Mischief in Syria

Blog Post

I’m on the road this week, but it shouldn’t keep me from keeping you all up on geopolitical events.

Vladimir’s Gambit

Following a three-day ceasefire, the Russians and Syrians resumed air and ground attacks in Aleppo. A UN official said no evacuations occurred because the security guarantees were insufficient.  Russia said it is not considering a new ceasefire. Putin wants to make his point, accomplish his goals and leave Syria “victorious”. I’m not quite sure what that will look like. I’m not quite sure that Putin does either.

The Syrian government is acting with new energy on multiple fronts in addition to the Aleppo offensive. The fighting suggests Syrian government forces recently have received more resources (from Iran and Russia). 
Syrian opposition sources in Aleppo judge that the final Syrian offensive push has not yet begun, but will soon. The death toll among non-combatants will be horrific. It’s a fact of life in those places, and in part, explains the exodus of a million military age males into Germany.
The Turkish Game
In a statement published on 24 October, the Turkish army said that Turkish forces attacked 27 Islamic State (ISIL) targets and 19 Syrian Kurdish militia (YPG) targets in the prior 24 hours. The Syrian military command once again warned the Turks against operating in Syria.
French and US news services reported that YPG units moving from Afrin are engaged in heavy fighting with Turkish-backed proxy forces just west for al Bab. The Turkish air attacks are heaviest against this group and appear intended to impede if not block the Kurds from reaching al Bab.
The French report indicates the Syrian Kurds also have pushed west from Manbij, rather than returning east of the Euphrates River. The Kurdish forces are each 18 kilometers (11 miles) on opposite sides of al Bab.

The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) apparently have bypassed the Turkish enclave by skirting it to the south. The Kurds are within 36 kilometers (22 miles) of establishing a continuous Syrian Kurdish territory along the border with Turkey from Afrin to Iraq.
Turkish President Erdogan said on multiple occasions that Turkey would not allow the Kurds to unify the three Syrian Kurdish cantons. Erdogan is threatening to convert the Syrian civil war into a Turco-Syrian war.

The American Hand

The situation reports are the first to mention that the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters are clashing with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, most of whom are Syrian Kurds. It’s a small effort in a very bad place. The CIA’s proxy war here has had a lot of false starts and relies on large payments to mercenary Kurds. Mr. Obama’s small war makes very little difference in the big scheme with Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iran holding the cards.

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