“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Turkey has lost the Syrian war to Russia and Iran, and might as well suck it up

What Is Trump’s Mission in Syria?

Posted on Mar 10, 2017
By Juan Cole / Informed Comment

The US had about 500 troops embedded with the People’s Protection Units (Kurdish acronym YPG) until this week, when another 400 were deployed, along with heavy artillery. It is rumored in the Arabic press that yet more troops, perhaps as many as 2000, will soon be deployed to Syria.

Why is the Trump administration doubling down on US military involvement with Syria?

As the Mosul campaign in neighboring Iraq proceeds apace, Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) fighters are fleeing to Raqqa and other areas in Syria, from which they could regroup to fend off the US-backed coalition. Iraqi prime minister Haydar al-Abadi is promising hot pursuit, with the Iraqi military and Air Force hitting Daesh on the Syrian side of the border (they assert that Syrian strong man Bashar al-Assad has given them permission for these cross-border incursions.

At the same time, there is a dispute on the Syrian side about which forces will be taking al-Raqqa, the capital of the collapsing Daesh “caliphate.” Turkey would like it to be its own proteges, Arab militias with a tilt toward Muslim fundamentalism. 

The Obama Pentagon under Ash Carter had developed a plan to back the leftist Kurdish militia, the YPG along with a few of its Arab allies, in taking Raqqa.
That plan still appears to be the Pentagon favorite, but it has gotten enormous pressure from Turkey not to follow through. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization tightly linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and worries that if it secedes from Syria that act will encourage separatism among Turkish Kurds.

My guess is that Trump is sending a Marines artillery unit so as to bring heavy weaponry to the battlefield against Daesh. Having the Americans handle this weaponry avoids a raging back and forth with Turkey about the propriety of giving heavy weapons to the Kurdistan militias or YPG.

If so, this deployment is political more than it is military. US commanders are talking about staying in the region after Daesh is defeated to pacify it.

These are a whole series of  Very Bad Ideas. If any number of US troops are killed, that could been seen as requiring US reprisals and a troop escalation.

US Marines shouldn’t be put in harm’s way in an attempt to make Turkey less angry. The Kurds already have much of al-Raqqa province and if they take the city from Daesh, it won’t make them more or less militant about separatism. Turkey has lost the Syrian war to Russia and Iran, and might as well suck it up.



  1. Donald Trump’s decision to deploy hundreds of US marines in northern Syria last week has received surprisingly little attention. The deployment pitches relatively inexperienced American soldiers into the middle of a highly toxic, multi-fronted battlefield that includes combat-tested Kurdish militias, Syrian army troops, anti-regime fighters and Russian, Iranian and Turkish forces.

    The Trump administration says the aim is to defeat Islamic State (Isis) by assisting in the capture of the terrorists’ HQ in Raqqa. This forthcoming campaign is seen as complementary to the ongoing siege of Isis-held Mosul, in northern Iraq.

    The defeat of Isis is plainly highly desirable and the international effort to do so is slowly coming to a head. Growing fears in Britain and Europe about the threat posed by returning Isis terrorist recruits are evidence of the belief in western capitals that this vile organisation and its fatuous caliphate will soon be dislodged from its principal strongholds.

    But the simplistic idea, promulgated by Trump, that Isis and its warped jihadi ideology can be annihilated by force is foolish and naive. More dangerous still is Trump’s apparent belief that the US can focus solely on Isis while ignoring bigger questions about Syria’s future. In the space of a few chaotic weeks, Trump has overturned eight years of Barack Obama’s cautious policy towards Syria. Unlike Iraq, where Washington is co-operating with a mostly friendly government, the US faces the hostility of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, whose removal it still officially seeks.

    The US marines and special operations forces, totalling nearly 1,000, are vulnerable to attack by larger groups more accustomed to the terrain. The dire consequences, should a US soldier be taken hostage by Isis, can only be imagined. At the same time, ostensible US allies, such as Turkey, cannot be relied upon, while Russia and Iran, Assad’s main backers, have no interest in ceding ground and influence.


    1. {...}

      The key, longer-term struggle is not over the fate of Isis, but the political control and territorial integrity of northern Syria and, by extension, Iraq. All the key players have differing interests. Assad wants his country back, whole and entire. Turkey wants a border “safe zone” under its control, principally to curb autonomy aspirations among US-allied Syrian Kurds. For their part, the Kurds want to be free of Damascus’s yoke and some would like to join forces with the self-governing Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq, a prospect Ankara views as an existential threat, given its own large, disaffected Kurdish population.

      Whatever Trump thinks about a new era in relations with Moscow, Russia, the real military power in the air and on the ground in Syria, will not help. It wants to minimise American leverage, in line with Vladimir Putin’s bid to project Moscow’s influence across the Middle East and Afghanistan.

      This objective underlay last week’s summit between Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, at which the leaders buried old disagreements over Syria and pledged to work together to defeat terrorism. In Erdoğan’s view, this means the US-backed Syrian Kurds as much, if not more, than Isis. Erdoğan said Russia had agreed to lift all remaining sanctions imposed after Turkey shot down a Russian combat plane over the Syrian border in 2015. On the diplomatic front, meanwhile, Turkey is backing the Russia-Iran “peace plan” for Syria, which sidelines the US and Europe.

      It is easy to forget that Turkey is a Nato member and EU applicant. Openly defying the west and reversing his previous stance, Erdoğan has now, in effect, joined Russia and Iran in supporting Assad. “We are working in full co-operation militarily in Syria. Our chiefs of staff, foreign ministers and intelligence agencies cooperate intensely,” Erdoğan declared in Moscow.

      The unfortunate, but perhaps inevitable, corollary of this Russian-Turkish detente is Ankara’s repeated threat to further reduce security co-operation with the US unless it ditches the Syrian Kurds (which it has so far refused to do). Direct confrontations are thus possible between US and Turkish troops and their respective rival proxies, the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Free Army, whom US troops are tasked with keeping apart in the northern town of Manbij.

      Trump’s Syrian intervention is “fraught with risk”, Robert Ford, former US ambassador to Damascus, told the Washington Post. “It is a huge policy change.” The potential for military escalation or “mission creep”, if and when US ground troops get into trouble, is obvious, vast and worrying. Northern Syria is a quagmire. Trump just jumped straight in.


  2. To understand this, and i don't like it, you need to listen to the last video where Kerry tells how Obama was using ISIS as a pawn against Assad.

    Obama, because of his idiotic nonsense with Clinton and Russia got caught flat footed.

    Trump made a mistake doing this. He should have let the Russians and Syria sort it out.

    No good willl come out of this for the US.

    1. .

      Kerry didn't come right out and say it but it's been obvious since the US entered the Syrian front.

      The US was doing nothing in Syria but flying around dropping the occasional bomb on nothing in particular (well, except for the occasional sleeping position or front-end loader). ISIS was freely financing their 'caliphate' shipping oil to countries all over the ME.

      And the US plan to get Assad out was working. Reports were that Assad was losing territory and men, morale was low, and he was broke.

      Enter Russia.

      Not only did Putin provide a much needed ally to Assad, someone as brutal as himself, with money, arms, and an incentive to win, it reversed the momentum. The only reason the US kick started our efforts was we were embarrassed by the Russian efforts and how they were stripping ISIS of its lifeline by taking out the oil. The only reason we are trying to take Raqqa is so we can save some face, not look like a complete paper tiger, and if possible deprive Russia of at least a little prestige.

      As for Trump's move, it's one more example showing he is a paper suit, all hat and no cattle.

      Just as with everything else, Trump talked big about keeping the US out of further foreign intervention. This move shows that while he indicated he is smarter than the generals, in the end, when push comes to shove he will cave to their recommendations.

      The pattern is clear.

      If you want to move Trump to do what you want, simply tell him if he doesn't do it, he will look weak.

      Drip. Drip. Drip.

      Assad has already called the US force an invasion since it didn't ask permission. Turkey is pissed because we are arming up the YPG



    official statistics from Sweden have revealed only 13 percent of foreigners found guilty of raping children are being deported to their home countries.
    The foreign nationals tried and convicted of some of the most horrific crimes imaginable are being allowed to stay in the country.
    Government figures from 2010 to 2014 reveal even rapists who aren't registered as Swedish residents are not being kicked out of the country.
    It comes just months after five Afghan teenagers were convicted of gang-raping a boy in Sweden - but none of them will be deported because their homeland is 'too dangerous'.

    Read more:
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

    1. .

      There are some crazy laws in Europe. The guy from Tunisia who did the truck attack in Germany faced deportation hearings for priors but he had a few aliases and he denied coming form Tunisia so they held up deporting him until they could verify who he was and where he came from. When they did it was too late.

      Why wasn't the guy put in jail pending results of the investigation?


  4. .

    WASHINGTON — The House intelligence committee asked the executive branch to provide by Monday any evidence to support President Donald Trump's claim that his phones were tapped at Trump Tower during the election, a senior congressional aide said Saturday.

    The request was made in a letter sent by committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., according to the aide, who wasn't authorized to discuss the request by name and requested anonymity.

    In a tweet last weekend, Trump accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of ordering the tap. Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has said that nothing matching Trump's claims had taken place, but that has not quelled speculation that Trump's communications were monitored by the Obama administration. Trump has not provided evidence to support his claim and has asked Congress to investigate.

    Early this week, Schiff said the committee would answer the president's call to investigate the claim. He also said that he would ask FBI Director James Comey directly when he appears later this month before the full committee, which is investigating Russian activities during the election.

    "We should be able to determine in fairly short order whether this allegation is true or false," Schiff told reporters Tuesday evening at the Capitol.

    Nunes has said that so far he has not seen any evidence to back up Trump's claim and has suggested the news media were taking the president's weekend tweets too literally.


    1. .

      From the last stream...

      QuirkSat Mar 11, 11:00:00 PM EST

      Kucinich has an advantage most don't, he can make a good case for standing. That's usually the hurdle no one can get over. The spooks aren't going to admit to their spying. And unless you can prove you personally have been a victim, you won't be granted standing.

      However, even if DK were given his day in court, it likely would do him no good. The days of the physical wiretaps by the NSA are long gone. There is little chance of tracking where the tap came from. Sources and methods don't you know.

      In the end, even if someone admitted to 'intercepting' the call they will simply say they were monitoring the foreign leader which under current laws isn't illegal.

      The same applies to Trump.


  5. Palin slams GOP healthcare plan

    “It would be really helpful if every single one of these politicians would do like the NASCAR drivers do—and it’s been said before—but let them wear their sponsors plastered all over their three-piece suits when they show up so we know what side they’re on and who they’re actually doing their bidding for," she added.

  6. Truckee, CA

    Bar of America on corner to the right.

    1. Captivating....I could watch that for hours....thanks, Doug !

    2. I've seen about 7 trains so far.

      3 or 4 days ago when the snow was piled high everywhere was amazing.
      Guy had a snowblower to keep the Bar of America open.

  7. Rotary Snow Plow Returns to Donner Pass