Special Forces in Rojava – TTG


For two years the strategic town of Shaddadi, in northeastern Syria, was a stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. In February, 5,000 fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab militias, encircled the city and battled the terrorists for 10 days. It took fierce fighting, supported by air strikes from the US-led coalition, and was slow progress until finally the SDF retook Shaddadi on February 19, liberating its residents from the yoke of the jihadists.

Village by village, the SDF Coalition made up of Kurdish, Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Chechen, Turkmen and Circassian fighters is determined to expand the territories it controls. A key ally of the West, its aim now is to influence Syria’s destiny.

FRANCE 24 reporters Romeo Langlois, Mayssa Awad and Mohammed Hassan were able to gain exclusive access to the fighters of this interethnic coalition that is taking on the IS group "caliphate". They witnessed firsthand the battle to take back the town of Shaddadi. This is their extraordinary 35-minute documentary. (France24)


This is the lead-in to a terrific documentary. It paints an informative view of current events in Rojava. I found the following points most interesting. 

– The narrator describes the YPG as the Syrian branch of the PKK. Although that coincides with Erdogan’s position, I don’t buy it. Nor is that the position of the USG, much to the chagrin of Erdogan. 

– There is an interview with Sheikh Hamidi, leader of the Shammar tribe in Syria. His tribal militia is part of the SDF. He says he sides with the Kurds as long as they don’t put the integrity of Syria at risk. Neither Hamidi or the Kurds have declared war on the Syrian government. He sees the IS as just the latest version of Wahabbism championed by the house of Saud which his tribe has fought since the 19th century. I find this a wonderful example of the continuity of culture and history.

– The most interesting part of this documentary is the filming of a group of Special Forces soldiers on the front lines during the assault on Shaddadi. The narrator mentions the presence of French, American and British advisors with the SDF forces. The soldiers in question definitely have the appearance of American Green Berets. As I suspected, they are not confined to coordination rooms behind the front. They are very much in the thick of it. Ah, to be young again.


Hanover (Germany) (AFP) – US President Barack Obama will on Monday announce plans to send up to 250 more military personnel to Syria, according to a senior administration official, intensifying US assistance to rebels as a ceasefire falters.

Obama "tomorrow will announce that he has authorized up to 250 additional forces deploying to Syria," the source said, adding that the president would confirm the deployment in a speech in the northern city of Hanover. US troops in Syria are mandated to advise and assist Syrian rebel and anti-Islamic State forces. (Yahoo)


The France24 documentary only shows ten or so Green Berets. And this small group of advisors led to a breathtakingly successful double envelopment battle. An additional 250 advisors will be a major investment in this front. I think this means there will soon be a serious SDF/YPG offensive towards Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. This may be one of the reasons for the SAA offensive to relieve their defenders at Deir ez-Zor. Perhaps there will be a reenactment of the meeting on the Elbe between Russian and American troops, this time on the Euphrates between the SAA and the SDF/YPG. With that many advisors available, I hope there will also be a push towards Manbij and beyond from the Tishrin bridgehead.  That damned border needs to be closed one way or another. And Erdogan can pound sand up his fourth point of contact.


This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Syria, TTG. Bookmark the permalink.

87 Responses to Special Forces in Rojava – TTG

  1. Apparently I was wrong in suggesting President Obama placing all his bets on Iraq!

  2. Tigermoth says:

    Well that didn’t take long. The part not mentioned here is but was apparently in the WSJ is the “safe zone”:
    The U.S. based publication “The Wall Street Journal” reported on Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered 250 additional soldiers to be deployed to Syria in order to bolster the U.S. Army’s numbers inside the country. The report claimed that the 250 additional soldiers will be deployed to Syria as part of a force that will oversee the implementation of a safe-zone in the northern countryside.
    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/us-army-deploys-250-soldiers-syria/ | Al-Masdar News
    I think if the US coalition gets settled in northern Syria they aren’t going to go anywhere soon. Hence the splitting up of the country as planned. The SAA needs to move east quickly!

  3. “He sees the IS as just the latest version of Wahabbism championed by the house of Saud which his tribe has fought since the 19th century.”
    That’s exactly how ex-MI6 man Alistair Crooke sees it, too: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alastair-crooke/isis-wahhabism-saudi-arabia_b_5717157.html?utm_hp_ref=world

  4. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    A few points:
    1-tayyip’s position w/ respect to the PKK/PYG and other kurdish separatists had to evolve over time. Until the next-to-last elections, he was pursuing a different agenda.
    2-The kurds are trying to be play both sides against the middle-their declaration of autonomy, against Russian objections, is one indicator. It will be interesting to see what accommodation they will reach with the SAA.
    3-I am waiting to see what the grand bargain w/ Russia is. Her goals in MENA and Ukraine are orthogonal to those of the BORG.
    In the end, consummating one’s marriage with someone else’s tool should be unsatisfying. Perhaps we will see how these heroes fight on their own one of these days. We have been having a preview in Turkey for the past six months with PKK. They are having a hard time.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  5. LeaNder says:

    Thanks, TTG, to the extend I followed news around Obama over here, images or top talking points, without to be honest without taking a serious look. And definitively and always as the nitwit I am.
    One talking point caught my attention. The German military is supposed to put more money and staff into defending its Eastern frontiers. Didn’t check whatever he really said, but aware of the larger and from my perspective justified US debate. Not in line with Clinton in this context.
    But, are European Eastern Frontiers already in the Ukraine? Or is this about Poland and the more fearful Baltic states, never mind residents with Russian background in the the latter?

  6. LeaNder,
    I doubt those in Washington give a rat’s butt about Poland, Ukraine or the Baltics. This is all about Russia. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anyone mouthing the words “Putin must go” yet.

  7. BraveNewWorld says:

    Well I guess King Saud, or more likely his idiot nephew, told Obama how it was going to be when he was there bowing. Now that the Americans are upping their forces in Syria how long until the Sauidis, Turks and Qatar follow?
    I know two things for sure. The first is what ever the US has planned for Syria it has nothing to do with helping the Syrian people. Second if one one of those SF members is captured and handed over to Daesh it will be president Trump in 2016.

  8. BraveNewWorld says:

    Then you haven’t been listening hard enough.

  9. JJackson says:

    Re the France24 video.
    The commentary said it was the anti-tank weapon which destroyed the suicide truck (26:26) but who fired it? It looked, to me, like they were SFs not locals in that group trying not to claim credit or get filmed.

  10. thepanzer says:

    Just to make sure I have this all straight. The CIA is supposedly funding Daesh. The Pentagon is funding the unicorn army,which means most of the arms also go to Daesh (when all is said and done). The US has SF on the ground fighting Daesh (?), who are the main recipients of our arms programs in the area.
    So we’re fighting the same people we’re arming?
    This ties to my main issue with the Bacevich article from last week. It seemed his main issue was lack of will in the public to join the military and force level issues. I don’t remember him tackling the fundamental issue of “why are we fighting in the ME in the first place and should we even be there?” We don’t seem to have any clue why we’re actually there or what we’re actually doing when you move beyond the slogans. It reminds me of the world war I mantra, “we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here” or similar.

  11. JJackson,
    I agree. I cannot fault a Green Beret for taking the shot despite his advisor capacity. I am familiar with the situation.

  12. thepanzer,
    I don’t know about the CIA funding Daesh. Playing a little fast and loose with defining who can join the unicorns is more like what they’re doing. I agree that arming and funding the unicorns is just flat stupid. Helping the YPG/SDF defeat is a good policy which I fully endorse. We’re doing that the right way. However, I do fear we’ll try to push the YPG/SDF to be the new “Assad must go” force. That would be stupid.
    I would get a warm sense of satisfaction if the Green Berets had a hand in letting the YPG/SDF work out their own accommodation with the Assad government without Borg interferance. If some punk-ass Neocon whiz-kids show up trying to push their Borg agenda on the Kurds and Arabs, they should end up in shallow unmarked graves in the deserts of eastern Syria. That would also give me a warm sense of satisfaction.

  13. turcopolier says:

    CIA is not arming IS. They are arming all the other squirrels in western Syria. I think DoD gave up on the unicorn army some time back. You do know that there is a difference between Nusra + associated Islamists and IS? You do know that, right? Bacevich’s point and mine is that the US ground forces are too small for the tasks being given and are unlikely to be larger in the absence of the draft and changes in American society. For the record I will say that there is nothing in the ME worth fighting for if you are not a local, but the minimal effort being made in support of the Kurds is appropriate to the needed job of screwing up IS and ALL the other jihadi groups. GBs sign up for this kind of work. This is what they do to self-actualize as they say in California. OTOH we made such a mess of Iraqi society and government that little will be accomplished there unless IS simply collapses. pl

  14. oldjack says:

    With the Kurdish/NDF shenanigans in Qamishli over the weekend, I’m not sure everyone is buying into the “Rojava” enterprise. I follow various Assyrian social media sites and several of them called for their people to get out of the Syriac Military Counsel. Sootoro did so awhile back and has cast its lot with the government side.
    It’s a pickle, because some of the Assyrian villages need American weapons to fend off ISIS — weapons they receive if they give a courtesy nod to the FSA.
    I still suspect some form of partitioning under “Plan B” is part of the YPG/SDF/U.S. push for Raqqa.

  15. Laguerre says:

    In spite of all this optimism about the Rojava Kurds, I’m still waiting to see if they are capable or wish to carry the battle forward to territories not mainly occupied by Kurds. This seems to me the critical issue. It’s always been said of the Syrian Kurds (or indeeed the Iraqi) that they are mainly interested in establishing control of Kurdish territory. Thus not in taking Raqqa in solidly Sunni Arab territory. Back after 2003 the Iraqi Kurds were fine with occupying Sunni territory. But then they got a bloody nose from ISIS, and I rather think they are more cautious now.
    However, to be the US puppets they are supposed to be, they need to move forward to Raqqa. Or even close the gap with Afrin. I’m still waiting to see that happen. There’s somewhat of a dissonance between US and Rojava Kurdish interests here.

  16. VietnamVet says:

    Last night, PBS NewsHour turned the son of the Saudi King into a silk purse.
    This documents the power of the House of Saud’s billions of dollars; no cognitive dissonance; no endless wars. A reason why only six percent of American trust the media.

  17. toto says:

    “The narrator describes the YPG as the Syrian branch of the PKK. Although that coincides with Erdogan’s position, I don’t buy it. Nor is that the position of the USG, much to the chagrin of Erdogan. ”
    Well, the USG officially regards PKK as a terrorist group. At the same time, the USG funds, trains and assists YPG. Clearly they have strong incentives to disregard any link between the two.

  18. elaine says:

    Colonel, Nothing worth fighting for in the ME unless you’re a local?
    I guess the Christians of that region are chopped liver? The U.S. & Europe
    don’t seem to be doing much to even give them refuge…absence of a draft?
    The U.S. has about 36, 691 troops in Germany (22,031 Army, 499 Navy, 1070
    USMC, 13,091 USAF) these numbers are the most current I found & I have no idea what they’re doing there & ditto for a number of other places.
    I lament the invasion of Iraq & yes we did screw it up really bad, however
    genocides, especially of a population whose belief system is my own is
    intolerable & if that makes me a R2Per I can live with it.

  19. bth says:

    First, thanks for referencing the excellent documentary.
    Second, I didn’t hear anyone in the video talking about leaving Syria and the sunni arab sheik interviewed was explicit about staying within Syria. Sounds more like a confederation emerging or some sort of autonomous region.
    Third, I wonder if there are any Syrian military forces embedded with the group shown?

  20. Peter says:

    There is hardly any difference between Nusra+affiliates and IS. If you remember back to earlier in the conflict before IS was even in Syria, Nusra and other groups were already cutting people’s heads off, then there was the one guy who cut the enemy’s heart out and ate it on camera, as well as the use of chemical weapons in civilian areas…
    It’s not like there is one group that is SO much worse than the others. They all have almost the same exact ideology. About a year ago it seemed every other day there was a report on the news about ‘X group of rebels joined IS’, or ‘Y group of rebels retreated and had all of their weapons taken by IS’.
    I’m not sure why such a distinction between groups that are almost identical is so important. Does it make US actions in Syria look more acceptable because we helped one group of head choppers and definitely 100% not the other group of head choppers?

  21. ISL says:

    Its a little too late unless US wants to directly risk WW3 for a safe zone to include NATO aircover (as opposed to politicos vomiting into the news media). So what happens with US boots on the ground request NATO aircover and a S-400 missile takes it out? The US has no legal leg to stand on in Syrian Airspace. Or is the SOP – you are on your own?
    Hard to see if a large group of SF were being over-run with the potential for prisoners, Obama would not attempt to ensure they were rescued. Then I guess we could see whose jamming system wins – based on priorities in military spending recent years I would not bet on the US.
    Thanks for the piece!

  22. ISL,
    The US has been providing plenty of air cover to the YPG/SDF for quite some time now. The film shows an A-10 in action above Shaddadi. This is no problem for the R+6. Killing IS jihadis is a shared desire. Unless US aircraft start targeting R+6 forces, they don’t have much to fear from the S-400. We’ll have to see what happens when the Kurds and Damascus start discussing a post-IS Syria. Our best COA is to STFU. Unfortunately, that has not been our style.
    SF teams have assisted and unassisted extraction plans. That’s true even with MTTs where no combat is anticipated. Under current conditions in Syria, assisted extraction is no problem. In our war plans for Eastern Europe, the assisted extraction plan was always marked TBD. In other words, they promised to get us in, but getting out was up to us.

  23. Dubhaltach says:

    Poland, Ukraine, & Baltics are all currently starring in roles as “useful fools” in a production by NeoCons R Us.

  24. Fred says:

    Thanks for the link to the France 24 documentary, it’s very informative. They made a point of showing the bank documents showing ongoing pay for oil refinery staff. It seems like a prudent policy to me since they (refinery workers) didn’t start the war. I’m not surprised ISIS didn’t kill them off since if they retook the town they’d have no one to run the place and thus no income. What is surprising is that any of them are still there voluntarily.

  25. ISL says:

    Thanks, that helps me sleep easier.

  26. turcopolier says:

    I wonder which martinet ass is making these GBs dress that way rather than like the people they are with.pl

  27. Annamarina says:

    “The part of the Golan Heights still under Syrian control has been the target of repeated Israeli air strikes…” http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/assad-forces-build-troops-syrian-golan-160103031544139.html
    The Lobby wants the Golan Heights for Israel by any means. The Israel-firsters are infuriated that Syria is still remaining a sovereign state while ISIS is badly weakened by Russians: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa-idUSKCN0XJ0DF

  28. Annamarina says:

    “Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign praised the deployment [of the US troops in Syria], “These Special Forces will continue to provide critical support to local forces on the ground who ultimately must be the ones to win this fight,” it said in a statement.” http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-usa-syria-idUSKCN0XL0ZE
    Was not she a cheerleader for the US involvement in Libya? – The results of the involvement speak for themselves.

  29. pl,
    I was wondering the same thing. I also wondered why ten or more GBs would be all together like that. As you know, we’re usually spread out among the indig. I think the bulk of those appearing in the film (on the screen shot I captured above) are an Air Force Tactical Air Control Party. I can see them being there for a major YPG/SDF offensive like Shaddadi. Those helmets look like what I’ve seen in other photos of the junior birdmen.

  30. BraveNewWorld says:

    Sorry if this has been posted else where but I hadn’t seen it. The rules of engagement have been changed.

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    They may not but US is not committed to their defense. Although the nature of US aide in case of hostilities is not pre-determined.
    In a fortnight the Baltics can be occupied by the Russian Federation and then what?
    Economic sanctions?
    Attack on Kaliningrad and Sevastopol, led by Poland and Turkey – the perennial losers against Russia?
    Nuclear war? In the age of hyper-sonic nuclear weapons?
    Truly the Peace of Yalta must be renegotiated.
    Perhaps, China, Russia, and US could meet in Tehran and decide on reorganizing the world – with BUN – Better United Nations to boot.

  32. Bill Herschel says:

    The “documentary” is in English on the English language version of France 24. It is propaganda. And the fact it is on France 24 is the icing on the cake. Propaganda must never appear to be propaganda. But the French don’t understand English except for a tiny minority. So the audience is not the French.
    Please, please do not take this to mean that I do not respect the professionals involved or that I do not believe they are in danger. They are. Probably more than they should be as you indicate.

  33. Bill Herschel says:

    I have to try very hard not to be misunderstood. I do not mean by propaganda that the American troops involved are play-acting. I don’t think you could get them to do that. Even though you point out that there are too many of them in one spot. I just mean that they are being used in the media campaign to prove that “it’s not just the Russians” who are effective in Syria. As you have pointed out this is all about getting rid of Putin. He is driving the hegemonists nuts. Crimea really set the over the top. And it’s been downhill since then.

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Christian minorities in the Middle East could only be protected against dislocation through generalized Peace.
    The wars caused by the so-called Jewish state has caused Christian displacements from Palestine and from Lebanon.
    The Iraq Wars – from 1979 to the Present – has further damaged the Christian communities.
    And now in Syria as well.
    We are only one step away from a religious war in Southern Caucasus between Armenia and Azerbaijan which will bring Shia, Sunni Jihadists and others into the fray.
    NATO states does not have the power to protect them at all.

  35. Bill Herschel,
    France24 English is similar to other English language worldwide networks like RT, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera. In fact, this documentary has a similar feel as many RT documentaries I’ve seen. Sure each network has its point of view which comes through in these documentaries, but to dismiss this documentary as propaganda is unnecessarily harsh.

  36. Serge says:

    I would argue that IS is the most independent local actor in this entire conflict and indeed in the wider grand scheme of the power struggle, precisely what renders it that much more dangerous than the other myriad head choppers who are one and all more or less in the pockets of one shiekh or the other. Fail to make the distinction at your peril

  37. mbrenner says:

    There is yet another revealing scene from the France 24 documentary. It shows the very large refinery complex (said to be one of the biggest in the country) completely intact. In one facility, there are stacks of chemical barrels the Kurds say are weaponized. The United States Air Force has chosen to leave the complex unscathed for 2 years. Further evidence of the still unexplained strategic decision not to disrupt the oil commerce that is ISIl’s main source of income. that decision never has been explained and the MSM never have asked for an explanation.

  38. turcopolier says:

    I wouldn’t call that “revealing.” IMO it is yet another example of the playing out of the grad school seminar school of “strategery.” The USAF loves to bomb things and will bomb all and sundry targets if allowed to do so. pl

  39. ToivoS says:

    This statement in the article jumped out to me : the SDF Coalition made up of Kurdish, Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Chechen, Turkmen and Circassian
    Checens and Turkmen?? Arn’t they fighting on the other side? How did this happen?

  40. bth says:

    I’m pretty sure the complex shown in the video is for natural gas which likely feeds the electrical grid vs an oil refinery.
    The targeting of oil trucks, bootleg refineries, well heads and major refineries has been different between US and Russia in Syria and Iraq. Syrian government doesn’t want to rebuild fixed infrastructure that feeds the electrical grid or may take capital to repair. Iraqi government was very reluctant to destroy Baiji refinery and pipelines. However as IS finally lost the ground around Baiji they detonated key parts and the Shia militias stole the main diesel generators. Bootleg refineries were targeted by all. Russia had no problem destroying trucks bound for Turkey which Americans flying over Syria treated largely as civilian noncombatant targets until shamed by the Russians. We are a long way from the total war targeting for better or worse.

  41. LeaNder says:

    BH, the most recent attacks in Paris, no doubt changed dynamics in Europe. In the meeting of Obama with Cameron, Renzi, Hollande and Merkel, one of the items that surfaced was the demand by Hollande that Germany should get involved more in Syria too. And it isn’t a new demand either. …
    A curious item surfaced or caught my attention, by the way, in the recent Belgium context. Arrests in Belgium seem to suggest that the attacks there were intended to again target France. Now you can consider this only propaganda too, of course. Police wanting to appear professional and up to matters? The suggestion was due to heightened activities by police the perpetrators changed plans. Which somewhat reminds me of Patrick Bahzad’s earliest article and my silly protest against his suggestion of Belgium connections of the network.
    Only a minority of French people speak French? I seriously doubt this. Although, yes I never tried to communicate in English in France. There may no doubt be a stronger fear concerning the preservation of the French language in France then elsewhere in Europe. But, it is changing for longer now. Random example: The husband of my niece spent one year in France during his studies not too long ago and the language in the classes was English, just as it was in Norway. …
    It is simply silly to assume you don’t need English nowadays. In Germany they apparently teach English already in Grammar School now.

  42. JJackson says:

    The barrels shown – as weapons per-cursors – seemed to all be MDEA. I am not a chemist but I looked it up and its is used to remove H2S from oil. Chemically it seems difficult to see how it could be used as an explosive precursor being neither an oxidiser or having any high energy bonds. Likewise for the orange bottles outside the warehouse.

  43. Barish says:

    There are native Turkmens in the region of northern Syria, as it happens. Chechens, on the other hand, their inclusion is odd indeed.
    Is this a way of saying to what more mercenary-types of Chechen muhajreen there are among jihadi unicorns and ISIL that they have a place to desert to, if they leave their takfirism behind? Or is there indeed some more or less established proof for Chechens native to the area, who settled down there* in the past and are still present today?
    *PS: It is to be noted that Circassians originate from the Caucasus, which itself isn’t too far off Chechnya, so it may not be a stretch that this is so.

  44. bth says:

    Slightly off topic but if one were planning in Iraq, here are the evening new moon schedules. May 6 1029PM, Aug 2 1144 PM, Oct 1 311 AM, Oct 30 838 PM

  45. no one says:

    Babak, With Erdogan making statements about standing firm with his Azeri brothers, Turkey just might give Russia an opportunity/excuse to dish out a little pay back. The Nogorno Karabhak situation is indeed another potential fuse to ignite something much much bigger.

  46. JJackson says:

    The other think that struck me was that it must have been an editorial decision not to state who the group with the weapon were. If they were close enough to film them, and state that this was the weapon that made the kill, it seems unlikely they did not realise they were not locals but just opted for calling it ‘a coalition supplied weapon’. Why? If they had been asked to not say it was SF by the team then why include the revelation it was not the RPG and why show team with the weapon. They could have just show weapon without the team or left us to analyse the footage and notice the trajectory was not ballistic.

  47. LeaNder says:

    JJ, I wondered about the female martyrs and fighters and images and protests around Abdullah Öcalan. … I seem to wonder more about these images when attractive females are staged. 😉
    As in the imagery accompanying the chemical attacks in Syria. So I am somewhat following personal pretty arbitrary dots. I am human of course, but at that point one female felt a bit staged too.
    I don’t have much knowledge concerning the region, but I seem to remember that Syria much longer now offered ground for the PKK to get out of reach for Turkey. And history in our current context seems to matter, before jumping to easy conclusions.
    I also was reminded of a sentence of my best friend a painter who once told me: His suspicion was that I didn’t see what I had no knowledge about. In other words, I missed the specific images, at least partly, TTG alluded to here, but yes that part caught my attention too.
    What caught my attention from a purely female basis, was, that the niqab as enforced by ISIS did not even allow woman to see. In any case, I have never seen this before.

  48. Haralambos says:

    This might be of interest to many here on “War for the Greater Middle East” by Col. and Prof. Andrew Bacevich’s latest book: http://tinyurl.com/zhzappc
    What the author, Charles Glass, describes from the book sounds like a thumbnail sketch of the Borg and its influence in policy over a rather long period.

  49. JJackson,
    That ATGM appears to be a FGM-148 Javelin. The U.S. has supplied those to the YPG/SDF. Normally the Javelin is shoulder fired so i don’t know if the tripod it’s sitting on is a field mod or not. Also note that the front bumper is still on the round. It is removed from the launch tube prior to firing. That means that a new round has already been attached to the command launch unit or it has not yet been fired. Maybe that RPG gunner did hit the suicide pickup truck. The soldiers around the Javelin appear to be locals

  50. Fred says:

    Once emptied of their original contents the barrels may have been filled with something different. Just like all the various fire extinguishers show in the same building.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I seriously doubt that Russia would do anything untoward in South Caucasus to discomfit Turkey.
    That would pose a major security problem for them in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan etc.
    Turks are Sunnis and regardless of their political orientation – Kemalist or Islamist – they retain significant antipathy to the Shia Muslims – be they Azeri Turks or Persians or anyone else for that matter.
    They will make noises but will never aide Azerbaijan.
    A prolong war between Armenia and Azerbaijan will suck in Catholic Christians, Orthodox Christians, Jihadists, Sunni Muslims, and Shia Muslims.
    Sky is the limit.

  52. ISL says:

    Just to concur with you, LeaNder,
    My experience even a decade ago is that most people in France, if approached in English, say they cannot speak english, but if you then demonstrate reasonable fluency in French, are more than willing to use either language. Personally, il me plait de parler in Francais, its a beautiful language.

  53. Ulenspiegel says:

    That was really funny:
    MDEA is also used as short form of 3,4-Methylendioxy-N-ethylamphetamin, a recrational drug, for which I did some NMR assignments last week. So you could imagine my puzzlement why one would use it for the purification of oil or as part of an explosive. 🙂
    However, methyldiethanolamin makes much much more sense. 🙂
    As part of an explosive it would react like an long chain alkane IMHO.

  54. Jackrabbit says:

    TTG’s thinking about Air Force spotters seems right.
    The entire exercise seems like propaganda as per Bill Herschel. They strike many propaganda points:
    1) reinforcing narratives (Assad ‘funding’ ISIS via oil purchases, US anti-ISIS bonafides);
    2) sympathetic viewpoint: women warriors; diversity of SDF forces; liberators feed/comfort the liberated;
    3) lack of journalistic merit: few hard questions/little attempt to address/pursue larger issues:
    > authoritarianism of Kurds mentioned, but not pursued;
    > Sunni Sheik who is not fighting against the Syrian regime – mentioned but not pursued;
    > Christians said to be part of the SDF Coalition – but none are interviewed? (Despite France being overwhelmingly Catholic.)
    > ISIS briefly explained away as a recurring scourge (like swatting mosquitoes in summer) – no context or blame to source? (Saudi Arabia)
    > NOTE: There *IS* a mention of ISIS relations with Turkey (oil for arms) but it is, by now, common knowledge and is not pursued any further.
    So, while you view the ground war, don’t forget about the propaganda war.

  55. thepanzer says:

    Madame Goldman Sachs wants to be America’s Margaret Thatcher. God help us all.

  56. Medicine Man says:

    Fred: It is pretty ballsy for those refinery workers to leverage the economic importance of their jobs to avoid having to flee their homes in the midst of a war zone. I guess they have to get by somehow. Were I in their shoes I would be most worried about the point when the jihadis become convinced they are going to lose control of the region. The position of those refinery workers starts to look dicey the moment the headchoppers start thinking about scorched earth tactics.

  57. Medicine Man says:

    Ironic in this context, but English has become the lingua franca in Europe.

  58. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    “Turks are Sunnis and regardless of their political orientation – Kemalist or Islamist – they retain significant antipathy to the Shia Muslims – be they Azeri Turks or Persians or anyone else for that matter.”
    Any proof for this statement? In reality those secular Turks who value the work of Ataturk dislike ALL religious bigots, irrespective of their creed or sect.
    Personally I see no real difference between the Iranian (Shia) bigots and the (Sunni) bigots of the KSA. IMO, the world would be a better place if both groups hurried to their respective heavens and let us be. (For fairness the Haredim, the ultra-zealous born-again Christians, etc… should also join this celestial exodus).
    Ishmael Zechariah

  59. alba etie says:

    My working hypothesis since the CW left Syria under Russian & Chinese naval escort is that all talk of removing Assad , safe zone etc has been kabuki theater coming from the BHO administration . I am convinced so far to date that the USG is still course correcting away from supporting the failed Mideast neocon agenda. That very same agenda that actively engaged when BushCheney begin bombing Baghdad way back when in 2003 ;even though the UN Inspectors were still in Iraq. We shall see.

  60. Thomas says:

    “IMO, the world would be a better place if both groups hurried to their respective heavens and let us be. (For fairness the Haredim, the ultra-zealous born-again Christians, etc… should also join this celestial exodus).”
    How about a little Divine Intervention by sounding of Abraham’s Ram’s horn?
    Then those of us left to clean up this “Creative Reality” mess can have a lasting image of the childlike puzzlement on the faces of the Smug Sectarians as they come to understand their question “What, I am one of the guilty ones?”

  61. alba etie says:

    Bill Herschel
    What really made the hegemonist nuts was that Crimea actually voted to rejoin Russia , -ah democracy !

  62. LeaNder says:

    Interesting article, makes me wonder if Glass own recent book may not be worth it too.

  63. JJackson says:

    Granted, but most of those were to be filled with a gas and you can pack explosives into anything including the oil drums.
    I have no military experience but find it very difficult to believe that any commander, IS or otherwise, put in charge of an oil refinery who decided it was a good idea to build an explosives and bomb making factory in the middle of it would retain his post for very long.

  64. JJackson says:

    Yes I noticed the two links for MDEA but took a wild guess that it was probably not the IS’s main drug production site. Given the quantities, if I was wrong, they seemed to have enough for quite a party.

  65. Fred says:

    “… find it very difficult to believe … would retain his post for very long.”
    I can’t speak to the capabilities of IS leadership but it seems the middle of that refinery would not be on any air forces target list so it might actually be the best place, baring accidents, to build the things. I believe on of those car bomb trucks was in the facility’s garage.

  66. Haralambos says:

    Thanks, I am tempted to order both plus Patrick Cockburn’s latest.

  67. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Who are the people called “Caferi” in Turkey?

  68. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    They are Twelver Shia. Here is a link to their web-site:

  69. Henshaw says:

    It’s worth considering the present situation from the Kurdish perspective.
    The Kurds undoubtedly have a very keen recollection of the times that they have been used then hung out to dry by the external interests. I would guess that they are very aware that western support will evaporate once they cease to be useful to the USA. They will find themselves again at the tender mercies of the Turks and other regional governments.
    Therefore no benefit accrues from giving the USA what it most wants up front. Rather, I suspect that the Kurds would prefer to maintain US support while they lock in ambit claims for their Rojava project in preparation for whatever negotiations may eventuate.
    For this reason alone, I suspect that they would be reluctant to advance on Raqqa until they have achieved their other objectives. Taking Raqqa would give the US the appearance of defeating ISIS in Syria, and an opportunity to ‘declare victory and leave’. IIRC, Raqqa is beyond the southern limit of the claimed Rojava territory. At best, it would only be a bargaining chip.

  70. bth says:

    Do Iraqi Kurds really have a desire to take Mosul? Same with Raqqa in Syria? I don’t see the incentive? Do they want the Americans to leave? I doubt it.

  71. Babak Makkinejad says:

    “Heretics”, they are called by others.
    When commemorating the Martyrdom of Imam Hussein, they carry the flag of Azerbaijan Republic lest they be attacked by other Turks.
    “We are not Iranians,” they state.

  72. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    You are using faulty rhetoric. Please identify the “others” who are calling the Caferis heretics? “How many secular Turks have strong antipathy against them because of their creed?”, is the question you should ask, and answer, given your postulate in your first message.
    Tayyip’s (current) supporters and other Sunni bigots attack the Shia, and the Alawites, and the atheists, and the agnostics, and the Zoroastrians, and the shamanists, and the Christians, and the Jews, and the Bhais….They also hate us, secular Turks. Accusing secular Turks -the ones you call Kemalists- of “strong antipathy” to the Shia solely because of their creed is nonsense.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  73. different clue says:

    Ishmael Zechariah,
    What percent of Turks would be or remain strict Kemalist Secularists under pressure? What percent of Turks would be or would revert to being
    default Sunni loyalists under pressure?

  74. different clue says:

    I think I remember the actual on-camera organ-eater as being a local commander in the Free Syrian Army. If I remember correctly, that raises the question of how different, if different at all: the FSAists are from the ISIStas and the alphabet jihadis . . . at least in psycho-behavioral terms.

  75. Fred says:

    I think they were already between the rock and the hard place. Every person in ISIS controlled territory is whether they admit it to themselves or not.

  76. Babak Makkinejad says:

    “Caferi” means heretic.

  77. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is a reason that the usage of “Caferi” – Heretic – has not been expunged from Turkish Lexicon to designate the Shia – about 3 million souls largely in Eastern Anatolia.
    Because that is what the majority of Turkish speakers of Sunni persuasion believe the Shia to be; heretics.
    No equivalent expression exists in Persian or Azeri Turkish – to my knowledge.
    The point I was hoping to make was the existence of all these mutual antipathies and suggest the way forward is some sort of diplomatic accommodation.
    I am sure that you are not harboring prejudice against other people or religions but I also do not believe that you are a typical Turk.

  78. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Caferi comes from the first name of Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq (جعفر بن محمد الصادق) which is read as “Cafer” in Turkish. The suffix “i” indicates “belonging” to the stem word. Thus “Caferi” means those who identify with, belonging to, or following Cafer. These folks call themselves “Caferi”. Please look at the link I sent before. Why would they call themselves “heretics”? Mind you, if Islam is what you and/or tayyip defines as such, I am happy to be a heretic. A bit of reflection on your part before making all these statements would be wise.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  79. turcopolier says:

    IZ et al
    “Kaafer” is an Arabic word that means unbeliever. (plural “Kufaar”). The word exists in other languages as a loan word from Arabic, “the tongue of the angels.” “liisan al-mala’ika” “Takfiri” which is what jihadis call Muslims who do not agree with them is from the same root. (masdar) pls

  80. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Different Clue,
    Probably the same percentage who remained loyal to their ideals during the Great Wars in your country, or maybe slightly better. We are a stubborn bunch.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  81. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Col. Lang,
    Kaafer is “Kafir” in Turkish, the plural is “kuffar” (written with an umlaut on u). “Cafer” has a different root. It originally meant “water fount” in Arabic, but very few Turks, secular or otherwise, would know this. Perhaps the Caferis know.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  82. turcopolier says:

    So why the discussion here about “caferi” having to do with Shia? pl

  83. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq is the sixth imam of the Twelver Shia. His followers, calling themselves “Caferi” in Turkish are Twelvers. Babak, for whatever reason, thought it meant “heretic”. I normally let these things pass, but figured some direct fire would cause him to take cover and think. Mistake on my part. Sorry.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  84. Babak Makkinejad says:

    From Arabic:

  85. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Ah, t’is never too late to be corrected.
    The “C” is not pronounced as “K” – such “Cry” but as in “J” – after Ja’afar –
    I apologize for my misunderstanding – some of my opinions were evidently based on faulty knowledge of how to pronounce Turkish sound of the Turkish alphabet.

  86. turcopolier says:

    “kafara” would be the verb. I have no idea what other “measures” of the root (masdar) there are. pl

  87. Henshaw says:

    Couldn’t speak for the Iraqi Kurds, but I guess they’ll do pretty much what Mr Barzani tells them to.
    Happy to be corrected, but as I recall, Raqqa is well south of Kurdish majority areas in Nth Syria. US support and cover is no doubt welcome for as long as it lasts, as long as it doesn’t conflict with Kurdish core objectives. Turkey would probably be somewhat less accommodating towards the Syrian Kurds if the USA wasn’t present.

Comments are closed.