Isikoff [Question 37]: Is it a mistake to use barrel bombs and chlorine gas?
Assad: You have to choose which part of the narrative is correct. Once they said we are using indiscriminate bombs and they called it barrel bombs. The other day, they said we targeted hospitals and schools and convoys. We either have precise armaments or we have indiscriminate armaments. So, which one do you choose?Mr Isikoff preferred changing the subject to making a choice. If the name rings a bell, yes this is the same Michael Isikoff who was part of an infamous episode in the tower of lies called Russiagate. Indeed, the irony to emerge from the West's propaganda war on Assad is that it is mirrored in the propaganda war launched against Donald Trump.
US forces have withdrawn from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, a spokesman for the US-led coalition reported on October 15.Commenting on the situation in the area, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Manbij and its surroundings are now in full control of the Syrian Army. The Defense Ministry said that units of the Russian Military Police are patrolling the contact line between the Syrian Army and Turkish-backed forces northwest of Manbij.SouthFront has also posted the first photographs of Russian military police in Manbij. This noted, I found the AP report helpful as a backgrounder to the fast-moving events. (I think by now an AP editor has told reporters to forget about the big picture for now and just try to keep up. AP might do as Sputnik has done and post 'live' updates to one report.)
On Tuesday morning, it looked as though the Turkish president had paused for reflection before deciding if and how to proceed with his operation, in the light of the Russia/Syrian threat to his forces. He needs to calculate how far he can go against the Syrian army without incurring Russian military intervention. He understands that President Vladimir Putin will not put up with an artillery attack on Russian forces like the one “mistakenly” directed against US troops at the outset of the Turkish drive into northeast Syria last week.
The Syrian army’s arrival at embattled Kurdish towns in Syria's northeast, backed by Russian threats [well, Russian 'advice'], seemingly halted the Turkish army’s advance. On Tuesday, Oct. 15, only minor isolated incidents were visible. Although Turkish President Recep Erdogan boasted on Monday, Day 6, “We will not back down,” he also said, “We are coordinating with the Russians,” and praised their “positive approach.”
For now, therefore, the Turkish army looks as if it's sidestepping direct clashes with the Syrian army, which has meanwhile entered Manbij and prevented the Turkish army from moving in. Kurdish forces remain in control there, as well as in the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al Ayn, which Turkish sources on Monday claimed had fallen.
[...]Debkafile goes on to state what I have claimed is unimaginable: amidst all the confusion and chaos he created with the announced 'pullback' from certain bases in N.E. Syria, President Donald Trump really does seem to be preparing to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria.
President Donald Trump has meanwhile followed up on his order to pull 1,000 US troops out of northern Syria with a second order for their withdrawal from the eastern regions alongside the Syrian-Iraqi border. He said those troops would remain in the Middle East and keep watch on the Syrian arena from a distance. In a phone call to Erdogan, Trump demanded an immediate truce in the hostilities in northern Syria, as US sanctions were announced by the Treasury in Washington on Turkey’s war leaders, the defense and energy ministries as well as ministers of defense, energy and interior. Trump also raised by 50 percent the tariffs on imported Turkish steel and halted negotiations for a $100bn trade agreement.
The US president has delayed, but never wavered from, his resolve to pull the US military presence out of Syria. In July 2018, he withdrew US support from Syrian insurgent groups in southern Syria and handed control of their regions to Russian and Syrian forces. Israel collaborated with Trump’s moves by lifting its control of the areas adjoining the Golan and allowing them to revert to the Assad regime along with the Syrian rebel groups with whom Israel had collaborated during the war.
Trump’s actions in October 2019, in transferring control of northern and eastern Syria to Russian-backed Syrian government forces, are therefore part of the same consistent policy.
Early Tuesday, US sources in Washington revealed that US forces would remain at one last Syrian location, the large garrison at Al Tanf which commands the key intersection of the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi borders.Debkafile can't help ending on a sour note:
From Israel’s perspective, the Trump administration’s decision to pull back from eastern Syrian positions – from which US forces were able to keep the Iranian presence tied down to one place, Abu Kamal – opens most of the Syrian-Iraqi border for Iran, Hizballah and the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias, which are already in control of the Iraqi side of the border, to gain free passage into Syria.They already have free passage; it's just slower passage and in any case, Israel should be cheering this turn of events, given that Putin is very determined that the Iranians and everybody else in the Middle East stop squabbling and start cooperating to do really big business. Unless they like the idea of China walking off with the store.
"We, as sheikhs and elders of Arab tribes in NE Syria are ready to provide nearly 50,000 Arab tribes and tribal fighters to join the SDF to confront the barbaric Ottoman occupier and his mercenaries. Brotherhood of peoples is the basis of coexistence, peace, equality and harmony."(For those readers who recall all the reports earlier in the year that I passed along from FARS about Syrian Arab uprisings in N.E. Syria against the Kurds -- well, there's a difference between Kurdish bullying and losing one's lands to the Turks.)
Some 140,000 well-armed SDF Kurdish fighters are dug in along a 300km front east of the River Euphrates. They have set up a defense line that is heavily fortified and barricaded, studded with anti-tank traps and supplied with plentiful ammo stores.
The Turkish force in Syria at present is too small to tackle this Kurdish force. To raise an army equal to the task of smashing the Kurds, Turkey would need a largescale military call-up, and even then, might be short of manpower for the task. ...As to hitting at the SDF from the air, there were some initial bombings by the Turkish Air Force but according to Debkafile (which, we may recall, is an unofficial conduit for the view from Israel's military):
The Turks are further constrained by the refusal of both the US and Russia to allow their air force to operate in northern Syrian air space, thereby hobbling their ability to advance very far across the Euphrates.There is also the S-300 possessed by Syria's military, which after extensive training in the use of said contraption, recently received official permission from the Russian government to deploy it in defense of Syrian military positions from air attacks -- provided, of course, the Syrians were willing to accept responsibility for its use and so on and so forth. Now that the SDF and SAA are quite literally fighting shoulder to shoulder, it would be hard for the Turkish Air Force to target the SDF without threatening SAA troops.
[...]The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday that it would "not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war" to defend the region of northeast Syria that it controls.[...]Washington has always hoped to avoid a military confrontation between Turkey and the YPG. The shortsighted policy of arming and backing an enemy of Turkey so close to their border was bound to have dangerous consequences.
... The US administration tried to blame Syria for the current Lebanese financial crisis, accusing the Levant of absorbing the region’s dollars to the detriment of Lebanon. But Washington is unaware that Syria has an excess of foreign currency due to the billions of dollars its Gulf allies (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and Israel have spent to destabilise the country. Jihadists and rebels exchanged their dollars for the Syrian Lira, boosting the Syrian Central Bank’s wealth in dollars.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Americans are exerting all sorts of pressure on Jordan and Iraq to keep their borders closed to Syrian goods, in consequence of the Lebanese production Syria supports Hezbollah financially, advancing dollars in cash to its strategic ally when in need. This is another obstacle to the US’s efforts to impoverish Hezbollah. ...Pundita, don't say a word, not one word, and don't you dare laugh; it's not funny.
Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said any "uncoordinated military operations by Turkey would be of grave concern as it would undermine our shared interest of a secure northeast Syria and the enduring defeat of" the Islamic State group.