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Manbij Becomes Key as US Looks to Rein in Turkey's Syrian Offensive
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The US is trying to prevent the fighting in Afrin between Turkish forces and Syrian Kurds spreading east into the main Kurdish enclave in Syria where US troops are based. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to drive the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters not just from Afrin, but from Manbij, a strategic town west of the Euphrates.

“Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. “If the US does not stop this, we will stop it.”

Some 6,000 Turkish troops backed by 10,000 Free Syrian Army fighters controlled by Turkey are seeking to fight their way into the isolated Kurdish canton of Afrin in northern Syria. Their progress has so far been slow, with thick cloud hindering air strikes in the hilly terrain. The YPG and Turkish-led forces have been fighting for the Bursaya Hill, with the summit, which overlooks the eastern side of Afrin town, changing hands several times.

The US has so far given muted support to its Kurdish allies in Syria, who provided the ground troops for the successful campaign against Isis. The US has supported the YPG during the war against Isis with massive air power, military equipment and some 2,000 specialised US troops.

The US is hoping to keep the present fighting confined to Afrin, which is separate from the bulk of Kurdish territory. There have never been any US military forces in this enclave, though there were Russian observers that have now been withdrawn. But if Turkey attacks Manbij then the US will have to decide if it is going to be seen as betraying its Kurdish ally or risk a military confrontation with its Nato partner Turkey.

The Kurdish authorities in north-east Syria are calling for a mass mobilisation in defence of Afrin. But they already have large numbers of experienced combat troops previously fighting Isis that they can deploy if they wish. “The Turkish state has been trying to enter north Syria for days, but it will not be able to,” said Siyamund Walat, a YPG general. “We have forces in Afrin, thousands… they are protecting the border and the people. If necessary all the soldiers will go to Afrin.”

It may be in the interests of the Syrian Kurds to prolong the fighting in Afrin so international diplomatic pressure increases on Turkey to end Operation Olive Branch, as it calls its campaign. On the other hand, Afrin is cut off from the rest of the Kurdish-held area and the one supply road to the south is held by the Syrian Army. Syrian soldiers have been refusing to allow refugees from Afrin through their checkpoints to reach Kurdish areas in Aleppo city 25 miles away.


The Turkish campaign only became possible when Russia agreed not to oppose it and, above all, allowed Turkish jets to operate in Syrian airspace. This is under Russian control west of the Euphrates. The long-contemplated Turkish assault was finally provoked by the US announcement last week that its forces would be staying in Syrian Kurdish territory for the foreseeable future. This de facto guarantee of the Kurdish statelet, directed against the Syrian government and Iran by the US, radically changed the strategic balance in Syria. The US had assured the Turks since the end of 2014 that its military cooperation with the YPG was purely tactical, directed against Isis and would end when Isis was defeated.

Mr Erdogan is taking advantage of a wave of patriotic support in Turkey for the Afrin operation to arrest dozens of politicians, journalists and activists who are accused of criticising the offensive. Many of those arrested, often for critical media posts, belong to the pro-Kurdish HDP party. “Journalists are having their doors rammed down without anybody knocking,” said HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen. “People are [becoming] afraid of keyboards, pens, words and writing.”

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Kurds, Syria, Turkey 
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  1. two-groups of non-whites fighting a war over which flag flies in which sand dune. Pozzed left-liberal kurds and Islamist Turks are eliminating each other, and nothing of value is being lost.

    • Replies: @tom dee
    , @druid
  2. Yee says:

    If Russia and Iran have any brain at all, they would be sending troops to help Syrian Kurds to drive back Turkey.

    How the hell can they forget Turkey is a NATO member, trying to gain control of the formerly not yet under their controll territory?

  3. In fact, the Kurds, though non-European, are whites who speak an indo-European language related to Persian, and the Turks living in Turkey have DNA which derives mostly from the variety ancient peoples, including a large number of Greeks, whom they conquered when they took over Byzantium. The consequences are potentially very serious because if the US directly gets into war with the Turks, the Incirlik base gets taken over and NATO’s south flank gets removed, and there is a serious risk in my view that under these circumstances, there is a chance that everything could become unglued. If things are kept from totally destabilising, it could result in the weakening of NATO which probably would have knock-on effects elsewhere in the western world leading to a higher degree of independence among countries hitherto satellites of the yankee imperium, what I would see as a positive development.

  4. @Yee

    If the Russians & Iran send “help” to the Kurds, they will be assisting the U. S. Set up a Kurd Satilite Israeli Statelet between Syria & Turkey. How is that remotely in the interests of either

    • Agree: L.K
  5. Yee says:

    Thomas Ancrum Moore,

    You must understand what is happening in Syria is between US/NATO and Russia/Iran, any other participants are just chess pieces that can be used and discarded, turn this way or the other. The big players can turn whatever they “gain” to lose with a slight switch of position.

    What is important is never lose the main focus of whole thing. No matter who else gain, Turkey getting total control of the territory is a lose for Russia/Iran, and there’d be other consequences following it. So it must be stopped.

    • Replies: @Thomas Ancrum Moore
  6. Bianca says:

    There is no reason for anyone to support secessionism. And US again in nation-building

    Kurds are playing dangerous game in Syria. They had no grievances, no reasons to have
    anymosity to Damascus. So now, they will osy the price. Town of Manbij was a majority Arab town,
    until ISIS struck. Many fled. Many more fled when US bombed Manbij. Them ISIS was sllowed
    to exit the city, and Kurds entered. Then Kurds proceeded to ethnically cleanse what remained.
    Biden promised Kurds were going to leave — and let inhabitants come back. Never happened, and never will, unless Turkey forces them to leave. Millions of people are refugees in Turkey. As thry cannot come back to Kurd held areas. But as Kurds are thin on the ground, snd Arabs abandoned
    them, now it becomes the wuestion for Kurds — what is it they want. Just counting on US
    to endlessly hold depopulated areas for Kurds to spread in, is not a realistic plan. And resurecting ISIS may be a dicey proposition.
    And it is not just Msnbij. Turkish forces are amassing further north-east, at Al-Hassaksh, and are
    ready to deal with enrire border. I would not be shocked if Turkey does mot take sdvantage of
    its position in Al-Bab, to move on Raqqa. Another Kurd occupiesd Arab town. Syria and Russia negotiated with Kurds to reintegrate into the rest of Syria, but YPG refused. Folloeing
    the refusal, there is really nothing left but to force the issue of Syrian tertitorial integrity.
    Russia, Iran and Turkey are guarantors of peace process under Astana format. The issue of Kurdish position in Syria will have to be clarified, one way or snother.

    • Agree: druid
  7. KA says:

    Turkey is in real trouble It has over the years made many enemies -Syria,Israel,Egypt,Russia, UAE,Saudi. and US. No-one trusts this government. We can safely say that US policy towards latests crisis between Turkey and US is being managed directly by Israel . One wrong move/miscalculation by Turkey can lead to dismemberment of Turkey by US. Russia doesn’t want it but may not be able to help the frenemy .
    In hindsight 20/20 ,one day this whole 30,000 forces thought by US could come to be recognized as the red bait that lured the Turkey to its demise as an independent nation.

    Turkey’s best approach would be to si t tight after capturing northwestern border from Kurds , hand it over to Syria,and keep on yelling at US-Kurd entity on the north eastern side . That place is landlocked and couldn’t survive a total blockade by Iran Iran Turkey and Syria.

  8. Yee says:


    Well, obviously you understand the situation better than me.
    And let’s hope that Turkey will not become another long staying occupying force.

    • Replies: @tom dee
  9. This is very complex and confusing situation that few understand, and Mr. Cockburn only adds to the confusion. I clarify in my blog, with maps too.

    Jan 24, 2018 – The Secret Plan to Partition of Syria

    This blog has detailed Israel’s Yinon plan to dominate the Middle East, which has been underway the past two decades. One objective is the destruction of Syria into another failed state, allowing Israel to reclaim more Biblical lands. This effort was backed by the wealthy Saudis and Gulf States who dislike Syria’s Shiite alliance with Iran. The US/Israeli/Saudi Axis of Evil shipped billions of dollars in weapons from Eastern Europe to Syria, recruited tens of thousands of Jihadists throughout the Muslim world, paid and trained them to “liberate” Syria, and labeled them Syrian Democratic Forces. Some of these groups went rogue, set up local criminal mini-states, refused to advance, so were labeled “ISIS” enemies.

    However, the Syrian Army proved tough so this “civil war” did not go well. It was thought that a huge American bombing campaign to destroy the Syrian government and its army could do the trick, but the American public and Congress were not ready for another war. The “Weapons of Mass Destruction” threat was spun, but Syria quickly defused it by agreeing to allow American contractors to destroy its chemical stockpiles, thus eliminating a major worry for Israel. Yet even after this, the “gassed his own people” ruse was tried twice! This mostly failed, then frustrated Jihadists began fighting among themselves and abusing civilians causing more complications. 

    The solution was to promise Turkey part of the prize. The 1922 French colonial map is pictured above, and provides a rough idea of this secret agreement. Turkey would reclaim its old Aleppo province while Israel reclaimed the two southern provinces, both to be called “security zones” that would be eventually absorbed. To speed this process and limit bloodshed, Assad and his Alawite officer Army would be allowed to withdraw to their coastal homeland province as the result of a Geneva “peace” conference the American Neocons are demanding.

    Syria was carved out of Turkey’s old Ottoman empire by the French in 1918. The British and French had seized vast oil fields from the defeated Ottoman Empire after World War I. The French quickly built a pipeline to pump oil from fields in Eastern Syria to ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey has always demanded a return of these oil fields. 

    To assist with this partition plan, Turkey opened its borders to supplies for the Jihadists and organized its own militias to reclaim Northern Syria. Turkish military units moved across the border and set up advance bases “to thwart terrorists” and Turkey began publishing its new map with borders expanded into Syria and Iraq over two years ago. All this oil wealth would allow Turkey to reemerge as the major military power in the Middle East.

    All was going well until the Russians showed up. Syria had formally requested UN member assistance to repel foreign aggression, and Russia and Iran responded as required by the UN Charter. This was a big surprise and resulted in a rapid reversal on the battlefield. The Russians infuriated Turkey by bombing “rebel” oil tankers that were openly hauling stolen Iraqi and Syrian oil to Turkey, and a Turkish Generals even ordered the shoot down of a Russian fighter.
    Turkey and much of Europe rely on oil and natural gas pipelines that flow through Turkey. The Russians let Turkey know their Syrian conquest would not be allowed, and any further provocations would result in the instant destruction of these pipelines. Turkey told the Axis of Evil that it would do no more so long as the Russians remained in Syria. The Axis of Evil promised to protect Turkey and ordered it to resume pushing forces southward. Turkey refused because the partition plan had become a bloody mess that caused over three million refugees to flood Turkey and it was not worth risking nuclear war. This displeased the Axis of Evil, which implemented another contingency plan; a military coup in Turkey! However, the Russians learned of the plan and tipped off the Turkish President.

    As a result, another plan was devised. Israel would expand its covert Druze militias in Southern Syria and provide occasional air support. American troops would illegally move into Eastern Syria to contain the advancing Syrian army and build up a Kurdish Army to continue the fight. In return, the Axis of Evil would support Kurdish dreams of a large nation that included most of Northern Syria. This infuriated the Turks, so they recently cut a deal with the Russians. They will now crush the Kurds, and this attack started this week.

    We have some 4000 American troops scattered around Eastern Syria for no sane reason, surrounded by a million Syrian/Turk/Russian/Iranian/Iraqi soldiers who don’t want them there. The American allied Turks disobeyed Neocon orders and began invading Syria to crush the American backed Kurds who are invading Syria. This is like one of those old British colonial movies where good soldiers are left to die at desolate outposts. America’s NATO allies do not support this illegal plan for conquest, and it may result in a “Suez Crisis” explained in the first blog post of this year. American troops may be forced to retreat from Syria and even Iraq, whose Shiite government feels threatened by the Kurds and is allied with Iran and now Turkey.

  10. tom dee says:

    You kind of miss the fact that one group Turkey could just decide it likes Russia & China and join a join military assistance group. This means the Ottoman empire is on the rise and the USA will be pushed back to Israel which will be blocked south by Egypt & land bridge of enemies to the north. Iran will have access to massive nuclear weapons which counter the Israel bombs. It is actually the worse of situations but just keep on believing it just one group kill a lot of people you do not like.

    If events go bad you will end up with enemy troops in the “new” palestine in Gaza with a promise of any attack will result in WWIII

    • Replies: @Lemurmaniac
  11. Anonymous [AKA "Bob Joe"] says:

    The Kurds do not care if you label them as Syria, Iranian, Turkish, etc….. They are Kurds one and all. They are a large ethnic majority in their area of operation. Like the Cree in Canada are everywhere in Northern Canada.
    This whole affair will look like the Israeli’s and Americans have set the Kurds up for failure. The future is not looking bright for either of theses nations as they are being recognized as troublemakers by former and current allies. Simply enforce the Geneva Conventions, and curtail the countries not involved in the Middle Easter mess.

    • Replies: @druid
  12. tom dee says:

    Sadly once a military force in on location it seldom leaves unless forced out. Turkey probably will quickly defeat the Kurds & it will never leave. Syria is part of the old Ottoman empire so Turkey will just feel it really owns the area Turkey/China join in a military support group. They are not hot heads so they will look for slow steady actions but the will control the entire north of Israel & Egypt was bombed by Israel so never forget they hate Israel

  13. druid says:

    God you are a jerk. Remind me of when I lived in South Africa – mentalities like yours were rife among the whites. We go and create chaos and when people try to protect themselves from chaos, arseholes like you talk shit

    • Replies: @Lemurmaniac
  14. druid says:

    The Kurds have been promised many times that they will be backed for their own state and then stabbed in the back every time. They never learn!

  15. @Yee

    “There’d be other consequences following (it)”……????? What other consequences??

    You haven’t convinced me.. Whose idea to put a 30,000 man mercenary U.S. force between Turkey & Syria, with Gulan still free to committee terror… Somebody’s on drugs…!!!

  16. Yee says:

    Thomas Ancrum Moore,

    Other consequences like once Turkey become an occupying force, it can back a new government in the north, like occupying militaris always do. And the US and NATO will gladly recognize it.

    After another round of “Assad gas his own people” or UN investigation or something else, there may be enough to oust Assad. If that happened, where does it leave Russia and Iran? All goes back to the beginning but with half of the country lost.

  17. @Yee

    I doubt that Turkey is any longer a “full-fledged” and “loyal” member of NATO after they came to believe that the U.S. CIA tried to kill Erdogan.

  18. @tom dee

    these are all brown people problems. The real threat from Turkey is its function as a funnel for immigrants into Europe. This is a problem Europe must address. The sort of regime in Ankara is irrelevant. And who cares about Israel?

  19. @druid


    God you are a nancy boy.

    where’s the lie? are not Turks predatory Muslims? To this day they’re still occupying Cyprus and Thrace, two European territories. Aren’t the Kurds disgustingly liberal in their outlook, a beacon for ANTIFA the world over? They are each other’s well deserved punishment.

    It’s the Jews creating the chaos in the ME, and Turkey is its own moral agent. Sure, Washington at the behest of the Jews stirred the pot, but Turkey decided to go along with it. Likewise, the Kurds chose to play off Damascus and Washington against each other and thus found themselves left with no friends.

    South Africans did nothing wrong. A little brusk perhaps, but that’s just their way of being. Sambo was better off with Anglo-Dutch stock in charge.

    • Replies: @Talha
  20. Talha says:

    To this day they’re still occupying Cyprus and Thrace, two European territories.

    Yeah, but Ottoman/Turkish conquests of those territories pre-dates European settlement and conquest of places like North America and Australia – why do Europeans get a pass on the territories they conquered and settled? Let’s be consistent and ask everyone to go back. Will they? No? Then why should the Turks?


    • Replies: @iffen
    , @Lemurmaniac
  21. iffen says:

    But that’s different.

    You are trying to cook a goose without any sauce. 🙂

    • Replies: @Talha
  22. Talha says:

    Likely, I don’t think Turks do sauce with geese. 🙂


  23. @Talha

    It’s called taking your own side.

    • Replies: @Talha
  24. Talha says:

    Yeah, that’s cool, I figured – the Ummah’s gonna back up the Turks if y’all decide to march on Istanbul. You just gotta decide how bad you want it; how many Europeans do you think would rally to fight and die in a new Crusade for Constantinople? How many Muslims would sign up to defend it?

    • Replies: @Lemurmaniac
  25. @Talha

    A revitalized Europe could do it. But not the current one where liberal values are ascendant. There’s very little the backwards Islamic world could do, providing we had Russia on our side. Only real threat would be Pakistan.

    • Replies: @Talha
  26. Talha says:

    Hey Lemurmaniac,

    A revitalized Europe could do it.

    That was kind of my point.

    You brought up Pakistan so I assume you are talking about going nuclear – which is a great way not to capture Constantinople, but rather render it uninhabitable for a given time. Seems like a fairly silly way to go about these things, but hey – don’t know what would drive a revitalized Europe, maybe they would like radiation. Comic books say being exposed to it gives one super powers!

    Furthermore, if there were signs that Europe was planning on going that route, I’m fairly sure Turkey would go nuclear within a few months (she is quite capable of this); less if she had help from Pakistan. And even before she was capable, I’m sure she could easily borrow some bombs from Pakistan since they are ready for delivery from F-16s (which both countries have in large supply). Turkey and Pakistan have increased defense cooperation as of late at the core industrial levels:
    “A transnational military-industrial complex between Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, recently hinted at by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, may be moving towards realisation faster than expected. Earlier on Nov 30, the three countries held their first trilateral talks in Baku. The three countries have all had defence related agreements in the past with each other, but are now looking towards creating a trilateral format of defence cooperation, which could prove vital given the strategic location each country has in its own region.”

    I personally hate nuclear weapons as they are horrendous, indiscriminate weapons, but some Muslim scholars have given permission to use them in retaliatory strikes (none that I know of have approved first use). Most Muslims that run these states will not hesitate to make retaliatory strikes.

    Nor do I think military conquests to take back various lands lost in wars over 500 years ago make any sense – especially given the destructive nature of war in our times.

    So again, what is an irradiated, ruined Constantinople worth? Berlin? Vienna?

    Maybe fun to make comic books out of or movies, but this is reality.


    • Replies: @Talha
  27. Talha says:

    In song…no, you can’t go back to Constantinople…

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