BREAKING NEWS: Kurdish National Council in Syria condemns federalism declaration by Kurdish rival
Federal region of “Rojava-North Syria” proclaimed. Federation of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Syriacs, Turkomans, Armenians, Circassians and Chechens. … Chechens!?! The Chechen head-choppers can’t go back to Russia. What about the Uighurs? Off to Libya!?!
Syrian Democracy is the Last Defense against Federalization
Syrian Kurds Risk their Gains with New Federalization Demands
Kurds must be invited to Geneva peace talks to preserve Syria’s integrity
Israeli Chief of Staff says Syria will be divided into six distinct regions
The Obama Foreign Policy Interview;
Very important speech of Vladimir Putin;
Another Lesson from Moscow Washington Won’t Learn;
The Turks and Saudis Should Beware the Ides of March;
ISIS Imploding: Defections and Uprisings Hit Jihadist HQ Raqqa;
Syria – Preparing For The Next Major Push.
BREAKING NEWS: Kurdish National Council in Syria condemns federalism declaration by Kurdish rival (ARA News 19 March 2016) http://aranews.net/2016/03/kurdish-national-council-syria-condemns-federalism-declaration-kurdish-rival/
SULAIMANIYAH – The Kurdish National Council (KNC), which is a part of the Syrian Coalition that participates in the Geneva talks, denounced the federalism declaration in Rumelan.
“The Kurdish National Council in Syria strongly denounces this step by the PYD [Democratic Union Party]. Although the KNC is in favour of federalism since 2012, it strictly opposes any attempt to impose federalism on the Syrian people without a preceding discussion,” said the KNC in a statement obtained by ARA News.
The statement shows the divisions between the KNC and the PYD, the main Syrian Kurdish parties, despite of three previous power-sharing agreements signed in Erbil and Duhok under the sponsorship of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). While the KNC is part of the Syrian opposition’s delegation in Geneva, the PYD is considered the most powerful Kurdish actor on the ground, and was excluded from the peace talks that continued on 14 March.
On 17 March, the PYD and it’s Arab allies announced a Democratic Federal System for Rojava and Norhern Syria in a two-days conference in the oil-rich town of Rumelan, appointing Hediya Yousef, a Kurd, and Mansur Selam, an Arab, as co-leaders, after they were excluded from the talks.
“Announcing federalism all of a sudden, lacking the urgently needed debate and democratic participation to possibly come to that decision, is just another form of dictatorship,” said Kamiran Hajo, chairman of the Foreign Relations Office of the KNC in a public statement.
The KNC also criticized the UN Deputy Special Envoy Ramzy Ezzeddine Ramzy for saying a united, sovereign Syria, is non-negotiable, which indicates that both the Syrian opposition and regime agree on a ‘unified’ Syria, and oppose federalism, while disagreeing on everything else.
“The Kurdish National Council objects the hereby implied correlation between federalism and the breakdown of Syria. On the contrary, one of the essential principles of most federal systems is ‘unity in diversity’, hence, federalism could strengthen the unity in Syria, providing for democratic participation of diverse groups on diverse levels of government at the same time,” the KNC said.
“PYD and UN seem to have clear stances towards federalism, but neither the one nor the other had discussed about what it really means,” said Kamiran Hajo. “At the end of the day inclusive talks cannot only mean to speak to everyone but to speak about every potential approach for a future Syria. Federalism is one of them.”
Pro-PYD politicians suggest that the KNC is under Turkish and Syrian opposition influence, and therefore is against the federal region announced by Kurds and Arabs in Syria.
“This is because they are under Turkish pressure and some parts of the Syrian opposition that are against the democratic administration in Rojava [Syria’s Kurdish region],” Idris Nassan, Kurdish analyst and a former official in the local administration in Kobane, told ARA News.
“Turkey is afraid of spreading feelings of freedom, democracy and equality to millions of Kurds in Turkey, and the opposition tries to renew the central power in Syria and wants to replace Assad by a Sunni,” he stated.
“So even the KNC demanded federalism with the start of Syrian uprising, but now they don’t accept Rojava federalism,” Nassan said.
Experts suggest the KNC statement shows the internal rivalry among the main Kurdish factions in Syria.
“It is hard to know what the KNC actually wants. There is a fundamental contradiction between the Kurdish nationalist ideology of the KNC and the political project of its Syrian allies. Sometimes it seems that the only consistent policy of the KNC is to oppose anything that the PYD does,” Carl Drott, a sociology researcher at the University of Oxford, UK, told ARA News.
It’s most likely that tensions between the KNC and PYD over power-sharing will continue, while the only thing the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime agree upon is that the Kurds should not get any form of self-rule in northern Syria.
VIDEO at https://youtu.be/0eyapoXAkUM
Federal region of “Rojava-North Syria” proclaimed – 17 March 2016
Body declares itself autonomous, claims it represents Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, Assyrian, Chechen, Armenian communities · “Freedom of women” is the “essence” of the new system · Syrian regime, opposition reject declaration
Delegates in Rimêlan. Author: ANHA News Kurdish and other ethnic and national groups’ delegates today approved the declaration of a self-governing, “federal democratic system,” under the name “Rojava-North Syria.” The new system, the declaration reads, has in the “freedom of women” its “essence”. The establishment of the self-governing body is utterly rejected by the Syrian regime and opposition and also by Turkey.
The principles of the new administration are based on those of democratic confederalism, as devised by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founder and leader Abdullah Öcalan.
The declaration further states that the new federal region does not put in question the unity of the Syrian state. The new system, the text says, aims to “overcome” state borders in order to be implemented in other parts of the Middle East.
In the delegates’ meeting, held in the town of Rimêlan (West Kurdistan or Rojava, Syria), 31 members of the Executive Board of the new self-styled region have been elected. The body will also have its own Constituent Assembly, to which a co-presidency made up by a man (an Arab, Mansur el-Selum, co-chairman of the Girê Sipî Assembly Executive) and a woman (a Kurd, Hediye Yusuf, co-chair of the Cizîre Canton) has been appointed.
Speaking earlier this week, several Kurdish officials had announced the adoption of the new system of self-government, which will be applied to all areas under the control of mainly Kurdish militias YPG and YPJ and their mostly Arab allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Participants at the conference include delegates from the Kurdish-majority cantons of Efrîn, Kobanê and Cizîre, the TEV-DEM (an assembly organization of the civil society), various sheiks, and members of the YPG, YPJ and SDF.
The three cantons, proclaimed by the Kurdish movement in January 2014, will likely be subsumed into the new self-governing body. However, how the new region will internally organize itself as regards the autonomy of its territories has not been established. Media reports suggest that the new region will be governed under a federal system that grants autonomy to its components, whether regional or ethnic.
According to the Kurdish movement, not only Kurds will be represented in the Rojava-North Syria bodies, but also other groups inhabiting the area. ANHA news agency says delegates in Rimêlan are representing there not only the Kurds of Rojava, but also Arabs, Turkmen, Assyrians, Armenians and Chechens.
The Kurdish movement also argues that its federal model could also be introduced to the rest of Syria, turning the whole country into a federal country. The idea has repeatedly been suggested by Salih Muslim, leader of the main Rojava Kurdish party, the PYD, for example in this Nationalia interview.
PYD excluded from Geneva talks
The proclamation of the autonomous region coincides in time with the PYD’s exclusion from the ongoing Syria peace talks in Geneva.
The Kurdish National Council (KNC), a Syrian Kurdish group opposed to the PYD, has indeed been invited to the talks. The KNC, however, has no militia on the ground to control any territory or any administration.
Analysts suggest today’s declaration should be understood as a PYD attempt -which maintains close ties with the PKK- to show itself as an actor able to freely act on the ground irrespective from the fact that it has been excluded from the talks.
Both Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian government and much of the Syrian opposition have rejected Rojava’s federalist declaration alike.
US State Department announced Washington would not be supporting the declaration, but at the same time said it would not oppose the establishment of a federal system if so chosen by Syrians.
The Russian government a few days ago suggested that federalism could be a solution for the Syrian conflict.
Both the US and Russia have repeatedly lent military support to Rojava in recent months. Both powers believe that the Kurdish militias are an effective force to turn back Islamic State advance on the ground.
Mimi al-Laham (Syrian Girl) commented (18 March 2016):
Tell me how it’s righteous to give the resource rich soil used by 23 million people to 1.3 million of its minority. Tell me how it is righteous to take an area that is mixed with several kinds of people, and tell one of those peoples the land now belongs to them and no one else? Tell me again how its about defending one of these minorities from oppression, when that minority is oppressing the others. Those who pushed for the creation of Israel use the same talking points that push for the creation of Kurdistan, they try to tell you that racism, oppression and theft is righteous.
Mimi Al Laham: “Kurds are a minority in the [Syrian] area they are trying to claim is theirs, the Governate of Al Hasaka … Non Kurd Syrians outnumber Kurds … Syria is for all Syrians not just one type of people in it. The last time a minority of a specific ethnic religious background was granted the majority of the land was to the Jews in Israel”
Hillary Clinton Emails: https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/18328#efmADMAFf
– Overthrow Assad and we can convince the world to let us bomb a nuclear reactor
– We have to threaten to kill Assad’s children
– Overthrow #Syrian government to help Israel
On 18 March 2016 Andrew Korybko commented:
Did you know that the Kurdish-launched “Project of a Democratic Syria” has the following in its manifesto?:
“The constituent peoples of Syrian society are Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Syriacs, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Chechens, and Circassians. All are genuinely native in this land, all participated in creating the region’s history and culture, and all contribute to its social balance. Over long centuries, folk, clans, tribes and other human groups intermingled, conflicting continuously but also cohering in the struggle against invaders and demographic changes. Together they created a wondrous mosaic—indeed, Syria abounds with vast and genuine cultural diversity.”
Has any Syrian ever heard of Chechens being “native in this land”? No, because they aren’t, they’re native to Chechnya, not Syria. The Kurds are clearly doing whatever they can to lie and distort history to make it seem like the estimated couple thousand of Chechen mercenaries that entered Syria over the past couple of years are somehow “natives”, which would by extension give them and other foreign-mercenaries the “right” to “federalization” and perhaps their own federal unit.
The next thing that they’ll start alleging is that the Uighur are native to Syria as well. It wouldn’t come as a surprise at this point.
For reference, RT quoted a Kurdish representative as saying that this “Project of Democratic Syria” would be the foundation for their demands going forward:
“”We have the so-called Project of Democratic Syria. We also had this project before. We also have the Commission preparing everything for this project.” Senam Mohamed, the European representative of the Rojava administration, told Sputnik on Wednesday.”
Oh, and one more thing — just like their fellow Secular Wahhabis in the EU and North America, they also have a tendency to liberally throw around the “fascist” label whenever and wherever they want. Check this out, as cited from “The Project of a Democratic Syria”:
“Denial, exclusion, domination, slavery, and injustice were and are created by states, by dictatorships, and by fascist or semi-fascist systems; the most recent of these security systems suffocate life, allowing no potential for opening up and development. As a result, the Syrian situation is careening toward explosion and chaos. It can be saved only by new combinations that are able to keep pace with the era and its enormous scientific and technical developments.”
Harbor no doubt about it, those preaching “ideological clarity and consistency” will soon bandwagon on to this destructive crusade and come out accusing the Syrian authorities of “racist”, “fascist”, “supremism” just as they’ve recently done so against Russia. After all, walking back on their “clarity and consistency” at this point would just expose them for the double standards that we all already know they have, but their oversized egos will likely keep digging them an even deeper hole regardless.
Federation of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Syriacs, Turkomans, Armenians, Circassians and Chechens. … Chechens!?! The Chechen head-choppers can’t go back to Russia. What about the Uighurs? Off to Libya!?!
“The second round of inter-Syrian talks is underway in Geneva, but Syrian Kurds were not invited. It means that the future of Syria and its society is decided without Kurds. In fact, we are pushed back into a conservative, old-fashioned system which does not fit well with us,” Rodi Osman, the head of Syrian Kurdistan’s office in Moscow, told RIA Novosti. “In light of this, we see only one solution which is to declare the creation of [Kurdish] federation. It will serve the interests of the Kurds, but also those of Arabs, Turks, Assyrians, Chechens and Turkomans – all parts of Syria’s multinational society.
“Given the complicated situation in Syria, we would become an example of a system that may resolve the Syrian crisis,” Osman added.
In turn, Syria’s UN representative Bashar Jaafari said that talks were hampered by the “absence of half or two-thirds of all the opposition,” with the lack of representation rendering the format of the talks “very weak.”
Syrian Democracy is the Last Defense against Federalization
By Andrew Korybko, 18 March 2016
The Syrian Kurds dropped a bombshell this week when they unilaterally announced the tentatively titled “Federation Of Northern Syria” between themselves, Turks, Arabs, and the other ethnicities of the region, or in other words, what they envision will one day become a ‘federation within a federation’. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina inside the absolutely dysfunctional country of the same name is an apt comparison, although the “Federation of Northern Syria” and the rest of the country might horribly break up into a kaleidoscope of separate identity-based groups if the federalization virus isn’t snipped in the bud soon enough.
Regardless of how far it might eventually go or not, the fact remains that the Kurds’ self-interested declaration flies in the face of everything that the Syrian Arab Army and its people have been doing over the past five years to preserve the unitary nature of their state, and it’s sure to lead to a lot of tension at the ongoing Geneva III talks. What the Kurds have done in one move is dramatically change the nature of the intra-Syrian reconciliation conversation and formally introduce the idea of Identity Federalism, the pitfalls of which the author earlier analyzed in a research report for Russia’s National Institute for Research of Global Security.
As destabilizing as the Kurds’ announcement was and might eventually turn out to be, it’s still far from certain that they’ll achieve their stated objective by the time everything is said and done, and it’s much more likely that they took the steps that they did as part of a calculated political gambit in securing a seat at Geneva. Regardless of their motivations, however, it’s undeniable that the genie of federalization has been released from the think tank bottle and is now oozing into the mainstream, but the doom and gloom pertaining to this scenario doesn’t mean that it’s irreversibly inevitable and that there isn’t time left to stop it.
Here’s a strong possibility that the Syrian people, as they have historically done and especially in the context of the past five years, will make their voices heard in voting against federalization and in favor of pro-unitary candidates during the upcoming UNSC-recognized elections on 13 April, which would send the most powerful signal yet that the people totally oppose this foreign-concocted idea. Nevertheless, the West has a final trick up its sleeve in that the EU-member states might recognize Syria’s legitimate government prior to the vote so that pro-federalization Syrians there can skew the elections and advance the unipolar agenda.
Smoke And Mirrors
While it initially appears as though the Kurds are dead-set on establishing a quasi-independent self-rule federal statelet in northern Syria – and many of them might very well hold these intentions – it’s also likely that the timing of the announcement was meant to give them bargaining leverage at gaining a seat in Geneva. Both Russia and the US are in favor of this, but the organizational framework of the talks is such that all sides need to agree on the inclusion of another participant, and it’s here where Turkey stands as the only visible obstacle to that.
To be more specific, it’s not necessarily Turkey that’s the problem, but President Erdogan, and it’s quite telling in fact that he’s resisting the joint will of both Russia and the US, which have unprecedentedly come together in the New Cold War to support the Syrian Kurds. Seeing how much political and military capital the US has invested in the Kurds up until this point, it’s reasonable to ponder whether they’re considering turning on Erdogan in the near future and tacitly siding with the anti-government and/or military forces against him, which in any case would implicitly put them once more on the same strategic side as the Russians.
In any case, the Kurds have played their ultimate card by announcing a federal state because there’s no realistic way that they’ll transgress UNSC Res. 2254 by declaring independence and experiencing the dual wrath of Russia and the US, the two most significant guarantors of that agreement. Therefore, the logical circle once more returns to the point of emphasizing that this is all part of a larger geopolitical game that’s playing out in Syria right now, one in which the Kurds are trying to maximize their political, military, and territorial gains of the past five years as much as possible concurrent with the legitimate Syrian authorities doing whatever they can to restore the unitary nature of the state that almost every single family has sacrificed to defend.
In connection with the latter’s motivations, the news that Syria wants to include the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights into the reconciliation format can be seen in a pragmatic and relevant light. While it’s extremely unlikely that this historic territory will be returned anytime soon (let alone as a result of Geneva III, no matter how proudly commendable it is that the issue was once more raised to global attention), it’s much more probable that bringing it up at this specific time is one of Damascus’ chief negotiating ploys. There’s a high chance that Syria will tactically walk back from this later in exchange for the US convincing the Kurds to concede their federalization ambitions and accept a much more mild form of simple autonomy.
The Voice Of The People
What just about all commentators are forgetting to speak about is that the current Syrian Constitution does not allow for federalization or autonomy, so any such declarations are technically illegal under the country’s present law and can only be implemented after amending the constitution or writing a new one. As it would be, the aforementioned UNSC Res. 2254 specifically mandates that the document be reviewed and that a new one take its place, implying the possibility of the required changes being made in order to legalize federalization or autonomy.
There’s no clear deadline for how long this should take other than vaguely stipulating that it occur sometime within 18 months (meaning by June 2017), so it’s entirely possible that agreeing to the details of any federalization and/or autonomy clause could require protracted negotiations that go on for months. In that case, the forthcoming 13 April elections in Syria would take place before any formal decision is made pertaining to the country’s internal (re)division and the new constitution, but that doesn’t mean that they’re inconsequential to the overall process.
Because the upcoming vote is recognized by the UNSC and will certainly generate global media coverage, patriotic Syrians have the unique opportunity to make their voices heard in resolutely coming out against federalization by voting for pro-unitary candidates that make the issue an explicit part of their electoral platform. In this manner, Syrians can reverse the Western information momentum against them by capitalizing off of the worldwide attention that they receive to show the international community just how strongly they oppose federalization and the determination with which they want to retain their country’s unitary identity.
The patriotic population came out in droves in 2014 when they reelected President Assad by the huge margin of 88.7%, and with their history of civic partition as a precedent, there’s no reason to doubt that they won’t do something similar in saving their country from the latest foreign plot that’s being actively directed against it. The reader should bear in mind that regime change against President Assad is a lot less important to the US and its allies right now at this critical juncture than ‘legally’ reengineering the Syrian state to their long-term and sustainable geostrategic advantage via the enshrinement of Identity Federalism into a new constitution, and keeping with this imperative, it’s crucial to explain the grandmaster trick that the West might try to play in actualizing this sought-after objective.
Predicting that the Syrian people will treat the upcoming elections as a de-facto referendum on federalization and that they’ll overwhelming vote against such a scheme, the US might order its European allies to play the ultimate card in their deck so as to offset this process in a desperate last-bid attempt at derailing Syria’s sovereignty. As is known, most of the major European countries do not recognize the legitimate and democratically elected leadership of President Bashar Assad, and as such, they don’t have any formal diplomatic interactions with Damascus or any bilateral ambassadorial presence with Syria.
This creates a major complication for them in trying to disrupt the electoral process by having anti-government and pro-federalization Syrians that have immigrated to the EU (many of which satisfy this criteria) go to their embassies and vote for likeminded candidates. Without the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Syria, preconditioned of course on the EU recognizing President Assad, there’s no way that these people can vote and they’ll thus remain disenfranchised like they were in the 2014 election.
Therefore, it’s quite possible that the US will command its European proxies to take the bold move in recognizing President Assad’s legitimacy prior to 13 April so that the anti-government and pro-federalization Syrians can partake in the upcoming election at their host country’s newly reopened embassy and throw off the results of the vote.
Even if they don’t succeed in having a majority of the parliamentary figures be anti-government and pro-federalization individuals, if they can command at least a convincing plurality of around 20-33%, then they can proceed with their argument that some sort of federalist clause must be included in the constitution to satisfy the will of the substantial political minority. A possible workaround that Damascus could proactively enact in this instance would be to decree that only Syrians with legitimate documents can vote in their embassies, and that all others must return to the country to receive their documents and/or vote there. This could cleverly weed out the patriots from the opportunists, the latter of which would likely remain in their cherry-picked EU welfare resort of choice instead of relocate back to their native homeland.
It’s integral that the Syrian people see through the charade that the EU might try to pull on them. While it would be normatively and emotionally significant if the Europeans reestablish ties with Syria after once more recognizing President Assad, it needs to be remembered that this is just a psychological ploy designed to lower the defensive guard of every Syrian as the war on their country transitions into a fifth generational form. The US and its allies want to transform the hitherto non-weaponized process of internal administrative reorganization into a unipolar bludgeon that can knock out Syria’s multipolar resistance by dividing the entire country into a checkerboard of separate identity-feuding states.
From there, the formerly unified country would be easy picking for the vultures to divide and rule between themselves, with it eventually being likely that only the security crescent between Damascus, Homs, and the littoral governorates would essentially remain under the Syrian Arab Army’s protection, if that. All the other areas would probably receive their own federalized status and accompanying ‘regional army’ (constitutionally legitimized armed “opposition”), thus making them totally susceptible to being ‘traded’ between Syria’s many enemies as they jockey to boost their geopolitical position in the strategic Levant region.
Generally speaking, while the Kurds’ unilateral declaration of the “Federation of Northern Syria” is definitely worrying, it appears to be a premeditated move timed to coincide with the resumption of the Geneva III talks and designed to ensure them a seat at the negotiating table. Whether they’ll stubbornly insist on this administrative entity or pragmatically temper their ambitions by conceding to a much more realistic autonomous status, it’s ultimately up to the Syrian people themselves to decide if they’ll even grant their government the right or not to bestow such constitutionally unprecedented privileges.
This opens up the foreseeable possibility that the forthcoming elections on 13 April can essentially become a referendum on the federalization question, and if patriotic Syrians overwhelmingly vote for pro-unity candidates in the same enthusiastic manner as they reelected President Assad in 2014, they’d be able to convincingly show the world just how strongly they reject the pressured imposition of this external plot on their country. In parallel with this, the US might direct its EU subordinates to recognize the Syrian government and President Assad in the run-up to this event so that the anti-government and pro-federalization Syrians that they host could be bribed or pressured to vote for corresponding candidates in order to offset the patriotically unifying results that are otherwise to be expected.
Syrians shouldn’t allow themselves to be hoodwinked by the US and its allies’ recognition ploy, no matter how overdue and morally ethical the action itself would be, because they’re actually only doing it for morally repulsive reasons in order to achieve what they feel is their long overdue right to subjugate the country in full. Instead of a diplomatic victory for Syria, it would really be a pyrrhic one that just ends up causing much more harm than good in the long run. The Syrian people must therefore ask themselves whether it’s better to have a Western-recognized President Assad symbolically preside over a watered-down presidency in a fractured federation or to have a multipolar-recognized President Assad proudly stand as the strong president of a still-unitary state, albeit one which might tactically have to concede mild Kurdish autonomy in order to stave off the destructive chain reaction of federalization.
Syrian Kurds Risk their Gains with New Federalization Demands (16 March 2016)
Everyone seems to agree that the recent Russian surprise move in Syria is to its advantage. The Russian government declared that it had achieved most of its aims in Syria and decided to continue its operations there with a smaller forces. As the current ceasefire seem to hold the necessity of further air attacks is much diminished. About half of its planes in Syria were ordered to fly back home. Significant forces will stay deployed and the planes could be back within 24 hours should the need arise.
A Russian source on the ground explains how this fits into a larger plan:
Russia has managed to turn the balance of power up side down in six months of its intervention in Syria. Regardless the control of a vast strategic land to the regime in Damascus, the Kremlin forces all parties to sit with Assad representative around the Geneva table when these were rejecting the idea for the last four years of war. Russia is pushing for a free election, within the area under the regime and the rebels’ control, under the supervision of the United Nations.
Russia, according to high-ranking sources, informed Washington, Damascus and Tehran of its step of reducing forces in Syria. The Kremlin expects from the United States to exert its promises to impose on regional parties, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to stop all sorts of weapons and financial supply to all rebels without exception. The USA is confident to obtain from its regional allies in the Middle East this commitment at the cost of joining the bombing, with Russia, of all those willing to continue fighting and violate the open-date Cease-fire in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Turkey see no longer Syria as a possibility to implement their old plans and agreed to act accordingly.
We will see if the U.S. is really committed to this plan. Will it stop arming al-Qaeda or will it launch another crazy attempt to achieve “regime change” in Syria.
It would be out of character for Washington to just let go and to let Russia win the cause. That is why I suspect that the U.S. somehow arranged the following scheme.
The Syrian Kurds have no place at the table in Geneva. Russia has pushed for their inclusion but failed. Still the Kurds are in a decent position. They have military support from the U.S. as well as Russia and the Syrian government has agreed to give them some form of autonomy.
It would have been smart of the Kurds, led by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), to bag these achievements and to stay out of the way of the further process. The Russians can be trusted to take care of the Kurdish interests in Geneva. But in typical Kurdish fashion they try to go for more and overreach:
A powerful Syrian Kurdish political party announced plans Wednesday to declare a federal region in northern Syria, a model it hopes can be applied to the entire country. The idea was promptly dismissed by Turkey and also the Syrian government team at U.N.-brokered peace talks underway in Geneva.
The declaration was expected to be made at the end of a Kurdish conference that began Wednesday in the town of Rmeilan in Syria’s northern Hassakeh province.
The Kurds already have autonomy and there were only few, if any, clashes with the Syrian government. There is no need for them to unilaterally federalize some parts of Syria. There is nothing to win with a federalization that no one else will recognize. To demand federalization now is like opening a can of nasty worms just the moment everyone set down to have a nice meal.
Tensions are high in the Al-Qamishli District today, as the Kurdish “Assayish” forces surround the National Defense Forces (NDF) at the Al-Qamishli security box. Reports from the Al-Qamishli District claim that the Assayish forces have arrested several NDF fighters in what is expected to be their expulsion from northern Syria.
The Al-Qamishli District is ethnically diverse, with Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, and Arabs all living in this densely populated region.
The Assayish Forces will have their hands full if they attempt to seize all of the government-controlled area because the Assyrian “Gozarto Protection Forces” (GPF) are heavily armed and make-up one of the largest militias in the Al-Hasakah Governorate.
So just as everyone is calming down and working on a political solution the Kurds throw a wrench in the works and start a new fight with Syrian government forces.
I do not understand such thinking. Whatever the future political situation in Syria will be, the Kurds will not gain a viable independent state. The Turks hate them and are instigating new schemes against them by supporting their own splinter Kurdish proxy group. The Barzani mafia in north Iraq does not like the PKK/YPK Kurds at all. Neither Russia nor the U.S. will promise them any long term (financial) support. Whatever they try, the Kurds will continue to depend on the capabilities and monies of a Syrian nation state with the capitol in Damascus. They do not have any income source. Attempts to export oil would be blocked by its neighbors and their borders can not be secured without heavy weapons.
Why upset the Syrian government and its armed forces when the gains made so far are still reversible?
I can think of no sound reason for the Syrian YPG Kurds to do this now. But it may well be that someone in Washington (or elsewhere?) thought that it would be funny to upset the playing board by pushing the Kurds to take these self-defeating steps. But why would the Kurds agree to do this?
UPDATE: As speculated above the PYD Kurds were told by Washington to do this. See the NYT report quoted here:
Kurds as a viable people or nation state are a fantasy. There are three Kurdish languages which are not mutually intelligible. Additionally to those languages the Kurds in Iran learned Farsi in school, in Iraq and Syria Arabic, in Turkey Turkish. This for the last 100+ years which in itself makes for lots of cultural differences between those inner Kurdish groups. There is no unique, united Kurdish people, just various clans and tribes (who often hate each other) thrown together..
As soon as there is no outer enemy the Kurds tend to fight each other. Remember when the Brazani clan begged Saddam Hussein to help him kill off the followers of the Talabani clan? (He helped) A new country Kurdistan would be just as much fun for its people like the new country South Sudan is to its people.
There are sound reasons why the Kurds over centuries never managed to get their own state. Dig a bit into history and you will find them. These sound reasons still exist.
The PYD folks confirm to the NYT that the federalization idea was planted and supported by the U.S. just as I assumed.
The proposal for a federal system has lately been floated by former Obama administration officials and publicly considered by Secretary of State John Kerry, but rejected not only by the Syrian government but by much of the opposition as well.
“Federalism is going to save the unity of a whole Syria,” said Ibrahim Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D., the leftist Syrian Kurdish party that plays a leading role in the Kurdish areas of Syria.
The discussion is about the possibility of a federal system not only for Kurdish-majority areas but for all of Syria, according to Mr. Ibrahim and three other officials and P.Y.D. members, who were all briefed on the talks or participated in them.
They emphasized that the entity would not be called a Kurdish region but rather a federal region of northern Syria, with equal rights for Arabs and Turkmens.
And they strongly hinted that it was not their idea, but that it was being pushed by the Americans and other powers. A former senior administration official, Philip Gordon, and others recently floated a proposal to divide Syria into zones roughly corresponding to areas now held by the government, the Islamic State, Kurdish militias and other insurgents.
Kurds must be invited to Geneva peace talks to preserve Syria’s integrity
VIDEO at https://www.rt.com/news/335470-lavrov-kurds-syria-turkey/ (14 March 2016)
Kurds should have a say on Syria’s future at Geneva talks
https://www.rt.com/news/335407-mistura-syrian-kurds-crisis/ (13 March 2016)
Syrian Kurds are an important part of the country and should be allowed to express their opinion on the region’s future at the Geneva talks, says Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, adding that there is no ‘plan B’ if negotiations fail…
He added that the unity of Syria is “fundamental” as partition is the last thing the country would need or can afford.
“…Small states, one controlled by a group, sponsored by another, would be unsustainable…. I think no Syrian person, whoever he or she is, would accept that. They are very proud people of their own country.”
De Mistura’s comments come as a new round of UN-brokered talks between the Syrian government and opposition is to start in Geneva on Monday. The parties are set to discuss the creation of a new Syrian constitution and government, as well as parliamentary and presidential elections.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged partners to “bring the Kurds on board” during the second round of the negotiating process in Geneva.
According to Lavrov, the Kurds “control at least 15 percent of [Syrian] territory where they used to live in peacetime.” And these Kurds “are allies of the US-led coalition and the Russian Federation in the fight against ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra, they have objectively strengthened their influence on the ground, consolidated their positions,” the Russian foreign minister added.
“Starting the talks without the participation of this group … is a manifestation of weakness on the part of the international community, as only the Turks are blocking the invitation for the Kurds, specifically the Democratic Union Party.”
Syrian Kurds have been an active force fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) extremists on the ground.
Ankara has been stepping up military activity in the areas with a predominantly Kurdish population, which includes its own territories in the southeast as well as places in northern Syria and Iraq.
The Kurdish region in northern Syria is a stronghold of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its activists, as well as the militia of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey has claimed that the PYD is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by Ankara and its US ally.
Israeli Chief of Staff says Syria will be divided into six distinct regions (Yeni Safak, 15 March 2016)
Gadi Eizenkot says Syria will never return to its previous state, may be permanently divided into six distinct regions after Putin’s announcement of withdrawal.
Israel’s Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said Israel was caught off-guard by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Monday that Moscow’s forces will begin withdrawing from Syria.
“Syria will never return to its previous state, and may be permanently divided into six distinct regions,” Eizenkot said during a speech at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, according to The Times of Israel news portal.
Eizenkot’s statement followed Putin’s declaration that Russia will start withdrawing “most” of its forces from Syria.
Plans for the federalization of Syria were widely discussed by American experts. In favor of this option are Henry Kissinger and Richard Haass, President of the globalist Council on Foreign Relations. The goal of the US is to plunge the region into global chaos, to prevent the rise of Russia and Iran, to weaken Turkey, making it less independent, and to play the role of regional power that will be indispensable in solving any regional problem.
Israel in turn will achieve the aim of weakening their regional opponents. Small terrorist groups, and little ethnic and tribal entities involved in constant wars with each other, do not pose a serious threat to the security of Israel as the major Arab states did in the past.
Read more at http://katehon.com/agenda/does-syria-face-bloody-partition-kurds-declare-federalization Does Syria Face a Bloody Partition? Kurds Declare ‘Federalization’
The Obama Foreign Policy Interview
by Michael Brenner, 17 March 2016
The Atlantic has just published a long essay, The Obama Doctrine, by their Washington national correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg. Based in most part on wide-ranging reflective interviews with President Barack Obama, the article makes extensive use of direct quotes from that interview. Considerable space is devoted to the various American engagements in the Middle East along with Obama’s views on prospects for the region. It is a remarkable journalistic event insofar as it represents a preemptive attempt by a sitting President to shape the discourse about his record and his legacy. What he says is revealing – less as analysis and interpretation of actions taken, though, than as an ‘exhibit’ of all that is peculiar about Obama’s policy-making style – and what the implications for American diplomacy have been.
Obama’s overall stance is one of dissociation from his own administration and its conduct. Throughout, he appears to be referring to himself in the 3rd person. This can be seen as the soon to be memoir writer’s attempt to cast himself as detached statesman while distancing himself from errors made. However, this degree of dissociation by a still incumbent President is odd. It suggests that he has been playing the role of participant-observer while in the Oval Office. Moreover, it conveys his sense that somehow the words he utters are equivalent to actions. Indeed, a feature of his Presidency has been a frequent mismatch of words and deeds which never get reconciled. Nor do they in this seemingly candid interview. That raises a cardinal question: is this honest reflection or a characteristic flight from accountability?
Two, this strange attitude is most pronounced in his remarks about the Middle East. For example, he inveighs against allowing the United States to be placed in a position of picking sides in Islam’s Sunni-Shi’ite civil war. He is especially adamant about the dangers of American power being used as a tool of the Saudis to advance their cause. Yet, this is exactly what he has been doing in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Bahrain. Moreover, he never has confronted the KSA leaders about the promotion of wahabbism or their concrete support for ISIl and al-Qaeda (in Syria and Yemen – where they fight side-by-side with Saudi troops) – either in private or in public.
Let’s step back and reflect on this. Barack Obama, President of the United States, in telling a journalist that his most important ‘ally’ in the Middle East has been aiding and abetting America’s mortal enemies – and that they should stop. Yet, three years after those hostile actions began he has yet to voice his displeasure directly in numerous meetings. Instead, he gets an interview published in a magazine that the Saudi leaders might pick up in the waiting room at the Mayo Clinic on their next medical visit. If there is any sense or logic to this, it must conform to a mental process never before encountered.
Obama urges that the KSA and Iran learn to co-exist, “to share space,” in the region. Yet, in the wake of the nuclear accord, he’s gone overboard in denouncing the IRI as the primary source of instability in the Middle East and insists that until they cease and desist, no normalization is possible. As Goldberg quotes Susan Rice in seconding the President: “The Iran deal was never primarily about trying to open a new era of relations between the U.S. and Iran.” In other words, if the US refuses adamantly to “share space” – as in Iraq – on what grounds does he here encourage the Saudis to do so? On Turkey, Obama is similarly mealy-mouthed as regards their tangible contributions to both ISIl and al-Nusra/al-Qaeda – although he refrains from the same direct criticism of Erdogan.
Finally, Obama strongly criticizes Washington’s foreign policy Establishment as being overly rigid in their thinking and imposing their views on American leaders. This is baffling – is not the President the head of the Establishment? Has Obama not stocked his two administrations – to a man and to a woman – with members of the Establishment? Robert Gates, David Petraeus and John Brennan were his appointees. Gates boasts in his memoir of the scheme he orchestrated to force Obama’s hand in escalating in Afghanistan in 2009. With his allies Petraeus and Hillary Clinton, Gates planned to expand it further and to make its duration indefinite. Only Stanley McChrystal’s inopportune public insults of the President prevented its success.
Does he not invite Robert Kagan and Thomas Friedman to intimate Camp David deep think sessions? Did Obama not put Victoria Nuland, Dick Cheney’s principal deputy foreign policy adviser (and Kagan’s wife), in charge of European policy where she helped foment the Ukrainian coup – and from which post she aggressively runs a belligerent policy toward Russia? Hasn’t he bowed the knee before the Israeli lobby – going so far as to allow himself to be humiliated by Netanyahu before Congress without any rejoinder? Does he not have the authority to address the country directly and to instruct them about world realities?
Yet, he whines to Goldberg that he is somehow caught in a web spun by “the Establishment.” What is a reasonable interpretation of this illogic? Election politics? – but nothing has changed since his 2012 re-election. (Anyway, is starting a new war in the Middle East a sure-fire vote-getter?) Was the President fantasizing for seven years, was he blackmailed, did he lack the conviction to take different paths, or was he simply weak and feckless?
Here is the Obama view of where he fits in Washington’s power map of foreign policy-makers/thinkers: “There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”
The deference and passivity accorded the upholders of the conventional wisdom exposes the critical flaw in Obama’s interpretation of his authority as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief. He is not a constrained Doge of Venice under strict surveillance by the Great Council of aristocrats. He is not just the custodian of some Holy Grail in the sacred custody of a vestal priesthood. He is not the prize student being tested in a simulation exercise by masters of the guild. The Washington Consensus embodied by the head-nodders of the think tanks and op. ed. pages is nothing more than the calcified corpus of failed ideas which have brought the United States nothing but wrack and ruin for (at least) the past 15 years. The Iraq debacle cut the ground from under it – thereby helping to clear the way for Obama’s entry into the White House. His historic task was reformation. Instead, he decided that acceptance into the ranks of the Establishment was worth a ritualized surrender.
All of this is baffling. Part of the explanation lies in the President’s singular personality. Despite his high intelligence, he seems to live with a great number of unreconciled contradictions. Some have to do with his background and upbringing. Some are intellectual. The title of the Atlantic article is misleading. There is no “Obama Doctrine.” Incoherence is the hallmark of American actions in the Middle East and elsewhere. The interview with Goldberg confirms that.
Barack Obama gave Goldberg many, many hours of his time. The President allowed the writer to accompany him on international jaunts, and accorded him entry to his inner circle. Goldberg has thanked the President by concentrating on the supposed historic error of not bombing Syria when Assad allegedly (if factually mistakenly) was accused of crossing the notorious ’ red line’ by using sarin gas. That is the pivot of the article; it is returned to time after time in positing the hard-line critique of the Obama foreign policy as the one authoritative perspective. That was predictable. Goldberg is an Israeli who started his career at the Likud megaphone The Jerusalem Post. Why does a President afford such liberties to a tendentious journalist?
European monarchs of old had court portraitists. American presidencies have Boswells like Bob Woodward and now Jeff Goldberg. Boswells who are not friends but on assignment. The purpose seems similar: to immortalize the ruler at the height of his powers. To show a forceful leader mastering a daunting problem with resolve, sobriety and dedication to the interests of his fellow citizens. This being America, the subject matter has to be one of action and suspense. Bush the Younger seeking retribution for 9/11. Now Barack Obama in a titanic struggle to escape the coils of stifling dogma.
A narrative account that covers a long span of time, though, does have a few drawbacks. It cannot fix the image at a single moment that will last for eternity. However laudatory, the written account is liable to be viewed differently as time goes by. And Goldberg’s portrait is not very becoming. A picture wings the flying hour; a story is part of the flow of events. There is the further drawback that the chronicler may depict persons and things in ways that are not entirely complimentary to the main protagonist in the drama.
Journalistic talents may be available for lease but they do not come with a money back guarantee. For the exchange currency is not hard cash but access. The White House gets surefire blockbuster publicity – and, in this case, the chance to set in place the first sketch of his Presidential record. A complication is that while the President is the patron, the commission is loosely written to allow the artist unmonitored access to other members of the court. Their vanities and ambitions are not identical with his. See the quoted remarks of John Kerry and Pentagon officials.
In the light of the ensuing risks, why does Barack Obama enter into such a pact? Our celebrity culture provides part of the answer. Publicity is what it is all about. A public figure whose meteoric rise is a testament to star power must be acutely sensitive to the imperative of how vital to success is mythic imagery and turns in the limelight. The stage lights have the special glow when energized by a graphic account of star performance.
Then there is the simple truth that Presidents want to celebrate themselves. They are the ultimate celebrity in a celebrity culture. They in fact feel proud of what they do and how they do it. Reality is clay in my hands. A successful leader must never allow the future to be hostage to history – even yesterday’s history. Except where history can be bent better to serve fresh exigencies – or a post-Presidency career of 30 -35 years.
The selection of a hawk like Goldberg to be his interlocutor demonstrates another truth that also can be inferred from the Obama discourse. Authority on matters of foreign policy is understood to rest with the guardians of the very Establishment that constrains him. It is the neo-cons and their hard-line companions in arms who, he believes, are the cynosure of core American beliefs about the world and our place in it. So it ultimately is from them that he must seek validation. This conviction of Obama’s, of course, becomes self-confirming – as we have observed for seven years.
Obama is a man of reflection, at least as concerns his own identity and self-image. Maybe, the serial interviews with Goldberg were the first try at coming to terms with himself as director of American foreign policy. So he invited Goldberg to join him in an excursion through the Presidential mind – a Virgil exploring his own psyche.
Very important speech of Vladimir Putin
Meeting with Russian Armed Forces service personnel.
The Kremlin, Moscow. 17 March 2016
At a meeting in the Kremlin’s St George Hall, Vladimir Putin presented state decorations to service personnel and defence industry specialists who distinguished themselves in the performance of special missions in the Syrian Arab Republic. More than 700 officers and men of the Aerospace Forces, the Ground Forces and the Navy attended the ceremony, along with representatives of the military-industrial complex.
[Note from the Saker: emphasis added by me, the Saker]
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Comrade officers, friends,
I would like to welcome you – all the service personnel who took part in the operation in Syria.
* * *
You remember what the situation was like (in Syria) in September of 2015. Back then, a significant part of the country was seized by terrorist groups, and the situation was getting worse.
In full compliance with international law, at the request of the legitimate government and the country’s president, we made a decision to launch our military operation. From the very start, we were very clear about its goals: support of the Syrian army in its lawful struggle with terrorist groups. Our actions were also timed for the period of active assaults against the terrorists. We stated clearly that we did not intend to get involved in an internal Syrian conflict. Only the Syrians themselves should seek a final solution and decide their country’s future.
The main target of our operation was terrorism. The struggle against international terrorism is a fair and righteous cause. This is a struggle against enemies of civilisation, against those who bring barbarity and violence, trying to renounce the great spiritual, humanitarian values that the world rests on.
I would like to repeat that the main goal of our actions in Syria was to stop the global evil and not to let terrorism spread to Russia. And our country has demonstrated its unquestionable leadership, willpower and responsibility.
Regarding the results we have achieved. Your actions and intense combat effort turned the situation around. We did not let this terrorist tumour grow, destroyed the bandits’ hiding places and munitions depots and blocked oil smuggling routes that brought the terrorists their main funding.
We have done a huge amount of work to support the lawful Syrian authorities – this is what I spoke about when addressing the United Nations on the organisation’s 70th anniversary. We strengthened their armed forces (the Syrian Arab Army and Air Force, and the various National Defence Forces which are pro-government militias in every province), which are now capable of not only holding back the terrorists, but also of conducting assault operations against them. The Syrian army has gained the strategic initiative and continues clearing its land of terrorists.
The main thing is that we have created conditions for the start of a peaceful process. We have managed to achieve positive, constructive cooperation with the United States of America and a number of other countries, as well as with the responsible political forces within Syria that truly wish to stop the war and find the only possible political solution to the conflict. It was you, Russian soldiers who opened up the road to peace.
After the ceasefire agreement was reached between the opposition and government forces, the scope of work for our aviation units was significantly reduced. The number of sorties went down threefold from 60–80 to 20–30 a day.
This made the grouping we had created there excessive in the military sense. The decision to withdraw a significant part of our service personnel and equipment was coordinated with the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad, who was notified of our plans in advance and supported them.
I would like to add that in our joint statement, Russia and the United States stressed that the struggle against terrorist organisations, recognised as such by the UN, will continue. Meanwhile, the government troops in Syria will not conduct any action against the armed units of the Syrian opposition that indicated their commitment to a ceasefire.
At the same time, I would like to stress that any group violating the ceasefire will be taken off the list provided by the United States, with all the consequences that come with it.
In this connection, I would like to specify the tasks our service personnel remaining in the Syrian Republic will be working on.
I will repeat that the primary task is to monitor ceasefire and create conditions for a political internal dialogue in Syria.
Our bases in Syria are at Tartus and Khmeimim, the service personnel there are reliably protected from land, sea and air. All the components of the deployed air defence system, including close range Pantsir-F and long-range S-400 Triumph units will be on regular duty.
I would like to note that we have significantly restored the potential of the Syrian air defence forces as well. All the parties concerned have been made aware of this. We proceed from fundamental international norms – nobody has the right to violate the airspace of a sovereign country, Syria in this case.
We have created together with the American side an efficient mechanism to prevent air incidents, but all our partners have been warned that our air defence systems will be used against any target that we deem to be threatening Russian service personnel. I want to stress – any target.
We will of course continue to provide assistance to the lawful Syrian government. This assistance is comprehensive in nature and includes financial aid, supplies of equipment and arms, assistance in training and building Syrian armed forces, reconnaissance support and assistance to headquarters in planning operations. And finally, direct support, I mean, the use of our space force and strike and fighter aviation. The Russian forces that remain in Syria are enough to ensure this.
We will continue to assist the Syrian army and authorities in their fight against the so-called Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups that have been declared as such, as I have said, by the UN Security Council. Our uncompromising attitude to terrorism remains unchanged.
What will the balance of forces be like after the reduction of the Russian group? A balance would be ensured.
Moreover, I am certain that with our support and strengthening of the Syrian army, we will shortly see the patriotic forces there achieve success in their struggle against terrorism.
As you may know, fierce fighting is on around Palmyra and on the approaches to the city. I hope this treasure of the world civilisation, or whatever is left of it after the bandits got there, would be returned to the people of Syria and the whole world.
If necessary, of course, Russia will be able to enhance its group in the region in a matter of hours to a size required for a specific situation and to use all the options available.
We would not want to do that. Military escalation is not our choice. Therefore, we still count on the common sense of both sides, on the adherence by both the Syrian authorities and the opposition to a peaceful process.
In this connection, I would like to note the position of President Bashar al-Assad. We see his reserve, his sincere striving for peace, his readiness for compromise and dialogue. The very fact that we withdrew part of our military group there against the backdrop of negotiations on the Syrian settlement that started in Geneva is an important positive signal, and I am certain that all parties to the Syrian conflict will duly appreciate it.
We will work and make every effort in coordination with our partners to help establish peace in Syria, to rid the long-suffering people of Syria of the terrorist threat and help the Syrians restore their country.
You have proved that our army and navy are strong, modern and well equipped and our warriors are steadfast, well-trained and hardened, capable of resolving the most complicated large-scale tasks.
In the course of the anti-terrorist operation, you have performed more than 9,000 operational sorties. Mass strikes using high-precision Kalibr cruise missiles with a range of 1,500 km were dealt at terrorist facilities from our naval ships located in two seas – the Caspian and the Mediterranean, both from subsurface ships and a submarine. We are proud of the professional actions of our navy.
Our long-range strategic aviation has also done a good job. Thus, they used new air-based X-101 missiles with a range of about 4,500 km. And finally, over the short period in Syria, as I have said, we deployed a modern and efficient air defence system and developed cooperation between all the forces and resources and organised administrative support for the group. Our military transport aviation and Navy support vessels have done well too.
In other words, all the most important support issues, the organisation of our group in a remote combat area were resolved competently and in a timely manner, which again demonstrated the enhanced quality of Russia’s Armed Forces.
I would also like to thank representatives of the military-industrial complex: workers, engineers and designers. The latest Russian weaponry has passed the tests, and not at shooting ranges but in real combat. This is the best and the most serious test.
This experience will make it possible to introduce necessary changes, to improve the efficiency and reliability of the equipment, to create new generation weaponry, and to improve the Armed Forces and enhance their combat capability. Life itself has shown that they are a reliable guarantee of our country’s security.
We should bear in mind the threats that appear when we do not do things on time; we should remember the lessons of history, including the tragic events of the beginning of World War II and the Great Patriotic War, the price we paid for mistakes in military construction and planning and the shortage in new military equipment. Everything should be done on time, while weakness, neglect and omissions are always dangerous.
The military operation in Syria certainly required certain funds, however the main part of the funding came from the Defence Ministry, their resources. Some 33 billion rubles were earmarked in the Ministry’s 2015 budget for military exercises. We simply retargeted these funds to support our group in Syria, and there is hardly a better way of training and perfecting combat skills than under real combat conditions. In this sense, it is better to use motor operating time and combat stock in combat than at a testing range. You, professionals, know this better than anyone else.
Obviously, additional funds will be required to restock our arsenals, equipment and ammunition, including repairs of the equipment that was used in Syria. I am sure these costs are reasonable and necessary, because this was a chance to test everything in combat, find faults and rectify them. These costs help enhance our country’s defence capability and resolve strategic and current tasks to ensure Russia’s security. We need to do it now, to avoid paying a much higher price later.
That price is high, and I am not talking about money now. Here in this hall are Yelena Peshkova, Valentina Cheremisina, Irina Pozynich and Yulia Zhuravleva – widows of our comrade officers who died fighting terrorists. I know that for their families and friends, the loss of Oleg, Ivan, Alexander and Fedor is irreparable. We all take this as our own loss. That is why I used your husbands’, fathers’ and sons’ first names. I spoke not as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief or President, but as a grateful citizen of Russia who grieves over this loss. We will remember their courage and chivalry; we will remember them as real men and courageous warriors.
The large-scale operation in Syria went on for more than 5 months in a complicated region, far from Russia, and you have done your duty with honour by protecting the security of your country and your people at faraway frontiers. The tasks you were set have been generally met, troops are returning to their regular deployment locations, returning home, to Russia.
I would like to note here, for this audience and for the entire country: Russia’s main agenda today is that of peace. It has to do with developing the economy in complicated conditions, with maintaining and improving the wellbeing of our people. However, without ensuring our security, without creating a battle-ready, modern and efficient Army and Navy we would not resolve a single task. Moreover, the very existence of a sovereign and independent Russia would not be possible without it.
It is very symbolic that we are honouring you in the legendary St George hall that holds the history of Russia’s military glory along with the names of its great sons. Everything here is filled with the victorious spirit of Russian warriors. Our officers and men have demonstrated yet again that they are courageous, noble, strong-willed warriors, true to their Fatherland
Thank you for your service. I thank all the participants of the military operation in Syria. Thank you.
Allow me now to move on to the presentation of state decorations. I will not be able to present them all today. I will present them to some of you; however, I assure you that we know how each one of you did your duty.
Another Lesson from Moscow Washington Won’t Learn
By Patrick Armstrong, 17 March 2016
When the announcement of a partial withdrawal was made I was as surprised as anyone. I thought: Daesh is not been defeated, the threat of Ankara doing something extraordinary has not disappeared, the Syrian Army still needs air support to liberate other parts of the country, I can’t believe that Putin trusts either Washington’s promises or its ability to fulfil them. I then went on the Presidential website and found this: “In this context, Mr Putin said that Russia’s Armed Forces have fulfilled their main mission in Syria and a timetable for the withdrawal of the Aerospace Forces’ main air grouping has been agreed.” A timetable is not the same as withdrawal, I thought. But then it transpired that aircraft were in fact leaving and the formal meeting of Putin, Shoygu and Lavrov was published. So, think again: the schedule was for the present and not the future.
I think we now know three things. 1) Not all the Russian aircraft are leaving, in fact large-scale strikes against Daesh positions near Palmyra occurred yesterday. 2) Strikes are possible from outside Syria. We have seen the use of long-range aviation from Russia and cruise missiles from the Caspian and Mediterranean. 3) Russian aircraft can be moved back in under 24 hours if needed.
At the beginning of the operation, the strategic purposes were laid out. 1) To shore up government power lest a vacuum be formed that Daesh would occupy (vide the US-NATO disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya). 2) To create the possibility for meaningful negotiations on Syria’s future. 3) To reverse Daesh’s record of constant expansion and victory. 4) To kill as many jihadists originating from Russia and the FUSSR as possible so they don’t come home. Other benefits, like exposing the hollowness of the “isolated” and “powerless” Russia memes, showing off and testing weapons systems were present; they were not, however, as important as Western commentators thought they were.
From an operational perspective, there were four tasks. 1) To secure the airbase and freedom of operation (an issue complicated but not derailed when Turkey ambushed a Russian aircraft). 2) To degrade Daesh’s infrastructure by destroying troop concentrations, headquarters, arms dumps and, especially, crippling its cash cow, the oil trade. 3) To provide close air support to Syrian and allied forces. 4) To re-equip and train Syrian forces.
It is quite true that “The objective set before the Defence Ministry and the Armed Forces is generally fulfilled” . Задача, поставленная перед Министерством обороны и Вооружёнными Силами, в целом выполнена. Not all of it, but most of it. Strategically: the Syrian government is much more secure; negotiations are underway together with a ceasefire; Daesh is in reverse; many jihadists will not be coming home. Operationally: the bases are secure; Daesh’s infrastructure and oil business have been severely degraded; close air support continues and will for some time. “Generally fulfilled” indeed. Or, as NATO says, in private, “efficient and accurate”.
And, should the situation on the ground be reversed, Russian airpower can return in hours.
This is the third time Moscow has shown Washington how to use armed force. It is never something to be used alone, it must always be part of a complete package. We saw this in the second Chechen war, in the Ossetian war and now in Syria. Bayonets are useful for many things, but not for sleeping on. However, it is unlikely that Washington will learn anything: the alcoholic binge of more violence to solve the problems the violence createdis too well entrenched. In fact, they can’t understand, as Fort Rus points out, that to more thoughtful planners “withdrawal” is not a candy-coating of “defeat”.
It’s because a funny thing happened along the way in the development of US foreign policy lingo. The term ‘defeat’ was replaced with the term ‘withdrawal’. This happened as a result of needing to soft-sell major defeats like Vietnam or Iraq. Defeats were re-branded as ‘withdrawals’, even though in doing so, the term withdrawal was forever changed into a synonym for defeat, and a lack of resolve.
Many Western responses are amusing. Here Chatham House fearlessly demolishes a straw horse: 3. ‘Mission accomplished’ is a bit of a stretch… 4. Nonetheless, the intervention has achieved several key Russian objectives. Of course Putin didn’t say “mission accomplished”; this contortionist invents it so he can pretend that he failed.
Some are just incoherent: “Moscow is thus is committed to ‘monitoring’ the very agreement that it’s been opportunistically breaching…“.
But so far I find this the most amusing example of someone not getting it. “A Well-Timed Retreat: Russia Pulls Back From Syria” by Alexander Baunov. Two samples will show how absurd his thoughts are:
President Putin’s announcement that he is pulling back from Syria should not have come as a big surprise. He believes he has met most of his goals there—many of which have nothing to do with Syria itself. Russia has found a way back to the table where the world’s board of directors sits and resolves regional conflicts together.
This time, Vladimir Putin did not need to pretend too hard when he announced that a mission was accomplished.
On the Russian domestic scene, which some experts had considered the main reason for Russia to get involved, interest in Syria had begun to wane among the home television audience. The pictures of silver rockets in a blue sky had been shown so often that there was no mood for a second season of them. The public would rather see successes on the home front.
Too many Americans (“some experts”) comment from Gulliver’s Island of Laputa and tie their imaginations into contortions. Read what Putin says, watch what he does and think about it. Don’t assume.
The Turks and Saudis Should Beware the Ides of March
By Andrew Korybko – 17 March 2016
Presidents Putin and Assad coordinated the decision to decrease the Russian troop presence in Syria, agreeing that the anti-terrorist operation had completed its stated aims of “combating terrorism and the restoration of security and stability to many regions in Syria”.
In particular, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proclaimed that his country “carried out more than 9,000 flights” which contributed to “the Syrian troops liberating 400 towns and over 10,000 square kilometres of territory.”
The reader is encouraged to consult The Saker’s latest article if they’re interested in a detailed analysis of everything that Russia has accomplished thus far, but the present piece will now move on to describing the intent behind the drawdown and the contingency measures that are in place for defending Syria from any large-scale aggression against it.
From the Battlefield to the Boardroom:
Russia’s announcement was timed to coincide with the resumption of the Geneva III talks and clearly carries with it the symbolic message that Moscow is doubling down on its diplomatic commitment in resolving the War on Syria.
The country’s leadership has reminded the world time and again that the only solution to the long-running war is a diplomatic one, with only the Syrians themselves having the right to decide how this will unfold.
A de-jure partition is absolutely off the table and prohibited by UNSC Res. 2254, but there’s a creeping fear among many that a de-facto one could occur if federalization is ever implemented.
It’s perhaps for this reason why the Syrian government and its people are currently not in favor of this approach, and for curious readers who are wondering exactly what could be so bad about federalization, the author welcomes them to read his earlier published research on the topic that’s available at Russia’s National Institute for Research of Global Security.
After five and a half months of operation, Russia’s anti-terrorist air operation has succeeded in the herculean task of bringing the War on Syria to its final logical phase, which is the protracted negotiation process that has just recommenced.
The conflict has thus shifted from the battlefield to the boardroom, but in the lamentable event that foreign actors influence their political surrogates to sabotage the ongoing talks and reinitiate large-scale hostilities, Russia has a few back-up measures up its sleeve to make sure that Syria isn’t left unsecured.
Hedging Its Bets:
As optimistic as the Russian leadership is that the resumed negotiations will pave the way to an eventual settlement in the War on Syria, it’s not wishfully naïve either. Here’s how Russia’s hedging its bets just in case the talks are unexpectedly spoiled and Syria plunges back into all-out warfare:
Moscow will retain the Hmeymim air base in Latakia and the Tartus naval base in its namesake governorate, the former of which will be used to monitor compliance with Syria’s cessation of hostilities agreement.
While most air assets are leaving the battlespace, there’s nothing preventing their return if deteriorating conditions demand it, and Russia’s Caspian Flotilla is more than capable of using its Kalibr cruise missiles to assert out-of-theater force projection without ever having to leave the country’s territory.
In the unlikely but disastrous event that Turkey and Saudi Arabia conventionally invade Syria, Russia has the cruise and strategic missile capabilities to instantly respond to their aggression while considering a more robust follow-up course of action.
Striking a Deal
It’s unrealistic that Russia would not have conferred with its Iranian and Hezbollah allies prior to its coordinated drawdown decision with Syria, just as it’s equally unrealistic that its strategists wouldn’t have considered how this would affect the current balance of forces in the region.
There’s no way that Russia would unilaterally make the military moves that it did without some corresponding quid pro quo having taken place on the side of the US and its allies, no matter how invisible it may appear to the untrained eye.
For instance, the threat of a Saudi invasion of Syria has dramatically eased after the provocative “Northern Thunder” military exercise ended last week, during which time Riyadh had harnessed 20 countries, 350,000 troops, 2,500 warplanes, 20,000 tanks, and 450 helicopters along its northern border over a tense 18-day period. After the Saudis caught cold feet midway through the drills, Turkey also backed down from its plans as well, despite the Russian Ministry of Defense warning in early February that there was an imminent danger that it could invade Syria around that time.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be too surprising that this happened considering that Lavrov confidently predicted that the US and its coalition partners would succeed in restraining Turkey. He was obviously privy to the type of high-level and clandestine diplomatic talk that rarely ever filters down to the masses in detail, as is typically the case whenever any Great Power properly engages in diplomacy. There are concrete reasons to believe that Russia and the US may have reached some sort of gentlemen’s agreement behind closed doors, with the clearest indication of this being Lavrov’s major announcement on Monday afternoon that Russia is ready to coordinate its actions with the US in liberating Raqqa, which importantly was made just hours before Putin declared the headline-grabbing military drawdown.
ISIS Imploding: Defections and Uprisings Hit Jihadist HQ Raqqa, Dozens Dead
The ceasefire deal has meant ISIS is practically the only target left on the battlefield. Now, people are rising up against the crumbling group from the inside.
Watch a video of this report here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYauAT1CwT8
At least 200 fighters have defected from the ranks of ISIS inside the jihadist HQ – the Syrian city of Raqqa. The defectors have launched an uprising that has left dozens dead in violent clashes between militants.
One source told Sputnik:
“About 200 Syrian militants of Daesh took the side of residents of Raqqa, which forced the terrorists to organize roadblocks at the entrance to the city,”
Another told Hamrin News:
“The split within the organization occurred as a result of internal differences in their ranks, and led to armed clashes and dozens of deaths,”
One other source said:
“Furthermore, government forces have advanced along the M45-highway (Hama to Raqqa) and reached the Western side of Raqqa province. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have taken firm control of the Northern region of the Raqqa province,”
These reports of defections and uprisings follow news from last month claiming that the jihadists had initiated ‘mass evacuations‘ of their families, and began shifting their focus to Libya after facing a relentless Russian air campaign.
Now the the Syrian Army is hot on the trail to Raqqa, it appears that at least some of the jihadists realise their days are now truly numbered.
ISIS Syrian capital Raqqa hit by uprising, defections (7 March 2016)
A popular uprising in Islamic State stronghold Raqqa reportedly resulted in dozens of deaths as militias clashed with the terrorist group’s fighters. Some 200 militants are said to have switched sides and are fighting against their former comrades.
Several local sources say the clashes in Raqqa have been escalating for several days and resulted in numerous defections from the ranks of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL, also known as Daesh, an Arabic pejorative term).
“About 200 Syrian militants of Daesh took the side of residents of Raqqa, which forced the terrorists to organize roadblocks at the entrance to the city,” one source told Sputnik.
After heavy clashes with IS fighters on Sunday, its former members helped the locals secure at least five neighborhoods in the city, where the black IS flag has been replace with the national flags of Syria.
According to witness reports, Raqqa citizens now control the al-Dareiyeh, al-Ramileh, al-Ferdows, al-Ajili and al-Bakri neighborhoods.
“The split within the organization occurred as a result of internal differences in their ranks, and led to armed clashes and dozens of deaths,” a source told Hamrin news.
Sources on the ground for Alalam news explained that many fighters are trying to escape Islamic State clutches as the Syrian Army and Kurdish fighters have made a number of advances around the city, and against IS positions across the country.
“Since October of 2015, the Syrian Army has captured some 50 villages in eastern Aleppo during an offensive which halted the ISIL-imposed siege on Kuweires Airbase,” the sources said.
The city of Raqqa is considered to be the Daesh capital and their major stronghold in Syria. It has been under the control of the jihadists since August 2014. Currently the Syrian Army and the Kurdish militias are carrying out offensives to liberate the city from the terrorist group.
“Furthermore, government forces have advanced along the M45-highway (Hama to Raqqa) and reached the Western side of Raqqa province. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have taken firm control of the Northern region of the Raqqa province,” the sources added.
Civilian uprising against ISIS in Raqqa City continues: 5 more neighborhoods liberated
By Leith Fadel (7 March 2016)
According to Syrian government officials, the local resistance groups inside Raqqa City have liberated another 5 neighborhoods from the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) after a successful campaign the day before in this provincial capital located in northern Syria. The civilian resistance groups in Raqqa City reportedly liberated the neighborhoods of Dawar Al-Sawama’, Dawar Al-Dura’yah, Dawar Al-Meshlab, Bab Baghdad, and Dawar Al-Barazi before nightfall on Sunday. Based on the reports released by the Syrian government officials over the last 48 hours, the civilian resistance groups have liberated a total of 10 neighborhoods from the ISIS terrorists governing the provincial capital of the Al-Raqqa Governorate.
No images or videos were released from this alleged uprising; however, the government officials maintain communication with the local tribes of Al-Raqqa in order to distribute their pensions. Many civilians inside of ISIS controlled Raqqa City still receive their government pensions, which allow them to purchase necessities and goods while under the brutal occupation of this terrorist group. Corroborating these reports from the Syrian government were support pages for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA); these social media accounts shared similar information released by the officials. ISIS has not reported on this alleged uprising; however, the terrorist group rarely reports any losses or civilian grievances.
Syria – Preparing For The Next Major Push
6 March 2016 http://www.moonofalabama.org/
There seems to be some progress in the regional “games” around the conflict in Syria. The Turkish Prime minister Davutoglu currently visits Iran. The Iranians let some lucrative economic projects dangle in front of his eyes. But the main points were about Syria. According to this Turkish source Davutoglu said these issues were agreed upon:
#Turkish PM Davutoglu: We’ve reached on deal with #Iran for 5 matters: 1) A joint visit to #Jordan to discuss on #Syria, on coming days (1)
2) The continuity of ceasfire in #Syria
3) The unity of #Syria
4) The participitation of all -internal- actors in #Syria’s future (2)
5) The joint act to defeat all kind of terrorism inc. #Isil in the geography of #ME. (3)
This smells like an bit of change in the so far rigid Turkish position.
Russian military transport traffic through the Bosporus has markedly increased. A lot of new trucks, tanks and artillery are coming to Syria. In the summer the Russian aircraft carrier will take station at the Syrian coast. This is likely the build up for a major campaign.
Meanwhile the U.S. is building a second (small) airport in north east Syria to, allegedly, support its Kurdish proxy forces there in the fight against the Islamic State. Syria and Russia should be very careful in allowing such creeping occupation. It is difficult to get rid of such U.S. incursions once they are established.
On Friday another U.S trained, paid and armed force, probably only a few dozen or so, attacked the Syria-Iraq border crossing at Tanaf which was in the hand of the Islamic State. The “rebel” marketing campaign claimed that this group was the “New Syrian Army”. The border crossing is also near the Jordan border from where these fighters came. They had U.S. (or Jordan) air support and managed to capture the handful of lone buildings in the desert that constitute the station. But 24 hours later the Islamic State said it was again in full control of it. If true, and I believe it is, this “new Syrian army” is a sad joke and will not play a role in the race to Raqqa.
In total everyone seems to use the current relative quiet of the “cessation of hostilities” to move into launch positions for a possibly final campaign against IS and the other objectionable subjects. It will be a hot summer in Syria.