“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” – ancient Indian proverb
Russian asset Donald Trump has achieved the once unthinkable: he has forced the Kurds, a strong U.S. ally, into the arms of Vladimir Putin and his puppet Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for their very survival against the invading military of Turkey, ostensibly a NATO ally that has become an autocratic dictatorship under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which increasingly turns to the Russians for leverage against the U.S.
Here’s the thing, though. Neither Vladimir Putin nor Bashar al-Assad want an autonomous independent Kurdish state in northern Syria anymore than does Turkish dictator Recep Erdogan. They are making a deal with the devil that in the end may result in the brutal Syrian regime backed by its Russian ally and Turkey carving up their lands and engaging in the genocide of the Kurds to replace them with Syrian refugees. They are in a lose-lose situation. And Donald Trump, who set this human tragedy in motion, has ordered the U.S. military to cut and run from Syria, and to abandon our Kurdish allies to their eventual slaughter. The U.S. will not come to the aid of our Kurdish allies.
Donald Trump says he “is on an island of one” on his Syria policy. His administration and military advisers are opposed to his inexplicable abandonment of the Kurds. But it makes perfect sense from Vladimir Putin’s perspective. Our boy Vlad is playing geopolitical three-dimensional chess, while his useful idiot Russian asset Donald Trump is without a clue.
The Washington Post reports, Unswayed by top advisers, Trump doubles down on decision to withdraw troops:
Behind the scenes, Trump has tried to convince advisers and lawmakers that the United States is not to blame for Turkey’s military offensive, which has targeted Kurdish fighters who have aided the U.S. fight against the Islamic State.
Bullshit! Trump green-lighted the Turkish invasion and agreed to stand aside and allow Turkey to attack the Kurds. He owns this. Blood is on his hands. His never-ending attempt to avoid blame for his actions ends now.
Abandoned by its U.S. ally, the Kurdish forces long allied with the United States in Syria announced a new deal on Sunday with the government in Damascus, a sworn enemy of Washington that is backed by Russia, as Turkish troops moved deeper into their territory and President Trump ordered the withdrawal of the American military from northern Syria. Abandoned by U.S. in Syria, Kurds Find New Ally in American Foe:
The sudden shift marked a major turning point in Syria’s long war.
For five years, United States policy relied on collaborating with the Kurdish-led forces both to fight the Islamic State and to limit the influence of Iran and Russia, which support the Syrian government, with a goal of maintaining some leverage over any future settlement of the conflict.
On Sunday, after Mr. Trump abruptly abandoned that approach, American leverage appeared all but gone. That threatened to give President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers a free hand. It also jeopardized hard-won gains against the Islamic State — and potentially opened the door for its return.
The Kurds’ deal with Damascus paved the way for government forces to return to the country’s northeast for the first time in years to try to repel a Turkish invasion launched after the Trump administration pulled American troops out of the way. The pullout has already unleashed chaos and bloodletting.
The announcement of the deal Sunday evening capped a day of whipsaw developments marked by rapid advances by Turkish-backed forces and the escape of hundreds of women and children linked to the Islamic State from a detention camp. As American troops were redeployed, two American officials said the United States had failed to transfer five dozen “high value” Islamic State detainees out of the country.
Donald Trump is the founder of a renewed ISIS. His never-ending attempt to avoid blame for his actions ends now. Trump Accuses Kurds of Releasing ISIS Prisoners to Bait Him Back Into Syria:
President Trump has accused the Syrian Kurds—who, until last week, were America’s most important allies in the fight against ISIS—of releasing ISIS prisoners in an attempt to bait him. In an attack on Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, who has been sharply critical of Trump’s actions toward the Kurds, Trump denied his decision to withdraw troops from Syria could lead to an ISIS resurgence. In an apparent response to reports that hundreds of ISIS-related prisoners have escaped since Turkey invaded Syria last week, the president tweeted: “Europe had a chance to get their ISIS prisoners, but didn’t want the cost. ‘Let the USA pay,’ they said… Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved.” Trump said the escaped prisoners should be “easily recaptured” by Turkey or European nations, which he urged to “move quickly.”
It was the U.S. that failed to contain high value ISIS terrorists, not just the Kurds. That’s on Trump. The Military Times reports, US leaves behind dozens of high-value ISIS detainees as Turkey rolls through Syria:
US officials and national security experts had warned thousands of ISIS prisoners could escape as a result of a Turkish incursion into northern Syria.
Five days into Turkish military operations, those realities are coming to life as reports stream in that hundreds of ISIS prisoners held up in Syrian Democratic Forces’ makeshift prisons and refugee camps are taking advantage of the chaos and breaking free.
President Donald Trump’s latest decision Sunday to withdraw the remaining U.S. forces out of northern Syria is only adding fuel to the fire.
The New York Times reported that U.S. forces could not transfer about five dozen high-value ISIS detainees before the Pentagon’s decision to move U.S. forces out of the zone of Turkish military operations.
In one incident, nearly 700 ISIS families escaped a camp run by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, according to the New York Times.
Thousands of ISIS fighters returning to the battlefield could breathe new life into the jihadi group and erase five years of costly gains against the extremist organization.
* * *
The al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria was estimated to hold nearly 70,000 people, including thousands of ISIS family members.
SDF forces warned that it could no longer prioritize guarding the prisons following the invasion by Turkey and its proxy forces. A video posted by SDF over the last several days have highlighted riots in the al-Hol camp.
The SDF also claimed five ISIS prisoners busted out of a detention facility in Qamishli on Friday.
Jennifer Cafarella, the research director for Institute for the Study of War, tweeted Saturday that ISIS fighters may be gearing up for an offensive to free thousands of ISIS prisoners following recent vehicle bomb attacks in Qamishli and Hasaka.
For the moment, Turkey is fine with ISIS terrorist reconstituting because the Kurds that defeated them are their enemy as well. It benefits Turkey to force the Kurds to fight against two forces.
The Assad regime and its Russian ally does not want ISIS seizing Syrian territory anymore than the Kurds. It is highly probable that the Russians will use air power, just as the U.S. did, to attack any renewed ISIS forces first. They will turn their fire on the Kurds later.
While Trump told Erdogan that U.S. forces would withdraw and stand aside while Turkey attacked the Kurds, Trump apparently has ordered the U.S. to intervene against the Kurds new allies, the Assad regime and Russia. U.S. Forces Try to Stop Syrian Regime Forces From Helping Kurds Fight Turkey:
U.S. forces battled to contain the deployment of Syrian regime troops on Monday, as President Bashar al-Assad ordered his forces into several sensitive areas.
Although still seemingly prepared to withdraw from Syria—according to statements from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other administration officials—sources on the ground told The Daily Beast that American forces continued to try to prevent or at least rein in the full scope of the Assad regime’s deployment throughout the region.
Late Sunday night, local news sources such as Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and other outlets reported that U.S. aircraft launched airstrikes against pro-Assad positions near Tabqa, Mansour, and in Khasham, killing and injuring an unspecified number of fighters.
As The Daily Beast published, well-placed sources on the ground, in addition to the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) local Tabqa Civil Council, claimed no regime military forces remained stationed in either Tabqa or Raqqa cities, although this was disputed by Syrian state media. Sources also said U.S. forces remained stationed at the Qarakozaq bridge that links Manbij to the nearby border town of Kobani, preventing movement between the cities in an attempt to prevent pro-Assad forces from entering the area.
Throughout Sunday evening and Monday morning, Syrian regime forces reportedly spread out and were deployed to several key locations in Syrian Democratic Forces territory as part of a deal stuck to reinforce Kurdish forces amid recent gains by the Turkish military.
Local media reported pro-Assad and some Russian forces deploying to points in Tabqa and Mansour in southwest Raqqa province, Manbij farther west toward Aleppo, and key frontline cities such as Ain Aissa and Tal Tamr farther north toward Turkish forces. In Deir Ezzor province to the east, pro-Assad forces were reported to have attempted to cross the Euphrates at the town of Khasaham, close to a number of large revenue-generating oil fields controlled by Kurds.
With a confusing and disputed picture on the ground, it has become abundantly clear that forces from the U.S., Russia, Syria, and Turkey are operating in dangerously close proximity.
One of the potential flash points is Manbij, the city that has served as a point of contention for U.S.-Turkish relations since at least June 2018, when the U.S. and Turkey announced the formation of the “Manbij Roadmap,” a plan to transfer control of the city from the SDF to a new administration overseen jointly by Turkey and the U.S. The Americans’ failure to make any progress toward this end has served as one of several main grievances held by Turkey that prompted Ankara’s most recent campaign in the north.
Residents of the city, which has been a center of anti-Assad opposition, are desperate for help in preventing Syrian regime forces from assuming control.
“U.S. forces have been stationed at the Qarakozaq bridge and preventing traffic from moving since yesterday,” said Nawaf al-Mustafa, a local activist. “We hope they stay and hold off long enough for Turkish-backed forces to enter the area, otherwise, many people will have to flee.”
Mustafa Khaild, another opposition activist living in exile who has been documenting war crimes carried out in his hometown by all parties in the Syrian conflict for eight years, confirmed to The Daily Beast that U.S. troops stationed at the al-Sa’idi’a military base on the western outskirts of Manbij city also carried out a series of their own patrols parallel to pro-Assad forces late Sunday night, warding off regime forces and forcing them to abandon the front line.
Khalid said it would be devastating if Assad’s forces were able to take control. “Locals are living in a state of paralysis, absolute terror,” he said. “The regime hasn’t been in Manbij for seven years. Our city was home to one of the most powerful anti-Assad movements early on in the revolution. Many revolutionaries and their families still live in the city. If the regime returned, it would be a bloodbath, acts of retribution would never end.”
Rumors had previously circulated of a U.S.-Turkish deal to prevent the arrival of Assad regime forces in Manbij, one of two areas west of the Euphrates controlled by the SDF, according to locals. Those hopes seemed uncertain throughout Sunday and Monday morning. Despite apparent U.S. efforts to hold off pro-Assad forces, the Syrian regime has been carrying out patrols in the countryside west of Manbij, adjacent to regime territory, and continues to patrol around Tal Tamr and Ain Aissa.
* * *
As a result of these developments, Assad regime forces began mobilizing throughout the region late Sunday, in a move widely expected and previously proposed by the Kurdish group during earlier bouts of tension with Turkey. In Manbij, reports of Assad regime forces spreading throughout the city’s northern environs began by early morning.
Videos showing armed convoys raising regime flags spreading across the countryside north of the city along the SDF’s front line with Turkish and SNA forces later circulated across social media, amid rumors that an agreement had been struck between the SDF and the regime to jointly ward off any impending Turkish assault. Russian pro-Kremlin ANNA News reporter Oleg Blokhin, who recently covered Russia’s and Assad’s August takeover of Khan Sheikhoun in addition to Russian private military contractors’ training of pro-Assad militias, put up a livestream from Manbij’s city square in what many felt was the preamble to a Russian advance.
Rumors of an Assad regime expansion elsewhere also began to emerge. Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered reported that pro-regime tribal militias were gathering near the al-Risafa and Albu Hamad areas south of Raqqa city preparing to attack the SDF-held cities of Tabqa, Mansoura, and other towns in the surrounding countryside.
At Kobani, where U.S. troops were attacked and evacuated two days before, the SDF announced a formal agreement with Moscow for Russia and pro-Assad troops to enter the city.
The official Facebook page for the Russian Defense Ministry’s Hmeimim baseissued a stern warning to Turkey, acknowledging that Russian forces would enter the city, stating, “We hope the Turkish side and its allied forces will restrain themselves and not behave recklessly in entering an open war with government troops.”
Later in the night, SDF forces released a similar statement announcing the group’s formal acceptance of regime forces deploying to all areas throughout the group’s “self-administration” area as reinforcements against Turkey. Shortly after, regime troops spread throughout the majority of Hasakah city, the provincial capital and major SDF administrative center, amid large celebratory pro-regime demonstrations there and in Qamishli.
Donald Trump has created total chaos in the region. This only serves the interests of Vladimir Putin. And that may be the whole point.