Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reports of Kurdistan's Death are Greatly Exaggerated: Intra Kurdish Conflict

 Intra Kurdish divisions, and there are many, need to be stated and understood before one can comprehend the partner post, forthcoming.


 Atlantic Council
In the wake of the September 25 referendum in Kurdistan, the Iraqi government announced on October 15 that it began a military deployment to reestablish authority in Kirkuk in coordination with the Peshmerga. It soon became clear that the Peshmerga mentioned belonged to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)—specifically, the Talabani family wingwhich views aggressive moves toward independence with far more skepticism than its political rivals in the Kurdistan Regional Government dominated by Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The PUK drew the ire of fellow Kurds who viewed the deal as facilitating the federal forces’ reclamation of the territory. To complicate matters further, some reports indicated that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) Quds Force leader Qassim Suleimani appears to have played a role in convincing the Talabani family to broker the deal in the absence of any other international or regional mediator. These events highlight the depth of intra-Kurdish divisions at a time of rapidly rising tensions.
I personally do not believe "reports" about the involvement of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.Of course, it's possible I'm mistaken, but, for now... what is reported and what is fact do not always align

They have denied involvement.- No Iranian Military Role in Kirkuk Operation 
 "A senior official said Iran's military has played no role in the ongoing Iraqi operation to take back northern territories under Kurdish control, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Monday.
"The IRGC played no role in the Kirkuk operation," ISNA quoted Ali Akbar Velayati as saying on Tuesday"
 Additionally it is reported the US is being "neutral" on this situation, despite the reports of Iranian involvement another claim I emphatically do not believe

I cannot hold these two  extremely contradictory claims together - Iran involved/US neutral- as truth.  It is not plausible that the US would be unconcerned about Iranian involvement in the area of Kirkuk- When one thinks about every other contentious issue in the region- most of it revolving around Iranian influence, Iran involved/US neutral, is hard to swallow.
For goodness sakes wasn't Trump just talking about sanctioning the IRGC

Flashback: The US Cannot Go It Alone on Iran- Richard Haas

"Trump announced his intention to place extra sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps."

Back to Atlantic Council
The tension stems in part from the Kurdish government’s use of the referendum and the northern Iraqi oil resources as political leverage. Both the Goran movement—another rival Kurdish faction—and the PUK saw the referendum as an attempt by Barzani and his son Masrour to reassert their leadership and re-legitimize KDP authority, even in areas outside of its traditional base. The PUK, which views Kirkuk as part of its base, is unhappy with the arrangements that govern oil exports from Kirkuk’s main fields and channel the revenue through the KDP-controlled government because it places the group at a disadvantageous position. The KDP’s decision in March 2017 to increase its troops in the important Bai Hassan oil field after PUK-affiliated armed men temporarily occupied the North Oil Company’s headquarters, reinforced the view that the KDP was dipping its toes in the PUK’s backyard.
The PUK which is a rival Kurdish group to KDP sees Kirkuk as their base. This is more of the very usual inter Kurdish division- The Kurds have never been a unified lot- The 5 eyes media, alt and main stream don't want this widely known.
The Talabani-aligned PUK suffered another blow at the hands of Kirkuk governor Najm Addin Karim, who was dismissed by the Iraqi government on September 14 in the days leading up to the vote. Karim had become less reliant on the PUK and unilaterally voiced his enthusiastic support for the referendum. This move sparked further division as some PUK factions aligned themselves with KDP’s vision for the region and threatened the Talabani wing’s political relevance.

Are the divisions becoming clear yet? What went on in Kirkuk was/is a struggle for power/ broader control via resource/territorial control.  In the 2nd part of this post there will be relinks to previous reports covering the very subject of Intra Kurdish divisions- Yes, I've written about this all before.
The Iraqi government and Iran’s response to the referendum also fueled intra-Kurdish tension by increasing the pressure on the PUK to distance itself from the KDP. As Iran halted the fuel exports and closed its official border crossings with Kurdistan, it dealt a serious economic blow to the PUK and its base in Sulaymaniya. With most oil revenue going to the KRG, continued economic sanctions by Baghdad and Tehran could significantly undermine the PUK’s already shrinking revenue stream. The Talabani clan had to choose one of two evils: either succumb to the KDP’s domination or make a deal with Baghdad. To protect what political relevance it still has, it seems to have opted for the latter for now.
 Kirkuk came down to a power struggle between two Kurdish factions. With the PUK/Talabani clan opting for what they considered the lesser of two evils, for now, an alliance with Baghdad.
Only for the time being!

So what’s next?

It is unclear whether there is a detailed agreement between the PUK and Iraqi government. Although the Goran published a supposed agreement signed by Bafel Talabani and Hadi al-Amiri, the leading member in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the Head of Badr Organization, it has not yet been independently confirmed. There are other unconfirmed reports indicating that Bafel Talbani met Abadi in Baghdad the day before the beginning of military redeployment. Regardless, one can safely argue that Baghdad and IRGC-backed groups would support the Talabani family in its attempt to restore control over the PUK as a reward for its cooperation. This support likely includes giving the Talabani-led PUK the right to choose a new governor for Kirkuk and reinstating federal government salary payments to public servants in Suleimaniya. As the Iraqi government restores control over oil from Kirkuk and its revenue, it would also boost the PUK’s leverage vis-à-vis the KDP.

This realignment, however, will only deepen the rift between the PUK and the KDP’s geographic realms (Duhok and Erbil in the case of KDP, Suleimaniya and Kirkuk in the case of PUK). This week’s dramatic events could even throw the KRG into an existential crisis of its own, as some commentators began talking about forming a separate region in Suleimaniya and Halabja. While Erbil consistently pursued its independence from Baghdad over the past few years, Suleimaniya looked more toward independence from Erbil. Although Kurdish nationalism will continue to be a unifying ideology, the failure to build unified institutions that overcome personal, familial, and regional rivalries has impeded its work.

Nonetheless, Baghdad-PUK coordination does not explain the KDP Peshmerga’s withdrawal from Kirkuk and other disputed territories. *The KDP may have felt surprised or betrayed by PUK Peshmerga and would not risk a fight in such an exposed position. "Or perhaps the new generation of Peshmerga, raised in autonomous Kurdistan and having never experienced the guerrilla war against Baghdad, felt ill-prepared for confrontation. Corruption and salary delays have also reportedly affected the Peshmerga’s military capabilities and morale. But the most likely explanation lies in the KDP’s political miscalculation when it unilaterally insisted on holding the referendum, thereby losing US support and that of its key regional backer, Turkey. Without international backing, the KRG could face an impossible uphill battle.
Let's entertain another thought regarding the Peshmerga backed by the KDP . Hoping people realize the Peshmerga are less like a national army and more like militias? (despite the spin)
The author of the oped from the Atlantic Council raising two issues (*)- I'll raise a third. 
The KDP peshmerga is infiltrated with PKK loyalists. Very possible. In fact, highly probable!

Taking the idea of infiltration even further, it is entirely realistic that the PKK has been groomed by the US as a kind of a control both sides of the 'fight' to keep Barzani's powers in check

To make this point hit home I draw your attention to an article from 2008:Michael Rubin- Is Iraqi Kurdistan a Good Ally - It should be read entirely, but, for this post we'll look at just one paragraph
Michael Rubin: It is in this context that Barzani's relations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) become so problematic. Barzani may be a nationalist, but he is also a realist. He dislikes a powerful PKK, not because its terrorism sullies the Kurdish nationalist cause but because it provides an alternative.
  Abdullah Öcalan, the group's leader, sought primacy over his Iraqi Kurdish competitors. "Barzani and Talabani are like feet or arms, but I am the main head or mind," Öcalan explained in a 1998 interview.25
Does anyone, of sound mind, believe this alternative to the PDK was not recognized by both the US/ Israel and intentionally cultivated? Groomed? Encouraged? Does anyone believe the influence Ocalan wields over many thousands of militant and criminal kurds was overlooked by the US and Israel? Is it inconceivable to therefore believe that Barzani is the only game in town?!



Finally ending with the Atlantic Council

What comes next depends on how Baghdad manages its easy victory. Iraq’s hardliners might push for further measures to weaken Barzani and besiege the KDP in its traditional domain. The Dawa block in the Iraqi parliament, the wing close to former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, adopted triumphalist language and called for further action to punish Barzani and the “separatists.” Current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who enjoys a political boost in the wake of reclaiming Kirkuk, might also try to end what Baghdad viewed as unconstitutional arrangements adopted by the KRG—not only in the disputed territories, but even in formally recognized territory. However, Abadi’s long-term success will depend on his ability to prevent another victimhood narrative that will feed Kurdish grievances. The KDP leadership’s miscalculations and accusations of PUK betrayal could further weaken those established groups. More radical groups, such as the PKK or even the Salafi movement in the region, could fill the resulting vacuum which in turn could spark further instability by pointing the finger at the Shia-dominated PMF and its Iranian backers.
Ah those victimhood narratives...... 
And, just how often have I mentioned that the salafi movement is just full of Kurds? Brutal, murderous kurds...?

While Abadi has successfully (and largely unexpectedly) returned the balance of power in favor of the federal government, he needs to give Erbil an exit from this self-inflicted wound. A lot depends on the KDP’s ability to recognize its miscalculations and take responsibility for them, but Baghdad must resist the temptation to take all the spoils of victory. In Abadi’s quest to restore state authority, he must deal with Shia hardliners and IRGC-backed militias; for that, he will need an open door with Erbil.

News of the Death of Kurdistan is Greatly Exaggerated 
Barzani eggs fill just one of several egg baskets

Stay tuned for Part 2

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Annexing Raqqa- Ethnic Cleansing & Where's ISIS ?

As reported in yesterday's post-

 Monday, October 16, 2017: US Backed Forces Take Raqqa After ISIS "surrenders"
 
 Raqqa has been stolen from Syria by US backed proxies- The 5 eyes media calls it liberation. They report that Raqqa has been "freed" I call it annexation. 
Calling this annexation anything except what it is.... would be misleading. Obfuscating. Intentionally so, I would add.

Recall my mentioning the 5 eyes media calling the Kurdish terrorists "landholders"?  Reporting the annexation of Raqqa as liberation or being freed is just more of that misleading language....

The annexation of Raqqa came at great cost to the civilian population- A fact repeatedly mentioned here- Not including the massive civilian casualties, there are reports of nearly 300,000 internally displaced from Raqqa.

US backed Terrorist, Thugs and Annexers of Syria

270,000 displaced from Raqqa need aid

The charity says some 270,000 people who fled the Raqqa fighting are still in critical need of aid. With the high levels of destruction reported in and around Raqqa, most families have nowhere to return home and are likely to stay in camps for months or years to come.
Why would these people stay in camps for years? If Raqqa has been liberated from ISIS, why wouldn't these people be able to get back to their homes and participate as Syrian citizens in the rebuilding of their own homes? Towns? Cities? It would give them incomes and enable their participation in their rebuilding of their communities. Very healing for all.

Clearly the agenda is exactly as I've stated - Ethnic Cleansing
Let me state what is obvious, and annoyingly so, yet again! We are talking about minimally 270,000 resident Syrians, probably more, from just one city who have been intentionally displaced in order to remake the region... Redraw borders. And present a meme of justice being served Oh, really? 

The US bombed and bombed Raqqa while the SDF lay siege to the city- what a hell that had to have been for the residents! I shudder.

Where did ISIS go? It's such a mystery.... Not.  On October 8 it was stated here at the blog
What I think is much more likely!   

"ISIS"(PKK/YPG/Assorted special ops and a veneer of Arabs) is converging in one convenient location where they will be loaded up covertly and transported to Deir ez Zor. To fight SAA and allies.

 Link: ISIS Militants Cleared from Raqqa… Mystery Surrounds Their Destination
Abdel Rahman said that if those fighters withdrew to the east of Deir Ezzor, there should be clarifications in this regard, especially how the convoy was capable of traveling hundreds of kilometers before reaching its final destination.
 Doubtful on the mystery part!

Let's go back to 3 previous posts covering the situation with Deir ez Zor- 
Including the potential for extreme risk

Monday, October 16, 2017

US Backed Forces Take Raqqa After ISIS "surrenders"

BBC:

carrying the flag of annexed Syria
-The Syrian Democratic Forces say they have retaken al-Naim square, where IS once held public executions.
-The official declaration that the city has been recaptured is expected soon, a BBC correspondent reports.
-Earlier, a convoy of local IS fighters and their families left Raqqa as part of a preplanned departure.
-The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, has been besieging the city for nearly four months.
As the US carpet bombed, but, hey who's been paying attention to that!
 -An SDF vehicle has been patrolling the ruined streets with a loudspeaker urging people to come out into the open and "eat hot soup", our correspondent says.
A loudspeaker urging people to come 'eat hot soup' claims the BBC correspondent?

 CBS
-There's been no official declaration of victory, but U.S.-backed fighters in Raqqa aren't waiting for one.
-The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is finished in Raqqa, they said, after hundreds of extremists surrendered over the weekend.  

-They've had some help from U.S. airstrikes, but the Syrian militiamen that did the fighting on the ground are the very definition of a ragtag army. 

The coverage from CBS is pathetic. "some help from US airtrikes"?
Who were the PKK/YPG fighting when ISIS was surrendering all last week?

October 08/2017:  US Commander:Final Assault to Take Raqqa From ISIS Begins Sunday

"ISIS"(PKK/YPG/Assorted special ops and a veneer of Arabs) is converging in one convenient location where they will be loaded up covertly and transported to Deir ez Zor. To fight SAA and allies. 
 After all a stadium is convenient location for an irregular army to converge for ease of transport

Saturday, October 14, 2017:Razors Edge 2: US Faces Imminent Decision on Race for Syria's East

 My understanding of what is/has been occurring in Raqqa is civilian displacement.- Ethnic cleansing. The US has been bombing, heavily, and those that manage to flee have been"saved” by the PKK/YPG who transport them to squalid refugee camps- with access to filthy water! (That’s what’s been reported) These Syrian residents are not going to go back to their homes. Not if the US backed Kurds have anything to do with it. And, they do!

*Russian Ministry of Defence Accuses US of Bombing Raqqa Residential Areas
*TASS:
Carpet bombing of residential areas accommodated by civilians "have brought about nothing but several thousand victims among the ‘liberated’ population"

Annexed Syria flag

The US Cannot Go It Alone on Iran- Richard Haas

Netanyahu Praises Trump for "Bold Decision" on Iran- Fix it or Nix it

The US Cannot Go It Alone on Iran- Richard Haas

Yes, that would be Richard Haas: President of the Council on Foreign Relations

Flashback : CFR President Richard Haass:Gap Growing Between Allies and Turkey

Flashback: Ground Zero: Meme Spirited/Neural Programming/CFR- w Jay Dyer

Of course the US IS NOT going it alone on Iran- The US already has Israel in it’s pocket (or vise versa)  Making Haas’s argument of going alone not credible. Bibi has also informed us all via his Fox news interview that other Arab states are hunky dory with the Trump announcement. So there is no going it alone.
Yesterday: Netanyahu Praises Trump for "Bold Decision" on Iran- Fix it or Nix it

From the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
US President Donald Trump has announced what was long anticipated: that he will not certify that Iran is complying with the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed by the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Iran. Nor will he certify that the suspension of sanctions undertaken by the US as part of the agreement is justified and in the vital national interest of the US.

To be clear, such certifications are not required by the JCPOA. Rather, they are required every 90 days by a law enacted by the US Congress soon after the accord was signed. It is also essential to underscore that Trump did not withdraw from the JCPOA itself. What he chose was a compromise: to make clear his disdain for the agreement without leaving it or reintroducing sanctions that were removed as part of it (a step that would be tantamount to US withdrawal).
 #Fix it or Nix It ?
What happens next is unclear. Congress has 60 days to reintroduce some or all of the suspended sanctions but is unlikely to do so. It might, however, introduce new sanctions tied to Iran’s behavior in Syria or elsewhere in the region. Consistent with this, Trump announced his intention to place extra sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
If the US were to impose new sanctions for any purpose at any time, it would likely find itself alone. The Europeans, China and Russia are highly unlikely to join, not only because of financial self-interest, but also because Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. This is a point made by international inspectors operating under United Nations auspices, as well as by senior US officials, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
Most of us should recall that Turkey circumvented US sanctions placed against Iran by trading in gold for oil. Which really raised the ire of the Americans.

Flashback 2013: Turkey: Halkbank - Role in Iran Gold Transactions Legal

- Gold Trader arrested charged in US with Violating US Imposed Sanctions Against Iran


To argue, as some in America do, that Iran is not complying with the spirit of the JCPOA is meaningless: ‘spirit’ is a term without legal standing. And while it is fair to argue that much of what Iran is doing in the region is a legitimate cause for concern, it is not grounds for reintroducing sanctions under the accord.
Renegotiating the JCPOA to extend the duration of several of its constraints, make inspections more intrusive, and expand its coverage to missiles is attractive in the abstract. But it is totally unworkable in practice, as Iran and most (or all) of the other signatories of the JCPOA would reject these demands. The threat to terminate US participation in the JCPOA if such changes are not made will thus prove either empty or self-defeating if carried out.
The US is not going to terminate it's participation in the JCPOA- The US is simply going to make this an untenable agreement.
 example- hands in the air- we just can't work with this agreement
None of this is meant to argue that the JCPOA is a good agreement. Still, Trump’s decision not to certify was unwarranted and ill-advised. The agreement was the result of a collective effort. American unilateralism now could make forging a common front against Iran much more difficult in the future.
As stated Trump has all the common front he needs
Trump’s move is also bad for US foreign policy. There must be a presumption of continuity if a great power is to be great. Unpredictability can provide a tactical advantage, but it is also a strategic liability.
Here there is an obvious link with North Korea. At some point, the US may determine that diplomacy has a role in managing the North Korean nuclear and missile challenges. But America’s ability to offer a credible diplomatic path will be seriously undermined if others judge that it cannot be trusted to stand by agreements.
There is also a more immediate problem: if the US sets in motion a dynamic that causes the JCPOA to unravel, and Iran resumes nuclear activities currently precluded by the accord, a crisis will erupt at a time when the US already has its hands full with North Korea.

Despite these considerations, it would also be a mistake to focus just on the US announcement and not also on Iranian behavior. In the short run, the world needs to contend with an Iran that is an imperial power, one that seeks to remake large swaths of the Middle East in its image. What is needed is a policy of containment of Iran across the region—including support for the Kurds in northern Iraq and Syria, as well as of other groups (?) and countries that are pushing back against Iran.
As I'd mentioned in this previous post Trumps move to decertify this agreement fit into the pattern of ongoing, for years, destabilizing to remake the region

Flashback: Razors Edge 2: US Faces Imminent Decision on Race for Syria's East

 That the Trump administration has been gunning for Iran is undeniable.  Hell, that even Obama's administration targeted Iran is undeniable. Who has forgotten Stuxnet? Flashback to 2010  & Flashback to 2011  The killing of Iranian nuclear scientists? Flashback to 2010 Arming and training Kurdish proxies to attack Iran? 2017- How about the fact that Kurds aka ISIS attacked Tehran The US training Iranian Kurds for destabilization of Iran? Iranian faction among Kurds trained by US against militants - "Sep. 08 2016: KHARABRUD, Iraq (AP) — An Iranian Kurdish rebel group received military training in weapons and explosives from U.S. and European advisers Decertifying the Iran nuclear deal is part of that ongoing targeting
Richard Haas continues:
In the longer run, the challenge is to deal with the JCPOA’s flaws, above all with its sunset provisions. The agreement ‘parked’ the nuclear problem, rather than resolving it. Important provisions of the accord will expire in either eight or 13 years. At that time, inspections will not prevent Iran from putting in place many of the prerequisites of a nuclear weapons program that could be made operational with little warning.
JCPOA's flaws- Bibi channels Haas or Haas channels Bibi?
It cannot be assumed, as some do, that Iran’s intentions and behaviour will moderate over the next decade or 15 years. On the contrary, Iran is more likely to remain a hybrid regime in which a government coexists with a permanent religious authority and with powerful military forces and intelligence units that exercise considerable political influence and largely operate outside the government’s control.

Dealing with an ambitious and powerful Iran thus entails a broad range of other open-ended challenges that define the ever-turbulent Middle East. Without the JCPOA, however, those challenges would become even more daunting.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Razors Edge 2: US Faces Imminent Decision on Race for Syria's East

The Cipher Brief & loads more Flashbacks and external links throughout the post

Related from earlier today:  Turkish Army’s Multi-Faceted Security Mission in Idlib

"Turkey’s announcement of what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called “a serious operation in Idlib” last Saturday has injected uncertainty into the Syrian civil war, but one thing is clear: militarily, the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad is winning. The question(s) now becomes:(a) to what extent will the U.S. be willing support the advance of its local allies in eastern Syria? And, (b) will it maintain support for the group after ISIS is defeated in Raqqa?"
Assad’s forces now control the majority of Syria’s population and major urban centers, while remaining opposition forces are scattered in unsustainable enclaves across the country and have begun to fight amongst themselves. Meanwhile, the Astana Process – a ceasefire negotiation platform guaranteed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey – has allowed Assad to pacify certain fronts of the war as he escalates the fight against ISIS in the east near Deir al Zour.
For the moment, it seems the battle to capture ISIS’ last remaining territories in the east is Assad’s main focus. And, this has direct ramifications for U.S. policy in the country as Assad’s eastern operations quickly become a race against Syria’s second most powerful landholder: the Kurdish-led and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Syria's Second Most Powerful Landholder. All stolen Syrian territory. This is a point that is very, very rarely broached. And most often obfuscated. The US backed YPG/PKK /SDF rebranded (to hide the reality of what is actually occurring) has annexed a vast portion of Syrian territory with the assistance of their co- occupiers, partners in crime and ethnic cleansing pals the US. I reported on this "landholder" status way back in July. Landholders is an obfuscation for annexation- territory theft, ethnic cleansing etc., "Landholder" does that make you feel better? Doesn't make me feel better. It's like when the term "pacify" is used to obfuscate whole scale slaughter- 

Flashback:  KurdIShIS Redux- YPG/PKK 2nd Geographical Power in Syria

Which makes the Syria Democratic Forces (YPG/PKK) the 2nd largest power in Syrian after the regime forces and militiamen loyal to them, where the Syria Democratic Forces control (YPG/PKK) 22.51% of the size of the Syrian territory, (and they are aiming for 30 percent!)
Back to the Cipher
"The SDF is closing in on the last 300-400 ISIS fighters holed up in a small 1.5 square mile slice of the caliphate’s self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa. Meanwhile, alongside U.S.-led coalition forces, the Kurdish-led SDF has turned its eyes to as-yet unclaimed ISIS territory near Deir al Zour and advancing Syrian government forces"

Flashback October 7/17:  US Commander:Final Assault to Take Raqqa From ISIS Begins Sunday

My understanding of what is/has been occurring in Raqqa is civilian displacement.- Ethnic cleansing. The US has been bombing, heavily, and those that manage to flee have been"saved” by the PKK/YPG who transport them to squalid refugee camps- with access to filthy water! (That’s what’s been reported) These Syrian residents are not going to go back to their homes. Not if the US backed Kurds have anything to do with it. And, they do!
 
*Russian Ministry of Defence Accuses US of Bombing Raqqa Residential Areas
*TASS:
Carpet bombing of residential areas accommodated by civilians "have brought about nothing but several thousand victims among the ‘liberated’ population"

Image from TASS
Cipher con't:
"The Assad regime’s battle against rebel forces in the west, especially in the largest opposition-controlled holdout around in Idlib, does continue. However, barring a major offensive or new action spurred by Turkish intervention in the Idlib region, the prize of the day is in the east.
“At the end of the day,” says Syria expert and Fellow at the Washington Institute, Fabrice Balanche, “Damascus’ top priority remains the province of Deir al-Zour. The Syrian rebellion in western Syria is no longer powerful enough to constitute an existential threat.” This means that the regime has a relatively free hand to snap up ISIS territory – effectively the only neutral area for expansion left in a country where local forces backed by major outside powers are hardening their zones of influence.
This race in the east is important to U.S. interests for two reasons. First, as the battle to liberate Raqqa nears its end, a large number of ISIS forces have retreated into Deir al Zour region, and high level targets may be hiding out in this last refuge"
 ISIS fleeing from Raqqa to Deir ez Zor.. Didn't I mention that? I had expected & stated  “ISIS"(PKK/YPG/Assorted special ops and a veneer of Arabs) is converging in one convenient location where they will be loaded up covertly and transported to Deir ez Zor.” This is what has occured and is being reported by the Cipher. That was easy enough to predict.
More "ISIS" are expected to leave today- Wonder where it is their headed?

Reuters

Or......
Additionally - Al masdar had reported that an “arrangement” had been worked out between the Kurds and ISIS- The Kurds were to let ISIS leave with no knowledge of where they were heading- Suuurrreeeeee.....


"Second, if Syrian regime forces capture the town of Abu Kamal and the border crossing at al Qa’im, Assad’s most important regional ally, Iran, will have a clear and secure route to supply its proxy forces across the region from Iraq to Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The stakes are high, and the situation appears to be stalemated. SDF forces are closely supported by the U.S.; Assad’s troops are supported by Russia. So for now, neither side is likely to attack the other, which makes this a game of strategic positioning through the capture of ISIS territory. Assad has quickly drawn troops away from the city of Deir al Zour, which is not yet cleared, to push further east and surround the town of Mayadin. Moving these forces so fast delays the operation to crush ISIS’ remaining forces in Deir al Zour city, but it effectively blocks the SDF from approaching Mayadin"
 Reports from today state SAA and allies have (re)taken Mayadeen
Trend
JordanTimes
If SAA and allies are able to hold Mayadeen what will be the American/Kurdish/Israeli response? SAA and allies have now blocked the SDF out of Mayadeen. Can that be left as is?

"What’s raised even more concern in Washington is the threat of an Iranian “land bridge” to the Mediterranean"

Flashback Trump Will "Decertify" the Iran Nuclear Deal. 

 

 & a comment I 'd posted at Greencrow's blog, transferred to the comment section of the above linked post. It was a response to this statement "The result is a bungled policy which will have either catastrophic, or no consequences at all."

This is a comment I left at Green crows- I'm putting it here because I do not see Trump as bungling anything!
It's probably going to form the basics for a new post

"I hate the 'bungled policy' meme
Along with the incompetence meme...
It's a limited hangout

Trump didn't bungle anything- he is doing exactly that which he is supposed to do.
In 2015 I wrote the nuclear deal was a distraction because the US was already, at that time, involved in destabilizing Iran- The deal was created to make the peace president look good, with the idea of using the deal in the future- in whatever manner deemed necessary- to make Iran look bad, perception management-
to increase sanctions- (by claiming that Iran was non compliant) whatever!
We've seen the US do this time and time again- It's not bungled policy, it's just policy!"
Greencrow was not the blogger who had made the bungled policy comment- that statement belongs to another individual. In my opinion this is not bungled policy. This is policy. Period.
It fits the ongoing situation. It makes sense in the context of all that is occuring  in the region.
That the Trump administration has been gunning for Iran is undeniable.  Hell, that even Obama's administration targeted Iran is undeniable. Who has forgotten Stuxnet?
Flashback to 2010  & Flashback to 2011  The killing of Iranian nuclear scientists? Flashback to 2010 Arming and training Kurdish proxies to attack Iran? 2017- How about the fact that Kurds aka ISIS attacked Tehran The US training Iranian Kurds for destabilization of Iran? Iranian faction among Kurds trained by US against militants - "Sep. 08 2016: KHARABRUD, Iraq (AP) — An Iranian Kurdish rebel group received military training in weapons and explosives from U.S. and European advisers


Decertifying the Iran nuclear deal is part of that ongoing targeting- It cannot be considered bungling. It should not be considered bungling. It should be understood as a tactic.  
Part of a strategy. One more move that has been preceded by others and a preparatory move for what is yet to follow

 Back to the Cipher

If the Trump Administration decides to play a greater role in the Syrian conflict after Raqqa falls, it could block such a land bridge by maintaining the U.S. base at al Tanf – near the southwest border crossing with Iraq – and pushing SDF troops to reach al Qa’im before Assad or allied Iran-backed militias.
However, says Fellow at the Century Foundation and Syria expert, Aron Lund, if that happens, Iran “will just pave a new road through the desert.” In his view, “Iran will have land access” no matter what. “You’re not going to deprive them of that unless Trump decides to go all in and own the whole Syrian-Iraqi border for years or decades to come,” he writes.
This is the do or die scenario I had broached last week

Flashback Syria: Walkin' the Razor's Edge? US Shells SAA/Casualties

 - when it was reported the US had stated, nearly two weeks ago, that they wanted their Kurdish thugs to take this location
"Last week the US-led military coalition said its Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies would attempt to seize Mayadeen before the army."
Of course Al Tanf was mentioned, has been mentioned, again and again as the vipers den of terrorists

That kind of investment would likely mean thousands of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, which is a concept that President Trump has shown little interest in. Accordingly, if the Trump Administration does decide to continue a post-ISIS presence in Syria, it will be more limited in scope, focused on delaying and harassing the extension of Iranian influence and hardening captured ISIS territory against future insurgency.
Yet this strategy also comes at a cost. Continued U.S. military presence in Syria means continued U.S. support for the Kurdish YPG, which forms the military backbone of the SDF. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of its own militant Kurdish organization, the PKK, and U.S. support for the group one of the key factors driving a stake through the heart of U.S. –Turkish relations. With the suspension of visa services between the two countries last Sunday, relations with Turkey – an indispensable NATO ally and ally in the war on terror – have hit their lowest point in 40 years.
There is no easy solution to any of these problems, but the United States is fast approaching a key decision point in the Syrian conflict. Until now, the Trump Administration has limited its Syria policy almost solely to the eradication of ISIS-controlled territory in the country. That territory will soon be gone, but that may only the beginning of the story in this conflict. ISIS and other groups will almost certainly continue to fight as insurgents in the liberated territory, Iran’s influence will continue to spread, and the al Qaeda-affiliated opposition group, Hayat Tahrir al Sham, has become one of the most powerful players in Idlib and other rebel-held areas of Syria. Washington will soon need a clear strategy to either deal with these long term threats – or be prepared to leave.

"Washington will soon need a clear strategy to either deal with these long term threats – or be prepared to leave"

Obviously, I'm of the mind that Washington should leave. That's my opinion. 
However, it's not very likely they will. In closing the map of all the US bases dotting northern Syria is included, again. Those bases  undoubtedly connect to more US bases in Iraq- All those assuredly occupied by US/Israeli/British special forces and yet more Sunni Muslim Kurds generally sheltered by that big PKK umbrella. And of course some useful idiots of all sorts.

 

 

Turkish Army’s Multi-Faceted Security Mission in Idlib

Link- Erdogan announces beginning of mission

Link- Multi faceted Mission in Idlib

Turkey and Russia, by all reports, are working together on this deployment
 
“Multifaceted cooperation with Russia is one of the key elements of our foreign policy. We are in close coordination on Syria as well,” Ismail Kahraman told a news conference in St. Petersburg after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vyaceslav Volodin.
It's being reported Syria is "demanding" the Turks exit Syria- This is for domestic consumption, in my opinion. Syrian leadership has demonstrated repeatedly it's ok with the Russian role- so it seems sensible that they are fully aware of what is unfolding as this mission proceeds- What does this cooperative endeavour between Turkey and Russia tell us about the future? If anything at all?


"Turkey has continued to deploy troops to Syria's Idlib province in order to set up observation posts to monitor the cease-fire, following up on an international agreement to establish de-escalation zones in the war-torn country.

Military convoys, which departed from the Reyhanli district in Turkey's southern Hatay province, arrived in northern Idlib late Thursday.

The troops have initially been deployed near Afrin, an Aleppo district near the Turkish border held by the PKK/PYD terrorist organization.
The deployment will continue along the border of Idlib and Afrin, under rules of engagement agreed to in May among guarantor countries Turkey, Iran and Russia. Ankara backs groups opposed to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, while Russia and Iran support Assad’s regime.

Turkish armed forces will eventually set up observation posts in more than 10 areas, beginning in northern Idlib and gradually extending to the southern part of the province.

The mission, which is being carried out in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army, aims to monitor the cease-fire in Idlib, while Russia will set up observation posts outside the province for the same purpose"

Halting refugee influx
"The Turkish troop deployment also aims to create the necessary conditions to maintain the cease-fire between the Syrian regime and opposition groups, end conflicts, allow humanitarian aid to reach those who need it, and ensure the return of displaced persons to their homes.

It also aims to prevent a fresh influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey.

There were concerns that the Assad regime, backed by Iran and Russia, would launch more attacks in Idlib if the cease-fire failed to hold. In such a case, it was feared that millions of people might flood across the border into Turkey.

More than 1 million people are already living in camps near the border between Turkey and Syria"

Idlib
"Idlib, which is located in northwestern Syria on the Turkish border, faced intense attacks by the Assad regime after a vicious civil war broke out in 2011.

After March 2015, Idlib was no longer under the control of the Assad regime and was dominated by military opposition groups and anti-regime armed organizations.

With a previous population of around 2.5 million, the city is now crammed with about 4 million people, following the arrival of civilians who fled violence in central Syria.

The most effective military opposition groups in Idlib, Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham, both withdrew from the city nearly three months ago. Idlib is currently governed by a local council headed by civilians"