While the American media is busy with #Memogate, the already complex situation in Syria has become even more confusing. It seems like everyday a "US-backed", "Pro-Syrian" or Russian force is attacked, bombed or almost killed by some faction within Syria, almost setting off an international incident.
I thought it would be important to follow the ever-changing situation there, because one day it will be front page news on CNN, and when that day comes they won't tell you the whole story.
Places like Steemit are filled with worthy content on the subject, from @saltycat, @lordoftruth, @haseeb96, to @clarityofsignal and many others, this quick write-up will be more of a resource center than a long-winded piece on the recent events. There is also this amazing real-time map of the conflict I've been used to follow the war day by day, along with Southfront over on Youtube, which @clarityofsignal was a part of previously.
The latest stage in the conflict is the invasion of Turkish troops of Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria. Specifically, the region of Afrin.
President Erdogan of Turkey has declared (past and present) that the Kurds will never control territory west of the Euphrates River. Erdogan has always had issues with the Kurdish population within Turkey, and that doesn't change when we move south. Erdogan sees the Kurdish YPG in Syria as an extension of his long-time enemy the PKK in Iraq.
Erdogan's issues with the Kurds may stem from his belief in "Pan-Turkic", or the idea that all people from Turkish decent should live under a single banner. The man wants Turkey to extend all the way to China, and be a Muslim state.
Since the attempted coup in his country, crackdowns on the disloyal haven't really stopped. The recent invasion of Syria (fittingly named Operation "Olive Branch") has only grown those numbers. Critics and protesters of the invasion have been arrested and jailed. The violence has even reached Europe, with a rather intense fight breaking out between Kurds and Turks in a German airport terminal:
Operation "Olive Branch" began with the invasion of the northwestern "canton" of Afrin. The Kurdish held region is isolated from the other canton's under YPG and SDF (Syrian Defense Force) control by a 60 mile area under the control of the FSA (Free Syrian Army) backed by Turkey. Afrin contents no US special forces, and is home to the city of Aleppo. This should be name familiar to everyone not named Gary Johnson.
The Turkish invasion force includes a mix of Turkish army regulars, air power and rebel "shock troops", some reportedly former ISIS members, evident by the inhumane treatment of civilians and the mutilation of Kurdish female fighters.
The Russians have given the Turks the green light for air strikes over the region, something not unheard of in this conflict: a foreign power having decision making power in a sovereign nation. The weird mix of relationships in Syria makes for an even more complicated situation.
For example, the Russians are allied with Assad, while the US is allied with the Kurds and their own rebels. Separately, the Turks and the Russians are becoming fast friends over oil and arms deals, but the rebels the Turks are backing see the regime in Damascus as their enemy. Still following?
Manbij & US Policy
Here is where the United States comes in. Manbij is the canton directly east of the 60 mile FSA/Turk controlled region separating Afrin from the rest of YPG territory. Manbij is the home of actual US troops, with the number of US troops rising the more east towards the Iraqi border you go.
Erdogan has warned the United States to leave Manbij immediately, stating that once he is done with Afrin it's on to Manbij. In the same week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the United States has no plans to leave Syria, citing multiple reasons for the illegal occupation of the eastern part of the country.
The US presence in Syria is completely illegal under international law. The Trump administration has used the AUMF from 9/11 as its excuse for staying in Syria. Opposition to the US staying in Syria has raised the theory that the United States has plans to create an area in Northeastern Syria outside of the control of Assad, using the Kurds and a 30K strong border force manned by the SDF to do so. Much like in Iraq previously, the Kurds are used as simple pawns by the United States (and Israel) to advance its policy. The idea of splintering Syria apart is nothing new, cited in "A Clean Break" and laid out in the Wikileaks documents from the mid-2000s.
Tillerson lists the following reasons for the decision to stay in Syria:
- Keeping a defeated ISIS from growing again
- Holding Iranian power in the region in check
- Eventually overthrow of Assad
The third reason is really a geopolitical move directed at Russia. In simple terms, and this is important:
the United States government has illegally invaded another country to destabilize and overthrow the regime in charge. This is nothing new, but all Americans need to focus and understand that this is out in the open this time around. No discussion in Congress, no UN vote, nothing. While you and I were busy deciding if we trust Devon Nunes, our government just doubled-down in Syria.
The Validation of the Sarin Gas Scandal
Maybe more shocking than the lack of media coverage of the US occupation, is the admission by General Mattis that the United States has NO EVIDENCE that Assad used sarin gas on his own people. Fittingly, this story broke in the Washington Post, the same rag that pushed the sarin narrative dating back to 2013.
This admission should end all support for the US presence in Syria, but the American people are completely distracted at the moment.
What it does do is validate the great reporting work of the late-great Robert Parry, Seymour Hersh, Phil Giraldi, Antiwar.com, and tons of other true journalists who's credibility was questioned by the complicit mainstream media.
What this all means for the future of the geopolitical chessmatch in Syria is yet to be seen, but in this week's episode I give my thoughts.