the mess in Syria is about to get messier

Syria is already a fairly convoluted conflict, with all sorts of competing alliances and conflicting interests. Recently, Turkey launched an offensive into northern Syria aimed at the Kurds. Now, they’re moving towards the city of Manbij, which features American troops embedded with Kurdish allies.

I think it’d be a first for troops from two NATO countries to be squaring off across a battlefield from each other, but it feels like we’ve been sort of dancing around this moment for a while now in Syria.

MODS: sorry, I meant to post this in MPSIMS. Feel free to move it.

I have one question about the Administration’s Syria policy: when our friends – like the Kurds and others – liberate a town from ISIL, what is going to happen with that town? Do the Kurds and others get to keep it forever, and create a separate state? Are they going to be forced to give it to Assad?

I don’t think there is any answer to this simple question.

I guess this is like breaking news? I’ll move it from Great Debates to MPSIMS, though I think it may find it’s way back eventually.


I don’t think I’ve heard a clear answer from Obama or Trump on that question, but I think there are certainly signs that neither one intend for Assad’s regime to exercise effective control over the territory they’ve lost anytime soon. The US has done things like built bases in the regions controlled by the Kurds and other allied forces:

March 6, 2016 - Reuters: U.S. builds two air bases in Kurdish-controlled north Syria: Kurdish report

April 3, 2017 - Stars and Stripes: US expands air base in northern Syria for use in battle for Raqqa

July 11, 2017 - Daily Beast: Satellites Reveal Secret U.S. Bases Emerging in the Desert


August 4, 2017 - The American Conservative: Is the Expanding U.S. Military Presence in Syria Legal?

I think it’s a safe bet that the USA isn’t undertaking all that base-building with the plan of turning it all back over to Assad anytime soon.

ETA: I wouldn’t be surprised if Strava had some interesting data on clusters of users at various locations in Syria.

I wonder if, with Turkey under Erdoğan’s increasing authoritarian rule, the US is thinking of establishing airbases in the liberated parts of Syria and thus ending their reliance on Incirlik airbase in Turkey.

As you say, the answer is…complicated. The short answer is that every faction in Syria is planning to take and hold what they can, and this definitely includes the Kurds/Syrian Democratic Forces. None of them (and there are a bunch btw) plan to give the territory back to Assad (hell, not even sure some of the factions aligned with Assad or the Iranians/Russians plan to necessarily do that :p). To me, it looks like eventually, Syria will break up into many separate statelets or republics or whatever. Certainly, that’s what the Kurds are hoping for, to start carving out a territory all their own…which is why Turkey is doing what they are doing, since they can’t tolerate an independent and viable Kurdish state on their border. That’s just my take btw, so MMV.

As for the OP, the situation has been pretty messy, and I don’t think this is necessarily going to make it more chaotic. I doubt the Turks will actually attack into areas where the US has troops or where the two forces could potentially get into some sort of blue on blue incident. My WAG is that Turkey is trying to do a Russia…they are trying to leverage the US into avoiding such a confrontation and basically threatening it in an attempt to get us to just move away. The US has already told the Kurds not to shift forces away from the primary goal of ISIS/ISIL and into the path of the Turkish forces, at the same time told Turkey to essentially stay focused, and reiterated that we won’t be moving. Turkey has ignored that so far apparently, but hard to imagine they would push this to the point where there is a potential blue on blue confrontation with the US. Even with Turkey’s tensions with Russia alleviating somewhat it’s hard to imagine they would want to piss off the US, regardless of how riled they are about the Kurds. Again, JMHO there so grain of salt.

I suspect that’s one of the goals it achieves.

BTW, when I wrote “I think it’d be a first for troops from two NATO countries to be squaring off across a battlefield from each other”, I totally forgot about Greece. The Greeks and Turks have had … testy relations for quite some time.

The problem with any long term involvement with Kurdistan is that of necessity it completely depends on the good-will of potentially hostile countries. Any US base in Syria can’t possibly survive if Turkey and Iraq decide not to allow at least overflights. Not to mention Iran. Yes, the US can fly through Jordan and Syria to Kurdistan, but again Syria’s Russian friends, through the Syrian military “operating” SAMS, could make that a dangerous trip. Having a base that can be cut off at any time is not a long-term plan.
While we have some sort of current relationship with the Iraq Government, that could disappear as fast as it did in 2011.

BTW, I have been unable to find any information about our “strategic relationship” with Iraq that discusses the status of American forces currently in Iraq, fancy that. It almost seems like someone is trying to downplay the subject to oblivion. :slight_smile:
If anyone can find out any written public documentation on how US forces in Iraq are not subject to Iraqi law-which was the sticking point in renewing the 2008 SOFA, I would be interested in seeing it.

So I think that US involvement in Kurdistan will last only as long as the surrounding countries want it to. Sucks to be the Kurds, but they have been living like that for generations.

We’ve got bases in Turkey and Iraq that also depend entirely on the good-will of two of those three countries that you listed as “potentially hostile”. I don’t see why an airbase in Kobani is any less tenable than our presence at Incirlik or Al Asad.

I suppose it is possible that US troops may serve to partition Syria. Who knows?

But when one considers that the US pretty strongly weighed in against Kurdish independence in Iraq, to turn around and support Kurdish independence on Syria…? While Trump doesn’t seem to mind if Assad stays or goes?

This reminds me of the Simpsons line: there’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Homer Simpson way. (Which is the wrong way, but FASTER!)

I fully agree. But as you know, both those countries have significant issues with the Kurds. As long as remaining friends with the US outweighs their concerns about the Kurds, we should be able to support the Kurds. But there are degrees of friendship. Iraq could easily tell the US that they can stay at Al Asad, but can’t fly into Kurdistan. It would then be up to the US to decide whether they leave Iraq completely, abandoning the Kurds, or just abandon the Kurds. Same for Turkey except that I don’t believe the US travels to Kurdistan via Turkey. I don’t know that however.

I couldn’t decide if it was appropriate to post this here, or just start a new thread about it, but I decided on the former. Mods, if I got it wrong, please feel free to offer corrective guidance.

The short version is that it appears likely that the Syrian regime once again used chemical weapons in an attack, this time on Douma, killing at least 40 people. Trump condemned the attack and promised “some major decisions over the next 24-48 hours”. President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron promised to “coordinate a strong, joint response.

Last night, someone bombed a Syrian airbase. Originally, the Syrians blamed America (our government denied any involvement), but now they’re blaming the Israelis.

I think the likelihood of additional clashes in the near future is quite high.

I was pondering this today as I read about Putin and Assad denying any chemical attacks (the Russians say they already sent a team to investigate and could detect no trace of chemicals). I was musing on the topic of how regimes lie about everything, such that even if they are telling the truth no one would believe them. I have no idea, at this point whether Syria was so epically stupid as to launch yet another chemical attack, especially when it looks like they were actually winning in the area, but I think Putin et al have lied so much that basically no one is going to believe them unless there is incontrovertible evidence to the contrary…and perhaps not even then. This is exactly the situation we had with Saddam and the Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and I have this sinking sensation about this. Something about history repeating itself.

I’d say that this is a gift from the gods for Trump at this time, depending on what he does. It will, perhaps, distract from his increasingly harried administration and mounting evidence of his own wrong doings (or those of his staff). I shudder to think what our response might be, or how the Russians might react (let alone Iran). A bull in a china shop full of landmines springs to mind, though…

Debating posting about the raid last night, life intervened.

I would like to mention that at times during the missile attack, it got exciting reading reports about: Russian and Syrian air force planes were engaged with other aircraft, and that Russian aircraft were spotted heading out to sea. (Where, IIRC, the US has a few ships keeping an eye on things.)

Both reports combined made me wonder what is in Syria that is so important that it’s worth potentially sparring with Russian forces? (At least, Russian forces that can’t be denied as being official Russian military personnel.)

Oh, and thanks IDF, for shooting at a base filled with Russians, when the first people the Russians are going to think to blame are the U.S. No way that could have gone badly…

I have a radical idea.

The rebels could negotiate peace and end the killing.

It makes no sense to continue fighting when Assad’s forces clearly have the upper hand. Assad wants to restore Syria and put it under his government.

If they don’t care about their own lives. At least consider the civilians dying senselessly.

The rebels wouldn’t stop until Aleppo was completely ruined. Civilians died for no reason. Now they are doing the same thing in another part of Syria.

Assad will regain control of Syria eventually. Stop the killing now! Negotiate the best peace deal you can and end the killing.

I’m not sure how seriously to take Twitter always, but here are some interesting tweets:

The Russian internet is happily sharing videos of what they say are Israelis missiles being shot down by Syrian AD. No idea as to their veracity and the Russians have many reasons to lie. OTH, they do make excellent AD systems and doubtless Syrian AD forces were already on alert.

In Israel, the newspapar Haaretz seems to have an almost palpable bias against the whole operation.

Reports of Russian forces world wide being on high alert are being recieved.

Remind me. What happens what happens when Russia feels compelled to defend its ally/client against attack from a Western powers… I think I have seen this movie.
Can we please not have a startegic nuclear exchange before the weekend. I am due to move to my new house then.

At least you won’t have to unpack.

Doubt the SAMs worked all that well if the Russians felt the need to augment their radar net with the AWACS planes HD mentioned in his post. There are photos of smashed up bunkers at the airbase the Israelis were shooting at. S-200/-300 is supposed to be good, but there’s only so much you can do with ground based radar. Did better than I thought they would against what looks like were Israel’s version of the TLAM. FWIW, it’s thought a big part of Israel’s nuclear deterrent is embodied in sub-launched cruise missiles, like the old TLAM-N. Yay warhead ambiguity!

I don’t believe the reports that either the US or Russia are putting strategic deterrent forces on a higher stage of alert, at least not publicly. That said, I thought the Russians were raising the readiness for some of their forces in Western Russia, and radio geeks were yakking about a flurry of EAM traffic the other day, so who knows?

IMHO, if there’s to be a nuclear confrontation, Russia would far prefer it be between Iran/KSA/Israel than anything involving themselves and Syria. For one thing, the former’d make their nat. gas and oil exports much more valuable. A glowing-in-the-dark Gulf, and oil prices go to what? 120 USD/barrel? More? Means a lot more money that Putin can use to prop up the Russian economy, pay off oligarchs, bribe US politicians if you’re into that sort of thing, etc…