The US has turned inward. The nooze has become a high-caloried stream of confectionary nonsense from Washingtoon, spiced up with genuine budgetary horrors. The diversions keep coming, keeping everyone’s attention away from the real stories – possible treason and a lot of incompetence.
Meanwhile, Syria has become significantly more dangerous. In the very near future it’s reasonable that the situation will demand genuine leadership and careful negotiation. Given that this is nearly impossible, based on the narcissistic machismo which substitutes for leadership on nearly all sides, the potential for something even more horrible is rising daily.
But it’s hardly being reported at all.
It’s important to start with a primer on the players involved in this horrific mess, which Barataria presented last August. At that time, it looked as though Da’esh, aka ISIS, was about to fall at any moment. The battle has taken longer to wind down, largely due to increasing complexity. But make no mistake – Da’esh is going to be defeated.
That’s when things will only get worse. Let’s start with this map from the excellent source for all news on the region, the livemap:
Since we first reported on this, several things have happened – all of them dangerous.
Turkey became angry with the Kurdish SDF, which had been told to not cross the Euphrates river – the blue squiggle entering the map from the North in the middle. The success of the SDF, in yellow, West of the Euphrates caused the Turkish Army to invade Syria in November. Their excuse was that they planned to cut off Da’esh, in grey, but they were really securing their seat at the peace table. By claiming territory in Syria, they hope to be able to dictate that the future of that nation does not involve Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian Army, in red, responded by cutting off the Turkish Army from ever reaching Da’esh, hoping to make their own claim to the territory. Rather than engage Syria directly, Turkey turned on the SDF, who had been an ally against Da’esh, and took the area in orange between them. They stopped fighting after a short time, however, so it’s not clear where any of this is going.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish SDF made great progress against the Da’esh capital of Ar-Raqqah, shown to the right of this map. They opened up two solid fronts to the East and especially to the North, where they hold a major road just a few kilometers from the city.
Then, this week, they opened a third front by crossing the Euphrates yet again – this time, with the assistance of the US Marines with helicopters and rafts. This new front not only surprised Da’esh, but it cut off the Syrian Army from rushing in to claim their spoils. The government which once denied Turkey has now been denied itself.
This leaves us in a situation where the US backed SDF is likely to be the clear victor in the area and will be a major player without any doubt.
To add to the confusion, Russia has been engaging with more and more ground troops all the time. Their losses have reportedly been very heavy. It appears that Putin is beginning to see Syria as a quagmire that he needs to extract himself from as well. As all this was going on, Russia for the first time started insisting that the SDF deserved a place at the long stalled peace talks.
If you look at the map above, you can see that the major players all have troops within just a few kilometers of each other. The exact placement of Russians is not known, but they are certainly intermixed with the Syrian army in all red locations on the map. The armies of four governments are within shooting distance of each other.
What will the US position be after Da’esh is defeated? Given our support for the Kurds it’s hard to see how we can possibly stab them in the back once again. But backing their ambitions for an independent nation would certainly redraw the map in many ways, cutting off a solid 1/3 of Iraq as the Kurdish autonomous region joins up with their Syrian brothers and sisters.
This leaves open the question of Turkish Kurds, which is to say that Turkey will see it as an immediate threat. This critical NATO partner in the region, already prone to freelancing their own imperialistic ambitions, will have to go it alone. Then again, their most natural enemy is Russia, which has been closer to Iran every day through this whole conflict.
Does it get any messier? The short answer is that Syria has consistently become worse in every way possible with every passing day. Something nasty has to come of this one way or the other.