Syria, Iraq and Troubled Love

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SF/Moscow (Probably) The love affair between US forces and so-called ‘moderate opposition’ seems to be passing through hard times in eastern Syria.

Early on December 14, positions of US troops in the Omar oil fields area once again came under a rocket attack. According to reports, several shells landed just inside the base of the US military. Nonetheless, there are no confirmed reports about material damage or casualties. This was not the first attack on US forces near the Omar oil fields and apparently it is not last. In the past year, US troops positioned along this bank of the Euphrates were repeatedly targeted by such attacks.

The previous one took place just on December 4 when at least 3 rockets reportedly hit the fortified US position near CONICO gas facility. Following that incident, US forces increased security measures, including helicopter patrols in the area, but this did not help. After years of supporting ISIS cells in the area, it is a bit hard to crack down on their own friends.

The situation with regular ‘anti-terrorist declarations’ of the US establishment reached such a level of nonsense that some facts about the real efficiency of the US-led anti-ISIS campaign even broke into mainstream media.

In its December 12 report, the New York Times revealed that a clandestine U.S. military strike cell that was tasked to directed attacks on ISIS in Syria repeatedly skirted protocols leading to numerous “bad strikes”. The cell named ‘Talon Anvil’ was reportedly operating on the battlefield from 2014 to 2019. It frequently did not bother itself with checking received intelligence about the location of columns, mined vehicles and command centers of militants. Instead, the cell was just calling strikes on these unverified targets causing devastating civilian casualties. Larry Lewis, a former adviser to the Pentagon and State Department, said that the rate was 10 times that of similar operations in Afghanistan. And the US official was obviously referring to the officially admitted rate of civilian casualties in the conflict. Thus, the real scale of ‘collateral damage’ likely reached unprecedented levels among modern conflicts.

Nonetheless, it is easy to give Washington an excuse. Most of that time, it was not really seeking to fight ISIS. Rather the establishment was mainly fighting the Assad government, Iranian, Russian and even Turkish influence in Syria. In these conditions, the main goal was to pretend to fight ISIS rather than to really fight the terrorist group. So, targets were allowed to be chosen within the framework of this goal.

Another love affair that requires complex decisions is the one between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad. After the failed attempt of the Barzani clique to create an independent Kurdish state on the territory of the autonomous region, the situation has mostly stabilized. However, tensions between Kurdish armed groups and the federal government still fuel instability in northern Iraq.

On December 12, clashes broke out between Iraqi soldiers and militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The fighting broke out after Sinjar Resistance Units threw a bottle bomb at an Iraqi armored vehicle during an anti-government protest. At least two people were injured as a result of the clashes that sparked as a result of this incident. As of December 14, units of the Iraqi Armed Forces are regrouping in the Sinjar region to restore stability there.

PKK supporters were protesting in Sinjar over Turkish drone strikes that from time to time hit PKK positions there. The KRG and Baghdad are both concerned with the increased Turkish military activity in the north part of the country. Erdogan’s creeping push to annex parts of both Iraq and Syria apparently raises significant concerns. At the same time, they see the Turkish fight against PKK as a useful tool that can be employed to undermine the influence of the armed group that also plays a destabilizing role in the region.

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