If the Turks/FSA are now…

If the Turks/FSA are now at long last progressing into Al Bab, this suggests the various discussions largely involving the US in Turkey, and the Russians, and of course the Turks themselves (of which deliberations one has heard snippets here and there) have concluded in one direction or another or have been abandoned. According to Aawsat: “Euphrates Shield forces have stunned Syrian regime forces by resuming operations and attacks after a pause that surpassed 20 days, making a deafening advance of two kilometers”. Military.com advise: “The senior U.S. official who spoke on background last week said the U.S. also had concerns about a potential all-out fight he called a ‘meeting engagement’ around al-Bab that would involve the Turks and the Syrian opposition, and the Assad regime forces backed by the Russians moving from the south. ‘This is a very tenuous situation,’ the senior official said” – though what he means by “tenuous” is unclear; it may be a typo, “tense” more likely. And, earlier in the same article, quoting a spokesman for Inherent Resolve: “There have been instances where — previous instances where there has been an exchange of fire between the SDF and the Turks — the Turkish military. That has already occurred at different times during the campaign. So what we’re trying to do is make sure that we keep all these operations de-conflicted.” My read on this is that America has been muddying the waters severely in north Syria, her aim to neuter Erdogan and thus prevent him stealing the show, in Obama’s last month or so. Again, Erdogan is either with or against Russia. Nothing has occurred as yet which suggests they are no longer cooperating (despite the horror in Aleppo). With America, he is with them at one level, against at another, and, at a further level, neither – or, it has been so. The advance into Al Bab may indicate either some sort of US/Turk fix or Erdogan shrugging off the Yanks. “Çavuşoğlu told the parliament that preparations for Manbij have begun. Turkey has sent a team of experts to conduct preliminary field investigations. ‘We have sent our team to Manbij along with US soldiers,’ he said” – that’s the Rudaw agency. So, Turkey is supposed to take Al Bab, stop dead in its tracks and swing backwards and east to remove Kurdish militias from Manbij with help from the people who put them there in the first place and who don’t want them removed, America – Erdogan looking down Assad’s throat the while, beyond Al Bab, and not putting his fist in it, despite a deep keenness within him to make that thrust, going back years. So, in this situation, what actually happens on the ground will be the only reliable indicator of what’s going on higher up.