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17 January 2018

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Larry M.

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.

Richardstevenhack

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.

different clue

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?

Terry

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.

GeneO

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.

Balint Somkuti, PhD

Oil is not the problem.

Natural gas is.

Thirdeye

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?

Kunuri

"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.

Account Deleted
"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/

LeaNder

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?

Linda

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.

turcopolier

Linda

Amen. Dullards and dolts rule the roost. pl

LeaNder

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

Annem

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

LeaNder

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?

John_Frank

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

JJackson

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.

Terry

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

Ishmael Zechariah

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


Richardstevenhack

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.

turcopolier

richardetc.

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

Pajarito

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

Poul

Has it started?

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey/turkey-shells-syrias-afrin-region-minister-says-operation-has-begun-idUKKBN1F80XH

Terry

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.

Jack

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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