Syria
Syria oil map

Kurds betrayed in new Russo-Turkish alignment?

Moscow hosted the first direct meeting in years between the intelligence chiefs of Turkey and Syria’s Assad regime, supposedly deadly rivals. The head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan met with Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, a sure sign of a Russian-brokered rapprochement between the burgeoning dictatorship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the entrenched dictatorship of Bashar Assad. Sources said the discussions included “the possibility of working together against YPG, the terrorist organization PKK’s Syrian component.” This is a reference to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia in northern Syria, which is ideologically aligned with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the banned Kurdish revolutionary organization in Turkish territory. The YPG made a separate peace with the Assad regime to resist the Turkish invasion of Kurdish territory last year. It should come as little surprise that Assad is now considering their betrayal in exchange for some kind of peace with Turkey.  (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Iran
Syria shepherds

Syria: ‘retaliatory’ massacre after Soleimani killing

More than 20 shepherds were killed in eastern Syria, with pro-opposition activists claiming that Iran-backed militias were responsible. The shepherds were slain in the Maadan area, on the border of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor provinces, and also near the line between territory held by the Assad regime and that held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The regime is being massively backed by Iranian forces, and Iran-backed militia units had establsihed checkpoints along the border of the zones of control. The media-activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently claimed that the shepherds were shot and stabbed in retaliation for the US assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. Damascus state media blamed the massacre on ISIS. Soleimani’s elite Quds Force intervened in Syria to prop up the Assad regime along with Russia in 2015.  (Photo: EA Worldview)

Iran
asad base

US-Iran brinkmanship: is it still a charade?

Missiles launched from Iran struck various targets in Iraq—primarily al-Asad air-base west of Baghdad, which hosts US forces. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps quickly took credit for the strikes, and the Pentagon said it believed Iran fired with the “intent to kill.” But the facts suggest otherwise. Media reports indicate Tehran gave Baghdad advance warning of the strikes, and the Baghdad regime in turn informed the US, which moved its forces out of harm’s way. In spite of all the predictable misinformation that quicly proliferated on the internet, there were no casualties. Anonymous US and European sources even told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the Iranians were thought to have intentionally targeted the attacks to miss US forces. At a press conference the next day, Trump said nothing about military retaliation, but announced “additional punishing economic sanctions” that will “remain until Iran changes its behavior.” The assassination of Qassem Soleimani was a reckless and dangerous move in the US-Iran game for control of Iraq and the greater region. But a game, no matter how high-stakes and dangerous, is still in the end a game. (Map: Wikiwand)

Syria
Syria oil map

Trump lays claim to Syrian oil

Before Donald Trump left the London NATO summit in a huff, he made the startling claim at a press conference that the US can do “what we want” with the oil-fields it now controls in northeast Syria. This faux pas, jumped on by the British tabloid press, recalls Trump’s 2016 campaign trail boast of his plans for Syria: “I’ll take the oil”—and turn the seized fields over to Exxon. A military showdown over the oil looms, as all sides to the conflict await the new order that will emerge from the current scramble for northern Syria. A contest between the US and Russian-backed Assadist forces is a terrifying possibility. One restraining factor is that the US holds the fields jointly with Kurdish forces—and Washington, Moscow and Damascus alike are attempting to groom the Kurds as proxies. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Iraq
Sinjar

Iraq: Turkish jets attack Yazidi villages

The Yazidi village of Bara in northern Iraq was struck by Turkish warplanes for the second time in two days, injuring at least three. There were also strikes on the nearby village of Khanasor, targeting a base of the Shingal Protection Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia operating in the area. The YBS played a key role in liberating the area from ISIS after the Islamic State’s genocide against the Yazidis in 2014. Turkey calls the YBS an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and justifies its strikes by claiming the area is host to PKK positions. (Photo: Provisional Government of Ezidikhan)

Syria
troops return to Syria

Trump makes grab for Syrian oil-fields

A US military convoy was spotted headed back into Syria from Iraqi territory—just days after the US withdrawal from northern Syria, which precipitated the Turkish aggression there, had been completed. The convoy was traveling toward the Deir ez-Zor area, presumably to “guard” the oil-fields there, now under the precarious control of Kurdish forces. Following up on President Trump’s pledge to secure the oil-fields, Defense Secretary Mark Esper now says that the troops being mobilized to Deir ez-Zor “will include some mechanized forces.” Despite the talk of protecting the fields from ISIS, it is Russian-backed Assadist forces that are actually now also advancing on Deir ez-Zor from the other direction. So a show-down appears imminent—with the Kurds caught in the middle. (Photo: Rudaw)

Syria
Syria carve-up

Erdogan and Putin in Syria carve-up deal

Turkey and Russia reached a deal for joint control of northeast Syria, as Kurdish forces retreated from the so-called “safe zone” along the border. The 10-point agreement defines the dimensions of the “safe zone,” 480 kilometers long and 30 kilometers deep, enclosing the (former) Kurdish autonomous cantons of Kobani and Cezire. It supports Ankara’s demand for the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia. In Washington, Trump wasted no time in announcing that his administration will lift the sanctions it had imposed on Turkey in response to the aggression in Syria’s north. (Map: Cizire Canton via Twitter)

Syria
Kurdish protest

Syria: confusion, anger as US troops withdraw

US troops hastened their withdrawal from Syria, amid the anger of local Kurds and confusion over the future status of American forces in the area. Kurdish residents attempted to block a convoy of withdrawing US forces, with local youth pelting the vehicles with stones and rotten vegetables. But the Pentagon is now saying a remnant force of some 200 troops may remain—not to protect the Kurdish population from the Turkish aggression, but to help secure the Kurdish-held oil-fields from falling into the hands of ISIS. Trump actually broached turning the oil-fields over to “one of our big oil companies.” (Photo: ANHA via EA Worldview)

Syria
FSA-YPG

Podcast: against Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in Syria

In Episode 41 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg warns that the Turkish aggression in northern Syria holds the risk of an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. But he recalls the inspiring moment in 2014 when the Kurds and Free Syrian Army were united in a common front against Assad and ISIS. This alliance was exploded by imperial intrigues. The FSA, under military pressure from Assad, accepted Turkish patronage—and Turkey is bent on destruction of the Kurdish autonomous zone. Now, under pressure from Turkey, the Kurds have made an alliance with Assad—who the Arab-led opposition have been fighting for eight brutal years. In the brief “ceasefire” now declared, it is urgent that progressives around the world raise a cry against the Turkish aggression—but with a single standard, also opposing the ongoing Russian and Assadist war crimes. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of 2014 FSA-YPG united front via Rojava Breaking News)

Syria
Kurdish refugees

‘Ceasefire’ or ethnic cleansing in northeast Syria?

After meeting in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a “ceasefire.” However, Ankara is insisting the deal is not a “ceasefire” but a halt in the offensive to give Kurdish forces time to retreat from zone. Far from being a peace move, the pact amounts to an ultimatum to the Kurds to quit their territory. Some 160,000 Kurds have already fled the Turkish offensive—some to a refugee camp that has been established across the border in Iraq. (Photo: UNHCR via Twitter)

Syria
Ahrar al-Sharqiya

UN warns Turkey over rights violations in Syria

A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that Turkey may be held responsible for executions and civilian casualties that have occurred as a part of its military offensive in northern Syria. Rupert Colville stated that the office has received reports detailing civilian casualties as well as “summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey.” Especially mentioned were videos widely shared on social media that seem to show fighters executing three Kurdish captives on the al-Hassakeh-Manbij highway. Only one of the captives appeared to be wearing military uniform. (Photo via Twitter)

Syria
SDF

Syrian Kurds forge military pact with Assad regime

In a deal brokered by Russia, the leadership of the Rojava Kurds have agreed to cooperate with the Assad regime in resisting the Turkish incursion into northeast Syria. With Assadist forces already mobilizing to the region from the south and Turkish-backed forces advancing from the north, the Kurds have been left with little other choice. Accepting a separate peace with Assad is now their only hope to avoid outright extermination, or, at the very least, being cleansed entirely from their territory. But the sticking point in previous peace feelers between the Kurds and Assad has been the latter’s refusal to recognize the Rojava autonomous zone*—so its survival now is gravely in doubt, even in the improbable event that the Turkish advance is repulsed. Worse still, with the Kurds now open allies of the brutal regime that Syria’s Arab opposition has been fighting for nearly eight years, a general Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria appears terrifyingly imminent. (Photo: SOHR)