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Tensions mounting in Syria, Turkey terrorizing Kurds

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Just because the Syrian Civil War has been won, does not mean that it’s over. The Liberation of Aleppo paired with the Fall of the Islamic State is enough grounds for the Assad regime to clinch victory. While ISIS still troubles the desert, HTS, the latest rebranding of Al-Qaeda holds a dwindling amount of territory in Syria’s northeast. Without a overly significant ISIS presence, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have focused their attention on HTS territory as well as terrorist held territory in the suburbs of Damascus. HTS, while not officially listed as a foreign terror organization, is the evolved version of the al-Nursa Front which is. This organization may have a more active ally in Turkey. After several months of deescalating, tensions are mounting in Syria.

Turkey has already seized territory in Syria as apart of Operation Euphrates Shield using the unofficial terror organization, the FSA (Free Syrian Army), as a front for doing so. Turkey has also been undergoing operations in North Idlib and West Aleppo, territory held by the HTS. Now Turkey has commenced Operation Olive Branch, a misleading name to put it bluntly. The primary target of Operation Olive Branch is the YPG. The YPG is a Kurdish paramilitary that was a large contributor to dismantling the Islamic State’s presence in the country. They are the primary forces in control of the Afrin region in Syria. On January 19th, Turkey launched Operation Olive branch after mounting forces along the region’s border. What began as bombings and shelling escalated into mini land grabs along Afrin’s border. Turkey has also upped its propaganda game.

If this seems confusing allow this excerpt from TRTWorld to clear things up.

TRTWorld: The strategy behind Operation Olive Branch

Afrin, in northwest Syria bordering Turkey, used to be a city with a population of 80,000. Taking advantage of the chaos caused by the civil war in Syria, the YPG took control of it in 2012. During the years of civil war, since there are no clashes in Afrin, its population increased up to 300,000. And finally, after the evacuation of Aleppo in December 2016, people fled to Afrin, increasing the population to around 750,000. Around 60 percent is Arabs, five percent on the Turkish border in the northwest of the city is Turkmen, and the rest are Kurds. Hundreds of its original residents, who could flee the YPG after 2012, are in Turkey.

Afrin is located between two strategic Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA)-held areas: Azaz and Idlib. The two FSA commanders who talked to TRT World, tell of the geographical importance of Afrin in these words: We need to connect two opposition areas to support each other. But using the road in Turkey along the border from Kilis to Reyhanlı takes five hours. If we drive directly from Azaz to Idlib through Tel Rifat, it would only take less than two hours.

That makes the Tel Rifat front of upmost importance to the operation.

Turkey is trying to win support for its jihadists put shifting the majority Arabs in the Afrin region against the Kurdish forces in control of the region. They are also trying to connect to of their FSA operations in two provinces. Since this operation has been launched, there are two losers: the SAA and the YPG. The SAA is having its territorial integrity violated by the uninvited Turkish forces and the YPG, and by extension Kurds, are the primary target and are at a apparent military disadvantage of the NATO power.

TSK Engaging SAA

Turkish forces have deployed a convoy featuring armored vehicles into Syria to “facilitate a deescalation zone” but is also being escorted by HTS terrorists forces.

Along the way, Russian and Syrian forces have targeted the convoy’s path. Tensions escalated to direct shelling between SAA and TSK. Meanwhile Russia is trying to balance its relationship with the Turkish regime. As of now the SAA and the Turkish controlled area north of Aleppo have held a peaceful border as Turkey just mainly wants to target Kurds. Russia and Syria have deescalated Turkish targeting to the east by taking Kurdish militias under their wing. Turkey has mostly been non-confrontational with pro-Assad forces, but this engagement could destabilize the other Turkish controlled regions in Syria.

US Response

The US has held a very weak response to Turkey’s newest rounds of aggression. President Trump and Ergodan has a phone call on the 24th over the Operation, but little has been done by Americans to combat the latest threat to stability. In fact, YPG fighters are concerned about their continued US support. Turkey could eventually pose a threat to US forces in the country. The US has forces in the Manbij region of Syria which is east of Turkish zone captured during Euphrates Shield. After Turkey is done attacking Kurds in Afrin, they could move east towards Iraq into Manbij. The forces their have stated their right to self defense against any incoming attack which makes the possibility of an intra-NATO skirmish all that more likely.

Takeaway

Kurds have reason to worry as Turkey has a brutal history of exterminating ethnicities they don’t like and a continued success at getting others not to address their atrocities. The Turkish regime is becoming increasingly Islamic and totalitarian. Turkey’s tactics appear to be performing land grabs extending to Iraq, but the implications of its Operation on the Syrian Civil War are more clouded. So whether this is muscle flexing against a Shia power or a more nefarious jihadist mission has yet to be determined. This could destabilize the entire country that has already spent several years in war and was just seeing the light at the end. Before this, the HTS was doomed to lose, paving the way for more formal peace talks. But now they have some new life with Operation Olive Branch.

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Foreign Affairs

Would the White House pressure Benjamin Netanyahu to form government with left-leaning parties?

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Would the White House pressure Benjamin Netanyahu to form government with left-leaning parties

On the surface, it may be difficult to imagine President Trump, a Republican, quietly pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next Israeli government in a coalition with left-leaning parties should he win the April elections. But dig a little deeper and the thought becomes plausible. Why? Because it’s very likely his much-touted Middle East peace plan includes provisions for the Palestinians that conservatives in Israel may not allow.

A pair of articles out of Israel hint at this possibility:

My Take

It isn’t just those supporting such a move who are talking about it. New Right candidate Caroline Glick told the Jerusalem Post in an interview: “It’s mystifying that [Trump administration officials] think there’s a deal to be made when there so obviously isn’t one from the Palestinian perspective.”

Just as President Obama wanted to make his mark with the Iranian nuclear deal, so too would President Trump want to do what no world leader has been able to truly accomplish in history: a negotiated and firm peace in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be a crowning achievement if that was the only thing in his legacy. It would be truly historic.

Of course, most experts on Middle East affairs agree that there’s no chance for such a deal or a lasting peace without a two-state solution on the table, which is almost certainly what the Trump administration is going to push on Israel. The left in the Jewish state seem amicable to the idea, but conservatives are generally opposed. Doing so would weaken them militarily, forcing them to cover areas they currently control and bringing the potential for attacks against Israel nearly impossible to repel.

It’s the hope of any American leader to bring peace to the Middle East because it’s never been done before. Unfortunately, the path to peace is one that would eventually be covered with Israeli blood. That’s the nature of the hatred towards the Jews.

 


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Losers all around: Untangling the border bill that benefits literally zero Americans

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Losers all around Untangling the border bill that benefits literally zero Americans

The Senate and House just put a bill on the President’s desk that he intends to sign. This bill will keep the government funded for most of the year and has many components worth discussing within its 1200 pages. For this discussion, let’s look specifically at the border security components because there seems to be losers across the board without a single winner in sight… at least not from this country.

First, let’s look at the two parties.

Democrats lose the political clout that would have come from a bipartisan agreement to fund the border wall. While most on the left see it as a win that they were able to put together a bill that snuck in so many atrocious immigration loopholes (which we’ll cover below), those loopholes will be used to demonstrate how bad their border policy really is.

But it would all be worth it to them if the wall never got built, at least politically speaking for 2020. The wall is President Trump’s post-midterm achievement if he can get a good chunk of it built, so stopping him from doing so would have been a win. There’s still a chance it can be a win for the Democrats if the White House doesn’t play their cards right. The national emergency declaration may or may not get the wall started before the election, so they’ll need to invoke 10 U.S.C. 284 to get it going sooner rather than later.

Of course, the biggest loss for Democrats is their own policies. It may not have the immediate negative impact necessary to affect them in 2020, but it will have a negative impact nonetheless. As drug cartels and criminal illegal immigrants benefit from the insane policies they put in the bill, the only defense the Democrats will have is that a majority of Republicans backed it as well.

Republicans lose because this deal demonstrates their weakness. They were too weak to fight the border wall battle when they had control of the House, Senate, and White House simultaneously. There’s no reason to expect them to have grown a backbone since the midterms, and this bill proves they did not.

They folded on the border wall dollars. They folded on the restrictions placed on the border wall itself. They folded on the number of beds set aside for detained illegal immigrants. They folded on the allowance of what can only be construed as amnesty for future illegal border crossing unaccompanied minor sponsors (it’s a mouthful, but we’ll get into those protections a bit later).

In short, they folded on nearly everything and put the President in a position where his only viable option was to declare the national emergency. Sadly, it means the GOP not only accomplished nothing since the shutdown began, but also demonstrated the shutdown could have easily been avoided by simply caving then instead of waiting two months to cave.

Now, let’s look at everyone other than the parties themselves.

President Trump loses because this deal makes the shutdown look meaningless. It also exposes him to the wrath of conservatives who are both unhappy with the deal itself and infuriated by the massive overreach the national emergency declaration represents.

The only possible way for him to make it out of this mess with chances still intact for a reelection win are if three very specific things happen:

  1. He has to get a good chunk of the wall built before the election.
  2. Crime and illegal immigration numbers must go down before the election.
  3. Somehow, the negative components of this deal cannot come back to haunt him, though that seems unlikely at this point because the negatives are so numerous and utterly horrendous.

But the worst loss of all for the President is that it will be very hard for him to spin the use of a national emergency and creative appropriations to build a wall when he said literally hundreds of times that Mexico was going to pay for it. Yes, this catchy line helped him win the primaries and possibly even the general election, but it’s turning into such an inaccurate campaign promise that it can’t even be called a broken promise anymore. At this point, it appears to be a bald-faced campaign lie.

Most of all, the American people lose, This will be demonstrated on so many levels over the next couple of years that it will be hard to keep track of every instance that this bill makes us less safe, wastes our money, steals from our prosperity potential, and undercuts our sovereignty.

I’ll let Twitter explain this even further:

And the winner is…

Drug cartels, criminal illegal immigrants, and anyone willing and able to take advantage of Washington DC’s stupidity are the only winners from the border omnibus deal. National emergency declarations cannot take away from how bad this is. In fact, it may make it worse.

 


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Foreign Affairs

As Benjamin Netanyahu meets with world leaders, focus centers on Iran in Syria

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As Benjamin Netanyahu meets with world leaders, focus centers on Iran in Syria

The threat represented by Iran in the war-torn nation of Syria manifests in multiple ways. Other Middle Eastern nations are concerned that if Iran’s military is allowed to get entrenched in Syria, they will have too much direct access to the region in ways that threaten the peace. The United States and western allies are concerned that exerting control over the Syrian regime will turn them into a puppet state that will not solve the problems faced by the Syrian people.

Meanwhile, Israel faces the greatest threat as the nation that wants to wipe them off the map would be next door neighbors if they continue to fortify themselves in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows this all too well and has not been shy about expressing these views to the world. In fact, he did it today in meetings with 60 world leaders and followed up by sharing his perspectives on Twitter.

Iran is not Israel’s problem alone. They are a problem for all freedom-loving countries in the region as well as powers throughout Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. Israel needs our support as well as the support of others who realize the threat Iran poses to us all.

 


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