PATRICK LAWRENCE: The Predictable Mess on Syria’s Border with Turkey

Trump just missed an opportunity to pull back troops without inducing another bloodbath.

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

In less than a week, a new front has opened in Syria’s 8-year, all-but-over war, featuring hot- and cold-running proxies from its earliest days. Syrian sovereignty is once again violated as casually as a schoolboy cuts across a neighbor’s lawn. The Assad government in Damascus now faces a new threat to its stability. Thousands of Islamic State jihadists may now escape captivity and reactivate their savage campaign to turn Syria, a secular state, into an Islamic autocracy.

All this was set in motion when President Donald Trump advised Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Turkish counterpart and one of the Middle East’s most unprincipled despots, that U.S. troops would withdraw from positions in northeastern Syria in advance of a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces in the area. Trump spoke to Erdogan by telephone the Sunday before last. The Turkish incursion commenced three days later.

Whether or not Trump “green-lighted” Erdogan’s long-planned attack on Syrian Kurds got a lot of ink last week, but it is not an interesting question. Of course, he did. Here is the interesting question: Is the mess now unfolding along Syria’s border with Turkey precisely the outcome the national security state desired when Trump let the green light shine? Was the perfectly predictable chaos, destruction, and desperation enveloping the region somehow unforeseen? Or was it, from the perspective of Washington’s hawkish, coup-cultivating factions, the fundamental point of this latest travesty on Syrian soil?  

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By appearances, at least, Washington is now deeply divided on the new Syrian crisis. A firestorm of tweets burst into flame as soon as Trump’s decision to pull back troops hit the news last Monday morning. “If press reports are accurate, this is a disaster in the making,” Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, wrote in a series of tweets. “If this plan goes forward will introduce Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision. Expect it will receive strong bipartisan support.”

Graham got his bipartisan support swiftly and in spades. By the end of the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a bevy of other Capitol Hill Democrats lined up behind Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican heavyweights. On Wednesday, Graham and Chris van Hollen, the Maryland Democrat, introduced a bill in the Senate to impose sanctions against Erdogan and the Turkish military.

The running theme among Trump’s critics is that he has betrayed the Syrian Kurds, who have fought loyally and effectively against the Islamic State for years. Graham called this “a stain on America’s honor” and warned in Twitter-speak that Trump’s decision “ensures ISIS comeback.” This is one side of the story in Washington.

There is another.

That U.S. Air Base in Turkey

The Pentagon, the national security apparatus, and the intelligence agencies have valued Turkey as a sometimes difficult but always essential ally since the Cold War decades. The air base at Incirlik, which the U.S. military built in the 1950s, now hosts roughly 5,000 Air Force personnel and stores its tactical nuclear weapons. Beginning in mid–2015, U.S. planes used Incirlik to fly sorties over Syria. This is the other side of the Washington story.

What happened last week is easier to understand against this background. While press reports suggest Trump acted spontaneously and alone when he telephoned Erdogan, it is highly improbable, if not beyond imagining, that Trump made his decision to green-light Erdogan in isolation. It is far more likely, if it is not certain, that the defense and national security establishments had made a choice by the time Trump picked up the telephone the Sunday evening before last: Long term, Turkey will prove a far more effective check on the government of President Bashar al–Assad, the Iranians and ultimately the Russians than Kurdish militias could ever be. Better to betray the Kurds (for the eighth time in nearly a century) than risk another kerfuffle with the erratic and irascible Erdogan.

U.S. Air Force members at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, talk to President Donald Trump via video link, Nov. 23, 2017. (U.S. Air Force/Jason Huddleston)

It is not difficult to reckon which faction in Washington’s foreign-policy cliques will prevail in this apparent standoff. Striking noble poses is nothing new among the grandstanders who populate Capitol Hill. Let us not forget these are the same people who have long supported an extensive covert action program against the Assad government. When, in any case, was the last time the U.S. did anything anywhere on Earth in the name of principle? (Did someone actually say “America’s honor?”)

There is something decidedly upside down at the core of the past week’s events. Trump has been right since his campaigning days to demand an end to America’s wars of adventure and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from places they have no business deploying. He was right to announce the withdrawal of troops from Syria late last year — an executive order swiftly stonewalled. Now he is right to order the withdrawal of troops from northeastern Syria. Until Washington learns to act in the name of global peace and order instead of imperial hegemony, rarely will it be wrong to propose bringing American troops home.

But in acting on his frequently stated conviction two Sundays ago, Trump is effectively serving the very interests he set out to counter when he campaigned for the presidency. These interests have tenaciously sought to destabilize Syria and depose the Assad government since early 2012 at the very latest. In net terms, Trump has just given these efforts a boost it is difficult to believe he intended.

Erdogan’s Involvement

Erdogan’s pernicious involvement in the Syrian conflict dates to its beginning in 2011. By 2013, Turkey was a vital conduit for arms and chemical-weapons shipments to jihadists active in Syria. By 2015 there was plentiful evidence that Turkey was a conduit in the other direction — this time for shipments of oil the Islamic State had pumped from captured Syrian wells. A year later, Erdogan sent troops into northern Syria in pursuit of Kurdish YPG militias, which he terms terrorists even as they have proven the most effective force in northern Syria against the Islamic State.

Erdogan is now newly empowered. Press reports over the weekend indicate that the “Syrian fighters” accompanying Turkish troops are the same murderous jihadists the State Department and the media have infamously labeled “moderate rebels” for the past eight years. Whose interests are served by this recrudescence of savagery? Why is the American press again obscuring the true identity of these ghastly fundamentalists?

Along with Britain, France and several Middle Eastern nations, the U.S. actively armed, trained, financed and equipped these same jihadists from the first months of the Syrian conflict. Washington has also been complicit, in many cases directly and actively, in enabling the Islamic State  since it crossed into Syria from Iraq in 2014. For the disbelieving and the naïve, this was no more than a rerun of the strategy that former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski persuaded President Jimmy Carter to adopt in Afghanistan in 1979: Arm the jihadists and ignore their radical ideology.

President Donald J. Trump in bilateral meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at G-20 Japan Summit, June 29, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (White House/ Shealah Craighead)

There is no indication covert American efforts to topple the Assad government by arming jihadist militias have ceased. Are we now reading the latest chapter in the story of these efforts?

Trump has a few good ideas on the foreign-policy side, but he is a dreadful statesman. He could have navigated this latest attempt to take a small step back from imperial dominion while averting the contradictions just outlined. The key here is the principle of territorial integrity. Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked it over the weekend. So did France and Germany, which just suspended arms shipments to Turkey. So did the Arab League, in an excellently worded statement issued Saturday.

Washington honors the sovereignty of other nations only when it serves U.S. interests. The corporate press never mentions this principle when reporting on illegal U.S. incursions into nations such as Syria. Trump just missed an opportunity to pull back troops without inducing what shapes up as another bloodbath. When Treasury Secretary Mnuchin threatened Friday to impose sanctions against Turkey, it was intended primarily to forestall Graham’s bill in the Senate — penny-ante politics. Erdogan’s new Syria campaign was in its third day by then — a stark fact on the ground.

As to the Syrian Kurds, they committed Sunday to ally with the Syrian Arab Army against the Turkish incursion. It is where their best interests have lain all along. The SAA will now enter northeastern Syria for the first time in five years. And the Kurds will no longer collaborate with the Americans to keep Damascus from reuniting the nation. This is a positive outcome. 

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale). Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. 

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27 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: The Predictable Mess on Syria’s Border with Turkey

  1. Allan Millard
    October 16, 2019 at 02:15

    I see a Russian hand in the apparent deal to bring Syrian Government forces into an area of northeast Syria which has been under de facto Kurdish control for five years, and that hand may belong to Russia’s very able foreign minister, Lavrov. Of course we won’t know what price the Kurds will pay in terms of autonomy or degrees thereof, but we do know that the Syrian regime will not be expending lives and treasure without a return. Given what Putin and Lavrov have said over the years about national sovereignty and given the IOUs owed by Bashar al-Assad, I predict that what will emerge after the Turks attempted ethnic-cleansing is repelled will be a semi-autonomous province of Syria under mainly Kurdish leadership but with Syrian sovereignty affirmed. Sadly, imho, it will not be the birth of a Kurdish Homeland, but it will be better than a Turkish “cordon sanitaire” with no Kurds in sight.

    • anon4d2
      October 16, 2019 at 06:19

      1. The area will not likely become a Kurdish homeland: Turkey of course would not permit that, and has many Arab refugees to return there, plus the ones who fled to Iraq. The Kurds will again be a minority when their own immigrants there have gone back to Iraq and Turkey.

      2. Calling the invasion an “attempted ethnic-cleansing” ignores the military concerns of Turkey. There is a much larger Kurdish population in E Anatolia within Turkey, of much greater concern to them, much simpler in “ethnic-cleansing” if that was their intention. Not to suggest that no one there has such a motive.

      The use of the “ethnic-cleansing” claim sounds like the zionists: steal everything they can from the Palestinians, and claim that any reprisal or even resistance is anti-Jewish. No doubt the zionist papers are making that claim against Turkey. But we know that Israel exists due to land theft in Palestine, and that the Kurds tried that in Syria, supported by Israel. It is an attempt to conceal their extreme racism as anti-racism, showing the dishonesty of their opportunistic extremists.

  2. Broompilot
    October 15, 2019 at 23:49

    Great metaphor with the lawn thing. :)

  3. Jeff Harrison
    October 15, 2019 at 21:58

    Actually, on second or third thought, This move by Donnie Murdo might well be brilliant. First of all, one needs to disabuse oneself from the notion that the US has now moved out of Syria. We haven’t. We’ve merely moved out of that part of Syria. We are still there. However, zoom out for a second. If the Kurds throw their lot in with Assad (as it seems they have done), Assad will have a valuable ally assuming he’s smart enough to take them. He will need that support to deal with the Islamic evangelicals that the US has created and used for our own nefarious purposes.

    This could take some interesting turns. Does the bi-partisan congress have the votes to override a Donnie Murdo veto? The US is really not going to want to drive Turkey out of NATO as that provides the US many more advantages than it provides Turkey. Incirlik is a valuable asset unless Erdogan decides that the sanctions are an act of war. The US doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in [..] to protect that base from an attack from the Turkish military. Then the US’s tactical nuke stockpile would be in Turkish hands. Can’t happen you say, and maybe not. But Turkey is a NATO member and I don’t know what other NATO members would think about NATO attacking a fellow NATO member. Erdogan has other options. Getting kicked out of Incirlik is not an option that the US military would like, for example.

    • John Wright
      October 16, 2019 at 16:13

      I’m not sure that you are aware of it, but apparently there has been much shuttle diplomacy regarding moving the airbase now in Incirlik to Cyprus, which is just a stone’s throw away and much easier to keep secure.

      It is also quite likely that the U.S. has already relocated the nukes stored in Turkey. The status of nuclear weapons is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the U.S. and following the “coup attempt” they were likely taken out.

      Turkey has always been a precarious member of NATO and a very unlikely candidate for EU membership. Erdogan may just have forced his way out, wittingly or not, and moved toward the growing Russian Chinese alliance. This would quickly transform that corner of the Mediterranean, and not in favor of the now receding U.S. empire. Russia keeps its naval base, China gets more oil and Assad will likely keep the family dynasty going for at least another decade. A Russia leaning Turkey also makes the Black Sea much more hospitable for the Russian fleet.

      As for the Kurds, they will almost certainly return to something close to their previous status (less 12, 000 souls, hopefully not more) and be left to scrape out an existence and deal with pockets of extremists. If Assad is wise and feels generous, the Kurds will get semi-autonomy and be allowed a small share of the oil profits and perhaps, some management of the dam and its electric generation, both which are critical to the entire Syrian nation.

      Yes, the U.S. Empire loses, but that was all but guaranteed when Obama made the mistake of trying to oust Assad on the cheap by using proxies and importing extremist mercenaries. Everyone but Israel, the Saudis and the neocons is tired of the manufactured war of terror.

      It appears that much of the world wants to wear a silk Belt and take a new Road, the U.S. is clearly out of fashion and quite a few steps behind.

  4. Nathan Mulcahy
    October 15, 2019 at 20:03

    The Dims and the (establishment) Repugs are against any US policy that is opposed to war and empire. What’s new?

  5. Time to End US Empire
    October 15, 2019 at 19:34

    I am thrilled that Trump has put the lives of US troops ahead of ‘force projection’ and other considerations. The MSM is all worked up…so are many in Congress (unsurprisingly none of the Congressional chicken hawks have volunteered to lead a group of ‘rough-riders’ into Syria).

    Unlike in Dec 2018, I hope Trump is ‘permitted’ by the generals to irreversibly pull out all/most troops out this time.

    In the Syrian conflict there are probably no ‘good guys.’ Our ‘allies’, the YPG often portrayed as noble freedom fighters are a case in point. The YPG does fight hard and with bravery, but it has also been a systematic and persistent violator of human rights. In the area it used to control in Syria, it caused the displacement of tens of thousands of Arabs and an even more massive flight by Kurds from the region.
    Besides evicting Arabs from their homes at gunpoint (starting in 2013), it has blown up, torched, or bulldozed their homes and villages. (The pace of the expulsions picked up dramatically after the United States began joint operations against Islamic State in Syria in mid-2015, as the Kurdish militia threatened Arabs with US air strikes if they didn’t leave their villages). At least 300,000 Syrian Kurds have also fled to neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan, and over 200,000 have fled to Turkey rather than submit to forced conscription and political suppression by the YPG.

    Obama insisted that the PKK (designated by the US as a terrorist group), is separate from the YPG, a stance that allowed Washington to circumvent laws prohibiting dealing with the YPG; numerous witnesses, including PKK defectors have called this US position a fiction.

  6. October 15, 2019 at 13:09

    @ “Trump just missed an opportunity to pull back troops without inducing what shapes up as another bloodbath. ”

    That’s a rush to judgment. To me, things actually look to be shaping up for a peaceful resolution, a result not certain but certainly in view. I think Mr. Lawrence may be in error in suggesting that Trump was acting at his own initiative. I favor the view that recent events in Syria were stage managed by Russia.

    What if Russia arranged for Turkey to invade northern Syria as a way to force the U.S. to withdraw and the Kurds to break the deadlock in their negotiations with the Syrian government (the Kurds had been holding our for semi-autonomy and to retain the oil and gas production facilities in Syria’s northeast)?

    Onc the invasion started — at a strikingly leisurely pace — the Kurds having no choice quickly cut a deal with the Syrian and Russian governments. The Syrian military is streaming into northern Syria to block the Turkish invasion, augmented by the Kurdish force, now rebranded as the Syrian Army (not to be confused with the Syrian government army, known as the Syrian Arab Army).

    Under the deal, the Kurds are turning over all energy resources to the Syrian government, notably the oil and gas wells that the Kurds and Americans have been holding. That will make valuable income (and gasoline) available to the Syrian government. No announcement has been made on the issue of Kurdish semi-autonomy, but that was an issue the Syrian government would not bend from its position.

    Turkey will not stay in northern Syria. Russia has laid down the law: Syria’s territorial borders will be respected. It’s conceivable that Turkey will use the opportunity to export its Syrian refugees back to Syria. But Turkey will not stay. And I think it unlikely that Turkey will continue its advance past the positions swiftly being occupied by the Syrian government.

    So, U.S., the UK, and France out of northern Syria, Kurds back within the Syrian government’s auspices where they belong, and Turkey’s Erdogan has the pleasure of tweaking the U.S. nose and getting away with it. No to mention that without the Kurdish fighters the U.S. will have to quickly decide whether to abandon its position blocking the border crossing from Iraq to Syria at al Tanf and withdraw from Syria entirely. As an incentive to that withdrawal, Iraq and Syria announced a couple of weeks ago that they have opened a new border crossing at al Qaim, so the U.S. position at al Tanf no longer blocks the shipment of goods and weapons from Iran, through Iraq, and to Syria and Lebanon.

    All of this seems just a bit to perfect; it has the unmistakable scent of Russia’s Grand Master foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who for many years has played excellent chess whilst the U.S. plays a poor game of checkers.

    And in my view, it’s heading squarely in the direction of peace rather than another disaster. But then, I am an optimist ….

    • Time to End US Empire
      October 16, 2019 at 12:44

      Very insightful. Thank you! I hope your optimism is borne out.

    • CitizenOne
      October 17, 2019 at 23:57

      I agree Mr. Merrell. Just line up the motivation of Turkey to display a show of force against their Kurdish neighbors hoping to squash any possibility of a Kurdish Homeland coming from the upcoming peace talks between Syria and Turkey after a brief military encounter balanced against both Syria’s and Turkey’s mutual interest to repatriate Syrian refugees and you have a recipe for peace and social and economic rebalancing after the war. Although it is disappointing that the Kurds will still be without a homeland and could and probably will result in the former long standing conflict between Turkey and the Kurds the whole affair will on the whole return the region at least to a prewar status which by the present situation will look like a good place to be.

      The Turks could go further and engage the Kurds but Russia and the Trump administration will not support any further attempts by Turkey to eliminate the Kurdish threat long cultivated by Turkey as an existential threat. They will have to accept the limited incursion as a victory and a pretence for negotiations with Syria over Turkey’s larger problem of how to repatriate all the Syrian refugees from the war it accepted far more in numbers than any other European nation. The practical reality of the moment is that Turkey has other priorities that surmount progressing military actions. What they must do to reinforce their rejection of any potential Kurdish negotiations is to first attack them. Most unfortunate situation for the Kurds but the stabilization of the region and an end to the war is clearly a larger goal and this must be accomplished on the basis that the local nations must accomplish that on their own terms. Turkey holds the refugees and yet has to continue to thwart the Kurdish objectives and Syria needs to reassemble itself as an intact nation and repatriate refugees that fled the war.

      Rebuilding a peaceful coexistence after a debilitating war is not a completely nonviolent process just as the war that created the current situation was not a peaceful process. The post war era will bear this out like aftershocks after an earthquake. But after the aftershocks are over I also am optimistic that a period devoid of “seismic” activity will ensue.

      Trump has a lot riding on this and if his “capricious” independent actions bears fruit it will be a monumental success. If it turns out to become a war between Syria and Turkey in which the US and Russia are faced with supporting Turkey and Syria in a war between these nations that ensues then history will have a very different judgement on the actions of Trump to stand aside and let Turkey invade Syria. The next months will tell the tale.

  7. Sam F
    October 15, 2019 at 11:55

    Other sides of the “betrayal of the Kurds” idea:
    1. Kurds were betrayed by US/Israeli support of their militant factions in a dream of creating a nation from parts of others.
    Every group has tribalist demagogues demanding power in their group by claiming to be defending it from external enemies. Those tribal demagogues do not represent their tribe, they betray it by causing tensions, stealing from the external groups to reward their followers, ensuring a supply of “defense” incidents. The Kurdish claims of a promised land are zionism, and from the outset supported by Israel in hope of destabilizing Iraq and Syria et al. They were used as mercenary destabilizers by the US and Israel.
    2. They were betrayed from the outset by the US creating and supporting the opposing Islamic extremists.

  8. Cratylus
    October 15, 2019 at 11:54

    After all the hemming and hawing, Lawrence finally adds with a thud in his final paragraph on the conclusion obvious at the outset, to wit, “This is a positive outcome.” That comes only after a few Trump putdowns, but to Lawrence’s credit not the dismal cliches that are de rigeuer for all progressives to signal a little bit of virtue and avoid the status of pariah that comes with saying anything positive about Trump.
    Did Trump get out of Syria in the best way possible? Let us ask a different question. Is it not an achievement of the first magnitude to manage a departure at all – in the face of “bipartisan” backing along with that of the MSM and Deep State to stay, backing that led to the resignation of a DoD chief, Mattis, Hillary Clinton’s nasty words (Aren’t they all?) of condemnation etc, etc.
    Let us not overthink all this. With Russiagate behind him and with a solid base who supports him on “out now,” Trump finally said of his opponents “F**k ‘em” and got out. He is on his way to running as a candidate of Peace and Prosperity, a claim he can make if he gets the China deal.
    A man with “a few good ideas” Lawrence says dismissively. That’s all it takes. In contrast, as usual our Best and Brightest have not a one.

    • October 15, 2019 at 20:32

      Our best and brightest are usually non-celebrity, not politicians and doing the vital work you don’t hear much about.

    • John Wright
      October 16, 2019 at 16:33

      We’ll have to wait and see just how far out of Syria the U.S. military withdraws, so far it looks like they are just relocating within Syria or perhaps just over the border into Iraq.

      So, Peace is not yet at hand.

      There’s also that huge mess in Afghanistan, which is not going to change any time soon, certainly not by November 2020, barring either a miracle or a massive calamity (I don’t expect either).

      As for Prosperity…the U.S. economy is poised to crash due to multiple factors, the DOW is a chimera, the rest of the world is already in a recession and the U.S. is heading that way soon, or worse. The true macroeconomic fundamentals are dire and inescapable.

      Any deal Trump will agree to with the Chinese will not change any of this and, if the Chinese decide to reveal just how much gold they possess, the U.S. economy will crash faster than a five year old after the Halloween candy runs out.

      Trump might manage to retain this throne by declaring martial law, the U.S. is already most of the way there now and he’s certainly been priming that ugly pump.

  9. robert e williamson jr
    October 15, 2019 at 10:58

    Not to worry ISIS is well rested and during their captivity in Syria they no doubt have reorganized and reconstituted their capabilities. It will not be the first time the U.S. has engaged in behaviors that let them off the hook.

    About the only thing that can save the impressive ruse the two major American political parties are running currently is for Terrorism to rear it’s ugly head again. ISIS , newly released from their prisons in Syria will be out and about again spreading hate and death to all they encounter.

    The killer here is that the republicans who are with out a doubt guilty as hell of encouraging the King of Orange lunatic ravings have managed to grasp the upper hand from the Democrats who cannot get anything done ever.

    Now Lindsey Graham as crazy as he is has the upper hand forcing Dems to engage the Republicans in what the hell ever it is they intend to do now about Trump. After the way the republicans have acted and treated everyone who isn’t a fascist the thought of this makes me ill.

    It appears to me that Putin is still winning and the American intelligence community again will have a serious war on terror to fight, wink wink, and the lies continue to pile up and we have lost a major allied ground force who will likely join up with the Russians.

    Now isn’t that special?

  10. October 15, 2019 at 09:22

    Frequently mentioned in Washington is our friendship with the Kurds. Given the amoral and immoral nature of our policies, it is more likely to refer to the Kurds as simply being looked upon as useful in our battles against our many enemies. The Kurds have always dreamed of their own nation despite the opposition of the countries that would have to surrender land for this to happen. In short, there can be no Kurdistan, but it can be useful to enemies of Iran, Iraq, and Syria to make the Kurds believe it is possible.

    Putin’s statement, mentioned in the article makes sense, of course, that all the countries, including his own should only be in Syria if they are invited by the Syrian government. Self serving? Of course but still right.

    For the Kurds, they might do their own assessment about just who are their real friends. I suppose they already have and have decided there aren’t any.

  11. dean 1000
    October 15, 2019 at 01:21

    If the ISIS prisoners escape it will not be the fault of Trump or Turkey. It will be the fault of the Washington imperialists. The U.S. fighter/bombers at Incirlik, Turkey that Lawrence mentions can be bombing the ISIS prisoners in less than an hour. Why haven’t the imperialists demanded the bombing of ISIS prisoners long ago. They don’t mind bombing civilians in Iraq or wedding parties in Afghanistan. Why the refusal to bomb the sworn enemies of the U.S.? It would save US as well as Kurdish lives. Does an agreement to bomb from Incirlik require Turkey’s permission? Long range heavy bombers from the US and elsewhere can be bombing ISIS before morning. Why are the imperialists blaming Trump for their refusal to demand bombing ISIS?

    Are the imperialists lying like the bird dog that pointed at a rusty Studebaker? I think so. Lawrence ( and others) have written about how elements of the US government, Turkey, Israel, and the gulf monarchies have
    used the jihadis as a proxy army against Syria. Do the imperialists want the ISIS prisoners alive to be used again as a proxy army? Apparently so. They also want to blame Trump for their perfidy.

    I empathize with the kurds. A nation of people without a state or territory. I do not place Kurdish lives above the lives of US soldiers as some members of congress apparently do. Agreeing to join with the SAA is the smartest thing the Kurds have done lately.

    If there are women and kids among the ISIS prisoners a 12 hour bombing delay will let them escape the fate the head choppers deserve.

  12. October 15, 2019 at 00:42

    Took long enough to get to the positive ending. Seems as though you wrote this couple days ago and just finished it. I suspect there was a deal in place from the beginning and the Putin was in on it as Russian troops are also heading to the area. Don’t know if Trump engineered this the way it’s turning out but the Deep State may have his head for interrupting their full court press against enemy triangle… Iran, Russia and Syria. The Israelis can’t be happy either. Time will tell what the true intent was here, I’m hoping it was withdrawal from Syria.

  13. CitizenOne
    October 14, 2019 at 22:38

    As for the Kurd’s betrayal by the US they will be a valuable ally for Syria. Of course these nationalists without a homeland have been international pawns many many times. The US must keep Turkey as an ally and there are hopes that after a battle there will be a truce and the approximately 2 million Syrian Refugees who fled from Syria and who have been housed in Turkish refugee camps for several years might be repatriated. Once Turkey and Syria come to the negotiating table. Russia has every interest in being a peace broker between the two states hoping to influence Turkey favorably with negotiations that would unburden Turkey with more Syrian war refugees than any other nation. Russia has always been on Syria’s side and will never abandon the secular Assad government.

    I just hope that the two nations can provide a space for the Kurd’s without having them turn into the nationalistic enemy Turkey perceives them to be and the potential fighters against the Turkish invasion of Syria that Syria might use them for.

    The sooner that Russia and the USA can call Turkey and Syria to the negotiating table and end the conflict the sooner that repatriation of Syrian refugees can commence. This will relieve Turkey of its immense burden it has absorbed for years and will bring some normalcy back to war torn Syria.

    Putin and Trump have a golden opportunity by allowing Erdogan to gain popularity by “vanquishing” a threat Turkish citizens have long feared while also unburdening his economy from the cost of housing millions of refugees which is unsustainable in the long and short term.

    Right now we have to rely on Erdogan to keep some measure of restraint while conducting his military exercise so as not to escalate tensions to a war between Syria and Turkey. Rest assured that neither Russia or the US have any intentions of allowing this to happen.

    The best case scenario is that both Turkey and Syria can return to the negotiating table after the inevitable ice breaker of limited armed conflict. This action if realized may allow both Turkey and Syria to move towards more normalized relations and respect for borders. It is doubtful that there will be a Kurdish homeland in the bargain but if there is it just might provide the means for a more stable arrangement in the region. If that does happen then Trump will have won out over his detractors and prove that the military planners who got us involved in Syria creating this horrible war and their insistence that only strong US presence in the region will secure peace which it most certainly won’t. This whole mess started when Obama got the US military involved in a war of duplicitous goals based on unfounded lies that funding terrorists against Syria’s Assad would bring “freedom” to Syria.

    Our vision of freedom has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths directly from military conflict launched by the US and the creation of millions of homeless refugees fleeing the war in Syria. This is not what freedom should look like especially since it was inevitable that Russia’s backing of Syria would create a Vietnam like theater where limited engagement was required to prevent an all out conflict between superpowers.

    What was the good part of this horrible war? The “good” part was experienced only by the MIC that got rich supplying weapons for the manufactured by the USA conflict. The investors got rich and the munitions manufacturers got rich and they will always rationalize with high ideals why the war was “justified”. Obama rationalized not only why the war was justified but also managed to shield himself from blame. In his farewell speeches he reminded Americans who they should blame for the war. Obama said it was 100% the responsibility of Syria. Deciding to arm rebels and incite a proxy war against the Syrian government was 100% the choice of the US under Obama. There are toms of stories and scholarly articles that have come out to defend the role of the US in Syria as can be reliably predicted by our unquestioning war hawk press.

    The main stream media have almost always in historical conflicts (with the exception of Vietnam) been the pom pom girls for the war efforts. This is because they are controlled by the intelligence agencies that have become the war makers for the military industrial complex. It is all about projecting power in the name of might makes right always confronting threats to democracy and freedom around the globe that has ended time and time again in what might be predicted. Lots of human suffering and death.

    If the only way we have is our large military to kill and maim millions of humans in an unceasing conquest to bring peace and freedom with absolutely no end then we are perhaps living out lessons from WWII where diplomacy proved useless and Europe’s efforts to deal with Hitler were demonstrable failures on a massive scale since they ended in world war. The ensuing cold war and the lack of another world war also has given credence that multiple theater conflicts and aggression by the US has had the effect of creating our credible threat seen by the world as a nation not to be trifled with. Okay, I get it.

    But really are we going to go down the path of endless theater wars with no end in sight ever? Is the price of peace to be eternal war? From military planners steeped in the doctrine of permawar to the defense contractors who sustain our economy by turning tax dollars into bombs and missiles we are living in the new Roman Empire where the US girds the Earth with a ring of military installations like Roman outposts. Shielded from the horrors of military conflicts we Romans live the life of luxury unscathed by the violence and wars in far off lands. Our Criers read off the victories and achievements while the oil rich nations offer up their treasures based on our protection and resolve to defend the oil supply at all costs. There is no doubt a thousands of years precedence to our actions throughout history as empires ruled with a ruthless Iron fist and all who threatened the empire were attacked. By threatened I also mean all those who refused to hand over their riches to a greedy empire. In the end I guess technology changes and the nations and leaders change but people remain the same.

    • October 15, 2019 at 13:31

      @ “This whole mess started when Obama got the US military involved[.]”

      I disagree. I’d date it a year earlier, in 2011, when Obama and Hillary Clinton had the CIA ship weapons and jihadis from Libya to Syria. But it could just as justifiably be put back under the Bush, Jr. administration when the U.S. and Saudi Arabia decided to build a terrorist network in the Mideast to destabilize Iraq and Syria. See Seymour Hersh, the Redirection, The New Yorker (February 25, 2007).

      Or even as early as 1986, when the CIA drafted a report on the Syrian government’s vulnerabilities and the potential to destabilize and oust then-President Hafez al-Assad. See Whitney Webb, Declassified CIA Report Exposes Over 25 Years of U.S. Plans to Destabilize Syria, Mint Press News (March 6, 2017).

      • CitizenOne
        October 15, 2019 at 22:21

        Or perhaps earlier according to the Bible, an Amorite Kingdom in Bashan was conquered by Israelites during the reign of King Og. Throughout the Old Testament period, the Golan was “the focus of a power struggle between the kings of Israel and the Aramaeans who were based near modern-day Damascus. Since the six day war Israel has had control over former Syrian controlled Golan. That is a long time ago leading to the present conflict and much like the trenches in WWI the lines on the maps have changed sides over thousands of years but even in modern times when these governments are locked in present day strife and warfare backed by opposing nuclear armed superpowers the struggle goes on and on.

        Can we go back any more in history of this eternal conflict? Perhaps homo erectus?

  14. Tom Kath
    October 14, 2019 at 21:50

    “This is a positive outcome”! – I fail to grasp the “missed opportunity” ?
    You can’t make an omlette without breaking eggs.

  15. Miranda M Keefe
    October 14, 2019 at 21:30

    Trump needed to plan this further in advance so the Kurds and others in NE Syria would have done the invitation to Damascus in time to prevent the Turkish invasion.

    The problem is such lead time gives The MIC time to subvert it all.

    So he had to do it like this or never pull them out.

  16. Bob In Portland
    October 14, 2019 at 20:20

    Thank you. This is the clearest explanation of US policy. These days the peaceniks are just another flavor for imperialism.

  17. October 14, 2019 at 17:57

    The writer states: “Thousands of Islamic State jihadists may now escape captivity and reactivate their savage campaign to turn Syria, a secular state, into an Islamic autocracy.”
    Very true, there are reports that some have already escaped.
    I asked this question on graysinfo.blogspot two days ago:
    October 12, 2019
    “Will The Turkish Invasion of Syria Enable the Escape of ISIS Terrorists”?

  18. Martin Katchen
    October 14, 2019 at 17:22

    The Russians may end up.the big winners, winning not only Syria but Turkey as well.i suspect Erdogan may have overplayed his hand . Now he faces a thorough arms embargo which is likely to.pass Congress and will need weapons systems from Russia and China to.replace American arms it can’t get parts for. Europe gets 3 million Syrian refugees and Turkey leaves NATO.

  19. Moi
    October 14, 2019 at 16:38

    Even though the US illegally occupied Northern Syria it threatens sanctions against Turkey for doing exactly the same thing. Both the US and Turkey claim their respective occupations were to fight terrorism. Now imagine the West’s chest-beating if it had been a US foe that had invaded in the name of fighting terrorism.

    Yet another example of “do as I say, not as I do.”

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