US Raqqa “Counter-terrorism” Operation Is Aimed at Denying Syria Peace

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US Raqqa “Counter-terrorism” Operation Is Aimed at Denying Syria Peace

Written by Salman Rafi Sheikh; Originally appeared at New Eastern Outlook

Making a very interesting, yet a serious, move, the US has announced operation “Euphrates Anger”, to be conducted by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of different US-backed militias, to re-take the city of Raqqa, the current capital of the Islamic State in Syria. While the announcement has come just three weeks after the beginning of the operation to liberate the city of Mosul, IS’ capital in Iraq, and seems a ‘logical’ development, there is much more to Raqqa operation than simply meets the eye. On the surface, this operation is purely anti-IS and is aimed at symbolically defeating the group by capturing its ‘capital’. In reality, however, this operation is aimed at strengthening the US-backed forces in Syria and thereby disturb the Syrian army’s battle for Aleppo.

This is evident from the contradiction that has been inserted in this operation from the very beginning. Consider this: according toBrett McGurk, US President Barack Obama’s counter-Islamic State envoy, the main idea behind the re-taking of Raqqa by the SDF is:

When it comes to Raqqa we want a force that ultimately liberates Raqqa that is primarily from the local area, Arabs from the area, and so we have trained many of these fighters and that force will continue to grow as we get to the subsequent phases of the campaign.

A pertinent question that arises here is this: If the US was really serious about engaging a local force to liberate the city of Raqqa, which other force could have been better and more “local”, having a legitimate local base, than Syria’s own army, which is currently battling IS and other groups in the city of Aleppo?

Of course, the US and its allies would not want to have Syrian army as its ally, nor wold they want it to appear as the liberator. Their objective of keeping Syria immersed in conflict, and the ultimate objective of destroying Syrian army and dismantling Assad as its president, can be met only when the Syrian army remains engaged in battles either against the Islamic State or against the US-backed SDF.

Therefore, placement of SDF as the leading fighting force in Raqqa is a very calculated move to deny the Syrian or Russian militaries the chance to actually liberate the city from the clutches of sponsored-terrorism.

Transportation of IS to Raqqa preceded the operation

While the stage was already being set for an operation to ‘liberate’ Raqqa from IS, this is strange enough to note that this operation has come at a time when IS fighters were easily shifting from Mosul to Raqqa and when the West was already aware of it. A Kurdish intelligence officer told Fox News earlier in the week that IS fighters are “running away massively” in the direction of Raqqa.

The report said, “According to multiple insiders familiar with the Mosul-to-Raqqa route and ISIS tactics, the group takes abandoned roads and moves through friendly, Sunni-populated villages that provide not only cover, but potential safe haven.”

Interestingly enough, the West was aware of this movement of IS fighters. French president Francois Hollande said last month there was evidence that Islamic State fighters were fleeing to Raqqa, and that everything must be done to stop them regrouping there. While this ‘transportation’ of IS does raise question, first and foremost, about the efficiency and effectiveness of the battle for Mosul, it also signifies that the real target of the US and its allies remains Syria and, by default, Russia.

Instead of blocking the route from Mosul to Raqqa, IS fighters were deliberately allowed to shift to Raqqa in order to create the necessary excuse to allow the US to revamp its extremely weak position in Syria, where the Syrian army, being backed by Russia, has achieved considerable success against IS and other West supported terror groups.

Raqqa is important for the US to stay alive in Syria

The US clearly estimates that the Syrian military and its Russian allies are sooner than later going to liberate Raqqa. Given this, the US does not want to suffer another public relations setback, the kind of which it had earlier suffered at the time of liberation of Palmyra and the kind of which they are suffering now when Aleppo is heading towards an eventual fall at the hands of Syrian and Russian forces.

The US, therefore, wants to have its own “victory” in Raqqa before the Syrians and the Russians can have theirs. As one analyst has put it aptly, “If the SDF is able to “take” Raqqa, the US will then be able to shout from the rooftops that America has liberated Raqqa and defeated ISIS in its own capital.”

However, this situation is setting a dangerous stage, likely to cause more harm than good to the people of Syria. For them the situation would qualitatively remain the same if they are subdued by IS or by the US-backed so-called “local forces” i.e. the SDF. Militarily and ideologically trained on the same lines as IS, there is little in it to doubt that SDF would not impose its own ‘jihadist fanaticism’ on the people of Raqqa, creating an essential context for the Syrian army to move towards Raqqa to liberate its territory and its people from these terror forces.

A prolonged crisis looming large?

With Syrian forces, backed by the Russian Air Force and Russian Special Forces heading east to Raqqa, and with SDF, backed by the US-led coalition forces rushing to capture Raqqa, an explosive situation is developing, capable of leaving widespread regional and international ramifications.

In other words, there is a distinct potential that, in the race for Raqqa, the Syrian/Russian alliance might find itself face to face with the possibility of direct military conflict with the US/SDF alliance. Clearly Moscow is sensing such a situation and has accordingly, making a sound strategic move to maintain balance, deployed its aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov off the cost of Syria.

Even if a big battle does not take place, which is by all means unlikely to happen, the US is certainly preparing to complicate the Syrian crisis.

While the US has been trying its best to stall the defeat of “rebels” in Aleppo by doing persistent propaganda against Moscow for committing “war crimes”, control of Raqqa would further allow the US to keep a direct covert influence on Aleppo, and co-ordinate SDF with those “rebels” now trapped in Aleppo.

The choice of Raqqa is, in this context, a strategic move on the part of US as its main interest clearly lies in delaying as far as possible the capture of Aleppo and Raqqa by Syrian government forces. However, were this to happen, it would be only a matter of time before Syria will eventually be cleared off all jihadists, moderate and not-so-moderate, groups and force the US out of the region.

Therefore, operation “Euphrates Anger” is neither about defeating terrorism in the region nor about denying IS, what French authorities say, a territorial base that it uses to launch attacks in Europe and elsewhere. For all practical purposes and given the nature of US objectives, if the SDF succeeds in imposing control over the city and the province, the US will be successful in cementing control over the area and pass it to the hands of its proxy terrorists once again and keep the ‘war’ alive and deny peace.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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  • Percival

    We have only until Jan. 20 to hold out. Trump and Putin for the win against the Salafists.

  • George King

    This misses the point of the fleet deployed off the coast with missiles “making a sound strategic move to maintain balance, deployed its aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov off the cost of Syria”. I expect to see a massive show of force on multiple locations for “better to kill them there than here”.

    Russian resolve in destroying the jihadist which is being used by Empire and other ME vassals is in defense of the motherland first and foremost and that includes Christians in the ME as well which is also the target of Empire.

  • The Anglo-American Empire and its clients are opening another front against Syria. They hope to over stretch Russian and Syrian forces by keeping large Coalition forces in Diego Garcia and the Mediterranean Sea hoping that Russia shall be fearful of tying up too many Russian assets in eastern Syria to protect Russian and Syrian forces in the western part of Syria. They shall then have the “safe haven” that they’ve wanted for the so called “moderate opposition” and dare Russia and Syria to attack them.

  • Joseph Scott

    While the analysis of US objectives seems sound, the rest is a serious oversimplification that gives the Americans far too much credit for the initiative behind this. None of the actors involved are doing this purely at American prompting. Everyone has their own agendas here, and the USA is merely trying to find opportunity in the circumstances that have developed. Though there may be GCC special forces/mercenaries hiding in this operation to supply the SDF with more ‘Arabs’, the SDF as a whole is far friendlier to the Syrian government than the FSA and Turks who also propose to take the city. At present, there even seems to be some degree of tentative alliance in Afrin. It is by no means impossible that the Syrian government can work out a deal with the SDF that is favourable to it’s goals, and to a whole Syria, especially if the Americans continue to prove so helpless at restraining the Turks. And to say the SDF, which is quite secular, wants to impose some kind of radical ideology on Raqqa is just silly. Their behaviour everywhere else has demonstrated nothing of the kind. Assuming the SAA has no forces to spare for this, the SDF taking the city is a far better option than waiting for Erdogan to grab it.

    • Pave Way IV

      Well, the ‘real’ SDF is quite secular. I think the author is pointing out the inevitable outcome desired by the U.S./GCC despite the actual liberating force.

      If the U.S. and GCC cronies gin up a mostly Arab-mercenary SDF to take Raqqa, then I would expect the Saudis to export weaponized Wahabbism to the city when they stuff the future Raqqa administration with their stooges (rather than allow the local Arabs to have any real power). Kurds would resist participating in such a corrupt SDF force and have no intention of running Raqqa after its liberated, so they would be out of the picture.

      The U.S. and GCC could turn Raqqa into the new anti-Assad capital while claiming the FSA/Nusra were not involved, just the friendly, secular SDF. In reality, Raqqa would be (between Raqqa and Deir Ez Zor) the new FSA/Nusra capitals. The Kurds would initially tolerate that as long as nobody from Ar Raqqa was attacking Kurdish territory and would – potentially – be an ally in their fight against Turkey.

      • Joseph Scott

        Well, I’ll certainly accept the notion that some Brzezinski-type at State or the NSC envisions such an outcome. I’m not so certain that plan would work. Neither the US deep government, nor the GCC, nor Academi seem much good at operational planning.

        Some interesting bits of information I found on all that: Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa, elsewhere mentioned as the Raqqa Revolutionary Brigade claims that a.) they were the only Arab part of the SDF force at Raqqa, and b.) that while YPG had fully agreed with JTR’s insistence they lead the attack, while YPG provided support, it was apparently the Americans who insisted that YPG go into the city, and taking a leading role in the attack. And because of this, JTR are not taking part in the operation, though they apparently still intend to liberate ar-Raqqa now. (Not sure how that part is supposed to work.)

        I also finally found an estimate on IS numbers in the city, placed at 5,000. However, YPG state that they have observed large numbers of IS coming there from Iraq. One might thus tentatively estimate the IS force as somewhere between 5-13,000 (with 8,000 being the upper end estimate of IS leaving Mosul.)

        • Brad Isherwood

          It’s easy for rats to run around. ….until the lights come on.

          Russia has slowed the tempo and the scale of SAA/combination operations
          Which has since Latakia was cleaned up to Der Ezzor blocking ISIS… when it was pushed that Der Ezzor would fall to ISIS.

          Amnesty in Syria is seeing 100s drop weapons and sign now.
          Ziad at Syria Perspective comments that SAA are contacting the Takfiri in Aleppo
          by name…. ( they know who is who)….to give up and come out.

          The recent Aleppo Seige Breakthru epic failed, …the Takfiri lost over 40 mechanized
          Units…
          Russia/Syria TAC air roasting these trash on their road nets. ..
          It’s scatter and die right now in Syria,…
          The so called successful Foreign Special forces. .. whatever. ..are getting the living @t
          Kicked out of them.

          Yes…we would luv for dramatic power display, ….yet Russia is methodical
          With Recce …where they nail key Intel nests of rats and their weapons bunkers.

          Media push the fast mover on Mosul…with setbacks occurring as Combination
          Military at Mosul is eating ATGM and RPG 29….loosing lots of tanks and mobile units.

          Syria is moving strong now. …from contact to contact, ….high Fives : )

          • Monkey D. Luffy

            Der Ezzor liberation is getting neglected over the Aleppo offensive and Damascus clean outs.

        • Pave Way IV

          “…Neither the US deep government, nor the GCC, nor Academi seem much good at operational planning…”

          Hah – understatement of the decade! They have the ‘killing people’ part down, but seem confused about the rest.

          As long as we’re talking secret merc army conspiracy theories, we may as well consider the curious case of the 3000+ (by now) strong, brigade or two of anti-Assad ‘Syrian Peshmerga’ that mob boss Barzani prepared for his CIA/Mossad masters in Iraq. You’re not suppose to know about them and western MSM is silent about their existence. Some are Kurds from Syria – Hasakah and Qamishli mostly, but many are merc Kurds from Turkey. In any case, the YPG/YPJ won’t let these so-called Syrian Peshmerga into Syria and don’t want their help. The YPG/YPJ see them as dangerous because 1) they are anti-Assad (where the YPG/YPJ are not), and 2) these Peshmerga are loyal to Barzani’s Iraqi-Kurdish mafia (the KDP) and his U.S./Israeli handlers, not the Syrian Kurd ‘little people’. And common sense would tell you that if a Syrian Kurd was serous about fighting ISIS, he/she would already be in the YPG/YPJ, not traveling to Iraq for ‘Peshmerga training’.

          Major-General: Syrian Kurdish Peshmerga’s only goal is to fight ISIS

          The U.S. has about a half-dozen bases in the Kurdish areas of Syria (that we know of), including at least three air strips/bases. It would be easy enough to load up a few C-130s or C-17s in Iraq with these ‘Peshmerga of Rojava’ one night and – voila! – you suddenly have an instant 3000+ contingent of Syrian Kurds for your SDF shell-game. Toss in a few thousand UAE and Saudi Arab mercs and you have a ready-made SDF that doesn’t require participation of ANY Syrian Kurds or local Arab militias.

          If I were an evil empire scheming at the next phase of my ‘Assad must go!” campaign, then this fake SDF would work perfectly and appear to western MSM as the real deal. You would have tons of MSM footage of Raqqa locals ecstatic about their liberation from ISIS. In the mean time, you have a brigade or two of anti-Assad fake Syrian Peshmerga and a few battalions of anti-Assad UAE/Arab SF-types holding Raqqa for rebuilding the next incarnation of the FSA to fight Syrian troops.

          • Joseph Scott

            There are long-standing cultural/institutional reasons why the US is bad at
            operational planning. We aren’t very good at separating the critical facts from the mass of data, so there is too much detail, but not enough in the essential places. We are also terrible at keeping wishful thinking out of our planning, something that is compounded in Freemason circles by the emphasis on using imagination to create the reality you want. (You may recall that Hitler, who was also a student of magic and the occult, had the
            exact same problem with wishful thinking and inability to accept unpleasant facts, because of the desire to impose his magical will upon the situation.)

            Academi’s founding is an extra impediment. It’s principal founder was rich kid whose actual career with the SEALs was no more than 3 years, as a junior officer, and that included SEAL training, so his operational career was even shorter. He alienated most of the original military people that
            helped him set it up, by emphasising it as a profit-oriented business, rather than what they wanted: a military unit unconstrained by petty rules and bureaucracy. For example, a very experienced career SEAL who helped set up the training program left because where he wanted to teach students everything he could to make them effective operators, Prince felt that they needed to hold important techniques back, to make people come back for ever more advanced tiers of training at higher prices. The unit itself is the same, it seems. Lower level members, especially those recruited outside the US, seem to be given simpler training and used a cheap cannon fodder. It’s the whole pyramid scheme, old-boy club,
            elitist network you see throughout the US power structure. It’s
            a really bad way to run a military unit.

            I don’t get the Iraqi Kurds. Barzani and his whole feudal/tribal/crime syndicate power structure seems so wholly at odds with the kind of
            anarcho-social, egalitarian ideas of Syrian and Turkish Kurds. So, I
            definitely see why the US wold try this Peshmerga scheme, but how
            well do you think they can smoothly insert them into this operation,
            given that Syrian Kurds don’t care for them? Do you think that YPG
            is so decentralized that they aren’t likely to pay much attention
            to some strange units here and there?

            One reason I don’t see this plan working (which certainly won’t stop them from trying), is that YPG/SDF seems pretty deeply invested in their whole
            federal state/Rojava project. Even the Arab SDF units like Jabhat Thuwar ar-Raqqa, who oppose Assad directly, say they are willing to accept the Kurdish federalization plan under an Assad government, if the Syrian people will it so. While the YPG have evicted some Salafist types who support IS/al-Nusra, etc, on the whole, non-Kurds in the Rojava region seem pretty happy with the whole thing. Setting up ar-Raqqa as a happy, Arab-run component of the North Syria Autonomous Region of Rojava seems to be an important part of selling federalization to Assad, as something that can unite all of Syria’s various groups, including the handful of remaining democratic rebels, while keeping Syria as an undivided state. It also points to the idea that they are really interested in making a deal with Assad. Consequently, I see them taking more interest in the composition of some future ar-Raqqa Civil Council than the US would wish, and taking a narrow view of some US scheme that undermines the Rojav project. The CIA/Academi may have cause to worry about who ends up w ith the knife stuck in them. I guess we’ll see. Most of the time we try stuff like this, the result is that everybody hates us.

          • Pave Way IV

            “…We aren’t very good at separating the critical facts from the mass of data, so there is too much detail, but not enough in the essential places.

            Agree. But I was born in the 50’s, so I understood that this was a direct function of good leadership/management and a well-run organization. Developing those skills in much of the post-Viet Nam U.S. military was pointless – plenty of lip service to them, but that’s not the kind of skills that really got anyone promoted. Information was power, so the chain of command was mostly filled with psychopathic, turf-protecting data hoarders. No different in the modern U.S. corporate world of course, but one expects that. Computers simply enable that flawed behavior by several orders of magnitude.

            Regarding Prince: Yes, I’m intimately familiar with his types in the military (which is why I never made it a career).

            “…Barzani and his whole feudal/tribal/crime syndicate power structure seems so wholly at odds with the kind of anarcho-social, egalitarian ideas of Syrian and Turkish Kurds…”

            Barzani (and his Kurdish clan) are not ‘little people’ Kurds with those kinds of sensibilities. Barzani was a successful petty criminal border smuggler and opportunist – the chaos in Iraq provided endless opportunities to expand his tribal mafia empire. The CIA/Mossad boys fell in love with this budding psychopath at first sight and have been empowering him ever since. They steered him into the oil business to facilitate US/Israeli theft of Iraqi oil. ‘Little people’ Iraqi Kurds mostly hate the Barzanis, but they’re the biggest employer in town so you’re never going to hear that from them. Syrian Kurds at least have the option of barring Barzani and anything connected with his schemes from Syria. The CIA/western intel is grooming the same types in the Syrian Kurd PYD leadership, so the ‘little people’ Syrian Kurds fate is sealed – just by the hand of a different devils.

            “…YPG/SDF seems pretty deeply invested in their whole federal state/Rojava project…”

            The SDF is the Pentagon/CENTCOM’s answer to the State Department/CIA’s failed FSA project. There is nothing Kurdish or Rojava about it – the YPG/Arab tribes are just the bullet-stopping meat. Whatever connection the SDF has with the Rojava project is coincidental and mostly western PR. The real purpose of the SDF is to accomplish Pentagon goals, not Kurdish ones. The carrot for the YPG/YPJ and Arab militias is arms and training, so they go along with it – they have no other options.

            As far as the YPG/YPJ being invested in the Rojava project, I will humbly suggest that this is mostly western MSM bullshit. Syrian Kurds had plenty of beefs with Assad, but like most ‘little people’ everywhere else, they just wanted good roads/infrastructure, decent schools and hospitals and jobs. You can’t build those by wishful thinking, you need a government. A government requires resources and a tax base – something Assad’s government already has. The little people Syrian Kurds just wanted a better, fairer Syrian government – they had no desire to steal Syria’s resources and cobble together a government of their own from scratch. That was a US scheme.

            The PYD was a noisy, powerless ‘community organizer’ political party (one of many) that western powers chose to be the recognized rulers of Rojava. Whatever roots it had in being (one of) the little people’s voices are long gone. It is now a corrupt power- and control-seeking government shoe-horned between the Syrian Kurds and Assad’s government and dressed-up as ‘the will of the Syrian Kurds’. It’s only real purpose is to consolidate and hoard whatever rights and resources it can take from both sides: Assad’s government and the little people Syrian Kurds. A typical CIA-constructed statist control tool. It has simply exploited the Syrian Kurd’s nationalism as camouflage.

            Since the PYD is the funnel from which all western aid and arms flows, the YPG/YPJ can’t (and won’t) really bitch about it publicly. Privately, they see it as a corrupt Barzani-like organization dependent on foreign welfare that will probably end up being worse than Assad’s government. Rojava is a nice idea in the minds of most Syrian Kurds, but they see it as impractical and fraught with danger – susceptible to corruption and foreign influence. The PYD is the embodiment of that. The only resource – stolen Syrian oil – will never be monitized to benefit the little people – it will all go to feed the PYD.

            The anti-Assad Arab tribes face a similar dilemma: is Rojava a better replacement? Well, it’s the only replacement in town and your tribe will be exterminated unless you drink the PYD/SDF/Rojava Kool-Aid. What they want is a functional, fair Syrian government, not a western intel-created replacement (either in Damascus or Qamishli).

            I have no easy answers to the Kurdish issues, but a fake western intel-created state stolen from Syria is not the answer. I don’t know if a kinder, gentler Assad is the answer either, but that’s a far better place to start than getting into bed with the U.S. sleazebags. The Kurds would have been hesitant in any other circumstances, but that’s why ISIS was such a good scam. What better way to promote western/GCC interests than link them with your people’s survival against head-choppers.

    • Monkey D. Luffy

      I disliked how the author described YPG as ‘jihadist fanaticism’ I don’t think he follows this conflict at all since YPG been fighting Jihadists since the begging of conflict. You are right he sound kinda biased on that part. Sounds too much pro turkey and has no mention of them in it.

  • Pave Way IV

    “…In reality, however, this operation is aimed at strengthening the US-backed forces in Syria and thereby disturb the Syrian army’s battle for Aleppo…”

    The author makes many good points and the U.S. no doubt wants to preserve their head-choppers in Aleppo, but it’s pretty clear now that Russia has decided that playtime is over. Syria and Russia have apparently decided that it will level East Aleppo to end this, despite the cries of inhumanity and ‘war crimes’ that are sure to follow from the west.

    Russia moving first on Aleppo will leave the U.S. crying about civilian casualties there while aggressively trying to censor any mention of the exact same thing that will be happening in Mosul. If East Aleppo can be liberated (or leveled) quickly – and it looks like Russia brought plenty of gear to do just that – then the U.S. will be stuck ‘defending’ it’s actions in Mosul for months. I wonder how much political will there will be to attack Raqqa after that.

  • trid2bnrml

    The US doesn’t seem to understand that the only reason they have been allowed to remain in Syria, is so they can continue to show the world the truth about what they really are, and what they’re really doing. The Syrian-Russian coalition could stop those US war planes from flying in Syrian air space, but they don’t. Syria has not attempted to force the US “coalition of the willing” to leave.

    These things are done not for the west, but because of the longer term benefits to the middle east and Russia. The world needs to see what washington is, and their lack of integrity and credibility, so the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that President Trump will work to restore peace. The warmongers ARE on their way out.

  • Catfish

    The scenario the author speaks of would fit into the plan b discussed in emails. The plan to have a “declared or undeclared salafist principality” in eastern Syria if they failed to remove Assad. There will likely be more attempts to eliminate the saa and pro saa civilians in the dier ezzor area.