Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 20, 2016

Syria - Some Preliminary Positioning For An Endgame

When the Russian campaign in Syria started Obama promised that it would end in a quagmire. Various media and opinion writer picked up that narrative. It was false as Russia was and is executing a well thought out campaign.

Being confronted with reality the U.S. media is now changing its false narrative. The LA Times writes:

The Latakia attack mirrors similar government gains across the country, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, backed by Russian air power, have been on the offensive.
It's a dramatic shift for the forces of Assad, who less than six months ago had warned supporters that the government would have to "give up areas" after a string of humiliating setbacks.
The gains have strengthened the government's position in the run-up to Syrian peace negotiations scheduled to begin next week in Geneva.

The Obama administration and its anti-Syrian allies had hoped for a defeated Syrian government in Geneva that would agree to their capitulation conditions. They now have to change the narrative. Peace talks in Geneva, they now argue, can not take place because the Syrian government is winning. Headlines the Washington Post - Russian airstrikes are working in Syria — enough to put peace talks in doubt:

[A]fter 3½ months of relentless airstrikes that have mostly targeted the Western-backed opposition to Assad’s rule, they have proved sufficient to push beyond doubt any likelihood that Assad will be removed from power by the nearly five-year-old revolt against his rule. The gains on the ground are also calling into question whether there can be meaningful negotiations to end a conflict Assad and his allies now seem convinced they can win.

“The situation on the ground in Syria is definitely not conducive to negotiations right now,” said Lina Khatib of the Paris-based Arab Reform Initiative think tank.

The Arab Reform Initiative is a bastard child of the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc. and various Middle East dictatorships. The Middle East Project was founded by Henry Siegman, a former National Director of the American Jewish Congress and has various hawkish U.S. politicians like Scowcroft and Brzezinski as its senior advisers.

In their view the Syrian government has to be regime changed and can not be allowed to win. Negotiations will have to be put off until the government is likely to fall. Thus the U.S./Saudi/Turkish controlled "opposition" of militant Islamists wants to exclude the Kurds and non-militant opposition from any negotiations and sets additional conditions that make negotiations impossible. They practically demand that Russia and Syria declare and keep a one-sided ceasefire before any ceasefire negotiations can happen.

In the meantime various parties are positioning themselves for the larger endgame. The Kurds in Syria want a corridor along the Turkish Syrian border to connect their areas in the east with the Kurdish enclave in the west. They are fighting against The U.S. supported gangs north-west of Aleppo with Russian support and with Russian and U.S. support against Islamic State gangs north-east of Aleppo. The U.S. is invading Syrian ground and building an airport in the Kurdish areas in east Syria. This probably to later support and guarantee an oil-rich Kurdish state:

The airport, known as “Abu Hajar”, lies southeast of the town of Remelan, site of one of Syria’s largest oilfields, run by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which sells its production through Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Russians may counter that move with their own airport in the area.

Israel, which buys most of the Kurdish oil and just again made friend with Turkey, is now officially calling for an independent Kurdish state. The Turks will not like that at all.

Turkey wants to prevent a Kurdish corridor along its border. It has instigated the "Turkmen" insurgents in Syria under its control to attack the Islamic State from their Aleppo-Avaz-Turkey corridor towards the east right along the border fence where Turkey can provide artillery support. That campaign stalled after a few days and several captured towns are now back in the hands of the Islamic State. New Turkish equipment and soldiers arrived on the Turkish border near the Jarablus border crossing which is currently in the hand of the Islamic State. It is the Islamic State's only open crossing to a somewhat friendly state. Should the Kurds come near to that crossing Turkey is likely to invade Syria to set up a wider buffer against the Syrian Kurds.

In Iraq the Turks continue to occupy bases in Iraqi Kurdistan under the protection of the Iraqi-Kurdish mafia boss Barzani. This despite threats from the Iraqi government. But that government is now again controlled by the U.S. The Iranian influence had waned after clashes between the Iranian General Suleiman and the U.S. installed Prime Minister Abadi:

A source in the office of the Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said, “The United States delay of its support to Baghdad was not a coincidence or an unintentional lazy reaction. It was a strategic decision to: Teach Iraq a lesson for rejecting U.S military bases; To observe the Iranian military capability and inability of Tehran to use air power and intelligence gathering to defeat ISIS; To submit Baghdad to its will and dictate its conditions”.

That the U.S. used the ISIS phenomenon to again achieve regime change and U.S. control in Iraq was confirmed by Obama in an interview with Thomas Friedman:

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. ...

But all those U.S. games are just short term thinking. The Kurdish areas in Iraq and Syria are landlocked and none of their direct neighbors has interest in a Kurdish state. After his mandate ran out and was not renewed by the parliament Barzani's presidency in Iraqi Kurdistan is illegitimate. The next ruler in the Kurdish areas in Iraq is likely to be less friendly with Turkey and the U.S. In Iraq the influence of Iran with the people will always be bigger than U.S. influence with parts of the elite. In Syria it is Russia that will dictate how the future of the state will look.

In the long run the U.S. has little chance to keep its currently regained dominant position. Obama is repeating his predecessors mistake of believing that U.S. meddling in the arena can be successful and continue forever.

The Islamic State is receding. It recently had to cut its wages by half. It is under continues bombing and has to fight ever bigger battles with ever higher losses. The population in the areas it holds is not happy. It will soon again revert to a guerrilla movement of underground terrorist cells. Then other interests of the various actors will again come to the fore, the U.S. will no longer be needed and again be dispelled from the theater. Then the U.S. will again wonder why it did not learn from the earlier lesson.

Posted by b on January 20, 2016 at 08:42 AM | Permalink

next page »

The Israeli defense minister said he likes ISIS more than Iran.
Explains all.

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 20, 2016 9:17:36 AM | 1

Neocons still have the power ...

Posted by: nmb | Jan 20, 2016 9:27:16 AM | 2

Israel, KSA, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and their cronies love ISIS and hate Assad, Russia, Iran and Iraq. Their game is over and US will have to eat shit once again. The number of defeats since WW2 goes on and on.

Posted by: Santa | Jan 20, 2016 9:36:17 AM | 3


And they never say they're sorry. They just go on to the next war. Then when no one is watching they go back to the old war. Cycle-0-paths.

Posted by: jo6pac | Jan 20, 2016 10:14:22 AM | 4

Daraa rebels ordered to stop fighting Syria regime: report

The Amman-based Military Operations Center (MOC) directed Southern Front factions to focus their efforts against Al-Nusra Front.

Posted by: virgile | Jan 20, 2016 10:19:57 AM | 5

who is this b and how does he get it so right all the time?

Posted by: scottindallas | Jan 20, 2016 10:36:24 AM | 6

MOA, very good analysis.
Turks are desperate, their economy is slowing down at a rapid speed, tourists wont't come back despite Turkey to offer fuel subsidies for flights to bring back tourist and the judiciary is overflown by trials of people who dare insulting the hysterical "Sultan". The war on Turkish Kurds is going on and ISIS's presence is increasingly felt.
What Turkey dreads most now is a terrorist act in Antalya and the whole beach tourist revenue will crumble immediately.
More countries are moving away from their alliance with Saudi Arabia as they forecast that it is no more a powerful ally to rely on.
Qatar emir went to Russia to discuss a face saving exit in Syria.
Another minor but very significant event happened in Lebanon: the sudden switch of a Saudi ally in Lebanon, Geagea toward an Iranian ally, Michel Aoun.
The Nuclear deal has turned the West business interests toward the huge potential of Iran
All these are signs that old "friends" are deserting Saudi Arabia perceived now as a embattled country with little hopes for a better future.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be left in the cold in the Syrian negotiations and their only hope is a strong alliance with.. Israel

Posted by: virgile | Jan 20, 2016 10:40:25 AM | 7

thanks b.. great overview..

the usa might have thought russia going into syria would end in a quagmire due the fact the sole purpose of all usa military aims is to create a quagmire... they don't say that, but it's born out by the facts on the ground, especially in afganistan, iraq and libya - all quagmires that the usa is probably quite content with..

nice to see israel finally coming out and openly calling for a kurdish state.. that ought to go over like a hot damn with it's good buddy erdogan.. fits well with the usa building an airport on syrian soil... does the usa always do everything in lock step with israel? sure looks like it a lot of the time.. personally i am glad to see those players being forced to show their hand... that often leads to a losing hand in poker.. we'll see what happens here..

Posted by: james | Jan 20, 2016 11:53:59 AM | 8

The other side of the failed USA/Israeli/Saudi policy, just how long will europe put up with it?

Merkel's Last Stand? Chancellor Running Out of Time on Refugee Issue

On Tuesday, the Chancellery received a letter signed by 44 conservative parliamentarians demanding that Merkel reverse course on the refugee issue. "Just as in similar cases in the past," one of the initiators told the German press agency DPA, "we expect an answer within a week."

Posted by: shadyl | Jan 20, 2016 12:13:21 PM | 9

Well, that was a joy to read - brilliant command of the situation in this report from b.

@james #8 - thanks for the poker analogy. I too am pleased whenever shady players are forced to show their hands, as is happening more and more lately. I'd been hunting for words to demonstrate how this is a good thing.

Posted by: Grieved | Jan 20, 2016 12:41:55 PM | 10

Thanks b,

I saw that Elijah J M piece reposted at ... Fort Russ I think ... and wonder if Iraq will ever trade its 'alliance' with the USA for a one with Russia. I wonder if the people running Iraq aren't like the person running Iraqi 'Kurdistan' ... mafia bosses. Certainly the Iraqi people of all persuasions must have had more than enough of the USA by now! I think there must be some sort of rapprochement among the Kurds and the Syrians/Iraqis/Iranians ... SII don't want to face facts, but they need to consider the alternative ... the Turks/USraelis perpetually playing the Kurdish card against them. They need to come to terms with the Kurds and together run the Turks/USrael out of their region.

The Israeli applause for a Kurdish or ISIS state within Syriaq is just the Yinon plan all over again, isn't it? As jo6pac says 'when no one is watching they go back to the old war'.

It must be the case that along with Turkey dreading 'a terrorist act in Antalya', as virgile points out, potential tourists dread one even more and are going to avoid it like the plague, regardless Erdogan's offer of a free trip to 'paradise' ... that's just what they'll dread most! Common sense says that Da'esh fleeing the Syrian-Russian offensive will crossover the only border open to them. I did see speculation that Da'esh will soon be in Jordan and Saudi Arabia as well. They are 'soldiers of fortune' and it makes little difference to them who they kill or where, their entire world is full of infidels wearing targets.

I imagine the Russians' use of Kamishly international will be a temporary operation, just until they can move into the abandoned US base at Remelan?

Posted by: jfl | Jan 20, 2016 12:46:46 PM | 11

But all those U.S. games are just short term thinking

yeah, really, and hindsight's a bitch, but humorous, too, like how harvard phd grand poohbah Brzezinski's seminal tome,The Grand Chessboard, lauded and fawned over by 'savvy' geopoliticians of all stripes, quoted and referenced ad nauseum for years on end by every neoliberal neocon annointed pinhead and pundit, turns out to be so much deluded blather.

Posted by: john | Jan 20, 2016 1:58:32 PM | 12

Is this the way it ends for Daesh? Nihilist acts of genocide and destruction?

As an Assyrian American this is especially painful

Posted by: Anunnaki | Jan 20, 2016 2:54:27 PM | 13


Iraqi leadership is probably aware enough to avoid jumping on Russia's sinking economic ship and will continue depending on Uncle Sugar and Europe for their survival while playing along with Russia to appease Iran. The latest estimate I read was that Russia will burn through the last of their reserves by the end of 2016 and if oil prices continue to fall possibly sooner. This does not paint a good picture for Russia's future and their long term, expensive commitment in Syria won't help.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 20, 2016 3:00:53 PM | 14

Syrian Government Delegation Meets With Kurds in Secret

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 20, 2016 3:03:32 PM | 15


The USA has compromised itself by allowing the KRG ( a Sunni US ally) to sell oil to Turkey (another Sunni US ally) by bypassing the central Shia Iraqi government.
Of course Iraqis will exploit the USA's guilt and fear of ISIS as much as they can but they will rely on Russia and Iran for all other diplomatic moves.
In Syria, Russia has shown that it is a reliable, military strong and loyal partner while the USA has shown it could dump its allies anytime depending on its internal politics. The GCC small countries are already looking for a new protector and Russia is on the front line.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 20, 2016 3:12:08 PM | 16

It's facinating how everyone is positioning ... I found Kurds being accused of war crimes, crimes of retribution, which might have been news until a google reveals these accusations have been ongoing for months...
The gang of 7 are "opening a new phase" which sounds like more "I'll believe it when I see it" bullying and threats to expand their bombing in Syria whether Assad likes it or not (can you say R2P?? I knew you could, now, can you say Madaya? ...

WAPO: The fight against the Islamic State just entered a new phase — and it could grow soon.

Best news item of the day was that the BBC was caught having used (apparently now scrubbed) very old (July 2014) footage to illustrate the starvation in Madaya ... oops.... suggesting further that they are just playing stenographers and reprinting somebody else's press releases ...
Fabrication in BBC Panorama 'Saving Syria’s Children'.

Apparently they're relying on people who are taking lessons from ISIS wrt recycling old media as new.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 20, 2016 3:22:35 PM | 17

The latest estimate I read was that Russia will burn through the last of their reserves by the end of 2016 and if oil prices continue to fall possibly sooner. This does not paint a good picture for Russia's future and their long term, expensive commitment in Syria won't help.

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Posted by: Stumpy Pepys | Jan 20, 2016 3:26:37 PM | 18

WW@14-this is good news brother. While we remain in suffering among the unclean, let us await the day when we dine on their little parts.

Posted by: Salafi stan | Jan 20, 2016 4:13:01 PM | 19

re 13

Is this the way it ends for Daesh? Nihilist acts of genocide and destruction?
Pity everybody forgets that the US army had already trashed the site of the monastery in 2003. Painted graffiti with the logo of the 101st Airborne all over the ancient murals. Nobody stopped them until a chaplain came along. And we're supposed to be shocked by what Da'ish did?

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 20, 2016 4:43:08 PM | 20

The analysis by b. is so good I have nothing to add. Though slightly off topic and sorry for this long post but I have been thinking how the Israelis are viewing events. To an extent, everything is going their way. Assad has been weakened, the Shia Middle East is being depopulated and some of the displaced populations have headed to Europe. Events in Cologne have lifted the veil on a serious wave of assaults on women from Austria to Finland perpetrated in the vast majority of cases by Muslims. More and more people are learning that the British police, social workers and journalists knew that underage girls (first Sikh, then white English) were being trapped into being sex slaves for Pakistani Muslims for nigh on twenty years but did nothing about it. The effect on the people of Europe of these assaults has been huge. One only needs to read the Guardian comments to see how far people are moving towards a hostile stance towards Islam and a clarifying of the meaning of being European: Equal rights for women, freedom of expression, etc. I include myself in this.

All this has the danger of playing into a pro-Israel narrative where poor old Israel has been fighting these barbarians for years and we have just not appreciated it. So it’s Europe + Israel versus Islam. The reality of course is the complete opposite.

Through their control of Wall Street and the City of London the Zionists have been extracting huge sums from companies globally by means of investment banking, private equity takeovers, hedge fund activism (Carl Icahn, for example) and the bullying of CEOs of public companies to produce the goods in the form of dividends or higher stock prices. To do that CEOs have had go into debt to fund stock buybacks or reduce staff levels to make their companies so lean they are anorexic.

Through their control of the political machinery and the media of leading Western countries, but especially the U.S., the Zionists have been able to direct NATO to bomb and destroy Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and attempt the overthrow of Assad.

While there is an inherent incompatibility between Islam and Europe it is merely a sideshow being elevated to the highest status while the devious power of the Zionists is so complex and so complete that few can understand or believe it.

Posted by: Lochearn | Jan 20, 2016 5:10:47 PM | 21

Iran hacked US GPS system

Posted by: meofios | Jan 20, 2016 5:33:45 PM | 22

@21 While there is an inherent incompatibility between Islam and Europe.

Islam has been present in Europe for more then a millenia. Clearly you need to revise adding fuel to this "inherent islamophobia" you so well try to denounce..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 20, 2016 5:53:47 PM | 23

Islam had a few centuries in Spain but not a millenia. Thank God for that. I think what I'm trying to say is I dislike both Islam and Judaism.

Posted by: Lochearn | Jan 20, 2016 6:08:25 PM | 24

I don't think it is petty to point out because it shows their mindset: the wording todays "journalists" use is enough to turn ones stomach. "A string of humiliating set backs", writes the stenographer at the LA Times. He gets his wording straight from the source, no doubt, so we can be assured that for those in charge of the USA, smugly safe on the Potomac 5000 miles from the fighting, see the murder and mayhem going on in Syria not in terms of the life and death of the Syrian people (whom they laughingly feign interest in) but as a chance for "humiliation" of their foes. One wonders how much of a chuckle they got out of "humiliating" Assad with the recent murder of 300 civillians in Deir e Zor? One has to push one jaw back into place to see the Guardian describe the event first as a quote-unquote "'massacre'" while then going on and repeating uncritically the news that lovable ISIS has "freed" them one day later.

The USA needs to be removed from the Middle East, and its settler partner needs to be pushed back within its legal boundaries (if anyone can find them anymore) and forced into peace and have its nuclear weapons taken away. This will only be possible with the fall of the Saudi clan and their totalitarian grip on the people of Arabia.

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 20, 2016 6:19:42 PM | 25

Wayout West @ 14:

" ... The latest estimate I read was that Russia will burn through the last of their reserves by the end of 2016 and if oil prices continue to fall possibly sooner. This does not paint a good picture for Russia's future and their long term, expensive commitment in Syria won't help."

Could you provide a link or links to this information? How is Russia's commitment "long term" and "expensive" given that it is limited to airstrikes and providing humanitarian aid at present?

Posted by: Jen | Jan 20, 2016 6:19:51 PM | 26

@26 Its no surprise, Way Out West surely read that tidbit in the latest issue of ISIS glossy news rag, right between the article about how to kill your neighbors with a tin can and some firecrackers and the tortured slave girl centerfold.

He can't provide you the page number sadly, as he's somehow gone and got them all stuck together... a mystery, that one.

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 20, 2016 6:23:53 PM | 27

"Peace talks in Geneva, they now argue, can not take place because the Syrian government is winning." -- yeah, sure, how about just after Poroshenko's peace talks in Geneva with the Donbas 'rebels'?

Posted by: doveman | Jan 20, 2016 6:28:41 PM | 28

@4 - "And they never say they're sorry. They just go on to the next war."

Just unregulated exceptionalist business activities in a military-industrial-congressional complex at work -- as they say: "It's the (political) economy, stupid."

Posted by: doveman | Jan 20, 2016 6:34:23 PM | 29

Lochearn @ 23:

Islam had about 700 years in Spain before Muslim rulers were ousted by the joint Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella once and for all in the late 1400s. Islam also had a couple hundred years in Sicily and southern Italy before these areas were conquered by Norman kings who then presided over societies in which Christians, Muslim and Jews coexisted together.

The Muslim rulers of Spain and Sicily were certainly not perfect and used Jewish advisors and merchants as intermediaries to limit their own contacts with Christians. The value of Muslim kingdoms in southern Europe was that they encouraged trade between Europe and North Africa / western Asia, and the transmission of knowledge and culture between these areas.

I would leave it to Spaniards themselves to decide whether Islamic rule of Spain compares well or badly with what followed after the reunification of Spain under the Catholic monarchs. Don't forget that the Inquisition was installed in Spain after reunification to ensure among other things that Jews and Muslims remaining in Spain would convert to Christianity and stay Christian.

Posted by: Jen | Jan 20, 2016 6:39:16 PM | 30

Laguerre @ # 20

To All Department Heads.

Damn - thought that embarrassing little 101st story had been well & truly "memory -holed". At least the B.B.C. is towing the party line. It would've been extreeemly difficult to get the OK to cruise missile/truck bomb the Beeb's HQ & to have a semi believable cover story. Not that that has ever stopped us before.

Do we have any intel on this "b" person & his followers?? Please advise.

Message Ends.

Posted by: Anonymus Pentagoon Censorer | Jan 20, 2016 6:41:51 PM | 31

I speak fluent Spanish and I have translated oh so many books that glorified the relations between Moslems and Spain. It sounded sugary and too good to be true. This whole era has to be investigated properly. For example, there were a lot of black slaves and white slaves in Moslem Spain that are never talked about in the "perfect narrative."

Posted by: Lochearn | Jan 20, 2016 7:04:28 PM | 32

knight to king-4
according to the BBC, the "rebels" in Syria have named a "Saudi backed Islamist" as their chief negotiator who is "head" of a fighting force ... with some anticipation/expectation that the Assad regime will refuse to negotiate with him.

bbc: Syria conflict: Islamist rebel named opposition chief negotiator

A Syrian opposition committee has named an Islamist rebel as its chief negotiator at peace talks that the UN hopes to convene in Geneva on Monday. Mohammed Alloush is the political leader of the powerful, Saudi-backed group Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam). Both the Syrian government and its staunch ally, Russia, consider Jaysh al-Islam a terrorist organisation. The opposition committee also warned that it would pull out of the talks if a third party was invited to attend. Russia wants opposition groups tolerated by President Bashar al-Assad to participate in the negotiations on a political solution to the conflict in Syria, which has left more than 250,000 people dead since 2011. Kurdish groups, which control large parts of the north, also want to attend.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 20, 2016 7:08:26 PM | 33

@24 Right. So Bosnia, Albania, Bulgaria, heck the whole Balkans are not part of Europe, my bad. Lets continue derailing this discussion for the greater good of MoA's readers because you "dont like Islam" shall we?
Or rather, lets not..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 20, 2016 7:20:30 PM | 34

For those who selected a couple of religions to say they don't like:

I don't like any religions. I think Dawkins goes a bit too far ... but the bottom line is that if you pay close attention to atrocities, generally they are all done in the name of religion. May I say: especially christians?

This is NOT off topic ... it is the source of all topics regarding stupidity and US foreign policy ...
the city on the hill.

Posted by: Rg an LG | Jan 20, 2016 8:48:09 PM | 35

@24 Lochearn : 'I dislike both Islam and Judaism'

Gottcha. IDBIAJ. Maybe a little stronger than 'dislike'? At least you're right up front, and an amateur, not a professional. I suppose.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 20, 2016 8:55:13 PM | 36

@35 Rg 'generally they are all done in the name of religion'

Patriotism and racism are both right up their as grantors of license to kill, rape, maim. I view them all as facets of the same syndrome, call it racism ... there is only a human race, but we humans use various human attributes to identify the 'inhuman' other, to license ourselves to kill. This is genetic, as far as I can see ... [speculation] during early human pogroms those not possessing this ability to 'clump' were all slaughtered by those who did, apparently ... viz elks clubs, the mason, football teams, ... It will take many more millennia - after we've managed to cut down the slaughter - for the 'clump' gene to become less universally spread. [end speculation] I made all that up ... but it's an interesting perspective. And this is all way off topic ...

What about the Qatari-Putin sit down? What do you think happened there?

Posted by: jfl | Jan 20, 2016 9:10:17 PM | 37


The story about Russia's economy was at and Putin mentioned last year that they had sufficient fund to weather a two year long crisis but oil prices may remain depressed for much longer than expected as the world economy shrinks into recession.

The costs for arms, aid and bombing by Russia in Syria can be covered indefinitely but it is expensive and draining on their rapidly shrinking military budget.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 20, 2016 9:43:41 PM | 38

@ Lochearn: While I agree that the period of La Convivencia should be investigated properly so that we get a better understanding of how people of three Abrahamic religions really did coexist for 700 years and not be blinded by utopian and dystopian extremes, the investigation should not be done with a view to proving one's prejudices about two of these religions in particular.

The fact is that there were periods during Spain's Islamic phase when Muslim rulers were tolerant of non-Muslims and other periods when they weren't. Even when they weren't, they still depended on non-Muslims to pay the jizyah taxes, so any antagonism could only go so far. Also Muslim Spain wasn't a monolithic state that stayed the same, Ottoman-style, for several hundred years: over 700 years there were at least three Muslim dynasties that ruled Spain, and in-between those dynasties and the Reconquista, there were at least three periods when Muslim Spain was ruled by independent principalities or emirates, some of which amounted to nothing more than city states.

So an investigation of how La Convivencia actually turned out for most people (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) is likely to find a huge number of differences in the way Muslim rulers in Spain treated their subjects over those 700 years. There may have been class differences involved as well in how Muslim rulers treated their subjects.

Posted by: Jen | Jan 20, 2016 9:59:19 PM | 39

@15 virgile @33 Suzy

Looks as though the meeting in Vienna won't take place? Or that the Kurds, other forces Syria approves, together with the Saudis' terrorists are all seated?

It is still the case that the elected government of Syria is not a party to these talks, right?

The war continues ... time is on the Syrian/Russian side, isn't it?

Will the Syrians eliminate those Turkish armor units that invaded? or let them establish a base in on Syrian soil to balance the one in Iraq? Better to quote Erdogan on the sanctity of borders and eliminate them immediately, I'd think, but I'm sure the Syrians will confer with Russia rather than myself on their best option.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 20, 2016 10:07:46 PM | 40

(If) 'those Turkish armor units' have not yet invaded ... good opportunity to 'splain to Erdogan what will happen if they do, isn't it?

Posted by: jfl | Jan 20, 2016 10:27:52 PM | 41


You swallowed that BS story about Turkey invading Syria, the latest of many, just like a dog feasts on fresh cow manure with the same pathetic looking results.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 20, 2016 10:30:03 PM | 42

friend@42-calm yourself brother, when the day comes we will dine on this infidels kidneys like they were from greys papaya. On to Aleppo!

Posted by: Salami stan | Jan 20, 2016 11:13:18 PM | 43

Further weight is added to b's "Preliminary Endgame"assessment by Xi's conveniently timed visit to Saudi Barbaria, Egypt and Iran, none of whom could be described as disinterested observers of AmeriKKKa's Syria SNAFU. CCTV English NewsDesk Jan 21, Midnight AM, has video of the Saudi King endorsing the UN principle of "national sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of other states".

I'm not sure what the King thought he was saying, but I've no doubt that China (and Russia) have formed a very clear interpretation and won't wait long before "sending his words back to haunt him" (and jog his memory).

There's a link on CCTV's website but it wouldn't open and I don't post links I haven't checked and verified. I'll try later.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 20, 2016 11:45:07 PM | 44

Wayout West @ 38: I see the Editor used to work for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and that the Deputy Editor used to work for an unnamed Washington think-tank. Interesting information to know.

Posted by: Jen | Jan 21, 2016 12:05:44 AM | 45

@43 - that's funny!

@45 jen... another propaganda site wow will inevitably quote from as a propaganda is too rich for the wow brained one..

Posted by: james | Jan 21, 2016 12:59:42 AM | 46

Rumors of the death of the Russian economy are greatly exaggerated. And there aren't many people more capable than Jon Hellevig, using Awara Group findings, to detail precisely why: German Gref is So Wrong on Russian Economy

And b himself among many others has reported how the cost of Syria is essentially nil for the Russian budget. As the US has very formally acknowledged, Russia could keep this up for years without strain.

We know all this of course, and all the rest. High five to Salafi Stan Salami, the great, uhm, reductio

Posted by: Grieved | Jan 21, 2016 1:04:27 AM | 47

Wayoutwest @38.

Is Russia dependent on imports to build their machines? Do they need food from outside? Is there some necessary technology that they cannot master? All the minerals they need are found within their borders. They are a pretty self-sufficient country. Your analysis might work for a country like Burundi. But the Russians can do everything themselves. They don't need to buy anything if it comes to that.

Posted by: Ivan | Jan 21, 2016 2:27:30 AM | 48

Posted by: jfl | Jan 20, 2016 10:07:46 PM | 40

The "snag" wrt the Syrian peace talks is that Syria (and I believe Iran) has agreed to talk with the "opposition" but not with "terrorists" ... the coalition set up by the Saudis at the conference in early December includes the guy/group mentioned above (which Assad considered a terrorist force) and 2 individuals Iran considers members of Al-Qaeda


Before leaving Washington on Tuesday, Mr Kirby had meanwhile acknowledged that "there is still quite a bit of work that needs to be done to get the meeting to occur" between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and representatives of the opposition.

But disagreement over who will represent the opposition has cast doubt over whether the UN-brokered talks will begin on schedule.


Iran's foreign minister said on Wednesday it was up to the U.N. to decide who represents the opposition, but he said that 10 delegates at a recent opposition gathering in Saudi Arabia were members of al Qaeda - one of three groups he said must be barred.
A Syrian opposition council backed by Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it will not attend the negotiations in Geneva with the government if a third group takes part, a reference to a Russian bid to widen the opposition team.



and, of course, Turkey is objecting to the SYRIAN Kurds being allowed to attend the SYRIAN peace conference ...

On Wednesday British media referenced Davutoğlu, who paid a visit to the UK on Jan. 18 and 19, as saying that the PYD represented a “direct threat to Turkey” and cannot attend the peace talks in Syria, originally planned to be held on Jan. 25. Arbil-based BasNews reported on Monday that officials from the Syrian government and the PYD met in Kamışlı province in northern Iraq. According to the report, the Syrian regime was in favor of the PYD's participation in the UN-brokered peace talks and discussed the issue with Kurdish officials.


I'd hate to cater this conference ....

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 21, 2016 2:36:53 AM | 49

Re: Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 20, 2016 11:45:07 PM | 44
Saudi King waxes eloquent about non-intervention during Xi's visit (at 00:03:25).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 21, 2016 4:05:07 AM | 50

@ Ivan | Jan 21, 2016 2:27:30 AM | 48

All those things you mention are from a top secret file - REALITY - that has not been discovered by WoW. WoW considers that file a conspiracy theory to confound himself into complete confusion, e.g. UP is Down and Down is in Northern Ireland. Please consider feeding information about REALITY to WoW in very, very small pieces, otherwise it upsets him considerably.

Posted by: Formerly T-Bear | Jan 21, 2016 4:12:05 AM | 51

@Nana2007 aka "Salafi stan" aka "Salami stan"

Stick to one name here or you will be banned.

Posted by: b | Jan 21, 2016 5:08:00 AM | 52

Seymour Hersh, one of the best-known U.S. investigative journalists and one most likely to understand the inner workings of the U.S. government answers "I HAVE NO IDEA!" What the fuck!!!!

Seymour Hersh says US Military Officials Have Great Respect for Russian Achievements in Syria

Quote: "Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten: Why did Obama fail to understand this situation?
Seymour Hersh: I have no clue. It is really strange"

Quote 2: "U.S. military officials opposed the planned destruction of Syria. But Obama ignored their advice. What was the reason for that?
Seymour Hersh: To be honest, I have no idea."

Quote 3: "Our government was warned that overthrowing Assad would be totally crazy – the consequence would be a radical Islamist regime. The U.S. military also cautioned Obama against Turkish president Erdogan. I am really astonished and wonder how White House policy can show this degree of inconsistency."

Quote 4: "I cannot understand why Obama took up this strange anti-Russian stance."

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Jan 21, 2016 5:34:23 AM | 53

@53 PK

I think the answer to all those questions is that Obama is the creature of the CIA, the only explanation for his irrational behavior. The CIA lives in the mind of the clan of Langley cave, their goals are defined top-down, no questioning tolerated, the man on top of the dynasty - consulting by seance the spirits of his progenitors - rules.

They are not reality driven at the CIA, they are tradition driven - such as it is, all 68 years - like a fraternity run amuk. Obama has looked up to John Brennan as his North Star since the day he took office. Amid all the windbags blowing this way and that he's followed the CIA conception of the world, and we're at the edge of that flat world now.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 21, 2016 6:49:33 AM | 54

“Staggering” violence in Iraq: The legacy of US war and occupation

Describing current levels of killing and mayhem in Iraq as “staggering” and “obscene,” two United Nations agencies released a report Tuesday that recorded at least 55,047 civilian casualties between January 1, 2014 and October 31, 2015. The total included at least 18,802 civilians killed and another 36,245 wounded.

The report added that over roughly the same period, a total of 3,206,736 civilians, including over 1 million school-age children, have been driven from their homes by the violence.

What have the Iraqis left to lose? Surely they will throw over the USA for Russia, if first they can throw over the vicious clowns ruling them in collusion with the USA.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 21, 2016 6:53:31 AM | 55

Saudi Arabia, furious at the killing of Zahran Alloush, their favorite, have nominated another Alloush as a chief negotiator.
Little is known about this guy other than he is an Islamist leader. If he is aiming at a Islamic caliphate in Syria then he contravenes what the US and Russia as well as the UN have agreed upon: That Syria will remain democratic and non-Islamist. This will become immediately apparent during the negotiations and will cause its interruption and postponement.
Thus this nomination appears as provocation meant to disrupt the process as Saudi Arabia estimates that by its recent military victories, the Syrian government is in a position of strength and will dominate the negotiations.
I believe the conference will take place but if Alloush insists on an Islamist Syria then it will be interrupted and the rebels will be asked to nominate another negotiator before it resumes.

Posted by: virgile | Jan 21, 2016 7:37:51 AM | 56


I think the actual loss in I$I$ payroll is more like -32%, because the U$ only blew up $37,864,834 of their 'cash reserves' in those two 'warehouses', and we know that because ... oh, look, a м'який притон!!

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 21, 2016 8:16:49 AM | 57

@Petri Krohn 53

Maybe because everyone is listening to these guys:

January 20, 2016
Middle East Strategy

Former Army Vice Chief of Staff General John Keane, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, and former Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon testified at a hearing on U.S. Middle East strategy.

After the hearing, McCain snubbed Philip Gordon and refused to shake his hand because he was the only one not gun ho over destroying the Assad regime.

Keane sounds like he wanted back in the fight and had all the answers.

Posted by: shadyl | Jan 21, 2016 8:26:58 AM | 58

@petri krohn 53 thats the unfortunate thing for Barry. because he was a nobody in the democratic party and picked because he looked and sounded good to blocs of the american electorate, he had no power and still hasn't so he is buffetted around like a cork like in an Atlantic storm.

Posted by: heath | Jan 21, 2016 8:28:55 AM | 59


It's called 'redirected energy' or 'controlled narrative', or 'prestidigitation'. Hersch is a Mossad disinformation asset. He takes all the collective evidence of CIA-MOS-KSA high war crimes and genocide, and recasts them as, 'Why didn't the Tar Baby in Chief foresee these outcomes in his (sic) strategy?' Then he answers, soto voce, parenthetically, 'I have no idea, the CIA-MOS-KSA advised him against (sic) it.'

He is rewriting history live in the media, because they want the sheeple to play pin the tail on Obama and Putin, even as Trump and Clinton are being groomed as thr next bobble-head. And you are freely respamming that disinformation as his 'useful idiot'.

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 21, 2016 8:31:12 AM | 60


Russian Ruble in Free Fall

“It’s falling faster than any other currency as we see panic selling in the ruble after it breached the 80 per USD level. Some investors are selling at any price,”

BRIC is dead! Long live BRIC!

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 21, 2016 8:42:57 AM | 61

60;Well they tried to pin the tail on Putin,but ended up hitting their own credibility;Putin probably poisoned Litivenko,British judge rules!

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 21, 2016 9:58:02 AM | 62

Another revelation from the yuppie scum;Man fought each other before agriculture.Sheesh,they never saw 2001,apes fighting over the waterhole?

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 21, 2016 10:00:55 AM | 63

@"Some Guy" aka "Penguin" aka "The Man With No Name" aka "Ima Monkey" aka "Wazzadoodness" aka "Stumpy Pepys" aka ...

You are banned.

Posted by: b | Jan 21, 2016 10:48:03 AM | 64

If I had a spare buck I'd buy a ruble right now and go long.

Posted by: yellowsnapdragon | Jan 21, 2016 10:55:40 AM | 65


You should check your facts more closely before you comment. Russia's largest import is 'machines' followed by electronics and vehicles. Their imports are down dramatically but still were $164Billion last year and developing local replacement production is not easy or cheap.

The Ruble is crashing again and austerity is being imposed with an across the board 10% cut to government agencies even with the spending down of their reserve funds. Their oil/gas is worth 75% less than a year ago and the world economy is headed for recession or worse so I doubt their becoming more like North Korea will help their prospects.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 21, 2016 11:06:04 AM | 66

@WoW - trolling with lies is dumb. Why not learn some facts and troll with those?

An economy in recession, a currency in free-fall, and a stock market that is bleeding value: that sounds an awful lot like a financial crisis. Maybe the whole rotten structure of Putinist economics is about to come crashing down? ... Well Russia’s Central Bank was bleeding reserves at an enormously quick pace as 2014 came to an end. However, this bleeding has been staunched: over the past year, reserves have stabilized at around $370 billion. ... this level of reserves also appears to be sufficient to avoid any balance of payments crisis. Russia’s current FX reserves are, depending on your assumptions, somewhere between 18 and 22 months worth of “import coverage,” substantially more than the (highly unscientific!) six month threshold that is usually considered the minimum level necessary for macroeconomic stability. ... Another potential risk facing Russia is foreign currency debt. The Russian government is, famously, one of the least leveraged anywhere in the world. The Russian corporate sector, on the other hand, had some rather significant exposure to loans in foreign currencies, mostly US Dollars and Euros. ... So what has happened to the foreign currency debt exposure of the Russian corporate sector? Here, courtesy of the Russian Central Bank, is what has happened since 2008: notice the significant de-leveraging that started in March 2014: [graph]

So, in early 2016, Russia is in a situation in which its foreign currency reserves are stable at a reasonable (if not high) level and in which its corporate sector has already undertaken a significant (if not full-scale) de-leveraging. That does not sound, to me, like a country which is on the verge of collapse.

Posted by: b | Jan 21, 2016 11:52:48 AM | 67

I wonder if Wayoutwest is self-aware enough to be embarrassed by getting smacked down by the host? Probably not because he's most likely well aware that his job here is to lie and muddy the waters, not speak the truth.

Posted by: Bruno Marz | Jan 21, 2016 11:55:55 AM | 68

@68 bruno... hard to know whether wow is almost brain dead, or very poor at deceiving others.. if he is being paid for obfuscation, the folks paying him are being ripped off!

Posted by: james | Jan 21, 2016 12:30:49 PM | 69


I don't think you will find the word 'collapse' in any of my comments about Russia but that doesn't mean that they are not in a severe financial crisis especially the government. The government revenues are down about 30% just from the crash of oil prices and probably more due to their shrinking private sector revenues.

I don't read Forbes or other bean counters but de-leveraging could mean they have paid off foreign loans but also mean that no new loans were secured so their industries don't have financing to modernize, expand or improve their position. With recession, higher prices, lower consumption and government austerity the crisis will continue.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 21, 2016 12:43:18 PM | 70

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 20, 2016 3:00:53 PM | 14

I don't think you will find the word 'collapse' in any of my comments about Russia but that doesn't mean that they are not in a severe financial crisis especially the government. The government revenues are down about 30% just from the crash of oil prices and probably more due to their shrinking private sector revenues.

While you may not have used the word "collapse", the meaning of your comment clearly indicates the same.

Iraqi leadership is probably aware enough to avoid jumping on Russia's sinking economic ship and will continue depending on Uncle Sugar and Europe for their survival while playing along with Russia to appease Iran. The latest estimate I read was that Russia will burn through the last of their reserves by the end of 2016 and if oil prices continue to fall possibly sooner. This does not paint a good picture for Russia's future and their long term, expensive commitment in Syria won't help.

It's kind of sad that you need to resort to semantics to dodge responsibility for the tripe you excrete around here, but your entire existence is pretty sad.

Posted by: Bruno Marz | Jan 21, 2016 1:15:08 PM | 71

b @ 67 --

Given this analysis by ZeroHedge via Russia Insider, I do not see the position that Wayoutwest advanced as "lies."

As Durden notes, the oil price drop and Western sanctions put the Russian Federation "under immense pressure...." The Saudi execution of the prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr added further to the fires burning in Yemen, marking a "nasty turn for the worst" in geopolitics. With the increased Russian involvement in Syria, "Russia is now inextricably bound up in the melee."

And of course, the Federation like the rest of the world will feel the impact of the slowing global economy. Durden notes that the IMF has recently reduced its estimates of global economic activity. Bloomberg reports that both the ECB and the Fed are considering measures in response.

Durden discusses the uncertainties of the Central Bank's response. A rate hike would be politically difficult, stimulus or intervention in the Forex markets possible, though the later seems to be the least preferred option, given the desire to hold onto valiuta.

Durden concludes thusly:

Russian central bank Deputy Chairman Vasily Pozdyshev isn’t concerned. “There’s no systemic risk,” he told Rossiya 24 TV on Thursday.

Maybe not, but if the RUB stays in the mid-80s, inflation will likely be running at 8% or more by year end and you're reminded that Russia's 3% budget deficit target assumes $50 per barrel crude. If prices remain below $30, the Russian economy could contract by 5% or more this year and the deficit could balloon by at least 1.4%.

Wayout is perhaps exaggerating the difficulties and definitely overestimating the popular discontent this could cause. As many commentators here have noted regularly, the Russian state and population certainly seem to fully understand that Putin's government it standing up for Russian interests. They are continuing the Russian tradition of stoic resistance and endurance, and I see this as unlikely to change.

Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 21, 2016 1:37:25 PM | 72

Maybe Russia should just take Saudi Arabia's oil facilities offline for a few years. Nothing a few well-placed Kaliber missiles couldn't accomplish, I imagine. Pretty much every oil producing nation in the world would celebrate the move, despite any hollow protestations to the contrary.

Posted by: Bruno Marz | Jan 21, 2016 1:51:46 PM | 73

@ Bruno Marz | Jan 21, 2016 1:15:08 PM | 71

If this site didn't have a Wayoutwest it would probably have to invent one. Since WoW is the genuine article, consider how difficult it would be to achieve that level of authenticity. The Second World War had its SadSack, the Korean Police had its Beetle Bailey, Vietnam had their Mash, and now the MENA has its Wayoutwest. Every measure has its beginning and WoW fills that post admirably if not dependably, an opinion for all things against which all other opinion can be measured for fidelity to fact (or fiction). With practice, WoW will likely find some level or position with hasbara, his aptitude shows great promise for such work once the rough edges are smoothed by the abrasion he causes himself. Otherwise the likely career path is the less remunerative but equally satisfying troll under the bridge station in life. The smiles WoW will bring countless others - priceless.

Posted by: Formerly T-Bear | Jan 21, 2016 1:57:36 PM | 74

rm @ 72:"They are continuing the Russian tradition of stoic resistance and endurance, and I see this as unlikely to change."

And many around the globe, are thankful for their resistance and hope for their continued endurance.

Posted by: ben | Jan 21, 2016 3:35:38 PM | 75


You may imagine you have me pegged and pigeonholed but you are FOS, as you often are. When you huddle with mouth breathers such as Marz who are begging for WW3 to make themselves feel important I wonder about your sanity.

Reality is a bitch and the reality of Russia's situation is not good, that's all I'm saying although I am pissed at Putin for joining in the murder of Muslims in Syria to save his little naval base.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 21, 2016 4:06:45 PM | 76

I have no doubt but that a good part of the run on the ruble has been engineered by the USG. The shakiness of the global economic house of cards makes this an ideal time to attempt to sow panic in the "free" markets. When the the collapse comes it won't be paper that's of value but stuff, the stuff that enables life, and the ability or populations to cohere and survive. Russia is in good shape on both those counts. On the other hand ... take a look at Michigan.

The USG remains the sower of death, devastation, destruction, and deceit, nonpareil. Those are not winning qualities.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 21, 2016 5:10:18 PM | 77

I disagree only with a small part of the story.

- Agree. The US is trying to spin it in such a way that it will hide their own thoughts and miscalculations. But the US was very wise to NOT have intervened in Syria or in Iraq. If they would have done so then the US would have been forced to step on "too many sensitive toes" in the Middle East.
Although the russian victories in Syria could provide the war Hawks in the US with enough reasons for a future intervention in the Middle East.

- Where I disagree is that even the russians are unable to secure a long lasting & stable future for the Middle East. If the Middle East wants to have a stable fufure then all parties (in the Middle East (incl. the US & Russia)) must negiotiate a peaceful settlement between all the factions/parties/countries in the region.

And too many of the important parties/countries are still too convinced they can turn the situation in the Middle East "in their own direction" / "to their own advantage" without having taking into account the interests of other parties. The US & Russia can help to stabilize the situation in the Middle East but not FORCE a lasting peaceful solution.

One development that's going to dominate future events in the Middle East is the catastrophic demographic situation. In the last say 50 to 60 years the amount people living in the Middle East has risen sharply. And that/those demographic time bomb(s) will continue to cause a series of detonations that will/could crumble the existing Middle East more and more. (See e.g. Gwynne Dyer).

Keep in mind: I use the words "Middle East" and NOT "Arabic World". That means that I expect Israel to a be source of more (future) "Demographic Instability" as well. And in Israel the same demographic time bomb is ticking as well. In that regard is Israel has become an intregal part of that same Middle East.

No, any (relative) peace in the Middle East only can be temporary one.

But with the oil being so low, that could FORCE a number of countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, ...... ) to abandon their aggressive plans to increase their influence in the Middle East. But that also could create a situation and room for a second ISIS state. I wouldn't rule out the emergence of a second ISIS-like state (when/if oil prices remain low ??).

Posted by: Willy2 | Jan 21, 2016 7:15:44 PM | 78

Ruble Pain: Russians With Consumer Debt Denominated in $ Are Freaking Out

These people (some few hundred, 2000?) seem really to be taking it in the neck. Taking out dollar denominated mortgages in Russia?

I guess they won't do that anymore.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 21, 2016 7:26:43 PM | 79

Syria peace talks on point of collapse over Kurds

Michael Stephens, who is monitoring the “peace process” for the Royal United Services Institute, said that not being at the talks was to an extent beneficial for the Kurds too, who were creating “facts on the ground” as they carve out autonomous territory between the regime, Isil and non-Isil rebels.

He also said that by taking a hardline position Saudi Arabia and Turkey were both standing in the way of their allies in the West, who were committed to supporting both the rebels against the regime and the Kurds against Isil.

“They [the Kurds] have Russian political backing and American political backing,” he said. “They are in a strong position.”

On the pending Turkish invasion of Syria? ...

Syria crisis: Peace talks loom, but the warmongers won’t be at the table

Turkish policy towards Syria has been one miscalculation after another since the Syrian uprising began five years ago. ... Turkey is deeply alarmed by the rise of a militarily strong Kurdish quasi-state running along its southern flank in de facto alliance with the US and Russia. ... The problem for Turkey and the Sunni powers is that they now have to raise their stakes in Syria if they want to stay in the game. ... Turkey is getting close to the point where it has to become militarily engaged in the war for northern Syria or become a marginal player. The sealing of the Turkish border by Syrian Kurds and a Russian-backed Syrian army would be a body blow to all the other anti-Assad forces in Syria from which it would be difficult for them to recover.

'Facts' on the ground ...

International Military Review Syria - Jan 21, 2016: Turkey Prepares Invasion

'Facts' implanted in our minds ...

Turkish Forces Enter Syria — How Will Russia Respond?

According to Stratfor sources, Russia and the United States have discussed the plan, and Russia has agreed not to obstruct Turkey's efforts so long as Ankara does not try to expand the buffer zone to the Mediterranean Sea — a stipulation Turkey has reportedly acquiesced to. Our sources also said liaison officers from Turkey, Russia and the United States will coordinate with one another to prevent cases of accidental fire or, in the event that they do occur, to avoid any escalation between Turkish and Russian forces.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 21, 2016 7:43:34 PM | 80

@80 yup typical think tank disinfo/misdirect/redirect.. I dont believe it one bit, the Bear has been adamant about Syrian territorial integrity. Some twitter chatter about S300's deployed to Kuweires AB..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 21, 2016 8:00:04 PM | 81

This is really an excellent commentary on the situation in Syria. Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Milbrandt | Jan 21, 2016 8:11:39 PM | 82

Turks in Jarabalus? Maybe, but there seems to be no real evidence for this.

The underlying source would seem to be the Kurdish Hawar News Agency. When Lozion first reported this on the open thread, I made some inquiries. I found it suspicious that Lozion's source, ANF News, provided no links to its source, Hawar. When I searched the site yesterday, I found nothing. But redoing the search today produced this. But it merely cites its own reporters "local sources."

As late as Nov. 2015, PM Ahmet Davutoglu averred that while Turkey might consider introducing ground troops into the fight with ISIL, it would not do so outside of coalition. "Without support from the UN Security Council or NATO, Turkish ground action in Syria is unlikely," writes Martel, citing reportage in the Turkish press.

Surprisingly, this is not the first time Kurdish and Iranian sources have asserted a Turkish invasion via Jarabulus; see this item from 2012. A comment there links to a further analysis by MK Bhadrakumar. He notes severe problems in the military (caused in part by Erdogan's prosecutions of senior military officers for "coups"). And apparently, Erdogan would need parliamentary approval to deploy the troops in Syria.

This report from the pro-Erodgan Daily Sabah indicates that various opposition groups, including Ankara's proxies, the Turkmen Sultan Murad Brigade, are operating along "an 80-kilometer line around Jarabulus" with active artillery support from the Turkish side of the border. This was openly acknowledged by Davutoglu, who said they had shelled ISIL positions for 48 hrs., producing some 200 casualties. They quote a Brigade commander as saying the jihadis fear "a possible Turkish intervention in the region..." and a preparing their own counterattack on Azaz, which the "moderates" control.

Given that the Brigade is supplied with Turkish equipment, one can see why its forces might be mistaken for the Turkish Army.

Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 21, 2016 9:42:16 PM | 83

Oops, bad link for the Nov. 2015 article by Martel.

Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 21, 2016 11:21:19 PM | 84

@83/84 Rufus, southfront dot org also reports Turkish preparations for invasion from Jarabulus but its unclear if this is an echo chamber effect or from different sources. See here:

I wish PavewayIV could contribute his insight on the matter..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 21, 2016 11:47:05 PM | 85

Lozion at 85 --

I saw that Southfront and the Donbass News Agency both carried reports. But they seem to be drawing from the same source base.

HuffPost has this, author asserts Russia and the U.S. have approved the incursion, and states that "mounting evidence that Turkish military forces may be readying a ground offensive into Syria." But he provides no refs., esp. for the Russian/US approval. He notes that the operation, if it's on or contemplated, is more likely directed vs. the Kurds than ISIL.

I don't think Russia would want to see Turkey seizing any Syrian territory for any reason, and I don't think the US would so openly do the Kurds like that. The DNA report also discusses US improvements to a base in Kurdish-controlled NE Syria.

Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 22, 2016 7:36:53 AM | 86

Concerning Russian economy, obviously it took a hit, but Putin has authority, boldness and resources to prevent collapse. Before the latest dive of oil Russia already slashed imports by half and the central bank does not waste currency reserves trying to prop the rubble. Non-oil economy presents a mixed picture, with some sectors being hit and some actually experiencing growth. Importantly, the policies defend employment while allowing wages to erode, which is a better choice for social cohesiveness.

This is not the first period of low oil prices. The picture is actually more worrisome for KSA. The kingdom has much larger financial reserves, but very small capabilities to substitute imports with domestic production and to boost non-oil exports. Compare with Russia where producers of aluminum were actually loosing money because of Chinese competition but now their costs, largely hydro electricity with ruble prices, are much lower than in China (which relies on insanely cheap coal which is nevertheless priced in renminbi). And aluminum is but one of many products that Russia can exports.

And when it comes to war, Russian Federation produces its own arms with small foreign input while KSA buys weapons at hugely inflated prices. It is even possible that RF will break even because of increased weapon sales.

The biggest mystery of Russian economy, to me, is the persistence of trade surplus. I think that the private sector has more financial reserves than visible, meaning that it will avoid a fire sale of "family jewels", while holders of Euro denominated mortgages may indeed suffer.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 22, 2016 7:59:06 AM | 87

Interesting news about Qamishli. This is a city in Jazira = Cisire province that is in the Kurdish "Hasaka Canton" but (a) has large Assyrian minority with its own militia (b) is next to a large "SAA enclave". This enclave has an airport, apparently having a two mile long runway, good enough for strategic bombers and huge air transport planes. Russian currently are inspecting the airports with an eye of bringing it to operation. I guess the runway would have to be refurbished and various storage facilities and bunkers would be added. This will have huge strategic impact.

Syrian Kurds can potentially patch their relationship with the government, they never closed the opportunity, as we can see from the existence of three enclaves. Their record of interacting with non-Kurds is mixed, but they should be open to positive influence. Now Russian will be in the position of giving them weapons directly, and the same holds for the allied militias. A closer cooperation with YPG is a necessary element of the end game. Turkey can be intimidated enough not to pass anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels but this is about it, they supply everything else. However, if the Kurds and Syrian government cooperate, columns of government and Kurdish soldiers will meet in the intended "no-fly zone", somewhere between Kuiweres and Euphrates, and a similar junction will be made between Aleppo and Afrin.

American will probably wish to prevent such cooperation by offering their own supplies, but I doubt if the Kurds share American goal of having the war going on forever.

Thus in few months ISIS and the rebels of "Idlibstan" will be having much fewer weapons. Without armored vehicles and TOWs their effectiveness will drop a lot while even now they are gradually loosing the ground.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 22, 2016 8:18:23 AM | 88

re 88 Piotr Berman

There's no way that the Syrian Kurds would want to break with Asad. They understand perfectly well that their territory is non-viable for independence, and that they will have to make a deal to get autonomy.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 22, 2016 8:25:32 AM | 89


A more appropriate country's economy to compare Russia with is Mexico with the same GDP and similar population and GDP per capita. The KSA has more than twice the GDP per capita and is liberalizing their economy inviting foreign investment to counter the newly opened Iran.

Mexico might offer Russia examples of what to make that the world wants besides oil, timber and weapons. Mexico produces world class electronics and autos and sells them, even to Russia.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 22, 2016 11:19:37 AM | 90

@86 & @88

Russians in Quamishly airport and the US setting up a base in Rumelei, less then 70km away?
One has to wonder if indeed a deal to collaborate has been struck or if these are separate efforts to woo Kurdish "fealty". Turkey can huff&puff, preparing for many contingencies at the border but with S-300's in Kuweires and maybe soon Quamishly deterring air cover, ground troops are unlikely to cross on their own.. (hopefully)

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 22, 2016 12:26:37 PM | 91

Lozion at 91

Russian Federation Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova decried increased jihadi activity in Syria ahead of the impending talks. She also had this to say about Turkish military activities.

Zakharova said that Russia is concerned over Ankara’s increased military incursions into Syria, adding that “it cannot be ruled out that… fortifications [built by Turkey] along the Syrian-Turkish border may be used by militant groups as strongholds….

According to the spokeswoman, the Syrian government has sent an official appeal to UN secretary-general and chairman of the UN Security Council over “repeated incursions of Turkish troops into Syrian border areas.”

“Incursion” suggests a temporary ingress. If the Russians are with the Syrians over complaints of hit-and-run actions, I doubt if they’re down with an ongoing occupation. It also suggests that, whatever is happening on the border, there is no “invasion” at present.

Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 22, 2016 7:42:38 PM | 92

@92 Agreed Rufus, the most Turkey can do is provide shelter for the militants along the border, which prolly explain the recent activity. In a y case, that stretch of border needs to be sealed asap ideally by the SAA so the YPG wont provide a casus belli to Erdogan (which incidently means "born warrior" in Turkish, I didnt know)..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 22, 2016 8:03:13 PM | 93

Re Laguerre 89:

The issue of Kurds of Syria is a bit more complex. According to some sources, Kurds appeared in Syria because of repressions in Turkey, there was a period that most of Kurdish villages in Turkey were annihilated. I guess this is an exaggeration, but at the very least, it is a large group. Kurds were denied Syrian citizenship, I do not know if all or the immigrants/refugees. It also explains domination of PKK allies among Syrian Kurds. Kurds have a set of grievances to Baath regime, some program of expansion and ethnic cleansing, and quite "original" views on property rights (anarcho-communists?). A reconciliation with Damascus will need a lot of mutual concessions.

And for all their Marxism, there are tribal tendencies, described by some posters here, and as elsewhere, such tendencies grow to atrocities during civil wars.

One way PYD keeps open the option of abandoning the opposition to Damascus government is tolerating/cooperating with government enclaves, two in Hasaka, one on the border of Afrin, while PYD has an enclave in Aleppo that is "neutral". Qamishli airport is controlled by SAA, so no agreement with Kurds is necessary to operate it, or to install air-defenses. I speculate that Russians and Damascus that want to prevent American influence from growing too strong, while PYD would of course prefer to see some competition between USA and RF in supplying them.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 22, 2016 9:01:05 PM | 94

Turks in Jarabulus?

My question is if Erdogan government decided to make a war with ISIS, or once again they try to fake it. They announced a grand plan for "liberated zone" about six months ago, and now they started to support "their boys" with artillery across the border, which is clearly not the speed of military campaigns of Suleiman the Magnificent. And ISIS can afford a little back-and-forth over a few villages as the price of making a more convincing fake. On one hand, ISIS is still necessary if one seriously dreams of toppling Damascus government, and Erdogan clearly does. From that perspective, any conflict between "rebels" and ISIS should be postponed. On the other hand, the strategic genius of bombing in Paris was to drive home the message to the government in Ankara: ISIS can get deadly serious, no metaphors or puns here, would Ankara oppose them seriously.

And Erdogan has his own war on hundred fronts. There are Kurds. There are journalists. Teachers. Officers, judges and prosecutors. Contumely folks of all ages (from middle school to octogenarians) and all walks of life insulting the President (or even local governors, that gets you chased by the Turkish law as well). And now a new front, "academics". A series of attacks directed at ethnic Turks in Turkey could seriously undermine the viability of the government (unlike attacks where the victims were Kurds, leftist or German).

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 22, 2016 9:24:39 PM | 95

PB at 95 --

He's been waging that war for a while, and has pretty much run the table. His AKP voters like the war.

But as you say, if he wants to back off his Syrian adventure, or even just put some distance between himself and the jihadis, things could get "deadly serious."

BTW, I thought the Suleiman bit was pretty droll. And maybe ISIL is faking it.

Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 22, 2016 10:44:34 PM | 96

Lozion at 93 --

That's an interesting and indeed revealing fact about our next Ottoman sultan's surname. It certainly seems to fit.

Sealing the border would be welcome a two-fer -- ends a possible source of temptation for the Turks, and cuts off ISIL supplies.

Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 22, 2016 10:48:45 PM | 97

'Sealing the border' if they can accomplish this perhaps they can help the US seal our northern border and keep out those Canadian drug runners and illegal immigrants.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 22, 2016 11:00:29 PM | 98

Wayoutwest aka FromLeftField..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 22, 2016 11:51:21 PM | 99

Wayout at 98 --

Yes, keep them damn frostbacks from taking our jobs and diluting our culture, eh?

Def. of Canadian - an unarmed American with health insurance. National slogan - "Now, lets not get excited." Except about hockey, of course.

It's a beauty way to go! Good day!

Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 23, 2016 10:08:15 AM | 100

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