Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 25, 2017

Locked Into Al-Tanf U.S. Military Concedes It Lost The Race To Occupy South-East Syria

The U.S. military has, for now, given up on occupying south-east Syria. Recent remarks at the Department of Defense press conference concede the defeat of its original plans.

Let us recap: The U.S. military had occupied the al-Tanf border station between Syria and Iraq some 12 kilometer east of the Jordan-Syria-Iraq border triangle. The economically important road between Damascus and Baghdad runs through al-Tanf. When Syrian government forces moved towards the al-Tanf area the U.S. military bombed them and unilaterally claimed a "deconfliction-zone", i.e occupied territory, around the station.

The U.S. plan was to disrupt any connection between Syrian government held areas in the west and Iraq in th east by moving north from al-Tanf up to the Euphrates river valley around Deir Ezzor. The neoconservatives and Zionist propagandists claimed that this was necessary to interrupt the "Shia crescent" that allegedly would connect Iran through Iraq and Syria with Lebanon. The U.S. forces would thereby interrupt Iranian support for Hizbullah forces defending Lebanon from Israeli incursions. But the "Shia crescent" was never more than an idea. Iran supplies to Hizbullah have never depended on a land connection alone. The "crescent" connection was not disrupted when the U:S. occupied Iraq or when ISIS held the area.

The real U.S. plan was much larger. It wanted to control a Sunni corridor from the Saudi-Iraqi border in the south through Anbar province in west-Iraq through south-east Syria up through the Kurdish held north-east Syria to Turkey. This was the planned "Salafist principality" a 2012 Defense Intelligence paper had talked about.

The Syrian forces (red), with Iraqi support, sabotaged the U.S. plans by connecting west-Syria with the Syrian Iraqi border northward of the U.S. held area of al-Tanf (blue). They met allied Iraqi forces at the border north-east of al-Tanf and are now proceeding north-east along the border towards Abu Kamal and the Euphrates valley.


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

The Russian military command told the U.S. that any attack on those forces would be a very unfriendly act that would be severely punished. To make the point Iran fired medium range missiles from Iranian territory to Islamic State held areas in Syria. The Russian navy fired cruise missiles from the Mediterranean towards similar targets. The message was that the small U.S. contingent in al-Tanf would be toast if the U.S. military further messed around with the Syrian forces. Meanwhile Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) from Iraq, allied with Syria, closed off al-Tanf from the south. The U.S. forces there have nowhere to go but home.

As we wrote in our June 13 piece Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight:

Cont. reading: Locked Into Al-Tanf U.S. Military Concedes It Lost The Race To Occupy South-East Syria

Posted by b at 08:59 AM | Comments (66)

June 24, 2017

Israel's Fire Support For Its Al-Qaeda Mercenaries Started Three Years Ago

 

12:13 PM - 24 Jun 2017

12:16 PM - 24 Jun 2017

2:24 PM - 24 Jun 2017

Al-Qaeda attacked a Syrian Arab Army position in Madinat al-Baath (map) next to the Israel occupied Golan heights. Al-Qaeda requested Israeli fire-support by launching some mortars towards empty space in the Israel occupied area. The Israeli Defense Force accepted the request and destroyed two Syrian Arab Army tanks. Two Syrian soldiers were killed. The SAA held steady and the al-Qaeda attack on its position failed.

This was very easy to predict. Israel has supported al-Qaeda in the area since at least 2014. The al-Qaeda fire-request-by-mortar scheme has been in place for at least three years. In October 2014 the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which back then still covered the area, reported to the UN Security Council:

Cont. reading: Israel's Fire Support For Its Al-Qaeda Mercenaries Started Three Years Ago

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (56)

June 23, 2017

The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused

(Updated last graphs on June 24 9:00am est)

Today the Saudi ruler issued an ultimatum to Qatar that was written to be rejected. Such has happened before and one should not forget the lessons to be learned from it.

After the crown prince of the Austria-Hungary monarchy, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was shot and killed in Sarajevo, the government of Austria waited three weeks to issue a 10 point ultimatum to Serbia which it held responsible for the incident. At least three of those points concerned the suppression of "propaganda against Austria-Hungary" and the Austrian Monarchy by Serbian private and state entities. It demanded a response within two days:

Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, commented that he had "never before seen one State address to another independent State a document of so formidable a character."

The Austrian ultimatum was an offer to be refused. But Serbia did not fall into that trap. It conceded everything but two minor points. This was to no avail. The issues and plans Austria had were not about the assassination of [the disliked] Franz Ferdinand or the demands issued in the ultimatum. Two days later Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. Allies jumped to either side. World War I had started.


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The now official demands by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some minor Gulf sheikdoms against Qatar have a similar smell to them. They are also "an offer to be refused."

The demands come late, three weeks after Saudi Arabia first accused Qatar of "supporting terrorism", three weeks after it closed the border and laid siege on the country.

(Qatar is surly "supporting terrorism". So is the U.S. - the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service just rejected an asylum request because the person in question has relations with the Free Syrian Army which the C&I-Service considers to be an "undesignated terrorist organization". The CIA built and supports the FSA. According to the U.S. government the U.S. government is a state sponsor of terrorism. But the biggest terrorist sponsor of all are and have been the Saudis.)

Spats between member of the Gulf Cooperation Council are usually mediated by the U.S. government. But without any official demands issued against Qatar there was nothing to mediate about. Three day ago U.S. Department of State finally issued a rather angry statement towards Saudi Arabia:

Cont. reading: The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused

Posted by b at 01:15 PM | Comments (95)

June 22, 2017

U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes - "By, With And Through Allies"

The U.S. military and/or the CIA outsourced parts of their ongoing torture campaign in Yemen to the United Arab Emirates, reports AP. Some "interrogations" are done in the presence of U.S. personal and on U.S. ships:

MUKALLA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses.
...
At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away.

There have long been rumors in Yemen that detainees were transported to U.S. ships off the coast for intense "interrogations":

@BaFana3 - 3:42am · 6 May 2016
All on #Yemen now : US aircraft carrier, 2 naval destroyers, amphibious ready group & Marine expeditionary unit. That's near 15,000 troops
Now I know whose ships the captured AQAP militants are being ferried to from Al Mukalla, Hadhramaut.

AP now:

A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American “polygraph experts” and “psychological experts” conducted interrogations.
...
Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi’s Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt.
...
Former detainees and one Yemen official provided the AP with the names of five suspects held at black sites who were interrogated by Americans.

The UAE had been part of the CIA's "black sites" torture apparatus. Its agents are thereby well trained. The U.S. military and/or the CIA now seem to have outsourced (vid) most of the "dirty" stuff to them. That does not make them less culpable.

The Obama administration has called this acting "by, with and through" allies. The Trump administration continues with the scheme.

The tortured "militants" were most likely not al-Qaeda chaps. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula held the harbor city of Mukalla in Yemen. The UAE "liberated" the city in April 2016 by making a deal with AQAP and letting them go. It is allied with the group while fighting the Yemeni Houthi. If the U.S. torture crews believe that they are "interrogating" real "al-Qaeda" they are hoodwinked by the UAE operators.

The U.S. military is, of course, denying all torture accusations and the CIA is, of course, not commenting, but denigrating the accusers. We have heard such denials before.

---
Yesterday an al-Saud family clown prince replaced another al-Saud family clown prince to replace the old al-Saud family king who will be offed soon. This in a country named after the al-Saud family. It is change you can believe in. The soon to be dictator-king Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the guy who has debt-to-GDP, is fawned over in U.S. media. That is no wonder. He has lot of money and no idea of its value. He paid €500 million for a used ship that had cost only €300 million when it was build six years earlier. Some of his money will drop here or there when a journalist writes a pretty piece about him. If the journo is really good at it s/he will get payed off in some CIA endorsed weapon deal with the Gulf sheiks. Bin Salman is not very bright. He visited Israel and is in constant contact with Israeli officials. His development program for Saudi Arabia, based on austerity, was written by McKinsey consultants and is thereby likely to fail. With his extreme anti-Iranian stand he looks like a mere U.S.-Israeli puppet.


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The 26 million people he rules over will not like either. Many Arab peninsula citizens will want to see his head on a pike. The House of Saud is now a house of cards destined to fall.

Cont. reading: U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes - "By, With And Through Allies"

Posted by b at 06:47 AM | Comments (92)

June 20, 2017

Is Your Drone Pro- or Anti-?

Just got this new little video-drone.

Now I read that drones can be 'pro-Assad' and probably also anti-Assad. They can be 'pro-regime' or 'pro-Assad regime' or 'Iranian' or 'Iranian made'.

I know my drone is not Iranian made. It says "Made in China".

Drones can also 'display hostile intent'. I did not know that. Where is that display?

And how do I tell if it is pro- or anti-? Is there a switch for that?


Cont. reading: Is Your Drone Pro- or Anti-?

Posted by b at 02:28 PM | Comments (42)

Open Thread 2017-24

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:55 PM | Comments (136)

June 19, 2017

Syria Summary - U.S. Attack Fails To Disrupt Push To Deir Ezzor

Our last summary said that the end of the war in Syria is now in sight:

Unless the U.S. changes tact and starts a large scale attack on Syria with its own army forces the war on Syria is over.

There are a few civilian lunatics in the White House who push for widening the war on Syria into an all out U.S.-Iran war. The military leadership is pushing back. It fears for its forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the larger area. But there are also elements within the U.S. military and the CIA that take a more aggressive pro-war position.

Yesterday a U.S. F-18 jet shot down a Syrian air force bomber near the city of Raqqa. The U.S. Central Command ludicrously claims that this was in "self defense" of its invading forces and its Kurdish proxies (Syria Democratic Forces - SDF) within a "deconflicting zone" after the SDF was attacked in the town of Jardin.

Those were lies. Neither is there any agreed upon "deconflicting zone" in the area nor was the town of Jardin held by SDF forces at the time of the attack. The attack was clearly illegal:

The U.S.[...] has no legal right to protect non-state partner forces who are pursuing regime change or other political objectives. There is no right of collective self-defense of non-state actors, ...

The Syrian government as well as witnesses on the ground refute the U.S. claims. The Syrian Observatory in Britain, often cited as authoritative about events in Syria, says no Syrian attack on the SDF took place. The U.S. jets attacked the Syrian one in support of Islamic State forces:

A regime warplane was targeted and dropped in the skies of the al-Resafa area [...] the warplane was shot down over Al-Resafa area of which the regime forces have reached to its frontiers today, and sources suggested to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that warplanes of the International Coalition targeted it during its flight in close proximity to the airspace of the International Coalition’s warplanes, which caused its debris to fall over Resafa city amid an unknown fate of its pilot, the sources confirmed that the warplane did not target the Syria Democratic Forces in their controlled areas located at the contact line with regime forces’ controlled areas in the western countryside of Al-Tabaqa to the road of Al-Raqqah – Resafa.

Here is an overview of the situation in south-east Syria:


Map via Peto Lucem - bigger

On the bottom left is the area of Palmyra on the right is Deir Ezzor, at the top is Raqqa. The dark areas are occupied by the Islamic State. A hundred thousand civilians and a small Syrian army garrison in Deir Ezzor is besieged by the Islamic State. The Syrian army is moving east from two directions to relieve the city. One thrust is from the Palmyra area along the road towards the north-east to Deir Ezzor. The distance still to go is about 130 kilometer and a major Islamic State held city, Al-Sukhnah, will have to be taken before the advance can proceed.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - U.S. Attack Fails To Disrupt Push To Deir Ezzor

Posted by b at 07:16 AM | Comments (176)

June 18, 2017

When AP Spreads #Fakenews - A Forensic Appraisal

Non factual, false news reporting has political consequences. This especially when it is picked up by partisan propagandists to push their agenda. It is often not easy to forensically follow the trail of fake news but here is a recent example "caught in the wild".

The Associated Press is a nonprofit and political neutral news agency financed by U.S. newspapers and other media outlets of various political stripes. Its wide range of customers (mostly) prevents it from partisan domestic reporting. It takes on international issues are different. The selection of the news items it reports on is driven by customer interests and thereby slanted in its selection. But the factual reporting on news items is generally straight forward - or supposed to be such. Political decisions are sometimes based on its reports. It is therefore causing concern when it spreads obviously fake news.

Yesterday the AP pushed out this item:

The Associated Press ‏Verified account @AP
Russia claims it has killed IS leader al-Baghdadi. https://apnews.com/...
7:51 AM - 16 Jun 2017

NY Daily news, FOX News, Politico and many, many other outlets reedited and/or republished that AP piece. The Politico version reads:

Russia claimed Friday it killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike targeting a meeting of IS leaders just outside the group's de facto capital in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.

The AP item seemed wrong to me. Russia is usually very cautious with such claims and tends not to make such absolute statements. ( The U.S. military though ...)

I checked with the official Russian agency TASS and it indeed reported something different: IS top leader may have been killed by Russian airstrike in Syria

Cont. reading: When AP Spreads #Fakenews - A Forensic Appraisal

Posted by b at 04:14 AM | Comments (60)

June 16, 2017

Qatar-Saudi Catfight Unveils "Western" Terrorist Propaganda Outlets

The spat between Saudi Arabia and Qatar gives us some amusing entertainment. Both countries spent billions to arm and supply tens of thousands of brutal Takfiris to fight the Syrian government and people. They also spent millions to buy this or that "western" think-tank and/or writer. Now that the two Wahhabi dictatorships are fighting each other they spill the beans over each others nefarious deeds. Various "western" think-tanks and media, who avidly supported al-Qaeda, ISIS and other criminals in Syria, are the well deserved collateral casualties in this fight.

Here is one example:

Bilal Abdul Kareem‏ Verified account @BilalKareem
Piece I filmed w/CNN (Undercover in Syria) won Overseas Press Club & Peabody awards but CNN "forgot" to mention me. But I'm smiling!
4:24 PM - 16 Jun 2017

Bilal Abdul Kareem 2 hrs
Piece I filmed w/CNN (Undercover in Syria) won the prestigious Overseas Press Club & Peabody awards but CNN "forgot" to mention me. High respects to CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward for mentioning me even if CNN didn't! Alhamdo lilaah I got another award from some good hearted Syrians that's worth more than those put together. Check it out!

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Max Blumenthal‏ Verified account @MaxBlumenthal
In Saudi media, "independent journalist" @BilalKareem is ID'ed as having joined Al Qaeda's Syrian franchise in 2012
https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/...
5:37 AM - 11 Jun 2017

Cont. reading: Qatar-Saudi Catfight Unveils "Western" Terrorist Propaganda Outlets

Posted by b at 04:45 PM | Comments (53)

When Generals Make Policies - From Tactics To Strategy To Political Decision

June 13, 2017 - Mattis promises new Afghanistan strategy by mid-July

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday promised to deliver a new military strategy for Afghanistan to lawmakers by mid-July, ...

June 15, 2017 - About 4,000 more US troops to go to Afghanistan

The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official said Thursday, hoping to break a stalemate in a war that has now passed to a third U.S. commander in chief. [...]

The decision by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could be announced as early as next week, the official said. It follows Trump's move to give Mattis the authority to set troop levels ...

The U.S. has a problem with the former Marine General Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Mattis thinks tactics, not strategy.

It makes little sense to send additional troops when one does not have a strategy they will have to serve. There is so far no other way to end the war in Afghanistan other than to simply pull out of it. The racket that the war has become can only be stopped by such a grand strategic decision. Sending troops before deciding on the strategy practically guarantees that the choice of a pull-out will be excluded from the evaluated possibilities. The tactical decision of sending more troops will drive the strategy.

Mattis already screwed up by allowing the U.S. Central Command to loudly stump around the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq. The small al-Tanf garrison is legally very dubious and now surrounded on three sides. The only choices left are to pull out to Jordan or to start a big war with Syria, Russia and Iran. This could happen by accident. Some low officer on the ground making the decision to attack this or that Syria allied unit could launch a huge and ever escalating chain of events. A much bigger war is likely not what the Trump administration wants or needs. But to pull out will now be an acknowledgement that the tactical decision of deploying to al-Tanf was wrong and become a loss of face. Here again the tactics are driving the strategy:

Strategy should drive tactics when it comes to handling Iranian-backed elements in Syria, not the other way around. Otherwise, the United States risks upending other elements of the war effort in Syria for ill-defined reasons. This may include expanding the role of an already over stretched Special Operations Command and more wear and tear on other elements of the U.S. military — all for ill-defined and unachievable goals. The United States has the capability to defend a garrison in the Syrian desert. However, the reasons for doing so are devoid of any purpose ...

Mattis is liked by some because of his aggressive stance against Iran. His career is otherwise only remarkable for the massacres he was part in (Fallujah 2004). It is claimed that he owns 7,000 books. I doubt that he understood or even read them. To me he seems to be just one of dozens of rather mediocre general officers the U.S. military has produced. Such officers are incapable of making sound strategic decisions. They know how to run the military machine, but that is the easy part. They lack a real feel for diplomacy, economics and cultural issues. They are unable to see the world through the eyes of the other side. They never learned statecraft.

General McMaster, the current National Security Advisor, seems likewise a man of tactics, not strategy. How else can we explain that there is yet no consistency visible in any of the grand games the U.S. plays. The reaction to the flare up in the Gulf Cooperation Council was chaotic, no game plan has been shown for Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, the "pivot to Asia" seems dead. The current policies are reactive and not part of a larger view or scheme.

The grand scheme should run from policy decision to (military) strategy and then down to the tactical decisions. What we see now are tactics driving a strategy and the strategy then driving the greater policies.

One may be grateful, especially as a foreigner, that U.S. foreign policy is in such a miserable state. But the damage that can occur due to a miscalculated tactical decisions or an emotional response to an event - without any thinking about the bigger picture - is likely bigger than the one any well chosen political strategy could cause.

Posted by b at 09:42 AM | Comments (82)

June 15, 2017

Open Thread 2017-23

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:34 PM | Comments (124)

June 14, 2017

The War In Afghanistan Is A Racket

The United States will again escalate the war in Afghanistan.

Sixteen years ago the U.S, invaded the country and decided to eliminate the ruling Taliban for something that was planed elsewhere by a different group. Since the invasion the U.S. tried to defeat the Taliban. It has lost that fight. As soon as it leaves Afghanistan the Taliban will be back in power. But no one is willing to pull the plug on the nonsensical military approach.

The Taliban are part of Afghanistan and a significant segment of the population supports them. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan it put the brutal and utterly corrupt warlords back into power. These were exactly the people the Taliban were created to hold down and the reason why they could take power in the first place. While demanding a strict religious life the Taliban successfully took care of local security and eliminated the lawless and corrupt rule of the warlords.

It is no wonder then that a large part of the population wishes to have them back in power.

The U.S. supported government in Kabul is utterly corrupt. The Afghan military and police the U.S. pays is likewise only motivated by money. It is not willing to fight. It takes high casualties during Taliban attacks and therefore avoids contact with them whenever possible. Some 60 % of the country is now more or less back under Taliban control. The government's say is restricted to the bigger cities.

It is obvious that this trend will continued and sooner or later the Taliban will be back in power. The only sensible strategy is to negotiate with them and to find some solution that allows them to rule while they guaranteeing that no harm will emanate from Afghanistan for the rest of the world.

But no one in the U.S. is willing to take responsibility for that. Who would want to be blamed for "neglecting" Afghanistan when another 9/11 happens - as unlikely as that might be? Therefore additional troops need to be send whenever the Taliban seem to gain the advantage over the puppet government forces.

President Trump has punted on the issue and has given full authority to the Defense Department to continue the war in Afghanistan with as many troops as it sees fit. It is now the generals, not Trump, who will be blamed should things in Afghanistan go wrong. But the military has no idea what to do about Afghanistan.

Yesterday the Secretary of Defense Mattis was asked during a Congress hearing what "winning" in Afghanistan would mean:

The idea, [Mattis] said, would be to drive down the violence to a level that could be managed by Afghan government forces with the help of American and allied troops in training their Afghan counterparts, providing intelligence and delivering what Mr. Mattis called “high-end capability,” an apparent allusion to air power and possibly Special Operations forces.

The result, he said, would be an “era of frequent skirmishing,” but not a situation in which the Afghan government no longer faced a mortal threat.

Winning in Afghanistan is an "era of frequent skirmishes" in which the proxy government is continuously endangered? That does, of course, not make any sense. It is a holding strategy that will only work as long as the general framework stays the same. Should the Taliban change their strategy or a new actor come in the "holding" strategy will be finished.

One new actor is already there. An Afghan variant of the "Islamic State" just kicked out the Taliban from the Tora Bora cave complex near the Pakistani border. Tora Bora was once though to be the retreat area of Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin-Laden and was attacked during the U.S. invasion in 2001/2.

But who is behind the Islamic State Khorasan Province’s (ISKP) in Afghanistan? Most of its fighters seem to be former Taliban who either defected in Afghanistan or were kicked out of Pakistan when the Pakistani military put pressure on their home areas. The real question now is who pays them and what do they want?

Officially no one seems to know.

For the warlords in Afghanistan the U.S. occupation has become a huge source of money. The U.S. pays them for protecting the goods shipped in from the states  and elsewhere. It is a protection racket. Should the U.S. not pay, its convoys will be attacked by "Taliban". As soon as it pays the local warlords, the "Taliban" will be defeated and the area will be clear again for the trucks to pass. The money the Afghan government receives is likewise dependent on a continuation of the U.S. occupation. No one in the ruling class of Afghanistan has an interest in ending that. The government in Kabul will do nearly anything to keep its money source available.

That may well be the reason why ISIS in Afghanistan was created. It was feared in Kabul that sooner or later the U.S. would find a compromise with the Taliban and leave the country. A new reason had to be found to continue the war.

It is therefore not astonishing that the Afghan secret services, the National Directorate for Security (NDS), was the first sponsor of "ISIS" in Afghanistan. The first "ISIS" fighters were refugees of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) who settled in the eastern province of Nangahar and were put on the NDS payroll:

Cont. reading: The War In Afghanistan Is A Racket

Posted by b at 02:07 PM | Comments (91)

June 13, 2017

Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight

A look at recent developments in Syria. [Updated below June 14 1:00am EDT]


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

The most important change over the last days was the Syrian government forces move (red areas and arrows) in the south-east towards the Iraqi border. The original plan was to retrieve al-Tanf further south-west to secure the border crossing of the Damascus-Baghdad highway there. But al-Tanf was occupied by U.S., British and Norwegian invaders and some of their proxy forces (blue). Their airplanes attacked Syrian army convoys when they approached. The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. On the Iraqi side elements of the Popular Military Unites under the command of the Iraqi government are moving to meet the Syrian forces at the border.

The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came. The Russian military has made it very clear that it would intervene forcefully should the U.S. attack the Syrian line and move further north. The U.S. and its allies have no mandate to be in Syria in the first place. There is no justification or legal ground for them to attack any Syrian units. Their only option now is to retreat.

The U.S. move into al-Tanf was covered by an attack of U.S. proxy forces in the south-west of Syria. A large group of "rebels", which include al-Qaeda elements and is supplied from Jordan, moved to take the city of Deraa from Syrian government control. It was hoped that this attack would divert Syrian forces from their move east. But despite the use of suicide bombers the attack on Deraa failed to overwhelm the strong defenses of the Syrian forces. It did not provide the necessary diversion. The Syrian position in Deraa was reinforced by units from Damascus which are now attacking the U.S. proxy gangs. Significant progress was made today in the southern suburbs of Deraa and the Syrian army attack will likely continue the move until it has reached the Jordanian border.

The U.S. plans in south Syria, in the west as well as in the east, have failed for now. Unless the Trump administration is willing to invest significant more forces and to openly and against all laws wage war on the Syria government and its allies the situation there is contained. The Syrian forces will over time recapture all the (blue colored) land in the south that is currently held by the various U.S. proxies and other terrorist groups.

In the north-west the Takfiri "rebel" groups are concentrated around Idleb and further north. These groups are sponsored by Saudi, Qatari and Turkish money. The recent spat between Qatar and other Gulf states has throw the Idleb situation into further chaos. Saudi sponsored groups are now fighting Qatari and Turkish sponsored groups. These conflicts come on top of other animosities between al-Qaeda aligned forces and those of Ahrar al-Sham. The Syrian government forces keep the province surrounded and Turkey in the north has kept its border mostly closed. The Takfiri "rebels" in Idleb will cook in their own juices until they are well done and completely exhausted. Eventually government forces will move in and destroy whatever is left of them.

In the center of the map the Syrian army (red) arrows are pointing towards the central desert areas held by ISIS forces which are retreating towards the east (black arrows). Moving simultaneously from the north, west and south the Syrian government forces make fast progress with several kilometers of ground retaken each day. During the last month 4,000 square kilometers and over 100 settlements and towns have been recovered. Within a few weeks they will have recovered all the (brown) ISIS held areas up to the Euphrates river line and the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Russian military bridging equipment recently started to arrive in Syria. It will be needed to cross the Euphrates and to recover the areas north of it.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight

Posted by b at 02:53 PM | Comments (106)

June 11, 2017

E.J. Magnier - Why ISIS Will Persist

Elijah J. Magnier has decades of experience as foreign policy and war correspondent in the Middle East.

Here is an excerpt from his latest piece:

The danger of ISIS will remain even after the liberation of Syria and Iraq: why?

ISIS benefited from immeasurable experiences of sympathisers who chose to join the ranks; doctors, engineers, university degree holders and many from all walks of life, including experts with large competence in propaganda. Those served ISIS and managed to create a regular magazine, radios and short films in many languages. They integrate the widespread electronic games with pictures of battles and killing in real life. An abundance of informative materials emanates daily from ISIS through the Internet to deliver ideas and messages to every home and continent no group ever had access to before.
...
The way mainstream media is handling the war in Iraq and above all the war in Syria has had a devastating role and negative influence on various communities around the globe, mainly those previously considered as passive radicals but who never went into action. The media coverage has encouraged “lone wolves” and contributed to providing valid reasons for large convoys who joined in the exodus to “Caliphate land”. The media have helped mislead young people by adopting unverified and fake news related to the war in Syria, and in so doing, disregarded their responsibility towards the profession.
...
In all places, US soldiers were part of the events, on the ground or in the sky participating in regime changes, building military bases and occupying more territories but leaving behind a fertile ground for terrorist organisation to proliferate and grow, like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Still today the US and Europe have not learned from history and still want to occupy territory: they set up four new military bases in Syria and are prepared to plant roots in Bilad al-Sham under the excuse of recovering ISIS-occupied areas. But ISIS will not be totally annihilated and these new occupying forces will face stronger and more experienced insurgency: history will repeat itself.
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Posted by b at 02:52 AM | Comments (148)

June 09, 2017

Open Thread 2017-22

(Meta: Travel and family commitments will allow for only light (if any) posting over the weekend - b.)

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Posted by b at 08:30 AM | Comments (198)

Corbyn's Success Will Revitalize Europe's Social-Democracy

My heartfelt congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and the social-democratic wing of the British Labour Party. You won the June 2017 election against huge resistance from the establishment even when Theresa May, for now, will continue to head the government.

AP: May’s UK election gamble backfires as Tories lose majority

Spectacularly punished by voters who took away her majority in parliament, a politically wounded Theresa May sought to soldier on Friday as Britain’s prime minister, resisting pressure to resign after the failure of her high-stakes election gamble made the massive challenge of untangling Britain from the European Union only more complex and uncertain.
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With 649 of 650 seats in the House of Commons declared, May’s bruised Conservatives had 318 seats — short of the 326 they needed for an outright majority and well down from the 330 seats they had before May’s roll of the electoral dice. Labour has 261.
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The results confounded those who said [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn was electorally toxic. Written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign. It drew strong support from young people, who appeared to have turned out to vote in bigger-than-expected numbers.
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Many predicted [May] would soon be gone.

“Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government, then she, I doubt, will survive in the long term as Conservative Party leader,” former Conservative Treasury chief George Osborne said on ITV.

May will now join into a coalition with the north-Irish conservative Democratic Union (DUP) which has won 12 seats in Parliament. Even then she will only have a slim majority. The DUP is tainted with some shady Saudi money involvement. We may well see another snap-election later this year.

Labour won the vote of the young people who turned out in high numbers. Most of the older people voted for the Tories. How will that development transfer into party percentages ten years from now?

Corbyn delivered the best results for Labour since at least 1997. This even though the Labour establishment and its media organs had defamed him since he was elected party leader in 2015. Consider the fake-leftist (and Zionist) columnist Nick Cohen, one of several of his kind in the Guardian columnist stable. Only three month ago Cohen wrote:

The Tories have gone easy on Corbyn and his comrades to date for the transparently obvious reason that they want to keep them in charge of Labour.

In an election, they would tear them to pieces. They will expose the far left’s record of excusing the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s gangster state , the oppressors of women and murderers of gays in Iran, the IRA, and every variety of inquisitorial and homicidal Islamist movement, while presenting itself with hypocritical piety as a moral force. Will there be 150, 125, 100 Labour MPs by the end of the flaying? My advice is to think of a number then halve it.

For the record: Labour won at least 261 seats, 31 more than in the last election. The Tories won 42.5% of the votes, Labour 40% - 10 percent points more than the last time. The British elections system transfers the small Tory advantage in voter share into a rather big difference in parliament seats.

The Corbyn win gives hope for future developments in other European countries. (The long-term trends are way more important than Brexit shenanigans.) Corbyn has proven that social-democratic parties can again be competitive if they shun the neo-liberal dogma and go back to their class based policy roots. The lesson comes too late for the elections in France and the upcoming elections in Germany. In both countries the establishment still rules the social-democratic parties and loses one election after the other. Like Labour in Britain they need a renewal in which real left-wing politicians and socialist policies move back to the top. (The U.S. would probably have made a comparable move if the party establishment had not sabotage Bernie Sanders in favor of an un-electable Hillary Clinton. Sanders though was probably a one-of-a kind chance that will not return for a long time.)

It will need some time for Jeremy Corbyn's win to transfer into a Europe wide renaissance of social-democratic policies. But his was a huge step forward and the movement and trend are coming along well.

Posted by b at 08:09 AM | Comments (93)

June 08, 2017

News of the Day - Elections in Britain, Comey Testimony, Gulf Troubles

Big stories are coming up today but I will have no time to extensively post on them. A short take:

The Conservatives in Britain will likely win today's elections - at least according to recent polls. This even as the Labour Party, under its new leader Jeremy Corbyn, will achieve its best results since "New Labour" under Tony Blair wreaked the party.

The unnecessary loss for Labour can be solely blamed on the media, especially the "liberal" ones like the Guardian, who viciously defamed and fought against Corbyn ever since he was elected to lead the party.

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In hearings at the U.S. Congress the former director of the FBI Comey will do his best to put a bad light on Trump. Trump fired him, later than he should have done, for good reasons:

After six months of investigation the FBI had no evidence for any of the rumors about Russian interference [in U.S. elections] that were thrown around. It should have closed the case with a clear recommendation not to prosecute the issue. [...]

That Comey kept the case open was political interference from his side. Hearings and public rumors about the case blocked the political calendar.

The anti-Trump media (which means about 90% of all) will push the Comey testimony as evidence for malfeasance by Trump even though nothing of that kind will be in there.

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Micah Zenko writes that there is a danger that the Trump administration will wage war somewhere against someone as a diversion from the pressure it is under within Washington DC:

Cont. reading: News of the Day - Elections in Britain, Comey Testimony, Gulf Troubles

Posted by b at 04:48 AM | Comments (173)

June 07, 2017

The Saudis Demand Total Surrender But Qatar Will Not Fold

Many people believe that Qatar will soon give in to recent Saudi demands and threats. I first though so too but have changed my opinion. Qatar will likely hold out way longer than anyone assumes and fight more intensive and much longer than foreseen.

The Saudi "young leader" has now given Qatar 24 hours to submit to 10 demands. These include (unconfirmed) the dismantling of Al Jazeera, breaking off of all diplomatic relations with Iran and (the Israeli demand of) ending all support for the Muslim Brotherhood and especially Hamas. The Saudis threaten with a military invasion.

But Qatar is not like Bahrain where 1,000 Saudi troops could easily take over to save a dictator from a mostly unarmed uprising of its people. It has way more resources and capable allies on its side and recent news shows that it knows how to use them.

Two days ago we extensively described the complex conflict between Qatar and some of its neighbors that has recently been escalating. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the main forces on one side, joined yesterday by Donald Trump but not by the Pentagon. On the other side is Qatar, geographically isolated and seemingly without any real allies even though it hosts a very large U.S. command center and air-base.

The conflict has been simmering for years. Qatar has a strong media arm with Al Jazeera TV and other prominent news outlets. Qatar and its media support the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood which won elections in Egypt before being kicked out in a Saudi financed military coup. The ruling Turkish AK Party is a Muslim Brotherhood branch as is Hamas in Palestine. Muslim Brotherhood parties have thereby proven that it's possible to have an Islam(ist) aligned government without a hereditary dictatorship. Their pure existence de-legitimates the al-Saud clan and other dictatorial family enterprises in the wider Middle East.

There is little reason to waste tears on Qatar. It is a small country with only 200,000 original inhabitants but with 2,000,000 expatriates living there too. Thanks to its large natural gas reserves Qatar is ultra rich and has a very modern (but also vulnerable) infrastructure. The country is way more liberal than Saudi Arabia. Its cities are somewhat cosmopolitan. Unlike in Saudi Arabia women are allowed to drive and other religions than Islam can build their places of worship. But the rulers of Qatar officially follow the same ultraconservative and proselytizing Wahhabi cult as the al-Sauds. They support terrorists of the worst kind in the war against the Syrian people and elsewhere (just as the al-Sauds do).

The Saudis currently lack money. Oil prices are too low to finance the needs of its 26 million people and the exorbitant expenditures of its ruling family. The Qatari gas fields would be a very profitable extension of their oil empire. The UAE would like to take over strategic Qatari islands in the Gulf (and the hydrocarbon fields around them). Taking over Qatar would bring both countries into a better position to fight their presumed enemy in Iran.

As we wrote:

The extreme bullying of Qatar by the Saudis and the UAE, with total closure of all its borders, is designed to create an immediate capitulation. So far Qatar holds onto its course but in the end it is likely to fold. It will have to stop its support for "terrorism" i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. Another scenario is a putsch in Doha with some Saudi puppet prepared to take over the realm. If that is unsuccessful a military move could follow. Qatar has little capabilities to withstand a potential Saudi invasion.

I have since changed my opinion and said so in a few conversation on Twitter. Qatar will hold out way longer than anticipated. It may not fold at all:

Cont. reading: The Saudis Demand Total Surrender But Qatar Will Not Fold

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (104)

 
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