The Turkish Invasion of Syria as Path to Regime Change

OPINION
Mark Sleboda

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

The US-backed Turkish invasion of Syria with its proxies in tow now moves further into Syria to seize Al-Bab in a landgrab to create Erdogan’s (and the U.S. neocon Brookings Institute’s) long desired jihadi “safe haven”/”no fly zone” for al-Qaeda & friends to operate and stage from with impunity from Russian and Syrian airstrikes.

Al-Bab is a “backdoor” on key routes south to Aleppo from the Turkish border.

Turkish supplies for the Islamic Army of Conquest offensives in South Aleppo and Latakia: arms, ammo, supplies, even artillery, tanks have been reported as flowing like water over the Turkish border

Turkey is obviously not coordinating its incursion with the Syrian government which condemns it as a violation of its sovereignty. The Kremlin’s impotent calls for Turkey to coordinate with Damascus while waving the old Geneva communique have been completely ignored. Unfortunately there is little they can do at this point without engaging in a full scale war with Turkey and the U.S. in Syria. Something the Kremlin lacks the will to do. Turkey/U.S. intend that their proxies take Aleppo as leverage in settlement negotiations to force Assad to step down, or partition if that fails.

Both the Turkish and FSA flags, (not the Syrian flag), were raised over “liberated” Jarablus

Securing the Jarablus corridor from a westward YPG advance in attempts to link their “cantons” east and west along the Turkish border prevents supply lines to “Syrian rebels” from Turkey from being cut. That’s why Turkey has taken action here while however grudgingly accepting Kurdish control over large stretches of Syrian-Turkish border everywhere else without taking action. The ratlines to the “rebels” are Turkey’s primary concern here. Kurds are an important but demonstratively second concern.

Turkey’s incursion was backed by US air-cover, drones, and embedded special forces per the WSJ. These were there largely to prevent Russia and Syria from even thinking about taking action against the invading forces.

Turkey is moving into Syria not just with its own military, but with thousands of “rebel opposition groups” including US-backed FSA brigades allied with AlQaeda/Nusra/Sham and the child head-chopping al-Zinki who are reported to form the vanguard. Syrian territory is outright being turned over to them by the Turkish military, simply exchanging control from one group of terrorist jihadis (ISIS) to others who are more media acceptable and more direct proxies of the Erdogan regime, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

That said, ISIS has not resisted the Turkish advance at all – simply “melting away” (or exchanging one set of uniforms for another?). No stay-behinds, no suicide bombers, no IEDS, nothing. No fighting. Zero casualties. Turkish and “Syrian rebel” forces literally strolled in to Jarablus taking selfies and posing for cameras. Tag-team turnover.

The Kurdish YPG/SDF dutifully responded to the US, withdrawing from Manbij which they bled for, and all positions east of the Euphrates on Biden’s orders as he staged a press conference in Ankara with Erdogan.

Layers of Pretext for Turkish invasion of Syria:

  1. “Liberating” Jarablus from ISIS to give it to al-Qaeda
  2. Giving Jarablus to al-Qaeda to deny it to Kurds
  3. Safe/No Fly Zone for al-Qaeda
  4. Neocon Plan B – Partition of Syria (if necessary)

The question has been raised about Russia’s and Syria’s supposedly “muted response” to all this and that their existing protestations to the contrary are actually “lies” and that both are somehow in agreement and collusion with everything Erdogan is doing above in some kind of grand Eurasian alliance conspiracy and agreement to end the conflict in Syria.

See Moscow: Russian Foreign Ministry Expresses Concern About Turkish Operation in Syria”, Damascus: Syria condemns Turkey’s breach of Syria’s sovereignty in Jarablos

What kind of response do you expect? Do you think Russia would shoot U.S. and Turkish planes out of the sky and bomb Turkish forces in Syria? The Turkish coup upheaval aside, the Turkish military is still large enough several times over to crush the small Russian military taskforce in Syria. To say nothing of where things would go from there in a war with NATO.

What did Russia do when U.S., UK, France etc quietly put their own special forces and troops on the ground in Syria over the last year? What was the Kremlin’s response just days ago when the U.S. declared a no fly zone over their SDF proxies attacking Syrian government forces and threatened to shoot down Russian jets?

Nothing.

They did nothing then just like their “muted” objections now. Not because they want it to happen or are “in on it” but because there is nothing they can do about it short of openly attacking and going to war with the U.S. and Turkey (i.e. NATO) which the Kremlin is NOT willing to do for Syria.

They are likewise not going to make threats or demands about violations of Syria’s sovereignty that they will not and cannot back up. Such bluster is not their style. It achieves nothing. They will continue to play the long game in Syria and hope events still turn their way without direct military confrontation with the U.S. and Turkey. They continue to push for a negotiated settlement on terms favorable to Damascus. Everyone is still playing the charade that they are all in the conflict in Syria to fight terrorists when we all know that it is just a front and the symptom for regime change. That game goes on, just now with Turkey upping the ante.

The U.S. and Turkey want a negotiated settlement too – they are just not willing to accept the current status of forces and intend to escalate and create new facts on the ground, primarily in and around Aleppo, that they hope will force Russia to accept that “Assad Must Go!” ensuring a settlement more favorable to them.

Erdogan has actually always been much louder and more insistent in demanding a “safe haven”/”no fly zone” for the proxies over the Jarablus corridor than the US. Erdogan pushed for it several times, and Obama refused, apparently infuriating his own State Department, CIA, and foreign policy elite in the process. Now Erdogan’s tantrums and witch-hunt over the lack of Western support during the attempted Kemalist military coup, have blackmailed Obama into acceding to this, in order to restore relations.

Overall, however the US has put the hegemon’s name, power, and prestige on the line for “Assad Must Go!” They simply cannot accept anything less than regime change. In the end, particularly after Clinton comes to power in the U.S. early next year and escalates the situation further than Obama has been willing as he tries to run out the clock, I am afraid that Russia will simply throw up their hands and walk away with whatever they can still get – not willing to go to World War III over Syria. A gambit the U.S. has no such reservations about. And that is the Kremlin’s weakness, and why red line after red line of theirs keeps getting crossed closer and closer to Russia’s borders itself.

When Russia itself is at last on the line and in the targets it may not have any friends left willing to stand by it.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of author and do not necessarily represent those of Syria 360°