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The war in Syria 2.0

Putin outplayed both Trump and Erdogan, but for how long?

Ankara’s actions lead to the fact that Syria will completely come under Assad’s control

It seems that the Kremlin is gaining a diplomatic victory in Syria. As a Pentagon source told Newsweek magazine, Washington has agreed with Moscow to transfer control of Syrian Manbij in northern Aleppo.


According to the publication, the United States has begun to withdraw its troops from the city and plans to help the RF Armed Forces gain a foothold there against the background of Turkey’s attempts to defeat the “Forces of Democratic Syria” (SDS) control of Manbij, supported by Washington.


Earlier on October 14, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised that in the near future, the Syrian opposition units acting as allies of the Turkish army will enter the strategically important cities of Manbij and Kobani, controlled by the Kurds.


However, at this point a factor arose that could fundamentally change the course of the Turkish campaign. Last Sunday, the Kurds made a difficult decision for themselves: to speak together with Damascus, against which they had previously fought as part of a coalition led by the United States.


– The bottom line is that the Syrian army will enter the territory controlled by the administration and will be deployed on the entire border of Syria with Turkey to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (Kurdish forces) in repelling this attack and freeing up areas occupied by the Turkish army and its mercenaries, – the statement says the Kurdish administration of the north-eastern regions.


According to the Kurds, the agreement with Damascus will allow “to liberate other Syrian cities occupied by Turkey, including Afrin,” occupied by Ankara during the previous military operations “The Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch” 2016–2018.


As a result of these agreements, on the morning of October 14, Syrian government forces advanced north to stop the Turkish offensive. They entered the cities of Tabka, Ain Isa and Tel Tamr, and also expanded their presence in Hasek and El-Kamyshly.


For Ankara, these events were an unpleasant surprise. Moreover, the confrontation is entering a decisive phase: both Ankara and Damascus simultaneously declared their intentions to enter the cities of Kobani and Manbij.


This was an unpleasant surprise for NATO. Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, and Article 5 of the Washington Treaty provides for assistance to an ally who has been attacked – in this case, by Syria. As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg admitted, the ongoing Turkish operation “is fraught with the risk of further regional destabilization.”


In this situation, Moscow assumed the role of mediator between all parties to the conflict. It is significant that negotiations with the Kurds took place at the Russian air base Khmeimim in Syria, which is a symbol of Russian power in the country.


However, there is no doubt: Moscow will not intervene in the slaughter. It is no coincidence that Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, answering the question about the risk of a direct military clash between Russia and Turkey, categorically rejected this possibility.


– We would not even want to think about such an option. I have nothing more to add. For this, there are communication channels between our military, – he said.


This means that the Turks will be able to crush Syrians and Kurds without any problems.


In a successful scenario, with the mediation of the Russian Federation, the parties could agree on the division of control zones in northern Syria. In the case of the Ankara-Damascus deal, the Turks, to one degree or another, would be able to implement their plan to create a buffer zone on the border with Syria, separating the two Kurdistan – Turkish and Syrian. Damascus would receive a major gain in the form of regaining control of the Kurdish regions. And Moscow would strengthen its position in the region, and could count on political dividends.


But whether this scenario is realized is still an open question.

  • The Kurds have agreed with Damascus that they will let the Syrian army into their territory and will not prevent it from moving to the Turkish borders, – said military expert retired colonel Viktor Litovkin.
  • The Kurds have turned their backs on the Americans, and now have embarked on a course of cooperation with Assad – in the hope that Assad will protect them from the Turks. Russia acted as a mediator in these negotiations – that’s all.
  • Does our mediation serve as a deterrent for Ankara?
  • Moscow will not interfere in this story – it will not help either the Kurds or the Syrian government army in the fight against the Turks. You have to understand: we didn’t take on such obligations.


We pledged to help Syria in the fight against the Islamic State, and a very big problem is brewing with the militants.


In the north-eastern regions of Syria, up to 130 thousand refugees have accumulated. These people are kept in difficult conditions – without clean drinking water, without medical assistance. Terrible diseases are rampant in refugee camps, including cholera and salmonellosis. These refugees can now transfer diseases to Syria.


Moreover, in the prisons that guarded the Kurds, there are more than 15 thousand militants. If the Kurds run away, the militants will break free. Even if they do not fight in Syria – they have already been at war – they will try to return to the countries from where they came to Syrian land.


This is also a great danger. Moreover, there are quite a few immigrants from the CIS countries among the militants.


– Will the Syrians, along with the Kurds, stop the Turks?


– It will be difficult to stop the Turks. Erdogan, to put it mildly, bit a bit. I believe that he will not stop until he reaches the red line, which he himself has determined – he will advance 30 kilometers deep into Syria to create a security zone. In this zone, the Turkish leader intends to place refugees so that they become a sanitary cordon between the Kurds and Turkey.


– What benefit does Moscow receive in such a situation?


– The only gain is that the Americans leave the northern regions, and therefore they will not be able to interfere with the deal with terrorists. The Kremlin will not receive any other gain.


The Middle East region is on the verge of a great war, everyone is playing his own game.

  • The question is how far each of the players in Syria is ready to go, and what forces they are ready to use, – said Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.
  • If, say, the entire Turkish army is involved, the entire Syrian army will not be able to cope with it. On the other hand, if the Russian units are on the Syrian side, the situation is changing.


– Do you think we will take the side of Assad?


– Of course, this will not happen – and no one is going to use all forces in the current operation. In fact, the whole question is which of the parties and how to agree.


– What are the options for these agreements?


– One thing is completely clear: Russia needs to remove all foreign troops from Syria, and ensure that the Kurds go under Assad. At the moment, there is such a trend. Turkey is used just like a whip.


I would say that Erdogan’s ambitions in this situation work for Russia. Moreover, it is completely incomprehensible what the Turkish leader wants – what are his ultimate goals. Because the creation of a buffer zone is a rather dubious goal.


It is unlikely that the Turks will be able to keep. If in the end it turns out that through the efforts of Erdogan, the rest of Syria will return to Assad’s control – including the Kurds will stop breaking comedy, and also become part of Assad’s forces – it will be extremely difficult to keep the buffer zone.


Especially if the Kurds in this zone begin to conduct military operations – this will simply begin to devour resources from the Turks. All this will only lead to a fall in Erdogan’s popularity, which is already declining.


– Is it possible to say that the Kremlin is successfully playing the Syrian party?


  • At the moment, yes. It is amazing to me – especially knowing our national traditions – how effective Russia is in Syria. Both militarily and diplomatically. At the moment, I repeat, this is exactly so.

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