Fierce fighting broke out in Hasakah, in northeast Syria last week, pitting the Syrian government's National Defense Forces (NDF) against US-backed Kurdish YPG and Asayish security forces. Control of the city is divided between the Syrian government and the Kurds, and after a relatively peaceful relationship, the question has to be asked: what incited the clashes?

The Syrian army reported a ceasefire violation on 16 August of the YPG firing mortars at their positions. The Governor of Hasakah, Mohammad Za'al al-Ala, said that Kurdish forces blocked the Hasakah-Qamishli road last week and prevented the military, police and security forces from joining other forces. An apparent ceasefire agreement has been struck, although it reads more as a capitulation by the Syrian government and NDF forces. The YPG had earlier called for Syrian government forces to leave the city, which this agreement insists upon. The map below, showing the encirclement of loyalist/NDF forces suggests this may be a wise strategic withdrawal.
The ceasefire came into effect at 2pm on Tuesday, following Kurdish YPG efforts to capture the government-held areas of the city. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the YPG is now in control of nearly all of Hasakah.

Under the new ceasefire agreement Syrian government troops will leave Hasakah, but will still maintain a presence on the outskirts of the city and can easily redeploy to bases around Hasakah.

The threats emanating from the US to attack Syrian aircraft should they operate in areas that threaten US forces may have also been a strong incentive to agree to the ceasefire. The mega military resources of the US are being brought to bear right now on Syria. The US is simultaneously supplying its takfiri militias as they attempt to break out of the siege in Aleppo, aiding the SDF in capturing Manbij, and threatening Syrian forces with its aircraft because the Syrian airforce has the "arrogance" to fly combat operations in its own airspace.

"All your airspace are belong to us!"

Last Thursday, when Syrian SU24s bombed Kurdish YPG forces attempting to advance on NDF positions, the US quickly scrambled two F22 jets to intercept them, the jets coming within a mile of each other according to NBC News. US Defense Department spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis explained the confrontational response was due to the presence of US special operations forces embedded with the YPG. "It troubles us when we see ...regime airstrikes in Hasakah in an area where it's well known by everybody, to include the [Bashar al-Assad] regime, that the coalition is actively engaged in operations against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," he said.

"We view instances that place coalition personnel at risk with the utmost seriousness," Davis added, "and we do have the inherent right of self-defense when U.S. forces are at risk."

The arrogance of the statement, said without a hint of irony, is breathtaking. The US has absolutely no legal basis to be in Syria whatsoever, violating international law with its mere presence in Syria, let alone its threats to attack Syrian forces engaged in the defence of their sovereignty. In a sane world, this would be considered a foreign invasion and act of war, justifying the Syrians to destroy all positions with embedded US troops.

Furthermore, what occurred in this encounter - which did not result in any military losses - is far more significant than a close call. The encounter revealed the US has by stealth imposed a no-fly zone and safe zone in the city of Hasakah. Many analysts may be surprised by this, as calls have been loud and constant for a no-fly zone to be established in Aleppo.

Hasakah as the chosen location to establish no-fly and safe zones is a logical and feasibly enforceable choice. The neocon think tank of choice, the Brookings Institution, posited just such a plan recently:

The No Fly Zone
We must also be clever about employing various options for no-fly zones: We cannot shoot down an airplane without knowing if it's Russian or Syrian, but we can identify those aircraft after the fact and destroy Syrian planes on the ground if they were found to have barrel-bombed a neighborhood, for example. These kinds of operations are complicated, no doubt, and especially with Russian aircraft in the area—but I think we have made a mistake in tying ourselves in knots over the issue, since there are options we can pursue.
Coupled with Safe Havens
Finally, we should push the debate about what creating safe havens really means. I don't think we should start declaring safe havens, but rather try to help them emerge. The Kurds are making gains in Syria's northeast, for instance, as are some forces on the southern front—so, if the United States, in cooperation with its allies, accelerates and intensifies its involvement on the ground in those areas, safe havens can essentially emerge. An important advantage of this approach is that it doesn't require putting American credibility on the line, but does help local allies build up and reinforces successes on the ground.
Note the reference to the northeast, which is where Hasakah is located. The Kurds essentially control the entire region, so it is relatively comfortable to defend as a safe haven. Also note that ISIS isn't anywhere to be seen in and around Hasakah. Suspicions should be raised, however, as to whether this was engineered by the US as a pretext to impose the safe haven/no-fly zones, which in essence formalises the US occupation of Syria precisely as described by Brookings. The presence of US Special Forces on the ground acts as a deterrent to Syrian and Russian attacks, the US having been very conscious to warn them to avoid US forces in their operations.

Using the jet encounter as a pretext, the US insists that Syria respect a unilateral, illegitimate safe haven by sacrificing its right to fly combat operations in the area, effectively ceding it to the Kurds on the surface, but in reality surrendering its sovereign territory to the US. This is a worrying sign for all concerned at reckless US policy driven by a heady mixture of desperation and dogmatic attachment to the Syrian regime-change project.

The bravado is not merely confined to Syrian forces either. Russia, as the major air force striking terrorist targets, is liable to end up in the crosshairs of the trigger-happy Pentagon, and, sure enough, Al-Masdar News reported on the topic:
When pushed further about Russia, [Pentagon Spokesman Peter] Cook made it clear that the US would make the same aggression against Russian jets who are operating legally with the Syrian government's approval and coordination.

"If they threaten US forces, we always have the right to defend our forces," Cook said.
So we have the ever-brash and belligerent Pentagon telling the sovereign government of Syria it will be targeted if it thwarts the partition plans of the US, which will have disastrous negative effects, as well as telling Russia - legitimately there on invitation of the Syrian government to fight the scourge of foreign-sponsored terrorism - that it too, will be targeted.

Eric Zuesse incisively sums up the monumental challenge faced by the Syrian-led coalition in defeating US-supported terrorist militias and preserving its territorial integrity against a US-provoked "mini coup" via its Kurdish proxies:
The vast majority of the illegal military forces in Syria are jihadists who had been hired by the Saudi government and the Qatari government, and supplied with U.S. weapons, to overthrow the Syrian government. Most of the other illegal forces in Syria are Kurdish forces, supported by the U.S. government to break Syria apart so as to create a separate Kurdish state in the majority-Kurdish far north-eastern tip of Syria.
Daniel Lazare, writing for Consortium News, poses some pertinent questions on US priorities in Syria, provocation aimed at widening the conflict and how this must be music to the ears of Hillary "War Goddess Demon" Clinton:
If U.S. military personnel are helping the Kurds battle ISIS, why are the Kurds fighting with pro-government forces instead? Since the Syrian Observatory says they started the fight, did the Americans do anything to restrain them or call them off? Or did they encourage them to attack in order to provoke a wider conflict? What, moreover, happens if the U.S. ends up downing a Syrian plane? Clinton will cheer. But what happens if Russia decides to join in the fray?

A happy romp in the skies over Hasakah would serve the Clinton campaign well. It would show that toughness pays, as Clinton has repeatedly argued. But the trouble with war is that it is rarely goes according to plan.
The 51 looneys in the State Department and Clinton's future cabal are having their thunder stolen from them with this extremely dangerous escalation.

Turkey, which has dramatically reoriented its Syria policy, particularly after the failed coup attempt, is undertaking offensive operations against both ISIS in Jarablus and Kurdish YPG forces north of Manbij. Tuesday saw reports from Sputnik News of Turkey launching strikes against ISIS and the Kurdish YPG:
The Turkish military has launched strikes against the terrorist group Daesh, also known as IS/Islamic State, as well as the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria, according to NTV.

The howitzer shelling has struck Daesh targets near Jarablus and Kurdish YPG forces north of Manbij.

Turkish officials say that the strikes are aimed at opening a corridor for an "operation."
This operation, under the codename "Euphrates Shield," saw Turkish tanks and infantry entering Syria along with Turkish-backed rebels, including the Free Syrian Army, in a bid to take the town of Jarablus from ISIS and keep it from falling into the hands of the Kurdish YPG. The operation is being supported by Turkish air forces, as well as warplanes from the US-led coalition.

Earlier reports stated Turkey was preparing Islamist rebel groups to capture Jarablus, thus halting Kurdish plans to control continuous territory from Afrin to Kobane. Having lost faith in its Islamist proxies through bitter experience in Aleppo, Turkey has rushed headlong into the fray itself, its crossing of the border effectively an invasion of Syria. This has understandably drawn condemnation from Damsacus, with its foreign ministry saying, "Damascus condemns the incursion of Turkish tanks into Syria under the cover of the US-led coalition." The Russian foreign ministry gave a similar statement, calling for dialogue and international law. But other than standard statements like this, that has pretty much been the extent of criticism.

Until now Washington has been advising and assisting Kurdish forces to capture Manbij from ISIS and effectively expel Syrian forces from Hasakah, and has urged the Kurds to mount a campaign to take Raqqa from ISIS. After Manbij, Washington had its sights on assisting the Kurds take Jarablus, a vital target in both further isolating ISIS in Raqqa and allowing the Kurds to join the Afrin and Kobane enclaves, with little then to stop them self-declaring independence. Washington thus faced a dilemma: continue to back the Kurds on their way to Jarablus, or reining them in and ceding the town to its — for now — NATO ally Turkey. With Biden (and Barzani) in Ankara the day of the operation, they've made their choice. The US agreed to move the SDF back to the east of the Euphrates, and reports say they're already on their way.

Make no mistake about it though: the US is saying one thing, and doing quite another. It says it is with Turkey in its mission to contain the YPG to northeast Syria... all the while US Special Forces and military jets are physically assisting the YPG to advance towards (and link up with?) Kurdish forces all along the Syria-Turkey border to the Mediterranean.
map syria war august 2016

Territories held by the SDF (aka YPG, Kurdish forces), 'ISIS', the Syrian Army, the 'moderates' in Syria, as of August 12, 2016
These events have been an inevitable outcome of the downturn in US/Turkey relations. Turkey objects in the strongest terms to US support of the YPG and PDF, and after the failed coup - and suspicions Washington was behind it - Turkey feels it must act decisively against the Kurds, and by extension the US, in containing the Kurdish threat. An independent Kurdish region in northern Syria will border the Kurdish-dominated south of Turkey, creating huge security threats for Turkey. Kurdish forces from Syria could reinforce PKK forces in Turkey, potentially plunging Turkey into a civil war.

Expect to see Turkish support for Islamist groups widened in the coming months. Alternatively, the rapprochement with Syria, Russia and Iran, may bear fruit in the form of this powerful alliance acting to ensure there is no Kurdish state, which neither Syria nor Iran want to see realised. The Kurds do not receive a lot of support for their self-autonomy aspirations in the region, and support from the US is only tactical, and token at that; it will dispense with the Kurds if it can achieve its objectives, or if it finds an alternative strategy to do so. This is an exercise in US seduction and deception, and the Kurds would be wise not to be drawn into the tangled web.

Moon of Alabama commented on the Kurds overplaying their hand in the clashes in Hasakah:
These clashes convince Turkey that the danger of a Kurdish state creation is imminent. This will unite the Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi hostile positions towards such plans. This unity ends the dreams of an independent Kurdish nation.
I might add Russia and China into this powerful coalition which seeks to preserve Syria's sovereignty and is steadily weakening the influence and power of the US. Let us hope the superior diplomacy of the Russian coalition can de-couple the Kurds from the dangerous path the US is leading them down.

The US, its vassal Western allies and the ever-contemptible mainstream media are doing what they do best when times get tough in regime-change land: they are doubling down on the propaganda dosage. The MSM will of course step up to the plate to hail the Kurds as heroic fighters, fighting long-standing oppression across four countries, battling a murderous Assad regime which barrel-bombs its citizens and kills and wounds young children with impunity, as in the case of the Western poster child of Syrian children's suffering, Omran Daqneesh.

This dizzying seduction may or may not fool the Kurds, but it is certainly not genuine; it is aimed purely at promoting US interests in Syria and the wider Middle East. If successful, the partition of Syria, long advocated for by the likes of the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation, may be realised. This may set the champagne corks popping among the die-hard neocons, but it will also ensure that the suffering of Syrians continues on and on.