US Sends More Diplomats to Coalition-Controlled Areas of Syria: What’s Behind the Move?

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Written by Arkady Savitsky; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

Defense Secretary James Mattis announced on Oct. 2 that the number of US diplomats in Syria had doubled. No specific number was mentioned, but the move was motivated by the need to intensify the diplomatic effort, with “the military operations becoming less.” Under the label of “Syria,” the secretary was referring to more than a quarter of the country, with an estimated population of 1.5 million to two million people. This territory is controlled by the US-supported and Kurdish-dominated SDF and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC). The United States embassy in Damascus has been closed since 2012. There are no plans to reopen it despite the fact that security there has improved.

US Sends More Diplomats to Coalition-Controlled Areas of Syria: What’s Behind the Move?

Reuters cited anonymous sources to claim that the defense secretary “was referring to State Department employees, including diplomats and personnel involved in humanitarian assistance, and the increase was recent.” The Kurds see this as a positive move. They believe it is a sign that their cooperation with Washington goes beyond just the fight against the Islamic State. But in truth, adding diplomatic representation to its military presence means that the SDF-controlled territory — the largest chunk of Syria outside of state control — is now seen as an entity the US can interact with in Syria while giving Damascus the cold shoulder. The Kurds need US backing in order to hold on to the Arab-populated areas east of the Euphrates River, such as Raqqa, the former unofficial capital of ISIS.

The SDF does more than just control the land. It also sets up local governing authorities  to rule it. On Sept. 6, 2018, the establishment of the “Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria” was announced, linking all of the self-governing administrations in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) regions with non-DFNS civil councils. According to Kurdistan 24, “the new administration will be based in Ain Issa. It will be a coordination body linking the self-administrations of the Kurdish majority areas and the civil administrations in Arab majority areas that have their own civil councils.” The SDC-controlled administration is to rule the Euphrates region and the Jazira region, as well as the Arab-populated city of Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, which was liberated by SDF from ISIS last year.

The Kurdish Afrin region is controlled by Turkey. In June, the US and Turkey agreed on a road map for the joint control of the Kurdish town of Manbij. The plan called for Turkish and American forces to jointly oversee stabilization operations in the area, as well as the eventual withdrawal of the Kurdish militia in Manbij. This prompted the Kurds to hold talks with Damascus. The SDC conducted several meetings with Syrian officials in July. But the talks ground to a halt after just a few rounds, without results.

The Council shifted its policy when Trump administration officials confirmed that the US-led coalition will stay in Syria until Iran leaves. Now the Kurdish-controlled areas are moving away from Damascus, implementing a policy of “decentralization.” Manbij is still held by the Kurds. On September 30, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused the US of sabotaging the dialog between the government in Damascus and the SDC. Washington has not officially supported the plans for autonomy, avoiding any political pledges or promises, but in practice it encourages the separatist trends that are leading to Syria’s partition.

“We do get along great with the Kurds. Don’t forget, that’s their territory,” Trump told a news conference at the United Nations General Assembly in late September. “We have to help them. I want to help them…They fought with us. They died with us.” His words could be interpreted in various ways, but the idea is more or less clear — the US has to help the Kurds and the territory is seen as solely their property. It’s not the Kurdish-populated chunks of Syria that the president was talking about, but rather “their territory,” which includes areas with predominantly Arab populations that never belonged to Syrian Kurdistan. It does not matter. These are little, unimportant things that are undeserving of attention, because the Kurds are “not disposable allies” for the US, as the New York Times has emphasized.

The Kurds feel the winds of change blowing, as the US policy has pivoted toward staying in order to oppose Iran at any cost. They see signs of America’s renewed interest in the oil-rich region they control in northern and eastern Syria. “We feel (the Americans) are more committed now,” said Aldar Xelil, a top Kurdish politician. Washington needs allies and the Syrian Kurds are the only force they can bank on, even if Turkey does not like it. Their presence in Syria is an important aspect of their increased role in the Middle East, as an Arab NATO is expected to be announced soon.

There are around 40 million Kurds across Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. They are the largest ethnic group without a state of their own. The old dream of establishing a Greater Kurdistan has never died. Today, the Syrian Kurds have their own armed forces (the Peshmerga), established local authorities, control of Syria’s national oil deposits — the basis for the potential development of their economy — and some diplomatic representation abroad. In a nutshell, they have many of the trappings of an independent state, which could emerge on the world map “with a little help” from their American friends. Coupled with the almost-independent Kurdish region in Iraq, a league of semi-autonomous Kurdish states between the northeast regions of Syria and Iraq could seemingly become a factor in the politics of the Middle East.

The US doesn’t have much to lose. Turkey is angry anyway about having been placed under sanctions. One remembers the famous maps of the Middle East drawn up by retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters and published in 2006 that mirrored key elements of his book Never Quit the Fight, featuring a “Free Kurdistan” that included additional territory taken from Syria as well as an Iraq that was depicted as a divided state. The top brass who define US foreign policy today have all read it, and their mindset has inevitably been influenced by the author’s ideas.

The name of the game is the partition of Syria, which is merely one element of a larger policy that is aimed at forcing a rollback of Iran in every location possible. With all other areas under Syrian control, it would be much harder to promote the process of detaching the SDF-held areas from the rest of the country. The US needs other hotbeds of activity distracting the Syrian government’s attention and weakening its position. Idlib must remain under rebel control. The pot must be kept boiling. It was reported that on Sept. 6, American helicopters evacuated ISIS militants from Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zor province (from the town of al-Shaafah, which is located near the Iraqi border). Let them fight in other places. This is the right time to add more fuel to the fire.

By and large, the fact that some parts of Syria are controlled by Turkey is also in keeping with the larger goal, as long as clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish formations are avoided. Of course, diplomatic efforts will be intensified in order to grant some legitimacy and international support to this policy of encouraging the partition of war-torn Syria. That’s why the State Department has landed its amphibious task force.

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  • alejoeisabel

    ” “We feel (the Americans) are more committed now,” said Aldar Xelil, a top Kurdish politician. ”
    This is the language of a traitor that makes common cause with the planetary hegemon. There is no room for traitors in a multi confessional and ethnic country as Syria.

    • #’~A*QXm(>NRmm]w?dU4vXZ

      The Americans ARE committed, no doubt about it: the commitment is to screw everyone else.

  • BlueInGreen

    Scary to think just how fragile the loyalty of a good majority of Kurds is to a nation that respected them as a people and viewed them as one of their own….. Not to mention a nation that was stable and functioning fine.

    Shameless people, and I hate saying that since I genuinely think Kurds are pretty good in general. But I don’t think they deserve a nation of their own since it will turn into Israel 2.0 (Strong evidence that Kurds don’t care for the lives of non-kurds and forcibly removed Native populations from their homes to make room for Kurds) and quite frankly it just doesn’t make much sense geographically.

    There are reports on the SDF struggling to integrate Native Arabs into their government and military forces due to obvious strong Anti-Arab sentiments from the Kurds against the Arabs. Remember reading some article or news story about some Kurdish force not allowing a group of wounded people access to medical treatment since they were not Kurdish, or something along those lines.

    US as per usual is doing all that it can to interfere and will most likely be entrenched in Syria for the foreseeable future. Unless some sort of insurgency rises up that takes aim at US troops specifically and inflicts losses for the US forces, they will stay in Syria.

    Regardless the future of Syria is still tumultuous but we can at least be thankful for the bravery of Syrians, Lebanese, Iranians and Russians in taking back the majority of Syria. With any luck (within the next 5-15 years) the Syrian Kurds who allied themselves with the US will realize just how bad a deal it was to do so.

    • Tommy Jensen

      Erdogan and Assad only have lire and goat shit and Russia only has rubbles.
      Sorry guys, but now the Americans are OUR friends and give us Kurds dollares, and you envy us that Americans are not your friends and you dont get the dollares…………………………..LOL.

      • BlueInGreen

        Don’t really get your point. Who are “you” that is Americas friend?

        • vlom2441

          Tommy Jensen is probably and Israeli troll. Do not any attention to the bovine excrement that comes out of his mouth.

    • Brad Isherwood

      East Euphrates oil is crap……it’s not light sweet crude.
      Yes….Damascus losses some Nat/Gas Fields.
      They however have sufficient Nat/gas to operate their partition nation with the big Offshore Nat/gas fields.

      Rabbi Lazar lectured Putin on S 300 mistake and how striking Iran in Syria was what Russia should help Israel continue to do.

      That’s truly disturbing. …
      How come Iran doesn’t get in Putin’s face over this Fraud reason to pillage Syria?
      Trump and other madmen roar loud about Attack Iran,
      You gotta wonder Putin will just sit that out too.
      That war could happen later when Putin is gone.
      Hopefully Russia’s MoD will not stand for that war,
      Cuz after….it’s just Russia and China left standing.

      • BlueInGreen

        The way that one should look at Syria and conflicts in general is a cost/benefit ratio. For the Russians it was a simple matter of losing an ally “Syria under Bashar” which means that any future plans for oil or trading would greatly hindered, as well as losing strategic assets such as Tartus naval base, various air bases, positioning of military forces etc, etc… For Iran it would mean losing a crucial friendly nation and ally, as well as leaving Hezbollah to the wolves (Israel) and eventually paving the way for regional US satellites states to launch an attack on Iran proper. For Hezbollah it was a matter of Lebanese integrity since Syria was quite literarily falling apart in 2014 and they needed to intervene to save both Lebanon and Syria from full Jihadi dictatorship. So respectively, these nations decided to intervene rather heavily in Syria in order to preserve Syrian integrity to the best of their ability given their own parameters.

        You ask if Iran got in Putins face. My answer would be that logically speaking, yes, I bet the Iranians made a a lot of noise and complaints if not outright yelling at the Russians as to why they keep allowing the Israelis to attack their forces in Syria. The Russians probably responded by saying that they only wanted to help Syria become stable and get rid of the “rebels” and terrorists as well as strengthening their own position in Syria. Iran helps tremendously but for the Russians, Iran is still potential competition in oil, weapons and influence. Russia has to play the diplomat because Israel has the ability to escalate the scenario better than the Russians do. I’ve been over this before but Israel has complete access to US weapon stockpiles in case of war. Meaning if Israel decided to haphazardly stroll into Syria or Lebanon to wage open warfare against Iran they can do so knowing that they have money, weapon and supplies coming in non-stop. Russia is a powerful nation but doesn’t want to get bogged down in a war like that, especially since the official Russia MO in Syria is purely to fight “terrorists”.

        The question about whether or not Russia will stand by as Iran, in the future, is attacked by US or Israel and CO. Is one no one can really answer with a good degree of certainty. US currently is going through a really bad phase of political radicalization and internal strife, as well as culture degradation across the board. It’d be hard to sell the US public on a Iran war at all truthfully speaking. As for the regional states like Saudi Arabia or UAE, or Israel. None of them have the endurance that Iran has in war times.

        • BlueInGreen

          Saudi Arabia is primed for an internal revolution, UAE is not a militaristic nation, Israel is too far away to do any meaningful damage. So there isn’t much to be done on that front. Irans really weakness (as we can clearly see) is poor management of funds inside the country and a weak economy coupled with a political system that doesn’t want to reform for the better.

          If Iran falls, it’s because of internal strife and outside pressure, but not war.

          • Brad Isherwood

            Had read some online coment about Mullahs vs IRGC,
            IRGC wanting a seat at Syrian reconstruction.
            The Mullahs dissed them,…then we began seeing IRGC numeric and PMU militias reduced in Syria. ….and PMU in Iraq.
            Upon reading that Moqtada al Sadr had Cursed Assad and Shia PMU’s, then met with Lunatic MBS of Saudi Arabia for party.
            Ya…that’s a Red Flag for sure.
            Iraq’s political ability to tell US to leave Iraq is also problem…

            Iran’s political Kabuki theatre also needs the Wolf Netanyahu threatening them.
            Thus the Mullahs and Clerics with their $$$Millions stashed offshore can justify their hold over the Iranian people’s.

            If Iran’s Military actually reacted to Israel with a defined response which removed the
            Kabuki theatre,…yes….we’d find the silly TV show of blame put into proper standing.
            Israel would understand they will be loss like US Vietnam war ….if they try taking on Iran.

          • #’~A*QXm(>NRmm]w?dU4vXZ

            UAE is not a military power of significance, but it IS militaristic – see its activity in Yemen and towards Qatar.

        • Brad Isherwood

          Excellent presentation : )

          Hezbollah faces scheming which could find Syria and Iran not willing to support – Officially.
          I agree with your points about Israel having the weapons and other leverage.
          Having Syria or Iran Officially back Hezbollah is something Israel wants so it can define both as supporters of Terrorism.

          Lebanon Sovereign airspace may come into play in the future.
          Hezbollah was rumored to have been given a Syrian Mobile BUK M2E system.
          Hezbollah builds Iranian missiles from scratch now.
          Their ability to copy a tracked or truck chassis BUK M2E is possible.
          Later….that could challenge IAF.
          Hezbollah would commit to retake the Syrian Golan stolen.
          That’s doable…sure Israel will bring the hammer,
          Yet it’s probable IDF would be over run before getting their softy IDF up to stop things.
          Once All of Golan is retaken, …just a couple of days.
          It’s call Cease Fire at UN with Russia, China backing that.

          Israel would loose twice….and deserve every curse afterwards.
          The cue is when Israel attacks Hezbollah, ….the Syrian military goes for the Golan with
          Sweeping ATGM teams …
          It’s on the clock….so you bypass some IDF and they are captured or ended later.

          It’s in Iran’s interest to make Israel pay for aggression and have them crucified politically for it..like as today….Nations rebuff Israel over Gaza murdering.
          US probably can’t stop the retaking of the Golan.
          They may threaten intervention…yet if things go by the clock, …it’s over in just a few days.

    • Jens Holm

      I see no respect from You. You only understand guns.

      • BlueInGreen

        What? What in the hell are you even talking about…

        Are you ok?

  • AM Hants

    Despite the fact they are not invited.

    Interesting, how the friends of the US are fighting amongst themselves. Killing each other, to get hold of the chemical weapons, the West supplied them with. So now they have moved the chlorine to Aleppo, just in time for the next OPCW meeting, where they wish to cause trouble for Syria and Russia. Wonder how Haley and Pierce, will spin it in the UN?

    Daesh Seizes Chlorine Barrels After Fight With Nusra Front Militants In Syria… ‘… “On the evening of October 9, an armed group affiliated with [Daesh] attacked the headquarters of a Nusra Front unit near the village of Ltamenah. Four militants and two employees of the White Helmets organization were killed in the skirmish. Two chlorine canisters were taken from the headquarters,” the center said in a statement…’ https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201810101068771306-chlorine-daesh-west-syria-militants-provocation/

  • Sinbad2

    Diplomat is America speak for CIA.

  • Tommy Jensen

    That means an Israel II with 40 million smiling Kurds, killing local tribes one by one taking over their homes like the silly Palestinians, is being carved out and created in the middle of Iran/Iraq/Turkey with the good gas/oil fields……………………………………LOL.

    As I told you, we Americans always win.
    Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Russia and you guys dont like it? You have a problem man, not us, we won………LOL.

    • Mustafa Mehmet

      Syria will be Your second. Vietnam 🇻🇳 lol

    • #’~A*QXm(>NRmm]w?dU4vXZ

      Please explain specifically what you mean by “we won”: what exactly has been won by the US & its vassals?

  • Ronnie

    So.. have they had an invite yet??

    thought so..

  • Glen Etzkorn

    The Kurds are a mere 5 percent of the Syrian and thier thieving along with ISIS apparently marketing much of the Oil pilfered at reduced prices with benefiting Israel and lining many a pocket? Some years back the amount due was 32 billion. Eff the Kurds claim to fame.

    • Jens Holm

      They are 10%.But thats not even the point, which You nver will understand.

  • northerntruthseeker .

    Yeah.. “Diplomats”… Lets go with that……

  • Carol Davidek-Waller

    Coalition controlled=Illegally occupied

  • Jens Holm

    Most here is crap. You dont know what You are figting for as well.