Syria

Syrian surprise: How Trump's phone call changed the war | Reuters
Interesting how the telephone conversation between Trump and Erdogan apparently panned out. Especially with Bolton also reportedly in on the phone call. This is my view on it and others may have a different view.

Basically, it’s reported as Trump rang expected to make a strong response to Erdogan about Tr and their FSA attacking the YPG. Erdogan appears to have fed the ego. Trump says they’ve (coalition and SDF) have pretty much defeated IS. Erdogan saying you have and well done then Trump asking if Erdogan can finish them off if Turkey goes into Syria again, which Erdogan says they can, so Trump says do it.

This has then reportedly led to Tr not being quite ready, presumably thinking of IS in the north and not the ongoing battles round Deir al-Zor. Erdogan probably ready for an incursion into Manbij but do they have the resources to take and hold all of ‘East of the Euphrates’. Let alone finish off IS and fight the Kurds.

This then could lead to ungoverned space with the Kurds going off to fight the Tr sponsored FSA and all previous Turkish incursions have led to a suspension of Ops against IS, due to the YPG content of the SDF. This ‘space’ could again come under assault by Assad’s forces unless a deal by the SDF and Damascus can be reached.

Ongoing discussions between Tr, Assad’s govt and Russia. In the meantime, we know what Mattis and McGurk think of Trump’s COA, hence their resignations.

Nothing also seems to be happening in the south re the base near al-Tanf. Whether the US also withdraws from there or not.

Meanwhile, Trump’s visit and where he wanted to hold any meeting seems to have also upset the Iraqi’s, who say the US should leave Iraq. So the gist of the telephone conversation and subsequent actions it appears that any idea of curtailing Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq could stop.

Interesting times ....

I recommend reading the article for your own view.
 
Erdogan says Turkey has no business in Syria's Manbij if YPG militia leaves | Reuters
Erdogan saying there’s no point in Tr forces entering Manbij if the YPG leave:
“In the current situation, we are still supporting the integrity of Syrian soil. These areas belong to Syria. Once the terrorist organizations leave the area, we will have nothing left to do there,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

He says it’s not about the territory, just the YPG:
“It’s not just about Manbij, we are aiming to wipe out all terrorist organizations in the region. Our main target is that the YPG takes the necessary lesson here,” Erdogan said.

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels move toward Manbij front: rebel | Reuters
Meanwhile Tr sponsored FSA are moving towards Manbij:
The main Turkey-backed Syrian rebel force said on Friday that its convoys, along with Turkish forces, were moving toward the frontlines with the Syrian town of Manbij, in “full readiness... to start military operations to liberate” the town.

Earlier, the Syrian army said it had deployed forces to Manbij after the Kurdish YPG militia urged Damascus to protect the town from a possible Turkish assault. Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group and a threat to its own territory.
 
So POTUS, is this going as per your bigly clever plan?

'Tensions are rising around Manbij, with Turkey moving its forces up and the Syrian army on the outskirts, while US troops and the Kurds remain in the town.'

Turkey threat to Manbij, US army stays put

'Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is warning of a “major disaster” if Syrian Kurdish forces align with President Bashar Assad following President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. “If reports accurate about Kurds aligning with Assad, major disaster in the making,” Graham tweeted Friday. “Nightmare for Turkey and eventually Israel. Big winners are Russia, Iran/Assad & ISIS.” '

Graham: Syrian Kurds aligning with Assad would be 'major disaster'
 
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Not really unexpected, what choice do they have really?

Syria’s Kurds, Feeling Betrayed by the U.S., Ask Assad Government for Protection

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Feeling betrayed by the United States, its Kurdish allies in Syria asked the Syrian government on Friday to protect them from possible attack by Turkey.

The request surprised some American officials and could help open the way for the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia and Iran, to start retaking the Kurdish-held part of the country near Turkey’s border.

That would be a big step toward Mr. Assad’s goal of reclaiming all of Syria, upended by almost eight years of war.
 
According to an influential US senator, the US is slowing down their pull out from Syria.
Trump slowing down U.S. troop pullout from Syria, key Republican senator says | CBC News
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered a slowdown to the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday.
"I think we're in a pause situation," the South Carolina Republican said outside the White House after lunch with the president.
He was also clear that one of the reasons US troops will be remaining in Syria has nothing to do with IS and everything to do with the US policy in opposition to Iran and in support of Israel.
"I'm going to ask him to sit down with his generals and reconsider how to do this. Slow this down. Make sure that we get it right. Make sure ISIS never comes back. Don't turn Syria over to the Iranians. That's a nightmare for Israel," Graham said.
 
Kurdish fighters pull out of flashpoint town: Syria's defense ministry | Reuters
Sy state tv reporting 400 Kurd fighters (presumably YPG element of the SDF) are leaving Manbij and it looks like Assad’s govt will be in control, hence the ‘....return of normal life to the area of northern Syria’ statement:
“According to information, approximately 400 Kurdish fighters have left Manbij so far,” the Syrian defense ministry said. Their departure was in line with an agreement “for the return of normal life to the area of northern Syria,” it said.
Nothing yet from the YPG or the SDF confirming or denying.
 
Jeremy Hunt admits Assad will be in power 'for a while' due to Russian support
Hunt talks about ‘the new reality’:
During a three-day trip to Asia, Mr Hunt told Sky News: "I think you know the British long-standing position is that we won't have lasting peace in Syria with that regime. But regretfully we do think he's going to be around for a while and that is because of the support that he's had from Russia.

"Russia may think that it's gained a sphere of influence. What we would say to them is: Yes - and you've also gained a responsibility.

"If you're going to be involved in Syria then you need to make sure that there really is peace in Syria. And that means making sure that President Assad does not use chemical weapons on his own people
 
Just gossip so far...
 
Turkish president Erdogan said there will be "no concessions" with respect to Turkey's push into Syria. Erdogan says Turkey won't make 'concessions' to U.S. on Kurdish fighters in Syria | CBC News
A senior U.S. official trying to negotiate the safety of Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria was apparently rebuffed by Turkey's president, who said Tuesday there would be "no concession" in Ankara's push against what he describes as terror groups in the war-torn country.
US official John Bolton met with Turkish officials in Ankara, but got no assurances from them with respect to US demands to lay off the Kurdish rebels.
White House national security adviser John Bolton met for roughly two hours with his Turkish counterpart, Ibrahim Kalin, and other senior officials at Ankara's presidency complex, but got no assurances on the safety of Syrian Kurdish allies — a condition for President Donald Trump's planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.
Erdogan also said that Turkish preparations for a new offensive into Syria are now largely complete.
Shortly after Bolton's meetings and in an apparent snub to the U.S. diplomatic push, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara's preparations for a new military offensive against terror groups in Syria are "to a large extent" complete.
Statements from the PYD Kurds appear to imply they intend to confront the Turks.
Shahoz Hasan, co-chair of the largest Kurdish group in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said it was clear from Ankara's latest statements that Turkey has a plan to go ahead with the offensive in Syria, but added "we will be ready."
The US has been making contradictory statements with regards to their plans in Syria and it's not clear how this will work out.
 
U.S.-led coalition says has started Syria withdrawal | Reuters
Looks like the entire coalition, not just the US is withdrawing from Syria. Presumably this means not just forces east of the Euphrates supporting the SDF, but also those forces in and around al Tanf. In view of the mixed messages coming from Trump, Bolton and Pompeo recently, it's refreshing to hear something you can actually pin some evidence on:
The coalition “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria. Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements,” Colonel Sean Ryan said.

Washington’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria fear the withdrawal will open the way for Turkey to mount a long-threatened offensive against their area. Turkey views the dominant Syrian Kurdish groups as a national security threat.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting the Kurds would be a pre-condition of the U.S. withdrawal, drawing a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who called his comments “a serious mistake”.

But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday the withdrawal would not be scuppered despite the Turkish threats.
 
Trump has threatened to "devastate Turkey economically" if they attack Kurdish militia in Syria. Trump vows to 'devastate Turkey economically' if it attacks Syrian Kurd militia | CBC News
U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria, weakening the Turkish lira and prompting sharp criticism from Ankara on Monday.
The Turks responded that the PYD/YPG are part of the PKK, and the US has recognised the PKK as being terrorists and that Turkey "will continue its anti-terror fight decisively".
Turkey's presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, said Trump should respect Washington's alliance with Ankara.

"Mr @realDonaldTrump It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG," Kalin wrote on Twitter.

(...) Erdogan's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said "Turkey will continue its anti-terror fight decisively" and it was a protector of the Kurds, not their enemy.
"Terror is terror and it must be eradicated at its source. This is exactly what Turkey is doing in Syria," he wrote on Twitter.
The US talked about creating a "20 mile safe zone" in Syria, but there were no details as to what this area is.
 
Some diplomatic moves happened the last days of 2018
Bahrain says it will reopen embassy in Damascus, after UAE restores mission
Bahrain announced on Thursday that it will restore its diplomatic mission to Syria, only hours after the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus.
The move also suggests that Gulf states are seeking to offset growing Iranian and Turkish influence in Syria by reinstating diplomatic ties.
According to some sources...
REVEALED: How Gulf states hatched plan with Israel to rehabilitate Assad
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have hatched a plan with Israel to welcome Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab League to marginalise the regional influence of Turkey and Iran, Middle East Eye can exclusively reveal.
They are interesting rumours.
The diplomatic initiative was agreed at a secret meeting held in a Gulf capital last month which was attended by senior intelligence officials from the four countries including Yossi Cohen, the director of Mossad, Gulf sources with knowledge of the meeting have told MEE.
The officials also agreed at the meeting that they considered Turkey, rather than Iran, to be their major military rival in the region, and discussed plans to counter Ankara’s influence.
The Israelis told the meeting that Iran could be contained militarily, but that Turkey had a far greater capability. In the meeting Cohen is reported to have said: “Iranian power is fragile. The real threat comes from Turkey."
Remarkably the USA and Russia are not mentioned as they are 'insignificant' from military point of view.
To tackle these issues, those present at the meeting agreed four measures.
The first was to help Trump in his efforts to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan
The second measure was “to control the Sunni card” in Iraq, by which was meant efforts to minimise the influence of Turkey among the Alliance of the National Axis, the largest parliamentary bloc of Sunni Iraqi deputies.
The third measure discussed was a diplomatic initiative to restore full diplomatic relations between the three Arab states and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Was it 'wholeheartedly' supported by Mossad representative? Maybe Israel also will restore diplomatic relations with Syria?
The fourth measure agreed on at the meeting was to support Syria’s Kurds against Turkey’s attempts to expel the YPG and its political counterpart, the PYD, from the Turkish border right up to the Iraqi border.
 
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