Syria: Turks in rectangle between Ras al-Ayn and Tal-Abyad

Even token numbers of Syrian troops in cities like Manbij and Kobani close to the Euphrates, and Qamishli and Hasakah close to the Iraqi border, will leave Turkish soldiers and allied Arab militiamen confined to a rectangle of territory between the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal-Abyad, possibly extending 20 miles south to the M4 highway – which is the strategic spine of Rojava. Patrick Cockburn specialises in analysis of Iraq, Syria and wars in the Middle East.

[October 14 2019   SDF in “tactical retreat”   ]

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[October 12 2019]
sdf outposts
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Marvan Qamishlo, an SDF military media official, said Turkish-backed forces had entered the town’s industrial district following hours of heavy Turkish shelling that had forced the SDF into a “tactical retreat” from that area.

“Now the SDF’s attack has started and there are very fierce clashes now,” he told Reuters. “The clashes are continuing in the industrial district,” he said, saying this was the part of Ras al Ain closest to the Turkish border.

In response, the senior Turkish official said fighting was going on in “two small areas” of Ras al Ain but added that “nearly all” YPG forces had fled to the south. Turkish artillery continued to bombard parts of the town.

[October 9 2019   SDF withdraws from Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain   ]

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Smoke rises from an explosion in the border town of Tel Abyad, Syria, as seen from Akcakale, Turkey, October 9, 2019

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People stand at the back of a truck as they flee Ras al Ain town, Syria, October 9, 2019. Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies attacked Kurdish militia in northeast Syria pounding them with air strikes and artillery before launching a cross-border ground operation

Screenshot 2019-10-09 at 10.37.44 PM - Edited

[September 8 2019 U.S. withdraws from Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain   ]

3:29 pm The president when he learned about the potential Turkish invasion, knowing that we have 50 special operations troops in the region, made the decision to protect those troops” by pulling them back, the official said

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that Sunday’s announcement did not constitute a full U.S. withdrawal from Syria and that only 50 to 100 U.S. special operations forces were moving to other locations in Syria.

The official explained that Trump’s decision to move the special operators out of the zone of a potential Turkish operation was done to protect troops and keep them out of the crossfire.

Those troops are moving to more secure areas over the next several days, the official said.

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A U.S. official said American troops had withdrawn from two observation posts on the border, at Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain, and had told the commander of the SDF that the United States would not defend the SDF from an imminent Turkish offensive.

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Libya: when the music stops



The former AFRICOM commander said in February that the U.S. has maintained lines of communications with Gen. Khalifa Hifter throughout Libya’s civil war, and added that the Russians have also tried to revive Gadhafi-era weapons sales and oil contracts in the country through Hifter.

“Like others, when the music stops, they want to be able to influence whoever, you know, finds the seat, whoever wins,” said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, who relinquished control of AFRICOM to Townsend this summer.

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Tunisia: Kais Saied wins presidency


Conservative law professor Kais Saied has overwhelmingly won the North African country’s presidential election


[  Parliamentary elections   ]

The prime minister will be picked by the parliament that was elected last Sunday.  Although the president has fewer powers than a prime minister the post is still Tunisia’s most senior directly elected official with wide political influence.

The Ennahda party seemed set to face massive loses but stay the strongest party in Tunisia after the October 6 2019 vote, according to exit polls. It follows the first round of a presidential election that garnered much greater public attention. The presidential vote ended inconclusively, forcing a runoff on October 13.

[September 19 2019 ]

A Tunisian court has turned down a request to release jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, who, along with academic Kais Saied, has advanced to a runoff in Tunisia’s presidential election. “The judge has refused to give a ruling, saying it was not in his jurisdiction,” “We will appeal,” he added. The court did not respond to requests for confirmation.

[September 17 2019]
Official results in Tunisia’s presidential election confirmed a duel in the second round of voting between law professor Kais Saied and imprisoned media mogul Nabil Karoui.

[September 16 2019]
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In July 2019, Tunisia’s first democratically elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi, died, pushing the presidential elections up from November to September. Kais Said and Nabil Karoui say exit polls show they’ve made it to runoff, with preliminary results due on Tuesday. Nabil Karoui presents himself as a champion of the poor and a scourge of government, while his critics describe him as a populist. Kais Saied described his lead as “like a new revolution” in a radio interview, a reference to Tunisia’s 2011 uprising that brought in democracy and set off the Arab Spring revolts elsewhere. Also in the first round was Abdelfattah Mourou, heading a first-time bid for Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha.

[July 3 2019 Tunis: bombs: Body parts were strewn ]

Aymen Smiri died when explosives he was carrying detonated and killed on July 1 2019,

Interior Ministry spokesman Sofiene Zaag told Tunisian radio that police had been hunting for the 23-year-old Smiri, who he described as the “brain” behind the June 27 attacks.

The bombings killed a police officer and injured eight people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility

[June 27 2019]

tunis bomb

Two suicide blasts rocked the Tunisian capital on June 27 2019 killing at least one police officer and wounding several people.

The first blast involved a suicide bomber who targeted a police patrol on Tunis’ central Charles de Gaulle street, not far from the French embassy.

One police officer was killed, while another was injured, according to the interior ministry. Three civilians were also wounded.

Body parts were strewn on the road around the police car,

[May 2 2019 Square one: Tunisia in trouble ]

Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, lefi

TUNIS (Reuters) – Fuel distribution workers in Tunisia began a three-day strike on May 2 2019 to demand higher wages, leading to long queues and empty pumps at petrol stations across the North African nation. Tunisians have complained about a decline of state services since Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown in 2011. The uprising to topple the autocrat heralded a democratic transition but the associated turmoil also led to an economic crisis.

The government is facing rising public demands for more pay as price rise, with inflation at about 7 percent. It is also contending with pressure from international lenders to cut the public wage bill and other spending to shore up state finances. “All services have gone down, we have become like a country where there is a war – no fuel, no medicines, no milk.”

Tunisia raised the minimum wage for industrial and farm workers, as well as pensions for hundreds of thousands of private-sector retirees, by 6.5 percent on May 1 2019, a move aimed at defusing discontent about economic hardship.

Saber Hamrouni  met Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at his residence in Jeddah on two occasions in January and April 2018.   “Ben Ali informed me that he made a mistake in 2011, when the Tunisian revolution broke out. This was not being honest with the Tunisian people about his relatives’ crimes. He wished he had been honest with the Tunisian people since his first speech rather than the third,” claimed Saber Hamrouni.

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Brig. Gen.Ben Ali in Saudi 2018

There is now a danger that the second wave of popular protest in the region may also be heavily influenced by external players.
Factors that are shaping the contemporary Middle East include the growing role of the Saudis who, along with their Gulf allies, are waging a multi-front battle for influence against Qatar and especially Turkey. This regional rivalry is to a large extent both facilitated and explained by the notable absence of the US as a serious diplomatic actor

The Saudis have to a considerable extent seized and held the diplomatic initiative.

They and the UAE have pitched in with financial aid, and Riyadh’s ally, Egypt, has played a role in deploying its diplomatic muscle at the African Union.
While the Saudis appear to be backing the country’s generals, Turkey and Qatar are more closely aligned with Islamists.

It should be clearly stated that none of these external parties are much interested in the voices of popular protest on the ground. .
What you have are effectively two “brands” of authoritarianism which are attempting to push their supporters into positions where they can influence the future. Jonathan Marcus excerpt

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Yemen: pact to end the Aden standoff


Saudi forces took control of Aden after Emirati troops withdrew. The move seemingly paved the way for ending the crisis that had exposed differences between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi over how to proceed in the wider war that has been in military stalemate for years.   The pact to end the Aden standoff would be signed in Riyadh on October 17 2019.   The two sides fell out in August, with the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transition Council seizing control of Aden.

[August 11 2019   no military solution   ]

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Members of UAE-backed southern Yemeni separatist forces shout slogans as they patrol a road during clashes with government forces in Aden, Yemen August 10, 2019.

The UAE scaled down its presence in Yemen because the UAE accepted there could be no military solution due to global criticism of coalition air strikes that have killed civilians and the humanitarian crisis.
Separatists, who want to split from the north and are backed by the United Arab Emirates, effectively seized Aden by taking over the government’s military bases on August 10 2019. This is not the first separatist uprising.    They seized Aden in January 2018.    North and South Yemen united into a single state in 1990.   The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Recruiting separate militias across the south … was always playing with fire.” said Elisabeth Kendall of Oxford University.


[July 11 2019   UAE drawdown   ]

uae howitzer

An Emirati G6 self-propelled howitzer

A UAE official confirmed the drawdown to journalists in an 8 July briefing in Dubai but denied it was prompted by the Iran situation, The Emiratis are withdrawing their forces at a scale and speed that all but rules out further ground advances, a belated recognition that a grinding war that has killed thousands of civilians and turned Yemen into a humanitarian disaster is no longer winnable.

[April 4 2019   War Powers resolution against Yemen war goes to President   ]

May 2, 2019 – The U.S. Senate on Thursday sustained President Donald Trump’s veto of a resolution

The Senate voted March 13 2019 to curtail US military support for a Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has created a humanitarian crisis in that country, a vote seen as a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s Middle East policies. The vote was 54 to 46 with seven Republicans voting with Democrats.
The April 4 2019 247-175 vote in the House marks the first time in history that a War Powers resolution will reach the president’s desk. Some Republicans have viewed the Yemen War Powers resolution as a way to send a message to Trump about his handling of Khashoggi’s grisly October 2018 murder.

Congress hereby directs the President to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen, except United States Armed Forces engaged in operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces,

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Manbij Syria: Turks arrive


Syrian television broadcast footage of what it said was government troops entering Manbij, west of the Euphrates river, on October 15 2019. The troops that had entered were mostly Kurdish fighters now allied to the government. A resident inside the city told Reuters the Syrian troops were on its outskirts.
Trump said U.S. troops would remain at a small garrison at Tanf in southern Syria “to continue to disrupt remnants” of Islamic State. But the base would do little to support operations elsewhere in the country.

An international alliance of counterterrorism forces, including French and British soldiers, announced October 15 2019 they would also depart after the American withdrawal.

[January 20 2019 cannot allow ISIS to gain momentum ]

“We still have enormous reach there,” Pompeo said. “We have the capability to do this. And most importantly, we have the direction from the commander, President Trump, to continue this fight. And even as we sit here today, even as we’re sitting in this room, the campaign in Syria against ISIS continues.”


Jonathan R. Farmer, green beret


Shannon M. Kent

Pentagon has named three of the Manbij dead as Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Fla.; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, of Upstate New York; and Defense Department civilian Scott A. Wirtz of St. Louis. Farmer was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Fort Campbell, Ky. Kent was assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66, based at Fort Meade, Md. And Wirtz was an operations support specialist with the Defense Intelligence Agency.

[June 6 2018]
shafah syria

The plans for Manbij could be implemented before the end of the summer, U.S. and Turkish forces would control the region until a new administration was formed. Cavusoglu told broadcaster AHaber May 30, 2018

On May 30, near Sha’fah, which is north of Abu Kamal, one Coalition strike engaged one Daesh tactical unit and destroyed two Daesh vehicles.

[May 31]

We don’t have any agreements yet with the Government of Turkey…. We’re continuing to have ongoing conversations regarding Syria and other issues of mutual concern.

The two sides then had outlined the contours of a roadmap for further cooperation, and that includes on Manbij. I know that the Secretary looks forward to hosting Foreign Minister Cavusoglu on June 4th here in Washington for those conversations to continue. Heather Nauert State Department Press Briefing May 29 2018

Turkey has plans to buy more than 100 of the F-35 jets and the Pentagon last year awarded Lockheed $3.7 billion in an interim payment for the production of 50 of the aircraft earmarked for non-U.S. customers, including Ankara.    General elections are scheduled to occur throughout Turkey on 24 June 2018. Originally due on 3 November 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the vote was being brought forward on 18 April 2018

[April 10]


An XM905 Advanced Mortar Protection System being set up in Manbij, Syria, April 4 2018.

AMPS is a dismounted 120mm mortar system. The system has a recoil design, which reduces shock and improves accuracy, according to the Army. It also has an electric drive system, providing a 360-degree firing range, and allows for computerized laying of the cannon’s azimuth and elevation.

All of this makes the system “capable of providing an accurate solution when emplaced on a sloped terrain,” according to the Army.   The build-up comes days after an American and a British operator were killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting a mission in an urban area of Manbij on March 29.   During that same incident, five other coalition troops were wounded.

The coalition forces were conducting a raid to kill or capture a known member of the Islamic State.

[April 5]

A U.S. soldier sits on an armored vehicle behind a sand barrier at a newly installed position near the tense front line in Manbij, north Syria, Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The U.S. is building two military bases in the region of Manbij west of the Euphrates River, which is under the control of the Kurdish People’s Defense Unit (YPG), reports the Turkish news agency Anadolu.

On Wednesday April 4, there was a growing fortified position with a perimeter of large sand barriers and barbed wire, a new watch tower and a half-dozen armored vehicles.

Even as U.S. President Donald Trump spoke of pulling out of Syria “very soon,” an Associated Press team saw American forces setting up front-line positions west of the Euphrates River.

[April 4]

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State Brett McGurk noted the role both American military and diplomatic assets had played in staving off violence between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish allies of the United States. “It’s incredibly complex,” McGurk said, “But we have to work through this diplomatically with our NATO allies and reassure our partners on the ground in Manbij.”

Currently, the United States has roughly 2,000 soldiers in Syria, and along with regional allies, has taken back more than 90 percent of the territory formerly held by the militant group.

[more] US Army Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Austin, Texas, was assigned to the headquarters of US Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina

[more]Sergeant Matt Tonroe, from the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, died in an improvised explosive device blast on Thursday March 29 while embedded with US forces.

A US and a British service member in the US-led coalition battling ISIL were killed by an improvised explosive device in Manbij, Syria, US and British officials said on Friday, March 30.

They are the first coalition service members to be killed or wounded in an attack this year.


March 6 2017

Army Col. Robert Manning III said, referring to advances into Syria by Turkish forces.   The United States is not involved in the movement of forces of either side, he said, but U.S. officials are very concerned about the effect that fighting there has had on its defeat-ISIS efforts. The United States would like to see an end to the hostilities before ISIS has the opportunity to regroup in eastern Syria, Manning said.   “We cannot allow ISIS to gain momentum at this critical point,” he stressed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin: “Pompeo is not informed on the issues, so it will cost us 1-2 weeks, but we will continue working on this.”

[March 17 State – we’re not done talking ]

QUESTION: — working group meetings between Turkish and U.S. officials, and yesterday, I believe, Turkish foreign minister stated that Turkey and U.S. agreed on Manbij, that the Syrian Kurdish fighters, YPG, are going to leave the city. Is that your understanding?

MS NAUERT: It is not our understanding. We have a lot of conversations that we’re having with the Turkish Government at this point. We had a day and a half or a day worth of meetings last week with Turkish Government officials. We’re still working to reach an agreement with Turkey at this point and we’re not done talking with them.
Heather Nauert, , Spokesperson, State Department Press Briefing, Washington, DC,March 15, 2018

[March 2 U.S.ashamed to abandon Kurds? ]

Vast territories to the east of the Euphrates have been captured by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) with US air support from Isis since 2015. 30 per cent of Syria is now held by the Kurds.
Probably, the US will stick with the Kurds because it would be ashamed, at least in the short term, to abandon them. Doing so too swiftly would also deter other potential US allies in the Middle East who might fear a similar fate.

[February 23 Manbij Syria:Pentagon has designated funding for the SDF separately]

“The reason for us to base soldiers in Manbij is to ensure that the town remains under the control of our partners,” said Rex Tillerson
The United States considers the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) a partner. Playing a large role in the SDF is the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist-affiliated group.
The Pentagon has designated funding for the SDF separately from money for the so-called Syrian “border force” in its 2019 budget.

[February 7 Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk in Manbij, “We’re here…my job is to fight.” ]


Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk February 7 during a visit to U.S. forces in Manbij., Syria

MANBIJ, SYRIA –   “We’re here to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS is maintained in this area,” Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk said February 7 during a visit to U.S. forces in Manbij.
Funk told reporters in Manbij that the U.S. would continue to support the Syrian fighters despite tensions with Turkey and that a continued U.S. presence in Syria’s north is aimed at deescalating tensions.
“I don’t worry,” Funk said when asked about recent Turkish threats, “It’s not in my job description to worry, my job is to fight.”

On February 6, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Manbij and renewed a threat to expand Ankara’s military offensive in Syria to this town.

“Why are you staying there (in Manbij)? Leave,” Erdogan said, referring to American troops.

[January 24 Syrian airspace under Russian control west of Euphrates ]


The Turkish campaign only became possible when Russia agreed not to oppose it and, above all, allowed Turkish jets to operate in Syrian airspace. This is under Russian control west of the Euphrates.   Is control east of Euphrates American…over Manbij?

Screenshot 2018-01-24 at 10.02.39 AMCombined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve precision strikes killed an estimated 145-150 ISIS terrorists near As Shafah, Syria which is north of Abu Kamal, Jan. 20.

The precision strikes were a culmination of extensive intelligence preparation to confirm an ISIS headquarters and command and control center in an exclusively ISIS-occupied location in the contested Middle Euphrates River Valley.   The United States has around 2,000 special forces troops in Syria, officially as part of an international U.S.-led coalition, assisting the Kurds in battle against Islamic State. A U.S. official said the administration is unlikely to commit more troops or covert operators to Syria, even if Turkey makes a move from Afrin to Manbij.

[January 23 Manbij: entire U.S. strategy rests on the Kurds ]

Gonul Tol, director of the Middle East Institute think tank’s Turkey program, said persuading Erdogan not to move against Manbij could prove extremely difficult.

The Trump administration’s Syria strategy – crushing the remnants of Islamic State and reviving the U.N.-led Geneva talks on ending the Syrian civil war – almost entirely depends on preserving the 30,000-strong YPG as a fighting force.

“The entire U.S. strategy rests on the Kurds. Even if Turkey doesn’t attack Manbij, the fall of Afrin will weaken the Kurds, and that will weaken the U.S. influence with the Kurds, Tol said. “The only leverage the U.S. has (in Syria) is through the Kurds.

“If Manbij falls, Raqqa is going to be threatened and that is key for the U.S.,” Tol continued, referring to the Syrian city that Islamic State declared as its capital and from which it was driven out last year. “The U.S. will do everything to ease the tensions with Turkey. But I don’t know what they will come up (with). They have to be very creative.”

[ November 9 2017 SDF in Raqqah release 86 former ISIS fighters ]

raqqa nov8

On November 8, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that it released 86 former ISIS fighters who were captured or surrendered during the battle for Raqqa. The SDF said that the former ISIS fighters who were released went through a strict investigation and stressed that none of them committed crimes during their service with ISIS.

[October 12 400 militants left near Raqqa ]

Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces inspect weapons and munitions recovered at the former positions of the Islamic State militants inside a building at the frontline in Raqqa

KOBANI, Syria (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters in the Syrian city of Raqqa are expected to fight to the death, but some local militants have surrendered recently as U.S.-backed forces close in on their last strongholds, a U.S. coalition spokesman said on October 11.
Colonel Ryan Dillon said officials in the Raqqa Civil Council, which is to govern the city after IS has been driven out, were working to negotiate the safe passage of thousands of civilians being held hostage.
But the coalition would not support any negotiated withdrawal of fighters, he said.
“The coalition would not be party to a negotiated settlement. (But) we’re jumping ahead of anything that’s being discussed right now … as (the council) try to get civilians out,” he told Reuters by phone.
Up to 400 militants are believed to remain in a small part of Raqqa surrounded by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, he said.
“The foreign fighters (in IS), we fully expect them to fight till the end – there’s a hardcore of (foreign) fighters.
“But we have seen a rate of four to five ISIS fighters surrendering a week, including emirs – local leaders within Raqqa – over the past month,” Dillon said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
On Oct. 11, Coalition military forces: Near Ar Raqqah, 24 strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units, damaged nine fighting positions, destroyed 11 fighting positions, 12 vehicles, two communication nodes and one ISIS supply route

June 19 Warning after Bush F/A-18E shoots down Syrian SU-22 near Raqqah ]


Russia announces it will target any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria after the US military shot down a Syrian air force SU-22.   The U.S.-led coalition conducts missions in areas west of the Euphrates River near Manbij and Al Bab, two towns retaken from ISIS by U.S.-backed rebel forces.   

[June 18



US Central Command said the SU-22 dropped bombs near the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are being supported by the US-led coalition as they advance on the terrorist stronghold of Raqqa.  “In accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces, it was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” a statement said.

[March 17 1000 more U.S. to Syria

usrangers2014 Rangers training

The Pentagon has considered increasing the U.S. military presence in Syria by up to 1,000 troops as the international battle to oust the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, from their de facto capital of Raqqa heats up.

The U.S. has already deployed about 500 U.S. Special Operations forces, 250 Rangers and 200 Marines to Syria.

.[March 15 U.S. Rangers near Raqqa]

The U.S. is looking for options to ease the tensions with Turkey over the plan to use U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds in the fight to oust Islamic State fighters from Raqqa but has offered no details on what those options could be.

The U.S. is considering arming the Syrian Kurdish forces, which the Pentagon considers the most effective fighters against IS militants in northern and eastern Syria. But Turkey, a key NATO ally, considers the Syrian force, known as the YPG, a terrorist organization. Turkey wants to work with other Syrian opposition fighters known as the Free Syrian Army to liberate Raqqa.

Paentagon leaders sent a new plan to defeat IS to the White House late last month that included a variety of options for the ongoing fight in Iraq and Syria.


Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk with their weapons during an offensive against Islamic State militants in northern Raqqa province

SDF Forces in Rakkah February 2017


3rd Ranger Battalion March 8

MARCH 6, a separate force of elite US army Rangers was deployed near a town north-west of Raqqa in heavily armoured vehicles, in an attempt to end clashes between SDF fighters and a Turkish-backed rebel force.

“Just days ago, fighting broke out between the Manbij Military Council (SDF), who had Green Berets embedded within their ranks, and Turkish-backed forces in the Manbij area. The movement of more US troops in the area will signify to our allies that they have our support, and show the Turkish forces and pro-Assad fighters that they’re messing with the wrong dudes.”

]February 16 Trump not insisting on Kurds in Raqqah Assault]

U. S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the Kurdish YPG, has caused tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which views the Kurdish militia as an extension of militants fighting on its own soil.

“If we want the Raqqa operation to be successful, then it should be carried out with Arab forces in the region and not the YPG,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters in Brussels.

“The new U.S. administration has a different approach to the issue. They are not insisting anymore that the operation should definitely be carried out with the YPG. They haven’t yet made up their minds,” he said in comments broadcast live.

The SDF alliance, which includes Arab and other groups in Syria’s north as well as the YPG, has taken territory along the Syria-Turkey border as they push back Islamic State.

With air strikes and special ground forces from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF is in the middle of a multi-phased operation to encircle Raqqa, Islamic State’s base of operations in Syria.

A key decision for the Trump administration will be whether to provide weapons to the YPG despite Turkish objections. The U.S. says weapons provided to the SDF are so far limited to its Arab elements.

“We are working with the U.S. on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij by the time the al-Bab operation is completed,” Isik said, referring to a town currently under SDF control.


Mahmud al-Isawi, a Syrian-based ISIL leader and facilitator, was struck and killed by a Coalition precision airstrike Dec. 31, 2016, in Raqqah, Syria.   CJTF-OIR does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.  Coalition nations which have conducted strikes in Syria include Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

[July 3 2015 U.S. kills IS leader in airstrike in  al-Hasakah area of Syria]

Tariq Bin al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-Awni al-Harzi, a senior Islamic State leader, in Syria was killed June 16 in Shaddadi, Syria. He was the subject of a $3 million reward offered by the U.S. State Department.
The military reported conducting two airstrikes in the al-Hasakah area of Syria, which includes the town of al-Shaddadi, on June 16. It said at the time that those strikes hit an Islamic State tactical unit, two antenna arrays and a vehicle, but made no mention of enemy casualties.
Al-Harzi’s death came one day after that of his brother, Ali Awni al-Harzi, a key suspect in the 2012 Benghazi U.S. Consulate attack and also a member of IS. He was killed June 15 in a U.S. drone strike in Mosul, Iraq.

June 11 2011 Syria: Rifaat Assad Redux?]

Rifaat Assad

Assad Dynasty

Rifaat Assad

Rifaat Assad

In 1983, Hafez’ younger brother Rifaat, who drew a significant amount of support from the military, attempted a coup against Hafez Assad
In 1992 he returned to Syria following the death of his mother. However, in 1998, as Bashar Assad was being groomed for the presidency, Rifaat was denied the title of vice-president and left the country one again.

For years he has been deemed a potential threat to Bashar’s inheritance of his father’s regime, but when Hafez Assad died in June 2000, Rifaat refrained from taking any major steps to prevent Bashar from assuming power.
Rifaat is considered close, by some observers, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Abdullah is married to a sister of Rifaat’s wife, and Rifaat has on occasions—even after his public estrangement from the rulers in Syria—been invited to Saudi Arabia, with pictures of him and the royal family displayed in the state-controlled press.
After the Iraq war, there were press reports that he had started talks with US government representatives on helping to form a coalition with other anti-Assad groups to provide an alternative Syrian leadership, on the model of the Iraqi National Congress. Rifaat has held a meeting with the former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Yossef Bodansky, the director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, has stated that Rifaat enjoys support from both America and Saudi Arabia; he has been featured in the Saudi press as visiting the royal family in 2007. The Bashar regime remains wary of his intentions and carefully monitors his activities.

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Syrian Turkmen, Syrian National Army


Turkmen rebels in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in 2013

Supported by Turkey, a staunch foe of Bashar al-Assad, Turkmen took up arms against the regime soon after the start of the uprising in 2011. Having all but disappeared for several years, the Free Syrian Army regained the spotlight in 2016 when it participated alongside Turkish forces in Ankara’s first incursion into northern Syria against IS.
The group recently rebranded itself as the Syrian National Army (SNA), under the authority of the opposition’s “interim government” in exile, based in Turkey.
They are armed, trained and paid by Ankara. The group is formed around Sunni Arab and Turkmen fighters who are locals of the region.
The Turkmen are an ethnic minority in Syria whose ancestors were Turkic peoples who fanned out across Central and East Asia in the 11th century. The Ottomans encouraged them to migrate south, so when the Ottoman Empire was divided after World War I, their descendants found themselves in the very north of Syria, close to the Turkish border.

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Syria: Syrian Army in Hasaka

Ras al Ain

Syrian Army units have entered the predominantly Assyrian Christian town of Tal Tamr, about 12 miles from the Turkish border, in Hasaka “to face Turkish aggression.” The area had been under Kurdish control for 7 years.

[February 5 2019 U.S. to Liberate Hajin, Middle Euphrates Valley …well ]

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was attacked in a village near Hajin in eastern Syria on January 10 before fleeing with his bodyguards to nearby deserts. Following the firefight, the jihadist group offered a reward for anyone who kills Abu Muath al-Jazairi, a senior member of ISIS in the area.


Jeremy Binnie, London – Jane’s Defence Weekly
04 January 2019

Kurdish forces from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have withdrawn from the town of Manbij as part of an agreement with the Syrian government, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on 2 January.

It cited a statement from the Syrian Ministry of Defence (MoD) as saying that a convoy of more than 30 vehicles had left the town and crossed to the eastern side of the Euphrates river. The MoD said information indicated that around 400 Kurdish fighters had left Manbij. SANA released a video showing dozens of vehicles carrying men waving YPG flags crossing the Qarah Qawzaq bridge to the eastern side of the Euphrates.

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But the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State terror group responded on Twitter, saying it “has seen no indication that these claims are true.”

Syria’s military said December 28  it entered the flashpoint Kurdish-held town of Manbij in an apparent deal with the Kurds, who are looking for new allies and protection against a threatened Turkish offensive as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Syria.

SDF took Hajin early December 14, after fierce fighting under the cover of US-led airstrikes. Some Isis fighters had withdrawn to the villages and fighting was still going in the fields surrounding Hajin

[October 14 2018]


French gunners carried out 22 shooting missions with their Caesar from Iraqi territory.    Hajin is located about thirty kilometers from Iraq. The CAESAR is a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun-howitzer, installed on a 6X6 truck chassis ( with a range greater than 38 km)

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that as part of the coalition’s current assault on ISIS positions, it had witnessed increasing artillery shelling from French forces in the area over the past week.

The Kurdish fighters have been returning to the SDF since Turkey seized Afrin, Pentagon officials have said.

“We are encouraged by the return of some Syrian Democratic Force partners to the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters last week. “I will not go into details on how many and where there will be a raid, but there are some encouraging signs to see that more combat power is returning to the Middle Euphrates River Valley to really turn it on to the ISIS element, those two locations that finally remain.” On Tuesday, April 24 U.S. Army Colonel and Coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon told reporters that most of those are confined to two small towns—Hajin and Dashisha—which are surrounded by Kurdish forces.

[ April 25  Iraqi airstrike near Hajin   ]

deirezzor hajin


“We have put obstacles into place and have constructed, you know, things to contain ISIS in the two areas where we are currently supporting our forces to defeat the remaining locations where they hold territory.

And that is in Dashisha, along the Iraq-Syria border, and in Abu Kamal — north of Abu Kamal, on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, in a town called Hajin.”
This week, the Iraqi Air Force conducted a strike on a known ISIS headquarters in Syria that was being used to smuggle ISIS terrorists. This complex operation was planned and conducted by Iraqi security forces, with support provided by coalition. This strike demonstrated Iraq’s willingness to do what is necessary to secure its citizens, as well as their role as an important partner in the global coalition to defeat ISIS.
On April 19 The Iraqi air force conducted an airstrike near Hajin, Syria, against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists operating near the Iraq-Syria border.
The strike was approved by the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the commander in chief of Iraq’s armed forces.

[ February 8  U.S. airstrikes in Khusham where the Turkish forces are accompanied by U.S. troops   ]

The Wagner Group also known as PMC Wagner, ChVK Wagner, or CHVK Vagner is a Russian paramilitary organisation. Some have described it as a private military company (or a private military contracting agency), whose contractors have reportedly taken part in various conflicts

The Syrian Democratic Forces have managed to capture much of Syria’s oil and gas infrastructure after ejecting ISIS from those areas. US officials believe that the regime, strapped for cash after a nearly eight-year-long civil war, hopes to recapture the oil fields and simultaneously deny the Syrian Democratic Forces a source of revenue and legitimacy.
The US-led coalition said in a statement that they assessed that Wednesday’s attack by pro-regime forces was aimed at recapturing some of these oil fields.
To complicate matters, two US defense officials told CNN that the US military now assesses that Russian contractors, believed to be funded by the Russian government, participated in Wednesday’s assault.

Screenshot 2018-02-08 at 11.03.28 AM

America launched airstrikes on Syrian government-backed troops February 7 after they attacked Syrian opposition forces who were accompanied by U.S. advisers in Deir el-Zour Province.   The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), aided by coalition support, are battling Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants east of the Euphrates River. Syrian government forces are active on the other side of the river around the city of Deir el-Zour.

The U.S. coalition launched the strikes after as many as 500 attackers began what appeared to be a coordinated assault on an SDF headquarters, where the Turkish forces are accompanied by U.S. troops.

[September 30 in operations against ISIS in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor province, U.S. retains right of self-defense at all times. ]

Screenshot 2017-09-30 at 7.53.13 PM - Edited

Mayadeen, Boukamal, Bouleil, Bouomar and Mushassan

Airstrikes on villages and towns held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria have killed and wounded dozens a day after an attack by the extremists killed more than 120 pro-government fighters and briefly cut off the highway linking the capital Damascus with eastern Syria, opposition activists said September 30.

It was not immediately clear if the airstrikes on areas including Mayadeen, Boukamal, Bouleil, Bouomar and Mushassan were carried out by the Russians or the U.S.-led coalition.


Deir ez-Zur to Al-Suwar

In Deir ez-Zor province, the SDF continued deliberate movement towards the Syria-Iraq border and have reached the town of Al-Suwar, liberating more than 1,000 square kilometers along the way, said Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, Pentagon Spokesman on September 28.

The flow of displaced civilians traveling north and west fluctuates from 500 to over 2,000 per day as the fighting in the province intensifies. The SDF prioritizes IDP safe passage to camps in Ar-Rashi, Mabrouka and as far away as Ayn Issa.

Checkpoints along main travel ways ensure roads are clear from common criminals, as well as ISIS fighters attempting to harm or infiltrate these group of evacuees.

On September 25, Russian-backed Syrian regime forces conducted artillery strike in the vicinity of SDF fighting position northeast of Deir ez-Zor. The SDF immediately reported the impacts in their area, and later announced casualties. This week, our coalition mourned the loss of one of our own, a master sergeant from the French army’s 13th Dragoons Parachute Regiment was killed during combat operations in support of our fight against ISIS.

Coalition officials immediately passed SDF and impact locations to the Russians through the de-confliction line, with the intent to inform Syrian regime forces of impacts on or near SDF positions.

The coalition and its partners remain committed to the defeat of ISIS, and we will continue to use the de-confliction line as a means to prevent accidental targeting and to ease tensions.

The coalition is committed to our SDF partners in their operations against ISIS in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor province, and we retain the right of self-defense at all times.

A Marine MV-22B made a hard landing September 29 in Syria. The downing resulted in non-life-threatening injuries to two unidentified service member. It was operating from a coalition ground base and was destroyed following the hard landing.    U.S. military officials and SDF commanders told VOA on March 21 that an airbase in Kobani will be the headquarters for U.S.-led coalition operations to retake Raqqa.

Screenshot 2017-09-30 at 9.09.11 AM

Mayadin to Ashara, Syria

On September 14, two airstrikes in Syria targeted IS drone developer Abu Salman near Mayadin and destroyed his research lab in Ashara, Syria.

Salman and “a terrorist associate” were killed while traveling in a vehicle from Mayadin to Ashara.

September 21 SDF warns against Assad advances on eastern Euphrates riverbank,has twice opened fire on Russian special forces.]


Raqqah to Al Hasakah

The Russian Defence Ministry said the SDF had taken up positions on the eastern banks of the Euphrates with U.S. special forces, and had twice opened fire with mortars and artillery on Syrian troops who were working alongside Russian special forces.

“A representative of the U.S. military command in Al Udeid (the U.S. operations center in Qatar) was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

[September 20]

The Syrian army, backed by Russian and Syrian war planes, has made wide advances along the Euphrates’ western riverbank.    Syrian troops also crossed to the eastern side of the river on September 18.

The SDF’s advances have been on the eastern bank of the river.

The convergence of the two rival offensives has increased tensions in Deir al-Zor. On Monday, the US-backed militia warned against any further Syrian army advances on the eastern riverbank.

On September 19, Russia’s defence ministry said the Euphrates had risen as soon as the Syrian army began crossing it. The only way that could have happened was if upstream dams held by the US-backed opposition had been opened, it said.

[September 15 U.S. to press on southbound around Deir Ezzor ]

Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve has decided to press on southbound around Deir Ezzor which could end up isolating ISIS militants trapped between the western Syrian military front and the country’s eastern border with Iraq, where forces supported by both the U.S. and Iran are also battling ISIS. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the anti-ISIS Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, said September 15 that the U.S.-led coalition had decided not to enter the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where Syrian troops recently broke an ISIS siege against comrades trapped behind enemy lines for three years. A separate campaign by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces has also pierced through ISIS territory toward Deir Ezzor, but will reportedly stop at the city’s limits “so as not to complicate” the already crowded conflict.

Bassem Aziz, a spokesman for the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said they have taken control of an industrial area on the eastern bank of the river, a few miles from the government troops.   Mr Aziz said they were about four miles away from the city’s eastern entrance.

“The convergence of military forces in this area calls for increased awareness and de-confliction,” Dillon said.    Two Russian submarines launched seven Kalibr cruise missiles September 15 targeting ISIS positions in Deir Ezzor, The submarines were the Kilo-class  diesel-electric Velikiy Novgorod and Kolpino boats.


Velikiy Novgorod

[September 14 SDF and the Syrian troops to clash? ]

RUSSIAN air strikes have killed 34 civilians on ferries fleeing violence in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, where jihadists face separate assaults by US-backed forces and Russian-backed government troops, a monitor said. The Observatory relies on a network of sources inside Syria, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used

Deir Ezzor (Syria News) US-led coalition warplanes bombarded, September 10, a military convoy belonging to the Syrian army, east of Deir Ezzor.

Qasioun News reported that the international coalition warplanes bombarded a military convoy belonging to the Syrian army and allied militia, near al-Tayem oil field, east of Deir Ezzor,

The United States and Russia are interested in avoiding a confrontation between the SDF and the Syrian forces and can devise a strategy that will allow both sides to share control over the vast province.

United States officials have suggested they do not seek a confrontation with Assad’s forces.

“We are in the destruction-ISIS activity, and this is what we want to do, and if the Syrian regime wants to do it … and show that they do it exactly at Abu Kamal or Deir el-Zour or elsewhere, this means we do not have to do it in these places, “said coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon in June, referring to a city on the Iraqi border and using a different acronym for IS.

The only way left for the SDF to enter the eastern province appears to be from the northeastern province of Hassakeh, where Syrian activists say the U.S.-backed fighters have been gathering and stepping up preparations for an attack.

A U.S.-trained group, the Deir el-Zour Military Council, which is part of the SDF, is expected to launch the attack against IS in Deir el-Zour under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition within days. SDF officials say the imminent attack is not related to government forces reaching the city earlier this week, and was planned months in advance.

Syrian Kurdish official Nawaf Khalil, who is in Germany but frequently visits northern Syria, said the SDF attack on Deir el-Zour could begin at any moment, adding that the battle for Raqqa now no longer needs a large number of fighters.

The US-led coalition in struggle against IS said in an email to The Associated Press that the SDF “will decide when conditions are good for an offensive.”

Asked about concerns over possible confrontation between the SDF and the Syrian troops, the coalition said: “We urge all forces to focus on our common enemy.”

[September 8 Stately Balloon: SFA to capture Lower Euphrates Valley ]

syria humvee

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears to working with Russia to stabilize Syria.   Tillerson believes he’s making some quiet progress on  Syria.   The real danger to Russian interests is increasing Iranian power there, especially as Bashar Assad’s regime regains control of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria. To counter the Iranians, Tillerson supports a quick move by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to capture the Lower Euphrates Valley.

This bilateral approach creates more room for spoilers to enter the fray, especially with militias active on both sides of the conflict such as the Lebanese Hezbollah or the Iraqi Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigades and Asaib Ahl al-Haq backing the regime and multinational groups fighting against it. Competing interests between the different parties on the ground mean that those not benefitting from local arrangements have an incentive to undermine them.

  • Syrian Democratic Forces
  • قوات سوريا الديمقراطية‎
  • Hêzên Sûriya Demokratîk
  • ܚܝ̈ܠܘܬܐ ܕܣܘܪܝܐ ܕܝܡܩܪܛܝܬܐ
  • Participant in the Syrian Civil War

[10/06/16 Putin pressing his advantage in Syria]


North Aleppo situation

Mr. Obama has repeatedly refused to involve US forces in the Mideast more robustly, and even if he’s had a change of heart, his administration is drawing to a close. Mr. Putin appears to recognize those facts and is pressing his advantage in Syria while it remains.
“At this point, the US doesn’t have it in its power to offer the Russians anything in Syria that they would find worthwhile,” Yezid Sayigh, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut. says. “There just is nothing that will get the two [powers] back on track anytime soon.”

[June 3 2015 Syria: government mood is black ]

A diplomat who tracks Syria said the tone reflected a new government willingness to admit vulnerability.
“It’s a change in their attitude,” the diplomat said. “The general mood is black.”
The deputy head of Israel’s armed forces said this week the Syrian military had “ceased to exist, de facto”, while Hezbollah was investing in thousands of its fighters in Syria. The previous assumptions that Assad could not be defeated due to his superior military strength underpinned by the air force were no longer valid, the diplomat said. The insurgents were building on their momentum and had more recruits.
“For every 100 soldiers lost by the regime, there are not 100 more coming in,” the diplomat said.

June 2 Assad regime is disintegrating: Russia has evacuated 100 of its senior officials]

Russia has evacuated 100 of its senior officials and their families from Syria via the airport in Latakia. They said that those leaving include experts who worked in the war room in Damascus, along with the Iranian experts and Hezbollah officials. According to the report, they have not been replaced. Syrian opposition sources say that Hezbollah and Iranian military experts have left Assad’s war room in Damascus, along with Russian experts.
There have been increasing signs in recent days that the Assad regime is disintegrating, four years into the civil war that has engulfed Syria. Last week, the Syrian president lost control of another province, which comes on the heels of previous reports that Islamic State already controls more than 50% of the country. here has been a noticeable change in the Russian position toward Syria that Moscow is for the first time willing to discuss with the Americans the exact details of a transition period for the country, and even raise the names of individual military and political officials to oversee it.
After four years of war, the regime controls less than 8% percent of the country’s oil and gas fields, while Islamic State controls more than 80% percent.

[June 27 2013 Syria: Damascus Christian area bomb]

French mandate 1920-26 partitions

French mandate 1920-26 partitions

A suicide attacker blew himself up near one of the main churches in Damascus,the Syrian capital June 27, killing at least four people.
The blast struck in the vicinity of the Greek Orthodox Virgin Mary Church in the predominantly Christian neighborhood of Bab Sharqi in central Damascus. Is partition coming.

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