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American Resistance To Empire

Was Denial of Air Support To Turkey In Al Bab “The Last Straw” For Incirlik?

[Turkey Hints at Shuttering Incirlik to US Air Operations ; Turkey ‘questions’ US use of İncirlik air base ]

Pentagon says coalition jets back Turkey in Syria without weapons

“Last week, there was a request… when some Turkish forces came under fire for air support and there were flights conducted by the coalition at that time,” AFP quoted Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook as saying.

“My understanding of that was there was not a strike specifically, but there were aircraft involved in that effort, a visible show of force if you will, by coalition aircraft.” 

“While the coalition did not strike at al-Bab to help the Turks, the Russians did not hold back, bombing ISIL targets in the city since last week jointly with Turkish forces.”

Defense minister says lack of coalition support for al-Bab operation opens İncirlik up to debate

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belgaimage-95960701-696x481Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık arrives for the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial meetings at Lancaster House in London on September 8, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS

Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Işık has said the lack of support from the US-led coalition forces in Syria for a Turkish-backed operation in the al-Bab region in Syria’s north aimed at clearing it of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants has caused Turkey to question the status of its İncirlik Air Base.

“We hope that all the coalition forces, mainly the US, will give the aerial support and other kinds of support Turkey needs for its Operation Euphrates Shield and that the necessary steps are taken without any delay. It is thought provoking that the countries with which we have been together for years in NATO and those which established a coalition against Daesh [another acronym for ISIL] have not supported this operation launched by the Free Syrian Army and supported by the Turkish Armed Forces against Daesh in the critical region of al-Bab,” Işık said on Wednesday.

İncirlik is considered a pivotal and convenient location for US operations in Syria and in the greater region.

As part of Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels drive ISIL terrorists from the border city of Jarabulus on Aug. 24, in a dramatic escalation of its involvement in the Syrian civil war.

 

Turkish Forces Reject USAF Air Support In Al Bab In Favor of Russian Aerospace Forces

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A Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighter walks near a wall, which activists said was put up by Turkish authorities, on the Syria-Turkish border in the western countryside of Ras al-Ain, Syria Jan. 29. RODI SAID / Reuters

Turks Turn Down U.S. Military Help in Syria, Accept Russian Aid Instead

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Two defense officials say that Russia has conducted “several” airstrikes in support of the Turkish military fighting in Al Bab, Syria.

And, while the Turks have accepted air power help from the Russians, they continue to decline military help from the U.S.

The Turks are fighting to expel ISIS from al Bab and they are in the midst of an extremely tough fight and they are taking casualties. The U.S. has repeatedly offered help over the past few weeks, both officials said, but the Turks continue to turn it down.

The U.S. has not been conducting airstrikes to support the Turks there.

The American military did conduct a show of force over al Bab recently, but they just flew several jets over the city, they didn’t strike anything.

U.S. military officials are baffled at the Turkish refusal of air support. When asked whether the Russians have been striking ISIS in al Bab, one official said, “for now they are.”

Al Bab sits about halfway between Aleppo and Manbij and the U.S. is concerned that once the Turks take back the city from ISIS, they will continue northeast to Manbij to confront the Syrian Kurds (YPG) who were part of the liberation of that city several months ago. The Turks consider the YPG to be a terrorist organization, but they are part of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces that the U.S. continues to back in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

Wishful Thinking On The War On Syria

Gwynne Dyer: The war is over in Syria

Turkey’s cut a deal, so Assad has won

pittsburgh post gazette

assad 0104 Syrian President Bashar Assad has prevailed and might soon rule over a reunited country.

Associated Press

Syrian President Bashar Assad has prevailed and might soon rule over a reunited country.

So far the end game in Syria has played out in an entirely predictable way. All of Aleppo is back in the Syrian government’s hands, that decisive victory for President Bashar Assad and his Russian backers has been followed by a cease-fire, and the Russians are now organizing a peace conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, for later this month.

The one surprise is that Turkey, long the rebels’ most important supporter, will be co-chairing the conference. This means that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a deal of some sort with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, for the Astana gathering is clearly going to be a Russian show. (The United States has not been invited, and Saudi Arabia probably won’t be asked to attend either.)

So what kind of deal has Mr. Erdogan made with Mr. Putin? The details may well have been fudged, for Turkey has not yet renounced its long-standing insistence that Mr. Assad must step down as the Syrian leader. But it’s pretty easy to figure out most of what is going to be on the table in Astana (assuming the cease-fire holds until then).

Mr. Assad has won the war, thanks largely to Russian and Iranian intervention, and the Syrian rebels are doomed. There is no point in their fighting on, because all their outside supporters are peeling away. Turkey is now cooperating with Russia, in three weeks Donald Trump will be U.S. president and also cooperating with Moscow, and Saudi Arabia is hopelessly over-committed to its futile war in Yemen.

Even little Qatar, once one of the main paymasters of the Syrian rebellion, has now lost interest: it recently signed an $11.5 billion deal for a 19.5 percent stake in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer. The rebels are completely on their own, and their only options are surrender or dying in the last ditch.

Syria’s rebels are almost all Islamists of one sort or another by now, but the less extreme ones will probably be offered an amnesty at Astana in return for signing a peace deal — which may contain some vague language about an election that might replace Mr. Assad at some point in the indefinite future. That’s as much as will be on offer, because Mr. Assad does not intend to quit and Moscow will not force him to.

The extreme Islamists — the so-called Islamic State, which controls much of eastern Syria and western Iraq, and the former Nusra Front, which controls much of northwestern Syria — have not been invited to Astana, nor would they accept an invitation if it were issued.

The ex-Nusra Front (now renamed the Front for the Conquest of the Levant to disguise its membership in al-Qaida) was refreshingly frank in condemning the cease-fire and the peace talks: “We did not negotiate a cease-fire with anyone. The solution is to topple the regime through military action,” it said. A political solution would be “a waste of blood and revolution.”

But a military victory over Mr. Assad is no longer possible, so these groups are destined to lose on the battlefield and revert to mere terrorism. In terms of what a post-civil war Syria will look like, the great unanswered question is: What happens to the Syrian Kurds?

They are only one-tenth of the Syrian population, but they now control almost all the Kurdish-majority areas across northern Syria. As America’s only ally on the ground in Syria, they have played a major role in driving back the Islamic State. They are not Islamists, they are not terrorists, and they have avoided any military confrontation with Turkey, despite Mr. Erdogan’s war on his country’s own Kurdish minority.

Yet Mr. Erdogan publicly identifies the Syrian Kurds as Turkey’s enemy, and they have not (or at least not yet) been invited to the Astana peace conference. Was Mr. Erdogan’s price for switching sides a free hand in destroying Rojava, the proto-state created by the Syrian Kurds? Very probably, yes.

Mr. Assad would be content for that to happen, provided Turkey handed over the corpse afterward. Mr. Putin doesn’t care one way or the other, and it’s most unlikely that Mr. Trump does either. The Turkish army will have its hands full fighting the Syrian Kurds, but it has the numbers and the firepower to prevail in the end.

So, even if the cease-fire holds and, even if the peace conference at Astana goes exactly according to Moscow’s plan, there is still some fighting to be done in Syria. Mr. Assad’s army, with Russian and Iranian support, will have to suppress both the Islamic State and the former Nusra Front, and the Turks will have to subjugate the Syrian Kurds.

This will take time, but with no more weapons or money flowing in from outside (since Turkey has turned off the taps), it will probably happen in the end. Which means that Mr. Assad will probably one day rule once again over a united Syria.

That is a deeply discouraging prospect, but it is probably the least bad option that remains.

Gwynne Dyer is a military historian and independent journalist based in London.

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