Leaders of Russia, Turkey, and Iran are meeting in the port city of Sochi right now to discuss the future of Syria. In the following article, I hope to explain what it going on.
Final Defeat of ISIS
According to spokesman for the SDF/YPG, ISIS is down to half of one town in southeastern Syria along the Euphrates. It is known as Baghuz Fawqani.
It is claimed that ISIS has prevented civilians from fleeing, so progress has been very slow. However, in the past few days, hundreds of ISIS members have surrendered and hundreds of civilians have been rescued.
Among the ISIS members, who have surrendered, are people from all over the world. Citizens of the USA and Canada have even been apprehended. These people include fighters as well as foreign wives. Many of the women have given birth to children in Syria as well.
After dark, ISIS members try to cross the Euphrates where they are annihilated by the Syrian army and Iranian sponsored Shiite militias on the other side. There is no escape. It is believed that ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is trapped in this area.
ISIS still has hideouts in remote desert areas of Syria and Iraq. While many Iraqi and Syrian ISIS members are trying to blend back into society, the foreigners stick out like a sore thumb. Many are being caught by various government authorities while trying to leave Iraq and Syria. However, it is being claimed that a lot are being killed by vengeful locals within Syria and Iraq.
Remaining Problem Areas in Syria
Many problems still remain. Turkey is vowing to invade Rojava (northeast Syria) to suppress the PYD/YPG. There is also a multi-faceted conflict going on in the Idlib Governorate area. Currently the Turkish military is maintaining twelve or so small bases around the perimeter of Idlib as a buffer between Sunni militias and pro-government forces.
The dominate power in Idlib is HTS and their “Salvation Government.” HTS is formerly know as al-Nusra Front, and used to be the official al-Qaeda franchise of Syria. Turkey was openly working with HTS for a long time, and has only recently classified them a “terrorist group” in order to appease Russia.
HTS has many rivals, which they sometimes fight with. This includes groups like al-Zinki, Jaysh al-Islam, and the former Islamic Front network. Some of these groups were previously armed and sponsored by the USA, but are now classified by the USA as “terrorist groups.”
Most of what could have been called “moderate Sunni rebels,” and “Sunni Arab tribal militias,” have reconciled with the Syrian government and are now part of the pro-government National Defense Forces [NDF]. Many Arab Sunni nations have restored or upgraded diplomatic relations with the Syrian government over the past two months. Efforts to topple Assad are being abandoned by the Sunni world.
The Turkish government has completely shifted its focus towards Rojava and says it is now fine with Bashar al-Assad remaining in power. It seems likely that Turkey will allow abandon support for Jihadists in Idlib if Russia supports letting Turkey increase their occupation zone in northern Syria.
Syrian Refugee Crises
Before I detail the latest on the Syrian refugee crises in the region, I must address one thing. The people who are commonly referred to as “Syrian refugees” in Europe are mostly made up of two groups. The first group is young males from Syria and Iraq who are either dodging the draft or deserted from active military duty. This is why you saw caravans in which 90% of the people are physically fit young males. Keep in mind that in the Iraqi city of Mosul alone, 60,000 active duty members of the Iraqi military melted away like butter in the face of less than 10,000 ISIS fighters. The second group of people are not even from Syria or Iraq, but simply discarded their passports and falsely claimed to be Syrian.
The actual Syrian families who fled the war in Syria are largely concentrated in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. You can’t just hike through the Balkans to Germany if you have a wife and three kids in tow. There are millions of Syrians in these three nations and the governments are getting extremely weary.
Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey are trying to put pressure on Syrians to return home. Just a few days ago, there was an anti-Syrian riot in Istanbul. In one district of Istanbul, Syrians have become the majority of the workforce. Many have even become managers or opened their own businesses. Hundreds of young Turks rioted and vandalized Syrian run shops. Twelve people were injured.
The Turkish government is building housing projects in Turkish occupied northwestern Syria and has erected hundreds of miles of border wall to prevent more Syrians from coming to Turkey.
Lebanon still struggles to cope with a large population of what is called “Palestinian refugees.” Despite living in Lebanon for fifty to seventy years, the so-called “refugees” still live in public housing and are a continued burden on Lebanon’s social services. The Palestinian ghetto of Ain al-Hilweh is so notorious that Lebanon built a border wall around it.
There is a huge fear in Lebanon of another permanent new refugee population. The country is now working with Russia to repatriate Syrians back to Syria. Jordan recently restored full diplomatic relations with Syria and has requested help from Syria and Russia to repatriate refugees as well. The Jordanian military has also been preventing new Syrians from crossing the border for at least the past two years.
The Syrian government has long since agreed to take back Syrians who illegally entered Europe.
US vs Shiite Conflict
US support for the Saudi war against the Shiites in the former country of Northern Yemen is one major cause of tension with the Shiite world. However, the biggest source of tension is the continued occupation of the al-Tanf near the Iraqi-Syrian border. This is where the USA directly inserted fighters into Syria. These fighters were being trained in Jordan. America called them “moderate rebels,” while many others called them “radical Jihadists” and “terrorists.”
The USA still occupies this remote area which infuriates the Shiite world, including the Shiite majority in the Iraqi parliament. This is why so many members of the Iraqi parliament are calling for the expulsion, by force if necessary, of US forces in Iraq.
The US occupation of al-Tanf is the main roadblock to the removal of Iranian assets in southern Syria. An Iranian withdraw from southern Syria, or even all of Syria seems likely if the US withdraws from al-Tanf and the al-Omar oil fields. Iran, for their part, say they will evacuate Syria as soon as Bashar al-Assad says their prescence is no longer needed.
Notes: The YPG is the official militia of the Kurdish political party known as PYD. They currently rule Rojava as a one party socialist state and have shut down rivals. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the PKK. The USA sponsors the PYD/YPG, even though the PKK is officially classified as a “terrorist group.” The US sponsorship of the PYD/YPG is a source of tension between the USA and Turkey right now. Note that the Syrian Democrat Force [SDF] is basically a front name for the YPG to gaslight Turkey.
The PYD is opposed by the ENKS, which is sponsored by the KDP, the largest political party in Iraqi Kurdistan. The ENKS has a military wing called the Rojava Peshmerga, which is currently in exile in Iraq. This militia is stationed near the Sinjar region, where they are acting as a counter to the PKK sponsored Sinjar Resistance Units [YBS]. The YBS is largely Yazidi, which many Kurds considered to be a closely related group.
Turkey is currently occupying parts of northwestern Syria, northern Iraq, and, of course, the eastern third of Cyprus. The Turkish army is also fighting a Kurdish insurgency in eastern Turkey. They also have a huge military presence in Azerbaijan where they are assisting in the fight against the Armenian breakaway region of Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh). The Turkish government is extremely ethno-chauvinistic, militaristic, and I personal believe that Turkey is the single greatest threat to stability in the region.
Iran is the main sponsor of Shiite militias in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Some of these militias I would personally consider to be extreme and some I would not consider extreme. I do consider the Supreme Council of Iran to be extreme. So I would say that in some cases the various militias are not extremists, but they have an extremist sponsor.