Next Cold War Roundup 1/29
Turkey Threatens to Enter War on Syrian Border.
_ The Times in UK claims that Russia is working on a deal to create a Kurdish “enclave” and the Times frames this as a Russia provoking Turkey: “Kremlin provokes Akara with deal to secure Kurd enclave“: “Russia and Turkey could be heading for an armed confrontation on Syrian soil as both sides build up their military presence along a key stretch of the Turkish-Syrian frontier.”
_ Russian state media taunts, but frames this as “Doomsday for Daesh”, saying the Kurds will “seal Syria’s border with Turkey”. They are referring to a 60-mile stretch still used to bring fighters, weapons and supplies to ISIS, an area the Turkey has “failed to secure… despite repeated promises to address the issue, thus contributing to Daesh’s resilence and longevity.”
_ Turkey is building up troops near Jarablus. Both the US and Russia are providing air support for the Syrian Kurdish forces, the YPG who are fighting along side Sunni Arab militias as part of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” and this has caused great alarm in Turkey. Turkey’s Security Council announced yesterday “PYD Syrian Kurdish group and its YPG militia have no future in Syria. Ankara has warned it could intervene militarily.”
_ A columnist says that Turkey’s prime minister Davutoglu also warned that Turkey would use military force against YPG: “Prime Minister [Ahmet] Davutoglu himself has said that if Turkey sees it necessary, it will take the same precautions against the YPG in Syria that it’s taking against the PKK in Iraq.” Russia has threatened to attack any Turkish plane that crosses the border. Two other people interviewed in this article give the opinion that the YPG is in a superior position, noting that if the US reduces support to the YPG, Russia will step up theirs.
_ Erdogan’s statement on the proposition for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey’s “Kurdish-majority southeast” by the PKK and HDP party leaders calling for autonomous zones:
“It should be known that we will bring the whole world down on those who seek to establish a state within a state under the name of autonomy and self-governance […] What do we say? One flag”
_ Biden’s recent visit to Turkey “annoyed Ankara.”
Jarablus, Manbij, Azaz
_ YPG told Voice of America they plan to take ISIS-held Jarablus and Manbij and rebel-held Azaz, which would sever ISIS supply lines on the Turkish border.
_ Syrian Kurdish fighters, PYD/YPG (fighting along side Arab Sunni groups under the name Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF), are “prepared to enter Jarablus from Afrin“. A Turkish daily newspaper said that a Turkish intelligence report said that “Russia and Iran have recently boosted their military presence in the Afrin region” and they are supporting the PYD operation for Jarablus. Taking Jarablus would mean the Kurds would connect Afrin with their other “cantons” to the East, expanding their corridor along the Turkish border.
Kurds in Syria and Iraq
_ The SDF is growing. “The SDF leadership confirmed in a statement that dozens of new rebel groups have joined its ranks in the war on ISIS in northern Syria. ”
_ Lavrov mentioned this week that Russia supplied arms to Iraqi Kurds: “After ISIS infamously seized Mosul and large parts of Iraq’s northwest back in the summer of 2014, Russia sent arms to Baghdad, including Su-25 attack planes.” Russia supports “One Iraq” policy, as does Iran and officially, the US.
“Is it business or is it patriotism?” Ash Carter at Davos
_ Kevin Baron at Defense One describes Sec Def Ash Carter’s “crashing” Davos meeting of “the world’s most posh gathering of financiers, bankers, ministers, and economists” where he was presented as “the CEO of the largest enterprise in the world.” He speaks like a man in the middle of a world war, trying to commandeer all of industry to the war effort.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter came to the World Economic Forum with dual messages. One for world leaders on this global stage: get into the fight against the Islamic State. And a second for corporate leaders: join forces with the Pentagon and get into the business of fighting for something bigger
[…] And there’s the big question. Will Davos fight? After all, is war good for business? […] He’s asking the men and women wining and dining at Davos to consider getting into the fight. After the Paris attacks of last year, something may be changing.
_ While trying to persuade Silicon Valley and the business world into the fight against ISIS, or perhaps it’s really about asking them to take sides in the emerging multi-polar world, Carter also leans hard on other members of the coalition, with his primary target probably being fellow NATO members and Gulf allies, to step up with money and troops. “Many of them are not doing enough, or are doing nothing at all […] “We need others to carry their weight, there should be no free riders.”
Syria Peace Talks Off to a Shaky Start. Saudi-Backed Opposition Umbrella Group Didn’t Show Up. Other Opposition Groups Did Show Up.
_ The UN announced today that the talks have started though the Saudi-backed opposition didn’t show. De Mistura did begin the talks and met with other opposition groups. According to Joshua Landis, de Mistura created a “proximity” format in which the different parties are in different rooms, not at the same table, at least not yet. There are four different rooms, three of which are occupied today. The Syrian govt in one room, the Syrian civil society political activists in a second room, a political activist group put together by the Russians that includes Kurds in a third room and the Saudi-backed “HNC” opposition umbrella group will be in a fourth room if they choose to show up.
Mr. de Mistura will start by meeting the government’s delegation today, headed by the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations, Mr. Bashar Jaafari. He will continue meetings with other participants in the talks and with representatives of the civil society subsequently.
As indicated by Mr. de Mistura in his press conference on 25 January, these will be proximity talks, meaning that the parties will be meeting with him separately. We will keep you informed, accordingly.”
_ “Despite Western pressure the main opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), has yet to decide whether to come to Geneva and was holding a fourth day of talks in Saudi Arabia on Friday.” Iran’s president Rouhani is not optimistic that a solution will be found “in the space of a few weeks, a few meetings.” Russia refuses to negotiate with “Salafist Jihadist Ahrar al Sham.”
_ The Saudi-backed (some of which are also US-backed) “rebels” still want Assad out and according to Joshua Landis, the Saudis promised them a military solution if Assad would not step down. They are now calling for (more of) that military solution with more advanced weapons and whatever it takes to defeat Assad. Said Arikat, former UN spokesman for Iraq, says the US has realized that the Russian intervention was a game changer and this military solution is no longer viable, but this is not accepted by some of the HDC groups and they do not want to come to the table. Kerry and Lavrov and the UN Security Council did not call for Assad to leave and instead will allow him to be part of a broader government with a new constitution and later, internationally monitored elections in which Assad would be eligible to run. The HNC wants Assad to just leave and for Syria to be handed over to a transitional government that they would have significant control over, and they do not want Assad to be allowed to run in the later elections.
_ Patrick Cockburn says it’s up to the US and Russia to make peace, otherwise it won’t happen. Even if the peace talks do manage to move forward, too many key players won’t be at the table: ISIS, Syrian Kurds and Al Qaeda. The talks only cover Syria, not Iraq, which is part of the war that involves ISIS. But the war really is even bigger than that. The Russian intervention changed the balance of power significantly.
_ Again from Joshua Landis — Obama has said he doesn’t want a war with Russia. The main driver of refugees in Syria was the fact that nobody could win. The Russian intervention was a game changer. “Should Assad win, I think a lot of Syrians would go home.”
Syrian Civil Society Statement on eve of Geneva Talks https://t.co/ml9fXCJVI0
— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) January 27, 2016
Rebel militias pulling out of Aleppo fearful of getting trapped in coming offensive & facing Russian air power alone. Zinki just announced
— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) January 27, 2016
— Syrian Eagle (@SyrianEgale2) January 27, 2016
_ On Friday reports of Turkmen fleeing Syria to Turkey as pro-Assad recapture territory in northwestern coastal Syria.
Libya War 2.0
_ “Libya’s internationally recognized parliament rejected the United Nations proposal for a unified government.” At a Paris meeting of anti-ISIS coalition defense ministers last week, there was a rather bizarre consensus:
At a Paris meeting last week of defense ministers from countries in the anti-IS coalition, Pinotti said, there was “total agreement” that a Libya unity government should ask for help to fight militants, to avoid fuelling “jihadist propaganda” of yet another “Western invasion”.
_ Pentagon spox Peter Cook said “We’re looking at military options.” CNN reported last night on an emergency meeting at the White House on Libya. Via press leaks, Pres. Obama has recently admitted he has US troops in Libya already. Italy’s defense minister says she’s working with Americans, British and French (the same countries that toppled the Gaddafi government and destabilized Libya) and that Italy wants a “leadership role in stabilizing Libya, its former colonial possession”.
_ Americans are paying almost no attention to the fact that we’re getting into yet another war. Too busy with multi-year campaigns for the presidency, and all its circuses. But some are paying attention:
- “The U.S. Intervention in Libya Was Such a Smashing Success That a Sequel Is Coming“.
- “Libya: The Imperial Violence Keeps Giving“
Afghanistan aka Hotel California – “What we’ve learned is that you can’t really leave“
_ A new general, another special operations forces officer, nominated to lead (non) war in Afghanistan. Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, Army Ranger. The mood in Washington and especially the Pentagon has completely changed on Afghanistan. After spending years working to withdraw, we’re now looking at the “endless war” that Obama promised the country we would not have. An anonymous “senior Pentagon official with extensive experience in Afghanistan and Iraq” says “What we’ve learned is that you can’t really leave.“ [Emphasis added]
In its place, there is a broad recognition in the Pentagon that building an effective Afghan army and police force will take a generation’s commitment, including billions of dollars a year in outside funding and constant support from thousands of foreign advisers on the ground.
New Suspect in Russian Airliner Crash
_ A mechanic with ties to ISIS is a new suspect in the crash of Russian airliner in October. Two policemen are also suspected of “playing a role by turning a blind eye to the operation at a security checkpoint.” There are no official sources. Reuters only cites “sources familiar with the matter.”