Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 22, 2017

Poor Poet In A Squeeze

(Pinned to top. Scroll down for new content.)
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Dear friends,

this Poor Poet is in a squeeze and needs your support.


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Cont. reading: Poor Poet In A Squeeze

Posted by b at 05:30 PM | Comments (47)

The Orb - Wahhabis And Zionists Urge Trump To Regime-Change Syria To Fight Iran

There is something deeply wrong with what you do when even Satan feels the need to distance himself from you:

The picture is cropped but the original is even worse - the Wahhabi orb rules them all:

Cont. reading: The Orb - Wahhabis And Zionists Urge Trump To Regime-Change Syria To Fight Iran

Posted by b at 10:52 AM | Comments (42)

May 21, 2017

Talking Tactics, Lacking Strategy - The Generals On Syria And Iraq

On Friday Secretary of Defense [General ret.] Mattis, General Dunford and Special Envoy McGurk on the Campaign to Defeat ISIS held a press briefing. A transcript is available.

My first thought after reading its was: "These people live in a different world. They have no idea how the real word works on the ground. What real people think, say,  and are likely to do." There was no strategic thought visible. Presented were only some misguided tactical ideas.

One purpose of the briefing was obviously to souse the Saudis in preparation of Trumps weapons sales campaign there. There was no mention at all of any (Saudi financed) Jihadis in Syria or elsewhere besides ISIS. Questions about Kurdish or Iraqi paramilitary groups were answered with trash talk about Iran.

Besides that some notable points were made.

Dunford of the Joint Chiefs of Staff remarked at one point that the Raqqa campaign was not delayed by the decision of Trump's National Security Advisor Flynn to temporarily halt the Obama order to launch that operation. He thereby rejected the accusations in a McClatchy news piece that Flynn's decision significantly delayed the campaign and that he was motivated by Turkish payments to him. A MoA piece had listed that McClatchy report as fake news. Turkish consulting payments to Flynn had ended three month earlier,  the decision was reasonable and the Raqqa campaign was not delayed by it. Dunford confirmed that.

The recent unprovoked and illegal U.S. air attack on a Syrian Army contingent moving towards the al-Tanf border station with Iraq was probably a local decision taken by an over-eager U.S. commander on the ground. Dunford said:

Cont. reading: Talking Tactics, Lacking Strategy - The Generals On Syria And Iraq

Posted by b at 01:41 PM | Comments (49)

May 20, 2017

Weekend Leisure - Drumming (Anika Nilles)

I have been listening to some drumming lately. From Mannheim, Germany, Anika Nilles with her composition Mister.

 

 

This lesson, with also more of her pieces, gives a bit of background on her particular style.

I also like these as a comparison of a master player and a quite good apprentice drummer:

Posted by b at 11:10 AM | Comments (21)

May 19, 2017

U.S. Attacks Syrian Government Forces - It Now Has To Make Its Choice

Addendum added below
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The Syrian army is on the way to liberate the ISIS besieged city of some 100,000 and garrison of Deir Ezzor in the east of the country. The U.S. has trained a few thousand "New Syrian Army" insurgents in Jordan and is reportedly prepared to march these and its own forces from Jordan through the east-Syrian desert all the way up to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. About a year ago it occupied the al-Tanf (al-Tanaf) border station which consists of only a few buildings in the mid of the desert. The station between Syria and Iraq near the Jordan border triangle was previously held by a small ISIS group.

A U.S. move from the south up towards the Euphrates would cut off the Syrian government from the whole south-east of the country and from its people in Deir Ezzor. While that area is sparsely populated it also has medium size oil and gas fields and is the land connection to the Syrian allies in Iraq.

With the western part of the country relatively quiet, the Syrian government and its allies decided to finally retake the south-eastern provinces from ISIS. They want to lift the ISIS siege on Deir Ezzor and close the border between Syria and Iraq with its own forces. The move will also block any potential U.S. invasion from the south by retaking the road to al-Tanf and the Syrian-Iraqi border (red arrows). The sovereign Syrian state will not give up half of the country to an illegal occupation by ISIS or the U.S. At the same time as the eastern operations are running consolidation and clearing operations against ISIS in the middle and west of the countries will take place (green arrows).


Map by OZ_Analysis (modified by MoA) - bigger

Yesterday a small battalion size force (~2-300 men) of the regular Syrian army, Syrian National Defense Organization volunteers and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF/PMU of the Kata'ib al-Imam Ali) marched on the road from the west towards al-Tanf. They were about 23 kilometers away from the border station when they were attack by U.S. aircraft coming in low from Jordan. The U.S. jets directly fired at the convoy, allegedly after earlier giving some "warning shots". At least one Syrian tank and several other vehicles were destroyed. Six Syrian government forces were reported killed and more were wounded.

Cont. reading: U.S. Attacks Syrian Government Forces - It Now Has To Make Its Choice

Posted by b at 04:02 AM | Comments (193)

May 18, 2017

The Special Council Inquisition - Bad For Trump - And All of Us

The Trump administration made a huge mistake by not preventing the just announced special council investigation into the alleged, but likely non-existing "Trump-Russia" connections:

The Justice Department appointed a special counsel Wednesday to investigate possible coordination between President Trump’s associates and Russian officials — a clear signal to the White House that federal investigators will aggressively pursue the matter despite the president’s insistence that there was no “collusion’’ with the Kremlin.

Robert S. Mueller III, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, has agreed to take over the investigation as a special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced. The move marks a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation to be run independently of the Justice Department. Calls for a special counsel intensified after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey last week.

It is weird that the WaPo report above calls this "a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation". It further states that the White House was not informed about it until it had been made:

The White House did not learn of Rosenstein’s decision until just 30 minutes before the public announcement was made.

Anyway. This is bad and the Trump administration should have pulled all strings to prevent it. Such investigations NEVER stick to their original, limited tasks but extend further and further. The order the Acting Attorney General wrote includes language which allows for nearly unlimited digging in "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” It will thereby continue until -inevitably- some dirt will be found that can be blown out of all proportion and lead to prosecutions or impeachment.

Robert S. Mueller is also a bad choice as a special council as he is a former colleague and friend of former FBI director James Comey who Trump recently fired. From 2013:

Forged Under Fire—Bob Mueller and Jim Comey’s Unusual Friendship

Both men were rising stars mentored and guided by Eric Holder in the 1990s during Holder’s time in the Justice Department under the Clinton administration.
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Mueller, now 68, and Comey, now 52, would become close partners and close allies throughout the years ahead.
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Both, Comey and Mueller, were involved in the dramatic hospital scene at the bed of Attorney General Ashcroft to stop Bush's illegal program of spying on U.S. citizens. The program in question stopped for a moment but the spying simply continued under a different legal justification.

The attempts to smear Trump and those around him over foreign connections have entered absurd territory. The lead headline at McClatchy today is a. old news, b. confusing the timeline only to further throw dirt into the direction of Trump:

Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed – after being paid as its agent

One of the Trump administration’s first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired – and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he’d been paid more than $500,000 to represent.

The incoming Trump administration temporarily stopped the Raqqa campaign which the Obama administration had decided would be done with Kurdish forces. This was on January 17, only a few days before the Trump administration took over. The Obama administration itself had deliberated about the issue for over 8 month and its choice was not its preferred option:

Cont. reading: The Special Council Inquisition - Bad For Trump - And All of Us

Posted by b at 07:07 AM | Comments (93)

May 17, 2017

Open Thread 2017-19

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (102)

James Comey Is Losing His Game With Another Non-News Leak

This is a short follow up on yesterday's false news stories topped with a Comey leak.

1. The New York Times tries to add to the story of the WannaCry ransom virus (which is based on NSA exploits),  hyping the unfounded claim that North Korea is behind it: Focus Turns to North Korea Sleeper Cells as Possible Culprits in Cyberattack. The story curiously does not even mention the nonsensical claim of a Google staffer that points to common code snippets in reused software stacks. Instead we get a long elaboration on how North Korea sends students abroad to be trained in IT and programming. In paragraph 4 the story asserts:

As evidence mounts that North Korean hackers may have links to the ransom assaults ...

But no evidence, none at all, is cited in the piece. The "mounting evidence" is a molehill without the hill. Eleven paragraphs later we learn that:

It also is possible that North Korea had no role in the attacks,

Duh. Six NYT reporters collaborated in writing that twenty paragraph story which contains no reasonable news or information. What a waste.

2. The State Department claim that Syria built a crematorium inside a prison to burn executed prisoners saw no follow up. But it had consequences. The presented "evidence" was too thin to make it believable. Even the staunchly anti-Syrian SPIEGEL doubted it: USA bleiben Beweise für Assads Leichenöfen schuldig. Translated: "U.S. fails to give evidence for Assad crematorium claims."

The State Department claim was presented in a special news conference by Stuart Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. A day later Jones announced that he would retire:

Jones, 57, told colleagues the decision was his own and that he had not been pushed out or asked to leave the department.

Ahem. Sure. Maybe. Or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson disliked the lame propaganda shows Jones presented under the official State Department seal.

3. Yesterday's "Trump revealed critical intelligence to Russia" nonsense is already dying down. Even regular NYT readers criticize their paper's reporting of it:

It’s quite strange that the media is giving such prominence to and broadcasting so much detail about supposedly highly secret information and its source in order to show how irresponsible President Trump is.
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It seem that of the two, the media and the President, the media is by far the most at fault for leaking state secrets. Strange indeed: it seems the goal of bringing down Trump overrides all other considerations.”

To recap - in March the U.S. and the UK had issued a ban on laptops for fights from certain Middle Eastern airports:

The U.S. officials said intelligence "indicates terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation" by "smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items."

It was known from other reports that the threat was from ISIS. Trump repeated this to the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and added that the origin of the treat is the ISIS capital Raqqa. Anyone would have guessed that. It was no secret. But "current and former officials" phoned up reporter after reporter to claim that Trump revealed critical intelligence because the Russians might now guess which country the information was coming from. A few hours later the Washington Post and the New York Times, not Trump, revealed that the original information came from Israel. It will be difficult to blame Trump for "leaking to the Russians" less information than "current and a former American official" leak to mainstream paper.

But as that smear against Trump and Russia has failed a new one is needed.

A week ago Trump unceremoniously fired FBI boss James Comey:

After six months of investigation the FBI had no evidence for any of the rumors about Russian interference [in the U.S.] 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. Instead of following the facts, and deciding based upon them, he was himself running a political campaign.

Comey had hoped that he would not be fired as long as the investigation was running. Since Trump kicked him out Comey tried to get a public hearing in Congress to spill the beans and get some revenge. The Republican majority leaders smelled the trap and did not invite him. Today he upped his game: Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

Comey leaked the memo to raise new allegations against Trump and to finally get his day in Congress. But Trump's “I hope you can let this go” is not a clear interference in a judicial investigation. Trump just wished that the FBI would use its resources to look into other issues, like the extensive leaking of secret intelligence that occurred during recent months. Nothing nefarious can be constructed from that reasonable explanation. The investigation into Flynn, for violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act with relation to Turkey(!), continues. Trump has had no influence on it. If this talk has been so important as to possibly constitute a breach of law why did Comey wait months, until after he was fired, to leak it?

The Comey claim is another non-issue and non-story. The Republican congress leaders will not jump on Comey's bandwagon (- or will they?) If this was the worst Comey can present he has lost the fight.

The deep-state, which opposes any collaboration with Russia and wants Trump impeached (RealNews vid), will now have to find a new angle for its attack.

Posted by b at 05:17 AM | Comments (46)

May 16, 2017

One Day, Three Serious News Stories That Turn Out To Be False

It is a fakenews day. Three stories are making the rounds through the media that are each based on false or widely exaggerated interpretation of claims. North Korea, Syria and the U.S. President are the targets.

1. The Wall Street Journal asserts with a #fakenews headline that bits of computer-code in the recent WannaCry ransom virus are identical with bits of computer code that was allegedly used in a 2014 hack of Sony. (The Sony attack was falsely attributed to North Korea.)

Researchers Identify Clue Connecting Ransomware Assault to Group Tied to North Korea

Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, on Monday pointed out similarities between that earlier WannaCry variant and code used in a series of attacks that security specialists have attributed to the Lazarus group.

The "Lazerus group" (which probably does not exist at all) was attributed to North Korean state agencies. Six paragraphs later we learn that the "similarities" were found in often reused code:

Cont. reading: One Day, Three Serious News Stories That Turn Out To Be False

Posted by b at 03:25 AM | Comments (96)

May 15, 2017

State Department: Renamed Al-Qaeda Not A Terrorist Organization - Can Receive CIA Supplies

Max Abrams, a professor who works about terrorism, came up with this new definition of "terrorism":

Nonstate actors who use violence against civilians for a political goal and haven't been supported by the US.

The highlighted part is "new" to those who have not learned from history and the many occasions of U.S. support for (typically extremely right-wing) terrorist organizations like the "contras" in Nicaragua, OUN fascists in Ukraine or Jihadi Mujahedin in Afghanistan. It can indeed be argued that the U.S. created al-Qaeda as well as the Islamic State (ISIS).

But lets just be happy that people get again reminded of the issue.

Prof. Adams remark came after a report by the Canadian CBC which found that the U.S. has not designated al-Qaeda's recently renamed organization in Syria as a "foreign terrorist entity". HTS rules (vid) the Syrian city and governate of Idleb.

The U.S. offered a $10,000,000 reward (official pdf) for Abu Muhammad al-Joulani the founder al Al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Jabhat Fatah al-Sham). But newly again renamed organization which he leads as the official military commander, the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), is not on any U.S. (and Canadian) terrorist entity list:

The Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, currently calling itself Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has succeeded in getting itself off Canada's list of designated terrorist entities following its latest identity shift.
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[I]n January of this year, the group shifted again, nominally dissolving itself and joining with four other jihadi groups. It altered its name, changing the word "Jabhat" (Front) to "Hay'at" (Organization), and "Fateh" (Conquest) to "Tahrir" (Liberation).
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The State Department did issue a statement in March, in Arabic only, branding HTS a terrorist group. But the State Department's Nicole Thompson told CBC that was a mistake.

"Though closely affiliated with al-Nusra, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is not a designated terrorist organization," she said in an email. "The statement you found should have said al-Nusrah Front and has been corrected."

Al-Nusra, however, no longer exists.

The non-designation will make it more difficult to prosecute members and supporters of the organization. Donations and other support to HTS are now legal. While Nusra and HTS had claimed to no longer be part of al-Qaeda (but never retracted their oath to it), scholars within those organization frequently argue for publicly admit the connection. No professional working on the issue denies that HTS is part of al-Qaeda and a terrorist group. But, apparently, the U.S. State Department does.

The CBC speculates why HTS is not (or no longer) designated:

Cont. reading: State Department: Renamed Al-Qaeda Not A Terrorist Organization - Can Receive CIA Supplies

Posted by b at 10:12 AM | Comments (78)

May 14, 2017

CentCom Breaks "Safe Passage" Deal - Making Its Allies Bleed For It

On Friday the U.S. "Inherent Resolve" command of its operations in Syria and Iraq released an statement that points to unnecessary intensified fighting about the city of Raqqa and elsewhere.

SAC and SDF Liberate Tabqah

The Syrian Arab Coalition and their Syrian Democratic Force partners completed the liberation of the Tabqah Dam, as well as the city of Tabqah and its nearby airfield May 10.
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In Tabqah, the SDF's increased pressure on ISIS from each flank allowed it to accelerate the pace of the fight, clear the final neighborhoods of the city, and isolate Tabqah Dam.

Approximately 70 ISIS fighters conceded to the SDF's terms, which included the dismantling of IEDs surrounding the dam, the surrender of all ISIS heavy weapons, and the forced withdrawal of all remaining fighters from Tabqah City.

The SDF accepted ISIS's surrender of the city to protect innocent civilians and to protect the Tabqah dam infrastructure which hundreds of thousands of Syrians rely on for water, agriculture, and electricity.

(The "Syrian Arab Coalition" is U.S. propaganda parlance for its own forces in the area. That force is part of its Central Command. The "Syrian Democratic Force" are predominantly fighters of the Syrian-Kurdish YPG and a few U.S. special forces embedded with them.)

The Kurdish forces obviously made a deal with the ISIS rearguard. They offered safe passage (safe conduct) to the ISIS fighters if those would dismantled their demolition charges on the Tabqa dam and leave their heavy weapons behind. The ISIS group accepted and fulfilled its part of the deal. The dam was saved. The ISIS forces withdrew.

The Kurdish commander had made the right decision. Any fighting around, on or within the dam structure could have led to a catastrophic dam failure which would have killed ten-thousands (at least) further down the Euphrates.

The next line in the U.S. press release is therefore ominous:

Cont. reading: CentCom Breaks "Safe Passage" Deal - Making Its Allies Bleed For It

Posted by b at 09:49 AM | Comments (74)

May 12, 2017

Syria - "The regime will be there" - U.S. Concedes Raqqa ... And The Syrian East?

There are strong rumors that the U.S. intends to launch an invasion of east-Syria from Jordan with the aim of occupying the whole eastern area. The Syrian army and its allies launched a move towards the east (red) to prevent such an outcome.


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A new Wall Street Journal piece, primarily about the ISIS held city of Raqqa on the Euphrates, casts doubt on long term U.S. plans for such an occupation. Its core quote:

"We won’t be in Raqqa in 2020, but the regime will be there."

There were already doubts that a big U.S. move in east-Syria was really going to happen. Jordan opposes any such move. While the U.S. and Jordan have trained, equipped and paid Syrian "rebels" to hold a zone of control in south-west Syria, little preparations have been seen for a large move in the south-east. The U.S. has so far vetted and trained at most 2,000 local Arab fighters in the area. Fewer are ready to go. Even with U.S. special forces embedded with them these forces are way too small to take an ISIS defended city or to capture or to hold a significant area. At least ten to twenty thousand troops would be needed (likely more) for such an endeavor. The current force is probably only tasked with taking a few border stations to close down the border between Syria and Iraq. (A move that Syrian and Iraqi forces will try to prevent.)

The upcoming taking of Raqqa by U.S. forces and its Kurdish proxies is now endorsed by the Syrian government and its Russian allies. It seems that an agreement has been made without any public announcement. This agreement may well extend to the other eastern areas south of Raqqa. From the WSJ:

Cont. reading: Syria - "The regime will be there" - U.S. Concedes Raqqa ... And The Syrian East?

Posted by b at 10:37 AM | Comments (77)

May 11, 2017

Tunnel With Radioactive Waste Collapses - No Real Solution In Sight

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state is said to be the most polluted site in the United States. Part of it are the ruins of PUREX, a Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility that has been used to produce Plutonium for nuclear weapons from World War II on throughout the Cold War. Extracting Plutonium from used Uranium fuel is a chemical process hat leaves aggressive and highly radioactive waste.

On Tuesday an incident occurred at the the site. A sinkhole appeared above an old railroad tunnel which is full of radioactive equipment. Workers are now filling the hole with 50 truckloads of dirt. Officials claim that no release of chemicals or radioactivity occurred.

The old railroad tunnel at the side has been used to store radioactive machinery and fuel containers:

Railroad cars loaded with contaminated equipment were backed into the tunnel by a remotely operated engine and left there, with the door eventually sealed closed.

Radiation levels of wastes stored there would be lethal to humans within an hour, according to Heart of America Northwest, a Seattle-based Hanford watchdog group.

The tunnel was used from 1960 to 1965. In 1964 a longer and more reinforced tunnel was added at PUREX.

The original tunnel offers little protection:

The rail tunnel was built in 1956 out of timber, concrete and steel, topped by 8 feet of dirt. It was 360 feet long (110 meters).

Competent engineers built these tunnels.

(/snark)

Still, it is likely that problems with these tunnels will increase over time. Theys need immediate attention. Unfortunately not everyone is of that opinion:

Cont. reading: Tunnel With Radioactive Waste Collapses - No Real Solution In Sight

Posted by b at 05:37 AM | Comments (71)

May 10, 2017

Trump Fires FBI Boss James Comey - About Time ...

President Trump dismissed the Director of the FBI James Comey on recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General, who had served under Obama, and the Attorney General. The dismissal and the recommendation memos can be read here.

Comey is accused of usurping the Attorney General's authority on several occasions. In July 2016 Comey decided and publicly announced the closing of the Clinton email-investigations without a recommendation of prosecution. He publicly announced the reopening of the investigation in October only to close it again a few days later.

At the first closing of the investigation Comey held a press conference and said:

“our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

That, by far, exceeded his competency, Since when can a police officer decide how "reasonable" a prosecutor may or may not be, and make public announcements about that? Clinton's running of a private email server broke several laws. Anyone but she would have been prosecuted at least for breaching secrecy and security regulations.

It is not the job of the police to decide about prosecutions. The police is an investigating agent of the public prosecutors office. It can make recommendations about prosecutions but not decide about them. Recommendations are to be kept confidential until they are decided upon by the relevant authority - the prosecutor. There are additional issues with Comey. His agents used sting or rather entrapment to lure many hapless idiots into committing "ISIS terror acts". A full two thirds of such acts in the U.S. would not have developed without FBI help. Comey himself had signed off on Bush's warrantless wiretapping program.

The formal dismissal of Comey is, in my view, the right thing to do. It should have been done earlier.

But the political dimension of the dismissal is not about the Clinton email affair at all. It is about the "Russia interfered with the election" nonsense Clinton invented as excuse for her self-inflicted loss of the vote. The whole anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign run by neocons and "Resistance" democrats, is designed to block the foreign policy - detente with Russia - for which Trump was elected. The anti-Russia inquisition is dangerous groupthink.

There is no evidence - none at all - that Russia "interfered" with the U.S. election. There is no evidence - none at all - that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign. The Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sits on the Judiciary Committee as well as the Select Committee on Intelligence, recently confirmed that publicly (vid) immediately after she had again been briefed by the CIA:

Blitzer mentioned that Feinstein and other colleagues from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had visited CIA headquarters on Tuesday to be briefed on the investigation. He then asked Feinstein whether she had evidence, without disclosing any classified information, that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"Not at this time," Feinstein said.

Blitzer was stunned.


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There is no evidence. But the FBI Director kept an investigation open on the issue and talked about it. He did not make any recommendation to the prosecutors. After six months of investigation the FBI had no evidence for any of the rumors about Russian interference that were thrown around. It should have closed the case with a clear recommendation not to prosecute the issue. (That the former Trump NSA General Flynn once took money for a gig at Russia Today is a non-issue. He took ten times as much money from Turkey but no one seems to be interested in the background of that deal.)

That Comey kept the case open was political interference from his side. Hearings and public rumors about the case blocked the political calendar. Instead of following the facts, and deciding based upon them, he was himself running a political campaign. John Edgar Hoover demonstrated how much damage an unrestricted FBI director on political witch hunt can cause. No such dictatorial power should ever again be vested in that position and in a person who is prone to exceed his competencies.

The Clinton partisans and the Russia hawks will howl about Trump's decision for a day or two. They fear losing their current hobby horse. They will soon find a different one.

Posted by b at 03:40 AM | Comments (109)

May 09, 2017

Syria: The New Government Plans For Moving East

The de-escalation agreement for four fighting zones in Syria has come into effect. The battles between Syrian government forces (red) and the foreign supported "rebels" (yellow) has ebbed in the north, in Idleb and north Hama, in the south round Deraa, around the besieged "rebel" enclaves north of Homs and east of Damascus in east-Ghouta. That does not mean that those areas are peaceful or safe. In the north Turkey is scrimishing with U.S. supported Kurds (purple), in Deraa governate ISIS is infighting with other Jihadi "rebels" and in east-Ghouta various "rebel" groups are trying to eliminate each other.

This de-escalation has freed up Syrian government forces which are now repositioning for a large attack through south-east Syria towards Deir-Ezzor and the Iraqi border. One axis of the attack will be from the capital to the east along the Damascus-Baghdad highway towards the Iraqi border. Another one will aim from Palmyra east through Sukhnah towards Deir Ezzor. (Roughly painted as red arrows on the map).


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This terrain in-between is largely desert with only a few villages and some oil installations on the way. Large distances can be covert within a few hours. Fighting against ISIS (aka the Islamic State, grey) will be limited to the few build up areas. But the long "lines of communication", i.e. the supply roads, will be under constant danger of raids from roving ISIS militants and possibly U.S. airplanes.

In parallel to the two large attacks smaller operations (sketched as green arrows on the map) will proceed to eliminate ISIS and "rebel" forces near the government held western heartland. The current U.S.-Kurdish operation against ISIS in Raqqa is pushing ISIS elements towards those western government areas. The (green) "secure the realms" operations are designed to surround and eliminate all enemy areas to the west of the line and to prevent further infiltration into core areas.

The south-eastern desert is currently held by the Islamic State. But U.S. supported "rebel" forces and regular U.S. army troops threaten to take the area in a large attack launched from east Jordan towards the north and onto Raqqa. The build up of such a force has been reported several times and likely has some truth to it. (Though recently published photos of a Jordan armor depot some 50 kilometers from the border are probably unrelated. The depot has existed with nearly the same amount of armor since at least 2010.)

It would be quite risky for Jordan to take part or even allow such a large military operation in Syria. ISIS has infiltrated refugee camps in and near Jordan and has a substantial following within the country. But Jordan depends on U.S. and Gulf country money and can only reject their demands to a certain degree.

Should the U.S. military decide to take all of east-Syria by moving in from Jordan it will come into conflict with the Syrian (red arrow) forces pushing east. These Syrian movements will be accompanied by Russian military elements. Any collision of these maneuver groups could lead to serious escalations.

I doubt that U.S. President Trump has a personal interest in any move in Syria beyond the taking of Raqqa, He needs that success together with the taking of Mosul in Iraq from ISIS for propaganda purposes. Taking Raqqa will be difficult enough. The U.S.-Kurdish forces are still skirmishing ISIS around Taqba city and its dam, (some 30 kilometers from Raqqa) and the Kurds want further political concessions before moving on. Any additional "nation building" will hamper Trump's other political aims.

The military hawks in his government and in the Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia are aiming further. It is now the National Security Advisor General McMaster who is pushing for regime change in Syria. The recent U.S. cruise missile attack on the Syrian Shayrat air base which was predominantly used to fight ISIS was McMaster's plan. But it seems that McMaster is now disliked by Trump and the inner White House circles. There is thus some hope that he will leave soon. The Syrian Foreign Minister already detects some change in the U.S. attitude towards the situation in Syria.

The plans of the Syrian government and its allies make sense. But the large moves towards the east can only proceed if the de-escalation schemes in the west keep the battlefields there relative quiet. This again depends on Turkey's willingness to blockade new weapon flows towards the "rebels" and al-Qaeda especially in north Syria. The Turkish President Erdogan is known for turning on a dime. The Gulf countries will offer him huge bribes to spoil the de-escalation. Russia is offering a pipeline which promises long term profits. It is hard to know which bribe he will prefer and which side he will -in the end- decide to support.

Posted by b at 04:49 AM | Comments (64)

May 08, 2017

The New President Of France ...

The new President Of France ...


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... and some youngster receiving her advice.

Posted by b at 01:11 AM | Comments (161)

May 07, 2017

Open Thread 2017-18

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:30 PM | Comments (110)

May 06, 2017

Elections In France

Many readers here will likely be more versed in the intrigues of the elections in France than I am.

It seems clear so far the the synthetic Rothschild candidate will win this round.

But what will be the long-term outcome in the epic fight of globalists versus nationalists - in France, in Europe and elsewhere?

 

Posted by b at 03:46 AM | Comments (135)

 
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