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Friday, 22 January 2016

Syria - Some Preliminary Positioning For An Endgame

Moon of Alabama

When the Russian campaign in Syria started Obama promised that it would end in a quagmire. Various media and opinion writer picked up that narrative. It was false as Russia was and is executing a well thought out campaign.

Being confronted with reality the U.S. media is now changing its false narrative. The LA Times writes:
The Latakia attack mirrors similar government gains across the country, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, backed by Russian air power, have been on the offensive.
...
It's a dramatic shift for the forces of Assad, who less than six months ago had warned supporters that the government would have to "give up areas" after a string of humiliating setbacks.
...
The gains have strengthened the government's position in the run-up to Syrian peace negotiations scheduled to begin next week in Geneva.
The Obama administration and its anti-Syrian allies had hoped for a defeated Syrian government in Geneva that would agree to their capitulation conditions. They now have to change the narrative. Peace talks in Geneva, they now argue, can not take place because the Syrian government is winning. Headlines the Washington Post - Russian airstrikes are working in Syria — enough to put peace talks in doubt:
[A]fter 3½ months of relentless airstrikes that have mostly targeted the Western-backed opposition to Assad’s rule, they have proved sufficient to push beyond doubt any likelihood that Assad will be removed from power by the nearly five-year-old revolt against his rule. The gains on the ground are also calling into question whether there can be meaningful negotiations to end a conflict Assad and his allies now seem convinced they can win. 
“The situation on the ground in Syria is definitely not conducive to negotiations right now,” said Lina Khatib of the Paris-based Arab Reform Initiative think tank.
The Arab Reform Initiative is a bastard child of the U.S./Middle East Project, 
Inc. and various Middle East dictatorships. The Middle East Project was founded by Henry Siegman, a former National Director of the American Jewish Congress and has various hawkish U.S. politicians like Scowcroft and Brzezinski as its senior advisers.

In their view the Syrian government has to be regime changed and can not be allowed to win. Negotiations will have to be put off until the government is likely to fall. Thus the U.S./Saudi/Turkish controlled "opposition" of militant Islamists wants to exclude the Kurds and non-militant opposition from any negotiations and sets additional conditions that make negotiations impossible. They practically demand that Russia and Syria declare and keep a one-sided ceasefire before any ceasefire negotiations can happen.

In the meantime various parties are positioning themselves for the larger endgame. The Kurds in Syria want a corridor along the Turkish Syrian border to connect their areas in the east with the Kurdish enclave in the west. They are fighting against The U.S. supported gangs north-west of Aleppo with Russian support and with Russian and U.S. support against Islamic State gangs north-east of Aleppo. The U.S. is invading Syrian ground and building an airport in the Kurdish areas in east Syria. This probably to later support and guarantee an oil-rich Kurdish state:
The airport, known as “Abu Hajar”, lies southeast of the town of Remelan, site of one of Syria’s largest oilfields, run by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which sells its production through Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Russians may counter that move with their own airport in the area.

Israel, which buys most of the Kurdish oil and just again made friend with Turkey, is now officially calling for an independent Kurdish state. The Turks will not like that at all.
Turkey wants to prevent a Kurdish corridor along its border. It has instigated the "Turkmen" insurgents in Syria under its control to attack the Islamic State from their Aleppo-Avaz-Turkey corridor towards the east right along the border fence where Turkey can provide artillery support. That campaign stalled after a few days and several captured towns are now back in the hands of the Islamic State. New Turkish equipment and soldiers arrived on the Turkish border near the Jarablus border crossing which is currently in the hand of the Islamic State. It is the Islamic State's only open crossing to a somewhat friendly state. 
Should the Kurds come near to that crossing Turkey is likely to invade Syria to set up a wider buffer against the Syrian Kurds.

In Iraq the Turks continue to occupy bases in Iraqi Kurdistan under the protection of the Iraqi-Kurdish mafia boss Barzani. This despite threats from the Iraqi government. But that government is now again controlled by the U.S. The Iranian influence had waned after clashes between the Iranian General Suleiman and the U.S. installed Prime Minister Abadi:
A source in the office of the Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said, “The United States delay of its support to Baghdad was not a coincidence or an unintentional lazy reaction. It was a strategic decision to: Teach Iraq a lesson for rejecting U.S military bases; To observe the Iranian military capability and inability of Tehran to use air power and intelligence gathering to defeat ISIS; To submit Baghdad to its will and dictate its conditions”.
That the U.S. used the ISIS phenomenon to again achieve regime change and U.S. control in Iraq was confirmed by Obama in an interview with Thomas Friedman:
The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki. ...
But all those U.S. games are just short term thinking. The Kurdish areas in Iraq and Syria are landlocked and none of their direct neighbors has interest in a Kurdish state. After his mandate ran out and was not renewed by the parliament Barzani's presidency in Iraqi Kurdistan is illegitimate. The next ruler in the Kurdish areas in Iraq is likely to be less friendly with Turkey and the U.S. In Iraq the influence of Iran with the people will always be bigger than U.S. influence with parts of the elite. In Syria it is Russia that will dictate how the future of the state will look.

In the long run the U.S. has little chance to keep its currently regained dominant position. Obama is repeating his predecessors mistake of believing that U.S. meddling in the arena can be successful and continue forever.

The Islamic State is receding. It recently had to cut its wages by half. It is under continues bombing and has to fight ever bigger battles with ever higher losses. The population in the areas it holds is not happy. It will soon again revert to a guerrilla movement of underground terrorist cells. Then other interests of the various actors will again come to the fore, the U.S. will no longer be needed and again be dispelled from the theater. Then the U.S. will again wonder why it did not learn from the earlier lesson.

Posted by b on January 20, 2016 at 08:42 AM | Permalink

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