Putin ramps up Syria pact with Iran in US absence

T. Belman. For all we know, Netanyahu is meeting with Putin as Trump’s emissary.

While I am at it, many in the US think of Putin as the devil who must be opposed yet at the same time they get in bed with far worse like Saudi Arabia, Turkey,etc. I’ll take Russia any day.


Constantly bombarded by allegations that his campaign associated with Russian intelligence, US President Donald Trump has held back from going through with his original plan for teaming up with Moscow in Syria for the important campaigns of wiping out the Islamic State and relieving Syria of Iran’s iron grip.

His entire Middle East policy is up in the air, while he grapples with domestic foes. The much talked-of US coalition with its regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, is also in abeyance.

Amid the uncertainty about the Trump administration’s future steps, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is unlikely to make much headway in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, March 9,
DEBKAfile’s intelligence and military sources report that, even if does persuade Putin to stick to his promise to prevent Iran and Hizballah from deploying troops on the Syrian-Israeli border opposite the Golan, he won’t get far in his bid to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military and naval presence in Syria.
This is the situation stacking up against Netanyahu:

1. The Trump administration has decided not to decide on Middle East policy – and Syria, in particular – while engaged in dodging his domestic enemies’ Russian arrows.

2. Some of the president’s advisers maintain that the state of indecision in Washington may turn out into an advantage. It might not be a bad thing for Moscow to carry the heavy lifting of tackling ISIS, Iran and Hizballah, rather than putting US troops in harm’s way.

3. Putin is not waiting for Trump and is already on the move, DEBKAfile’s sources report.

Friday, March 3, Russian special operations units recovered the Syrian town of Palmyra from the Islamic State.
That day too, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), composed predominantly of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and Arab tribesmen from the north, agreed to hand over their positions in the strategic town of Manjib to the Russians and the Syrian army.

The SDF was created, trained, armed and funded by the United States as the potential spearhead force for the offensive against the Islamic State. This force was able to last year to capture the small (pop: 50,000) northern town of Manjib, 30km west of the Euphrates, thanks only to US aerial bombardments of ISIS positions and American advisers.

How come that this important US ally suddenly surrendered its positions to the Russians and Assad’s army?
There is more than one reason. Firstly, the SDF’s Kurdish and Arab commanders apparently decided to give up on waiting for Washington to come round, especially since the only weapons they had received from the Obama administration for fighting ISIS were Kalashnikov AK-74 rifles.

Moreover, the Kurds’ most implacable arch enemy is breathing down their necks. On March 1, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to order his army, which has occupied northern Syria since last year, to seize Manjib. He said: “Manjib is a city that belongs to the Arabs and the SDF must not be in Raqqa either.”

The Kurdish-Arab force decided to take the Turkish leader at his word. Believing him to be close to Trump, its leaders decided their services were being dispensed with. They saw no point therefore in wasting and risking their troops in battles in the US interest. In this situation, Moscow looked like a better bet.

DEBKAfile’s military sources stress that, when the Russians say they are working with the Syrian army, they really mean the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Hizballah, because most Syrian army’s units were decimated by nearly six years of civil war, or exist only on paper.

That being so, even if Putin does promise Netanyahu to distance Iranian and pro-Iranian troops from the Syrian-Israeli border, he may not be in a position to honor his pledge. With the Americans far away, they are Russia’s main partners on the ground for achieving his future goals in Syria.

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  1. “2. Some of the president’s advisers maintain that the state of indecision in Washington may turn out into an advantage. It might not be a bad thing for Moscow to carry the heavy lifting of tackling ISIS, Iran and Hizballah, rather than putting US troops in harm’s way.”

    I agree with them. The war in Syria-Iraq is far from over, regardless of what the US, Russia and others do there.

    President Trump has made defeating ISIS an issue, just as GHW and GW Bush drummed up wars with Iraq, Clinton ditto in Yugoslavia and Obama all over the Middle East. He’s opened his mouth on the matter, and now has to follow through, at least in a token way, to save face. Ultimately, if present-day policies are continued, the Syrians, Iranians, Russians, Kurds and Americans will finish off ISIS (They will all do well, to keep the Turks out of the way). They can then all (including the Turks) play this up as a great victory, and a sign of international friendship and cooperation, and it shouldn’t cost us too much. That’s how the plan goes, at least.

    The American President and Congress are under severe attack by anti-American elements in the press, the Democratic Party, Wealthy economic interests and Muslim agents. I think the Republicans will ultimately win, and the insurgents will lose. Meanwhile, Israel has to defend itself — against all enemies, which currently means against Hizbullah and its Russian, Syrian and Iranian allies.

  2. Manbij started as a Circassian re-settlement in the Ottoman Empire, and was mixed, including Arab Christians under Assad.

    Putin would rather not have Hezbollah involved, except maybe to take Raqqa.

    He may be Russian, but Putin has convincingly embraced the protection of Eastern Orthodox Christians as did the Tsars. The Crimean War was about that.

    Always think about what is in Russia, and Putin interests.

    I do not think 100,000 rockets and missiles pointed at Jerusalem qualifies as in Russia’s interests.

    Does not the Eastern Church lay claim to Jerusalem?

    fwiw, Syrian Kurds may have some affinity to being part of a Federated Syria. The tomb of Saladin is in Damascus. The great Kurd got Arabized.

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