The news came as a big surprise to those following events in the Middle East.
A 30-thousand-strong US-backed “Border Security Force” (BSF) is to operate along the borders with Turkey and Iraq, as well as within Syria along the Euphrates River. Its activities will be coordinated with the aligned Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) already in place to control nearly 25 percent of Syrian territory in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
Two hundred and thirty new cadets have already been recruited to the force. A US-led coalition source said: “The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the SDF to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close.” According to The Defense Post, “the ethnic composition of the force will be relative to the areas in which it serves, with efforts taken to ensure that people serve close to their homes. This all but guarantees that Kurds, who make up a majority of the population in northeastern Syria, will be establishing checkpoints along the roughly 820-kilometer (510-mile) Syria-Turkey border”. The move will have far-reaching repercussions.
On January 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey considers the new force to be a “terror army” that should be strangled before it is born, and openly threatened military action.
According to the Turkish leader, final preparations are underway to strike the Kurdish-led forces in the Afrin region of northern Syria and an operation could start at any moment, regardless of the presence of the US military stationed there. Turkey sent more hardware to the Syrian border after the US decision to create the border force was announced.
This is a very serious development that comes after several years of friction. Last summer, the US promised Turkey it would take weapons away from Kurdish militias after the defeat of the Islamic State. The promise was broken and has already been forgotten. Washington also promised repeatedly that it would leave Syria following the defeat of the Islamic State, but in late 2017, the US announced it would stay.
The Syrian government has also condemned the plan, calling it a blatant encroachment on the integrity of the country. On January 15, state television reported that the government is determined to drive out the US from any involvement in Syria. It has also been criticized by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said that the US may be pursuing a policy to partition Syria.
The US move shows that Americans will be in Syria for a long time to come and their future plans have little to do with the fight against the Islamic State, which has been driven out, reduced to insignificance, and no longer has any influence on events in Syria.
Al-Masdar News reports that Kurdish forces have received a shipment of portable surface-to-air missile systems (MANPADS) from the United States as part of a secret deal. The weapons will provide Kurdish militias with some kind of air defense capacity should hostilities between Turkey and Syrian government forces break out.
In fact, the US is pushing ahead with plans to create the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, which will be dominated by Kurds with sizeable Arab and Assyrian populations. Its status remains to be determined.
The US has repeatedly spoken in favor of Syria’s territorial integrity, but has always rejected the possibility of President Assad being its leader, at least not for a considerable period of time.
The BSF is not the only force being established by the US in Syria. It wasreported in December that a US-led coalition is training the New Syrian Army at the Syrian Hasakah refugee camp located 70 kilometers from the Turkish border and 50 kilometers from the Iraqi border. This new armed force will supposedly be used for launching offensive operations outside SDF-controlled areas.
So, while Moscow is working hard to reach a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis and applying great efforts to convene a “Syrian People’s Congress” in Sochi, Washington is doing its best to undermine the peace talks being held in Astana and Geneva, as well as the prospects for the upcoming Sochi conference.
The obvious goal of its activities is the partition of the war-torn country. Clearly, Washington’s plans include reigniting a new regional war in Syria, pitching one side against the other. Instead of promoting the long-awaited negotiation process, the US is going to great lengths to make the conflict switch to a new stage.
The stand-off between the US and Turkey is unprecedented.
This time, a conflict is imminent. If started, it would be hard to imagine Turkey remaining a member of NATO and the US Air Force still operating from Incirlik air base.
The challenges to NATO’s unity are taking place amid numerous unsolved problems and evils that have beset the West. Instead of addressing them, however, the West is concentrating its efforts on opposing Russia and intervening in faraway conflicts. There are big challenges ahead for the US in 2018, and it is hard to see how its involvement in the Syrian conflict, or any other conflict so far away from its borders, could promote its “America First” strategy. Instead of diplomatic initiatives, the US prefers to focus on war preparations in far-off lands.
Whatever the hidden agenda behind America’s recent moves, the risk of a large-scale multi-sided war has just grown considerably.
Turkish planes bomb Syrian Kurdish targets as Ankara-backed rebels enter Afrin
Turkish aircraft have bombed Kurdish targets in Syria's Afrin, according to the Turkish prime minister. Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters have also entered the Kurdish enclave, state media reported.
“TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) has started airborne operations,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said at a party congress on Saturday, as quoted by Hurriyet. Yildirim said eight F-16 aircraft were involved in the aerial sortie.
“As of this moment our brave Armed Forces have started the aerial offensive to eliminate the PYD and PKK and [Islamic State] elements in Afrin,” Yildirim said.
Turkey’s General Staff has officially declared the start of the operation, dubbing it ‘Operation Olive Branch,’ according to a statement cited by Turkish newspaper Sol.
AP journalists at the Turkish border reported seeing at least five jets heading toward Afrin. Also sighted was a convoy of buses, believed to be carrying Syrian opposition fighters, and trucks mounted with machine guns.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have meanwhile accused Turkey of using cross-border shelling as a false pretext to launch an offensive into Syria, according to Reuters. The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), said it will have no choice but to defend itself if attacked. The alliance controls areas in Syria’s east and north.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Moscow is closely following the situation, citing concerns over recent developments in the area. The ministry’s statement called on all sides in the conflict to exercise restraint.
It comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier on Saturday that Ankara had “de facto” begun its operation against Kurdish forces in Afrin. He said the operation would be “followed by Manbij,” referring to the Kurdish-controlled town in northern Syria.
There is a growing consensus among many observers in Washington that the national security agencies have become completely politicized over the past seventeen years and are now pursuing selfish agendas that actually endanger what remains of American democracy. Up until recently it has been habitual to refer to such activity as the Deep State, which is perhaps equivalent to the Establishment in that it includes financial services, the media, major foundations and constituencies, as well as lobbying groups, but we are now witnessing an evolutionary process in which the national security regime is exercising power independently.
In a devastating critique former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer John Kiriakou has described how the Democratic Party, as part of its frenzied effort to bring down President Donald Trump, has embraced a whole group of former intelligence and law enforcement officers who appear to be on the same side in seeking a more responsible and accountable executive branch but who are in reality pursuing their own agenda.
Formerly intelligence and law enforcement agencies acted under the direction of the White House but without any political bias. Transitions from Democratic to Republican administrations were consequently seamless for the employees of CIA, FBI, DIA and the NSA, but this has changed. In the 2016 election a line-up of retired senior officers from those organizations openly supported the Clinton campaign and even went so far as to construct elaborate conspiracy theories regarding Trump and his associates, including the claim that Donald Trump is actually an agent of Russia.
Antiwar activist Justin Raimondo also picks up the gauntlet, describing how the national security agencies and the Democratic Party have joined forces to create a totally false narrative that could lead to nuclear war.
He concludes that “Our intelligence agencies are at war with the executive branch of government…to reverse the  election results.” Raimondo believes that Trump is being particularly targeted because his unpredictability and populism threaten the wealth and power of the elites and he notes “If you think they’ve ruled out assassination you’re being naïve.”
Raimondo believes that something like a civil war is coming, with the war party Establishment fighting to defend its privileged global order while many other Americans seek a return to normal nationhood with all that implies. If true, the next few years will see a major internal conflict that will determine what kind of country the United States will be.