Al-Monitor asked Balanche what he thought would happen next. Here are the highlights of today’s interview, which was lightly edited for clarity.The Turkish presence does indeed give Russia leverage over Damascus. As has been stated here repeatedly- Everyone has their own interests in this situation.
Al-Monitor: What will be the outcome of the constitutional committee talks?
Balanche: Nothing. (disagree) In order to get anything accepted, they need 75% of the participants to agree. The opposition will effectively have to either accept or not what the regime wants. The regime controls roughly a third of the civil society representatives, so they have more of a say. The opposition is fractured. And it's mostly Turkish supported. Turkey has the power on the opposition side. The so-called Geneva process is now the Astana process. That’s the hard reality.
Al-Monitor: What would it take for Turkey to use its influence to allow the talks to succeed?
Balanche: Russia has to offer Turkey a carrot of some kind. It would have to get the regime to agree to some kind of opposition representation in the government. That was what Turkey was pushing for before the conflict began. Without Turkey, it's impossible for the regime to win back enough territory to meaningfully reassert its control. All the opposition weapons and fighters were coming through Turkey. In the spring of 2017, for example, it was only after Turkey told the rebels to stop fighting regime forces in Hama that the regime was able to retake Bukamal [also known as Abu Kamal] and Mayadeen. The same dynamic was in play in Aleppo when it fell in 2016.
Al-Monitor: What will happen to Idlib?
Balanche: The regime will take it back in the coming months and Turkey will be permitted to keep a chunk in the north to accommodate some 1 million people fleeing the area who would otherwise try to enter Turkey. The official excuse for the Turkish presence will be to protect the Turkmen minority there and the Russians will force the regime to accept.
Al-Monitor: Why would Russia do that? Doesn’t it want Turkey to eventually leave?
Balanche: Not necessarily. The Turkish presence gives the Russians leverage over the regime. It's somewhat similar to Moscow’s strategy in the Caucasus where you have frozen conflicts over disputed territories. Russia plays the “useful mediator” between the occupied and the occupiers. Russia also doesn’t want Turkey to leave northern Syria because it sees Turkey as its Trojan horse within NATO. For as long as Turkey is in Syria its military cooperation with Russia has to continue.
Al-Monitor: Iran, though, is fiercely opposed (Disagree. They have concerns, undoubtedly, but they also have a PKK problem- Turkey and Iran have also been doing deals between them so...) to a prolonged Turkish presence.
Balanche: Yes, because Turkey is a NATO member. And in Iran’s view Turkey could yet flip, that is to say it could resume cooperation with the US in Syria.
That is why they have been telling the Kurds to sit down with the regime and they are telling the regime to be smart, to not seek revenge from the Kurds but rather to do "as we do with our own Kurds. Let them speak their language. Let them celebrate Nowruz [the Kurdish new year]. All they want is equality. And don’t try to use the [pro-regime] Arabs to fight the Kurds. The Kurds could then join the [Turkish-backed] opposition."(????) It was the Iranians who facilitated the recent rapprochement between the regime and Syrian Kurds, resulting in the agreement at the airport in Qamishlo [the Oct. 13 agreement struck between SDF commander Mazlum Kobane and the Syrian government, which allowed regime forces and Russian military police into areas along the Turkish border that were previously controlled by Kurdish forces.] The Russians tried the same thing and failed.Regime forces and Russian Military Police, but, not the PKK. They are to go. Speaking of Mazlum Kobane- we met him in a previous post. He is a PKK big wig. There were plans being made by the US to get him out of Syria asap- Since Turkey wants him arrested and has for years. Mazlum Kobani is a senior PKK lead. Imagine that? And all this time sheltered by the US. In Syria.
2017: Last month Al Monitor named the SDF's general commander as General Mazlum Kobane whose real name is Ferdi Abdi Şahin. Turkey placed Şahin on its top wanted terrorists list many years ago as a senior leader in PKK cadres. Many reports have also previously suggested that Şahin, also known as Şahin Cilo, is PKK leader Öcalan's adopted son. The SDF commander confirmed in his interview that he was a PKK militant and also very close to Öcalan.
Back to Balanche:
Al-Monitor: It doesn’t seem, though, like the SDF or Mazlum Kobane are ready for the sort of capitulation that the regime is demanding. They say that their cooperation with the United States is continuing. They are calling for a coalition enforced no-fly zone to protect them from the Turkish army.Thoughts?
Balanche: The Kurds have no other choice. If they don’t let the Syrian army retake the remaining cities, the Russians will allow the Turks to continue shelling and attacking them. The YPG and the SDF will forces will be reintegrated into the Syrian Arab Army. It will take weeks, months, but that is what will happen. They would make very nice border guards against Turkey, as the regime sees it. As for the PKK cadres in their midst, they will need to go back to Qandil [the PKK’s mountain headquarters on the Iran-Iraq border]. And as for Mazlum, there is no future for him in Syria. He is no longer important and Turkey has asked for his head. They will try to kill him. Kobane’s best future is in America. Northeast Syria is finished. The Kurdish authority is finished.
Al-Monitor: But the US says it will stay to guard and exploit the oil fields together with the Kurds in Deir Ez-Zor. The US and the SDF have vowed to continue their cooperation against IS.
Balanche: That is rubbish. First of all, ordinary Kurds are very angry about the American betrayal. The YPG protected the Americans in the Kurdish-dominated areas very well. But it's a different story in Arab-populated areas. The Arab militias of the SDF are unable to do that because they are SDF during the day and Daesh during the night [Daesh is the Arab acronym for IS]. Deir Ez-Zor is the kingdom of Daesh. You have no foreigners left there since the spring of 2018 because it's too dangerous. The US will have to move out of all of its remaining bases in northern Syria, including Rmeilan. It's very easy for IS cells to target US forces if they want. And Turkey just made it much easier. (that's a pile of nonsense in my opinion)
Al-Monitor: You mean by invading Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain.
Balanche: Yes. Before the Turkish invasion you had checkpoints throughout the region, one every 20 kilometers [12 miles]. After the Turkish invasion the SDF/YPG abandoned the checkpoints to fight the Turks. So IS began to move freely. When I traveled to Qamishlo from Amude on Friday, Oct. 11, there were no checkpoints and Daesh set off a car bomb in the city. The Daesh cells have been reactivated by the Turkish offensive. (which suits Usrael Kurds just fine... after all they are bestest fighters of ISIS, anywhere) Many of these cells are in contact with Turkish proxies [opposition rebel factions fighting alongside the Turkish army under the Syrian National Army banner]. The guys in Ras al-Ain and Tell Abyad are former Daesh fighters. The first thing they did was to bomb the Ain Issa camp [where IS families were held] and you had the mass [escape] of 800 jihadists. Most of these people are now under the protection of pro-Turkish Arab militias and are in Tell Abyad.
Al-Monitor: Aren’t they a big threat to Europe?
Balanche: The Europeans and the French who I talk to are denying reality. The French went to Baghdad to make a deal with the Iraqi government for them to take French nationals [among captured IS fighters] but it's too late. The only solution is for the Syrian government to re-establish its authority in all those areas, to take charge of these prisoners and for an international tribunal to try them all in Damascus. The Syrian Kurdish administration in northern Syria no longer exists.
* Speaking of France - France, Israel wanted a 'terrorist state' in Syria: Turkish FM
Turkey has accused France and Israel of seeking to establish “a terrorist state” within Syria where they are reportedly assisting Kurdish separatists in the Arab country's north.* TASS
"They wanted to establish a terror state there," Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday. "And this was spearheaded by France and Israel, I speak very clearly. This is the reason behind the breaking out."
MOSCOW, November 2. /TASS/. The Russian-Turkish memorandum on jointly settling the situation in northeastern Syria has helped to prevent massive bloodshed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Rossiya-24 TV channel on Friday.
“When it comes to the situation in general, the agreements that were reached in Sochi undoubtedly helped to prevent massive bloodshed, turned the problem of confrontation between Turks and Kurds into the framework of measures on trust-building," Lavrov said.
He explained that two large zones were formed to the west and to the east of the territory that Turkish forces entered after Ankara's failed talks with the United States. "Further movement was stopped thanks to the agreement between [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and [Turkish President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On the remaining parts of the Turkish-Syrian border, a regime of withdrawal of Kurdish units with weaponry was ensured. Syrian border guards together with Russia's military police entered most of those territories," he added.
After Kurds completely withdraw from the area, Russian military police and Turkish military will start jointly patrolling the 10 km wide zone near the border. Kurdish units have to withdraw from the border by at least 30 km.
"Many questions remain that need to be solved when implementing this scheme. Russian military police already started working together with Syrian border guards. They remain in communication with local population. More servicemen were sent over to participate in the operation. Local residents treat them very well," Lavrov said.Recall the statement there was NO DEAL like the one that had had been stated by YPG/PKK, between Damascus and SDF? Recall the terms the SDF/YPG/PKK claimed were agreed to? If you don’t let’s flashback to this previous report
- Damascus &SDF Have a Deal? Doubtful. However, Negotiations Continue with Kurds That Renounce Terrorism.
“The Syrian army will deploy along the entire length of the border with Turkey in an agreement with the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria, the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces have said”
"It would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin, in the country's north-west, the statement said"
*Instead we have Russia with Syrian border guards and Turkey patrolling the area.
Including additional Russian service personnel.
The agreement calls for Turkish and Russian patrols to begin in northeastern Syria after Kurdish militia forces met a nearly four-day deadline that ended Tuesday to pull out from the area.
The deal to divide control of the area between Turkey and Russia was reached last week in the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi. (First round of talks between Russia and Turkey)
|Erdogan & Putin|
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after their joint news conference following their talks in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Oct. 22, 2019.
* The second round of talks between Russia and Turkey have just concluded in Ankara
The second talks between Turkish and visiting Russian military delegations on the implementation of the Sochi deal on Syria ended on Saturday, said Turkey’s National Defense Ministry.* The US to Stay in Syria
"Within the framework of the agreement reached with the Russian Federation in Sochi [Russia] on October 22, 2019; the negotiations held between November 1-2 with the second Russian Military Delegation, which came to [Turkish capital] Ankara to discuss the tactical and technical issues, have been completed," the ministry said in a statement.
(a)Andalou- Rebuilding bases
U.S. troops have begun rebuilding a military base in the south of Ayn al-Arab, or Kobani, which was previously evacuated during Turkey's anti-terror operation in northern Syria.(b) JANES
According to Anadolu Agency reporters on the ground, nearly 50 armored vehicles and scores of Iraq-registered trucks dispatched by the U.S. military arrived in northern Syria’s Sarrin village via the strategic M4 highway that connects the Syrian districts of Manbij and Qamishli.
“The United States will retain control of oil fields in northeast Syria,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a 28 October press conference. “US troops will remain positioned in this strategic area to deny ISIS [Islamic State] access to those vital resources and we will respond with overwhelming military force against any group that threatens the safety of our forces there.” (That's a message for Damascus)* Basnews: US Forces Enter Qamishli
A convoy of US forces entered on Saturday the Kurdish city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria, a report revealed.As mentioned at the beginning of this report:
Kurdistan 24 cited its correspondent in the area as saying that the US troops arrived in Qamishli on Saturday, reportedly making preparations to head to the oilfields, as it had already been mentioned by President Donald Trump.
* Syrian Constitution talks kicked off a couple of days ago- SDF PKK is not represented at the talks- though other Kurdish groups are.
|Image from talks|
"UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said Friday the first round of talks by the Syrian Constitutional Committee was “successful” and the next round, with a whittled down group of 45, will start Monday.
“The last two days have been very good,” said Pedersen, addressing journalists in the evening after chairing two days of talks with the 150-strong committee launched Wednesday.
Pedersen said the committee also agreed on the 45 members that will work in the so-called “drafting body” to meet Monday, made up of 15 members of the Syrian regime, 15 opposition members and 15 members of civil society.
“We also know, of course, that after eight and a half years of conflict, there are deep differences, a lot of suspicions, a lack of trust. But the fact that 150 Syrians have been sitting together respecting each other, talking to each other…I think was quite impressive.”
The Syrian Constitutional Committee began the third day of talks Friday at the United Nations in Geneva with more discussions on a constitutional roadmap"