Syraq SITREP 32: U.S. Warns Turkey Against Manbij Offensive, Turks Tell Americans to Get Out of Their Way

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ’s  handshake with President Donald Trump during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. Photo by Xinhua/New China

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s handshake with President Donald Trump during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. Photo by Xinhua/New China

Fog of 'Operation Olive Branch' War

In case you weren't confused enough reading about the contradictions between stated U.S. support for the Kurds and realpolitik, at least some 'Free Syrian Army' (FSA) units have defected from their comrades on the Turks side and joined the YPG's side:

AFRIN, Syria - The Syrian quagmire has become more confusing with the Free Syrian Army group known as Liwa Ahrar al-Saab releasing a statement saying the are going to join the battle against the Turkish army in Afrin, according to the founder of Eastern Mediterranean News.

They will be joined with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in battling against Turkish-led forces who are primarily made up of the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army battalions. 
A graphic published by Turkish media accusing Washington of bad faith in arming PKK terrorists via the cutouts of the YPG

A graphic published by Turkish media accusing Washington of bad faith in arming PKK terrorists via the cutouts of the YPG

Two U.S. volunteers for the YPG have reportedly been killed in fighting, and both pro-Turkish and YPG social media claimed a member of the U.S. special forces had died alongside the Kurds. But these accounts used an image of actor Bradley Cooper playing the late American Sniper Chris Kyle, and CNN Turk (in what may have been an inside job of anti-Erdogan sabotage, similar to the ridiculous fakes that editors failed to keep off Russian TV programs that were likely the handiwork of young anti-Putin journalists) ran with the image. With a curious fog of war settling over operations even in the Internet and smartphone filming age, the information war -- including the protests by Kurds around the world sometimes met by angry Turks -- appears to be taking precedence over the actual combat.

Both sides are throwing out casualty figures, but there seem to be few non or less partisan journalist observers on the ground in Afrin. The Turks claim to have killed 394 members of ISIS and the YPG in the operation, when Daesh was not known to have any presence around Afrin, is not credible. YPG Internet outlets have presented graphic footage of dead Turkish special forces numbering in the single digits, while scores of pro-Turkish FSA fighters are likely dead.

SDF Under U.S. Direction Blamed Russia for Turkish Offensive, But Wiser Kurdish Leaders Know the Score: Uncle Sam Hung the Iraqi Kurds in Kirkuk Out to Dry

What we can surmise however, is that certain actions are speaking louder than words. Starting with the Russians pulling their military police out of the area and Syrian/Russian SAMs standing down ahead of the Turkish combined arms offensive, but then with the Americans also doing nothing to stop the Turks advance toward Afrin after the Coalition spokesman declared the area irrelevant to U.S. operations. Manbij however, seems to be a different story, though the realization that the Americans won't defend them from Turkish F16s (some of them flying from the same Incirlik Air Base where American aircraft supporting YPG operations are based) has led some YPG leaders to admit the Russians offered them a decent deal: hoist the Syrian Arab Republic flag, accept some units of the SAA in Afrin, and the Turks would stop attacking. Moreover, the Russians invited the Kurds to the peace talks in Sochi and no objections to a more federalized Syria, even if Damascus understandably resented signs Kurds were setting up their own state. Nonetheless, many Kurds are not only citing their slogan that "a Kurd's only ally is the mountains," but are also reconsidering their opposition to letting a limited number of Syrian government forces into their cities...if only to stop the Turks. Even though the outsized territory (nearly 24% of the Syrian landmass, much of it desert) and mineral rights the Kurds seized from ISIS compared to their prewar demographics make them likely to drive a hard bargain with Damascus, the 'olive branch' operation either by effect or design is nudging them in Assad's direction. 

However, the illusion that the YPG can hold out without any air defenses against the Turks cautious but grinding offensive is not easily discarded. Sparing the civilian population from becoming refugees in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan or government controlled areas of Syria, and especially from atrocities pro-Turkish FSA units intent on revenge for YPG assistance with the SAA's Aleppo operations may commit, could prove the decisive factor. As will the ever lingering economic ties that bind the Syrian Kurds with Assad-government held Syria, namely oil and gas. The Russians have offered the Kurds money to develop the hydrocarbon fields they control in return for paying taxes on the revenue to Damascus, but delusions of American protection aka Americans risking 'blood for oil' die hard. Still, as Elijah J. Magnier reports, the ideal outcome for Washington may be for the Turks to suffer painful losses at YPG hands, with neither side able to achieve a decisive outcome and the YPG refusing reconciliation with Damascus. In other words, the Empire of Chaos thriving on chaos rather than peace:

This “olive branch” will fall as a real burden on Turkey. The longer the battle lasts, the more the Kurdish and Turkish parties lose equipment, fighters and money to fund the military campaign. Their respective reputations are on the line. If Turkey fails in this battle, it will become a much less influential country – not only in Syria but in the Middle East as a whole, and its reputation as a NATO member state will be affected. The Turkish army and its allies are in an offensive position, therefore in need of more men and effort amid unfamiliarity with the unfriendly Kurdish territory and environment- while the Kurds have control of the land and know the terrain and therefore need less force to defend it.

But the Kurds remain the biggest losers in this equation and this war – unless they decide to stand and fight and are victorious. Weaving alliances with the US was a wrong choice even if, in the previous years of war, their choices were correct. Everything went wrong when Washington and its forces came to Hasakah and Kobani and persuaded the Kurds to divide Syria.

Today, the “Syrian Democratic Forces” group (SDF) accuses the Russians of “treachery”. This group was created and armed by the US Special Forces. The SDF expects Russian support yet it is working to thwart Moscow’s efforts in Syria, aiming to prevent the partition of the country.

Damascus is waiting for the Kurds at the end of the road, to pick them up during their fall, because it seems to be the only solution left to save them and stop the Turkish invasion.

Germany Suspends Upgrading of Turkey's Leopard II Tank Fleet As Berlin-Ankara Ties Further Frayed by Turkish Invasion of Kurdish Syria

After Turkey began an assault on Kurdish militia Jan. 20, German news wires reported this week that German-made Leopard-2 tanks may have been used in the offensive, which displaced an estimated 5,000 people and killed at least two dozen civilians in Syria’s northwest Afrin region, according to U.N. reports. The revelation prompted calls, particularly from Germany’s left parties, for an end to arms sales to Turkey.

Even before the report was released, Germany’s political parties had been wrangling over their role in supplying weapons to the Middle East. In their preliminary talks to renew a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, the Social Democratic Party won a major victory — a ban on arms exports to countries involved in the war in Yemen.

With Germany at least temporarily halting anti-IED and active protection system upgrades to Turkey's fleet of Leopard II main battle tanks, some of which have reportedly taken hits from Russian made Konkurs anti-tank missiles in YPG hands, Ankara's offensive is spreading cracks through NATO. The Germans in particular must not only be concerned about the open pro-Erdogan demonstrations in their cities, but also their large Kurdish community and preventing clashes between the two Diasporas, or displays of pro-Turkish and anti-Kurd sentiment among the Syrian Arab migrants Chancellor Angela Merkel let into the country. As Berlin goes in Merkel's increasing coolness towards the Turks dating back to the failed coup against Erdogan, which resulted in numerous Turkish officers being recalled from NATO bases back home to be arrested and court martialed, so goes the rest of the EU. As German analyst 'b' of Moon of Alabama blog writes:

The last thing the EU now wants or needs is Turkish membership. The U.S. instigated a coup against Erdogan and its Kurdish project is threatening Turkey’s strategic interest. Trump’s continued push to take Jerusalem “off the table” in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is an insult to all Muslims. An increasingly Islamic Turkey will not accept that. Turkey’s natural gas supplies depend on Russia and Iran. Russia builds nuclear power stations in Turkey and will deliver air defense systems that can defend against U.S. attacks. Russia, Iran, Central Asia and beyond that China are markets for Turkish products.

Putting myself into Erdogan’s shoes I would be very tempted to leave NATO and join an alliance with Russia, China and Iran. Unless the U.S. changes course and stops fooling around with the Kurds Turkey will continue to disentangle itself from the old alliance. The Turkish army has so far prevented a break with NATO but even staunch anti-Erdogan officers are now on his side.

If the U.S. makes a real offer to Turkey and adopts a new position it might be able to turn Turkey around and to put it back into its NATO fold. Is the Trump White House capable of defying the pro-Israel/pro-Kurdish voices and move back to that realist view?

If it can not do that the real answer to the question “Who lost Turkey?” will be obvious.

The None Too Subtle Strava 'Fitbit' Dump and the Geolocation of (Much More Vulnerable Then They Seem) American Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in Syria

The standoff between the Turks and Americans has yet to be publically resolved, though rumors continue to fly of Tillerson and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu having made a deal on the so-called 'safe zone' of occupation inside sovereign Syrian territory. As of Sunday January 28 CENTCOM and the Pentagon are giving no indication of an imminent pullout from Manbij. Indeed, a curiously timed data dump from social media fitness tracker Strava, which appears to have been an ingenious tool for spying on military men's Fitbits, revealed the location of multiple U.S. bases across Syria. Fitbits are also apparently being used by Turkish soldiers operating inside Syria, though that may be a falsified part of the oddly timed open source psyop package.

The message of the Strava dump if it came from the Americans intended for all -- Russians, Turks, Iranians and Damascus -- was like the big junk yard dog strutting with his cojones in the air, "We're in Syria to stay and whatcha going to do about it?" The answer, as we've grimly warned here in our SITREPs citing experienced Mideast reporters like Elijah J. Magnier, is likely to come out of the Iraqi insurgency playbook, both Sunni and Shi'a -- lots of IEDs. An alternative and more chilling possibility is that globalists standing above and outside of all the regional players intended the Strava OSINT message for DoD, regarding the vulnerability of U.S. troop positions to the same kind of 'homegrown' drone bombing or GPS aided shelling that many neocons had gloated about after a swarm of 'DIY' drones attacked Russia's Kheimmim air base earlier this month. In other words, a war of all against all, with ISIS overt terrorist army replaced by increasingly ingenious covert attacks using means like GPS guided munition dropping drones, previously considered beyond the capabilities of 85-90 IQ jihadis hiding in the Syraqi border desert. 

What is a Strava Heat Map depicting biking or running paths used by Fitbit users? This video from two months ago precedes military and geopolitical nerds tweeting about this weekend's more militarily sensitive heat map data dump from global hot spots like Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia/Yemen in the Horn of Africa region.

The Kurdish areas of Syria are not as hospitable nor lacking in agents of Hezbollah as they seem. And if you add to this previous reporting that pro-Turkish Syrian jihadis have exchanged fire with American soldiers, to the embarrassed silence of the 'moderate rebels' neocon supporters on Capitol Hill, then it's clear Damascus, Ankara and Tehran combined have plenty of means to pressure the Americans. If President Trump is truly collectively served by wise advisers like 'Q Anon', then surely they must see the danger of The Donald being set up by globalists and aggressive Cold War 2 enthusiasts (H.R. McMaster and Mattis) in his Administration for playing the role of Dubya 2.0 in the bloody sands of Syria instead of Iraq...and tell the President to pull the troops out.

UPDATE 5:35 p.m. EST January 28, 2018 The Washington Post is reporting on the security implications of the Strava heat map, attributing its going viral online to an Australian student interested in the Syria conflict:

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

A portion of the Strava Labs heat map from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, made by tracking activities. (Screen shot)
Air Force Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said Sunday that the U.S. military is looking into the implications of the map.

The military did not respond to a question about what the regulations are regarding use of fitness-tracking apps. But the Pentagon has encouraged the use of Fitbits among military personnel and in 2013 distributed 2,500 of them as part of a pilot program to battle obesity.

The Global Heat Map was posted online in November 2017, but the information it contains was publicized Saturday only after a 20-year-old Australian student stumbled across it. Nathan Ruser, who is studying international security and the Middle East, found out about the map from a mapping blog and was inspired to look more closely, he said, after a throwaway comment by his father, who observed that the map offered a snapshot of “where rich white people are” in the world.

“I wondered, does it show U.S. soldiers?” Ruser said, and he immediately zoomed in on Syria. “It sort of lit up like a Christmas tree.”