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19 February 2018


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"An Ottoman slap?" This and the sudden Turkish government decision to rename the street in front of the US Embassy in Ankara as "Olive Branch" are deliberately offensive to the US. Erdogan is following the classic pattern of disbelief in the effectiveness of latent US economic, political and military power that has been so prevalent among leaders in the region before the roof fell on them. Tillerson is a ridiculous figure as Secretary of State. Someone like McMaster should be sent to Turkey to deal with Erdogan. That would be fun to watch. pl



Syrian State news is also saying that pro regime militia are heading to Afrin. They reportedly will support locals against Turkish aggression. No hint as to which NDF militia it would be. And no hint as to whether they would be protecting Kurds, or the several other ethnic groups in the Afrin district such as Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, etc.




To me, those side-by-side maps seem to indicate that the Turks have taken over the Russian Zone shown in blue. Or at least large chunks of it. Although it is hard to tell since the maps are different scale and the map on the right does not show the provincial border of Idlib as the one on the left does.

Babak Makkinejad

I suspect that Erdogan is playing to the balcony.

The word Kurd is mud among Turks - there is a lot of anger against Kurds among the Turkic population.

Why would US support Kurds in Syria? To discomfit Iran? Sure, but at what price?


The Turks call them 'donkeys'.

The Ottoman Slap was used by Eunuchs against haughty harem girls.

Clueless Joe

Looking at the geographical feature which thankfully appear on the maps, I'd say the Turks have set up their outposts halfway across the expected Russian zone. But then I'm not sure there ever was a final deal on these zones, and they surely never went into being. It's possible that eventually a new deal was made, which split the Russian area into SAA and Turkey - or there was no deal and both sides went as far as they could.

BTW, great recap from TTG. I fear his assessment that Turkish posts will have to be dealt with sooner or later, hopefully diplomatically, is spot on, and that won't be an easy task.



IMO much of the Turkish attitude toward Kurds is ethnic animus. When I was moving into my fifth floor apartment in Izmir long ago there was a full sized refrigerator to be carried up all those stairs. A piece of webbing was passed around a man's forehead and around the bottom of the refrigerator. He carried the beast all the way up by himself. I asked the foreman, a Turk, if he was not concerned that this might injure the man and was told that "He is a Kurd. We can get many of them cheap. That is what they are good for." I heard this kind of thing a lot about Kurds in Turkey and much later in Iraq. pl


This was reported yesterday...

Syrian Kurdish official: deal for Syrian army to enter Afrin

Of course, it comes from a Kurdish official with no Syrian confirmation. As the report says:


There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military.

When asked about the reported deal, YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud repeated an earlier statement that said the Syrian army had yet to respond to their calls to help protect Afrin.

End Quote

I can't see that Assad getting his military to directly confront the Turkish military can be a good idea. For years earlier in this conflict, Turkey tried to get Assad to respond to numerous provocations by the Turkish military, so Turkey could get NATO to attack Syria along with the US. Assad never took the bait, from Turkey or Israel which engaged in the same provocations.

Now Assad is going to send his troops against Turkey's much larger military - when they haven't even cleaned up ISIS and Al Qaeda yet?

Yes, the presence of Turkey illegally in Syria is an issue, as is the US presence. I don't see Syria trying to militarily force either of them out. It would just give either country an excuse to escalate.

I assume Syria and Russia will present these issues at the UNSC first. Then we'll see who does what.


If I can offer my opinion, nobody envolved in this theatre (Syriaq) really cares what Kurds think or want. That is, that everybody involved in this ongoing geo-strategic conflict knows wining the Kurds from one side is not that difficult. To win the Kurds, for time being and for whatever is worth. All one needs to do to win Kurdish hearths and minds is to offer some verbal support to Kurdish people, that they will support an independent Kurdistan “some day” in future, and more importantly, offer and pay more cash than the other side, to the heads of tribes, the warlords. IMO, Kurds in this regard are despretly stupid, or Khar in Persian, which means donkey.


Richard Steven -

Assad is only sending a few hundred militia. By bus with only light weapons. And Muraselon, a Syrian news site, is claiming they have already arrived.




The fallout of governments using Mercs, their families just like the families of the 'official' military personnel who die in wars, are the victims right along with those living in war zones.

When will this madness by governments stop?

Politicians dressed in their finest leotards swagger up to their sound mikes declaring this and that, when most of these leotard wearing yucks have never been in war nor had to kill another human being. True those of us who wear the uniform, and those who wore a uniform but just couldn't leave the Adrenalin rush alone and had to come back to it as Mercs, are not friggin cannon fodder to be thrown away by the leotard politicians. I wish I could take every friggin leotard wearing politician maggot, jerk their asses out of their cushy politician offices, smack them in their chest with an m16/ak47, two boxes of rounds, a loaded ruck, and march their asses straight into the back end of a 130 that has its engines ready for take off, and dropped into the war zones they so eagerly make. Then if those leotard yucks who survive, that have had to taste what they so eagerly created, then talk to me.

TTG, I agree with you like what you said regarding Sanchez and his toys, they need to find them a hobby or get laid.

I am so friggin tired of this madness the leotard bastards bring upon us.


Joe -

Looks to me like the dividing line between Turkish Zone and Russian Zone on the OMRAN map on the left is the M5 highway. But the Turks have their posts 20 to 25 clicks well east of that.

By the way, the map on the right by Muraselon shows the Turkish province of Hatay (black area in upper left) as occupied Iskenderun. It has been 80+ years but the Syrians still consider it part of Syria. They undoubtedly suspect that Erdogan will repeat the Hatay process in Afrin, Idlib and the Euphrates Shield Enclave: step 1 occupy, step 2 move in proxies, step 3 referendum.


Current Crosstalk program covers both the 13 Russians - with Alexander Mercouris as one of the panelists - plus the Syrian situation vis-a-vis Turkey and the US. Worth listening to.

CrossTalk Bullhorns: 13 Russians (extended version)

One interesting point brought up is that if the 13 Russians can be indicted for what they did, then Christopher Steele is equally guilty and worthy of indictment.

Mark Sleboda also brought up this interesting article from The Guardian in 2011:

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media

Of course, the article did state: "Centcom said it was not targeting any US-based web sites, in English or any other language, and specifically said it was not targeting Facebook or Twitter."


Sleboda also brought up Michael Hayden's comment on the DNC hack during a speech at the Heritage Foundation:


“I have to admit my definition of what the Russians did [in hacking the Democratic National Committee] is, unfortunately, honorable state espionage," Hayden said during an on-stage interview at the Heritage Foundation.

"A foreign intelligence service getting the internal emails of a major political party in a major foreign adversary? Game on. That’s what we do. By the way, I would not want to be in an American court of law and be forced to deny that I never did anything like that as director of the NSA,” he said.

End Quote

Of course, then Hayden denies the US "weaponizes" that information - which is absurd on the face of it.

The discussion on Syria comes to no real conclusions other than that Erdogan is trying to play the US and Russia/Iran against each other so he can grab some territory, specifically Afrin, Manbij and the Jarabulus corridor he already has and force the Kurds back east of the Euphrates.

There's some comedy when Peter Lavelle quotes James Woolsey on "Russia's bad behavior in the Eurasian space" pointing out that Russia IS in Eurasia and the US is NOT. And "the South China Sea is called the South China Sea for a REASON!"

Sleboda also brings up the Intercept report that the UK hacked Belgium forcing Belgium to replace all their computers at a cost of $55 million, saying "there is no honor among imperialists."

Also discussed is the Dutch minister who admitted lying about Putin claiming he wanted Russia to control Belarus and Ukraine.


"In an unusual move, Tillerson relied on a Turkish government interpreter. This was a mistake." It seems odd to me, but I have no experience in diplomatic meetings. What are you concerned about? No after-the-meeting debriefing? Linguistic competence? If the issue is distortion by the translator, then that's as much a problem for the Turks as it is for Tillerson.



As you can imagine I heartily endorse your analysis of Turkish intentions. pl



Richard, no, I don't think the Syrian army is going to fight Turkey.

The deal in the making for Afrin is different: the YPG/SDF/PKK unarms itself and hands all control over to the syrian army. The Turks will then have no reason to continue their offensive on Afrin. To make sure in advance that Turkey's security needs are satisfied by the details of the deal in the making, Syria consults with Russia on the agreement, and Russia consults with Turkey. If the YPG doesn't give in to the demands - which in the end come from Turkey, the result will simply be that more YPG areas in Afrin are taken by Turkish-backed FSA jihadis. So for the YPG it's basically to choose between a friendly Syrian government takeover or a forced military takeover by Turkish backed FSA jihadis, and their is no way that a de facto separatist YPG/PKK enclave will persist. The YPG in Afrin currently seems in a steep lerning curve, that the above is the available choice. Having some Syrian givernment friendly NDF militias help the people of Afrin to defend against the joined Turkish FSA attack may help to swing internal Kurdish power in favor to an agreement with the Syrian government that meets Turkish security needs.

For the jihadies in the Idlib pocket the choice is a bit more generous. Either the jihadis there keep the peace with the Syrian army and fight al Qaeda and the YPG/PKK under Turkish command and observation, or the Tiger will come and they'll lose more territory until nothing is left. There also seems to be a kind of lerning curve their regarding the available choice. The first Turkish convoy to install a Turkish observation point was attacked and returned to Turkey. But the idea of the Tiger coming back and taking more territory from the Idlib jihadi dreamland was seemingly such a compelling arguement that further Turkish convoys were able to move to agreed observation points between the highway and the railyway through Idlib jihadi land.

For the Syrian army it's not a bad situation when FSA jihadis fight Al Qaeda terrorists and YPG separatists in the north west of the country. It allows the Syrian army to commit more forces on other urgent tasks like cleaning irreconcilable Saudi backed jihadis from the East Ghouta pocket or cleaning the ISIS pocket in the triangle between Deir Ezzor, Bukamal and Sukhna.


pl -

I cannot really claim it is my analysis. I have seen those comments on a few Syrian twitter accounts. Including one that said: We are coming for you, Antioch, which as you know but some others here may not is Turkish Antakya in Hatay province.

It may not be the official position of the SAG. But is surely in the hearts and minds of many Syrians.



It beings to mind Helms piece on the memory of peoples. pl

Bill Herschel

Off topic.

One of the leading, if not the leading, CIA stenographer at the NY Times, Andrew Higgins, has a remarkable article out today: "In Ukraine, Corruption Is Now Undermining the Military". Mr. Higgins is shocked, shocked to discover that Ukraine is a cesspool of corruption and criminality. Such a cesspool that the holy war against Russia may be imperiled.

What is the reader to do? Didn't they have free elections in Ukraine after the U.S. supported a home-grown outpouring of anti-Russian/pro-European enlightenment in a formerly benighted vestige of the Soviet Union?

Does the CIA get to have their cake and eat it too? It certainly seems that way. I guess the solution is American boots on the ground. That is always the solution that solves any problem. CIA first, boots on the ground second. Always fails.


In term of timing, I would certainly agree with every word of your last paragraph. However, Assad ultimately would prefer a Syrian-flagged Kurdish administration in Afrin and the Afrin-Rojava gap than a Turkish lodgement in the same area. For that reason I'd suggest that the Turks will be later 'persuaded' to withdraw.


"The deal in the making for Afrin is different: the YPG/SDF/PKK unarms itself and hands all control over to the syrian army. The Turks will then have no reason to continue their offensive on Afrin."

On the face of it, your suggestion assumes good intentions on the part of the Turkish government that not everyone seems to accept. Your suggested deal would leave the Turks with nothing better than the status quo ante (the war, that is), whereas there seems a general suspicion that the Turks intend to come out of the war with new "facts on the ground" that leave them in control of Afrin and Jarabulus, at least. If that's the case, then there is no interest for the Turks in the deal you propose, so long as they think they can gain from military occupation, which appears to be the case for the moment.

And the legal position is hardly likely to be much of a consideration. Israel's and the US's behaviour in the region for many years has shown that international law in this regard is a dead letter.


What I wonder about is who does Erdogan think he is to deal with the US as he does.

Erdogan has accused the US, CIA, Army (and, while at it, also the Lufthansa airline, BASF, some Döner sellers in Germany etc pp) of protecting the so-called "FETÖ" folks and Gülen - and with having tried to topple Erdogan.

And that way he treats someone he accuses of 'making' the coup against him? Does he believe the stuff he tells himself?

In contrast, Erdogan iirc, before starting the Olive Branch game in Syria, sent the intel boss and the army boss to Moscow to *ask* for allowance and to inform. That's quite a level for such a visit.


Notably, he only uttered demands and apparently didn't bothered to send them to DC to talk with Trump or the State or the Pentagon. Why that?

Ignoring Trump aside, Erdogan even adds to that impertinence additions like threats of attacking US troops aside of Kurds or to leave NATO. That's indeed deliberately offensive. What an ally ...


Such behavior implies either that ...

  • Erdogan doesn't think at all, or
  • that Erdogan does think one cannot dicsuss anything with Trump, or
  • that Erdogan as a megalomaniac thinks he can get away with that

Either thing would be unwise.

There are jokes you only makes once and the second or third time there will be a 'ottoman slap' as a response because others don't share this peculiar humour.

Given that Erdogan sent his two bosses to Moscow it can be assumed that Putin made that very clear.

There is that grim joke about Putin where he was aksed if islamist terrorists could be forgiven. Putin replied that forgiving is the business of God, and that his job only was just to create the appointment.

I feel that if Erdogan overdoes that annoying thing he will face himself an 'ottoman slap' - i.e. perhaps another coup, a bomb or a sniper. So long, he'll likely continue to talk big a lot and aloud.


"Someone like McMaster should be sent to Turkey to deal with Erdogan. That would be fun to watch. pl "

McMaster was in Turkey on February 10/11 and met with Ibrahim Kalin, his Turkish counterpart. I don't think any of them had fun.

IMHO McMaster is a small minded military brain, not a political strategist.
He is also extremely hawkish and unwilling to compromise - so much that even Kelly and Mattis are pushing against him and even want him out.

McMaster was only made general after the neocon Petraeus personally flew to Washington to head the commission that decides about such issues. Other generals it seems did not like what they saw in McMaster.

His too much lauded book Dereliction of Duty on the Vietnam decision making argues that the JCS generals should have worked more diligently against the political compromises and decision they were told to follow. I believe that is a dangerous thought.


pl -

I had missed your 2015 post on Dr Helms. But found it last night. I strongly agree with her regarding collective memory.

Her perceptive comment that "our vision of the past channels our vision of the future" is applicable to us all and not just the ME.

Which is why I always preach historical awareness to my grandkids. Not only our national history, but I always pass along the stories I heard as a young squirt from my gramps. You have to do it when they are young though, before they get to be teenagers and claim to know everything.


Erdogan claims that the Turkish operation in Afrin is for the safety of "our Syrian brothers and sisters."

Meanwhile Syrian militias enter Afrin shouting "one Syria, one Syria".

There are some unverified reports that Turkish artillery targeted the incoming Syrians and that they had to pull back ten clicks.

No ID yet that I have seen as to which of the Syrian NDF militias went into Afrin. They are being called Popular Forces rather than NDF.


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