A Happy 2016 To All Of You
A happy new year to all of you!
May the year 2016 be more peaceful than the last years.
Kenneth Roth's Schizophrenic Positions On Zahran Alloush
Can someone explain the logic or thought behind these tweets of Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth?
Tweeted at 9:35 PM - 25 Dec 2015
Tweeted at 12:25 AM - 30 Dec 2015
Alloush was released from jail, which was then one of the demands of those peaceful protesters and Human Rights Watch, so he could "taint" the "uprising". But he also was a valid "choice" for the Syrian people even as Roth's own organization accused him of war crimes? How does that compute?
A moving tribute to moderately polygamous, moderately sectarian, and moderately murderous, and moderately Salafite Zahran Alloush
The link in the second tweet sent only five days later goes to a more realistic biography of Alloush written by Aron Lund for Syria Comment.
It seem that Roth's opinions are more influenced by the latest piece he read than by case based analysis. Or does it depend on which sponsor is more ready at this moment to shuffle big money into his pockets?
Russia's "Quagmire" In Syria Turns Out To Be A Well Designed Campaign
Recent "Official Washington" headlines:
- U.S. to Putin: Welcome to the ISIS ‘Quagmire’ - Sep 29
- Obama: Russia heading for 'quagmire' in Syria - Oct 2
- Russia's ‘quagmire’ destroys all hope of defeating ISIS - Oct 16
- Russians support airstrikes in Syria, despite haunting memories of quagmire in Afghanistan - Oct 20
- Russia risks Syrian quagmire -U.S. deputy secretary of state - Oct 31
- The Syrian quagmire - Nov 3
- Putin's Quagmire in Syria Proves Obama Prescient - Dec 9
- Putin's Middle East Misadventures - Dec 11
- Is Syria Already A Quagmire For Putin? - Dec 12
The above was all nonsense and propaganda. It represented the typical self delusion of the Washington establishment. The Russian government and military knew exactly what they were doing. After some 100 days of Russian military support for the Syrian government the results are coming in. They look well. The Islamic State lost most of its oil income and is reduced in its capabilities. The Syrian army and its allies are progressing against they various enemies on several fronts. The costs of Russia's expedition is relatively small.
This reality is now setting in.
Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.
"I think it's indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was," said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity. Five other U.S. officials interviewed by Reuters concurred with the view that the Russian mission has been mostly successful so far and is facing relatively low costs.
The U.S. officials stressed that Putin could face serious problems the longer his involvement in the more than four-year-old civil war drags on.
Yet since its campaign began on Sept. 30, Russia has suffered minimal casualties and, despite domestic fiscal woes, is handily covering the operation's cost, which analysts estimate at $1-2 billion a year. The war is being funded from Russia's regular annual defense budget of about $54 billion, a U.S. intelligence official said.
With the Russian help time is now in favor of the Syrian government's position. As longer it takes to get to some negotiated end-state with the various groups supported from the outside, the less power on the ground and the less say in the outcome will those groups and their sponsors have. The Islamic State and several other Salafi groups like Ahrar al Sham will shrink back into underground terrorist forces. These will be able to continue random attacks but will not be able to hold ground. Unfortunately incidents like today's triple suicide bombing in Homs, which killed some 50 civilians, will continue to occur for some time. The biggest challenge will be the defeat of al-Qaeda in Syria under the name Jabhat al-Nusra. That group has pushed roots into the local ground and population and will be the hardest to eradicate. It will have to be isolated from its sponsors and all resupply before it can be defeated. Local intelligence will have to penetrate the group to go after its leadership.
Russia has not yet brought its full power to bear in Syria. It waits until a more complete intelligence picture has formed to pursue smaller and smaller opposition units. This may take some additional month. The big government offense against its enemies in Idleb province and city is also still in preparation. Unless some unforeseen exterior event happens it will be the major move over the next six month.
The Islamic State Is Shrinking And Other News
Just some recent new items on Syria/Iraq:
The killed ruthless terrorist and sectarian Salafist insurgent leader Zahran Alloush was mourned by the Turkey backed Syrian Islamic Council, the U.S. backed FSA and affiliates, by Riad_Hijab the former Syrian Prime Minister who defected and who now heads the Saudi formed opposition body, by the terrorist groups Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat al Nusra/al-Qaeda and by the head of Human Rights Watch who gets payed $450,000 per year for such valuable (for some rich people) service:
Kenneth Roth Verified account @KenRoth
Killing Zahran Alloush is part of Assad strategy of trying to reduce choice to him or ISIS.
So, according to Kenneth Roth, Zahran Alloush who lauded Osama bin Laden, shelled civilians in Damascus and put Alawite women into cages as human shields, was a potentially valid "choice" for the Syrian people?
The Islamic State Caliph Baghdadi published an audio speech in which he acknowledged loss of territory but promised victory after more hardship. He announced an attack on Israel or probably soft Jewish targets elsewhere. Baghdadi mentioned "Jews" eight times and "Palestine" five times in the 24 minutes tape. An attack on Israel would probably be a valuable recruiting tool for the Islamic State.
The Syrian Arab Army freed several Islamic State held villages north east of Aleppo.
The Syrian-Kurdish YPG, under its U.S. label Syrian Democratic Forces, took the Tishreen dam away from the Islamic State fighters. The move was supported by Russia and the U.S. There are plans to reroute electricity from Tishreen to the predominate Kurdish Kobane, a prospect that other parts of Syria will not like and a potential reason for future conflicts. From Tishreen the Kurds can cross to the west bank of the Euphrates and proceed towards Jarablus. This would cut the corridor the Islamic State has to Turkey. The Turkish government had announced that such a move by the Kurds would be a grave transgression of its red lines and against Turkish interests.
Iraqi government forces stormed the Islamic State held central government complex in Ramadi, Anbar province. Some IS fighters died there but more fled. The city of Ramadi was announced free of IS by the Iraqi government but I would expect that IS sleeper cells have staid in the city.
The Islamic State is definitely shrinking. It seemingly lacks manpower and is still wasting personal by ruling over far flung but useless areas and in pointless suicide attacks for minor tactical gains.
There is unconfirmed news of a deal between the U.S. and Russia on Syria. Some Syrian businessman currently in London would become new Prime Minister but Assad would stay on as President. There would follow a review of the constitution and new election in which Assad could be a candidate. Assad believes he would win in an election. Any group not following the plan would be declared a terrorist groups by the UN Security Council and Syria, Russia and their allies would continue to fight those groups.
The Russian envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev is traveling to several Middle East countries in an attempt to sell the deal. He so far visited Baghdad, Amman, Jerusalem, Cairo and Abu Dhabi. A visit to Riyadh was postponed after the killing of Alloush.
Big Christmas Gifts For Syria - Alloush Killed, Yarmouk Cleared
Today the Syrian airforce used air delivered missiles on buildings where a meeting of Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) leaders and others tool place and killed its leader Zahran Alloush, several of his lieutenants and some leading personal from Ahrar al-Shams, Failaq al Rahman, another anti-government Salafist group, and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Alloush, here a video of him preaching, was an extremely sectarian man. He called for the "cleansing" of all Alawite and Shia from Syria and he put Alawite women into cages on marketplaces to use them as human shields against government attacks. He praised Osama Bin Laden. Two Years ago Joshua Landis provided a profile of Alloush with some translation of his speeches.
Alloush had many enemies. Unlike other "moderates" he fought not only against the government. When challenged by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra or any local competition he fought them too. In the eyes of some Gulf propagandists that made him a "moderate". But his ideologically positions were nearly identical to those of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. His pasture was the Ghouta area, east of Damascus and he had about 12,000 troops under his command. The Saudis and the Turks payed him and his men.
That the meeting could be targeted is great success for the Syrian and Russian intelligence.
In another success today some 2,000 Islamic State followers and their immediate families left Yarmouk after a deal with the government. Yarmouk is a large Palestinian quarter in Damascus. The men were allowed to leave to east Syria where the Islamic State rules. Heavy weapons were collected by the government and the Syrian army will take control of Yarmouk and two nearby quarters.
These are two very big Christmas gifts Syria received today. While Alloush will be replaced, his "army" is likely to fall apart under any less brutal and charismatic leader. Yarmouk will likely stay pacified for the foreseeable future.
.. and a pretty solstice full moon to all of you.
Still Hopeless For O'Hanlon
U.S. media do not care if a pundit they publish has been wrong in his or her earlier predictions. They allow such dimwits and deniers of reality to repeat their errors over and over and over again. A condition though is some connection of said pundit to a "reputable" organization or think tank with big money behind it.
Consider one Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute on Afghanistan. In January 2014 we wrote Hopeless For O'Hanlon:
A casual and incomplete search for "O'Hanlon" "Hope" "Afghanistan" finds the following entries:
TwinCities.com, November 17 2009: Michael O'Hanlon: A blue line of hope in Afghanistan
LA Times, December 27 2009: A year of war -- and progressThe question is whether it will be too little too late, but there is reason for hope.
Washington Post, June 26 2010: Reasons to be hopeful about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan
Politico, September 28 2010: New reasons for hope in Afghanistan
NYT, May 20 2011: Finally, a Fighting ForceBut there is reason to be hopeful. ...
CNN, March 16 2012: O'Hanlon: 7 reasons for hope in AfghanistanHere are some highlights of the more hopeful indicators in Afghanistan: ...
CNN, May 2 2012: O'Hanlon: Reasons for hope on Afghanistan
Washington Times, June 1 2012: O’HANLON: Rays of hope in AfghanistanSeveral hopeful things I saw on a recent trip ...
Politico, March 21 2013: Kandahar and hopeNow, Kandahar gives hope to the war effort. ...
Michael Cohan now extended the list on Twitter with some new hopeless-like O'Hanlon entries.
In Politico September 5 2013:
An update on a forgotten war
.. overall coalition troop strength has hardly declined, because as Americans have stood down, Afghans have stood up.
...while war is always a horrible business, make no mistake about it, this year’s campaign in Afghanistan is reasonably encouraging so far.
On January 2 2014 in the Washington Post:
U.S. intelligence is too pessimistic about Afghanistan
The case for hopefulness on Afghanistan is built largely on what were probably its three most notable developments of 2013 ..
There is still a powerful case for interpreting the facts in a hopeful vein.
Mach 23 2014 in Politico:
Afghanistan Is Doing Better Than You Think
But the overall military picture is fairly good. ... Afghanistan is doing far better than most critics imagine.
Most major cities, never as violent as many urban areas in Latin America or Africa even at the worst of the war, have improved further
Afghan security forces are doing better than almost anyone expected. ...This war may not be won in a classic sense, but it is also surely not being lost.
On February 4 2015 in the Wall Street Journal:
How Not to Squander Hard-Won Gains in Afghanistan
The woes are well-known, the strengths too often forgotten. Major cities and roads, for example, are increasingly safe. ..
O'Hanlon in the Washington Post on July 7 2015:
The U.S. needs to keep troops in Afghanistan
Beyond our own global counterterrorism exigencies, Afghanistan itself still needs help. The situation there is not hopeless, but it is serious.
But all is not lost. Far from it.
The right approach for the United States is not to pull out next year but to keep several bases and several thousand U.S. and other NATO-coalition troops in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.
In Politico two days ago, December 22 2015:
How to Win in Afghanistan
The situation in Afghanistan is far from hopeless. For each negative trend, there is an important counterargument.
The deterioration has been significant, to be sure, but far from apocalyptic.
Postpone the reduction to 5,500 U.S. troops, which will almost certainly be premature. Indeed, we might better expand to 12,000 or so for a couple years
The war in Afghanistan was lost shortly after the Taliban were driven out. Afghanistan was ready to be left alone again to find its own way towards a new balance. Instead the U.S. decided to occupy the place and to hunt down, torture and kill any random "Taliban". Western money fueled an orgy of graft and corruption. With support from within an alienated population the real Taliban came back. Like some 20 years ago, they are wining the war against the occupiers and their proxies and there is nothing the "west" can do about it.
Meanwhile al- Qaeda has multiplied outside of Afghanistan. The theory that such a terror organization needs a secure retreat is wrong. If tomorrow Afghanistan were secured and free of any strife al-Qaeda an similar groups would still be able to exist and flourish there or elsewhere.
But such sane thought is not allowed in mainstream media. Too much moneyed interest is fed by waging war.
That is why hopelessly delusional idiots like O'Hanlon still get published.
Open Thread 2015-49
News & views ...
US Military In Iraq Circulates Fake Islamic State Document - Media Fall For it
It seems that the U.S. military is propagandizing against the Islamic State by distributing fake Islamic State documents. This, in effect, will make the Islamic State look better than it is.
In a telephone briefing on Tuesday, [Col. Steven H. Warren, the United States military spokesman in Baghdad,] said that coalition forces had recovered Islamic State leaflets in the nearby city of Falluja urging its fighters — if they lose control of the city — to impersonate Iraqi security forces and commit atrocities. “Some acts that they’re instructed to do on this document include blowing up mosques, killing and torturing civilians and breaking into homes while dressed as I.S.F. fighters,” Colonel Warren said, referring to Iraqi security forces. “They do all this to discredit the I.S.F.”
Colonel Warren called the instructions in the leaflets “the behavior of thugs, behavior of killers, the behavior of terrorists.”
Colonel Warren also tweeted the "Islamic State leaflet" and its translation:
COL Steve Warren Verified account @OIRSpox
ISIL fighters ordered to dress as ISF and commit atrocities before fleeing Fallujah.
Aymenn J Al-Tamimi @ajaltamimi
Aymenn J Al-Tamimi Retweeted COL Steve Warren
Dear Col. Steve Warren @OIRSpox, this purported 'Fallujah withdrawal' document is an obvious fake:
- the document allegedly from Fallujah is under an IS letter head from Ninawa province. Fallujah is in Anbar province,
- the document refers to the government militia with its real honorable name "Hashd Sha'abi" while the regular derogatory Islamic State term for the militia is "Hashd Rafidi".
Another writer with deep experience in the region also believes that the document is fake:
Anand Gopal @Anand_Gopal_
Anand Gopal Retweeted COL Steve Warren
Here’s a US military spokesman circulating fake ISIS documents as propaganda
An Iraq security analyst concurs:
Alex M. @Alex_de_M
COL Warren needs a chat with his G2 section. The leaflets are pretty obviously fakes...
One would think that the behavior the Islamic State displays in its own propaganda videos is argument enough to condemn it. By using obviously fake IS documents to condemn the Islamic State the U.S. military creates the opposite effect. That the U.S. needs fake evidence to let the Islamic State look bad actually makes it look better than it is. This not only in the eyes of its followers.
Update Dec 23, 3:45am
The NYT, quoted above, has now changed its piece without issuing a correction note. The text now says:
In a telephone briefing on Tuesday, Colonel Warren said that coalition forces had recovered what he said were Islamic State leaflets in the nearby city of Falluja urging its fighters — if they lose control of the city — to impersonate Iraqi security forces and commit atrocities.
The authenticity of the leaflets could not be independently confirmed, and experts on the Islamic State were debating their validity after the coalition publicized them on Tuesday.
The NYT first repeated the military propaganda of the fake leaflet without any doubt or checking of its authenticity. It now says that there is a "debate" about the genuineness of the document. There is no "debate". The experts all say that the document is fake. This is - if at all - a "debate" about the earth being flat. It is another low that the NYT can even not admit that it has again been taken in by military's propaganda.
How Criticism Of Hersh's New Piece Fails To Understand What Really Happened
The latest Seymour Hersh piece alleges that the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) under General Dempsey undermined the official White House policy on Syria. Their impetus to do so came after a Defense Intelligence Agency analysis found in 2012 that there were hardly any "moderate rebels" in Syria but only Islamists fighting against the Syrian state. The CIA was at least since early 2012 delivering weapons from Libya to Turkey as well as through other routes. The U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed on September 11 2012 in Benghazi over some issues with the weapon transfers. Once in Turkey those weapons, as well as plane loads of others purchased by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were given to "moderate rebels" who took them into Syria. There they sold off at least part of every weapon and ammunition haul to the Islamists terror gangs which were, and still are, financed by the Wahhabi Gulf states. A new BBCRadio4 report by Peter Oborne explains in detail how that scheme works.
The JCS under Dempsey was quite disturbed that weapons transferred by the CIA were going to exactly those people they had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan just a few years ago. They decided, according to Hersh's source, to undermine the White House's and CIA's regime-change program. They provided intelligence to Syria via Germany, Russia and Israel. They also convinced the CIA that it was preferable to give away very old weapons that could be sourced in Turkey instead of newer but more difficult to transport weapons from Libya. As Hersh writes:
‘Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact,’ the former JCS adviser said. ‘The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy.’ The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.
And Hersh on the weapon dealing:
By the late summer of 2013, the DIA’s assessment had been circulated widely, but although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming, presenting a continuing problem for Assad’s army. Gaddafi’s stockpile had created an international arms bazaar, though prices were high. ‘There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president,’ the JCS adviser said. ‘The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride.’ But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. ‘We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdoğan,’ the adviser said, ‘and got them to ship the jihadists in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”’
The JCS, according to Hersh, was undermining its Commander in Chief. That is, arguably, treason but U.S. history is full of examples where the military chiefs were pushing into a very different direction than their civil commanders. Trueman versus Douglas MacArthur is just one example. Think of the closing of the Guantanamo prison which the military is actively preventing for seven years now despite Obama's promise, demand and orders to shut Gitmo down.
Max Fisher, a critic of Hersh not known for factual quality journalism, claims that the Hersh account must be false because Dempsey was not against weaponizing the insurgents but even publicly asked to give them weapons:
Hersh alleges that the mastermind of this entire conspiracy was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey, whom Hersh says was horrified by Obama's plan to arm Syrian rebels and sought to aid Assad. This claim is difficult to believe: While in office, Dempsey famously and publicly clashed with Obama over Syria because Dempsey wanted to do more to arm Syrian rebels. Contemporaneous accounts of arguments within the White House support this, with Dempsey arguing the US should more robustly arm Syrian rebels, and Obama arguing for less.
Yet Hersh claims, with no evidence, that Dempsey was so opposed to arming Syrian rebels that he would commit an apparent act of treason to subvert those plans. Hersh makes no effort to reconcile this seemingly fatal contradiction, and indeed it is not clear Hersh is even aware that Dempsey is known for supporting rather than opposing efforts to arm the Syrian rebels.
Hersh is of course perfectly aware what Dempsey said and thought in early 2013. The one not aware is the critic.
Dempsey argued in early 2013 that the Pentagon should give weapons to a few carefully vetted rebels:
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta acknowledged that he and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, had supported a plan last year to arm carefully vetted Syrian rebels.
[D]id the Pentagon, Mr. McCain continued, support the recommendation by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus “that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria? Did you support that?”
“We did,” Mr. Panetta said.
“You did support that,” Mr. McCain said.
“We did,” General Dempsey added.
The Pentagon plan was killed by the White House in favor of the ongoing CIA operation. This exchange then does not contradict but even supports the Hersh reporting. Let me explain the context.
By early 2013 Dempsey knew perfectly well that the CIA was supplying -directly or indirectly- everyone in Syria who asked for arms and ammunition. These weapons were going to the Jihadis who were simply the best financed groups. Because the CIA program was secret Dempsey of course could not say so in a public Congress hearing. But Dempsey wanted to give arms to "carefully vetted Syrian rebels" to replace the CIA program with a Pentagon program under his command. He would then have been able to direct the weapon flow and to prevent a further arming of the Islamist terrorists. Dempsey supported a Pentagon program arming the rebels so he could control the arming of the rebels that was already happening under a CIA program but was creating long term trouble.
When the hostile takeover of the CIA arming program failed, Dempsey and the JCS tried to sabotage it by providing old Turkish weapons to the CIA.
Only much later was the Pentagon allowed to run its own training program and to arm its own groups of Syrian rebels. But that program was running in parallel to the ongoing CIA program and was thereby useless for the purpose Dempsey had originally intended. It did not replace the dangerous CIA program. The Pentagon then sabotaged its own program by training only a few rebels and sending them into a Jihadi infested area where they promptly gave their arms up to Jabhat al-Nusra. This publicly proved Dempsey's main critic point of the long running CIA program: any arms going into Syria ended up in the hands of long term U.S. enemies.
I understand that Hersh's sourcing is rather weak. His main and sole direct source for the JCS story is a "former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs". That could be a military or a civilian source. Colonel Pat Lang, one of Hersh's named sources for other points in the piece, thinks the main source is real and the story true. Lang, who sometimes still consults the military, surely has enough insider connections to have a quite clear picture of this issue.
It is fine to criticize Hersh. His reporting often relies on anonymous sources. But throughout his career Hersh's reporting was proven right more often than his critics criticism of it. Here the criticism of Hersh relies on a small tunnel vision of what Dempsey claimed he wanted in a public hearing without regard of the context of Dempsey's claim. Dempsey wanted to replace the then still secret CIA arming program that the DIA and other parts of the military had rightly found to be on a very dangerous path.
The Pentagon under Dempsey, fearing the CIA was repeating old errors, was turf fighting against the CIA under neocon Petraeus and later under the great friend of Saudi Arabia John Brennan. Unfortunately the White House backed the CIA and thereby, more or less willfully, allied with the Islamic State and the other assorted Jihadi organizations (pdf) in Syria.
How Influential Are Turkish Spies Within The Islamic State?
Today Zaman is a Turkish daily and part of the Gülen organization. As such it is currently in opposition to the Turkish president Erdogan and some of his policies. So take this with a grain of salt:
During the meetings between Turkish officials and Barzani in Ankara, Barzani spoke on the 150 ISIL militants of Turkish origin who had been captured by Kurdish peshmerga forces during clashes with ISIL. According to sources, Barzani said some ISIL members captured by the peshmerga had identified themselves as members of MİT and he requested that MİT head Fidan clarify the issue.
Barzani also sought assistance from Ankara to remove 500 Turkish nationals in Mosul who are in leading positions in ISIL.
The MIT is the Turkish secret service. It is certainly not the only spy organization whicht has infiltrated the Islamic State. But as Turkey has been the rear base and travel route for the Islamic State and its members the MIT is likely the service with the biggest contingent.
How any spies and/or operators does it have within the Islamic State structures? Even more important - how influential are these within the Islamic State hierarchies?
The Kurdish organizations within Turkey believe that the two big Islamic State attacks on mostly Kurdish rallies, in Suruc and in Ankara, were intended to support Erdogan's reelection. Influential MIT agents within the Islamic State would have been be part of such conspiracies.
The latest piece by Seymour Hersh, just out, also touches on the Turkey - Islamic State cooperation:
[By January 2014] American intelligence had accumulated intercept and human intelligence demonstrating that the Erdoğan government had been supporting Jabhat al-Nusra for years, and was now doing the same for Islamic State. ‘We can handle the Saudis,’ the adviser said. ‘We can handle the Muslim Brotherhood. You can argue that the whole balance in the Middle East is based on a form of mutually assured destruction between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, and Turkey can disrupt the balance – which is Erdoğan’s dream. We told him we wanted him to shut down the pipeline of foreign jihadists flowing into Turkey. But he is dreaming big – of restoring the Ottoman Empire – and he did not realise the extent to which he could be successful in this.’
Talks About A "Political Transition" In Syria Are Not Serious - Yet
A few days ago U.S. Secretary of State Kerry met the Russian president Putin in Moscow:
Mr. Kerry appeared, more carefully than on previous occasions, to couch America’s insistence that Mr. Assad leave office as a recondition of any settlement.
The United States, he said, was not seeking Mr. Assad’s ouster per se, but rather considers it unlikely that he could preside over a successful settlement.
“The United States and our partners are not seeking regime change in Syria,” Mr. Kerry said.
That the U.S. is no longer looking for regime change in Syria is doubtful. Kerry made somewhat similar remarks in March but was then immediately contradicted by the State Department's spokesperson.
This time so far Kerry's "no regime change" remarks in Moscow have not been contradicted. The U.S. also pulled back F-15 air superiority fighters from Turkey which can be interpreted as a step of deescalation. But NATO is still building up additional forces around Syria. That is sold as preventing Turkey from doing more foolish nonsense like shooting down another Russian plane. But the military reality as seen from Syria is an increase in potential enemy forces right at its borders. If the U.S. is serious it should show that by stopping the military build up and its support for Syria's enemies.
The combined air defense of Russian S-400 long range air defense in Latakia and Syrian SA-17/BUK medium range systems in other areas for now protect against air incursions into Syria. To knock them out means all out war. Putin says he will not allow any outside force to decide who rules in Syria and he is backing that up with all of Russia's capabilities. "Western" diplomats' claims that Russia is ready to dumps Assad are just face saving rumors. It is Russia that is calling the shots. The Russian support has now reached a level that enables the Syrian army to slowly defeat and destroy the various terrorist forces attacking its people. Meanwhile more anti-Syrian propaganda gets debunked and public support for the Syrian government's position increases.
In Iraq the army is also back on its feet and is making progress against the Islamic State. The Iraqi government has rejected U.S. offers of its Apache helicopters and more U.S. special forces. It is rightly suspicious that the U.S. is aiming at splitting up Iraq and Syria. Today the U.S. again bombed and killed Iraqi government forces that were moving against the Islamic State. That surely will be explained away as an "accident" but too many such "accidents" have happened. Should the U.S., with its support for the Kurds and Sunnis, continue its ambiguous stand in Iraq it will be kicked out and Russia will get invited to move in.
There are some talks today at the UN to proceed towards ceasefire negotiations in Syria. I do not expect any serious outcome. The opposition that met in Saudi Arabia was a collection of random 5-star-hotel exiles and terrorist groups. The U.S. and its allies claim that these can take over Syria. But they have no real constituency and no abilities to fight Jabhat al Nusra, the Islamic State or any of the other big terrorist groups that are not part of the negotiations. Why should they have any say over Syria?
There are also some evidence that the Obama administration does not really want any solution in Syria. The negotiations are smoke and mirrors to simply run out the clock and to dump the problem to the next president. This could change though, some say or wish, if a big attack on a U.S. target would happen and be claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State.
A solution of the war in Syria will require elections in which the current president Bashar Assad will be one of the candidates. Until the agrees to that position all talks about a "political transition" are just a waste of time.
NYT Burned Again By Granting Anonymity To "Officials"
NYT, Dec 12 2015: U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Zealotry on Social Media
WASHINGTON — Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., passed three background checks by American immigration officials as she moved to the United States from Pakistan. None uncovered what Ms. Malik had made little effort to hide — that she talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.
She said she supported it. And she said she wanted to be a part of it.
American law enforcement officials said they recently discovered those old — and previously unreported — postings as they pieced together the lives of Ms. Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, trying to understand how they pulled off the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday that there remains no evidence the couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on December 2 were part of an organized cell or had any contact with overseas militant groups.
Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, expressed support for "jihad and martyrdom" in private communications but never did so on social media, Comey said at a press conference in New York City.
The false NYT report was used by various interested politicians and bureaucrats to demand a stop to U.S. immigration, stricter visa vetting, back-doors to communications, giving social media sides some sort of police function and so on. The same happened when at first false reports emerged that the attackers in Paris had used encryption to communicate with each other. They actually used open SMS messages.
The NYT needs to publish how the false report found its way into the paper. Did it not crosscheck its sources?
It needs to burn the "American law enforcement officials" who gave it the false information by publishing their names and motives.
Without doing that its its readership will have to classify any other NYT report based on unnamed "officials" - just like some bloggers already do - as likely false.
Who Will End The Saudi's Salman Embarrassment?
Calling Islamic extremism a disease, Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a coalition of 34 predominately Muslim nations to fight terrorism.
"This announcement comes from the Islamic world's vigilance in fighting this disease so it can be a partner, as a group of countries, in the fight against this disease," Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said.
The coalition's joint operations center will be based in Riyadh.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the coalition will include Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, the Palestinians, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d'Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen.
This seems to be the "Arab army" the two amigos, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, announced earlier:
Defense One: How are you planning on getting the Arab countries to put up 90 percent of the ground forces you’re calling for if we can’t even get them to put up in the air coalition?
Graham: Well, they’re not —
McCain: — If Bashar Assad is also the target, that’s the key to it … they fear Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by the Iranians, as much as they do ISIS.
Defense One: Sen. Graham, so if we promise them they can also target Assad, they’ll get in?
McCain: We would also target Assad. Assad right now is killing the people we armed and trained and equipped.
Graham: I can only tell you what they tell us. I’m not joking. The king of Saudi Arabia’s chief advisor said, ‘You can have our army.’ The emir of Qatar says, ‘I’ll pay for the war.’ They want to do two things: they want to stop ISIL before they come in and take their countries over or disrupt their way of life, and they also want to make sure Damascus doesn’t fall into the hands of the Iranians. I’m down for both.
It may well be that Mohammed bin Salman, as well as McCain and Graham, drank too much fermented camel milk. Neither the Saudis nor the Qataris nor any "coalition member" will send their armies to fight in Syria or Iraq.
The reactions from some "members" of the just announced Saudi "coalition" make that obvious.
- Pakistan surprised by its inclusion in 34-nation military alliance
- Malaysia not involved in anti-terrorist military coalition, says Defence Minister
- Lebanon FM says not member of Saudi anti-terror coalition
- Indonesia yet to decide on Saudi-led military coalition (added after posting)
- more to follow ...
The Deputy Crown Prince launched a war on Yemen that goes on without any gain at all but with serious Saudi losses:
Gen. Sharaf Ghaleb Luqman, a military spokesman for the Houthi rebels, said in a telephone interview Monday that 146 "enemy soldiers and mercenaries in Bab al Mandab, including foreigners," were killed when a Houthi rocket struck the "enemy operations command" in Taizz province.
The slain troops included 23 Saudis, nine Emiratis and 12 Moroccan officers, according to Houthi news outlets. There was no independent confirmation of the death toll.
The dead included Saudi Col. Abdullah Sahyan, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
Parts of three Saudi provinces are now occupied by forces troops. Four special regiments from the Saudi Interior Ministry were just called up to clear the areas the Saudi regular army, under Mohammed bin Salman's command, can not hold.
Another embarrassment for the Salman clan is the hajj stampede in Mecca which the Saudi insists killed only 769 while news agencies find that at least 2,411 were killed.
When will the other members of the wider Saudi family dump these dupes? Is there someone else who could do this?
Open Thread 2015-48
News & views ...
(PS: I was sick and am still too dizzy to write something intelligible. I hope I'll be back tomorrow.)
Open Thread 2015-47
News & views ...
Sistani Orders Turkey Out Of Iraq - Syria Oppo-Conference Fails
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq the U.S vice consul Paul Bremer tried to install a handpicked Iraqi government. The top Shia religious authority in Iraq, Grand Ajatollah Sistani, demanded a democratic vote. The issue was thereby decided. There was no way the U.S could have circumvented Sisitani's edict without a massive revolt by the 65% of Iraqis who are Shia and mostly follow his advice. Bremer had to fold.
Now Ajatollah Sistani takes position against the Turkish invasion of Iraq:
Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on the government on Friday to show "no tolerance" of any infringement of the country's sovereignty, after Turkey deployed heavily armed troops to northern Iraq.
Sistani's spokesman, Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Karbala'i, did not explicitly name Turkey, but a row over the deployment has badly soured relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which denies having agreed to it.
"The Iraqi government is responsible for protecting Iraq's sovereignty and must not tolerate and side that infringes upon on it, whatever the justifications and necessities," Karbalai'i said in a weekly sermon.
The issue is thereby decided. Turkish troops will have to leave or will have to decisively defeat all Shia of Iraq (and Iran). If Erdogan were smart he would now order the Turkish troops stationed near Mosul to leave Iraq.
The Russian President Putin also increased pressure on Turkey:
President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered Russia's armed forces to act in an "extremely tough way" in Syria to protect Russian forces striking Islamic State targets there.
"Any targets threatening our (military) group or land infrastructure must be immediately destroyed," Putin said, speaking at a Defence Ministry event.
Note to Erdogan: Beware of funny ideas...
There was some Syrian opposition conference yesterday in Saudi Arabia were the Saudis tried to bribe everyone to agree on a common position. But the conference failed. Some 116 delegates took part under "international guidance" of their various sponsors. A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda aligned Ahrar al Sham, which closely cooperates with the al-Qaeda entity Jabhat al Nusra in Syria, also took part. No women were present.
The conference resulted in the decision to hold another conference. The 116 delegates at the conference decided to select 33 delegates for a conference which would decide on 15 delegates to confer and maybe take part in some negotiations with the Syrian government side. The NYT's Ben Hubbard, who was there, tweeted:
Ben Hubbard @NYTBen
...The meeting created yet another new opposition body, a high commission, meant to oversee negotiations.
There was debate about how large it should be and what proportion should represent armed groups. Final was 32, changed after meetings to 33.
Those 33 now tasked with choosing a 15 person negotiating team. So, yeah, umbrella groups making a new umbrella.
The political demands the conference agreed upon include non-starters for negotiations like the demand that the Syrian President Assad would leave within 6 weeks of the negotiations start. There was also this illuminating word game:
Islamist delegates objected to using the word “democracy” in the final statement, so the term “democratic mechanism” was used instead, according to a member of one such group who attended the meeting.
The Ahrar al-Sham delegate at the meeting signed the deal while the Ahrar al Sham bigwigs, who took not part, damned the deal and announced they were completely against it. They demand an Islamic State in Syria that would follow their militant Salafi line of believe. Hubbard again:
Ben Hubbard @NYTBen
Re: @Ahrar_Alsham2. It's main delegate did not walk out. Before meeting ended, members not present released statement announcing withdrawal.
The session's moderator said Ahrar delegate was not aware of statement by his group until later, but did sign the final communiqué.
Then Ahrar members like @aleesa71 and @a_azraeel complained on Twitter, suggesting a split between military and political leaders.
The Saudi and Qatari Wahhabi rulers want Ahrar al Sham to be part of any future solution in Syria. They hired "western" think tanks like Brookings Doha to propagandize that Ahrar is "moderate". But Ahrar can not be "moderate" when it is fighting together with al-Qaeda and kills civilians because they are "unbelievers". It is now in an uncomfortable position. If it takes part in a peace conference with the Syrian government its Jabhat al-Nusra ally will roast it, if it doesn't take part its Saudi and Qartari financiers will fry it.
Since the start of the war on Syria no unity has been achieved in the opposition of the Syrian government. The U.S., in form of the CIA head John Brennan, teamed up (again) with al-Qaeda while the State Department tried to sponsor more "moderates". The ensuing chaos continues today.
To prevent further blowback from this nonsense strategy will obviously require a change towards a position that supports the Syrian government. It is doubtful that the U.S. is capable of such foresight and flexibility.
Turkey's Imperial Motive In Attacking Syria And Iraq
Turkey's attack on Syria and Iraq and its support for Islamists in those countries and elsewhere is often described as religiously motivated. But that is only a part of the story. The real-political side is an imperialist effort to expand Turkey into the space of the former Ottoman empire.
A former head of Israel’s National Security Council Giora Eiland writes in The Guardian:
About a year before that meeting with the Russian, I met a senior Turkish official. That was at a time when relations between Jerusalem and Ankara were excellent. At that meeting, the Turkish official spoke openly about his country’s world view. “We know that we cannot get back the lands that were under the control of the Ottoman empire before 1917,” he said, “but do not make the mistake of thinking that the borders that were dictated to us at the end of the first world war by the victorious countries – mainly the UK and France – are acceptable to us. Turkey will find a way to return to its natural borders in the south – the line between Mosul in Iraq and Homs in Syria. That is our natural aspiration and it is justified because of the large Turkmen presence in that region.”
A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment in 2012 provided:
OPPOSITION FORCES ARE TRYING TO CONTROL THE EASTERN AREAS (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), ADJACENT TO THE WESTERN IRAQI PROVINCES (MOSUL AND ANBAR), IN ADDITION TO NEIGHBORING TURKISH BORDERS. WESTERN COUNTRIES, THE GULF STATES AND TURKEY ARE SUPPORTING THESE EFFORTS.
THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT
ISI COULD ALSO DECLARE AN ISLAMIC STATE THROUGH ITS UNION WITH OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA, WHICH WILL CREATE GRAVE DANGER IN REGARDS TO UNIFYING IRAQ AND THE PROTECTION OF ITS TERRITORY.
The former Turkish military adviser Metin Gurcan in AL-Monitor analyzes the aims of the Turkish invasion of Iraq:
Ankara — which realizes each player in Syria and Iraq is setting up its own “boutique power base” — feels a best-case scenario for Turkey will be:
- To allow emergence of the Mosul-based "Sunnistan Autonomous Administration," which is loosely linked to Baghdad, as Baghdad's central authority is waning by the day.
- To enable cooperation between the KRG and the Sunni bodies in Syria, and the "Iraqi Sunnistan" under the security umbrella of the Turkish military.
- For Turkey to become the regional sponsor of this new three-entity structure.
Some U.S. circles like the plan. John Bolton recently wrote an NYT op-ed To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State which endorses the deconstruction of Iraq.
I posted a link to the above piece with the "Sunnistan Autonomous Administration" line on Twitter and added:
Moon of Alabama @MoonofA
@MoonofA #pt Turkey IMHO wants even more: "Annex Mosul and seize the northern Iraqi oil fields".
There followed this little exchange:
Erdal Ϝ ϓ ſ Ϟ - F16 @CccErdal
@MoonofA Mosul has always been Turkish land until the beginning of the 20th century. They are just taking what is theirs.
Moon of Alabama @MoonofA
@CccErdal Mosul is as much "Turkish land" as India is "British land".
Erdal Ϝ ϓ ſ Ϟ - F16 @CccErdal
@MoonofA Turks will bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East after British/French destroyed/colonized it in ww1.
I have no idea who CccErdal is but his profile picture is full of "Türk" whatever flags.
All the above is just to show that Turkey under Erdogan has a neo-Ottoman expansionist view. It wants parts of Iraq and Syria incorporated into Turkey. This view is popular in the ethnic Turk parts of Turkey. Erdogan is getting some support - or at least little resistance - from his NATO allies in pursuing this aim.
The overall Turkish plan is to re-establish the Ottoman administrative units or vilayets of Aleppo, Diyarbekir in its southern extend to the Euphrates and Mosul. These areas include large oil and gas fields in Syria and north Iraq. The Russian intervention in Syria frustrates the Aleppo plan. The temporary U.S. alliance with the YPK Kurds in Syria hinders the southern extension of Diyarbekir to the Euphrates. A serious move on Mosul started last weekend and has not yet been challenged by force. If diplomatic pressure fails to dislodge the Turks from the area Iraqi militia will attack the new Turkish positions near Mosul.
Turkey's plans are illegal under international law and under the charter of the United Nations. Moreover they do not respect the will of the people living in those areas. Are we to believe that Christians, Alawites and Yezidis, Kurds and Arabs in Syria and Iraq crave for being again ruled by ethnocentric Turks? The "Turkmen brethren" in Iraq and Syria which Ankara provides as justification for its moves are after all just a tiny minority.
But the Turkish expansion plans are serious and have wide support in Turkey's nationalist and Islamist circles. Turks, like other people, can be ruthless and brutal in such endeavors:
One of the two [Russian] pilots was captured by the pro-Turkish forces, killed and mutilated by the rebels. Pieces of the body, extremities and face, were taken away.
Erdogan is willing to risk a lot, including a wider war, to pursue his neo-Ottoman dreams. Blackmailing Europe and Iraq and challenging Russia in Crimea and Chechnya through insertion of Turkish "Grey Wolf" fascist and "Tatar" are only minor measures. We can expect a lot more fool play and carnage before the Turks finally have to acknowledge that their expansionist plans will fail.
Is Erdogan's Mosul Escapade Blackmail For Another Qatar-Turkey Pipeline?
Update: Iraqi sources confirm to Elijah J. Magnier that Turkey is indeed blackmailing Baghdad to get a Qatar-Turkey pipeline. The blackmail also has a water resource component. I wrote on that here back in August. I recommend to read the above linked Magnier piece together with my speculations below.
The Turkish move to annex Mosul is further developing into a serious conflict. Iraq has demanded that Turkey removes its soldiers and heavy weapons from the "training base" near Mosul within 48 hours. It asserts that these were put there without asking or informing the sovereign Iraqi government.
Turkey first denied that any new troops arrived in Iraq. It then said that the troops were only a replacement of the existing training force. Then it claimed that the new troops were there to protect the training force:
Turkish sources say the reinforcement plans were discussed in detail with Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s counter-ISIL fight coordinator, during his latest visit to Ankara on Nov. 5-6. “The Americans are telling the truth,” one high-rank source said. “This is not a U.S.-led coalition operation, but we are informing them about every single detail. This is not a secret operation.”
The U.S. was informed but Iraq was not? That makes it look as if the U.S. is behind this. Brett McGurk has also said that this is not a "U.S.-led coalition" operation but is otherwise playing "neutral" on the issue.
But Reuters now stenographed some other Turkish source which suddenly claims that the tanks and artillery are part of the coalition:
Turkey said on Monday it would not withdraw hundreds of soldiers who arrived last week at a base in northern Iraq, despite being ordered by Baghdad to pull them out within 48 hours.
The sudden arrival of such a large and heavily armed Turkish contingent in a camp near the frontline in northern Iraq has added yet another controversial deployment to a war against Islamic State fighters that has drawn in most of the world's major powers.
Ankara says the troops are there as part of an international mission to train and equip Iraqi forces to fight against Islamic State. The Iraqi government says it never invited such a force, and will take its case to the United Nations if they are not pulled out.
The force to be trained is under control of a former Iraqi state governor who is, like the Kurdish ex-president Barzani, a Turkish tool:
The camp occupied by the Turkish troops is being used by a force called Hashid Watani, or national mobilization, made up of mainly Sunni Arab former Iraqi police and volunteers from Mosul.
It is seen as a counterweight to Shi'ite militias that have grown in clout elsewhere in Iraq with Iranian backing, and was formed by former Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, who has close relations with Turkey. A small number of Turkish trainers were already there before the latest deployment.
The former policemen who ran away when the Islamic State took over Mosul are not and will not be a serious fighting force against their Islamic State brethren in Mosul. They are just a fig leave for the Turkish occupation.
There are rumors, not confirmed yet, that Turkey now uses the presence of its force to blackmail the Iraqi government. Turkey, it is said, wants agreement from Baghdad for a gas pipeline from Qatar through Iraq to Turkey.
Map via Fer G
The original plan was to have such a pipeline run through Syrian desert flatland to Turkey and on to Europe. The gas from Qatar would be sold there in competition with gas from Russia. President Assad had rejected that pipeline and preferred one from Iran through Iraq to the Syrian coast. Qatar and Iran collectively own a huge gas field in the Persian Gulf. Whoever gets his pipeline going first will have a big advantage in extracting from the field and selling its gas. The rejection of the original pipeline project was one reason why Qatar engaged heavily in the regime change project in Syria. The Plan B would have the pipeline go through the rather rough east Anatolia - more expensive than the Syria route but feasible. The U.S. supports the Qatar project. Anything that would make Europeans dependent on gas from a U.S. controlled regime is preferable to Europeans who do independent business with Russia.
Erdogan visited Qatar on December 1 for two days and the two countries signed a number of "strategic agreements". The Turkish troops moved to Mosul on December 4 and 5. This makes the pipeline extortion that Turkey is said to try with Iraq at least plausible.
But Iraq and its Prime Minister Abadi can not agree to the pipeline project. Its allies in Iran, Russia and Syria are all against the Qatar-Turkey-(U.S.) project and would see that as treason. Shia militia in Iraq, especially the Badr brigade, have threatened to destroy the Turkish force near Mosul. They would remove Abadi from his office if he would fold under the Turkish-Qatari-(U.S.) extortion scheme.
Possibly related to the Turkish escalation is today's attack on a Syrian government position near Deir Ezzour:
Syria's government said the U.S.-led military coalition has carried out a deadly airstrike on a Syrian army camp, but officials from the alliance said the report was false.
Syria said four coalition jets killed three soldiers and wounded 13 in the eastern Deir al-Zor province on Sunday evening, calling it an act of aggression, the first time it has made such an accusation.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier that jets likely to be from the coalition hit part of the Saeqa military camp near the town of Ayyash in Deir al-Zor province, killing four Syrian army personnel.
But a U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is certain that Russia was responsible for the deadly strike on the Syrian army camp .
The official flatly dismissed claims that U.S.-led coalition jets were responsible.
Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama's envoy to the coalition, also denied claims of coalition responsibility, saying on his Twitter account: "Reports of coalition involvement are false."
Damascus insists that four jets entered Syria from Al-Bukamal, Iraq and fired 9 missiles against al-Saeqa military base in Ayyash near Deir Ezzour.
The U.S. accuses Russia to have committed the strike. I very much doubt that. There have been accidental "friendly fire" strikes by the Russian air force against Syrian troops and against Hizbullah. But those accidents were always immediately admitted and investigated within the 4+1 alliance. The Russians say they did not do this strike and Damascus agrees.
But notice the weasel word in the U.S. statements: "U.S.-led coalition". The Turks in Mosul are not part of the "U.S.-led coalition" even if they first claimed to be. If the air strike in Syria today were not done by the "U.S.-led coalition" it could mean that some country committed these air strikes on its own without the strike being officially within the "U.S.-led coalition" framework. Could that country's name start with a Q?
The U.S. will know who really launched this strike. In both, the Turkish aggression on Iraq and the airstrike in Syria today and even with the earlier mountain ambush on the Russian jet, the U.S. is likely "leading from behind" the curtain. All these events are, like the now forming new alliance with Jihadis, part of Obama's bigger plans and designs for Syria and the Middle East.
Erdogan Moves To Annexes Mosul
The wannabe Sultan Erdogan did not get his will in Syria where he had planned to capture and annex Aleppo. The Russians prevented that. He now goes for his secondary target, Mosul in Iraq, which many Turks see as historic part of their country:
At the end of World War I in October 1918, after the signature of the Armistice of Mudros, British forces occupied Mosul. After the war, the city and the surrounding area became part of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (1918-1920), and shortly Mandatory Iraq (1920-1932). This mandate was contested by Turkey which continued to claim the area based on the fact that it was under Ottoman control during the signature of the Armistice. In the Treaty of Lausanne, the dispute over Mosul was left for future resolution by the League of Nations. Iraq's possession of Mosul was confirmed by the League of Nations brokered agreement between Turkey and Great Britain in 1926. Former Ottoman Mosul Vilayet eventually became Nineveh Province of Iraq, but Mosul remained the provincial capital.
Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city with about a million inhabitants, is currently occupied by the Islamic State.
On Friday a column of some 1,200 Turkish soldiers with some 20 tanks and heavy artillery moved into a camp near Mosul. The camp was one of four small training areas where Turkey was training Kurds and some Sunni-Arab Iraqis to fight the Islamic State. The small camps in the northern Kurdish area have been there since the 1990s. They were first established to fight the PKK. Later their Turkish presence was justified as ceasefire monitors after an agreement ended the inner Kurdish war between the KDP forces loyal to the Barzani clan and the PUK forces of the Talabani clan. The bases were actually used to monitor movement of the PKK forces which fight for Kurdish independence in Turkey.
The base near Mosul is new and it was claimed to be just a small weapons training base. But tanks and artillery have a very different quality than some basic AK-47 training. Turkey says it will increase the numbers in these camps to over 2000 soldiers.
Should Mosul be cleared of the Islamic State the Turkish heavy weapons will make it possible for Turkey to claim the city unless the Iraqi government will use all its power to fight that claim. Should the city stay in the hands of the Islamic State Turkey will make a deal with it and act as its protector. It will benefit from the oil around Mosul which will be transferred through north Iraq to Turkey and from there sold on the world markets. In short: This is an effort to seize Iraq's northern oil fields.
That is the plan but it is a risky one. Turkey did not ask for permission to invade Iraq and did not inform the Iraqi government.
The Turks claim that they were invited by the Kurds:
Turkey will have a permanent military base in the Bashiqa region of Mosul as the Turkish forces in the region training the Peshmerga forces have been reinforced, Hürriyet reported.
The deal regarding the base was signed between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu, during the latter’s visit to northern Iraq on Nov. 4.
There are two problems with this. First: Massoud Barzani is no longer president of the KRG. His mandate ran out and the parliament refused to prolong it. Second: Mosul and its Bashiqa area are not part of the KRG. Barzani making a deal about it is like him making a deal about Paris.
The Iraqi government and all major Iraqi parties see the Turkish invasion as a hostile act against their country. Abadi demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Turkish forces but it is unlikely that Turkey will act on that. Some Iraqi politicians have called for the immediate dispatch of the Iraqi air force to bomb the Turks near Mosul. That would probably the best solution right now but the U.S. installed Premier Abadi is too timid to go for such strikes. The thinking in Baghdad is that Turkey can be kicked out after the Islamic State is defeated. But this thinking gives Turkey only more reason to keep the Islamic State alive and use it for its own purpose. The cancer should be routed now as it is still small.
Barzani's Kurdistan is so broke that is has even confiscated foreign bank accounts to pay some bills. That may be the reason why Barzani agreed to the deal now. But the roots run deeper. Barzani is illegally selling oil that belongs to the Iraqi government to Turkey. The Barzani family occupies not only the presidential office in the KRG but also the prime minister position and the local secret services. It is running the oil business and gets a big share of everything else. On the Turkish side the oil deal is handled within the family of President Erdogan. His son in law, now energy minister, had the exclusive right to transport the Kurdish oil through Turkey. Erdogan's son controls the shipping company that transports the oil over sea to the customer, most often Israel. The oil under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq passes the exactly same route. These are businesses that generate hundreds of millions per year.
It is unlikely that U.S., if it is not behinds Turkey new escapade, will do anything about it. The best Iraq could do now is to ask the Russians for their active military support. The Turks insisted on their sovereignty when they ambushed a Russian jet that brushed its border but had no intend of harming Turkey. Iraq should likewise insist on its sovereignty, ask Russia for help and immediately kick the Turks out. The longer it waits the bigger the risk that Turkey will eventually own Mosul.
Open Thread 2015-46
News & views ...
Erdogan's "Turkmen" Lose Some Of Their Chechen And Saudi Leaders
Following the shoot-down of a Russian fighter jet over north Latakia the Turkish President Erdogan insisted that there were no terrorists in the area the Russians were bombing but only "Turkmen". Today a Russian air attack in the area hit major "Turkmen" fighting positions but the death notices that follow do not fit Erdogan's "Turkmen" claims:
Dismissing Russian claims that the Russian plane had been on an anti-terror mission against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in northern Syria, Erdoğan said, “No one should ever fool themselves: There are no Daesh [ISIL] elements in the Bayırbucak region where Turkmen live.”
Erdoğan also attacked those who criticized his government’s ostensible aid to the Turkmens.
“You know the famous MİT truck betrayal which took place right after the Dec.17-25 coup attempt, don’t you? There are some who still make their headlines for their newspapers without any shame. Those trucks were trucks taking aid to our Bayırbucak Turkmens. Some are saying, ‘Prime Minister Erdoğan was saying that there were no weapons inside those [trucks].’ What if there were, what if there weren’t? What are we saying: ‘We are taking humanitarian assistance there.’ Who are they? They are our mistreated and oppressed Bayırbucak Turkmen siblings. That’s what we did,” Erdoğan said late Nov. 24.
So there are just Turkmen, says Erdogan. And he finally admits that he sent them weapons.
But the "Turkmen" Erdogan speaks of are not the 100,000 or so ethnic Turkmen who for hundreds of years have lived in the area. The "Turkmen" who killed the parachuting Russian pilot was a Turkish radical nationalist who belongs to the fascist Grey Wolf organization.
Today Russian planes flew extensive attacks in the area where the "Turkmen" fight against the approaching Syrian army:
[T]he Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed a terrorist stronghold in the Syrian province of Latakia, which was located at a strategically important height.
"Near the village of Kessab in the Latakia province, a major stronghold of militants located at a tactically important height was destroyed."
Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha
#Jaish_Fateh's Sh. Muhseni was wounded by an #RuAF airstrike in NE #Latakia countryside
The "Sheik"'s wounding was confirmed:
Earlier Friday, activists said that a Russian airstrike the previous day wounded a senior commander of al-Qaida's branch in Syria, a preacher from Saudi Arabia, but that his injuries are not life-threatening.
The Observatory and Syria-based activist Bebars al-Talawy said that Sheikh Abdullah al-Mheisny was wounded in the northwestern province of Latakia.
A Saudi citizen, al-Mheisny had been fighting in northern Syria for months, serving both as a senior religious and military commander with the al-Qaida branch, known as the Nusra Front.
Activists posted on social media Friday a photo of al-Mheisny, showing his head bandaged.
This "Turkmen" in Latakia was a Saudi preacher fighting with al-Qaeda.
Peto Lucem @PetoLucem
Reports emerge claiming terrorist leader Muslim Shishani was eliminated by #SAA in #Latakia Governorate. #Syria .
This "Turkmen" is from Chechnya but his death was not confirmed.
Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha
Pic of Muslim Al-Shar'i, commander in Ansar Al-Sham killed by #SAA near Arafit #Latakia countryside
We do not know where Al-Shar'i came from but Ansar Al-Sham is a terrorist organization founded by al-Qaeda personal and not a "Turkmen" folklore club.
Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha
Muslim Al-Shar'i was killed in clashes with #SAA in #Latakia countryside
Muslim Al-Shishani, commander of Jund Al-Sham was NOT killed
Beware The Tiger @Souria4Syrians
Chechen terrorist and Abu Muslim Shishani's right hand man; Haneef Al Karabdini has been killed by Syrian Army
The Russian air force and the Syrian army had a quite successful day while Erdogan's "Bayırbucak Turkmen" from all around the world lost some key leaders.
Hunt On For Tayyeep Bin Ardogan Over Fighter Shoot-Down And Bosphorus Blockade
Today the Russian President Putin gave his yearly address to the Russian Federal Assembly. In the context of terrorism and the shooting down of the Russian fighter in Syria he addressed some very harsh words to the Turkish President Erdogan:
[T]he Turkish people are kind, hardworking and talented. We have many good and reliable friends in Turkey. Allow me to emphasise that they should know that we do not equate them with the certain part of the current ruling establishment that is directly responsible for the deaths of our servicemen in Syria.
We will never forget their collusion with terrorists. We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change. I would like them to remember this – those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back, those hypocrites who tried to justify their actions and cover up for terrorists.
I don’t even understand why they did it. Any issues they might have had, any problems, any disagreements we knew nothing about could have been settled in a different way. Plus, we were ready to cooperate with Turkey on all the most sensitive issues it had; we were willing to go further, where its allies refused to go. Allah only knows, I suppose, why they did it. And probably, Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their mind and reason.
But, if they expected a nervous or hysterical reaction from us, if they wanted to see us become a danger to ourselves as much as to the world, they won’t get it. They won’t get any response meant for show or even for immediate political gain. They won’t get it.
Our actions will always be guided primarily by responsibility – to ourselves, to our country, to our people. We are not going to rattle the sabre. But, if someone thinks they can commit a heinous war crime, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, or a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional. We’ll remind them of what they did, more than once. They’ll regret it. We know what to do.
That was strong stuff from someone who usually stays very cool. These were not even threats but direct declarations that Russia will take revenge and will follow through.
What are "all the most sensitive issues" Turkey had and on which Russia was ready to cooperate? What has enraged Putin so much to declare Erdogan out of "mind and reason"? Was it only the ambush of the fighter plane? Or was there another, deeper provocation?
At the end of last week there were some rumors that Russian ships crossing the Bosphorus between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea were unreasonably delayed. Someone claimed that Turkey was holding them up but the issue soon vanished again. I filed that under "false rumor" but I was wrong. It apparently happened:
Turkey is creating obstacles for Russian ships without technically violating the right of free passage through the Turkish Straits, the online newspaper Vzglyad reports.
According to an online vessel tracking system, Russian ships moved in zigzags and circles on Nov. 29, waiting for hours for permission to enter the Bosphorus.
For instance, the Bratsk waited for permission from 10.00 to 19.00, and the Volgobalt from 3.00 to 17.00. However, as stated by the Ukrainian Center for Transport Policies, vessels belonging to the other countries passed through the straits without a delay on that day.
The Haberler.com news website reports that the transport ship Yauza was met by a Turkish submarine as it was passing through the Dardanelles on the morning of Nov. 30.
The Istanbul media reported the same day that at least two Turkish submarines were located in the vicinity of the Moskva missile cruiser (covering the Khmeimim Russian airbase in Syria).
Back in September Pat Lang posted this at his site:
[T]he Russians seem intent on reinforcing the Syrian government and the US is doing all it can to prevent this. The US has pressured governments seeking a denial of diplomatic overflight clearances for Russian cargo aircraft en route to Syria. It has also sought some means with which to deny Russian vessels passage through the Bosporus and Dardanelles.
It seems that Obama administration had developed the idea to delay Russian ships without directly violating the Montreux Cenvention that covers free passage through the strait. Erdogan used the trick last week to put additional pressure on Russia. But there was nothing in the wider news about this standoff.
Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
Turkey mentioned it and sent 2 submarines. Russia said "Turkey can't do it" and sent 2 submarines hunters
Dr Shahid @DR_SHAHID
Russia Threatened To Nuke Ankara.
Hmm ... I am not sure we know if the issue was really resolved with a nuclear threat or by some lesser means. But as no further ships were reported delayed the crisis seems to be over and Russia got its way.
To delay Russian ships by military means is rude behavior by Erdogan just short of openly declaring war. This and the fact that he ordered to ambush and shoot down a Russian jet likely incited Putin to use really harsh words today. Had Erdogan apologized and blamed some minions for the fighter jet shoot down the episode would have been forgotten by now.
But Erdogan escalated. Putin will now not rest until he has kicked that wannabe Sultan off his throne. My bet is that he will be more resourceful in his endeavor than Erdogan.
This for example is exceptional good trolling. Who arranged for this very intelligent hoax to appear in various U.S. media last night?
Pass the popcorn, please.
What Happens After ISIS Claims The San Bernadino Attack?
We may never know why Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik went on a rampage and killed 14 people in San Bernadino. The pair may have left no note or electronic trace about their motives. But it makes perfect sense for the Islamic State to claim that the two acted in its name.
The details of their life make it somewhat plausible that the two were religiously influenced:
Syed Rizwan Farook was looking for a wife. On at least two online sites, he posted details for prospective brides. “Religious but modern” he apparently wrote on one. He made a point of noting his American citizenship in another.
How he ultimately made contact with Pakistan-born Tashfeen Malik remains unclear. But family members said Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia, where Malik was living, and returned to Southern California as a couple and began a life in quiet Redlands,
Wednesday morning, they dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother, according to family members. Sometime around midday, police say they donned masks and armed themselves with assault rifles and handguns before storming a holiday party hosted by the county health agency where Farook worked. At least 14 people died. Hours later, 28-year-old Farook and 27-year-old Malik were dead by police gunfire just two miles from the massacre site.
The bios of the shooters has the smell of sleeper agents. Recruited to live a normal life but to act later when the time is right and a ruthless attack within the U.S. is needed. Many original members of the Islamic State were trained intelligence people from Saddam Hussein's era. They know how to handle such an effort.
Even if the police finds that the reason for the San Bernadino attack was a personal issue the Islamic State could still claim that the attack was its act. Most people in the U.S. would rather believe IS than anything their government claims.
IS waited quite some time to announce its responsibility for bringing down the Russia airliner over Sinai. So we may get an announcement only in a week or two.
The IS folks believe that the end-times are near and they wants the big battle in Daqib, a town held by IS in Syria. As a Hadith says:
The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them).
The Islamic State is waiting for the Romans of our days, the U.S. and its NATO, to come to Daqib. It wants to suck the "west" in. It is sure that it can and will defeat it. What better to achieve this than to attack the U.S. at home?
But the game has two sides. If IS claims responsibility Obama may decide, just like GW Bush did, to use the attack for his own purpose. He would claim that Assad must go to defeat the Islamic State and start to openly attack the Syrian people and their government.
There is only the small problem that Syria is now too well defended to be simply overrun:
A high-ranking officer within the joint operation room in Damascus (consisting of Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah) said “Damascus received sets of S -300 advanced Russian missiles, ready to enter active service. Soon, Syria will announce that any country using the airspace without coordinating with Damascus will be viewed as hostile and will shoot the jet (s) without warning. Those willing to fight terrorism and coordinate with the military leadership will be granted safe corridors”.
In another development, according to the same source, “Iran is preparing two squadrons of Sukhoi to engage the war in Syria. These will be stationed at the T4 Syrian military airport in Homs, very close to Palmyra (Tadmur), previously known as Tiyas. The Iranian Air Force will join the Russian Air Force in their war against extremist terrorist Kafeeree in Syria”.
The Russian are said to increase the numbers of their jets in Syria to 96. Together with Iran's then 24 jets of the Su-24 type in Tiyas and the Syrian air force the fighter capability of that force is quite noteable. There are of course also the anti-air missiles on the ground. They airports are protected by Pantsyr S1 short range systems. There are TOR M1/M2 medium range anti-air missile systems. The Syrian S-300, the Russian S-400 in Latakia and the additional S-300s on board of the Moskva near the Syrian coast are long range systems and would an attack very costly. The U.S. tends to avoids attacking countries with competent air defense and Syria has by now an excellent one.
But what else could Obama do when IS claims the attack in San Bernadino? The pressure to "do something" and to escalate and escalate again will be immense. Every presidential candidate will demand that Obama sends an army division or two to destroy IS.
The way through Syria is closed. The Iraqis will not allow more U.S. troops on their ground. They reasonably believe that the U.S. is on the side of IS. Several Shia militia in Iraq have announced that they will attack any additional U.S. forces. Using the Kurdish areas in Iraq to attack IS would be very difficult as supplies would have to go through treacherous, blackmailing Turkey, which is secretly allied with IS, and pass through areas where the Turks and the Kurdish PKK are fighting each other. Going through Jordan and from there to Anbar province in Iraq would enrage the many IS followers in Jordan and destroy that state too.
Making peace with Assad, as even tea party candidate Ted Cruz now recommends, to then attack IS would be the logical way to go. But Obama and the people around him are too presumptuous to take such a step. They can not admit that they were wrong all along and that Assad and Putin were and are right.
So what will Obama do?
The Real "Terrorist Sympathizers" Want To Wage War On Syria ... And Russia
David Cameron has appealed to Conservative MPs to give him an overall parliamentary majority in favour of military action in Syria by warning them against voting alongside “Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers”.
“You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers,” the prime minister reportedly told the committee.
Surely terrorist sympathizer should not be allowed to run around freely and to influence the children. These could end up no longer believing what the government and the media are telling them. They would become radicals:
A leaflet drawn up by an inner-city child safeguarding board warns that “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policies” is a sign “specific to radicalisation”.
Parents and carers have also been advised by the safeguarding children board in the London Borough of Camden that “showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports and a belief in conspiracy theories” could be a sign that children are being groomed by extremists.
The "war on terror" is turning into a war on the local opposition of the ruling classes. Those who oppose its polices are labeled 2terrorists" and those who doubts its word are "radicalized extremists". How far is it from such verbal insults to actually concentration camps?
Who initiated this sudden rush within major NATO governments to get parliamentary blank checks for waging a long war on Syria? Not only in the UK but also in France and Germany?
The German government turned on a dime from "no military intervention in Syria ever" to "lets wage a war of terror on Syria" without any backing from the UN or international law. (The German government's legal argument for war is so flimsy that the constitutional court will probably stop it.) Who initiated this? A simple, medium size terror attack in Paris by some Belgians and French can not be the sole reason for this stampede.
Did Obama call and demanded support for his plans? What are these?
I smell that a trap is being laid, likely via a treacherous Turkey, to somehow threaten Russia with, or involve it in, a wider war. This would include military attacks in east-Ukraine or Crimea as well as in Syria. Obama demanded European backing in case the issue gets of of hands. No other reason I have found explains the current panic. The terrorists the "west" supports in Syria are in trouble. The real terrorist sympathizers need to rush to their help. It is a start of all-out war on Syria and its Russian protectors.
But Russia is cool headed and is preparing to make its position in Syria even stronger. There will soon be at least 100 Russian military planes in Syria, some say up to 150 in total, plus dozens of ground attack helicopters including the very modern KA-52 (vid). New airfields for Russian fighter jets are being prepared in Shayrat (map), south-east of Homs. 10 fighter jets and 15 attack helicopters are already stationed there. Another airport will be in Tiyas (map), some 30 km west of Palmyra. This one will be used to cover east Syria and the Syrian army's movement against the Islamic State in Raqqa. A fourth airport for jets, likely near Hama, is planned and several smaller airfields are to be used for more helicopters. Some 1,000 additional Russian personal will include special forces to designate targets and to provide support for Syrian troops.
The Syrian army was provide with new electronic snooping systems to be able to listen to its enemies communication. To protect against U.S. made anti-tank missiles (TOWs), which the CIA handed to the Jihadists, Syrian tanks are upgraded with the Shtora anti-missile systems. Brand new artillery has also arrived.
The "moderate rebels" of Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al Sham which Turkey and others support currently get squeezed (map) in their corridor from the Turkish border down to Aleppo. The Islamic State is pressing from the east against the corridor while Kurdish YPG fighters, with Russian air support(!), are attacking from the west and the Syrian army is pushing from the south. The moves on the government and YPG side and the IS side are not coordinated but a race to conquer as much as possible of the area before the other party reaches it. Two month ago the Kurdish leader had hinted at this plan to close the uncontrolled gap at the Turkish border.
This is the area Turkey wanted to occupy as a "safe zone" for the terrorists it supports. It also needs the corridor to smuggle oil from the Islamic State to Turkey. Should Turkey, backed by the U.S. and NATO, have funny ideas and try to invade Syria to secure that safe zone, it will have to take on very well armed and serious opponents. From there to World War III is only a small step.
I prefer to be called a terrorist sympathizer over supporting any move into that direction.