Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 07, 2016

Why Kerry Blames The Opposition For The Continuing Bombing In Syria

According to this report from Middle East Eye U.S. Secretary of State blamed the opposition for the continuing bombing in Syria:

US Secretary of State John Kerry told Syrian aid workers, hours after the Geneva peace talks fell apart, that the country should expect another three months of bombing that would “decimate” the opposition.

During a conversation on the sidelines of this week’s Syria donor conference in London, sources say, Kerry blamed the Syrian opposition for leaving the talks and paving the way for a joint offensive by the Syrian government and Russia on Aleppo.

“‘He said, ‘Don’t blame me – go and blame your opposition,’” one of the aid workers, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her organisation, told Middle East Eye.
"He said that basically, it was the opposition that didn’t want to negotiate and didn’t want a ceasefire, and they walked away,” the second of the aid workers told MEE in a separate conversation and also on the basis of anonymity.

“‘What do you want me to do? Go to war with Russia? Is that what you want?’” the aid worker said Kerry told her.

The hapless State Department spokesperson claimed that the story was wrong:

John Kirby Verified account @statedeptspox
@Charles_Lister Story wrong. @JohnKerry didn't blame oppo for collapse of talks, doesn't have comms w/regime & hasn't wavered on Asad.

But this lets me believe that the report of Kerry chastising the opposition is right on point:

U.S. Embassy Syria @USEmbassySyria
#SecKerry on bombardment of civilians in #Syria: This has to stop. But it’s not going to stop by walking away from the table or not engaging

So while the State Department spokesperson denies that the U.S. blames the opposition, another part of the State Department does exactly that: "it’s not going to stop by walking away from the table or not engaging". Kerry is clearly embarrassed that the Saudi opposition group ran away from the UN talks in Vienna. He should blame his "allies".

The Wall Street Journal says the opposition group ended the talks before they began on Turkish and Saudi orders:

The Syrian opposition abruptly withdrew from peace talks in Geneva this week under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the main backers of the rebels, according to diplomats and at least a half-dozen opposition figures.

After sabotaging the talks the Saudis came out with an offer to send ground troops to invade Syria if the U.S. would take the command of such an operation. No one is taking that offer seriously. The Saudi troops who try to invade Yemen get beaten to pulp. The Saudis themselves say they had to closed 500 school and evacuate 12 villages with 7,000 people in Saudi Arabia because the Yemenis are now invading them. Their army has lots of expensive toys but is clearly not able to put them to use. The offer to send troops is simply to goad the U.S. into starting a war with Russia.

That is not going to work. The U.S. is now trying to find some end to the conflict in Syria. Someone finally told Kerry that Russia is not in a "quagmire" in Syria but is winning.  The U.S. is in a hurry now as it knows that it will have zero influence left on the issue should the Syrian government and Russia have the time to kill off the opposition. It needs a ceasefire to stay relevant. As Kerry says himself that "whining" about the situation and skipping negotiations will not help the opposition. It will kill it.

Secretary Kerry also called on the Russians to stop their bombing campaign in Aleppo province. But that contradicts the UN resolution 2254 under which the talks in Geneva are held. That resolution clearly calls for a continuation of the Russian and Syrian campaign: THE UNSC

[r]eiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, [...] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, as set forth in the 14 November 2015 ISSG Statement;

The insurgents in Aleppo province as well as in Idleb province are officially allied with the Nusra Front which is Al-Qaeda in Syria. They are clearly a target of the above resolution and thereby a legitimate target of Russian bombs.

Indeed those who criticize Kerry for blaming the opposition because it ran away from Geneva ignore the resolution. It is the plan the U.S. and Russia have agreed to follow. That plan ends the war in Syria in a ceasefire but only when the opposition agrees to one AND cuts all ties with al-Qaeda and ISIS. As the opposition, and its sponsors, are unwilling to do so the Syrian-Russian campaign against them will continue, as agreed upon by the UNSC, until their end.

Posted by b at 10:59 AM | Comments (35)

February 06, 2016

Open Thread 2016-07

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:10 PM | Comments (87)

February 05, 2016

The Zika Virus Is Harmless - Who Then Benefits From This Media Panic?

The media are currently creating a panic about the allegedly dangerous Zika virus:

There is absolutely no sane reason for this panic campaign.

The virus is long known, harmless and the main current scare, that the virus damages unborn children, is based on uncorroborated and likely false information.

A recent Congressional Research Service report (pdf) about Zika notes:

Zika is a virus that is primarily spread by Aedes mosquitoes [..]. Zika transmission has also been documented from mother to child during pregnancy, as well as through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, and laboratory exposure. Scientists first identified the virus in 1947 among monkeys living in the Ugandan Zika forest. Five years later, human cases were detected in Uganda and Tanzania. The first human cases outside of Africa were diagnosed in the Pacific in 2007 and in Latin America in 2015.

The thing is just one of many thousand viruses that can effect humans. It is known. It is rather harmless. It effects, if there are any at all, are very mild:

A relatively small proportion (about 1 in 4) of infected people develop symptoms. The virus is only detectable for a few days in infected people's blood. [..]

Zika typically causes mild symptoms, including fever, rash, and conjunctivitis, which usually last up to one week. Hospitalization and death following infection are rare.

Only 1 in 4 infected people are affected and any typical flue would be more aggravating to them than this little bugger.


The CRS report says:

Health experts are uncertain whether Zika causes microcephaly, a potentially severe birth defect involving brain damage. Since October 2015, Brazilian officials have reported more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly in areas with ongoing Zika transmission, up from roughly 150 cases in previous years. Health officials are concerned that this may be a result of infection in the fetus when a pregnant woman is infected.

Synopsis: We do not know if the virus harms unborn children children at all. But that number of 4,000 cases looks suspiciously high.

That is because it is false.

Microcephaly, the so called "pinhead", is not easy to diagnose. There is no standard or certain border value for the size of a newborn baby that doctors can agree on. A baby head may look too small and develop perfectly well or it may look too small and not develop perfectly. Not every case gets regularly reported. There are possible structural reason why this years number differ a lot from last years numbers. A new doctor? A new reporting system? Changed diagnosis guidelines? We do not know.

What we know is that the 4,000 cases number from Brazil that is circulating is a. misleading, b. wrong and c. unrelated to the virus.

The number is misleading because it does not give any real base like the total number of birth to which those 4,000 cases relate. According to a 2009 paper published in Neurology and quoted here:

“Microcephaly may result from any insult that disturbs early brain growth [...] annually, approximately 25,000 infants in the United States will be diagnosed with microcephaly .."

Hundreds of children are born with microcephaly every day. That is sad. But it also tells us that the "big number" of 4,000 is not really that high.

It is also false.

As was reported already a week ago:

New figures released Wednesday by Brazil's Health Ministry as part of a probe into the Zika virus have found fewer cases of a rare birth defect than first feared.

Researchers have been looking at 4,180 suspected cases of microcephaly reported since October. On Wednesday, officials said they had done a more intense analysis of more than 700 of those cases, confirming 270 cases and ruling out 462 others.

So more than half of those 4,000 children reported with microcephaly do not have microcephaly. That the numbers now see such a sharp correction points to problems in the standard of diagnosis in Brazil and elsewhere. Are we sure that we have really correct numbers for earlier years to compare with the current numbers?

But what about that dangerous virus?

Six of the 270 confirmed microcephaly cases were found to have the virus. Two were stillborn and four were live births, three of whom later died, the ministry said.

Only 6 out of 270 were confirmed to have had the virus. Is that a reason to be scared? Or not? That number only tells us that the detection of this virus is rare. It does not tell us how many of the 270 have at a time been infected. It also does not tell us if such an infection has caused microcephaly or not.

But you want another scary headline? "Five out of six kids diagnosed with Zika virus died!!!"

That headline is of course also wrong. We do not know how many, if any, of the surviving kids once had the virus and got rid of it. When were those tests done? Remember that the CRS report noted:

The virus is only detectable for a few days in infected people's blood.

It is likely that the virus can be detected in a dead human body if that body was infected at the time of the death. But in a living body with a working immune system the virus will have vanished after just a few days. It is quite possible that a whole bunch of the surviving children once had the virus, that it caused no harm, and that it vanished.

There is absolutely no sane reason for the scary headlines and the panic they cause.

The virus is harmless. It is possible, but seems for now very unlikely, that it affects some unborn children. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned about it.

As this is all well known or easy to find out why do the media create this sensation?

Cui bono? Has someone a vaccine they want to sell? Is this to damage Brazil's Olympics?

Feel free to speculate.

Posted by b at 03:25 PM | Comments (165)

February 04, 2016

Syria's Enemies Seek Face Saving Escalation Measures

Russia Accuses Turkey of Preparing to Invade Syria

The Russian military said Thursday that it has "reasonable grounds" to suspect that Turkey is making intensive preparations for a military invasion of neighboring Syria.

Images of a checkpoint on the border between the Turkish town of Reyhanli and the town of Sarmada in Syrian taken in late October and late January show a buildup of transportation infrastructure that could be used for moving in troops, ammunition and weapons, spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in an English-language written statement.

He said these were among growing signs of "hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said the ministry would have no immediate comment.

The Russian high command press briefing (vid with English subtitles) includes the pictures of the border post.

Turkey yesterday prohibited a Russian reconnaissance "Open Skies Treaty" flight over the Turkish-Syrian border zone. There are dozens such flights per year over Russia by NATO and over NATO countries by Russia. This is to my knowledge the first time such a flight, which had earlier been requested and accepted, is blocked by the guest country.

The Russian military spokesperson snarked:

It is to be reminded that the Russian Defence Ministry has intensified all kinds of intelligence in the Middle East region.

That’s why, if someone in Ankara thinks that the prohibition of Russian observer flight allows to hide something, it is unprofessional.

The decisive Syrian government victory yesterday cuts off the foreign supported insurgents in Aleppo and Idleb from they supply sources in Turkey and deprives them of their fuel supplies.

In reaction to that victory the supporters of the insurgents and terrorist in Syria are likely to increase their efforts. The negotiations in Geneva failed over the Syrian victory and the Saudis had already promised that such a failure would lead to an increased support. The Saudi Defense Ministry declared today that Saudi ground forces could take part in action in Syria. It is doubtful that the Saudis have a real capability to do so. But the Saudis and others will now again shower the insurgents and Jihadis in Syria with money and new weapons. A Turkish invasion could add momentum to such a move.

Such an invasion would come at the Syrian-Turkish border between Azaz and Jarabulus that is currently under Islamic State control. The Syrian YPG Kurds plan to take that area with Russian help and to seal the border. Turkey does not want that to happen. Its well working lines of communication with the Islamic State must be kept open.

So is a Turkish invasion of Syria in preparation? My guess is yes.

But will it really happen? My guess is no.

NATO will restrain Turkey from such a misguided adventure. It could mean war with Russia and no European NATO country would like that to happen. Without NATO backing the Turkish military is unlikely to follow the order for such a move.

The Russia revelation of the Turkish preparations is increasing the deterrence against such a move. It also means that Russia would react harshly against a Turkish invasion and surely Russia has demonstrated by now that it has the means to do so in decisive ways.

But even while Turkey is unlikely to send its army it may use a proxy force to capture more Syrian territory.

The Zionist lobby in Washington DC in form of the Washington Institute is advising Turkey to invade Syria by proxy to keep the Kurds away from the border zone:

The most effective way to monitor the Azaz-Jarabulus border area would be to ensure that the Syrian side is filled by forces friendly to Turkey, or at least opposed to IS. One possible such group would be the Syrian Turkmens, who are ethnically related to Turks and are being trained by Turkey as a fighting force in northwestern Syria.
[T]he Turkish armed forces has modern artillery with an effective range of twenty to twenty-five miles, UAVs, and other means to protect its clients administering a prospective safe zone.

These "Turkmen" had occupied northern Latakia where they are just being kicked out by the Syrian army and its supporters. They consist of Turkish "Grey Wolf" fascists, Turkish Islamists and Chechen and Uhigur Islamist mercenaries. They are controlled by the Turkish secret service MIT.

The whole plan has a logical flaw. If, as the Washington Institute lobbyists claim, it is desirable for Turkey to monitor or seal the border from Islamic State infiltration why can't this be done on the Turkish side of the border? Why does this necessitate an illegal invasion by proxy of Syria? I find no plausible answer to that last question.

The lobbyists also skip over the question of potential retaliation. If Turkish artillery fires into Syria then Syria and its supporters are legally justified to fire back by whatever means are needed. A few Russian cruise missiles could easily take care of those Turkish artillery battalions. What would then follow?

Neither the Turks nor the Saudis nor the U.S. nor Israel have given up on their "regime change" war on Syria. But their proxies have taken serious losses and are likely to lose the fight. While we can expect some new attempts of escalation I expect  that these will be mere face saving moves. It just takes some additional time until the reality will sink in and until some other issue can be found to distract from their inevitable retreat.

Posted by b at 02:35 PM | Comments (88)

February 03, 2016

Syria: 'Negotiations' Over Insurgency's Northern Supply Route Concluded

Good news from Syria. The battlefield 'negotiations' over the insurgency's supply route to the north were successfully concluded.

After nearly four years the siege on Nubl and Zahraa has been lifted. The northern supply route from insurgency held areas in Aleppo province and Aleppo city to Turkey has been severed.

Update (12:45 am): A Syrian author in Aleppo just tweeted:

Edward Dark @edwardedark
This is the beginning of the end of jihadi presence in Aleppo. After 4 years of war & terror, people can finally see the end in sight #Syria


Map by SAA Reporter - bigger, HD version - different map showing a larger area

While fire control over the supply route was achieved yesterday there were still Jabhat al-Nusra forces holding the village Muarrasat al Khan. Those forces were destroyed today with a two pronged attack by the Syrian army coming from east and Hizbullah fighters coming from the besieged Nubl and Zahraa area in the west. Those fighters had earlier arrived by helicopter. At least four higher commander of Nusra and other groups where killed during the fighting. They Syrian army will now continue the offensive to widen and secure the new corridor.

There is now only one supply line left between the insurgents in Idleb and Aleppo province and Turkey. It leads north-west from Idleb city along the M45 motorway and crosses at Bab al Hawa to the Turkish city of Reyhanli (map.) It is some 40 kilometers west of Aleppo city and Russian air superiority make the road dangerous to use. The Russian air force will take care that no major traffic is able to use the crossing. Over the next months the current offensive should also have reached that border zone and seal all other potential crossing venues.

Russia made clear that there will be no end to the war until the border is under full Syrian government control:

"The key point for the ceasefire to work is a task of blocking illegal trafficking across the Turkish-Syrian border, which supports the militants," [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov] said. "Without closing the border it is difficult to expect the ceasefire to take place."

The Russian air strikes will continue until the terrorist organizations are defeated.

Additional progress was made by the Syrian army today in Latakia. East of Aleppo the army took the village  As Sin and has nearly surrounded a contingent of Islamic State fighters at the Aleppo power plant. In Homs province the already surrounded large insurgency held area of Rastan will soon be split in two. In the south new attacks were launched to widen the supply corridor to Daraa.

Morale of the Syrian army has remarkably increased and victory begets victory. I expect the campaign to continue at the current pace. The insurgency in north, south and west Syria is faltering on all fronts and their lack of new supplies will soon lead to more decisive defeats. After the insurgency is mostly destroyed it will be time to take serious care of the Islamic State in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in east Syria. In preparation of that move the Syrian YPG Kurds, with Russian support, are planning to take the rest of the northern border with Turkey from the Islamic State.

Posted by b at 10:51 AM | Comments (89)

February 02, 2016

U.S. Does Not Know How Much Territory ISIS Lost In Syria

January 29, 2016

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via Teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

this reflects our estimate that ISIL has lost approximately 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq. Approximately 5 percent of the territory it once held in Syria.

February 2, 2016

John Kerry, Secretary of State, Remarks at the Ministerial Meeting of the Small Group of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL

We have had up and downs, but more recently, more ups than downs, and Daesh lost 40 percent of its territory in Iraq and 20 percent of its territory in Syria.

Somehow I can not find the news that would explain this big change within just three days. I conclude that whatever U.S. officials say about ISIS held territory are just wildarse guesses.

Posted by b at 10:08 AM | Comments (54)

February 01, 2016

Syria 'Negotiates' With New Attacks On Insurgency Supply Routes

The Syrian Arab Army launched a significant new offensive in north Aleppo today. It is another move in the battlefield negotiations that will decide this war.

Map by @PetoLucem - bigger - full HD

The likely objective of the offensive is the creation of a corridor from north-west Aleppo to the besieged towns of Nubol and AlZaraa. The towns are under siege from Jahat al Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and Ahrar al-Sham and are regularly shelled. Such a corridor would also cut through the insurgents main supply route from south-west of Aleppo to Turkey.

The offense has been in preparation for some time and runs in parallel (vid) with other operations in Latakia near the Turkish border, east of Aleppo and in the south. To protect against any Turkish adventure Russia beefed up the available air power. Four brand new Russian Su-35S multi-role fighters arrived in Syria. Russia would like to demonstrate their capabilities. Nine Syrian Mig-29 fighters have been upgraded (recom. reading) with new active electronically scanned (AESA) radars and new missiles. They now fly protective cover for Russian and Syrian ground attack fighters and helicopters against Turkish air interdiction. Syrian T-72 tanks have been upgraded with new defense measures against U.S. anti-tank weapons.

Throughout the last weeks several thousand newly trained troops arrived in the government held north Aleppo industrial zone. These have now launched the fresh attack in the north western direction (red arrows on the map) and already captured several villages. The attack was prepared by massive ground attack airstrikes which hit the frontline positions of the foreign supported insurgents'  as well as their ammunition transports (vid). (Interestingly the destroyed convoy was on a narrow, small road. That proves that major supply roads are no longer available or safe for the insurgents.)

The attack today forestalled planned counterattacks by various insurgent groups and Jabhat al-Nusra. The attacked insurgent units issued urgent requests for reinforcements.

There have been significant skirmishes between Turkey and Syria/Russia in the last days. Turkey claimed that Russian jets intruded its airspace which the Russians denied. It is quite possible that small intrusion happen as the Russian and Syrian ground attack jets bombard insurgents near the Turkish border in Latakia. But the Turks now have to watch out for ready-to-shoot Russian and Syrian air superiority fighters who only wait for a chance to avenge the earlier Turkish ambush of a Russian plane.

Today Turkish artillery fired (vid) against Syrian army positions in Latakia. The 1998 Turkish-Syrian Adana agreement which provided for largely demilitarized Syrian side of the border up to a depth of fifteen kilometer is clearly no longer in effect. Syrian artillery is active against insurgent groups which hide in "refugee camps" near the border. The Turks claim that these are ethnic Turkmen civilians but the video showing the damage in such a camp was released (vid) with the insignia of Jabhat al-Nusra. Some other fighters in the area are Turks from the fascist MHP party.

When the Syrian army and its supporters have cleared the Latakia area near Turkey Russia will install a new far reaching radar and a listening post on one of its hilltops. Such a station will allow the observance of all air and sea movements for hundreds of kilometers into Turkey. It will be part of the price Turkey and NATO have to pay for the ambush of the Russian plane.

Some people think that Turkey would invade Syria if the Kurds move further into the supply corridor north east of Aleppo the Islamic State uses for its dealing with Turkey. I very much doubt such a move as any intrusion into Syria would risk open war with Russia. The Turkish army would only launch that war under a explicit, written order. NATO would not support such a move and Erdogan alone would carry the full responsibility. Most Turkish people are well aware of the economic losses that follow Erdogan's aggressive policies and would likely not support such a hopeless adventure.

Erdogan's grandstanding and interference is no longer effective. The current UN talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and a Saudi supported group of the radical insurgents are a side show. The real  negotiations are on the battlefield and there the Syrian government and its supporters continue to improve their already superior position.

Posted by b at 10:49 AM | Comments (56)

January 31, 2016

Open Thread 2016-06

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (140)

January 30, 2016

Elijah Magnier On The Mistakes Of ISIS And The Future Of Jabhat Al-Nusra

Last night Elijah J. Magnier tweeted a small essay about the mistakes the Islamic State leader and his predecessor made in Iraq and Syria. Then followed a shorter essay about Jabhat al-Nusra and the development in Syria. As he is one of the most knowledgeable experts on the war in Syria and Iraq his thoughts deserve a wider discussion.

This is my summary of his tweets on the Islamic State:

Abu Mus'ad al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), ignored directives from Aymen al-Zawaheri, the operational leader of al-Qaeda central, to not attack the Shia in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi attacked Shia and Sunnis who disagreed with him and ignited a sectarian war. Had he only attacked the U.S. occupiers the Shia of Iraq, and the anti-U.S. states around Iraq (Iran, Syria) would have been with him. He could have gained much influence over all Iraq but for his (bloody) mistake.

The leader of the Islamic State (the former AQI) Abu Bakr al Baghdadi made more than one mistake. He rejected al-Qaeda central's advice to restrict his organization to Iraq and to leave Syria to an autonomous al-Qaeda entity Jabhat al-Nusra. The Baghdadi's troops crept into Syria and attacked Jabhat al-Nusra. Until then Jabhat was very low profile, fought successfully and gaining many followers in Syria. It could have gained more men and areas if it had been left alone. But the infighting between Baghdadi's group and Jabhat severely weakened both.

The second mistake Baghdadi made was shortly after the conquering of Mosul. He declared war on all other groups in Iraq and also on Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Kurds and other states. He also incited the "west" against him through his grueling marketing videos. Without that he could have gained much outside support from the various Sunni states. Iraq would look much different today had Baghdadi not declared war on everyone (but on Turkey). Baghdad and parts of south Iraq would probably be in his hands.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is now fought by everyone. It will be defeated and revert back into an underground terrorist organization.

The current talks over Syria in Geneva are unlikely to have any concrete result. But they are a move in the right direction. The Saudi/Qatari/Turkish/U.S. proxy fighters continue to lose ground in Syria. The only hope for those countries and their proxies to receive some benefit from their "investment" in Syria is to gain concessions during negotiations.

The main Jihadi groups, the Islamic State, Jabhat al Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and Ahrar al Sham are not taking part. According to UN resolution 2254 any ceasefire in Syria would exclude these entities and all groups aligned with them. The UN Security Council calls:

... to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council ... and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities ...

Those groups the Saudis now send to Geneva were previous allied and fighting together with Jabhat al-Nusra. In north Syria Jaish al-Fath, an alliance of Nusra, Ahrar al Shams and various U.S. supported FSA groups, conquered Idleb. But the FSA and other proxy groups will now have to distance themselves from Nusra or will have to go down with it.

Starting from a recent Reuters report that Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al Sham negotiated but failed to unite, Elijah J. Magnier looks at the consequences (edited for readability):

Al-Qaeda asked Ahrar al-Sham to unite over a year ago but Ahrar refused. The news of Ahrar's rejection is thereby not new.
Jabhat al-Nusra tried to keep a low profile, promoting other Syrian rebels, due to its link to al-Qaeda central that crippled it. Jabhat al-Nusra has succeeded to integrate - on the surface - with other rebels group. A smart move to create "Jaish al-Fath" but that won't last.

It was fine as long as Russia was out of direct involvement in the Syria war. Russia now imposed itself not only on the U.S. but also on the regional players. Now that the U.S. is not willing to stand against Russia in Syria, the game is run differently: Salafist Jihadists are no longer tolerated.

The only chance for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to minimize their losses in Syria is to push all rebels to distance themselves from Jabhat al-Nusra. Russia is aware of that. What Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have lost on the ground won't be gained in diplomacy at the Geneva talks. Jordan already inspired its proxies to distance themselves from Jabhat al Nusra. Qatar, Turkey and the Saudis will very soon follow.

Jabhat al-Nusra is not unaware of the move. Despite the blood and deep, very deep animosity between Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS they have no choice but to cease hostilities between them. Cessation of hostility does not mean that they will merge. ISIS is in deeper trouble than Nusra.

Jabhat al-Nusra still has another option when ISIS and Nusra will remain the only "two enemies" of everyone in Syria. The majority of Jabhat al-Nustra fighters are Syrians. They can easily disperse within their communities and wait for "better time". This happened before in Iraq during the peak of the "Awakening".

So far Elijah Magnier.

I mostly agree with the above but for the future of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. It will surely try to go underground and it will for a while continue to exist as a terrorist entity. But unlike in Iraq  where the U.S. invasion completely destroyed the state and its institutions, Syria still is a real state and has a functioning bureaucracy. Unlike Iraq it has centrally controlled secret services that are able to hunt down underground terrorists. According to Mao the guerrilla fish needs the sea of an accommodating population to swim in. I doubt that enough of the population of Syria will support Jabhat as an underground organization. There will be snitches at every corner and every person somewhat associated with Jabhat al-Nusra will be dead, in jail or under strict surveillance.

So while the Islamic State in Iraq, after it is again cut down to an underground entity, may survive there,  Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria will probably be rooted completely.

Posted by b at 11:21 AM | Comments (85)

January 29, 2016

Why Long-term Occupations Of Afghanistan Always Fail

The U.S. military now plans for a permanent occupation of Afghanistan. A discussion of the historic analogy of the Soviets in Afghanistan shows that this is unlikely to be a successful endeavor.

A Pakistani official summed up the Soviet dilemma in Afghanistan as follows:
The Soviets can continue to occupy the country, but the can not win over the people. The longer they stay, the more they alienate the people. The more they alienate the people, the longer they must stay. This Russian dilemma is also the Afghan dilemma, and both seem condemned to suffer the consequences.
Quoted in Joseph. J.Collins, Afghanistan: The Empire Strikes Out, Perimeters, 1982

The above is an apt description of the current situation in Afghanistan, just replace Soviet with American.

Having tried suppression through torture and indiscriminate bombing, massive bribing, escalation via the "surge", COIN and other social science nonsense, the U.S. military is now pushing for a decades long occupation of Afghanistan to facilitate the long-term Afghanization of the conflict:

Top U.S. military commanders, who only a few months ago were planning to pull the last American troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end, are now quietly talking about an American commitment that could keep thousands of troops in the country for decades.
[T]here is a broad recognition in the Pentagon that building an effective Afghan army and police force will take a generation’s commitment, including billions of dollars a year in outside funding and constant support from thousands of foreign advisers on the ground.

“What we’ve learned is that you can’t really leave,” said a senior Pentagon official with extensive experience in Afghanistan and Iraq who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “The local forces need air support, intelligence and help with logistics. They are not going to be ready in three years or five years. You have to be there for a very long time.”

The above quoted paper looked at such a long-term occupation and Afghanization as an exit-option for the Soviets:

"Afghanization" might provide a long-term solution, but efforts to carry out such a policy to date have shown little immediate return. This lack of return is not surprising since the Soviets have not generally been successful in developing Soviet-style cadres in Third World countries. Indigenous pro-Soviet movements have been successful, but only when they have drawn on nationalism or on ethnic or tribal affiliation. Soviet prospects for exploiting these unifying factors in Afghanistan are extremely poor.

Again replace Soviets with American and the statement holds.

The paper concludes with a lecture which the hubristic politicians and generals in Washington DC still have not learned:

Afghanistan is proof positive that great power does not insulate its holder from great mistakes. Indeed, having great power tempts the possessor to regard it as invincible whatever the circumstances. Afghanistan vividly demonstrates that even superpowers are at the mercy of religious, ethnic, radical and other such historic forces in their dealings with Third World countries. Armored divisions and unusable ICBMs have rarely overcome the indigenous forces of nationalism and religious faith. Great powers must take this into account in their dealings with Third World countries. There are tides which one dares not to swim against.

Afghanistan is a conglomerate of  people of various ethnicity, tribal and religious affiliations. There is, besides maybe in sports, no real Afghan nationality on which one could build an overarching structure to rule. The scholars of the 1980s knew this, but their lecture was forgotten. When will it be relearned?

Posted by b at 01:24 AM | Comments (76)

January 28, 2016

My First Take On The Presidential Election

Say what you will about Donald Trump but he knows how to market himself. Staging a feud with Fox News and abstaining from tonight's Republican candidate debate gives him more media coverage than taking part. He is already the front runner of the Republican candidates. More debating could only endanger that position. Staying away and making a fuzz about it gives him a bigger lead.

That Trump knows marketing well gives me some doubt about his real positions. Who owns him? Who pays his campaign? Answers to these questions are likely more revealing than the fascist dog-whistle politics he publicly emphasizes. He seems to favor neither neoconservative nor liberal interventionist foreign policy. That would be welcome change.

On the democratic side I do not see a chance for Clinton to win. I believe that the American people have had enough of the Clintons. If she would win the nomination she would lose in the presidential election as many voters would abstain. Her policy record is abysmal. Yes she has experience - of misjudgement and not learning from it. In interior policies she is clearly in the hands of Wall Street and the big banks. Her "liberal" image is all fake. In foreign policy she is "the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes":

“If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” [top neocon Robert Kagan] added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

Sanders is hard to see as president. His domestic policies are somewhat comparable to middle-of-the-road European social-democrats. His foreign policy stand isn't clear. While not an interventionist he supports the colonists in Palestine. The people obviously favor him over Clinton but he will need big money for the big campaign should he get the nomination. To whom would he sell out?

The Republican party is coming around in favor of Trump. The party big-wigs believe he has no real positions, that they can manipulate him. That is probably wrong. The Democratic party machine is clearly in favor of Clinton. Would it try to sabotage Sanders if he wins primary after primary? Could they throw in another plausible candidate?

My gut instinct say it will be Sanders against Trump with a voter turnout advantage for Sanders. What is your take?

Posted by b at 12:57 PM | Comments (144)

January 26, 2016

Libya: The Imperial Violence Keeps Giving

Imperial violence is a gift that keeps giving. After the U.S. lied to the UN Security Council about alleged Ghaddafi threats against "protesters" in Benghazi the UNSC allowed for the use of force to protect them. Russia and China abstained instead of vetoing it.

Libya, Spring 2011

The U.S. and its NATO allies abused the UNSC resolution. They weaponized the "protesters", bombed the country to smithereens and killed the leading government figures including Muhammar Ghaddafi. Then U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton the monster, famously bragged (vid): "We came, we saw, he died."

The UNSC resolution is the reason why then Russian President Medvedev was not allowed to run for a second term. Now President Putin - then as Prime Minister only responsible for interior politics - said that as he read the UNSC resolution he found holes in its wording a whole army could march through. Medvedev had made a huge mistake by allowing it to pass. That he had to go is the only positive result of the NATO attack on Libya.

Now the U.S. wants to attack Libya again:

Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Friday that military officials were “looking to take decisive military action” against the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Libya, where Western officials estimate the terrorist group has roughly 3,000 fighters.

Administration officials say the campaign in Libya could begin in a matter of weeks. They anticipate it would be conducted with the help of a handful of European allies, including Britain, France and Italy.

This will go it always goes, bomb strikes, special forces on the ground, proxy fighters trained by U.S. forces or private companies who will then develop into their death squads and terrorize the population.

There is chaos in Libya as was foreseeable and predicted here when the war on Libya began. There are many armed groups and two parliaments and two rudimentary governments, on in the east and one in the west. The UN just tried to set up a third, unity government and failed:

Libya's internationally recognized parliament voted on Monday to reject a unity government proposed under a United Nations-backed plan to resolve the country's political crisis and armed conflict. ... Since 2014, Libya has had two competing parliaments and governments, one based in Tripoli and the other in the east. Both are backed by loose alliances of armed groups and former rebels who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Many of the "rebels" who were paid by Qatar and others to overthrow the Libyan government are Islamists. Many went from Libya on to Syria to fight against the Syrian government and the U.S. helped to supply weapons from Libya to those foreign terrorists in Syria.

It is unlikely that the real U.S. interest now is to fight the few foreign Islamic State fighters in Libya. Most of the Islamic State followers in Libya are locals of some specific tribes who earlier were part of this or that local Islamist gang. They are not a threat and other local forces will hold them at bay.

The U.S. wants the whole country under its indirect control but has so far only half of it:

The armed forces allied to the eastern government are led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a former Gaddafi ally. He has also fought Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi and has become one of Libya's most divisive figures, enjoying strong support in the east but despised by forces allied to the government in Tripoli.

Haftar was once with Ghaddafi but was shunned after he screwed up in a war with Chad. Around 1990 he tried to overthrow Ghaddafi but failed. He went to the U.S., became a U.S. citizen and worked for the CIA. In 2011 he was back in Libya again attempting to overthrow Ghaddafi.

In 2011 the U.S. failed to install its proxy ruler over Libya. It is now going back in a new attempt to gain full control over the country and its resources. Once established in Libya it can subjugate countries in northern Africa.

It is easy to see that this will develop into more war, more terror and more refugees who will flee their home. The imperial violence keeps giving.

Posted by b at 11:34 AM | Comments (61)

January 25, 2016

Open Thread 2016-05

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:23 PM | Comments (171)

January 24, 2016

Syria: The Battlefield Negotiations Now Favor The Syrian Government

The Syrian army today liberated the the town Rabiah in Latakia province as well as several other villages in the area near the Turkish border. Rabiah, together with Salma which was liberated a few days ago, was one of the jihadists strongholds in the region. Russian air support and artillery (vid) was again decisive. Pictures from the town showed graffiti the "moderate" foreign supported insurgents left behind. It read "All Alawites will be exterminated".

This map shows the current frontline as well as the old frontline from where the Latakia campaign started a few weeks ago.

bigger hi-res

The jihadis evacuated all positions west of Rabiah and are on the run. Turkey closed its border to prevent them from crossing it. They will seek refuge in Kinsabba near the Jabal al-Akrad heights, their last strong point, which will be attacked next. After that the general attack will be launched at Jisr al Shanghaur in Idleb province from the west and the south after which a larger pincer attack on Idleb city is planned.

Latakia province and the Russian bases there are now secured. Opposition supply lines from Turkey are largely severed. The momentum is clearly on the side of the government troops.

In the south there the Syrian army continues to clear Sheikh Miskeen near the border to Jordan. Should the city be freed the southern insurgents supply lines from Jordan will be in jeopardy. The lines are already restricted as Jordan clamps down on militants crossing its border.

In the north as well as in the south various rebel groups started to fight each other. Clashes between various groups were reported from Daraa in the south and in Idleb between Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra groups. Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's section in Syria, is now under heavy pressure on many fronts and has called for more foreign fighters to join it. There are already strategic discussions within Nusra to end the open war and to go back being an underground guerrilla to hit at the Syrian government and other entities from behind their lines. But the guerrilla fish needs the water of the population to swim in and it is doubtful that Nusra has support of more than very few Syrian citizens.

The Syrian army also liberated Qatar (vid) from the Wahhabi Islamic State supporters. Unfortunately this Qatar was not the country at the Persian Gulf but a small town north east of Aleppo.

The Syrian government troops and some 200,000 civilians in Deir Ezzor in east Syria are under continuing heavy attacks from fighters of the Islamic State. The Syrian army sent reinforcements by transport helicopters, the Russian air force has dropped tens of tons of food for the population and Russian jets provide air support for the defenders.

In the Kurdish area in the north-east of Syria Russian specialist are working to establish another air base. The Turkish President Erdogan said such a base would not be tolerated. But what can he do besides launching an open war against Russia which Turkey would lose just like the other 17 wars it once waged against Russia. The U.S. is establishing its own base nearby to supply Kurdish forces. The Russian base will make sure that the U.S. base will not gain any permanence.

A report in the NYT describes how the U.S. organized the attack on Syria while the Saudis provided the financing at a rate of several billions per year. The report misleads as it only looks from 2013 onward. We already know that the CIA provided weapons and fighters from Libya reached Syria in late 2011 to early 2012.

But the U.S., as well as the Syrian government side, now wants the conflict to die down. It is putting a lot of effort into the next Geneva talks between some opposition groups and the government. Those opposition groups have been selected by Saudi Arabia and Russia has rejected the inclusion of the Salafi Army of Islam and the lack of representation of Kurdish groups. A compromise over this may now be possible with the Kurds and other non-Islamist opposition groups coming to Geneva as a third delegation.

But the war will not be decided through talks. The real negotiations happen on the battlefield. The Syrian government and its supporters will continue the attacks and will build on their recent successes. It is now likely that they will achieve war deciding results before the Geneva talks become serious.

Posted by b at 12:13 PM | Comments (112)

January 23, 2016

NYT Finds Troubles In Russia Which Are Already Cured

The New York Times has another Schadenfreude piece to make its readers giddy about Russia's economic problems. It seems that nothing is better to divert from job losses and zero wage growth in ones own economy than to pick on some other nation.

But the piece has problems in finding real problems in Russia. It points to only one small demonstration by some elders against cuts in their transportation subsidy. The cuts were discarded. Some people in small private companies have not received their pay. Such small problems are hardly a specialty of Russia and the general "anxiety" the writer tries to find is nothing special. Where the piece goes into the wider economic discussion it lacks basic economic math. How else could one explain these numbers:

With the federal budget approved in December based on oil at $50 a barrel, Anton Siluanov, the finance minister, announced that the country faced a budget deficit of about $40 billion, and ministries were ordered to cut spending 10 percent
Russia has around $360 billion in foreign currency reserves and some $120 billion in two rainy day funds, down from just under $160 billion a year ago. At current spending rates, however, the two funds are expected to last only 18 months.

Two rainy day funds with $120 billion to cover a $40 billion yearly deficit before further cuts or tax increases. How does that compute into "only 18 month"?

Because of economic sanctions over Ukraine and the fall of oil prices Russia has had a bad year. But Russia's financial situation has already stabilized. Mark Adomanis dug into the numbers:

Russia’s Central Bank was bleeding reserves at an enormously quick pace as 2014 came to an end. However, this bleeding has been staunched: over the past year, reserves have stabilized at around $370 billion.
Russia’s current FX reserves are, depending on your assumptions, somewhere between 18 and 22 months worth of “import coverage,” substantially more than the (highly unscientific!) six month threshold that is usually considered the minimum level necessary for macroeconomic stability.
So, in early 2016, Russia is in a situation in which its foreign currency reserves are stable at a reasonable (if not high) level and in which its corporate sector has already undertaken a significant (if not full-scale) de-leveraging. That does not sound, to me, like a country which is on the verge of collapse.

Sure, Russia has relative high inflation and the free floating ruble lost value against the U.S. dollar as most other currencies did during the last year. But the only negative effect of that is in more expensive imports and Russia has enough resources and production capacities to hardly need any. The doom and gloom the NYT tries to find in Russia is just not there. When the oil price collapsed the Russian government acted quickly and avoided the troubles other countries will still have to go through:

The pain being experienced by Russian consumers is very real. Indeed, part of the reason that Russia’s macroeconomic position remains resilient is that it has already taken some extraordinarily painful medicine in very large doses. Most oil producers have attempted to delay adjustment to the “new normal” of low oil prices by, among other things, maintaining currency pegs at artificially high rates or running gargantuan budget deficits. Not Russia. It let the ruble float back at the end of 2014, largely so that it wouldn’t have to spend its reserves in a futile effort to protect an expensive ruble. And, given the austerity talk emanating from the Kremlin, it seems determined to limit its deficit to a modest 3-4% of GDP.
None of this is set in stone. Russian policy making, which to this point seems to have been largely by the economic textbook, could change in a more populist direction. There’s a lingering danger of the imposition of currency or capital controls, either of which would be a disaster. But while lots of oil producers do genuinely seem headed for an economic apocalypse, Russia does not. At least for now.

There is a danger in the false NYT depiction of Russia as an economic basket-case. Policymakers who only read such pieces will see an opportunity to push Russia over the economic edge and will try some rather reckless stunts. They will then be surprised when a strong standing Russia retaliates. Such situations can lead to unnecessary escalations.

Posted by b at 03:40 AM | Comments (87)

January 22, 2016

Warmed-Over Propaganda: 'Putin Asks Assad To Leave'

For nearly five we are told every six month or so that Russia or Iran is, NOW FOR REAL, dropping its support for Syria and/or its President Assad.

These claims are part of psychological disinformation campaign the U.S. and its allies are running against Syria. The stories are supposed to sow doubt between Syria, its allies and supporters.

The media love to blather about such groundless speculation and each such propaganda round is accompanied by a wave of the ever same stupid analysis. It will be the same today after some "western" intelligence agencies, likely British this time, again claim that Putin asked Assad to step down:

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked long-time ally Bashar Assad to step down as president of Syria toward the end of 2015, the Financial Times reported.

The message from Putin was relayed by Colonel-General Igor Sergun, the head of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency before his death in January, according to two senior western intelligence officials who spoke to the FT on the condition of anonymity.

How convenient that the guy who allegedly talked with Assad is now dead. That might be a good chance to blame the Kremlin, which strongly denies the above report, for his death. We can be assured that Putin 'probably' murdered him.

But why should Russia ask Assad to step down when this would demoralize the Syria army with which it is fighting? Why would that be in Russia's interest?

According to one European intelligence official, speaking to the FT, after beginning airstrikes in Syria “Putin had taken a look under the bonnet [hood] of the Syrian regime and found a lot more problems than he was bargaining for.”

As if Russia would need to "take a look" at Syria. It has had deep relations with the country for decades, there are many economic and personal ties and Syrian officers are trained in Russia. Russia's foreign services knows more about Syria than anyone's else. There was surely no need to "look under the bonnet" after the Russia decision to intervene was made. Russia does not act like the U.S. which jumps into conflicts head first before figuring out the aims of its interventions and means to reach them. Russia's targets and means were identified before it went into Syria. Even if Syria is a mess "under the bonnet" how would dismissing Assad change that? Is there anyone in sight who could do a better job?

Cameron, the British premier, probably needed this diversion and threw this propaganda bone towards the Financial Times. Cameron had famously claimed that:

"there are about 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups."

The foundation of his former comrade in crime Tony Blair today put a nail through that claim:

Our study of 48 rebel factions in Syria revealed that 33 per cent - nearly 100,000 fighters - have the same ideological objectives as ISIS. If you take into account Islamist groups (those who want a state governed by their interpretation of Islamic law), this figure jumps to 60 per cent.
Despite the conflicting ideologies of the rebel groups, 90 per cent of the groups studied hold the defeat of Assad's regime as a principal objective. Sixty-eight per cent seek the establishment of Islamic law in Syria. In contrast, only 38 per cent have the defeat of ISIS as a stated goal.

Some 60-80% of the "rebel" groups in Syria do not want to fight the Islamic State but want the diverse, secular country under Islamic law. If they would carry such opinion in Britain Cameron surely would label them extremists.

The Blair foundation is tricky with its numbers. The claim that the 1/3 of the groups it checked are extremists and have 100,000 fighters will let some lazy thinkers assume that the total number of fighters is 300,000. But that is completely false. The 1/3 of the groups the foundation names as extremists include all major groups on the ground like Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra and Jaish Islam. Together the named groups have more than 90% of the total men power on the opposition side. While there are several dozens factions that may not be extremists these are all very small and hardly more than local village guards.

But we shall not think any further along that line.

Did you hear that Putin 'probably' killed the boss of his military intelligence? And that he wants Assad to leave immediately?

Posted by b at 01:10 PM | Comments (67)

January 21, 2016

Putin 'Probably Approved' Murder Of Baby Jesus

Thought you ought to know this.

Posted by b at 01:12 PM | Comments (118)

January 20, 2016

Syria - Some Preliminary Positioning For An Endgame

When the Russian campaign in Syria started Obama promised that it would end in a quagmire. Various media and opinion writer picked up that narrative. It was false as Russia was and is executing a well thought out campaign.

Being confronted with reality the U.S. media is now changing its false narrative. The LA Times writes:

The Latakia attack mirrors similar government gains across the country, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, backed by Russian air power, have been on the offensive.
It's a dramatic shift for the forces of Assad, who less than six months ago had warned supporters that the government would have to "give up areas" after a string of humiliating setbacks.
The gains have strengthened the government's position in the run-up to Syrian peace negotiations scheduled to begin next week in Geneva.

The Obama administration and its anti-Syrian allies had hoped for a defeated Syrian government in Geneva that would agree to their capitulation conditions. They now have to change the narrative. Peace talks in Geneva, they now argue, can not take place because the Syrian government is winning. Headlines the Washington Post - Russian airstrikes are working in Syria — enough to put peace talks in doubt:

[A]fter 3½ months of relentless airstrikes that have mostly targeted the Western-backed opposition to Assad’s rule, they have proved sufficient to push beyond doubt any likelihood that Assad will be removed from power by the nearly five-year-old revolt against his rule. The gains on the ground are also calling into question whether there can be meaningful negotiations to end a conflict Assad and his allies now seem convinced they can win.

“The situation on the ground in Syria is definitely not conducive to negotiations right now,” said Lina Khatib of the Paris-based Arab Reform Initiative think tank.

The Arab Reform Initiative is a bastard child of the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc. and various Middle East dictatorships. The Middle East Project was founded by Henry Siegman, a former National Director of the American Jewish Congress and has various hawkish U.S. politicians like Scowcroft and Brzezinski as its senior advisers.

In their view the Syrian government has to be regime changed and can not be allowed to win. Negotiations will have to be put off until the government is likely to fall. Thus the U.S./Saudi/Turkish controlled "opposition" of militant Islamists wants to exclude the Kurds and non-militant opposition from any negotiations and sets additional conditions that make negotiations impossible. They practically demand that Russia and Syria declare and keep a one-sided ceasefire before any ceasefire negotiations can happen.

In the meantime various parties are positioning themselves for the larger endgame. The Kurds in Syria want a corridor along the Turkish Syrian border to connect their areas in the east with the Kurdish enclave in the west. They are fighting against The U.S. supported gangs north-west of Aleppo with Russian support and with Russian and U.S. support against Islamic State gangs north-east of Aleppo. The U.S. is invading Syrian ground and building an airport in the Kurdish areas in east Syria. This probably to later support and guarantee an oil-rich Kurdish state:

The airport, known as “Abu Hajar”, lies southeast of the town of Remelan, site of one of Syria’s largest oilfields, run by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which sells its production through Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Russians may counter that move with their own airport in the area.

Israel, which buys most of the Kurdish oil and just again made friend with Turkey, is now officially calling for an independent Kurdish state. The Turks will not like that at all.

Turkey wants to prevent a Kurdish corridor along its border. It has instigated the "Turkmen" insurgents in Syria under its control to attack the Islamic State from their Aleppo-Avaz-Turkey corridor towards the east right along the border fence where Turkey can provide artillery support. That campaign stalled after a few days and several captured towns are now back in the hands of the Islamic State. New Turkish equipment and soldiers arrived on the Turkish border near the Jarablus border crossing which is currently in the hand of the Islamic State. It is the Islamic State's only open crossing to a somewhat friendly state. Should the Kurds come near to that crossing Turkey is likely to invade Syria to set up a wider buffer against the Syrian Kurds.

In Iraq the Turks continue to occupy bases in Iraqi Kurdistan under the protection of the Iraqi-Kurdish mafia boss Barzani. This despite threats from the Iraqi government. But that government is now again controlled by the U.S. The Iranian influence had waned after clashes between the Iranian General Suleiman and the U.S. installed Prime Minister Abadi:

A source in the office of the Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said, “The United States delay of its support to Baghdad was not a coincidence or an unintentional lazy reaction. It was a strategic decision to: Teach Iraq a lesson for rejecting U.S military bases; To observe the Iranian military capability and inability of Tehran to use air power and intelligence gathering to defeat ISIS; To submit Baghdad to its will and dictate its conditions”.

That the U.S. used the ISIS phenomenon to again achieve regime change and U.S. control in Iraq was confirmed by Obama in an interview with Thomas Friedman:

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki. ...

But all those U.S. games are just short term thinking. The Kurdish areas in Iraq and Syria are landlocked and none of their direct neighbors has interest in a Kurdish state. After his mandate ran out and was not renewed by the parliament Barzani's presidency in Iraqi Kurdistan is illegitimate. The next ruler in the Kurdish areas in Iraq is likely to be less friendly with Turkey and the U.S. In Iraq the influence of Iran with the people will always be bigger than U.S. influence with parts of the elite. In Syria it is Russia that will dictate how the future of the state will look.

In the long run the U.S. has little chance to keep its currently regained dominant position. Obama is repeating his predecessors mistake of believing that U.S. meddling in the arena can be successful and continue forever.

The Islamic State is receding. It recently had to cut its wages by half. It is under continues bombing and has to fight ever bigger battles with ever higher losses. The population in the areas it holds is not happy. It will soon again revert to a guerrilla movement of underground terrorist cells. Then other interests of the various actors will again come to the fore, the U.S. will no longer be needed and again be dispelled from the theater. Then the U.S. will again wonder why it did not learn from the earlier lesson.

Posted by b at 08:42 AM | Comments (106)

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