The Russians and Sultan Tayyip?


It is not clear to me what, if anything, the Russians and Sultan Tayyip have agreed on.  The battle east of Aleppo City out on the green plains of the fertile crescent seems a muddle.  I don't see evidence of Russian participation, for or against the Turkish invasion of north Syria.

The offended party in the muddle, other than the Kurds themselves, seems to the US.  Joe Biden was treated like a dog by Erdogan, and rose to the occasion by licking his master's hand and attempting to order what he evidently thought were other (Kurdish) dogs back to their kennel east of the Euphrates.  It seems that the public example from Havana and Riyadh of how to deal with the Obamanites was absorbed at the renovated Sublime Porte.   And now Obama plans to meet with Erdogan privately?  He plans to do what, talk him down out of the tree?  Obama is a city boy.  He will find that this quarry has the measure of him. 

The Russians are a different matter.  They threw Erdogan a bone in lifting Russian tourism restrictions on people who want to go to Turkey.  If they try to pressure Russia by not honoring the Montreux Convention on passage of the straits, they risk war with their northern neighbor.  If they send their own forces into NW Syria they risk war with the Russian expeditionary force fighting as part of R+6.  If they keep sending their surrogates into Idlib Province to be chopped up by R+6 they weaken their hand generally in the Syria struggle.

OTOH, if they seem to cooperate with Russia, the potential gains could be great even if their promises are false. 

The sausage making machine at the SW corner of Aleppo City grinds on.  If I were in command there I would want to continue that for a while until I estimated that exhaustion of means and will had set in on the unicorn/jihadi side.  At that point I would go over to the offensive and pursue, pursue, pursue … 

At the same time, the unicorn/jihadi position seems to be collapsing around Damascus.  Interesting.  pl 

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54 Responses to The Russians and Sultan Tayyip?

  1. Lemur says:

    Headchoppers have pushed toward Homs from Idlib.
    That they have sufficient forces to launch a fresh assault on a secondary front while Aleppo is going on suggests their ranks have considerable depth (or replenishment).

  2. FB Ali says:

    We should remember that Syria is a sideshow for Putin and Russia. They entered the war to prevent a victory by the Jihadis of al Nusra and IS (“better to fight them there than here”). That remains their primary aim.
    A secondary aim was to shore up their position in the Mediterranean, including retention of their base in Tartus.
    A third aim was to prevent the US from having a free run in the ME, perhaps thus leading to the latter working with the Russians (initially in that area, thus making it easier to have cooperation in other, more important, areas).
    Their actions should be evaluated in the light of these aims. Turkish actions in northeast Syria don’t affect Russian interests, except to the extent that they are a blow to the US-supported Kurds. Erdogan must have reassured Putin about these operations not strengthening IS – and Putin has the means to keep the Sultan honest.
    The Syrian rebels that are the principal beneficiary of the Turkish operation are the ‘Turcoman’ element. Perhaps Putin prefers to have them bogged down in Syria rather than prowling around Russia’s borders.

  3. Daniel Nicolas says:

    I submit this thought:

    Nour al-Din al-Zinki is the name of the terrorist group that for a while ago beheaded a 12 year Palestinian boy in Syria. Nour al-Din al-Zinki is right now part of the coalition forces supported by Turkey and the US against the Kurds. Just yesterday the coalition airplanes bombed some villages south of Jarabulus. The casualties? the death of 40 civilians including women and children and wounding 70 others. The Syrian observatory for human rights called the bombings for massacres committed against civilians. I love my American followers but the US government doesn’t know the meaning of loyalty and honour. They will support what ever group that they will benefit from one day and stab them in the back the next day like they have done with the Kurds in Syria right now. This goes even to the European countries that are staying quiet so that they don’t have to receive more refugees, while in reality the refugees are coming as the result of the west backing up the wrong groups which have led to this endless war. There is a Kurdish saying that goes like we have no friends but the mountains. I finally understand the meaning of that.

    via where a Swedish volunteer currently with the Peshmerga soldiers airs his grief with the Borg.

  4. Stonevendor says:

    This article is larger in scope than just Turkey. And one might quibble with certain points, but still it is fascinating to see the old man change his mind so late.

  5. johnf says:

    Elijah J Magnier, the veteran Kuwaiti-based journalist, argues with Turkey concentrating on the Kurds in the East and employing non-Nusra jihadis from the West to do most of the fighting in the East, the main losers are going to be the Kurds and Nusra.
    Turkey and Russia have worked out their red-lines in advance and will (probably) respect them. Syria loses influence in the East – where it never had much – but gains a more dominant position in the West, while neither of them will have a Kurdish state-to-the-sea to deal with. Both will maintain the territorial integrity of Syria – Turkey from the Kurds, Assad from Nusra. Turkey will not work to overthrow Assad anymore.
    “Putin and Erdogan have agreed on a restricted road map in Syria: the Kurds and Nusra will be the main losers”

  6. Matthew says:

    FB ali: The illusion of control seems to be the paramount concern in the Imperial Capitol. See

  7. Matthew says:

    Daniel: No white helmet videos?

  8. mbrenner says:

    The sheer mindlessness of what passes for foreign policy by the Obama administration now plumbs new depths of murky incoherence. A reasoned attempt to decipher their purposes and tactics will prove fruitless since there is ample evidence accumulated over the years that what we are doing is not guided by any linear, logical thinking whatsoever. SST repeatedly have exposed the contradictions and self-defeating actions that could not occur whether there even a modicum of a logical strategy.
    This senselessness is underscored by our kow-towing to the unbalanced Erdogan. Taking a step back, we can observe the remarkable fact that Washington has placed itself in the position of voluntary servitude to three persons in the Middle East: Netanyahu, Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman, and now Erdogan. This is not merely a matter of giving these this trio of willful, untrustworthy leaders a veto over what we do. It goes beyond that. We, in effect, instinctively do their bidding. WE step forward to defend and justify whatever they do (Kerry on Yemen). This perversity is explained in terms of the high value we place on maintaining good relations with them? To what American ends? At what acceptable costs? No one says; no one asks.
    Any statesman with a sense of history, or sound political instincts, would immediately realize that such an arrangement is intolerable and absurd – without even having to analyze the particulars of each relationship, each incident. Amazingly, such elementary understanding does not now exist in Washington.

  9. different clue says:

    This all presents the Trump Team to help coach Candidate Trump on how to give the credible appearance of understanding all this and offering a policy alternative in forthcoming speeches that is internally coherent, however flawed it might be.
    Can Trump’s advisers rise to this challenge? And if they can, will the Trumpadour even listen to them anyway?

  10. different clue says:

    FB Ali,
    I think that the RussiaGov is also defending and protecting certain principles laid out in Putin’s “No Exceptional Nation” article in the New York Times. The RussiaGov wants to assure that the whole concept of Serial Regime Change is slowed down and stopped in Syria.
    Would combining this basic Prime Directive with the traditional power-diplomacy chessboarding that you analyse lead one to predict that the RussiaGov will accept certain marginal land-areas falling away from SARgov control for now as long as the SARgov is seen to be in total and undefeated control of its core land areas and all economically valuable land areas around that core?

  11. LJ says:

    This fits into the Turkey pivoting to the east narrative. Mark Sloboda’s interpretation of a badly fooled and furious RF takes a hit.
    My guess is that this is a precursor to a previously agreed upon partition. Kerry in on it as well. For example, how could the US give air cover for this invasion without it being a part of the deal?

  12. Imagine says:

    Weird rumor Russia is mobilizing 300,000 reserve troops. Unclear. FWIW.

  13. VietnamVet says:

    Your post is exactly right. It is ludicrous that after five years and millions of refugees forced on Europe that proxy American forces are killing each other in Syria. Yes, the White House is assisting the contradictory needs of Erdogan, the Saudi Crown Prince and Netanyahu. None of which are in the national interest of the United States.
    If one acknowledges that economic warfare is being waged on the peripheral EU states or that the trade packs place corporate profits above national laws; the conclusion is that a World War is underway between globalists, nationalists and tribal militaries. If nationalism and the equitable enforcement of the rule of law are not restored in America plus the increasing inequality reversed; chaos will engulf our world.

  14. Matthew says:

    johnf: The end for the head-choppers in Aleppo must be getting close; today has been a full-scale propaganda offensive. See

  15. Kooshy says:

    The American political establishment and thier planers like Zbig and G. Ball should go back and think about the Green Belt that they were proposing under the belly of USSR, did they know what it means and if there will be a blowback. I doubts if the big head planers and strategists like Zbig still recognizes how they fails every time to consider cultur politics in thier planing.

  16. FB Ali says:

    “We, in effect, instinctively do their bidding”.
    I’m afraid you’re looking in the wrong place to find the cause of this “perversity”.
    The US does the bidding of Netanyahu because the Jewish lobby with its vast wealth controls those who make policy.
    The US does the bidding of the Saudis because the Deputy Crown Prince has learned the Israeli lesson well, and floods the US policy chambers with money enough to buy obedience.
    Erdogan’s case is different. The US is appeasing him to prevent him from ditching the West and joining up with the Russians. I don’t know how long this futile attempt will go on.
    It is pointless to look for any strategy or statesmanship, or even logic, in the making of these policies.

  17. Cortes says:

    Barbara W. Tuchman with all her Zionist faults was a sublime narrator of history. Her “The March of Folly”‘s opening chapter ( “Pursuit of Policy Contrary to Self-Interest” ought to be required reading for aspirants to office in Foggy Bottom, the Quai d’Orsay, FCO and elsewhere.

  18. FB Ali says:

    This and other reports speak of a wider understanding having been arrived at between Putin and Erdogan (not just “red lines”). If true, it means Turkey has ditched the Saudi/Qatari/CIA plan to provide weapons and money to AQ/Nusra through other Jihadis/FSA, and instead moved the latter to East Syria, closed its border with Idlib province, and ensured the takeover of Aleppo by the Syrian army.
    This also ensures that the US-backed Kurds are sidelined while the FSA etc, with Turkish backing, move on IS in the Raqqa area. It’ll be interesting to see if the US provides air support to this force.
    It’s not only the Kurds and Nusra who will be the “main losers”, but also the US and its ME partners.

  19. FB Ali says:

    In response to your question, my answer would be: Yes.
    See my reply to johnf below.

  20. FB Ali says:

    Mark Sleboda’s article was utter nonsense (I was very surprised to see it appear on Moon of Alabama, which maintains a pretty high standard, at least on its posts).

  21. Ghostship says:

    Has he really? He still wants to bog Russia down in the Middle East but fulfilling the USG’s foreign policy objectives rather than Russia’s and messing up Europe by encouraging yet more waves of refugees. One big problem is that us Brit’s have messed up by voting to quit the EU which will mean that we can no longer perform our role of Europe’s American enforcer. As a result the natives are already getting restless and thinking of setting up an European Army.

  22. Lemur says:

    Yes, “there are levels of survival [Russia is] prepared to accept” in Syria (to abridge The Matrix). Unlike Iran, which requires near total victory, Russia’s interests are sufficiently served by keeping Assad a viable player on the chessboard. This explains the stop-start motion of Russian military operations. Whenever Assad is existentially threatened, the bear rears on his hind legs and swipes away the aggressor.
    One theory going around concerning the Turkish-Russian/Iranian modus vivendi in Northern Syria is that Turkey is increasingly becoming the dominant adversary, sidelining the rest of the Empire. With Turkey isolated from the US and the GCC, Russian diplomacy no longer faces a unified, hostile front.

  23. Brunswick says:

    You should google SuperStation95.

  24. different clue says:

    FB Ali,
    That control appears less than total, certainly less-than-total enough that Netanyahu’s bidding to reject a visible nuclear no-weapons-breakout-capability was itself rejected by the Obama Administration.

  25. jld says:

    Not to be taken seriously Sleboda is a loony lefty bitterly disappointed that Putin and the RF are not up to the glorious deeds of Stalin and the USSR of yore.
    Just look back at the heap of rubbish he spewed about the Ukraine.

  26. Lemur says:

    Interesting comment here:
    “Can the US and Turkey continue to work their plan to both establish Kurdistan and stop Kurdistan, respectively? Dwell on that one for a moment.”

  27. LeaNder says:

    I still have a hard time to wrap my head around the idea that the US military considered ordering events in Hasaka a good idea.

  28. Serge says:

    Big Al Qaeda et al offensive going on north of Hama. This is pushing into christian/ismaili territory as I understand it. Significant territorial changes in past 48 hours

  29. LeaNder says:

    We, in effect, instinctively do their bidding.
    Michael, Obama’s speech in Kairo somewhat surfaced on my mind lately. … admittedly along with discussions around photos, like Obama kissing someone`s hand … among others.
    Take care*, meaning no response needed.
    *trying to get into something like a pure listening tone around here. 😉

  30. LeaNder says:

    launched via on 17-Apr-2015.
    Beyond that, please don’t ask me if I ever managed to wrap my head around what seemed to surface as Amazon Technologies. …

  31. turcopolier says:

    I see that reserves are being moved around in a familiar way that reflects a shortage of capable ground forces on the R+6 side. We know, don’t we, that if if the Sunni jihadis capture Ismaili Shia or Christian villages there will be abduction of women, desecration of shrines and all the usual awfulness? I would suppose that Ben Rhodes and that a—–e spokesman at State (the old sea dog)will have something to say about these atrocities. pl

  32. turcopolier says:

    You still do not understand that issues like that are not decided by the US military. They are decided by the policy dictated by the constitutionally elected government of the US. Senior commanders no longer have much leeway on political/military questions in the context of modern communications. pl

  33. Kooshy says:

    Colonel I have been living here and fallowing US elections for over 40 years, for as long I had never seen or even thought that the entire US media as well as entire US elites, celebrities, and thier surrogates be against a presidential candidate, a major party candidate. IMO this is unprecedented, to the point that no longer the western MSM pretends to be impartial. I think the Borg and thier media companions they are going all in, (without any respect to whatever is left of the electorate’ right to be informed) to make sure DT looses in a landslide, in the event of a low turnout.

  34. Tigermoth says:

    I found this article on the Putin/Erdogan St Petersburg meeting insightful regarding what Russia wants from Turkey.
    Dances with Bears:
    “By John Helmer, Moscow
    All law students in England, meeting the law of torts for the first time, used to study Scott v Shepherd. That was a case decided in 1773 in which a man in a marketplace was struck in the face by a lit firework that put out his eye. The legal rule was — if you toss fireworks, you are liable for blinding a man, even if you didn’t mean to.
    In the preliminaries to this week’s meeting in St. Petersburg, the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been playing games with fireworks. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, wasn’t closing his eyes. At the conclusion of their meeting in St. Petersburg on Tuesday afternoon, Putin’s eyes revealed more than his mouth about Erdogan’s incendiaries.
    Officials on the Russian and Turkish sides, and their staffs, have already made clear there are four strategic points on the agenda of Russian-Turkish negotiations; one political corollary; and several commercial payoffs.
    The priority is the commitment from Turkey to stop attempts at regime change in Syria, the Russian Caucasus, and the CIS states, including Armenia and Tajikistan. This means the expulsion of Chechen fighters from their havens in Turkey and areas under Turkish control; closure of the Turkish-Syrian border for ISIS and other jihadis; and an end to Turkish support for the Azeri war against Armenia and for Islamic oppositionists in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Crimea.
    In return, the Turks want a Russian commitment not to support Kurdish groups to establish territorial autonomies or statelets along Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq, nor encourage the Kurds to fight their way back into Turkey to establish an independent Kurdistan.
    Another Russian priority – the key to the wars which the Kremlin fought against the Ottomans for more than two centuries — is Turkey’s undertaking not to violate the limits of the treaties governing the straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and not to allow a permanent NATO naval deployment of Aegis missile systems, targeted against Russia in the Black Sea.”
    Putin ended up with zip from Erdogan except his now confirming he has no real intention of going “East”, and he won’t change tack on Syria. Putin probably has taken note of this.
    With regards to the Turkish invasion of Syria and the Russian minimal response to it; I’m sure that militarily it benefits the SAA in areas like Latakia since the Turkish backed “FSA” has been pulled from other areas to participate in Northern Aleppo. Another aspect of this is that it has caused terminol within the US coalition itself which should be a positive for the Syrians since it slows down the forming of the US instigated Kurdish statelet.
    Al-Bab will be an interesting battle with everyone against everyone else.

  35. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s been at least a couple of decades since I read MoF but I still recall it quite vividly.

  36. b says:

    Thanks for lauding the usual posts on MoA.
    I liked Mark’s piece as it shows the perspective of the nationalist Russians. Those are likely to gain when Putin retires. With NATO now going bollocks at their doorsteps these people see danger all around them. They (and Mark) are not completely wrong – even the paranoid have real enemies.
    Also thought that the piece would bring some good discussion in the comments. It did.
    My personal view, in today’s piece, is that Russia made a lot of progress in Syria in a quite short time and that the U.S. was caught off-guard with the Turkish move.
    I don’t understand why the Green Berets, or their higher ups, pushed the Kurds across the Euphrates. Why did they push them into attacking the Syrian government in Hasakah? That ruined their relation with their only local ally – and their national dream of a corridor to the Med. The Kurds were absolutely stupid to agree with that move.
    It is clear why the Kurds never gained a nation state. They always end up either betting on the wrong (foreign) horse or start fighting each other whenever real unity, even for a moment, is needed.

  37. turcopolier says:

    “why the Green Berets, or their higher ups” As I told LeaNder the military do not make such decisions. They are operating within the policy established at the WH. pl

  38. different clue says:

    Did anyone push the Kurds into this attack, or did those Kurds attack for some obscure reason of their own; doing their best to drag the Green Berets and hence the United States along after them?

  39. different clue says:

    different clue . . .
    Of course I meant to type “deal with Iran” right after the word “capability” just above.

  40. b,
    The US did not push the Kurds to cross the Euphrates. That was a Kurdish idea and a Kurdish dream. The US wanted the Kurds to go to Raqqa. The Kurds resisted and pushed west rather than south. My opinion is that the US wants to use the Kurds or Kurdish lands as their new base for the anti-Assad unicorn army. The US couldn’t care less about the fate of Rojava or the Rojava Kurds. They’re just a possible tool to use to remove Assad. I also seriously doubt the US had anything to do with the dust up in Hasakah. That’s a long ongoing problem between the Kurds and the Baghdad government. And as Colonel Lang said, the Green Berets do not make policy.
    On another note, I’ve seen mention today that it was the Russians providing air support to the Kurdish push from Afrin towards Al-Bab. Have you seen anything on that?

  41. Matthew says:

    Col: Yes, and these are the people who will suffer the brunt. See

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    “A Kurdish dream” that the Kurds have failed to realize in over 2 millennia.
    Some people can govern and some cannot.
    Until every valley has its own potentate and all valleys are in state of intermittent warfare with one another; much like the native people of America or the Bedu.

  43. b says:

    The U.S.gave air support for crossing the Euphrates and for attacking Manbij. That surely wasn’t a solely Kurdish idea. Aside from that it was obvious that the Kurds have zero interest to attack Raqqa. Why the U.S. hoped, if it did, it could them to that is beyond me.
    In Hasakah U.S. troops were in the line of fire. That is why the U.S. threatened the Syrian air force to stop attacking. What were they doing there anyway? SOHR reported that the U.S. reinforced its spec-ops in Hasakah when the fighting started. For what purpose?

  44. turcopolier says:

    Valid points. As I said this is a muddle. pl

  45. The Beaver says:

    BREAKING – Turkish defense ministry says it has discharged 820 military personnel from land and naval forces

  46. LeaNder says:

    I’ll try to reduce my babbling/chatting/ad hoc conversational mode.
    It surely isn’t your fault that I still don’t grasp important basics.

  47. mike says:

    Another 820 Turkish military officers reportedly dismissed from the TSK today. 648 of those 820 were arrested.

  48. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    I presume you are referring to b’s comment of 1 Sept. I also think this is a valid refutation of TTG’s valiant attempt to defend US actions.
    It is worth examining what causes this “muddle”, since it seems to happen often, and in many different places.
    My guess is that US policies are not precise, because they are subject to the pulling and pushing of many varied interests, and there is no firm hand at the top to decide among the competing views and lay down the law. This leaves wide latitude to those who actually execute these ‘policies’, and makes it easier for them to insert their own views into the execution.
    I believe this is what happened to the hapless Kurds. Some level of US policy makers or executors decided it would be a good thing to have a Kurdish ‘state’ in North Syria, and pushed the Kurds to cross the Euphrates and take Manbij (with a view to linking up with the Kurdish enclave in the West). Then Obama/Biden felt the need to mollify Erdogan, so they promptly ordered the Kurds back across the Euphrates. Who knows what the next move will be?
    This is probably one reason why the Russians seem to be faring so well in Syria – sensible, long-term policies, tightly executed.

  49. b,
    I think the US supported the Kurdish offensive to take Manbij in the hope that the Kurds would then turn their attentions to Raqqa. I agree that was a forlorn hope.
    The airfield just east of Hasakah is the US base for supporting the YPG/SDF. With 300 or so SOF in the region, that a fairly large undertaking.

  50. Brigadier Ali,
    I prefer to think of my comments as a possible explanation rather than a defense of US action. Those actions are, as you know, sometimes hard to defend. I agree it certainly is a muddle. Your idea of competing interests within the various levels of the USG is a point well taken. I’ve seen it myself.
    In other news, the head of the Jarabulus Military Council announced that US Special Forces are stationed between his forces and the Turks south of Jarabulus. May God watch over my brothers.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Kurds are fools, that is all.

  52. mike says:

    I would say you are correct in that many of them are foolish for fighting among themselves at the bidding of the the Turks, the Iranians, and the Arabs. Unfortunately they are also divided by language and religion so unity is light years away if ever.
    But I would hesitate before calling 40 million people ‘fools’.

  53. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Ask any Kurd in Sanandaj or Kermanshah to clarify the manner in which they are different than “Iranians”?
    He or she will not be able to articulate any coherent response.
    Yet, every time the central government has weakened, the gun has come out in Kurdish areas.
    What is the point, one has to ask?
    Mind you, I am also unsympathetic to the Basques, the Catalans (who foolishly started the Civil War in Spain, just like South Carolinians did the same in US), the Sikhs etc.

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