Nov 29: Total War on Rojava: Deep Operation

So I wanted to look at how the war works in ways beyond the obvious fighting. I mentioned how the terrorist bombings were a feature of the apparent lull in military operations to further the belief in the populace that life there is indeed now unbearable.

To really understand the lull in the fighting, though, we need to understand how that’s only the visible manifestation of war; war has become far more involved than what is now often referred to as the “kinetic” portion, i.e. the shooting and shelling and stuff.

batman ras al ghul weapons more sophisticated

To this end, it makes sense here to revisit the Russian theory of deep operation (wiki).

Deep operation (RussianГлубокая операцияglubokaya operatsiya), also known as Soviet Deep Battle, was a military theory developed by the Soviet Union for its armed forces during the 1920s and 1930s. It was a tenet that emphasized destroying, suppressing or disorganizing enemy forces not only at the line of contact, but throughout the depth of the battlefield.

The term comes from Vladimir Triandafillov, an influential military writer, who worked with others to create a military strategy with its own specialized operational art and tactics. The concept of deep operations was a national strategy, tailored to the economiccultural and geopolitical position of the Soviet Union. In the aftermath of several failures or defeats in the Russo-Japanese WarFirst World War and Polish–Soviet War, the Soviet High Command (Stavka) focused on developing new methods for the conduct of war. This new approach considered military strategy and tactics, but also introduced a new intermediate level of military art: operations. The Soviet Union was the first country to officially distinguish the third level of military thinking which occupied the position between strategy and tactics.[1]

Using these templates, the Soviets developed the concept of deep battle and by 1936 it had become part of the Red Army Field Regulations. Deep operations had two phases: the tactical deep battle, followed by the exploitation of tactical success, known as the conduct of deep battle operations. Deep battle envisaged the breaking of the enemy’s forward defenses, or tactical zones, through combined arms assaults, which would be followed up by fresh uncommitted mobile operational reserves sent to exploit the strategic depth of an enemy front. The goal of a deep operation was to inflict a decisive strategic defeat on the enemy’s logistical abilities and render the defence of their front more difficult, impossible—or, indeed, irrelevant. Unlike most other doctrines, deep battle stressed combined arms cooperation at all levels: strategic, operational, and tactical.

This is to say that there is a lot more that goes on in a war than what we identify as the war on television.

Note also that this theory, while very modern, goes back a long time. This kind of approach to war has developed a great deal over time and while I don’t know all the terminology, we know that a great number of tools have been added to the proverbial kit.

batman economics

So let’s begin by looking at a few issues of the economic component of the war, and then see how looking at what I’ll call here the “macro view” of the war offers additional insight into what is going on.


We’ve talked in the past about how vital control of the M4 highway across northern Syria is not just for reasons of troop movements, but also because of the impact it has on the economy if the occupying forces can control the movement of people, goods, services, etc.

The hit to the economy must be understood not as a happy side effect for the invading force that comes with control the highway, but rather as a critical element of the attack.

This fact comes into greater focus when thought of in the context of other more direct attacks on the infrastructure of the region; that is to say, much more is attacked than just military installations, and that gives us a sense of the purposes and how they relate to the larger objectives of the war.

Which is why Turkey does things like attack the water supply in Rojava.

RIC: ‘The water will not last more than a month’: Northeast Syria faces critical water shortage

AMMAN— Northeast Syria is facing an acute water shortage as a result of damage to civilian water infrastructure and the roughly 108,000 Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) who fled the Turkish offensive, “Operation Peace Spring,” early last month.

If you think about it, hitting the water supply offers huge bang for the buck in terms of pressing an attack like this. I mean, it’s a fucked up thing to do. But it makes sense, in this context.

Just like, if you want to really cripple a population with damage and fear, shooting health and rescue workers makes sense too.

This is a bit of an aside, but I keep feeling sheepish for worrying early on that RIC might not be a reliable source. Now I understand that not only, as per above, are they about a month ahead of CNN, they’re now literally fucking helping CNN after I don’t know how long of offering their services to the world in covering this conflict.

So, Turkey’s interfering with travel, hitting key infrastructure points like water facilities and medical institutions.

Once we see how that all fits together into an integrated way, then we can understand it all as part of a larger attack. Like, say, on the whole economy of the region.

NPA Syria: Economic crisis targets people s food, salaries increase must contribute in prices control – Economic expert

In a special statement to North-Press, the economic expert, Dr. Fadi Ayyash described the economic crisis which Syria is undergoing with the imposed war on the country, but in another way, “because it targets the food of the Syrian people.” Ayyash said that, the economy and the economic sanctions are the last paper pressure which is used by “the opposing forces” of the Syrian people, “for the imposed war on the country for years, began choosing another way, it is facing the Syrian State outwardly, but inwardly it is targeting the Syrian people”.

He added that, the economic war is the most devastating war and the most affecting war on society, and the main reason is that, its mechanisms are vague for the society. “people’s sustenance is the most affected by such policies which reflects the purchasing power. So, it reflects on the general trading process of the country, which begins from the factory, to the market, to the exports and imports, and this is one of the kinds of the direct pressure on the economic policies of the state and on the people’s sustenance”.

“Economic expert.” Nice. He must have sweet business cards.

This paper is available in its entirety online. I’ll print the abstract below, but it should be noted that this was written almost two years ago.

Struggling to Perform the State: The Politics of Bread in the Syrian Civil War (International Political Sociology June 2017)


Recent studies of civil war have problematized frameworks that rely on a strict binary between state-sanctioned order and anarchy. This paper extends these insights and combines them with theories of performativity to examine welfare practices during the Syrian conflict (2011–2015). Specifically, we argue that conceptualizing the state as a construct—as an effect of power—can expand the study of civil war beyond its quantifiable aspects and embrace the performative dimensions of political life. By means of everyday, iterative acts such as welfare provision, competing groups summon the state, and the political order it seeks to enshrine, into existence: they make it both tangible and thinkable. During civil war, the ability to perform these prosaic acts becomes a matter of pressing military and political concern. Through close scrutiny of various cases, we dissect the impact of subsidized bread provision by the Assad regime, the Free Syrian Army, and armed Islamist groups as they struggle to perform the state. Our aim is to bring attention to under-studied governance practices so as to analyze the otherwise opaque relations between welfare provision, military success, and civilian agency during Syria’s civil war.

So the war is really being fought in terms of a war on frickin’ everything. It’s not just combat units shooting at one another, but the destruction of even the larger things we can only abstractly conceptualize, like “the economy.”

jack ryan economics

This means it makes sense to look at the war on the place of Rojava in the international community. If we’re looking at how a state (or “proto state” in the case of Rojava, as it is technically called because it has never been recognized by another recognized state. So I guess no blue check for Rojava.) fights a war, the operation will occur at the level of state maneuvering.

Which is what we see.

The Neutralization of the West

If you’re Turkey, or for that matter, Syria or Russia, it makes sense to marginalize and disconnect Rojava from the support of the world community to head off the possibility of them coming to Rojava’s aid.

Ultimately, what Turkey wants to do is to establish that they are a more important ally to anyone who might otherwise support Rojava than Rojava is.

RUDAW: Europe should condemn Turkey’s wrongdoing, but relations must not end: German official

That is a fantastic short Q&A about a lot of what is going on and what the view from Germany is like.

It also contains this gem:

The German government still enjoys good relations with Ankara. Why does it not use its influence to make Turkey abandon actions that Europe is unhappy with, and disagrees with?

What has really frightened us and concerned us is that Turkey has accelerated torture [of inmates], and it has become a phenomenon. We have information about many cases [of inmates] who suddenly disappeared and remain missing. This is a dangerous trend.

We have exerted mounting pressure on Turkey. The halt of arms sale is one of the sanctions we have imposed on Ankara, but we do not have to severe our ties. Turkey should of course be a NATO member and be given the chance to become an EU member as well… I think it is a mistake to distance Turkey from the West and Europe. We should have clear stances, and strong criticisms, but we should not end relations with our strong ally, Turkey.

OK, so they know Turkey is acting shitty, but they still value the relationship because it’s so fucking important.

That must be really demoralizing to the people on the ground to read if they had been hoping for some support or pressure on Turkey from the west; there had been word that Germans really didn’t like what was going on in the past, but it doesn’t seem like support is forthcoming.

Ahval: Germany’s Merkel says Turkey should remain a NATO member

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that Turkey should remain a NATO member despite growing differences between Ankara and its partners, Associates Press reported.

“I say that Turkey should remain a NATO member and we should support that, because it is of geo-strategic significance for NATO that Turkey is in” Merkel said while addressing the German parliament before a NATO summit in London next week.

The chancellor said that Turkey had become alienated as a member state of the alliance and labelled  “a difficult partner”.

If that looks disheartening to see that Germany clearly weighs the value of Turkey in the NATO alliance more heavily than what Turkey is doing to the people of northern Syria, imagine hearing about something like this:

TheTimesUK: Russia is no longer our enemy, Macron tells Nato before summit

President Macron set the stage for new discord in Nato by declaring that Russia was no longer the enemy of the alliance and calling for closer ties with Moscow.

Less than a week before the difficult Nato summit in Britain, the French president stuck to his widely criticised claim that the alliance was “brain dead” and in need of a strategy to replace US leadership of the continent’s defence.

So Germany favors Turkey and France wants to bring Russia into the fold.

Reading this must suck. But, well, we always know how well sucking up to bullies works, so France or Germany must be getting some kind of concession or benefit from trying to make nice, right?

Yeah, right.

The Guardian: Macron’s criticism of Syria invasion ‘sick and shallow’, says Erdoğan
Dispute between French and Turkish presidents escalates before Nato summit next week

The dispute within Nato over Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria escalated on Friday when the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, responded to criticism from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, by saying that Macron needed to check whether he was brain dead.

Claiming Macron was inexperienced and did not know what terror was, Erdoğan said Macron’s criticisms of the Turkish invasion reflected “a sick and shallow understanding”.

He also warned Macron against any attempt to expel Turkey from Nato, saying it was not up to the French president.

That’s incredibly rough language for diplomatic and foreign relations stuff, and I don’t mean The Guardian refusing to put NATO in call caps. But, well, I guess at least he didn’t call the President of France a terrorist or something.

Oh wait.

BBC: Macron is a sponsor of terrorism, says Turkish foreign minister

Addressing reporters in parliament on Thursday, Mr Cavusoglu said: “He [Macron] is already the sponsor of the terrorist organisation and constantly hosts them at the Elysee. If he says his ally is the terrorist organisation… there is really nothing more to say.

“Right now, there is a void in Europe, [Macron] is trying to be its leader, but leadership comes naturally.”

Turkey was angered when Mr Macron held talks in Paris on 8 October with SDF spokeswoman Jihane Ahmed.

Mr Macron’s office said the meeting was to express France’s solidarity with the SDF in its fight against the Islamic State group, and also to reiterate concerns about the prospect of a Turkish military operation in Syria.


And circling back, let’s remember that the partisans on the ground see all this quite obviously for what it is.

So that about covers France, but while we’re at it, I expect the Germany stuff is the reason that there are a bunch of articles popping up about the fact that Turkey gave German Leopard-2 tanks to ISIS jihadis.

There’s other stuff and in different languages going around the last couple of days, but I wanted to highlight how the Rojava Information Center is responding to the public message on this in part by reminding the world they told us about this fucking weeks ago.

Now, at this point, we already know who’s been stepping into the power vacuum created by a paralyzed NATO and a US military with a mission that… it’s complicated.

Russian Gas Lighting

RUDAW: As ceasefire deals crumble, Turkey says Syria incursion will continue

The operation has largely come to a halt since the United States brokered a ceasefire followed by a security deal with Turkey brokered by Russia.

Clashes have continued, however, in areas like Ain Issa, the administrative capital of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration, and the Christian-majority town of Tel Tamr.

In its meeting, chaired by Erdogan at the Presidential Palace, the National Security Council said Turkey would continue its operation.

Turkey’s incursion “which contributes to peace and stability in the region, will continue until it reaches its goals, while taking all precautions to prevent harm to civilians”, a council statement read, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Kurdish forces were compelled to withdraw from the border areas to a depth of 32 kilometers under the US and Russian-brokered deals. The Turkish council said it “expects” both the US and Russia to implement the agreements and have Kurdish-led forces removed from northern Syria, Manbij, and Tel Rifat.

“We call on the international community to support Turkey, which aims for the safe and voluntary return of Syrians to their country without any discrimination based on ethnicity or religion,” the council added.

Turkey’s operation has been widely condemned by European and American observers.

Hopefully by now, it is becoming clear that in no way has the operation come to a halt. There is less shooting. But even these statements are part of the larger operation. Here they are aimed at emphasizing Russia’s role in the conflict, which advances Russia’s interests by giving them more leverage.

Because Russian power over the situation is already quite clear.

Russia, as per deep operation theory, is not going to just establish their air power, though: They’re going to redefine the whole narrative of their role as part of their pursuit of Russian interests.

“Russia the hero.”

RUDAW: Putin praises Kurdish support for Russian forces in northern Syria

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Kurds have shown their support, kind-heartedness and love towards Russian military police who have been deployed to northern Syria to halt a Turkish offensive against Kurdish fighters.

How awesomely self-serving is that? Russia praises Kurds for loving Russia.

That’s fucking bold. Still not as bold as this.

BasNews: Putin: Success in Syria was achieved with the support of Kurdish people (Google translate link)

BasNews- Russian President Vladimir Putin said the successes achieved in Syria were also achieved with the support of the Kurdish people.

At the meeting of the Council of Ethnic Intergroup Relations in Nalchik, Russia, some Russian experts have insulted the Kurdish people and distorted history on federal television channels.

Speaking at the Ethnic Intergroup Relations Council meeting, Putin said, orum I want to underline that we have always had very good relations with the Kurdish people historically. Moreover, with the support of the Kurds in Syria and Turkey border obtained thing at the moment and is done in accordance with their interests. They understand that, and they approach it with heart. Our military police are well received in Kurdish settlements. Because people see and understand that the Russian army is coming to protect them. This is a clear fact ”.

In I don’t know who’s saying what’s there or what’s nonsense, but I think people are prudent enough to know that this has nothing to do with the position of the Russian authorities, Put Putin said.

Selfless Russia and her noble relations with and role as champion of the Kurds. It’s a lovely story. Great success.

Some people remember it differently.

Granted, the people who lived on the border mellowed a bit on the Russian patrols and started only stoning the Turkish vehicles, but that can be seen in the context of resigning themselves to Russia’s role as power broker in the region once the US withdrew. As per usual, the people on the ground get it.

So like with demand and supply in economics, Russia is pushing itself and its role vis-a-vis Rojava and increasing the demand for its “services,” while at the same time, Russia and Turkey are also attempting to reduce the supply of other options, both by diminishing the possibility of support from western nations as per above, but also by truncating the range of options, or, failing that, the perception of what options are available.

Truncated Options

Already, we’ve been seeing that the range of options have been increasingly narrowing away from support from the west. This leaves far more limited options, both in terms of number but also prospects.

Crisis Group: Steadying the New Status Quo in Syria’s North East
A tumultuous month in north-eastern Syria has left a tense standoff among the regime, Turkey and the YPG, mediated by Russia and, to some degree, still the U.S. All parties should respect the ceasefire as the regime and YPG negotiate more stable long-term arrangements.

Why does it matter?The ceasefire leaves the biggest question unanswered: who will govern and police the north east? As the Syrian regime, Turkey and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) all stake potentially irreconcilable claims, and the U.S. stays put at the area’s oil fields, the emerging dispensation is highly volatile.

Among other things, there’s also this attempt out there to prop up some kind of silly puppet government that supposedly represents all the Syrian rebel factions be it SNA (which now includes all sorts of jihadi/ISIS oriented groups), Kurd, miscellaneous, whatever.

I haven’t had much to say about it because everyone over there seems to think it’s stupid and beneath even much mockery. But within this larger context, the effort is relevant as another example of the “big picture” macro operations being undertaken in this conflict.

As I said, if you know anything about Rojava and this conflict, that’s pretty stupid. I  mean, it’s not really a serious attempt at a representative government either in terms of ethnicity or even basic sense of politics. It’s just dumb. It’s basically just more performative bullshit they’re trying to convert into a  negotiating chip that pretends to show that an attempt at a political solution is being made.

It really isn’t.

Really, this all boils down to an attempt to maneuver—force?—Rojava into assimilation into Assad’s regime. Broadly speaking, we have seen the pressure to do so both in terms of making life otherwise intolerable, while also controlling the other available options, including the marginalization of the possibility of other alliances.

Meanwhile, while the Russians have tea and crumpets or whatever high society eats they have at those kind of diplomatic meetings, Assad’s regime has been making moves to undermine the sense of any other possibility than joining Assad’s Syria.

I’m gonna be honest, that one stings. Lowering the US flag in the conflict… now that’s a fucking metaphor. Except it’s not at all a metaphor; it happened. That the SAA can make it happen actually makes me angry.

That might be worse than the “Come and Take It” banner incident. But it’s all bad.

Life on the Ground

So now, we can re-situate the violence that we’re still seeing on the ground into this larger context.

Let’s start with a brief overview-by-Tweet (half a dozen or so) of the kinds of violence in the alleged lull that’s been going on on the ground since the “halt” to Turkey’s operation.

Now, there’s a lot of sort of low level, minor incidents in there, though it’s clear how they relate to things like the refugee crisis as people are afraid or unable to return home, or just the general terror of living under conditions of seemingly near random attacks. Think of how fearful and concerned people are about school shootings in America and raise it to 11.

Of course, these seemingly individual moments of violence are all actually part of a pervasive plan of violence that just looks this way: Although targets may not be pre-selected by the state of Turkey, it is not random, because it is intentional.

This becomes clear when the incidents and perpetrators are connected back to the force Turkey has employed for this phase of the operation.

Which is to say, evil terrorists.

Traunsteiner Tagblatt: Rebels and Islamists? Erdogan’s dubious helper in Syria (Google Translate Link)

In their offensive against the Kurds in Syria, Turkey relies on the help of Syrian rebels. They are said to have been partially involved in executions. In the focus of the investigators is also a man who has lived as a refugee in a monastery in Germany.

I mean, when you let loose ISIS into a “cease fire” zone, well, ISIS is gonna ISIS.

IndependentUK: ‘When they come, they will kill you’: Ethnic cleansing is already a reality in Turkey’s Syrian safe zone
Turkey’s invasion into northern Syria has caused a demographic shift that many fear will become permanent, reports Richard Hall 

The brutal killings were not hidden, nor were they meant to be. From the very beginning of Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, the fighters it sent across the border to carry out the mission have proudly documented their own war crimes.

Videos posted online by soldiers of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) – showing summary executions, mutilation of corpses, threats against Kurds and widespread looting – have struck terror into the tens of thousands who find themselves in the path of the offensive.

The ethnic dimension to many of the crimes has resulted in a mass exodus of Kurds and religious minorities from these once diverse borderlands.

Now, stranded in displacement camps across northeast Syria and in neighbouring Iraq, they fear they may never be able to return home. And that, they believe, was precisely the point.

“No one can go back there now, it’s impossible,” says Muhammad Amin, 37, a Kurdish man who fled with his family from the city of Ras al-Ayn in the first days of the Turkish-led operation.

That’s what they do.

And that’s why you hire them.

Unfortunately here, they say the gold standard of science is prediction. Well, this shit is getting irritatingly predictable. As in, as awful as this all is, there is something just so irritating that it’s so predictable and yet the people who actually do this shit professionally are apparently powerless against it. That’s fucked. This shit is all on Twitter fercrissakes.

So now that we have a multi-layered understanding that creates a context for each of the parts, let’s circle back to the economics and bread stuff now.

Well, this actually seems nice for a change.

But that is just one aspect of a thing that is also this:

And this.

Which, as per the political sociology paper linked to above, points us back to this:

That’s clever, right? The Russian military as the public face of bringing bread through a both sides Reconciliation group. I mean, that’s like propoganda bingo. What an incredible example of a performative act in the fighting of a war.

The best part is how Russia is ostensibly bringing together the reconciliation of “opposing sides” as though Russia is somehow not involved.

Let’s take a look at where Aleppo actually is.

aleppo map

So, to the west, Russia is bombing the shit out of people. To the east, Russia is letting Turkey bomb and artillery shell some people and otherwise run amok even though they’ve taken responsibility for the region.

And right in the middle, their soldiers are handing out bread. I mean, holy shit.

Now consider, in that context, this:

There are planes flying over them like all the fucking time these days and they don’t even know who it is.

Recall the CNN video in the beginning of this post talking about how there were air planes circling overhead at the hospital.

It’s way scarier a prospect now, embedded in all this stuff, yeah?

Now, add to that this fact: Russia has been doing more daytime airstrikes of late.

What do daytime strikes give us?

  • It tells us that Russia wants us to know to know they can conduct airstrikes at any time and don’t require cover of darkness.
  • It allows for better images of the kinetic violence.

There’s tons of new video of Russia absolutely fucking shit up in broad daylight. That has got to be scary as fuck. And half the time, people in the east don’t even know whose jets they are.

So if that’s scary, how should they feel about this?

So, Russia’s puppet Assad is going to take over the policing and incarceration of ISIS.

Uh-huh. OK, so, yes, Assad has a much greater incentive to control the threat of ISIS within the borders of the territory he hopes to maintain. But is there any person alive who trusts him more than the SDF to deal with ISIS at this point? It’s a task which the SDF has proved to be exceptional at and everyone else (besides their US military backers, of course) has been kind of at best “meh” at and at worst fostering their militant jihadism. So Assad’s the best choice here for the Global War on Terror?

Pull the other one.

The Response

So, we can now see that all this awful shit actually comes together to form some kind of Voltron of suck, all the pieces of awful working together to form an abhorrent shit show well beyond the mere sum of the parts.

Major state actors are in coordination on an integrated operation (or set of operations) to separate Rojava from the support of the international community as part of an effort to wage war on every level. Indeed, even the “lull” is a form of misdirection to get us to focus on a reduction of kinetic violence and take our eyes off of the “lower level” violence that sows the seeds of terror and the higher level, almost invisible, global political machinations at the state level.

There’s less artillery shelling, perhaps. But that disguises the fact that there is more war. Indeed, the war is total. Heck, we’ve even seen Turkey trying to eradicate the Kurdish language and, indeed, culture itself. That’s what total war means. That totality just happens to be much larger than our conventional conception of war, i.e. the stuff we can watch easily on TV.

And in the big picture, it looks like Turkey is fighting a proxy war against Rojava using ISIS, and Russia is fighting a performative proxy war against NATO using the whole of the fucking war in Syria.


So, how are the people of Rojava handling all this?

Same as always.

They get it, as usual. And they do what they do.

Fucking incredible. The situation and the response. All of it. Just fucking incredible.


2 thoughts on “Nov 29: Total War on Rojava: Deep Operation

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