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    Turkish forces are seen near Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria January 22,2018

    The US Hand in Syria is as Weak as You Can Possibly Imagine – Analyst

    © REUTERS / Khalil Ashawi
    Opinion
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    Ekaterina Blinova
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    The US' determination to maintain its presence in Syria is primarily about crude and pipelines, not security issues, geopolitical analyst Phil Butler told Sputnik. Meanwhile, it appears that the Turks may undermine the US' plans.

    Following the defeat of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), Washington continues its proxy war in Syria, Phil Butler, a geopolitical analyst and author of "Putin's Praetorians: Confessions of the Top Kremlin Trolls," told Sputnik, commenting on the recent developments on the ground in the war-torn state.

    "The United States is already in violation of international law being in Syria uninvited," the geopolitical analyst said. "I am sure everyone involved knows what message is being sent here. The Syria affair was and is a proxy war. The United States just challenged Syria, Russia, and the world to either throw them out, or be prepared for more energy warfare. This is about oil in the east of Syria, pipelines, vested interests, and other subjects Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson is intimately familiar with."

    Why US Seeking to Oust Assad, Crack Down on Iran in Syria

    On January 17, while delivering a speech at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Tillerson stressed that the US may continue to maintain a military presence in Syria following the defeat of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL).

    "Responsible change may not come as immediately as some hope for, but rather through an incremental process of constitutional reform and U.N.-supervised elections," the US secretary of state said.

    Tillerson also insisted that Iran's influence in Syria needs to be diminished and advocated the necessity of Bashar al-Assad's departure from power.

    Responding to the question why the US is seeking to ouster Assad and crack down on Iran, Butler said laconically: "I am not prone to short, easy answers, but in this case there is no need to elaborate too much. The answer is 'Israel' — and nothing more."

    In contrast to his predecessor, Donald Trump has recently bolstered ties with Israel and went even so far as to recognize Jerusalem as the country's capital, triggering the storm of criticism from America's Arab allies and the international community.

    US Positions in Syria Not as Strong as It May Seem

    However, while setting the US objectives in Syria, Tillerson admitted that the US has to work with Russia on the ground.

    It is hardly surprising, according to the geopolitical analyst: "The US hand [in Syria] is as weak as you can possibly imagine, this is why boots on the ground and daring the opposition to challenge are the remaining cards to be played."

    "The back story is, this Syria gambit was the last card in a must win hand," Butler added.

    Fighters from a new border security force under the command of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold their weapons during a graduation ceremony in Hasaka, northeastern Syria, January 20, 2018
    © REUTERS / Rodi Said
    Fighters from a new border security force under the command of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold their weapons during a graduation ceremony in Hasaka, northeastern Syria, January 20, 2018

    'Border Force' and 'Olive Branch'

    The January 14 Pentagon announcement on the creation of a 30,000-strong "border force" prompted a lively debate making some observers suggest that Washington is seeking a justification for staying indefinitely in Syria.

    Some regard Ankara's anti-Kurdish Operation "Olive Branch" as a response to the US effort to continue to arm and train the Syrian Kurds, thus shattering the pillars of the Syrian sovereignty and Turkey's national security.

    However, Butler believes it is not actually the point. It's all about oil, the geopolitical analyst says.

    "Well, on Ankara we have to consider what took place where black market oil from Syria/Kurdistan is concerned. 'Interests' inside Turkey have tens of millions at stake, maybe more. If there is a 'border force' it complicates things," he remarked.

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon's much-discussed "border force" project, which was denounced by Tillerson as a mere media speculation on January 17, evoked strong memory of CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack's "army to defeat Assad."

    'An Army to Defeat Assad'

    On September 2, 2014, Pollack outlined a detailed plan to create an army to fight against Daesh and Bashar al-Assad. In accordance with Pollack's scenario, a US-backed force had to carve out a considerable part of Syria and maintain its presence there while boosting its military strength. The CIA analyst also envisaged the establishment of the provisional government on the territory held by the US-backed forces.

    So, could one presume that the Obama era plan continues to take shape right now?

    "This is exactly the strategy continuing," Butler responded. "Many of us pinned huge hopes on Donald Trump, among the experts who did, it's become more and more likely the US presidential race was a show, a 'good cop — bad cop' game where the world loses. The power behind does not intend to lose."

    However, it appears that the Turks have made their own corrections to Washington's plans in northern Syria. The Turkish Olive Branch operation launched on January 20 is gaining pace. The Turkish Air Force continues to conduct air strikes against the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions in the Syrian northwestern city of Afrin.

    The question remains open whether the US will stop the Turks from cracking down against the Kurdish militia, Washington's longstanding ally in the fight against Daesh.

    The views and opinions expressed by Phil Butler, Ekaterina Blinova are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    border force, Syrian Kurds, US foreign policy, The Syrian war, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Daesh, Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), Pentagon, Rex Tillerson, Bashar al-Assad, Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey, Syria, United States, Russia
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