Trump And His Syrian Strategy

While everyone was up in arms about this Trump policy or that…his admin hit a mark that should be the focus of all news agencies……

In case anyone is interested.

A US military service member was killed Sunday during a raid against al-Qaeda militants in central Yemen that also left nearly 30 others dead, including women and children. The loss of the service member is the first-known combat death of a member of the US military under President Trump.

I realize this is not important to a great many of American “patriots” but it should….how many more Americans must die for senseless foreign policy?

Finally I got something substantive in foreign policy from the Trump gang…..the problem is that I do not see it helping the situation very much…..Clinton wanted a “no fly zone” and Trump’s answer is similar….a “safe zone”…..

Turkey has long sought an internationally-imposed series of “safe zones” in northern Syria to house refugees, as a way to limit the number of refugees who actually end up crossing into Turkey. The White House resisted, fearing it would be too complicated, and President Trump’s intention to shift Syria policy toward fighting ISIS made it seem like the idea was very unlikely.

Instead, President Trump made a surprise move, ordering the State Department and Pentagon to prepare for the establishment of safe zones in Syria, giving them 90 days to provide a full blueprint for how they would go about it.

Arguments over the theoretical viability of such safe zones centered on the question of airspace control, with Turkey arguing the zones would be meaningless without a no fly zone, and Pentagon officials warning at the time that would mean war with both Syria and Russia.

(antiwar.com)

My problem with this plan is that there are so many aircraft in the region at any one given time…Turkey, Syria, Russia, US…..that the chances of something going wrong is amplified many times over…..

Then there is the new US base on the ground in Syria……

Washington has established a military base in north-eastern Syria, which is currently controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Daily Sabah newspaper reported on January 23, citing a report of the Kurdish BasNews news agency.

The base is in the Syrian city of Al-Hasakah, located 70 km from the Syrian-Turkish border and 50 km from the Syrian-Iraqi border. Reportedly, the US has deployed 800 servicemen on the military base.

Source: More Details about New US Military Base in Syria

Yet another idea that I see as ill thought out before jumping…..for a country that does not want to get involved in a ground war in Syria we are making the wrong decisions to prevent it…..even the Pentagon has questions about the plan…..

Pentagon officials are said to be full of questions today after reports of President Trump planning to order the State Department and Pentagon to develop plans within 90 days for the establishment of “safe zones” in Syria, unclear exactly what is being planned.

US officials have previously suggested it would take a massive ground force to secure this safe zone from attacks, and that even a limited no-fly zone would risk starting a war with Russia. This scared the Obama Administration away from trying anything.

Shooting from the hip in this region is as deadly as trying to have sex with a pissed off rattlesnake….now is not the time for some macho bullshit.

As I was writing this post this morning news came out about a possible change of mind…..

Reports throughout the week that President Trump intended to order the State Department and Pentagon to create plans for the establishment of safe zones inside Syria appear to have fallen through at the last minute, as the final version of the executive order said to contain the clause no longer makes any reference to it.

Trump was reportedly to have said he intended to “do” safe zones in Syria on humanitarian grounds, but the administration offered no real details on what they intended to do. Moreover, the Pentagon discussed the matter with the expectation the order would come, with a spokesman urging people to give Trump a chance to articulate the plan.

Did clearer minds prevail?

Let’s hope so for there have not been much of that lately…….

Who’s Your Friend?

Syria has been raging for years and the world could care less….the death and destruction is massive….the US is arming those “moderate Rebels”….and that is a big joke….a joke that has NO one laughing…..

I wrote about this silly paradigm about 3 years ago….and so far not much has changed….we have NO idea who is good….or who is bad…..but we keep sending arms and cash with NO idea who is getting the aid…..

Source: Our Friends The Rebels – In Saner Thought

Plus I wrote a post about her visit when news first came out…..

Source: Finally, Some Leadership! – In Saner Thought

Recently Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and former Congressman Dennis Kucinich made a secret trip to Syria as a fact finding mission….

US Congresswoman and war veteran Tulsi Gabbard, along former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich traveled to Syria, met with Assad, met with families torn by the war, met with religious leaders, saw the results of US regime change first hand, on the ground in Aleppo and Damascus.

The two US leaders confirmed what we at The Duran have been reporting since our inception…the war in Syria, Obama’s war to overthrow a democratically elected, sovereign, internationally recognized government was, is and remains illegal. Syria’s invasion by US funded ISIS and Al Qaeda forces aligned with Saudi Wahhabi terrorists did not, and does not serve the US interest.

Source: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard travels to Syria, CONFIRMS: “no difference between ‘moderate’ rebels and al-Qaeda or ISIS  – they are all the same”

If you have more questions as I did then here is the full interview with Gabbard on CNN……

Source: Full CNN interview with Rep Tulsi Gabbard on Syria trip: Debunks neocon lies on air ‹ The Ugly Truth ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

There is so much going on in Syria that it boggles the mind….and we are about to enter into another phase of this conflict…the Trump phase…..and it could go horribly wrong….(a future post to explain is forthcoming)…..

Her visit has gotten Gabbard some flak…..

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D – HI) continues to be pilloried by Congressional hawks from both parties over her visit to Syria last week, with a number of representatives declaring the very idea of going to Syria and talking peace “reprehensible,” with one Congressional aide quoted claiming there was widespread “disgust” over the visit.

Most of the efforts to attack Gabbard for visiting Syria, and talking with President Assad about the possibility of peace, center on nothing specific that Gabbard did, as it doesn’t appear she violated any laws or even political norms in doing so. Rather, most seem to object to Gabbard’s support for peace in Syria at all, with multiple Congressional officials including in their comments demands for regime change in Syria as a precondition to peace.

These attacks are typical of slugs that have NO idea what the science of conflict management is about…..Peace cannot be found without talk to ALL sides of the conflict…pretending otherwise is just moronic and typically ignorant.

Tulsi Gabbard should be celebrated for her bravery and foresight…she has done what NO other Congressional tool has had to the courage to do….

She has my support.

Syria: Will Peace Prevail?

The situation in Syria has been a smudge on the fabric of humanity for years now.  The Syrian Army with the help of Iran and Russia has been making headway against those in opposition to the Assad regime….while the war on ISIS has had its ups and downs but for the most part it is going well but not good….

There have been NO bright spots for the most part….the refugees are suffering…..civilians are dying….and bombs continue to fall….but recently a small flicker of hope came out of Syria…..that flicker is a peace process to end this thing….and how many know there is a peace talk going on?

Anyway…….

The Syrian peace talks arranged by Russia, Turkey and Iran that opened today in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, show that President Bashar al-Assad is winning the six-year-old war, but his final victory may be a long way off. Several participants in the conference have good reasons to fight on and Isis has recently made important advances.

Representatives of some of the rebel armed groups sat on one side of a round table, while the Syrian government delegation sat on the other, but the rebels said there would be no face to face talks. The most positive likely outcome of the meeting would be a reinforcement of the shaky ceasefire that began on 29 December and has been only partly effective. The US is not taking part in the talks, in contrast to previous abortive negotiations, but has sent its ambassador to Kazakhstan indicating that it does not oppose them.

Source: Syria peace talks begin in Kazakhstan with Russia taking centre stage – The Unz Review

If you get your news from American media then you know very little of this attempt…..why/  For one the US is not part of this process……we have an observer for what that is worth…..

My friends at the International Crisis Group (ICG) has issued a report on what is at stake with these negotiations……

Here in Astana, the spotlight is on the talks between the Syrian government and members of the armed opposition, but this is largely theatrics. Indeed, among the diplomats, journalists and analysts waiting in the hotel lobby and pub, there is a growing sense that we are also part of the show. The more substantive event involves trilateral discussions among Russia, Turkey and Iran, yet little has been revealed about their content.

The very fact that Russia, Turkey, and Iran are driving the talks – with limited participation from the U.S. as an observer, and none at all from Saudi Arabia – reflects the extent to which the centre of gravity in the Syrian war has shifted. This is the result of military progress by the regime and its backers, declining U.S. influence (for the moment at least) in the conflict’s central power struggle, and Riyadh’s stepping back from a role in Syria (due to its Yemeni quagmire and the weakening of its preferred rebel partners).

Source: What’s at Stake in the Syrian Peace Talks in Astana? | Crisis Group

This is a monumental attempt that could have long lasting effects…it will be a difficult and delicate process but if sides are willing then peace is possible….as it is today….the US would have very little to do with peace…….that is sad.

Finally, Some Leadership!

We have been involved in the situation in Syria now for years and the way things look it may be even more years….

In the past we have held talks with this group or that….with this batch of rebels or that….and in all that time few have spoken with Syria’s Assad to see if there is any possibility of cooperation and a speedy end to the conflict.

The best we could muster was McCain and his entourage meeting with a few rebels here and there and few other elected officials meet with refugees…but nothing with the government of the country….

Well that may have changed.

I seems that a US rep Tulsi Gabbard has ventured to the capital of Syria……

Long opposed to US attempts to impose regime change in Syria, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D – HI) has made a trip to Syria this week, an unannounced visit which saw Gabbard spending considerable time in the capital city of Damascus “to promote and work for peace.”

Gabbard’s office, citing security, says a lot of the details of the trip are not going to be revealed until she has returned to the United States, and they declined to say if she had met directly with President Bashar al-Assad, though they did confirm she’d met with several government leaders while in Damascus.

(antiwar.com)

The big tah-do is the media asking who paid for the trip…..since she met with Trump a few weeks ago there is wild speculation about her possibly having a spot in the Trump cabinet……

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s office won’t say who is paying for the Hawaii Democrat’s controversial trip to Syria and Lebanon this week.

Gabbard spokeswoman Emily Latimer said the trip wasn’t funded using taxpayer dollars and was approved by the House Ethics Committee but wouldn’t provide further information when pressed by POLITICO. The lawmaker is currently on the trip, though it’s not clear exactly when she’ll be returning.

Source: Gabbard won’t disclose who’s paying for secret trip to Syria – POLITICO

This situation will fall by the wayside with all the hoopla over the inauguration….which is sad for this could be a monumental situation if the talks were productive….but for now we may never know….and this is a bright light in the web of international affairs…..

Kurds–Wassup?

Slowly I am returning to my primary interests that being foreign policy, international relations and conflict management…..an area I have neglecting because of the stupidity of the last election…..I will correct my failings.

Kurds have been the “good guys” in the battle for hearts and minds in Iraq and Syria….they have been a valued ally to the US and NATO…..now that ISIS is on the defensive and some even say on the run what will happen after the killing and destruction is done?

The Kurds have been pushing for a homeland in the heart of the Middle East for many many years but the calls have become louder since 2003 when the US invaded then occupied Iraq.

The problem is the Syria and Turkey may have a different opinion on the future of a “Kurdistan”…..so the question being asked is….what will the Kurds do?  There are many factions and factions within factions among the Kurds….any transition will probably be anything but calm…..

Turkey’s President Recep Yayyip Erdogan had a long conversation with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi in the first week of January, followed by sending his Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus to Baghdad. Then Ankara’s Prime Minister Binali Yildrim visited the Iraqi capital January 7, had long talks with Abadi, and reached an agreement on the security issues concerning the two countries. Among other issues, the Turkish-Iraqi talks included a discussion about Turkey’s military presence in Bashiqa and PKK presence in Sinjar (Shingal).

The PKK is in Sinjar via two affiliated groups: The People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Shingal Protection Units (SPU). Baghdad recognized the SPU as a friendly, non-terrorist group. Turkey, on the other hand, considers the PKK, the YPG, and the SPU terrorist groups.

However, Turkey is moving fast to establish an anti-PKK coalition in Iraq. This coalition includes Baghdad, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Nineveh’s Turkish-trained National Mobilization Forces (NMF or Al Hashd Al Watani).

Source: Now, What Will the Kurds Do? | Middle East Briefing

Now with that said…..let’s theorize that the Kurds get their wishes, especially in Iraq, will it be a calming transition?  Probably not!

The campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul has diverted attention from simmering problems inside the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that will affect post-conflict stabilization. Within the last several months alone, there has been another assassination of a Kurdish journalist, an “honor” killing of a university student, death threats against a female Kurdish parliamentarian, bombing of an Iranian Kurdish party office that killed seven people and a string of foiled terrorist attacks in Sulaimaniyah province. These incidents have occurred alongside ongoing demonstrations by civil servants for unpaid salaries, a nonfunctioning Kurdish parliament, swelling numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, an expanded Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish airstrikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq. They have not only reversed most gains the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has realized since 2011, but also leave the Kurdistan Region increasingly vulnerable to financial collapse and internal conflict.

Instead of “inevitable Kurdish statehood” after the defeat of IS, a more realistic scenario is weakened autonomy, political entropy and armed conflicts. The KRG launched “independent” exports in 2014, but the Kurdish economy is now in tatters. KRG debt exceeds $22 billion. The availability of electricity has decreased to 2005 levels, or about four hours a day in many areas without private generators. Tens of thousands of youths continue to migrate from the region. The once-touted Kurdish energy sector is being undermined legally and politically. Although the KRG exports about 600,000 barrels of oil per day to Ceyhan, these exports remain contentious, are dependent on Turkey and are largely sourced from Kirkuk — still a disputed territory — and not the Kurdistan Region. International oil companies have thus far abandoned 19 oil fields in the Kurdistan Region, including ExxonMobil’s withdrawal from three of its six fields.
Source: Is Iraqi Kurdistan heading toward civil war?
This scenario will NO doubt keep the US and its NATO cronies in the region for all eternity…somebody has to protect the holdings of the corporate masters in Washington.

Syria–The Nation

For a couple of years the Us and its allies in NATO have been bombing the crap out of the country trying desperately to bring down the group commonly known as ISIS….let’s us say that it is final and ISIS is destroyed what of the future of Syria?

Not long ago I offered a post on the future of Syria…

Source: Does Syria Have A Future? – In Saner Thought

I said that the future of Syria did not have much of a bright spot….and then I read a report by the Rand Corporation…….

This paper offers recommendations for U.S. policy for a postconflict transition in Syria that prevents state collapse, reduces the potential for the recurrence of war, and defeats terrorist groups that have taken hold in the country. These three objectives, we suggest, are best achieved by working with Russia and through the United Nations Security Council, especially in the absence of a regional consensus to end the war. Furthermore, Syria’s political culture and modern history reflect a tradition of centralization and nationalism, which should be acknowledged in postconflict planning. In contrast, policies that seek to divide the country or deliberately or inadvertently weaken or destabilize state institutions — such as support for armed groups that carry out attacks against the state or postconflict governance and reconstruction plans that overemphasize local governance at the expense of the state — may ultimately prove counterproductive in preventing a return to conflict and violence.

The analysis and recommendation presented in this paper should be of interest to policymakers, media, and scholars who specialize in U.S. foreign policy, Syria, and the Middle East.

Source: Preventing State Collapse in Syria | World Affairs Journal

The problem with this paper is that it assumes that there is a state apparatus remaining in place.

I do not see it.

If and when this fight is over then there is still so many groups that live in various parts of the country and they will demand many things from any remaining Syrian state…..if the state is not willing to grant these concessions then the fighting will start up once again.

I fear that without much more diplomatic input this situation will be self-perpetuating….and a deadly situation.

There is a reason for my pessimism…..

Report: Syria is emerging as the newest and most important safe haven for al-Qaeda as the radical Salafi-jihadi ideology threatens to subvert the pluralistic and nationalist goals of the 2011 Syrian Uprising. And it is Bashar al-Assad who is directly responsible for creating the conditions that are empowering al-Qaeda in Syria, as the policies pursued by his government are creating the sociopolitical conditions for extremism to thrive. – Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

Only time will tell the fate of Syria…..and the fates are not smiling on it.

Even the major players can be at odds over the future……

The differences between the Russians, the Turks, and the Iranians in Syria are slowly surfacing and gaining greater weight. An Iranian news site — TABNAK

Source: Syria and the Complex Geostrategic Game of Russia-Turkey-Iran | Middle East Briefing

A game that the Syrians will lose in the end.

The US Steps Up

The US has troops in Iraq and Syria in the fight against ISIS…that is ground troops….but their main job is to “advise and assist” the local forces in this fight…..but news has come out that US has stepped up and lauched an all US raid inside Syria……

US ground troops invaded eastern Syria on Sunday and attacked a group of ISIS fighters in Deir Ezzor Province, the Pentagon has confirmed. The incident took place in an unnamed small town along the Euphrates River, and the Pentagon said the goal was to capture ISIS leadership.

No captures appear to have happened, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, though two “leaders,” both heretofore unnamed in media reports on ISIS’ leadership, were said to have been among the 25 ISIS fighters slain. No US casualties were reported.

The Pentagon did not confirm the casualties, and according to local witnesses the operation lasted about 90 minutes, with US troops arriving in helicopters and departing the same way. Local news outlet Deirezzor 24 reported that US troops took a number of bodies with them.

Facing Kurdish advances in Raqqa and an Iraqi invasion in Mosul, Deir Ezzor is materially the last province which ISIS holds the overwhelming majority of, and in which they face little opposition. Syrian government forces control part of the provincial capital, but the surrounding area is virtually exclusively ISIS.

This incident amounts to the first major US ground offensive inside Syria, as the troops deployed into Syria on a more or less permanent basis are embedded with Kurdish YPG forces in relatively small numbers, and largely not on the front lines.

(antiwar.com)

Is this action a new phase for the use of US troops in this fight?

Could this be a “here we go again” sort of thing?