Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 30, 2015

Syria: Thoughts On The Russian Air Support

Some things that happened today:

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

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

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

To which Mark Adomanis snarked:

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

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

THE SALAFIST, THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.

"Moderates"- my ass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gulf dictatorships though may make such a grave mistake:

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

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

Posted by b on September 30, 2015 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (133)

September 29, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA. ... AQI SUPPORTED THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION FROM THE BEGINNING, BOTH IDEOLOGICALLY AND THROUGH THE MEDIA ...

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

The DIA also remarked:

THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME, WHICH IS CONSIDERED THE STRATEGIC DEPTH OF THE SHIA EXPANSION (IRAQ AND IRAN)
...
ISI COULD ALSO DECLARE AN ISLAMIC STATE THROUGH ITS UNION WITH OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA,....

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on September 29, 2015 at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (127)

September 28, 2015

Various Items: Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Clintonmail

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

Yemen:

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

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

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

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

Fighting continues around the dam and no flag was raised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afghanistan:

NYT, November 26 2001:

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

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

NYT, September 28 2015:

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

Syria:

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

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

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

United States:

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on September 28, 2015 at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (84)

September 26, 2015

Syria Turns The Corner

From Elijah J. Magnier's latest report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on September 26, 2015 at 01:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (162)

September 24, 2015

Open Thread 2015-34

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 24, 2015 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (136)

September 23, 2015

Russia To Buy *Used* Mistral Helicopter Carriers From Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on September 23, 2015 at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (64)

September 22, 2015

Syria: The End Of The "Vetted Rebels" Scam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on September 22, 2015 at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)

September 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is likely though that Godot will arrive first.

Posted by b on September 21, 2015 at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

#Piggate

Holy cow. British politics are a pigsty.

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

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

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

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

Yeeeks. Didn't he read the bible?

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

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

Will Cameron confess that he loves pork? Literally. Or will he deny it: "I did not have sexual relations with that pig." So far Downing Street is tight snouted.

Will he claim that #piggate is total hogwash? Would that save his bacon now he's been squealed on? Pigs might fly ...

His admirers though are defending him:

‏@LouiseMensch
Let's be clear that the story is rubbish, number one. And number two if it isn't, to quote the anti-nowhere league, "So f****** what?"

‏@LouiseMensch
It's bacon my evening this one. I like politicians who cut pork, but this story more of a porkie. No pic? No pig.

I don't think that the "if it isn't rubbish ..." line is really helpful. It's okay for her that men fuck pigs just  because her husband does it all the time?

Besides that. Isn't the journalistic point of scandalous tales to get a response to them, no matter which one, and to then expand on it? The best response is therefore no response at all. 

Now for the porcine side of the story:

@CameronPig
Look, it's embarrassing for me, too.

@CameronPig
I ask that you respect my privacy in this difficult time.

@CameronPig
The whole episode left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

@CameronPig
.@David_Cameron it was a one time thing. Stop texting me.

Oh well. She was young, she needed the money. Always the same story.

I don't care much about Cameron. #IStandwithPorky. Or is it Kermit who I should feel sorry for?

Posted by b on September 21, 2015 at 12:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (77)

September 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT
...
ISI COULD ALSO DECLARE AN ISLAMIC STATE THROUGH ITS UNION WITH OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA, WHICH WILL CREATE GRAVE DANGER IN REGARDS TO UNIFYING IRAQ AND THE PROTECTION OF ITS TERRITORY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

Iran News Round Up - September 18, 2015

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

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

Four Russian fighter jets deployed in Syria: US official

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

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

by Elijah J. Magnier

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Or whatever ..."

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

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

Posted by b on September 19, 2015 at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (101)

September 18, 2015

Russia Increases Pressure To Stop The War On Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile Obama blames others for his stupid Syria decisions:

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

That is incredibly pathetic:

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

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

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

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

Today Russia increased the pressure:

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on September 18, 2015 at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (81)

September 16, 2015

Some Syria News Items

Some links/notes on Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on September 16, 2015 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (110)

September 15, 2015

NYT Said To Appease Murderous Egyptian Dictator

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on September 15, 2015 at 04:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

September 13, 2015

After Creating Migration Flood Merkel Throws Up Emergency Dikes

The German chancellor Merkel tried to gain some points with her neoliberal friends and with big companies and donors by suddenly opening the border for "refugees" of all kinds, even for those who come from safe countries. These migrants would help to further depress German wages which, after years of zero growth, slowly started to increase again.

But neither she nor her allies ever prepared the German public for a sudden influx of several hundred thousand foreigners. Changes in immigration policy were sneaked in without any public discussion. Suddenly 800,000 foreign people are expected to arrive this years and many more over the next years. People who neither speak German nor readily fit into the national cultural and social-economic environment. Most of these do not come out of immediate dangers but from safe countries.

While Merkel was lauded by all kinds of Anglo-american neoliberal outlets, from the Economist over FT and Newsweek to the Washington Post the backlash in Germany was brewing. In Who Runs The Migrant Media Campaign And What Is Its Purpose? I predicted:

There will be over time a huge backlash against European politicians who, like Merkel, practically invite more migrants. Wages are stagnant or falling in Europe and unemployment is still much too high. The last thing people in Europe want right now is more competition in the labor market. Parties on the extreme right will profit from this while the center right will lose support.

Despite a major campaign of pro-migrant propaganda in Merkel friendly media the German population in general is furious with her stunt. The backlash comes from all sides but especially from her own conservative party. Additionally many European leaders point out that Merkel, who insistent on sticking to the letter of law in the case of Greece, is now openly breaking European laws and agreements.

The flood of migrants Merkel, and the publicity over her open border policies, released seriously endangers her position in the next elections. The flood now needs to be stopped. Urgently. Merkel is pulling the emergency break:

Germany is preparing to reintroduce some form of controls along its border with Austria, according to local media reports.

The German newspaper Bild said Bavarian officials were set to "close" the border with Austria, in what it described as a "dramatic shift in refugee policy".
...
Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, has scheduled a press conference for 6pm local time (5pm BST), when he is expected to announce further details of the planned move.

I predict that in a week or two German borders will be tightly controlled and new migrants will have difficulties to be accepted. Many, if not most of them, will be send back to either their home country or the country they came from.

On this issue Merkel had lost her feeling for German political realities. This might well cost her a reelection. That would then be the only positive effect of this affair.

Posted by b on September 13, 2015 at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (89)

September 12, 2015

British Labour Elects Corbyn

The British Labour party just found back to light. Against resistance and condemnation from the Blairite Labour establishment, as well as the Grauniard and other pseudo-left media, the party members elected Jeremy Corbyn as their new leader. Corbyn received more votes than any Labour leader, including Blair, before him.

The veteran left winger got almost 60% of more than 400,000 votes cast, trouncing his rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
...
Mr Corbyn was a 200-1 outsider when the three month contest began.

This victory is biggest party mandate for any political leader in Britain's political history.

In social economic policies Corbyn is a moderate left, neither a socialist nor a communist. In foreign policies he prefers (unlike Bernie Sanders) non-intervention instead of imperialistic and militant behavior. A genuine old flavor European social-democrat. We could certainly need more of those to kick out the neoliberal centrists that captured and domesticated the original social-democratic parties over the last decades.

It is amusing to observe the genuine horror Corbyn's election creates within the doom mongering Blairite establishment as well as with the Conservatives. We can also expect the U.S. establishment in both parties to follow this line:

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, giving the Conservative Party's reaction, said: "Labour are now a serious risk to our nation's security, our economy's security and your family's security.

"The RED MENACE is coming!!!"

Congrats to Labour in Britain. May other European social-democratic parties follow your example.

Posted by b on September 12, 2015 at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

September 11, 2015

Syria: The (Russian Air) Cavalry Is Coming

In light of the catastrophic outcome of the "western" war on Libya the Russian government declared to oppose any further such "regime change" in the Middle East. But the U.S. continues to train, arm and finance insurgents against the Syrian Arab Republic and, under the disguise of fighting the Islamic State, prepares to take down the Syrian government. Eliminating the Syrian government would likely create a radical jihadist state in Damascus and lead to massacres and mass refugee movements.

But Russia means what it says and will now use its military capabilities to confront the U.S. plans:

Elijah J. Magnier
#Russia is providing #Syria with precision military and destructive equipment. #Russia will start soon operating n #Syria sky to hit rebels+

The participation of the #Russian Air Force in #Syria worries #Israel that won';t be able to have a free sky to hit Syrian troops.+

This is THE major change in #Russia approach and support to #Damascus regime, to prevent game change on the ground in #Syria +

The decision of #Russia comes mainly from regional support 2rebels, not satisfy w/ d north f #Syria (#Idlib) and aiming to #Hama & #Damascus

Russian air-support for Syria against the various forces attacking the state will allow for additional air attacks against those forces. The Syrian air force is today already flying more than 100 sorties per day against it enemies. The Russian forces will add to that but not necessarily in a decisive amount.

The main support for Syria by Russian air assets will come by keeping away those foreign air forces forces that threaten the Syrian government under disguise of "fighting terror". With Russian fighters in Syrian skies Israel will no longer be able to use its air force in support of Jabhat al-Nusra (and for its oil stealing endeavors in the Syrian Golan heights).

The U.S., Britain, France and others announced to enter Syrian skies to "fight the terror" of the Islamic State. Russia will use just the same claim to justify its presence and its air operations flying from Latakia. Simply by being there it will make sure that others will not be able to use their capabilities for more nefarious means. Additional intelligence from Russian air assets will also be helpful for Syrian ground operations.

The Russian air capabilities will be supplemented with air defense cover from Russian naval assets on the Syrian coast. Russia announced several air defense drills with live missile launches off the Syrian coast near Tartus. New land based air defense assets are said to be on their way. I would not be surprised to see, over time, some Chinese naval assets joining the Russian presence.

Secretary of State Kerry whined to Russia that its intervention in Syria might intervene with the U.S. intervention in Syria. Well, yes sir, that is the sole purpose:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday coordination was needed between Russia's military and the Pentagon to avoid "unintended incidents" around Syria, where both countries have a military presence.

Lavrov said Russia would continue to supply weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad to help the Syrian armed forces fight against ISIS militants.

He told a news conference Russia was conducting military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, that it had been for some time, and that they were in line with international law.

The neoconned State Department childishly pressured Greece and Bulgaria to disallow Russian military air transport over their countries. But Russian planes can just as well fly via Iran and Iraq and both countries are very unlikely to ever block such flights. As Russian ground forces will not be involved in any fighting the supply needs can be kept limited.

Any attempt by Turkey, pressured by State Department lunatics, to block the Bosporus sea route between Russia and Syria would be in breach of the Montreux Convention and could be interpreted as hostile act against Russia on which Turkey depends for a large amount of its energy supplies. After losing control over the predominantly Kurdish south-eastern city Cizre Turkey also has to take care of its own civil war which Erdogan foolishly ignited to regain a parliamentarian majority. That internal war will hinder resupplies for the Islamic State through Turkey.

The U.S. plan to use the fight against the Islamic State as cover to remove the Syrian government is now in tatters. The months long U.S. supported "Southern Front" attack in south Syria failed to make any gains against the government. The Islamic State attack against Syrian government forces in Deir ez-Zor was repelled and further moves against Syria in the north will have to defy Russian air power.

Washington will now have to decide to risk war against Russia or to shelf the Syria regime change project.

Posted by b on September 11, 2015 at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (109)

September 09, 2015

Foreign Invasion Force In Yemen Grows

The invasion force in Yemen is growing. The invasion troops now include:

  • 3,000 United Arab Emirates
  • 1,000 Qatar
  • 1,000 Saudi Arabia
  • 6,000 (somewhat unreliable) Yemeni expats hired and trained by Saudi Arabia
  • 600-800 Egypt
  • small contingents from Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan

All together the force ha now nearly the size of an infantry division in a "western" army. That is not really much should these want to advance from Marib towards the capital Sanaa through the mountainous terrain inhabited by an unfriendly and well armed population. I would recommend at least three division or some 40-50,000 men for that partial task. (For comparison: In the 1960s Egypt sent some 70,000 troops to a proxy civil war in Yemen of which some 12,000 got killed and many more wounded.)

Coordinating such an array of forces with different military cultures will be extremely difficult. There have already been several cases in which the Saudi air force "successfully" bombed ground elements of its Yemeni allies.

Announced are also some 6,000 troops from Sudan though I doubt that so many will ever arrive. Smaller contingents are also to come from Senegal and Morocco.

The U.S. is not only supporting the Saudis with targeting advice, intelligence and logistics. It has now silently joined the fighting:

Haykal Bafana
#Yemen : US drones in Sirwah area of Marib tonight where Saudi allies trying for weeks to dislodge Houthi/Saleh forces. 2 missiles missed

There are no al-Qaeda forces around Marib so this was not a U.S. "anti-terror" strike.

The devastating blockade of Yemen continues. Yesterday an Indian fisherboat smuggling some small load of fuel near Hudaydah harbor was bombed by Saudi aligned forces. Twenty Indian fisherman died. Eleven food trucks with inspected load on their way from "liberated" Aden toward Mocha were bombed and destroyed. Over the last months Yemen received only 10% of the fuel it needs to keep emergency generators, ambulances and water pumps going. Child male nutrition in several areas is now above 30%. Half of the Yemeni population of 26 million are in danger of famine. Yemen's religious and cultural heritage gets literately ruined.

The capital Sanaa is under constant bombing even though there are hardly any Houthi forces or valuable targets left but a Saudi general now announced that it is time to completely "cleanse" it.

All peace talks have broken down and the UN envoy, selected by the Saudis, is hapless and gets ignored.

"Western" media mostly ignore the war on Yemen and "western" governments excuse their very best customers, the Saudis, by repeating that the Houthis are aligned with Iran which is just one of the false myths around this war.

Posted by b on September 9, 2015 at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

September 07, 2015

Are Manned U.S. Helicopters Flying In Syria?

A NYT piece on the failure if the  "Division 30" Pentagon mercenaries in Syria and their coming Version 2 includes some interesting bits (in bold). The general line of the piece is that the failure of the first group sent in does not lead to significant changes but to attempts to create more of the same. That is not really new but the usual Pentagon mindset. Interesting though are some details:

The proposed changes come after a Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda attacked, in late July, many of the first 54 Syrian graduates of the military’s training program and the rebel unit they came from.
...
The rebels were ill-prepared for an enemy attack and were sent back into Syria in too small numbers. They had no local support from the population and had poor intelligence about their foes.
...
Predator drones quickly rushed to help the Division 30 fighters once they came under attack from the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, killing dozens of the attackers, American officials said.
...
While most of the fighters were Sunni Arabs, Nadim Hassan, an ethnic Turkmen whom few people had heard of before, was named as its leader, a decision many rebels felt had been imposed by the Turkish government.
...
The trainees were to get good weapons and monthly salaries ranging from $225 for soldiers to $350 for officers, Mr. Freiji said.
...
on July 30, Mr. Hassan, the group’s leader, and another commander, Farhan Jassem, entered Syria to meet with Nusra Front leaders and assure them that the American-trained force intended to fight only the Islamic State,
...
Soon after entering Syria, the two men and six others were promptly captured by the Nusra Front. They are still being held.

The next day, the Nusra Front attacked Division 30’s base in the village of Mariameen in northwestern Syria
...
A black-and-white video on his phone, apparently shot by an American drone, showed dozens of fighters he said were from the Nusra Front approaching the base before a large blast hit them, followed by automatic fire from the sky.

The U.S. paid mercenaries have no local backing. Their commander is under Turkish control and was friendly with al-Qaeda leaders but is now their hostage. Still later the Division 30 people called al-Qaeda their "brothers". Somehow all of that does not fit to the "idealistic moderate Syrian rebels" propaganda language U.S. officials use to describe them.

But the most curious issue in the piece is the description of the "drone" attack that helped to fend off attacking Nusra fighters. No drone I am aware of and certainly not the "Predator" are equipped with automatic weapons like machine guns. The Drones carry fire-and-forget missiles or bombs but no drone has the necessarily heavy rotating tower and swiveling weapon holder that would allow the use of automatic weapons. "Automatic fire from the sky" as the reporter describes from the video he has seen can only have come from manned helicopters. Or is there some other explanation that I miss?

If there were helicopters who's birds were these? U.S. or Turkish? Are there more of these flying over Syria and to what purpose? And what would be the Search & Rescue assets that could be used should such a bird come down involuntarily?

Something we are not told about is happening at the Turkish-Syrian border. Is that the reason why the Russians, despite U.S. efforts to hinder them, prepare air fields for the delivery of new air assets to the Syrian army?

Posted by b on September 7, 2015 at 08:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (99)

September 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-33

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 6, 2015 at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (122)

September 05, 2015

Under Fight-Against-ISIS Disguise "West" Prepares To Openly Attack Syria

Updated below

The German chancellor Merkel called for a migrant avalanche when she declared Germany an open house and disbanded the Dublin agreement on asylum seeker in Europe. A media campaign followed and thousands of migrants from Syria are now shepherded through Europe by dozens of journalists who record every move for tonight's news - fake photos (in German) included. No one is asking the migrants why they are now leaving Turkey, where most have been the last months or years, or who now provided them with money.

I asked what purpose this media campaign may have. It now seems clear that it is part of preparing the European public for all-out war on Syria, its government and its people.

The Guardian editors use the created migrant crisis to demand that "something" be done. They ridiculously first remind us that the false "no-fly-zone" campaign against Libya ended in a country ripped apart and more refugees only to then demand a similar campaign in Syria. Saner British voices remind us that "western" meddling in the Middle East is the source, not the solution for the current catastrophes.

But the BBC lets us know that the UK government is preparing for war on Syria despite an earlier parliament vote against such a move:

Ministers will start to make a case for British military action in Syria next week - with Downing Street keen to take the "next step" against so-called Islamic State - the BBC understands.

France is, of course, on board:

Europe’s refugee crisis, largely caused by vast numbers of people fleeing the civil war in Syria, the failure to push back Islamic State and a rising presence of Russia in the region may prompt a change in policy, Le Monde reported, saying Hollande discussed the issue with his defence team at a meeting on Friday.

The campaign will be "led" by the U.S. and it will not be against the Islamic State. The U.S. let the Islamic State rise in a willful decision and its current bombing campaign against IS is less than halfhearted at best. It is also holding back the Shia militia in Iraq from attacking the Islamic State in Ramadi and Fallujah. The coming attack will be against the Syrian government and its people with the Islamic State and the "refugee crisis" only being the convenient pretext.

To add to the artificial urgency to bomb now, now, now a rumor campaign was started to claim that Russia is sending lots of fighter planes and troops to Syria. There were "reports" of new Russian fighter jets arriving in Syria even though none were ever seen. A normal move of material transport for the Syrian army by Russian ships which have happened regularly over the last years is now suddenly hyped. Old social media pictures of a few Russian soldiers in Syria ore even fake ones are suddenly "found" and presented as "evidence" of somehow nefarious Russian intent. The Russians denied any move of fighter jets or troop contingents to Syria.

The Russians also held talks with various Syrian opposition figures and with several of Syria's neighbor countries. Putin has voiced a new plan that would include Syria and Russia into an anti-Islamic State campaign and thereby sabotage the U.S. regime change plans:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to early parliamentary elections and to share some power with his opponents, a concession that may facilitate a broader international coalition against Islamic State, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Russia would consider participating in the coalition and the Russian president has already discussed the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Putin told reporters in Vladivostok on Friday. Russia has been pushing for a wider campaign against Islamic State that would include Assad, something the U.S. and Europe have opposed.

The U.S. has not issued any official response to the plan. It would of course make a lot of sense to have the Syrian government and Russia included in any real steps against the Islamic State. By publicly announcing the plan Russia shows that the U.S. is indeed not interested in really fighting the Islamic State but follows its long term plans to destroy Syria.

Putin also denied the rumored troop movements:

“It’s too early” to talk about Russian military action in Syria, though “we are considering various options,” Putin said. Russia is actively helping the Assad government with weapons and military training, he said.

I regard Putin's "considering various options" as a warning clause. But I do not expect that Russia would fully engage in Syria. Russia correctly fears another "Afghanistan trap" laid by the U.S. But there might be other options available for Russia to beef up Syria's air defense or to otherwise sabotage U.S. attack plans. For now sowing fears and doubt into U.S. planning is the best way to proceed.

Update:

The State Department just released this Readout of Secretary Kerry's Call With Foreign Minister Lavrov:

The Secretary called Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning to discuss Syria, including U.S. concerns about reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up there. The Secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria.

The two agreed that discussions on the Syrian conflict would continue in New York later this month.

Would "risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria". Exactly. And that makes some folks in the White House and Pentagon really nervous.

So nervous that Kerry offers more "discussions".

"Hey Sergey, you can't be serious. Oh, you are? Please let's talk."

Posted by b on September 5, 2015 at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (116)

September 04, 2015

More Saudi Losses In Yemen, Washington Warns Riyadh To Toe Its Line

The U.S.-Saudi-UAE campaign against Yemen has failed to achieve its aims. While the bombing of Yemen continues and the nation is blockaded an all sides the losses on the Saudi side are also increasing.

The UAE attack from the south is now stuck in Taiz and skirmishes there continue. Strong UAE lobbying power in Washington does not make up for a lack of military capacity. The attack from the north-east towards Sanaa is stuck in Marib. Over the last weeks the Saudis, UAE troops and hired Yemeni tribal forces build up a huge force east of Marib. It includes Apache helicopter and now nearly two brigades of motorized troops. During the last few days these troops, while preparing to attack Sanaa, were themselves under attack from Houthi and Yemeni army forces.


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Today a SS-21 Tochka tactical ballistic missile was launched by the Yemeni army and hit the invaders camp. According to a report and tweets from Yemen two Saudi Apache helicopter, armored vehicles and an ammunition dump were blown up. The United Arab Emirates announced that at least 22 of its troops were killed. The Saudis have not yet announced their casualties.

Mortar attacks by Houthi forces also hit (vid) more Saudi border station and military outposts within Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi king just arrived for a visit in Washington. The U.S. takes part in the Saudi campaign against Yemen by providing ammunition, air refueling, intelligence and targeting capabilities. With criticism of the campaign and warning of imminent mass starvation in Yemen coming from various international organizations the U.S. would probably like to wrap up the Yemeni issue and to stop the war. But the Saudis seem so far unwilling to concede that they will not achieve their aims.

This is the context in which was has to read Wednesday's NYT column by Tom Friedman:

[I]f you think Iran is the only source of trouble in the Middle East, you must have slept through 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Nothing has been more corrosive to the stability and modernization of the Arab world, and the Muslim world at large, than the billions and billions of dollars the Saudis have invested since the 1970s into wiping out the pluralism of Islam — the Sufi, moderate Sunni and Shiite versions — and imposing in its place the puritanical, anti-modern, anti-women, anti-Western, anti-pluralistic Wahhabi Salafist brand of Islam promoted by the Saudi religious establishment.

It is not an accident that several thousand Saudis have joined the Islamic State or that Arab Gulf charities have sent ISIS donations. It is because all these Sunni jihadist groups — ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front — are the ideological offspring of the Wahhabism injected by Saudi Arabia into mosques and madrasas from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia.

And we, America, have never called them on that — because we’re addicted to their oil and addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.

Strong stuff coming from a columnist with good direct contacts in the White House. The oil argument though fails to hit the mark. There is enough oil available on the markets and even more capacity coming online from Iran and Iraq so that the Saudi oil role is now diminished.

It is unlikely that Friedman would have written that column on the eve of the Saudi king's arrival and in such strong words without some White House nudging. This is a message to Saudi Arabia to cut back on its unilateral activities. Its unconditioned support for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is out of line of U.S. plans and the bombing of Yemen has gone out of hand.

The message Washington is sending via Friedman is: "Stick to our line or we will move on to Iran."

Together with the losses in Yemen the warning may indeed lead to changes in the Saudi stand. A likely casualty would be the Saudi deputy crown prince, the "young general" Mohammad Bin Salman.

Posted by b on September 4, 2015 at 07:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (66)

September 03, 2015

Who Runs The Migrant Media Campaign And What Is Its Purpose?

The current moral hand-wringing media campaign around migrants from Syria has some similarities with the propaganda campaign that accompanied the putsch in Ukraine and the attack on Libya. It includes false information, photos of unknown provenance, lame "heartbreaking" personal stories and no mentioning or questioning at all of the real reasons why people are moving.

That the U.S., Turkey and the GCC countries are actively waging war against Syria and causing the plight is not discussed at all. That these "refugees" are now mostly migrants coming from rather safe places in Turkey is left out. Instead we get, at least in Europe, a sudden barrage of the-sky-is-falling coverage in all media all the time.

There will be over time a huge backlash against European politicians who, like Merkel, practically invite more migrants. Wages are stagnant or falling in Europe and unemployment is still much too high. The last thing people in Europe want right now is more competition in the labor market. Parties on the extreme right will profit from this while the center right will lose support. Why is Merkel willing to pay this price?

Though I can not pinpoint it, the feeling I and others get is that this campaign is directed and has some certain aims.

Help me here. What is behind this campaign?

Is Erdogan pushing refugees out of Turkey towards Europe because of criticism against his policies?

Is the campaign intended to gain public support in Europe for a big intensification of the war on Syria?

@EjmAlrai
The war in #Syria is due to escalate as never seen before with #Turkish & #Arab forces are drawing plans to enter the country "2fight #ISIS"

The migrants media campaign does not feel like a normal headline rush but like a planned information operation. Who is behind this campaign and what is the intent?

Posted by b on September 3, 2015 at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (133)

September 01, 2015

Petraeus' Trial Ballon - "Let's Work With Al-Qaeda"

An ex-CIA boss, fired for divulging secrets to his lover, wants the U.S. to ally with al-Qaeda to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

Petraeus is thus providing material support for a terrorist organization. Some judge should put him finally where he belongs.

The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the U.S. persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military.

Yeah, because that worked so well. Many of those Sunni militias Petraeus temporarily bribed to not attack U.S. occupation forces in Iraq are now part of the Islamic State. So look up "What could possible go wrong" Volume 7 page 133 and you will find that any such alliance always ends in a worse situation. But that may the intent of Petraeus paymasters':

The concept of arming one purported enemy of the United States, which itself emerged out of a prior enemy (al-Qaeda in Iraq), in order to destroy the latest enemy ensures an environment of constant enemies, and thus warfare.

You may ask who gave Petraeus this lunatic idea? Well:

Neri Zilber @NeriZilber
Fwiw many in Israeli army-intel-media circles argue same thing as Petraeus re. Nusra. thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/…

Indeed the Israeli military has been working with al Qaeda for quite some time. It enabled al-Qaeda in Syria to take over large parts of the Golan heights by providing it with healthcare as well as artillery support against the Syrian Arab Army.

Petraeus and Hillary Clinton early on argued for arming and supporting Syrian "rebels". Much of such arming and supporting has been going on clandestinely through the CIA which Petraeus then led. Since at least 2012 the CIA  trained and payed some 10,000 anti-Syrian fighters many of whom, with their CIA provided weapons, moved on to join Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State.

The U.S. has also somewhat openly worked with al-Qaeda though so far mostly unofficially and through the Free Syrian Army proxies it provides with weapons:

Whereas these multinational operations rooms have previously demanded that recipients of military assistance cease direct coordination with groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, recent dynamics in Idlib appear to have demonstrated something different. Not only were weapons shipments increased to the so-called “vetted groups,” but the operations room specifically encouraged a closer cooperation with Islamists commanding frontline operations.

But it is one thing to work clandestinely with nefarious forces and a completely different issue to do so publicly. Just think of the legal implication. The Obama administration claims to have legal backing for fighting the Islamic State on the basis of the 2003 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists which holds:

Joint Resolution [...] [t]hat the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

The Department of Defense usually uses the phrases "Al-Qaeda and associated forces" or "affiliated forces" when it describes those defined in the AUMF. How then can one legally claim to fight the Islamic State under the AUMF when an ally in that fight is the major enemy cited under said AUMF?

And what would be planned for the case that al-Qaeda would actually win?

There is no way that Obama would officially declare to work with al-Qaeda or "former" al-Qaeda forces to fight against the Islamic State. "You are either with us or against al-Qaeda" won't work. The public and Congress would rip him apart.

Petraeus and his handlers know this. But why then are they launching this trial balloon?

Posted by b on September 1, 2015 at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (75)

 
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