MICHAEL BURLEIGH: Bashar Al Assad – the tyrant who drowned his nation in blood
In the summer of 2012, Barack Obama was unambiguous. He warned that if Bashar Al Assad used chemical weapons for his own people in the brutal Syrian civil war that had begun the year before, there would be unprecedented consequences – it was a red line.
Twelve months later Assad launched a sarin gas attack on suburbs of Damascus held by rebels. Up to 300 people, including many children, died in agony, gagging and choking because the gas caused muscle cramps that made breathing impossible.
Obama's red line was crossed in the most devastating way. Yet he failed to send in American troops or war planes – and the shocking atrocities, the use of chemical weapons in Assad's oppression war, continued anyway.
In 2012, Barack Obama warned that if Bashar Al Assad were to use chemical weapons for his own people, there would be unprecedented consequences
Six years later, nearly 600,000 people were killed in Syria, with 12 million displaced persons. A pre-war Syrian economy of £ 47 billion has collapsed to one of £ 12 billion, dominated by black marketeers exploiting chronic deficits, with the Assad clan being the biggest beneficiaries.
There is no doubt that the Syrian dictator was the victor in the civil war. His allies – Russia, who took command of Syrian airspace, and Iran, who led the harsh Shiite ground forces – took care of this relentlessly.
But until the last days he avoided one more thing. The northern regions of the country, occupied by Kurds as a semi-autonomous homeland, were effectively out of reach. Not anymore.
Twelve months later Assad launched a sarin gas attack on suburbs of Damascus held by rebels. Up to 300 people, including many children, died in agony. Depicted are destroyed buildings in Aleppo
Donald Trump & # 39; s unforgivable withdrawal of troops from Syria completely changed things. It was an act of betrayal against the Syrian Kurds – perhaps our most important ally in the fight against the Islamic state. It has enabled Turkey to unleash a catastrophic magnitude against them.
It was not only a betrayal, it was a strategic blunder that weakened US credibility, reversed profits against IS, made it more difficult to build alliances in the Middle East and boosted Russia and Iran.
Desperately, the Kurds turned to Assad for help. In a deal allegedly mediated by Russia, they agreed to allow Syrian troops in Kurdish-controlled areas to fight Turkey's brutal offensive, called Operation Peace Spring. For the Kurds, 11,000 of whom were killed in the fight against IS, this marks the end of their dream of a Syrian homeland – the Syrian army is now taking over important Kurdish cities and towns.
For Assad, since the red, white and black tricolor of Syria is being hoisted in areas where his regime has not been present for years, this means a final victory that even he must have thought imaginatively.
The 54-year-old dictator has turned out to be the great survivor, despite the fact that his fine doctor's hands are soaked with blood, despite worldwide condemnation as a war criminal who massacred his own people without distinction. He has outsmarted the US at every turn and regained his territory first from rebels and now from the Kurds who helped destroy IS for him and for the West.
Six years later, nearly 600,000 people were killed in Syria, with 12 million displaced persons. Depicted is the Syrian border town of Ras-al-Ain during continuous fighting from a Turkish offensive
The irony is that Assad was never destined to rule over Syria – his older brother Bassel was the chosen successor to their brutal Soviet-trained father Hafez and he was allowed to study as an eye doctor in London. But Bassel died in a car accident and Bashar was cared for as the heir. The KGB-trained crooks who controlled Syria had to convince them that the tall, thin, weak-chinned man was strong enough for them – but he was ruthless enough.
When his dynastic regime was threatened in 2011 by peaceful demonstrations, during the so-called Arab Spring, his violent actions triggered an armed uprising and led to the worst and most protracted civil war of modern times.
Amid the chaos, IS seized the country and from 2014 the Kurds became the main ground forces fighting against them. After the fall of the IS capital Raqqa, they also became the keeper of tens of thousands of captured IS hunters. Many of these terrorists are now fleeing while their guards are rushing to fight against the Turks.
Ankara saw this as an opportunity to wipe out the Syrian Kurdish defense force, which was trying to establish its Kurdish statelet along the border with Turkey.
In the eyes of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Syrian Kurds are just as bad as the PKK terrorists against whom Turkey has fought a war against the insurrection for four decades. The prospect of being wiped out by the Turks gave the Syrian Kurds no choice but to seek help from Assad. During the civil war they were neutral with regard to his regime, which lacked the ability to recapture the far north when it had more urgent goals.
Now, however, Assad can regain control of the one large part of Syria that he has not gained. It is better to allow this, Kurdish thinking says, than to run the risk of being ethnically cleaned by Turks. So Assad, who drowned his country in blood, is once more than the all-ruling ruler of Syria.
Michael Burleigh is Engelsberg Chair in History and World Affairs at LSE Ideas.
The madness of surrendering Trump in Syria, while Russia happily joins Assad's forces to defend the Kurds
While the stars and stripes flew out of the turrets of their armored trucks, American troops yesterday made a humiliating retreat from an important Syrian base.
Just after midnight, 15 vehicles pulled out of the facility that was built three years ago when the town of Manbij was freed from troops of the Islamic State. While the American convoy was going in one direction, Syrian hunters were going in the other direction – with the intention of taking their abandoned positions.
By order of Donald Trump, the American army gives up its protection against the Syrian Kurds who led the war against the jihadists. The Kurds have now had to turn to the Syrian regime and the Russian allies in their desperate attempt to prevent them from being run over by Turkish troops exploiting the American withdrawal.
By order of Donald Trump, the American army gives up its protection against the Syrian Kurds who led the war against the jihadists
The Wagner Group, a shadowy mercenary outfit waging secret wars on behalf of the Kremlin, immediately moved to the former American base. At the same time, the Syrian government forces took full control of Manbij.
An official of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic forces said, "The Russians are now at the American base in Manbij, helping the Americans escort the area and get their base back."
Now, on the seventh day, Turkey & # 39; s offensive against Kurdish hunters is again drawing the map of Northern Syria in a civil war that lasted eight years.
On Sunday, the SDF was forced to make a deal with President Bashar Al Assad, who was supported by Russia, to avert potential genocide.
The Kurds have now had to turn to the Syrian regime and the Russian allies in their desperate attempt to prevent them from being run over by Turkish troops exploiting the American withdrawal. Depicted is a Syrian soldier
Russia announced yesterday that its units were being deployed to keep the advancing Syrian and Turkish forces apart. It is a clear sign that Moscow is filling up the security vacuum left behind last week by the withdrawal of Donald Trump by US soldiers.
Moscow's special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said fighting between the Turks and Syrians was "unacceptable" and "of course we will not allow it."
The unexpected and widely condemned decision of the US president to refuse to protect the Kurds of Syria after a phone call with the Turkish opposite Recep Tayyip Erdogan destroyed five years of US policy in the Middle East.
Republicans have remained largely loyal to Mr. Trump but seem to be losing patience. White House defense chiefs and advisers all warned him of his Syrian movement and congress leaders said last night that they wanted to go through a bivalent motion to overturn Mr Trump's decision. American news shows have alarming messages from Syria with a focus on civilian casualties.
The pressure seemed to tell last night when Mr. Trump called Mr. Erdogan to immediately demand a cease-fire.
The arrival of the Wagner Group is a dangerous development. In February last year, 600 of his mercenaries, armed with tanks and artillery, launched an attack on the SDF only to discover that American advisers were embedded with them.
Russia announced yesterday that its units were being deployed to keep the advancing Syrian and Turkish forces apart. Depicted are Syrian soldiers
Moscow Special Envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said fighting between the Turks and Syrians & # 39; unacceptable & # 39; was and & # 39; therefore, of course, we will not allow it & # 39;
The Wagner forces continued the attack for four hours, despite being hammered by American air strikes. An estimated 300 Russians were killed or wounded.
Western intelligence services believe that Russia also sent Wagner mercenaries to Libya earlier this year to help General Khalifa Haftar overthrow the UN-backed government. It was suspected that Moscow wanted to use the instability to start a formal intervention.
On images published online yesterday, Russian war correspondent Oleg Blokhin, known for following the Wagner group, grinned as he looked around the abandoned American base. He boasted: "It was they yesterday and today we are here."
A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that US personnel & # 39; helped the Russian armed forces to quickly navigate through previously unsafe areas & # 39 ;.
A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that US personnel & # 39; helped the Russian armed forces to quickly navigate through previously unsafe areas & # 39 ;. Depicted are the Turkish troops advancing to Manbij, Syria
The official said: "It is essentially a transfer. However, it is a quick-out, not something that includes passageways, etc. Everything is about freeing up as many of our things as possible while destroying sensitive equipment that cannot be moved. & # 39;
A TV crew from Russia filmed the base and showed what the American troops had left behind, including a television, couches and bunk beds with bedding.
The clashes between the SDF and Turkey continued yesterday, with Ankara saying that two of his soldiers were killed by shelling in the Manbij region. It claimed that 15 "terrorists" were killed when the Turkish army shot back.
Van Manbij, Saddam Al Hasan, 28, said: "Nobody wants people to become homeless and killed. I am pleased that Russia can come in if it provides security and safety and stops the ongoing war. I am glad that they will protect the borders of my city against the barbaric attacks of the armed factions and I hope that the crisis will end after unification with the SDF. & # 39;
Depicted is the Syrian army that goes one way to Kobane and Americans the other
President Erdogan has vowed to ignore the growing condemnation of the invasion from the West. Turkey is a member of NATO and the Secretary General of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, met Boris Johnson for discussions yesterday.
Britain and France have accused Turkey and the US of undoing five years of work in the fight against IS, whose hunters and families are planning to escape from detention centers.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: "This intervention is devastating for our collective security with the inevitable revival of the Islamic state in northern Syria and probably also northwestern Iraq."
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab suggested yesterday that three British orphans whose parents were killed in Syria after joining the Islamic State could be allowed to return to the UK.
Mr Raab told MPs that the government did not want to see British foreign hunters return to the UK, but given the & # 39; smooth situation & # 39; could change this. His comments were rejected by Home Office sources.
Additional reporting by Bedir Ahmed in Syria and Tom Leonard in New York
. [TagsToTranslate] Dailymail