Wednesday, April 12, 2017

False Flag in Syria

The warmongers are busy selling the same lies as in 2013 about the allegations of Syrian gas attack.   Plans had been underway to create a 'safe zone' even before Trump got elected.   However, the timing of the allegations are suspicious.   Aside from hoping to give Trump a boost, it also is intended to demonstrate to the world (falsely) that 'ridding of WMD' does not work unless one removes the 'regime'.    This is just as much about Syria as it is about Iran.  The pro-Israel lobby who wants 'regime change' in Iran can now point to Iran and claim that Iran continues to have a "weapons" program.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Syria: The Timing of Strikes

It has always been in the works, but, US presidents rally the crowd behind them when their approval rating falls to an all time low. George W was at 36% jumped after Iraq strikes. Trump was at 35%. Look for polls in the next few days.





Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tasnim Interview - Crimes in Yemen

West True Perpetrator of War in Yemen

West True Perpetrator of Yemen Genocide: Pundit

News ID: 1363709 Service: World
سپه پور

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An American political commentator said the West is using the Riyadh regime as a tool to advance its political agenda, stressing that certain Western countries, which claim to be champions of human rights, are in actual fact the perpetrators of the ongoing genocide in Yemen.

“What is undeniable is the fact that those who ‘promote human rights’ are the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, including the Genocide in Yemen. To deny their complicity is to deny humanity,” Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich,an independent researcher and author from Irvine, California, told the Tasnim News Agency ahead of the March 26 anniversary of the start of Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen.
She added, “Today, while Saudi Arabia is being armed and directed to massacre fellow Moslems, it remains deaf to the chant ‘death to Saudis’ coming from the four corners of the ‘international community’. In spite of killing and dying for the political agenda of the US and its allies, the Saudis continue to be despised, hated – set apart. They will not be protected.   They are dispensable”.
Sepahpour Ulrich has a Master’s in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg for Communication. She is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on US foreign policy. Her articles and writings on Iran’s nuclear program, the Middle East developments and the US foreign policy have been published by several print and online publications.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: The Saudi-led coalition has been launching deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement for two years. According to the UN, the Saudi military campaign has claimed the lives of more than 11,000 Yemenis and left 40,000 others wounded. Local Yemeni sources have already put the death toll from the Saudi war at over 12,000, including many women and children. As you know the international community has remained passive in the face of the ongoing Saudi crimes. What is your take on this? Why do you think this issue, the war on Yemen, has been less received by Western media?
Ulrich: I tend to think of the “international community’ as the US and its allies and differentiate between the term ‘international community’ and global community. The indifference toward the plight of the Yemenis is owed to several factors one of which is the media.
There are 6 corporations that own and dominate the media.  It is important to note that what was once known as the military-industrial complex has become the ‘military-industrial-media complex’. Media magnates and people on the boards of large media-related corporations have close links with the military industry and Washington’s foreign policy. This industry not only informs the public but frames issues.
This complex fails to inform the public of the plight of the Yemenis. Since the internet has managed to curb the monopoly of the media industry (alternate news sites and social networking), from time to time, the media industry is forced to acknowledge the horrors of Yemen, but it frames it in such a way so as to change the narrative. For example, it falsely presents the conflict as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Through repeated lies, the ‘international community’ has been indoctrinated to see Iran as an aggressive country and the Yemenis resisting the invasion of the Saudi-led war as the assailants, putting the blame on the victims. 
In addition to the blame game, the international community is being distracted with news on its domestic front. The best example of this are the refugees in Europe and the pending elections there, and in the United States, it is the Donald Trump presidency that occupies the airwaves and censors all other news.
But censorship, framing, and propaganda do not mean that the governments in these countries (international community) are not aware. They are fully complicit either through their actions or inaction.
Tasnim: Certain Western countries are continuously claiming that they are champions of human rights. However, it seems that they are pursuing double standard policies on Saudi Arabia's atrocities. On March 10, 2017, the administration of US President Donald Trump approved the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia which critics have linked to Riyadh’s killing of civilians in Yemen. What is your take on this?
Ulrich: Human rights is simply another tool in the arsenal of these nations used to justify their policies. (War on terror being another useful tool of theirs). Consider this and dwell on the irony of it: When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in1948 (UN General Assembly), there were less than 60 UN members while dozens of countries were colonies. How could this be considered ‘rights’? Certainly, it is not universal or ideal else there would not have been a need for subsequent declarations such The American Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man (Bogota, 1948), the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (known as the European Convention for Human Rights - Strasbourg,1950), African Charter on Human Rights (Nairobi, 1981), the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (Paris, 1981) , the Arab Charter on Human Rights (1994), the European Center on Fundamental Rights (2000), and so on.
What is undeniable is the fact that those who ‘promote human rights’ are the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, including the Genocide in Yemen. To deny their complicity is to deny humanity.
Tasnim: Since the start of its war on Yemen, the Saudi regime and its regional allies have failed to reach their objectives. Why are they continuing their heinous attacks on the Arab country despite their failures? How do you see the role of other regional Arab states in the ongoing war against the Arab country?  
Ulrich: It is important to recognize that Saudi Arabia is not solely responsible nor is it the country that is independently fueling and promoting this conflict. One country often ignored is the UAE. As the world turns its anger and hatred towards the Saudis (with help from Western media which points their fingers at the Saudis for their actions in Yemen), UAE is kept above the fray. Whereas in fact, the UAE is home to Erik Prince, the founder of notorious Blackwater. It is training a UAE-led militia force and UAE’s complicity in the crimes deserve to be discussed separately. Suffice it to say that as the Saudis fall from grace, the UAE continues to climb (in America’s plots and those of her allies).
The Saudis, on the other hand, are being used by the West and sadly for them (and their victims), they continue to play the role of gladiators. As Cicero acknowledged of the Roman gladiatoria muner thattheir sponsorship was a political imperative. Even though the Roman gladiators were adulated, they were segregated and despised. The Saudis share the same fate. It is worthwhile remembering that in 2012 it was revealed that a course for US militaryofficers had been suggesting that Mecca and Medina be obliterated without regard for civilian deaths, and it even suggested "Saudi Arabia threatened with starvation ... Islam reduced to cult status".
As President Donald Trump wrote in his book Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again.:  "Then look at Saudi Arabia. It is the world's biggest funder of terrorism. Saudi Arabia funnels our petro dollars—our very own money—to fund the terrorists that seek to destroy our people, while the Saudis rely on us to protect them!"
Today, while Saudi Arabia is being armed and directed to massacre fellow Moslems, it remains deaf to the chant ‘death to Saudis’ coming from the four corners of the ‘international community’. In spite of killing and dying for the political agenda of the US and its allies, the Saudis continue to be despised, hated – set apart. They will not be protected.   They are dispensable.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Corporations that own the world

Which Corporations Control The World?
By International Business Guide 

June 13, 2016 "
Information Clearing House" -  A surprisingly small number of corporations control massive global market shares. How many of the brands below do you use?


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Next on Trump's Plate: BDS

Trump continues to lash out at Moslems.  The Moslem ban looks to stay in place. Mosques across the country get burnt  but the culprits are not accused of terrorism.  This is not new.  For years, Americans have been taught to hate Moslems.  And they have.  Unsurprisingly, as Moslems are victimized, Jews claim victimhood.

There are reports of 'anti-Semitism' on the rise in the U.S.  Telephone calls were made to Jewish centers and synagogues.  A Jewish cemetery was desecrated.   It is hard to know who was behind these actions, but it does play into a desired outcome: the narrative of victimhood.

So as Israel gives the middle finger to President Trump and continues its settlements, Trump is called upon to condemn anti-Semitism.  The ongoing, incremental genocide of Palestinians continues unabated, but Jews are the victims.  As Senator Santorum said on CNN today, Moslems on campuses and the 'progressives' are responsible.   What is gaining momentum on campuses across the State, as well as elsewhere, is BDS.

How dare attention is drawn to Israel's crimes?

Trump's Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was one of the first governor to outlaw BDS.  Wait for Trump to sign an Executive Order outlawing BDS.


Monday, February 20, 2017

McMaster: Trump’s Pick for NSA – Proponent of “Alternate Facts”

In this 3 minute clip of McMaster interview with Charlie Rose (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgY_vjyFCxk&feature=youtu.be)
 McMasters made the following claim:  We underestimated the trauma the Iraqis lived in under Saddam, the poor social services, the poor healthcare, and the education!   And that it was these, and the lack of education of the younger generation that led to them being influenced by Zarqawi.   Seriously?!

According to UNESCO, that prior to the first Gulf War in 1991 Iraq had one of the best educational performances in the region. Primary school Gross Enrollment Rate was 100% and literacy levels were high. Since that time education has suffered as a result of American-led domination, sanctions, and instability.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Iraq

Its healthcare was enviable.  Iraq had developed a centralized free healthcare system in the 1970s using a hospital based, capital-intensive model of curative care. The country depended on large-scale imports of medicines, medical equipment and even nurses, paid for with oil export income, according to a “Watching Brief” report issued jointly by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization in July 2003. Unlike other poorer countries, which focused on mass health care using primary care practitioners, Iraq developed a Westernized system of sophisticated hospitals with advanced medical procedures, provided by specialist physicians. The UNICEF/WHO report noted that prior to 1990, 97 percent of the urban dwellers and 71 percent of the rural population had access to free primary health care; just 2 percent of hospital beds were privately managed.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Iraq

Seems “alternate facts’ rules supreme!


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Trump: Trumpeting For a War on Iran?

The Trump Administration’s rhetoric and actions have alarmed the world.  The protests in response to his visa ban have overshadowed and distracted from a darker threat: war with Iran.   Is the fear of the threat greater than the threat itself?  The answer is not clear.

Certainly Americans and non-Americans who took comfort in the fact that we would have a more peaceful world believing that ‘Trump would not start a nuclear war with Russia must now have reason to pause.  The sad and stark reality is that US foreign policy is continuous.    An important part of this continuity is a war that has been waged against Iran for the past 38 years¾unabated.

The character of this war has changed over time.  From a failed coup which attempted to destroy  the Islamic Republic in its early days (the Nojeh Coup), to aiding Saddam Hossein with intelligence and weapons of mass destruction to kill Iranians during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war, helping and promoting the terrorist MEK group, the training and recruiting of the Jundallah terrorist group to launch attacks in Iran, putting Special Forces on the ground in Iran, the imposition of sanctioned terrorism, the lethal Stuxnet cyberattack,  and the list goes on and on, as does the continuity of it.   

While President Jimmy Carter initiated the Rapid Deployment Force and put boots on the Ground in the Persian Gulf, virtually every U.S. president since has threatened Iran with military action.  It is hard to remember when the option was not on the table.  However, thus far, every U.S. administration has wisely avoided a head on military confrontation with Iran.

To his credit, although George W. Bush was egged on to engage militarily with Iran, , the 2002 Millennium Challenge, exercises which simulated war, demonstrated America’s inability to win a war with Iran.   The challenge was too daunting.  It is not just Iran‘s formidable defense forces that have to be reckoned with; but the fact that one of Iran’s strengths and deterrents has been its ability to retaliate to any attack by closing down the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passageway off the coast of Iran.  Given that 17 million barrels of oil a day, or 35% of the world’s seaborne oil exports go through the Strait of Hormuz, incidents in the Strait would be fatal for the world economy.    

Faced with this reality, over the years, the United States has taken a multi-prong approach to prepare for an eventual/potential military confrontation with Iran.  These plans have included promoting the false narrative of an imaginary threat from a non-existent nuclear weapon and the falsehood of Iran being engaged in terrorism (when in fact Iran has been subjected to terrorism for decades as illustrated above).   These ‘alternate facts’ have enabled the United States to rally friend and foe against Iran, and to buy itself time to seek alternative routes to the Strait of Hormuz.

Plan B: West Africa and Yemen

In early 2000s, the renowned British think tank Chatham House issued one of the first publications that determined African oil would be a good alternate to Persian Gulf oil in case of oil disruption. This followed an earlier strategy paper for the U.S. to move toward African oil¾The African White Paper¾that was on the desk May 31, 2000 of then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of energy giant Halliburton. In 2002, the Israeli-based think tank, IASPS, suggested America push toward African oil.   In an interesting coincidence, in the same year, the Nigerian terror group, Boko Haram, was “founded”.

In 2007, the United States African Command (AFRICOM) helped consolidate this push into the region.  The 2011, a publication titled: “Globalizing West African Oil: US ‘energy security’ and the global economyoutlined ‘US positioning itself to use military force to ensure African oil continued to flow to the United States’.   This was but one strategy to supply oil in addition to or as an alternate to the passage of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

Nigeria and Yemen took on new importance. 

In 2012, several alternate routes to Strait of Hormuz were identified which at the time of the report were considered to be limited in capacity and more expensive.   However, collectively, the West African oil and control of Bab Al-Mandeb would diminish the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz in case of war.

In his article for the Strategic Culture Foundation, The Geopolitics Behind the War in Yemen: The Start of a New Front against Irangeo-political researcher Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya correctly states: “[T] he US wants to make sure that it could control the Bab Al-Mandeb, the Gulf of Aden, and the Socotra Islands (Yemen). Bab Al-Mandeb it is an important strategic chokepoint for international maritime trade and energy shipments that connect the Persian Gulf via the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea via the Red Sea. It is just as important as the Suez Canal for the maritime shipping lanes and trade between Africa, Asia, and Europe.”


War on Iran has never been a first option. The neoconservative think tank, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), argued in its 2004 policy paper “The Challenges of U.S. Preventive Military Action” that the ideal situation was (and continues to be) to have a compliant regime in Tehran.  Instead of direct conflict, the policy paper [a must read] called for the assassination of scientists, introducing a malware, covertly provide Iran plans with a design flaw, sabotage, introduce viruses, etc.  These suggestions were fully and faithfully executed against Iran.

With the policy enacted, much of the world sighed with relief when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA , or the “Iran Nuclear Deal” which restricts Iran’s domestic nuclear power in exchange for the lifting of sanctions on Iran) was signed in the naïve belief that a war with Iran had been alleviated.   Obama’s genius was in his execution of U.S. policies which disarmed and disbanded the antiwar movements.  But the JCPOA was not about improved relations with Iran, it was about undermining it.  As recently as April 2015, as the signing of the JCPOA was drawing near, during a speech at the Army War College Strategy Conference, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work elaborated on how the Pentagon plans to counter the three types of wars supposedly being waged by Iran, Russia, and China.    

As previously planned, the purpose of the JCPOA was to pave the way for a compliant regime in Tehran faithful to Washington, failing that, Washington would be better prepared for war for  under the JCPOA, Iran would open itself up to inspections.  In other words, the plan would act as a Trojan horse to provide America with targets and soft spots.  Apparently the plan was not moving forward fast enough to please Obama, or Trump.  In direct violation of international law and concepts of state sovereignty, the Obama administration slammed sanctions on Iran for testing missiles.   Iran’s missile program was and is totally separate from the JCPOA and Iran is within its sovereign rights and within the framework of international law to build conventional missiles.

Trump followed suit. Trump ran on a campaign of changing Washington and his speeches were full of contempt for Obama; ironically, like Obama, candidate Trump continued the tactic of disarming many by calling himself a deal maker, a businessman who would create jobs, and for his rhetoric of non-interference.    But few intellectuals paid attention to his fighting words, and fewer still heeded the advisors he surrounded himself with or they would have noted that Trump considers Islam as the number one enemy, followed by Iran, China, and Russia. 

The ideology of those he has picked to serve in his administration reflect the contrarian character of Trump and indicate their support of this continuity in US foreign policy.  Former intelligence chief and Trump’s current National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, stated that the Obama administration willfully allowed the rise of ISIS, yet the newly appointed Pentagon Chief “Mad Dog Mattis” has stated: “I consider ISIS nothing more than an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief.”  So the NSC (National Security Council) believes that Obama helped ISIS rise and the Pentagon believes that ISIS helps Iran continue its ‘mischief’.  Is it any wonder that Trump is both confused and confusing?

And is it any wonder that when on January 28th Trump signed an Executive Order calling for a plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days the US, UK, France and Australia ran war games drill in the Persian Gulf that simulated a confrontation with Iran¾ the country that has, itself, been fighting ISIS.   When Iran exercised its right, by international law, to test a missile, the United States lied and accused Iran of breaking the JCPOA. Threats and new sanctions ensued.

Trump, the self-acclaimed dealmaker who took office on the promise of making new jobs, slammed more sanctions on Iran. Sanctions take jobs away from Americans by prohibiting business with Iran, and they also compel Iranians to become fully self-sufficient, breaking the chains of neo-colonialism. What a deal!

Even though Trump has lashed out at friend and foe, Team Trump has realized that when it comes to attacking a formidable enemy, it cannot do it alone.   Although both in his book, Time to Get Tough, and on his campaign trails he has lashed out at Saudi Arabia, in an about face, he has not included Saudis and other Arab state sponsors of terror on his travel ban list.   It would appear that someone whispered in Mr. Trump’s ear that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar are fighting America’s dirty war in Yemen (and in Syria) and killing Yemenis.  In fact, the infamous Erik Prince, founder of the notorious Blackwater who is said to be advising Trump from the shadows, received a $120 million contract from the Obama Administration, and for the past several years has been working with Arab countries, UAE in particular, in the “security” and “training” of militias in the Gulf of Aden, Yemen.

So will there be a not so distant military confrontation with Iran? 

Not if sanity prevails.  And with Trump and his generals, that is a big IF.  While for many years the foundation has been laid and preparations made for a potential military confrontation with Iran, it has always been a last resort; not because the American political elite did not want war, but because they cannot win THIS war. For 8 years, Iran fought not just Iraq, but virtually the whole world.   America and its allies funded Saddam’s war against Iran, gave it intelligence and weaponry, including weapons of mass destruction.  In a period when Iran was reeling from a revolution, its army was in disarray, its population virtually one third of the current population, and its supply of US provided weapons halted.  Yet Iran prevailed. Various American administrations have come to the realization that while it may take a village to fight Iran, attacking Iran would destroy the global village.   

It is time for us to remind Trump that we don’t want to lose our village.

This article was first submitted to the print edition of Worldwide Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) newsletter.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

We Owe Trump!

Discrimination, bans, and hostilities have been the hallmark of US government. This does not justify what Trump is doing at all. But it is also worth noting that Obama ended the "Muslim registry" on December 22, 2016! It started with George W. Bush. My point being that US policy is continuous whether the occupant of the White House is white, black, or orange. its the implementation of these horrific policies that make the difference. In a sense, the world owes Donald Trump for removing the mask and showing America for what it really is. Those who are 'with it' are the devil's disciples.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Facebook Blocks RT

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a guarantee of freedom of expression: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions, without interference, and to seek, receive and impact information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

However, in the same Article, there are provisions for restrictions:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

Facebook is violating International Law.  Given that it is collaborating with governments (Israel, US) how will this law apply to it?  We know from September 2016 that "Facebook Is Collaborating With the Israeli Government to Determine What Should Be Censored."

As importantly, what do Trump fans who think that he will have good relations with Russia react to  FB/Israel collaborate on censorship and Trump is in Israel's pocket?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Views of Trump

RT interviews John Pilger and the future of US Russian relations.   Pinger is one person I admire greatly. But my admiration does not mean I never question or challenge. So I am puzzled that even an intellectual like him should make a few points that struck me as odd. Criticizing Obama (and rightly so) he states that Obama said he would reduce the nukes but has spent the most increasing them. Why would he not think that Trump would follow the same path (he has already talked about it). Why would anyone think that a US President is autonomous, that he makes foreign policy decision when in the same breath Pilger talks about the Establishment wanting Clinton? How can one ignore the fact that US national interests take a back seat to Israel and yet ignore the Trump-Netanuyahu-Evangelical connection? In fact, it has been very prominent (and infamous) American Jews that had devised plans to dominate Euroasia, to prevent a Russian rise, etc. So how this be reconciled with Trump's unconditional support and his son-in-law in the White House? How can we embrace Trump when he seems lenient toward Russia but ignore his attack on China, Moslems, Latins, etc.
How did the same media that wanted Clinton and managed to find an ancient tape about Trump and his remarks about grabbing women ..... but failed to show Trump's video promoting Netanyahu for president in 2013 see link ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm5Je73bYOY . How did this same media fail to mention that Trump had questioned 911 and thought there must have been demolition see  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt-ldMj9y9w
I am just dumbfounded as to why the "hostile" media would not reveal any of these important facts. 
All I can think is that he will be a continuation. We are given to think that elections have always been fair in the US - but they are rigged, and if the 'establishment' had wished it, they would have rigged this one as well. Recall all the machines in 2000, 2004, etc. just go back to 2012. So many articles came out that millions of dead had voted or registered to vote. So why not rig them this time if they did not want Trump?
Just questions .... Something is just not right. 
I think Hillary would have been a disaster, but I also believe Trump is no different, simply different tactics, but the goal/s have not changed.

Monday, January 9, 2017

WINEP advice on Turkish Role in Syria

AIPAC's offshoot, WINEP, has been directing the war against Syria - so it would appear if one reads their policy papers which seem to get carried out.  In their latest, ONCE AGAIN, they recommend Turkey's support of invading Syria (and against Kurds by implication).  When will Syria's allies (and the rest) take note of the fact Turkey is still in bed with Washington and it is NATO Turkey that is invading Syria with help from, and under the watch of Washington and NATO?

Why did Russia start drawing down?

THE BATTLE FOR AL-BAB IS BRINGING U.S.-TURKISH TENSIONS TO A HEAD
By Fabrice Balanche
Policy Alert
January 9, 2017

Read this article on our website.

Helping Erdogan take the city could greatly decrease the civilian death toll and preserve U.S.-Turkish cooperation in Syria, but Washington will still need to decide what to do with the Kurds, its other key ally against the Islamic State.
On January 5, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to close Incirlik Air Base to the international coalition against the Islamic State, citing the lack of U.S. support for his efforts to take the IS-held Syrian city of al-Bab. That battle will likely force Washington to make some hard choices about which ally is most important in the anti-IS campaign -- Turkey or the Kurds.

AL-BAB PROVING MORE DIFFICULT THAN JARABULUS
Since November 14, the Turkish army and allied Syrian rebel forces have been advancing on al-Bab. By December 10, they had entered the city's western suburbs, seizing Sheikh Aqil hill on December 20. Turkish forces likely assumed that this position would allow them to put IS under fire and compel the group to flee, much like it did during the battle for Jarabulus.

For maps illustrating the situation in al-Bab, go to the web version of this article.

On December 22, however, IS retook the hill, inflicting heavy losses on Turkish and rebel forces. Fourteen Turkish soldiers were reportedly killed; IS also burned two Turkish military prisoners alive, and video of their grisly deaths was widely disseminated on social networks.

In response, Turkish jets heavily bombed al-Bab, reportedly causing the deaths of 72 civilians on December 23. In total, 173 civilians have been killed by Turkish-led operations against the city since November 14, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
On January 4, Erdogan announced that the battle would be finished quickly, deploying troop reinforcements and additional tanks to the area. Turkish press reports have noted that 8,000 army troops are participating in the campaign, and their latest movements suggest Erdogan now intends to encircle al-Bab and cut off its links with the IS "capital" of Raqqa.

Yet this approach raises the question of whether and how Turkey will prevent further harm to civilians. When the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) encircled and conquered Manbij in June-July 2016, they made careful attempts to minimize collateral damage against the city itself and its inhabitants, but they suffered heavy military losses in the process. The commander of the Turkish-backed militia Sultan Murad recently stated that only a few thousand civilians remain in al-Bab, but that claim rings false: before the Turkish campaign, the city had about 100,000 inhabitants, along with 50,000 more in the adjacent towns of Qabasin, Tadef, and Bzaa. And as in Mosul, Manbij, and Ramadi before, IS has prevented local civilians from fleeing, intending to use them as a human shields.

To avoid potential carnage, Erdogan will therefore need the precision of American airpower. The Russian air force has supported some Turkish operations around the city, but it is unclear if they have the local capability or willingness to conduct a comprehensive campaign of precision strikes.

ERDOGAN'S CREDIBILITY, WASHINGTON'S DILEMMA
The battle's outcome will likely affect Erdogan's credibility with the Turkish population. The main goal of his Syrian intervention is to prevent the unification of the two large Kurdish cantons along the northern border, and al-Bab is the key junction point between them. The campaign also plays to Turkish nationalism after the failed coup last July.

Moreover, Erdogan has warned that the Turkish army will retake Manbij from the Kurds after al-Bab. The SDF were supposed to leave the city last year, as Vice President Joe Biden promised Erdogan in August. Ankara may invoke this promise as the battle for al-Bab develops.

Yet telling the Kurds to leave Manbij could end their alliance with the United States -- a troubling prospect given their proven efficiency against IS, seen most recently in the successful SDF offensive toward Thawra Dam, the key to capturing Raqqa. What are Washington's options in this delicate situation?

Doing nothing means upsetting Erdogan, who would not hesitate to withdraw access to Incirlik Air Base. This would make the coalition's task more complicated, but not impossible; allied forces could strike the Raqqa region from bases in Jordan, Iraq, the Gulf states, or Cyprus (albeit with extra hurdles related to distance and route security). Yet Turkey will eventually take al-Bab with or without U.S. help, likely by shelling the city and otherwise causing heavy civilian casualties. Erdogan might then apply the same technique to Manbij if the SDF has not withdrawn by then, leaving Washington with the prospect of major civilian carnage, direct Turkish-Kurdish military confrontation, and further interference by the Russians, who would likely insert themselves as arbiters between Ankara and the Kurds.

Alternatively, if Washington supports Erdogan in al-Bab, it could help limit the death toll by precluding indiscriminate bombardment of civilians. Turkish soldiers and rebels would be assured of quality air support that hits the right targets, encouraging them to make progress in the ground battle against IS.

To be sure, this approach runs the risk of Erdogan building on a victory in al-Bab by attacking Manbij or even the SDF stronghold of Tal Abyad. The latter scenario could foreclose the possibility of Kurdish autonomy in Syria once and for all, even in divided cantons. Convincing the Kurds to leave Manbij voluntarily could avoid that outcome. And while the wider Kurdish goal of unifying their Syrian cantons could die with the fall of al-Bab, U.S. officials need to carefully consider whether supporting that Kurdish political dream is more important than maintaining the U.S. military alliance with Erdogan. Whatever the case, avoiding a Turkish-Kurdish confrontation in Syria is crucial to liberating Raqqa sooner rather than later, particularly if the United States wants to do so without being obliged to cooperate closely with Russia.

Fabrice Balanche, an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon 2, is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute.