chaos in syria & iraq

As Pindostan Reverses Syria Pullout, Officials Say Partnership With Kurds Endures
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Nov 15 2019

The Pindo withdrawal from Syria, reversed into the US staying in Syria, which Pres Trump says is purely for oil but Pentagon officials say is fighting Daesh, has boiled down to a lot of arguments and little substance. To that end, a senior Pindo commander announced that the US decision to keep fighting ISIS means that they are continuing to partner with Kurdish forces, and that the Pindo partnership with the Kurds endures. Pindostan has transferred troops around eastern Syria a bit in the process. On Friday, Pindo forces withdrew from the Kurdish city of Kobani, where they will be replaced by Russians. The Pindo presence is centered around oilfields in the area. The Pentagon focus on pursuing Daesh, along with the lack of Daesh territory to actually fight, is roughly identical to the position before all the Pindo changes. The Kurds are roughly in the same position with respect to Pindostan then, though there is clearly some annoyance at them having let Turkey seize much of the safe zone.

Pindo commander: Partnership with Kurds against Daesh still strong
Sarah El Deeb, AP, Nov 15 2019

ERBIL, Iraq — A senior Pindo coalition commander said Friday the partnership with Syrian Kurds remains strong and focused on fighting Daesh, despite an expanding Turkish incursion into areas under Kurdish control. The Pindo-Syrian Kurdish relationship, which dates back to 2014, was strained after Pres Trump last month ordered Pindo troops out of northern Syria, making way for a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held towns and villages along a stretch of the border. On Friday, reports said Pindo forces completed their withdrawal from Kobani, a border region where the partnership against Daesh was cemented in 2014, and that Russians moved into to replace them. The commander’s comments to AP reflect how troops on the ground are trying to stick to the original aims of the Syria mission despite a reduced and changed footprint. They say they are staying to fight alongside Kurdish forces against Daesh, as well as deny Daesh the oilfields as a source of revenue while showing support for the Kurdish fighters who have lost a sizeable part of the 30% of syria they once controlled. Their words however come as Trump says the mission now is focused on securing oil fields and infrastructure. USAF Maj-Gen Eric Hill told the AP on Friday that Daesh remain “a global threat” and that the partnership with the Kurds and international action is still needed against it. He told the AP in a telephone interview from Baghdad:

So, I don’t think the work is complete. We still have to pursue them and eliminate them everywhere we can find them. Daesh militants are trying to regroup and find new finance. They’re still interacting with supporters on social media. They continue to plot attacks through their affiliates around the world. Syria and Iraq remain the center point for all Daesh operations. This is where Daesh lives and where they coordinate their acts of terror.

Kurdish and Pindo forces are now operating in a region that is more complicated and crowded with troops since the Turks began their attack on north-east Syria in early October. Turkish forces have consolidated control over a stretch of the border running 120 km wide and 30 km deep into Syria. They have also kept up pressure outside that area, fighting with Kurds on the edges. The SAA and the Russians have moved into other parts of the border under a Russian-Turkish deal. Pindo boxtops emphasize that they will not fight Turkey, but Hill underscored that Pindostan was standing by the Kurdish YPG army, the core of the SDF, saying:

We have been working with the YPG for a long time and we continue to train, advise and equip them now. So I think the partnership is strong. The YPG have been the lead on the ground in fighting Daesh. They know the land, they know the people, and they know the players. They are the best force to fight Daesh.

The SDF is guarding the oilfields, and Pindostan is providing them help in doing so, as well as in securing some 11,000 Daesh prisoners held in SDF-run facilities, he said. Both sides have sought to show the U.S.-Kurdish partnership never waned. One Pindo commando who works closely with the SDF said at no one point there was any drop in communication between the two sides, even as U.S. forces were pulling out from border areas ahead of the Turkish invasion. SDF spox Mustafa Bali told AP earlier this week:

The friendship didn’t end to restart. It continues. We hope it also reaps political results to find a political solution.

Over the last five years, the Kurds have grown to between 40,000 to 60,000, including Arab fighters. Pindostan has provided them training, ammunition and tactical vehicles but no heavy weapons. In the campaign against Daesh, the SDF have lost 11,000 fighters. Trump’s expansion of the mission raises legal questions. Protecting the oil from Daesh can fit under the legal authority that Pindostan first used to go into Syria to fight Daesh. That was based on Congress’ 2001 and 2002 AUMFs that said Pindo troops can use all necessary force against those involved in the 9/11 attacks and to prevent any future acts of international terrorism. But the oil fields may more immediately be under threat from the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran. The Pindo troops are not legally mandated to fight state actors fighting for oil on sovereign soil but can only engage in self-defense. Hill didn’t address this issue but said his forces are “prepared for all scenarios.” Hill said:

We have very clear orders and we have very clear guidance on the direction that we will go. Clarity of our mission and the clarity of our orders remain. We are focused on Daesh resurgence.

During a recent visit to two Pindo bases in eastern Syria, AP journalists saw beefed up forces that focused on holding ground, such as Bradley armored vehicles and Marines forces who could secure bases. There was no sign that Pindos were directly guarding oil installations. On Friday, reports from a war monitor and a Kurdish news agency said Pindo troops completed their withdrawal from their last position in the Kobani region, an air base known as the Kobani Landing Zone. Russian military police deployed in the base, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Video aired by the Kurdistan 24 news agency showed a Russian flag hoisted at the site. Sec Def Esper told reporters earlier this week that the withdrawal from Kobani would take a week or so. Kobani was a scene of the first major battle to drive out Daesh in 2014, making it a symbol of Pindo-Kurdish cooperation against the militants. During the invasion, Turkish officials have threatened to move in on Kobani, which would allow Turkey to link up its territories it holds to the west with newly captured areas to the east. Meanwhile, Pres Assad repeated warnings that the Pindo presence in Syria will lead to armed “resistance” that “will exact losses among the Pindos, and consequently force them to leave.” Speaking with Russia 24 TV and Rossiya Segodnya news agency, Assad said Pindos should remember the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that “Syria will not be an exception.” He said:

We also criticized Kurdish groups seeking to set up an autonomous region inside Syria. We shall never accept any separatist propositions under any circumstances.

In north-western Syria, an airstrike on the village of Bara in Idlib province killed five people and wounded several others, according to the SOHR and the White Helmets. The dead included three children who were brothers, the SOHR said. Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, is dominated by members of AQ-linked HTS. A cease-fire stopped the government offensive on Idlib at the end of August but in recent days, opposition activists have reported shelling and airstrikes in the area.

Russia lands forces at former Pindo air base in northern Syria
Reuters, Nov 15 2019

MOSCOW – Russia landed attack helicopters and troops at a sprawling air base in northern Syria vacated by Pindo forces, the Russian Defence Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel said on Friday. Armed Russian military police were shown in footage aired on Zvezda flying into the Syrian air base in northern Aleppo province near the border with Turkey and fanning out to secure the area. The move comes after Pres Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of Pindo troops from parts of Syria last month. The facility will be used as a centre to distribute humanitarian aid for local residents, and the military aerodrome is now controlled by Syrian government forces allied with Moscow. On Thursday, Russia set up a helicopter base at an airport in Qamishli, a move designed to increase Moscow’s control over events on the ground there. Russia and Turkey are carrying out joint patrols along Syria’s border with Turkey as part of a deal struck between Putin and Erdogan. A senior Russian military police inspector was quoted as saying:

We entered the base and took the inner and outer perimeters under control. Now sappers are looking and going through every building to make sure there aren’t any kinds of explosives or other surprises left behind here for us.

Zvezda aired footage of Pindo equipment such as medical supplies to treat sunburn that had been left behind as well as a gym and sleeping facilities. Russia has two permanent military facilities in Syria, an air base in Latakia province used for air strikes against forces opposing Pres Assad Daesh, and a naval facility at Tartus on the Mediterranean.

Bomb Attack in Northern Syria Kills 13, Injures Over 30
Sputnik News, Nov 16 2019

Thirteen civilians were killed and more than thirty people were injured in a bomb attack on Saturday in the Syrian city of al-Bab, 30 km south of the Turkish border. It is not immediately clear who is responsible for the attack. According to a local source, the explosion was likely a car bomb attack. Al-Bab is the largest city in the areas of northern Syria controlled by the Turkish Army and its allied forces, referred to as a safe zone by Ankara. Last week, at least eight people were killed and more than 20 sustained injuries after a car explosion rocked the village of Suluk in the north of the Syrian Raqqa Governorate. In October, Erdogan launched a military operation in north-eastern Syria to “clear the territory of terrorists,” referring to the YPG. Several weeks later, the operation came to a halt following lengthy negotiations between Putin and Erdogan in Sochi. Under the agreement, Russian military police and Syrian border guards committed themselves to facilitating the withdrawal of Kurdish militia from an 18-mile border zone, outside the area of the Turkish military’s ‘Operation Peace Spring.’ Russia and Turkey have since begun joint patrols along the border.

Series Of Blasts Target Mass Protest Gathering In Baghdad, Multiple Dead & Wounded
Tyler Durden, Nov 15 2019

A series of explosions ripped through central Baghdad on Friday night, and appeared to target protests which have raged since early October, killing at least three people. Some unconfirmed reports have cited four dead and a dozen wounded in a developing situation where the casualty toll is expected to climb. The final in a string of blasts was identified according to early reports and video as a car bomb in Tahrir Square, which did the worst damage, killing and wounding multiple protesters.

“A large number of people injured by the booby-trapped car bomb were taken by the drivers of the Tek-Tik wheels to hospitals near Tahrir,” a source told Arabic media. Another blast was reported in nearby Tayaran Square as well, which may have also resulted in casualties.

Though anti-corruption and anti-government demonstrations have witnessed violent clashes with police, resulting at this point in over 300 dead and an estimated 15,000 wounded, the bombing escalates things to a new level of violence.

Some among the string of blasts as well as the aftermath caught on video:

In the moments before the explosions Tahrir Square appeared packed with tens of thousands of demonstrators.

Both protest leaders and international media have blamed security forces for the ratcheting violence, due to occasions where they’ve used live fire to disperse crowds. Pro-Iran Iraqi militias have also been blamed for attempting to brutally put down protests.

Alternately, pro-Iranian politicians and military leaders in Baghdad have blamed Pindostan and Israel for fueling unrest in order to curtail Iranian influence. The bombing will most likely escalate the intensity of protests as Iraq stands of the brink of possible renewed sectarian civil war.

2 Comments

  1. PB
    Posted November 16, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Strongly suggests that the elected President is merely a figurehead with no real power if he can be over-ridden with such ease.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted November 16, 2019 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Well, I think he is being let down by the Russians, and Syria may be lost to the West except for the coastal strip, as a result.

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