By Robert Willmann
To help visualize where recent events regarding the ongoing conflict in Syria are happening, here is a map from the State Department showing some of the provinces and towns in northern Syria where its border with Turkey is. The map, which can be downloaded, also shows some border crossings according to the map legend, although not all of them have been given a name.
The map is from the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU), which is part of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research .
Going from west to east in northern Syria, the provinces (or governates) that are shown are Latakia, Idlib, Aleppo, Ar Raqqah, and Al Hasakah.
Towns that have been mentioned include Ra's al ‘Ayn in the Al Hasakah province in northeastern Syria. Kobane ('Ayn al Arab) is more in the center on the border with Turkey. Tal Abyad would be further to the east in the Ar Raqqah province. Latakia is in the far northwest by the Mediterranean Sea. You can also see the Euphrates River running from the north central part of Syria to the southeast.
These areas and towns were referenced yesterday in the article by TTG.
The map is called a "Regional Displacement Snapshot" as of the end of September 2018, regarding refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). It also shows some refugee camps.
John Helmer analyzes the Syria situation with his typical thoroughness and nuance. Helmer is particularly well informed about the divisions of opinion within Russia, and within the general staff.
Russian Defence and Foreign Ministry distrust of Erdogan’s intentions has been explained as Ottoman Empire revivalism by analysts  close to the General Staff. “The territory which the Turkish army entered [this month] was formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. There are a number of signs that Ankara cherishes dreams of recreating it. This is possible by armed means. In addition to the United States with its messianism and belief in its own omnipotence, there are very few countries which indulge in imperial thinking. Turkey is almost the only one to embody these ideas in practice.”
More direct criticism than this of pro-Turkish officials in the Kremlin, such as Dmitry Peskov, is impossible for these Russians or their allies in the Moscow press.
Reporting on the situation assessment 24 hours before yesterday’s US-Turkish meeting, a Moscow reporter close to the General Staff claimed that “the Turks initially set themselves the task of occupying to a depth of 30 kilometres, and then cleaning up this territory. Apparently, they were going to drive the Kurds out of the thirty-kilometre zone indefinitely, but now it is clear that much has gone wrong. The political objective of the operation — the creation of a sanitary zone along the Turkish-Syrian border — is already unattainable.”
Stephen Walt now says Assad is the least bad option for Syria.
I agree with most of what Walt says, but I think he is wrong when he says that China would prefer USA stay bogged down in Syria.
On the contrary, China’s plan is for free trade with Syria as one of the hubs.
Let me be clear. I don’t enjoy writing a column like this. Acknowledging Assad’s victory and accepting his authority in Syria is the least bad option at this point, but no one with a shred of humanity can take any pleasure in saying so. Nor am I endorsing Trump’s chaotic handling of this matter, for which he bears complete responsibility. It is not easy to abandon the Kurds, alarm your other partners, and further strain relations with Turkey all at once, but the bumbler-in-chief managed to find a way.
No American should be happy about any of this, but there is one final lesson that should be really taken to heart. If the United States wants to avoid having to make painful compromises, and if it doesn’t want to get sucked into open-ended commitments or end up betraying some of its partners, then it ought to think much more carefully about where it commits its resources and honor and do so only when the mission is truly vital to U.S. security and prosperity.
Turkish Air Force is thumbing their nose at the Russian declared NFZ along the border. TAF are using stand off weapons to bomb Ras Al-Ayn while their F-16s are staying north of the border in Turkish air space. This while the cease-fire (or pause agreement) is in place.
Reported by Danny Maki, Chuck Pfarrer, and several others.
Must be that the Turkish backed jihadists are not up to dealing with the SDF. Probably too busy looting the villages they have taken.
The way it looks to Anatol Lievin:
The trouble with standoff weapons particularly of the PGM variety is that they are vastly more expensive than the common-or-garden dumb iron bomb. As the British and French found out in Libya, you will burn through your limited stock very quickly and then you’ll have to go cap in hand to Washington for a hand out. Unless Turkey manufactures its own standoff PGMs, the TAF will run short fairly soon…
I’m surprised the TAF is bombing towns and cities on the border when Turkey could be using artillery just as effectively. Probably means Erdogan has worries about the size of his willy.
GS – You are right of course.
I don’t know if Turkey rolls their own. But then they have for years been using JDAM kits against the PKK both within their own southeastern mountains and in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq. Those kit components are easy to manufacture internally by the Turkish defense industry, which expanded enormously after the arms embargo due to their Cyprus invasion in the 70s. The Turks even make their own GPS and INS systems. They wouldn’t even need the extended range version as Ras al-Ayn is right on the border. Which means the TAF could also use 100-year-old glide bombing techniques with dumb bombs.
I’m thinking the TAF wants some brownie points with Erdogan. Their reputation with him and his AKP party has been bad. And they don’t want the TKK to get all the glory.
Although I do suspect that this third invasion of Syria is due to Erdogan’s penis anxiety.
re Apparently, they were going to drive the Kurds out of the thirty-kilometre zone indefinitely, but now it is clear that much has gone wrong. The political objective of the operation — the creation of a sanitary zone along the Turkish-Syrian border — is already unattainable.”
That is ethnic cleansing in a neighbour country – naturally very illegal and uninvited – under the rubrics of ‘fighting terrorism’ and ‘sanitary zone’.
A little absurd, since I recall reading that a daughter of Erdogan worked in a hospital helping to fix pro-Turkish IS-ish fighters.
Never mind that fighting terror was just the thing the kurds did with the US, naturally for themselves (and survival), Syria, even Turkey and, en pasant, for the US as well. No gratitude for that, just a happy kick in the balls.
Trump gave Erdogan a green light and dropped the kurds easily and solo, likely because his gut told him so. That ‘HIT IT!!! aproach’ probably also helps him at golf.
I read parts of Trump’s letter to Erdogan in the news and I think a drunken 10 years kid might have done better. Trump got opposition to withdrawing US troops from Syria even from rightwing nuts like Bolton.
Alas … as it is now, with the four generals and Bolton gone, the ‘grown ups’ have been replaced by many silent claqueurs.
But then, friends of him will be happy about Trump happily lauding himself as a ‘super grandiose strategererist‘ or something along that lines.
To that, cheers!
Escobar has some cool old maps linked in his Syria piece of this week:
Thierry Meyssan has penned an article,” The Genealogy of the Kurdish Question“, which might be of interest.
He does not treat the kurds as a unified group, nor considers them (fallen) angels- common failings of some of their more voluble supporters in this space- and correctly identifies YPG as an outshoot of PKK. This is common knowledge locally ( https://theglobepost.com/2017/10/20/ypg-pkk-leader-poster-raqqa/ ; I had posted similar pictures from Afrin previously in this space).
In any case, our current operation is a simple gambit in the Syrian War (between the Eurasians and the ziocons). This is far from over- few in Turkey attempt to predict the end game. We are just hoping that the Yinon plan can be put to rest w/o causing more misery for us and the region.
One last point: The irredentist ottomanism of tayyip and co. might be due to their inferiority complex. They have been trying to show the “religious majority” that the secular founders of the Republic were lacking vision in all major areas of governance; Ataturk’s decision not to fight on to claim all of the Ottoman lands was/is being presented as a mistake and semi-treason; an issue they will rectify. At this point tayyip is busily trying to get folks to forget that he and davutoglu were full and enthusiastic supporters of the ziocon operation in the earlier days. he is not having much success.
We live in interesting times.
Escobar’s piece is a comprehensive summing up of how we got here. It’s well worth the time to read.
Here’s a pithy quote from Escobar that caught my eye:
Yes, the Republicans had a correct foreign policy for their times and so did the Brotherhood: “Zero Problems”. Something very big must have been promised to AKP leaders for their help in Syria: something that was never delivered.
I agree with your comment on Erdo’s inferiority complex. He shows all the signs.
But posters? I’ve seen posters of Ocalan on the streets of Nashville Tennessee. Seen it also in coverage of Kurdish protests in London, Frankfurt, and Sulaymaniyah. Also in Beirut where he is revered by a few older Lebanese-Palestinians for supporting the fight against the Israeli invasion back in 1982. You can buy posters of Ocalan at posters.com.
That does not mean the people hanging those posters are part of the PKK. Same-same with the ubiquitous posters of Che and Ghandi. Like him or not, the man is looked on by millions as a freedom fighter and a martyr to Erdogan’s intolerance and sectarianism.
If you want the PKK gone, then let Turkish Kurds speak and write in their own language, sing their own songs, and name their children Kurdish names. And give them equal rights with ethnic Turks. If you do that the Kurdish resistance will fold like a cheap tent in a windstorm.
You have fallen, in my opinion, for the propaganda of Kurds. In Turkey, specifically, much of what you have enumerated has already happened. Yet PKK resumed its war against GoT, why?
In Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria Kurdish leaders and many Kurds pine for the destruction of Turkish, Iranian, Syrian, and Iraqi states.
In Turkey the kurds can speak their own language, have their own schools and give their children kurdish names. Quite a few of these “schools” closed down due to low enrollment. Then the kurdish “leaders” wanted “kurdish” to be made mandatory in schools. They had a slight problem as there are several dialects, and each tribe wanted their own…Do you have a solution? here is a link for you: https://www.thenation.com/article/in-turkey-repression-of-the-kurdish-language-is-back-with-no-end-in-sight/
It is mostly horse-feathers but contains some facts.
Those carrying posters of PKK in Nashville and elsewhere are PKK sympathizers and supporters. To equate Ghandi with Ocalan is a stretch. I am glad you mentioned Che-I understand you now.
We consider separatist kurds to be ziocon assets- with far more justification than hillary calling Tulsi Gabbard a Russian asset. I am sure you can identify those wailing, and gnashing their teeth, and wearing sack cloth and ashes at the latest change in US policy.
Same story in Iran.
Why don’t these Western people support the separatist Catalans to the hilt and send the 82 Air-Borne to defend a free Catalonia?
I think in any fair comparison, Ocalan will come out ahead og Gandhi. Ocalan has been responsible for the deaths of thousands, Gandhi was responsible for the deaths of millions.
I believe that it is legal in Iran for Kurds to speak in their own language and celebrate their own culture. That is good for Iran. It is the reason why the PDKI will fail despite their current sponsorship by the Barzanis, by the Saudis, and by Israel. And its also the reason similar movements failed in the past with support from the Soviets, from the Turks, from Saddam Hussein, from MEK, and sadly (for me) also the US. Iran does not have a Kurdish problem, all the unrest has been instigated by her enemies.
Not true though in Turkey. The oppression of Turkish Kurds has been going on since the days of Enver Pasha. Turkish Kurds have always rejected Turkification, they refuse to be classified as Mountain Turks. Like your own Azeris they rejected pan-Turanism. There have been some short-lived official thaws, when their language and customs were decriminalized. Erdogan had one for short time but he restarted the repression to get himself out of political trouble. The Grey Wolves convinced him. They have been advocating genocide against the Kurds for sixty years now.
I support Tulsi. I share your hatred of ziocons. I’ve always considered Che a thig and murderer. But you are wrong.
The Israelis have instigated Kurdish uprisings in Iran and previously in Iraq against Saddam. But in Turkey they have helped Ankara in the war against the PKK. They never forgave the PKK for fighting alongside the Palestinians in Lebanon in 1982. Unfortunately for Turkey, Erdogan cannot remember the past and will be condemned to repeat it. When will Turks on the street rise up and throw the monster out?
PKK resumed the war. Why?
Kurds live in Turkey and if they wish to live anything but marginal lives, they must learn Turkish. In Iraq and in Syria they must learn Arabic and in Iran, Persian. It is not the fault of non-Kurds that there has never been a Kurdish country, unlike Armenians.
The Russian FedGov (probably Putin personally) is in a position to encourage or discourage the Sultan from his ethnic cleansing plan. If the RussiaGov doesn’t prevent it in at least parts of the Sultan’s border-area-of-desire, that means that the RussiaGov was just that much okay with it.
As to “right wing”, the “right wing” has many feathers. Bolton and Trump are not of the same feather. Not the same feather at all.
Various people at various times have suggested that “Israel versus Palestine” should have been folded together into one BiNational State. Some people are suggesting that again. Maybe it could work.
This would be Turkey’s grand shining moment to show how it can be done. Erdogan has great power. He could set aside Turkey’s traditional antiKurditic racist antiKurdite policy and declare that Turkey will now be a BiNational State, a State of Turks AND Kurds. It could have two official languages. It could change its name to be inclusive. It could rename itself Turkurdistan . . . or maybe Kurdurkey.
Why don’t you first try it in Germany?
Make her a quadri-national state; Deutsch, Kurd, Turk, Arab with 4 official languages.
Eastern Germany is empty, why not make a new Arab federal stadt there?
OSD Esper is moving Syria troops to Western Iraq, not home like what the POTUS clearly said were coming home.
You might find the second Meyssan article interesting. It is titled “Kurdistan, Imagined by French Colonialism“. The introduction is sure to bring howls of protest from our local kurd-lovers, but it is historically true: “ Contrary to popular belief, Rojava is not a state for the Kurdish people, but a French fantasy of the interwar period. The aim was to create a rump state with Kurds equivalent to Greater Israel, which was being considered with Jews. This colonial objective was reactivated by Presidents Sarkozy, Hollande and Macron including the ethnic cleansing of the region intended to host it. The fellow provides references. Those wishing to dispute him should provide their own references from verifiable sources. https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/10/thierry-meyssan/kurdistan-imagined-by-french-colonialism/
There has been some assertions here that Israel does not support PKK. Former IDF deputy chief Maj. Gen. Yair Golan stated that the Kurdish PKK fighting Turkey is not a terrorist organization (https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/ex-idf-deputy-chief-says-pkk-not-terror-group-1.5450379 ). This was disputed by netenyahu (https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Netanyahu-rejects-claim-PKK-not-terrorists-but-supports-Kurdish-state-504962 ). It is clear that someone was speaking off script. A reasonable overview of the complex relationship between PKK/YPG and Israel can be found in https://www.meforum.org/3838/israel-kurds . Here is a quote: “On the Israeli side, there have been ambiguous declarations. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was quoted as saying that Jerusalem might support the PKK against Turkey. Although such statements were denied later, they gave fertile ground to long-standing conspiracy theories in Ankara . IMO, here the Joseph Heller quote from Catch-22 applies:“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
One person who could comment with authority on the subject, if he is back from his deployment and is permitted to do so, is our fellow pilgrim, Patrick Bahzad. In a previous exchange he stated that, if the kurds lost access to the Med, they would have no future as an independent state. This prediction is now coming to pass.
It was US, it seems to me, that had been nurturing another KRG in Syria. Which was intolerable to any Turkish government.
It was an insane policy to treat a old member NATO alliance so shabbily and for waht? To discomfit Iran? And to discomfit her to help Israel?
I must confess that I keep on looking for Harpo Marx in all of this.
Erdogan’s talking point that the Kurds want access to the Mediterranean is BS and a red herring, a decoy to deceive the Turkish people.
Just how were the Kurds supposed to get to the coast? Liberate Alexandretta, what Turks call Hatay, and annex the port of Iskenderun? The danger to Hatay is from Assad and NOT from the Kurds. Official Syrian maps still show your Hatay province as part of Syria, as they do with the Golan, despite the Israeli/Trump claim. There are millions of Syrians who still say “We are coming Antakya!”
Or maybe you think the YPG can snatch up Latakia? No way! Alawites backed up by the SAA and the Russians would never allow that to happen. Geography proves that Erdogan has been lying about this.
I have been dealing with separatist kurds far before tayyip appeared on the scene. The Mediterranean gateway has always been foremost on their minds. Here are some references:
1-A youtube video:
2-From a Kurdish source with the title: “Kurds seek to connect Syrian Kurdistan with Mediterranean Sea . Here is an excerpt: “Hediya Yousef, head of the Kurdish federalism project, said in an interview with the Observer that Syrian Kurds wanted more territory in the north, in return for helping the US retake Raqqa from Islamic State IS Daesh. He claimed the Kurds had a “legal right” to create a trade corridor to the Mediterranean (https://ekurd.net/syrian-kurdistan-mediterranean-sea-2017-05-08 ). Rather unambiguous. Has nothing to do w/ tayyip either.
3-Here is another bit from 2010: “For the first time the golden opportunity is landed in Kurdistan. Kurdistan land is the gateway to connect between Mediterranean Sea and the land of Airyanem (Iranian) people from Pakistan to Turkey and from Kurdistan to former Soviet Union countries https://ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2010/6/turkey2696.htm )
Here is another map of Kurdish origin:
And here is where CIA thinks they are:
Try to read up a bit before making baseless assertions.
Ishmael, you are really grasping at straws now. You are touting old ethnographic maps and agitprop as proof that the Kurds want to steal Turkish land to get a seaport.
Your point #1 the Youtube video shows just that, old ethnic maps of Kurds in the Middle East. Most are antique and are from a variety of sources. The lead one is Japanese, but probably copied from an old German or French anthropologist’s book or article. And yes it shows Kurds near the Mediterranean in the Taurus Range and in the hills and plains of Mersin, Adana, and northern Hatay. As you should already know there were many Kurds living in those provinces historically. And they are still there today, although they are probably Turkified to keep from being assaulted or worse by AKP thugs or its predecessors.
Re your point #2, the ekurd.net article about Hediya Yousef wanting a trade route to the sea: If you had looked at the bottom of the article you would have seen that it is attributed to Sputnik News and not to Yousef herself nor to any other Kurdish sources. Secondly ekurd is not a PKK paper and is no longer a daily, not much more than a newsletter. It is run by a Kurdish-American shopkeeper (his day job is selling spices) in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan on the corner of Lexington and East 29th St. It is one of many published for the Kurdish diaspora in America and Canada that fled Saddam’s Anfal in Iraqi Kurdistan. It stays alive by $10 and $20 donations from Nashville, Toronto, and Montreal. Furthermore Hediya Yousef does NOT advocate Kurdish secession from Syria and said so on record several times. Here are two links, one to London’s Daily Star, the other to Sputnik (based on an interview she gave to the Socialist Gazette):
Your Point #3: Another ekurd.net article. This one written by a professor of Electrical Engineering in Colorado, a romanticist who fantasizes about “The Return of the Medes”. He has written a book with that title based on ancient astrological predictions. A former Iraqi Kurd with a pipe dream, certainly not a PKK activist.
Your link to the Kurdish Project map: That is just another ethnic map of Kurdish populations in the Middle East and showing Kurds in Turkey’s Adana province. Like your point #1. It is definitely not a proposed corridor to the sea for a breakaway Kurdish Republic. The Kurdish Project is not affiliated with the PKK; they are a Kurdish-American nonprofit trying to raise awareness of Kurds and Kurdish culture. Founder is Fred (Farhad) Khosravi, engineer turned medical device inventor and businessman, and a son of the diaspora:
Your link to a CIA map: You are joking right? You do realize that the CIA got whatever info is on the Turkish part of that map from your MIT, right? I suspect you are trying to throw sand in my eyes. Either that or you are seeing PKK bogeymen in the closet and under the bed plotting to seize Iskenderun and give the port its Kudish name, ‘Iskenderona’.
You are a propagandist grasping at straws. Here is another link:
There are many such on the web. I suggest you also read the Yinon Plan. The separatist kurds collaborated w/ the ziocons, and lost. We were/are not fighting against the kurds, we were/are fighting against the ziocons. No amount of BS will change this fact.
Your “peace-loving, democratic kurds” story would fool no one in Turkey, except, maybe, some “useful idiots”. We fixed their clock-and will keep doing so as necessary.