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10 March 2018

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Matthew

Col: Deal or not, maybe the SAA wants to ensure that any "humanitarian" military strikes ordered to appease our odious R2P crowd land far from Damascus.

Peter AU

Is the Turk move on Afrin a preemptive move by Turkey, Russia, Iran and perhaps Syria, to ensure US Kurdistan never reaches the sea? An image search for Kurdistan show many maps that have Kurdistan running through Afrin, and through Turkeys Hatay province to the Mediterranean.

Annem

And who is carrying it out? The UN! THEY should be trying to get the civilians used as human shields out of there.

Emad

Colonel,

It'a bit of both. The SAG is betting that it can have Russia improve the SAA to a point where it can take on both Jihadis and Turks in Idlib. Russia can then say that it can't bring Assad to heel, and wriggle out of "the deal" with Turks, if it so chooses.

What I can't figure out is whether Putin agreed to such a deal, because he thinks the SAG can't restore sovereignty over all of Syria even with Russia's help, or because he thinks this is a necessary condition for removing Turkey from the Western orbit.

JPB

I opt for the stoking-up-the-intra-rebel-war theory. Any fighting between anti-Assad factions in Idlib is good for the SAA and the Syrian government.

As for any Russian/Turkish deals about NW Syria, I do not see any such deals as by Putin as being permanent. It may be true that getting Turkey out of NATO is more important to Russia than preserving Syrian borders. However, such a deal, if permanent, would cost Russian foreign policy with Iran and Syria dearly. IMHO Putin and Lavrov are playing with Erdogan. They will do some serious arm twisting to remove him, but probably not until they help Assad reduce other rebel pockets - Mukhayyam al-Yarmuk south of Damascus; the Dumayr and Jayrud/al-Muadamiyyah pockets northwest of Ghouta; the al-Rastan pocket north of Homs City; and the Daraa/Quneira pockets in the south. All those rebels will eventually be given the choice of dying in place or moving to Idlib.

JohnsonR

I agree with the suggestion that stoking up intra-rebel fighting seems the most plausible reason for this, especially as it would seem to be strengthening the less pro--Turkish side in Idlib.

Not sure about the idea that the Russians will do any "serious arm twisting" later, though. Nobody has yet suggested any plausible reason to me as to why either Russia or Iran should feel strongly about Turkey occupying some of northern Syria, provided it is not actively destabilising the Assad government.

Seems to me the pressing issue for both Russia and Iran, now that the survival of the Syrian government has been more or less assured (bar a direct US intervention against it), will be how to get the US out of northern and eastern Syria. Together with, for Iran, Israel and its ongoing menaces against Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

How are either of those issues advanced by getting into a confrontation with Turkey, and thereby encouraging that country to downplay its issues with the US and their Kurdish proxies? Seems to me both Russia and Iran would want to maximise the latter, as quite a high priority.

outthere

Off topic, but perhaps well worth it
RI has published to complete transcript of the Putin interviews by Megyn Kelly. Worthy full read. Putin covers so much ground, far more than you ever saw/heard from NBC which drastically edited the interviews for USA consumption. Kelly repeatedly interrupts and attempts "gotcha", and reveals herself as arrogant stupid american.
here's a taste - but you really have to read it all for yourself
re USA ditching the ABM treaty, Kelly says the reason was 911
quote
> Megyn Kelly: Again, it was in the wake of 9/11, just to make it clear. 9/11 happened on September 11, 2001, and the United States was reassessing its security posture in the world for good reason, wouldn’t you admit?
>
> Vladimir Putin: No, not for good reason.This is complete nonsense. Because the missile defence system protects from the kind of ballistic missiles that no terrorists have in their arsenal. This is an explanation for the housewives watching your programme. But if these housewives can hear what I am saying, if you show it to them and they hear me, they will understand that 9/11 and the missile defence system are completely unrelated. To defend themselves from terrorist attacks, the major powers must join their efforts against the terrorists rather than create threats for each other.

re: interference in USA elections by Yevgeny Prigozhin
quote
> To claim otherwise makes no sense. Will anyone believe that Russia, a country located thousands of kilometres away, could use two or three Russians, as you have said, and whom I do not know, to meddle in the elections and influence their outcome? Don’t you think that it sounds ridiculous?
>
> Megyn Kelly: Now you are talking about causation. But I am still on whether you did it. And it is not true that you do not know the individuals who were accused of conducting this. One of your good friends is actually accused of helping conduct this. His name is Yevgeny Prigozhin. Do you know him?
>
> Vladimir Putin: I know this man, but he is not a friend of mine. This is just twisting the facts. There is such a businessman; he works in the restaurant business or something. But he is not a state official; we have nothing to do with him.
>
> Megyn Kelly: After you heard about him being indicted, did you pick up the phone and call him?
>
> Vladimir Putin: Certainly not.I have plenty of other things to worry about.
>
> Megyn Kelly: He is your friend. He has been indicted.
>
> Vladimir Putin: Did you hear what I just said? He is not my friend. I know him, but he is not a friend of mine. Was I not clear? There are many people like that. There are 146 million people in Russia. That is less than in the US, but it is still a lot.
>
> Megyn Kelly: He is a prominent businessman.
>
> Vladimir Putin: A prominent businessman? So what? There are many prominent people in Russia. He is not a state official, he does not work for the government; he is an individual, a businessman.
>
> Megyn Kelly: Some people say his real job is to do your dirty work.
>
> Vladimir Putin: Who are those people? And what dirty work? I do not do any dirty work. Everything I do is in plain view. This is your prerogative; some people in your country enjoy doing dirty work. You think we do the same. That is not true.
>
> Megyn Kelly: It is a) the fact that you know him, you admit that. He is a prominent Russian businessman. And he is specifically accused of running this operation; b) this is the same man who has been accused of sending Russian mercenaries into Syria and they attacked a compound held by American back militia. This guy gets around.
>
> Vladimir Putin: You know, this man could have a wide range of interests, including, for example, an interest in the Syrian fuel and energy complex. But we do not support him in any way. We do not get in his way but we do not support him either. It is his own personal initiative.
>
> Megyn Kelly: That is my question to you. That is my question to you. Why, why would you interfere in our election time and time again? And why would not you, for that matter? Let me put it to you that way. You have spent a day, every time I have seen you, in St Petersburg, in Moscow and now here in Kaliningrad, telling me that America has interfered in Russia’s electoral process and that Russia has a robust cyber warfare arsenal. And yet you want us to believe that you did not deploy it. Do you understand how implausible that seems, sir?
>
> Vladimir Putin: That does not seem implausible to me at all, because we do not have such a goal, to interfere. We do not see what we have to gain by interfering. There is no such goal. Let us suppose this was our goal. Why, just for the sake of it? What is the goal?
>
> Megyn Kelly: Creating chaos. That is the goal.
>
> Vladimir Putin: Listen to me. Not long ago President Trump said something absolutely correct. He said that if Russia’s goal was to sow chaos, it has succeeded. But it is not the result of Russian interference, but your political system, the internal struggle, the disorder and division. Russia has nothing to do with it whatsoever. Get your own affairs in order first. And the way the question is framed, as I mentioned – that you can interfere anywhere because you bring democracy, but we cannot – is what causes conflicts. You have to show your partners respect, and they will respect you.

re usa sanctions
quote
>
>
> Megyn Kelly: One of the questions that our audiences have is how do we walk this back? How do we get to the place where these two great nations are less adversaries and something closer to allies, which we clearly are not right now. Do you agree we are not?
>
> Vladimir Putin: Unfortunately, we are not. But we were not the ones who made the US our adversary. It was the US, the US Congress, who called Russia its adversary. Why did you do that? Did Russia impose sanctions on the United States? No, it was the US that imposed sanctions on us.
>
> Megyn Kelly: You know why.
>
> Vladimir Putin: No, I do not. Can I ask you a different question? Why did you encourage the government coup in Ukraine? Why did you do that? The US directly acknowledged spending billions of dollars to this end. This was openly acknowledged by US officials. Why do they support government coups and armed fighting in other countries? Why has the US deployed missile systems along our borders?
>
> Listen, Russia and the US should sit down and talk it over in order to get things straight. I have the impression that this is what the current President wants, but he is prevented from doing it by some forces. But we are ready to discuss any matter, be it missile-related issues, cyberspace or counterterrorism efforts. We are ready to do it any moment. But the US should also be ready. The time will come when the political elite in the US will be pushed by public opinion to move in this direction. We will be ready the instant our partners are ready.

much more here, including chemical attacks in syria:
https://russia-insider.com/en/kremlin-publishes-full-megan-kelly-putin-interview-nbc-cut-best-parts-video-transcript/ri22747

Ishmael Zechariah

re:#2 "Is the Turk move on Afrin a preemptive move by Turkey, Russia, Iran and perhaps Syria, to ensure US Kurdistan never reaches the sea?
~Yes.
Ishmael Zechariah

JamesT

Getting these jihadis moved to Idlib will at least deprive them of their human shields.

Bill Herschel

Slightly off topic...

I would be really interested in SST conducting a gedanken experiment with its correspondents that would choose/ create answers to a variant of the Evangelical question, "WWJD?", namely What Would Putin Do?

I'm interested in this, because I think the entire question, "Did Russia influence the Presidential election?" completely misses the point and ultimately is irrelevant in itself. The relevant question is "Why would Russia influence the election?"

Certainly, without the slightest question, Russia would have a motive to influence the election if it owned Donald Trump. But it's pointless to engage in a round robin about whether or not that is true. On the other hand, if Russia/Putin *did* own Donald Trump, what would Donald Trump do? What would Putin have him do? Obviously, you have to make some assumptions about what Putin wants for the U.S., but the recent historical record indicates to me that what Putin wants for the U.S. is for it to degenerate into anarchy and obscurity. We've attempted to screw him and his country with such malice and intensity that he must see us as existential threat.

Now, to be of any use, there should be an entire list of Trump's actions... 20, 30... with the question, "Is this what Putin would have ordered him to do and why?"

Personally, I have trouble finding a single thing Trump has done that could not have been ordered from Moscow. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, meeting Kim, erecting tariffs, etc. All exactly what Putin/Russia would want him to do. Domestically, supporting the most divisive candidates he can find (Alabama, Arizona...) etc. What is interesting is that if Putin does *not* own him, if Trump spent his time in Moscow reading the great books, it is amazing that he could be acting in a way that fully supports Putin.

So there can be no confusion, I am a Russophile. An excellent case can be made that Russia won WWII. That by itself is enough to support the country. But it goes on and on. Up to and including Russia's support for Syrian sovereignty against Saudi terrorists.

paul

>Is this mere cleverness like the German infection of Russia with Bolsheviks in 1917

Well hope it does not work out as well as it did for the germans.

Laguerre

I doubt very much that Asad would agree to give any territory to Turkey permanently, and I don't see why the Russians would betray him.

The Turkish offensive is basically anti-Kurd. Anger that the US proposed a 30,000 self-defence force. A viable Kurdish militarised state is unacceptable. That's enough to explain what has happened.

turcopolier

laguerre

Yes, they don't want a Kurdish state but they mostly dream of empire. Are you a political science type? pl

different clue

Emad,

What a wonderful partner Erdostan would be to have in your orbit.

Account Deleted

It is doubtless in Russia's interests to reassure Assad that they will support his desire to retake all of Syria. However, if the SAG does not appreciate its position wrt Russia's strategic priorities in the war, it is deluding itself. Getting the US out is priority #1 and I expect any deal Russia may have with Turkey re Idlib will be contingent on its support in achieving this goal. Russia may not want to go to war with Turkey over Idlib, but it could continue to provide all kinds of support to the SAA once they return to that front - and they still control the airspace.

For its part, Russia is likely realistic about the probability of being able to prize Turkey out of NATO - i.e. near zero, unless Erdogan actually believes his own rhetoric and really is crazy. To envision Turkey's fate outside of NATO, he need only look across the Black Sea. But Idlib & more may be on offer, if Turkey were to make good on its threats to continue Olive Branch east of the Euphrates.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to which side Erdogan judges he can get the best deal from. Yesterday Çavuşoğlu announced he had done a deal with US re Manbij & the East - details unspecified. If all Erdogan really wants it something he can win the election with, I'm sure the US can come up with something appropriate - like disarming the Kurds (at least until after the election..). If he really is serious about destroying the Kurdish threat, he's gonna have to take on the US (before he leaves, or is thrown out of NATO) & pray they blink. Given that he is a politician and not, in fact, a warrior Sultan who has earned the epithet 'Magnificent' - my money would be on the former outcome being more likely; he'll settle for Afrin & live to conquer another day.

https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/03/09/turkey-us-agreed-on-manbij-east-of-the-euphrates-fm-cavusoglu-says

Account Deleted

Why does Turkey not invade Russia - in order to preempt Kurdistan's access to the Pacific. Erdogan has invaded Syria because his ancestors once rode there and because he can.

Laguerre

The Ghouta battle is nearly finished, for the same reasons as Aleppo collapsed quickly - although I didn't understand it at the time. The jihadis are mainly rural Sunnis, urban Sunnis for the most part support Asad. In the modern Middle Eastern context, city-fights, fighting from building to building, are the most viable defence tactic. However, in this case, the defending jihadis, being rural, are antipathetic to the local urban population, which is unlikely to support them. We've already seen demonstrations against the jihadis in Ghouta towns.

Yeah, Right

Isn't the simplest answer the most likely?

As in: given the choice between (a) reducing East Ghouta to rubble in order to kill the jihadis therein or (b) giving them the option of taking a bus to Idlib that Assad has chosen option (b).

After all, East Ghouta is an outer suburb of Damascus. Maybe Assad just doesn't want to see his fellow civilians killed in street fighting when there is another way.....

Laguerre

"Are you a political science type?"

You know what I am because you googled me in the past: a professor of Islamic Archaeology, but ME politics was an alternative career which I didn't follow in the end.

I don't think that Turkish dreams of empire mean very much. The Ottoman empire was openly multi-cultural, modern Turkey is not. Trying to integrate completely non-Turkish lands into Turkey would be an agony. I'm sure Erdogan has advisors telling him that. Turkey has no need of additional, potentially rebellious lands, which will only cost the Turkish state a fortune.

turcopolier

Laguerre

Don't flatter yourself. I don't remember anything about you other than that you were sure the SAA no longer existed a few years ago. Your prognosis of what the Turks want is far too intellectualized. men don't fight for rational reasons. pl

turcopolier

Laguerre

Whenever you win a battle the ignorant always say it was an easy victory. pl

JPB

Peter AU -

Assad and the Syrian people are the ones that want Hatay Province back within the boundaries of Syria, not the Kurds. Syrian maps that are drawn up by the Syrian Government show both Hatay and and the Golan as being part of Syria, occupied but still considered part of Syria.

The gift of Hatay to the Turks by the French in the 1930s in order to keep Turkey from allying with the Nazis was never accepted by Syria.

There was never a significant population of Kurds or Turks in Hatay. It was mainly Alawites, Armenians, and Syriacs. The cry of "Antioch we are coming for you!" can still be heard among Syrian Alawites in Latakia Province. Syrian Kurds have no intention of taking Hatay. And even if a few dreamers think of a Kurdish port they have no resources to take one and no ally that would help them do so.

JW

And the (first part) of the video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mhi_AyQAyw

I think the total video time is 2 hours, ie., more to come.

outthere

Barbara Ann, you say
"It is doubtless in Russia's interests to reassure Assad that they will support his desire to retake all of Syria"
and Laguerre, you say
"I doubt very much that Asad would agree to give any territory to Turkey permanently, and I don't see why the Russians would betray him."
So both of you, please tell me when/where Putin ever said he supported Syria reclaiming ALL of its former territory.
I have posted several times that Putin has never said any such, indeed he has said quite the opposite.
I await your response, hopefully a quote from Putin (not some 3d hand analyst) that proves me wrong.

JW

Russia and Turkey have energy and pipeline deals which could be expected to include terms delineating Turkish limits of advance against Russian partners such as Syria and the Kurds. Assad would be aware of this and the fact that such terms have time limits and could regard Afrin and the Turkish psuedo-Ottoman presence as a later post-Idlib problem along with a Syrian/Russian limitation on Iranian use of Syria as a staging area further south.
Now, preventing more MOUT-related destruction of Gouta while inducing the mutual attrition of Idlib non-SAA forces and easier SAA/Hezbollah kills on the jihadists/rebels in the more open terrain is a tactical opportunity not to be ignored. Here comes the bus.

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