Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 05, 2015

Russia "Violated" Turkish Airspace Because Turkey "Moved" Its Border

Russian planes in Syria "violated Turkish air space" the news agency currently tell us. But an earlier report shows that this claim may well be wrong and that the U.S. pushes Turkey to release such propaganda.

Reuters (Mon Oct 5, 2015 7:54am BST): Turkey says Russian warplane violated its airspace

A Russian warplane violated Turkish airspace near the Syrian border on Saturday, prompting the Air Force to scramble two F-16 jets to intercept it, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The Foreign Ministry summoned Moscow's ambassador to protest the violation, according to an e-mailed statement. Turkey urged Russia to avoid repeating such a violation, or it would be held "responsible for any undesired incident that may occur."

AFP (10:20am · 5 Oct 2015): Turkey 'intercepts' Russian jet violating its air space

Turkey said on Monday its F-16 jets had at the weekend intercepted a Russian fighter plane which violated Turkish air space near the Syrian border, forcing the aircraft to turn back.
Turkey said on Monday its F-16 jets had at the weekend intercepted a Russian fighter plane which violated Turkish air space near the Syrian border, forcing the aircraft to turn back.

Here now what McClatchy reported on these air space violations in a longer piece several hours before Reuters and AFP reported the Turkish claim:

ISTANBUL - A Russian warplane on a bombing run in Syria flew within five miles of the Turkish border and may have crossed into Turkey’s air space, Turkish and U.S. officials said Sunday.
A Turkish security official said Turkish radar locked onto the Russian aircraft as it was bombing early Friday in al Yamdiyyah, a Syrian village directly on the Turkish border. He said Turkish fighter jets would have attacked had it crossed into Turkish airspace.

But a U.S. military official suggested the incident had come close to sparking an armed confrontation. Reading from a report, he said the Russian aircraft had violated Turkish air space by five miles and that Turkish jets had scrambled, but that the Russian aircraft had returned to Syrian airspace before they could respond.

The Turkish security official said he could not confirm that account.

So it is the U.S., not Turkey, which was first pushing the claims of air space violation and of scrambling fighters. The Turkish source would not confirm that.

But how could it be a real air space violation when Russian planes "flew within five miles of the Turkish border and may have crossed into Turkey’s air space". The Russian planes were flying in Syrian airspace. They "may have crossed" is like saying that the earth "may be flat". Well maybe it is, right?

Fact is the Russians fly ery near to the border and bomb position of some anti-Syrian fighters Turkey supports. They have good reasons to do so:

The town, in a mountainous region of northern Latakia province, has been a prime route for smuggling people and goods between Turkey and Syria and reportedly has functioned as a key entry for weapons shipped to Syrian rebels by the U.S.-led Friends of Syria group of Western and Middle Eastern countries.

One Russian plane may even indeed have slightly crossed the border while maneuvering. But the real reason why the U.S. military official and Turkey claim the above "violations" is because Turkey unilaterally "moved" the Turkish-Syrian border five miles south:

Turkey has maintained a buffer zone five miles inside Syria since June 2012, when a Syrian air defense missile shot down a Turkish fighter plane that had strayed into Syrian airspace. Under revised rules of engagement put in effect then, the Turkish air force would evaluate any target coming within five miles of the Turkish border as an enemy and act accordingly.

If Syrian rules of engagement would "move" its northern border up to the Black Sea would any plane in eastern Turkey be in violation of Syrian air space? No one would accept such nonsense and that is why no one should accept the U.S.-Turkish bullshit here. Russian planes should not respect the "new" Turkish defined border but only the legitimate one.

It would also be no good reason to start a NATO-Russia war just because such a plane might at times slightly intrude on the Turkish side due to an emergency or other accidental circumstances. Do we have to mention that the U.S., France, Britain and Jordan regularly violate Syrian airspace for their pretended ISIS bombing? That Turkey is bombing the PKK in north Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi government? What about Israels regular air space violations over Lebanon?

But what is this all really about? Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. stationed some Patriot air defense systems in Turkey to defend Turkey and its Islamist storm troops in north-Syria. These systems were announced to leave or have already left. Are these claims about air-space violation now an attempt to get these systems back into Turkey? For what real purpose?


Posted by b at 05:44 AM | Comments (13)

October 04, 2015

Open Thread 2015-35

News & views ...

(A warning -again- to all. Refrain from attacking fellow commentators. Facts can be sourced and proven, opinions can be discussed. There is no need to denigrate or insult someone for having this or that view of an issue.

I will aggressively ban those who can not accept such basic decency and will delete all their comments.)

Posted by b at 10:47 AM | Comments (109)

October 03, 2015

Kunduz Hospital Bombing Exposes U.S. Airstrike Hypocrisy

Is the U.S. still using propaganda claims that the Syrian government is willingly bombing hospitals? Or that it uses "dumb bombs" or "barrel bombs" that cause "collateral damage"? Will its proxies prepare more fake videos that allegedly show such bombings?

Well, it is time to end that nonsense because the hypocrisy is now too obvious:

Kabul, October 3, 2015: At 2:10 AM local time on Saturday October 3, the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Trauma center in Kunduz was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged.

Three MSF staff are confirmed dead and more than 30 are unaccounted for.
Since fighting broke out on Monday, MSF has treated 394 wounded. When the aerial attack occurred this morning we had 105 patients and their caretakers in the hospital and over 80 MSF international and national staff present.
MSF’s hospital is the only facility of its kind in the whole northeastern region of Afghanistan, providing free life- and limb-saving trauma care. MSF doctors treat all people according to their medical needs and do not make distinctions based on a patient’s ethnicity, religious beliefs or political affiliation.

MSF was hiding "terrorists" is the claim the officials make. People at the hospital were "individuals threatening the force" says the U.S. military.

A video of the aftermath shows that the MSF clinic is a single, large building with a large courtyard and  walled off from the surrounding. This was no accidental hit by a "dumb bomb" but multiple willful targeting with "smart" bombs:

MSF International @MSF
All parties to conflict, including in Kabul & Washington, were clearly informed of precise GPS coordinates of our facilities in #Kunduz

MSF International @MSF
Precise location of our #Kunduz hospital communicated to all parties on multiple occasions over past months, including on 9/29

MSF International @MSF
Bombing continued for >30 minutes after American & Afghan military officials in Kabul & Washington first informed of proximity to hospital.

The total number of confirmed dead is currently creeping up with some saying that it will reach over 50.

Meanwhile the U.S. and the Saudis are tussling over who of them was responsible for designating a wedding in Yemen as an air attack target thereby killing over 130 people.

The U.S. and others (note: not Jordan(!) which seems to have left the anti-Syrian coalition) are whining that the Russian air force targets al-Qaeda CIA mercenaries and are begging to end that. Why exactly it should do so is not said.

Obama said yesterday that he will not get into a proxy fight with Russia over Syria. But the measures he announced, more weapons to the opposition, more bombing runs, point exactly into that direction. But with protection from the Russian air force and air defense the causing of "collateral damage" to the Syrian government, like to the MFS clinic, will be a bit more complicate.

Posted by b at 07:17 AM | Comments (113)

October 02, 2015

Russia's Campaign To Snuff Off The CIA's Al-Qaeda Forces

With some 125 strikes in three days the Russian bombing campaign continues to build. The U.S. media is now obsessed with the idea that Russia may be using "dumb bombs" instead of Syrian "barrel bombs". This is becoming a new propaganda meme. But videos from the Russian airbase show that at least some of the planes are armed with KAB-500S-E satellite (GLONAST) guided bombs which are precise "smart" bombs. (Other pictures and video from the Russian air base show a quite comfortable life including air conditioned quarters, a mess tent, Gulaschkanonen, a bakery, a laundry etc. This base is not an improvised short-term installation.)

Besides that how is it more humane to kill by a precise bomb than by a "dumb bomb" or "barrel bomb". Gaza was bombed by the Israelis with (U.S. produced) smart bombs. That did not lead to less destruction or killing. The recent Saudi (U.S. produced) bomb on the Yemen wedding that killed 130 people was also "smart" and hit right where it was targeted at.

The Russians bombed, as I earlier described, mostly in the corridor up to the Turkish border which is in the hand of al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Shams and CIA mercenaries. It also bombed Raqqa, the Syrian capital of the Islamic State and killed a dozen fighters. In response to that the Islamic State canceled Friday prayers in Raqqa seemingly out of fear that any congregation of IS fighters would now get bombed.

Funny. The U.S. claimed for a year that it was seriously bombing the Islamic State. But the Friday prayers have never be canceled before. Could it be that the Islamic State did not believe the U.S. claims but now fears that the Russians really mean business?

The Syrian air-force had avoided bombing near the Turkish border as it rightly feared that Turkey might shoot down a Syrian jet. But the Russian can now do this. The ground bombing is done by the ground attack planes build for task, Su-24, Su-25 and Su-34, while above those planes Su-30M fighter jets armed with superfast, medium to long range R-27 air to air missiles give cover. These would shoot down any Turkish jet that would try to attack the Russian bombers. This is just to make sure that Erdogan does not get any stupid ideas.

The air campaign is also well coordinated with Syrian government forces on the ground. From a paywalled WSJ piece quoted here:

[T]housands of rebels regrouped in several enclaves north of Homs, in towns like al-Rastan and Talbiseh. Russian jets hit both civilian and military targets in these two towns and five surrounding villages, said Rashid al-Hourani, a Syrian army officer from the area who defected to the rebels in 2012.

He said the airstrikes were followed with a barrage of artillery fire from several nearby positions where pro-regime Alawite and Shiite militias, including an Iran-backed group known as the Ridha Brigade, have been massing over the past few days.

The Syrian army will soon attack in coordination with the Russian air force and will try to regain northern territory along the M4 and M5 highway. That again would allow for a wider attack up to the Turkish border. Ground troop reinforcements from Iran, Iraq and Hizbullah are on their way or have already arrived. We are witnessing the build up to a wider battle.

The Guardian rumors that the Gulf states will counter the Russian move by providing more weapons:

Russia’s move clearly risks counter-action by countries supporting the rebels. According to one independent analyst, that may have already begun, with the Qataris – acting with the agreement of Saudi Arabia – flying in planeloads of weapons to Turkish airbases. “I would expect a huge influx of weapons into the north to try to blunt any ground assault by the regime,” the analyst said.
“The stakes are very high.”

And the Russian planes fly very high. They currently mostly fly above 5,000 meter and no Man-Portable-Air-Defense (MANPAD) missile can reach them. The people who get bombed do not even see or hear the planes coming. This will change when the Syrian army attacks and more direct ground support is needed but the planes to be used then are Su-25 and Su-34 build for that purpose and have armored cockpits.

The Russian airbase is protected by modern air defense on the ground and on Russian ships in the nearby sea. It is protected on the ground by some 1,250 Russian marines. It reportedly has ammunition and other supplies for at least three month. Nobody will mess with that base and the Russian campaign. It could not be done without very major forces and using such would practically guarantee a wider war with Russia, a nuclear superpower. Syria is Russia's sister (vid) and will be defended.

The Obama administration has therefore decided that it will not interfere with Russian attacks on CIA mercenaries and their al-Qaeda brother in arms. Some concerned trolling statement gets issued but that is just for show.

But the female candidates for the next presidential elections are not that smart. Both, Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, have called for a U.S. enforced no-fly zone over northern Syria which would of course mean starting a war with Russia and its allies. These women want to attack Russian forces to defend al-Qaeda! Note: The country to decide who is flying or not over Syria is Russia. Dear U.S. voters. Please do not ever again allow these maniacs anywhere near a powerful position.

The CIA mercenaries in Syria - 10,000 men trained, armed and paid under a secret program - are directly cooperating with al-Qaeda and the likewise terrorist Ahrar al Shams. The NYT finally acknowledges this in two pieces today. The first says:

The fighters advancing on that [northern] front were not from the Islamic State but from the Army of Conquest, a group that includes an affiliate of Al Qaeda known as the Nusra Front and other Islamist groups, including several more secular groups that have been covertly armed and trained by the United States.

A second piece on the Army of Conquest:

The alliance consists of a number of mostly Islamist factions, including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate; Ahrar al-Sham, another large group; and more moderate rebel factions that have received covert arms support from the intelligence services of the United States and its allies.

The groups fighting together in the Army of Conquest of course share their weapons, ammunition and other supplies. They very likely also have similar ideologies. The CIA, under Obama, Petraeus and Brennan, has been knowingly arming al-Qaeda in Syria and has done so for quite a while. The NYT had pointed out a year ago that the CIA mercenaries are working with Islamists but that piece was somewhat mealymouthed and depicted it as a minor problem. It is also quite astonishing that in-between the 2014 piece and the two pieces today no NYT pieces on Syria mentioned that relation but instead concentrated on the Pentagon "five moderate rebels" clown show which was a mere diversion.

The Pentagon is playing dumb with regards to the people hit when the Russians bomb al-Qaeda positions:

Q: McCain says they hit CIA-backed rebels. I mean, presumably, you guys are looking at the same information. Is that true, or you're uncertain? Where are we on that?

COL. WARREN: Right, well -- again, what I'll say, Tom, is we don't think they were ISIL. You know, who's backing who, you know, that's -- I'm not going to get into that. I'm just not going to, particularly when you're talking about -- you know, it's not even a DOD agency you're referring to.

I take that as confirmation.

The Israelis are now also admitting that they work with al-Qaeda:

Together with some local militias Nusra is in charge of most of the 100-kilometer border with Israel on the Syria side of the Golan Heights. In recent years, Nusra slightly toned down its militant ideology due to the influence of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which provide it with financial support.
Nusra is in control of most of the border but so far has reached a tacit understanding not to turn its weapons against the Jewish state.

Nusra controls the border because Israel has helped it by firing at the Syrian army whenever Nusra needed help. The linked Jerusalem Post piece is also of interest with regards to the famous Odet Yinon plan as it confirms that destroying Middle Eastern nations into warlord statelets is supervised by the Israeli military intelligence:

Some years back, the intelligence community started to reassess the chaotic reality emerging in the Middle East. Maps drawn up by MI’s Research Department show states being replaced by organizations. ...

That is the plan also for Syria. But with stronger support now forming up to regain Syrian territories that plan might well falter.

Posted by b at 03:10 PM | Comments (117)

October 01, 2015

Iraq: A Russian Alternative To Washington's Bumbling Anti-IS Campaign

The U.S. has been pressing Iraq to accept its orders on how to fight the Islamic State. It prohibited the use of quite effective, though mostly Shia, Hashd al-Shabi militia against IS in Ramadi and other places and instead wants to (again) retrain a hopelessly useless Iraqi army and a few tribal Sunni militia. The U.S. also held back long ordered weapons for the Iraqi army and air force and its bombing campaign against IS targets in Iraq is rather lackluster. By accident Hashd al-Shabi militia attacking IS positions have been hit by U.S. air strikes several times.

The public opinion in Iraq is that the U.S. has (again) nefarious aims and is neither committed to a united and sovereign Iraq nor to eradicating the Islamic State.

But now Russia offers an alternative. An intelligence operations room was opened in Baghdad in which Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia and Hizbullah (the 4+1) develop and exchange intelligence about the Islamic State and possible targets for coming attacks. It looks pretty bad for the U.S. to not be trusted enough to take part in it.

But that is not enough yet. After Russia started its anti-terrorist air campaign in Syria yesterday despite U.S. protests it is now setting the mark even higher. Against a onslaught of dumb U.S. propaganda it is expertly trolling the U.S. over its lack of legitimacy:

Micah Zenko
LOL Lavrov, "We are polite people, as you know. We don't come if not invited."

Lavrov also trolled the U.S. by making an offer to Iraq and that offer was received rather friendly. From my feed timeline:

Sky News Newsdesk @SkyNewsBreak
Reuters: Russian foreign ministry says it would consider any request from #Iraq to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
#Russia informed #Baghdad inofficially ts readiness 2bomb #ISIS in #Iraq. I am not sure PM Haidar Abadi would dare 2ask for Russian support.

Marc Perelman @mperelman
#Iraq Pm #Abadi @FRANCE24: #Putin told me Russia fighting #ISIS in Syria and I trust him, I'm open to Russian airstrikes vs Daech in Iraq

Loveday Morris @LovedayM
Abadi tells France24 there are no talks with Russia on strikes in #Iraq - yet. "If we get the offer we’ll consider it.. I would welcome it"

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
Abadi wouldn't dare now. He is halting Hashd al-Shabi following a #USA request. I can't see U.S & Russia collaborating in Iraq

I for one can see Abadi changing horses. Why rely on the U.S. when all it does, preferring the Kurds and Sunni militia while holding back effective Shia militia, seems to be against a unified Iraq and when the U.S. fight against IS is at maximum halfhearted. But even if Abadi will not kick out the U.S. and invite the Russians he can at least use the Russian offer to pressure the U.S. into a different behavior. It now has to respects the will of the Iraqi government and must wages an effective war against IS. Or it can leave.

It is always good to have an alternative when negotiating with a superior partner. Abadi now has one. And Abadi isn't the only one who is interested to change horses:

The largest pro-Kurdish group fighting in Syria has said it is ready to co-operate with Moscow, after Russian jets began launching airstrikes in the country.

After Russia began a series of 20 strikes in the north of the country on Wednesday night, the leader of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) called the move “an important step”.

Sipan Hemo, general commander of the YPG, told Russian news agency Sputnik that his fighters want to co-operate with Russia against the forces of Islamic State (IS).
In his statements to Sputnik [..] Hemo said he would support Russian strikes targeting al-Nusra Front as well as IS.

“Russia should fight not only against IS, but also against al-Nusra. There is no difference between Nusra and IS – they are both al-Qaeda,” Hemo is quoted as saying.

It now seems that every U.S. "ally" on the ground, except the now finally acknowledged CIA trained friends-of-Nusra-and-IS, would prefer to work with Russia instead of working under hapless U.S. policies.

That is some well deserved egg in the face for the Obama administration and its duplicity within its anti-Syria and anti-IS campaign.

Posted by b at 02:29 PM | Comments (119)

September 30, 2015

Syria: Thoughts On The Russian Air Support

Some things that happened today:

  • The Syrian government asked the Russian Federation for air support in its fight against the foreign supported insurgency.
  • The Russian parliament agreed to a Russian government request for a legal mandate to do so.
  • Russian officers in Iraq informed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad of upcoming strikes and recommended that U.S. planes stay out of the area and that U.S. forces on the ground be removed.
  • Russian planes started to bomb insurgency held fixed positions in Homs and Hama governate in west Syria. Both governates are next to Latakia where the Russian forces are deployed.

Immediately after news of the first Russian strike the U.S. payed "Syrian Civil Defense" organization "White Helmets" posted propaganda claims of killed children. The picture it used to prove its claims had also been used on September 25, before the Russians started to bomb.

Next came claims that the Russian had hit "moderate rebels" which the U.S. says are its good guys.

To which Mark Adomanis snarked:

The US couldn't find "moderate" rebels in 3 years. Apparently the Russians did in 24 hours

Indeed. Even back in 2012 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency found:


"Moderates"- my ass.

The neocon Institute for the Study of War correctly identifies the target the Russian planes hit:

An alleged Russian airstrike hit the rebel-held town of Talbisah north of Homs City. Talbisah is home to Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, and a number of other local rebel groups, all of which are active in local governance efforts in the area. Both Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have claimed a number of vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIEDs) in Homs City, located only 12 kilometers south of Talbisah.

The Russians themselves claim 8 ISIS targets hit as they do not differentiate much between the various groups of violent jihadi organizations.

The U.S. and its European lap dogs are now outraged, OUTRAGED that the Russians did not hit the Islamic State but al-Qaeda. "They claimed to fight the Islamic State. How could they hit our moderate rebels and their friendly al-Qaeda cooperation partners?"

One of the eight Russian targets was in Rastan in Homs governate. No Islamic State there claims the "western" propaganda. Except that just nine days ago the Islamic State shot dead seven men in Rastan for being allegedly gay.

Human Rights Watch and its ever lying ISIS promoting boss Kenneth Roth have not yet complained that Russia is NOT using their beloved "barrel bombs". But we can be sure that they will soon come up with some other dull bullshit.

The Russian will first clear, as much as possible, the area between their base in Latakia and the Turkish border. That is pretty much a self defense measure as some insurgent groups have already tried to hit the Russian base with improvised rockets. It also has the advantage that the targets are only a few flight minutes away.

The bottleneck here is intelligence. The Russians have UAV drones as well as manned signal intelligence aircraft in Syria and will use those to find targets. The Syrian government will help with its on-the-ground intelligence.

The Russians now have at least 24 ground attack fighters on their base. Each could fly at least six sorties per day (and night), with double crewing even more. When the Russians have settled in we can expect a regular 100-150 air attacks per day on the "moderate rebels" with surges of up to 250 per day. This is about the same amount as the Syrian air force is currently delivering. But the Russian planes are better equipped and have better accuracy. For those CIA paid "moderate rebel" TOW shooters and their al-Qaeda allies life will soon become very uncomfortable. Only after the immediate danger to the base and to important Syrian government positions in west Syria is pushed away will Russia start to hit Islamic State targets further east. This may require moving some of its planes to another airfield further east. 

I also expect that the Russians will do much more than just bombing rebel headquarters and the like. A main task will be direct ground support for the Syrian army when it starts to reclaim insurgent held areas. The Russians will have forward air controllers on the ground embedded with the Syrian forces. Effectively directed, all weather air support will make upcoming ground campaigns much easier.

The "western" anti-Syrian governments will continue to play outraged over the Russian help for the Syrian government. But I do not expect them to take any serious countermeasures. What can they do? Give anti-air missiles to their "moderate rebels" so that these can be handed over to al-Qaeda?

The Gulf dictatorships though may make such a grave mistake:

Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, said Tuesday that there were no circumstances in which his country would accept the Russian effort to keep Mr. Assad in power.

He hinted that if a political solution that led to his departure could not be found, the shipment of weapons and other support to Syrian rebel groups would be increased.

Posted by b at 02:04 PM | Comments (133)

September 29, 2015

Under Russian Pressure U.S. Accepts "Unified", "Secular" Syrian State

Putin's realist talk about Syria at the UN, which embarrassed the platitude spouting Obama, led to a change in U.S. policies.

The White House has halted the Pentagon training of the unicorn riding "moderate rebels". That program is toast but the real question is if the "secret" CIA run program, which is vastly more extensive, is also suspended. My hunch is that it is.

On top of that Secretary of State Kerry made a very new statement that amounts to a really significant change in policy:

The United States and Russia agree on "some fundamental principles" for Syria, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday, adding that he plans to meet again with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

"There was agreement that Syria should be a unified country, united, that it needs to be secular, that ISIL (Islamic State) needs to be taken on, and that there needs to be a managed transition," Kerry told MSNBC, adding that differences remained on what the outcome of such a transition would be.

Never before has the U.S. officially expressed a demand that the Syrian state should in future be "secular" as it is now. This is a rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood dominated Syrian exile coalition and of the GCC states' proxy fighters in Syria who demand a sectarian state based on Islamic law.

Since Israel lost the 2006 war against Hizbullah the U.S. and Israel plotted to overthrow the Syrian government which they accuse of facilitating Hizbullah's military supplies. The U.S. planned, prepared and financed a "color revolution" scheme and an exile opposition. The failing Iraq war and the emergence of a Shia dominated Iraqi government also led to an alliance between Israel, the U.S. and Sunni dominated Gulf states which planned, organized and financed radical Sunni guerrilla forces to attack Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As Seymour Hersh reported in 2007:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

The "Arab spring" phenomenon allowed to implement the scheme against Syria. Under the disguise of the color-revolution narrative of "peaceful demonstrations" a guerrilla war was launched against the Syrian state. More than ninety policemen and soldiers were killed by the insurgents in the very first month of that "peaceful" revolution.

With sheer endless amounts of Gulf money Syrian soldiers were bribed to defect, unemployed rural youth and foreign mercenaries were hired to bring down the Syrian state. A year after the war on Syria started it was clear that there were no "moderates" fighting against the Syrian government but only radical Islamists. The NYT reported that CIA provided arms were flowing to them. The Defense Intelligence Agency noted in 2012 to the White House:


Despite that the U.S. rejected peace offers brokered by Russia and the CIA significantly increased weapon provisions and the training of additional jihadis.

The DIA also remarked:


That the recruiting for and weaponization of the anti-Syrian forces continued after these warnings were issued confirms that the current results, the Islamic State Caliphate and al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria, is the (more or less) intended outcome. The U.S. did not turn a blind eye to the issue but, as the Defense Intelligence Chief General Flynn said, took a "willful decisions" to facilitate this.

That "willful decision" is also the reason why many people doubt that the U.S. declared "fight against the Islamic State" is serious. The current U.S. attacks on IS target look more like an attempt to regulate its size and behavior than a serious war to defeat or eradicate it. The Saudis have flown 2.5 times more air attacks against Yemen within six month than the U.S. led coalition of 62 countries has flown against the Islamic State within a full year. Long known U.S. plans to reorganize the Middle Eastern borders along presumed sectarian and ethnic lines are regularly peddled by this or that high U.S. official or "expert".

It is obvious that the U.S. organized a sectarian revolt in Syria and in 2012 made the willful decision to further the growth of a sectarian Islamic State. It planned to partition Syria and Iraq and some surrounding countries into new sectarian entities.

That Kerry now says "Syria should be a unified country, united, that it needs to be secular" and "ISIL (Islamic State) needs to be taken on" is tantamount to admitting Obama's policy so far was always fundamentally wrong. If meant serious and backed by political and military means it is a huge turnaround.

Should this come to fruition it is not only the turn of the corner for Syria. It is the defeat of the failed neoconservative "democracy spreading" and neoliberal "responsibility to protect" infested ideologies in face of the straight realist policies represented by the Russian President Putin.

Posted by b at 12:16 PM | Comments (127)

September 28, 2015

Various Items: Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Clintonmail

As I am currently time constrained just a few mixed items that caught my eyes.


On September 14, two weeks ago, a UAE big shot announced that the Marib dam would be taken by his forces that very day:

Video: Abu Dhabi crown prince Muhammad Bin Zayed "Today, we will raise UAE's flag over Marib dam, God willing"

Two weeks later no UAE troops have reached the dam but today some local mercenaries took a look at it:

#Yemen: The Popular Resistance Committees (backed by the Arab coalition forces) took control of #Maarib Dam.

Fighting continues around the dam and no flag was raised.

There are daily attacks by Yemeni soldiers within Saudi Arabia and a lot of military stuff gets destroyed while the Saudi troops mostly flee (vid). Two days ago another Saudi general was killed (vid) inside Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen. The Saudis took again bloody revenge against the women and children of Yemen:

Apache helicopters fired rockets at the village of Bani Zela in Hajjah province, 10 km (6.5 miles) from the Saudi border, killing at least 25 civilians, including women and children, the residents and medics said.

The helicopters returned for a second strike as residents and medical teams were trying to evacuate casualties, killing three medics and two more civilians, they said.

"People were fleeing their homes as the helicopters pursued," a resident who identified himself as Khaled, told Reuters by telephone. "They committed a massacre for no reason."

The "double tap", attacking rescuers who help the victims after a first strike, is a U.S. tactic but is now also general Saudi procedure. A Saudi attack today on a wedding killed some 130 people, mostly women and children, according to local sources. There are over 50 daily bombings by the Saudi air force in Sanaa and hardly any of them hit military targets. Since Obama took office the U.S. sold weapons for over $90 billion to the Saudis. It actively wages the war against Yemen with intelligence and refueling services for the Saudi air attacks.

In Aden, which is allegedly in the hand of the Saudi supported Yemeni exile government, the only flag flying is that of the southern separatist movement. The Saudi war on Yemen is thus likely to lead to real regime change - in Saudi Arabia.


NYT, November 26 2001:

Northern Alliance commanders said Sunday night that their troops had captured the city of Kunduz in the dark, overrunning the last Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan.

The deputy defense minister of the Northern Alliance, Atiqullah Baryalai, said that his men had taken control of the city
The claims could not be verified Sunday, but the rumble of artillery fire could be heard this morning on the outskirts of Kunduz. The situation in and around the city has clearly been worsening for the Taliban, with several days of mass defections and intense American bombings.

NYT, September 28 2015:

After months of besieging the northern Afghan provincial capital of Kunduz, Taliban fighters for the first time seized control of significant parts of the city on Monday, officials said, sending government security forces retreating toward the airport.
Some soldiers who had fallen back to the airport on the outskirts of Kunduz reported that by nightfall, the Taliban effectively had the run of the provincial capital, with no security forces remaining within the city proper.


With the Russians making their stand and the "western" governments turning towards the more sensible Russian position of supporting the Syrian government, the Gulf paid rebel propagandist "experts" tie themselves into knots. See for example this BBC piece by the Qatari paid Charles Lister of Brookings Doha. It includes lots of lies of the "Assad created ISIS" type (GWB anyone?) but also amazingly contradictory claims when it argues that the "non-terrorists rebels", which closely cooperated with the terrorists, are united:

Contrary to popular opinion, the Syrian armed opposition is not divided, ... this amounts to a core of roughly 100 factions.

"Roughly 100 factions" are "not divided". Obviously the definition of faction -"party strife and intrigue; dissension"- is beyond that authors comprehension.

United States:

The clown show of the republican presidential candidates continues with the candidates competing over who is the most fascist one. Meanwhile Hillery Clinton is going down over her ever changing claims about the private unsecured email server she used for classified state business:

The U.S. Defense Department has found an email chain that Hillary Clinton did not give to the State Department, the State Department said on Friday, despite her saying she had provided all work emails from her time as secretary of state.

The correspondence with General David Petraeus, who was commander of U.S. Central Command at the time, started shortly before she entered office and continued during her first days as the top U.S. diplomat in January and February of 2009.
The emails with Petraeus also appear to contradict the claim by Clinton's campaign that she used a private BlackBerry email account for her first two months at the department before setting up her account in March 2009. This was the reason her campaign gave for not handing over any emails from those two months to the State Department.

It's the cover-up, not the crime, that will end her bloody career. Unfortunately, at least in foreign policy issues, the other democratic candidates are no better.

Posted by b at 12:41 PM | Comments (84)

September 26, 2015

Syria Turns The Corner

From Elijah J. Magnier's latest report:

The deployment of forces from Iran, Russia and Hezbollah along with the Syrian Army aims to recover key and strategic cities and areas under the control of al-Qaeda and ISIS in the first place. Damascus gave Hezbollah 75 tank to become part of this organized- irregular organization. It is the first Hezbollah armored brigade composed of new T-72 and T-55 tanks to support the group’ Special Forces on the ground.

The source ended: “The direct Russian intervention and involvement in the Syrian war was decided after Turkey’s violation of the undeclared red lines by giving facilities and supporting al-Qaida and its allies to enter Syria into Kessab and later to Idlib provoking the Russian bear who believed that national interests are threatened. The lost of Idlib upset the battle balance in all of Syria. Russia and Iran informed Turkey that such a support will have serious consequences and that Iran and Russia’s national security have been put in jeopardy. After having seen the reaction on the ground and the direct intervention of Russia and Iran, Turkish President’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Assad could be part of the future of Syria. It is a kind of late apology for the strategic mistake that needs to be rectified now. Turkey’s wrong move in Idlib led even the United States and Europe very close to chanting: Long Live President Assad.

Israel has been told to go back into its corner and to shut up. It has no longer any role in Syria. Any further intervention by air, sea or on the ground would lead to harsh responses. Natanyahoo will comply. He understands that the Russian support for the Syrian government is unwavering:

Sayyed Nasrallah considered that Russia's support to President Bashar Al-Assad is inevitable, revealing that "even when Iran proposed finding a substitute for President Al-Assad, Russia refused."

Jordan has already pulled support for the southern mercenary flank which failed in its attacks on Deraa. The U.S. military now admits, after prior denials, that its "vetted" mercenaries gave weapons and other supplies to al-Qaeda. That fact is another argument against the various Gulf paid, hawkish "experts" who want to continue the war on Syria. The serious folks have lost all confidence in their judgement. The hapless CentCom commander General Lloyd Austin will be the fall guy for their failed strategy.

The wannabe Sultan in Ankara started to change his language but will have to do much more. Should he be stupid enough to continue to supply Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the Kurdish PKK -with which he is unnecessarily at war within Turkey- may suddenly find an excellent supply source for some serious anti-tank missiles and other goodies. The Turkestan Islamic Party, Uighur Islamists who were smuggled by Turkey from China to Syria, now trains child soldiers in Idlib. Does Erdogan believe that China will ignore them? Or will it rather send its navy and a special force brigade to eradicate that looming danger? Erdogan pissed off Russia, China and, with his war against Kurds, also the United States. All at the same time. You don't mess with all three superpowers at once without serious personal consequences.

The collapse of the Syrian government would be a disaster for everyone. Erdogan and his "western" friends made fools of themselves with their childish "Assad must go" blathering. With the grown ups taking over this nonsense has now, hopefully, come to an end.

Posted by b at 01:50 AM | Comments (163)

September 24, 2015

Open Thread 2015-34

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:22 PM | Comments (133)

September 23, 2015

Russia To Buy *Used* Mistral Helicopter Carriers From Egypt

New cars are often offered at high fixed list prices set by the manufacturer. A trick car dealers use to circumvent such fixed list prices and to sell more cars is to "sell" the new car for a day or two to some strawmen. These cars are marketed as "demonstrator" or per-registrated cars. The "used car" is handed back to the dealer who sells it to the originally intended buyer for a price lower than the manufacturer's list price.

A somewhat similar trick, though not involving pricing, seems to be in the making for a set of interesting war ships:

France has agreed to sell two Mistral helicopter carriers to Egypt, which were originally ordered by Russia.
The Mistrals contract, worth €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion), was signed by France’s DCNS/STX and Russia’s Rosoboronexport in 2011. The contract specified that two French helicopter carriers would be delivered to Russia, the first in 2014 and the second in 2015. Russia was to partly manufacture the vessel hulls and provide its own military electronic equipment for the warships.

However, the French government decided not to hand the vessels over to Moscow after it came under intense political pressure from the US and its European allies following Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the outbreak of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Egypt has little use for these quite expensive and difficult to operate helicopter carriers. I am not aware of any sensible scenario in which Egypt could put them to good use. The likely story behind this deal is thus different.

Egypt will buy these two ships probably using a credit line forwarded by Russia. Russian specialists will out fit them with Russian weapon systems. Then, in a year or two, Egypt will offer the "used helicopter carriers" to Russia. The inevitable bribes and other incentives of this transaction will be used as a well deserved bonus for the Egyptian leadership.

I have no doubt that the French, who never wanted to cancel the original Russian deal, has been in on this scheme from the very beginning.

The only question now is: What is Washington gonna do about it?

Posted by b at 08:30 AM | Comments (64)

September 22, 2015

Syria: The End Of The "Vetted Rebels" Scam

This was reported yesterday in the London Times. But for some curious reason no major U.S. media picked it up:

A US attempt to relaunch its much-criticised rebel training programme faced a setback yesterday when a second batch of western-trained fighters were detained by other rebel groups in northern Syria.

About 70 fighters from the US-trained group, called the 30th Division, entered the Bab al-Salama border crossing north of Aleppo in a heavily armed convoy of 12 vehicles with US air cover, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Pentagon vetted group was allegedly detained by some Turkmen group which is sponsored by Turkey. More crazy rumors about the fate of the group followed throughout yesterday but the situation has now cleared up. The very carefully vetted and selected Pentagon trained group was not detained, it changed sides within minutes of being injected into Syria:

Pentagon-trained rebels are reported to have betrayed US and handed weapons over to an al-Qaeda affiliate immediately after entering Syria.

Fighters with Division 30 surrendered and handed over "all its weapons" to Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, sources alleged on Monday.
"A strong slap [in the face] for America... the new group from Division 30 that entered yesterday hands over all of its weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra after being granted safe passage," tweeted Abu Fahd al-Tunisi, who purports to be a member of the al-Qaeda affiliate.

[Obama's Islamic State War Czar General Allen just got fired - probably over the incident above. He was the genius who gave a free hand to Turkey to bomb the Kurds in exchange for access to the Incirlik air base in Turkey. (Could the ever failing disgraced General Petraeus replace him?)]

The leader of the U.S. trained, paid and equipped group published six reason (Arabic) why he changed sides.

But according to some rather weird Washington Post piece the administration is already thinking about a new strategy which would replace the failed idea of inserting "well vetted" fighters:

The administration is considering providing arms and ammunition to a wider array of rebel groups in Syria and relaxing vetting standards, effectively deepening America’s involvement in the ongoing civil war.

So as the "vetted" rebels change over to Al-Qaeda the remedy is to use less vetting.

But less or no vetting was used all along with the CIA paying, training and equipping 10,000+ anti-Syrian fighters since early 2012. Most of those fighters have, like the Pentagon trained group, sold their weapons and ammunition to Jihadis or even joined them. Vetting is obviously not necessary at all. An AP piece on 14 Syrian civilians killed by rebel shelling yesterday remarks:

The rebel coalition, known as the Army of Conquest alliance, includes Syria's al-Qaida branch, the Nusra Front, and the extremist Jund al-Aqsa group, and is backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

A Reuters piece that attempts to polish the Salafist Jihadis of Ahrar al-Shams notes:

With strong backing from Syria's neighbor Turkey, Ahrar al-Sham (the Free Men of Syria) is playing a significant role in Syria's four year old civil war - if not the biggest among insurgent group apart from Islamic State.
Under its new leadership it is trying to differentiate itself from al Qaeda, angering the Nusra Front and other hardliners. But its al Qaeda-linked background means Ahrar al-Sham still has a special relationship with the Nusra Front.

Rebels inside Syria say Ahrar al-Sham supplied many of Nusra's weapons. It was not clear if it was still doing so.

A former Nusra fighter who has now left the war said Nusra and Ahrar once had strong relations.

"All I know is that Nusra sees Ahrar as their source for weapons, especially in some battles," he said.

The Pentagon carefully "vetted" the few mercenaries it send into Syria and they promptly went to Nusra. It sure would not fail to also "vet" Ahrar als-Shams and come away with a similar positive judgement. The whole "vetted rebels" nonsense is obviously a scam as the U.S. and its allies never stopped supplying the not "vetted" Islamists who fight against the secular Syrian state.

But Ahrar's best days may soon be over. It is currently pampered by and supplied through Turkey but tomorrow the Turkish President Erdogan is supposed to meet the Russian president Putin.

Putin just deployed a considerable amount of equipment and personal to Syria to snuff out the Islamists. The numbers may well grow and end up as a fully equipped expeditionary corps with some 15,000 soldiers. Russia is allied with Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizbullah as the "4+1" alliance and will coordinate the fight through a common headquarter. Russian reconnaissance is all over the Syrian battlefield and its results, as well as new weapons, already help the Syrian government to successfully attack Islamic State concentrations killing dozens of fighters in Raqqa and Palmyra.

Turkey depends on Russian gas for some 30+% of its primary energy needs. Erdogan has great plans for Turkey to become a bigger energy hub by taking part in a new Russian gas pipeline, an €11.4 billion project. But gas will only continue to reliably flow through Russian pipelines if the Turkish weapon pipeline to the Islamic State, Ahrar al Shams and Jabhat al-Nusra closes. Erdogan will have to choose which pipeline better fits his interests.

Should Erdogan decide to continue the supply to the Islamists Russia decided to fight he will put his country into a very dangerous position. Russia could, for example, secretly supply those Kurds who fight the Turkish state in east Turkey. How successful could they be with an endless supply of modern Russian weapons?

I suspect that Erdogan's game is over. Russia decided to end the war the U.S. and its allies are waging against Syria. It will use all the tools of a great nation to support its positions. "Western" installed no-fly zones or protected opposition areas within Syria are now mere pipe-dreams. The genius Petraeus, who started the CIA mercenary program that supplied Nusra and the Islamic State, just again demanded such and other nonsense:

“We could, for example, tell Assad that the use of barrel bombs must end. And that if they continue, we will stop the Syrian Air Force from flying,” he said. “We have that capability.”

The U.S. "has that capability" only if it wants many of its own pilots killed. The country to decide over "no-fly zones" in Syria is Russia. The new S-300 and S-400 air defense systems now seen in Latakia make sure that nothing flies in Syria's airspace without Russian(!) acquiescence.

Posted by b at 01:10 PM | Comments (94)

September 21, 2015

That Scary Iranian "Pink Tarp" Nuclear Explosion Chamber ... Does Not Exist

Everyone reading about the Iran nuclear program will remember the scary news about the "explosion chamber" at a "military site" in Parchin which was assumed to have been used for explosions simulations of a nuclear warhead:

In the November 2011 IAEA Safeguards report on Iran, the IAEA disclosed that information from member states indicated that Iran constructed a large explosives containment vessel or chamber at the Parchin military complex in 2000 to conduct high explosive and hydrodynamic experiments related to the development of nuclear weapons. After constructing the chamber at the Parchin site, some 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran, Iran constructed a building around the large cylindrical object. According to the report, “a large earth berm was subsequently constructed between the building containing the cylinder and a neighboring building, indicating the probable use of high explosives in the chamber.”

Lots of satellite pictures showing the building were published and AP even came up with a graphic sketch of the alleged scary chamber that anyone could have made within half an hour or so. Lots of words were written by this or that expert about that alleged chamber and I mocked it here. I had always assumed that, should such a chamber exist, it must have been used to produce nano-diamonds because at one point an Iranian university hired a Russian scientist who's specialty was creating nano-diamonds in similar explosion chambers. But that nano-diamond story did not fit the "scary Iran" tale.

When the Iranians renovated the building that allegedly held the chamber ISIS propagandist David Albright freaked out over a "pink tarp" Iran used to "cover the roof". That "pink tarp" turned out to be newly installed pink colored styrofoam insulation as used throughout Europe.

Today the IAEA director Yukiya Amano, tasked with verifying the nuclear deal with Iran, visited Parchin and entered the building. He found ... nothing:

Deputy Director General Varjoranta and I went to the site on Sunday. This was the first time that the Agency had visited the location.

We entered a building which the Agency had previously only been able to observe using satellite imagery.

Inside the building, we saw indications of recent renovation work. There was no equipment in the building.

Duh. That big bulky and heavy explosion chamber in that "pink tarp" building does not exist!

Now we will wait for those large headlines in the media and the long comments by the "experts" explaining this "tiny" correction of their earlier scare stories.

It is likely though that Godot will arrive first.

Posted by b at 11:57 AM | Comments (35)


Holy cow. British politics are a pigsty.

There is of course this new clean Labour leader who became a vegetarian and animal rights activist after seeing the cruelty on a pig farm he worked at. But there is also David Cameron.

A distinguished Oxford contemporary claims Cameron once took part in an outrageous initiation ceremony at a Piers Gaveston event, involving a dead pig. His extraordinary suggestion is that the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal’s mouth.

The source — himself an MP — first made the allegation out of the blue at a business dinner in June 2014. Lowering his voice, he claimed to have seen photographic evidence of this disgusting ritual.
The pig’s head, he claimed, had been resting on the lap of a Piers Gaveston society member while Cameron performed the act.

The MP also gave us the dimensions of the alleged photograph, and provided the name of the individual who he claims has it in his keeping.

Yeeeks. Didn't he read the bible?

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine"

So who should the Brits choose? The vegetarian or the man who, allegedly, committed necrophilia with a brave police officer?

Cont. reading: #Piggate

Posted by b at 12:27 AM | Comments (77)

September 19, 2015

With U.S. Unwilling To Fight The Islamic State Russia Deploys Troops To Syria

May 1 2006 - Biden: Split Iraq into 3 different regions

The senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposed Monday that Iraq be divided into three separate regions — Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni — with a central government in Baghdad.

In an op-ed essay in Monday's edition of The New York Times, Sen. Joseph Biden. D-Del., wrote that the idea "is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group ... room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests."

2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”


Sep 2015 - Intelligence chief: Iraq and Syria may not survive as states

Iraq and Syria may have been permanently torn asunder by war and sectarian tensions, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency said Thursday in a frank assessment that is at odds with Obama administration policy.

“I’m having a tough time seeing it come back together,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told an industry conference, speaking of Iraq and Syria, both of which have seen large chunks territory seized by the Islamic State.

The U.S. plans, all along, were and are to create a "Sunni state" entity in west Iraq and east Syria. Whether this entity is a salafist Islamic State or has some other form of government seems to be irrelevant to U.S. foreign policy planners like Vice President Joe Biden.

The war on the Islamic State that Obama declared was thereby never serious. It is just an excuse to justify further meddling in the Iraq and Syria and to reinforce the intended split. But that U.S. tactic underestimates, or willingly creates, dangers to other countries as the Islamic State is now a breeding ground for international terrorism.

The U.S. unwillingness to attack the Islamic State has been noticed:

International coalition only simulating anti-terrorist efforts in Middle East — Russian FM

"Regrettably, all attempts of the international coalition to counter the terrorist group Islamic State look more like some demonstrative steps, an attempt at simulating anti-terrorist activity," [Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova] said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel.


Pesh commander on ISIS supply line b/w #Syria & #Iraq: coalition can see it very clearly. Why don't they do anything? I don't know.

Jordanian officer describes seeing Isis convoys crossing b/w Iraq & Syria on an almost daily basis. “But we’re not allowed to hit them"

The U.S. and its "coalition" of Islamic State financiers and sympathizers are unwilling to remove the Islamic State entity. Even now, when the possibly catastrophic consequences of its installation become more and more visible, the attitude is one of willful ignorance. Others are therefore taking up the task and they mean business.

Yesterday, Syrian aircraft conducted 25 airstrikes on ISIS targets. In past week (Sep. 12-18), US-led coalition conducted 26.

Compare: In one year of the "fight against ISIS" and with a 60 member coalitions some 6-7,000 air attacks have been flown against mostly minor IS targets. Since March the U.S.-Saudi coalition has flown some 25,000 air attacks in its war on Yemen.

Iran News Round Up - September 18, 2015

IRGC Major General Safavi claimed that Russia is in sync with Iran regarding regional crises, including Syria. The Supreme Leader’s Senior Military Advisor accused the U.S., Israel, and “some Arab countries” of deploying “rented terrorists” to Syria to overthrow President Bashar al Assad.

A while ago the Iranian commander tasked with the fight against the Islamic State, Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, reported to the military leadership of the Russian Federation the state of the Syrian and Iraqi armies and the situation on the ground. He requested additional support.  The Islamic State has attracted some 2,500 fighters from the Russian Federation, mostly Chechen. The return of these fighters to Russia could initiate a renewed terror war against the Russian state. This danger compels Russia to act.

Four Russian fighter jets deployed in Syria: US official

Russia has deployed four fighter jets to an airbase in Syria where it has been building up forces in recent weeks, alarming Washington, a US official said Friday.

Russian elite units on the land of Zabadani, Homs, Hama and Aleppo

by Elijah J. Magnier

“Al-Rai” learned that “Special Elite Russian combat forces arrived to Hama, Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, as well as Zabadani to monitor, participate and study the military map on the field and suggest future workflow combat plans. These Special Forces submit to the operating room suggestions to determine the full plan to start the flow of further Russian special combat forces and troops on the battlefield all over the Syrian map where it is necessary”.

This development will be the largest Russian external military intervention since Afghanistan in 1979.

A very senior field commander around Zabadani city said that “there are small Russian combat units, mostly sniper unit that we call the “Ivan unit”, another reconnaissance unit, a unit of urban warfare, and advanced missiles unit in the area of ​operations run by the Syrian Army. ”

Russia - and Iran - now mean business and are actively intervening. China may join that coalition to fight the Uyghur separatist Turkey smuggled to Syria to join the Islamic State. The recent movements have already led to a retreat in the often repeated old U.S. line that "Assad has to go" before any real negotiations about whatever can begin.

Kerry declared that “Assad has to go" but said there was some flexibility in the "modality" and timing of his departure.

“We’ve said for some period of time it doesn’t have to be done on day one, or month one, or whatever,” he said.

"Or whatever ..."

Prediction: Bashar al-Assad will still be President of Syria when Barack Obama is no longer the President of the United States.

But that was only part one of the issues at hand. The real question is if the United States is willing to give up on its plans for the "salafist principality", to partition Syria and Iraq and to start a serious fight against the Islamic State. The alternative for the U.S. and its allies is to use the Islamic State to create another Afghanistan like quagmire for the now deployed Russian troops. But doing so would also create the possibility of alike consequences: another 9/11. What will Obama or whoever handles him decide?

Posted by b at 01:55 PM | Comments (101)

September 18, 2015

Russia Increases Pressure To Stop The War On Syria

Israeli sources blame Erdogan for willfully causing the migrant wave into northern Europe:

At first, Turkey did everything it could to block the sea routes being used for illegal immigration to Europe. Later, however, with NATO refusing to take action to overthrow Assad, and with IS failing to fulfill Erdogan's hope that it decisively defeat the Alawite leader, Turkey decided to make things difficult for Europe by shifting some of the pressure there. Over the past few months, Turkey stopped blocking the refugees' movement westward. The Israeli source said that it is quite possible that the same Turkish security forces that had helped IS are enabling the human smugglers.

On Sept. 11, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suspended his country’s honorary consul in Bodrum after learning that she had been helping refugees leave for Europe illegally. In a conversation filmed by hidden camera for France’s Channel 2, the consul, who sells refugees rubber dinghies intended for use in a pool, not the open seas by which they hope to reach the Greek island of Kos, said, “The municipality is helping with the traffic [of refugees by sea]. The harbormaster is helping with their trafficking. The governor of the district is helping with their trafficking.”

The Israeli source also accuses Erdogan of funding the Islamic State. I doubt that. But the accusations of causing the migrant wave is likely correct. But does Erdogan act alone or is this a concerted action by NATO to push European populations on agreeing to a NATO regime change war in Syria?

Adam Johnson made a (incomplete) list of who is using the migrant crisis to call for bombing Syria:

Some of these people or institutions, like the NATO propaganda shop Atlantic Council, are also lobbying for the Saudis.

Several European politicians have also joined the insane argumentation that more bombing of Syria will create less refugees. The UN says that half of the Syrian population fled their homes because of the conflict. That would be some 11 million. But only 3 to 4 million of those have fled to foreign countries -  mostly Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Some 7 million have fled to government held areas like Damascus. Bombing the government of Syria and these people and having the Islamic State or Al Qaeda conquering Damascus will certainly create a much bigger wave of refugees.

Meanwhile Obama blames others for his stupid Syria decisions:

[T]he White House says it is not to blame. The finger, it says, should be pointed not at Mr. Obama but at those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place — a group that, in addition to congressional Republicans, happened to include former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That is incredibly pathetic:

If members of Congress and some members of Obama’s administration “pressed” him to do something that he knew was pointless, he deserves even more blame for going along with an option that he knew wouldn’t achieve anything.

Obama is the U.S. Commander in Chief. To blame others for his command decisions is shameless cowardice. And who ordered those 10,000 CIA trained, equipped and payed Jihadis into Syria if not Obama? Are those also to blame on others? And why doesn't the NYT mention those at all?

After falsely accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in Goutha the U.S. and UK wanted to bomb Syria but were pushed back by a parliament decision in Britain and the threat of impeachment in the U.S. Then the Russian Federation helped to make a face saving deal and to get rid of Syria's strategic weapons.

Now it is again Russia that is offering to save Obama's bacon. Having failed with the Pentagon training scheme and with no success against the Islamic State Obama is again under pressure to bomb Syria. But the threat of a Russian air force, and a possibly serious ground force, deployment to Syria is holding him back. Syria is not important enough to start a hot conflict with a serious nuclear power. Obama needs a way out of the situation while saving his face. Ending to put oil into the fire of the Syria conflict and negotiations with Russia is the only way forward.

Today Russia increased the pressure:

Answering a question on whether Russia would agree to send troops to participate in military operations together with the Syrian army, [Kremlin spokesman Dmitry] Peskov said: "If there is a request, than in the framework of bilateral contacts, in the framework of bilateral dialogue, it will, of course, be discussed and considered. For now, it is rather difficult to speak hypothetically."

Syrian Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday said Syria would ask Russia to send its troops to fight on the side of the Syrian army if such a need arose. According to him, Syria will not hesitate to ask for support from Russia.

A NATO created Turk administered "safe zone" or a "no fly zone" in Syria while the Red Army is on the ground backed by the Russian air force and navy? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Obama and the European NATO countries have the chance to get out of the mess they created in Syria and away from the troubles with an ever growing migrant wave. They need to talk to Russia and not only on a "tactical military" level as Obama now wants but on a strategic one. Pack up, blame Erdogan and the Saudis and keep them on a shorter leash. Leave the cleanup to Syria and its allies without intervening further. There will of course be pressure to not do so by the usual hawks and lobbyists but Obama could for once make a sensible decision and stand by it.

Posted by b at 12:15 PM | Comments (81)

September 16, 2015

Some Syria News Items

Some links/notes on Syria:

President Assad gave an interview to a group of Russian media: The video (in English) interview and the official English transcript:

"Who are ISIS? And who are these groups? They are simply extremist products of the West."

McClatchy reports that the Islamic State military commander is a former Georgian special force soldier of Chechen ethnics. He was - tata - trained by the U.S. military. Most of the other people in the Islamic State leadership have at some point been in U.S. internment in Iraq.

A U.S. General told Congress that only 4 or 5 of the Pentagon trained Syrians are fighting ISIS. He did not say that the 10,000+ CIA trained Syrians are fighting with ISIS. He was not asked about them.

Yesterday 38 Syrian people in Aleppo, including 14 children, were killed by rockets launched by the U.S. supported insurgents.

The UK polling company ORB International did a (maybe) representative poll (data) in Syria, including in the insurgents/Islamic State occupied regions.

82% think that the Islamic State has been created by the United States.

The positive/negative influence on Syria of persons and entities were polled as:

Assad 47/50
Iran 43/55
GCC 37/55
AQ 35/63
FSA 35/63
Opposition Coalition 26/72
IS 21/76.

Watching this video of young and able men, so called "refugees", fighting against police at an inner-European border leads me back to the question of who sent them.

The new State Department spokesperson Kerby is another hapless windup doll just like his predecessors. BTW - who picked that Rear Admiral as State spox?

The U.S. admits that is has "boots on the ground" in the Kurdish regions in Syria helping targeting the Islamic Sate. Emptywheel asks if those boots on the ground are also helping the Kurds against Erdogan.

Former Indian diplomat MK Bhadrakumar on the Russian deployment in Syria (recommended):

The only option open to the US will be to dump the IS altogether and bury the project to manipulate militant Islamist groups as an instrument of its regional policies and to further its containment strategy against Russia. But then, it is not so easy to kill one’s own progenies.

I am not so sure that dumping IS is the only alternative. Though most experts say that the U.S. should cooperate with Russia against IS I rather expect the White House to escalate the conflict.

Posted by b at 01:31 PM | Comments (112)

September 15, 2015

NYT Said To Appease Murderous Egyptian Dictator

Why is the New York Times fudging on the Egyptian army murder of tourists?

"said to ..."
"might have ..."
"it is claimed ..."

Non of those caveats fits the content of the report. An Egyptian army helicopter shot up a group of Mexican tourists, their guides and their guards in bright daylight. The Egyptian governments admits that much:

The helicopter crew had mistaken the lunching tourists for a camp of Islamist militants operating in the area, the Interior Ministry said in a statement Monday.

There are also witness statements as well as an Egyptian army attempt to blame the victims. There is absolutely nothing in the report that justifies the caveat "said to" in the headline. This is rather like headlining "Nazi Germany said to have killed Jews". Would the NYT ever write such? Why then use a caveat for this incident?

Unless of course you would not want to disturb the relation with the bloody Egyptian dictatorship.

Posted by b at 04:15 AM | Comments (58)

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