09.02.2023 Author: Vladimir Platov

Northern Iraq and Syria have turned into a trap for the United States and Turkey

John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator of strategic communications, made a significant statement in mid-December. Commenting on the events in Ukraine, Kirby said that the US authorities recognize Ukraine’s right to plan and conduct military operations in Crimea “against the occupiers, because the peninsula is Ukraine’s territory.” By making such a statement, John Kirby legitimized the residents of Iraq and Syria’s response to the US and Turkish militaries, which are rightfully considered occupiers in those countries.

For many years, the United States has taken numerous steps to strengthen its military presence on Syrian territory, including the use of US weapons. In this regard, Barack Obama’s August 2012 order authorizing the CIA to assist Syrian rebels was a watershed moment. Following that, Washington began providing intelligence on government forces’ movements to the armed Syrian opposition, as well as training fighters and cooperating with the rebel command center in Adana, southern Turkey, not far from the US military base Incirlik.

On August 31, 2013, US President Barack Obama announced the decision to strike Syria after accusing Damascus of using chemical weapons. Furthermore, Washington never proved Damascus’ involvement in chemical attacks, thus repeating US Secretary of State Powell’s previous lie at the UN with some “test tubes” and accusations against Iraq in preparation for the American invasion of that Arab country. So it’s no surprise that Colin Powell, with his test tube at the UN, and Obama, with his false statements about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, have become the world’s living embodiments of the US ruling elite’s hypocrisy.

The government of the SAR was able to regain control of some areas of the country after the United States formed an international coalition in September 2014 without UN sanction and without the consent of the Syrian authorities under the guise of allegedly combating ISIS (a formation banned in Russia) terrorists and unleashing armed aggression in this country. Some areas, however, remain under foreign occupation. The country’s northern provinces, in particular, are under the control of militants backed by the Turkish army, while the country’s east is under American occupation. Damascus authorities have already repeatedly stated from the UN podium their accusations against the US military, not only for illegally remaining on SAR territory, but also for systematically smuggling and selling their oil abroad, emphasizing that such actions are a flagrant violation of international law.

Instead of following international law and withdrawing its troops from Syria, the US has increased its military presence in the captured Syrian territories. Since 2015, the United States has established nine military bases in northeastern Syria, the largest of which is in Tell Beydar, north of Al-Hasakah (620 km from Damascus). According to reliable sources, the US command is recruiting Syrian refugees from the al-Rukban camp to join illegal armed groups (IAF), who are then dispatched to Ukraine and other “hot spots.” According to The Cradle, the US has begun establishing a new military base in northeastern Syria and is sending significant reinforcements, including hundreds of trucks. Furthermore, Washington is looking to expand the local garrison as well as regroup loyalist forces on the borders with Jordan and Iraq.

As a result, it is not surprising that the people of Syria and Iraq, who have been demanding the withdrawal and termination of illegal US occupation troops on their territory through various UN structures, have recently turned to guerrilla warfare against foreign occupiers.   For example, on December 15, a US military base in the al-Mayadeen area of the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor came under missile fire from the Syrian-Iraqi border. On November 26, a US military base in the al-Shaddadi district of Al-Hasakah, Syria’s southernmost province, came under missile attack near the Al-Jebsa oil field. On November 17, missiles were fired near the Omar oil field in Deir ez-Zor at a US military base and Kurdish Democratic Syrian Forces fighters.

On January 21, another drone attack targeted the US military base at al-Tanf in Syria. This US base is near the borders of Iraq and Jordan. Although US troops claim it is used for counter-terrorism operations against ISIS (a group banned in Russia), it is widely known that US instructors are training Syrian opposition fighters there.

In addition to guerrilla groups opposing US occupation forces, Turkish troops have recently launched a series of attacks in northern Syria and Iraq using Bayraktar reconnaissance strike drones against the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” – Kurdish armed formations supported by the US.

In messages to the UN Security Council, the Arab Republic’s Foreign Ministry has already condemned the US for stealing Syrian oil and demanded an end to the illegal American military presence on Syrian soil. According to the most recent Syrian Foreign Ministry document, the Arab Republic’s economic losses caused by US military operations on its territory are estimated to be $111.9 billion. Direct losses total $25.9 billion, with $19.8 billion attributed to oil and gas theft, $3.2 billion attributed to damage to state infrastructure, and $2.9 billion attributed to damage to oil and gas facilities.

In addition to the Syrian authorities, Russia and China have repeatedly urged the United States to explain its actions regarding oil theft from Syria, which are exacerbating the country’s energy and humanitarian crises. At a press conference on January 17, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated that “in the first half of 2022, more than 80% of daily oil production in the country was smuggled out by the US military, which mercilessly violates the right to life of the Syrian people.”

Turkish troops seized territory between the border towns of Aazaz and Jarablus north of Aleppo, occupied the administrative district of Afrin, and took control of border areas east of the Euphrates River after launching an anti-terrorist special operation against Kurdish fighters. The goal was to establish a “buffer zone” to protect Turkey from potential Syrian Kurdish incursions. In fact, in the Turkish-occupied areas of the Syrian Arab Republic, alternative authorities, armed forces, police, and special services have been established that are not subordinate to official Damascus. Turkish is taught in schools, and the Turkish lira is used in commodity trade. It is no secret that this is an attempt to establish a pro-Turkish stronghold from among those opposed to President Assad’s regime in Syria, with the eventual goal of bringing pro-Turkish forces to power in the country.

This has naturally caused discontent among the people of Syria and Iraq, and in addition to anti-American sentiment, anti-Turkish sentiment has begun to grow in the region. As a result, Turkey’s military bases in those countries have become more frequently targeted by rocket attacks. Case in point: a missile attack was launched on the Zilkan Turkish military base in Iraq on February 1.

Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.