus to acquiesce to this unfortunate reality, no matter how contradictory it is to the right of the Syrian people to democratically decide their country’s destiny themselves, then a cold peace will eventually prevail, at least for the short term. However, if Syria doesn’t give up and continues fighting to liberate its occupied northeastern territories from the Kurdish separatists, then it’s foreseeable that Turkey and Iran could provide crucial support in this campaign, each in their own way.

Turkey is existentially threatened by the emergence of a de-facto Kurdish statelet abutting its southern borderlands, especially one that isn’t under the proxy control of the pro-Ankara “Kurdish Democratic Party” (KDP) like Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government, which is why it might launch a second iteration of “Operation Euphrates Shield” alongside a possible SAA liberation offensive in order to counter this threat. I forecast in my March 2017 analysis about “Palmyra’s Reliberation And The ‘Rojava Civil War’” that Turkey would naturally plan to unseat the YPG separatists by using pro-Ankara KDP-linked Kurds possibly supported through a conventional intervention. A report just a couple days ago from “Voice Of America” confirms that Turkey’s patronage of the recently formed “Syrian National Army” (SNA) is designed to achieve the proxy war component of this scenario. If Turkey directly involves itself in fighting against the SDF-YPG Kurds, then it can safely be assumed that this would have Damascus’ secret blessing, no matter how vehemently it may deny it in public, and that a fast-moving rapprochement between the two rivals might be in the cards as well.

As for Iran, I already documented in an article last week how Kurdish militant groups in Syria and Iran are linked to Daesh, and it’s for this reason why Tehran will likely provide sustained support to any operation that the SAA undertakes in countering this menace. Iran, just like Syria, Turkey, and Iraq, stands to lose part of its territory if the US-“Israeli”-Saudi (“Cerberus”) plan of carving out a “Kurdistan” succeeds, but given that it already has an undetermined number of soldiers and allied militiamen on the ground in Syria per Damascus’ request, it’s in a prime position to assist the SAA if need be. However, this is a lot easier said than done, because the US will almost certainly use its recently deployed HIMARS missiles near al-Tanf to stop any joint Syrian-Iranian liberation offensive against the Pentagon-backed SDF-YPG Kurdish occupiers. For both political and military reasons, it’s in no such position to do the same against its nominal Turkish ally if Ankara intervenes from the north, but there’s only so much that Turkey can do to help from that direction without a coordinated Syrian-Iranian thrust from the south.

Taken together, while the prospects of a grand Syrian-Iranian-Turkish liberation campaign against the SDF-YPG Kurdish occupied areas of northern Syria is theoretically possible, for all intents and purposes, it’s unlikely to actually happen. The US has already proven its military resolve in deterring any SAA attacks against the Kurds, and the same can safely be assumed if Iran gets involved as well. As for Turkey, there are other instruments of pressure that the US can leverage against it to keep Ankara out of the fray, though if Erdogan does decide to jump in head-first, then he will have to prepare for dealing with a prolonged guerrilla campaign in which the US-armed Kurds will use state-of-the-art weaponry against the Turkish military. This is why Ankara prefers to handle this scenario through its SNA proxy for as long as feasibly possible, though without a risky conventional intervention which could very well turn into a quagmire, Turkey will probably have to stand by and reluctantly watch what its leadership considers to be a terrorist state take shape along its southern frontier.

Shifting Lines In The Sand

There is a major “unforeseen” variable which has only just now come to the surface but threatens to offset the entire state of affairs which was just discussed, and it’s that Russia and the US have evidently disagreed on precisely where in the sand the post-conflict administrative-political lines should be drawn in Syria. This explains why the Russian Ministry of Defense declared the day after the Syrian jet was shot down that:

“In areas where Russian aviation is conducting combat missions in the Syrian skies, any flying objects, including jets and unmanned aerial vehicles of the international coalition discovered west of the Euphrates River will be followed by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets.”

Russia all but admitted that Syria is already divided into two unofficial “spheres of influence” with the US, with Moscow – and by implicit understanding, Damascus as well – having been “promised” control over everything west of the Euphrates, while Washington and its Kurdish proxies are “given” everything to the east of it. The US and its SDF-YPG Kurdish underlings apparently went back on their word, however, seeing as how they already stormed across the river in capturing Manbij last summer (which prompted Turkey’s conventional military involvement) and received American backing in conquering Tabqa earlier this year. The “Dash For Deir ez-Zor” will determine whether or not the Euphrates does in fact become the dividing line for the rest of eastern Syria, though it remains to be seen exactly how Russia and the SAA could conceivably dislodge US and Kurdish forces from Manbij and Tabqa given the obvious limitations derived from Moscow’s lack of political will in doing so. These two territories might become “exceptions”, or they could be “traded off” by the US and Kurds in exchange for Damascus agreeing to “federalize” the country.

Nevertheless, the Russian Defense Ministry’s dramatic pronouncement points to the fact that Moscow is willing to take actionable measures to ‘stabilize’ the ‘frontlines’ between the SAA and SDF-YPG Kurds, and that it likely feels betrayed by Washington for operating beyond its previously agreed-upon region of Syria. Russia has visibly upped the ante by strongly implying that it will shoot down American jets west of the Euphrates, and while this might just be another bluff, it’s still significant because it suggests that Moscow does in fact feel deceived (a feeling which President Putin recently told Oliver Stone that he never forgets), and it’s making a lot of noise to signal to Washington that it had better abide by its prior secret agreements. Having said that, the US could still exploit certain ‘loopholes’ such as launching long-range aerial missiles against the SAA from safely behind the eastern bank of the Euphrates or above Jordanian airspace, to say nothing of ordering yet another cruise missile assault which First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on International Affairs Vladimir Jabarov said in April wouldn’t be intercepted because “it could lead to a large-scale war”.

Concluding Thoughts

At this point, the crisis will probably escalate as both Great Powers puff out their chests and issue heated polemics against the other, but it’s unlikely that any serious provocation will take place such as Russia and the US downing each other’s jets over Syria and risking World War III. The shifting lines in the sand will soon stabilize, though questions will remain about the future status of the Kurds’ conquests in Manbij and Tabqa, as well as the territory that the US’ Arab allies are occupying around al-Tanf, Idlib, and the Golan Heights. Moreover, the Dash for Deir ez Zor is ongoing, and its outcome will determine whether or not the “Euphrates Federalization Line” holds in eastern Syria or is breached by the SDF-YPG Kurds. If the latter happens, then the US might outfit its proxies with modern anti-air weaponry so that they could take out any SAA jets themselves without triggering Russia’s threatened apocalyptical response of shooting down American aircraft. Given the on-the-ground dynamics and Moscow’s prevailing strategic calculations surrounding the Syrian Kurds, there’s no foreseeable scenario where Russia will move beyond its military mandate and bomb these US proxies so long as they don’t target its Aerospace Forces first.

A Turkish and/or Iranian supportive intervention in backing up the SAA’s campaign against the SDF-YPG Kurdish separatists would potentially be a game-changing variable, but the odds of it playing out on a grandiose scale are dim, though they shouldn’t be outright dismissed. There’s little that Russia or the US can do to deter either of these two actors from getting more directly involved in the Syrian-Kurdish clashes, but they can instead concentrate on reinforcing the implied “gentleman’s agreement” between them in order to send an undeniable signal to their partners. Even so, however, there’s no guarantee that the Kurds will listen to the US, or that Syria, Turkey, and Iran will abide by whatever Russia advises. What may have at one point seemed like the birth pangs of a “New Détente” through a speculative secret Russian-American agreement over “Rojava” is dangerously on the brink of ushering in a new conflict after the defeat of Daesh, though there’s still plenty of hope that peace will prevail so long as both Great Powers can exert “moderating” influence on their relevant allies, though this can’t by any means be taken for granted.

The SAA seems determined to carry through with President Assad’s promise to liberate “every inch of Syria”, which is why they allegedly attacked the SDF-YPG Kurds near Tabqa in spite of this clearly contradicting Russia’s grand strategic interests, so with such a “wildcard” in play, it’s anyone’s guess whether the coming months will see a “New Détente” or a new Arab-Kurdish conflict.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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