Syria

Erdogan Adviser Discloses US-Russia Plans for Syria

//

A senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that both USA and Russia want the Assad regime to survive. Furthermore, they want to make sure Kurdish groups gain power in a new security structure. According to the sources close to Bashar al-Assad’s government, the two world leaders want to include Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Syrian army. When added, these forces would oversee the eastern part of the country, as reported in Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper.

It is possible for a YPG official to get the post of Syria’s oil minister, allowing the United States to have a permanent presence in the western part of the country. Turkey invaded the country in order to fight the YPG, that is allied with the United States and that fight against the ISIS, but they are also affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party known as PKK. They are an armed group in Turkey prone to terrorist acts and recognized as terrorists by the United States and the European Union.

Source:foreignaffairs.com

Assad family has supported the PKK, which is nothing unusual and its leader Abdullah Ocalan was kept safe in Damascus. However, he was later arrested by the Turks in Kenya and Turkey is disappointed to see Russia and the USA agreeing in this policy, to keep Assad on the seat of power.

“If this is the case, then it is quite clear that the U.S. has had a change of heart and is no longer pushing for a solution in Syria without the Assad regime, which has murdered nearly 1 million of its own citizens,” Ilnur Cevik, the man who wrote the article for Turkey’s Daily Sabah said. “Does Washington agree with a solution that disregards the massive opposition in Syria who are against the murderous Assad regime?”

“If this is the endgame, then all sides need to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns… The PKK remains a threat to Turkey as it uses the area to launch terrorist attacks targeting Turkish soil. Any solution in Syria must secure all of Turkey’s southern borders, not just the area east of the Euphrates.”

Source:dailysabah.com

“Solutions that include the PKK in a future peace for Syria will only lead to further chaos,” Çevik added. “Turkey has brought relative peace to Syria by cooperating with Russia and Iran. Astana has been successful in providing this peace and remains the only hope for any future solution to the Syrian issue.”

Source: ahvalnews.com

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Presents Europe With Demands For New Iran Deal

//

The US left the Iran deal, but other parties involved are still trying to honor it. Tehran presented a new agreement to the European countries, and the new deal ‘undercuts’ America in every possible way.

Despite The US leaving Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), EU countries decided to try and save it in cooperation with the Middle East country. But, now it’s the Iran who sets the conditions in order to stay in the deal. These terms were presented yesterday by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to IRNA news agency close to the state, Khamenei said: “During the last two years, the US violated the JCPOA several times, and Europe remained silent. Europe must compensate for that silence.”

Some of the most notable conditions include demands that Europe protects Iran from US sanctions, that EU works on retaining and improving Iran oil sales, and that the banks of Old Continent remain a guarantee of financial cooperation with this Middle East country.

Source: www1.cbn.com

Other things named in the new agreement are related to Iran’s ballistic missile program. The new deal prohibits Germany, France, and the UK from negotiating about this subject with the US, and that they should not influence the manner in which will Iran implement activities in neighboring countries. In past America always had issues with Tehran’s involvement and military actions in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

Talking about Iran’s actions in the region Khamenei said: “We have no conflicts with regard to these three countries; but we do not trust them, based on previous experience.”

Other world powers that have signed Iran deal are China and Russia, but they have no demands at the moment. This might change in the future as Iran’s supreme leader noted that if the requests are not fulfilled his country will immediately continue with its nuclear program. During the same statement he threatened: “When we see that the JCPOA was useless, one way forward is to restart those halted activities.”

Source: realiran.org

Khamenei was very vocal in his addressing claiming that the United States failed to show “loyalty to its commitments,” while trying to overthrow his country in the process. His message for Donald Trump was particularly harsh: “The current US president will have no better fate than that of his predecessors… he will be lost in history.”

These statements from Iranian supreme leader come only days after Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State presented the world with the US conditions for a new pact with Iran. The US-created deal has terms that demand Iran to withdraw its forces from Syria and that they stop sending aid to Houthi rebels in Yemen. If these conditions are not met, Pompeo threatened Iran with the pressure of ‘unprecedented’ magnitude. Pompeo said: “The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course.”

After leaving the Iran deal, the US is planning to put sanctions on both Iran and the countries that decide to cooperate with this Middle East state. The set of measures will be even harsher than those that were lifted in 2015 when the deal was signed. This puts Europe in a tough position having to choose between working with the US or Iran.

Source: www.businessinsider.com

America Has to Change Its Foreign Policy and End Wars

As the cost in blood and gold continues to ramp up, American politicians seem oblivious to a simple fact: despite all the wars we have fought in since 9/11, our security and economic development have been suffering.

Currently, engagements in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen are proving the point without a doubt, but even to mention a peaceful resolution of these conflicts is considered a heresy in Washington. The military option has become a default solution to almost any problem. Yet, these wars are draining our resources and making us vulnerable to future conflicts.

Despite his campaign promises, President Trump ordered a significant number of troops to Syria, with an objective to help Syrian rebels capture ISIS capital Raqqa. But once that objective has been accomplished, the army stayed. The mission has become a purpose, instead of the other way around. Now, we have a military leadership struggling to find an objective for these troops, despite the clear indications that there isn’t one. So why are they still in Syria?

Source:dailystar.co.uk

Yemen is another case in point. There was no threat to American interests there. The only objective is supporting Saudi Arabia as they continue to blunder through the war, killing thousands of civilians and causing a famine that endangers millions. All the efforts to extricate the US from this conflict have failed, despite the clear bipartisanship support.

The greatest failure of American foreign policy is Afghanistan. Despite all the effort, the security situation in the country is a nightmare. Just a few days ago a suicide attack killed 57 people. The recent Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) reports clearly states that the mission has failed in every possible segment, whether it is economic development, political stability, or Kabul’s government corruption. The massive expenditure of lives (15 Americans were killed last year in Afghanistan) and money (some $45 billion per year) haven’t achieved a single proclaimed goal. But the mission continues, without clear parameters or any achievable objective. Any mention of troops returning home is met with a stiff and almost hysterical resistance.

Source:democracynow.org

So far, the United States has spent about $15 billion on Syrian campaign. Two Americans have lost their lives in the conflict. As things stand now, it seems almost certain that Syria will turn into another Afghanistan, only much more dangerous one because of various international players present on the ground, like Russia and Iran.

Reconsidering the use of military power has become a critical issue. Instead of exploring different avenues of approach, our first instinct is to bomb everybody and ask questions later. Not only it is detrimental to America’s international reputation, but the cost in soldiers’ lives and treasury is also slowly becoming unbearable. The money we spend on these pointless wars can be employed for many different things we as a nation sorely need, especially in the light of mounting budget deficit. The lives of our servicemen we so carelessly sacrifice will be needed in future. The time to change the way we conduct our foreign policy is long overdue.

Source: nationalinterest.org

US and Israeli Officials Increase Threats Against Iran

///

As May 12th deadline imposed by the United States President Donald Trumps nears, the warnings towards Iran, made by the White House and Israel, are getting increasingly more threating.

President Trump has given his European partners until May 12th to find a solution for the Iranian Deal that he called “insane” earlier this week, or he would pull out the United States from it. Since he has provided no plan on his intentions after the deal gets scrapped, there are growing concerns about the future American policies towards Tehran. If Trump starts insisting on a regime change, the situation can escalate into another open conflict in the Middle East.

Israel has been a long-time advocate for a tougher stance on Iran, especially in the light of Tehran’s activities in Syria, which both Washington and Tel Aviv are describing as “malign.” Possible clashes between Iran’s forces present in Syria and IDF can easily spill over and spiral out of control. Israel has been proposing a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, something they have done in the past, but this time the response would be much firmer. There are plenty of militants groups in Syria close to Israel’s border with enough motivation to carry out attacks, supported by the instructors, money, and weapons from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has a strong presence in the country.

Source:sputniknews.com

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, has warned that Iran is the lynchpin which holds together various entities hostile to both Israel and US, like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Assad’s regime.

The change of tone in Washington coincided with the appointment of the new National Security Advisor John Bolton, a Bush-era politician who have advocated strikes against Iran and North Korea in the past. Mike Pompeo, the new Secretary of State, hold similar opinions, having said that “the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the Mullahs’ regime in Tehran.” Trump has now surrounded himself with advisors that are very hostile to the regime in Tehran and they may influence him towards more hawkish behavior which could easily escalate into open conflict. United States Secretary of Defense Mattis has expressed concerns that Israel may preemptively strike Iran’s forces in Syria, which are smuggling advanced weaponry into the country, able to hit targets deep in Israel.

“We have seen them trying to bring advanced weaponry into Syria on its way to Lebanese Hezbollah in southern Lebanon,” Mattis said. “Israel is not going to wait until those missiles are in the air. Will it be cataclysmic? I hope not, I hope Iran pulls back.”

Gholamali Khoshroo, Iran’s ambassador to the UN also addressed Security Council. “The Iran-phobic, and hysterical statements we have heard today and in recent months are being actively perpetuated by those who are badly in need of creating an imaginary enemy to sell their “beautiful weapons” and those who entrench their aggressions through using such weapons. It is a dirty business that has nothing to do with peace and security in the Middle East,” he said.

Source: edition.cnn.com

Trump’s Syria Troubles

//

On April 14th, at 4 AM local time, more than one hundred missiles were launched at the targets in Syria by the airplanes and ships of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. All targets have been connected with the Bashir al-Assad’s ability to conduct chemical warfare, and the strike itself has been a retaliation to the recent chemical attack in Douma.

While the attacks have been successful in destroying its targets and the production and stockpiles of chemical agents of the Syrian regime have been seriously compromised, the mission is far from accomplished, despite what President Trump may have tweeted. The statement rings true just as much it did last time it was uttered by an American President.

These strikes will do little, if anything, to protect Syrian civilian population from Assad’s regime. While they put some dents in his war machine, it won’t be stopped without a serious troop commitment on the ground, something nobody in NATO is willing to even discuss, let alone approve. Truth be told, Mr. Trump did advocate for a more massive strike, a one that will destroy not only chemical facilities, but also airfields and army bases, but was convinced by Secretary of Defense James Mattis to dial it down. Mattis argument was that such huge escalation might provoke a response from Russia, which has a strong military presence in the region and make things even worse in the region.

Source:businessinsider.com

Trump’s insistence for a decisive strike against Syrian regime seems to be in a direct collision with his plans for the withdrawal of all US troops from Syria. That President Trump’s decisions can be quite contradictory to each other is nothing new, but this time he may outdo even himself. In the end, we got an almost symbolic show of force that did little to either punish Syrian regime or promote American interests in the region.

The reasons for President Trump’s back and forth policy in Syria are unclear. There are several theories, though. The first one is that he agreed to strikes in order to distract public from Mueller investigation and FBI raid on his personal lawyer premises, not to mention the looming release of James Comey’s book. The investigation seems to be uncovering new evidence of collusion and Trump’s position seems weaker by the minute. It is a proven tactic and it is clear that nothing boosts presidential approval ratings as a war, and Trump has gone and got himself just that.

The other theory says that he ordered attacks in order to prove that he isn’t Putin’s puppet and that is why the attack was so impotent. That would make the whole Trump – Mattis conflict we mentioned above a simple theater, aimed at his voters.

Source:latimes.com

While both of these may have some elements of truth and could have played some small part in Mr. Trump’s internal decision-making process, the real reasons behind his decisions are far more dangerous. Mr. Trump doesn’t understand the military. He never did and probably never will. To him, all those shiny airplanes, ships, and missiles are just a symbol of America’s power (and, by extension, his own personal power) rather than an instrument of said power. All that boots on the ground, nation-building, democracy development is boring, time-consuming, and messy and it doesn’t work for Mr. Trump. Press a button and launch a missile and boom, instant gratification. He gets to fulfill his threat about “nice and new and ‘smart!’” missiles and tweet “Mission Accomplished,” all in the same go. The fact that his missiles haven’t accomplished anything useful expect waste few million dollars of the tax-payers money doesn’t even come to Mr. Trump’s mind.

The added bonus is that he can sell missile strikes as something completely different from troops on the ground to his voters. Not only his anti-interventionist base will support any plan that doesn’t involve sending the Marines, but they are also ready to accept this non-effective and basically useless strike as a success. In the end, Mr. Trump has his voters, who can sleep at night safe in the knowledge that their President is trying to untangle them form that Middle Eastern mess Obama put them in. Assad gets to kill as many of his citizens as he needs to stay in power and Russia and Iran get to split Syria. A win-win scenario, really.

Source: nationalreview.com

Lavrov Says That US Has No Plans to Leave Syria

/

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that US military is in Syria for the long haul, judging by their efforts on the eastern bank of Euphrates river.

“The US pledged that their only aim was to repel terrorists from Syria, to defeat the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ but, despite all their claims, despite President Trump’s claims, the US is actually positioning itself on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates and have no intention of leaving,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov stated that there are several nations whose only agenda is the disintegration of Syria and that the road to economic recovery will be a hard one unless all foreign troops leave the country. Russia has been actively supporting Bashir al-Assad’s regime by providing air cover, training, and weapons and often even infantry support in heavy fighting that has occurred in Syria in the last several years. Syria hosts the only major Russian naval base outside its territory and is seen by Kremlin as a key ally in allowing Russia power projecting capabilities in the Mediterranean.

Earlier this month President Trump announced that he is planning to withdraw all United States forces from Syria, a statement that seemed contradictory to what his closest advisors, including senior Pentagon and State Department officials, who all claimed that the US will keep a strong presence in the region.

Source:abc.net.au

Turning 180 degrees on a previous statement is nothing new for Mr. Trump, but this announcement confused even his allies in the Congress, which doesn’t share President’s views on the Middle East situation.

US military has been present in Syria since at least 2014, where it has been leading a coalition of nations in a fight against ISIS. Now that ISIS threat is mostly eliminated, US forces have been positioning themselves on the east bank of the Euphrates river in order to protect their Kurdish allies from attacks by regime forces and Iranian-backed militias.

Source: sputniknews.com

The Future of Iranian Deal Hangs in balance

/

This week’s French President Emmanuel Macron visit to Washington is the first state visit for President Trump since he took office in January 2017. There are several matters on the agenda for two leaders to discuss, namely Russia, North Korea, trade, climate change, and counterterrorism, but by far the most important topic will be the future of the Iranian deal, signed in 2015 by the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, and China. The deal allowed Tehran access to the international markets in exchange for limiting its nuclear program. Macron will also try to secure a promise from President Trump that he will not act on his pledge to withdraw US troops from Syria, as this will allow Iran to establish a firm stronghold in the war-torn country.

President Trump has been a long-time critic of the Iranian deal and once he was in office has made several statements about it, mostly threatening to withdraw from it, unless it is fixed. The list of things that need to be adjusted is fairly long, but the biggest concern is with lack of prohibition on Iran’s ballistic tests and its involvement in Syria. American allies in Europe are vehemently opposed to the cancellation of the deal and have stated that they will keep their end of the bargain, regardless of Washington’s actions. Unless an arrangement is made, it will represent the largest breach in trans-Atlantic relationships in history.

The consequences of the Iranian deal falling can be disastrous and plunge the entire region into insecurity. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has stated that his country will increase it “nuclear activities” if that happens. That is why every effort has been made in order to keep the deal alive and address any concerns the White House may have. So far, four documents have been created, based on Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Source:rferl.org

Another critic of the deal, Mike Pompeo, is poised to become the next American secretary of state. At one point, he advocated for the bombing campaign aimed at Iranian nuclear sites but has dialed down his criticism, stating the need for the diplomatic solution.

The key player in keeping the Iranian deal alive – and according to many the only person capable of persuading Trump to play ball – is French President. In a highly unlikely turn of event, Macron and Trump seem to have bonded in a manner that is often described as bromance by the American media. The credit for the relationship goes mostly to Macron and his personality. He is often described as the ultimate pragmatists, a trait that has allowed him not only to seduce Trump but to be the only European leader on talking terms with Vladimir Putin. But what could possibly a 40-year old French and a 71-year old American have in common?

Source:us.lalalay.com

It all started with a handshake that almost turned into a wrestling match. Macron later stated that he was prepared for the Trump’s handshake by watching his meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Abe.

It continued during the Bastille Day, a French national holiday. Macron invited President Trump and treated him with highest honors, complete with a front row seat for the traditional military parade. The two now talk on the phone almost weekly and President Trump is eager to host Macron in the same fashion he experienced in Paris, together with a dinner in Eiffel Tower. He will return the favor at Mount Vernon.

French President will have a busy stay in Washington, with several meetings (including one on one with President Trump) and a lecture at the Washington University. Macron hopes to reach an agreement on a joint response in case Assad uses chemical weapons again, while Trump will push him to increase French involvement in Syria. Both leaders have expressed a need to develop a unified front against Chinese expansion in Asia and that is something that will feature prominently in these talks. How to deal with Russia is also an important topic, especially to Macron and Merkel, who will visit Washington on Friday. Both European leaders will try to persuade Trump to give up his proposed aluminum and steel tariffs or at least exempt European Union countries from it.

The main goal of European diplomacy seems to be keeping the US engaged and not letting it sink into isolationism, heavily prominent in Trump’s campaign. Pulling America closer to Europe is Macron’s main objective, and among European leaders, he seems uniquely qualified to achieve it. According to his own words: “I’m an easy guy. I’m very simple. I’m straightforward.” Macron continued “It’s too complicated if you make war on everybody. You make trade war on China, trade war against Europe. War in Syria. War against Iran. Come on, it doesn’t work. You need allies. We are the ally.”

Source: washingtonpost.com

America and Iran poised for battle in Syria

///

One of the hallmarks of President Trump’s foreign policy has been a fierce critic of Iran and the deal made by President Obama, which allowed for the Iranian sanctions to be lifted in exchange for Teheran’s giving up its nuclear program. Apart from the Persian Gulf, a traditional battleground between the two countries, US and Iranian forces are also in close proximity in Syria, where members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have been instrumental in recent victories of the Syrian Army, with Russian air force providing ample air support. On the other hand, US forces have maintained a presence in Kurdish-occupied parts of Syria, from where they have been coordinating air strikes against regime’s forces.

Despite heavy fighting, there haven’t been any clashes between the two sides so far, much to the dismay of Israel, which has been advocating for a tougher stance on Iran, especially in Syria and has conducted numerous strikes against both Iranian forces and local militias backed by Teheran. This was all done in an effort of preventing Iran from gaining a stronger foothold in the country that shares a border with Israel.

In March, President Trump fired H. R. McMaster from the position of the national security advisor and appointed John Bolton as his replacement. Bolton, a Bush-era hawk and a strong supporter of Iraq war, is known for his aggressive stance and has advocated for preemptive strikes against both North Korea and Iran, a stance that has earned him a wide-spread criticism in international circles. Many have seen this move as a preparation for a more hostile posture towards Iran and its involvement in Syria.

Source:timesofisrael.com

The fears of conflict escalation have also been fueled by the statement made by the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, saying that “we want to make sure that the influence of Iran doesn’t take over the area. They continue to cause problems throughout the region, and we want to make sure that there is a hold.” The looming deadline imposed by President Trump on its European allies to fix the Iranian deal, set for May 12th, is fast approaching and if the US withdraws, it would only further destabilize the already fragile situation.

Some experts say that the cost of direct confrontation would be too steep for both countries. Professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham Scott Lucas said that “There’s no appetite on either side to deliberately look for a wider conflict because then your costs outweigh your benefits,” he told Al Jazeera. “You have to put in so many resources and have the problem of not knowing how far this will go.”

Iran has just starting to recover from decades of international sanctions and an open conflict with the world’s most powerful military is something they are desperate to avoid. On the other hand, the US is faced with a dramatic decrease of domestic support for any military adventure in the Middle East and is trying to limit its forces in the region.

Source:csis.org

While an outright conflict between the US and Iran’s forces may be far-fetched, both countries possess capable forces in Syria that can do the fighting for them. Iran has numerous militias which it has trained and supplied for years, and the US have Syrian Democratic Army, a heavily Kurdish-dominated force opposing Assad’s regime. These are fully able to maintain a low-intensity conflict for a long time, supported by their allies in Washington and Teheran.

Source: aljazeera.com