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Regional geopolitics

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  • Re: Regional geopolitics

    Տարածաշրջանային բարդ խաղի հակառակ կողմը
    2015-08-02

    Հեղինակ՝ Մուսա Միքայելյան




    Առանցքային հարցերից մեկը, որ այսօր առկա է տարածաշրջանում թե՛ Հայաստանի ու Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի առաջ, թե՛ նաև միջազգային հանրության, ղարաբաղյան հակամարտության ռազմական էսկալացիայի հարցն է՝ կլինի՞ լայնածավալ էսկալացիա, թե՞ չի լինի: Այս հարցին պատասխանելն իսկապես շատ դժվար է, որովհետև պարզապես ակնհայտ է, որ արդեն իսկ մի անսպասելի ուղղությամբ էսկալացիան ակնառու է:

    Ըստ էության բռնկվել է թուրք-քրդական պատերազմ, որի զարգացման սցենարները կարող են լինել միանգամայն անկանխատեսելի: Եվ այս պատերազմն, ըստ էության, սահմանակից է Հայաստանին: Եվ եթե մեր աչքի առաջ, պարզապես մեր կողքին բռնկվում է նման ռազմական կոնֆլիկտ, ապա հարց է առաջանում, թե ինչո՞ւ չի կարող նույնը տեղի ունենալ մեր մյուս կողքին, այսինքն՝ արդեն Ադրբեջանի ուղղությամբ, որտեղ արդեն կոնֆլիկտի մի կողմում կլինենք մենք՝ հայերս: Առավել ևս, որ այս ուղղությամբ ռազմական ծավալուն բախման հիմքերը, մեղմ ասած, ավելի քիչ չեն, եթե չասենք, որ ավելի տաք են, քան թուրք-քրդական կոնֆլիկտի հիմքերն էին:

    Մյուս կողմից՝ թուրք-քրդական հակամարտությունը, պարզապես ռազմական կոնֆլիկտը մեզ, ըստ էության, կարող է հիմք տալ իրերին նայել մեկ այլ տեսանկյունից: Ակնհայտ է, որ այս կոնֆլիկտին Թուրքիան որոշակիորեն մղվել է: Մինչ դրա հասունանալը տեղի ունեցան մի շարք իրադարձություններ, որոնց արդյունքում պաշտոնական Անկարան ձեռնամուխ եղավ ռազմական գործողությունների, իբրև թե ԻՊ ահաբեկչական խմբավորման, իրականում քրդերի դեմ:

    Ակնհայտ է, որ Անկարայի այս գործողությունները հավանության է արժանացրել Միացյալ Նահանգները: Չի դժգոհել նաև Ռուսաստանը: Էրդողանը հեռախոսազրույց է ունեցել և՛ Օբամայի, և՛ Պուտինի հետ: Մոսկվան էլ որևէ կերպ չի փորձել հրապարակավ հետ պահել Անկարային գործողություններից: Սրան զուգահեռ՝ մենք ականատես ենք եղել ղարաբաղյան ուղղությամբ ԱՄՆ բանակցային ակտիվացման ջանքերին՝ միաժամանակ տեսնելով, որ Ռուսաստանը կարծեք թե առանձնապես չի խոչընդոտում այդ ջանքերին:

    Եվ այս առումով շատ հավանական է դառնում, որ մենք ականատես ենք լինում ԱՄՆ դիրիժորությամբ մի տարածաշրջանային խաղի, որին Մոսկվան պարտավորվել է առնվազն չխանգարել, և որում բռնկվել է թուրք-քրդական մի մեծ կոնֆլիկտ, որին «չխանգարելուե համար ԱՄՆ-ը ջանքեր է գործադրում ղարաբաղյան հակամարտության թեժացում, ռազմական բռնկում թույլ չտալու համար:

    Այսինքն՝ իրականում ղարաբաղյան ներկայիս ակտիվությունը միանգամայն հնարավոր է, որ պայմանավորված էր թուրք-քրդական կոնֆլիկտ թեժացնելու ծրագրով, որն անկասկած շատ ավելի լայն ընդգրկում ունեցող խնդիր է, քան ղարաբաղյան հակամարտությունը:

    http://www.1in.am/1683040.html

    Comment


    • Re: Regional geopolitics

      Ascendant Kurds emerge from Syrian civil war as major power player
      The Middle East map is being unofficially redrawn as Kurdish forces controls more of the north than Isis and Turkey is under pressure to confront realities
      http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...rkey-civil-war


      Early in Syria’s civil war, before the emergence of the Islamic State, the battle lines seemed clear. A local opposition was challenging an entrenched regime for the keys to Damascus. It soon became obvious, however, that neither side could win by themselves, and both dragged in allies whose ensuing battle for a broader supremacy has torn the country apart.

      The ramifications have been profound. At stake now, more than four years into the war, is far more than who gets to control Syria. The war is unlocking a regional order established almost a century ago. And two prominent forces, neither of them state actors, have emerged as power players.

      On one side are the Kurds, an ethnic group which missed out on a homeland when the Ottoman Empire was divided up at the end of the first world war. On the other is Isis, a marauding force of global jihadists, who have claimed a homeland from the ruins of the once feared police states of Iraq and Syria. Isis’s rampage across both countries has exposed the fragility of totalitarian rulers and their subservience to the region’s titans, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

      Other stakeholders, such as Turkey and the US – notional partners who had until now preferred to push their agendas via proxies – have been drawn in ever deeper, but for different and often contradictory reasons.

      The result has been a bewildering array of shifting alliances and priorities, none of which have helped ensure that the post-Ottoman states of Iraq, Syria, and even Lebanon, remain viable.

      For Ankara, the main foe has been the Kurds, who have fought an insurrection across Turkey’s south-east for the past 40 years. For the US and its allies in Riyadh and the Gulf, Isis is the enemy, whereas the Kurds have been their main ally - the only viable ground force in northern Syria and northern Iraq, where the battle against Isis rages.

      Turkey’s decision to directly join the fray was made against the backdrop of a suicide bombing last week which killed 32 people – many of the Kurds – in its southern city of Suruc, and was blamed on Isis.

      But another – and perhaps more compelling – reason, was an attack by the Kurdish militia, the PKK several days later, which killed two Turkish policemen. PKK officials have blamed Turkey for staging the Suruc attack and claimed the killing was their retaliation.


      Turkey says Kurdish peace process impossible as Nato meets
      Read more
      Ankara has since insisted that the PKK represents a greater threat to its sovereignty than Isis even as it reversed policy and allowed the US to start using its Incirlik air base for air strikes against Isis inside Syria.

      It had resisted such a move for the past three years insisting first on a safe haven being established inside northern Syria, which would ostensibly protect Syrian civilians who have fled the chaos, as well as opposition fighters. The US, fearing it would be drawn into an attritional campaign that added to its existing load in Iraq, had refused.

      Now though, with some kind of safe haven seemingly on the table, it is the Kurds, not Isis, who control much of the north. The YPG-Syrian Kurds allied to the PKK in Turkey have influence from just north-east of Aleppo to the Iraqi border. They also control Irfin in north-western Syria. Isis controls the area between the Kurds – and it is here that the Turks want to enforce a safe haven, one effect of which would be to deny the Kurds in the north-east to link up with the north-west.


      “The Turks’ move last week is not about Isis,” said one senior Kurdish official in Irbil. “It’s about us.” As Syria has crumbled, Syria’s Kurds have quietly built an arc of influence that Turkey believes advances the broader Kurdish project of an eventual sovereign state carved from north-eastern Syria, south-eastern Turkey, parts of western Iran and what is now Iraqi Kurdistan.

      This has raised an unprecedented alarm in Ankara, which wants nothing less than an emboldened and spreading Kurdish enclave just across its border, which could link up with the semi-autonomous Kurdish north of Iraq.

      Turkey’s fear over the Kurds has led it to ignore its anger at what it sees as US prevarication in moving against Bashar al-Assad. It has done little to convince Washington, however, that it is serious about tackling Isis.



      Turkey’s approach to the group had until recently been to contain rather than confront. And, since the jihadist group gathered momentum, the US has been pressuring Turkey to seal its borders and to stop interactions with Isis officials, such as buying smuggled oil, which keep the terror organisation’s economy rumbling.

      Throughout the past four years, all stakeholders in the Syrian war, then the war against Isis in Iraq and Syria, have been trying to avoid one outcome – a breakdown of unitary borders that had bound together the centre of the region for much of the past century.

      A de facto partition already exists in Iraq, where the Kurds of the north and the Sunnis of Anbar are drifting ever further from central government control. Now, with Syria’s Kurds ascendant, hopes that the country as it is now may again be controlled from Damascus are also falling.

      All those involved are framing suggested responses to the chaos through their own interests, which rarely align even with allies and don’t amount to a strategy to stop the crumbling order. Isis, meanwhile, continues to build the semblance of a state from the chaos it has been largely responsible for causing. Even without being officially redrawn, the Middle East map is now very different.

      Comment


      • Re: Regional geopolitics

        Reece Harding funeral: family pledges to further Kurdish cause he lost his life for
        The 23-year-old Gold Coast man, who died fighting with Kurdish forces against Islamic State militants in Syria, was laid to rest at a service on Saturday

        Australian Associated Press
        Saturday 1 August 2015


        The family of Gold Coast man Reece Harding has pledged to continue furthering the cause he lost his life for.

        The 23-year-old died fighting with Kurdish forces against Islamic State militants in Syria.

        His determination, sense of adventure, love of life and warm heart were remembered during his funeral service on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

        Reece’s father Keith said the 23-year-old had been to more countries than most people visited in a lifetime.

        “I know Reece, you can’t speak,” Harding said. “But we will speak for you and further the cause you were passionate about. I love you son, and I am so, so proud of you.”

        Reece’s younger brother, Jordan, spoke for his mother Michele, who recalled the first time he smiled at her as a six-week-old. “Goodnight, my darling boy, and sleep tight.”

        Jordan promised to live his life the way Reece had done. “At a time when everyone else stood by, my brother stood up,” he said.

        But it was lifetime milestones – his first legal drink with Reece, attending his brother’s wedding, becoming an uncle – that Jordan painfully acknowledged he would now never experience.

        “If I could grow up to be half the man Reece was, I would be proud and content with my life,” he said.

        Queensland man Ashley Dyball, who has travelled to Syria to fight with Kurdish forces, recorded a video message that was played at the service.

        “It was a pleasure to spend almost every waking moment with him,” he said. “He’s not gone, he’ll forever be with us in our memories.”

        Comment


        • Re: Regional geopolitics

          The Guardian view on Turkey’s air strikes against Isis: dangerous territory
          http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...rous-territory
          Turkey was forced to act because of the contradictions in its own policies. It is vital the country now refreshes its peace talks with the PKK


          A potentially momentous shift in the Middle East was signalled this week as Turkish warplanes attacked Islamic State positions in Syria and the Ankara government finally agreed that the US can use Turkish bases for its missions against Isis. A big security sweep, detaining people suspected of being Isis agents and Kurdish militants, accompanied these military moves. If Turkey continues in this new direction, the air campaign against Isis will be strengthened and the flow of people, money and arms through Turkey to Isis in Syria will be curtailed. But the way in which both Isis and the Kurdistan Workers’ party, or PKK, have both been targeted suggests the outcome may also be complicated and dangerous on the ground in Turkey itself.

          The problem is that Ankara has been trying to keep Isis and the PKK in play against each other. Although it has been conducting negotiations with the PKK, the long-established and substantial Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey, and its imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan, since 2012, it has also been looking the other way and perhaps has even been helping, as Isis has battled the PYD, the PKK’s sister party in Syria. Such a contradictory policy, the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing, was almost bound to go wrong at some stage. The Turkish government may thus have acted now because it feared an outbreak of hostilities between the PKK and Isis on Turkish soil after a suicide bombing attack earlier this week, attributed to Isis, which killed 32 people in a town near the Syrian border. That was followed by PKK attacks on Turkish police, supposedly for failing to protect Turkish Kurds.

          The opposition press was full of angry charges that the government had failed to take a tough line against Isis. It certainly looks as if a war that Turkey had managed to keep at one remove now threatens to spill over the border, largely because the policy of manipulating two enemies was inherently risky as well as duplicitous.

          Turkey has been an uneasy member of the coalition against Isis, for reasons to do both with its disappointed ambitions to lead and shape the region and its anxieties about how the conflict might strengthen Kurdish separatism on its own territory. Indeed, the main key to the equivocal position of Turkey on the struggle to contain Isis has from the beginning been its fear that the Kurds might eventually emerge as winners in both Iraq and Syria, emboldening Turkey’s own Kurds to demand an autonomy that would threaten the centralised Turkish state.

          Ankara’s ideal post-Isis world would be one in which both Syria and Iraq come back to life as strong nations, controlling and satisfying their Kurdish minorities, and thus leaving Turkey free to pursue a settlement with its own Kurds which would make only limited concessions to their desire for autonomy. Turkey tried and failed to broker a compromise in Syria, then turned against Bashar al-Assad, attempting to mix and match support for some rebel groups there, while avoiding commitments that might help the Syrian Kurds. This week’s developments may bring Turkey more fully into the alliance against Isis, but the country should also be refreshing its peace talks with the PKK, rather than taking action that unfairly and unwisely brackets the Kurdish movement with the Islamists.

          Comment


          • Re: Regional geopolitics

            Pas de réédition du scénario Qalamoun ; Zabadani serait une guerre d’extermination

            L'armée syrienne et ses alliés du Hezbollah poursuivent les combats dans la ville de Zabadani, où ils ont pris le contrôle de trois quartiers et d'une zone de 7 km sur 26. Cette fois, le combat décisif semble déjà programmé.
            Lina KENNOUCHE | OLJ
            09/07/2015
            http://www.lorientlejour.com/article...rmination.html


            Depuis quelques jours, la ville de Zabadani est sous les feux de l'armée syrienne et de ses alliés, mais la vraie bataille ne s'est pas encore déroulée. La décision tactique semble prise, la réédition du scénario du Qalamoun (il y a deux ans, en 2013) ne devrait pas avoir lieu. Les combattants de l'armée syrienne et du Hezbollah positionnés sur le flanc ouest ne concéderont pas de passage pour les rebelles qui se trouvent sur le flanc est de cette région. Nombre de rebelles qui se retrouvent aujourd'hui engagés dans la bataille de Zabadani viennent du Qalamoun. Si les combattants de l'armée syrienne et leurs alliés reproduisaient la même « erreur » en laissant un droit de passage aux rebelles qui battent en retraite, ils leur ouvriraient la voie vers le Sud, à savoir la route de Kuneitra et du mont Hermon, soit vers des régions à forte composante druze où ils peinent à neutraliser leurs ennemis. Cette configuration serait alors extrêmement critique pour les forces du régime qui seraient contraintes d'agir dans une zone où les rebelles seraient en effectifs importants et où ils ne disposent pas de véritable assise locale. La bataille de Zabadani doit donc être une guerre décisive : se rendre ou être exterminé.

            Dans ce conflit, la 4e division blindée de l'armée syrienne aux côtés des forces spéciales du Hezbollah devra faire face à 72 combattants du Front al-Nosra, 28 combattants du groupe État islamique, et entre 1 000 et 1 200 de Ahrar ech-Cham. Mais seuls ces derniers ont une capacité d'agression importante. L'opération la plus délicate consisterait moins dans la prise de la zone urbaine de Zabadani, qui ne présente aucune valeur stratégique, que dans la percée vers le mont Hermon, où les forces de Ahrar ech-Cham sont durablement installées et ont pu fortifier leur positions. Les troupes du régime et leurs alliés se préparent donc à un combat prolongé, le but étant d'avancer lentement mais sûrement, avec comme objectif de nettoyer l'ensemble de la zone pour empêcher les rebelles islamistes de fuir ou de battre en retraite. Si cette bataille est remportée, elle devrait accentuer la pression sur le camp adverse dans un contexte où le fameux programme d'entraînement de cinq mille « miliciens modérés syriens » se trouve compromis.


            Des candidats « modérés » fichés aux États-Unis
            Il semble dans ce cadre que la coopération active entre Washington et Ankara pour mettre en œuvre le programme de formation et d'équipement de 5 000 membres de l'opposition prétendument « modérée » soit difficile à mettre en œuvre. De source informelle, L'Orient-Le Jour a appris que sur les milliers de noms proposés par la Turquie, seuls moins de 300 candidats présentaient un profil acceptable. La liste des candidats fichés aux États-Unis pour leur implication dans des affaires de terrorisme et de trafics en tout genre porte sérieusement atteinte à la crédibilité du programme.


            (Lire aussi : Pourquoi une intervention turque en Syrie reste aujourd'hui improbable)


            Par ailleurs, le général Michael Nagata, chef des opérations spéciales du Commandement central américain en charge de sélectionner et d'entraîner les rebelles pour constituer cette force modérée, a fini lui-même par démissionner le jour du lancement du programme. Or il n'a pas encore été remplacé pour l'instant. Mais on sait surtout par expérience que de nombreuses forces présentées comme « modérées », entraînées et armées par Washington et ses alliés, ont fini par rejoindre les organisations terroristes comme le groupe al-Nosra ou l'État islamique, ou se sont tout simplement volatilisés laissant le champ libre à ces groupes. Le cas de Jamal Maarouf reste un exemple édifiant. Les armes fournies par Washington et Riyad à ce chef de l'ancien Front des révolutionnaires syriens (FRS), qui avait vocation à devenir le fer de lance de la chute du régime de Bachar el-Assad, notamment les missiles Tow, finiront entre les mains d'al-Nosra après la défaite militaire qui conduira à la dislocation de ce groupe, dont une partie des membres se recyclera dans les rangs de l'organisation terroriste.

            Non seulement la stratégie américaine pour mettre sur pied « une force modérée » a été jusque-là un échec, mais en pratique, elle n'a servi qu'à alimenter les groupes terroristes qui ont pu se saisir de l'armement livré aux « miliciens » modérés adoubés par les États-Unis. Peut-être est-ce là la finalité recherchée dans une configuration que de nombreux analystes ont identifiée comme celle de la « gestion internationale des crises ».

            Comment


            • Re: Regional geopolitics

              https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer...s.kB9lTwRhiag8

              Comment


              • Re: Regional geopolitics

                Du Qalamoun à Ersal, la bataille de l’Anti-Liban décryptée


                GUERRE
                Fabrice Balanche, spécialiste de la géographie politique de la Syrie et du Liban, Wehbé Katicha et Amine Hoteit, anciens officiers de l'armée libanaise, répondent aux questions de « L'Orient-Le Jour ».
                Nour BRAIDY et Rita SASSINE
                OLJ
                12/06/2015




                Depuis début mai, les combats entre le Hezbollah, appuyé par l'armée syrienne, et les jihadistes sunnites ont repris dans les montagnes du Qalamoun, à la frontière entre la Syrie et le Liban. La région du Qalamoun était un bastion des combattants hostiles au régime de Bachar el-Assad jusqu'à une opération d'envergure en 2014 soutenue par le Hezbollah. Si la majorité de la région a été reprise par le régime syrien, des rebelles et des jihadistes se sont retranchés dans la zone montagneuse à la frontière.

                Du fait des combats dans le Qalamoun, de nombreux observateurs craignent de voir les extrémistes syriens se réfugier à Ersal, une bourgade sunnite du nord-est de la Békaa proche de la frontière. Le parti chiite s'était abstenu d'actions militaires dans le jurd de Ersal, jusqu'à ce qu'il lance, il y a quelques jours, une offensive dans cette zone. Mardi, le Hezbollah affrontait également pour la première fois l'EI dans les jurds du Qaa et de Ras Baalbeck, deux zones chrétiennes de la Békaa septentrionale, au nord de Ersal.

                Quelles sont les parties impliquées dans la bataille de l'Anti-Liban (le Qalamoun et le jurd de Ersal) ? Quels sont les enjeux de cette bataille pour chacun des protagonistes ? Quelles pourraient être ses répercussions sur la scène libanaise, notamment sur le dossier des militaires libanais otages des jihadistes ? Fabrice Balanche, spécialiste de la géographie politique de la Syrie et du Liban, Wehbé Katicha et Amine Hoteit, anciens officiers de l'armée libanaise et stratèges militaires, tentent, sur ce dossier compliqué, d'apporter des éléments de réponse.




                Le Qalamoun : géographie et frontières

                Géographiquement, le Qalamoun est une région constituée de plateaux situés à l'est de la chaîne de l'Anti-Liban et qui s'étale de Zabadani (sud) à Qousseir (nord), explique Fabrice Balanche. Le Qalamoun se situe entre 1 400 et 2 600 mètres d'altitude, est très peu peuplé, long d'une trentaine de kilomètres et large d'une dizaine de km.
                La frontière entre la Syrie et le Liban passe par les sommets des monts du Qalamoun, qui constituent la ligne de crête de l'Anti-Liban. Mais le tracé de la frontière entre les deux pays, qui remonte à l'époque du mandat français, n'est pas très clair, précise M. Balanche, ajoutant toutefois que la zone floue est finalement assez limitée.
                Du côté libanais de l'Anti-Liban, on compte quatre bourgades (Ras Baalbeck, Ersal, Younine et Nahlé) et du côté syrien sept (dont Qara, Deir Attiyeh, Jarajir et Flita), précise Amine Hoteit. Au total, 140 000 à 160 000 personnes habitent ces localités aujourd'hui, contre 300 000 à 320 000 avant la guerre en Syrie.
                60 % de la superficie de la chaîne de l'Anti-Liban se trouve en Syrie. Cette zone est entièrement contrôlée par le Hezbollah. Les 40 % restants se trouvent au Liban, il s'agit de la région appelée le jurd. Selon M. Hoteit, le parti chiite contrôle la moitié de cette zone (le jurd de Nahlé et de Younine). Les jurds de Ras Baalbeck et de Ersal constituent l'autre moitié et sont infiltrés par les jihadistes sunnites.
                Dans ce contexte, Fabrice Balanche précise que ce qu'on appelle la bataille du Qalamoun est en fait la bataille de l'Anti-Liban nord. Une bataille qui concerne la région allant de la route Damas-Beyrouth jusqu'à Qousseir.




                La région du Qalamoun, située de part et d'autre de la frontière syro-libanaise. AFP/JOSEPH EID





                Les jihadistes sunnites : nombre et alliances

                Les jihadistes sont d'abord arrivés dans le Qalamoun en mai 2013, après la bataille de Qousseir, et un autre flux est arrivé en 2014, indique Amine Hoteit, dont l'opinion reflète le point de vue du Hezbollah. Selon lui, entre 5 000 et 6 000 combattants rebelles sont dans cette région, répartis approximativement comme suit : 2 500 combattants du Front al-Nosra, 1 500 du groupe État islamique, 800 de l'Armée syrienne libre et près de 200 membres de « fractions islamiques multiples liées à l'Arabie saoudite ».
                Wehbé Qaticha, conseiller du leader des Forces libanaises Samir Geagea, avance un chiffre bien inférieur, évoquant entre 2 000 et 3 000 éléments armés. Dans les guerres géographiquement mobiles, le nombre des jihadistes ne peut être contrôlé, précise-t-il. Ils ne forment pas des unités de combat constituées : certains partent, d'autres arrivent, en fonction des événements.
                Dans le Qalamoun, l'EI et al-Nosra sont concurrents, précise Fabrice Balanche, les deux groupes voulant prendre le contrôle de l'opposition syrienne. Il arrive toutefois que les intérêts des deux groupes se rencontrent. « Dans le Qalamoun, on ne peut pas dire que l'EI combat avec le Hezbollah, mais parfois l'EI attaque al-Nosra et le Hezbollah attaque al-Nosra, ce qui ne veut néanmoins pas dire que ces attaques sont coordonnées », explique-t-il. « Dans la bataille du Qalamoun, quatre acteurs sont en scène : l'armée syrienne, le Hezbollah, al-Nosra et l'EI, poursuit M. Balanche. Il peut y avoir un jeu à trois : parfois l'EI et al-Nosra attaquent le Hezbollah, parfois al-Nosra est attaqué par l'EI et le Hezbollah en même temps. »






                Des hommes du Hezbollah en action au Qalamoun. AFP/HO/HEZBOLLAH PRESS OFFICE




                Le Hezbollah : combattants et stratégie

                Alors que selon Wehbé Qaticha, entre 1 500 et 2 000 combattants du Hezbollah participent à la bataille du Qalamoun, Amine Hoteit indique que le nombre est variable. Dans cette bataille, précise ce dernier, « il y a des unités de combat qui font le » nettoyage « , des positions d'observation et de contrôle et des forces d'intervention en cas de danger. En ce qui concerne l'armée syrienne, les unités stables, les unités » de feu « et les forces d'intervention rapide comptent chacune 3 000 hommes.
                Pour mieux comprendre la stratégie du Hezbollah et de l'armée, Fabrice Balanche rappelle qu'en automne 2013, la route Damas-Homs était coupée par les rebelles. À partir de décembre de la même année, le Hezbollah et l'armée syrienne ont repris Maaloula puis Yabroud. Pour remporter la bataille de Yabroud, le parti chiite avait encerclé la ville et laissé une route pour que les rebelles puissent prendre la fuite vers le jurd de Ersal, au Liban, et Aasal el-Ward, en Syrie.
                La bataille de Qousseir était plus dure pour le Hezbollah qui y a perdu entre 150 et 200 combattants. Face à la farouche défense des rebelles, le parti chiite, dans une volonté de réduire les pertes humaines dans ses rangs, les a laissés également fuir vers les mêmes jurds.
                Aujourd'hui, le Hezbollah et l'armée syrienne ont toutefois changé de stratégie : il s'agit d'éliminer les jihadistes et non plus de les repousser vers d'autres régions.





                La carte de l'Anti-Liban















                Les enjeux de la bataille

                Le jurd de Ersal est un point de passage entre la Békaa et le Qalamoun. Cette région est stratégique parce qu'elle permet de se déplacer facilement entre la Syrie et le Liban, explique M. Balanche. « L'enjeu majeur de la bataille pour le régime syrien est de sécuriser l'axe Damas-Homs-Tartous, ajoute l'expert français. Si cet axe est pris, Damas sera isolé. »
                Pour le Hezbollah, l'enjeu est aussi de taille puisque les jihadistes peuvent attaquer les régions chiites de Baalbeck et du Hermel mais aussi aller se réfugier dans les zones sunnites de la Békaa, comme Majdel Anjar, voire carrément aller en direction du Akkar (Nord), précise-t-il.
                Les groupes extrémistes constituent une menace pour la sécurité du Liban, renchérit Amine Hoteit, qui rappelle les tirs de roquettes contre le Liban, l'envoi de voitures piégées et les menaces de l'EI d'occuper une partie du territoire libanais pour l'intégrer dans le califat qu'il a proclamé à cheval entre la Syrie et l'Irak.
                Wehbé Qaticha estime, pour sa part, que les jihadistes ont été envoyés par le régime syrien au Liban afin de créer « un nouveau Nahr el-Bared » , en référence aux affrontements entre armée libanaise et jihadistes de Fatah el-Islam dans ce camp de réfugiés palestiniens au Liban-Nord en 2007. Selon l'ancien militaire, cette bataille est par ailleurs très médiatisée par le Hezbollah et le régime pour masquer les grosses pertes de ce dernier au sud et au nord (Idleb, Jisr el-Choughour) de la Syrie.
                Toute bataille est aussi une guerre de communication, confirme M. Balanche. La progression du Hezbollah et de l'armée syrienne est relayée par les médias afin de montrer des succès militaires et remonter le moral de l'armée après les défaites à Idleb, Jisr el-Choughour et Palmyre. « Mais ce n'est pas parce que Idleb ou Palmyre sont tombés que le Hezbollah et l'armée syrienne attaquent le Qalamoun », souligne néanmoins le géographe.




                Des soldats syriens faisant le signe de la victoire, le 6 juin 2015, sur un mont du Qalamoun. AFP/HO/Sana





                Qu'en est-il de Ersal ?

                L'armée libanaise est positionnée autour de Ersal et protège la ville. Dans le jurd, ce sont les rebelles syriens qui règnent. « On ne peut pas savoir où ils sont installés exactement et si certains sont cachés parmi les réfugiés syriens. De plus, ces éléments armés se déplacent facilement entre le jurd de Ersal et le Qalamoun parce qu'ils dominent la région », souligne Wehbé Qaticha.
                Pour Fabrice Balanche, la situation à Ersal peut dégénérer comme ce fut le cas à Saïda, au Liban-Sud, quand des combats meurtriers ont opposé la troupe aux partisans du cheikh salafiste en cavale Ahmad el-Assir. « Le Hezbollah chiite préfère que la troupe intervienne à ses côtés pour que la population sunnite de Ersal se désolidarise d'al-Nosra ou de l'EI et que les réfugiés syriens qui n'ont rien à voir avec les terroristes se sentent en confiance », ajoute-t-il.
                À Ersal, l'armée libanaise est dans une position délicate, admet Amine Hoteit. « La troupe ne peut pas rester sans agir face aux attaques des rebelles, mais elle risque, en menant une opération contre eux, d'apparaître comme étant du côté du Hezbollah. »




                Des hommes du Hezbollah au combat. au Qalamoun. AFP/HO/HEZBOLLAH PRESS OFFICE





                Et les militaires otages ?

                Quel pourrait être l'impact de la bataille sur le dossier des militaires libanais toujours aux mains des jihadistes ?
                Indiquant que les jihadistes sont désormais encerclés dans une région d'une superficie de 80 km2, Amine Hoteit se dit « très optimiste » pour les otages : « Les militaires n'ont jamais eu autant de chance qu'aujourd'hui d'être libérés. »
                Un optimisme que ne partage pas Fabrice Balanche, qui estime qu'on ne peut savoir où se trouvent, aujourd'hui, les militaires otages. « À mon avis, ils sont dispersés », explique-t-il, soulignant en outre que les jihadistes veulent se servir de leurs otages comme monnaie d'échange voire boucliers humains.
                C'est ce qui s'est passé avec les religieuses de Maaloula qui avaient été prises en otage par le Front al-Nosra puis transférées à Yabroud pour empêcher le régime syrien de bombarder la ville. Ces religieuses ont été libérées contre de l'argent et un accès routier pour les jihadistes en direction de Ersal, précise le chercheur. « Le cas est similaire pour les militaires qui représentent pour les jihadistes une espèce d'assurance vie et une monnaie d'échange pour pouvoir éventuellement fuir vers Idleb ou Palmyre. »

                Comment


                • Re: Regional geopolitics

                  Turkey and PKK 'back to square one'
                  What is behind Ankara's major turnabout on the PKK?
                  Kiran Nazish
                  30 Jul 2015

                  Erbil, Iraq - As Turkey plunges into a two-front war, pounding Kurdish armed groups in Iraq and Syria as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, it has effectively ended its fragile peace process with the Kurds.

                  On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was impossible to continue a peace process with Kurdish fighters and that politicians with links to "terrorist groups" should be stripped of their immunity from prosecution.

                  Launched in the final days of 2012, this peace process was one of Erdogan's signature achievements, ending decades of violence that had left thousands of people dead.

                  Turkey's air strikes on Kurdish and ISIL positions came after rising violence inside its own territory, including a series of attacks by ISIL and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on civilian and state targets.

                  Turkish police have also rounded up more than 1,000 suspects across the country. These include some suspected of being leftist fighters or ISIL members, but many of those arrested were also alleged to be affiliated with the PKK or its allies.

                  On Wednesday, a Turkish government spokesperson said that in Turkey's "full-fledged battle against terrorist groups", 847 are accused of links to the PKK and just 137 to ISIL.

                  OPINION: What is next for Turkey's Kurdish peace process?

                  Turkey has also permitted the United States to use its Incirlik airbase near Diyarbakir to launch air attacks against ISIL in Syria.

                  Ashraf Mehmood, a fighter with the People's Defence Units (YPG), a Kurdish armed group, told Al Jazeera that Turkish tanks had attacked YPG soldiers fighting ISIL in villages near the border city of Kobane.

                  Kurdish activists say Turkey's action against the PKK has ended any possibility for the peace process to continue.

                  "By carrying out the recent attacks, Turkey has practically and unilaterally ended the state of non-conflict and the peace process," said Zagros Hiwa, the spokesperson for the Kurdish Communities Union, the PKK's political wing, from Iraq's Qandil Mountains, where Turkish bombing raids continue.

                  "These attacks on the PKK will have no success. By giving an implicit approval, the US has damaged its image among the Kurds," Hiwa continued. "The best option is a democratic solution to the Kurdish question."

                  Some Turkish and Kurdish analysts see Turkey's move as a strategy to intensify its rivalry with the PKK and influence a potential call for new elections in the near future, while using the war against ISIL as a means to advance its military attack on the PKK.

                  "In the election rallies of HDP [the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party] in Istanbul, there were quite a lot of Turkish flags," noted Ilya U Topper, an Istanbul-based analyst on foreign affairs and democracy for the M'Sur, a Spanish media outlet.

                  Topper said Kurds in Turkey generally support the peace process, adding that the PKK is no longer fighting for independence.

                  As for the HDP, he noted: "No one in the party has used the word independence for many years, and being part of Turkey is always an element in their arguments."

                  "When AK party lost [its] absolute majority [in parliament] on June 7, while HDP won, getting over the 10 percent barrier, the results showed how people started seeing that not every Kurd is a terrorist," Topper added.

                  He noted that HDP was able to perform so well in June's elections because there was peace.

                  "Two years of peace make people forget bloodshed and give them hope. Now we are back to square one. Kurds are 'terrorists' again," he said. "If elections are repeated, HDP might fall under the barrier and AK party will achieve [an] absolute majority in the elections. The big question is why the PKK accepted that game."

                  In May, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Yalçin Akdogan criticised the HDP for what he claimed were its strong links with the PKK, and urged the party to abandon these ties lest they weaken the peace process. Topper believes that if violence escalates, it will harm neither the PKK nor the AK party.


                  Kurdish activists say Turkey's actions have ended any possibility for the peace process to continue [EPA]
                  Turkey still designates PKK as a "terrorist group", which allows it to justify its attacks.

                  "It's time to reconsider the terrorist status which was given to PKK long time ago," said Mutlu Civiroglu, an independent Kurdish analyst based in Washington, DC. "When you talk about radicalism and terrorist groups at the calibre of ISIL, many people within Turkey and other parts of the world don't find PKK a terrorist group."

                  Civiroglu added that PKK's designation as a "terrorist group" causes NATO, the US, and the international coalition against ISIL, to support Turkey in its actions against PKK, which may, as a result, destabilise the Kurdish peace process.


                  On Al Jazeera: Turkey's precarious peace with the Kurds
                  Soli Özel, a professor of international relations and political science at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, said that after the general elections in June, the AK party has used language that questions the HDP's legitimacy.

                  "The government should go back to the peace process with the Kurds," Özel added. "And for that, Turkey must at all costs block attempts to ... [hold] snap elections."

                  The recent PKK attacks in Turkey have undermined both the HDP's electoral gains and the military success of the armed branch of their Syrian affiliates, the YPG, which is fighting ISIL in Syria.

                  Lara Fatah, a Kurdish affairs specialist and co-founder of Zanraw Consulting based in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, said any further military response by the PKK would play into the hands of the Turkish government and give Erdogan a justification to act against them.

                  "The Kurds may have so far been the most effective forces against ISIL on the ground, but as non-state actors they are not on a level footing with other coalition members," she said. "And as such, their actions are judged differently."

                  But one Peshmerga leader, affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP in Iraq who spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, said Turkey's concerns over the PKK were "reasonable". "I can't agree more [that] they [PKK] are no different from ISIL. They attack and kill innocent people in Turkey, and it's a shame for Kurds," he said.

                  Analysts argue that Selahattin Demirtas, head of HDP, should publicly distance himself from the PKK and its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan. "The majority of people in Turkey, including many Kurds, find PKK extremely provocative and violent," said Fikret Gulcer, an Istanbul-based specialist on the banned group.

                  "The fundamental problem with HDP, in the eyes of many voters, has been its association with the terrorist group."

                  "While many liberal and left-wing Turks have given a chance to HDP, it should stand up to their expectations and assure its supporters that HDP will not back a group that hurts the peace in this country."

                  Source: Al Jazeera

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                  • Re: Regional geopolitics

                    Assad in a position of strength after Vienna deal with Iran. Tehran revitalizes his depleted army
                    27/07/2015
                    Debka

                    Syrian President Bashar Assad, in his first public speech in a year, could afford Sunday, July 26, to admit that his overstretched army had been forced to give up “critical areas” in a civil war that was dragging into its fifth year at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, because he was confident that he is on a winning streak.

                    This confidence he gained from three recent developments:

                    1. The nuclear accord Iran signed with the six world powers led by the Unite States on July 14 has granted him and extra lease of life. The Syrian dictator, Tehran’s senior ally, can now count himself safe from US efforts to depose him - never mind if he cheated on his chemical weapons stocks and continues to use them in battle - after the Obama administration effectively anointing Iran leading Middle East power and strategic partner.
                    In his speech, Assad congratulated his best friend in Tehran for pulling off this feat in Vienna and commended the “positive changes in western attitudes to the {Syrian] conflict.” He noted that the “US and its allies now understood they shared an interest” with his regime “in defeating ISIS-style jihad terrorism.”
                    From the early days of the Syrian war, Assad claimed he was fighting Islamic terrorism and, if the world failed to understand this point, they too would be attacked.

                    2. He now feels vindicated by Turkey’s entry to the civil war over the weekend in cooperation with the US. The two powers have declared war on the Islamic State and the Kurdish military amalgam of the Syrian YPG and outlawed Turkish PKK. Since these are the two most powerful fighting forces imperiling his regime in Damascus, this outside intervention in the Syrian war is welcome for taking some of the heavy lifting off the shoulders of the Syrian army.
                    Furthermore, Washington has promised Tehran to withhold from the third element fighting the Assad regime, the Syrian rebel movements, weapons powerful enough to tilt the scales of the civil war in their favor
                    Sunday night, July 26, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu informed Turkish media editors: “Turkey has no plans to send ground troops into Syria, but has agreed with the United States that air cover should be provided for moderate rebels fighting Islamic State forces there.”
                    The Syrian ruler and Tehran can therefore stop worrying. The Syrian insurgents, some of which were backed by the US for years in their fight against Assad, will now have to be satisfied with air cover alone – and even then, only if they stop fighting Assad and turn their guns on the Islamists.

                    3. With the new lease of life given his regime by these radical shifts in the strategic landscape of the long Syrian war, Assad could afford to talk down his regime’s surrender of territory, “as a question of priorities. It was necessary to specify critical areas for our armed forces to hang onto,” while voicing gratitude for the “important and effective assistance” rendered by Iran and Hizballah for enabling him to adopt this tactic.
                    As to his most acute problem, the flagging powers of his armed forces: “The problem facing the military,” he explained coolly, “is not related to planning but to fatigue. It is normal than an army gets tired, but there’s a difference between fatigue and defeat.”
                    But he dodged any mention of the mass desertions and defections to the enemy which have shrunk his army. Neither did he reveal how he proposes to remedy this problem.

                    However, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence source are able to fill this gap: Shortly before the speech he delivered in Damascus, Assad was presented by Tehran with a new rehabilitation plan for his army, updated to the latest events. Instead divisions and brigades, it would reorganized with the assistance of Iranian and Hizballah officers into three armored commando super-divisions, one each for the northern, southern and Damascus fronts.
                    The 4th Division, which is the Republican Guard, would continue to defend Damascus. The 14th Division, which is made up of Special Forces, would have its “tired” officers replaced by younger, fresher commanders fighting under superior Iranian officers.
                    The immediate consequence of the Vienna nuclear accord on the ground has therefore been to revitalize the Assad regime in Damascus, rejuvenate his army and bring Iranian military forces closer than ever before to the borders of Israel and Jordan.
                    Last edited by Vrej1915; 08-02-2015, 06:27 PM.

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                    • Re: Regional geopolitics

                      ISIS wipes out the Syrian army’s main strategic arsenal, flattens heart of Al Safira complex
                      29/07/2015
                      DEBKA

                      As the US and Turkey got started on a new air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, the jhadis pulled off their most devastating attack yet on the Syrian army’s biggest arsenal. They subjected the giant Al-Safira military complex north of Aleppo to a steady blitz of an estimated 50 Grad missiles from Monday night to Tuesday, July 28.
                      DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Facility No.790, a large depot of the Syrian army’s strategic weapons, including chemicals, was set on fire and flattened.
                      Al Safira was important and big enough to be guarded by 1,800 members of the Syrian Air Force’s elite intelligence unit (not part of the air force) which comes under the direct command of President Bashar Assad.
                      Wednesday morning, flames continued to burn over the facility and explosions still shook buildings far away.
                      Some sources attributed the attack to Turkish Air Force bombers. In fact, it was the Islamic State which kept the complex under steady Grad missile fire, that was precise enough to raise suspicions of an inside leak betraying the exact locations of key targets, including subterranean structures, workshops for manufacture and repairs and large stockpiles of weapons.
                      Our sources list the items and sections of the Al-Safira military complex which ISIS demolished:
                      The Syrian army’s strategic stock of Scud D surface missiles.
                      Parts of the Syrian army’s chemical weapons production plant and stocks.
                      The production line for “barrel bombs” newly set up by Iranian engineers, which had become the most frequently used Syrian air force’s weapon against rebel forces.
                      A big helicopter pad where the Syrian choppers would load up on barrel bombs and distribute them among air bases across the country.
                      The storage facilities in a part of the base known as the “Suleiman area” which housed chemical artillery shells.
                      Many Iranian engineers and technicians were known to be present at Al Safira at the time of the attack. No information is available on casualties.
                      Our military sources say that never in the course of the four years plus of the Syrian conflict has the Assad regime’s army suffered a loss on this scale of its essential stock of hardware. It will undoubtedly affect its combat effectiveness and especially its fire power.
                      Last edited by Vrej1915; 08-02-2015, 06:35 PM.

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