deir ez-zor

Ignoring the Astana Talks, Pindostan Is Increasing Its Military Presence in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor Province
Peter Korzun, Strategic Culture, May 17 2018

Pres Trump’s announcement that he intends to order the Pindo military out of Syria attracted a lot of public attention, unlike the war preparations that preceded and followed those statements. Three months ago, the Pindo military established an outpost in Manbij, in the wake of Turkey’s threats to seize control of the area. Pindostan has some 300 soldiers based at two facilities there. In March, Pindo Marines beefed up the military presence at the al-Tanf base in southern Syria that is located just a few miles from the Jordanian border. The Pindo military has established a 55-km no-go zone around that facility. On May 15, Pindo personnel were reported to be setting up a new base in Badiyeh al-Sha’afa in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province. It’s hard to believe that this move is justified by the need to confront Daesh, that once-powerful enemy now on the brink of extinction. One does not need new bases to finish it off. The SAA is well versed in how to do that. Last month Pindo forces were also reported to be building a new outpost at the al-Omar oil field in south-eastern Deir ez-Zor. They were deployed to positions around the Conoco and al-Jafreh oil fields. On Apr 7, the area around the oil fields in Deir ez-Zor was declared a military zone by the SDF. That group has already clashed with Syrian forces in the fight to control the province. The SDF is constantly reinforcing its positions in Deir ez-Zor as part of its ongoing Operation al-Jazeera Storm, which was launched on May 1. It recently seized al-Baghuz and is pushing the remaining Daesh out of the pocket of Hajin and al-Dashisha along the border with Iraq. These operations are coordinated with the Iraqi air force. The SDF have liberated about 65 sq km from Daesh. Making short work of whatever is left of Daesh is certainly a good thing, but Syrian troops will not be allowed in. The territory will become part of a quasi-state created to become a separate entity. Despite its recent claims to the contrary, Pindostan is hunkering down in Syria for the long haul. Pindostan, the Toads and France have already discussed the possibility of joint actions against Iran. The administration is pressing its Arab allies to do more. French forces are already operating in Deir ez-Zor together with the SDF. The Pindo build-up in north-eastern Syria is important for cutting off any direct land route from Tehran across to the Mediterranean.

It is symbolic that Pindostan was not present at the Astana round of talks on May 14-15. It shows that Faschingstein is no longer interested in deescalation zones. It wants a divided Syria, with a new pro-Pindo entity on the map of the Middle East. It is creating local governing bodies that operate independently from Damascus, with enough money flowing in to keep them functional. And it would like to see other parts of Syria plunge into an all-against-all war. Instead of nation-building, Faschingstein is engaged in nation-destruction. That’s why it continues to train rebel forces at al-Tanf. The militants are not undergoing special exercises to hone their skills for peacekeeping operations, but rather for subversive activities. Syria’s territorial integrity is guaranteed by UNSCR 2254, a binding document to which Pindostan, along with France, is a signatory. But what if Pindostan achieves in Syria what it wanted to do in Iraq: create a prosperous, pro-Western “democratic” state that can become a shining example for other Arab states to follow? The Iraqis have failed to grasp this “opportunity.” On May 15, they proved that once again by voting for Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Saraya al-Salam, who fought against the Pindo-imposed “liberation.” The UNGA’s condemnation of Faschingstein’s decision to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem shows how badly Pindostan needs a success to rescue its waning clout in the region. Becoming the leader of the anti-Iranian coalition is how they’ve decided to do that and the location for that is Syria. The creation of a pro-Western entity in north-eastern Syria will weaken Iran’s influence in Iraq and keep Russia contained. But things could go the other way around. What if the Kurdish-dominated forces plunge into clashes with the local Arab population and the problems of inefficient local governance mount, while the Astana process makes progress thanks to the cease-fire and restoration of peaceful life in the de-escalation zones? A Kurdish-dominated entity, even if it is pro-US, is not something that Turkey may like or accept. Will the partition of Syria boost Pindo standing in the region? Other Arab nations will think twice about letting Pindostan play a role in the management of any conflict. There are more questions than answers, but we have what we have: the Pindo military presence in Syria is ballooning, hampering peace efforts and provoking armed conflicts.

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