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Manbij Shows How Syria's Civil War Is Almost Over - and Assad Has Won
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Winners and losers are emerging in what may be the final phase of the Syrian civil war as anti-Isis forces prepare for an attack aimed at capturing Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian fighters say they have seized part of the road south of Raqqa, cutting Isis off from other its territory further east.

Isis is confronting an array of enemies approaching Raqqa, but these are divided, with competing agendas and ambitions. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main fighting force is the Syrian Kurdish Popular Mobilisation Units (YPG), backed by the devastating firepower of the US-led air coalition, are now getting close to Raqqa and are likely to receive additional US support. The US currently has 500 Special Operations troops in north-east Syria and may move in American-operated heavy artillery to reinforce the attack on Raqqa.

This is bad news for Turkey, whose military foray into northern Syria called Operation Euphrates Shield began last August, as it is being squeezed from all sides. In particular, an elaborate political and military chess game is being played around the town of Manbij, captured by the SDF last year, with the aim of excluding Turkey, which had declared it to be its next target. The Turkish priority in Syria is to contain and if possible reduce or eliminate the power of Syrian Kurds whom Ankara sees as supporting the Kurdish insurrection in Turkey.

Turkey will find it very difficult to attack Manbij, which the SDF captured from Isis after ferocious fighting last year, because the SDF said on Sunday that it is now under the protection of the US-led coalition. Earlier last week, the Manbij Military Council appeared to have outmanoeuvred the Turks by handing over villages west of Manbij – beginning to come under attack from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militia backed by Turkey – to the Syrian Army which is advancing from the south with Russian air support.

syria-war-map.jpg

Isis looks as if it is coming under more military pressure than it can withstand as it faces attacks on every side though its fighters continue to resist strongly. It finally lost al-Bab, a strategically placed town north east of Aleppo, to the Turks on 23 February, but only after it had killed some 60 Turkish soldiers along with 469 FSA dead and 1,700 wounded. The long defence of al-Bab by Isis turned what had been planned as a show of strength by Turkey in northern Syria into a demonstration of weakness. The Turkish-backed FSA was unable to advance without direct support from the Turkish military and the fall of the town was so long delayed that Turkey could play only a limited role in the final battle for nearby east Aleppo in December.

Turkey had hoped that President Trump might abandon President Obama’s close cooperation with the Syrian Kurds as America’s main ally on the ground in Syria. There is little sign of this happening so far and pictures of US military vehicles entering Manbij from the east underline American determination to fend off a Turkish-Kurdish clash which would delay the offensive against Raqqa. The US has shown no objection to Syrian Army and Russian “humanitarian convoys” driving into Manbij from the south.

There are other signs that the traditional mix of rivalry and cooperation that has characterised relations between the US and Russia in Syria is shifting towards greater cooperation. The Syrian Army, with support from Russia and Hezbollah, recaptured Palmyra from Isis last Thursday with help from American air strikes. Previously, US aircraft had generally not attacked Isis when it was fighting Syrian government forces. Seizing Palmyra for the second time three months ago was the only significant advance by Isis since 2015.

Turkey could strike at Raqqa from the north, hoping to slice through Syrian Kurdish territory, but this would be a very risky venture likely to be resisted by YPG and opposed by the US and Russia. Otherwise, Turkey and the two other big supporters of the Syrian armed opposition, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are seeing their influence over events in Syria swiftly diminish. Iran and Hezbollah of Lebanon, who were the main foreign support of President Bashar al-Assad before 2015, do not have quite same leverage in Damascus since Russian military intervention in that year.

American and British ambitions to see Mr Assad removed from power have been effectively abandoned and the Syrian government shows every sign of wanting to retake all of Syria. If Isis loses Mosul and Raqqa in the next few months there will be little left of the Caliphate declared in June 2014 as a territorial entity.

The remaining big issue still undecided in both Syria and Iraq is the future relations between the central governments in Baghdad and Damascus and their Kurdish minorities. These have become much more important as allies of the US than they were before the rise of Isis. But they may not be able to hold on to their expanded territories in post-Isis times – and in opposition to reinvigorated Syrian and Iraqi governments.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: ISIS, Russia, Syria, Turkey 
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  1. There never was a civil war in Syria. Syria was invaded by mercenary forces in the employ of nations allied with the Anglo/Zio Empire. The Turks and Americans have no legitimate business in Syria and are not needed. The war will not be over until they are forced out.

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    • Agree: MEexpert
    • Replies: @MEPiston
    Just like there was never a civil war in Vietnam. Rather Vietnam was invaded by mercenary forces in the employ of the Russian / Chinese Empire.
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  2. The US has shown no objection to Syrian Army and Russian “humanitarian convoys” driving into Manbij from the south.

    Why scare quotes? Yes, Russian Military do send humanitarian aid to various provinces of Syria. Yes, they sent aid to Manbij. What’s next? Senators Graham and McCain will demand to publicly aanounce the names of the US SpecForces military advisers to the YPG who partake of borscht? Because if you are eating Russian bosrscht in Syria – you are endorsing Vlad Putin’s “aggression” all around the globe, d’uh!

    The Syrian Army, with support from Russia and Hezbollah, recaptured Palmyra from Isis last Thursday with help from American air strikes.

    American” air strikes? At Palmyra?

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  3. anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    “Syrian government shows every sign of wanting to retake all of Syria”

    Seems like a bad idea. Do they have the manpower? They need to keep and rebuild what they have.

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    • Replies: @The Alarmist

    "Seems like a bad idea. Do they have the manpower? They need to keep and rebuild what they have."
     
    Are you going to be of the same mindset if a weakened US Government decides it wants to retake the rebel-controlled territories of California and Texas?
  4. Oh, and one more thing – relevant, given that former KGB agent owned The Independent is making their breatakingly butt-hurt reports from the relative comfort of the Misty Albion.

    These are, allegedly, Her Majestie’s Finest (who along with the Colonials are also assisting YPG/SDF) transports of choice on the streets of Manbij:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6FprVYXEAAU3nJ.jpg

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6Fpr-eXQAAKhF7.jpg

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6Fpsb4WUAQoWmo.jpg

    I hope good Sirs did a;so partake of Russian borscht:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6FpNLnXMAAXY8z.jpg

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6FpNrTWQAAkG2V.jpg

    Will those of the US/UK Special Forces, who eat Russian “gumanitarka” loose their racially superior Gayropean Values?

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  5. So, Trump did not lie about bringing peace in the NE! If true, he deserves sainthood from me!
    We now expect a good peace [alas, also bad politics] in Syria, but not with Israel, unless it is forced to cough up Golan.

    Read More
    • Replies: @MEexpert

    So, Trump did not lie about bringing peace in the NE! If true, he deserves sainthood from me!
     
    Trump has nothing to do with the recent victories by the Syrian forces. Actually, by sending American troops in that region Trump is trying to sabotage those victories. His support to Kurds will only complicate matters. He is doing the same thing in Iraq. American plan is to create a homeland for the Kurds, which both Iraq and Syria oppose.
  6. If more folks only knew this. November 30, 2016 CIA Continues to Supply TOW Missiles to ‘Syrian Rebels’ Involved in Child Beheading

    Syrian “US-backed rebel group” Nour al-Din al-Zenki became widely known past July after beheading a child near Aleppo city and posting the video of this. Initially, some mainstream media attempted to defend the ‘moderate opposition group’, explaining that it was a “mistake” and an isolated case. However, under the pressure of public opinion, the US State Department was pushed to announce that the US may consider withdrawing its support from “rebels” if reports of beheading of 14-year old boy are confirmed. Nour al-Din al-Zenki was a “CIA-vetted” group and was receiving TOW missiles through the CIA program.

    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/11/30/cia-continues-to-supply-tow-missiles-to-syrian-rebels-involved-in-child-beheading/

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  7. Then USA/EU supported the rebels. Now America is killing the rebels. I wouldn’t trust the Americans at all :^(

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  8. Iran and Hezbollah of Lebanon, who were the main foreign support of President Bashar al-Assad before 2015, do not have quite same leverage in Damascus since Russian military intervention in that year.

    Given that Shiites and Sunnis both see wine-drinking Alawites (like Assad) as apostates, whatever bought-off imams may say and alliances of convenience may dictate, this is probably not such a bad thing.

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  9. @WorkingClass
    There never was a civil war in Syria. Syria was invaded by mercenary forces in the employ of nations allied with the Anglo/Zio Empire. The Turks and Americans have no legitimate business in Syria and are not needed. The war will not be over until they are forced out.

    Just like there was never a civil war in Vietnam. Rather Vietnam was invaded by mercenary forces in the employ of the Russian / Chinese Empire.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Lyttenburgh

    Rather Vietnam was invaded by mercenary forces in the employ of the Russian / Chinese Empire.
     
    You have made a lot of mistakes just trying to write "American Empire". Try again.
  10. Looks to me like the long-term, correct answer is simple. The Kurd-held areas of Iraq & Syria become the nation of Kurdistan, everybody else gets back whatever territory they lost.

    If the Kurds just keep most of what they now hold, they’ll have a contiguous and viable country that used to be northern Iraq & Syria, with a valuable port on the Med. And frankly, they’ve EARNED it. Besides, without US or Russian help none of the local powers are in any position to dislodge them from their would-be country’s territory. The part of Syria they’re breaking off presents no threat to Russian interests, and they’ve been the US’s best allies in this war. Iraq and Syria will be mad, but if they could’ve reconquered these places on their own they’d have done it long before now. Without external help & Kurd help they’d have permanently lost these same areas to ISIS anyway (at a minimum), so they have no right to demand them back at whatever Yalta-type conference is held at the end of this war.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    The Turks won't be at all happy if there's a Kurdish mini-state in Syria/Iraq. I doubt Assad wants one either, unless its leadership agrees to be subordinate to him and is actually capable of keeping its word. On the subject of keeping your word, I see Obama's "no boots on the ground" = 500 troops plus vehicles and air power.

    So I expect the Kurds to get the rough end of the pineapple yet again.

    "So long and thanks for fighting ISIS"

  11. anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    {Looks to me like the long-term, correct answer is simple. The Kurd-held areas of Iraq & Syria become the nation of Kurdistan}

    We never allow a second Israel in our region. The Kurds are spies of US/Israel and are trained terrorist by the axis of evil US-Israel-Britain, where should be destroyed. Now, many people know who are the kurds. They have killed many Arabs and Turkman to purge the area to steal the land, like the fucking zionists.
    YOU and cockburn who was spreading propaganda to promote ‘kurdistan’, the project of MI6 -Mossad -Israel, will take this wish into your graves, especially your dump ‘president’.

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  12. The anti Russian anti Syrian propaganda efforts in the media havent slowed however. Someone hasnt given up on trying to have the jihadis win. Who would this be Mr Cockburn?

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  13. @MEPiston
    Just like there was never a civil war in Vietnam. Rather Vietnam was invaded by mercenary forces in the employ of the Russian / Chinese Empire.

    Rather Vietnam was invaded by mercenary forces in the employ of the Russian / Chinese Empire.

    You have made a lot of mistakes just trying to write “American Empire”. Try again.

    Read More
  14. Humiliating America is storing up trouble for the future. Russia will rue the day.

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  15. It is good news to see Syria with the help of Iran, Russia and the Hezbollah making progress in fighting the terrorists. Yet the next issue is to get rid of the foreign countries having invaded Syria: I mean, the US, Turkey and Israel. Until those 3 countries have left Syria, peace will be precarious.
    It is obvious that Syria cannot use force to push them out. They need the support of major countries like Russia, China and Iran to convince them to leave Syria but it look like “mission impossible ” but Lavrov has already made miracles…..

    Read More
  16. @zyezek
    Looks to me like the long-term, correct answer is simple. The Kurd-held areas of Iraq & Syria become the nation of Kurdistan, everybody else gets back whatever territory they lost.

    If the Kurds just keep most of what they now hold, they'll have a contiguous and viable country that used to be northern Iraq & Syria, with a valuable port on the Med. And frankly, they've EARNED it. Besides, without US or Russian help none of the local powers are in any position to dislodge them from their would-be country's territory. The part of Syria they're breaking off presents no threat to Russian interests, and they've been the US's best allies in this war. Iraq and Syria will be mad, but if they could've reconquered these places on their own they'd have done it long before now. Without external help & Kurd help they'd have permanently lost these same areas to ISIS anyway (at a minimum), so they have no right to demand them back at whatever Yalta-type conference is held at the end of this war.

    The Turks won’t be at all happy if there’s a Kurdish mini-state in Syria/Iraq. I doubt Assad wants one either, unless its leadership agrees to be subordinate to him and is actually capable of keeping its word. On the subject of keeping your word, I see Obama’s “no boots on the ground” = 500 troops plus vehicles and air power.

    So I expect the Kurds to get the rough end of the pineapple yet again.

    “So long and thanks for fighting ISIS”

    Read More
  17. Anonymous Nephew:

    It looks like the Kurds will once again be thrown under the bus by the Americans and others.

    Is this a case of poetic justice for their role in carrying out the Armenian genocide under Ottoman direction?

    Read More
  18. “The Syrian Army, with support from Russia and Hezbollah, recaptured Palmyra from Isis last Thursday with help from American air strikes. Previously, US aircraft had generally not attacked Isis when it was fighting Syrian government forces. ”

    That’s great news, that Russia & the USA have begun cooperating against ISIS. It also indicates that the US military is following the orders of the President, since I doubt CIA/State are too keen on this development.

    Read More
  19. @bob balkas
    So, Trump did not lie about bringing peace in the NE! If true, he deserves sainthood from me!
    We now expect a good peace [alas, also bad politics] in Syria, but not with Israel, unless it is forced to cough up Golan.

    So, Trump did not lie about bringing peace in the NE! If true, he deserves sainthood from me!

    Trump has nothing to do with the recent victories by the Syrian forces. Actually, by sending American troops in that region Trump is trying to sabotage those victories. His support to Kurds will only complicate matters. He is doing the same thing in Iraq. American plan is to create a homeland for the Kurds, which both Iraq and Syria oppose.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Talha
    Hey MEexpert,

    which both Iraq and Syria oppose.
     
    As well as Turkey and Iran - even further complicates matters.

    Peace.
  20. @anonymous
    "Syrian government shows every sign of wanting to retake all of Syria"

    Seems like a bad idea. Do they have the manpower? They need to keep and rebuild what they have.

    “Seems like a bad idea. Do they have the manpower? They need to keep and rebuild what they have.”

    Are you going to be of the same mindset if a weakened US Government decides it wants to retake the rebel-controlled territories of California and Texas?

    Read More
  21. @MEexpert

    So, Trump did not lie about bringing peace in the NE! If true, he deserves sainthood from me!
     
    Trump has nothing to do with the recent victories by the Syrian forces. Actually, by sending American troops in that region Trump is trying to sabotage those victories. His support to Kurds will only complicate matters. He is doing the same thing in Iraq. American plan is to create a homeland for the Kurds, which both Iraq and Syria oppose.

    Hey MEexpert,

    which both Iraq and Syria oppose.

    As well as Turkey and Iran – even further complicates matters.

    Peace.

    Read More
  22. Seems like everybody’s good idea for the region is somebody else’s bad idea.

    The Syrian civil war may simmer down, but this will not be over until a lot more people have died.

    Read More
    • Replies: @MEexpert
    Our problem is that we just don't seem to stay out of wars. Turkey and the US have not been invited by the "Internationally Recognized" government of Syria. Yet we are sending troops. President Trump, and President Obama before him, said that there will be no American boots on the ground in Syria. In his daily briefings this morning, Sean Spicer said that the 500 marines just sent to Syria are advisors (just as Kennedy sent advisors to Vietnam and we all know what happened there). I suppose, either these marines walk on air or they don't wear boots.
  23. @Talha
    Hey MEexpert,

    which both Iraq and Syria oppose.
     
    As well as Turkey and Iran - even further complicates matters.

    Peace.

    Thanks for the correction.

    Read More
  24. @another fred
    Seems like everybody's good idea for the region is somebody else's bad idea.

    The Syrian civil war may simmer down, but this will not be over until a lot more people have died.

    Our problem is that we just don’t seem to stay out of wars. Turkey and the US have not been invited by the “Internationally Recognized” government of Syria. Yet we are sending troops. President Trump, and President Obama before him, said that there will be no American boots on the ground in Syria. In his daily briefings this morning, Sean Spicer said that the 500 marines just sent to Syria are advisors (just as Kennedy sent advisors to Vietnam and we all know what happened there). I suppose, either these marines walk on air or they don’t wear boots.

    Read More
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