Mark Collins – Syria Horror Update, Plus Bear Rattling Sabre–What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Further to this post,

Syria: The Horror, The Horror

things are getting quite dicey what with all the Aleppo, Kurdish, Turkish, NATO (remember Turkey is a member), US and Russian angles intertwined; the chances of something going badly wrong are getting pretty scary:

Turkey’s Erdogan denounces US support for Syrian Kurds

Kurdish forces said to take air base near Turkish border
[supported by Russian air strikes–Kurds playing both US and Russia?]

In Syria, Russia fully prepared to show tough resistance to US and Turkey’s intervention 

Then at Defense One’s “D-Brief“:

Dispatch from the Turkish border: “People are waiting for the international community to stop this war,” Defense Onespecial contributor Gayle Tzemach Lemmon reports from Gazi Antep, Turkey, some 75 miles north of Aleppo, Syria. There she finds a harrowing scene of broken families desperately viewing photos of what was once their homes—many now “just a huge hole,” as one Syrian described.

“The international community’s dueling priorities have prevented a durable ceasefire and those on the ground say Russian air strikes are making aid even harder to secure,” she writes. “Tens of thousands of Syrians are now massed on the Turkish border, trying to escape airstrikes and fighting all around them. If the world is not able to end the war, or even to open its borders to Syrian refugees unconditionally, the very least the world can to do now is fight to create a safe zone for mothers and fathers to flee to with their children.” More from Antep, here.

Russia’s roadmap for peace in Syria calls for a cease-fire on March 1. The U.S. says it should begin now. State Secretary John Kerry and his Russian counterpart have agreed to the need for a cease-fire, but the two sides have not agreed to much beyond that yet, the WSJ reports.

U.S. officials see the call from Moscow as their way of asking for three more weeks to crush more elements of the Syrian rebellion. The U.S. counteroffer, on the other hand, sounds a lot like what the rebels have requested—an immediate ceasefire accompanied by full humanitarian access to Syria’s besieged cities—which puts the chief negotiating parties at odds yet again.

Moscow and Damascus seem to have gained a new upper handin Syria’s northwest in recent weeks, especially around the city of Aleppo, where Assad’s army has managed to split terrain held by opposition rebels north of Syria’s second-largest city. (What’s the Pentagon’s read on what’s happening in Aleppo? Check this map shared on Wednesday [Feb. 10].)

For what it’s worth: 70 percent of Russia’s strikes have been against the Syrian opposition, not the Islamic State, the White House’s envoy for the counter-ISIS fight, Brett McGurk, told lawmakers Wednesday…

Meet the guerrilla fighters of Kurdistan. Brooklyn-based photographer Joey L. was tired of mainstream coverage of the Islamic State, so he traveled to Iraq and Syria to see the war against the jihadi group for himself. His on-the-ground video chronicle explores the culture and lifestyle of the Kurdish resistance groups on the front lines against ISIS. Watch it, courtesy of The Atlantichere

And at Foreign Policy’s “Situation Report“:

Sorry, but we’re not sorry. FP’s man at the United Nations, Colum Lynch, sends along this from Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin following a Wednesday meeting on humanitarian situation in Syria. Speaking outside the Security Council, he told reporters that Moscow is “not about to be apologetic,” for its actions in Syria. “We are acting in a very transparent manner. Daily briefings are being conducted by our ministry of defense. We are present there legally, at the invitation of the Syrian government, in contrast to what the so-called U.S. led coalition is doing in Syria. They are acting outside of international law, and incidentally never telling anybody what exactly  they are doing in Syria or Iraq.”..

The toll of the Syrian civil war on its population has been absolutely brutal, with more than one in ten Syrians killed or injured in the war, according to a new report from the Syrian Centre for Policy Research. The Guardian reports that the center estimates over 470,000 dead, 1.9 million wounded, and 45 percent of the population displaced since the war began. The 450,000 estimate of the dead is larger than the 250,000 figure offered by the U.N. — which stopped counting in 2014 — a discrepancy the center attributes to their better access to local data on casualties…

Far too many opportunities for miscalculation.  Meanwhile John Schindler has a really grim view; let’s hope he’s, er, dead wrong (his The XX Committee blog is here):

Mounting Evidence Putin Will Ignite WWIII

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


14 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Syria Horror Update, Plus Bear Rattling Sabre–What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”

  1. And note this at the Guardian:

    ‘Munich peace talks aim at Syria conflict end after global war warning

    …A crunch meeting of countries trying to find an end to the conflict followed a stark warning from Russia that wider military intervention could spark “a new world war”.

    Dimitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, was quoted telling Germany’s Handelsblatt daily: “The Americans and our Arab partners must think hard about this – do they want a permanent war? All sides must be forced to the negotiating table instead of sparking a new world war.”

    Medvedev was apparently responding to suggestions that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states might join the US-led campaign against Islamic State in Syria…’

    Meanwhile a friend very knowledgeable of the region and its history observes:

    “The Syrian government has been ascendant on the battlefield before, but its growing lack of manpower makes it very hard to hold its gains; concentrating forces in one area often strips them from another, which then fall to the rebels or ISIS. Russian air power and perhaps more Iranian-sponsored ground forces may be giving the the government new momentum but even the Alawites, Assad’s most desperate supporters, are growing war-weary. Meanwhile Hezbollah is also finding that Lebanese Shi’ites are increasingly loath à mourir pour Damas. Perhaps Iran now has the cash needed to recruit enough Afghan and Iraqi Shi’ites, or its own unwashed Basiji, to hold these gains without imperiling what’s left of Assadistan?”

    Ever more angles to the horror. And on the Iraqi front, poor POTUS:

    US seems being rather displaced regionally by Russia in de facto alliance with Iran.

    Mark Collins

  2. Hmm:

    ‘Carter says UAE will put special forces in Syria

    U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says a key Persian Gulf ally has agreed to send special forces soldiers to Syria to assist in the development of local Sunni Arab fighters focused on recapturing Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s capital.

    Carter made the comment after meeting Friday at his Brussels hotel with his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates.

    Carter declined to say how many Emirati special forces would go to Syria. He said they would be part of an effort led by the United States and bolstered by Saudi special forces to train and enable local Arab fighters who are motivated to recapture Raqqa.

    The U.S. war plan for fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is designed to unseat the extremists in Raqqa and Mosul, which is the group’s main stronghold in northern Iraq.

    Carter also told reporters that however the proposed suspension of Syrian civil war hostilities is implemented, as announced in Munich, the U.S. will continue combating IS in Syria.

    “There is no cease-fire in the war against ISIL,” Carter said. “Let’s be clear about that.”..’

    Mark Collins

  3. Keep in mind that Canada and the US both have forces on the ground and more coming in the places Turkey is currently attacking and Turkey + the bulk of the GCC are talking up invading.

    Mean while as the Sunnis scheme a way to slaughter the Alewites, Christians and Kurds and the US fantasises about Assad and Putin unilaterally surendering, guess who just entered the Raqqa govenate and are moving fast towards the military airport at Tabaqa? Once they have that they will have a decent sized airport plus logistical lines ~40km away from the Daesh capital of al-Raqqa.

  4. A friend familiar with the Middle East and Levant and its history notes:

    “A down side of helping the Kurds is, of course, when it’s all over they will be wanting an independent state which certainly will include Kirkuk and maybe even Mosul [otherwise why make any significant, and likely costly, effort to assist in its taking from ISIS]–as well as extending down along the Iranian border possibly was far as Tikrit. Any Arabs still alive there had best look for somewhere else to go.”

    A problem that the Canadian media, bless them this time, have brought up themselves.

    Mark Collins

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