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25 March 2018


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Looking at a SouthFront video of Turkish Armed Forces progress in northern Syria, I found it discomforting how close the TAF appeared to Aleppo.


That is a very good point.


Apparently, Erdogan wants appoint a governor to Afrin, so yes he intends to stay there for long


The US won't act because they'd prefer to see Syria broken up. Iran doesn't have the standing to act and no capability to act militarily. Syria won't try to use military force because it can't compete with Turkey's military might.

That leaves Russia, which is supposedly committed to insuring the sovereignty of Syria. Russia can bring the issue up in the UNSC, but the US is likely to veto anything they propose. Russia doesn't want a war with Turkey (and vice versa), so military action is likely to be very much a last resort.

However, Putin has some leverage in Turkey, such as the S-400 sales as well as sanctions such as were taken after the shoot down of the Russian jet by Turkey. Whether this can be enough to force Turkey out of Syria is unclear, and perhaps unlikely.

Iraq is in a different position. There, Iran might have some say, albeit again not militarily, unless Iran tries to use Iraq's military against the Turks, which I find unlikely. I suspect Iran doesn't really care if Turkey takes over northern Iraq and puts down the Kurds since Iran has its own conflicts with those Kurds, having shelled them in the past.

Iraq will care because of the lost oil revenue if the Turks seize the northern oil fields and may try some military action, but that is likely to merely force Turkey to commit more troops. The US is likely to try to persuade Iraq not to turn this into full-scale war.

The real issue with Syria is how things play out after ISIS and Al Qaeda have finally been reduced to a minor terrorist group status. The question is what moves can Russia and to a lesser degree Syria and Iran make to force Turkey out. While there are probably a number of harassing moves they can make (what I mean by harassing moves are things like Russian sanctions.), in the end there are only three possible outcomes:

1) Harassing moves become expensive for Turkey, so it retreats.
2) Turkey does not retreat and the Three Amigos forego military action and give up harassing moves.
3) The Three Amigos ramp up full-scale military action forcing Turkey either into retreat or full-scale regional war.

In the latter case, I think Russia, Syria and Iran could make things hot enough for Turkey to retreat, if not actually defeat Turkey militarily. However, Turkey being a NATO member, this gives the US another shot at intervening on Turkey's side against Syria, which the US would be happy to do, depending on how much direct conflict with Russia that might entail.

So in the end the question boils down to: what will Russia do? Putin has a tendency to make asymmetric moves before committing to military action, and these are by definition hard to predict. While he is also cautious, he is also firm - so if Turkey manages to annex large portions of Syria, he is likely to respond to the exact degree that he sees these acts damaging Russian interests, if not so much Syria's interests. So the question will be how much does Putin think Turkey annexing parts of Syria actually damages Russian interests?


Owning Kurdish territory is really about getting rich from oil revenue and Turkey has excellent infrastructure to achieve that, so yes they have every reason to stay. Put that together with Erdogan's self aggrandizing and he will not be able to resist the lure of both fame and fortune. He'll never give it back.

As a side effect, this also creates a unified Kurdistan. A wise Sultan could offer this as a bargaining chip: Kurds get sufficient autonomy and democratic elections within their own cultural group; while the Sultanate takes a largish share of the oil revenue. An uneasy but stable truce could come out of this. In the short term, let us see how well Turkish troops are respecting Kurdish civilians in Afrin. The news has been uncomfortably dark since the Turks took over. If the Kurds believe they will be massacred like the Armenians were, then they have no choice but to keep fighting to the bitter end, which could get ugly.

Iran would flip out if Turkish troops cross the border into Kurdish parts of Iran, so I don't expect such provocation (at least, not soon, perhaps later).

Baghdad will no doubt be angry about losing oil revenue to Turkey, but what can they do about it? They will complain, maybe move some troops around as a show, try not to lose too much territory but otherwise put up with it.

As for the USA... well if US troops ever clash with Turks that would be a perfect time for Trump to declare the finish of NATO. He talked about it, the Turks have done nothing to endear themselves with either America or Europe, and the EU has become pretty much a deadweight drain on US resources. Maybe better for everyone.

Getting to politics for a moment, I read a lot of anti-Trump comments from people who were his supporters, angry over the recent spending. Bolton is not popular amongst the Trump base, actually that's a bit of an understatement. These mid-terms are set to give surprising results IMHO Americans do NOT want another war, they don't want more Neocons, and they don't want Socialists either. The Democrats have no clear direction (when they are asking Biden of all people to make a run for President you know they have run right out of ideas). I expect to see a rise of alternative candidates flowing into the political vacuum... probably isolationist, anti-immigration, anti-war, and perhaps even anti-deficit.



Just can't escape that economic determinism can you? pl


In a random universe, all strategies are as good as each other because no matter what you do the result is still completely random.

I don't believe in a random universe. There are some monks and ascetics who would walk past a pile of money on the table, uninterested in taking it up. Perhaps there are some retired old men who have come to value peace and quiet more than anything else. Erdogan is none of those things, he is attracted to both wealth and power.


On the topic of determinism, not specifically the Middle East, but does explain a lot about what goes on in the Middle East, and a great general purpose framework as well:


I know there's additional nuance you can add to that, but even if you don't like the simplistic pragmatism you can't avoid some of the basic conclusions here.

It also explains why Trump's pivot towards the Neocons is largely a sign of weakness.



"some retired old men" Yes, I have long been senile and other worldly. I am well known to be so. Actually, my objection is not that you think money and greed are important but that you think it determines the fate of nations. Have you taken the MBTI? Be honest. pl



The trouble with "simplistic pragmatism" is that humans and their motivations are not simple and their actions are seldom as simple as posited by economic determinism. Economic determinism as a badly flawed tool in analysis. Was the VN War about a US attempt to seize the rubber plantations and fish sauce factories of VN? I suppose you think the US invaded Iraq for its oil. Your remark about Trump and the neocons is incomprehensible. pl



The Middle East is engulfed by tribal-mob wars sponsored by the Superpowers. Since the coup attempt and German withdrawal; joining Europe is not an option for Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdogan will take and keep what he can. Neutralizing the Kurds would be one more minority eliminated. Only more powerful nation states can stop him. Since Israel’s and the USA’s intention is permanent tribal warfare to divide Muslims; that leaves Russia or an Iraq and Iran alliance which both have Kurd problems themselves.

The USA is sitting on an oil field in the middle of the Syrian desert by itself with Kurds heading home for the final battle with Turkey and the Euphrates Valley full of true believers that can only be controlled by a legitimate even-handed secular national police and army. We are in a World War right now. The world is one mistake or one first strike away from a nuclear war. The Western Empire directed by corporate oligarchs is intent on flushing nation states down the drain. Yet, the Apocalypse can only be prevented by a Global Peace Treaty signed by the Middle East Nations and the Superpowers including Russia, China, European Union and the United States.



IMO neo-Ottoman irredentism is not "sponsored" by the superpowers. It is sui generis. pl

Peter VE

"Yes, I have long been senile and other worldly." If your current sharp wit and understanding of the world represents you in your dotage, I should not have to liked to spar with you when your were younger and more aware....
On the larger point which you are making, I have come to realize that we are ruled far more by our emotions than by the rationality we pretend to follow. Individuals act for personal reasons, which can include venality and emotion, as well as rationality. The tribe is driven far more by the emotions, and sometimes by economic determinism, but rarely by reason.
If we invaded Iraq for the oil, we sure f'd up. We surely didn't invade Iraq to remove Iran's main enemy, but we managed that too.


Peter VE

That wit was so ingrained in me that even when I tried to avoid unleashing it, it showed through to my detriment. pl


Comment on Moon of Alabama re "Ghouta-Afrin Exchange:" http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/03/syria-the-east-ghouta-afrin-exchange-is-complete-where-will-the-saa-go-next.html#comments
"Watching videos of the “rebels” boarding the busses in East Ghouta, I saw a LOT of White helmets guys wandering around. As usual, they fled with the moderate headchoppers. https://www.facebook.com/gafar.uonis/videos/1659043890855290/
But I noticed a LOT of guys in sparkling, new purple costumes assisting the retreat, so I enlarged a screen shot and saw they are another NGO called “Violet Syria.” So, I went to their website, and followed links to their “partners” and sure enough, all Western-funded “color revolution” types. Violet Syria was founded in 2014 in Turkey, just as White helmets had been a year earlier. Their sponsors include the International Rescue Committee, whose President and CEO is David Miliband, a former Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom."
The International Rescue Committee was caught on "rigging and multiple bribery and kickback schemes related to contracts to deliver humanitarian aid in Syria." Sounds right. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3582536/Millions-US-aid-Syrians-suspended-graft-probe.htm


Re: VN

As i recall it was about dominoes.


In line with the YouTube video cited by Tel, what would make sense is not that alignment with neocons is a sign of weakness, but that alignment with neocons, for Trump, is an illustration of the principle (as elucidated in the video) that a ruler needs groups or blocs other than those who got him into power on his side - - to rule, govern, what have you.

So I suppose if he needs or needed them to govern, and did not have them on his side, then yes that's a form of or example of weakness - until remedied by what appears unmistakably to be a pivot in their direction.

Peter AU

The Russian MoD's maps of the de-escalation zones from some time ago, I think give an indication as to what Russia's long term views on Turkish occupation will be.
Their was no dividing line of any type between Israel occupied Golan and the rest of Syria. Turkey's occupation though will most likely last the length of cold war 2.0


Specifically in response to Tel, but just a generic claim,

One thing that I came to suspect is that, while 99% of world events take place because of "simple pragmatism," or, generically, "obvious and mundane" reasons, "big" things almost invariably take place for reasons bizarre, strange, and "weird." People have learned to deal with things like simple economic motives and other "rational" things. When things start taking place for "unusual" reasons (e.g. nationalist movements in Balkans, circa 1914, German irredentism towards Poland combined with Nazi domestic politics in 1939, etc) many people don't know how to deal with them and exacerbate things, things spin out of control, and really bad things happen generally. I realize that I might have put "engineers" in a bad light in the mbti thread, but this is the kind of problem that I had in mind. I would expect stereotypical "engineers" to do fine when dealing with the "usual" problems. I suspect "engineers" will have trouble when "strange" and "weird" forces are in play.


@ Peter VE

Back in the day, searching long and hard for justifications for the '03 Iraq invasion - justifications that made sense, some sense, to me at least, I finally settled on something Henry Kissinger said in response to a question (more or less): "well, why did we invade Iraq then, Iraq, which had nothing to do with 911 - when the culprits were terrorists domiciled within Afghanistan?"

Dr. Kissinger said words to the effect (paraphrase): "Because the humiliation of the 911 attack on the United States was of a magnitude far in excess of anything that could be compensated or revenged by an attack on Afghanistan."

The US really had to stomp someone - emphatically, unmistakably and irretrievably stomp.

That is not a thought that comforts me in the dark hours when conscience and remorse strike and regret becomes overwhelming. No. There is a terrible but real duality: I loved my country so much (though I knew it not, really at the time - yes you'd say I was leftist - but discovered something organic -territorial? -within me) to desire drastic revenge transcending any ethic or morality, while at the same time holding to the ideals, dreams, illusions - that no, despite all evidence to the contrary, that we were better than that - better than to revenge ourselves so utterly and shamelessly.


honestly if you really think about it, if the ottomans had not been dismantled and Jerusalem and mecca were both under the sovereignty of the sultan the world would be a much better place.


Russia, Iran and Iraq are selling gas and oil to Turkey. Should there be, at the same time, some problems with the pipelines or compressor stations Turkey would be troubled.
That might be a way to change minds in Ankara.



Sadly you are not well enough educated to understand the many factors that go into such decisions and therefore like some here opt for the explanation that is "simplistic pragmatism." Unfortunately that explanation is incorrect. "Batty?" You are pushing it jazz man. pl



Kissinger was right in so far as he went but what he did not want to say is that a conspiracy of neocons successfully steered the rage you are talking about to a war of aggression against Iraq based upon what they thought would be best for Israel. If you want to read about that process see my article "Drinking the Koolaid." pl



You are approaching the truth. Engineer types can deal with management decisions. I did not say they could not. But, as you say, significant, non-routine situations for which they do not have a set of Rules are something they do not deal with well. The conduct of the war in Iraq is one such example. The US military went into Iraq without a doctrinal model for dealing with a guerrilla insurgency. The Engineer types (who predominate among US generals) had destroyed that doctrine after VN. Without a rule book they could not even comprehend what a guerrilla insurgency was, much less defeat it. For a while they tried to define their problem as "rear area security." Then they wanted it to be "combat in cities." They had doctrine for those things. Then they wanted to believe that a new form of warfare had emerged. This was nonsense of course. Guerrilla insurgencies have alway existed. False prophets emerged to tell them they were no stupid, merely faced by a revolutionary 4th Generation of war. In the end they came to understand that what they were facing was VN without the North Vietnamese Army and they then revived the old doctrine for that and issued it as Petraeus' much hailed and claimed fraudulent new prophetic vision. In the earlier war in VN the systems analysis and operations research engineers grouped around McNamara never really understood the nature of the political and guerrilla insurgency we were combating. By their "simplistic pragmatic" analysis conducted in 1965 the Vietnamese communists should have surrendered in 1967. One of them explained this to my MI Career course in 1966. He was sure that the enemy would surrender the next year. pl

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