In Multipolarity

New Cold, Nov 15, 2016

Three news reports are enclosed.

Turkish airstrikes resume as allied Syrians take position near al-Bab

By Amberin Zaman, columnist, Al-Monitor, Nov 14, 2016

Map showing advance of right-wing forces backed by Turkey on Al-Bab in northern Syria circa Nov 14, 2016 (ANHA News)

Map showing advance of right-wing forces backed by Turkey on Al-Bab in northern Syria circa Nov 14, 2016 (ANHA News)

Syrian rebels mentored by Turkey said they were positioned to launch an assault to drive the Islamic State out of the strategic town of al-Bab today, but it remains unclear whether they will actually throw themselves into what most analysts agree will be a bloody battle.

Pro-government dailies trumpeted the news of the Turkish-backed rebel advance, saying the forces were only two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the mainly Sunni Arab town. But the English-language i quoted a Free Syria Army commander as saying the operation “could take days or weeks.” The commander added, “We will see how reinforced [IS] is in the town.”

Map of Shahba region in northern Syria, around Al-Bab

Map of Shahba region in northern Syria, around Al-Bab

Al-Bab has emerged as something of a test of Turkish resolve in Syria, not against IS but against the Syrian Kurds. The Syrian Kurds are desperate to lay their hands on al-Bab because it would allow them to link the large, uninterrupted swath of land they rule east of the mainly Arab town of Manbij to the mainly Kurdish enclave of Afrin that lies further west. Turkey says it will not permit further expansion of a contiguous Kurdish-run zone along its borders but has faced stiff resistance from Russia, which controls the skies over al-Bab.

Until recently, most analysts concurred that Russia would prevent Turkey’s rebel proxies from taking al-Bab because of the threat they would pose to Syrian regime forces in Aleppo, just as they appear to be gaining control over the war-ravaged city. And while Turkey has backed the rebel advance from the ground, Turkish jets have not taken part in any offensive action since last month’s wave of sorties against Syrian Kurds, presumably because of Syrian threats to shoot them down.

But Turkish airstrikes on Syria resumed over the weekend, hitting 15 IS positions near al-Bab. Many speculate that Ankara has struck some kind of deal with the Russians — and by extension with the Syrian regime — over Aleppo. The prevailing wisdom is that the agreement involves Turkish pledges to rein in rebel forces, notably the al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra, which continues to rely on logistical supply lines from Turkey for its operations in northern Syria.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the Pentagon to find and kill leaders of the group, which remains the most effective fighting force against the Syrian government.

All of this is unfolding in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the U.S. presidential elections. Trump’s previous comments about Syria suggest that he is more closely aligned with the Russian position and that he is not in the least bit interested in deepening U.S. engagement there other than to defeat IS and other jihadist groups.

Indeed, some pundits suggest that he may pull the plug on CIA-vetted Syrian rebels.

Ankara had long hoped that if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton were to win, as she was widely predicted to, that she would fulfill pledges to create a safe haven for the rebels, action that could eventually lead to the overthrow of the Syrian regime.

Turkey may now have decided to cuts its losses and stomach some kind of reconciliation with the regime, if only to join forces against the Syrian Kurds.

The Syrian Kurds are the one issue on which Ankara and Damascus hold a common view: that their aspirations of self-rule must be crushed. And even before the US election, Ankara had been putting out feelers to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Yet Russia views the Syrian Kurds as a useful lever both against Turkey and the Assad regime. It is therefore improbable that Moscow would ditch them altogether.

“We don’t really understand what is going on in al-Bab — or in Syria in general, for that matter,” said Syrian Kurdish commentator Barzan Iso in a Skype interview with Al-Monitor, echoing a widespread view among Syrian Kurds. The situation is likely to remain murky at least until Trump takes office. In the meantime, Turkey will seize on the transition hiatus to press forward with its own goals.

The Turkish occupation approaching Bab, IS delivers villages

By Suliemen Ahmad, ANHA News, Nov 13, 2016

SHAHBA- IS gangs are withdrawing from Baba regions. They have delivered other four villages in the countryside of Bab to the Turkish occupation and its mercenaries as it is approaching Bab. The Turkish army occupied four new villages after IS gangs had withdrawn from them without any clashes, according to local sources.

The sources also said that the villages occupied are: Hazwan, Sosian, Qideyran, Oalan amid sabotage acts and forcing displacement on civilians there soon after IS gangs have withdrawn from these villages.

The sources also pointed out that the Turkish occupation is only 3km from the center of Bab city, one of the main strongholds of IS.

Consequently, thousands are enforced into displacement due to the give and take process between the IS gangs and the Turkish occupation.

Observers see that the Turkish army entering Bab would pose a threat to Aleppo where fierce battles are going on between the Syrian regime and NC mercenaries.

Aldar Khalil, member of the executive body of TEV-DEM said that Bab falling in the hands of the Turkish occupation, the 2nd capital of Syria would be seriously threatened.

Since the initiation of Raqqa campaign by SDF, Shahba regions and Afrin are subjected to frequent attacks by the Turkish occupation, the last of which was on Shiyah and Rajo in Afrin canton.

Turkish-backed gangs aim to occupy Aleppo after Al-Bab, says Al-Bab Council Co-Chair

ANHA News, Nov 15, 2016

AFRIN – Al-Bab Region Council Co-Chair Ahmed Hemo has told ANHA News that Turkish-backed gangs are planning to occupy Aleppo through occupying Al-Bab.

Al-Bab Council Co-Chair Ahmad Hemo commented on Turkey’s occupation plan on Aleppo. “After occupying Al-Bab, the Turkish state wants then to head for Aleppo. This will form the first step of the Ottoman dreams which they want to achieve. Through this, they want to prevent the Revolutionary Forces from advancing in the region, and so also obstruct the unification of the Rojava cantons,” said Hemo.

Hemo pointed out how Turkey aims to change the cultural make-up of the Shahba region’s population by forcing residents to displacement and instead placing Turkmens in the region.

Stating that although the Turkish state has entered Syrian territory with the pretext of fighting Daesh, Hemo said that Turkey is ultimately not after this as he added, “The Turkish army and their gangs are now located at an area near Al-Bab. They did not reach this area with a fight or clashing with [Daesh] gangs. Daesh gangs handed over villages under their occupation, and so they managed to reach Al-Bab.”

The co-chair stated that there is no difference between Daesh and the Turkish-backed gangs apart from the fact that the names of the occupiers are different, which is how they aim to occupy Al-Bab.

“The Revolutionary Forces carrying out a fight against Daesh gangs in the Shahba region are the children of the people of Al-Bab and Shahba, and they want to defend Al-Bab,” said the co-chair, adding that the people of Shahba recognizes what the Turkish state aims to do with its occupation.

Lastly, Hemo said the people of Al-Bab will not accept the occupation of the Turkish state and that they will carry out a struggle against it.


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