Next Cold War 3/18/16
The EU is wrangling with Turkey over an agreement to take back migrants and change their laws in exchange for political and financial rewards and calls out EU for their support of terror groups and treatment of migrants. Turkey is under pressure from a number of different directions. On the eve of the anniversary of the NATO intervention in Libya, a UN envoy is calling for the “unity government” they chose for Libya to be inserted into the country quickly and it’s not clear whether or not they will survive. Another “low-level” military intervention is underway by the same western countries. After the Russian semi-withdrawal from Syria, Putin says they can return within hours, praises his military for creating conditions for peace talks.
EU Summit Wrangles With Turkey Over Migrant Agreement
_ While the EU and Turkey try to work out a deal at a summit, Erdogan says Europe is “dancing in a minefield” and ‘nursing a viper in its bosom’ by supporting terrorist groups.
“I’m once more calling on the countries which directly or indirectly lend support to terror organizations: You are nursing a viper in your bosom. That viper you have been nourishing can bite you at any time.”
“At a time when Turkey is hosting 3 million [migrants], those who are unable to find space for a handful of refugees, who in the middle of Europe keep these innocents in shameful conditions, must first look at themselves.”
Evacuation of the Golan
_ Israel is preparing an evacuation plan for the Golan Heights and Galilee settlements. Israeli media, Maariv, reported that “settlers from 15 border settlements would be moved to settlements in the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea.” There is a similar plan to move Mt. Hermon settlers to settlements in Negev. Israel claims that this is being done because of the risk of war “eruption” with Hezbollah.
_ A map produced by a representative of the “Rojava Self-Ruled Democratic Administration in Moscow” shows the plan for Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan (via edmaps).
_ Syrian Kurds have declared a federalized region. On Wednesday in the Geneva peace talks, the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition had just declared that they would not seek a partitioned, federalized Syria. The US said they “would not approve of the PYD’s attempt to incorporate a federalist system in northern Syria” most likely because of Turkey’s objections.
_ “On Wednesday, violent clashes erupted between the Kurdish Asayish (internal security) and Syrian regime forces in the northeastern Kurdish city of Qamishlo,” a city in northeastern Syria on the Turkish border and the de facto capital of Rojava. Qamishlo (Qamishli, Kamishli) is predominantly Kurdish but has a mixed population of Arabs, Christians, Assyrians, Armenians. Was this organic or was there some dirty work involved, from a third party?
_ Former US ambassador Peter Galbraith, a long time supporter of Kurdish independence, said that “I think it is the right time for a referendum. I personally participated in many cases of independence such as Bosnia, Croatia, and East Timor[…] Now the door is open for the Kurds toward independence. The only thing Kurds have to do is step through,” Galbraith, who has acted as a consultant to the Kurds, also advocates directly arming the Peshmerga.
Central Syria Battlefield
_ Battle to liberate Palmyra from ISIS and the eastern countryside of Homs province seems to be entering a new phase. Hezbollah reinforcements arrived and now Syrian marines from Lataka, an area now relatively secure. sent a convoy of reinforcements on Thursday to join the Syrian “Tiger Forces” and “Desert Hawk”, some National Defense Forces (NDF) and several Iraqi Shia militia/paramilitary groups.
_ Oil fields in Deir Ezzor province, the inactive “Thayyem Oil Fields”, are under “fire control” of the Syrian army where fighting with ISIS continues. Territory in this desert area has been under ISIS control for 2 years.
Putin: Russian Forces Created Conditions for Peace Talks, Can Redeploy in Hours
_ In a Thursday speech and ceremony, Putin thanked Russian forces who fought in Syria, awarded medals, and talked about the withdrawal and future plans. Putin said that Russia created the conditions for lpeace talks. Putin also noted their forces could be redeployed in a matter of hours if necessary. He also underlined fact that they have in place a system for avoiding air incidents with the Americans but have told their partners they intend to use their air defense systems against any target considered a threat to Russian troops.
“We have established constructive and positive cooperation with the US and a number of other countries, with respectable opposition forces in Syria, which really want to end the war and find a political solution of the conflict. You, Russian soldiers, paved that way”, Putin said.
_ “Putin stressed that Russia’s main agenda is peaceful but the security of the country should be ensured as well. Putin stressed the real battlefield training benefits to the Russia forces from this operation and investment. The domestic economy is clearly a concern. “The main agenda in Russia for today is, of course, peaceful. It includes working on development of the economy in uneasy conditions, maintaining and increasing the welfare of our people.” He follows this with statements about how security and prevention of the expansion of terrorism into Russia (a valid priority threat there) is equally important because “without this, the existence of sovereign independent Russia is impossible.”
_ Al Rai’s war correspondent Elijah Magnier reports what his source in the operations room in Syria said about claims that Putin left Assad alone. 60 combat aircraft have been sent home and many of the remaining 53 will go too, leaving a small number of jets in Syria. It is possible that all Russian air force will be withdrawn from the Hmaymeem air base. Combat helicopters are still there, mainly on the front. Stores of bombs and missiles will remain in Syria. More than 100 drones do surveillance. Most opposition forces have agreed to stop fighting and “some are negotiating with the government reconciliation programs.” Some Russia ground forces are still in place supporting the Syrian army and allies fighting ISIS and al Qaeda in the areas that are still hot — eastern Syria, Euphrates, etc. The source also believes that mujahideen who are using Russian presence as an excuse to “mobilise foreign fighters and local volunteers” won’t have that anymore and this is to the benefit of Damascus.
_ Also from Magnier, Assad as an individual is important to Iran, but this is not the case with Russia. Iran will oppose any settlement without Assad and will send more troops to Syria (not “advisors” or “specialists”). There are differences between Russia and Iran that are becoming more obvious.
Saudi Coalition Air Strike on Yemen Market Death Toll Increased
_ The death toll from the market airstrikes has risen to 119.
Libya’s Unity Government
_ Egypt’s Sisi told the West to stay out of Libya. “North African leaders have also warned the West not to intervene militarily.” David Cameron refuses to rule out that UK troops will be deployed. It has already been reported that UK special forces (and other western countries) are in Libya now. Cameron pressured his EU counterparts at a summit in Brussels “to extend their action against people-smugglers in the Mediterranean and send military ships into Libya’s territorial waters” claiming he wants to help Libya’s “new government” go after smugglers. Cameron said he might give the Commons a vote on intervention but he might not have to because “the forces will not be involved in combat and so do not need the formal approval of parliament.” That sounds a lot like Obama’s “kinetic military action” non-war argument from 2011.
_ UN envoy Martin Kobler called for Libya’s “unity government” which was formed by a “UN-mediated peace deal” to take control “within days” and “must happen quickly.” There are currently two other governments in Libya — one in Tripoli and one in Tobruk — who say this “unity government” is being imposed from the outside. The new government is headed by Fayez Serraj (Fayez al-Sarraj), a “little-known Libyan technocrat.” The UN Security Council has dictated that the unity government, “Government of National Accord” will be the sole legitimate government of Libya.
_ It’s not clear yet how the unity government created for Libya will actually get into the country. “There has already been some low-level, behind the scenes military intervention reported with US special forces on the ground working with Libyan officials.” French, British and Italian commandos are there too. Mattia Toaldo from the European Council on Foreign Relations says the unity government may not survive. “In general, it is a gamble.We should not be surprised if the government is targeted physically.” They may arrange deals with militias, like the militias in Misrata. US special forces are in Misrata, “giving tactical training” to militias, allegedly to fight ISIS.
_ The timing is interesting. The 2011 US / NATO “intervention” in Libya began on March 19 when the cruise missiles were launched.
_ A Kurdish political representative said Russia’s withdrawal from Syria “may embolden Turkey to icrease its support for extremist militant groups there.”