Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 31, 2015

Islamic State Plane Attack Claim Could Be Helpful

Today a Russian civil airliner came down over the Sinai peninsula. All 224 on board of the Airbus A-320 were killed. The Islamic State in Sinai claims to have "brought down" the plane.

That is unlikely. According to flight radar data the plane was flying at 30,000 feet when whatever happened occurred. IS in Sinai has anti-air weapons but those reach no higher than 10,000 feet. It is in principle possible that IS infiltrated the airport at the Egyptian tourist resort Sharm el-Sheikh where the plane was was coming from and smuggled someone on board. But it is unlikely. The usual travel arrangements for Sharm el-Sheikh are group travels where anyone not belonging to a group would be suspicious. Security at Sharm el-Sheikh is usually tight. There is also a report that preliminary investigations point to a technical failure.

But IS claimed responsibility and the fact that it did can be used. How about a salvo of cruise missile on "IS targets" in Syria and Iraq? No one could really complain now if some of those cruise missiles hit IS ... or something else ...

But whatever. That IS claims to have taken down an airliner shows that it has intent to do such. That is then the end of stupid arguments to work with IS or to let it live and prosper. The claim will also the end to any attempt to give serious air defense weapons to "insurgents" in Syria. The weapons could easily end up in al-Qaeda or IS hands and it is now clear what they would be doing with them. 

Posted by b on October 31, 2015 at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (150)

October 30, 2015

U.S. Stopped Syria Air Strikes While Nusra And IS Prepared Attack On Government Supply Route

During the last days a large attack on the Syrian government supply line to Aleppo city was carried out by Jabhat al-Nusra (aka al-Qaeda in Syria) and the Islamic State seemingly in coordination with the U.S. military.

During September the U.S. anti-IS coalition carried out an average of 4.2 airstrikes on IS in predominately east Syria. This after an average of 6.8 per day in August. The rate in October was about the same as in September until Thursday October 22. Then, according to the U.S. Military Times, the strike rate decreased markedly:

~4 strikes per day up to Oct 20
4 - Oct 20 Tuesday
8 - Oct 21 Wednesday
1 - Oct 22 Thursday
0 - Oct 23 Friday
0 - Oct 24 Saturday
0 - Oct 26 Sunday
1 - Oct 27 Monday
0 - Oct 28 Tuesday
0 - Oct 29 Wednesday

The Islamic State used the lull in airstrikes in east Syria to move hundreds of fighters and heavy equipment towards the supply line that connects Damascus with the government held areas (green) of Aleppo.


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After two days of no U.S. airstrikes in east Syria the Islamic State (purple) attacked the government supply corridor from the east while at the same time and at the same main point Jabhat al-Nusra (orange) attacked the supply corridor from the west. The attacks started with suicide car bombs against Syrian army checkpoints which suddenly had to defend themselves to the front and the rear.

On Saturday October 24 Almasdar news reported:

For the first time in three months, the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) main supply route along the Khanasser Highway was closed due to an obstruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS); this chaotic situation forced the pro-government forces to call on hundreds of reinforcements from the Aleppo Governorate to help push back the encroaching terrorists.

Initially, the Syrian Armed Forces were successful in repelling both ISIS and the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” after they attacked from different axes in the Hama Governorate; however, ISIS regrouped near the Al-Raqqa Governorate border in order to launch another massive assault on the Khanasser Highway.

ISIS’ second assault on the Syrian Armed Forces’ defensive positions proved successful, as they cutoff the Khanasser Highway and pushed further west towards the strategic city of Ithriyah in east Hama.

The Islamic State fighters killed about a dozen government troops and captured several armed vehicles (gruesome photos here).

The Syrian army send reinforcements from the Palestinian resistance militia Liwaa Al-Quds to help clear the road. This was only somewhat successful as bad weather and a sandstrom on the 25th prevented air support.

The operations room in Damascus was not too unhappy with the situation even though the road was still cut. The thought was that having IS and Nusra fighters concentrated in an otherwise wide open rural area would help to eliminate them. On the 26th and 27the Russian and Syrian air forces flew some 90 attacks within 24 hours against the enemy held parts of the road.

These attacks cleared the IS held parts of the road but the Islamic State concentrated more forces on another part of the road further north and on October 27 it suicide-bombed another government checkpoint and again blocked the road. Additional support from Hizbullah arrived during the next days and the road is now mostly cleared though still endangered.

The closed supply route led to hardship for the nearly two million people in the government held parts of Aleppo as prices for produce and gasoline exploded.

The operations room in Damascus where Syria, Iran, Russia and Hizbullah coordinate the intelligence and operations in Syria suspects that the attack on the supply corridor was coordinated at a higher level than just between Nusra and the Islamic State.

The total cessation of U.S. air attacks on east Syria allowed the Islamic State to move hundreds of fighters and heavy equipment like tanks and cannons from its stronghold in Raqqa city to the west of Syria. At the same time Jabhat al-Nusra brought hundreds of fighters from other fronts south-eastward for its part of the attack. It is difficult to believe that these were just unrelated coincidences.

Posted by b on October 30, 2015 at 05:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (218)

October 29, 2015

Turkey's New Election Unlikely To Check Erdogan

The outcome of Sunday's election in Turkey will likely be the same as the prior one in June. At least that is what the polls are saying:

The June results:
AKP 40,9%, CHP 25%, MHP 16,3%, HDP 13,1%, Voter turnout: 83,9%

The prognosis for Sunday:
AKP 41,7%, CHP 27,9%, MHP 14,2%, HDP 13,8%, Voter turnout 91%

The two main parties, Erdoigan's Islamist AKP and the hapless social-democratic CHP, will slightly win. The right-wing MHP will lose voters to Erdogan's AKP and the leftist/Kurdish HDP will also gain a bit. The many minor parties which do not make the 10% cut will be the overall losers.

The coalition perspectives will be the same as in June. There is no way the MHP would join any coalition in which the HDP takes part and after Erdogan reignited the war on the Kurds the HPD has no way to join with the AKP. But any possible coalition AKP + CHP or AKP + MHP will lead to a significant loss of Erdogan's powers. A lot of AKP's dirty laundry would be washed in public should CHP or MHP cabinet minister go through the files in the ministries they would take away from the AKP.

The AKP could still win a parliamentary majority should either the MHP or the HDP not make the 10% cut. There may be ways to arrange that like creating more "terror attacks" in Kurdish areas on election day or some other shenanigan. This report, interesting for its detailed view on the Turkish society, analyses that unlikely case.

But why should Erdogan agree to a coalition when he didn't agree to one in June? He could just let any negotiations fail, install another temporary government and require new elections in spring. Meanwhile he could further build his presidential empire and degrade the prime minister and cabinet to mere servants. He would have time to raid more media that are not toeing his line. Rumor says he is already planning for that. He would also have time to create some judicial case against the HDP that would would keep it out of a third election round.

The U.S. would hardly protest. Notice that there has been no outcry in U.S. media over the AKP takeover and yesterdays raid on the Koza-İpek Group and the various media channels it owns. Erdogan is openly threatening to bomb the U.S. Kurdish allies in Syria and no one is Washington is protesting this. There is also no outcry from the EU which is holding back a critical report on Turkey and Erdogan because he is threatening to unleash further "refugee" waves.

As Erdogan is getting away with each and every crime without even a bit of protests from his major NATO allies he is unlikely to hold back from further mischief. His constitutional role as president of Turkey is to be a neutral arbitrator not the partisan dictator he actually is. But no one in the international sphere is calling him out on it. I therefore expect that the election on Sunday will have results similar to the one expected above but that it will neither lead to a stable government nor to an end of Erdokhan's rule over Turkish politics.

Posted by b on October 29, 2015 at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

October 28, 2015

Open Thread 2015-40

(While I am busy ...)

Edward Dark from Aleppo:
The flawed prescription for peace in Syria: More war

Not too bad Frontline video (59 min):
Inside Assad's Syria

On Ukraine - the Nazis and oligarchs win:
Why A Star Wars Emperor Won Office In Ukraine

And other news & views ...

Posted by b on October 28, 2015 at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (180)

October 26, 2015

Two Prominent Promoters Of The "Syrian Revolution" Give Up

Two prominent fans and promoters of the unicorn Free Syrian Army and its "revolution" are giving up.

Since the start of the regime change operation in Syria Jenan Moussa, who works for the UAE based Al Aan TV, is an ardent fan of the "moderate rebels". Her embedded reports about them were more one sided anti-regime propaganda than journalism. She is quite prominent with over 100,000 followers on Twitter.

But her honeymoon with the FSA seems to be over. She finally recognizes that the FSA is a mere weapon courier service between the CIA and Saudis on one side and al-Qaeda and the Islamic State on the other:

Jenan Moussa @jenanmoussa
In Maarat Numan #Syria, court issues strict Islamic dress code for women. Rules similar 2 Sirt,Timbuktu &Raqqa >

Strict dress code not only introduced in MaraatNuman, also Idlib city. Controlled by Jihadist coalition JaishFatah >

Strict dress code campaign by jihadists in Idlib is called “My veil is my chastity” >

FSA in Hama & Idlib can’t do anything against strict Islamic rules issued by Jaish alFatah because FSA weak & doesn’t control territory. >

This is main problem of FSA in Hama/Idlib: Yes, FSA still exists, but they dont control territory. If they disobey radicals, FSA is out. >

We all remember how Jamal Maruf group & Hazem (both western backed FSA) were destroyed by Nusra (AlQaeda) after they "disobeyed" them.>

So FSA in Idlib/Hama has only HQ's, no territory. Even worse: FSA have no courts. So if FSA-member makes mistake, trial is at Nusra court >

Nusra allows FSA 2 operate in Hama/Idlib bcz FSA there gets TOWmissiles from West. FSA uses these TOW in support of Nusra etc vs SAA. <

That is, of course, not new. When the German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, who traveled to ISIS-controlled Syria and Iraq last year, was asked about how the FSA is seen by the Jihadis he responded (vid):

They are laughing about the FSA. They don't take them for serious. They say: "The best arms sellers we have are the FSA. If they get a good weapon they sell it to us." They didn't take them for serious. They take for serious Assad. They take for serious of course the bombs. But they fear nobody. But FSA does not play any role.

Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in Syria, is meanwhile happy with all the attention the Islamic State gets. It helps Nusra to play the "moderates". In a recent edition of Nusra's English magazine Al Risalah, a long term al-Qaeda/Nusra member from Australia is interviewed:

“One of the greatest things about IS [Islamic State] its that before people saw al Qaeda and the Mujahideen (in general) as the extremists, and those that abstain from jihad as the normal ‘moderate’ Muslims (following the middle-way),” Australi explains. “But now the truth has come out — the Mujahideen are in fact upon the correct and ‘moderate’ path, with IS being the extremists.”

These people, who order strict Islamic dress code for women Idlib and punish anyone who disobeys them, are the ones the U.S. is talking about when it accuses Russia of bombing "non-ISIS" positions or the "moderate rebels".

Another long term fan of regime change in Syria and a busy propagandists on Twitter with some 26,000 followers is The 47th. Yesterday he finally had this realization:

The 47th @THE_47th
There isn't a single credible, promising & uniting Syrian oppositions figure that could possibly run against Assad.

Indeed. And that is the reason why the U.S. will never agree to a plan which includes free elections in Syria and in which Bashar al Assad, next to whomever, would be on the ballot. They know he would win.

Posted by b on October 26, 2015 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (144)

October 25, 2015

Open Thread 2015-39

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 25, 2015 at 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (126)

October 24, 2015

Hillary Clinton: We Lied. The Aim Of Our War On Libya Was Regime Change

Micah Zenko finds a nugget in yesterday's Benghazi hearing of Hillery Clinton:

When asked by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) about a video clip that read, “We came, we saw, he died [meaning former Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi]. Is that the Clinton doctrine?” Clinton replied, “No, that was an expression of relief that the military mission undertaken by NATO and our other partners had achieved its end.”

The video clip in question is here and should be watched by everyone to understand what an evil character Hillary Clinton is.

But the point, Zenko says, is that she admits that Obama and Clinton as his Secretary of State lied when they claimed to wage war on Libya for some "humanitarian reasons":

What is now totally forgotten is that regime change WAS NOT the intended military mission of the Libya intervention in March 2011. As President Barack Obama stated in a speech to the nation on March 28, 2011, "The task that I assigned our forces [is] to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone," adding explicitly, "Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake."

If there are any competent opponents to her candidacy for president they should pick up on this and use it to destroy her: "You want a president that is lying to you about going to war? About getting your sons and daughters killed?"

Posted by b on October 24, 2015 at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (134)

October 23, 2015

No End To The Stuck War On Yemen

This somewhat funny battle map of Yemen was posted by Haykal Bafana some five weeks ago.


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The last bigger post on the war on Yemen here was on September 9. Since then nothing important happened there to write about. Little has changed in the positions on the battlefield. The daily Saudi bombing of the cities continues, the Saudi/U.S. blockade on the country continues and a wide raging famine is imminent.

The Houthis are still fighting the Saudis in Marib in the north-east. They are still invading the former Yemeni areas in Saudi Arabia in the north. They are still targeting Saudi ships that come near the Yemeni coast in the west. (Two were allegedly hit.) They still indiscriminately shell Saudi coalition positions in Taiz. Al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups are still gobbling up more territory in the south-east and around Aden. The Saudi attack on the Yemeni highlands and Sanaa is still stuck right where it started.

The Saudi/U.S. coalition included troops from the UAE which had landed in Aden. They brought in the Saudi sponsored "government" of the former president Hadi. But Hadi left the country after just 24 hours on the ground and the building the "government" occupied in Aden was targeted by double suicide car bombs. Some more UAE troops were killed and the "government" went back to reside in a convention center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The UAE troops now keep to their camps.

The "vice president" Khaled Bahah is trying to arrange some peace talks but neither the Saudis nor anyone else is listening to him. The UN is also arranging peace talks but nobody expects any results. The Saudi lunatic "young leader" Mohammad bin Salman-un wants to get whatever he wants or continue the war.

Last week troops from Sudan, paid by the Saudis, landed in Aden. The U.S. is now in a coalition with Sudan even as it accuses the same troops of genocide in Darfur. Yesterday the soldiers from Sudan were attacked with a suicide car bomb and some 15 of them died. Some 500 troops are also suppose to come from Mauritania. They will fare no better. The Saudis also hired 800 Christian mercenaries from Columbia. Al Qaeda and IS are feverishly waiting for them.

The Saudis really believe they can buy everyone and anything and achieve the results they favor. But non of the bribes they paid to this or that Yemeni tribe to fight the Houthis changed the position on the ground. All their high tech weapons fail to decide or end the conflict. None of their mercenary troops have a chance against fiercely independent Yemenis defending their homes. All the support the U.S. gives the Saudis only brings more death, destruction and misery.

This war on Yemen is the most stupid one I can think of. There is nothing to win for anybody. Who will tell the Saudis?

Posted by b on October 23, 2015 at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (109)

October 22, 2015

That Silly "Chilly" Syria Piece Does Not Get Russia's Strategic Aim

According to the New York Times:

Bashar al-Assad Finds Chilly Embrace in Moscow Trip.

That headline of that page A1 piece awoke my interest because the White House clearly had a different impression than the New York Times scribes:

We view the red carpet welcome for Assad, ...

If this was a "chilly embrace" why was there a "red carpet welcome"? And what about that exclusive dinner?

Senior Russian officials joined Mr. Putin and Mr. Assad for dinner including the defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu; the prime minister, Dmitri A. Medvedev; and Mr. Lavrov, the foreign minister.

Was that also "chilly"? Was the borscht served cold?

There is nothing in the "chilly" headlined piece that supports the claim made in the headline. Indeed not Russian or Syrian voice in it and all who are quoted have no more knowledge about the meetings than anyone who read the news agency reports. The whole thesis is taken from "chilly" air.

Mr. Putin’s military has forcefully intervened to shore up Mr. Assad’s government in its struggle against an array of insurgents, but, even as Mr. Assad flew secretly to Moscow on Tuesday night for a meeting to assess the fighting in Syria, the chilly personal relationship between the two men has not changed, according to officials, diplomats and analysts.

Up to that paragraph there is nothing in the piece that actually establish that Putin and Assad had or have a "chilly personal relationship". There might well have no personal relationship at all. The two have only seen each other once before, in 2005.

By all accounts, the two leaders remain distant and wary of each other.

But what are those accounts:

“It’s not personal, this whole thing,” said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, referring to Mr. Putin’s intervention. The highest priority of the Russians, he said, has been saving the central authority of the Syrian state as much as Mr. Assad himself in hopes of stemming the spread of chaos and, with it, the fertile ground in which the Islamic State can take root.
...
“To them, Assad is not a sacred cow,” Mr. Trenin added. “The issue to them is to save the Syrian state, to prevent it from unraveling the way Libya unraveled, Yemen unraveled.”

Fine. So what is "chilly" about that?

“Not being wedded to Assad does not mean that they’re prepared to negotiate a way for him to go,” said a senior administration official in Washington

Correct. And not "chilly".

“There’s not much chemistry in the relationship,” said one long-serving Western diplomat in the region.

Yeah. How could there be when they met only once before ten years ago?

Mr. Assad has, in fact, proved at times to be a reluctant partner in Russia’s efforts to end the conflict. He has stood up on many occasions to the Kremlin, to the extent that diplomats and analysts say it has irritated Mr. Putin.

“I think they know how confused the Assad regime is, and they’re frustrated by it,” said Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has followed the conflict closely, referring to the Russians.

So the Israel lobby is asked to add to the spin even those Tabler knows nothing about Russia or the relations between Putin and Assad.

The whole spin in that "chilly" piece is without any sources or examples that support the claim. Russia and Syria might have, at times, different views? Of course they have. But they are allies, fight together against common enemies and value each others' contribution. A red carpet and a first class dinner with the most important people of the Russian state bear witness to that.

There is actually no hint at all from Russia or Syria that Russia would make Assad go or that Assad is seeking exile in Moscow. All such talk is silly spin. Russia will fight together with Syria until the Islamist threat is reduced and the Syrian state re-stabilized. There will then be some new government that includes some non-violent opposition members and that government will prepare for new elections to the parliament and for the president. Assad may be one of the candidates and may even win. That and not much less is, I believe, what Russia is willing to settle for.

The main strategic (and value) issue for Russia is to not condone any more U.S. induced "regime change" by "color revolutions" or by force. To end the unilateral catastrophic misbehavior in foreign policies that has become a U.S. habit. That is the most important and often repeated point president Putin has made. No more unilateral regime changes. He again made that point today at the Valdai Club meeting.

If Russia would let Assad fall it would concede "regime change" in Syria to Washington. It can not see Putin, or any other Russian president, do that. Not under any currently thinkable circumstance.

Posted by b on October 22, 2015 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (138)

October 21, 2015

"Western" Media Silent As Iraq And 4+1 Inflict Huge Islamic State Defeat

Update Oct 22:

An detailed Iraqi account of the Baiji operation: Baiji District Recaptured by Iraq’s Forces in Rapid Offensive

The US-led international coalition played a minimal role at best during this weeklong offensive. From Oct. 13th-20th, the coalition conducted a grand total of just 10 strikes on Da’ish positions ‘near Baiji’. On Friday, as fighting in the district was winding down and militants were fleeing north towards Mosul or northeast towards Hawijah, the coalition dropped one bomb on one artillery piece. That’s it. While abysmal, it’s hardly surprising due to the heavy presence of the Hashd Al-Sha’abi, which the coalition actively tries to avoid aiding.

End Update - original piece follows

Yesterday saw a huge defeat of the Islamic State but "western" media hardly noted it.

Iraqi Hashd militia and the Iraqi army defeated the Islamic State fighters in Baiji refinery and Baiji city. This was a big success:

Footage aired by the state-run TV showed Iraqi troops waving flags from rooftops in Baiji as thick black smoke billowed into the air.
...
Baiji is the second most significant area recaptured in Salahuddin over the past months as pro-government forces retook the provincial capital of Tikrit in late March after weeks of clashes with the militants. The liberation of Baiji could be a prelude to Iraq’s highly-anticipated offensive into Mosul, which has served as the de-facto capital of Daesh in Iraq.

The road from Baghdad to Mosul runs south to north through Balad, Samara, Tikrit and Baiji. Tikrit was liberated in March and the fight about the Baiji refinery and Baiji city had waged since. The victory now opens the road towards Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city and in the hand of the Islamic State.

The success can be attributed mostly to Iraqi militia supported by Iran. The 4+1 intelligence and operations room in Baghdad, where Iraq, Iran, Russia, Syria and Hizbullah as well as the Hashd coordinate their efforts, advised throughout the operation. The U.S. was not involved as it does not want to work with the Hashd militia and Iran.

When looking through the daily strike reports of the U.S. lead operation Inherent Resolve one finds hardly any air strikes against IS forces around Baiji. The few that took place hit some IS "machine gun position" or "tactical fighting position". Hardly the effort that was needed to free the city. Indeed it took the Iraqi air force to do the real work:

Zaid Benjamin @zaidbenjamin
Inherent Resolve Spx Steve Warren: Dealing with small pockets in #Beiji refinery. Iraqi air-force mounted 40 airstrikes & the coalition 4.

Iraqi militia did the groundwork and the Iraqi air force covered the attack. The operation proceed under advice from Russia and Iran. The U.S. was not involved. It is no wonder then that "western" media are mostly silent about it.

There is nothing about the Iraqi victory in the Washington Post and the New York Times gives it just one sentence in a piece about the Joint Chiefs chairman. This after wall-to-wall coverage when the Islamic State first captured the refinery.  Even the small mention in the NYT manages to deceive its readers about the leading party of the operation:

The American-led coalition is putting pressure on the militants on several fronts. Backed by American air power, Iraqi forces are on the outskirts of Ramadi, which was taken by the militants in May. Iraqi forces and Shiite militias captured the Baiji oil refinery, north of Baghdad, on Friday and are trying to expand the territory under their control there. On Tuesday, the Iraqi military said it had secured the nearby town of Baiji after days of fighting.

The casual reader of that paragraph will assume that the "American-led coalition" and "American air power" was responsible for the liberation of Baiji. But besides four minor airstrike in as many days that "American-led coalition" was not involved at all. The Iraqi militia supported by Russia and Iran are clearly steeling the Pentagon's show.

The U.S. fears the replacement of its sham campaign against the Islamic State by a real one run by Russia and Iran. The Joint Chiefs chairman Dunford even threatened the Iraqi premier with love deprivation:

If Russia did begin flying missions over Iraq, it would preclude the United States from flying, Dunford told the Iraqi leaders. They understood the situation, he said, and Abadi told him that Iraq has not asked the Russians to fly missions over Iraq and Russia has not offered to launch strikes inside Iraq.

Officially Abadi has not asked. But Iraqi requests were made to Moscow and answered positively. Iraq will wait a few month and then compare the Russian success in Syria with the U.S. success in Iraq. Should the campaign in Syria be more successful than the U.S. led one in Iraq it surely would consider switching its partners.

In Syria meanwhile the "moderate rebels" open more joined operations rooms with Ahrar al-Shams and Jabhat al Nusra. There is new talk about a unification of the "moderate rebels" of Ahrar al-Shams and the "moderate rebels" of Al Qaeda:

Zaid Benjamin ‏@zaidbenjamin
Ahrar ash-Sham forge alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra one day after a CNN interview with #Qatar's FM saying that Ahrar has no links to al-Qaeda

Russian intelligence picked up talks between the the Islamic State and Nusra/al-Qaeda commanders about a united effort against the Syrian government.

The reality that all these groups submit to the same ideology and aims will soon become even more evident. That will make it more difficult for the U.S. and Turkey to continue with their sham campaign against the Islamic State while supporting the "moderates" that are joined with that professed enemy.

Meanwhile Russia continues its political efforts to end the fighting in Syria. The Syrian president Bashar Assad visited Moscow for talks with the Russian president Putin. He also had an intimate dinner with the highest figures of the Russian government - Putin, Medvedev, Lavrov and Shoygu attended. After the visit the Russian president had phonecalls with the Turkish president Erdogan and the Saudi King Salman today. The foreign ministers of Russia, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Turkey will meet Friday in Vienna. There is either a deal in the making ... or the war on Syria will escalate further.

Posted by b on October 21, 2015 at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (107)

October 20, 2015

NYT: G.O.P. Candidate Hillary Clinton Calls For No-Fly Zone

The New York Times explains on which side of the aisles Hillary Clinton positions herself.

Headline: G.O.P. Candidates Leading Charge in Call for Syrian No-Fly Zone

Third paragraph:

Hillary Rodham Clinton has split with President Obama, advocating a no-fly zone in an attempt to stop the bloodshed, reduce the flow of refugees and give the United States leverage against Russia.

Not that we had any doubt about it ...

Clinton lost the nomination race in 2008 against some young senator because of her hawkish foreign policy position. As she is obviously unable to learn from her mistakes she deserves another defeat.

Posted by b on October 20, 2015 at 05:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (140)

October 19, 2015

Why Is The U.S. Silently Bombing Syria's Electricity Network?

The Aleppo power plant is a 1,000 megawatt thermal plant in five units build by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry in 1995-1998. It is situated some 25 kilometers east of Aleppo city center.  During the fighting around Aleppo various electricity distribution stations were damaged and electricity in parts of the city has become scarce and unpredictable. But the main power station had so far not been hit.

The plant is in the hands of the Islamic State but there is an informal agreement between the government, which controls the distribution network, and those who hold the power generating station:

[T]he agreement of understanding pertains to the division of the electricity supply between the parties, whereby ISIS will receive 60% of the quota and the Syrian regime will receive 40%.

Both sides will have some electricity and the civilian as well as fighters on both side will be better off than without electricity. No side has a motive to destroy that plant.

But last night the U.S. coalition bombed the Aleppo thermal power plant and destroyed parts of it:

A military source told SANA that warplanes of the Washington alliance violated Syrian airspace and attacked civilian infrastructure in Mare’a, Tal Sha’er, and al-Bab in Aleppo countryside on Sunday.

The source added that the warplanes attacked the biggest electric power plant that feeds Aleppo city, which resulted in cutting off power from most neighborhoods in Aleppo city.

Just a week ago U.S. air attacks had attacked another power station and a big distribution transformer al-Radwaniye also east of Aleppo.

The electricity generation and distribution system is civil infrastructure. It is used and useful to everyone no matter what side of the conflict. After the first U.S. attack on a power station a week ago the Russian president Putin was asked about the strikes. He called them "strange":

"On Sunday, the American aviation bombed out an electrical power plant and a transformer in Aleppo. Why have they done this? Whom have they punished there? What’s the point? Nobody knows," the president said at a meeting with the Russian government members.

The Russians and the Syrians are sure that it were F-16 planes from the U.S. coalition that bombed the power infrastructure even though the coalition reports do no mention the attacks. Why are these bombings not mentioned in the U.S. coalition reports?

The U.S. claims it is only fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. It accuses Russia of not only attacking ISIS even though Russia, and Putin himself, always said that ISIS is not their sole target but that supporting the Syrian government against all its enemies is the overarching aim. The Russian just snuffed out a 16 vehicle ISIS convoy. Something that the U.S. somehow never manages to do. The U.S. itself, by the way, has killed and kills some non-ISIS "moderate rebels". All its complains against the Russians are just nonsense.

But why would fighting ISIS or this or that "moderate rebel" terrorist necessitate the destruction of valuable infrastructure which serves all sides of the Syrian society?

Without the plant Aleppo city, with some 2-3 million inhabitants and refugees, as well as the surrounding areas in Aleppo governate have no electricity. The damage the U.S. bombing caused will make sure that any repair will take a long time. This will make life for people on every side of the war more unbearable and more people will leave to seek refuge in foreign countries.

Is that the purpose of the U.S. bombardment of electricity infrastructure in Syria? If not what else is this supposed to achieve?

Posted by b on October 19, 2015 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

October 18, 2015

Open Thread 2015-38

News & views ...

(These fill up fast these days ...)

Note: There is some troll around trying to incite anti-semitism by commenting using the user names of regulars here. I have blocked it and deleted the fake comments. Please let me know when some comment by a regular looks suspiciously off compared to that posters other comments.

Posted by b on October 18, 2015 at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (184)

October 17, 2015

Syria - The New South Aleppo Campaign

Yesterday the Syrian Arab Army supported by Iraqi and Iranian forces and the Russian air force launched a surprise attack to the south and east of Aleppo. Progress at the beginning was rapid but resistance has by now grown and the current progress is at a slower and more sustainable pace. As the front lines are constantly moving the the news about actual positions vary.

An excellent map of the ongoing operation via TexMapMaker1. (Again with green=insurgents, red=Syrian government and allied forces)


big version

There are three important axis. The first one (the upper left marked 1 and 2 in the map) towards the besieged cities Nubl and Al-Zahra developed when earlier this week foreign paid insurgents lost some of their positions north-east of Aleppo in fighting with the Islamic State. The SAA took the opportunity of that fighting in the area to extend its position towards the besieged cities. Extending that position to relief the cities would also cut off the supply line of the insurgents within the northern parts of Aleppo city.

Towards the east SAA troops are fighting to relief the besieged military airport of Kuweiris (on the right of the map). Coming from the south they bypassed the direct west to east road that connects Aleppo city with Kuweiris but is under insurgent control. They made decent progress and might reach the airport tomorrow or the day after.

The main surprise attack yesterday and today was southward from Aleppo city. The troops progressed some six miles south before turning right towards the west and the M5 highway (in dark yellow on the left). They will try to reach the insurgency held highway or at least the controlling range of hills directly east of it.

This operation came as a surprise for the insurgents. Operational security was obviously tight. Several hundred Iran supported fighters from Iraq under Quds force commander Suleiman were transferred overnight from Latakia to Aleppo to support the south Aleppo attack.

There has also been news of some additional 3,000 Hizbullah fighters coming in which would bring up the number of fighters on the Syrian government side from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to 10,000 total. The Pentagon is estimating the number of Russian soldiers in Syria at 3,000, much higher than the 1,250 I am aware of.

Some months ago I estimated the Syrian army would need a division sized (15,000 men) outside support to again gain ground. The current influx of foreign government allies has nearly reached that mark. Should the rumored about new armored brigade run by Hizbullah join the current forces a sustained large attack towards Idleb and then towards the Turkish border could be sustainable. That would close the main supply lines of the insurgency and would likely be the beginning of its end.

But that attack has not started yet. Instead we are seeing several smaller operation around Rastan where Russian helicopters help (video) to slice and dice an insurgent bubble, in Latakia, in the Ghab plain and now in Aleppo. We must keep in mind that the whole campaign is now influenced by Russian operational thinking. Maskirovska, the feinting here and there before hitting somewhere else, is part of every bigger Russian military operation. What we currently know about the disposition of Syrian government and allied forces is mostly what someone wants us to know. It might or might not reflect the real dispositions and plans. Expect to see more surprises.

Posted by b on October 17, 2015 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

October 16, 2015

Open Thread 2015-37

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 16, 2015 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (188)

October 15, 2015

U.S. Official Bemoans Russian Destruction Of "Our" Terrorists

Some U.S. official is whining because his flock of bastards gets hurt:

"Putin is deliberately targeting our forces," a U.S. official, who is disappointed in the U.S. response to Russia, told Fox News.

"Our guys are fighting for their lives," said the official, estimating up to 150 CIA-trained moderate rebels have been killed by the Russians.

"Our forces", "our guys" - hmm. The official is referring to the CIA-mercenaries who are fighting under al-Qaeda's command:

Advancing alongside the Islamist groups, and sometimes aiding them, have been several of the relatively secular groups, like the Free Syrian Army, which have gained new prominence and status because of their access to the TOWs.

Even in smaller quantities, the missiles played a major role in the insurgent advances that eventually endangered Mr. Assad’s rule. While that would seem like a welcome development for United States policy makers, in practice it presented another quandary, given that the Nusra Front was among the groups benefiting from the enhanced firepower.

It is a tactical alliance that Free Syrian Army commanders describe as an uncomfortable marriage of necessity, because they cannot operate without the consent of the larger and stronger Nusra Front.

The "official" should go to jail for, at least, indirectly arming and supporting the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra aka al-Qaeda in Syria.

Under U.S. domestic law Obama justifies his attacks on the Islamic State in Syria (which is illegal under international law) with reference to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists as passed by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001. According to that AUMF:

That 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 ...

If that is the relevant legal code to fight the Islamic State then this even more so applies to Jabhat al-Nusra as it is loyal to the original al-Qaeda organization.

What Russia does, fighting on behalf of the legal government of Syria after having been asked to do so, is not only legal under international law but it is also easily justifiable by the same U.S. domestic law which the U.S. president applies to fight the Islamic State.

That whining official should recognize that a. what "his forces" do is illegal under U.S. law b. what Russia does with "his guys" is legal even under U.S. law and c. that there is always a moral hazard when using such proxy forces.

When the CIA send some idiots to invade Cuba where they were killed or capture it could do nothing and did nothing to protect them because that would have started a much bigger war. This is the same case here. These forces will be destroyed and there is nothing the U.S. can or will do about that. If you are sentimental about the fate of mercenaries and if you do not want this to happen do not use proxy forces but be man enough to go yourself.

Posted by b on October 15, 2015 at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (101)

October 14, 2015

The Battle Of Idleb Part 1 - The Northern Hama Plain

Someone from Texas made this excellent map of the current situation in north-west Syria.


big version

The plain between Hama and Idleb is likely the place of a coming big Syrian attack. The Syrian army and allied positions are in red and the CIA mercenary and Jihadi positions are green.

In north Latakia, where there is currently preparatory fighting in Salma (Russian TV video with an interesting comment on Syrian troop moral). The aim is to kick the enemy northward and out of the country and to secure the border with Turkey. The area must be cleaned to prevent any surprises against Latakia and the Russian bases there. The attack should then move further to the north-east where the intermediate target is Jisr a Shugur and then along the M4 highway towards Idleb.

At the same time a two pronged attack is planned in the north Hama plain to follow along the M5 highway northward also in the direction of Idleb (2d map). There have been reports in U.S. media that recent fighting there was costly for the Syrian army as the CIA mercenaries had lots of TOW anti-tank missiles to take out Syrian armor. But the 30 tank kills the opposition reports claimed were not real. Eight TOW impacts have been confirmed and not all of those were kills. The attack by the Syrian side was not very serious yet. It was rather reconnaissance by force to find out where the enemy might have strong or weak points.

The big attack will start only when reinforcements have arrived and the Russian are able to fly more air attacks per day.

Expected reinforcements are:

Al-haydareyeen Iraqis Forces (2000 fighters), the Fatimids Afghan forces (2000 fighters), the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (2,000 fighters) and the elite of Hezbollah (1000 fighter)

The civil airport in Latakia has been closed to civil traffic and will be used by the Russian airforce to support the upcoming attack. This is necessary as the average number of sorties a small airport with one landing strip can handle is only about 100 sorties per day. With a second active airport now available some 200 to 300 sorties/day will be available to support the Syrian army. The Syrian airforce will of cause add its own capacity to these numbers.

New artillery arrived too, mostly multiple rocket system, which in typical Russian war fashion will be intensely used against the lines of the TOW handlers.

To get an impression of what is coming here a video of some moderate intense bombing by the Russian airforce and a video, filmed from far away, of an attack by a multiple rocket system with cluster ammunition. Such intense fire inevitably "softens" defensive lines and will lead to huge losses for the defenders.

After the CIA boss Brennan visited Saudi Arabia last week the Saudis delivered at least 500 U.S. made TOW anti-tank weapons to Syria. This in addition to lots of other new supplies and munitions. Al-Qaeda/al-Nusra also sent many of its men to reinforce their defensive line in the north Hama plain.

As usual in Russian influenced war fighting the Syrian army break through that heavily defended line will be enforced by massive fire from artillery and by hundreds of air attacks. Fleeing enemies will be pursued as fast as possible to prevent the build up of new defense lines.

The above is the plan as far as I can read it. But keep in mind that no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy. There will be unexpected losses and unexpected gains and the situation may change fast.

There is also fighting going on in lots of other places in Syria. Yesterday some insurgents in east Ghouta thought it wise to launch two mortars onto the Russian embassy in Damascus. The response came today with an intense bombardment by the Russian airforce followed by a renewed ground attack by Syrian forces. Notice that "western" media always say that east Ghouta is "besieged". But in reality the area has always had plenty supplies of munitions and fighters which are coming in through the desert from Jordan.

Another fight is currently ongoing in the northeast of Aleppo. Some of the CIA mercenaries have lost positions there to the Islamic State and the Syrian army has used that infighting to make some gains on its own. It is now aiming (see maps) to connect its positions in north-north-east Aleppo with the besieged Shia towns of Fua and Kafraya some 10 kilometers north-west of the Aleppo outskirts. If successful this move would cut off the Syrian enemies who are within Aleppo as their supply route to Turkey would be blocked.

There is also fighting around Rastan between Homs and Hama where a cauldron encloses an unknown number of insurgents who block a major supply route. That bubble needs to be eliminated to clear the route and to allow for wider future operations.

There are several other more static fights around besieged military airports and in the Golan. The southern front around Deraa though is mostly quiet. No new mercenary attacks occurred. It seems that Jordan has joined Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in welcoming the Russian initiative and decided for now to stay out of the conflict. This split with the Wahhabi fraction of the Arab League, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, will likely widen.

The situation in Syria has cleared in that the former thousands of "rebel" groups using guerrilla tactics are now down to two or three major actors and mostly conventional fighting. This can be countered by conventional means with massive and wide ranging operations. The Russians are one of the few masters of this style (having learned it from the German operations against them). If they take the lead in planning and commanding this I am quite confident that substantial results will be achieved.

Hizbullah cleared the western front of mercenaries and Wahhabis. Russian diplomacy quieted the southern front. Now the push comes to clear the north. It will take a while. Then the east, where the Islamic State rules with few capabilities but propaganda, will be cleaned up with little effort. Syria may become whole again.

Posted by b on October 14, 2015 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (141)

October 13, 2015

Obama and Putin Agreed To Screw Erdogan?

It's official! The New York Times finally admits that the "CIA rebels" in Syria who received tons of TOW anti-tank missiles are working under the field command of al-Qaeda/Jabhat al Nusra:

Rebel commanders scoffed when asked about reports of the delivery of 500 TOWs from Saudi Arabia, saying it was an insignificant number compared with what is available. Saudi Arabia in 2013 ordered more than 13,000 of them. Given that American weapons contracts require disclosure of the “end user,” insurgents said they were being delivered with Washington’s approval.

But, be assured, because these "CIA rebels" feel bad about it, they are still "moderate" or somewhat "relative moderate".

Advancing alongside the Islamist groups, and sometimes aiding them, have been several of the relatively secular groups, like the Free Syrian Army, which have gained new prominence and status because of their access to the TOWs.
...
It is a tactical alliance that Free Syrian Army commanders describe as an uncomfortable marriage of necessity, because they cannot operate without the consent of the larger and stronger Nusra Front. But Mr. Assad and his allies cite the arrangement as proof that there is little difference between insurgent groups, calling them all terrorists that are legitimate targets.

That these "relative secular" al-Qaeda auxiliaries are threatening suicide attacks against Russians only confirms their secularism. Judging from the reader comments to that NYT piece the U.S. people are pretty aghast about this now openly admitted cooperation. They, and a realist op-ed in the NYT, call for cooperation with Russia and the Syrian government.

There may already be more cooperation between Russia and the U.S. than we can see. At least that is what the Turkish President Erdogan perceives.

Yesterday the U.S. dropped 50 tons of small weapons and munition to Kurdish fighters in north east Syria. According the U.S. justification for this those Kurds along with some Arab Syrian tribals are supposed to attack the Islamic State in Raqqa. (Those Arab tribals are by the way just a bunch of worthless thieves. This according to the Voice of America(!).) But the Kurds do not seem to know about those Raqqa plans anyway. They have different aims:

U.S. officials hope the YPG will now turn its attention to Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the defacto capital of the Islamic State, which lies just 60 miles south of Tal Abyad, a border town the YPG seized from the Islamic State in June, with U.S. help.
But PYD spokesman Can said the Kurdish group’s first priority is to link the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, northwest of the Syrian city of Aleppo, with Kobani, the Kurdish enclave northeast of Aleppo. That would mean clearing the Islamic State from villages along 60 miles of the Turkey-Syria border, in particular the border town of Jarablus.

“Our prime and most important goal is to liberate Jarablus and to connect Kobani with Afrin,” Can told McClatchy. Capturing Raqqa, a mostly Arab city, is “not really” a PYD objective, he said. “Not for now,” he said.

That is just as I suspected the Kurds to react. But why did the U.S. officials claim that these Kurds and the collection of thieves would attack Raqqa? Did they not coordinate with them or was that Raqqa story a ruse?

The Turks seem to assume such and they accuse the U.S. as well as Russia of coordinating with the Kurds to seal the border with Turkey: Turkey warns U.S., Russia against backing Kurdish militia in Syria

Turkey has warned the United States and Russia it will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains by Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in north-western Syria, two senior officials said.

"This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it," one official said of the possibility of Syrian Kurdish militia crossing the Euphrates to extend control along Turkish borders from Iraq's Kurdistan region towards the Mediterranean coast.
...
"The PYD has been getting closer with both the United States and Russia of late. We view the PYD as a terrorist group and we want all countries to consider the consequences of their cooperation," one of the Turkish officials said.

Turkey suspects Russia, which launched air strikes in Syria two weeks ago, has also been lending support to the YPG and PYD.

"With support from Russia, the PYD is trying to capture land between Jarablus and Azaz, going west of the Euphrates. We will never accept this," the official said.

Is there now really coordination between Russia and the U.S. to seal the Syrian-Turkish border witch would cut off the Islamic State but also the al-Qaeda "CIA rebels" from their supplies? This would destroy all Turkish plans for Syria: a "safe zone" in Syria under Turkman control, a Sunni ruled pipeline corridor from Qatar to Europe, the Turkish-Ottoman annexation of Aleppo. Turkey would be pushed back into a secondary role.

Do Russia and the U.S. now really make common cause and decided to screw Erdogan? This would make sense if the destruction of the Islamic State and all other terrorists in Syria is the common aim. That would be a change in the Obama administration's policy. Up to now it only helped the "salafist principality" to grow and never seriously attacked it.

And if there is such cooperation why does the U.S still deliver thousands of TOWs to al-Qaeda which only kill more Syrians and prolong the fighting?

Posted by b on October 13, 2015 at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (125)

October 12, 2015

There Are U.S. Special Forces In South Syria

Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha
Drone downed by #SAA over Izraa #Daraa countryside http://pic.twitter.com/sHPTthL1Yv

More pictures of the debris can be found here.

The various munition experts on Twitter agree that this is debris of an Aerovironment Switchblade (Datasheet-pdf) loitering munition "for use against beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) targets":

This miniature intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and lethal platform can be operated manually or autonomously. Switchblade provides the operator with real-time video and GPS coordinates for information gathering, targeting or feature/object recognition.

The switchblade has the size of a remote piloted hobby plane but features a visual and infrared camera and an explosive charge. It can be "suicided" on a target. According to the datasheet the battery powered killer drone has a "10 km radius of operation".

Izraa, where the debris was found, lies (map) at the crossing of the M5 highway from Amman in Jordan north to Damascus and road 109 which runs west to east through south Syria. Izraa is about 40 km north of the Syrian Jordan border and 40 km east of the Golan demarcation line. Anyone who used this armed drone must have been on Syrian ground.

The U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corp are the only known users. Since 2012 the weapons has been used in Afghanistan. The system surely requires significant training. Controlling a remote plane 10 km away over unknown terrain is not easy. This excludes the use of the system by some more or less untrained Syrian mercenaries.

My conclusion is that U.S. soldiers, likely some special forces, are in south Syria on Syrian ground on either reconnaissance or targeted killing missions. This is an invasion in violation of international law.

Russia plans to more than triple the airstrike sorties it flies per day in Syria. This to support the several thousand new fighters coming in now from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to help the Syrian government and its people.

There should then be enough available flights and men to expulse the intruders from south Syria.

Posted by b on October 12, 2015 at 06:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (133)

October 11, 2015

Iraq: Caliph Not Killed But Still A 4+1 Intelligence Room Success

The Islamic State Caliph Baghdadi was nearly killed today. This also happened on two earlier occasions one last year and one in April this year. But today at least a few IS honchos found their end. The probably decisive difference was the involvement of the 4+1 intelligence operations room in Baghdad on which I reported here ten days ago.

How the news developed:

Conflict News @Conflicts
BREAKING: #Iraq says their air-force has struck the convoy of #ISIS leader al-Baghdadi. More to come.

Borzou Daragahi @borzou
Iraq claims "many Daish leaders killed" in air force bombing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's convoy in Anbar. pic.twitter.com/NDm0C92BoP

Reuters: Iraqi air force hits convoy of Islamic State leader Baghdadi

The Iraqi air force struck a convoy of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in western Anbar province close to the Syrian border on Sunday, a military statement said.
...
"Iraqi air forces have bombed the convoy of the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while he was heading to Karabla to attend a meeting with Daesh commanders," the statement read, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
...
"The location of the meeting was also bombed and many of the group's leaders were killed and wounded. Fate of murderer al-Baghdadi is unknown and he was carried away by a vehicle. His health condition is still unclear," the military said.

More from my stream:

Max Abrahms @MaxAbrahms
Even if Baghdadi survived, it seems likely other high-level ISIS guys may have been killed in the Iraqi attack.

الجغايفة Al-Jughayfa @haditha_tribe
#Iraq #AlBaghdadi #ISIL leader killed in #Qaam city and his body now in #Bokamal and isis talking who is going to take his position #USA

Fer G @FGunay1
HUGE! Tribe loyal to Iraqi gov claims ISIS leader Baghdadi is dead! Airstrike in result of Iraq-Iran-Russia coop pic.twitter.com/hpDU9HYqZw

Fer G @FGunay1
Iran-Syria-Iraq-Russia cooperation resulted in a strike of the convoy. Reports indicate Baghdadi was present

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai#Iraq : #ISIS leader Baghdadi hit by airstrike around Ramadi. He was the Military ops main target (in my [earlier] article)

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
An Eye inside Russia/Iraq/Syria/Iran/Hezbollah (4+1) operational room. My take http://t.co/ItE6lmOwAF via @AlraiMediaGroup

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
#Baghdadi convoy was on its way to a meeting in Karabla when they hit it. He may be in or not in but tt is the result of the intel ops room

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
It is confirmed that #USA led coalition was not involved in this intelligence gathering about Baghdadi or his leadership.

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
If killed, it will create a hoo-ha among all those who gave his Ba'ya (to d man not to d organisation). Interesting time ahead (if killed).

Fer G @FGunay1 .@FGunay1
A joint operation room runned by Irak-Iran-Syria-Russia designated 50 targets among them a convoy in Ramadi w Baghdadi present

Fer G @FGunay1 .@FGunay1
While its still unknown whether Baghdadi himself was killed local sources claim he is in fact hit & killed by z airstrike

Max Abrahms @MaxAbrahms
Iraqi military releases statement after airstrike against presumed Baghdadi convoy: "His health status is unknown."

Dion Nissenbaum @DionNissenbaum
US military says can't confirm Iraqi reports of strike on ISIS leader Baghdadi's convoy.

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
Baghdad claim that #ISIS leaders "Abu Saad al-Karbuli and Abu Omar al-Qabissi were killed in the airstrike". No independent confirmation.

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
It seems #ISIS leader wasn't in the convoy hit in #Iraq.

Al Arabiya English @AlArabiya_Eng
#BreakingNews ISIS leaders killed in airstrike but not the militants’ head Baghdadi: hospital sources and residents

Even if this was only a near miss and not a lethal hit on the Caliph himself the operation is a success for the recently revealed intelligence cooperation between Syria, Iraq, Russia, Iran and Hizbullah. That the U.S. was not involved in and not even informed of the operation is a sign of the increasing mistrust the Iraqi government develops against it. Here is the reason:

The believe in Baghdad is that the U.S. does not want to kill off the Islamic State but is silently supporting it. There are some facts, the DIA 2012 analysis and the lack of U.S. airstrikes against IS, that support such thinking.

The death of several high Islamic State leaders is a huge moral lift for the Iraqi and Syrian forces and likely a loss of impetus for the various Jihadi groups in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

Posted by b on October 11, 2015 at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (65)

October 10, 2015

Obama Launches A Proxy War On Russia In Syria

For a moment it looked as if the U.S. was giving up on violent "regime change" in Syria. Under Russian pressure Secretary of State Kerry concided on September 29 that the outcome should be something that is not supported by the U.S. Gulf allies and proxy fighters of the war on Syria:

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 ...

But instead of building on that agreement and of further working with the Russians, the U.S. is now slipping into a full war by proxy against the Russian Federation and especially with its contingent in Syria. Obama had claimed that he would not get drawn into a proxy war with Russia in Syria but his administration, the Pentagon and the CIA, is now doing all it can to create one. The Russian support for Syria is not limited. With the U.S. administration now moving into a position where war on Russia in Syria becomes the priority the fighting in and around Syria will continue for a long time.

The official Pentagon program to train Syrian insurgents will cease to vet, train, arm and support those mercenaries. But the program will not end. The Pentagon will simply shorten the process. It skips the vetting and training part and will arm and support anyone who proclaims to want to "fight ISIS":

The move marks an expansion of U.S. involvement in Syria’s protracted ground war and could expose the Obama administration to greater risks if weapons provided to a wider array of rebel units go astray, or if U.S.-backed fighters come under attack from forces loyal to Assad and his allies.
...
Under the new plan, leaders of groups already battling the Islamic State undergo vetting and receive a crash course in human rights and combat communications. Many of them have already received that training outside Syria, officials said.

Eventually the Pentagon plans to provide ammunition and basic weapons to those leaders’ fighters and would carry out airstrikes on targets identified by those units.

We know how well things go when some rogue proxies identify targets they want the U.S. air force to hit. The destroyed MSF hospital in Kunduz and the 50 something killed in the U.S. attack on it, on request of Afghan special forces, tell the story.

Significant military aid to those fighters, in an area where Islamist extremist groups are mixed with and often fighting beside moderate opposition rebels, would mark a departure from previous U.S. policy. A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, declined to give specifics on any new aid that might arrive in northwest Syria. But the official said that “these supplies will be delivered to anti-ISIL forces whose leaders were appropriately vetted,” and described them as “groups with diverse membership.”

That would be these diverse groups which all include al-Nusra/al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Shams and other Jihadis. Even if not directly given to them the fact that al-Qaeda demands a "toll" of 1/3 of all weapons going through its controls, and sometimes takes all, shows that this program is effectively a direct, though unacknowledged, armament program for al-Qaeda.

The new program is separate from a CIA-led effort to aid rebel factions in Syria. It was not immediately clear how Friday’s announcement might affect the CIA program.

The CIA runs a similar but much bigger program since 2012. Weapons are handed out to everyone who wants to take down the Syrian government. Most of those weapons have landed in the hands of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.

Indeed it is the CIA, under its torture justifying chief Brennan, which has pushed the Obama administration away from Kerry's conceding statement and into a full blown proxy war with Russia.

Russia bombed some of the CIA'S trained, armed and paid groups. It had earlier asked the U.S. to tell it who not to bomb but didn't receive an answer. As the CIA mercenaries are fighting against the Syrian government and are practically not distinguishable from al-Qaeda, ISI or other terrorists they are a legitimate targets. But not in the eyes of the CIA which nevertheless finds Russian attacks on them useful:

Reports indicate that CIA-trained groups have sustained a small number of casualties and have been urged to avoid moves that would expose them to Russian aircraft. One U.S. official who is familiar with the CIA program — and who like other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters — said the attacks have galvanized some of the agency-equipped units. “Now they get to fight the Russians,” the official said. “This improves morale.”
...
Brennan departed for the Middle East last week as the Russian strikes intensified. U.S. officials said that the trip was previously planned and not related to the bombings but acknowledged that his discussions centered on Syria.

...
The decision to dismantle the Pentagon’s training program — whose small teams of fighters were often quickly captured or surrendered their weapons to rival rebel groups in Syria — may force Obama to weigh ramping up support to the CIA-backed groups.

U.S. officials said those involved in the agency program are already exploring options that include sending in rocket systems and other weapons that could enable rebels to strike Russian bases without sending in surface-to-air missiles that terrorist groups could use to target civilian aircraft.

The person who told the Saudis to deliver 500 TOW missiles to Syria ASAP was likely CIA chief Brennan. He also ordered to plan for attacks on the Russian base.

So instead of a calming down and cooperation with Russia to fight the Islamic State the Pentagon was told to shorten its program and to hand out weapons to everyone who asks. The CIA is feeding more weapons to its mercenaries via its Gulf proxies and is planning for direct attacks on Russians.

The war on Syria, and now also on Russia, is unlikely to end in the near future. With the U.S. throwing more oil into the fire the war will burn not only in Syria but in every other country around it.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up today at a rally of the Kurd friendly HDP party in Ankara. Some 90 people were killed and some 200 wounded. This is the biggest terrorist attack modern Turkey has ever seen. The Turkish government disconnected the country from Twitter and forbid any reporting about the terror attack. The HDP party is leftist and supports a peaceful struggle for Kurdish autonomy. The militant Kurdish PKK in Turkey is currently fighting skirmishes with Turkish security forces in the east of the country. It has now announced that it will stop all attacks unless when it is attacked first. The sister organization of the PKK in Syria, the YPK, is currently fighting against the Islamic State. Erdogan's AK-Party and his government have supported the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria. It sees the HDP party and the Kurds in general as its enemies. As one Turkish non-AKP politician said today, the bloody incident in Ankara was either a total Turkish intelligence failure or a Turkish intelligence operation.

Whatever else it was, the bombing, very likely by Islamic State suicide bombers, is a sign of an ongoing destabilization of Turkey. The instability will increase further until there is a major policy change and a complete crackdown on any support for the Jihadis in Syria as well as a complete closure of the Turkish-Syrian border.

Today the Russian President Putin will meet the Saudi "young leader" deputy crown-prince Mohammed Salman-un. Can Putin read him the riot act and tell him to stop being a proxy in the U.S. war on Syria? One hopes so.

Posted by b on October 10, 2015 at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (135)

October 09, 2015

Syria: Obama Officially Throws The Towel, Unofficially Though ...

The last MoA dispatch on Syria concluded:

The U.S. lost the game. It should take up the Russian offer or leave the table.

Despite the bickering from the usual neocon suspects the Obama administration is taking that advice and officially throws the towel:

Mr. Obama’s advisers say there is little they can do to change the situation in the near term. Proposals are being drafted for meetings in coming days, but Mr. Obama has made clear he is not willing to confront the Russians and risk an escalation, nor does he have a broad new strategy to resolve the conflict or defeat the Islamic State.

“There isn’t a solution at this point that they’re going to get done on their watch,” said Michael McFaul, a former White House adviser to Mr. Obama who later served as ambassador to Russia before returning to Stanford University. “They’re just going to contain it.”

The Obama administration is, for now, giving up on official "regime change" training ops in Syria and is unlikely to go for more intense fighting against the Islamic State. But that is only the official position. Unofficially, we can safely assume, the CIA and various shady Pentagon entities will continue their mischief in Syria and in Iraq.

But thanks to the Russians, it is now for all to see that the U.S. was never serious about fighting the Islamic State or about reigning in al-Qaeda and other Jihadis in Syria. While the U.S. has flown a total of 137 serious air attacks in Syria in some thirteen month the Russians delivered 148 airstrikes within just one week.

The public, as reflected in the comments on U.S. media pages, has finally recognized that the U.S. is not serious in fighting against or has even willingly furthered the growth of the Jihadi phenomenon. Indeed Obama recently admitted as much. He was asked why the U.S. did not counter the Islamic State when it was still small:

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.

Obama wanted "regime change" in Iraq and got it (despite Maliki winning a record number of votes) by letting the Islamic State grow enough to seriously threaten the Iraqi state. Only then did the U.S. intervene and only enough to lecture the Islamic State on how far it is "allowed" to grow.

But such "doing nothing" is not the only way the Obama administration has helped the growth of ISIS. The Treasury Department is asking from where the Islamic State received all the Toyota Hilux cruisers it uses as weapon platforms. The Treasury will not have to look very far. The answer can be found via a simple web-search or nearby in the State Department:

Recently, when the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks.

Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army's wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, is a fan of the truck.

"Specific equipment like the Toyota Hiluxes are what we refer to as force enablers for the moderate opposition forces on the ground," he adds. Shahbander says the US-supplied pickups will be delivering troops and supplies into battle. Some of the fleet will even become battlefield weapons.

The British government delivered similar equipment as did the Turks and the U.S. Gulf allies. Guess where all those cars ended up. It now seems the so called Free Syrian Army was and is nothing but a weapon transfer shop to deliver weapons and equipment to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

The official delivery of "non-lethal aid" which then becomes "battlefield weapons" may now end but the "unofficial" CIA program and its 10,000 mercenaries will very likely continue their war on Syria. If only because the CIA like the Pentagon is seriously pissed about the way the Russians moved into the game:

‏@nancyayoussef
Overheard at the Pentagon: "Right now, we are Putin's prison bitch."

If the Obama administration would really "let the Russians do their thing" why is there a need for Obama's Defense Secretary Carter to threaten Russia with terrorism:

“This will have consequences for Russia itself, which is rightly fearful of attacks. In coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer from casualties.”

Like usual the CIA will hide its nefarious deeds behind some "allies" who will arrange for the terrorism in Russia and will increase the delivery of weapons to their "moderate" Jihadi mercenaries in Syria:

[The well-placed official] said those groups being supplied did not include either Islamic State (IS) or al-Nusra Front, both of which are proscribed terrorist organisations. Instead, he said the weapons would go to three rebel alliances - Jaysh al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Southern Front.

That "well-placed official" made a funny joke but the BBC reporter probably did not (want to) catch it. How can you NOT supply to al-Nusra but only to Jaysh al-Fatah when al-Nusra is THE main component of the Jaysh al-Fatah alliance?

Even Syria experts now admit that the major weapon flow was and is always in the direction of the worst Jihadis:

@joshua_landis
Probably 70% of US arms sent into Syria have ended up in Nusra hands. Idriss, Hazm, & Company 30 all had arms taken.

And that percentage only holds for the weapons delivered over the table in official programs. It is unlikely to hold for the additional 120mm mortars the Pentagon still plans to move in. Of the weapons delivered under the table some 100% likely was sold off to or taken by the Jihadis. The 500 TOWs the Saudis claim to send now will surely do some significant damage to the Syrian army. But they will end up with al-Qaeda and will help it and the Islamic State to gain more ground from what is left of the "moderate" mercenaries.

An increased weapon flow is not the only way the CIA and its "allies" will continue to stir the pod:

@michaelh992
Some sources inside the #FSA claim the US is communicating with them, informing them of upcoming Russian airstrikes (unconfirmed)

If true, and I tend to believe it is, the Pentagon and/or CIA continues to give tactical advice about the Russian and Syrian Army's moves and positions.

While the Saudis said, via the BBC above, that they will increase the delivery of anti-tank weapons to Syria we can also expect that Qatar will throw in additional anti-air manpads, as it did in 2013, to have some Russian helicopters shot down. But unlike the Syrian army which lost helicopters to the then unexpected Qatari manpads the Russian army is prepared for this (overrated) threat. Video shows the armored Russian Mi-24P combat helicopters flying low and fast over Syria and using a copious amount of decoy flares while eliminating panicking terrorists (vid).

The 4+1 coalition operations rooms in Baghdad, Damascus and Lebanon, led by a Russian Lieutenant General, will not only collect and assess intelligence but will also make operational plans for the wider fight against the Islamic State and other terrorists. One task the command has is surely to stop the weapon flow to the terrorists.

So far the weapons flowed freely through Turkey and Jordan and nothing has been done to interrupt the flow within those countries. That was, in my view, always a major mistake. The "western" spies, the weapon merchants and the various Jihadi militia bosses live safely in their hotels in Gaziantep or Amman. That will have to end and the weapon convoys will have to be destroyed or sabotaged before they reach Syria or Iraq. Every bullet that passes the borders may well kill another Iraq, Syrian or Russian soldier, another Iranian general or innocent civilians. Stop the bullets delivery and the killing will, over time, stop too.

If Jordan and Turkey are not willing to cease and desist delivering arms and ammunition to the Jihadis they should at least feel some of the pains these goods cause. Theirs, and the Saudis, resources and political will are not endless.

Posted by b on October 9, 2015 at 08:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (114)

Fact-Check This NATO Scare Story

A contest for my readers here.

How many factual errors are in these 58 leading words of today's NYT scare story?

NATO, Tested by Russia in Syria, Raises Its Guard and Its Tone

BRUSSELS — Confronted with its biggest military challenge since the end of the Cold War, a weakened NATO took steps Thursday to shore up its flanks, both in the Middle East and Europe, as Russia continued to test the credibility of the alliance’s bedrock principle of collective defense.

Please leave your reasoned count in the comments. Three brownie points to the winner.

Posted by b on October 9, 2015 at 03:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

October 08, 2015

Open Thread 2015-36

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 8, 2015 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (151)

October 07, 2015

Syria, Iraq: Russia Shows Its Cards And Wins

He he ... Russia is now really showing off :-)

Four Russian Navy warships have fired a total of 26 missiles at the position of the terrorist group Islamic State in Syria, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced. The missiles were fired from the Caspian Sea.

“Four missile ships launched 26 cruise missiles at 11 targets. According to objective control data, all the targets were destroyed. No civilian objects sustained damage,” Shoigu said.

The missiles flew some 1,500 km before reaching their targets, probing their efficiency.

"And a happy birthday to you dear Vladimir Vladimirovich," Shoigu added.

These Russian Klub (3M-14 KalibrN) cruise missile, with some interesting capabilities (vid), crossed Iranian and Iraqi airspace (vid) with the consent of those countries. There is a video of the launches and pictures of the left-overs of a night of "Russian Klub'bing" in Raqqa governate.

These launches have several aims:

  • destroy some Islamic State assets in Syria
  • provide that Russia, while giving intense air support (vid, 22 bombs in 5 min) to the Syrian army in its attack in Hama, is fully committed to the larger aim of destroying the Islamic State
  • demonstrate that Russia can and will engage in the fight from afar should its forces in Syria be attacked. (The earlier "offer" to the U.S. to join the fight against ISIS with Tu-22M(3) long range strikers of even Tu-160 strategic bombers made a similar point.)
  • challenge the U.S. to take up the war against the Islamic State in a serious matter.

The U.S. command has bragged about having flown such and such thousands of sorties in its operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State. What it did not brag about was that only 20% of those sorties included a weapon release and that many of these releases were only against minor targets. Destroying an "ISIS excavator" with a guided weapon is not war fighting but very expensive pinpricking. Others also noted the differences:

In Tel Aviv, Israeli military analysts have noted that the first Russian airstrikes in Syria seem much more aggressive than those of the U.S.-led coalition.

The Russian forces have now made sure that they have all the assets in or around Syria that are needed

Despite a lot of noise from U.S. politicians, any U.S. controlled "no-fly zone" is now completely out of question. The Russians though could create such a zone in Syria in no time. Already U.S. reconnaissance drones over Syria get intercepted. The announced additional U.S. weapon deliveries to some Kurds and the newly formed Syrian Arab Coalition, which is just another collection of unreliable looters and thieves, will do nothing to free Raqqa or have any other major impact. The Kurds will not fight outside of their territories and the thieves will just sell their weapons, travel to Germany and become "refugees".

The other "relative moderate" rebels the U.S. armed have either turned over their weapons to Al-Qaeda or joined it. The public now learns that up to 80% of the weapons the U.S. delivered to Syria have ended up in the hand of Jihadis. Relaunching such programs again and again will not change that pattern and can no longer be publicly justified.

The U.S. and NATO also make loud noise when two Russians planes violate Turkish airspace (to test the Turkish radars and reaction times :-). But 11 nations in the U.S. coalition regularly violate Syrian airspace to pinprick ISIS and I have yet to see any "western" complaining about that. There will now be more talks between Russia and Turkey, Israel and the U.S. about avoiding air incidents. The Russians will likely simply say "just stay away."

The Russians are offering the U.S. a wider alliance than just some airspace deconfliction. But the U.S. so far rejected that. An alliance with Russia against the Islamic State does not fit its plans of splitting Iraq and Syria into many smaller U.S. dependent entities. The Iraqis, like the Syrians, have noted that and seek a larger role for Russia. The long planned for 4+1 coalition of Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Hizbollah now leads the fight against the Islamic State.

The U.S. lost the game. It should take up the Russian offer or leave the table.

Posted by b on October 7, 2015 at 08:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (132)

October 06, 2015

In Which The NYT Claims That John McCain Is A White House Official

Some rag reports: Kremlin Says Russian ‘Volunteer’ Forces Will Fight in Syria:

Russia signaled deepening intervention Monday in the Syria war, strongly hinting that its “volunteer” ground forces would soon be fighting there..
...
Although President Vladimir V. Putin has ruled out sending ground forces to Syria, a senior Kremlin defense official told Russian news agencies on Monday that military veterans who had fought in eastern Ukraine were likely to start showing up as “volunteer” ground forces in Syria.

The statement by the official, Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, head of the armed forces committee in Russia’s Parliament, asserted that such volunteers “cannot be stopped.”

Maybe a map is needed for the NYT to learn some political differentiation.

Dear NYT -believe it or not- but the Kremlin and the Parliament in Moscow are indeed two dissimilar  institutions. The retired Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov is the elected chairman of the defense committee of the Russian Duma and not a "Kremlin official". Also - Senator John McCain is not a "White House official" no matter how much he would like to be one.

The Kremlin cares about the former Admiral's opinion just as much as the White House cares about McCain's usual blabber. Komoyedov can announce whatever nonsense he likes. It does not make it Russian state policy.

The NYT of course loves to depict Russia as a dictatorship and attributes everything someone in Moscow says or does to the President of the Russian Federation or, even darker, to "the Kremlin". But that is propaganda, not reporting.

But back to the issue of the possibility Russian volunteers in Syria. On the "World" page of the NYT website we find a promotion for a current NYT Magazine piece headline: Meet the American Vigilantes Who Are Fighting ISIS

A ragtag group of fighters from America and Europe have joined the fight against extremists in Syria. But with little training and no clear leadership, do they know what they’re doing?

Are U.S. volunteers going to Syria to fight extremists in Syria a "signal" of "deepening intervention" by the official U.S. of A.? Why is seen as such when some Russian volunteers might want to do alike?

Posted by b on October 6, 2015 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (124)

October 05, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by b on October 5, 2015 at 05:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (121)

October 04, 2015

Open Thread 2015-35

News & views ...

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

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

Posted by b on October 4, 2015 at 10:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (136)

October 03, 2015

Kunduz Hospital Bombing Exposes U.S. Airstrike Hypocrisy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on October 3, 2015 at 07:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (123)

October 02, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A second piece on the Army of Conquest:

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

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

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

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

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

I take that as confirmation.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on October 2, 2015 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (117)

October 01, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Micah Zenko
LOL Lavrov, "We are polite people, as you know. We don't come if not invited." bbc.in/1PQf8IA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b on October 1, 2015 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (118)

 
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