Syria Summary – Will the Trump-Putin Agreement Hold?

Featured image: Syria, after six years of U.S.-manufactured war. (Source: VENEZUELAPHOTO: PRENSA LATINA | INTERNET@GRANMA.CU \SANA)

The conflict between the U.S. and Russia over Syria seems to have calmed down after the recent G-20 meeting between Putin and Trump. Some kind of agreement was made but neither its scope nor its bindingness is known. One common current aim is the defeat of ISIS.

At the meeting between the Presidents Trump and Putin in Hamburg a temporary truce was agreed for the south-west area of Syria. The Syrian government (violet) holds the city of Deraa while various foreign sponsored insurgent groups (green), including al-Qaeda and ISIS, occupy the borders towards Israel and Jordan. There had been some serious fighting after recent al-Qaeda attacks on Baath city neat the Golan. During these the Israeli airforce had multiple times supported the al-Qaeda groups with attacks on the Syrian army.

Under the truce agreement the Russian side guarantees that the Syrian government and its allies stop fighting while the U.S. guarantees that Israel, the various FSA groups, al-Qaeda and ISIS stay quiet. The truce has now held for several days. There were no spoilers. The U.S. seems to have strong influence with ALL those entities.

East of the Deraa area in the governate of Sweida the Syrian army has continued operations against U.S. supported Free Syrian Army groups. Within a few days it has taken a lot of ground against little resistance including a deserted U.S. base that was not publicly known. It is possible that a secret part of the Deraa truce agreement allows for the Syrian army to liberate the whole area next to the Jordan border towards the east up to the U.S. held border crossing at al-Tanf.

Source: Fabrice Balanche/WINEP – see bigger picture here

The U.S. base in Tanf had become nonviable after the Syrian army had taken all ground north of it and Iraqi militia had blocked it from the Iraqi side. The U.S. had trained some Syrian mercenaries at Tanf and had planned to march those north towards Deir Ezzor. As that route is now blocked some of the trained mercenaries were recently transferred by air to Shadadi base in north-east Syria where they will have to fight under Kurdish command. Others have refused to move north. Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra, previously called the New Syrian Army, is mostly made up of local men who probably do not want to leave their nearby families and do not want to come under Kurdish leadership. The U.S. should send them home and leave the area.

Today a new two-pronged move against the ISIS siege on Deir Ezzor was started. Syrian army forces and its allies moved east from their Palmyra positions and south-east from their positions south of Raqqa. An additional move against Deir Ezzor may come from the Syrian forces further south-east near the Iraqi border. The Iraq air force has recently flown attacks against ISIS position in the Deir Ezzor areas. This was done in agreement with the Syrian government. That may be a sign that Iraqi forces will join the fight to relief the city with an additional move south-west from their positions near Tal Afar. The U.S. military has for now given up its dream of assaulting and occupying Deir Ezzor with its proxy forces.

The west and north west of Syria have been relatively quiet. A rumored imminent Turkish attack on Kurdish held areas has not happened. The mostly al-Qaeda held areas in Idleb governate are still unruly. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Turkmen, Uighurs, Kurds, local Free Syrian Army gangs all have their little fiefdoms in the area. Assassinations and attacks on each other are daily occurrences. There is no reason for the Syrian government to intervene in that melee.

The agreement between Trump and Putin over Syria might be more wide ranging than is publicly known. For now it seems that the parties have agreed on areas of influences with the U.S. for now; occupying the north-east currently under control of its YPG proxies. It is building more bases there with the total number now being eight or nine. At least three of these have their own airstrips. It is asking Congress to legalize further base building. It is obvious that the U.S. military plans to stay in the area even after ISIS is defeated.

But the Kurds in Syria are only a minority in almost all areas they currently control. They are not united and the YPG, the only U.S. partner, is a radical anarcho-marxist group that has no legitimacy but force. The area is landlocked and all its neighbors are against Kurdish autonomy.

The U.S. effort to impose itself on the area is doomed. The use of the Kurds as a Trojan horse is unlikely to succeed. The Defense Department, it seems, has not yet accepted that fact. It still may try to sabotage whatever Trump and Putin have agreed upon.

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The mouse that roared: How Saudi Arabia underestimated Qatar

There is a certain irony to the crisis that ails the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), now that Qatar has been labelled a pariah by Saudi Arabia. Terror aside, this stand-off has potential to reshape the region into a completely new geopolitical entity.
How fast yesterday’s allies become today’s enemies, and those we long held as foes sit together as reliable partners in a time of crisis. I don’t think that many political analysts can claim to have predicted Saudi Arabia’s fall from grace. Yet the writing was on the wall for all to see. Crude, pragmatic and as inevitable as man’s greed before the alluring calls of power.
Both insignificant and geopolitically incontournable, I fear. Or maybe it is hoped that Qatar will be the mouse in Saudi Arabia’s fable, the one uncounted variable that will see the kingdom crashing down out of a desire to over-reach.

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British forces capture Bunker Hill but suffer heavy casualties

BOSTON (JUNE 17, 1775) — British regulars captured a key strategic point in the ongoing siege of Boston today, but suffered staggering losses in the process, leading some to question the leadership of Gens. Thomas Gage and William Howe, as well as Britain’s assumed military supremacy in the American colonies.
Last night, some 1,200 American troops, operating under the command of Col. William Prescott, stealthily snuck into Charlestown and dug in on both Bunker Hill and adjacent Breed’s Hill. Sources in the American army indicate that Prescott may have disobeyed orders from Gen. Artemis Ward, who ordered Prescott to occupy only Bunker Hill, which would present a fortified and easily defensible position from which to continue the siege. However, for reasons yet unclear, Prescott also undertook to fortify Breed’s Hill farther to the southeast.
From Breed’s Hill, American artillery was suddenly within range of both the Mystic River and also Boston Harbor, which meant that the American presence there presented an untenable threat to the British forces’ supply lines. Accordingly, Gen. Gage promptly ordered that Breed’s Hill be retaken at all costs and that the American forces be driven from Charlestown neck. Gen. Howe was given a force of about 2,300 British regulars with orders to eliminate the American threat.
Howe marched his men through the streets of Boston to the Charles River, where they boarded barges to carry them across. They reached the site of their attack point around 3 p.m., accompanied by a naval bombardment from the Royal Navy, and began to march in formation the 2,000 yards up the hill to meet his waiting foe.
The American forces, which had been reinforced on orders from the reportedly furious Gen. Ward, were still hazardously low on ammunition. As such, other than isolated sniper fire, the Americans held their fire until British soldiers were less than 50 yards away, at which point they unleashed a murderous fusillade of bullets into the redcoats’ ranks. The close-range fire was so effective that Howe was forced to halt his advance and spend the better part of half an hour regrouping his men for a second charge up the hill.
Again, Americans held fire, this time until the British were even closer, and the results the second time were no less devastating. One British soldier described this second volley of fire as “a continual sheet of lightning.” Again General Howe was forced to fall back.
Reports indicate that at this point, Howe’s men began to beg with him not to attempt a third assault on the fortified position. Every member of Howe’s staff was dead or wounded at this point, and British soldiers have accused the Americans of deliberately targeting officers during the charge. Howe, though, was insistent that the hill must be taken, so he summoned reinforcements for a third charge.
According to reports, the American ammunition situation was so dire at this point that Col. Prescott ordered his men to hold their fire “until you can see the whites of their eyes.” This time, the British were allowed to get within 15 yards of the summit before the Americans opened fire. Again, the results were murderous, and British regulars gained the Hill only when Americans ran out of ammunition and were forced to flee. Many were bayoneted or shot by the British out of hand as they fled.
Ultimately, the British removed the American threat from Breed’s Hill, but paid heavily for their strategic victory. According to official British reports, 226 British regulars died and an additional 928 were wounded. Americans, on the other hand, suffered 160 dead and 271 wounded in this day’s fighting.
Although Gen. Gage issued a proclamation of victory, he also was heard to exclaim to his staff that the Americans “shew a spirit and conduct against us, they never shewed against the French,” reflecting his country’s poor opinion of American battle prowess in the French-Indian War.

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Drip, drip, drip: Your guide to new revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians

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