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U.S. Asks More Countries To Occupy Northeast Syria

Published: February 6, 2019
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Source: Moon of Alabama

Monday's piece about the situation in Syria included a judgment that now seems to be wrong.

The Trump administration planned to replace U.S. troops in northeast Syria with those of various allies.

James Jeffrey, the neoconservative U.S. special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, thought up an elaborate scheme to 'protect the Kurds' and to secure the borders to Turkey with the help of allied troops.

Aaron Stein @aaronstein1 - 17:33 utc - 24 Jan 2019

The Jeffrey plan being carried to Ankara/Rojava is very complex, requires open-ended commitments from UK-France, Turkish patrols in rural areas, SDF acquiescence, 3rd party forces, and US top cover, perhaps including a US enforced NFZ (unclear if POTUS is on board with this bit)

A week later the Wall Street Journal reported that the crazy scheme failed to win support from any of the relevant parties. The Kurds rejected it and Britain and France declined to send troops on a never ending mission between the waring Turkish and Kurdish sides.

The assertions that the scheme failed may have been premature. There are signs that it is still been worked on.

Today Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked to foreign ministers and officials of the U.S. coalition against ISIS. He made a remark that seems to announce a request to these allies to send their troops to replace the U.S. forces in northeast Syria:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday reassured allies that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria was not “the end of America’s fight” and called on them to recommit to permanently defeating Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. ...

“Our mission is unwavering, but we need your help to accomplish it, just as we’ve had over the past months and years,” Pompeo said, “To that end, we ask that our coalition partners seriously and rapidly consider requests that will enable our efforts to continue.

“Those requests are likely to come very soon,” he added, without elaborating.

Pompeo also wants (vid) the coalition to "removal of all Iranian led forces from Syria." He also asked for hundreds of millions fro Iraq.

One of the participants of the meeting was the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a rather daft member of the formerly social democratic party. As he traveled to Washington DC he lamented (in German) about a "vacuum" that would be created when the U.S. troops withdraw (my translation):

Before his flight to Washington Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said: "In Syria we still have no clarity how a vacuum can be avoided after the announced U.S. troop draw-down, so that no new escalation of old conflicts and a resurgence of the Islamic State can happen." He hoped to receive more information on the issue during the talks in Washington. The danger from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq "is by far not over."

How come these politicians never learned physics? Northeast Syria is not closed off from the atmosphere or the surrounding lands. That makes a vacuum there impossible.

Former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford offers a helpful Guide to Decoding the Doublespeak on Syria. It includes this entry:

Term: Vacuum. ‘The US will be leaving a vacuum when it pulls troops out’.
Meaning: Restoration of law and order. Once the US stops blocking the way the Syrian government will return to the currently US-controlled territory and will keep ISIS down, as it is doing in the rest of Syria, and Turkey out.

The tone of Maas' remarks seems intended to prepare the German public for a military mission in northeast Syria.

Turkey had already rejected the idea of foreign troops on its southern border. Yesterday Erdogan felt the need to again emphasize it:

As Turkey prepared for a summit on Syria with Russia and Iran, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country wanted sole control over a proposed buffer zone in northern Syria, rejecting a plan by the United States for a multinational force to police the area. ...

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Washington was trying to get Western partners, such as Australia, France and the United Kingdom, to patrol the stretch of Syrian territory along the Turkish border after US troops leave the area. Washington is concerned that Turkey will attack the YPG once US soldiers are withdrawn.

In his speech, Erdogan said the US plan was not an option. “I repeat: Any proposal except a model for a safe zone under Turkish control, with other countries just providing logistical help, is unacceptable.”

He said there was no example for a safe zone successfully administered by “international powers.” The Turkish president said Turkish troops would be welcomed by locals in Syria: “They trust us.”

Nearly all population centers near the Turkish borders in northeast Syria have a Kurdish majority. The Kurds certainly do not trust Turkey. Erdogan wants to push the Kurds away from the Turkish border. He would then 'resettle' the Syrian refugees in Turkey in those areas. Most of the refugees are relatives of Turkish supported 'rebels' and aligned with Erdogan's Islamist ideology.

Prewar map of ethnic majorities by town
Green=Kurd, Purple=Arab, Red=Turkmen, etc -

source - bigger

The U.S. idea of bringing in some other foreign troops to replace the U.S. contingent is unfortunately not dead. Pompeo announces new "requests", Maas is playing up a "vacuum" and Erdogan feels the need to emphasize Turkish opposition to it.

Any foreign state would be crazy to commit to such a scheme. A deployment of troops there would be:

  • Illegal under international law,
  • against the will of the host country Syria,
  • against the will of the NATO member and neighbor Turkey,
  • in the midst of ethnic-religious conflicts,
  • without secure communication routes and
  • without a defined end.

The people benefiting from such a deployment would by the PKK/YPK Kurds that helped to defeat ISIS. But they are themselves an internationally recognized terrorist organization that should not be supported. The other party to benefit is Israel which historically uses the Kurds to undermine the sovereignty of Arab countries. A foreign troop deployment in northeast Syria would help Israel's aim to keep Damascus weak.

The J. Jeffrey plan is a mess and should not have been given any thought at all. It is worrying that discussions about it still continue.

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