Wednesday, June 1, 2016


The war in Syria has reached a crucial stage. The regional war has already begun. And it has the potential to grow into a full scale world war. There are reports Turkish forces entered Syria. So far, it is the Russian media that it taking the lead in reporting about this movement.

Map of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. More maps.

UPDATE: There are international news reports that claim that Turkish military forces have entered Syrian territory and have established positions near the towns of Azaz and Afrin. If these international news reports are true, then Turkey has essentially declared war on the Assad regime. Back in February, I warned that escalating tensions in the region could be the spark that sets off World War III, but things seemed to cool down a bit in March and April. However, this latest move by Turkey threatens to take the war in Syria to a whole new level, and everyone will be watching to see how the Russians and the Iranians respond to this ground incursion. So far, it is the Russian media that it taking the lead in reporting about this movement of Syrian forces. For example, the Sputnik news agency was one of the first to report Turkish military activity around the town of Azaz. (More)

Feb. 15, 2016


The journalist Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai has published his article "Gates of Hell" as promised earlier. It is offering three possible scenarios. A highly recommended essay. Read it all! In the tweets a link to an equally commendable interview with Dmitry Medvedev.
A high-ranking officer within the joint operations room in Damascus, which includes Russia, Iran and Syria and Hezbollah said, “ there are three possible scenarios in Syria: The first is the Arab ground troops would enter Syria from the Turkish borders, in the area under the so-called “Islamic State” group (ISIS) on the long bordering front from Jarablus to Al-Ra’ee. This can be possible and quickly achievable if a kind of an agreement is reached between Turkey and ISIS. After all, the Jihadist group has to face either the Turkish-Arab forces – that could allow a possible exit – or the Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah forces where there will be no exit”. “The second scenario is through the Jordanian borders East of Syria up to Raqqa. A longer road but would allow Saudi Arabia to bring its logistic and armoured support to push all the way to the ISIS-controlled land. In both scenarios, these troops, Arabs or Turkish-Arabs, would not clash or contact or even walk into the Russia-Damascus and allies military operational stage. The third scenario is that the Saudi are boosting the moral of the Jihadist by advertising a possible intervention so these don’t surrender easily and hold the ground for as long as possible”. (Source)

Feb. 14, 2016


Map of the Aleppo corridor via Azaz into Turkey. More maps.

The fight against ISIS is cover for a ground war in which various parties have different agenda, some of which are conflicting. The Turks continue to shell Kurdish positions around Azaz. The Turks want to prevent at any price, the Kurds from establishing a home land in northern Syria as they did in Iraq. They'll also do their very best to get NATO to do their dirty work. Regime forces with Russian air support took territory north of Latakia. The build up of Saudi assets at Turkey's Incirlik military base is continuing, while the Saudis are holding military exercises involving 20 sunni countries:
Military forces from 20 countries will arrive in the next few hours in Saudi Arabia for a military maneuvers, reported Saudi Press Agency Sunday. The news agency described the maneuver, dubbed "Thunder of North," as the region's most important military exercise involving ground, air and naval forces. It is also the largest in terms of numbers of participating nations and the amount of weaponry ever used in the Arabian Gulf. The maneuver intends to highlight that Riyadh and its allies are united against regional challenges. In addition to the six Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Qatar, other participating countries include Chad, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal and Tunisia. The maneuvers come as Saudi considers participating in land operations in cooperation with its international allies to fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Syria. The maneuvers will take place in the Military City of King Khalid in Hafr Al-Batin, north of Riyadh. (Source)

Feb. 13, 2016


We are in a proxy war that involves the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. Saudi Arabia is preparing to launch its own 'intervention' in Syria, sending troops and fighter jets to Turkey's Incirlik military base ahead of a possible ground invasion..(Source) The fight against ISIS and Nusra is a mere excuse for a ground war. ISIS is abandoning their Caliphate in the Levant, and is moving to Libya. The Kurds are in mortal danger: Turkey is already shelling the US backed, Kurdish YPG forces. Co-operation with Turkey could prove problematic if Saudi Arabia follows its definition of terrorism to include Kurdish fighters. The apocalyptic vision of a clash between Sunni and Shia Islam is becoming a reality, with the US (NATO) and Russia as their potential backers. That is a collision that must be avoided at all cost. The implications couldn't be more serious. The Middle East may become a region dominated by Iran and Russia.

The Kremlin announced large-scale surprise military exercises in the regions close to Turkey. Troops were moved to full combat readiness, the last stage before a shooting war. Using large-scale military exercises as a cover for war is old hat in Moscow. Assad forces are closing in on Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, and 50,000 civilians have already fled the city.

As John Schindler @20committee is pointing out, Pavel Felgenhauer is one of Russia’s top defense analysts with solid connections to Russian military is a frequent critic of the Putin regime. His prognostications are often correct. He published an analysis under the alarming title, “Russia has begun preparations for a major war.” Felgenhauer paints an alarmingly plausible scenario.

As rebel forces defend Aleppo in Stalingrad fashion, the Syrian military, with Russian help, commences a protracted siege of the city. However, any Turkish move to lift that siege, even with international imprimatur, would quickly devolve into all-out war: “Russia has begun the deployment of forces and resources for a major war with Turkey.” Obama has let Mr. Putin do whatever he likes in Syria, no matter the cost in innocent lives, so the Kremlin has no reason to think that will change. Many Western insiders think along similar lines.

Are we headed for World War III?

“It’s clear that there has to be some actual ‘red line’ for Mr. Obama, something that the United States cannot tolerate Russia doing—but where is it? That is NATO’s top concern right now: After years of weakness and vacillation, the Obama administration may find itself backed into a corner by aggressive Russian action. Particularly if coupled with intemperate Turkish reactions, that could create a nightmare of historic proportions around Aleppo.

The Russians are upping the ante with regime media publishing claims by the Defense Ministry that air attacks on Aleppo yesterday that killed civilians, including the bombing of a hospital, were actually perpetrated by U.S. Air Force A-10s, a war crime that they say the Pentagon has tried to pin on Moscow. In fact, American intelligence knows this was the work of the Russian Air Force: “We have intercepts of the Russian pilots talking during the attack,” a Pentagon official explained. “As usual, the Russians are lying.”

Yet this sort of dishonest Kremlin propaganda, what spies term disinformation, is exactly what the Obama administration has refused to counter. Russia has won in Syria, and NATO and the West are stuck with that outcome, as are the unlucky residents of Aleppo. “I hope Obama doesn’t decide to get a backbone now,” said a retired American general, who knows the Russians well, “since the Kremlin is in ‘drive’ in Syria and isn’t about to do ‘reverse.’"

There seems to be little chance of this White House taking on the Russians in Syria. However, there are no guarantees that Ankara is equally inclined to let the Kremlin do whatever it wants on its southern border, and that is how NATO could get embroiled in World War III over the Levant. Cooler heads may prevail, and all sensible people should hope they do here. Read the entire article here.

Here's an update on the situation on the ground in the tweet stream of the journalist Elijah J. Magnier. For more we'll have to wait for his article to be published tomorrow.

Feb. 12, 2016


The war in Syria has reached another crucial point as diplomats are hammering out an agreement that excludes ISIS and Nusra. These terrorists simply have to be defeated and destroyed. But until they are, they may be able to wreck the agreement. In the real world meanwhile, the war efforts are concentrating on Aleppo and the corridor via the border town of Azaz into Turkey, in effect an outbound conduit for refugee flows and an inbound ratline for Jihadists and arms from Turkey into Syria. The corridor divides Kurdish territory into two. Turkey therefore has every incentive to keep the corridor open.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has implied that Turkey will take action after the capture of the town of Azez in Syria, a strategic corridor between Aleppo and Turkey for rebel groups, by Syrian regime troops backed by Russian airstrikes. Speaking to reporters en route to Turkey from the Netherlands, Davutoğlu said that he had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the need to stop Russia in Syria in order to prevent further influxes of refugees to Turkey and Europe from the region, the Hürriyet daily reported on Friday. When asked whether Turkey will take action to reopen the corridor to Aleppo, Davutoğlu said, “Wait for the next few days and you will have the answer,” daily Hürriyet reported on Friday. (Source)
Ahmet Davutoğlu is telling Merkel lies. The corridor is a conduit of refugees into Turkey and Europe and closing it would stem the flow. But that would be "pushing back" in Internationalist parlance, and that would of course be evil. Another question is screaming for an answer. The Turks are doing their very best to get NATO do their bidding: if the Turks attack and the Russians strike back would that constitute an article 5 situation triggering NATO action? It all depends..

Jan. 22, 2016

Trying to make sense of the coalitions fighting each other in the Middle East is a messy business. France, UK and Australia joined the US against ISIS in Syria. Iran, Assad and the Russians make up the Shia axis. Obama's famous "65 nation coalition" against IS has crumbled as Sunni countries concentrate on their hegemonic war with Shia forces. 


Feb 5, 2014 "The Middle East Before the Arab Spring" by Adam Garfinkle at FPRI's Middle East History Institute. (Source)

Today sharing two very interesting tips by readers. A video of a lecture by Adam Garfinkle (wiki) about the Middle East from the perspective of social science, explaining the requirements for liberal democracy and why the expectation of the Arab Spring was entirely unrealistic. Garfinkle also delves into the modern history of the post Ottoman Empire and the particularities of tribal societies. Hat tip <O MM.

The second is an article on Cato about the complexities of the Syrian war which is often brought back in Western media to a caricature of reality, on similar lines as the Arab Spring was. H/t <O @raging_glare

  • The Syrian Civil War Just Became Even More Complex By Ted Galen Carpenter (Source