UPDATE 22. October 2019: The 5 days ceasefire ended with many violations from the side of Turkey. Close to 180,000 people have now been displaced in NE Syria: 80,000 of them children.

UPDATE 17. October 2019: Under serious international and U.S.American pressure a 5 days ceasefire has been agreed and Turkey will stop its inhuman onslaught in Kurdistan for that period in the core zone along the border with and inside Syria. 

Syrian jihadis in Trump-greenlit invasion just murdered a Kurdish women’s rights leader

Hevrin Khalaf, the Secretary-General of the Kurdish Future Syria Party was allegedly brutally raped and confirmed murdered in execution style just after Trump abandoned his Kudish allies. Video evidence shows that even after she had been killed her body was abused by her excited killers.

By Vinnie Longobardo - 13. October 2019

The catastrophic consequences of Donald Trump’s sickening betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies in Syria are becoming clearer by the minute as Turkish forces invade the Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria.

The danger to the long-time fighting partners of American forces in the Middle East is coming from more than just the invading Turks, however, as reports of atrocities by Turkish-backed Arab militias in the area raise fears of an ethnic cleansing campaign and a resurgence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in a region where they had largely been contained by Kurdish forces.

The most disturbing report today came from the news that a senior female Kurdish political leader —Hevrin Khalaf, the Secretary-General of the Kurdish Future Syria Party — was dragged from her car and executed by “Turkish backed mercenary factions” while traveling in a highway convoy on the road to the city of Qamishlo.

Her political party announced the news of her murder with the following statement:

“With utmost grievance and sadness, the Syria Future Party mourns the martyrdom of engineer Hevrin Khalaf, the General Secretary of Syria Future Party, while she was performing her patriotic and political duties,” the Future Party said.

The details of the killing filtered out slowly, with the Kurd news site Kurdistan 24  providing updates as new information trickled in.

“A group of Turkish mercenaries tried to control the M4 road and killed many people, and Hevrin was one of them,” one senior official told the news site.

“Nobahar Mustafa, the deputy of the co-head of the Future Party in Ain Issa, said the Kurdish politician was traveling from the Jazeera canton to Ain Issa and then to Raqqa before the mercenaries blocked the way at a checkpoint and killed all the people there. ‘All the passengers they captured were martyred,’ Mustafa told Kurdistan 24.”

Later in the day, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) revealed that Khalaf’s killing was a brutal and intentional execution rather than collateral damage from a ground skirmish, with the female leader dragged from her car and murdered on the spot.

“She was taken out of her car during a Turkish-backed attack and executed by Turkish backed mercenary factions on the International Road between Qamishlo and Manbij, where her driver who was also martyred,” according to an SDC statement.

Add your name to tell Congress to investigate Pence for his role in Trump’s Ukraine corruption. The VP is complicit - ALSO NOW IN TURKEY!

“This is a clear evidence that the Turkish state is continuing its criminal policy towards unarmed civilians,” the SDC continued.

Twitter was filled with posts documenting the atrocities that the Turkish invasion has led to since Trump gave the green-light to Erdogan to invade the neighboring Syrian territory.

According to NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, American military officials are deeply disturbed by the ongoing atrocities that President Trump’s impulsive unilateral policy reversal has engendered, not just because of the betrayal of the people who had been comrades-in-arms in the fight against ISIS and terrorism, but because of the implications the loss of a major ally in the fight against terrorism will have on the future security of the region and the world as a whole.

With even normally staunchly loyal Republican senators slamming Trump for his capitulation to Turkish President Erdogan’s scheme to eliminate restive ethnic group spread across Turkey, Syria, and Iraq as a potentially politically disruptive force in his country, one can only wonder if the president’s motivations were truly in the interest of national and global security or were rooted in his own self-interest.

Khalaf’s death is just one piece of the bloodbath that will be staining Donald Trump’s hands as a result of his heavily-criticized decision to overturn years of loyalty to our Kurdish allies and just one more reason that he must be removed from the presidency before his actions lead to more damage to both America and the world at large.

To abandon allies in the most crucial situation is a long-standing tradition of the USA.

Trump posted this tweet this afternoon: “After defeating 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, I largely moved our troops out of Syria. Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy? Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!

Kurdish politician among nine civilians shot dead by pro-Turkey forces in Syria

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says they were summarily executed after being taken from their cars

By  and Mohammed Rasool in Qamishli, and agencies - TG - 

Turkish-backed proxies leading a ground offensive on Kurdish-held border towns in north-eastern Syria have summarily executed nine civilians including a female politician, a human rights monitor has claimed.

The civilians were shot dead on a highway after being taken from their cars by Turkish-backed militias who had crossed the border as the push into Syria deepened. The killings were captured on camera phones and the gruesome scenes have raised the spectre of ethnic bloodletting emerging five days into the Turkish offensive. Ankara’s proxies are Syrian Arabs from elsewhere in the country and their foes are Kurds with long ties to the territory.

“The nine civilians were executed at different moments south of the town of Tel Abyad,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed.

A Kurdish political leader, Hevrin Khalaf, and her driver were among those killed on Saturday, according to Kurdish forces. Handheld videos captured by the assassins widely distributed on the internet also show several people being repeatedly shot by the side of a road. Their killers are heard to shout insults as they fire their military weapons at them. US officials have suggested the footage is authentic.

Khalaf, 35, was “taken out of her car during a Turkish-backed attack and executed by Turkish-backed mercenary factions”, the political arm of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said in a statement. “This is a clear evidence that the Turkish state is continuing its criminal policy towards unarmed civilians.”

Khalaf was the secretary general of the Future Syria party. Mutlu Civiroglu, a specialist in Kurdish politics, described her death as a “great loss”.

“She had a talent for diplomacy, she used to always take part in meetings with the Americans, the French, the foreign delegations,” he said.

Turkey and its proxies began the offensive on Wednesday to push back the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the backbone of the SDF, from its border.

The proxies are Syrian former rebels who had fought against the regime of the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, before being co-opted early last year to fight Kurdish groups in the north-western town of Afrin. Some of the rebel factions among the Turkish alliance had previously been supported by the US and Qatar in the early years of the Syrian war.

But as the war morphed into a series of intertwined conflicts and the Syrian opposition steadily disintegrated, rebel alliances shifted. The Arabs now leading the fighting have received widespread training and support from Turkey.

The first video of the killings, posted on the Twitter account of the Ahrar al-Sharqiya rebel group, shows two people in civilian clothes kneeling on the ground as a fighter next to them announces they have been captured by the faction.

In the second, an unidentified fighter opens fire at a person on the ground wearing civilian attire.

The Observatory confirmed the authenticity of the videos but Agence France-Presse could not independently verify them.

The deaths brought to at least 38 the number of civilians killed on the Syrian side since the start of the assault, according to the Observatory. It said 81 Kurdish fighters had been killed in the clashes.

Ankara says the YPG is a “terrorist” group with links to Kurdish rebels in Turkey who have been waging an insurgency for three decades.

Later on Saturday the Syrian National Army, the banner under which the Ankara-allied former rebels fight, said it had ordered commanders to “continuously supervise combatants on the frontlines to prevent any abuse”.

Perpetrators of possible abuses “would face the most severe sanctions and be brought to justice for military disobedience”, it said.

Dwight D Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the

cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” Dwight D Eisenhower ~ April 16, 1953

VERY IMPORTANT: Getting the nukes out of Turkey: A how-to guide

UPDATE:

Hevrin Khalaf: funeral held for Kurdish politician killed by Turkish-backed forces

She was killed on the road between the northern Syrian cities of Manbij and Qamishli

https://www.thenational.ae/image/policy:1.923263:1571039130/005265-01-05.jpg?f=1x1&w=480&$p$f$w=e897303

By The National - 14. October 2019

A funeral was held on Monday for Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf, other civilians and a number of captured Kurdish fighters killed at the weekend by Turkey’s Syrian allied forces near the town of Tal Abyad.

Khalaf, 35, was "taken out of her car during a Turkish-backed attack and executed by Turkish-backed mercenary factions", the political arm of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said.

"This is clear evidence that the Turkish state is continuing its criminal policy towards unarmed civilians," it said.

Khalaf was the secretary-general of the Future Syria Party.

The funeral was held in the town of Derik, known as Al Malikiyah in Arabic.

Pro-Ankara fighters under the umbrella of a group called the National Army are taking part in a Turkish offensive on Kurdish-held border towns in north-eastern Syria.

The United States said it was looking into reports that a Kurdish politician and captured Kurdish fighters were killed in north-eastern Syria amid Turkey's offensive, a State Department spokesman told Reuters on Sunday. He said Washington found the reports disturbing.

"We have seen reports of the killing of [Hervin] Khalaf....as well as several captured SDF fighters, the latter having been apparently shot while in the hands of Turkish Supported Armed Syrian Opposition elements," a State Department spokesman said, referring to Turkey-backed rebels.

"We find these reports to be extremely troubling, reflecting the overall destabilisation of northeast Syria since the commencement of hostilities on Tuesday," the spokesman said in an email.

Khalaf had been returning from a meeting in Hasakah at the time of the attack in which her driver and an aide were also killed, said Hussein Omar, the Future Syria Party's coordinator in Europe. Party officials including Khalaf have had contacts with US officials since it was founded in 2018, he said.

Asked about the accusation that Turkey-backed groups had killed Khalaf, the spokesman for the Turkey-backed National Army, which groups Syrian rebel factions, on Saturday said they had not made it as far as that area.

"We condemn in the strongest of terms any mistreatment and extrajudicial execution of civilians or prisoners, and are looking further into these circumstances," the US State Department spokesman said.

Kurdish party leader Hevrin Khalaf 'killed in ambush' in northern Syria

Kurdish party leader Hevrin Khalaf 'killed in ambush' in northern Syria

Senior Syrian Kurdish political leader Hevrin Khalaf, the secretary General of the Future Syria Party was executed by pro-Turkish Syrian fighters in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), October 12, 2019.

Kurdish party leader Hevrin Khalaf 'killed in ambush' in northern Syria

12 October, 2019

The secretary-general of the Future Syria Party, Hevrin Khalaf was killed on the road to the city of Qamishli, reports said on Saturday.

A senior Kurdish politician and party leader was killed during an intense Turkish military offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, local news reported on Saturday.

Hevrin Khalaf, the secretary-general of the Future Syria Party, was reportedly killed during an ambush by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels during an attempt to capture a point on the international M4 road, Kurdistan 24 reported.

“With utmost grievance and sadness, the Syria Future Party mourns the martyrdom of engineer Havrin Khalaf, the General Secretary of Syria Future Party, while she was performing her patriotic and political duties,” the Future Party said in a statement.

Khalaf was reportedly killed on the road to the city of Qamishli, reports added.

“A group of Turkish mercenaries tried to control the M4 road and killed many people, and Hevrin was one of them,” a senior official told Kurdistan 24, in reference to Turkey-backed fighters.

Another official from the Future Party in Ain Issa claimed Khalaf was traveling from the Jazeera canton to Ain Issa and then to Raqqa before the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels blocked the way and carried out the ambush.

However, the Syrian rebels denied responsibility for the ambush.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces echoed the accusation in a statement later on Saturday. However, in a sign of confusion left by the Turkish operation, Turkey-backed Syrian rebels denied responsibility amid unconfirmed reports Islamic State-linked cells may be behind the ambush.

Asked by Reuters agency about the accusation that Turkey-backed groups had killed Khalaf, the spokesman for the Turkey-backed National Army, which groups Syrian rebel factions, said they had not made it as far as the highway known as the M4.

"I confirm to you that our forces have not reached the M4," Youssef Hammoud said in a voice message to Reuters, saying that they had instead reached a road closer to the border.

N.B.: This "soft" video by ArabNews shows the media propaganda. It has meanwhile been proven beyond any reasonable daubt that she was executed by the Turkish-paid and Turkish-backed militia that killed 9 people in that convoy, including Mrs. Khalaf and her driver driver Farhad - see the picture of their car below. It was also a Turkish propaganda lie to claim the car had been hit by an airstrike. Eye-witness videos have been secured. 

All three occupants of this car including Hevrin Khalaf and her driver Fardhan were executed on the roadside.

Khalaf previously voiced concern over the Turkish military operation.

The Turkish attempt "to occupy this land in order to defend the Turkish people don’t adjust to reality," she said during a press conference in the city of Qamishli on Oct. 5.

On Saturday, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces took control of the M4 highway that connects the towns of Manbij and Qamishli, where Khalaf was killed. 

News of Khalaf’s killing came amid reports suggesting Turkish forces seized control of the key border town of Ras al-Ayn, where fighting with Syrian Kurdish forces continued.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, confirmed that Turkish troops have entered the town, adding that fighting is still ongoing.
Turkish troops also cut the route linking the northeastern city of Hassakeh with Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once commercial centre, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Growing casualties 

 
 

Since Wednesday, Turkish troops and their Syrian opposition allies have been advancing under the cover of airstrikes and artillery shelling, reaching the Manbij-Qamishli road about 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of the Turkish border.

The UN estimates the number of displaced at 100,000 since Wednesday, saying that markets, schools and clinics are also closed. Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis, with nearly a half-million people at risk in northeastern Syria.

A civilian wounded in a mortar strike from Syria the previous day in the Turkish border town of Suruc died, Anadolu also reported on Saturday, bringing the civilian death toll to 18 in Turkey.

Mounting criticism

France's leader warned Trump in a phone call that Turkey's military action in northern Syria could lead to a resurgence of Islamic State activity.

President Emmanuel Macron "reiterated the need to make the Turkish offensive stop immediately," his office said in a statement on Saturday.

On Friday, the Pentagon blasted Turkey for its three-day old assault, warning of "serious consequences" for its actions. The Trump administration also threatened sanctions on key Turkish officials over the matter.

The Netherlands and Norway, both NATO allies of Turkey, have suspended arms sales to Turkey over its latest offensive.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, has insisted the operation won't stop until the Syrian Kurdish forces withdraw below a 32 kilometre (20 miles) deep line from the border.

Ankara has said it aims to push back the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, which it considers terrorists for its links to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency within its own borders. The YPG is a main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
 

 

 

Klikk på bildet for å forstørre.  

Cruely assassinated Hevrin Khalaf is laid to rest by a huge crowd of grieving family and outraged friends. Foto: Delil Souleiman (AFP)

Horrific +18 +18 video published by pro Turkey telegram channel (Jarablous alkabous) shows a field execution by TFSA against an unknown person. Important to mention @SDCPress announced that same thing happened to Hevrin Khalaf a female politician this morning #KurdishGenocide.

WATCH (viewers are warned of traumatizing scenes)

The deaths brought to at least 38 the number of civilians killed on the Syrian side since start of the assault, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It says 81 Kurdish fighters have been killed in the clashes.

 

BOYCOTT TURKEY

 

BOYCOTT TURKEY

German car manufacturer @Volkswagen reconsiders earlier plans to build a car factory in Turkey after Ankara decided to invade Western Kurdistan (Northern Syria).

 

UPDATE:

Turkey is suspected of using white phosphorus against Kurdish civilians in Syria

Stop the burning, I beg you stop the burning, cries bombed boy

Anthony Loyd, Tal Tamir, Syria - 

Mohammed, 13, had 12 hours of agony before his burns could be treated

Mohammed, 13, had 12 hours of agony before his burns could be treatedANTHONY LOYD FORTHE TIMES

The burns on the screaming child brought into the Syrian-Kurdish hospital at Tal Tamir were enough to reduce even hardened medical staff to silence yesterday.

Yet the terrible wounds that had all but flayed the 13-year-old Mohammed Hamid Mohammed’s skin from his torso, penetrating deep into his flesh, suggested his injuries were caused by something far worse than blast alone. They added to the growing body of evidence that suggests Turkey, a Nato member, is using white phosphorus against Kurdish civilians in its eight-day offensive into northern Syria.

In recent days Turkey had intensified its attack on the Kurdish held city of Ras al-Ain in the lead-up to the announcement of a 120-hour ceasefire deal brokered with Mike Pence, the US vice-president, last night.

 

READ ALSO:

U.S. military keeps 50 nuclear weapons on Turkish airbase, and now they’re ‘Erdogan’s hostages’

Read More

'The end of the Kurdish people': Kurds fear the worst as Turkish onslaught continues

 

BACKGROUND:

PEPE ESCOBAR: The Road to Damascus: How the Syria War was Won

Following the Damascus-Kurdish alliance, Syria may become the biggest defeat for the Central Intelligence Agency since Vietnam, says Pepe Escobar.

By Pepe Escobar
Special to Consortium News

What is happening in Syria, following yet another Russia-brokered deal, is a massive geopolitical game-changer. I’ve tried to summarize it in a single paragraph this way: 

“It’s a quadruple win. The U.S. performs a face saving withdrawal, which Trump can sell as avoiding a conflict with NATO ally Turkey. Turkey has the guarantee – by the Russians – that the Syrian Army will be in control of the Turkish-Syrian border. Russia prevents a war escalation and keeps the Russia-Iran-Turkey peace process alive.  And Syria will eventually regain control of the entire northeast.”

Syria may be the biggest defeat for the CIA since Vietnam.

Yet that hardly begins to tell the whole story.

Allow me to briefly sketch in broad historical strokes how we got here.

It began with an intuition I felt last month at the tri-border point of Lebanon, Syria and Occupied Palestine; followed by a subsequent series of conversations in Beirut with first-class Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian, Russian, French and Italian analysts; all resting on my travels in Syria since the 1990s; with a mix of selected bibliography in French available at Antoine’s in Beirut thrown in. 

The Vilayets

Let’s start in the 19thcentury when Syria consisted of six vilayets — Ottoman provinces — without counting Mount Lebanon, which had a special status since 1861 to the benefit of Maronite Christians and Jerusalem, which was a sanjak (administrative division) of Istanbul.

The vilayets did not define the extremely complex Syrian identity: for instance, Armenians were the majority in the vilayet of Maras, Kurds in Diyarbakir – both now part of Turkey in southern Anatolia – and the vilayets of Aleppo and Damascus were both Sunni Arab. 

Nineteenth century Ottoman Syria was the epitome of cosmopolitanism. There were no interior borders or walls. Everything was inter-dependent.

Ethnic groups in the Balkans and Asia Minor, early 20th Century, Historical Atlas, 1911.

Then the Europeans, profiting from World War I, intervened. France got the Syrian-Lebanese littoral, and later the vilayets of Maras and Mosul (today in Iraq). Palestine was separated from Cham (the “Levant”), to be internationalized. The vilayet of Damascus was cut in half: France got the north, the Brits got the south. Separation between Syria and the mostly Christian Lebanese lands came later.

There was always the complex question of the Syria-Iraq border. Since antiquity, the Euphrates acted as a barrier, for instance between the Cham of the Umayyads and their fierce competitors on the other side of the river, the Mesopotamian Abbasids.

James Barr, in his splendid “A Line in the Sand,” notes, correctly, that the Sykes-Picot agreement imposed on the Middle East the European conception of territory: their “line in the sand” codified a delimited separation between nation-states. The problem is, there were no nation-states in region in the early 20thcentury. 

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The birth of Syria as we know it was a work in progress, involving the Europeans, the Hashemite dynasty, nationalist Syrians invested in building a Greater Syria including Lebanon, and the Maronites of Mount Lebanon. An important factor is that few in the region lamented losing dependence on Hashemite Medina, and except the Turks, the loss of the vilayet of Mosul in what became Iraq after World War I.

In 1925, Sunnis became the de facto prominent power in Syria, as the French unified Aleppo and Damascus. During the 1920s France also established the borders of eastern Syria. And the Treaty of Lausanne, in 1923, forced the Turks to give up all Ottoman holdings but didn’t keep them out of the game.

Turkish borders according to the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923.

The Turks soon started to encroach on the French mandate, and began blocking the dream of Kurdish autonomy. France in the end gave in: the Turkish-Syrian border would parallel the route of the fabled Bagdadbahn — the Berlin-Baghdad railway.

In the 1930s France gave in even more: the sanjak of Alexandretta (today’s Iskenderun, in Hatay province, Turkey), was finally annexed by Turkey in 1939 when only 40 percent of the population was Turkish.

The annexation led to the exile of tens of thousands of Armenians. It was a tremendous blow for Syrian nationalists. And it was a disaster for Aleppo, which lost its corridor to the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Turkish forces under entered Alexandretta on July 5, 1938.

To the eastern steppes, Syria was all about Bedouin tribes. To the north, it was all about the Turkish-Kurdish clash. And to the south, the border was a mirage in the desert, only drawn with the advent of Transjordan. Only the western front, with Lebanon, was established, and consolidated after WWII.

This emergent Syria — out of conflicting Turkish, French, British and myriad local interests —obviously could not, and did not, please any community. Still, the heart of the nation configured what was described as “useful Syria.” No less than 60 percent of the nation was — and remains — practically void. Yet, geopolitically, that translates into “strategic depth” — the heart of the matter in the current war. 

From Hafez to Bashar

Starting in 1963, the Baath party, secular and nationalist, took over Syria, finally consolidating its power in 1970 with Hafez al-Assad, who instead of just relying on his Alawite minority, built a humongous, hyper-centralized state machinery mixed with a police state. The key actors who refused to play the game were the Muslim Brotherhood, all the way to being massacred during the hardcore 1982 Hama repression.

Secularism and a police state: that’s how the fragile Syrian mosaic was preserved. But already in the 1970s major fractures were emerging: between major cities and a very poor periphery; between the “useful” west and the Bedouin east; between Arabs and Kurds. But the urban elites never repudiated the iron will of Damascus: cronyism, after all, was quite profitable.

Damascus interfered heavily with the Lebanese civil war since 1976 at the invitation of the Arab League as a “peacekeeping force.” In Hafez al-Assad’s logic, stressing the Arab identity of Lebanon was essential to recover Greater Syria. But Syrian control over Lebanon started to unravel in 2005, after the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, very close to Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) eventually left.

Bashar al-Assad had taken power in 2000. Unlike his father, he bet on the Alawites to run the state machinery, preventing the possibility of a coup but completely alienating himself from the poor, Syrian on the street.    

What the West defined as the Arab Spring, began in Syria in March 2011; it was a revolt against the Alawites as much  as a revolt against Damascus. Totally instrumentalized by the foreign interests, the revolt sprang up in extremely poor, dejected Sunni peripheries: Deraa in the south, the deserted east, and the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo.

Protest in Damascus, April 24, 2011. (syriana2011/Flickr)

What was not understood in the West is that this “beggars banquet” was not against the Syrian nation, but against a “regime.” Jabhat al-Nusra, in a P.R. exercise, even broke its official link with al-Qaeda and changed its denomination to Fatah al-Cham and then Hayat Tahrir al-Cham (“Organization for the Liberation of the Levant”). Only ISIS/Daesh said they were fighting for the end of Sykes-Picot.

By 2014, the perpetually moving battlefield was more or less established: Damascus against both Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS/Daesh, with a wobbly role for the Kurds in the northeast, obsessed in preserving the cantons of Afrin, Kobane and Qamichli.

But the key point is that each katiba (“combat group”), each neighborhood, each village, and in fact each combatant was in-and-out of allegiances non-stop. That yielded a dizzying nebulae of jihadis, criminals, mercenaries, some linked to al-Qaeda, some to Daesh, some trained by the Americans, some just making a quick buck.

For instance Salafis — lavishly financed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — especially Jaish al-Islam, even struck alliances with the PYD Kurds in Syria and the jihadis of Hayat Tahrir al-Cham (the remixed, 30,000-strong  al-Qaeda in Syria). Meanwhile, the PYD Kurds (an emanation of the Turkish Kurds’ PKK, which Ankara consider “terrorists”) profited from this unholy mess — plus a deliberate ambiguity by Damascus – to try to create their autonomous Rojava. 

A demonstration in the city of Afrin in support of the YPG against the Turkish invasion of Afrin, Jan. 19, 2018. (Voice of America Kurdish, Wikimedia Commons)

That Turkish Strategic Depth

Turkey was all in. Turbo-charged by the neo-Ottoman politics of former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the logic was to reconquer parts of the Ottoman empire, and get rid of Assad because he had helped PKK Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

Davutoglu’s Strategik Derinlik (“Strategic Depth’), published in 2001, had been a smash hit in Turkey, reclaiming the glory of eight centuries of an sprawling empire, compared to puny 911 kilometers of borders fixed by the French and the Kemalists. Bilad al Cham, the Ottoman province congregating Lebanon, historical Palestine, Jordan and Syria, remained a powerful magnet in both the Syrian and Turkish unconscious.   

No wonder Turkey’s Recep Erdogan was fired up: in 2012 he even boasted he was getting ready to pray in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, post-regime change, of course. He has been gunning for a safe zone inside the Syrian border — actually a Turkish enclave — since 2014. To get it, he has used a whole bag of nasty players — from militias close to the Muslim Brotherhood to hardcore Turkmen gangs. 

With the establishment of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), for the first time Turkey allowed foreign weaponized groups to operate on its own territory. A training camp was set up in 2011 in the sanjakof Alexandretta. The Syrian National Council was also created in Istanbul – a bunch of non-entities from the diaspora who had not been in Syria for decades.

Ankara enabled a de facto Jihad Highway — with people from Central Asia, Caucasus, Maghreb, Pakistan, Xinjiang, all points north in Europe being smuggled back and forth at will. In 2015, Ankara, Riyadh and Doha set up the dreaded Jaish al-Fath (“Army of Conquest”), which included Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda).

At the same time, Ankara maintained an extremely ambiguous relationship with ISIS/Daesh, buying its smuggled oil, treating jihadis in Turkish hospitals, and paying zero attention to jihad intel collected and developed on Turkish territory. For at least five years, the MIT — Turkish intelligence – provided political and logistic background to the Syrian opposition while weaponizing a galaxy of Salafis. After all, Ankara believed that ISIS/Daesh only existed because of the “evil” deployed by the Assad regime.

The Russian Factor

Russian President Vladiimir Putin meeting with President of Turkey Recep Erdogan; Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov standing in background, Ankara, Dec. 1, 2014 Ankara. (Kremlin)

The first major game-changer was the spectacular Russian entrance in the summer of 2015. Vladimir Putin had asked the U.S. to join in the fight against the Islamic State as the Soviet Union allied against Hitler, negating the American idea that this was Russia’s bid to restore its imperial glory. But the American plan instead, under Barack Obama, was single-minded: betting on a rag-tag Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a mix of Kurds and Sunni Arabs, supported by air power and U.S. Special Forces, north of the Euphrates, to smash ISIS/Daesh all the way to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

Raqqa, bombed to rubble by the Pentagon, may have been taken by the SDF, but Deir ez-Zor was taken by Damascus’s Syrian Arab Army. The ultimate American aim was to consistently keep the north of the Euphrates under U.S. power, via their proxies, the SDF and the Kurdish PYD/YPG. That American dream is now over, lamented by imperial Democrats and Republicans alike. 

The CIA will be after Trump’s scalp till Kingdom Come. 

Kurdish Dream Over

Talk about a cultural misunderstanding. As much as the Syrian Kurds believed U.S. protection amounted to an endorsement of their independence dreams, Americans never seemed to understand that throughout the “Greater Middle East” you cannot buy a tribe. At best, you can rent them. And they use you according to their interests. I’ve seen it from Afghanistan to Iraq’s Anbar province.

The Kurdish dream of a contiguous, autonomous territory from Qamichli to Manbij is over. Sunni Arabs living in this perimeter will resist any Kurdish attempt at dominance. 

The Syrian PYD was founded in 2005 by PKK militants. In 2011, Syrians from the PKK came from Qandil – the PKK base in northern Iraq – to build the YPG militia for the PYD. In predominantly Arab zones, Syrian Kurds are in charge of governing because for them Arabs are seen as a bunch of barbarians, incapable of building their “democratic, socialist, ecological and multi-communitarian” society.

Kurdish PKK guerillas In Kirkuk, Iraq. (Kurdishstruggle via Flickr)

One can imagine how conservative Sunni Arab tribal leaders hate their guts. There’s no way these tribal leaders will ever support the Kurds against the SAA or the Turkish army; after all these Arab tribal leaders spent a lot of time in Damascus seeking support from Bashar al-Assad.  And now the Kurds themselves have accepted that support in the face of the Trukish incursion, greenlighted by Trump.

East of Deir ez-Zor, the PYD/YPG already had to say goodbye to the region that is responsible for 50 percent of Syria’s oil production. Damascus and the SAA now have the upper hand. What’s left for the PYD/YPG is to resign themselves to Damascus’s and Russian protection against Turkey, and the chance of exercising sovereignty in exclusively Kurdish territories.  

Ignorance of the West

The West, with typical Orientalist haughtiness, never understood that Alawites, Christians, Ismailis and Druze in Syria would always privilege Damascus for protection compared to an “opposition” monopolized by hardcore Islamists, if not jihadis.  The West also did not understand that the government in Damascus, for survival, could always count on formidable Baath party networks plus the dreaded mukhabarat — the intel services.

Rebuilding Syria

The reconstruction of Syria may cost as much as $200 billion. Damascus has already made it very clear that the U.S. and the EU are not welcome. China will be in the forefront, along with Russia and Iran; this will be a project strictly following the Eurasia integration playbook — with the Chinese aiming to revive Syria’s strategic positioning in the Ancient Silk Road.  

As for Erdogan, distrusted by virtually everyone, and a tad less neo-Ottoman than in the recent past, he now seems to have finally understood that Bashar al-Assad “won’t go,” and he must live with it. Ankara is bound to remain imvolved with Tehran and Moscow, in finding a comprehensive, constitutional solution for the Syrian tragedy through the former “Astana process”, later developed in Ankara.

The war may not have been totally won, of course. But against all odds, it’s clear a unified, sovereign Syrian nation is bound to prevail over every perverted strand of geopolitical molotov cocktails concocted in sinister NATO/GCC labs. History will eventually tell us that, as an example to the whole Global South, this will remain the ultimate game-changer.

 

(*) Author:

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030.” Follow him on Facebook.