Author Topic: Syria  (Read 110337 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Syria
« Reply #300 on: October 22, 2021, 05:35:57 PM »
The question is fairly posed, but I would submit the two fields of battle are quite distinct in their characteristics.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2021, 07:59:39 PM by Crafty_Dog »

G M

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Re: maybe your post from Afghanistan thread is reason
« Reply #301 on: October 22, 2021, 05:47:55 PM »
https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/17871/afghanistan-withdrawal-terrorist-cocktail

why could this not happen in Syria?

not sure

but just asking

The global jihad has Afghanistan and 85 billion dollars worth of weapons. They don’t need Syria.

Crafty_Dog

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Israel vs. Iran in Syria
« Reply #302 on: October 25, 2021, 03:15:01 PM »
Israel's Shadow War Dented Iran's Takeover of Syria, But Only Temporarily
by Yaakov Lappin
IPT News
October 25, 2021

https://www.investigativeproject.org/9046/israel-shadow-war-dented-iran-takeover-of-syria

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Syria
« Reply #303 on: November 01, 2021, 08:13:27 AM »

    
Daily Memo: Renewed Tensions in Syria, Washington and Brussels Reach Truce
Turkey is reportedly planning a new offensive in northeast Syria.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Rumblings in Syria. Turkish forces fired heavy artillery over the weekend at a Syrian village called al-Dibs, located on the Aleppo-Hasaka M4 highway north of Raqqa, as speculation grows that Ankara is planning a new offensive in northeast Syria. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces had mobilized new recruits in Raqqa and Hasaka to plan for a possible Turkish assault. Pro-government forces, accompanied by Russian helicopters, also bolstered their presence in al-Bab in eastern Aleppo province and Ain Issa in northern Raqqa province. Also over the weekend, Russian forces conducted over 20 airstrikes in northern Syria, targeting Idlib province and Aleppo’s countryside, including some areas inside the de-escalation zone. The strikes came days after Russian warplanes arrived at the Qamishli International Airport in northeast Syria. Russia’s actions here support local media speculation over a potential Kurdish-Russian rapprochement triggered by a possible Turkish offensive.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Syria
« Reply #304 on: November 02, 2021, 01:44:21 PM »
By: Geopolitical Futures
Syrian maneuvers. Russia and Syria conducted several simultaneous joint flight exercises from Syrian airfields. The main maneuvers took place around the Tiyas air base, recently repaired following Israeli strikes. Meanwhile, Kurdish media said Russia intends to build two large air bases in northwest Syria to counter threats from the United States. Turkey and Russia are also in talks over a potential Turkish military operation in the Syrian border city of Kobani against Syrian Kurdish forces.


Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Kurds-Arabs
« Reply #305 on: November 03, 2021, 10:39:45 AM »
Arab-Kurdish alignment. A leading member of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council called on all ethnic and religious groups in Syria to unite against a potential Turkish offensive. He emphasized the need for Kurdish-Arab unity and said his group is ready to engage unconditionally in dialogue with the Assad government and the opposition. The head of the Syrian Arab Jibour al-Milhim tribe also noted Kurdish-Arab tribal unity in north and east Syria and called on both groups to defend their territory against Turkey.


Crafty_Dog

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Syrian prison with thousands of ISIS prisoners
« Reply #307 on: January 24, 2022, 04:01:38 AM »
U.S., Kurds struggle to regain hold of prison

Facility in Syria holds thousands of ISIS fighters

BY SARAH E. DEEB ASSOCIATED PRESS BEIRUT | Clashes between U.S.backed Syrian Kurdish fighters and radical Islamist militants continued for a fourth day Sunday near a prison in northeastern Syria that houses thousands of members of the Islamic State terror group, the Kurdish force said.

The standoff follows a bold assault by the extremists that breached the premises of Gweiran Prison, allowed an unknown number of militants to escape and killed dozens of U.S.-backed fighters who guard the facility.

Kurds and private analysts had long warned that the detention camps for hardened ISIS operatives were a ticking time bomb, and the Trump administration pushed — often futilely — to allies in Europe and the Middle East to take back their nationals who were housed at the prison camps.

The Kurdish-led forces, with assistance from the U.S.-led coalition in the form of surveillance, intelligence and airstrikes, have contained the threat, the coalition said in a statement Sunday.

Several dozen militants remain holed up in one wing of the prison, to the north and in adjacent buildings, still firing at the Kurdish forces trying to dislodge them.

A spokesman for the Kurdish forces, Farhad Shami, said the militants have used hundreds of minors held in the same facility as human shields, preventing a final assault.

More than 3,000 suspected IS militants are believed to be held in Gweiran, the largest facility in Syria housing ISIS militants, including over 600 under the age of 18. Freeing large numbers of veteran operatives could provide a boost to the group as it seeks to rebuild a “caliphate” that at its height spanned huge areas of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

“While it is militarily defeated, [ISIS] remains an existential threat to the region,” said Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve Maj. Gen. John W. Brennan. “Due to its severely degraded capability, [Islamic State’s] future survival is dependent on its ability to refill its ranks through poorly conceived attempts” like the Gweiran prison attack.

The coalition said it was analyzing the situation to determine if the group is still planning other such attacks in Syria and Iraq.

In their attack, the ISIS militants had attempted to destroy a new, more secure facility under construction next to the Gweiran prison, and have seized arms from prison guards before murdering them, the coalition added.

The Kurdish forces said militants on Sunday staged a new attack on the prison, also known as al-Sinaa prison, in an attempt to break the security cordon and support inmates still in control of parts of the prison.

In a statement, the Kurdishled force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, said the attack on the northern section of the prison in the city of Hassakeh was repelled and the militants were chased into a nearby residential area. Another SDF spokesman Siamand Ali said ISIS fighters arriving from outside the city also tried to attack the prison and were repelled.

A resident near the prison said warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition flew over the prison earlier Sunday, breaking the sound barrier. U.S.-backed Kurdish forces were heard calling on militants in the prison and in surrounding buildings to turn themselves in. Mr. Ali said between 150 and 200 militants are believed currently holed up in the northern wing of the prison and adjacent residential area.

The attack launched Thursday was the biggest by IS militants since the fall of the group’s caliphate in 2019. Its demise came after ISIS lost its last territory in Syria in following a yearslong military campaign backed by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the prison break on its Aamaq news service Friday, describing it as ongoing.

In an ambitious attack, more than 100 militants armed with heavy machine guns and vehicles rigged with explosives attacked the facility aiming to free their comrades. A car bomb was detonated nearby at a petroleum warehouse, creating a diversion and leaving fire and smoke in the air for two days.

A video posted by the militants late Saturday showed vehicles ramming through what appears to be the walls of the prison, creating large holes. Dozens of men were seen walking in the facility in the dark, seemingly escaping the prison. The Kurdish-led forces said Friday they have so far arrested over 100 inmates who escaped but the total number of fugitives remains unclear.

Islamic State quoted one of its militants in a statement posted late Saturday on its news service who said the attack began with two foreign suicide bombers who detonated two trucks at the gate of the prison and along its walls, causing major damage and casualties. Then militants fanned out, first heading to the prison towers and the petroleum warehouse. A second group attacked a Kurdish post nearby while two other groups clashed with nearby patrols and cut supply lines to undermine the prison defenses.

The assault coincided with riots inside the prison, where militants seized weapons and held guards and prison staff hostage, the militant group said, claiming that it freed more than 800 militants, some of whom are taking part in the ongoing operation.

Crafty_Dog

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D1: Syria-- control of prison re-established
« Reply #308 on: February 02, 2022, 01:46:03 PM »
After a nearly weeklong bloody siege, U.S.-backed troops finally have control of that ISIS prison in northeastern Syria. According to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and New York Times reporting from the scene, an estimated 500 people were killed in the siege and clean-up operations, which featured several U.S. airstrikes.

At least 374 of those killed had alleged links to ISIS, according to the S.D.F. And that death toll "also included about 40 S.D.F. fighters, 77 prison staff and guards, and four civilians," Jane Arraf of the New York Times reported Monday.

Wider significance: The S.D.F. told Arraf that "the prison assault was part of a larger plot to also attack the giant detention camps in the same region that hold tens of thousands of people, most of them wives and children of ISIS fighters." Continue reading, here.

The White House used the opportunity to nudge allies to take back ISIS prisoners stuck in Syrian facilities, like the prison in Hasakah. "The barbarity of ISIS's actions during this attack reaffirms why this group must be denied the ability to regenerate and why nations must work together to address the thousands of ISIS detainees in inadequate detention facilities," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday. "ISIS remains a global threat that requires a global solution," he added. More here.

ccp

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BIDEN WAGGING ASS
« Reply #309 on: February 03, 2022, 05:56:32 AM »
https://www.yahoo.com/gma/us-military-carries-counterterrorism-mission-055800605.html

""Last night AT MY DIRECTION, U.S. military forces in northwest Syria successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation to protect the American people and our Allies, and make the world a safer place," he said in a statement. "Thanks to the skill and bravery of our Armed Forces, we have taken off the battlefield Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi—the leader of ISIS. All Americans have returned safely from the operation. I will deliver remarks to the American people later this morning. MAY GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS."

WOW - IMPRESSIVE

WE DO HAVE A REAL COMMANDER IN CHIEF.  :roll: :wink:

Crafty_Dog

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WaPo: ISIS launched brazen attack to free comrades
« Reply #310 on: February 03, 2022, 12:45:01 PM »


Prison break: ISIS fighters launched a brazen attack to free their comrades
Hundreds died in the ensuing battle. Here’s how it played out.
Fighting continued between Kurdish-led forces and Islamic State fighters on Jan. 22 after militants attacked Ghwaryan prison. (YPG Press Office via Storyful)
By Louisa Loveluck and Sarah Cahlan
Today at 8:53 a.m. EST


Skip to main content
Thursday Jan. 20
Friday Jan. 21
Saturday Jan. 22
Sunday Jan. 23
Monday Jan. 24
Tuesday Jan. 25
Wednesday Jan. 26
Thursday Jan. 27
Friday Jan. 28
Saturday Jan. 29
Sunday Jan. 30

HASAKAH, Syria — The militants of the Islamic State announced their most brazen attack in years with a truck bombing that blasted a hole in the exterior wall of a Syrian prison holding thousands of their comrades. The Jan. 20 attack triggered a 10-day battle that spilled into the surrounding streets of Hasakah in northeastern Syria, drew American and British ground and air forces back into combat in support of their local allies, and energized global supporters of the Islamic State like little else since its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq was defeated three years ago. By the time the fighting was finished and the devastated prison was back in the hands of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, more than 500 people were dead, about three-quarters of them suspected militants, the SDF reported. And scores, maybe hundreds, of prisoners had escaped, free to raise the Islamic State’s black flag and fight again.


Satellite imagery of the al-Sina’a prison in al-Hasakah, Syria, eight days after the ISIS attack on the facility. (Maxar Technologies)
Down but not defeated, thousands of Islamic State insurgents wage Syrian fight anew

Thursday Jan. 20
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The video published on ISIS channels early on Jan. 21 shows militants swarming the makeshift jail. (Telegram)
As the truck bombing lights up the night sky, scores of militants swarm the Ghwaryan prison, which reportedly houses more than 3,000 Islamic State suspects and about 700 adolescent boys, who in many cases had been taken to the caliphate as youngsters and then became separated from their parents either during its final days or after being placed in displacement camps with their mothers. Small-arms fire crackles outside the complex, also known as Sina’a prison. Inside, prisoners begin to riot, according to officials from the SDF and U.S.-led coalition, believing their comrades are staging a prison break. They overpower guards, killing several, and take kitchen staff hostage. As SDF troops counter the attack, U.S.-led coalition aircraft carry out initial airstrikes in support.

Friday Jan. 21
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Islamic State fighters are seen after they attacked the Ghwaryan prison in Hasakah, Syria, on Jan. 21. They were later arrested by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. (Syrian Democratic Forces/AP)

The skirmishing quickly spreads to several surrounding neighborhoods. Clashes reportedly damage the town’s power lines — knocking out electricity — while Islamic State fighters take up positions in residential neighborhoods, using townspeople as human shields, the SDF alleges. Hundreds of people flee the area, seeking refuge elsewhere with family and friends or sheltering in mosques. Some prisoners, who had initially tried to aid the assault by setting their blankets and plastic goods on fire, stream past the prison walls to join the battle. Others consolidate their positions inside the building.

Civilians fled their houses after fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces clashed with Islamic state group fighters outside the Ghwaryan prison. (Mohammed Hassan)
Saturday Jan. 22
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People watch as the bodies of alleged Islamic State members are transported in Hasakah, Syria, on Jan. 29 during a search for prisoners who escaped from the Sina’a prison during an Islamic State attack. (AFP/Getty Images)

As fighting enters its third day, American and British ground forces have joined the fray, deploying Bradley Fighting Vehicles to bolster SDF efforts to seal off the conflict area. From above, the U.S.-led coalition carries out a series of airstrikes with Hellfire missiles and larger munitions. Apache attack helicopters strafe militant positions. Inside the prison, SDF forces are battling to regain control but face stiff resistance from militants who continue to hold kitchen staff hostage, while Islamic State militants outside the walls are ambushing SDF fighters in the al-Zuhour and al-Taqqadum neighborhoods. Thousands of terrified residents stream away on foot, as security forces arrive to evacuate them.


Sunday Jan. 23
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Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces fighters take their positions at the defense wall of the Ghwaryan prison, in Hasakah, Syria, on Jan. 23. (Hogir Al Abdo/AP)

By Sunday, the fiercest fighting is centered on the prison’s southern and northern wings, and SDF fighters are finding it hard to make progress. Both sides are taking heavy casualties. The northern wing houses the 700 adolescent boys, some as young as 12. Like the adults, they are a mix of Syrians, Iraqis and other foreigners who have been held for years without trial while waiting to be repatriated to their homes. As night falls, human rights groups express grave concern for the boys inside the cells. In an audio message shared with Human Rights Watch, an Australian teenager pleads for help.

0:00/0:42
An Australian teen described the scene inside the prison, saying he was injured and could see many dead around him.
Inside Syria’s teeming ISIS prisons: Broken men, child inmates and orders to break free

Monday Jan. 24
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In an annotated video from the YPG Press office, Kurdish-led forces continued "clean up" operations on Jan. 24 at Ghwaryan prison. (YPG Press Office via Storyful)

As day breaks, coalition F-16 jets resume airstrikes, taking out Islamic State positions around the prison and helping Kurdish-led special forces advance, the SDF reports. With supporting fire from the coalition’s Bradley Fighting Vehicles, SDF troops try to storm militant positions inside the prison. In the meantime, the SDF takes what it says is the rare step of introducing its Soviet-era T-62 tanks into the battle. Throughout the day, the SDF calls for the militants’ surrender over loudspeakers. Several hundred accept. Late in the afternoon, three buses transfer prisoners to Alaya prison, several hours away, according to the Rojava Information Center.


Tuesday Jan. 25
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Soldiers with the SDF set a checkpoint in Hasakah, Syria, on Jan. 25. (Orhan Qereman/AP)

SDF tanks and armored vehicles penetrate the prison compound. Islamic State fighters armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles battle SDF soldiers in the courtyard. As the day unfolds, the Kurdish-led force announces it has recaptured a block of prison buildings, and while more militants surrender, others appear to dig in. Most of the kitchen staff is reportedly freed. But concerns are spiking about the well-being of the boys still trapped inside, possibly being used as human shields and caught up in the fighting.

Video published on ISIS channels shows inside the Ghwaryan prison, the center of a week-long standoff (Telegram)

Outside the prison, SDF troops are carrying out combing operations, not just in nearby neighborhoods but as far afield as neighboring provinces, in pursuit of insurgents who have gone to ground.

Wednesday Jan. 26
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Video released by the SDF press office showed what were described as surrendered ISIS mercenaries at the Ghwaryan prison (SDF via Storyful)

Even as Apache helicopters circle above, the sounds of gunfire fall silent as medical teams are reportedly allowed to enter the prison to treat wounded militants and other prisoners and, in return, several guards are released by their captors. Inside the northern wing, the SDF has begun negotiating with the final holdouts. By midafternoon, rumors are swirling that the battle is over. Then SDF spokesman Farhad Shami confirms it: “The Peoples’ Hammer Operation has culminated with our entire control of the al-Sina’a prison in al-Hasaka and the surrendering of all [ISIS] terrorists.” The claim of victory, though, proves to be premature.


Thursday Jan. 27
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U.S. soldiers stand guard in Hasakah on Jan. 27, a day after the Syrian Democratic Forces announced they had regained full control of the facility from Islamic State militants. (Baderkhan Ahmad/AP)
It doesn’t take long for the claim of victory to unravel. By midday, the SDF issues a new statement acknowledging that as many as 90 militants are still holed up in the basement under the north wing. In the streets surrounding the prison, SDF fighters trade fire from rooftops with the remaining prison attackers, and other clashes flare elsewhere in Hasakah. In neighborhoods around the prison, the SDF’s special forces are going house to house looking for militants believed to be hiding. The vast magnitude of death is now coming into focus, and witnesses say that the bodies of fallen militants are being collected with dump trucks.

SDF's special forces searched for ISIS militants in neighborhoods surrounding the Ghwaryan prison. (Mohammed Hassan)
Friday Jan. 28
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Inmates emerge from the Ghwaryan prison on Jan. 28 while Kurdish-led forces wait out militants still holed up inside. (YPG Press Office)
The SDF delivers an ultimatum to the final holdouts: surrender or face an all-out assault. But military sources say that it’s still unclear whether the SDF will risk it, given the loss of life this might entail. As the Kurdish-led force waits out the entrenched militants, soldiers clear defeated Islamic State fighters and other inmates from the compound, giving them a chance to get out alive. Many require medical attention.


Saturday Jan. 29
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With the battle now well into its second week, those residents of Hasakah who did not flee remain under lockdown. In Ghwaryan and Zouhour districts, close to the prison, residents have been left without access to drinking water, bread, fuel and medical care. SDF forces continue to carry out sweeps across the city.

Sunday Jan. 30
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Members of the SDF give a news conference announcing that the Ghwaryan prison in Hasakah is under their control on Jan. 31. (AFP/Getty Images)

It’s finally over, SDF officials say. The prison is back under control, and in the surrounding neighborhoods, the guns have largely fallen quiet. The largest, deadliest battle with the Islamic State since the defeat of its so-called caliphate nearly three years ago has come to a close. “We announce the end of the sweep campaign in Sina’a prison in Ghwaryan neighborhood of Hasakah and the end of the last pockets in which ISIS militants were holed up in the [prison’s] northern dormitories,” the SDF announces. It would later disclose the death toll: 121 among the SDF, 374 suspected members of the Islamic State and four civilians. Officials would not provide figures for the number of prisoners unaccounted for.


Outside the prison, SDF commanders direct their troops to continue combing districts across the city, looking for sleeper cells or caches of weapons. Other searches are taking place in towns around the region. In Hasakah, hundreds of civilians are still camped out in a mosque, where the stench of fear and sickness fills the air. “This is not over for us,” says one soldier, taking rest for a moment from the SDF’s raids. “We still have a long way to go.”

Video recorded on Feb. 1 shows Ghwaryan prison after nearly two weeks of fighting. (Mohammed Hassan)

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Lessons from the successful hit
« Reply #311 on: February 04, 2022, 10:36:20 AM »
Lessons of an Antiterror Success Against Islamic State
Good thing Trump didn’t go through with pulling out of Syria.
By The Editorial Board
Follow
Updated Feb. 3, 2022 9:24 pm ET

Review & Outlook: With the death of Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi comes a valuable reminder that the threat of Islamic extremism hasn’t gone away. Images: AFP/Getty Images/White House/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

U.S. special forces staged an overnight raid in northwest Syria Thursday that ended in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. The world is now a slightly better place, and the lessons of the successful operation are worth recounting.

Administration officials who briefed the press said Hajji Abdullah, as al-Qurayshi was known, detonated a suicide bomb and killed members of his own family as U.S. troops approached. His ISIS predecessor killed himself in the same way in 2019 rather than be captured, so the U.S story is plausible.

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The operation was certainly high-risk and it’s a relief no Americans were killed. One reason President Biden may have ordered the raid, rather than dispatch a missile from afar, is the collateral damage from the mistaken drone strike in the final days of the U.S. retreat in Afghanistan. That strike killed numerous innocents, and the White House no doubt wanted to avoid similar headlines. The women and children who died this week did so at the hand of the jihadist, according to U.S. officials.

One lesson is the importance of maintaining the forward deployment of U.S. counterterror forces. Donald Trump came close to withdrawing from Syria—and it’s fortunate he changed his mind. As of last month some 900 U.S. troops were stationed in Syria with another 2,500 in Iraq. Their mission is to help local forces prevent an ISIS resurgence, and their presence means that antiterror operations needn’t rely on “over the horizon” capability as we now must in Afghanistan.

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Another lesson is the benefit of local allies on the ground. U.S. officials praised the Syrian Democratic Forces as “critical, vital enablers for operations like this.” That probably included intelligence from months of searching for and then monitoring Hajji Abdullah at his safe house. We wish we now had such allies against ISIS and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

ISIS lost its physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq nearly three years ago, but the group and its affiliates haven’t gone away. ISIS terrorists carried out 2,705 attacks with more than 8,000 casualties around the world last year, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. It has dramatically increased attacks in Afghanistan, where it clashes with the ruling Taliban, but the organization also remains active in Iraq and Syria.

Hajji Abdullah supervised these operations from his Syrian residence, communicating by courier. His demise will disrupt their operations, though no doubt new leaders will emerge in this long war. The temptation is to say the war against radical Islam is unwinnable so why keep fighting it?

But by keeping jihadists on defense abroad, we reduce their ability to plot attacks against the U.S. homeland. We know what can happen when the plotters feel unthreatened. Mr. Biden’s chaotic and needless Afghanistan withdrawal thrilled radicals around the world and may still lead to renewed terror attacks. All the more reason to welcome this week’s operation against one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Assad mulls pulling out of Iran's orbit
« Reply #312 on: March 24, 2022, 03:55:51 AM »
March 24, 2022
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Syria Mulls Pulling Out of Iran’s Orbit
Assad is enlisting Abu Dhabi’s help in curtailing Iranian influence in his country.
By: Hilal Khashan

Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad visited the United Arab Emirates, his first foreign trip since the Syrian uprising in 2011. The U.S. State Department issued a stern statement taking issue with the attempt to legitimize Assad’s rule, given the horrendous crimes he committed in a war that has killed more than 500,000 Syrians and has left 150,000 missing. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. rejects efforts to rehabilitate Assad and his regime. But the trip followed years of normalization efforts between Arab countries and the Syrian government.

Throughout the war, several Arab states maintained diplomatic ties with Syria, others resumed them in 2013, and still others cooperated on security matters. In welcoming Assad, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed described Syria as an essential cornerstone of Arab security. After their meeting, the two leaders issued a joint statement that called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Syria, the preservation of its territorial integrity, and a peaceful end to the conflict. But for Assad, one of the top goals of the visit was to enlist Abu Dhabi’s support in curbing Iran’s influence in Syria, marking a policy shift that Washington will likely support.

Western Disinterest in Syria

The hope that the Syrian uprising would quickly unseat Assad was short-lived. After Assad successfully portrayed his repressive policies as a war on terrorism, interest in the Syrian conflict dwindled. In 2012, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched the Friends of Syria Group after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution to condemn the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime against demonstrators demanding freedom. Conferences organized by the group in 2012 included representatives from 70 countries and numerous international and regional organizations. By 2013, only 11 countries participated in the gatherings, which were suspended shortly thereafter.

Iranian and Pro-Iran Militia Presence in Syria

(click to enlarge)

It was a sign of the West’s increasing disinterest in the conflict. In 2013, when the Assad regime used nerve gas to kill 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children, the British Parliament voted against military action. U.S. public opinion also opposed strikes against the regime, and President Barack Obama decided against intervention. The rationale for not punishing Assad was that the U.S. had no vital interest in Syria. Similarly, Washington hasn’t taken any punitive measures against Arab countries that have normalized relations with Damascus. Though the State Department said the U.S. doesn’t encourage reestablishing diplomatic ties with the Assad regime, it accepts that Arab countries can choose their own paths forward. The U.S. opposes the Syrian regime’s reintegration into the Arab order, but only in principle. It also hasn’t ruled out working with Assad when peace in Syria is restored. The U.S. made it clear only that it would not lift sanctions on the Syrian government or contribute to Syria’s reconstruction before the Assad regime reaches a political agreement with opposition groups on a post-conflict political system.

Abu Dhabi’s Motive

In 2011, the Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in the group as many Arab countries severed their diplomatic ties with the Assad government. But Assad’s derailing of the peaceful Syrian uprising actually served Arab authoritarianism well. He transformed Syria into a theater for sectarian conflict and geopolitical struggle, and gave Arab rulers the ability to suppress uprisings in their own countries, presenting the cost of change as too great to bear and a choice between stability and bloodshed. Normalization became possible only after authoritarian Arab leaders defeated uprisings in their countries and sabotaged demands for a transition to democracy.

Abu Dhabi filled the void left by Washington’s disinterest in the conflict, especially after Obama did not oppose Russian military involvement in the civil war. In 2018, the UAE reopened an embassy in Damascus, which encouraged several other Arab countries such as Jordan and Bahrain to do the same.

Indeed, many Arab states – Qatar being the exception – have expressed interest in normalizing relations with the Assad regime. Egypt was the first to do so in 2013 after Abdel Fattah el-Sissi overthrew Mohammad Morsi as Egypt's president. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, commonly known as MBZ, is currently making the final arrangements to rehabilitate Assad among his Arab peers, although not at the international level. Arab countries seeking to reestablish diplomatic ties with Syria don’t insist that Assad initiate reforms or release political prisoners as a precondition for normalization. They do, however, want to encourage Assad to distance himself from Iran. They see normalization as the first step toward curtailing Iran’s influence in Syria, which would ultimately erode its dominance of Iraqi politics, choke Hezbollah, and convince Tehran to abandon its drive to dominate the region.

Assad, meanwhile, needs to secure a solid Arab political ally to advance his unbridled business interests. The UAE, a stable and prosperous Arab state, fits the bill. During his recent visit to the country, Assad landed in Dubai, the business capital of the UAE, and departed from Abu Dhabi, its political capital. He explored with his hosts in both cities new horizons for cooperation in vital domains. Assad’s UAE interlocutors said they wanted to invest in renewable energy and real estate development in Syria. They were keen on not antagonizing Iran before the conflict ends and reconstruction funds are made available. To justify the trip, MBZ said ending the conflict requires pragmatism and that, without a conclusion to the war, Iran will consolidate its hold on Syria, especially now that Russia is preoccupied in Ukraine.

As for Israel, many believe that both Israel and the Syrian regime want to normalize relations, but in reality neither country is interested in signing a formal peace treaty, though Israel remains committed to Assad’s political survival. His father, who ruled Syria from 1971 until his death in 2000, refused to sign a peace treaty with Israel because resisting Israel was his only source of popular legitimacy. But Israel also saw no reason to make peace with a country that didn’t have the military capability to challenge it on the battlefield. For both countries, establishing formal relations is unimportant and should not prevent them from cooperating either directly or through the UAE.

Disdain for Iran

Iran, meanwhile, is worried about Syria’s reintegration in the Arab world and Assad’s intentions, especially after his visit to the UAE. Even though Iran and its Shiite proxies – with the support of Russian airpower – helped prevent the collapse of the regime in Damascus, Assad dislikes Iran and loathes its religious ideology. He’s stuck in an alliance started by his late father, who sided with Iran in 1980 in its war against his rival Baathist Party in Iraq. In Syria, Iran is quietly trying to create a class of citizens loyal to it, similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and tailors its economic activities to the poor. Tehran has been pressing Assad to grant Iranian businesses long-term contracts lasting up to 50 years to invest in electricity, roads, bridges and construction.

The two countries recently established a joint bank in preparation for post-war reconstruction and economic rehabilitation efforts. They also agreed to develop several free trade areas in Syria to promote Iranian exports that currently constitute only 3 percent of Syrian imports – a small fraction compared to 30 percent of imports from Turkey. Iran is trying to alter the foundations of its influence in post-war Syria, from a substantial military presence to economic dominance, despite Assad’s subtle resistance. He regards Russia as the guarantor of his regime and of Alawite security, and is therefore willing to grant Moscow a significant stake in Syria’s recovery. So far, Russia has made substantial investments in the phosphate and oil sectors, a petrochemicals plant in Homs, and the Tartus commercial port. But Assad is unwilling to give Iran an equal share in the post-war economy, despite Iran receiving promises of cooperation and participating in business conferences that resulted in nothing more than pictures for the media.

In spite of the robust cultural ties between the two countries – thanks to Tehran’s sustained efforts over the past two decades to promote Iranian culture, religion, language, education and history in Syria – Alawites view Iran with disdain, believing that Tehran tried to proselytize them into its faith. Economic ties between the two countries are also weak, deliberately blunted by Assad. The Syrian leader has avoided making substantial economic commitments to Iran, signing financial deals with Iranian companies but never implementing them. This arrangement is causing increased frustration in Tehran. Since the 2011 uprising, Iran has spent around $30 billion to shore up the Syrian regime and wants to claim the economic spoils of peace.

Russia's Limits

MBZ believes that Moscow can play a critical role in stabilizing the Assad regime and in enabling Israel to degrade Iran’s assets in Syria. It’s unclear to what extent Russia’s war in Ukraine will adversely impact Middle Eastern leaders’ perception of Moscow as a global power. But in the long term, Russia’s deployment in Syria is not viable and will not make it a Mediterranean military power.

Russia’s foreign policy differs strikingly from the United States’ in that it lacks focus and depth, pursuing opportunities regardless of geographic location. Russia’s post-Soviet foreign policy is defined by the Primakov Doctrine, charted in 1996, which aims to establish Russia as an independent center of power in foreign affairs to end U.S. global hegemony.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin have moved to put the doctrine into action in Russia’s near abroad. To aid them in this endeavor, Russian forces gained valuable experience in Syria. Last year, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu told executives of helicopter manufacturer Rostvertol that, in Syria, Moscow was able to test and perfect its state-of-the-art Mi-35M attack helicopter, along with more than 320 other weapons. Russian pilots gained training on targeting hospitals, schools, markets and factories, an experience that is proving helpful in the war in Ukraine.

Russian air power decimated anti-Assad forces, enabling the regime and Iranian proxies to prevail in the war after two years of inconclusive battle. However, after its brutal use of indiscriminate attacks, it’s unlikely that Russia will be able to exploit Syria’s hydrocarbon assets.

It seems that Assad’s visit to the UAE – during an international crisis whose end is uncertain – was premature. Russia’s conduct in Ukraine is reminiscent of its indiscriminate air campaign in Syria. Its significant military difficulties will likely encourage Iran to contest Russia’s supremacy in Syria, either consolidating Tehran’s position or triggering a massive Israeli military action

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GPF: Big Overview of the Battle of Syria
« Reply #313 on: May 27, 2022, 09:10:45 AM »
May 26, 2022
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The Battle Over Syria
The country has long been an arena of regional rivalry and foreign intervention.
By: Hilal Khashan

During the First World War, Britain and France agreed to partition the territory bordering northern Arabia, often called the Fertile Crescent, between themselves in anticipation of the Ottoman Empire’s collapse. Their 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement dismembered the region, creating artificial states without foundations. While the British held on to Iraq and Palestine, the French seized Syria, creating two improbable political entities: the modern-day countries of Lebanon and Syria. All of the new countries were rife with political instability and ideological divisions. Syria, however, stood out as the most troubling entity thanks to its religious diversity, ethnic divisions, regionalism, external loyalties and foreign interventions. This piece tracks the country’s evolution as a state since its independence in 1946. It demonstrates how foreign intervention immensely shaped its politics, making it an arena of regional contestation.

State, Society and Politics

The early 20th century saw the rise of intense Arab identity in Syria, which led the country to be known as the beating heart of Arab nationalism. Initially, it emerged as a sentimental protest movement against the Ottomans’ attempts to Turkify Arabs. But it remained largely an urban phenomenon and failed to develop into a unifying force of a population sharing a political vision and economic interests. Syria emerged as a weak and fragmented state that lacked experience in self-rule. For millennia, it was under the control of a succession of foreign rulers ranging from the Romans to the Byzantines, Persians, Mesopotamians and Muslim conquerors, first from Arabia and later from the Abbasids, the Seljuks and the Ottomans. Demographically, Syria is a complex state that includes Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Armenians. It is also a patchwork of religious sects comprising Sunnis, Greek Orthodox Christians, Druze, Ismailis and Alawites.

Ottoman Empire Versus Modern-Day Borders
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From independence until its 1958 merger with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic, Syrian politics underwent many changes. The fledgling democracy failed because of the army’s intervention in its politics, leading to four military coups between 1949 and 1954. The U.S. embassy backed the first coup by Army Chief of Staff Husni al-Zaim. Four days later, the new government in Damascus agreed to allow the Trans-Arabian Pipeline to cross Syrian territory to reach two designated oil terminals on the Mediterranean, a move that the previous government had opposed.

Ideological divisions crippled Syrian politics as the Aleppo-based People’s Party sought union with the Hashemites in Iraq and Jordan, while the pro-Egyptian National Party prevailed in Damascus. The right-leaning and pro-Western Syrian Social Nationalist Party supported the country’s joining the Baghdad Pact before reemerging as a leftist party in the 1960s. Its ideological nemesis, the Socialist Baath Party, championed the cause of Arab nationalism and union with Egypt. Political conspiracy, assassinations, army politicization and the threat of a communist takeover drove Arab nationalist officers to fly to Cairo and pressure Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser to unite with Syria and save it from turmoil. The push for a merger occurred several months after Turkey threatened to invade Syria, claiming it had become a Soviet satellite state.

The Assad Dynasty’s Rise

For Syria’s urban Sunnis, military service was often seen as an unwanted burden. They preferred to pursue careers in business and either paid their way out of conscription or completed only the mandatory two years of service. But for the Alawites, Syria’s most economically disadvantaged sect, military service was seen as a career, providing them with an opportunity for social mobility. As a result, they became overrepresented in the army and the officer corps. The many coups led by Sunni factions, both successful and failed, led to purges that exacerbated the imbalance between Sunnis and Alawites.

In 1966, a successful coup brought three officers – two Alawites and one Druze – to power. Before the end of the year, the two Alawites – air force commander and right-wing Baathist Hafez Assad and left-wing Baathist Gen. Salah Jadid – eliminated the Druze officer in another coup. Assad became defense minister, while Jadid resigned from the military to become a powerful member of the Syrian government. The striking absence of a Sunni officer among the new rulers ushered in a new era of Syrian politics, which eventually led to the popular Sunni uprising in 2011.

In 1970, Assad overthrew Jadid, and a year later ran uncontested for the Syrian presidency, winning 99.996 percent of the votes, according to official results. Assad transformed Syria into an Alawite-run state, even though he surrounded himself with Sunni lackeys. Under Assad, Alawites accounted for 90 percent of the officer corps, and after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the army’s mission changed from preparing for conflict with Israel to defending the regime. Assad sided with Iran during its 1980-1988 war with Iraq, supplying it with Scud missiles and allowing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to enter Lebanon in 1982 to establish Hezbollah. Before his death in 2000, he removed all rivals to pave the path for his son Bashar’s succession.

Despite developing good relations with Iran, Hafez Assad maintained close ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, especially Saudi Arabia. He also regulated Iran’s influence in Lebanon. However, his son succumbed to Iranian influence, especially after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, leading to Iran’s penetration of Syrian society, military and foreign policy. The 2011 uprising occurred by default in solidarity with those who overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as many Syrian Sunnis looked up to Egypt as a role model.

Iran and Russia

Bashar Assad’s militarization of the uprising backfired as the rebels seemed positioned to overthrow his regime. He appealed to Iran for help, and the Iranians took advantage of the opportunity to expand their Shiite allies’ presence to more than 600 locations throughout regime-held territory. But Iran’s IRGC and Shiite proxy forces were not faring well against the rebels, so Assad enlisted the help of the Russians, who provided major air support for the regime beginning in 2015. Russian military advisers tried to rebuild the Syrian army, which had been shattered by war and defections, to help it become self-reliant and end its dependence on Iranian-backed militias. But corruption and lack of discipline prevented the Syrian army from reorganizing. It continued to depend on Hezbollah and pro-Iranian militias to provide critical battlefield support for the Fourth Division, the regime’s only credible fighting force.

Iranian and Pro-Iran Militia Presence in Syria
(click to enlarge)

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has redeployed its forces in Syria to safeguard its Tartus naval facility and Hmeimim air base. This hasn’t changed the balance of power on the ground, however, because the IRGC provides most of the fighters and Russia’s contribution is limited to air raids, which often decide the outcome of battles.

Russia is keen to protect its military assets in Syria, believing it can’t afford to retreat militarily on all fronts. Soon after launching the war in Ukraine, Russian fighter jets flew over Turkish-backed Syrian National Army positions, dropping flares to warn the group against attacking regime-controlled areas. It also continues to build ties in the Middle East, presenting itself as a credible ally to the region’s despotic rulers, who view President Vladimir Putin’s leadership style as similar to theirs. But it’s now likely to assume a defensive posture in Syria, especially as tensions between Iran and Israel rise.

Iran, meanwhile, has worked closely with Syrian security forces through its proxies to smuggle narcotics from southern Syria into Jordan for distribution in GCC markets. The departure of the Russian police from the area has accelerated smuggling activities, for which the regime’s Fourth Division, commanded by Assad’s brother, Maher, has provided cover. The most popular narcotic, counterfeit captagon, is widely manufactured in Syria. Drones ship the more expensive heroin and crystal methamphetamine over the heavily guarded border, where clashes frequently occur between the smugglers and the Jordanian army. The Jordanians have warned that if the Syrian government doesn’t rein in the smugglers, they could launch a major military operation across the border to stem the trade of illicit goods.

Ending the War

The implications of Russia’s diminishing role in Syria largely depend on whether the Biden administration has the motivation to fill the vacuum. Given Washington’s reluctance to become directly involved in the Syrian crisis, the anti-regime opposition needs to convince the U.S. that post-war Syria will emerge as a pro-Western oasis of peace. Since invading Iraq in 2003, the U.S. has changed its tactics in the Middle East, opting to use sanctions to change the behavior of governments that do not support its policies instead of overthrowing them. It also supports the U.N.’s special envoy to Syria in his bid to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Russia’s predicament in Ukraine coincides with Western pressure on Assad to bring about national reconciliation and cooperate with the secular Syrian opposition. Assad has been adamant about resisting genuine political reforms, including power-sharing and administrative decentralization. He instead embarked on a comprehensive policy of demographic change, banning the return of refugees and demolishing entire neighborhoods. But changes in the international environment forced Assad to reconsider his political recalcitrance and accommodate the opposition in order to stay in power.

Assad’s visit to the United Arab Emirates in March aimed to rehabilitate his regime amid a regional drive – led by the UAE, Israel, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – to resolve the region’s conflicts. Syrian authorities have begun releasing thousands of prisoners ahead of the eighth round of U.N.-sponsored talks between government representatives and the opposition to agree on a new constitution for Syria. Arab countries are pushing the two sides to reach a compromise deal in an effort to block Iran’s infiltration there. An agreement on a new constitution could help Syria end the 11-year civil war and restore relations with Turkey and Arab countries, namely Saudi Arabia.

The invasion of Ukraine has pulled the Middle East into the West’s confrontation with Russia, despite regional leaders’ hope to maintain neutrality. The Europeans now realize that they made a mistake by abandoning Syria when the Russians launched their military campaign there, believing the war had no impact on their collective security. As Europe tries to wean itself off Russian energy, the Middle East will become increasingly important. The prospects for ending the Syrian conflict seem more promising now than at any time since the uprising began. Assad has the backing of most Arab regimes, which want him to strike a deal with Turkey to expedite international investment in Syria’s post-war reconstruction. Turkey’s economic crisis and presidential elections next year have shifted the focus of its regional policy from confrontation to conciliation.

Though they have no issue with Russia’s role in Syria, Arabs and Israelis can’t tolerate Iran’s presence there and believe ending the conflict hinges on ending Tehran’s hold over the regime. Israel has readied itself to deal with Iran’s expanding influence in the country. Its recent military exercises, the largest in years, are aimed at sending a clear message to Iran that the Israeli military is ready to act if needed. Israeli attacks on Iranian assets in Syria have increased noticeably since the beginning of the Ukraine war and are likely to accelerate. And despite high-level visits between Iranian and Syrian officials, the Assad regime views the strikes favorably, believing that Iran has violated Syria’s sovereignty and sabotaged its relations with the Arab world. It seems Tehran has overstayed its welcome.

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GPF: Syria and Russia prep for Turkish operation
« Reply #314 on: June 09, 2022, 05:30:16 PM »
June 9, 2022
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Daily Memo: New Syria Deployments, Putin-Raisi Talks
Both Moscow and Damascus are making preparations for an expected Turkish operation in northern Syria.
By: Geopolitical Futures


Reinforcements. According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Russia sent personnel carriers, armored vehicles, medium and heavy weapons, and anti-aircraft missiles to its al-Mabakir base near Tal Tamr in Hasakah province in northeast Syria. The Syrian government also reportedly deployed reinforcements near Manbij in northern Aleppo province. These movements are in response to Turkey's planned military operation in the area.

Putin and Raisi. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi discussed bilateral issues, the Syrian peace process and the Iran nuclear negotiations during a call on Wednesday.

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« Reply #315 on: August 24, 2022, 07:42:24 PM »

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GPF: Resolving Syria? Not likely
« Reply #316 on: September 01, 2022, 06:30:51 AM »
September 1, 2022
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The Dilemma of Resolving the Syrian Conflict
After more than a decade of fighting, there’s no end in sight.
By: Hilal Khashan

The Syrian conflict has largely disappeared from the headlines as the country’s political situation has reached a stalemate. But the protracted war often starts to garner more attention when major events abroad involve one or more of its key players. Such is the effect the war in Ukraine has had on the Syrian crisis. Prospects for ending the conflict are bleak, considering the regime’s disinterest in a settlement and the country’s fragmented population. Given the region's emerging order, peace in Syria would also require foreign actors to reach an agreement, which is unlikely because of their conflicting interests.

No End in Sight

The Syrian conflict has no end in sight. The essential dilemma lies in the fact that none of the peace initiatives proposed since 2011 has explicitly addressed Bashar Assad’s role in the transition period and his political fate in postwar Syria. It’s the only Arab country whose uprising did not lead to the head of state’s fall, resulting in a protracted conflict causing incalculable human loss, demographic dislocation and material destruction. Many Arab political systems are autocratic and repressive, but in Syria, where the Alawite minority has ruled since Hafez Assad took power in 1971, the level of repression at its peak probably exceeded even the oppression under Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Syrian Ethnic and Sectarian Groups: 2017
(click to enlarge)

The fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government in Egypt inspired the Syrian uprising, which initially did not demand the regime’s collapse. Peaceful demonstrators presented moderate demands for freedom and combating corruption, but the army nevertheless attempted to nip the protests in the bud. Syrians still hopeful that Assad would lead Syria’s reform process were disappointed by his speech on March 30, 2011, in which he described the protests as a seditious conspiracy orchestrated by foreign powers and pledged to defeat them before proceeding with reforms. It’s understandable that most Syrians today would prefer that Assad be removed from national politics altogether. More than a decade after the uprising that turned into a bloody civil war, he hasn’t delivered on his promises of reform, reconstruction and repatriation of refugees.

For Assad, a monopoly of power is a guarantee that the existential threat to him and the Alawite sect will be eradicated. His supporters destroyed the country to protect his presidency, and he has ignored all attempts at making peace. In August 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama said Assad must introduce fundamental reforms or step down. In 2012, the Arab League announced an initiative that involved Assad giving up his powers and relying on his deputy, Farouk al-Shara, to lead a transitional phase that would end with genuine reforms. But the regime in Damascus categorically rejected it, and since then, al-Shara has disappeared from the political scene. Also in 2012, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented a peace plan that did not explicitly refer to Assad’s departure but emphasized the need for a political solution that would meet the aspirations of the Syrian people, hinting that a fundamental change in the regime’s structure would not allow for Assad’s continued rule. Then came the Geneva Conference, which resulted in a plan for a political solution that was unanimously adopted by the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 2254 in December 2015.

The Geneva plan also didn’t explicitly require Assad’s removal from power. It provided a roadmap to an acceptable settlement for the countries that agreed to it, primarily the U.S. and Russia. The document discussed the formation of a transitional governing body comprising the regime, the opposition and civil society representatives, with full executive powers that would eventually lead to a democratic government. It also stipulated that the body would be formed by consensus, considered by observers as a positive ambiguity as it gave veto power to both the opposition and the regime. Still, opposition forces believed that Assad would have to be excluded from the country’s future as a prerequisite for reaching a political solution. Most countries that participated in the Geneva Conference also agreed that Assad had no place in Syria’s future – save for Russia, which upheld Assad’s right to be part of the transition and to run for the presidency again.

With Moscow’s intervention beginning in September 2015, the peace process took a different path. The Geneva document was supplanted by the Astana and Sochi talks. Accompanying these developments were the growing disputes between the opposition’s supporters. The Russians regained the upper hand on the ground, eventually luring Turkey to the Astana process. Russia’s approach to ending the fighting involved two components. The first focused on establishing a durable cease-fire and four deescalation zones, which meant the destruction of opposition-controlled areas and relocation of rebel fighters to the northwestern province of Idlib. In the second component, Russia prioritized forming a committee to amend the 2012 constitution or draft a new one. More than seven years after the Astana process began, the constitution remains unchanged.

Territorial Control in Syria | September 2022
(click to enlarge)

This approach contradicts U.N. Resolution 2254, which called for the formation of a transitional government, followed by a constitutional process leading to parliamentary and presidential elections. But the international parties that supported the opposition did not take a stand against Russia’s undermining of the Geneva document. Some countries even quietly advised the opposition to participate in the Astana process due to the lack of viable alternatives. The issue of Assad’s exit from politics was no longer a priority for diplomatic efforts. In 2021, Assad ran for a fourth presidential term and won seven more years in office.

The Challenge of Reconstruction

U.S. sanctions, imposed under the 2020 Caesar act, prevented Assad from turning his military victory into a political one by linking Syria’s reconstruction process to a political solution. Today, reconstruction efforts are hampered by the lack of progress on a number of fronts. The peace process is stalled. A quarter of Syria’s 22 million people have fled the country, and another quarter have been internally displaced. The economy and infrastructure are in tatters. Illiteracy has risen, with no more than 37 percent of children having access to primary education. More than 90 percent of Syrians live in poverty, and 60 percent suffer from food insecurity. Most strategic resources, such as hydroelectric dams, oil fields and phosphate mines, are out of the regime’s control.

The only real stick that countries opposing Assad have used are unilateral sanctions, which have allowed his principal backers in Iran, Russia and China to continue to prop up his regime unimpeded. Assad managed to bypass the sanctions, leaving his people to bear the brunt of the burden. The cost of rebuilding Syria exceeds $1 trillion, and even if the antagonists were able to find a solution to the conflict, it’s unlikely that investors would want to play a role in the country’s rehabilitation, with the business environment still unstable and corruption rampant.

De Facto Partitioning

Since Russia’s war in Ukraine began, the Astana process has become less effective. The last meeting of the Astana group – consisting of Russia, Iran and Turkey – was held in Tehran less than two months ago with no tangible results. It seems that Syria is now at risk of partitioning, with influential countries having concluded that resolution of the conflict is futile and containment is the best possible scenario.

A political settlement would be disastrous for Assad because any reconciliation arrangement would eventually lead to his ouster. Syrians, including many Alawites, are tired of living under his control. Less than a third of residents in areas under his rule support him, while two-thirds of residents want to emigrate. Sanctions are not strong enough of a deterrent to force Assad to accept a genuine settlement.

Syria’s fate is ambiguous because the presence of foreign militaries does not allow any of the parties to the conflict to decide the country’s future. It seems partitioning is the only possible way out of the predicament. In fact, the country has already de facto partitioned, with national, religious, sectarian and political factions having developed self-administrations to manage their civil affairs. The regime, meanwhile, seems to have bet that Syria’s return to the Arab League, if it happens, will end the crisis on its terms.

The French destroyed the Arab Kingdom of Syria in 1920 and controlled it until 1943, creating an artificial state without foundations. The Syrian state brought together an amalgam of disharmonious people, since France built it on a sectarian and ethnic fault line. It was only a matter of time before it disintegrated, and reconstituting it is implausible

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Stratfor: Deal no deal, US-Iran skirmishes in Syria here to stay
« Reply #317 on: September 07, 2022, 04:57:13 PM »
So, was Trump right to order us out of Syria (only to be foiled by the generals?)

Deal or No Nuclear Deal, U.S.-Iran Skirmishes in Syria Are Here to Stay
4 MIN READSep 7, 2022 | 15:29 GMT





A U.S. Oshkosh M-ATV Mine Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicle patrols near the Syria-Turkey border in a village east of Qamishli in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on Aug. 21. The village was subject to bombardment the previous week.

A U.S. Oshkosh M-ATV Mine Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicle patrols near the Syria-Turkey border in a village east of Qamishli in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on Aug. 21. The village was subject to bombardment the previous week.

(Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A recent round of Iran-U.S. skirmishes in Syria demonstrates that bilateral tensions will linger regardless of a potential nuclear deal, and more such conflicts could eventually threaten U.S. political support for troop deployment in Syria. Reported Iran-backed forces launched a drone on Aug. 15 at the U.S. military garrison in al-Tanf, Syria, and on the same day, a rocket attack took place against U.S. forces in the northeast of the country. In retaliation, the United States struck targets linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the Syria-Iraq border on Aug. 23. Iran continued the skirmishes, responding on Aug. 24 with more attacks on U.S. forces that wounded at least three troops, and the United States responded again with attack helicopters and artillery, reportedly killing several militants.

Iran and the United States' conflicts of interest in Syria have led to several skirmishes, including those with drone attacks on the al-Tanf military base in 2020 and 2021, but typically the skirmishes end after a single round of attacks and retaliation.

Iran's involvement in Syria is rooted in efforts to maintain its land bridge to allies in Lebanon and to restore Syrian President Bashar al Assad's full control over the country. U.S. troops are officially in Syria to conduct counterterrorism missions rather than focus on Iran.
Ongoing nuclear talks will not resolve Washington and Tehran's competing strategies in Syria, making future clashes likely and potentially even larger in scope and duration. Ongoing U.S.-Iran negotiations over the restoration of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal do not cover other issues of geopolitical competition between them, like Iran's support for proxy militias, Iran's development and deployment of ballistic missiles, and the United States' deployment of forces throughout the region. So even if Iran and the United States strike a nuclear deal (which is uncertain), Iran will remain focused on trying to undermine Washington's position in Syria. Meanwhile, the United States does not currently plan to withdraw from Syria, in part because the Islamic State remains an underground movement in Iraq and Syria that could resurge if regional counterterrorism operations and/or U.S.-allied Kurdish militias weaken. Additionally, the recent round of sustained clashes between Iran and the United States in Syria suggests that both sides are willing to escalate conflicts within the confines of proxy theaters, as this will enable them to remain diplomatically functional on issues like Iran's nuclear program. Such escalated proxy conflicts will result in a heightened risk of larger clashes between the two sides in Syria and Iraq.

Iran similarly has compartmentalized its competition with Turkey, as the two countries officially maintain economic and diplomatic ties even though they back opposing sides in Syria.

In February, Islamic State militants attacked prisons around Hassakeh, Syria, and were suppressed with U.S. assistance.
Future clashes between the United States and Iran will threaten American political support for Washington's counterterrorism mission there, especially if there are U.S. casualties. Syria is low in the U.S. public mind at the moment due to preoccupations with bigger geopolitical challenges, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China's threats against Taiwan, but that could change in the face of persistent harassment by Iran and/or U.S. casualties. Additionally, many former officials who have worked in Syria over the years have become critical of the U.S. strategy in Syria, with former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford describing it as similar to the United States' experience in Vietnam. With the Syrian civil war nowhere near resolution, the perception that the United States is stuck in a quagmire likely will grow, and greater public scrutiny of the war likely would result in demands to withdraw forces from Syria.

U.S. military involvement in Syria has always had a light footprint because of the legacy of the Iraq and Afghan wars, which caused a deep and lasting public skepticism of wars in the Middle East. There are only around 800-900 U.S. troops left in Syria, down from a high of several thousand at the height of the war against the Islamic State.

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Re: Stratfor: Deal no deal, US-Iran skirmishes in Syria here to stay
« Reply #318 on: September 07, 2022, 05:07:56 PM »
How many billions of dollars in weapons and equipment are we leaving behind?



So, was Trump right to order us out of Syria (only to be foiled by the generals?)

Deal or No Nuclear Deal, U.S.-Iran Skirmishes in Syria Are Here to Stay
4 MIN READSep 7, 2022 | 15:29 GMT





A U.S. Oshkosh M-ATV Mine Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicle patrols near the Syria-Turkey border in a village east of Qamishli in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on Aug. 21. The village was subject to bombardment the previous week.

A U.S. Oshkosh M-ATV Mine Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicle patrols near the Syria-Turkey border in a village east of Qamishli in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on Aug. 21. The village was subject to bombardment the previous week.

(Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A recent round of Iran-U.S. skirmishes in Syria demonstrates that bilateral tensions will linger regardless of a potential nuclear deal, and more such conflicts could eventually threaten U.S. political support for troop deployment in Syria. Reported Iran-backed forces launched a drone on Aug. 15 at the U.S. military garrison in al-Tanf, Syria, and on the same day, a rocket attack took place against U.S. forces in the northeast of the country. In retaliation, the United States struck targets linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the Syria-Iraq border on Aug. 23. Iran continued the skirmishes, responding on Aug. 24 with more attacks on U.S. forces that wounded at least three troops, and the United States responded again with attack helicopters and artillery, reportedly killing several militants.

Iran and the United States' conflicts of interest in Syria have led to several skirmishes, including those with drone attacks on the al-Tanf military base in 2020 and 2021, but typically the skirmishes end after a single round of attacks and retaliation.

Iran's involvement in Syria is rooted in efforts to maintain its land bridge to allies in Lebanon and to restore Syrian President Bashar al Assad's full control over the country. U.S. troops are officially in Syria to conduct counterterrorism missions rather than focus on Iran.
Ongoing nuclear talks will not resolve Washington and Tehran's competing strategies in Syria, making future clashes likely and potentially even larger in scope and duration. Ongoing U.S.-Iran negotiations over the restoration of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal do not cover other issues of geopolitical competition between them, like Iran's support for proxy militias, Iran's development and deployment of ballistic missiles, and the United States' deployment of forces throughout the region. So even if Iran and the United States strike a nuclear deal (which is uncertain), Iran will remain focused on trying to undermine Washington's position in Syria. Meanwhile, the United States does not currently plan to withdraw from Syria, in part because the Islamic State remains an underground movement in Iraq and Syria that could resurge if regional counterterrorism operations and/or U.S.-allied Kurdish militias weaken. Additionally, the recent round of sustained clashes between Iran and the United States in Syria suggests that both sides are willing to escalate conflicts within the confines of proxy theaters, as this will enable them to remain diplomatically functional on issues like Iran's nuclear program. Such escalated proxy conflicts will result in a heightened risk of larger clashes between the two sides in Syria and Iraq.

Iran similarly has compartmentalized its competition with Turkey, as the two countries officially maintain economic and diplomatic ties even though they back opposing sides in Syria.

In February, Islamic State militants attacked prisons around Hassakeh, Syria, and were suppressed with U.S. assistance.
Future clashes between the United States and Iran will threaten American political support for Washington's counterterrorism mission there, especially if there are U.S. casualties. Syria is low in the U.S. public mind at the moment due to preoccupations with bigger geopolitical challenges, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China's threats against Taiwan, but that could change in the face of persistent harassment by Iran and/or U.S. casualties. Additionally, many former officials who have worked in Syria over the years have become critical of the U.S. strategy in Syria, with former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford describing it as similar to the United States' experience in Vietnam. With the Syrian civil war nowhere near resolution, the perception that the United States is stuck in a quagmire likely will grow, and greater public scrutiny of the war likely would result in demands to withdraw forces from Syria.

U.S. military involvement in Syria has always had a light footprint because of the legacy of the Iraq and Afghan wars, which caused a deep and lasting public skepticism of wars in the Middle East. There are only around 800-900 U.S. troops left in Syria, down from a high of several thousand at the height of the war against the Islamic State.


Crafty_Dog

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WT: Small US force in Syria in danger
« Reply #320 on: October 10, 2022, 10:02:15 AM »
Small military force in heavy danger during Syria mission

Critics see little reason to remain in war zone

BY BEN WOLFGANG THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria in October 2019.

Three years later, the nation has quietly become one of the U.S. military’s hottest and most dangerous war zones. Fewer than 1,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Syria, but those men and women have come under repeated drone and rocket attacks from Iran-backed militias, prompting regular retaliatory strikes.

What’s more, U.S. forces last week carried out two major attacks on Islamic State leaders hiding in Syria. It was the latest in a string of missions to take out high-value terrorist targets who sought sanctuary and viewed the country as the globe’s most fertile recruiting ground for jihadis.

Ensuring the lasting defeat of the Islamic State, or ISIS, remains the Pentagon’s stated goal for keeping troops in Syria, even though the once-mighty extremist group was declared “territorially defeated” more than three years ago. U.S. forces conduct their own counterterrorism raids and partner closely with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led military outfit that has spent years battling ISIS and the government of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The combination of high-stakes counterterrorism missions and ongoing clashes with Iran-backed groups have put U.S. forces in constant danger in Syria. Critics see little in the way of direct American interests in the country and even fewer legal justifications for a U.S. presence with no end date or clear metrics for victory.

“There is no national security interest of America at all in Syria, period. There’s not,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, now a senior fellow at the think tank Defense Priorities, which advocates for a more restrained U.S. military role abroad.

“There are plenty of people who call themselves ISIS who still reside in that area. That does not represent a threat to the United States,” Col. Davis said in an interview. “The operation does nothing to even minimize the local threat. It doesn’t even affect our national potential terrorist threat.”

The U.S. presence, he said, “is going to continue to drift along aimlessly for the foreseeable future until there’s a mass casualty event … and 20 guys get killed,” likely in an attack on U.S. bases by militias linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Although the U.S. has taken out numerous top ISIS officials in Syria over the past several months, Col. Davis and other critics say the American footprint is so relatively small that it couldn’t effectively stop a major Islamic State resurgence.

Pentagon officials say the U.S. presence is necessary for regional security and is highly effective at taking ISIS leaders off the battlefield.

U.S. troops carried out two highstakes missions against ISIS fighters last week. The first, a helicopter raid outside the northeastern Syrian village of Qamishli, led to the death of Rakkan Wahid al-Shammari. The Pentagon said he was a pivotal figure in the smuggling of weapons and fresh fighters to ISIS pockets in the area.

About 24 hours later, U.S. airstrikes in northern Syria killed ISIS official Abu-Hashimi al-Umawi and another Islamic State figure, the Pentagon said.

“This strike will degrade ISIS’ ability to destabilize the region and strike at our forces and partners,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of U.S. Central Command, said in a statement after the strike. “Our forces remain in the region to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

The strikes last week were just the latest U.S. operations in Syria. In July, a U.S. drone strike killed Maher al-Agal. Pentagon officials said he was the leader of ISIS in Syria. That strike was widely viewed as a major foreign policy victory for President Biden and an example of how the U.S. can conduct successful counterterrorism operations in the theater even after the end of formal combat operations in Iraq, the full U.S. withdrawal from Syria, and other drawdowns in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere across the broader region.

Combating ISIS, however, is just one aspect of the complex conflict in Syria, which has been gripped by civil war for more than a decade. Iran-backed militias are active inside the country. Most notable are Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have direct ties to the IRGC. The groups carried out attacks this summer on U.S. military installations, including an Aug. 15 drone strike on the al-Tanf base.

No Americans were killed in the attack, but the Biden administration responded with helicopter and gunship strikes on militia sites in Syria. Even though the stated U.S. mission in Syria has nothing to do with Iran, American military officials have made it clear that they are ready and willing to hit those groups when necessary.

“We will respond appropriately and proportionally to attacks on our service members,” Gen. Kurilla said in an August statement. “No group will strike at our troops with impunity. We will take all necessary measures to defend our people.”

The presence of ISIS fighters and Iran-linked extremist organizations is just one piece of the complex geopolitical puzzle in Syria.

Russian troops are inside the country to support Mr. Assad’s government in its fight against rebel groups and supposedly to help stamp out the remnants of ISIS. U.S. troops have also had close encounters with Russian forces.

The Pentagon reported in August 2020 that Russia sent vehicles into Syrian zones controlled by U.S. forces. One of the Russian vehicles collided with an American vehicle as Russian helicopters flew low overhead.

The two countries traded blame in harshly worded statements, and neither admitted fault.

Until early last year, part of the American military mission in Syria involved guarding valuable oil fields from Mr. Assad’s government troops and its allies, and from ISIS fighters. In early 2021, the Biden administration said that mission was no longer a priority in Syria.

Further complicating matters, Turkey considers elements within the SDF to be terrorists and has blasted the U.S. for its association with the group. Mr. Trump ordered the 2019 U.S. military drawdown in Syria amid a looming Turkish operation to eliminate suspected terrorists associated with the SDF, his second order to pull American forces from the country.

His first, in late 2018, led to the immediate resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Legal scholars looking at the array of actors and the often-murky U.S. mission in Syria have called on the Biden administration to clarify its long-term objectives and to find a legal basis for keeping troops there.

“The Biden administration’s policy objectives in Syria are laudable. But it remains unclear whether any of them can be met through maintaining a U.S. military presence in the country, for how long doing so remains lawful (even if it was at the start), and whether viable alternative strategies exist to meet these goals,” said Tess Bridgeman and Brianna Rosen, co-editor and senior fellow, respectively, at Just Security, a national security and foreign policy forum at the New York University School of Law.

“Those are the next questions the Biden administration must urgently address,” they wrote in a recent analysis

Crafty_Dog

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FA: Exit Strategy for Syria
« Reply #321 on: October 10, 2022, 12:05:48 PM »
Haven't read this yet and it is FA, but IIRC it sounds like they have come around to what Trump wanted to do?

=============

An Exit Strategy for Syria
The Case for Withdrawing U.S. Troops
By Christopher Alkhoury
October 10, 2022
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/syria/exit-strategy-syria


When U.S. President Joe Biden took office, U.S. Syria policy was detached from reality. The Biden administration decided to recalibrate U.S. goals, eliminating both the legally precarious notion of securing Syrian oil facilities and the impractical desire to oust all Iranian forces from a country that has long-standing ties with Iran. The Biden team decided it was time to refocus U.S. efforts on the original mission: the defeat of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). The president’s team signaled, first privately with a high-level delegation to Syria in May 2021 and then publicly with off-the-record statements to the press in July 2021, that the United States would maintain a limited military presence of approximately 900 troops in Syria and resume providing targeted stabilization assistance to restore essential services, such as water and electricity, in areas controlled by U.S.-backed forces. The plan was to do this until conditions became more favorable for a negotiated political settlement to the Syrian civil war.

This adjustment was driven by a recognition that although U.S.-backed forces hold sizable swaths of Syrian territory, the United States’ political and diplomatic influence remains limited. Plus, the alternative options are grim. Investing considerably more resources, both financial and military, in hopes of securing an ill-defined political outcome that is highly unlikely to overcome the core challenge in Syria—that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has won the war—is neither strategically advisable nor politically tenable. Yet a decision to draw down U.S. forces in Syria so soon after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would be politically costly and further shake regional confidence in the United States’ commitment to the Middle East.

Still, the status quo comes with its own risks. The battlefield in Syria is complex, and Russian, Syrian, and U.S. forces are operating in increasingly close proximity. At the same time, there has been a significant uptick in Iranian-backed militia attacks targeting U.S. positions and a renewed threat of a Turkish military incursion directed at U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. Given all this, the Biden administration needs to address these questions: Is a continued U.S. military presence in Syria necessary, and is it worthwhile?


The Biden administration seems to be holding out hope that conditions will change or improve and that a better negotiated settlement or off ramp will become apparent. Yet every day that passes increases the risks to U.S. forces and weakens, not strengthens, the United States’ bargaining position in terms of what can be obtained from Assad and Russia in exchange for a U.S. departure. Instead of muddling through, the United States should focus on negotiating an exit that, as quickly as possible, secures its two core interests in Syria: U.S. access to Syrian airspace and the safety of Syrians who fought alongside U.S. forces to defeat ISIS.

THE OLD MISSION

Syria is becoming an increasingly dangerous environment in which to operate, but ISIS is not primarily responsible for the surge in violence. Violent events in Syria—such as shelling and artillery attacks—are up more than 20 percent this calendar year, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit data collection, analysis, and crisis-mapping project. Most of the violence is committed by state actors, including the Assad regime and Turkey. ISIS’s activity, by contrast, is on a downward trajectory, according to the latest report from the U.S. Defense Department’s inspector general. ISIS claimed 201 attacks between April 1 and June 30, a decrease of more than 60 percent, year over year. Although ISIS remains a persistent threat in Iraq and Syria, it is largely unable to conduct coordinated offensive operations in these countries or plan and direct attacks abroad.

This means the activity of the approximately 900 U.S. military personnel stationed in Syria is also significantly down from its peak. U.S. forces are still providing enabling support, most notably intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and logistics, to allied militias, including the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In January, U.S. military support was pivotal in helping the SDF secure a prison in Hasakah, a city in northeastern Syria, after ISIS launched an attack to free its members being held there. More than 500 people died in the battle, including 121 SDF fighters. Overall, however, U.S. troops are not conducting as many partnered missions with the SDF. There have been only two operations where the SDF and U.S. forces were fighting side by side so far this year, according to public reporting by the Defense Department and the SDF.

Where U.S. military activity is happening has also changed, shifting to places where the United States has fewer eyes and ears on the ground. Instead of being concentrated in northeastern Syria, where U.S. forces are based, operations against high-value ISIS targets are taking place in Idlib and other areas nominally under the control of various elements of the Syrian opposition. Two ISIS leaders were killed in Idlib Province: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019 and his replacement, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, in 2022. In June, U.S. forces captured an ISIS bomb-maker in an Aleppo village controlled by Turkish-backed opposition forces, and the following month, a U.S. drone strike killed another high-level ISIS target not far away. A U.S.-raid just last week targeted ISIS elements in a Syrian regime-controlled village. The shift in the epicenter of the fight against ISIS suggests that U.S. forces are still able to capture or kill high-level ISIS operatives in parts of Syria where there is no U.S. troop presence on the ground. That should come as welcome news: an on-the-ground presence may be advantageous, but it is not necessary to safeguard U.S. national security interests.

A GEOPOLITICAL MINEFIELD

Even with ISIS violence down, the risks to U.S. troops are growing. Some stem from the increasingly tense relations between the United States and Russia, which have jeopardized what used to be a relatively professional line of communication between U.S. and Russian forces operating in Syria. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russian aircraft have engaged in a series of dangerous actions. In June, for example, Russian jets directly targeted Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra, an opposition group backed by the United States. The group is located near the al-Tanf Garrison, a U.S. military base, inside a “de-confliction zone” that Russia had once respected as off-limits. Russia reportedly gave U.S. forces just 30 minutes notice before violating the zone. Such behavior further increases the risk of an unintended direct conflict between the United States and Russia

The war in Ukraine is having another insidious effect. As Russia diverts resources to its war with its eastern European neighbor, Iran has filled the vacuum in Syria, becoming much more influential and less risk averse. Iranian-backed forces are increasingly threatening U.S. operations with direct and indirect fire, launching at least 19 rocket and drone attacks against U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria so far this year. In August, after Iranian-backed forces conducted a coordinated drone and indirect fire attack on two separate U.S. military outposts, the United States responded with targeted strikes on nine uninhabited Shiite militia positions, including weapons caches and checkpoints—which led to more counterattacks from Iranian-backed militias. And as nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran continue to stall, Iran is likely to use its militias in Syria to put additional pressure on the United States in an effort to secure on the battlefield what remains elusive at the negotiating table.

Turkey, a member of NATO and a U.S. ally, is also increasing pressure on U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has threatened a renewed military push to achieve his long-held goal of creating a 19-mile buffer in Syria to secure the Turkish border and to enable Syrian refugees living in Turkey to return home. Turkey has fought a decades-long war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey and views the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a direct extension of the PKK. The United States, in contrast, has designated the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization but has worked closely with the YPG in Syria in the fight against ISIS—indeed, the YPG is frequently referred to as the “backbone” of the SDF by U.S. officials.

Every day that passes increases the risks to U.S. forces.

Since Iran, Russia, and Turkey held trilateral talks in June, Turkey has expanded its use of drone, artillery, and airstrikes in Russian-controlled airspace, targeting U.S. partners. Turkey has conducted at least 56 drone strikes so far this year, killing some 50 SDF fighters, including non-YPG elements, and ten civilians. The surge in activity since the trilateral talks has led the SDF leadership to publicly lament that Russia has greenlighted the increased Turkish air activity and blame the United States and Russia for not stopping it. Turkey’s actions further weaken the U.S. position in northeastern Syria because they divert SDF attention away from ISIS and force the SDF to seek support from Russia and the Assad regime to counter Turkish aggression. Earlier this year, the SDF facilitated the deployment of additional Syrian government forces to SDF-controlled territory to stymie a Turkish incursion. The situation is likely to get worse ahead of the 2023 Turkish elections, with Erdogan potentially willing to take greater risks to stave off defeat. 

If all this were not bad enough, the SDF’s hold over territory is also weakening. The COVID-19 pandemic and global inflation have undermined an already dire economic and health situation in northeastern Syria. Cholera has broken out in the region, with over 2,000 suspected cases since September 10 and ten reported deaths. U.S. sanctions on Syria are continuing to weaken the broader national economy on which northeastern Syria is dependent. Even though the United States is doing its part to support the Syrians most in need, providing an astounding $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance in Syria in 2022 alone, it can only do so much.

The Trump administration froze humanitarian assistance for Syria in March 2018, as it weighed a potential withdrawal and sought additional contributions from foreign partners, and the Biden administration wisely unfroze it. But the amount of funding pales in comparison to the need. The United States and its partners in the coalition against ISIS never intended to provide reconstruction assistance or to rebuild areas of Syria damaged in the war. Instead, the goal was to retake territory from ISIS and quickly provide essential services and repair key infrastructure so that basic life could resume. Since 2011, the United States has given over $1.3 billion in stabilization assistance to that end. But without significantly more money from the West, the SDF lacks the resources to govern effectively. Even though the SDF invests oil revenues—primarily from oil it sells to the Assad regime—into salaries for local administration in Kurdish and Sunni areas, there is simply not enough revenue to sustain administrative and social services, much less fully rebuild areas damaged by war. Local officials claim at least 30 percent of Raqqa remains in ruins more than three years after major combat operations there ended. Unemployment, particularly among the young, is high. As a result, local populations feel neglected and marginalized, leading to an exodus of those who can afford smugglers and a surge of ISIS recruits among those too poor to escape.

HEAD FOR THE EXITS

ISIS remains a persistent threat, but unlike the period from 2015 to 2019, when ISIS controlled large parts of Syria and Iraq, it no longer has a safe haven where it can plan and conduct terrorist attacks targeting the West. This means U.S. forces have achieved their original mission. The ISIS threat that remains today can be contained without putting U.S. forces in harm’s way. The U.S. military should continue to target high-level ISIS operatives in drone and airstrikes as well as targeted raids to maintain consistent counterterrorism pressure on what remains of the group. This model has already proved effective in areas of Syria where U.S. forces have not been physically present over the last several years. Also key to this approach would be withdrawing amicably enough to maintain relations with its Syrian partners so that the United States can continue to utilize human intelligence and to secure access to Syrian airspace. Despite current geopolitical tensions, a U.S. departure loosely coordinated with Russia is the only way to achieve these objectives.

If U.S. forces were to depart in an uncoordinated fashion, the most likely result would be a Turkish military offensive to achieve Erdogan’s stated objectives—an intervention that would very likely displace hundreds of thousands of Syrians and irreparably damage U.S. relations with the SDF. Meanwhile, the Assad regime is militarily incapable of occupying all the territory currently under SDF control. If U.S. forces left tomorrow through a negotiated settlement with Russia, a nominal regime presence, not a full-scale occupation, is the most likely outcome in the areas once controlled by the United States. But even that would still pose grave risks to U.S. partners left behind, since the Assad regime could detain or kill prominent members of the SDF to weaken U.S. influence in areas that would then be under Syrian control. The United States should do all it can to limit the extent of Syrian government atrocities through diplomatic and economic pressure. It should call on Sunni Arab partners in the region—for example, the United Arab Emirates—that are normalizing relations with Assad to do the same.

Fortunately, the Israelis have proved that securing access to Syrian airspace is indeed possible through a combination of diplomacy with Russia, which controls the most advanced air defense systems in Syria, and brute force against the Assad regime if Israeli aircraft are threatened. A loosely coordinated U.S. departure would significantly improve the likelihood of reaching a diplomatic agreement on access to Syrian airspace, and the United States would retain an inherent right to self-defense if threatened by regime forces while conducting strikes against ISIS.

Nearly seven years after the first U.S. boots hit the ground in Syria, it is time for Washington to withdraw its troops. A U.S. military presence in Syria is no longer a strategic asset; it is a vulnerability

Crafty_Dog

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Turkey- Syria
« Reply #322 on: November 21, 2022, 04:16:09 PM »
Daily Memo: Turkish Airstrikes in Syria, Russian Energy Exports to Europe
The strikes targeted Kurdish groups in the north of the country.
By: Geopolitical Futures
Turkey in Syria. Turkey launched air strikes on Sunday against Kurdish militants in northern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the strikes, dubbed Operation Claw Sword, on Monday, saying they were necessary because of said Russia’s failure to remove “terrorists” from the area, as it had agreed to do through a deal reached in Sochi. Russia’s engagement in Syria has declined since it began its invasion of Ukraine.



Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Syria, Kurds, Turks, Russians
« Reply #325 on: November 29, 2022, 05:14:02 PM »
   
Daily Memo: Syrian Kurds Worried About a Turkish Offensive
A Kurdish commander has already reached out to Moscow for talks on the matter.
By: Geopolitical Futures
Appealing for help. A commander with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces reportedly met with the head of Russian forces in Syria to discuss a potential Turkish operation in the north of the country. The same Kurdish commander also said over the weekend that the SDF suspended its operations against the Islamic State amid Turkish airstrikes in the region, in an apparent warning to Washington. Ankara has been signaling that it could launch a ground offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish militants there.

Crafty_Dog

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D1:
« Reply #326 on: December 02, 2022, 01:14:10 PM »
December 2, 2022   
         
The U.S. military's partners in Syria just suspended all joint operations with the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS terrorists in the region, officials from the Syrian Democratic Forces told Reuters on Friday.

Why? The Turkish military is preparing a ground invasion into Kurdish-held lands in northern Syria. (Kurds are often referred to as the world's largest stateless ethnic group.) And this new long-teased invasion is the latest in a series of Syrian incursions over the past several years as Ankara's military looks to crush a Kurdish insurgency that's been simmering since the 1980s and has featured dozens of deadly attacks inside Turkey carried out by militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The last time Turkey's military overtly entered northern Syria was back in October 2019 during Ankara's Operation Peace Spring.

The critical link: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are at least partly composed of Kurdish fighters organized under the Kurdish People's Defense Units, known as the YPG. And they've been particularly useful for the U.S. military as they operate inside Syria—against the publicly-declared wishes of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus, which itself has been fighting a civil war against numerous factions, including ISIS, for more than a decade.

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More recently, Ankara attacked Kurdish elements with cross-border airstrikes and long-range artillery in both Syria and Iraq during the month of November in an operation Turkey dubbed "Claw Sword." According to the BBC, dozens of people were reportedly killed in Syria alone after the strikes, which followed a bombing on the streets of Istanbul that killed six people on 13 November. The SDF, YPG, and PKK all denied involvement in the attack; and each accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of leveraging the bombing as a pretext to launch a new ground invasion into northern Syria—roughly six months ahead of Turkey's upcoming general election in June, which could see Erdogan cling to power for a third consecutive four-year term.

Erdogan's goal with the operation is to remove all Kurdish people "from within thirty kilometers (18.6 miles) of the Turkish border, at least west of the Euphrates River," writes Rich Outzen of the Atlantic Council. By establishing this "safe zone," Erdogan is hoping to "enable refugee returns, and ensure Turkish influence over eventual political arrangements to end the war in Syria." What's more, Outzen argues, there's not all that much standing in Turkey's way—including both the Americans and the Russians. And that contributes to a "betting line in Ankara…that ground operations west of the Euphrates will be tacitly tolerated if modest in scope and careful in execution." Read more, here; or check out a similar analysis with an eye on Turkish politics from Aaron Stein of War on the Rocks on Wednesday, writing on Twitter.

Recall that Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin rang his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday to discourage a new ground offensive in northern Syria. The next day, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters, "We are operating at a reduced number of partnered patrols with the SDF," but the patrols had not been stopped by that point. It would be only hours later that the SDF made that call, according to Reuters.

"We certainly do recognize Turkey's valid security concerns when it comes to protecting their people inside their borders," Ryder said at the Pentagon. "But again, the focus here is on preventing a destabilizing situation which would put ISIS in an ability to reconstitute, and no one wants to go back to what we saw in 2014 with a terrorist group running amok and taking large swathes of land with thousands and thousands of people killed."

Related reading:

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Syria
« Reply #327 on: January 17, 2023, 07:47:43 AM »
January 17, 2023
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The Drivers of Turkish-Syrian Rapprochement
A successful entente would alter the security landscape of northeastern Syria.
By: Caroline D. Rose

Despite the efforts of the U.S., Europe and regional actors to isolate the Syrian government, Turkey in recent weeks has conducted several high-level intelligence, defense and diplomatic meetings with Syrian officials. A meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad looks increasingly possible. The two sides are likely too far apart for complete normalization, but circumstances will continue to compel Turkey to pursue influence within Damascus and forge a Turkish-Russian-Syrian entente that would alter the security landscape of northeastern Syria.

From the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Turkey has staunchly opposed the Assad regime. In 2011, it severed diplomatic relations with Damascus and threw considerable support behind the Syrian opposition and armed rebels in the country’s north. Turkey has refrained from engagement with the Syrian regime, focusing instead on constraining Kurdish armed groups – such as the People's Protection Units (YPG) – that Turkey says sponsor Kurdish separatism and violence across Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Second, Ankara has worked to establish a peace corridor – a buffer zone to repatriate Syrian refugees and prevent violent spillover into Turkey – along the border.

Territorial Control in Syria, December 2022
(click to enlarge)

For the past six years, Turkey has reverted to a cycle of military escalation to counter Kurdish militants and establish this corridor under Operation Claw. Though these attempts have garnered some ground and leverage in northeastern Syria, one obstacle has stood in its way: the U.S. military presence in Syria’s northeast and Washington’s partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish group that Turkey contends is aligned with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Turkey’s and America’s competing interests in northeastern Syria have created friction between the NATO allies and have frustrated Turkish attempts to establish its corridor.

However, recent shifts in Turkey and elsewhere have created opportunities for a Turkish pivot in northeast Syria. Worsening economic conditions in Turkey have translated into political frustrations at home, including anger directed at the 4 million Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. This, combined with rising friction between Turks and Kurds following a Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Istanbul, has increased Erdogan’s urgency to secure a repatriation zone in Syria’s north and counter Kurdish armed groups. In November and early December, the Turkish government failed to accomplish this militarily through Operation Claw-Sword, stopping short of a ground incursion amid international pressure and signs of blowback among dormant Islamic State cells throughout northeastern Syria.

Having exhausted the military option and eager to act before June 18 elections, the Turkish government has begun to explore incremental engagement with the Assad regime, supplemented by mediation with Russia. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has calculated rapprochement with the Syrian regime into its electoral strategy, gaining approval not only from key AKP officials and coalition partners such as the far-right Nationalist Movement Party but also from the main opposition force, the Republican People’s Party. The Turkish government has proceeded cautiously, initiating high-level meetings between intelligence and defense officials and building momentum to eventually convene both countries’ foreign ministers and heads of state. One key feature of these efforts has been the mediating role of Russia. Moscow hosted the first high-level meeting between Turkish intelligence and defense officials and worked to draft plans for an amended Turkish-Syrian-Russian “roadmap” in Syria’s northeast. The plan could reportedly reopen the Aleppo-Latakia highway, expand joint patrols between military forces and set the groundwork for incrementally pushing the YPG from Turkey’s intended buffer zone along the border – Ankara’s ideal alternative to another failed military intervention.

Amid the slew of engagements with the Syrian government, Turkish officials such as Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin have tried to counterbalance with affirmations of support for the Syrian opposition and expressions of Turkey’s commitment to a fair constitutional process within U.N. parameters. And despite a chorus of support from AKP political allies and adversaries alike, public demonstrations in Turkey against engagement and cautionary statements from NATO allies have put pressure on the Turkish government. Without a change in the Syrian regime’s position, full-scale normalization between Turkey and Syria remains a distant prospect. But a combination of electoral, economic and security pressures in Turkey will drive Ankara to shape a new status quo with Russia and Syria along its southern border.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Syria
« Reply #328 on: January 19, 2023, 02:36:30 PM »
January 19, 2023
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The Push to Normalize Ties with Syria’s Assad
Rehabilitation of the Assad government provides a model for despotic regimes throughout the Arab world.
By: Hilal Khashan

A growing number of Arab countries have recently begun to restore relations with the Syrian regime after a decade of civil strife and failed attempts to overthrow its leader, Bashar Assad. The rise of ultra-radical jihadist groups, such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, convinced the U.S. to suspend its support of groups that aimed to overthrow the Assad regime. This encouraged Russia to step in and save Assad’s government after Iranian proxies failed to defeat the rebels. As his administration slowly emerges from isolation, authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa want to highlight the success of Assad’s government as proof that the use of brute force is a legitimate way of suppressing threats. Assad’s political survival has given these regimes confidence that uprisings in their own countries are unlikely to succeed. But Syria’s fragmentation and the continued presence of foreign militaries suggest that the standoff will continue for years to come.

Normalization Drive

The United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and Bahrain began moving toward normalizing relations with Syria more than two years ago. The UAE took the lead, pledging to build a solar power plant in Syria shortly after sending its foreign minister to Damascus. Bahrain reappointed an ambassador to Syria. Egypt pressed for the Assad regime’s return to the Arab League after its suspension in 2011. The king of Jordan, a close ally of Washington, obtained permission from the U.S. to resume commercial ties with Syria. Border crossings between them have reopened, and trade relations have returned to prewar levels.

The drive to reestablish ties came without any expectation that the Syrian government would be open to genuine political reform or even the release of political prisoners. Arab governments justify their position by saying they want to help Syria reduce Iran’s influence in the country, confront the Turkish occupation of border areas, and contain radical Islamic movements that control Idlib province in the northwest. In recent weeks, there were several indications that the Turkish government may also normalize relations with the Assad regime, especially after a meeting in Moscow between Turkish and Syrian officials. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even indicated an in-person meeting with Assad could happen.

This shift was made possible by the Assad government’s survival after more than a decade of civil war. So far, there’s been no hint from the United States of consequences for governments that choose to restore diplomatic ties with Syria, despite its introduction in 2019 of the Caesar Act, which allows Washington to impose sanctions on countries and entities cooperating with the Assad regime. Instead, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington has made it clear to its regional partners that now is not the time to improve relations with Syria. He also encouraged them to consider Assad’s horrific human rights record over the past 12 years, including his continued refusal to allow life-saving humanitarian aid to reach millions of desperate Syrians. Nor has the United States pushed for a peaceful political solution to the conflict based on U.N. resolutions accepted by the opposition, which has expressed its willingness to negotiate a settlement with the regime.

But Washington’s passive response shouldn’t be surprising. In 2012, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said the United States would not impose a no-fly zone or intervene directly in the conflict. He also stressed that the U.S. wouldn’t provide the opposition with weapons, suggesting it didn’t want to be directly involved in toppling the regime. When Assad used chemical weapons, killing thousands of civilians, the U.S. merely confiscated his chemical weapons arsenal, despite President Barack Obama having previously said that their use in the Syrian conflict was a “red line.”

In 2017, the CIA discontinued its support program, which started in 2013, for moderate fighters in the Free Syrian Army trying to overthrow the regime. Washington essentially gave up on Syria, leaving it to Russia and Iran to fight for influence. Jordan has also softened its stance on the Assad regime, fearing that its fall could lead to unrest at home. Likewise, Turkey abandoned its position on regime change after reaching an understanding with Russia and Iran in 2016.

The conflict is now in a stalemate, with little hope for a settlement in the foreseeable future. The U.S. and other key Western countries prefer to focus on alleviating the human suffering caused by 12 years of war. Washington is the most important financial contributor to Syrian refugee programs, providing more than $15 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria and refugee host countries, namely Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Germany received more than 600,000 Syrian refugees, the most of any country that doesn’t share a border with Syria. None of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries have signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and therefore don’t offer protection for Syrian refugees.

Foreign Presence

Despite the emerging detente, several countries continue to have a military presence in the war-torn country. The United States doesn’t see Syria as strategically important, but it does maintain a symbolic military presence in Syria’s northeast to prevent Turkey from attacking the Syrian Democratic Forces, its ally in the fight against the Islamic State. It currently maintains 28 military sites in Syria to counter the Russian and Iranian presence in the region. U.S. patrols control the Rumailan oil fields east of the Euphrates, where most of Syria’s oil wealth is located.

Territorial Control in Syria, December 2022
(click to enlarge)

Hezbollah forces and other Shiite militias loyal to Iran are deployed in 117 locations along the Lebanese-Syrian border, concentrated on the strategic Qusayr road juncture. They deploy troops to positions stretching from Homs to Aleppo, as well as near the cease-fire line in the Golan. As for Turkey, it deploys forces to 122 military sites along the northern border. Russian troops occupy 75 locations, the most important of which are the Hmeimim air base near Latakia and the naval facility in Tartus. They monitor U.S. patrols and extremist Islamic movements in Idlib and Homs in the northwest and Deraa in the southwest.

The competition between Russia and Iran no longer revolves around economic interests or influence over state institutions. Moscow wants to guarantee Assad will remain within the Russian orbit, while Iran wants to keep him as the head of a pariah regime isolated regionally and internationally so it can continue to manipulate him. Iran doesn’t want to see the Assad government’s reintegration into the Arab region and rejects the Turkish rapprochement with Damascus.

The Iranians are aware of suggestions in the media that Assad disapproves of Iran’s religious ideology and complains about Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ efforts to control him. They also know how to tighten the reins, however. The mullahs still remember how Bashar Assad’s late father, Hafez, had to set limits on their influence over his policy toward Arab and Western countries. Iran now has full control over the Assad regime, which is why Saudi Arabia pressured Egypt to reverse its support of Syria’s reintegration into the Arab system.

Most Arab countries, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and now Egypt, want Syria to rejoin the Arab League. Whether this happens is contingent on the success of the Saudi-Iranian negotiations on their own rapprochement. However, it’s unlikely that normalization of ties between Syria and Arab governments will weaken Iran’s presence in the country.

Implications for the Region

Assad’s success in retaining power over the past decade provides a model for despotic regimes in the Arab world to maintain control even when facing a mass uprising or full-out war. In Iraq, the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces implemented some of the violent methods used by the Assad regime to defeat the opposition. The same is true of the Shiite Amal Movement and Hezbollah in Lebanon, where demonstrators and activists were violently suppressed while the army remained neutral.

The rehabilitation of the Assad regime means forgiving it for the crimes it committed against the Syrian people in a war that killed at least half a million people and displaced more than 14 million, representing half of the country’s population. Some 100,000 Syrians were also arrested by the regime and remain missing. Tyranny emerged victorious in Syria, with the root causes of the 2011 uprisings still left unaddressed. Thus, normalization with the Assad regime would continue the cycle of conflict and tyranny that has characterized Middle East politics for decades. The Syrian experience shows that a determined regime can suppress a rebellion, no matter how intense, and win a decadelong war, regardless of the cost.