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World Winners and losers in the battle for Syria's northeast

23:05  15 october  2019
23:05  15 october  2019 Source:   reuters.com

Turkey says ground forces are advancing in northern Syria

  Turkey says ground forces are advancing in northern Syria CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (AP) — Turkish ground forces pressed their advance against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Thursday, Turkey's Defense Ministry said, launching airstrikes and unleashing artillery shelling on Syrian towns and villages the length of its border. The Turkish invasion, now in its second day, has been widely condemned around the world. The Turkish invasion, now in its second day, has been widely condemned around the world. In northern Syria, residents of the border areas scrambled in panic on Wednesday as they tried to get out on foot, in cars and with rickshaws piled with mattresses and a few belongings.

The full withdrawal of U. S . forces and deployment of the Syrian army is a major juncture in the Syrian conflict, restoring a foothold for Assad' s government across the biggest swath of the country that had been outside its grasp. The area includes oil, farmland, water resources and the hydro-electric dam at

Syria ' s Kurdish groups exploited the withdrawal of government forces from the northeast at the start of the Syrian conflict to build up the institutions of autonomy and teach Kurdish language in local schools.

After years battling to assert the Kremlin's power on the international stage, Vladimir Putin is now on what seems like a victory lap of the Middle East.

Vladimir Putin, Ibn Saud that are talking to each other: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's King Salman attend the official welcome ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 14, 2019.© ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/Pool/AFP/Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's King Salman attend the official welcome ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 14, 2019.

On Tuesday, Kremlin-backed forces further stepped up to fill the vacuum left in northern Syria by the US. Russian military police units patrolled the contact line between Syrian and Turkish forces, while Putin-backed Bashar al-Assad troops gained full control of the town of Manbij and surrounding areas, according to a Russian defense ministry statement published on its website.

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President Donald Trump' s decision to pull out of Syria radically realigns the balance of power in the country' s northeast and creates a vacuum which Russia, Turkey and Iran are racing to fill.

President Donald Trump' s decision to pull out of Syria radically realigns the balance of power in the country' s northeast and creates a vacuum which Russia, Turkey and Iran are racing to fill.

The fast-shifting geopolitical sands have already handed huge territorial gains to the pro-Moscow Assad government who opportunistically forged a new alliance with US-abandoned Kurds over the weekend.

The unfolding events in northern Syria come after Moscow stayed the course with its ally Assad despite international criticism and sanctions, leaving it as the only force willing and able to protect the Syrian Kurds from a Turkish onslaught. With the US withdrawal increasingly seen as a betrayal of the Kurds, it is the Russians who look like the only reliable allies in this fight.

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Now, the winners in this operation are much more numerous than the losers and it would be a mistake to suppose that only Turkey is gaining from this operation. They preferred to fight and lose the battle rather than handing Syrian territory back to Syrian government control. The Kurds opted for Turkish

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It was against this backdrop that Putin toured the capitals of two key Gulf states -- the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday and Saudi Arabia on Monday.

In Saudi -- one of America's closest allies -- the Russian president received a warm welcome during his first visit to the kingdom in over a decade. The Kremlin called it a "return visit" after Saudi's King Salman visited Moscow in 2017 to broaden the key oil producers' relationship.

It is a "natural partnership," one Russian official told me ahead of this week's state visit. The "world's biggest oil exporters cooperating to stabilize the markets".

But the significance of this burgeoning Russia-Saudi friendship should not be understated or limited to just conversations about oil.

Russia is, after all, a close ally of Saudi's most implacable foe -- Iran. It fights alongside Iranian forces in Syria, and has close diplomatic and economic ties with the Islamic Republic.

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Turkey already controlled swathes of Syrian territory in the north of the country thanks to two previous operations. Istanbul (AFP) - After deals negotiated with both the United States and Russia which put an end to its offensive in Syria , Turkey has won a key demand: the removal of Kurdish fighters from

Winners and losers are beginning to emerge in Syria , though not all of those involved can see this. Isis is looking increasingly battered by a medley of enemies backed by the US and Russian air forces, though it is nowhere near defeat.

Speaking after the meeting, King Salman said he appreciated "Russia's effective role in the region and around the world," according to remarks reported by Saudi state media.

The statement underlines that this state visit was a well-timed diplomatic coup, placing Putin at the center of the region's geopolitics.

It's what Putin has been pushing for all along.

But the warmness of Saudi's embrace of Russia can also be seen as a warning from the kingdom to the US.

There is growing criticism among US lawmakers of Saudi conduct, like the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, which the kingdom blames on rogue operatives.

There's also alarm at the alleged targeting of civilians by Saudi-led forces in its war on Houthi rebels in Yemen, which the kingdom denies. US Congress even tried to cut off arms sales, on which Saudi Arabia depends, over the issue.

Of course, Saudi Arabia remains a staunch US ally with strong American protection. In fact, in the past month the US has announced the deployment of an additional 3,000 troops to the country to bolster defenses amid growing tensions with Iran.

But criticism and concern about US commitment to the region is causing Saudi Arabia to look elsewhere, perhaps to more reliable and less judgmental friends.

The "days of a single strategic partner for the kingdom," one senior Saudi official told me, "are already gone".

And just like in northern Syria, Russia is ready and willing to step in.

Russian forces deploy at Syrian border under new accord .
Russian military police began patrols on part of the Syrian border Wednesday, quickly moving to implement an accord with Turkey that divvies up control of northeastern Syria. AKCAKALE, Turkey (AP) — Russian military police began patrols on part of the Syrian border Wednesday, quickly moving to implement an accord with Turkey that divvies up control of northeastern Syria. The Kremlin told Kurdish fighters to pull back from the entire frontier or else face being "steamrolled" by Turkish forces.

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