A Plethora of Events in Northwest Syria – TTG


A plethora of events have hit this corner of Syria in the last week in addition to the grinding Turkish-FSA offensive in Afrin. That offensive has continued to nibble at the border areas and is now in a position to lay siege to the city of Rajou. Erdogan is feeling his oats. Speaking in his parliment on 13 February, Erdogan responded to continued US support for the Rojava Kurds and a CENTCOM spokesman’s recent threat to thwart any Turkish attack on Manbij.

“It is clear that those who say ‘we will respond aggressively if you hit us’ have never experienced an Ottoman slap,” Erdoğan told his AKP deputies in parliament. “We will destroy every terrorist we have seen, starting with the ones standing by their side. Then they will understand that it is better for them to not to stand alongside the terrorists.”  

This talk made a definite impression on the Trump administration, if not on the distracted President himself. On 14 February SecDef Mattis and Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli met during a NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in Brussels. A DOD spokeseman said they met to reassure the longstanding relationship between the two allies. This was followed by a meeting in Ankara between H.R. McMaster and his Turkish counterpart. Tillerson then met with Erdogan without a State Department interpreter. In an unusual move, Tillerson relied on a Turkish government interpreter. This was a mistake. I think Tillerson was played by Erdogan. After this meeting, Tillerson explained:

“We want to coordinate how to stabilize areas together and who will occupy those areas. And the objective and intent is to return these villages, these cities back to the composition of people who were there before they were overrun by Daesh. So we’re going to address Manbij first. It’s one of the first areas we’re going to work on. The United States made commitments to Turkey previously. We’ve not completed fulfilling those commitments. Through the working group we’re going to address that, and Manbij is going to receive priority.”

This sounds like Tillerson promised to keep YPG/SDF forces east of the Euphrates as was promised long before the YPG offensive to take Manbij back in 2016. This can’t play well among the YPG fighters, YPD political leaders and the Kurds of Afrin. This is evident in the recent YPG pulling out of Deir Ezzor to reinforce Afrin, with the support of Damascus, leaving CENTCOM with the CIA trained, DOS funded former jihadis from IS and Al Qaeda called the Deir Ezzor MilitaryCouncil to confront both the IS and the SAA in Deir Ezzor.


There was another set of negotiations going on last week. Damascus and the Kurds were attempting to come to an agreement as to when the SAA will move into Afrin to defend the northern border of Syria and under what conditions that move will take place. The Kurdish position was that the SAA would only move to the northwest border with Turkey and act as border guards. Damascus wanted the full return of Afrin to SAR control and the disarmament of independent YPG forces. Kurdish fighters would become part of the SAA. The news of on-again-off-again agreements have been circulating for days. My guess is that the two sides are meeting somewhere in the middle. A Kurdish report (ANF) claimed that the Russians were initially obstructing these talks for some reason. Interesting, if true. The same sources, along with Elijah Magnier, claim the agreement talks about an eventual joint SAA-YPG operation to retake al-Bab and Jarabulus. Even more interesting. Al Masdar News reports NDF units from al-Safira are poised to enter Afrin within a few hours. I have no idea what other Syrian units might enter Afrin. The cream of the SAA is now concentrated outside Damascus to take the Ghouta pocket. Clearly any SAA military move into Afrin will be an economy of force move to forestall further Turkish incursions into Afrin and to separate the Kurds from CENTCOM and the Trump administration. It is a move of political finesse rather than military force.

Back on the ground, another ominous event is in motion. The Turks have sent several convoys into rural Idlib to establish positions that seem to be designed to block further SAA advances once the battle for Idlib recommences. There could be something to this. However, under the Astana Accords, Turkey is to establish a series of twelve monitoring centers throughout this part of Idlib. Given the recent advances of the SAA into the eastern part of Idlib, the prearranged locations of the monitoring centers do appear to be more a blocking action than a fulfillment of an agreement. The two maps below illustrate this conundrum. The one on the left shows the proposed Turkish zone in green, the Russian zone in blue and the Syrian zone in purple. The map on the right shows the current advances by the SAA into the Astana proposed de-escalation zone and the locations of the existing Turkish monitoring stations. I circled them for easier viewing. 

DJqNtKzWAAAkhKf   Monitoring_centers.001

In conjunction with the establishment of these monitoring stations, Turkey resumed its financial support to the FSA and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement in northern Syria. This aid replaces the US program that was halted on 18 December 2017. Syrian experts expect that most of this new Turkish support will find its way to HTS and will be used to launch more attacks against the SAA in southern Idlib or northern Hama. These monitoring stations will be a convenient mechanism for coordinating the aid to the jihadis. They will have to be dealt with at some point in the future, Astana Accords or not.


This entry was posted in Borg Wars, Current Affairs, Middle East, Syria, TTG, Turkey. Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to A Plethora of Events in Northwest Syria – TTG

  1. turcopolier says:

    “An Ottoman slap?” This and the sudden Turkish government decision to rename the street in front of the US Embassy in Ankara as “Olive Branch” are deliberately offensive to the US. Erdogan is following the classic pattern of disbelief in the effectiveness of latent US economic, political and military power that has been so prevalent among leaders in the region before the roof fell on them. Tillerson is a ridiculous figure as Secretary of State. Someone like McMaster should be sent to Turkey to deal with Erdogan. That would be fun to watch. pl

  2. JPB says:

    TTG –
    Syrian State news is also saying that pro regime militia are heading to Afrin. They reportedly will support locals against Turkish aggression. No hint as to which NDF militia it would be. And no hint as to whether they would be protecting Kurds, or the several other ethnic groups in the Afrin district such as Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, etc.

  3. JPB says:

    TTG –
    To me, those side-by-side maps seem to indicate that the Turks have taken over the Russian Zone shown in blue. Or at least large chunks of it. Although it is hard to tell since the maps are different scale and the map on the right does not show the provincial border of Idlib as the one on the left does.

  4. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I suspect that Erdogan is playing to the balcony.
    The word Kurd is mud among Turks – there is a lot of anger against Kurds among the Turkic population.
    Why would US support Kurds in Syria? To discomfit Iran? Sure, but at what price?

  5. GeneO says:

    The Turks call them ‘donkeys’.
    The Ottoman Slap was used by Eunuchs against haughty harem girls.

  6. Clueless Joe says:

    Looking at the geographical feature which thankfully appear on the maps, I’d say the Turks have set up their outposts halfway across the expected Russian zone. But then I’m not sure there ever was a final deal on these zones, and they surely never went into being. It’s possible that eventually a new deal was made, which split the Russian area into SAA and Turkey – or there was no deal and both sides went as far as they could.
    BTW, great recap from TTG. I fear his assessment that Turkish posts will have to be dealt with sooner or later, hopefully diplomatically, is spot on, and that won’t be an easy task.

  7. turcopolier says:

    IMO much of the Turkish attitude toward Kurds is ethnic animus. When I was moving into my fifth floor apartment in Izmir long ago there was a full sized refrigerator to be carried up all those stairs. A piece of webbing was passed around a man’s forehead and around the bottom of the refrigerator. He carried the beast all the way up by himself. I asked the foreman, a Turk, if he was not concerned that this might injure the man and was told that “He is a Kurd. We can get many of them cheap. That is what they are good for.” I heard this kind of thing a lot about Kurds in Turkey and much later in Iraq. pl

  8. This was reported yesterday…
    Syrian Kurdish official: deal for Syrian army to enter Afrin
    Of course, it comes from a Kurdish official with no Syrian confirmation. As the report says:
    There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military.
    When asked about the reported deal, YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud repeated an earlier statement that said the Syrian army had yet to respond to their calls to help protect Afrin.
    End Quote
    I can’t see that Assad getting his military to directly confront the Turkish military can be a good idea. For years earlier in this conflict, Turkey tried to get Assad to respond to numerous provocations by the Turkish military, so Turkey could get NATO to attack Syria along with the US. Assad never took the bait, from Turkey or Israel which engaged in the same provocations.
    Now Assad is going to send his troops against Turkey’s much larger military – when they haven’t even cleaned up ISIS and Al Qaeda yet?
    Yes, the presence of Turkey illegally in Syria is an issue, as is the US presence. I don’t see Syria trying to militarily force either of them out. It would just give either country an excuse to escalate.
    I assume Syria and Russia will present these issues at the UNSC first. Then we’ll see who does what.

  9. Kooshy says:

    If I can offer my opinion, nobody envolved in this theatre (Syriaq) really cares what Kurds think or want. That is, that everybody involved in this ongoing geo-strategic conflict knows wining the Kurds from one side is not that difficult. To win the Kurds, for time being and for whatever is worth. All one needs to do to win Kurdish hearths and minds is to offer some verbal support to Kurdish people, that they will support an independent Kurdistan “some day” in future, and more importantly, offer and pay more cash than the other side, to the heads of tribes, the warlords. IMO, Kurds in this regard are despretly stupid, or Khar in Persian, which means donkey.

  10. JPB says:

    Richard Steven –
    Assad is only sending a few hundred militia. By bus with only light weapons. And Muraselon, a Syrian news site, is claiming they have already arrived.

  11. J says:

    The fallout of governments using Mercs, their families just like the families of the ‘official’ military personnel who die in wars, are the victims right along with those living in war zones.
    When will this madness by governments stop?
    Politicians dressed in their finest leotards swagger up to their sound mikes declaring this and that, when most of these leotard wearing yucks have never been in war nor had to kill another human being. True those of us who wear the uniform, and those who wore a uniform but just couldn’t leave the Adrenalin rush alone and had to come back to it as Mercs, are not friggin cannon fodder to be thrown away by the leotard politicians. I wish I could take every friggin leotard wearing politician maggot, jerk their asses out of their cushy politician offices, smack them in their chest with an m16/ak47, two boxes of rounds, a loaded ruck, and march their asses straight into the back end of a 130 that has its engines ready for take off, and dropped into the war zones they so eagerly make. Then if those leotard yucks who survive, that have had to taste what they so eagerly created, then talk to me.
    TTG, I agree with you like what you said regarding Sanchez and his toys, they need to find them a hobby or get laid.
    I am so friggin tired of this madness the leotard bastards bring upon us.

  12. JPB says:

    Joe –
    Looks to me like the dividing line between Turkish Zone and Russian Zone on the OMRAN map on the left is the M5 highway. But the Turks have their posts 20 to 25 clicks well east of that.
    By the way, the map on the right by Muraselon shows the Turkish province of Hatay (black area in upper left) as occupied Iskenderun. It has been 80+ years but the Syrians still consider it part of Syria. They undoubtedly suspect that Erdogan will repeat the Hatay process in Afrin, Idlib and the Euphrates Shield Enclave: step 1 occupy, step 2 move in proxies, step 3 referendum.

  13. Current Crosstalk program covers both the 13 Russians – with Alexander Mercouris as one of the panelists – plus the Syrian situation vis-a-vis Turkey and the US. Worth listening to.
    CrossTalk Bullhorns: 13 Russians (extended version)
    One interesting point brought up is that if the 13 Russians can be indicted for what they did, then Christopher Steele is equally guilty and worthy of indictment.
    Mark Sleboda also brought up this interesting article from The Guardian in 2011:
    Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
    Of course, the article did state: “Centcom said it was not targeting any US-based web sites, in English or any other language, and specifically said it was not targeting Facebook or Twitter.”
    Sleboda also brought up Michael Hayden’s comment on the DNC hack during a speech at the Heritage Foundation:
    “I have to admit my definition of what the Russians did [in hacking the Democratic National Committee] is, unfortunately, honorable state espionage,” Hayden said during an on-stage interview at the Heritage Foundation.
    “A foreign intelligence service getting the internal emails of a major political party in a major foreign adversary? Game on. That’s what we do. By the way, I would not want to be in an American court of law and be forced to deny that I never did anything like that as director of the NSA,” he said.
    End Quote
    Of course, then Hayden denies the US “weaponizes” that information – which is absurd on the face of it.
    The discussion on Syria comes to no real conclusions other than that Erdogan is trying to play the US and Russia/Iran against each other so he can grab some territory, specifically Afrin, Manbij and the Jarabulus corridor he already has and force the Kurds back east of the Euphrates.
    There’s some comedy when Peter Lavelle quotes James Woolsey on “Russia’s bad behavior in the Eurasian space” pointing out that Russia IS in Eurasia and the US is NOT. And “the South China Sea is called the South China Sea for a REASON!”
    Sleboda also brings up the Intercept report that the UK hacked Belgium forcing Belgium to replace all their computers at a cost of $55 million, saying “there is no honor among imperialists.”
    Also discussed is the Dutch minister who admitted lying about Putin claiming he wanted Russia to control Belarus and Ukraine.

  14. egl says:

    “In an unusual move, Tillerson relied on a Turkish government interpreter. This was a mistake.” It seems odd to me, but I have no experience in diplomatic meetings. What are you concerned about? No after-the-meeting debriefing? Linguistic competence? If the issue is distortion by the translator, then that’s as much a problem for the Turks as it is for Tillerson.

  15. turcopolier says:

    As you can imagine I heartily endorse your analysis of Turkish intentions. pl

  16. Bandolero says:

    Richard, no, I don’t think the Syrian army is going to fight Turkey.
    The deal in the making for Afrin is different: the YPG/SDF/PKK unarms itself and hands all control over to the syrian army. The Turks will then have no reason to continue their offensive on Afrin. To make sure in advance that Turkey’s security needs are satisfied by the details of the deal in the making, Syria consults with Russia on the agreement, and Russia consults with Turkey. If the YPG doesn’t give in to the demands – which in the end come from Turkey, the result will simply be that more YPG areas in Afrin are taken by Turkish-backed FSA jihadis. So for the YPG it’s basically to choose between a friendly Syrian government takeover or a forced military takeover by Turkish backed FSA jihadis, and their is no way that a de facto separatist YPG/PKK enclave will persist. The YPG in Afrin currently seems in a steep lerning curve, that the above is the available choice. Having some Syrian givernment friendly NDF militias help the people of Afrin to defend against the joined Turkish FSA attack may help to swing internal Kurdish power in favor to an agreement with the Syrian government that meets Turkish security needs.
    For the jihadies in the Idlib pocket the choice is a bit more generous. Either the jihadis there keep the peace with the Syrian army and fight al Qaeda and the YPG/PKK under Turkish command and observation, or the Tiger will come and they’ll lose more territory until nothing is left. There also seems to be a kind of lerning curve their regarding the available choice. The first Turkish convoy to install a Turkish observation point was attacked and returned to Turkey. But the idea of the Tiger coming back and taking more territory from the Idlib jihadi dreamland was seemingly such a compelling arguement that further Turkish convoys were able to move to agreed observation points between the highway and the railyway through Idlib jihadi land.
    For the Syrian army it’s not a bad situation when FSA jihadis fight Al Qaeda terrorists and YPG separatists in the north west of the country. It allows the Syrian army to commit more forces on other urgent tasks like cleaning irreconcilable Saudi backed jihadis from the East Ghouta pocket or cleaning the ISIS pocket in the triangle between Deir Ezzor, Bukamal and Sukhna.

  17. JPB says:

    pl –
    I cannot really claim it is my analysis. I have seen those comments on a few Syrian twitter accounts. Including one that said: We are coming for you, Antioch, which as you know but some others here may not is Turkish Antakya in Hatay province.
    It may not be the official position of the SAG. But is surely in the hearts and minds of many Syrians.

  18. turcopolier says:

    It beings to mind Helms piece on the memory of peoples. pl

  19. Bill Herschel says:

    Off topic.
    One of the leading, if not the leading, CIA stenographer at the NY Times, Andrew Higgins, has a remarkable article out today: “In Ukraine, Corruption Is Now Undermining the Military”. Mr. Higgins is shocked, shocked to discover that Ukraine is a cesspool of corruption and criminality. Such a cesspool that the holy war against Russia may be imperiled.
    What is the reader to do? Didn’t they have free elections in Ukraine after the U.S. supported a home-grown outpouring of anti-Russian/pro-European enlightenment in a formerly benighted vestige of the Soviet Union?
    Does the CIA get to have their cake and eat it too? It certainly seems that way. I guess the solution is American boots on the ground. That is always the solution that solves any problem. CIA first, boots on the ground second. Always fails.

  20. JW says:

    In term of timing, I would certainly agree with every word of your last paragraph. However, Assad ultimately would prefer a Syrian-flagged Kurdish administration in Afrin and the Afrin-Rojava gap than a Turkish lodgement in the same area. For that reason I’d suggest that the Turks will be later ‘persuaded’ to withdraw.

  21. JohnsonR says:

    “The deal in the making for Afrin is different: the YPG/SDF/PKK unarms itself and hands all control over to the syrian army. The Turks will then have no reason to continue their offensive on Afrin.”
    On the face of it, your suggestion assumes good intentions on the part of the Turkish government that not everyone seems to accept. Your suggested deal would leave the Turks with nothing better than the status quo ante (the war, that is), whereas there seems a general suspicion that the Turks intend to come out of the war with new “facts on the ground” that leave them in control of Afrin and Jarabulus, at least. If that’s the case, then there is no interest for the Turks in the deal you propose, so long as they think they can gain from military occupation, which appears to be the case for the moment.
    And the legal position is hardly likely to be much of a consideration. Israel’s and the US’s behaviour in the region for many years has shown that international law in this regard is a dead letter.

  22. confusedponderer says:

    What I wonder about is who does Erdogan think he is to deal with the US as he does.
    Erdogan has accused the US, CIA, Army (and, while at it, also the Lufthansa airline, BASF, some Döner sellers in Germany etc pp) of protecting the so-called “FETÖ” folks and Gülen – and with having tried to topple Erdogan.
    And that way he treats someone he accuses of ‘making’ the coup against him? Does he believe the stuff he tells himself?
    In contrast, Erdogan iirc, before starting the Olive Branch game in Syria, sent the intel boss and the army boss to Moscow to *ask* for allowance and to inform. That’s quite a level for such a visit.
    Notably, he only uttered demands and apparently didn’t bothered to send them to DC to talk with Trump or the State or the Pentagon. Why that?
    Ignoring Trump aside, Erdogan even adds to that impertinence additions like threats of attacking US troops aside of Kurds or to leave NATO. That’s indeed deliberately offensive. What an ally …
    Such behavior implies either that …

    • Erdogan doesn’t think at all, or
    • that Erdogan does think one cannot dicsuss anything with Trump, or
    • that Erdogan as a megalomaniac thinks he can get away with that

    Either thing would be unwise.
    There are jokes you only makes once and the second or third time there will be a ‘ottoman slap’ as a response because others don’t share this peculiar humour.
    Given that Erdogan sent his two bosses to Moscow it can be assumed that Putin made that very clear.
    There is that grim joke about Putin where he was aksed if islamist terrorists could be forgiven. Putin replied that forgiving is the business of God, and that his job only was just to create the appointment.
    I feel that if Erdogan overdoes that annoying thing he will face himself an ‘ottoman slap’ – i.e. perhaps another coup, a bomb or a sniper. So long, he’ll likely continue to talk big a lot and aloud.

  23. b says:

    “Someone like McMaster should be sent to Turkey to deal with Erdogan. That would be fun to watch. pl ”
    McMaster was in Turkey on February 10/11 and met with Ibrahim Kalin, his Turkish counterpart. I don’t think any of them had fun.
    IMHO McMaster is a small minded military brain, not a political strategist.
    He is also extremely hawkish and unwilling to compromise – so much that even Kelly and Mattis are pushing against him and even want him out.
    McMaster was only made general after the neocon Petraeus personally flew to Washington to head the commission that decides about such issues. Other generals it seems did not like what they saw in McMaster.
    His too much lauded book Dereliction of Duty on the Vietnam decision making argues that the JCS generals should have worked more diligently against the political compromises and decision they were told to follow. I believe that is a dangerous thought.

  24. JPB says:

    pl –
    I had missed your 2015 post on Dr Helms. But found it last night. I strongly agree with her regarding collective memory.
    Her perceptive comment that “our vision of the past channels our vision of the future” is applicable to us all and not just the ME.
    Which is why I always preach historical awareness to my grandkids. Not only our national history, but I always pass along the stories I heard as a young squirt from my gramps. You have to do it when they are young though, before they get to be teenagers and claim to know everything.

  25. JPB says:

    Erdogan claims that the Turkish operation in Afrin is for the safety of “our Syrian brothers and sisters.”
    Meanwhile Syrian militias enter Afrin shouting “one Syria, one Syria”.
    There are some unverified reports that Turkish artillery targeted the incoming Syrians and that they had to pull back ten clicks.
    No ID yet that I have seen as to which of the Syrian NDF militias went into Afrin. They are being called Popular Forces rather than NDF.

  26. jonst says:

    BM, I get a strong sense push is coming to shove in the ME. Or, paraphrasing the Col, like befell the Wicked Witch, a house is about to fall on a few people. Who will be surprised. This should not be taken as indicating my support or desire for this outcome. Nor am I against it….especially if people want to keep talking about “slaps”, or, ‘leveling Tel Aviv’….
    I just get a sense that the shit is about to hit the fan.

  27. turcopolier says:

    To my certain knowledge McMaster was promoted to BG on the third try because of of civilian political pressure on Bush. The generals did not want to promote him. He was forced on them by people who were overly impressed with his rather shallow dissertation published as a book. pl

  28. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I doubt it is going to hit the fan in the way you anticipate.

  29. Kooshy says:

    I don’t think or see, if any longer is possible for US, including her client, and proxies to have a private war with Iran in Syria and not to have Russians involved in it. I thing that’s what Babak means at what price? Plus what at least appears on surface, is that Europe, is not at all interested to an expansion in Syria or Ukraine that puts her in a direct military conflict against Russia. If I am correct, IMO that it’s the wisest policy coming out of Europe in many years.
    I don’t know and I can’t see if anymore sanctions against Russia and Iran can change their long term strategic thinking. IMO nothing except losing a full force ME war will change their strategic thinking.

  30. Bandolero says:

    Given that the war didn’t accomplish the goal of removing Assad Turkey should be very happy with an outcome of somehting like the status quo ante. It could come much worse for Turkey, like the axis of resistance taking revenge and supporting a violent uprising in Turkey as quid pro quo.
    But instead Russia and Iran warned Erdogan about a – likely US-Israeli backed – coup attempt trying to kill or oust him. So Erdogan is in a precarious position, and he knows it. And the road westwards is blocked for Turkey for a long time, anyway. So the only way forward for Turkey and Erdogan is forming a kind of alliance eastwards, like he did in Astana.
    And Erdogan likely knows that if he would try another time to double-cross Iran and Russia they likely won’t save his life afterwards.

  31. Bandolero says:

    I don’t think it will be that big deal to persuade Turkey to withdraw from a couple of olive groves in Syria. Turkey already gave up huge oil fields in Kirkuk to cast itself a reliable partner working in favour of the territorial integrity of neighboring states. It would be a folly to give up huge oil fields in Iraq to get back a good reputation, but to spoil that reputation than for a couple of olive groves in Syria.

  32. Bandolero says:

    Erdogans recent deliberately populist or provocative behaviour makes sense if the assumption is that he is deliberately driving down Turkish-NATO/EU-relations to the brink with the intention to prepare formally switching sides with Turkey into the Chinese/Russian/Iranian camp.
    Such a move – like a formal Turkish exit from NATO – would certainly make big waves and it may also cause some shocks to the Turkish economy, but having prepared the move on multiple fronts, Erdogan can more credibly claim at home that the western alliance was simply not bearable anymore.

  33. GeneO says:

    Fatima Manoubia –
    That is a most famous name in Tunis. Are you from there?
    If that ‘Ottoman slap’ is a martial art technique, it is a poor one. It leaves the slapper vulnerable to major damage from a counterpunch while he is rearing back his arm in that wild roundhouse swing. It is easily blocked. Here we would call it a haymaker, which is a blow usually only used by inexperienced fighters. There is another more derogatory name for it that I hesitate to say in mixed company.

  34. J says:

    The Russian FM Lavarov at the Munich brew-haha watching NATO munchkins squabbling among themselves. He and the Russian press were real impressed with McMaster’s pea size brain and go-cart mouth so much so that the Russian TV had a little piece on McMaster’s nose high in the air talking down tone to those attending.
    The Munich Chairman is upset, European leaders and NATO swags refused to sit on the same stage next to each other. There was no explanation by Wolfgang Ischinger on who was boycotting who and why.
    The Turkey PM seemed to partially explain all of it with his statement “The US while fighting ISIS is cooperating with Kurdish self-defense units and the Kurdish Democratic Party. These groups are part of the terrorist organization we’ve been struggling against for four decades. What do we do now? We’re protecting the western flank of NATO, and what other NATO countries are doing to is cooperating with terrorists.”
    The Turk PM’s accusations remained unanswered. Then McMaster assumes the role of the prosecution before the plenary in an air of self-righteousness. McMaster’s states “It is time for all nations to hold the Syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for its actions”. McMaster’s also chimed about pressuring the Kim regime, then he went on diatribe regarding Iran deal ‘flaws’.
    Former Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak worried that D.C. is beginning to think of nuclear weapons not so much as a means of deterrence, but as a means of conducting war. He stated that this drastically lowers the threshold for nuclear weapons use, and threatens international stability.
    McMaster yammered about Russia allegedly leading a cyber war against Western democracies, which the same mantra that UK PM May and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg have said before.
    Some in the press attempted to catch Lavrov off guard in asking whether Russia was satisfied with dividends from the funds invested in the American elections. Lavrov replied “So until we see the facts, everything else is just blabber. Please pardon me for not being very diplomatic.”
    Lavrov made some interesting statements: “Benefits of Nazi war criminals condemned during the Nuremberg trials continue to be held in high esteem in some countries, including EU countries. we know that in some countries in the North of the EU, people march in honor of the Neo-Nazis, we also know that the symbols of the Neo-Nazis are being actively used in the Ukraine. The banning of unwanted media, attacking churches of the Russian Orthodox Church, and many other things are the distinguishing features of radical nationalist that in may aspect verge on Neo-Nazism. That’s it. I think the audience is watching what is going on in Europe and know what I mean.”

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The blow was meant as punishment against ones inferiors who could not and would not dare respond in kind. It was not meant as a form of martial art. It was a form of humiliation.

  36. An update on the NDF move into Afrin and negotiations.
    Damascus sent an initial 500 NDF troops from Nubl and Al-Zahra. Turkish artillery fire is attempting to interdict these reinforcements. However, the NDF are moving into forward positions and accompanying artillery is returning fire against the Turkish artillery. Russia is finalizing an agreement with Turkey for a ceasefire in which 4,000 SAA troops will take full control of Afrin, establish 52 positions throughout the enclave and deploy forces on the border with Turkey.Looks like Damascus is definitely getting the better end of this deal and Moscow is supporting it.

  37. turcopolier says:

    IMO the Russians will not be able to get the Turks to carry out such an agreement. pl

  38. JPB says:

    TTG –
    Nubl and al-Zahraa are predominately Shia.
    I would imagine they have been eager to get into Afrin and protect the Shia there after the Shia villages in Afrin were bombarded last week.

  39. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang (#39),
    It depends on how much leverage Russia has over Turkey.
    The key is how other powers deal with the Kurds, Turkey’s bête noire. The US seems to have decided to throw in its lot with the Kurds. I suppose this was the only way in which Central Command could maintain a foothold in Syria. Also, Israel pushed US policy in this direction. But it will have repercussions as far as Turkey is concerned.
    If Turkey believes it cannot depend on the US, it will be forced to turn to Russia. So far, Turkey has tried to play both sides of the fence, but there are obvious limits to how long it can continue this. Russia is taking advantage of this US move; it will try and push Turkey into making a clear choice.
    If Turkey believes that it cannot deal with what it perceives as the Kurdish threat without Russian backing, it will be forced to accept Russia’s terms. This is looking more and more likely.

  40. Bandolero says:

    While it’s true that Nubl and Zahraa are predominently Shia towns, there are no known big settlements of Shia in the Afrin district. However, the people of Nubl and Zahraa faught off a siege by Turkish backed jihadi forces from 2013 to 2016. And see what Wikipedia says about that, quote begin:
    “Over the following years, the only land route that brought some food and essential goods came from the Kurdish-held town of Afrin, to the north.”
    So the people of Nubl and Zahraa are very thankful to the people of Afrin to have helped them in the most dire moments of their history. And now people in Afrin are in their most dire moments of history, because people in Afrin are under a similar Turkish backed jihadi attack they endured for years until they were victorious, and people of Nubl and Zahraa are trying to be thankful. So, what today happened was that popular forces, or people of Nubl and Zahraa, went to Afrin people to help them deal with Turkish backed jihadis, thanking them for what they did.
    Of course, the people of Nubl and Zahraa have quite some experience of how to deal with jihadis. And the people of Nubl and Zahraa have some quite capable friends, who helped them survive a Turkish backed jihadi assault, which I would describe as people who like Hassan Nasrallah, and a force, what is generally described as a Palestinian militia called the Quds brigade, what seems to me to be an especially capable force. However, Turkish media seem to like to call the people of Nubl and Zahraa and their friends as “Shiite militias” like here:
    While some of Turkish media seem to have pulled their “Shiite militia” claims today Hassan Rouhani, whom I would also count as one of big friends of Palestinians, had last night a telephone conversation with Turkish president Erdogan. As can be seen from Iranian media, from the Iranian point of view the implentation of the Astana agreement seems to go quite well:
    From my point of view, the most likely scenario for Afrin is that there will be a ceasefire where Turkey gets something like a buffer zone, while the rest of the Afrin district will be controlled by the YPG in cooperation with “Lebanese” and “Palestinian” forces.

  41. FkDahl says:

    At this point Erdogan sure looks like a lot of trouble embodied in one man. What would happen in Turkey if a sniper (in a book depository) got lucky?

  42. JPB says:

    Bandolero –
    Thanx for the info and the link regarding the Siege of Nubl and al-Zahraa. I note another quote from that article stating that the siege was broken with help from Afrin when “the Kurdish YPG seized two villages from the rebels.”
    While you are correct that there are not big settlements of Shia in Afrin, there are some small villages. The western mountains of the Afrin district is predominately Kurdish. However, the eastern areas are more diverse with many Arabs, plus some smaller communities of Armenians and Assyrians, with Turkmen in the north.
    Regarding your scenario of a Turkish buffer zone: You may be right in the short term. But how long can that last? Sooner or later they will have to leave there and Idlib and the Azaz-Jarabulus-alBab triangle. Or will Russia twist Assad’s arm to make it permanent? I don’t foresee Nasrallah and Rouhani blessing a deal like that.

  43. turcopolier says:

    FB Ali
    All very logical, we will see. I am not sure that Erdogan is that logical. pl

  44. Mina says:

    Have the coup succeeded, KSA/Is/Eg would we pushing forward for a full regional integration that would include Turkey and make the delight of European investors, especially in the tourism sector. MSM have not much reported on the recent Valentine deal between Israel and Egypt about the sell of natural gas.

  45. Poul says:

    Things just got murkier. Is Russia on board with a government force moving into Afrin.
    What should one look for as a sign – The Russians banning the Turkish airforce from entering Syria?

  46. kooshy says:

    Mr. Ali I believe you are on the mark, at the end of the day, for sure Turkey prefers Assad to the Kurds since there don’t seem to be any other long term alternative available. IMO, FSA alternative no longer exist
    since FSA no longer is getting much support from the so called friends of syria Jihadi supporters group.
    Time will tell

  47. GeneO says:

    Babak M –
    Exactly! We have some wifebeaters in this country who also think it manly to slap around those who cannot respond.

  48. JDP says:

    A second group of pro-Syrian forces entered Afrin earlier today. This one reported to be 400 fighters. Reportedly they have not yet been fired on like the first group was yesterday. With the 500 from yesterday that makes about 900 now in Afrin.
    That first group, or parts of it, have taken up positions on the Jinderes Front in SW Afrin near the border with Idlib.
    Al-Masdar news is claiming that the Turkish proxies in Afrin have now changed tactics and are consolidating along the border areas rather than going deeper into Afrin.

  49. Bandolero says:

    Regarding “arm twisting” to make Turkey go from the areas it occupied in Syria, I don’t think that Turkey will be the major problem. Turkey wins there influence over some olive groves in Syria, but that for the price that between these olive groves live a lot of people who really no one wants to have at home. That plethora of undisciplined jihadis there is a nightmare for every security service in the world, the US and the EU, arab countries as well as Turkey and last not least Syria. If Turkey is able to bring a kind of order into these olive groves, it’s basically a favour to everyone.
    I think Turkey may be delighted to get rid of that burden as soon as possible, but it will not be easy for Syria to take the baton.

  50. Bandolero,
    Wonderful use of plethora. I salute you.

Comments are closed.