Syria
Syria oil map

Trump lays claim to Syrian oil

Before Donald Trump left the London NATO summit in a huff, he made the startling claim at a press conference that the US can do “what we want” with the oil-fields it now controls in northeast Syria. This faux pas, jumped on by the British tabloid press, recalls Trump’s 2016 campaign trail boast of his plans for Syria: “I’ll take the oil”—and turn the seized fields over to Exxon. A military showdown over the oil looms, as all sides to the conflict await the new order that will emerge from the current scramble for northern Syria. A contest between the US and Russian-backed Assadist forces is a terrifying possibility. One restraining factor is that the US holds the fields jointly with Kurdish forces—and Washington, Moscow and Damascus alike are attempting to groom the Kurds as proxies. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Iraq
Sinjar

Iraq: Turkish jets attack Yazidi villages

The Yazidi village of Bara in northern Iraq was struck by Turkish warplanes for the second time in two days, injuring at least three. There were also strikes on the nearby village of Khanasor, targeting a base of the Shingal Protection Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia operating in the area. The YBS played a key role in liberating the area from ISIS after the Islamic State’s genocide against the Yazidis in 2014. Turkey calls the YBS an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and justifies its strikes by claiming the area is host to PKK positions. (Photo: Provisional Government of Ezidikhan)

Syria
troops return to Syria

Trump makes grab for Syrian oil-fields

A US military convoy was spotted headed back into Syria from Iraqi territory—just days after the US withdrawal from northern Syria, which precipitated the Turkish aggression there, had been completed. The convoy was traveling toward the Deir ez-Zor area, presumably to “guard” the oil-fields there, now under the precarious control of Kurdish forces. Following up on President Trump’s pledge to secure the oil-fields, Defense Secretary Mark Esper now says that the troops being mobilized to Deir ez-Zor “will include some mechanized forces.” Despite the talk of protecting the fields from ISIS, it is Russian-backed Assadist forces that are actually now also advancing on Deir ez-Zor from the other direction. So a show-down appears imminent—with the Kurds caught in the middle. (Photo: Rudaw)

Syria
Syria carve-up

Erdogan and Putin in Syria carve-up deal

Turkey and Russia reached a deal for joint control of northeast Syria, as Kurdish forces retreated from the so-called “safe zone” along the border. The 10-point agreement defines the dimensions of the “safe zone,” 480 kilometers long and 30 kilometers deep, enclosing the (former) Kurdish autonomous cantons of Kobani and Cezire. It supports Ankara’s demand for the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia. In Washington, Trump wasted no time in announcing that his administration will lift the sanctions it had imposed on Turkey in response to the aggression in Syria’s north. (Map: Cizire Canton via Twitter)

Syria
Kurdish protest

Syria: confusion, anger as US troops withdraw

US troops hastened their withdrawal from Syria, amid the anger of local Kurds and confusion over the future status of American forces in the area. Kurdish residents attempted to block a convoy of withdrawing US forces, with local youth pelting the vehicles with stones and rotten vegetables. But the Pentagon is now saying a remnant force of some 200 troops may remain—not to protect the Kurdish population from the Turkish aggression, but to help secure the Kurdish-held oil-fields from falling into the hands of ISIS. Trump actually broached turning the oil-fields over to “one of our big oil companies.” (Photo: ANHA via EA Worldview)

Syria
FSA-YPG

Podcast: against Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in Syria

In Episode 41 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg warns that the Turkish aggression in northern Syria holds the risk of an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. But he recalls the inspiring moment in 2014 when the Kurds and Free Syrian Army were united in a common front against Assad and ISIS. This alliance was exploded by imperial intrigues. The FSA, under military pressure from Assad, accepted Turkish patronage—and Turkey is bent on destruction of the Kurdish autonomous zone. Now, under pressure from Turkey, the Kurds have made an alliance with Assad—who the Arab-led opposition have been fighting for eight brutal years. In the brief “ceasefire” now declared, it is urgent that progressives around the world raise a cry against the Turkish aggression—but with a single standard, also opposing the ongoing Russian and Assadist war crimes. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of 2014 FSA-YPG united front via Rojava Breaking News)

Syria
Kurdish refugees

‘Ceasefire’ or ethnic cleansing in northeast Syria?

After meeting in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a “ceasefire.” However, Ankara is insisting the deal is not a “ceasefire” but a halt in the offensive to give Kurdish forces time to retreat from zone. Far from being a peace move, the pact amounts to an ultimatum to the Kurds to quit their territory. Some 160,000 Kurds have already fled the Turkish offensive—some to a refugee camp that has been established across the border in Iraq. (Photo: UNHCR via Twitter)

Syria
Ahrar al-Sharqiya

UN warns Turkey over rights violations in Syria

A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that Turkey may be held responsible for executions and civilian casualties that have occurred as a part of its military offensive in northern Syria. Rupert Colville stated that the office has received reports detailing civilian casualties as well as “summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey.” Especially mentioned were videos widely shared on social media that seem to show fighters executing three Kurdish captives on the al-Hassakeh-Manbij highway. Only one of the captives appeared to be wearing military uniform. (Photo via Twitter)

Syria
SDF

Syrian Kurds forge military pact with Assad regime

In a deal brokered by Russia, the leadership of the Rojava Kurds have agreed to cooperate with the Assad regime in resisting the Turkish incursion into northeast Syria. With Assadist forces already mobilizing to the region from the south and Turkish-backed forces advancing from the north, the Kurds have been left with little other choice. Accepting a separate peace with Assad is now their only hope to avoid outright extermination, or, at the very least, being cleansed entirely from their territory. But the sticking point in previous peace feelers between the Kurds and Assad has been the latter’s refusal to recognize the Rojava autonomous zone*—so its survival now is gravely in doubt, even in the improbable event that the Turkish advance is repulsed. Worse still, with the Kurds now open allies of the brutal regime that Syria’s Arab opposition has been fighting for nearly eight years, a general Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria appears terrifyingly imminent. (Photo: SOHR)

Syria
Rojava

Turkey prepares ‘humanitarian’ genocide of Kurds

Turkey launched its assault on the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, with air-strikes and artillery pounding areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. Hundreds of civilians have fled the bombardment, headed south into areas still held by Kurdish forces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cloaking this aggression in the guise of a “safe zone” for refugees, a humanitarian operation. In reality, Erdogan is exploiting the refugees as demographic cannon fodder, using them to populate areas Kurds are now to be displaced from, creating a new class of refugees, pitting Arabs against Kurds, and establishing the conditions for potentially generations of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria. (Map: Genocide Watch)

Syria
Rojava

Kurds iced from Syria constitution talks

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced formation of a constitutional committee on Syria that will include members of the Assad regime and opposition representatives. Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the  Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), protested that no representatives from the organization have been invited to join the committee. UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen said that although the main Kurdish militia in Syria was not represented, “it is important for me to emphasize that of course also we have Kurdish representatives on the committee.” Bali responded on Twitter that Pedersen “must know that having a couple of Kurds…who [are] allied with the Syrian government or the opposition doesn’t mean Kurds [are] represented in the committee.” Representatives of the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria had been iced from the summit in Sochi, Russia, in January 2018, where the decision was taken to draft a new constitution. (Photo: ANF)

Iraq
warplane

Multiple powers still bombing Iraq

Drone strikes targeted positions of an Iran-backed pro-government militia, the Popular Mobilization Forces, in northern Iraq near the Syrian border, and in the Fallujah area. Reports suggested the strikes were carried out by Israel, whch has been stepping up attacks on Iran-backed forces across the border in Syria. Turkish warplanes meanwhile attacked a village near Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan, killing a local shopkeeper. Turkey has been for years targeting positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Days earlier, US-led coalition forces bombed a supposed ISIS stronghold on Qanus Island in the Tigris River, in Salahuddin province. ISIS fighters wh had fled areas re-taken from the group in Mosul and Syrian territory are said to have taken refuge on the island. (Photo via IraqNews)