Monday, October 21, 2019

Springtime for Erdogan; the "Kick Their Ass, Take Their Gas!" Tour

So the latest piece of geopolitical genius kicking around the collective empty heads of the Trump Administration is the notion of parking a couple of...infantry companies?...(Sciutto at CNN says "200 troops", which would be about a couple of full-strength line infantry companies) in and around "oilfields" in NE Syria to "secure" them.

I'm fascinated by the point of international law here. These are pieces of Syria. They belong to someone, or something, Syrian. Admittedly, the Syrian government is not and has not physically held possession of them. But they are, by simple definition, "Syrian". Who has given the United States the authority to "secure" shit in and around them? If "possession is nine-tenths of the law" and infantry the bailiff's men? Well, yes, but that's the ONLY possible justification. There's no possible actual legal or diplomatic standing for these guys. If the Syrian Arab Army shows up and says "GTFO or we'll shoot" and we don't GTFO we've just started a shooting war with the Syrian government for something that is purely and unequivocally our fuckup. Any GIs that will die will be dying for a mistake, or worse.

And this is more than just a weird mission. This is stupidly risky mission. The US now has no - zero - "friends" in Syria. Check out this little video of random Syrian civilians cursing and pelting GIs with spuds, rocks, and rotten fruit. Nobody will have these poor bastards' backs - indeed, they're targets for everyone; Islamic State whackaloons, Syrian Army troops, Kurds pissed off at being betrayed, random jihadi nuts. Hell, it'd be shorter to list the people who DON'T have a reason to kill GIs than those who do. For the sake of some crappy little pieces of Syrian oilpatch these poor bastards are going to be hanging out there with a huge "Shoot Me Now!" sign on them.

But, hey! No worries! These sorts of things only semi-complicated and are totally not difficult for someone as smart as the Trumpster to figure out, right!

Oh, and this? THIS is simply fucking nuts:
"President Donald Trump is prepared to use military force against Turkey over its actions in Syria if “needed,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday as U.S. troops withdrew from the region. “We prefer peace to war,” Pompeo told CNBC’s Wilfred Frost in a taped interview that aired on “Closing Bell” on Monday. “But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action.”
I have no words to describe the idea of starting a shooting war with a NATO member. I know Sven likes to remind us how worthless an ally the U.S. has become to the nations of Europe, but this? Attacking Turkey, a NATO partner, for military actions taken in Syria? Where the hell does that leave Article 5 Article I, which states that "The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations." (corrected per Sven's reminder on the limits of Article V)


Christ, every time I think this Administration has reached Peak Shitshow...

Update 10/23: Unlike Fake News Donnie, his BFF Vlad the Impaler is a genuine badass dictator who rides around bare-chested on a pony and knows that if you grab your enemy by the balls his heart and mind will follow.
"According to the deal announced at a joint news conference in Sochi, Ankara will control a 32km-wide (20 miles) area between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, which covers 120km (75 miles) of the Turkish-Syrian border. Beginning on Wednesday at noon, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will start removing the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which spearhead the SDF, and their weapons 30km (19 miles) from the border area. Once this is complete, within 150 hours, Turkish and Russian forces will run joint patrols 10km (six miles) to the east and west of the zone."
Here's what this will look like:
This is a huge backdown for Erdogan; he announced that he was going to grab a chunk of Syria 20 miles deep and 276 miles long, about 5,500 square miles. The 20-mile-by-75-mile piece he gets under this is about 1,500 square miles. His Syrian refugees are gonna have to be reeeeeal good buddies to pack into that.

Meanwhile, the Adventures of #EndEndlessWars continues; Trumpy's SecDef Esperanto announced that the US guys who had grabbed a hat out of YPG-land were moving to western Iraq, at which point the Baghdad government slapped him upside the head with what amounts to "Fuck YOU, Yankee dog!"

Thus proving that all this region needed was a very stable genius.

Unfortunately, it was an evil genius, and he runs the former Soviet kleptocracy.

Jesus wept.


  1. I wrote repeatedly about the actual North Atlantic Treaty text (even though it gets laborious and complicated because of the accession protocols that mildly modify the text in effect). More people should read it instead of thinking of the colloquial idea of what NATO is:

    A shootout between Turks and Americans in Syria would be a violation of Article I and II (and thus illegal under U.S. Constitution Article 6(2)), but it would not trigger Article 5 because NATO is really only an alliance regarding attacks in well-defined territories and seas. Syria is not included.

    In other words, the PR China could nuke Hawaii and Germany wouldn't be obliged to lift a finger. And that's a VERY, VERY good fact for the United States because it may limit the extent of an American-Sino War:

    1. Corrected, though I don't think Article II is really germane to warring between member states. It recommends that the members strengthen peaceful interaction and institutions, which at the point where fighting is occurring is kinda moot.

      But, yes; I stand corrected.

    2. Hopefully the PRC is smart enough not to throw something at San Diego while they're nuking Honolulu; I see the specification about "Europe or North America".

      How does this cover Turkey, though, given that Asia Minor is, well, kind of in Asia? It seems like the Charter should have been amended when Turkey was admitted...

    3. Well, I suppose there would be a bit of economic conflict if U.S. Armed Services and Turkish military shoot at each other in or above Syria.

      "They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies (...)"

      I mean - even the moronic threat of ruining the Turkish economy was already a violation of the North Atlantic Treaty and the accession protocol.

  2. I agree that they are all nuts. However, to be fair, the Turks did bracket an American OP near Kobani, which is also crazy.

    Personally, I think Putin and Erdogan rolled Trump up and out of Syria. Which, on balance, is probably a good thing for the USA (and even possibly Syria, but that remains to be seen).

    1. Which Syria, though? Assad? Sure. The Sunnis who rebelled? No. The Kurds? No. Pretty much everyone else outside the Alawite minority? No.

      There never was going to be a "good thing" from this, just bad and worse. Unfortunately the way this went down I think we're looking at "worse".

      And the thing about looking at this as "they're all nuts" is to make a sensible approach to this region - including the approach "stay the fuck out" - nearly impossible. In point of fact, many of the people and groups acted entirely rationally from their own lights. Because we in the West don't live in a zero-sum society (yet!) doesn't mean that we should consider the notion of fighting for political position nuts. In a place and a situation like Syria's it actually makes sense; it's the Game of Thrones, and you win or you die. That may seem nuts by our lights...but they're not our lights.

  3. 1] Pompeo's threat is duplicitous. He knows the fix is in and Putin will stop further penetrations by Turkey. But the threat gives the moron in the WH a chance to look tough and claim it was his own strategic mastery that backed downed the Turks.

    2] Reportedly, per SecDef Esperanto, the oilfields were only to be protected from Daesh. Let us hope that is true and the US troops at al-Omar will quietly withdraw when Russian MPs and experts from the Syrian Dept of Energy arrive. The moron will back down. Madness if not, and we need a real coup.

    3] Agree with Ael's comment with a huge caveat. It would have been a thousand times better for Syria and for the northeastern Kurds, Arabs, Christians if it had been handled with sanity instead of last minute tweet by the moron.

    4] The moron screwed our allies by not giving them a chance to negotiate with Assad before we pulled the plug. And he screwed them again by telling them to destroy their fortifications near the border and that the US would make sure the Turks would not invade.

    5] The moron in the WH has not yet realized that Turkey has been lost to NATO since at least 2014 when Erdogan became president. And probably a decade earlier that when his AKP party came to power.

    6] Did I mention that we elected a moron?

    1. Yes, Trump is a moron, but he was also betrayed by his administration who didn't follow directions. Thus making the "disaster by tweet" inevitable.

    2. The "betrayal" was an attempt to restrain the Toddler-in-Chief from throwing American pals under the bus while his understaffed and overworked State Department and the DoD tried to work out a modus vivendi between the YPG, Turkey, Assad, and Russia. Y' adults faced with difficult, even intractable problems, often do.

      Unfortunately, the orange diaper-baby has the foresight and patience of...well, a whiny titty-baby, and so he blarted out his tweet and kicked off this disaster rather than be patient like a grownup.

      If that's betrayal, I betray my kids every day when I refuse to buy them Crunchy Frosted Sugar Bombs or let them eat their Oreos with beer.

    3. Trump is a moron. But he is the duly elected President of the United States.

      When I was in Staff College it was drummed into me: Always follow your commanders intentions, not yours. He is the commander, not you. If you won't follow them, then you must resign. Ignoring the commanders desired policy and trying to implement your own policy (even though you are convinced that yours is better) is a fundamental breach of duty.

      He, for better and much worse, is your boss and not a child. If you can't treat him like your boss, you need to get out of the way.

    4. He is a child. The whole world knows it. Even his base knows it, they just cheer him on because they love to see him trashtalk the left.

    5. As mike points out - when your boss IS a child - your primary responsibility is not to his infantile rages but to protect your people from one of his infantile rages.

      The President of the U.S. is both a politician and the CINC of the military. You can't divorce the two. His military order was - as we've seen - was politically moronic, and has created more risk and less security, including for the GIs who he's "removed" only as far as the nearest oilfield.

      That's why this wasn't "betrayal"; it was the sensible attempt to restrain a childish, ignorant and stupid politician from giving orders that would cause more death and destruction than they would prevent...and for nothing.

      So were they slow-walking the Tangerine Toddler's "intent"? Yes. Because his "intent" - as we've seen - was utterly fucked up.

      Was that "betraying" Trump? Only if "obeying my every moronic whim!" is the essence of fidelity.

    6. Again, he is the constitutionally elected leader. If you choose to work for him, you must work toward his (childish) wishes. Failure to do so is a breach of your oath to uphold the constitution. If you are in uniform and work with others against his lawful authority it is mutiny, which is a capital crime.

    7. You keep repeating this, but keep eliding the point that "working toward" isn't the same as "mindlessly following", and that the POTUS is not an infantry lieutenant. The POTUS is a very unusual "commander" in that it works at a vastly high strategic level.

      I'm reading Hamilton's "Mantle of Command" about FDR, and it's a good example of how this is supposed to work.

      For example, Stimpson and Marshall wanted Overlord in 1942. Roosevelt nixed it, and directed them to start in North Africa. That was the extent of his "wishes", and his subordinates obeyed him. But the timing, the locations, the troop units? That he left up to his subordinates. He didn't tell them "I want this by June!" because it would have been idiotic - the Allies wouldn't have been ready in June 1942. By November, they were.

      So the point here that you're missing (and the dam "War on the Rocks" guy COMPLETELY misunderstands) is that Trumps people WERE trying to work towards his "wishes". But they were working towards them like people who understood the bad consequences of, well, what he did. They were trying to get the GIs out WITHOUT cratering everything. Tweetzilla thumped in and wrecked the place because he has the patience of a six-year-old and the understanding of a dish of sugar cookies.

      Mike and I keep trying to make this point; the problem here isn't that Trump wanted out of Syria. Hell, I want out of Syria. The problem was that he didn't have the patience and the intelligence and the political understanding to get out of Syria in the least-worst way, and, instead, made things worse. Nobody is saying that his subordinates should have "mutinied". But you and the War on the Rocks dude are treating this like me telling my Joes to go to the motor pool, and that's a relentlessly simpleminded way of looking at it.

    8. I am sensitive to the issue because Canada had a similar experience with high level "mutiny" during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our civilian leadership was dithering about what action to take about the missiles, but the Canadian military behaved as if the decision had already been taken and followed American orders to go on alert.

    9. Ael -

      Going on alert at a time when there was a possibility of nukes being tossed around seems a perfectly sensible & logical thing to do. Who was the Canadian three-star at NORAD during that time? I seriously doubt he was following US orders. He deserves a pat on the back and NOT a court martial?

    10. Unless, of course, going on alert greatly increases the probability of thermonuclear war.

      Anyway, read the NORAD Agreement. Consent of *both* governments is required before any formal alerts or action.

  4. @FDChief - "Check out this little video of random Kurdish civilians cursing and pelting GIs with spuds, rocks, and rotten fruit."

    It is not clear to me that the potato-flinging hecklers in that video are Kurds. At least not all are Kurds. They are moving through Qamishli, a mixed city whose population is Arab, Kurd Assyrian, and Armenian. And it has long been a base in the NE for Assad's Syrian Arab Army. Many of the non-Kurdish residents have always been loyal to Assad. And most if not all of young adult male Kurds in that city are in uniform fighting elsewhere. Some may have been Kurds, but not all IMHO.

    And Jenan Moussa who posted the video is a Lebanese Arab. She works for the Arabic al-Aan TV based out of Dubai. Quite a famous one actually, has interviewed one of the British Daeshi 'Beatles' (once he was in custody) who tortured and beheaded journalists and foreign aid workers. And in the past has also reported on Benghazi and Guantanamo. But I'm not sure she knows the diff between a Kurd or Assyrian or Arab. Or maybe doesn't care and did it for the story value.

    1. Chuck Pfarrer, a former Navy Seal with contacts in Syria, put up a graphic updating the situation in Qamishli. He says 'local civilians' did the vegetable-chucking. And from the location on his map, it seems to me it happened on the road south from Qamishli where the population is more Arab.

  5. Some updates:

    At Sochi, Erdogan has made the same deal with Russia that he made with the US last August (which he broke with the Moron's help two weeks ago). With Putin standing at his side Erdo told a joint press conference: “Starting from October 23, 12 noon, within 150 hours, YPG terrorists and their weapons will be removed from an area within 30 km depth and the fortifications of the organization will be destroyed." Both the SDF and YPG had agreed to the August deal between US and Turkey. They had destroyed their fortifications and withdrew their units. They rushed back in after Turkey's invasion. Will they leave again? I suspect not if the Turk-supported jihadis are allowed to stay, or if there are no guarantees from Russia to stop Erdogan's plan to ethnic cleanse the zone.

    Assad calls Erdogan a "thief". Not only for stealing Syrian land, but also for Turkey's symbiotic Salafi terrorists now looting Syrian grain towers in addition to the homes and shops they had already looted. Serves you right Bashar IMO for trusting Putin not to backstab you in Russian dealings with Turkey.

  6. Selfie videos published by the certifiably deranged:

    Translation by Mekut Mallet. Faylaq al-Majd or 'Glory Corps' were at the forefront of the murders, rapes, and looting in Afrin Canton. Hundreds if not thousands of their members came from the rabid Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, which was even too brutal and pestilential for HTS also known as al-Qaeda in Syria. HTS threw them out of Idlib. They had abducted and tortured journalists and humanitarian workers; threw homos off of tall buildings; and beheaded a Palestinian boy.

    Faylaq al-Majd is going to be hard to handle by Erdogan and Putin. Especially Putin, as they neither like nor trust the Russians and have called them murderers. They are undoubtedly now howling in rage about the new Russian/Turkish Deal, which will limit their depredations. They ain't gonna stop making mincemeat out of any Kurd or Christian civilian they meet, or even any Arabs that have something they want for themselves.