The ISIS 'USUS' GCC Game and the Turn of Turkey
As experienced Mideast correspondent Elijah J. Magnier observes, in a piece picked up by Zerohedge, Daesh would have never been puffed up into a terrorist super army, if it were not for the not so covert support of the Gulf States and NATO governments. Together with Israel, which overtly aided Al-Qaeda on its borders and whose commanders confessed they preferred the Takfirists presence to that of Iranian advisers, these nations 'deep states' cynically sought to funnel the terrorists into the war against Assad and Iran.
By design, the vacuum left behind by Daesh defeat has been filled by American boots on the ground, a classified but estimated 4,000 soldiers and contractors, spread across at least nine bases large and small in the Kurdish areas of Syria. This development and the deliberately provocative announcement of an American proxy army composed of Kurds has antagonized Turkey, a former abettor of ISIS, to move against the YPG Kurds armed and trained by U.S. special forces. Despite the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirming a commitment to a long term (and illegal under international law) occupation east of the Euphrates for the nominal purpose of checking Iran and pressuring Assad, it isn't clear to date whether both Moscow and Washington will again tacitly cooperate to limit Ankara's incursions into Syrian Kurdish areas.
You Occupy (Part of It), You Own It:
Trump, Tillerson Can No Longer Blame Neocons if Things Go South Fast in Syria
The Russian Analyst is disgusted, but not surprised by the casual acceptance by American mainstream media and population of a Secretary of State announcing a (totally illegal under international law) occupation on the sovereign territory of a country whose internationally recognized government rejects the U.S. military presence. Certainly the hypocrisy of Washington openly dismembering the territorial integrity of a smaller state while accusing Moscow of doing the same through the much smaller Russian footprint of GRU 'polite people' in the formerly Ukrainian controlled Donbass republics is rich.
Nor is it surprising that prominent alt-media figures who would have rightly condemned such moves under Presidents Dubya or Obama like Infowars' Alex Jones go easy on the President or attribute the policy to the malign influence of neocons nominally under his command, like UN Ambassador Nikki Haley or the aggressively anti-Iranian/Russian generals National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Nonetheless, given Tillerson's reputation for having cut deals with the Russian government while running Exxon and a more pragmatic, non-neocon profile emerging from the global energy industry, his announcement of such an inherently contradictory and thus doomed policy is doubly disappointing.
No longer can Trump blame the policy on aides he inexplicably fails for the 4d chess crowd to sack (most likely due to the influence of pro-Israel megadonors like Sheldon Adelson conveyed through the derisively dubbed by the banished Steve Bannon 'Javanka', the daughter and son in law duo who convinced the CINC to strike a Syrian air field after last April's chemical false flag). If American soldiers start coming back in flag-draped coffins from Syria due to either ISIS or Damascus aligned Hezbollah attacks, Trump will own the political backlash, both from those who already hated him, and among his America First base, to whom he promised (unlike that warmonger Hillary) not to fight Assad.
With that said, as patriotic Americans we certainly want U.S. troops not to be targeted, even as we intellectually understand, by aligning their positions so closely with those of regional heavyweights Israel and Saudi Arabia, this stupid policy is putting targets on the backs of our troops. The fact that Hezbollah and the Iranian backed militias have thus far abstained from hitting U.S. troops is owed more to their alliance with Russia imposing restraints and desire to avoid a larger conflagration then to an imagined invulnerability of the Americans both military and 'civilian' (read: CIA and contractors) in predominantly Kurdish areas. Furthermore, though Daesh remnants have concentrated their suicide bombing attacks on the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and YPG Kurds, it isn't clear that they will abstain from going off their steady script of attacking Saudi/Israeli enemies and target the U.S. infidels soon, as the original Bin Laden 'led' Al-Qaeda did following their successful 1980s collaboration with CIA against the Soviets.
While Turkey Threatens Afrin, Moscow Invites Washington's Representatives to Sochi
While 'containing' Iran, not Russia, is the stated objective of the policy Tillerson outlined in this week's Stanford University speech (with Iraq War proponent and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looking on), from Moscow's perspective the Americans are creating a Cold War-style occupation zone standoff in the Levant. The fact that the U.S. presence in Iraq remains small and has not achieved much leverage over the Iranian-friendly Shia-majority government in Baghdad isn't going to preclude the Americans from trying the same type of leverage against Damascus. Yet as Elijah J. Magnier points out, the U.S. troops are useless for stopping the flow of arms and fighters overland from Iran via SAA-controlled Abu Kamal at the Syraqi border all the way to Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon. No matter how many times the Israelis bomb weapons transfers with Russian air defenses looking on, they cannot stop them all. Thus policies intended to convey American-Israeli resolve end up highlighting Washington and Tel Aviv's weaknesses instead.
Even if the gap between what a few thousand troops operating in the Kurdish held territories east of the Euphrates can actually accomplish and what Tillerson says they can in terms of forcing Assad to step down weren't enough to doom the policy before it starts, there's another contradiction confounding the Americans: Turkey. The wavering NATO member state is engaged in a war of nerves against the Kurds in the enclave of Afrin, but rumors that Russian troops had pulled out to green light a full on assault by the Turkish Army have not panned out.
While Turkish and Russian defense ministers and their generals met face to face, Moscow's client in Damascus warned the Turks that any fighter jets bombing Kurds in what it still considers sovereign Syrian territory would be shot down. Those snickering at such warnings on Twitter, citing the apparent impunity Israeli Air Force jets have enjoyed while attacking targets inside Syria for years, overlook the fact that the IAF invariably uses standoff missiles fired from Lebanese air space not controlled by the Russians to strike. And that the IAF may have covered up damage if not actual confirmed kills of its aircraft as the Syrians quietly upgrade their outdated S200 and other anti-air missiles. If the Syrian Air Force's newer MiG-29s challenge the Turks, even with the Russian Air Force avoiding engagement, the Turks' F-16s will likely beat a hasty retreat back across their border.
Erdogan is mostly bluffing, expressing for domestic political consumption deep Turkish anger at the U.S. for rubbing their noses in American support for the 'terrorist' YPG, while not going too far in alienating his frenemies in the Kremlin. The Russians of course, know that Syria cannot avoid partition without Kurdish autonomy and Kurds being included in a peace settlement. In return for remaining in a united but more autonomous Syria, Damascus can offer the Kurds air defense from Turkish bombing and Russian engineering expertise for the oil and gas fields under their control (if the Kurds will agree to pay the Assad government some taxes on that energy output).
What's clear this weekend is that the Turkish Army has massed armor and artillery for the Afrin shelling, but the Turks have not mobilized a sufficient number of men to storm the city. The 'Free Syrian Army' 'moderate rebels' also lack either the manpower or military competence to seize Afrin from its Kurdish defenders. On Friday pro-government network TRT World showed YPG shells having allegedly hit a Turkish hospital in Hatay province on the border:
Notwithstanding the Secretary of State's denials that DoD is creating a 'border security force' along the de facto borders of a separatist Syrian Kurdistan, the Pentagon announced that's precisely what it was doing just a few days ago. Once again, the policy is either inherently contradictory, the most likely explanation, or someone is lying. The Turks led by Erdogan have repeatedly stated that Washington has sought to deceive them about the nature of its support for the YPG and the continuance of the arms and training flow after the justification of crushing ISIS was removed -- though remnants of the Daeshbags continue to carry out largely exaggerated attacks in the Euphrates Valley, with the Americans noticeably sluggish in hot pursuit of these small ISIS units (while accusing the Russians and their Syrian hosts of failing to do enough to mop up Daesh).
Mixed Messages and the Attempt to Set Up U.S. Troops for Clashes with SAA/Hezbollah
The Russian Analyst shares W the Intelligence Insider's longstanding concern, even with a large scale Second Israel-Hezbollah War postponed, that the stage is being set for a broader confrontation with Iran, and indirectly Russia and China. Stepping back from the three way standoff between the Turks, Russians and Americans in Syria, the position of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia continues to deteriorate in Yemen. Modest territorial gains inside Yemen by the Kingdom's tribal allies have been offset by the Houthis use of increasingly numerous and sophisticated missile attacks and cross border raids on Saudi territory.
While neocons gloated about the drone bombing attack against Russia's Kheimmim air base in Syria on New Year's Eve and Russian Orthodox Christmas day, the fact remains such 'do it yourself' technology is very likely to appear in the Houthis hands soon to attack Saudi bases where American and especially British contractors work. Israel has repeatedly baited Hezbollah into direct combat through assassinations and bombing missions but so far the Iranian-backed super militia has not taken the bait, keeping its vast arsenal of missiles at ready for the war with the Zionist Entity its leadership has proclaimed as inevitable. Palestinian protests over the Jerusalem capitol move announced by the Trump Administration have been contained but increased European sympathy for the divest from Israel movement.
Now that long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds a recording of his son outside a strip club at the center of corruption investigations into his premiership, there may be more pressure in Tel Aviv for diversionary military adventures against Hezbollah or Assad's forces in Syria. The Saudi effort with Israel's support to destabilize the Hezbollah-including Lebanese government backfired. And a Trump Administration on the cusp of exposing much of the RussiaGate scandal as a Democratic and deep state fabrication is unlikely to start a major military engagement either in North Korea or the Middle East just before this November's 2018 mid term elections. As Elijah J. Magnier writes, the path of incremental mission creep remains perilous politically and militarily for the Pentagon and the Trump White House:
U.S. Troops in Syria Suffering a Major Attack is a Wild Card Up the Globalists' Sleeves
However, all of these rational evaluations of what ought to be rational actors leaves out many wild cards and the desperation of those determined to have their big war with Iran if not WWIII, no matter what. For that reason, the presence of several thousand Americans inside Syria remains dangerous in that a significant casualty attack on the vulnerable troops blamed on Hezbollah could be the (false flag?) spark to a conflict that drags Trump in regardless of domestic political and personal considerations.