Tag Archives: Kurds

Syria: What a Tangled Web We Wove, by Eric Margolis

There’s no clean way to get out of a tar pit, the objective is just to get out. The US jumped into the Syrian tar pit and won’t get out cleanly, but it will be better off having escaped it. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

What a mess.  The imperial cooks in Washington have turned poor Syria into a poison pit of warring factions, with disastrous results for all.

Henry Kissinger once quipped that it is more dangerous being America’s ally than its enemy.  A good example is how Washington used the Kurds in Syria to fight ISIS and then ditched them to face the wrath of the mighty Turkish military alone.

A great hue and cry has gone up from the US corporate media and Congress that the Kurds are being betrayed.  The evangelical far right and Israel’s supporters are leading this charge.  Israel has secretly been arming and aiding Kurds in Iraq, Iran and Syria since 1975 as a dandy way of splintering the fragile Arab Mideast.

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Why Withdrawing US Troops From Northern Syria Is GOOD, by Rick Sterling

One simple question: if the US doesn’t leave Syria now, when will it ever leave? From Rick Sterling at antiwar.com:

The foreign policy elite is in an uproar. They claim “we have abandoned our allies”. They question “how can America be trusted?” They say the decision to withdraw from northern Syria was a “gift” to Russia, Iran, and Assad…. even ISIS. It is true that the policy of US/NATO interventionism is failing. But that has been true since the invasion of Iraq or earlier. After the disastrous invasions and attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and the 8 year undeclared war on Syria, isn’t it time to question the foreign policy elite?

If one believes in restoring international law and the UN Charter, it is GOOD that US military forces have been withdrawn from northern Syria. Here are some facts and history which explain why.

Basic fact: It’s not our country and US troops were never authorized by the sovereign government. Whether or not Washington likes Damascus is irrelevant. Under international law those troops have no right to be there. Even the overflights of Syria by the US air coalition violate international agreements. It’s up to Syrians to defend their country against invading Turkey. If they choose to get support from another country, that is their right.

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Is Putin the New King of the Middle East? by Patrick J. Buchanan

Putin has had an impressive run in the Middle East, and it looks like he’s stitching together a truce that may serve as a basis for lasting peace in Syria. From Patrick J. Buchanan at buchanan.org:

“Russia Assumes Mantle of Supreme Power Broker in the Middle East,” proclaimed Britain’s Telegraph. The article began:

“Russia’s status as the undisputed power-broker in the Middle East was cemented as Vladimir Putin continued a triumphant tour of capitals traditionally allied to the US.”

“Donald Trump Has Handed Putin the Middle East on a Plate” was the title of a Telegraph column. “Putin Seizes on Trump’s Syria Retreat to Cement Middle East Role,” said the Financial Times.

The U.S. press parroted the British: Putin is now the new master of the Mideast. And woe is us.

Before concluding that Trump’s pullout of the last 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria is America’s Dunkirk, some reflection is needed.

Yes, Putin has played his hand skillfully. Diplomatically, as the Brits say, the Russian president is “punching above his weight.”

He gets on with everyone. He is welcomed in Iran by the Ayatollah, meets regularly with Bibi Netanyahu, is a cherished ally of Syria’s Bashar Assad, and this week was being hosted by the King of Saudi Arabia and the royal rulers of the UAE. October 2019 has been a triumphal month.

Yet, consider what Putin has inherited and what his capabilities are for playing power broker of the Middle East.

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What the Media Aren’t Telling You About Turkey and the Kurds, by Marc D. Joffe

There are good reasons, Marc D. Joffe argues, for the US to stand aside in the Turkey-Kurd conflict. From Joffe at antiwar.com:

Mainstream media are taking occasional breaks from 24/7 impeachment coverage this month to lambaste the Trump Administration for abandoning our Syrian Kurdish allies at the insistence of Turkey’s despotic rulers. Since the original withdrawal announcement, Administration policy has taken on a helter-skelter quality: rushing out sanctions, threatening airstrikes and deploying troops elsewhere in the Middle East. Ultimately Trump policies are producing more foreign adventurism and less freedom of commerce for American companies. But the original decision to pull out was the correct one, and consistent media criticism of the withdrawal often omits important facts that the American public needs to consider. Specifically:

  • As a member of NATO since 1952, Turkey has been a US treaty ally for as long as most of us can remember; the Syrian Kurdish forces are not a recognized state and thus cannot be an ally, a term used in diplomatic parlance to refer to states formally cooperating with one another.
  • The Syrian Kurdish forces are connected with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which was designated by the US State Department as a terrorist organization in 1997 and remains on the list in 2019.

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Everybody Betraying Everybody in Syria, by Graham E. Fuller

Russia has been far more adroit than the US in using both its military and diplomacy to achieve its desired outcomes in the Middle East. From Graham E. Fuller at consortiumnews.com:

After some eight years of civil conflict, the situation in Syria is basically reverting to the pre-conflict norm, writes Graham E. Fuller.

Just what have we witnessed in the recent events in Syria? It’s hard to know, given the avalanche of superficial and over-the-top headlines in most U.S. media: betrayal of the Kurds, handing Syria over to Russia, caving to Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan, bestowing a gift upon Iran, allowing ISIS to once again run wild, end of U.S. leadership.

Yet the bottom line of the story is that after some eight years of civil conflict, the situation in Syria is basically reverting to the pre-conflict norm. The Syrian government is now close to re-establishing its sovereign control again over the entire country. Indeed, Syria’s sovereign control over its own country had been vigorously contested, in fact blocked, by many external interventions — mainly on the part of the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and a few European hangers-on — all hoping to exploit the early uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and overthrow it. In favor of what was never clear.

Syrian refugee center on the Turkish border, Aug. 3, 2012. (Voice of America News/Henry Ridgwell, Wikimedia Commons)

Much of this picture has a long history. The U.S. has been trying to covertly overthrow the Syrian regime off and on for some 50 years, periodically joined on occasion by Israel or Saudi Arabia or Iraq, or Turkey or the U.K. Most people assumed that when the Arab Spring broke out in Syria in 2011 that civil uprisings there too would lead to the early overthrow of another authoritarian regime. But it did not. This was in part due to Asad’s brutal put-down of rebel forces, in part because of the strong support he received from Russia, Iran and Hizballah, and in part because large numbers of Syrian elites feared that whoever might take Asad’s place — most likely one or another Jihadi group — would be far worse, more radical and chaotic than Asad’s strict but stable  secular domestic rule.

Nonetheless over this entire time the U.S. has been willing to support almost any motley array of forces, including even extremist jihadi forces linked with al-Qaeda, to try to overthrow Asad. Washington has never gotten over the fact that Syria for over half a century has never bowed to U.S. or Israeli hegemony in the region, and has all along been a strong supporter of Syria’s secular —yes secular —Arab nationalism. The U.S. has therefore shown great willingness to “fight to the last Syrian” if necessary to achieve its ends.

U.S. Reaping What it Sows

As Asad’s forces gradually regained control over the country, Washington resisted those efforts — even though large numbers of Syrians want to see an end to war and destruction. In the Middle East, after all, Asad’s Syria had been by no means the worst regime alongside of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Saddam’s Iraq, Iran and other states. If Washington disliked Asad before, it is even more angered that Asad appealed to Iran, Russia and Hizballah for support. Yet ironically, if the civil war, with its massive foreign support to the rebels, had not been so prolonged, Asad might not have needed Russian or Iranian support and presence. So we reap what we sow. And it is important to remember that Asad still represents the internationally recognized, legitimate, if often nasty and harsh, government of Syria.

Raqqa Internal Security Force Training Class 005 graduates receive their initial issue of equipment after completing their training in Ayn Issa, Syria, July 31 2017. (U.S. Army/Mitchell Ryan)

As part of the anti-Asad struggle, the U.S. had sought to maintain an autonomous area for the Syrian Kurds in northern Syria along the Turkish border. The hope was that it would remain an enclave of opposition to Asad and a base of U.S. power within a divided Syria.

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Which brings up the sad issue of the Kurds. What about Kurdish militia assistance in the struggle against ISIS? There is no doubt that the Syrian Kurds were effective in that struggle. But it is not as if the Syrian Kurds are the only forces that can fight the now motley dregs of the Islamic Caliphate (ISIS). Asad, Russia, Iraq and Iran all have every reason in the world to see ISIS expunged off the map — long after the U.S. and the Kurds are out of the picture. The Kurds are not essential to that picture.

Under these circumstances, I believe that President Donald Trump is justified in pulling out U.S. forces from Syria as part of an ongoing process of bringing a gradual end to Washington’s endless wars. This war no longer served any real purpose except to destabilize Syria, perpetuate its brutal civil conflict and provide an excuse to keep U.S. troops on the ground and strengthen Iranian and Russian involvement in the struggle. Its refugees have helped destabilize EU politics. In terms of Trump’s “gift to Putin,” the Russians have had a dominant foothold in Syria for many decades. So, there’s not much new here.

Whose Agenda? 

It is indeed hard to keep track of the Syrian situation since there are so many players, each with its own agenda. Whose narrative you choose to identify with in this mess depends on what your agenda is in Syria.

Do you favor the Israeli agenda? Keep Syria permanently weak, divided and without allies. Do anything that will hurt Iran. Maintain Israel as the dominant Middle Eastern power.

Like Russia’s agenda? Russia is successfully working to regain its former centuries-old role in the Middle East in general — a position which briefly collapsed 20 years ago with the end of the U.S.S.R. Russia’s agenda is above all driven by its strong opposition to any further U.S. attempts at engineering regime change by coup against any and all governments globally that the U.S. does not like. Remember that U.S. intervention in Syria has not been sanctioned by international law, whereas both Russia and Iran were both formally invited to come in and assist the legally recognized Syrian government.

President of Syria Bashar Assad made a working visit to Moscow on Oct. 20, 2015. (The Russian President)

President of Syria Bashar al-Assad, shaking hands at left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Oct. 20, 2015. (The Russian President)

But there is another striking feature of Russian diplomacy: it also seeks to maintain working ties with all, repeat all, players in the Middle East including seemingly incompatible ones: good ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Qatar, the UAE, Yemen, the U.S., etc. At the same time the U.S. has refused to maintain any such comprehensive working ties across the region with forces it does not like. Hence it refuses to talk with key players like Iran, Syria and Hizballah or countenance a Russian role there. That kind of U.S. posture has above all “served Putin” who has emerged as a master of regional diplomacy and compromise.

Turkey above all wants to keep the lid on all Kurdish political forces in the region that might facilitate Kurdish separatism inside Turkey — where the biggest Kurdish population in the Middle East lives. Hence the Turkish effort to invade the Syrian Kurdish enclave. The Kurds there ultimately saw the handwriting on the wall and opted to come to terms with the regime in Damascus. That moment had to come.

How do we sum up Washington’s agenda? Mixed. First, it supports almost anything Israel wants in the region. Second, it supports almost anything that will weaken and destabilize Iran, and hence anything that will weaken and destabilize Asad’s Syria. Then the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia in almost all its adventurist policies across the region and keep Yemen in bloody turmoil. The U.S. also seeks to keep ISIS at bay — but so do Syria, Russia, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Then Washington seeks by almost every means to weaken Russia and Iran’s position in the region. It also hopes to keep Turkey “loyal” to U.S. goals in the region — a vain hope. Finally, it seeks to maintain U.S. hegemony in the Persian Gulf under the pretext of protecting the free flow of oil. Of course, all Gulf producers want to sell their oil. And Asian consumers have a far higher stake in keeping the oil flowing — India, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and others. So protecting those Asian shipping lanes (which has not really been necessary anyway) is most appropriately handled by them.

Russian and U.S. representatives meet to discuss the situation in Syria, Sept. 29, 2015.
(Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

As for Iran, it is determined to maintain allies in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria to the extent that it can. These allies are mainly important in a defensive operation against a concerted Israeli-Saudi-American drive to weaken Iran and all Shi’a across the region. Iran is only strong in its Shi’a identity to the extent that it is attacked for being Shi’a. So, Iran will seek to protect Shi’a populations in the region from oppression and discrimination from Sunni regimes, especially Saudi Arabia. Iran has no brief for the autonomy of any of the Kurds in the region lest it stir up Iran’s own very significant Kurdish population.

Iraq so far is a bit player, but it will gain importance with every passing year as it struggles to reestablish a viable Iraqi state after the country was decimated by the U.S. -led long war in Iraq.

The Kurds

What about the Kurds themselves, a highly complex and diverse force in the region? The Kurds are not united and may never attain unity. Kurds, after all, have been socialized within four different countries (Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria) where they speak three quite different languages (Turkish, Arabic and Persian). Among themselves they speak fairly distinct dialects of Kurdish in different regions. Kurds have always dreamed of independence for over 100 years (one of the biggest ethnic groups in the world without an independent state)  but have been constantly thwarted by regional and international powers and have never been able to settle upon a common strategy. They have consistently been tactically exploited and utilized by outside powers for over a century (U.K. U.S., France, Israel, Iran, Turkey and Syria) when they have periodically served the geopolitical purposes of those states. They have been routinely promised support for greater Kurdish autonomy, and then, when they outlive their usefulness, they have been routinely thrown to the winds. The U.S. is only the latest state to “betray” the Kurds, by abandoning them this time — and the U.S. did the same many decades ago under Henry Kissinger who joined the Shah in using them against Saddam Hussein and then discarded them to their fate.

The Syrian Kurds had hoped that the U.S. war party in Washington would embrace their cause indefinitely. They were certainly disappointed that that has not happened, but cannot have been surprised that the U.S. would eventually decide to abandon them when the Turks, Russians and Syrians all decided to put an end to their autonomous enclave in the name of a unified Syrian state.

Ultimately Kurdish-Turkish rapprochement within Turkey is far from an impossible task, but it will take some time. There is a groundwork from the past to be built upon. And once relations with Turkey’s own Kurds inside Turkey have been regularized, Turkey will likely be far more relaxed about the Syrian Kurds, who in any case will need to settle on an arrangement for some kind of modest local status in Syria. Turkey after all came to accept an autonomous Kurdish zone in Iraq and has deep economic relations with it.

The most vociferous voices in Washington for sticking by the Kurds in Syria come from several sources. First, from those who reflexively oppose any policy of Trump under any circumstances anywhere. Second, those interventionists who seek to maintain U.S. armed presence in the region at almost all costs — and the untiring U.S. global task in their eyes is never finished. Third, there are many who want to keep Israel strategically happy and empowered.

The interventionist crowd in Washington wants the U.S. in Syria indefinitely as proof of our “credibility” to fight everybody’s war, and maintain American “leadership” — read hegemony — in the region. Sadly, the prolonged war agenda would not seem to do anybody in the region any good, including the U.S.

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim world; his first novel is “Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan;” his second novel is “BEAR—a novel of eco-violence in the Canadian Northwest” (Amazon, Kindle) grahamefuller.com.

The Syrian Debacle Is Actually Well Planned Chaos, by Brandon Smith

According to Brandon Smith, Syria sets the stage for the globalists’ controlled demolition as a prelude to their taking over the world. From Smith at alt-market.com:

For many years now I have focused a considerable amount of analysis on the subject of Syria, with an emphasis on the country’s importance to the global elites as a kind of geopolitical detonator; the first domino in a chain of dominoes that could lead to a war involving international powers. I believe this war will develop on multiple fronts, most importantly on the economic front, but it could very well turn into a shooting war involving numerous actors.

Syria is so important, in fact, that the establishment has been careful to smother all discussion about what is really going on there in a fog of propaganda. And make no mistake, BOTH Republicans and Democrats as well as eastern and western governments are participating in the lies and misdirection.  Obviously, the first and most important lie is a multi-sided one, and we can’t continue forward until it’s dissected – I am speaking of the lie of US involvement in the region.

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Wake-Up Call On The Syrian Border: Time To End Washington’s Feckless Regime Change Policy and NATO, Too, by David Stockman

There’s no good reason for the US to be in either the Middle East or NATO. From David Stockman at antiwar.com:

Syria has been turned into the most wretched of neighborhoods on the planet by Washington’s neocons and liberal interventionists. From its pre-2011 population of 23 million, more than 6.7 million have fled to countries such as Lebanon (1 million), Jordan (700,000), Turkey (3.6 million), Europe and elsewhere.

At the same time, more than 6.5 million Syrians are internal refugees, driven from their homes and towns by a so-called “civil” war that wouldn’t have lasted more than a few months save for the billions of arms, training and walking around money that Washington and its Persian Gulf allies have supplied to the violent opposition.

Owing to these billions of aid to armed insurrection, however, the Syrian economy has been turned to shambles and its ancient cities and towns have been reduced to steaming piles of rubble. Disease, malnutrition, lack of safe drinking water and medical supplies and treatments stalk the land.

And Washington’s objective was exactly what?

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