Syria

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.
 
The US talked about creating a "20 mile safe zone" in Syria, but there were no details as to what this area is.
A few MOAB's would fix it
 
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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Four U.S. troops reported among 16 dead in north Syria attack | Reuters
Four US troops are reportedly killed and three injured in a PB-IED attack in Manbij, claimed by IS:
A U.S. official who declined to be named said four U.S. troops had been killed and three wounded in the blast, which an Islamic State-affiliated site said was the work of a suicide bomber. Others said only two had been killed.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamist militant group said that “U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol”, and that it was still gathering details.

The attack, which took place in the town of Manbij, controlled by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, appears to be the deadliest on U.S. forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said that only two U.S. troops had previously been killed in action in Syria. There were two additional non-combat fatalities.
It appears they targeted the restaurant the US were meeting with members of the Manbij Military Council. Presumably discussing the withdrawal:
A witness in the city said the attack had targeted a restaurant where U.S. personnel were meeting members of the local militia that Washington backs there.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said 16 people had been killed in all, including two Americans. A militia source in north Syria also said two U.S. troops had been killed.

Islamic State later put out a statement saying a Syrian fighter had detonated his explosive vest on a foreign patrol in Manbij.

Two witnesses described the blast to Reuters.

“An explosion hit near a restaurant, targeting the Americans, and there were some forces from the Manbij Military Council with them,” one said.
 
Syria's SDF says it captured two Islamic State militants of American nationality | Reuters
IS defeated? Anyway, the SDF have captured two US, two Pakistani and an Irish citizen fighting for IS according to them:
In the statement dated Jan. 6, 2019, the U.S.-backed SDF alliance, led by the Kurdish YPG militia, said the pair were captured during operations against Islamic State in Deir al-Zor province along with two Pakistanis and an Irish citizen.

On Thursday, the SDF vowed to ramp up attacks on Islamic State remnants and cells, a day after a bomb attack killed four Americans in northern Syria.
 

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