• Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Understanding the nature and realities of American intervention in Syria

Discussion in 'Middle East & Africa' started by LeGenD, Jun 20, 2017.

  1. LeGenD

    LeGenD SENIOR MEMBER

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    DISCLAIMER: A large number of people are confused about what is happening in Syria. In this thread, I have pieced together information from different sources to explain the nature of American intervention in Syria. Towards this end, following article provides important clues:

    The assault on the ISIS capital has officially begun

    A coalition of anti-Islamic State groups backed by the United States has officially begun its assault on the jihadist-held city of Raqqah in northern Syria. Raqqah has been controlled by jihadist forces since 2013 and has become the de facto capital of the Islamic State inside Syria.

    The US Department of Defense announced the commencement of the operation to liberate Raqqah in a news article on its website.

    “The offensive would deliver a decisive blow to the idea of ISIS as a physical caliphate,” according to the DoD.

    The push to take Raqqah is led by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is largely comprised of the Kurdish YPG (or People’s Defense Units). The YPG is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the US government for terrorist attacks throughout Turkey. The Turkish government has opposed US support for the YPG.

    The US military attempts to mitigate Turkish anger over the support of the YPG by emphasizing the “Syrian Arab Coalition’s” role in the offensive. However, there is no official group known as the Syrian Arab Coalition, it is merely the Arab component of the SDF.

    The US military noted that it is “providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, precision fires and battlefield advice” to the SDF for its Raqqah offensive. To emphasize this point, the US military, in a separate press release that tallied air operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria noted that “24 strikes engaged 18 ISIS tactical units; destroyed 19 boats, 12 fighting positions, eight vehicles, a house bomb and a weapons storage facility; and suppressed an ISIS tactical unit” in and around Raqqah yesterday.

    The SDF and the US have shaped the battlefield in northern Syria for months in preparation to advance on Raqqah. But the final push on Raqqah could not be launched until the SDF secured the town of Tabqa and its dam, which are located about 20 miles west. The SDF seized Tabqa on May 11 after six weeks of fighting.

    The SDF now controls the terrain north of the Euphrates river from Tabqa all the way to the town of Madan, which is due east of Raqqah. Madan is south of the Euphrates, remains under control of the Islamic State. Raqqah is situated north of the Euphrates, so the SDF does not need to cross the river to take the city.

    The fight for Raqqah takes place as Iraqi forces are making their final push to root out the Islamic State in Mosul. The Mosul offensive began six months ago, however, the Islamic State still controls pockets within the city.

    While the US military insists that the loss of Raqqah and Mosul will deal “a decisive blow” to the Islamic State, the group still controls a significant amount of terrain in both Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State still occupies a large area in central and southern Syria, and continues to besiege Syrian military forces in the city of Deir al Zour. The Islamic State controls all of the Euphrates River Valley south of Madan down to the Iraq towns of Rawa and Anah.


    Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/us-backed-forces-begin-assault-isis-held-capital-raqqa-2017-6

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    OBSERVATION # 1: US is supporting SDF in Syria.

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    Q: What is SDF and why it formed?

    SDF stands for Syrian Democratic Force and is the umbrella term for different Syrian political forces who came together in the face of persecution from Assad regime and ISIS, and formed a united front against both with support from US and GCC.

    [​IMG]

    The Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, is a coalition of Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Syriac Christian fighters, but is completely dominated by its Kurdish element, which is a powerful and well organized militia known as the Popular Defense Units, YPG, with an all-female branch called the Women’s Defense Units, or YPJ. These organizations, in turn, are Syrian front groups for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The other militias involved in the Syrian Democratic Forces are either long-standing PKK allies or proxies, such as the armed wing of the Syriac Union Party, or more recent allies drawn from the Sunni Arab tribal landscape in this part of Syria and from the remains of small Sunni Arab rebel groups crushed by the so-called Islamic State.

    The coalition as a whole receives American air support for operations against Islamic State, as did the YPG/J before it. That started in the Battle of Kobane that began in autumn 2014, which was enormously successful—really the first major battlefield defeat inflicted on Islamic State. It has provided the template for US-PKK cooperation. In addition, the Pentagon has picked out a number of these little Arab groups that work under the SDF umbrella as favored recipients of arms and support. It terms them, collectively, the Syrian Arab Coalition, though no one else seems to use that name.

    The idea is to use the SDF as an incubator to breed Sunni Arab militias able to take over where Kurdish territory ends and push deep into Islamic State’s heartland, which is in the Sunni Arab tribal region that connects Syria with Iraq. Relying on the Kurds in that region would create resentment among other Syrian and regional allies, and it would risk pushing locals into the arms of the jihadis. Also, it’s not obvious that the Kurds are interested in dying for U.S. interests that far away from their own home areas. They have many other priorities, chief among them to try to secure their population, to keep Turkey out of Syria and to link the Kurdish enclaves in Kobane and Efrin, which are separated by territory held by Islamic State and rival Turkey-backed Sunni Arab rebels north of Aleppo. In those battles in northwestern Syria, the SDF fighters seem to have received some level of Russian support, but they do not enjoy any U.S. backing – though they like to pretend they do, in order to sell their war on Turkey’s allies as part of the “War on Terror.” Of course, this has embarrassed the Pentagon in front of other American allies, but what can be done? All sides in Syria, including the United States, must balance between allies that do not fully share their own interests.

    What matters more in Washington is that the SDF is doing a splendid job against Islamic State in Kurdish territory and on the fringes of it, where no one else is up for the job. In this way, the SDF has established itself as an irreplaceable local ground troop component of the international coalition led by the U.S. Air Force. Seeing no other option, and very happy with results so far, U.S. policymakers have simply decided to ignore Turkish and Sunni Arab rebel complaints – it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

    So that’s the primary purpose of the SDF, but there’s also a more subtle political side to it. For the Americans working on these issues, it’s a convenient way of adding another degree of separation between them and the PKK, which is officially sanctioned as a terrorist group in the United States. Since the PKK is not threatening attacks on the United States and has emerged as its most important ally in the struggle against Islamic State in Syria, you would think that the logical response would be to declassify the group or find some more permanent way of circumventing legal obstacles. But the terror listing was originally done to appease Turkey, which is a far more important U.S. ally. The U.S. is not eager to press this issue, particularly not now that the Turks and the PKK are back at war inside Turkey. Also, American political debate tends to collapse into incoherent domestic posturing as soon as someone says “terrorism,” so perhaps the White House has been wise in avoiding to press the point.

    The coalition is equally useful for the YPG/J and the PKK more generally, not only because they get arms and other kinds of support. It also helps rehabilitate them politically and provides a great platform to engage in public diplomacy. Since the creation of the Syrian Democratic Forces, they’ve set up a political branch called the Democratic Syrian Assembly, DSA. This is made up of two main components.

    The first consists of representatives from the various Kurdish groups ruling northern Syria, including the Rojava self-governing cantons and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM) and a few others. These are all PKK proxies like the YPG/J. You also have the Syriac Union Party’s corresponding political fronts, and other local allies that are more or less closely linked to the overarching PKK-backed structure in this part of Syria.

    The other main element of the SDF is a loose network of Syrian leftists and other secular activists, most of them connected in one way or another to Haytham Manna, a Europe-based human rights activist from the Deraa Governorate in southern Syria. These groups—particularly Manna himself—are well versed in regional Syria diplomacy, with useful links to all sides, including the opposition, European states, U.N. diplomats, parts of the Arab League, Egypt, Russia and so on. On the other hand, they are not popular in the broader Sunni Arab and more Islamist-dominated Turkey- and Gulf-backed opposition that forms the mainstay of the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad. They are also very few in number and have zero relevance on the battlefield inside Syria. Nevertheless, they are useful to the Syrian Kurds as a way of raising their political profile because they provide added political influence and help obfuscate the fact that the SDF/DSA is mostly an ethnic-Kurdish thing and a vehicle for the PKK’s Syrian operations. Manna and his allies would, for their part, find it very difficult to gain a seat at the table if they had not jumped on the SDF bandwagon.

    Manna has now been elected one of two co-presidents of the DSA, operating in exile. llham Ahmed from TEV-DEM holds the other seat, although the longstanding PYD leader Saleh Muslim Mohammed is far more visible as a representative of this segment of Syrian Kurdish politics. The fact that Ahmed and Muslim are more or less interchangeable in diplomatic talks, despite belonging to two different organizations, is of course because both actually represent the “hidden” PKK structure that underpins the whole political order in northern Syria’s Kurdish areas. Though the interests of Manna’s people and the Kurdish bloc might not correspond perfectly, they are closely allied and have been so even before the creation of the SDF and the DSA. They have fundamentally shared interests in a secular and multisectarian Syria, with minimal Turkish and Gulf state influence, but with some role for Russia to balance out American or Saudi hegemony. It’s also a convenient way for both to reinforce their relations with the United States and European nations that already back the SDF militarily. If you give them guns, how can you say no to their political representatives?

    At the time of writing, it is not clear if the DSA bloc will be able to join the planned first round of Geneva III peace talks, but there is no doubt the Kurds will be drawn into the process at some stage, Turkish objections be damned. The SDF/DSA construct will almost certainly be helpful in making that happen.


    Source: https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/ar...gins-of-the-syrian-democratic-forces-a-primer

    For more information:

    http://syriancivilwarmap.com/syrian-democratic-forces/

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    OBSERVATION # 2: SDF is the legitimate (political and resistance) front against Assad regime in Syria.

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    Q: What happened in Syria earlier and where ISIS fits into the picture?

    Conflict Begins

    Peaceful protests against the regime commenced in March 2011 as Syrians witnessed and were inspired by successful mobilizations against the governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and other Arab states. The Assad regime’s harsh government crackdown galvanized further protests and unrest in Homas, Banyas, and Damascus. Superficial concessions by the Assad government failed to quell demands for meaningful reform. As violence continued, the government began a massive military crackdown against protestors earning condemnation from international observers. In July 2011, the largest wing of the Syrian opposition movement formally organized as the Free Syrian Army headed by Riad Al-Assad, a former Syrian army colonel. Defections by other prominent Syrian military commanders and political ocials soon followed.


    Peace Talks Fail

    Despite attempts by the Arab League and the United Nations to implement ceasefires during the winter months of 2011-2012, no plan prevailed, in part, to mistrust between Syrian rebels and the Assad government about compliance. In June 2012, Kofi Annan spearheaded a meeting of key international players in Geneva to facilitate a course of action to resolve the crisis. This meeting resulted in the “Geneva Communique,” presented a road map for resolving the crisis including a ceasefire agreement, full humanitarian access, and steps for a gradual political transition to replace the Assad government. The Syrian government rejected a a key tenet of the proposal that Assad must step down.


    Assad crosses the “red line”

    In late 2013, reports surfaced that the Assad government had reportedly used chemical weapons on August 21, 2013 in a Damascus suburb killing up to 1,400 civilians. Despite crossing the United States' red line? for intervention, international parties remain out of the conflict after Russia adeptly maneuvered to have Syria dismantle its existing chemical weapons facilities.


    The Rise of ISIS

    Throughout 2013 and 2014, neither the Syrian opposition nor the Assad government make substantial territorial gains. At the same time, however, an extremist branch of Al-Qaeda, ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, had entered eastern Syria and taken over vast, stateless territories transforming the city of Raqqa in ISIL’s de facto capital.


    Source: https://web.stanford.edu/~imalone/Teaching/ps1/SyriaCivilWarCheatSheet.pdf

    For more information:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868

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    OBSERVATION # 3: Bashar al-Assad is largely responsible for ongoing Syrian civil war and bloodshed.

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    Q: How does it all relate to the incident of an American jet shooting down a Syrian jet?

    Following article provides an overview:

    During the first six years of the Syrian crisis, the United States supported rebel groups fighting Assad,
    but avoided direct conflict with his forces. That changed on April 6 when U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base in response to a chemical attack that killed more than 70 people including civilians. Now, it has engaged in air-to-air combat in Syria for the very first time.

    Russia, whose armed forces offer critical support to the Assad government, threatened retaliation. In a statement, the Russian defense ministry said it would regard any U.S. coalition aircraft detected west of the Euphrates river in Syria as legitimate targets. The ministry called the downing of the Syrian jet "a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty." Moscow also shut down the "deconfliction" channel designed to prevent midair contact between Russian and American warplanes in the skies over Syria.

    As a result, the shooting down of the jet suggests a redrawing of the contours of the Syrian conflict. As the United States deepens its involvement in the ground war against ISIS in eastern Syria, it finds itself in direct conflict with the government in Damascus, and possibly with Moscow. The incident raises the risk of a wider, regional conflagration as the U.S. Assad, Russia, and Iran maneuver for control and influence in territory reclaimed from ISIS in eastern Syria.

    The U.S. military said that it shot the Syrian plane down in order to protect American-backed Syrian militia forces from an attack by pro-regime troops. It military has now struck pro-regime forces at least four times, including the cruise missile strike on Shayrat airbase in Syria’s Homs province in April.

    The shooting down of a jet marks an escalation, however, as conflict spirals among rival powers for control of eastern Syria. In its campaign to dislodge ISIS, United States supports the SDF, a Kurdish-majority militia force who now control a major portion of northeast Syria. Supported by an estimated 1,000 U.S. Army soldiers and marines, those forces are currently advancing on ISIS’ de facto capital in the city of Raqqa.

    The coalition said it struck the Syrian plane in order to protect allied forces in a “show of force.” Following the initial Syrian airstrike, the coalition also said it contacted the Russian military, which supports Assad’s forces, in order to de-escalate the situation. The statement did not mention the fate of the pilot of the Syrian aircraft. “The Coalition's mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the statement added. “The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

    Source: http://time.com/4823314/syria-fighter-jet-shot-down-american/

    Caught in the act?

    That Syrian SU-22 combat aircraft was caught in the act of attacking positions of SDF in the region of Raqqa and USAF sprang into action.

    The U.S. Central Command later issued a statement saying the Syrian plane was downed "in collective self-defense of Coalition-partnered forces," identified as fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqah.

    It said that "pro-Syrian regime forces" had earlier attacked an SDF-held town south of Tabqa and wounded a number of fighters, driving them from the town.

    Coalition aircraft in a show of force stopped the initial advance. When a Syrian army SU-22 jet later dropped bombs near the U.S.-backed forces, it was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet, the statement said.

    Before it downed the plane, the coalition had "contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established "de-confliction line" to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing."

    The coalition does "not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces" but would not "hesitate to defend itself or its "partnered forces from any threat," the statement said.


    Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa-idUSKBN1990XI

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    OBSERVATION # 4: US is willing to protect elements of SDF from harm at the hands of Assad regime. Russians are not able to stomach this.

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    Q: Who controls what in Syria?

    [​IMG]

    For larger map:

    http://syriancivilwarmap.com/
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
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