Turkish/Kurdish war imminent?

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  17jan_syria_war_map

"The expected Turkish military operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria may be expanded to other areas, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on January 16.

“Turkey’s precautions against YPG/PKK cannot be limited to only Afrin. There is also Manbij and east of the Euphrates River,” Cavusoglu said following the meeting with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson in Vancouver, Canada

He also emphasized that the US plan to establish a 30,000-strong border guard force composed of US-backed, Kurdish-dominated forces in northwest Syria “irreversibly harms US-Turkey ties”.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) are the main concern of Ankara that describes them as terrorist organizations linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is a militant separatist organization has a long history of combating the Ankara government. It actively operates in southern Turkey and northern Iraq. One of the PKK goals is to establsih an independent Kurdish state that will claim a part of the Turkish territory.

On January 14, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Ankara will launch a military opeartion in Afrin controlled by the YPG “in the coming days” to secure the southern border of Turkey."  SF

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It appears that the US military (Mattis, McMaster, Dunford and CENTCOM) have once again made a major mistake in trying to manage Middle Eastern relations and planning.  This mistake is to believe that the US has a great deal more leverage and sheer control than it really has.  Somehow the generals believe that when they snap their fingers all the "little people" in the region will roll over and play "rub my belly" like puppies.

Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister has now made it clear that Turkey intends to attack the Afrin Kurdish pocket NW of Aleppo to eliminate what Sultan Tayyip Erdogan call the "terror army."  He has also made it clear that YPG/SDF held territory around Manbij to the east and ALL Kurdish held territory EAST of the Euphrates will also be Turkish objectives.  Apparently all this was said to CJCS while he was visiting Ankara in the last few days.

We should be understood that ALL the Syrian Kurds will perceive this aggression as directed at them all and that they will expect CENTCOM to support them against the Turks.  CENTCOM has already announced through a spokesman that the US will not support the Afrin pocket Kurds.  I suppose that this is because those Kurds have never been willing to accept US "advice."

IMO the notion that the 30,000 fighter "Border Force" has always been seen by the SDF/YPG people as intended to defend against Turkey and not to permanently exclude the SAG from Syria east of the Euphrates.  That idea was yet another American delusion.

Well, pilgrims, you are about to see US Kurdish policy fall apart.  pl  

https://southfront.org/foreign-minister-turkish-military-operation-against-kurdish-militias-cannot-be-limited-to-only-afrin/

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50 Responses to Turkish/Kurdish war imminent?

  1. plantman says:

    What a mess!
    The impression I get is that the US has no real long-term strategy and is just improvising, assuming that no one will mess with them on the ground.
    But this all plays into Putin’s hands who would like to see Erdogan in his corner.
    My question is: How should Assad proceed? At the very least, he needs to recapture the oil fields east of Deir Ezzor and the headwaters of the Taqba Dam. But what then?
    And will the US really attack the internationally-recognized government of Syria to defend the Kurds???
    I guess we’d better ask McMaster because I’m not sure Trump has an opinion on the matter.

  2. Fredw says:

    Time to put up or shut up. Hard to believe that this has not been planned for. But this response is really lame. I suppose next we’ll start hearing complaints when the Kurds try to work though people we don’t like. They have, for good reason, very carefully avoided becoming enemies to the SAG. Having announced our disinterest, we should not be surprised if they combine with forces that do care about Turkish incursions into Syria.

  3. Annem says:

    There are actually two USG goals with this Border Force. The first is to deny the SAG access to their eastern territory until a satisfactory peace plan is implemented. That is directly tied to the even more pressing USG goal, and that is denying the Iranians the “highway” or “Shia Arc” [to keep Israel and Saudi happy]by controlling the Syria/Iraq borders. Protecting the Kurds from the Turks is a sweetener for SDF. It seems there are also tensions within the Russia/Iran/Turkey alliance over Syria.
    All this looks like the generals rolled POTUS once more over cooperation with Russia. If this relationship is not restored and the US stays in the east, then the Russians are denied the ability to carry through with its own plans for ending the conflict.
    For all the bluster in Ankara, much is in order to arouse nationalist fervor in order to bash any faction in Turkey that does not buy into the AKP government’s role of savior of the nation. It is questionable whether they would go anywhere but Afrin though that would bring them into some conflict with the Russians.
    Turkey has a big monkey on its back, its friendship with HTS et al that the Syrian government is rapidly driving out of various parts of Idlib.

  4. turcopolier says:

    Annem
    the Teheran-Lattakiya road is already open through the border crossing at al-Qa’im. pl

  5. JJackson says:

    What about air power? If Syria and Russia say no to the invasion and use air power against any Turkish units on the ground or attempts to enter Syrian air space – with US agreement to stay out of it – then has Turkey got the ability to prosecute the campaign? As long as NATO air space is not violated then Turkey are on their own but how does article 5 apply regarding retaliation in kind against cross boarder missiles and artillery attacks?

  6. Al Masdar News says Damascus has allowed YPG reinforcements to move through Aleppo into Afrin. Another Twitter commenter wrote “Turkey is asking Russia to open Syria airspace for at least 15-20 days. Still negotiating. If approved, Turks will carry airstrikes for 6-7 days before ground offensive.” It will be interesting to see if Russia grants this request.

  7. Terry says:

    The Turks have a history of land grabs. Hatay Province & Cyprus for example. The Turks believe their borders should be based on October 1918 Ottoman Empire borders which includes a good chunk of Northern Syria and Northern Iraq. They have also been making noise about greek islands. Like Hitler, Erdogan claims concerns for the wellbeing of Turks living outside its borders. The land they have already taken around al-Bab will never be returned. The Manjib and Afrin areas won’t be either if they get them. They really want Aleppo.

  8. Fellow Traveler says:

    At least we’ll find out how much of an army Turkey still has after all of Erdogan’s purges.

  9. GeneO says:

    T-Rex is going to give a speech on Syria to the Hoover Institution and Stanford’s Research Institute for International Studies. It is scheduled for 2:25pm East Coast Time. It will be available via webcast on DVIDS.
    https://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/14010
    Hopefully he won’t cancel due to the current Erdo-uproar. And hopefully his audience will be allowed to ask some tough questions.

  10. mikee says:

    “Ultimately, the promotion of wealth and a strong middle class in the Middle East are America’s best hope. This principle of prosperity was once the mainstay of US foreign policy; it won the US respect around the world. Today, sanctions and military intervention have become the mainstay of US policy. Free trade, the rule of law, and respect for national sovereignty have been pushed aside. Democracy promotion has become a codeword for hurting US enemies and an cynical instrument of regime-change. Rarely does the US promote democracy to friendly potentates. U.S. foreign policy has slipped its moorings.
    Only by returning to the simple truths that prosperity will advance U.S. interests will the US begin to put an end to terrorism, promote democracy, and attenuate the flood of refugees that pours from the region. Democracy, moderation, and the acceptance of liberal values will only come with education and economic growth. There is no quick fix to the regions problems. Ensuring that Syrians and Iranians remain poor in the hope that they will demand regime-change is a bad policy. It has not worked despite decades of sanctions. It has brought only collapse, war and destruction to the region. Dividing Syrians and keeping them poor may ensure short-term US interests; it please some of America’s allies; but in the long-term, it will ensure failure and more wars. Only by promoting growth and unity can the United States advance stability, the rule of law, and liberal values.”
    http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/us-policy-toward-the-levant-kurds-and-turkey-by-joshua-landis/
    Landis also believes that Erdogan will not invade Afrin.

  11. Eliot says:

    I can’t imagine the Syrian government will get a better chance to kick the Turks out. Risky though.
    – Eliot

  12. Kunuri says:

    I think you need to read on Lausanne peace treaty after the Turkish war of independence was won. Also, please polish up on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Ismet Inonu who negotiated the peace conference for Turkey and kept it out of WWII adroitly.
    Nobody wants war and a return to Ottoman Empire adventures in Turkey. Turkey is strong enough, but walking on economic tightrope presently. Despite all the rhetoric, AKP knows that an economic collapse will be their end.

  13. Kunuri says:

    The ones that were purged out were not promoted according to their merits. Present ones are more than capable and are in sufficient numbers to carry out any and all operational orders.
    I am not an Erdo sympathizer, far from it, you can read my past comments on this site. However, I am the son of a Colonel in Turkish Army, a Korean War veteran. TSK will do just fine because of, at the least, enormous support it gets from the population and its remarkable past martial culture.

  14. Terry says:

    Is Erdogan a nobody? “Erdoğan reiterated his call to revise the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, ”
    https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2017/12/07/lausanne-treaty-needs-to-be-revised-for-turks-in-greece-erdogan-says-on-athens-visit

  15. jld says:

    The situation indeed looks like a “sac de noeuds” as the French idiom says.
    Elijah J. Magnier has churned out quite a lot of papers recently on this recently in English French and Italian so I surmise he is somewhat concerned about its evolution.

  16. GF says:

    I predict that the US will come in on the side of the Turks in order to gain a better foothold in Syria.

  17. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    re: “Like Hitler, Erdogan claims concerns for the wellbeing of Turks living outside its borders.”
    1-Why are you comparing tayyip to Adolf Hitler? Is Hitler the only politicians who claimed concern about the well-being of ethnic relatives of his nation?
    2-Do you know that initially, when he was supported by the zionist jews and ziocons, tayyip-the-mild-islamist was against the term “Turkish” in “Turkish Republic? His appointees even removed the letter “T” from some government offices.
    3-You might know that tayyip did not help the Turkmen in Iraq/Syria when they were in real trouble, and asked for aid, because they were Shiite.
    As far as Hatay and Cyprus are concerned, do take Kunuri’s advice and educate yourself about the history of the region.
    Here is a link about Hatay:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatay_Province
    And here is a link you might read about Cyprus:
    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2001/may/21/guardianobituaries1
    Finally, care to answer a few questions:
    1-What do you think about the “land grab” efforts of the only democracy in the Middle East? Are they justified?
    2-Do these folk care about their co-coreligionists around the world?
    3-Do you think Benjamin Mileikowsky is also like “Hitler”?
    Thank you.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Erdogan, in my opinion, will destroy Afrin if he determines that it is a sufficiently immediate and high threat to the Turkish state.
    The Turks – observant or not – will support him to the hilt if he makes a solid case that he is aiming to save the Republic; in my opinion.
    Already many Turks – religious or not so – believe that the United States and the European Union aim to destroy the Republic.
    No regional state will protest potential Turkish actions in Syria if they are understood to be in defense of the integrity of the Turkish state.

  19. Jony Kanuck says:

    Col,
    I have been watching Afrin for the last week, wondering. My latest reading has the Turkish army opening three or four additional holes in the border fence & bringing up Tomahawks. Gollum, er I mean Erdogon, has piled the rhetoric on so high & deep that I’m not sure he can back down. The Kurds are trying levee-en-masse & talking brave. The 300 Russian servicemen are sitting in their camp in Afrin. There has not been a peep from official Russia. I think the ‘fix is in’ between Russia & Turkey.

  20. JamesT says:

    Kunuri
    I was just reading up on The Treaty of Lausanne and the Turkish war of Independence. Very interesting. I had forgotten how aggressively the British (and French) had moved to colonize/neo-colonize the Turks after WW I. It certainly puts contemporary events in a different light for me.

  21. J says:

    The Russians seem to be in residence in Afrin, so a Turk incursion there would require their approval. From Manbij east to the Iraq border, the US’s objectives would be bases and ensuring the PYD has enough oil and water to maintain a viable (agrarian socialist ? ) economy, and where that leaves room for Turk encroachment, if any, is .. ?
    The Shia Crescent is independent of SDF areas – there is plenty of space south of the Euphrates between Damascus and Iraq where the Persians and friends can punch through a brand new MSR complete with solar powered Ayatollah Khomeini billboards every 10Km. That game is already decided unless the Jordanians with some Saudi help push north to the river.

  22. Barbara Ann says:

    The Kurds are gonna get Border Force training alright – just not the kind the US had in mind & on borders of their choosing.

  23. Annem says:

    I assume that it is something that our border folks will try to fix, if not from the Iraqi side, then from the Syrian side. This is an obsession. The top article on Syria Comment now by Joshua Landis points out the great economic benefits to having all these countries on good terms and trading like mad in a peaceful environment, including he points out that if oil from these various places could depart from the Syrian shores, Europe would not be bound to only Russian oil. This is a win-win in his mind and I agree. Of course, certain parties are just obsessed with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon as an existential threat. To my mind, it all comes down to certain nations not wanting to see Iran develop and take its rightful place in the world economy and body politic.

  24. Annem says:

    This is an excellent article worth reading in its totality.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You omitted to take him to task for such land grabs as the Land of the Cherokee Nation as well as the one-third of Mexico that they swallowed up.

  26. Larry M. says:

    Col. Lang,
    Turkish talk of an offensive against the Kurdish separatists of Syria may have the purpose of preventing a compromise arrangement between the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government. I guess that in Turkish eyes, such a deal may look more likely, indeed looming, in view of the Syrian reconciliation conference that Russia and others have arranged for the end of January.
    A Syrian-Kurdish compromise “solution” would probably allow for some measure of Kurdish autonomy in return for Syrian government control of the border with Turkey.
    I quite agree it is madness for the U.S. (or anyone else) to try to put its hand into this nest of wasps.

  27. I’ve no idea whether Erdogan will actually go through with his threatened assault.
    My concern is the consequences in relations between Turkey, Syria and Russia and whether the US will try to use such an attack to improve its own nefarious intentions toward Syria which clearly have not ended no matter what Trump says.
    If Turkey attacks the Kurds, will it use this attack to seize more Syrian territory?
    If Turkey attacks, and the Kurds ask for help from either Syria or Russia, will either party retaliate against the Turks? Assad might want to, but I don’t think giving Turkey an excuse to go to war with Syria would be a smart idea.
    I don’t think Russia will do anything to help the Kurds unless Turkey opens a front against Syria’s forces. In that case, Russia will try to use diplomacy first to talk down Erdogan, including threats to withhold the S-400 sales. But if Turkey were to attack Russian forces in the vicinity of the Kurds, Russia would react more strongly. I don’t think Erdogan wants any more trouble with Russia so I view that scenario as unlikely.
    Russia has recently excused Turkey from being involved in the recent drone attack on the Russian airbase. Some people think Turkey was involved but Russia wanted to smooth relations so excused Turkey. Some people think the CIA conducted the attack from Turkish-controlled areas in Idlib in order to drive a wedge between Turkey and Russia.
    I think the US won’t expend any effort to help the Kurds. The US isn’t going to start a war with Turkey.
    However, if Turkey and Syria get into it over the Kurds, I believe the US will attempt to use that to increase its forces in Syria and declare NATO Chapter 5 as an excuse to attack Syria regardless of whether that Chapter actually applies.
    Then the question becomes what does Russia do?
    So I think the question boils down to: What will Syria do if Turkey attacks the Kurds? Will it try to help the Kurds or at least use the conflict to try to expel Turkey? Will this lead to conflict between Turkey and Syria – and hence to Russia becoming involved? And to what degree will the US become involved? All of which hinges on just how far Turkey will go to break up the Kurdish alliance.
    I see no answers to these questions a priori.

  28. different clue says:

    mikee,
    ( reply to comment 11),
    It is unfortunate that Professor Landis thinks that Free Trade and respect for national sovereignty somehow support eachother. Free Trade undermines national sovereignty and protecting national sovereignty requires preventing or abolishing Free Trade. That a well-intended and well-informed area-expert like Professor Landis doesn’t see that explains why we still have such a Free Trade problem against our own national sovereignty.
    Also, the only unity which would viably work in Syria is unity of support or at least obedience to the SAR government. If Landis does not mean that the US should help the R + 6 to impose and enforce that unity, then what unity does Professor Landis think he is suggesting?

  29. Terry says:

    1- Irredentism leads to grief and war. Obviously Erdogan and Turkey aren’t the only one with claims. Putin also has expressed support for the Russians left scattered by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mexico is strong in supporting its citizens abroad, China’s conflicts in the South China Sea, Diaoyu islands and border of India, etc, etc. I used Hitler given that Germany had similar claims prior to war and the current occupation of Syrian land by Turkey, and the fact the article under discussion is about a prelude to war. It was a poor choice given the other baggage that goes with it.
    2- I hadn’t heard that specifically and couldn’t find anything written about it, however it makes sense to me. There has been movement on allowing more Kurdish cultural expression and moderation towards ethnic groups from the AKP for some time. Nation building from a fractured empire is a painful and tricky business. Kemalists were more about building a nation and Turkish identity. Empires (and peace within multi-ethnic societies) imply multiculturalism.
    3 – “Turkey’s state intelligence agency helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control during late 2013 and early 2014, according to a prosecutor and court testimony from gendarmerie officers seen by Reuters.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-arms/exclusive-turkish-intelligence-helped-ship-arms-to-syrian-islamist-rebel-areas-idUSKBN0O61L220150521
    The wiki article on Hatay only seems to make my point – “In Ottoman times, Hatay was part of the Vilayet of Aleppo in Ottoman Syria. After World War I, Hatay (then known as Alexandretta) became part of the French Mandate of Syria. Unlike other regions historically[vague] belonging to Syrian provinces (such as Aintab, Kilis and Urfa)[citation needed], Alexandretta was confirmed as Syrian territory in the Treaty of Lausanne agreed upon by Kemal Atatürk; although it was granted a special autonomous status because it contained a large Turkish minority. However, culminating a series of border disputes with France-mandated Syria, Atatürk obtained in 1937 an agreement with France recognizing Alexandretta as an independent state, and in 1939 this state, called the Republic of Hatay, was annexed to Turkey as the 63rd Turkish province following a controversial referendum. Syria bitterly disputed both the separation of Alexandretta and its subsequent annexation to Turkey.”
    So if you respect the Treaty then hatay was confirmed as part of Syria.
    I would also mention the Turkish military bases in Somalia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Qatar, Iraq, and Syria and the new one going in at Suakin Island, Sudan.
    Second set
    1-Irredentism leads to grief and war. Where do you start? The Torah depicts a conquest and invasion by the Israelites, do you try track down the descendants of those survivors? Should whites in America pack up and go back to Europe? Roll back the Arabs to their small original regions in Arabia? We cannot turn back time. At some point I would love to see a freezing of all national borders enforced by agreement of all major powers with binding arbitration to settle the open disputes. Then a guarantee on the integrity of all nations include internal political affairs with some muscle assigned to enforce it.
    2- Seems to be getting off track from my original comments and heading down the religious line – nothing but endless conflict there.
    3 -Yes, unfortunately in some aspects. Israel did return the Sinai.I don’t believe they have Empire ambitions or land ambitions outside of some concept of the original Israel and for security needs (Golan Heights), and the motivating forces are different, but they have and do take land and the Palestinians live in terribly controlled and oppressed conditions. They also don’t have the population pressures that would drive or support outward expansion.
    I do expect that the Turkish army will move on Afrin and perhaps parts of Idlib. I think Manbij is less likely. And I do expect if that happens the land will stay with Turkey.

  30. GeneO says:

    Kunuri –
    From your moniker, I am assuming your father fought at the battle of Kunu-ri. That was where the delaying action of elements of the Turkish Brigade saved the US 2nd Infantry Division from the ChiCom burp gun boogie.
    If so, he has my thanks. I hope he was not one of the 450+ Turkish wounded from that battle.

  31. Balint Somkuti, PhD says:

    Oil is not the problem.
    Natural gas is.

  32. Thirdeye says:

    http://www.hri.org/docs/lausanne/
    According to the map shown on that site, Hatay was not awarded to Turkey at the Lausanne settlement. My understanding was that it was awarded by the French at the start of WWII when they were trying to draw in Turkey as an ally. Any comment on that?

  33. Kunuri says:

    “No regional state will protest potential Turkish actions in Syria if they are understood to be in defense of the integrity of the Turkish state.”
    30,000 hostile YPG trained and well equipped along the border with very close ties to PKK will be easy to sell as a national threat to the World and the Turkish public. It will effectively create the Kurdish corridor to the Mediterranean. These are no bullshit red lines for Turkey. If Erdo lets it happen, the General Staff won’t. It has not happened yet, but I can guarantee you that it is perceived as an imminent threat. There will be war.

  34. Barbara Ann says:

    “Calling the successor to the SDF a ‘Border Security Force’ was probably the most politically tone deaf, accidentally provocative branding choice possible. It looks like U.S. officials realized that, albeit belatedly”

    Looks like Col. Veale is on his way to a new posting – perhaps manning a radar tower in Alaska.
    https://thedefensepost.com/2018/01/18/us-syria-border-security-force-turkey-efrin/

  35. LeaNder says:

    Like Hitler, Erdogan claims concerns for the wellbeing of Turks living outside its borders.
    Oh dear, marking gender this way, but why does it always need to be Hitler? Terry?

  36. Linda says:

    It seems to me, as I have previously posted on this site, that the US could have foreseen all of this when it started to train and equip the YPG. Such lack of forethought is incredible even for us.

  37. turcopolier says:

    Linda
    Amen. Dullards and dolts rule the roost. pl

  38. LeaNder says:

    Gollum, er I mean Erdogon
    Interesting. But I don’t recall Gollum enough to put in context. Erdogon rings a bell though. vaguely.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gollum#Court_incident

  39. Annem says:

    Totally agree! For reasons of regional hegemony, we and our friends see no positive side to a pro-gram that would benefit Iran.

  40. LeaNder says:

    Yes, unfortunately in some aspects. Israel did return the Sinai.I don’t believe they have Empire ambitions or land ambitions outside of some concept of the original Israel and for security needs (Golan Heights)
    For whatever reason, no doubt based on my limited wit/knowledge layers on the region, for longer now I wonder to what extend the Greater Israel narrative (…) could feed into the idea of let’s say Greater Turkey or neo-Ottoman desires.
    Or for that matters to what extend the war in Yugoslavia in hindsight fed into real or perceived intentions of what the US was up to in the ME post 911.
    But then, Pat outed me as Zionist troll a while ago. 😉 Appreciated though, Terry.
    But, as far as I know the only “German” group that was ever re-invited back into Germany were the Russians, if we leave out the aftermath of war. Not lets say, Swizz, Austrian, Belgium, British or Danish citizen with German roots. Or arbitrarily Australian, American, Canadians (“new world”)with German roots. Not denying that post imperialism and its aftermath quite a few from former colonialist enclaves.
    Any hint about matters I may forget?

  41. John_Frank says:

    As one seeks to assess the situation, people may wish to listen to the video and read the transcript of Secretary Tillerson’s remarks yesterday at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University:
    Remarks on The Way Forward for the United States Regarding Syria
    https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/01/277493.htm
    As to the latest uproar with Turkey, on the flight back to Washington, D.C. Secretary Tillerson spoke to the media and people may want to read:
    Remarks to the Traveling Press
    https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/01/277496.htm
    In that regard four questions and answers of relevance:
    QUESTION: Your speech today mentioned that if there was a total withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria it would restore Assad, it would be beneficial to him. Obviously, President Trump is somebody who campaigned on the idea of the fact that the only thing we should be doing in Syria is fighting ISIS and that’s it. How do you explain that evolution?
    And if you have any thoughts on what to do about Idlib in Syria, I would also be interested to hear that too.
    SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, it’s not inconsistent with what President Trump’s made the priority. The priority is to protect the American people and to defeat ISIS. And again, as I said, the troops are there to ensure we have an enduring defeat of ISIS. And I also referenced the – one of the huge mistakes made in Iraq was we left too quickly, and that’s what caused al-Qaida to re-emerge, it’s what caused it to morph into ISIS.
    We’re looking at and trying to learn the lessons from mistakes that were made in the past, and one of them is declaring victory too soon. In fact, we’re already seeing sleeper cells of ISIS, we’re already seeing other elements of ISIS trying to reconstitute. So the message is our military presence in Syria is still about defeating ISIS and ensuring that it’s an enduring defeat.
    QUESTION: Is there a chance of mission creep with going against the Assad regime?
    SECRETARY TILLERSON: No, we’ve been very clear that we’re not there to in any way engage with the regime. We’re not there to engage with Iran. We’re there to defeat ISIS. If our forces are attacked by others, then we clearly have the authority and the right to defend ourselves.”

    QUESTION: Could I ask you just one more question on Syria? John kind of had hinted at what’s going on in Idlib. The other part of it is the advance of the Assad forces into Idlib, and you mentioned their attacks in East Ghouta as well. Do you see those as violating the spirit of the de-escalation zones and the agreements that you have in place, especially given Russia’s support for them and all the civilians that have been killed in that?
    And do you believe that Russia shares the same end goal in terms of what Syria should look like? And then if so, why? Is it because they’ve told you that, or do you think that maybe they – they sometimes act against their interests or what we perceive as their interests?
    SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, there is no agreed de-escalation for the Idlib area. And de-escalation areas along what we call the western front, so to speak, those were put in place by Russia, the regime, and Iran, so we don’t have any engagement in those de-escalation areas. We have no agreement on de-escalation around Idlib province because of it being such a complicated area. We have offered, but we’ve not had any engagement on that.
    So as I indicated, the real challenge in Idlib in dealing with the presence of al-Qaida, Nusrah Front, and others is they are so intermingled with the population. So we all recognize the challenge. We want minimum civilian casualties, and that’s why we’ve offered to coordinate and share better intelligence. But we’ve not made a lot of progress in coming to any kind of agreement of coordinating in Idlib with Russia. So at this point, that one is set aside.
    In terms of the Syrian end stage, we have had direct conversations with our Russian counterparts about what we want to see in the end, and we are very well aligned. We seek a whole and unified Syria. Notwithstanding the Russians from time to time alleging that we’re trying to divide Syria, we are not. We want a whole and unified Syria. We want a Syria that’s stable, that’s free of terrorism, and Russia has that same objective.
    And why they have that same objective is they have important interest in Syria with the military bases that they have every intention of retaining, and those bases are only useful to them in a stable country, otherwise they’re constantly having to protect those bases from internal attack and instability. So in the broadest terms of what Syria looks like at the end, there’s very good alignment between Russia and ourselves.”

    “QUESTION: Sir, I know we’ve used up our questions, but can you just give us a reaction to the news of the day, this sort of furious reaction from Turkey about the border force in northern Syria? And are you prepared if the Turks do actually do a cross-border operation that – that strikes this force to defend it?
    SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I had a pull-aside meeting with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu yesterday. It’s unfortunate that entire situation has been mis-portrayed, mis-described. Some people mis-spoke. We are not creating a border security force at all. We have shared with the Turks what we are doing is we are trying to ensure that local elements are providing security to liberated areas. And we still have – as I said, we have ISIS still attacking in parts of northwest Syria and along the Euphrates Valley. So this is just more training and trying to block ISIS from their escape routes.
    I think it’s unfortunate that comments were made by some that left that impression. That is not what we’re doing. I spoke with Secretary Mattis this morning to make sure he and I were still of one mind on what it is we’re doing, and nothing has changed. So that needs to be clarified with Turkey. We owe them an explanation. That was – it was not properly described, and it’s unfortunate. We understand why they reacted the way they did.
    QUESTION: Okay, thank you.”
    Despite what Secretary Tillerson said, one point to watch very closely is this effort:
    Syrian rebel delegation in Washington seeking revival of CIA aid http://reut.rs/2D5sEbu pic.twitter.com/yHOSFihO8A

  42. JJackson says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanjak_of_Alexandretta
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatay_State
    Between the two links you can follow the progression from the French mandate to a Turkish state. In brief modern Turkey was formed first then the French mandate became Syria but Hatay was an independent state which then voted to join Turkey – with a fair amount of jiggery-pokery along the way.

  43. Terry says:

    Yeah, it was a poor choice as I said above.

  44. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    re:“Turkey’s state intelligence agency helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control during late 2013 and early 2014, according to a prosecutor and court testimony from gendarmerie officers seen by Reuters.”
    These arms, funded by the USA/KSA went to Sunni liver-eaters/DAESH ISIS, not to the Shiite Turkomans (see the rat-line by Hersh; https://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line ). tayyip was/is a muslim-brotherhood bigot who is now pretending nationalism since he is in a bind. Please do due diligence before reaching conclusions.
    re: “ So if you respect the Treaty then hatay was confirmed as part of Syria.
    The boundaries of Hatay, and the ” France-mandated Syria” were drawn by the French and British for their own purposes.. These regions were part of our lands. We prosecuted the issue without a war; there was a referendum, and Hatay joined the Turkish Republic. Turkish forces entered Hatay AFTER the referendum w/o firing a shot. Thus, Hatay’s rejoining the Turkish Republic through a legal referendum after fifteen years of separation enforced by colonial powers does not constitute a “land grab”. Compare w/ the current Crimean crisis. Better yet, compare with the claims of zionist jews to lands they claim were theirs several millenia ago.
    Turkey, under secular nationalists, did not pursue an expansionist policy. We fixed Cyprus since the Greeks needed fixing. The current tayyiban regime, with its dreams of “ummah” was helped into power by the ziocons-and they got more than they bargained for.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  45. I don’t think Tillerson has a clue what’s going on in Syria. I think he’s utterly out of the CIA-Pentagon loop. Trump may well be, too.
    The relevant facts today is that Assad threatened Turkish aircraft with being shot down if they attack Afrin.
    Then Erdogan backed down somewhat by saying the attack is conditioned on whether the US stops supporting the Kurds.
    Then the US says they never intended a “border force” but rather something else vaguely sounding like a border force.
    So everyone seems to be sounding the others out on what will be allowed and backing off from threats, at least temporarily.
    Again, taking too much import from the random statements of people during the 24-hour news cycle is usually a bad idea. Finding out what’s actually happening on the ground is harder.

  46. turcopolier says:

    richardetc.
    You do not comprehend the naive stupidity of the Foreign Service in its State and WH manifestations. pl

  47. Pajarito says:

    Turks are shelling Afrin, massing armor at the border. Is this the beginning?
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/19/turkey-begins-assault-kurdish-enclave-in-syria

  48. Terry says:

    Thanks! Yes, what you say deepens my understanding and actually I agree with you on the differences between secular vs. current policies. I was muddling the two together in overly broad statements. Thinking about all the dynamics of the collapse of a centuries old multi-ethnic empire and the chaotic environment makes for a lot of tough choices to forge a nation.

  49. Jack says:

    Sir,
    I have read reports that the Turks have commenced air and artillery attacks on Afrin. Would this imply that the Russians are fine with these military maneuvers?

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