Erdogan Establishes No-Fly Zone Over Syria
Turkey PM 'will support' Syria no-fly zone - May 10 2013
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, has told a US television station that his country will support a US-enforced no-fly zone in Syria.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday it would be up to the U.N. Security Council to decide whether to establish a no-fly zone inside Syria and said he backed the involvement of Russia and China in planned peace talks.
Turkey's Erdogan calls for no-fly zone in Syria - Sep 26 2014
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that a "no-fly zone" should be created in Syria to protect part of it from attacks by Syria's air force.
Erdogan: Allies Warming to Idea of Syria ‘Safe Zone’ - Nov 10 2015
Speaking to CNN today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that his allies are “warming” to the idea of imposing a safe zone in northern Syria, a plan that his government had advocated for years as an alternative to Turkey accepting massive numbers of refugees.
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has renewed a call for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria that would allow refugees to return to their homeland.
Only a few weeks ago Erdogan's long desired no-fly zone looked increasingly possible. But then the guardsman passed by.
by Viliam Weisskopf, published 1958 in the Czech magazine Roháč (bigger)
Caught in the act Erdogan is now compelled to install the desired no-fly zone over Syria. For Turkish jets.
Turkey suspends Syria flights after crisis with Russia - Nov 27 2015
The Turkish army has suspended flights over Syria as part of an ongoing joint military campaign with the United States against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after it shot down a Russian jetfighter, sparking an unprecedented crisis between Ankara and Moscow.
The decision was taken following the eruption of the crisis with Russia in which a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian warplane early Nov. 24 after it allegedly violated Turkish airspace, according to diplomatic sources.
Syria: The Turkish Russian Apology Contest
"The incident which happened two days ago in the skies over Syria defies common sense and international law. The plane was shot down over Syrian territory. And we have yet to receive an intelligible apology from Turkey on a top political level, " [the Russian President Putin] said.
"I think if there is a party that needs to apologize, it is not us," [the Turkish President Erdogan] said. "Those who violated our airspace are the ones who need to apologize. Our pilots and our armed forces, they simply fulfilled their duties, which consisted of responding to ... violations of the rules of engagement. I think this is the essence."
Erdogan did not take the exit ramp Putin offered. So who will win this contest?
U.S. Air Force General (ret) Charles J. Dunlap assesses that Russia wins the legal case. The Turkish shoot down of the Russian bomber was plainly illegal under international law as there was no threat to Turkey from the Russian plane. Even Turkey itself does not allege that the Russian bomber intended to attack that country. There was no self-defense situation that would allow such behavior.
Russia is taking all kinds of small and bigger economic measures to let Erdogan feel the consequences of attacking the Russian military in Syria:
- Russia to strengthen control over food supplies from Turkey
- Turkish trucks face hurdles at Russia’s customs
- Turkish businessmen detained in Russia amid strained ties
The businessmen were selling their stuff at the Krasnodar agro trade exhibition illegally as they only held tourist visa. There are more such measures like official warnings to Russians not to go on vacation in Turkey and thorough safety controls of Turkish ships in Russian ports. More can follow.
Over all 55% of Turkey's gas consumption depends on Russian gas. A quarter of Turkey's electricity production runs on Russian gas. It is unlikely for now that Russia will use the leverage that comes with this Turkish energy dependency. But should another big incident happen "technical problems" with gas deliveries will come into play.
An overview of other economic and trade ties shows that Russia would probably lose some business in Turkey should the economic fight escalate. But the damage for the Turkish economy from losing business in Russia would be much bigger. The Turkish construction, agriculture and tourism industry would all lose their best or second best customer.
The Syrian army is intensifying the fight on its side of Syrian-Turkish border in the Latakia area where the Russian bomber was shot down. The "Turkmen" in that area have been joined by Erdogan's party youth "volunteers":
Emrah Çelik, a 27-year-old district organization member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in northwestern Tekirdağ province who joined the Turkmen forces voluntarily, said the 2nd Coastal Division has been fighting against regime forces for the last seven months.
That people from his own political party fight in Syria gives Erdogan some interior political problems. He will be urged to fight on their side but a direct fight against Russian forces, without NATO backing, is too big a risk for him.
Russia says it 'destroyed' the rebels in that area:
"The terrorists operating in that area and other mysterious groups were destroyed," [military official Igor Konashenkov] said.
The Russian airforce also attacked (vid) other fortified "Turkmen" positions in Latakia and it again attacked truck convoys near Azaz next to the Turkish-Syrian border crossing. Some of those convoys carry "aid" in the name of the IHH, a Humanitarian Relief Foundation with ties to Erdogan's party. Such "aid" is measured as 7.62mm, 23mm or some other caliber.
Over the years various IHH "aid" trucks on their way to Syria had been stopped by Turkish police and were found to carry weapons and ammunition. Just today two leading Turkish journalist were arrested for publishing about such arm transfers. They were charged of being members of a terror organization, espionage and revealing confidential documents. A very stupid move by Erdogan as it highlights the very issue Russia is pocking at.
Syria will soon officially demand that all the "aid" trucks crossing the border be checked by United Nations personal to make sure that no weapons or ammunition are carried with them. Any truck not having been checked risks to be bombed.
The Kurdish YPG fighters are using the Russian air cover in the area and advance from the east along the border attacking the "moderate" rebels of al-Nusra and Ahrar al Sham within the corridor from Turkey down to Aleppo. This is precisely the area where Erdogan wanted to have his "safe zone". He had earlier threatened to bomb the Kurds should they move to close that corridor. But how can he do that now when Russia gives them air cover and has excellent air defense (see below) readily available? Should he invade? If he does there is no chance that NATO will stand with him.
All this looks like Putin is celebrating thanksgiving and having Turkey for lunch.
Additional Russian targets today were again oil storage (vid) and truck distribution points (vid) around Raqqa run by the Islamic State. Why has the U.S., flying there daily for the last 13 month, never attacked these obvious targets?
Russia activated one S-400 air defense system at its Hmeimim air base in Latakia. One S-400 system consist of two radar vehicles, a command and control vehicle and up to twelve launcher vehicles with four missiles each. Parts of this system were already in Syria for at least two weeks. After additional transport arrivals (vid) it is now set to permanent combat readiness. With a range of 400 kilometers the system can cover west Syria and south Turkey as well as Lebanon and most of Israel. Another S-400 system is on its way to Syria. Also on their way are up to twelve additional fighter planes which will help the four fighters already deployed to fly air-to-air cover for the Russian ground bombers and helicopters. These fighters are modern and can match all modern "western" systems.
Seemingly completely detached from the real situation in Syria U.S. neocons have opened a concerted campaign for the eradication of the Sykes-Picot borders and the destruction of Syria and Iraq.
- John Bolton in the New York Times: To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State
- Max Boot in the LA Times: Islamic State's Achilles' heel: Its Sunni identity
- James Dobbins in USA Today: Partition Syria to crush the Islamic State
All three op-eds are merely fantasies and neither consider all actors on the ground nor the various motivations and aim of those actors. All three require large U.S. troop deployments into a fighting zone.
Why do they believe that the U.S. should decide border issues of Syria or Iraq? And, after the mess the U.S. created in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, why do they believe it could?
Was The U.S. Involved In The Turkish Attack Against The Russian Jet?
Erdogan criticized Syria harshly on Tuesday for shooting down the Turkish fighter jet, saying: "Even if the plane was in their airspace for a few seconds, that is no excuse to attack."
"It was clear that this plane was not an aggressive plane. Still it was shot down," he said.Turkey hardens military position after Syria downs jet June 27, 2012
A violation of one to two kilometers is accepted as "natural" given the speed of aircraft, the statement [by the the General Staff] said. This year's violations of Turkish airspace lasted between 20 seconds and nine minutes, which showed "airspace violations can be resolved by warning and interceptions," the statement said.
Turkey could have downed 114 planes for airspace violations: Army June 25, 2012
Turkish fighter jets and military helicopters have dramatically increased their incursions into Greek airspace, according to a study based on data from the Greek military, forcing the cash-strapped Greek air force to respond.
Turkey buzzes weakened Greece - In growing numbers Ankara’s fighter jets test Greek territorial claims. - July 23, 2015
Turkey also regularly violates Iraq's airspace by flying bombing attacks against Kurds in north Iraq.
All this provides that yesterday's incident in which Turkey shot down a Russian jet was not a case of an ordinary airspace violation but a deliberate act to take down a Russian plane. The surviving co-pilot of the Russian jet insists that it neither flew through Turkish airspace nor was warned of an imminent attack. As I wrote yesterday:
This then was not legitimate air-defense but an ambush.
I am not the only one who came to that conclusion. Deep inside a McClatchy piece a "western" diplomat sees it as an "orchestrated" event:
One Western diplomat based in Iraq, but with extensive experience in Syria and Turkey, called the incident “brazenly orchestrated and inevitable,” but asked that the identification of his country not be used in the statement.
The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov also came to that conclusion:
The downing of a Russian warplane in Syria by Turkey appears to be a pre-planned provocation, the Russian Foreign Minister said. Ankara failed to communicate with Russia over the incident, he added.
“We have serious doubts that this act was unintentional. It looks very much like a preplanned provocation,” Lavrov said, citing Turkey’s failure to maintain proper communication with Russia, the abundance of footage of the incident and other evidence.
Several NATO ambassadors will have had the same though when they admonished Ankara over the act:
"There are other ways of dealing with these kinds of incidents," said one diplomat who declined to be named.
The attack on the Russian plane was preconceived on November 22 when a security summit was held with the Turkish government under Prime Minister Davutoğlu and the Turkish Armed Forces. Davutoğlu personally gave the order to shoot down Russian planes. This, Turkey says, was necessary to stop Russian bombing of "Turkmen" in north Syria's Latakia near the Turkish border.
Many of the "Syrian Turkmen" fighting against the Syrian people are from Central Asia and part of the terrorist groups of Jabhat al-Nusra, Ansar Al Sham, Jabhat Ansar Ad Din and Ahrar al Sham. Uighurs smuggled in from China and fighting under the "Turkistan Islamist Party" label even advertise their ‘little jihadists’ children training camps in the area. The few real Syrian Turkmen work, as even the BBC admits, together with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Their leader and spokesman, one Alparslan Celik, is a Turkish citizen from Elazığ.
The Turkish claim of defending "Turkmen" in Syria is a sham. It is defending mostly foreign Islamist terrorists.
Whoever planned the ambush on the Russian jet miscalculated the reaction. NATO will not come to Turkey's help over this or the next such incident. NATO countries know that the Russian plane was hit within Syria. Russia will not be scared into drawing back. Instead it massively increased the bombing of targets in that area:
At least 12 air strikes hit Latakia's northern countryside as pro-government forces clashed with fighters from al Qaeda's Nusra Front and Turkmen insurgents in the Jabal Akrad and Jabal Turkman areas, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A Turkmen commander said missiles fired from Russian warships in the Mediterranean were also hitting the area, as well as heavy artillery shelling.
Russian jets also bombed insurgency supply trucks (video) in al-Qaeda controlled Azaz, north of Aleppo and just some two kilometers from the Turkish border. They also bombed the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to Turkey. That is a big FU to Erdogan.
The Russian missile cruiser Moskva with its extensive air defense systems is now covering the area. Russia will officially deploy two S-400 air defense systems to cover all of north-west Syria and southern Turkey. Russia also has lots of electronic wizardry it can (and will) apply. The preparation of additional airfields is ongoing. There will be no outward military revenge against Turkey unless it crosses into Syria. The "safe zone" within Syria Erdogan dreams of would have to be won by defeating Russian forces.
The 4.5 million Russian tourists who visited Turkey this year will not come again. Turkish business in Russia, mostly in the building industry and agricultural products, will shrink to nearly zero. That the scheming to take down a Russian air plane may have negative consequences for Turkey suddenly also dawned to Davutoğlu who now pretends that we wants to make nice again:
Turkey is not aiming to escalate tension with Russia, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Nov. 25, echoing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the downing of a SU-24 Russian jet the previous day.
“Russia is our friend and neighbor. Our bilateral communication channels are open. But our security, as for every friendly country, should be based on the principle of respect under international law. It’s normal to protect our national airspace,” Davutoğlu said, addressing party members in parliament.
And it is normal for Russia to defend its ally Syria. Against all enemies. By all means.
But back to Turkey's motive. The way this is played one might believe that this was a indeed a lonely Turkish idea to defend its immediate interests in Syria - the "Turkmen" as well as the oil business Erdogan's son has with the Islamic State.
But there is also a bigger game going on and it is likely that Erdogan has a new contract and Obama's backing for this escalation. James Winnefeld, the deputy chief of General Staff of the U.S. military, was in Ankara when the incident happened. The cooperation between U.S. and Turkish military and especially the air forces is quite tight. It is hard to believe that there was no communication about what was prepared to happen.
After the Islamic State attack in France President Hollande attempted to create a global coalition against IS which would include Russia and Iran as well as the U.S. led anti-ISIS block. But such a coalition, which makes a lot of sense, would have to agree to leave Syria alone and to help Syrian ground forces to effectively fight the Islamic State. It does not make sense to destroy the Syrian state and to just hope that the outcome would be something better than an emboldened IS or AlQaeda ruling in Damascus. That outcome is certainly not in Europe's interest. But a global coalition is not in U.S. or Turkish interests. It would end their common plans and efforts to overthrow the Syrian government and to install a "Sunni" state in Syria and Iraq as a Turkish protectorate.
The Russian jet incident decreased the likelihood of such a coalition. Holland, visiting Washington yesterday, had to pull back with his plan and was again degraded to parrot Obama's "Assad must go" nonsense. Obama feels emboldened and now pushes to widen the conflict in Syria:
The Obama administration is using the current moment of extreme anger and anxiety in Europe to press allies for sharp increases in their contributions to the fight against the Islamic State. Suggestions include more strike aircraft, more intelligence-sharing, more training and equipment for local fighters, and deployment of their own special operations forces.
While new contributions would be added to anti-Islamic State campaigns across the board, the attention is clearly on Syria, marking a shift in what began as an “Iraq first” focus when Obama authorized airstrikes in the region last fall.
Obama, speaking beside Hollande on Tuesday, restated his insistence that Assad is part of the problem, not the solution, and that he must go.
The Obama administration is also preparing to install the Turkish dream of a "safe zone" between Aleppo and the Turkish border north of it.
Among several coalition priorities in Syria, the United States has begun a series of airstrikes in an area known as the “Mar’a line,” named for a town north of Aleppo in the northwest. There, a 60-mile stretch to the Euphrates River in the east is the only remaining part of the Syria-Turkey border under Islamic State control.
The administration had delayed beginning operations in the area because U.S. aircraft were needed in operations farther east, and it has been uncertain that local opposition forces would be able to hold the territory if it could be cleared with airstrikes.
The increased Russian air defense and the likely increase of its deployed planes will make those "safe zone" plans impossible.
But Obama, in my conclusion, still wants to drag NATO into Syria and wants to assemble enough forces "against ISIS" to be able to overwhelm the Syrian government and its Russian protectors. If that does not work he at least hopes to give Russia the Afghanistan like "quagmire" in Syria he and other U.S. officials promised. The again increasing tensions with U.S. proxy Ukraine only help in that regard.
But there is even more to that plan. Just by chance (not) the NYT op-ed pages launch a trial balloon today for the creation of a Sunni state in east Syria and west Iraq. But that (Islamic) State is already there and the "containment" strategy Obama practices towards it guarantees that it will fester.
Obama continues his immensely destructive policies in the Middle East with zero regard to the all the bad outcomes these are likely to have for the people there as well as for Europe. One again wonders if all these action follow from sheer incompetence or from some devilish, ingenious strategic planning.
Open Thread 2015-44
News & views (not fitting in other threads) ...
The Two Versions Of The Latakia Plane Incident
Edited and updated
Turkey says two of its F-16 fighters shot down a jet that had crossed into Turkey and then crashed in Syria:
Two Turkish F-16's shot down a Russian-made SU-24 jet on Nov. 24 near the Syrian border after it violated Turkish airspace, presidential sources said.
Turkey shot down the jet after it failed to heed the warnings within the rules of engagement.
Initial reports said the jet belonged to Russia, but presidential sources later clarified that the jet's nationality was unknown.
The Turkish Armed Force also stated that the jet of “unknown nationality” had been warned 10 times in five minutes about its violation of the border.
Meanwhile, a Turkish official told Reuters that two warplanes approached Turkish border and were warned before one of them was shot down.
The jet was Russian SU-24. One pilot was killed and the body is in the hands of "rebels". At the of a video the "rebels" made of the dead pilot they call themselves "mujahideen". One picture shows the body with two bullet holes in the chests suggesting that he was illegally executed. A rebel source claims that he was shot while parachuting from the burning plane. That is a war crime under the Geneva Convention. A second pilot was probably wounded but was said to have landed somewhere in Syrian army covered territory. The search for him is ongoing.
Russia's official version of the incident is remarkably different from Turkey's:
Today an aircraft from the Russian air group in the Syrian Arab Republic crashed on the territory of Syria supposedly shot down from the ground.
The aircraft was flying at the altitude of 6 000 metres. The status of the Russian pilots is being defined.
According to the preliminary data, the pilots managed to eject from the warplane.
The circumstances of the crash are being defined.
During all the flight time, the aircraft was flying only within the borders of the Syrian territory. That was registered by objective monitoring data.
The Russian version leaves it open who shot the plane down. Is that meant to deescalate?
Turkey claims that the red line here shows the flightpath of the Russian plane.
If that is correct than the (alleged) violation of Turkey's airspace was for just some 5 seconds and would in no way justify to shot down the plane. Just Friday Turkey "warned" Russia over attacks on "Turkmen" in Syria. This then was not legitimate air-defense but an ambush. Most NATO country will shake their heads over the irresponsible Turkish behavior and will not get further involved such lunacy.
So there will likely be no war over this but a lot of strong statements will be issued. NATO councils and the UN Security Council may meet. But the propaganda preparation for war is targeted at the Islamic State and Syria, not at Russia.
In a separate incident two Russian journalists covering the Syrian army were wounded by a projectile from the "rebels".
The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov canceled his visit to Turkey which was planned for tomorrow. After having lost many "western" tourists Turkey will now also lose the last Russian guests. There are many hotels in Antalya that will have to close down. Turkey's energy supplies depend on Russian (and Iranian) gas. The shooting down of the plane may lead to "technical problems" with those supplies. The PKK fighting the state in Turkey's east may soon have a new sponsor and modern weapon supplies.
The area where the plane came down is in Latakia, some 3.5 kilometers from the Turkish border. It is in the hand of what Turkey calls "Turkmen" which may mean imported Uighur and Uzbek Islamist fighters - mujahideen like they call themselves in the video. They are now already under sharply increased artillery fire. They may soon have to endure some very violent direct attacks by Russian special forces. Future Russian air-to-ground attacks in the area will be flown with "top cover" from additional fighter jets ready to engage the Turks with the very best Russian weapons as soon as they make the tiniest mistake.
In short. This Turkish escalation step will be answered.
UPDATE: Putin just held a press conference with the Jordan King Abdullah on his side(!) and boy was he pissed. Some major points:
- Confirms Turkish version of air-to-air missile but says plane was in Syrian airspace
- Describes Turkish attack as "a stab in the back by accomplices of terrorists"
- "Together with our US partners we signed an agreement to prevent" incidents like this
- "Ankara will discuss this tragedy with NATO as if it was Russia who shot down their jet. Does Turkey want NATO to serve ISIS goals?"
- Accuses Turkey of financing, protecting ISIS
- Turkey doing oil business with ISIS
- This will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations
The Fear Department Pushes For War, Turkey Shots Down Russian Jet
The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats.
How does that fit? Did the State Department receive a memo headlined:
but it did not inform the Secretary of State?
Or is the U.S. State Department saying that its active support for fundamentalist Islamists over the years, from Afghanistan to Syria, has made the world unsafe?
U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowed places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.
This is not just a "travel alert". It is a walking-down-the-street, going-anywhere-anytime-anyhow alert. "Stay indoors, don't answer your phone, avoid driving and/or walking. Light breathing is fine when you are alone."
What purpose do such alerts have? Cover-your-ass for some bureaucrat? Scare people shitless to then press for ever stronger security laws? Push up military contractor stocks? None of that makes much sense.
I see no sensible reason for such warnings but to prepare the people for war. Push their fears, as unspecific as possible, so far that they will agree to anything to get relief from their fears.
The Turkish military just shot down a Russian jet over Syria and anti-Syrian insurgents capture (vid) a pilot. (correction: was old footage). At the same time the U.S. puppet regime in Ukraine is pushing to renew the conflict there.
Will all this escalate into a new great war?
The State Department also says:
This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.
That's when the war will be over?
New U.S.-Turkish Bluster For Open War On Syria
The U.S. media, especially cable TV, seems to create full hysteria over the Islamic State and Muslim in general. I assume that this campaign is supposed to prepare the U.S. public for war on Syria.
The way thereto has its own logic. Tom Toles catches the salami slicing drift into it. It is exactly how the open U.S. involvement in war on Syria unfolded so far.
The neocons, here Robert Kagan who wants Hillary Clinton as next president, are already salivating. He claims there is a "crisis of world order", which is something that never really existed, and he wants U.S. troops to invade Syria and Iraq:
What would such an effort look like? First, it would require establishing a safe zone in Syria, providing the millions of would-be refugees still in the country a place to stay and the hundreds of thousands who have fled to Europe a place to which to return. To establish such a zone, American military officials estimate, would require not only U.S. air power but ground forces numbering up to 30,000. Once the safe zone was established, many of those troops could be replaced by forces from Europe, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, but the initial force would have to be largely American.
The heretofore immovable Mr. Assad would face an entirely new set of military facts on the ground, with the Syrian opposition now backed by U.S. forces and air power, the Syrian air force grounded and Russian bombing halted.
But why would Russia and Syria allow this? Why would they halt their bombing of the anti-Syrian insurgents? Kagan does not say. The last quoted sentence is the only mentioning of Russia in the whole lame op-ed. By what means does he want to convince the Russian to agree to that plan? He does not say.
Kagan also wants another 20,000 U.S. troops to directly fight the Islamic State guerrilla. Such an effort alone would need trice that number and would likely escalate further. Kagan is a certified lunatic but for whatever reasons his views are taking seriously in U.S. policy circles.
In the UK prime minister Cameron is also moving towards war:
The prime minister is likely to make a statement to MPs on Thursday, the day after Osborne’s spending review, and he will give them up to a week to digest his argument before deciding whether to call a Commons vote before the December recess.
There is speculation in Westminster that political opinion has shifted in favour of British involvement in Syria. The unanimous support in the UN security council for a resolution calling on member states to take all necessary means to eradicate Isis in the wake of the Paris assault is believed to have helped change the mood among MPs.
But the relevant UN resolution does not allow for war against Syria. It restricts all action to international law and the UN Charter. "Who cares," might Kagan say and Cameron think. Well, the Russians do. And they will have a say on this issue.
Meanwhile Turkey is introducing another proxy army into Syria. After official protest against Russian attacks on "Turkmen" insurgents Turkey is upping the propaganda and claims to have sent volunteers to defend Turkmen in Syria against the Islamic State. Two border villages were captured. But the Turkmen story does not make much sense. There are hardly any Turkmen in Syria except those Chinese Uyghur Jihadis Turkey smuggled in on false Turkish passports. The volunteers Turkey claims to have send are also not harmless. Even the Syrian opposition propaganda outlet in the UK calls them out:
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the villages had been captured from IS but said the campaign had been waged by rebel and Islamist factions and not just Turkmen fighters.
250 of the "volunteers" are men from the Alperen Ocaglari, the youth movement of the Great Union Party. These are real islamo-fascists combining hard right nationalism and radical Islamism into a crude ideology.
M.K. Bhadrakumar believes that Erdogan wants to take, and keep, a big slice of Syria up to Aleppo and that this is the beginning of a new phase:
In strategic terms, a defining moment has been reached in the Syrian conflict – the “first step” in the creation of a swathe of land in northern Syria that will be out of bounds for military operations by Syrian government forces, Russian aircraft, or various militia groups such as Hezbollah who are fighting on the side of the Syrian regime.
Put differently, the race for Aleppo has begun.
But neither Syria nor Russia will agree to that and it is unlikely that Erdogan will be able to send his official army. And make no mistake. Russia HAS the means to prevent Erdogan from further developing this scheme. One unconfirmed report said that a Russian cruise missile already hit one of those "Turkmen" towns. I am not sure that it is more than a rumor but it sounds like a good idea.
I doubt that the U.S. will send its soldiers to occupy Syria for Erdogan. Obama is unlikely to want to risk war with Russia.
So for now I regard all this as bluster.
But should some kind of (allegedly) Islamic State related terror incident happen in the U.S. all bets are off. Obama may then turn to Kagan for "advice" and start a war that will confront another superpower.
PBS NewsHour Uses Russian Airstrike Footage While Claiming U.S. Airstrike Successes
U.S. media can no agree with itself if Russia is giving ISIS an airforce or if Russia pounds ISIS with the biggest bomber raid in decades. Such confusion occurs when propaganda fantasies collide with the observable reality.
To bridge such divide requires some fudging.
So when the U.S. claims to act against the finances of the Islamic State while not doing much, the U.S Public Broadcasting Service has to use footage of Russian airstrikes against the Islamic State while reporting claimed U.S. airstrike successes.
The U.S. military recently claimed to have hit Islamic State oil tankers in Syria. This only after Putin embarrassed Obama at the G-20 meeting in Turkey. Putin showed satellite pictures of ridiculous long tanker lines waiting for days and weeks to load oil from the Islamic State without any U.S. interference.
The U.S. then claimed to have hit 116 oil tankers while the Russian air force claims to have hit 500. But there is an important difference between these claims. The Russians provided videos showing how their airstrikes hit at least two different very large oil tanker assemblies with hundreds of tankers in each. They also provided video of several hits on oil storage sites and refinery infrastructure.
I have found no video of U.S. hits on Islamic State oil tanker assemblies.
The U.S. PBS NewsHour did not find any either.
In their TV report yesterday about Islamic State financing and the claimed U.S. hits on oil trucks they used the videos Russia provided without revealing the source. You can see the Russian videos played within an interview with a U.S. military spokesperson at 2:22 min.
The U.S. military spokesperson speaks on camera about U.S. airforce hits against the Islamic State. The video cuts to footage taken by Russian airplanes hitting oil tanks and then trucks. The voice-over while showing the Russian video with the Russians blowing up trucks says: "For the first time the U.S. is attacking oil delivery trucks." The video then cuts back to the U.S. military spokesperson.
At no point is the Russian campaign mentioned or the source of the footage revealed.
Any average viewer of the PBS report will assume that the black and white explosions of oil trucks and tanks are from of U.S. airstrikes filmed by U.S. air force planes.
The U.S. military itself admitted that its strikes on IS oil infrastructure over the last year were "minimally effective". One wonders then how effective the claimed strike against 116 trucks really was. But unless we have U.S. video of such strikes and not copies of Russian strike video fraudulently passed off as U.S. strikes we will not know if those strikes happened at all.
Propaganda and reality also collide in the larger U.S. policy on Syria. President Obama claims that the "overwhelming majority of people in Syria" want the Syrian President Assad to leave. But independent British polling in Syria found (pdf) that a strong plurality of Syrians prefers him as president over any of the available alternatives.
And while new research reveals extensive cooperation between NATO member and U.S. ally Turkey and the Islamic State the U.S. is asking for more cooperation with Turkey to shuffle more weapons into the Syria conflict and thereby, inevitably, also to the Islamic State. Some other U.S. allies are likewise deeply involved in financing and equipping the Islamic State.
But Kuwait just arrested a gang that was smuggling weapons from the new U.S. client state Ukraine to the Islamic State. Iraqi military and Shia militia find huge bundles of cash (vid) which were to be smuggled to the Islamic State. How does it come that the otherwise all-seeing (including your emails) U.S. secret services are unable to uncover Islamic State financing and smuggling when smaller states with much less resources can do so?
Does all this sound like the U.S. is really campaigning against the Islamic State? Or is this whole campaign just as fraudulent as the PBS video and Obama's proclamations? Why is the U.S. so deeply lost on the ‘Dark Side’ in Syria?
Open Thread 2015-43
News & views ...
The Physicians For Human Rights "Report" on "Aleppo" Is A Scam
One of the organizations providing anti-Syrian propaganda is the U.S. based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) which claims to be "Using science and medicine to stop human rights violations".
It used neither in its most recent pamphlet about "Aleppo" which fraudulently asserts that a tiny piece of the city is representative for all of it. The NYT short piece on that "report" says:
A New York-based human rights organization is accusing the Syrian government of flouting international law by killing health workers, bombing hospitals and blocking lifesaving aid from entering a strategic city in northern Syria that was held by the opposition groups.
In a report released Wednesday, the group, Physicians for Human Rights, chronicled 45 attacks on medical facilities in Aleppo since 2012, mostly by Syrian government forces.
The report paints a harrowing picture of the risks to those who provide basic medical services in Aleppo. A barrel bomb killed a doctor and a public health worker who were vaccinating children against polio in early 2014 — the first of 26 airstrikes on medical facilities.
The report says that 95 percent of Aleppo’s doctors have fled or been killed. The group also says that Russian airstrikes have hit 10 medical facilities since the air campaign began in September.
The NYT piece is only about "Aleppo" and fails to differentiate between the insurgent held eastern part and the government held western part.
That may have been because the PHR press release on its "report" also only speaks of "Aleppo". It claims:
A new report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) shows the devastating impact of the Syrian conflict on Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city and the area that has been the hardest hit in terms of attacks on medical facilities. In the past three years, Aleppo has suffered 45 attacks on health care facilities, more than two-thirds of hospitals no longer function there, and roughly 95 percent of doctors have fled, been detained or killed. Today’s ratio of doctors to residents is eight times less than what it was before the conflict began, and this extreme shortage of health professionals is exacerbating the already dire humanitarian crisis.
That press release is intentionally deceiving and the NYT writer fell for the scam.
Only deep in the longer PHR report (pdf) do we find what area the report is really about:
This report focuses on the state of health care in eastern Aleppo city4..
The footnote 4 at the end of the report says:
Eastern Aleppo city is referred to as “Aleppo” in the remainder of this report. Any references to western (government-controlled) Aleppo city or Aleppo governorate are noted explicitly.
Eastern Aleppo is bombed out Jihadi held part of Aleppo. It is practically empty except for the Jihadis and a few members of their families. In March the Guardian's Martin Chulov actually visited eastern Aleppo. He wrote:
Western Aleppo has had by far the better of the war, with civic services still functioning in most neighbourhoods and war damage minimal. Much of the east, though, is ravaged and empty.
Those who remain in eastern Aleppo, roughly 40,000 from a prewar population estimated at about a million, have been without electricity or running water for more than a year.
A recent Reuters report about a supply route to west Aleppo gives the number of inhabitants there:
The road is the army's supply route to government-held western parts of Aleppo, home to around 2 million people.
The PHR report is about an area where maybe 40,000 people live while claiming to be about "Syria’s most populous city". But the report says nothing about the government held area with 2 million people. It is only looking at the damaged empty parts of the city and pretends that these are representative for the whole city.
It also purely based on hearsay provided by insurgency supporters:
The findings in this report are based primarily on interviews conducted by PHR in Gaziantep and Kilis, Turkey from July 22 to July 30, 2015. The research team conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 individuals providing health care, supporting the health care system, or documenting events in Aleppo.
The report does not say how many of those 24 individuals were actually "providing health care" and how many were just "documenting events in Aleppo", i.e. professional propagandists for the Jihadi side. None of the authors of the report has actually been in Aleppo east or west.
The whole pamphlet is highly misleading and one sided propaganda with can neither satisfy "scientific" nor "medical" standards. It is ridiculous, though not unexpected, that the media will uncritically distribute its claims by copy-pasting the misleading PHR press release without actually reading the report.
Russia's Lavrov: U.S. Is Not Seriously Fighting Against The Islamic State
Throughout the last week the Russian airforce updated its target list in Syria. Plans were prepared, units designated, ammunition was loaded.
Today President Putin announced that the destruction of a Russian airliner with 224 people on board over the Sinai peninsula had indeed been an Islamic State terror attack. Traces of explosives were found on parts of the debris.
The Russian mission in Syria is no longer just to help the Syrian government but is now a matter of Russian national self-defense. The Russian parliament was not shy in assigning guilt:
"The recent tragic developments confirm the topicality of Russia’s continuous warnings that permanent destabilization in the Middle East by those who claim global dominance, primarily the United States, could lead to the expansion of the zone of bloody chaos and entail numerous human tragedies," the document says. "France and other European states are, as a matter of fact, reaping the consequences of Washington’s nearsighted and selfish policy."
There will now be no backing out for Russia and no time limit.
At the same time as Putin spoke Russian ships in the Caspian sea, submarines in the Mediterranean and long range strategic strike bombers flying from Russia launched 34 cruise missiles against Islamic State targets in Syria.
The Russian defense ministry announced that it would double its strikes in Syria using 5 TU-160, 6 TU-95MS, 14 TU-22m3. 8 SU-34 and 4 SU-27sm in addition to the 34 airplanes already in Syria. The new assets are long-range and will mostly fly directly from Russia. They will attack the static targets which the Russian and Syrian intelligence will designate. The planes in Syria will now take a more tactical role in direct combat air support for the Syrian army and the allied forces on the ground. The strike capacity will immediately double and it is planned to further increase it.
The French, now bombing IS in retaliation for the attack in Paris, are also adding to their strike capacity by moving their airplane carrier towards the Syrian coast. President Putin personally ordered the Russian ships in the Mediterranean to recognize the French forces as allies. This may be an opening to France and an offer to Hollande to leave his anti-Syrian stance and to stop his support for anti-Syrian insurgents.
After Putin shamed Obama into bombing Islamic State oil truck assemblies his Foreign Minister Lavrov went a step further. He directly accused the U.S. of not being serious about fighting the Islamic State:
"The problem around the U.S.-led coalition is that despite the fact that they declared its goal in fighting exclusively the Islamic State and other terrorists and pledged not to take any action against the Syrian army (...), analysis of the strikes delivered by the United States and its coalition at terrorist positions over the past year drives us to a conclusion that these were selective, I would say sparing, strikes and in the majority of cases spared those Islamic State groups that were capable of pressing the Syrian army," he said.
"It looks like a cat that wants to eat a fish but doesn’t want to wet its feet. They want the Islamic State to weaken Assad as soon as possible to force him to step down this or that way but they don’t want to see Islamic State strong enough to take power."
That the U.S. was not seriously fighting the Islamic State was obvious to any observer but it is now a public position stated by Russia and the U.S. will have to react to.
Maybe Lavrov hopes he can goad the U.S. into getting more serious about the Islamic State. With the background of the attacks in Paris and against the Russian plane (more are likely to come) the chances for that are not too bad.
The "isolated" Russia that was never actually isolated is not isolated anymore. The U.S. rhetorical position is now defensive as Russia is taking the lead in the fight against IS. But it still wants to look like its is doing something:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday his country is starting an operation with Turkey to finish securing the northern Syrian border.
"The entire border of northern Syria - 75 percent of it has now been shut off. And we are entering an operation with the Turks to shut off the other remaining 98 kilometers," he said in an interview with CNN.
That is not much of a change at all. Crossing the border and smuggling will in future require either a Turkish secret service or CIA permit. A real change in the U.S. position will only come when its stops the support for the various forces fighting against the Syrian government. But that may require an even bigger shock than the attack in Paris or the downing of a Russian plane.
Putin Names And Shames Obama Into Bombing IS Oil Smugglers
The U.S. claims it wants to hit the Islamic State but in one year of bombing it never really touched one of its biggest sources of income. Hundreds of oil tanker trucks are waiting every day at IS distribution points to smuggle oil to Turkey and elsewhere. Only one such distribution point was ever bombed and that attack was by the Iraqi air force.
Now the Russian President Putin played some "name and shame" at the G-20 meeting in Turkey and, lo and behold, the problem gets solved.
The Obama administration recently claimed it would increase attacks on the most expensive Syrian oil infrastructure which is owned by the Syrian government but under IS control. But it said it would still not hit the large truck gatherings.
While the American-led air campaign has conducted periodic airstrikes against oil refineries and other production facilities in eastern Syria that the group controls, the organization’s engineers have been able to quickly repair damage, and keep the oil flowing, American officials said. The Obama administration has also balked at attacking the Islamic State’s fleet of tanker trucks — its main distribution network — fearing civilian casualties.
But now the administration has decided to increase the attacks and focus on inflicting damage that takes longer to fix or requires specially ordered parts, American officials said.
The obvious target to stop the oil trade is to hit the trucks. Without trucks the other infrastructure is useless for IS as the oil can not be sold. With trucks destroyed the men behind the smuggling will lose all profits and leave the business. The "civilian casualties" argument does not hold. There could be warnings to avoid human damage or one could consider that these oil smugglers are dealing with terrorists and thereby accomplices. The real U.S. reluctance to hit the oil smuggling might be out of deference to the Turkish government which of course profits from such oil transfers.
Then came along Russia and its President Putin and demonstrated at the current G-20 meeting that the U.S. is not serious about fighting IS. Today the Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt reports remarks by President Putin from a G-20 sideline event:
Abdullah Bozkurt @abdbozkurt
Putin in #Turkey: I provided examples based on our data on the financing of different #ISIL units by private individuals.
"This money, as we have established, comes from 40 countries and, there are some of the G20 members among them”, Putin says
"I’ve shown our colleagues photos taken from space & from aircraft which clearly demonstrate the scale of the illegal trade in oil"
Putin provided that information and the photos yesterday. Obama must have been deeply embarrassed and pissed. Suddenly, a day after Putin exposed the U.S. reluctance to hit IS where it is needed, a big truck assembly was bombed:
Intensifying pressure on the Islamic State, United States warplanes for the first time attacked hundreds of trucks on Monday that the extremist group has been using to smuggle the crude oil it has been producing in Syria, American officials said. According to an initial assessment, 116 trucks were destroyed in the attack, which took place near Deir al-Zour, an area in eastern Syria that is controlled by the Islamic State.
Until Monday, the United States had refrained from striking the fleet used to transport oil, believed to include more than 1,000 tanker trucks, because of concerns about causing civilian casualties. As a result, the Islamic State’s distribution system for exporting oil had remained largely intact.
It seems that Putin's naming and shaming with regards to the oil smuggling was successful. We might soon see a similar effect on the financing sources he mentioned.
After Paris Two Questions
Syrian Presidency @Presidency_Sy
President al-Assad: Terrorism will not stop here, it will export itself through illegal immigration into Europe.
- What should be the response to the attacks in Paris?
- What will be the response to the attacks in Paris?
What Preceded The Islamic State Attacks In France - Some Links (Updated)
This happened last night: At least 120 dead in Paris attacks, Hollande declares emergency
Gunmen and bombers attacked restaurants, a concert hall and a sports stadium at locations across Paris on Friday, killing at least 120 people in a deadly rampage that a shaken President Francois Hollande called an unprecedented terrorist attack.
But who weaponized and financed the Islamic State or prior organizations in Syria and Iraq from which this terror attack grew? Is this cartoon justified?
Cartoon of the day by Carlos Latuff
The French president has admitted delivering weapons to the Syrian rebels during a period of EU embargo, a new book about to be published in France reveals.
The deliveries took place in 2012, before the embargo was canceled in May 2013, according to François Hollande's last year interview with journalist and writer Xavier Panon. "We began when we were certain they would end up in the right hands. For the lethal weapons it was our services who delivered them," Hollande told the writer, ...
WASHINGTON — Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.
France has emerged as the most prominent backer of Syria's armed opposition and is now directly funding rebel groups around Aleppo as part of a new push to oust the embattled Assad regime.
Large sums of cash have been delivered by French government proxies across the Turkish border to rebel commanders in the past month, diplomatic sources have confirmed. The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to fund armed operations against loyalist forces.
President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that France had delivered weapons to rebels battling the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad “a few months ago.”
Russia Revives Long-Dead Nuclear Torpedo - Reestablishes Deterrence
Russia has a big problem with the "missile defense" shield the U.S. wants to install in Europe. Such a "defense" would give the U.S. the ability to launch a first strike nuclear attack on Russia while defeating a retaliatory strike Russia would launch in response. Alternatively the "missile defense missiles" stationed in east Europe could be used to launch a direct attack against ground targets in Russia leaving it with a insufficient warning time of only a few minutes.
This is comparable to the situation in the 1960s when Nike-Hercules air defense missile were stationed in the U.S. and in Europe. That system could kill Soviet strategic nuclear bombers and thereby endangered Soviet second strike capabilities towards the U.S. and others. (The Nike-Hercules also had a secondary ground attack capability.)
The Russian, then Soviets, problem with the Nike-Hercules was overcome by Soviet development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) which could not be targeted by that Nike-Hercules system. The balance of deterrence was reestablished and held for the next fifty years.
Then came the new U.S. missile defense in Europe. All Russian protests and warnings against stationing such capabilities have not been able to deter the U.S. for proceeding with it. Should the missile defense project go forward Russia will have to invent new means to reintroduce a significant second strike capability. Both sides, Russia says, would be better off by not introducing these new capabilities.
To strongly send that message the Russian military scientists went back into the archives to find some old crappy idea that could overcome missile defense and be horrible enough in its effects to recreate some deterrence.
At the height of the Cold War, August 12, 1953 have been produced successfully tested the new Soviet weapons of terrible destructive force - a thermonuclear bomb. One of the creators of the bomb, the newly elected member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the 32-year-old Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov suggested as a "means of delivery" to use the developed nuclear submarines of project 627, equipping each of them a giant torpedo under the 100-megaton thermonuclear charge (approximately 6000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima). As conceived by the young academician exploding the U.S. coast ocean, these torpedoes were to cause a tsunami of unprecedented power, the height of 300 meters, which would be simply washed off American cities, causing irreparable damage to the United States.
The planned U.S. "missile defense" systems would have some difficulties hitting such a torpedo.
Thus the Kremlin decided to reuse this old Sakharov idea to scare the U.S. off from its current "missile defense" course:
On November 10, 2015 President Putin held a regular meeting with his generals in Sochi to discuss development of the Russian strategic forces. The president used the occasion to complain again about U.S. missile defense plans and to warn that Russia will do whatever it takes to preserve the strategic balance.
Russian television cameras caught a page in a briefing book describing the development of a new nuclear weapons system called Status-6. It’s nothing less than an underwater drone designed to carry a thermonuclear weapon into foreign ports. If detonated, Status-6 would be capable of dousing cities like New York in massive amounts of radioactive fallout.
"Massive amounts of radioactive fallout" or, in the old version, a 300 meter high tsunami - choose whatever you like better but you will probably be hit with both.
A "underwater drone" is by the way what we used to call a "torpedo". But the "drone" moniker might sound scarier so the author chose to use that one.
The U.S. analyst just quoted does not like the old and new Russian idea:
At the risk of understating things, this project is bat-shit crazy. It harkens back to the most absurd moments of the Cold War, when nuclear strategists followed the logic of deterrence over the cliff and into the abyss. For his part, Putin seems positively nostalgic.
But what is really "bat-shit crazy"?
Destroy the nuclear deterrence between world powers that had worked well for some 50 years by installing a "missile defense" shield in Europe? Or reestablish deterrence by introducing a new weapon category that the U.S. "missile defense" shield can not defend against?
Today's Battle Progress In Iraq and Syria
(Sorry for the lack of maps but as I am time constricted.)
The fight against Islamic fundamentalist in Iraq ad Syria rapidly progressed today. U.S. air support in Iraq and Russian air support in Syria enabled the various ground forces to take significant amounts of ground.
Russia continues to build out its arsenal in Syria and may soon introduce more ground and air components.
After several days preparations by U.S bombing 7,000 Kurdish and Yezidi forces today attacked the Islamic State from the Sinjar mountain range southwards towards Sinjar city. Sinjar is about 50 kilometers east of the border between Syria and Iraq. Just south of the city lies the important Highway 47 which is the main transport artery between Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.
The attackers were supported on the ground by U.S. Forward Air Controllers who called in pinpoint airstrikes whenever the attack was held up. The operation succeeded faster than expected. The city is surrounded by YPG and Peshmerga forces and a wide stretch of the highway is now under Kurdish control. First units are breaking onto the city. The main problem are now snipers, mines and booby traps and the bloody phase in the city will take a while. Counterattacks on the highway are to be expected but are unlikely to succeed over the open land as long as the U.S. air force provides cover for the Kurds.
Progress in Syria was even better. After yesterday reliefing the IS besieged Queires airport east of Aleppo, more ground around the airport was taken today. The plan seems to be to free the area between the airport east of Aleppo, which was relieved from the south, and Aleppo city in the west from all enemies. The thermal power station between the airport and the city was taken today. The airport will be rehabilitated and will allow for rapid, short distance air support for all further operations between Aleppo and the Turkish border.
South west of Aleppo the successful campaign towards the highway between Aleppo southward to Idleb, Hama, Homs and Damascus progressed fast. The al-Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusra held town Al-Hadher was taken today surprisingly fast and the attack immediately proceeded further west towards the highway capturing Al-Eis. The highway, now only 2 kilometers away, is currently under al-Qaeda/FSA control and is an important resupply road from Turkey to the al-Qaeda occupied areas further south.
East of Damascus a military airport Marj Al-Sultan in the hands of Jaysh al-Islam was retaken by government forces after air preparations. A cordon around the insurgent held east-Ghouta area was thereby established for the first time in three years. East-Ghouta is used by the insurgents to fire mortars and rockets into Damascus. The area is now under siege and will be cleaned up in due time.
There have been sightings of new Russian weapons in Latakia near the Mediterranean coast. For the first time a T-90 main battle tank was seen in Syria (unconfirmed). This is the most modern Russian tank in service and will have a Russian crew. The tank may belong to a new Russian ground component. At the Russian military airport in Latakia a 96L6 acquisition radar for a S-300PMU2 or S-400 air and missile defense battery was seen (confirmed). The Russian troops will no longer depend on the sea based air defense cover provided by the missile cruiser Moskva. They now have a mobile long range air defense with a range of 300-400 km established on the ground. This can be easily moved further inland to cover all of west-Syria as needed. Russia is working to increase the number of air sorties it can provide per day and is equipping an additional airport. Additional planes and helicopters are expected to arrive soon.
Three One suicide attacks in the Shia dominated area of Ayn al-Sikkeh in south Beirut in Lebanon killed at least 25 37 civilians and wounded some 100 180. This was likely an al-Qaeda terror attack seen as revenge for Hizbullah's support for the Syrian government ISIS claimed to be responsible for the attack.
The official U.S. strategy in Syria was build on unicorns: a Free Syrian Army of secular Syrians and a political support group of exiles that would create the new government of Syria. What is left of the unicorn Free Syrian Army criminals is now deserting. The current head of the hotel exiles, the "Interim Governor of Syria" Ahmad Tameh, crossed into Syria from Turkey today to set up some just-for.-show government. The insurgents of the Islamist Levantine Front in Syria told him to get lost and he had to flee back to Turkey. The official U.S. strategy in Iraq was to build up a Sunni force to take on and defeat the Islamic State. It turns out that the potential leaders of such an Anbar-Awakening-version-2 force have been killed by the Islamic State or are no longer willing to take part in such a risky endeavor. Only the government supporting forces in Iraq as well as in Syria will be able to regain significant territory from the Islamic State and other terrorist forces.
UK Accuses U.S. Of Supporting Terrorists But Sells Out To Saudi Arabia
On October 30 an international conference on Syria agreed on a framework for ending the conflict in Syria. The communiqué states:
While substantial differences remain among the participants, they reached a mutual understanding on the following:
1) Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity, and secular character are fundamental.
6) Da'esh, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the U.N. Security Council, and further, as agreed by the participants, must be defeated.
Ministers will reconvene within two weeks to continue these discussions.”
Secretary of State Kerry had already accepted the "secular" point in earlier talks with his Russian colleague. The next meeting this Friday will mainly be about the question of who is a terrorist and must thereby be defeated. Propagandist for the Jihadis call this a "Russian trap".
So far the U.S. and its allies have supported various fundamentalist groups who's deeds and proclaimed philosophies surely put them into the same category as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
The British Foreign Minister accuses the U.S. of supporting such terrorist groups and said that this needs to change:
The world powers trying to end the civil war in Syria are drawing up a list of "terrorist" groups, Britain said Tuesday, warning that some countries may have to drop support for allies on the ground.
"It will require deep breaths on several sides, including the US side," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned, speaking to reporters in Washington.
Some of the groups that qualify as terrorists, so Hammond, do get support from the U.S. and it will take a "deep breaths" by the U.S. to refrain from further supporting them.
As part of this, Hammond said, the countries backing various factions within the country would have to decide which are moderate enough to be included in the political process and which would be excluded.
"I'm not so sure I would write off the possibility of agreeing on who is a terrorist," he said, in remarks at the British embassy the morning after talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
But he warned that there would be horse trading ahead.
Can one "horse trade" who is a terrorist? Is it "moderate enough" to only cut off the heads of prisoners of war instead of burning them alive? How much would that "trade" cost?
Yemen: UN Gives Cover For U.S. Spies - Endangers Its Employees
On October 26 UN reporter Mathew Lee of InnerCity Press scooped all other media with this nugget on Yemen:
Inner City Press' sources exclusively tell it of a new low, that the UN brought into Sana'a what the Houthis call two members of US intelligence, with the cover identification that they work for the company running the former hotel now occupied by the UN. But, the sources say, security in Sana'a recognized the two and they are now detained.
The "contractors" flew to Sanaa from Djibouti where the U.S. has a large military and intelligence base. The plane the "contractors" came on was rented by the UN.
The Houthis surely wondered why at that time, with Sanaa being under intense Saudi-U.S. air attacks, "hotel contractors" would arrive in Sanaa.
Now one of the "contractors" died, allegedly by suicide, while imprisoned by the Houthis. USAToday reports that his name is John Hamen from Chesapeake, Va. and that his body is currently repatriated to be buried at Arlington Cemetery. For a "hotel contractor" Hamen has a rather interesting resumé:
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told CBS that she could not confirm the contractors' nationality but said they arrived on a U.N. aircraft from Djibouti on Oct. 20 and were detained by "the authorities at the airport in Sanaa."
He said the two "are not U.N. contractors" but work for the company that manages the facilities that the U.N. is using in Sanaa, CBS reported.
Hamen's LinkedIn professional page lists his occupation as "Diplomatic Support" and described his previous employers as the U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. Army, and the Joint Communications Support Element.
Is that the qualification one needs to run a former hotel for the UN?
The Joint Communications Support Element is an interesting shop:
JCSE [..] is composed of joint active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel who can globally deploy within hours of notification to provide communications packages tailored to the specific needs of a full joint task force headquarters and to a joint special operations task force.
These two "contractors" and "former" U.S. special forces were anything but regular civilian staff. The were probably preparing to set up a new U.S. military or intelligence communications hub in Sanaa.
The UN has bungled the Yemen issue since the moment that former president Saleh left his office. It was tasked with setting up a new governance structure that would administrate Yemen and organize elections to replace the interim president Hadi. But the UN driven National Dialog Conference left out the interests of the most important forces on the ground which had helped to push for Saleh's ouster, the Houthis. Left without representation in the UN advised structures the Houthis took over Sanaa and the government. Under Saudi pressure the UN envoy to Yemen resigned.
Now the Saudis and the U.S. wage war on Yemen to kick out the Houthis and to reinstall Hadi who no Yemeni wants back in power. While the Saudis are committing war crimes in Yemen they now also occupy an important seat at the UN Human Rights Council. The UN also bungled the current ceasefire negotiations between the Houthi and the Saudi-U.S. alliance:
Inner City Press previously reported on and published the Houthis' letter denouncing UN envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed as little more than a Saudi tool. Now it's gotten worse: even Kenny Gluck who works for the envoy and went to Muscat trying to meet the Houthis was unable. He waited then returned to Riyadh.
The Saudis, asserting control, have told Ould Cheikh Ahmed to try to cut Oman out, sources tell Inner City Press, hence the idea the talks will be in Geneva. But what talks, if the Houthis won't talk to Ould Cheikh Ahmed or his Kenny Gluck.
The Houthis accused the new UN envoy of falsely asserting that they agreed to all Saudi conditions while ignoring the spread of al-Qaeda in southern Yemen. The Russians, also haggling with the Saudis, seem to be the only other party concerned over the spread of al-Qaeda and terrorism in Yemen under the Saudi war cover.
The UN has completely abdicated any neutrality on Yemen. It serves as a mere mouthpiece and servant of misguided U.S.-Saudi policies. The now confirmed, though not admitted, transporting of "former" U.S. special forces under UN cover is an inexcusable breach of its independence and a danger to all its employees.
Any UN envoy or contractor all over the world will now be under suspicion of being a U.S. military or intelligence agent. This will endanger the lives of thousands of UN employees working under difficult circumstances in various conflict areas.
Meanwhile the Saudis and the UAE are pulling all ground forces out of Yemen and are outsourcing their war to soldiers from Sudan, Mauritania, Senegal and Eritrea as well as to mercenaries from Columbia. After the UAE pullback the Houthis have recovered several southern Yemeni cities and are planing to re-capturing the Al-Anad airbase near Aden.