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15 September 2017

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Lemur

I think the pro-SAG coalition are willing to do what it takes to lock down Idlib until so maximal forces can be diverted to Deir Ez Zor. Post-war lines of demarcation will be established there over the next few weeks, so its the priority.

Adrestia

Last June I was very surprised that the - for Saudi standards - very young Mohammed bin Salman was selected as the heir. It is a radical shift from the Saudi traditions and IMO a sign of significat changes (not all positive) in SA. Is this also a sign of these changes or are they just pragmatic?

mike

Any insight as to who will provide the Iranian observers? Iranian Army or IRGC? The IRIA has deployed professional peacekeepers previously in Darfur (2012) and Eritrea (2003). That would be a much better solution than sending in Qasem Soleimani's Quds Force.

Bandolero

pl

What I find interesting is that the Astana guarantee powers don't mention HTS at all in the document they signed today. Instead they emphasize in their point 7 the elimination of ISIS and Nusra "and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al Qaeda" or ISIS. One may read the full document eg here:

https://twitter.com/A_Ozkok/status/908694406810734592

So, the message is: Nusra will be annihilated and everyone associated with Nusra as well. Of course, HTS is associated with Nusra and Al Qaeda. For non-Nusra HTS members this is a stark choice: stay with Nusra and be eliminated by the Astana powers, or leave HTS and try to become part of the likely victorious Astana powers.

It seems to work well. Today the 2nd largest group in HTS, Jaish al Ahrar, already announced it's defection from HTS:

https://twitter.com/walid970721/status/908636215989202944

And Nusra themselves seem to be a little bit out of luck recently, too. They are plaquged by a string of sudden deaths in their leaders ranks and today a Saudi Nusra leader called Suraaqah al-Makki was "deescalaed" in Idlib city, too:

https://twitter.com/todayinsyria/status/908657996514906112

Bandolero

mike

"Any insight as to who will provide the Iranian observers? Iranian Army or IRGC?"

I think Hezbollah will coordinate that. They already know the terrain south of Aleppo well.

turcopolier

mike

The Quds force are the Iranians' overseas intervention force. I would think they would think them a liely participant, but we will see. I imagine that the Iranians will want the are with the two Shia villages NE of Idlib City. pl

Kooshy

Mike what do you see wrong with general Solimani in Syria ? Or Qods force, any personal experiences ? Over all I get the feeling you are not in favor of Iranians defending Syrian or Iraqi governments? That is same feeling Natanyhoh has or the official USG position is.

Bandolero

pl

From what I read the area of special responicibilities in the deconflictation zone in the Idlib pocket were designed in a way that the Turks and the "FSA" get the west including Fuah & Kafriya, the Russians get the middle and the railway Hamah - Aleppo and Iran gets a zone east of that railway. See here what Berlin based RT journalist Ali Özkök tweeted today:

https://twitter.com/A_Ozkok/status/908632794775072768

He had also tweeted a photocopy of the official Askana statement today. I don't know if this map is part of what is refered to in the statement but I think Ali Özkök is a credible journalist.

Kooshy

Full text of agreement in Astana
https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/09/15/1520282/iran-russia-turkey-agree-on-idlib-de-esclation-zone-full-text

Tel

"The Turkish media pushed an idea that 25,000 members of the Turkish Army and Turkish-backed groups of the Free Syrian Army could be involved in the operation."

I find that very unlikely, but if it did happen then HTS would not consent to be ruled by Turks, it would quickly devolve into tit for tat killing and simmering guerilla war. Assad would have a quiet chuckle.

"The idea seems to be that the "protecting powers" will split off as much of the HTS coalition, leaving the hard core HTS (A--Qa'ida) isolated and vulnerable to a clean-up at some early date."

From the latest news a bunch of internal factional fighting is starting up in Idlib already. The more divided they are the less serious the threat.

"Irredentist yearning for Ottoman lands still burns in the bosom of Sultan Tayyip."

Totally agree on that one. The Turks are in it for the land grab, and will try to hang onto all the land they have already gained, plus whatever else they can get.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:
In regards to the cartoon; "But at least they are not a theocracy!"

mike

Kooshy -

Please do not conflate me with Netanyahu.

I see nothing wrong with Iran in Syria. They have more right to be there than the Coalition.

Regarding the Quds Force. They have been supporters of terrorism in the past and were designated as a terrorist supporting organization ten years ago. Canada also has designated them terrorists. They have never refuted the allegations.

Selecting them as peacekeepers would be counterproductive to peace.

mike

Bandolero -

That map you link to shows not only Idlib, but also parts of Aleppo and Hama provinces and a sliver of Latakia province. Are those considered part of the de-escalation area? Or will those areas remain under attack by R+6.

mike

Bandolero -

Pls ignore my last question. I just read the Astana agreement and see that the areas outside Idlib province seem to be part of the safe area. That is a mistake I think. Especially the area just west of Aleppo City where the jihadis are within mortar range.

Kooshy

Mike USG also designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization, other people in world call CIA a government founded terrorist agency. Nevertheless, and importantly none of the countries in Astana agreement including the UN recognized legitimate government of Syria calls IRGC or Quds force a terrorist organization. I don't think IRGC is going to monitor any de-conflations zones in US or Canada, so, why should Astana guarantors of peace care what US or Canada, or Israel thinks who is legitimate (in their view) to monitor peace in a sovereign country that US has invaded illegally? Kindly, IMO that is demanding too much.

mike

Kooshy -

I am not demanding anything. If the Russians want to allow the Quds Force into Idlib as peacekeepers they would not listen to my puny voice or anyone else. But that still does not make it the smart option to put a group with their reputation in a role as peacekeepers. Whether they are peaceful about it or not, it would be like waving a red flag to a bull. The bull being the non-HTS jihadis that Russia is trying to co-opt diplomatically.

Iran has professionals in their regular Army (non-IRGC) that have experience in United Nations peacekeeping operations. The smart move would be to use them for this operation and not the Quds Force.

PS - I have nothing against General Soleimani personally. He appears to have earned a reputation for bravery in the 1980s war against Sadaam. And is reportedly a competent tactical leader. But he backed Maliki for PM of Iraq, which many claim led to the rise of AQ in Iraq and eventually to the Daesh Caliphate. Maliki was also the fault of the Bush administration so the US likewise has blame there, mucho mucho blame.

ToivoS

These complex de-escalation zones sort of make sense of a question I have had for a few years now -- what happened to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood? At the beginning of Syrian "spring" in 2011 the rebellion was led mostly by the MB and the they drew their fighters from the Syria. Later, after the foreign jihadis had entered the fray the names of the different rebel groups were all over the map (al Qaida, al Nusra, ISIS, FSA, etc) but no more mention of the MB.

Perhaps the Syrian government is trying to wean the native Syrian rebels away from those foreigners and have decided to try a reconciliation with those forces that are derived from the MB. This speculation leads to another question -- Is the break between Qatar and Saudi Arabia due in part to Qatar's historic support for the MB? Do the Saudis recognize that Qatar is willing to support such a reconciliation with the MB that would sell out all of the foreign jihadists that are backed by the Saudis?

It may not be necessary to exterminate all of the jihadis now tied up in Idlib in this case. It looks like two Saudi nationals that were major leaders of the jihad have been assassinated this past week in Idlib. Maybe the MB has decided to get a divorce from their former comrades to move the reconciliation along.

Red Cloud

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/al-qaeda-sharia-judge-shot-pieces-multiple-assassins-idlib/

It looks like the R+6 plan for Idlib is working as planned

English Outsider

BBC assessment of the position as on the BBC website this morning.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-40599858/syria-s-future-after-the-defeat-of-so-called-islamic-state

The narrative is different. In many respects the narrative is absent. One gets the impression this is a difficult time for those handling our news management.


confusedponderer

Tel,
"I find that very unlikely, but if it did happen then HTS would not consent to be ruled by Turks, it would quickly devolve into tit for tat killing and simmering guerilla war. Assad would have a quiet chuckle"

In any way, if Turkish troops appear not just in neighbouring but any other country where they are not invited, welcomed or 'en-treated' to be there, that's usually called an 'invasion', i.e. it is an agressive act - and, incidentally, a serious crime under the old school views of international law.

So, today, Turkey has troops in Syria and Iraq - uninvited, unwelcomed and un-treated - incidentally two former ottoman provinces. Just as incidentally the places are close to oil, which, just as incidentally, Turkey doesn't want to be in, say, Kurdish or Syrian or Iraqi hands. How handy a, and what a totally incidental concidence.

To me this suggests that indeed Erdogan's foreign policy is in there for Turkishly i.e. Ottoman old glory, real or imagined, and thus his favourite policies try to 're-merge with Turkey' old ottoman provinces, which likely are for them just still Turkish. That isn't limited to Syria and Iraq, but extends even to China

It is no accident that the Turks and the Chinese are in conflict over the Uyghur Turkishmen in what the Chinese call the chinese province Xingyang. Incidentally, before becoming part of China, the Uighurs lived in 'Grand Turkestan'.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-33440998

So it is not just desire for territory, people, oil or strategic territory but also a lot about restoring lost Turkish greatness, real or imagined.

What annoying, outrageous and absurd expressions that can have is shown here in Germany right now:

We'll have German Bund elections in Germany in two weeks, in which the next chancellor is being elected and party seats in parliament newly arranged.

Now, the most grandest Grand Turk, High Lord Erdogan is so engaged in restoring old Turkish greatness, real or imagined, that he, in his characteristically Erdogan way, had Turkish-German citizen folks posting election placates with his grandiose face in German cities before the German election, telling Turks with German citizenship (i.e. Germans) to vote the new ADD Party. So, what is ADD? Well, who knows. I never heard of them before this election. Should I care? Well, yes, I should care, quite certainly.

Now, having followed politics in Germany for a few decades I know CDU, SPD, The FDP, the Greeens, the Linke, even AfD and the like - but not the ADD. I never heard of them - until recently. Well, that is so because they are brandnew. The new Turkish-German party ADD was recently founded. Incidentally, the ADD has close relations with Erdogan's turkish party AKP. Surprise!

The ADD uses Lord Erdogan's face on their german election posters, and place them in streets with a lot of turkish residents and shops, like Cologne's Keupstraße. When I go there to buy a Döner, Erdogan's face tells me to give the ADD my second (the party vote) vote (there's one vote for a party and one vote for the candidate). Well, I will out certainly, of principle, vote in the election, but as certainly I will not vote for these ADD clowns.

In my old fashioned view german elections are someting about which Erdogan is rightly expected to shut up since it is not his business. German elections are for Germans. I darresay we give a crap about what Erdogans likes or dislikes about elections - especially that annoying little thing about democracy, votes and properly counting the votes for instance.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/apr/16/turkey-referendum-recep-tayyip-erdogan-votes-presidential-powers

Now, quite simply, since Turkey isn't a EU member, the Turks who are allowed to vote in Germany are allowed to do so because they are German citizens. That is where Erdogan's business ends. It is not his effing job to tell anybody - Germans or Turkish-Germans - whatever or whoever they votes for in Germany. Well, such trivialities mean little to Erdogan.

To me his regular, eh, of course just occasional, impertinent freaky outbreaks are highly annoying and suggest demention, to put it mildly. But, alas ...

http://www.pulse.com.gh/news/world/in-turkey-amid-bitter-feud-erdogan-weighs-in-on-german-election-id7318321.html
https://news.sol.org.tr/sites/default/files/styles/newsimagestyle_615x410/public/n_117697_1.jpg?itok=9r2siTCR

Suggesting such odd influence of 'lost old glories', Turkey has invited and supported Uyghurs to fight jihad in Syria, and they have been pissing off the chinese by blathering about the Uighurs all the time. Why that? Well, before becoming Xingyang, the place was once named 'East Turkestan'. Ah yes. And of course, since they are muslims, there is Erdogan's interest in these folks?

http://www.atimes.com/chinese-uyghur-colonies-syria-challenge-beijing/
https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/08/03/turkey-china-security/

I clearly remeber seeing the Kahlenberg mountain near Vienna in which, during the second Turkish siege of Vienna, Sultan Mehmed IV.'s tropps, led by grand wesir Kara Mustafa Pascha - i.e. old gloryist Turkish Sultan's troops - were devastatedely (and deservedly) defeated by Polish cavalry led by Johann III. Sobieski and European relief troops.

Alas, apparently, that old war, the lost WW-I, the 20th century and any history in general are no distraction to Erdogan and his stern ambitions in resistance to reality. The lost WW-I is 'fake old news stuff', 'to put it Trumpely'.

IMO Erogan isn't done yet with Iraq or Syria - or Lebanon, while at it. It seems that to learn and change Erdogan needs a serious armtwisting or a kick in his balls.

Likely is what the Russians gave him, underlining that they do not forget, remember a long time, do think and react accordingly: In my reading they told Erdogan something along the following lines:

* Shooting down a Russian aircraft may be an accident or a mistake - shit happens.

* Now, shooting a Russian ambassador by a nutty Islamist former police man (without intelligence or police support?) may, to be generous, be gross negligence.

* Now, after that, any next stunt of that sort will be considered and treated as an incidental agression, and that'll hurt.

If Erdogan doesn't get it he can ask Shaakashvili in Poland how the 2008 (or something like that) war with Russia felt. Well, Shaakashvili lost, the hard way, and the warlet cost him a re-election. Embarassingly and amusingly, Shakashvili commented on that lost war, and criticism on how it was led and fought ... that most Georgian soldieres ... survived. Ah yes. What a success! It is unlikely that Shakashvili blushed when saying that.

Reality is optional in ga-ga-land, be it Georgia, Ukraine or Turkey.

http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/news/world/latest-saakashvili-backers-break-ukraine-article-1.3484556

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/oct/01/russia-georgia-south-ossetia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgian–Ossetian_conflict

kooshy

Colonel, apologies for OT, but, couldn’t resist, what a good description of HRC, and her political ambitions and behavior

Hillary Happened
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/15/hillary-happened/

Thomas

"It may not be necessary to exterminate all of the jihadis now tied up in Idlib in this case. It looks like two Saudi nationals that were major leaders of the jihad have been assassinated this past week in Idlib. Maybe the MB has decided to get a divorce from their former comrades to move the reconciliation along."

Bingo.

"And Nusra themselves seem to be a little bit out of luck recently, too. They are plaquged by a string of sudden deaths in their leaders ranks and today a Saudi Nusra leader called Suraaqah al-Makki was "deescalaed" in Idlib city, too:"

It appears the Qataris have found a way to smack around the Saudis through their proxy forces. I wonder if they will be tempted to help the Houthis really put a hurting on the Saudis if they don't back off the Qataris soon?

Babak Makkinejad

What "Ottoman Old Glory"?
They were successful against weaker and smaller powers or more backward peoples. They failed miserably and continuosly against the Prince of Muscovy for centuriesEven led by their most capable leader, Sultan Soleiman, they could not capture Vienna or hold Tabriz.
And their high culture was thoroughly Persian.

Babak Makkinejad

I agree, destroying sovereign states, evidently, is not as bad as terrorism - specially against Israel. They - the Western people - are a funny people.

Adrestia

Now, quite simply, since Turkey isn't a EU member, the Turks who are allowed to vote in Germany are allowed to do so because they are German citizens. That is where Erdogan's business ends. It is not his effing job to tell anybody - Germans or Turkish-Germans - whatever or whoever they votes for in Germany. Well, such trivialities mean little to Erdogan.

They are also Turkish citizens. By Turkish law everybody who is a child of parents with the Turkish nationality automatically get the Turkish nationality. The same applies to Moroccans, who are also a large etnic group in my country.

In the Netherlands Turkish males - even when born in the Netherlands - have to perform their military service in Turkey. There is a buy-out option to fulfill this by paying an amount (I think about 11000 USD/10000 EUR). I wouldn't be surprised if this was canceled.

In my experience a lot of Dutch Turks are very nationalistic and regard themselves as Turks. This especially applies to the less educated. They also meddled in our elections
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Dutch%E2%80%93Turkish_diplomatic_incident

Imho this will become a problem when right-wing populist parties are looking for scape-goats and these kind of actions provide the stick to hit with. And right-wing populists will get a lot of political power. If I was a muslim in Europe now, I would be very concerned.

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