Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 24, 2016

Syria: The Battlefield Negotiations Now Favor The Syrian Government

The Syrian army today liberated the the town Rabiah in Latakia province as well as several other villages in the area near the Turkish border. Rabiah, together with Salma which was liberated a few days ago, was one of the jihadists strongholds in the region. Russian air support and artillery (vid) was again decisive. Pictures from the town showed graffiti the "moderate" foreign supported insurgents left behind. It read "All Alawites will be exterminated".

This map shows the current frontline as well as the old frontline from where the Latakia campaign started a few weeks ago.


bigger hi-res

The jihadis evacuated all positions west of Rabiah and are on the run. Turkey closed its border to prevent them from crossing it. They will seek refuge in Kinsabba near the Jabal al-Akrad heights, their last strong point, which will be attacked next. After that the general attack will be launched at Jisr al Shanghaur in Idleb province from the west and the south after which a larger pincer attack on Idleb city is planned.

Latakia province and the Russian bases there are now secured. Opposition supply lines from Turkey are largely severed. The momentum is clearly on the side of the government troops.

In the south there the Syrian army continues to clear Sheikh Miskeen near the border to Jordan. Should the city be freed the southern insurgents supply lines from Jordan will be in jeopardy. The lines are already restricted as Jordan clamps down on militants crossing its border.

In the north as well as in the south various rebel groups started to fight each other. Clashes between various groups were reported from Daraa in the south and in Idleb between Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra groups. Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's section in Syria, is now under heavy pressure on many fronts and has called for more foreign fighters to join it. There are already strategic discussions within Nusra to end the open war and to go back being an underground guerrilla to hit at the Syrian government and other entities from behind their lines. But the guerrilla fish needs the water of the population to swim in and it is doubtful that Nusra has support of more than very few Syrian citizens.

The Syrian army also liberated Qatar (vid) from the Wahhabi Islamic State supporters. Unfortunately this Qatar was not the country at the Persian Gulf but a small town north east of Aleppo.

The Syrian government troops and some 200,000 civilians in Deir Ezzor in east Syria are under continuing heavy attacks from fighters of the Islamic State. The Syrian army sent reinforcements by transport helicopters, the Russian air force has dropped tens of tons of food for the population and Russian jets provide air support for the defenders.

In the Kurdish area in the north-east of Syria Russian specialist are working to establish another air base. The Turkish President Erdogan said such a base would not be tolerated. But what can he do besides launching an open war against Russia which Turkey would lose just like the other 17 wars it once waged against Russia. The U.S. is establishing its own base nearby to supply Kurdish forces. The Russian base will make sure that the U.S. base will not gain any permanence.

A report in the NYT describes how the U.S. organized the attack on Syria while the Saudis provided the financing at a rate of several billions per year. The report misleads as it only looks from 2013 onward. We already know that the CIA provided weapons and fighters from Libya reached Syria in late 2011 to early 2012.

But the U.S., as well as the Syrian government side, now wants the conflict to die down. It is putting a lot of effort into the next Geneva talks between some opposition groups and the government. Those opposition groups have been selected by Saudi Arabia and Russia has rejected the inclusion of the Salafi Army of Islam and the lack of representation of Kurdish groups. A compromise over this may now be possible with the Kurds and other non-Islamist opposition groups coming to Geneva as a third delegation.

But the war will not be decided through talks. The real negotiations happen on the battlefield. The Syrian government and its supporters will continue the attacks and will build on their recent successes. It is now likely that they will achieve war deciding results before the Geneva talks become serious.

Posted by b on January 24, 2016 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

Comments
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Why do you think the American base won't gain permanency? If there is one obstinate dog in this fight, it is the US....

Posted by: Dan | Jan 24, 2016 12:32:57 PM | 1

Great run down of events. The Syrian government does not need to negotiate anymore. Once they secure their borders the war for the hearts and minds of the displaced population will begin. I hope that the displaced Syrian Sunnis will come back with a greater understanding of the danger posed by Wahhabist fanatics. I also hope that non-Sunni Syrians will not continue sectarian violence which I know is doubtful.

Does anyone on here listen to Scott Horton's AntiWar Radio show/podcasts? There is no discussion over there.

The NYTs does not cover the early involvement of the US Gov't in Syrian because that will tie another knot on Clinton's noose. She is going down in flames over here in the States. The only arguments I hear for her now are that she is a woman. That does not matter at all since Bernie wins 35 or 45 and under women. I know that he is a train wreck on Foreign Policy but there is hope that he is not as bad as the alternatives. In this world, where US foreign policy leads to the immediate death of TENS of THOUSANDS of HUMANS per year a better alternative can make a huge difference.

Posted by: AnEducatedFool | Jan 24, 2016 12:40:28 PM | 2

The Assad-must-go! Coalition is no doubt well aware of their deteriorating position on the battlefield and consequently at the negotiating table. Its likely that they reassess the efficacy of achieving their goals on a daily basis.

Above all, these guys want to win. I don't see Kerry's musing about taking action against ISIS if the talks fail as idle talk. The Assad must go! Coalition wants to see quick agreement on a timetable that is favorable to them - or else.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 24, 2016 12:51:43 PM | 3

U.S., as well as the Syrian government side, now wants the conflict to die down.

US doesnt want the conflict to die down, it just wants to stop SAA advancement and reinforce its terrorists, a la Minsk.

BTW just saw a new video about the types of bombs Russia uses in Syria, very impressive.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MXFnUJMRaY

Posted by: Harry | Jan 24, 2016 1:11:59 PM | 4

Two days ago CNN was reporting that ISIS was carrying a major offensive against the SAA in a town near Allepo, strongly implying that they had gone on the offensive. Deep in the article they mentioned that ISIS had taken most of the town a year ago and were trying to get the rest now. Today, alas, they are reporting on the fall of Rabiah.

When will our mass media begin to realize that they have become nothing more than a lying propaganda operation for US foreign policy? I have met a number of those reporters over the years and they really believe what they report.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jan 24, 2016 1:23:58 PM | 5

What a day in the Gulf region ....

  • Joe Biden pleases NATO ally Turkey by throwing the Kurds under the bus;
  • Ashton Carter contradicts his Commander In Chief by lamenting most partners of the 65-nation antis-ISIS coalition don't contribute;
  • Secretary Kerry sweet-talks his Saudi hosts Al Jubeir, King Salman and his warrior son about the Iran deal, explaining Iran still evil and Saudis good;
  • Pleads for the Syrian opposition groups to unite and support a political solution by [......] Assad;
  • Good old Joe Biden bad-mouths any solution to Syria unless the Sunni Arabs control the border with Turkey and not the YPG Kurds;
  • VP Biden prefers the military option to remove Assad from power by telling his host Davutoğlu that they will try the political option first to defeat the Islamic State;

    Not clear what you are saying Joe, don't you have Vicky on your side? Who handed you the notes for the meeting and press conference, I recall you were telling us the truth about US allies funding ISIS!

    War Talk by Joe Biden In Turkey Ahead of Syria Conference

    Posted by: Oui | Jan 24, 2016 1:33:04 PM | 6

  • S-300/400 in Quamishly, go RuAF! No partition, no surrender. The buck stops in Syria.

    Posted by: Lozion | Jan 24, 2016 1:57:35 PM | 7

    Why do you think the American base won't gain permanency? If there is one obstinate dog in this fight, it is the US....
    Posted by: Dan | Jan 24, 2016 12:32:57 PM | 1

    Thought experiment...
    What if the Yankee base is there with the tacit approval of the Syrian Govt (at Russia's behest)? If that's what's happening, and Russian Humour being what it is, they've probably even got permission to pretend that they're being Exceptionally Defiant.

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 24, 2016 2:20:35 PM | 8

    #1
    The base the Kurds gave Amerika was used as a corp duster airport and is being expanded for C130 but not jet fighters.

    Go Syria Army and Thanks Russia

    Posted by: jo6pac | Jan 24, 2016 2:22:29 PM | 9

    In order to understand what the negotiations will be all about little more it is important to deeply understand the true motivations and ultimate goal of the parties in the complex political,social, ethnic, religious, economic, and ideological amalgamate which Middle East really is.
    Some of these issues are addressed here:

    https://syrianwarupdate.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/political-mosaic-of-syrian-war-part-i-kurds-and-assad-regime/

    Posted by: Kalen | Jan 24, 2016 2:46:33 PM | 10

    Biden is squeezing Turkey. It has told Erdovutoglu that if he persists in toperdoeing the Geneva negotiations by raising conditions and objection, the negotiation will fail. Then the USA will expect Turkey to enter with it in direct military confrontation with ISIS.
    Erdovutoglu is freaking out. A war inside Syria against ISIS will have terrible consequences.
    - ISIS will wake its sleeping cells in Turkey for more important terrorists acts
    - The Turkish army will be fighting two fronts,the PKK and ISIS and the cost of the war would bleed the economy
    - The Turks will protest against these wars.
    - The Turkish army may then take a stronger political role and threaten the Islamist AKP
    etc...
    As a result the economy will suffer and ultimately the AKP and Erdovutoglu will be toppled...
    So now the Turks are in a tough dilemma. They need to stop meddling in Syria's internal affairs and find a save exit, or they risk the collapse of the "miracle" Turkish economy

    Biden also said the United States and Turkey were prepared for a military solution in Syria if a political settlement was not possible.

    "We do know it would better if we can reach a political solution but we are prepared... if that's not possible, to have a military solution to this operation and taking out Daesh," Biden said at the news conference.

    A US official was quoted by Reuters as clarifying that Biden was talking about a military solution to ISIL, not Syria as a whole

    Posted by: Virgile | Jan 24, 2016 2:49:06 PM | 11

    Contrary to the song the UN and the US keep singing, the solution of the Syrian conflict IS military...

    Posted by: Virgile | Jan 24, 2016 2:53:12 PM | 12

    The far bigger story this week re Syria, is the US and Turkey invasion of Syria.
    This criminal invasion foothold, is merely the beginning of more to come. Well, that is the despicable plan and it also requires how much tolerance from Russia.
    We all know that the Syrian government in no way would militarily take on the Turk and US invaders without support from Russia. So it really is up to the Russians to put their foot down.

    The US and Turks know that the Russians will easily kill jihadi terrorists in Syria, but they won't easily kill US invaders.

    Posted by: tom | Jan 24, 2016 2:54:54 PM | 13

    @Virgile

    Biden was quite clear what he said backing NATO ally Turkey! No bs US official can undo what big mouth Joe said.

    President Obama delegated responsibility for military policy in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine to VP Joe Biden. Secretary Kerry tries to mediate for a diplomatic solution. Yes the National Security Council is deeply divided between the two options and the president hesitates in decision making.

    Posted by: Oui | Jan 24, 2016 3:07:03 PM | 14

    @tom

    That's Biden's smart way of telling Turkey that it'll have to face the consequence of the failure of the Geneva conference.
    That would make Turkey think twice before continuing its campaign of hindering what Kerry, Putin and the UN have have agreed upon.

    Posted by: Virgile | Jan 24, 2016 3:09:00 PM | 15

    Excellent MoA, on fire lately. This is the most solid reporting I've seen in the past week or so- as in facts and basic situational analysis based on those facts- which is nice because over the past week I feel like I'm seeing a lot of conflicting info and wildly diverse speculation among alt/ independent sites and authors that are usually on the same page to a degree. Such as the strength of the jihadists in various regions, the US airbase takeover and what that's all about, a potential Turkish invasion of Syria or strictly an anti-Kurd op- it's all over the map. Saker's all but claiming a final Iranian victory over Israel with reduced tension and a positive outlook, while Cartalucci is just waiting for the Brookings Path to Persia scenario to to play out- the USrael using the nuclear deal as a diplomatic Trojan horse- and a renewed anti-Iran campaign with even more vigor coming any day. Curious if others have noticed the same thing, that degree of variance. Not that it's a bad thing in and of itself.

    @#2 educated_fool (right there with ya)I think they had a major server fail at Scott Horton, I'd check his Twitter feed to find out what's going on. Seems to be happening more and more frequently this past year, and getting worse. Also technically he doesn't work for AntiWar anymore, they just promote certain interviews and link to his show. If you didn't know that already. They collaborate I guess you would say.

    Posted by: Colinjames | Jan 24, 2016 3:23:42 PM | 16

    One SOB whose ego must take a hit these days, after claiming that he had taught Muslims how to free themselves: The French so-called philosopher whom the cognoscenti of Manhattan believes is the Einstein for freedom: Bernard Henri Levy.
    Hopefully once Putin has secured Syria, he will teach the troublemaker Frenchman about Ukraine. The Libyans thanked him well when they refused him entry a couple of yrs ago :-)

    Posted by: Yul | Jan 24, 2016 3:24:26 PM | 17

    Tom at 13 --

    Hate to have to break it to you -- there is no invasion of Syria by Turkey. See my discussion of this point with Lozion at nrs. 83-86, 91-93 on the Syria - Some Preliminary Positioning For An Endgame thread.

    My search of Bing News this afternoon brought no further reports. Biden and the Turks chatting about a possible military solution is not an invasion. Ashton Carter speaking of "boots on the ground," meaning advisors, is not an invasion.

    Patrick Cockburn has a nice consideration of the problems facing the various actors.

    Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 24, 2016 3:35:31 PM | 18

    Yul@17 Watch that SOB BH Levy take a pie in the kipper..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-bE6XBlW6g Where are you Lone Wolf? Your always well researched comments are much appreciated.

    Posted by: harry law | Jan 24, 2016 3:51:06 PM | 19

    As a classic example of a limited hangout, the linked NY Times article is fascinating reading. Any thoughts on why the authors are so deliberate in dating the involvement of the CIA to 2013?

    Posted by: jayc | Jan 24, 2016 4:00:53 PM | 20

    @ jayc #20

    Me thinks that it is because of HR Clinton and her quagmire wrt Benghazi and her candidacy for POTUS. The USG does not want the public to know that the men in plaid shirts were running arms from Libya to Syria - Remember who was CIA director at that time : Petraeus. The NYT does not want to put more fuel on that fire ( believe that Petraeus would love to get a position in Clinton administration and this may work well for the some people)

    Posted by: Yul | Jan 24, 2016 4:15:10 PM | 22

    @ Virgile

    When the US speaks through an official mouthpiece, One must take these words as a declaration of intention
    that is unwavering.

    Whether it is laudable or despicable, the US intends to follow through. The sense of "exceptionalism" is such,
    the Administration is so brainwashed by its own propaganda of invincibility, that they seem to believe that their words are divine decrees.

    Christ is reported to have said " Heavens and earth will pass but my words will not". Today, when a US Senior official opens his mouth for an official declaration it seems that the Administration expects to do the impossible to achieve that objective.

    It doesn't matter if America itself gets bruised, maimed or destroyed in the process, faith in America's possibilities has inflated to such an extent that the World will burst before the US administration (or whomever is at the helm of America and the West) realise their folly.

    Too bad for Humanity.

    Of Course, the US plans to send the Turks careening into Syria in the hopes of generating a conflict between
    the Russia, Iran/Lebanon axis.

    Can't seem to give peace a chance. It needs to create that new reality to keep everyone on their toes.

    Posted by: CarlD | Jan 24, 2016 4:42:48 PM | 23

    Between the Axis and Nato, of course.

    Posted by: CarlD | Jan 24, 2016 4:44:07 PM | 24

    @13/18
    Yes, also posts 33-40 by PavewayIV who nails it again here: http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/01/warmed-over-propaganda-putin-asks-assad-to-leave.html

    @19 I concur, where is Lone Wolf?

    Posted by: Lozion | Jan 24, 2016 4:57:44 PM | 25

    @23 Do the Turks want to go careening into Syria? Or just some of them? If they do they'll want cast-iron guaranteed backup from the US and I didn't hear that from Biden.

    Posted by: dh | Jan 24, 2016 5:09:13 PM | 26

    Thank you dr. b. Great run down of the situation in Syria. The title ... well it doesn't say it all but it says it all. While the hot-air and bullshit flies outside of Syria the Syrians and the Russians are putting one foot in front of the other in country.

    OT, but interesting contrast between the Russia and US, Emancipating the Military, Containing the Citizenry, and their separate conceptions of "what it's all about", with the Russian side detailed here for contrast, in your present account, for instance.

    Posted by: jfl | Jan 24, 2016 5:41:52 PM | 27

    Oui@28. "Iran to buy 114 Airbus Planes" Not so fast. Despite its edge over rival Boeing in the headlines, any deals Airbus strikes will also require U.S. license approval, since more than 10 percent of its planes come from U.S. parts.
    With significant U.S. interests including a new Alabama factory, the European company is expected to tread carefully. link to Despite its edge over rival Boeing in the headlines, any deals Airbus strikes will also require U.S. license approval, since more than 10 percent of its planes come from U.S. parts.
    With significant U.S. interests including a new Alabama factory, the European company is expected to tread carefully. link to http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-aviation-insight-idUSKCN0V00R4 Iran should steer clear of Boeing, the next US Government could ensure no spare parts. Better to lease any aircraft from the West.

    Posted by: harry law | Jan 24, 2016 6:31:48 PM | 29

    Re29. Sorry about the double paste.

    Posted by: harry law | Jan 24, 2016 6:34:37 PM | 30

    Re: Oui @28

    And then along comes Ya'alon and gives an answer.

    "Unfortunately, in the current situation, Russia is playing a more significant role than the United States," he said.

    "We don't like the fact that King Abdullah of Jordan is going to Moscow, the Egyptians are going to Moscow, the Saudis are going to Moscow.

    And then along comes Ya'alon and gives an answer.

    "Unfortunately, in the current situation, Russia is playing a more significant role than the United States," he said.

    "We don't like the fact that King Abdullah of Jordan is going to Moscow, the Egyptians are going to Moscow, the Saudis are going to Moscow.


    ===========
    Compare with

    Haaretz
    Sep 21, 2015 - With Moscow Visit, Netanyahu Signals Era of post-American Middle East. The Israeli prime minister and the Russian president share a disdain [paywall begins]

    It also reminds me a lament of Sen. Schumer how "his people" were mistreated in the past, "we were not allowed in Moscow" (under the rules of Pale of Settlement, Jews were allowed to live in places like Warsaw, Odessa but to the deepest pain of our good senator, not in St. Petersburg, Moscow or Tomsk). Now when they are allowed, the place goes to seed since the rifraf like King Abdullah and Price Whatchamacallhim (debili, blyad) are tolerated.

    Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 24, 2016 6:44:00 PM | 31

    I wonder if Iran should consider buying some Russian made Comercial airplanes. I don't know the first thing about the aviation industry, but I'm thinking Russia might produce the same thing at a better price and be much more reliable for spare parts and technical support.

    Posted by: Lysander | Jan 24, 2016 7:55:57 PM | 32

    @16 ColinJames

    I keep calling Scott Horton's show Antiwar Radio. Thanks for catching that. It is a bit of a strange relationship from my perspective. He does not seem to have a lot of writers from Antiwar.com on his show. I am glad that he is on his own but he is still very closely aligned ideologically to Antiwar.com. I sometimes cringe listening to his Libertarian rants but the material is puts out is excellent.

    He had recent interviews with Gareth Porter and Sy Hersh that covered Hersh's article about gun running. Both interviews provide context and a pretty solid overview. I do not have the same time that I once had to read everything I could get my hands on.

    Posted by: AnEducatedFool | Jan 24, 2016 8:21:00 PM | 33

    Joe Biden, " I am a Zionist".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo-UXZ-1ups

    Posted by: fast freddy | Jan 24, 2016 8:40:10 PM | 34

    "Iran to buy 114 Airbus Planes" Not so fast.
    ...
    Posted by: harry law | Jan 24, 2016 6:31:48 PM | 29

    Sounds like Reuters blowing Israel-flavoured smoke in everyone's face, to me.
    If you read to the end of the article you'd have seen that there are several options available to Iran to side-step (solely US) sanctions on upgrading its airline fleet - not including the option of Buying Russian.

    Boeing is a major M-IC defense contractor and as such is certain to be one of the Corporations which tells, not asks, the USG what it can do next. AmeriKKKa is going to look pretty stupid WHEN any planes Iran wants begin showing up in its airline fleet - and more so if none of them are of Western origin.

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 24, 2016 9:33:40 PM | 35

    Lozion at 25 --

    Yes, P'wyIV had some nice background on the "airbase", aka the "crappy little Sweidiyah Oil Field airstrip," suitable for medium supply aircraft.

    Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 24, 2016 9:46:00 PM | 36

    Correction to HW @ #35.
    Boeing is a major M-IC defense contractor and as such is certain to be one of the Corporations, along with its wealthy shareholders, which tells, not asks, the USG what it can do next.

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 24, 2016 9:59:04 PM | 37

    Lone Wolf was warned a few threads ago to stop filling up the queue with comments about missing comments. Judging by his response to the warning at the time, one suspects LW has become a victim of an odd belief that b makes idle threats.

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 24, 2016 10:14:30 PM | 38

    Lysander@32 - Russia is still making/selling commercial airliners, I'm just not so sure Iran would want to order any today.

    Russia is still pretty far behind the power curve on modern, commercial aircraft high-bypass, fuel-efficient turbofan engines. Existing designs were pretty much sourced in recent times from Motor Sich in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine. Deliveries have all but stopped and Motor Sich has cut way back on manufacturing in Zaporizhzhya. Russian manufacturers have cannibalized the Ukrainian turbine engineers (most of whom were actually Russian) and are busy creating or retooling domestic Russian aircraft engine manufacturing.

    Another issue was Russia's slow design evolution to the Western style of designing aircraft engines, and then designing an aircraft based on a proven engine design. In past years, Russia continued the 80's era practices of designing an aircraft model and then designing an engine for it. That design independence is exactly why Western commercial engines and large passenger aircraft have been so far ahead of Russian ones. That will change in a few(?) years with the investment the Russians are currently directing at their aircraft industry.

    China and Russia have been cooperating on a lot of commercial aircraft work, with India somewhere in the mix as well. Not so sure I would buy a new Russian commercial airliner today, but whatever they sell a few years from now will be on par with Western tech and probably far cheaper to own and maintain.

    The collapse of the Ruble also has an interesting effect here. Western engine manufacturers are starting to look favorably at Russia for new plants and cheap, skilled labor and engineering. They might be building Rolls-Royce or GE turbofans in Russia in a few years. Well, maybe that's a bit of a stretch. But between that and Chinese/Indian interest and financing, you could see a pretty significant aircraft industry (or parts of it) emerging in Russia. Part of the reason is they have no choice - Ukraine isn't going to sell them their engines anymore.

    Daniel Fielding - one of the staff writers on Russia Insider - did an insightful piece on this last year about Russia's Rogozin in The Resurrection of Russia's Aircraft Engine Industry. He's obviously going to be enthusiastic about Russia and Rogozin's potential, but his article isn't superficial cheerleading. Still, we're talking several years to ramp up, not one or two.

    I'm always curious what the China and Russia will or will not do in the commercial airline space today given their desires to build out, but facing a whole host of economic challenges. I have no dog in this hunt any more - I'm just a mouth-breathing gee-gawer gazing in wonderment at all this over the intertubes today. Oh, and for some strange reason, I don't like that God-awful blue-green Porta-Potty paint color they used to use in their cockpits. I hope they change that.

    Posted by: PavewayIV | Jan 24, 2016 10:18:12 PM | 39

    ISIS releases video of Paris attackers shot prior to the attack
    Released on the eve of the Syrian talks. A couple of days after Kerry and Davutoglu talk about attacking ISIS if the Syrian talks don't go their way. Coincidence?

    The video contains more threats, especially to Britain. More fuel for the something must be done! crowd.

    Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 24, 2016 11:30:32 PM | 40

    Great footage with General Zahreddine "the Mad Druze" in the Deir Ez Zor sector. Note the use of a BMP and Shilka against entrenched militants. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCuGrmNpZ0Q

    Posted by: Lozion | Jan 25, 2016 12:01:06 AM | 41

    Kerry Pressures Syrian Opposition to Attend Peace Talks

    The opposition's High Negotiation Committee, which groups political and armed opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, has said it will not attend negotiations until the government halts bombardments, lifts blockades, and releases detainees - steps mentioned in a United Nations Security Council resolution passed last month.

    Negotiator Mohamad Alloush said Kerry, who met HNC officials on Saturday, had "come to pressure us to forgo our humanitarian rights ... and to go to negotiate for them".

    "There will be a big response to these pressures," he told Reuters, without giving further details. Asked if the peace talks would go ahead this week, he said "we leave this to the coming hours".

    It seems they are demanding a ceasefire before joining the talks. This is not surprising, given b's report of a rebel rout. But if the negotiation is to be "decided on the battlefield" then isn't it logical to conclude that both of these statements are true:
    a) The 4+1 Coalition will be unwilling to grant a ceasefire, and

    b) the anti-ISIS/Assad must go! Coalition is using the demand of ceasefire to scuttle talks.

    <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

    Scheduling Note

    The article says that a Western diplomat says that the talks are unlikely to start before Wednesday.

    Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 25, 2016 12:06:26 AM | 42

    thanks b.. excellent coverage and overview on your part.. i note in your post today and one from a few days ago the issue of a possible airport in the works for qamishli, ne syria.. it might have been paveway who posted this on another thread a couple of days ago, but i note that 2 people were killed and at least another 10 injured in a suicide attack in this same town of syria on sunday.. it looks like a greater focus is happening in the north east corner of syria at the moment..

    Posted by: james | Jan 25, 2016 12:45:26 AM | 43

    @ Lysander | 32

    I wonder if Iran should consider buying some Russian made Comercial airplanes.

    The only competitive Russian civil airplane right now is Sukhoi Superjet 100, but it also uses a lot of Western parts. Still Iran is negotiating to produce them in Iran.

    But SS-100 has only ~100 seating capacity, neither Russia or China produces viable 150-400 seats planes. The closest is China's Comac C919, which will be available in 2018-2019, but it also uses US engines and other parts, plus it only has 150-170 seats.

    Posted by: Harry | Jan 25, 2016 2:26:02 AM | 44

    james@43 - Qamishli and northeast Syria tend to be off of everyone's radar. Qamishli was attacked in force by ISIS last summer. The city is a mix of Syrian army areas on the south and a small Syrian government enclave in the middle of the city. ISIS initially attacked the Syrian military positions and were beating them rather soundly. When ISIS reached the Kurdish areas of Qamishli however, the PYD stepped in and beat the snot out of ISIS. That sent them packing.

    You may have heard some rumors about the Kurds/PYD fighting alongside Assad's troops in Qamishli back then. Nothing was further from the truth - the Kurds preferred to stay out of the fight and sat back for weeks eating popcorn and watching the fireworks. As soon as the head-choppers crossed into the Kurdish neighborhoods though, the local YPG went to war with them.

    Even though the Kurds in Qamishli have a history with the Syrian government (they hate each other), they've come to sort of a strange detante with Assad there. This Middle East Eye article "In Qamishli, a new dawn for Syrian Kurds" from last September explains the strangeness better than I can.

    The Qamishli International Airport is a civilian one and was busy and operating until last October. Assad never turned it into a military airport and I doubt they would now, except as a temporary measure. At the very least, it would remain mixed-use. It's the only Syrian airport for miles. The Syrian army is well-positioned around the airport (it's on the south side of the city surrounded with the military bases).

    One of the reasons you didn't hear much about Qamishli in the Western MSM was because this was a major ISIS oil smuggling route to Turkey. Remember this map from the Russain military briefing? Oil from Deir Ez-Zor (as marked on the map) made its way north to Turkey's Batman refinery. To get there, the trucks would have to cross miles of Kurdish-held territory and cross the Kurdish-held border crossing at Qamishli. The Russian maps show this as one of the two major routes - that's thousands of truckloads a week.

    Why did the Kurds let these trucks through that they had to know were carrying stolen ISIS oil? The Syrian government didn't control enough turf in Qamishli to do anything about it, so it would have been up to the Kurds to stop them at the border. Is there some kind of Barzani-like Kurdish mob boss in Qamishli that was making a few bucks off the trafficking? Maybe the Kurds were busy filling up trucks of their own, off the books, from the state-owned Syrian Petroleum Company fields in Block 26 (Suwediah/Rumaylan, etc.).

    ISIS continuing to attack Qamishli with car bombs suggests they're still mad at the Kurds there about something, and I'm sure the end of the oil/cash smuggling has something to do with it. Since the U.S. is recruiting Kurds there for the SDF (I guess...) they probably don't want too much discussion of how the oil made it through r who was making the money. There must be a ton of intrigue going on there with Turkey apparently trying to elbow in to the city, CENTCOM's SF boys sniffing around, Assad and YPG troops staring each other down and now the Russians showing up.

    My point is that northeast Syria and Qamishli have always been of great interest to a lot of parties, but none of them have cared to share anything with us. The Western MSM is useless as expected - either they're ignorant of the situation or they're playing dumb under orders. And Dunford said he can't talk about what non-existent SF guys are doing at non-existent oilfield airstrips because that would endanger their unconstitutional activities (but such activities officially don't exist).

    Posted by: PavewayIV | Jan 25, 2016 2:42:11 AM | 45

    Posted by: Kalen | Jan 24, 2016 2:46:33 PM | 10
    not promising when the article headlines 'Assad regime'

    Posted by: brian | Jan 25, 2016 3:11:29 AM | 46

    Geneva talks expected to be “catastrophe” for Syrian opposition

    The opposition, after all, was expecting Geneva III to sign off on what was agreed upon at Geneva I in the summer of 2012, basically, a Transitional Government Body (TGB) that takes over full-powers from Al Assad and replaces him at the Presidential Palace in Damascus.

    According to both Kerry and Lavrov, this won’t happen anymore but what the negotiations will produce is a cabinet of national unity between the opposition and Syrian officialdom, along with free parliamentary elections and a new constitution.

    As if these harsh realities were not enough, Kerry also bent to Russian pressure and agreed to add the names of three Moscow-backed opposition figures to the Syrian Opposition delegation. This had previously been refused by Hijab and his team but they were forced to accept under US pressure.

    The three names are Saleh Al Muslim of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (whose name had strongly been vetoed previously by the Turks), ex-Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil, and human rights lawyer Haitham Manaa.

    Posted by: virgile | Jan 25, 2016 4:41:36 AM | 47

    Thanks PaveWay, your insights are very helpful.

    Posted by: jfl | Jan 25, 2016 4:58:53 AM | 48

    @47 virgile

    If the 'moderate opposition' don't show ... why not carry on without them? They're not even Syrians anyway, why should they have a 'legitimate' hand in the future of Syria at all? I wonder what any of these people eat/drink/smoke that makes them think that they have any right at all to write a constitution for the Syrians? At 'best' a settlement from this crew will have to be undone and redone by the Syrians themselves when this is 'all over'. At 'worst' the battlefield negotiations will continue - before, during, and after. If things continue as they are the worst might be the best in the longrun.

    It is nice to see Erdogan slapped down. He's being pushed closer to his moment of truth daily ... either involve his troops in Syria, or give it up. Without US backing he'll 'probably' give it up?

    Posted by: jfl | Jan 25, 2016 5:17:30 AM | 49

    Virgile@47 and jfl@49 Here is an excellent article from Sharmine Narwani on the Syrian opposition. "The Syrian opposition circus comes to town"
    "Others on the Saudi shortlist don’t appear to be ‘representative’ of anybody, let alone the ‘Syrian people.’ They include several former heads of the now widely-discredited Syrian National Coalition (SNC), once viewed by Syria’s foes as the country’s ‘legitimate’ government-in-exile.

    These Riyadh-backed luminaries include ex-SNC President George Sabra, who gained his Syrian ‘legitimacy’ in 2012 from a whopping 28 votes cast by 41 Syrians - in Qatar.

    They also include Khaled Khoja, who squeaked through as president of the now-rebranded ‘National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’ with 56 votes out of 109 cast - in Turkey.

    They also include the likes of Saudi-based Ahmad Jarba, who won his second term at the helm of the National Council in 2014 with 65 votes – also cast in Turkey. Jarba beat his only rival Riad Hijab by 13 whole votes. Hijab turned the tables on Jarba in Riyadh last week, however, when 34 Syrians chose him instead to represent them at peace talks in Vienna".https://www.rt.com/op-edge/326782-syrian-opposition-summit-vienna/

    Posted by: harry law | Jan 25, 2016 5:44:56 AM | 50

    43

    Trump's brilliant move of resurrecting the Ghost of Sarah Palin at whatever the pittance cost to Sumner Redstone and the rest of his ZioMob Financiers, proves that the US-NATO Axis can relax for awhile and lame duck for 12 months until their New Alliance Battlefront and Mexican Wall of Infamy Wehrmacht take power, after which House of Saud will direct the US Military and the House of Hebron will direct Homeland Ziggurat. Enjoy your tiny Victory Gardens, because the only way Mil.Gov pulls out of this latest economic Stukka dive, is to release some serious payload on the Braune Hauts!

    Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 25, 2016 6:21:39 AM | 51

    Please can someone confirms this. according to global research Turkey and the us sent boots on the ground.This seems to me an absurd and unnecessary move but it looks legit. It won't probably has any impact but it is interesting to point out.
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/america-and-turkey-begin-ground-invasion-of-syria-how-will-russia-respond/5503235

    Posted by: lebretteurfredonnant | Jan 25, 2016 6:28:47 AM | 52

    lebretteur at 52 --

    It's not real, see the refs. at nos. 18 & 25 above.

    Posted by: rufus magister | Jan 25, 2016 6:45:22 AM | 53

    49

    "I wonder what any of these people eat/drink/smoke that makes them think that they have any right at all to write a constitution for the Syrians?"

    In November of 2001, while the American people were still reeling from the 2000 DotCon Neutron Bmob, and the PNAC 'New Pearl Harbor' WTC Bmob, 'Dickey Bird' Cheney and his cabal of Energy Policy Committee politburo, 'Kenny Boy' Lay of Enron, Zalmay Khalilzad, and a host of mid-level apparatchik's were busy writing the Afghan National Hydrocarbons and Minerals Acts ... in English. They also wrote the Constitution and created the National Anthem ... in English, and designed the National Flag and National Currency of the Afghan people long before Karzai was selected to lead the Executive, signing away their future for 12 silver New Israeli Scheckels.

    Not one person on MoA made a peep about it, except myself, and nobody commented on that. Just another day in the neighborhood.

    Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 25, 2016 7:16:11 AM | 54

    @50 HL

    Thanks for the link. Sharmine Narwani seems very good. There's another, earlier post of hers linked from there, somewhere, Going Rogue: America's Unconventional Warfare in the Mideast.

    Everyone seemed very critical of this Vienna negotiation, or whatever it's called, when it was announced, but it is beginning to look like Lavrov may pull a rabbit out of his hat. If not, Putin will pull it out of his, during the battlefield negotiation.

    Posted by: jfl | Jan 25, 2016 7:37:54 AM | 55

    @ PavewayIV | Jan 24, 2016 10:18:12 PM

    Great backgrounder as always. Just one point where I take a slightly different view.

    [...] ISIS continuing to attack Qamishli with car bombs suggests they're still mad at the Kurds there about something, [...]
    It appears the target was the Assyrian community in the region. (AINA News)

    Twin Blasts Target Assyrian Shops in Qamishli, Syria
    Posted 2016-01-24 22:42 GMT

    Qamishli, Syria (AINA) -- Two explosions rocked an Assyrian neighborhood in Qamishli. The first targeted the Star Cafe, where a bomb was placed on a bicycle that was left in front of the store. The explosion killed 3 Assyrians and injured 20. The second blast targeted Joseph Bakery. [...]

    Star Cafe is near the Miami restaurant, one of three Assyrian restaurants which were bombed on December 30, 2015 (AINA 2015-12-30). 16 people were killed in those blasts, 14 of them Assyrian.

    After the attacks on December 30 Assyrian security forces, known as the Gozarto Protection Forces (GPF/Sootoro), set up checkpoints around the Al-Wusta neighborhood, the site of the restaurants and a purely Assyrian neighborhood. This led to clashes between GPF and the Kurdish YPG militia, who demanded the checkpoints be removed. One Assyrian fighter and three Kurdish fighters were killed in those clashes (AINA 2016-01-12).

    The Assyrian/Christian militia in and around Qamishli is considered to be largely pro-government, so ISIS attacking Assyrian businesses and suburbs in Qamishli is less an attack on Kurds, but in imho primarily aimed at killing locals loyal to the Syrian government. I don't think the Kurds/YPG cried too many tears, or as you aptly wrote, more likely ate popcorn and watched the fireworks.

    Assyrians, be that in Iraq or Syria, have had a hard time over recent centuries and are, for nearly a decade now, against the tide, trying to resist being smothered by Kurdish expansion. They are certainly not having their fingers crossed when it comes to Kurdish statehood.

    Add ISIS and the Turks and you got one hell of a Mexican standoff brewing in Syria's north eastern Al-Hasakah province, in which Qamishli is with around 200'000 people the second largest city.

    Here is a bit more color on the shoot out between the YPG and GPF two weeks ago:

    In the early hours of Tuesday, January 12th, members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) conducted a large attack on Assyrian checkpoints, using more than 30 vehicles and hundreds of heavily armed Kurdish fighters against the Assyrian Gozarto Protection Forces (GPF) in the Assyrian neighborhood of Al-Wusta in Qamishli. The fighting lasted for at least three hours and ended after the Kurds called upon a Syrian government representative to mediate a cease-fire.

    [...] The onslaught by Kurdish YPG fighters came after a demand by the YPG to cede control of Al-Wusta to them was refused by GPF. Al-Wusta is located in the center of the city and has no Kurdish or Arab residents. [...] The attack also came in a time of increased tensions in Qamishli, less than two weeks after bomb attacks on three Assyrian restaurants, which killed more than 18 people, 14 of them Assyrians (AINA 2015-12-30). Assyrian security forces tightened security around Al-Wusta after the bombings. [...]

    On Saturday, January 16th, Assyrian and Armenian religious and civic representatives met with Kurdish and Arab representatives and issued a list of demands concerning the security of Christians in north-eastern Syria, in the province of Hasaka.

    [...] In an interview with AssyriaTV, Ahikar Rashid, a representative of GPF who was at the meeting, said all Christian organizations had met a day earlier to formulate their concerns and demands for a sustainable peace in the province in the face of the threat from ISIS. A key demand is that Christians must independently protect themselves without control by any other political or military groups.

    The population of the province of Hasaka is nearly equally divided between Assyrians, Arabs and Kurds. The city of Qamishli was almost entirely Assyrian until the early 1980s and was established by Assyrian survivors of the genocide of 1915 perpetrated by Ottoman Turks against the Christian populations of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians. At that time many Kurdish clans acted as the henchman of the Ottoman government. It is natural that the recent developments in Qamishli recall those memories of Christians, who do not trust Kurdish expansionism and self-declared autonomy and control over the region. [...]

    Should Russia indeed start flying fighter planes or attack helicopters out of the Qamishli airport, the runway a mere 3 kilometers from the Turkish border, then the scene is set for The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Undertaker.

    Posted by: Juan Moment | Jan 25, 2016 9:26:43 AM | 56

    ...
    Not one person on MoA made a peep about it, except myself, and nobody commented on that. Just another day in the neighborhood.
    Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 25, 2016 7:16:11 AM | 54

    Some of us missed it and the ones who didn't miss it probly thought, after 15 years of non-quagmirish but utterly pointless half-assed imaginary military occupation, that it's way too early to unfurl the Mission Accomplished banner.
    It's just another highly profitable Never-ending Story - a bit more lacklustre and twice as corny as the movie.

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 25, 2016 9:32:35 AM | 57

    @54

    One of those apparatchik is named Jerome Goerhing. Means nothing, but mildly amusing nonetheless.

    The World Bank pay the staff at the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum to this day. The Germans, British, and Chinese are all balls deep in the quagmire too.

    https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/audits/SIGAR-15-55-AR.pdf

    Posted by: Bill | Jan 25, 2016 9:36:46 AM | 58

    Thanks b! You are essential reading ... with the mainstream Western media simply anti-Russian reality-denying propaganda.

    Posted by: fairleft | Jan 25, 2016 11:00:05 AM | 59

    Juan Moment@56 - Thanks, I agree. I was just going off early reports (most likely inaccurate) of ISIS claiming responsibility. They're denying any involvement now for some reason.

    And as much as I sympathize with the Kurds and the YPG, I have to laugh at the PYD party's internal security Asayesh guys (who are starting to look more and more like the Kurdish Stazi). In this NOW News article, "Syria Kurds blame pro-Assad militia for Qamishli blasts", English news desk editor Albin Szakola reports that Asayesh said the pro-Assad NDF was responsible for the blasts killing pro-Assad Assyrians.

    Szakola is no fan of Assad so I see why he would jump at the story, but it's so improbable that he should at least have thrown us a bone as to why the Syrian NDF would possibly do such a thing. Szakola's article has one sentence mentioning the original ISIS claim of responsibility, but the rest of the article gives plenty of reasons why the PYD's Asayesh would have motivation to take out a few more pro-Assad GPF Assyrians.

    I'm not sure if it's just the way the article was written, or if Szakola honestly believes the NDF was involved instead of the more likely candidate: Asayesh. The PYD is psychotic about critics, so I doubt Szakola's willingness to call them out on this directly - either because he wants to appear neutral or is worried about his PYD sources drying up. Maybe the intent was to suggest the likely suspect without appearing to do so? This proves I've turned into a completely hopeless conspiracy nutter regarding Middle East reporting. Szakola and NOW are actually based in Lebanon, not Syria.

    I was impressed with Szakola's report last week on the non-existant U.S. airbase in this article: "US reportedly considering training base in northeast Syria". Granted, it's all a collection of rumors and unverified reports in Arabic sources, but it leaves little doubt that something is going on there (despite all the official denials by the U.S., YPG and SDF). An interesting twist he brings up is that the Block 28 airstrip may a separate project from what seems to be an additional U.S. plan to build an SDF training facility somewhere further northeast.

    All of the non-existent U.S. locations seem to be outside the 40 km radius of the SAA artillery base near the Qamishli airport. That always helps when Russia is spreading their MSTA-B love (range 40 km) around Syria lately. Everyone knows you don't want an angry Russian with a 152mm Howitzer within range if you might be doing something he doesn't approve of. No Russian artillery there yet - I'm just saying....

    Posted by: PavewayIV | Jan 25, 2016 11:08:24 AM | 60

    This is taking far more time than I like. (Ok! my hopes expectations are unrealistic, flawed, irrelevant, I am nobody.) What is going on here is efforts from various parties to drag this all out to the bitter end, make as much fuss, confusion, strife, as possible, etc. Russia and in conjunction Assad will win this fight, as I said long ago. Russia has chosen this theatre (military and spectacle) with great care. I guess it is accomodating to the slow pace - nothing else to be done.

    It also looks like Ukraine (about which i know much more) is being hedged forward to some kind of resolution re. Donestk and Lugansk.

    There have been many meetings in recent days, more to come up, all of them applying pressure on Poroshenko to apply Minsk II.

    This frozen conflict suits nobody. Not Russia, not the US corporates, ‘realists’, and particularly not Europe. (And ultimately not Kiev itself, its oligarch-cum- Gvmt. apparatus, which requires a ‘stable’ country for investment, deals, etc. etc.) Once you count on mafia-style oligarchs or monopolist robber barons, neo-fascists and local gangsterism, corrupt Gvmt and ethnic strife, and boil that up, for your own aims, it is almost impossible to put the genie back into the bottle.

    I expect this conflict to stay ‘low-level’ and frozen for quite a long time, a cancer, because I don’t see how Poroshenko can implement Minsk II or how DPR + LPR can accept any ties to Kiev after the bombing and killing. A stalemate. With, at the end, on the ground, two client states.

    Ukraine has fallen out of the news, Syria is more spectacular. And in Syria, Russia can win. In Ukraine, it is much more complicated.

    Posted by: Noirette | Jan 25, 2016 11:15:05 AM | 61

    Turkey threatened to be kicked out of the loop?

    http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist/cafer-solgun/bidens-turkey-visit-whats-going-to-happen-in-syria_410569.html

    In response to an invitation from Russia, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) will be attending the coming meeting in Geneva.

    Posted by: virgile | Jan 25, 2016 11:27:02 AM | 62

    The Syrian army now claims it has full control over Sheikh Miskeen.

    Looks like another pull back by exhausted "insurgents".

    Posted by: b | Jan 25, 2016 12:02:59 PM | 63

    @45/60 paveway.. thanks for your many insights here..


    @63 b.. thanks for the update.. it seems to be a real trend..

    Posted by: james | Jan 25, 2016 12:47:36 PM | 64

    Posted by: Noirette | Jan 25, 2016 11:15:05 AM | 61

    It also looks like Ukraine (about which i know much more) is being hedged forward to some kind of resolution re. Donestk and Lugansk........Ukraine has fallen out of the news, Syria is more spectacular. And in Syria, Russia can win. In Ukraine, it is much more complicated

    To better understands President Petro Poroshenko Ukraine’s many dead ends, Peter Levelle's crosstalks and guests assessments recent events. Published time: 25 Jan, 2016 07:05

    https://www.rt.com/shows/crosstalk/330012-ukraine-political-instability-moscow/

    Posted by: Jack Smith | Jan 25, 2016 12:59:56 PM | 65

    re 45

    Even though the Kurds in Qamishli have a history with the Syrian government (they hate each other), they've come to sort of a strange detante with Assad there.
    You really do have an agenda, don't you? A nationalist agenda, backed up with some American tendencies, is my guess. Kurdish victimhood is what it's all about (Going on about Kurdish victimhood is a policy Israel introduced to the KRG, though it's all gone wrong now). Everybody loves to hate Asad, though in fact the Syrian Kurds have been treated pretty well by Syria.

    The Kurds' relations with Asad are based on the fact that Rojava will never be independent, as it is a poor thin strip of agricultural land along the Turkish border. They have to maintain good relations with everyone. They have always maintained good relations with Asad, for example the willingness of garrisons to co-exist. The only place where this is not so is in the American propaganda and policy (thus I suppose your contributions). The Syrian Kurds only go along with this, because the US is pushing them, and putting boots on the ground. In the not too distant future, they are going to have to be more realistic, when they are dropped by the US. So they maintain good relations with Asad (not the hatred you project). Other ethnic groups in Syria do it too, when they can - the Druze, for example

    Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 25, 2016 1:25:31 PM | 66

    A 4-day delay to Geneva talks has been announced. Thus far, it's all being laid at the feet of the "Syrian opposition" without parsing. Creating a designated opposition without including ISIS sympathizers/collaborators seems impossible, like finding those oh-so-elusive moderate rebels. Ludicrously predictable. Delightful that Syria/Assad has gained strength enough to walk away.
    This will still be spun, since many do not understand that negotiating with ISIS was never the plan for these talks, and IIRC, ISIS has vowed to never negotiate.

    Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 25, 2016 1:39:25 PM | 67

    @Piotr Berman

    More from Haaretz article ....

    The international diplomatic implications of Netanyahu’s Moscow visit are clear, as Haaretz writes that Netanyahu’s Moscow visit signals end of American era.

    Not that long ago, it would have been nearly unthinkable that an Israeli prime minister could ask for, and receive, an invitation to an emergency summit with the president of Russia, in much less time than it would take him to obtain a similar invitation to meet the president of the United States. Netanyahu is still the most American of all Israeli leaders, but one thing he shares with Vladimir Putin is the disdain for what they both see as the weakness and prevarication of the current American leadership. It was that perceived weakness which allowed Putin to continually challenge the West over his invasions of Ukraine and it allowed him this month to steal a march on the United States and become the first world power (and second country after Iran) to put its soldiers boots on the ground in Syria. It is that frustration with the hesitancy of America to act in response to Russia which prompted Netanyahu to rush to Moscow and promise Putin that “Israel is neither for, or against Assad.”

    Posted by: Oui | Jan 25, 2016 1:58:28 PM | 68

    @Oui #68:

    I think that that article is being disingenuous when it lays the problem at the foot of "the current American leadership". There is a high degree of continuity between the Obama administration and its predecessor: Victoria Nuland, the top non-clandestine US official in charge of Ukraine, is a neocon and married to one of the top neocons; Obama has forced a Republican health "insurance" scheme upon the American people.

    The problem is a historical one: after the collapse of the USSR, US elites tried to eliminate Russia as a superpower, but this effort failed. Israel is just taking this development into account.

    As for Russia, the main question now seems to be, as discussed in the latest Russia thread, whether it is going to try to regain economic sovereignty, now that it has preserved its political sovereignty.

    Posted by: Demian | Jan 25, 2016 2:23:45 PM | 69

    Video of VP Biden press conference ...

    Turkey: Syria 'military solution' a possibility - US VP Joe Biden

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says Turkey and the United States agree on the need to increase support for Sunni Arab forces in Syria to cut off the Islamic State group's access to the Turkish border. [Source: US News / AP]

    Posted by: Oui | Jan 25, 2016 2:50:57 PM | 70

    US, Turkey agree on Iraq, Syria border, split on PYD | Hürriyet Daily News |

    Davutoğlu said only the “legitimate Syrian opposition” should be involved with negotiations over Syria. “Turkey sees no difference between terrorists groups such as Daesh, PKK, DHKP-C [the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front] or al-Nusra,” said Davutoğlu.

    In remarks delivered to local media on the way back from Davos before meeting with Biden, Davutoğlu said Ankara would strike the YPG in northern Syria just like it hits PKK targets in northern Iraq.

    Marea-Jarablus line

    During meetings between Biden and Turkish officials held in Istanbul, the priority was given to exchange views on ways of sealing the final portion of the Turkish border to ISIL, a 98-kilometer long zone on the so-called “Marea-Jarablus line,” sources said. The military commanders from the two sides will accordingly come together in the coming days in order to detail shape of cooperation for the move.

    ‘New initiatives’ on Bashiqa on agenda

    Hürriyet learned from sources that while Biden was here, the Turkish side proposed a project to the U.S. to calm Iraq’s unease. According to the project, which found support from the U.S., U.S., NATO and the anti-ISIL coalition will jointly operate at the training base in Bashiqa. Nonetheless, no logistical change will be made at the base other than a sign showing that an international force is deployed there.

    Posted by: Oui | Jan 25, 2016 2:51:35 PM | 71

    adressed to Noirette: To better understands President Petro Poroshenko Ukraine’s many dead ends, Peter Levelle's crosstalks and guests assessments recent events. See… jack smith @ 65.

    P. Lavelle (not Levelle) has a narrow mandate on RT which he fulfills quite well. He is probably a nice guy. Jack, don’t presume, don't do it again. (Dioxin which you know nothing about, on another thread..) Cut it out, are you a high school student? In which case I forgive you and will post an e-mail on request.

    Sorry but this jumped to mind. https://youtu.be/OY4jondX6tg

    So what should I understand about dead ends in Ukraine? Please engage in the topic.

    Posted by: Noirette | Jan 25, 2016 2:53:06 PM | 72

    Laguerre@66 - I don't see any incompatibility with the Rojava Kurd's disdain for the Syrian government and they simultaneous desire to get along with them as well as possible. I kind of feel the same way about my government. Is that OK with you?

    I understand the basic human desire for the Kurds to have their own state, but have said many times before that it's simply unworkable now. I believe a lot of Kurds are of the same opinion. Nonetheless, the neocon cabal running U.S. foreign policy nowadays (and their Israeli pals) seem intent on carving a Kurdish state out of Syria and Iraq today for their own ends. That's neither 'American' nor nationalism - that's the evil plan of powerful psychopaths to control land, resources and people when they have no business doing so. This is clearly not what I think should happen, but you seem intent on projecting this goal as somehow mine or driving some kind of 'agenda' I have.

    I don't trust anything the U.S. government ever did in the Middle East, nor will I ever trust anything they do there in the future. Period. We screwed up everything we ever touched there and a lot of people end up dead. Americans should be banned from ever setting foot anywhere in the Middle East or having anything to do with any government there forever. That's my agenda.

    Posted by: PavewayIV | Jan 25, 2016 3:06:25 PM | 73

    @Noirette #61:

    It also looks like Ukraine (about which i know much more) is being hedged forward to some kind of resolution re. Donestk and Lugansk. …

    This frozen conflict suits nobody.

    I was going to avoid posting on this because it is OT for this thread, but…

    I haven't followed developments in Ukraine or Russia closely since last spring, but I do like to think that I have a feel for how the Russian state sees things, given my background (even if this is nothing but pure conceit on my part). And it is simple: I think that the Russian state sees things the same way I do. And this is that with the breakup of the USSR, a Ukrainian experiment was started. Unfortunately, with the 2014 Kiev coup and subsequent use by the fascist regime of violence and military force to solve internal political problems, the experiment has failed. Russia gave Ukraine a chance, but Ukraine failed the test.

    Thus, I do not believe that Russia wants "some kind of resolution' in "Donestk and Lugansk. From a Russian point of view, the existence of Ukraine as a state is an abomination. (As I said, Russia and the Russian people were willing to give Ukraine a chance, when they went through their pro-Western phase in the aftermath of the breakup of the USSR.) Russian oriented parts of Ukraine should go back to Russia, and the rest can go to the various European countries from which they were extracted, mostly Poland.

    Of course, this will only happen once Germany is no longer occupied by the US. In the meantime, when we try to understand Russian policy on Ukraine, what I just said should be kept in the background as the long-term goal.

    To see that Russia is not interested in "working with" its "Western partners" to resolve the Ukrainian situation in a way that Donetsk and Lugansk go back to how they were, with a few cosmetic changes, see this:

    Cold War, cold shoulder – Sergei Lavrov’s passing hand leaves Victoria Nuland’s mouth gaping, signals “dire distress”, and much more

    Posted by: Demian | Jan 25, 2016 3:26:51 PM | 74

    A web search find about the history of Qandil mountains where the headquarters of PKK are. These mountains are on the border with Iran.

    [around 2004]
    Gabar says he and his 2,000 guerillas are fighting for a secular democracy in Iran. He also claims that PEJAK's leader, Rahman Haj Ahmadi, established ties with the U.S. government during a recent visit to Washington. But Gabar refused to offer details about this alleged relationship.

    PEJAK may seem like a natural ally for the Bush administration in its growing confrontation with Iran. But the group is an offshoot of a Turkish Kurdish separatist group called the P.K.K., which the U.S. has officially labeled a terrorist organization.

    Iran has repeatedly accused the United States of supporting PEJAK, but an official at the American Embassy in Baghdad denied any U.S. contact with PEJAK or the P.K.K.

    ====

    So with American tacit blessing (and perhaps, with some American supplies) PEJAK got entrenched in rugged mountains in Iranian border, Qandil. I guess that Qamishli is too far from Qandil to offer any direct help with Turkish bombardments, but radars there could give early warnings.

    About Qamishli and Assyrian militia: Wikipedia, Sootoro. "Qamishli is one of the last places in northeast where government forces, having been pushed out of most of Hasakah Governorate by either rebel groups or the Kurdish-autonomist forces of the YPG, still maintain some presence. The Kurds control Kurd districts of Qamishli, while loyalist forces remain in majority Arab districts in the south, the city centre, the border crossing to Turkey, Qamishli Airport, and an army base on the southern outskirts. The assertion of loyalist control over the Qamishli militia has been identified as a potential effort by the government to strengthen its position in the city by expanding and solidifying its shrunken territorial holdings."

    Recently ISIS was getting close to Sadat, an Assyrian town north of Damascus in "eastern Qalamoon", and 500 Sootoro members from Qamishli flew to Damascus to defend Sadat.

    Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 25, 2016 4:23:00 PM | 75

    Russia Insider Video ... Lavrov does "shake" her hand but refuses to look at her while doing so!

    Sergei Lavrov Snubs Neocon Vicky Nuland Before Meeting with Kerry in Zurich
    Syria's War Battlefield Update for 18th January, 2016

    Posted by: Oui | Jan 25, 2016 5:09:57 PM | 76

    UN Geneva Talks Delayed Until Friday

    Syria talks to seek ceasefire, excluding ISIL and Nusra

    UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has said that peace talks on Syria will push for a nationwide ceasefire for all parties other than the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra Front armed groups.

    De Mistura announced at a press conference in Geneva that peace talks, originally planned to start on Monday, have been rescheduled for Friday and are expected to last for six months.

    He said that he expected to send invitations to the talks on Tuesday and that the initial round of discussions was likely to last two to three weeks.

    Mohamed Alloush, the political leader of the powerful, Saudi-backed group Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), which has been chosen as part of the opposition list, told Al Jazeera there were conditions yet to be applied before any talks could take place.

    "... we cannot tell our people who delegated us how we gave up their rights and headed to Geneva without stopping the air raids, lifting the siege, releasing the prisoners, or sending aid."

    Posted by: Oui | Jan 25, 2016 5:40:24 PM | 77

    I don't think the US wants the Syria crisis to die down. The talks will go no where.

    I believe the US is pushing Turkey to invade Syria to establish a "buffer zone", thus preventing the Kurds from solidifying their strategy against ISIS (which benefits Turkey) and continuing to allow ISIS access to Syria from Turkey. Turkey can do this without engaging Russian forces as Russia will not strike Turkish forces first unless fired upon and neither will Turkey attack Russian forces after the disastrous result of the Russian jet shoot down. The result of such a "buffer zone" will be that the war will continue with no definitive Russian-Syrian Army chance of victory even if Syria remains intact.

    I believe the US is also pushing Saudi Arabia to stir up a conflict with Iran which might be another avenue to getting a war with Iran started. The original plan was to degrade Syria's military, thus allowing Israel to attack Hizballah in Lebanon through Syrian territory without worrying about a "two-front" war and thus preventing both from being effective actors in an Iran war to be subsequently started by Israel with the US doing the heavy lifting. The presence of Russia has dampened this plan somewhat as it is clear Syria will not lose the war (even if it doesn't win it).

    But the US and Israel have not abandoned their goals for an Iran war. Both countries NEED that war - the US military-industrial complex needs the profits from another decade-long Middle East war and Israel needs Iran off the table as a regional actor.

    I repeat: NOTHING HAS CHANGED! The goal is still war with Iran and the destruction of the "Shiite crescent".

    Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Jan 25, 2016 7:09:52 PM | 78

    @78 You may be right but if the Turks go into Syria the US will have to veto the inevitable UN condemnation. An outright war between Saudi and Iran with rockets flying across the Gulf will certainly work wonders for oil prices.

    Posted by: dh | Jan 25, 2016 7:36:36 PM | 79

    @Richard Steven Hack #78:

    Everything you write might be true, but if the R+5 win in Syria, I don't see how the Empire can go to war with Iran. The plan was Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, more or less in that order. This is why Russia is making a stand in Syria. And, as a result, the plan seems to have stalled there.

    The US's playbook for what to do when it is getting ready to attack a country is well known by now. The US is not presently doing anything of the kind with Iran.

    I don't think that anyone would disagree with you that if Assad were toppled, the Empire would then go after Iran, and that Israel would push it to do so.

    Posted by: Demian | Jan 25, 2016 7:46:57 PM | 80

    78
    Thing have changed.

    79
    No veto necessary.

    80
    The wars in Syria and Yemen are essentially war with Iran.

    This is the way I see it:
    Because Syria has a Sunni majority, the Assad must go! Coalition think they can win Syrian elections. But they want to guaranty (as much as they can) this result by a timetable that removes Assad before the elections.

    If it looks like the 4+1 Coalition wants a military victory and therefore will not commit to a suitable timetable for political transition, then they will take the "military option" - occupying/securing ISIS territory.

    If US and allies invade Syria it will be to attack ISIS as provided for under UNSC 2249. This would create a de-facto partition of Syria.

    Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 25, 2016 8:06:32 PM | 81

    @78 RSHack 'Turkey can do this without engaging Russian forces as Russia will not strike Turkish forces first unless fired upon...'

    Invade Syria without engaging the Russians? How about the Syrians? Russia does not want to be deployed all over Syria forever. The Syrians have been revitalized, are stepping up to the plate, and may well be the ones to answer a Turkish invasion. With Russian help, bye and bye, of course.

    My questions are

    1) will Erdogan cross the border in the face of US/NATO 'advice' not to do so?
    2) have the US/NATO even offered such 'advice?
    3) with or without such advice, what will US/NATO do if and when the Trurks cross the border and are bombed by Syrian war planes?
    4) what will the non-Erdoganian Turks do if and when Turkish troops are 'suddenly' at war outside as well as inside the country?

    I think the Sultan has backed himself into a lose-lose situation. That's probably why win-win Xi didn't visit him between KSA and Iran.

    Will the US/NATO back a loser?

    Posted by: jfl | Jan 25, 2016 9:08:21 PM | 82

    @61 noirette 'This is taking far more time than I like. ...'

    Gosh, I agree with all you say in 61. I hope it hasn't been my questions on the Saudi southern-half of the Syrian theatre that've wasted your time. Forget it. No problem. Sorry I can't put whatever time you've wasted back on your clock.

    Posted by: jfl | Jan 25, 2016 9:17:11 PM | 83

    Invade Syria without engaging the Russians? How about the Syrians?

    Posted by: jfl | Jan 25, 2016 9:08:21 PM | 82

    One should also ponder where Erdogan may send the troops without a disaster. PYD has American favor, ISIS has teeth, Latakia is watched by Russian who would surely bomb there. So they can enter "a rebel area", but what next? They would have to engage PYD, ISIS or forces that get Russian air support.

    Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 25, 2016 9:38:40 PM | 84

    Geneva Talks Delay Exposes US Terror Links
    By Finian Cunningham
    ~~~
    This week, UN-backed political talks were scheduled to begin in the Swiss city of Geneva between the Assad government and various so-called opposition groups. The talks did not take place as planned on Monday, January 25, and it is unclear if they will even go-ahead this week.
    The stumbling block is finding agreement on which opposition groups are to be admitted to the negotiations. The Western news media won’t spell it out. But the main problem resides with the United States and Saudi Arabia both insisting that two militant groups should be part of the opposition to the Syrian government. Those groups are Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) and Ahrar al-Shams (Nation of Syria).

    Both are connected logistically and ideologically with Al Qaeda terror groups, including the so-called Islamic State. They are bankrolled by the like-minded Wahhabi regime in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab dictatorships, and supplied with weapons and training by the American CIA.
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44042.htm

    Posted by: okie farmer | Jan 25, 2016 9:40:04 PM | 85

    ...
    Turkey can do this without engaging Russian forces as Russia will not strike Turkish forces first unless fired upon and neither will Turkey attack Russian forces after the disastrous result of the Russian jet shoot down. The result of such a "buffer zone" will be that the war will continue with no definitive Russian-Syrian Army chance of victory even if Syria remains intact.
    ...
    Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Jan 25, 2016 7:09:52 PM | 78

    As a viable assessment, that statement contains the seeds of its own destruction.
    The Turkish shoot-down was sold as a declaration of Turkey's right to punish a brief, minor, non threatening territorial incursion severely. Having established that principle, Turkey can readily deduce the kind of reception a Turkish military incursion into Syria would receive, and how unwise it would be.

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 25, 2016 9:56:35 PM | 86

    @82/84 There simply can't be a ground invasion without air cover, which is why S300's in Kuweires and maybe soon Quamishly would deter Turkey from such foolishness. Covert means of partition via Kurdish nationalist support is much more likely and the SDF would be the ones to clash with the SAA, not Turkish boots.
    If the US can sell to congress sending ground troops to fight ISIS (as a pretext) then there will be cause for concern about US to SAA/RuAF (not so) friendly-fire but we're not there.. Yet.

    Posted by: Lozion | Jan 25, 2016 9:57:42 PM | 87

    Based on the original and immutable policy objectives of the Western-Israeli-Saudi-Gulf Turkish cabal which fueled this crisis into the inferno it has become, there seems to be little evidence which might point to a US substantive policy shift towards Syria.

    The most formidable deterrent to Israeli domination and geographic expansion with which it cannot cope is anything which threatens or has the potential to threaten ( perhaps Iraq before Desert Storm) its ability to strike its neighbors with impunity, unencumbered by the calculus of retaliatory consequences for its actions. HA's proven ability (2006) to inflict battlefield damage and a missile arsenal with the capability to reach deep inside the country poses an immediate spoiler for such designs. Iran's size, advanced technology infrastructure and geographic distance coupled with its logistical ability to supply its ally through the Syrian corridor makes all three anathema to Western-backed Israeli ambitions. Syria's conventional armed forces, as a stand-alone institution, has never really been perceived by Israel as a formidable threat. This was especially the case when Egypt was removed from the military equation at Camp David. Shortly before that, Anwar Sadat turned his back on the USSR and expelled thousands of Soviet advisers about one year before the outbreak of the October War of 1973.

    To that extent, there has been no abandonment of the goal for the breakup of this so-called "Shiite Crescent" which threatens Israel's colonial cupidity. This scheme is dependent on its toxic but enduring marriage with its US partner and breadwinner remaining indivisible. The imperial project to re-design the region through military castration (a/k/a "New Middle East") of those who challenge this imperative may be temporarily stalled, but far from abandoned.

    I also don't think Assad's removal alone will provide Israel and the West a good night's sleep. What if the West's putative desire for elections either results in an Assad victory (unless he is removed in advance) or in the rise of another secular-minded head of state equally opposed to western intervention, Israeli expansionism and keen on maintaining the alliance with Russia, Iran and HA? Such changing of the guard will not serve the objectives so feverishly prosecuted without the slightest remorse for the epic toll of death, destruction and tragedy visited upon the civilian population. The neoconservative malignancy continues to fester in the US body politic and any recovery far too quixotic and removed from the realm of possibility at this time.

    Posted by: metni | Jan 25, 2016 10:36:54 PM | 88

    @88 Be that as it may, (and I agree with most of your comment) Russia has significantly altered the geopolitical landscape by intervening in Syria. Escalation and all out war with Russia isnt a viable scenario so I fear Syrians may face covert means for destabilisation like bombings, low level insurgencies, etc. post election for years to come..

    Posted by: Lozion | Jan 25, 2016 11:13:05 PM | 89

    @19 and 25

    I agree with you both. Lone Wolf is a valuable and thoughtful contributor.

    Posted by: metni | Jan 25, 2016 11:26:43 PM | 90

    I agree with you both. Lone Wolf is a valuable and thoughtful contributor.
    Posted by: metni | Jan 25, 2016 11:26:43 PM | 90

    "...epic toll of death, destruction and tragedy visited upon the civilian population" from your #88 made that an unnecessary & predictable observation.

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 26, 2016 12:03:57 AM | 91

    Toivos #5
    Same in French media, trying to shos IS would have upper hand (they did capture a place near Deir al Zor and made a slaughter + kidnapped hundreds). Hollande claims he will liberate Raqqa and Mosul. Maybe he's been trying US made Captagon too.

    Posted by: Mina | Jan 26, 2016 2:16:53 AM | 92

    i am agreed

    Posted by: طراحی قالب وردپرس | Jan 26, 2016 4:02:59 AM | 93

    from 91,

    "... from your #88 made that an unnecessary & predictable observation."

    The amount of space taken by one line in my post which you described as "unnecessary and predictable observation", still left sufficient room for what seems to be even more gratuitous. Beyond a concurrence of certain views, the sensitivity, tone and respect reflected in posts by people like LW (as well as others on this forum) is what prompted the expression of a sentiment which you seemed eager to find fault with.

    Posted by: metni | Jan 26, 2016 9:25:17 AM | 94

    at Jack Smith. i apologise for being rude my only excuse a horrific, terrible day.

    at jfl. when i wrote ‘taking more time than i would like’ I was only referring to Russia actions in Syria, nothing to do w. your comments :)

    Posted by: Noirette | Jan 26, 2016 12:18:31 PM | 95

    Posted by: metni | Jan 26, 2016 9:25:17 AM | 94

    Having re-read my post, I can see how it could be misinterpreted. Perhaps it was too subtle. I was insinuating that 'metni' could, imo, be Lone Wolf. And it was a joke, or might have been had it not been so obscure.

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 26, 2016 12:52:05 PM | 96

    Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 26, 2016 12:52:05 PM | 96

    I must admit the joke was too esoteric for me. What also threw me off was someone else mentioned they missed Lone Wolf. (BTW, I really meant what I said about LW....even though he is not my doppelganger)

    I suppose had I been better acquainted with MoA (as in more familiar with some of the frequent contributors such as yourself), I might have picked up on it.

    Your clarification is appreciated.

    Posted by: metni | Jan 26, 2016 2:35:22 PM | 97

    @metni
    You and I both..

    Posted by: Lozion | Jan 26, 2016 3:13:06 PM | 98

    Written by Eric Zuesse, a member of the Baathist amen corner.

    http://rinf.com/alt-news/breaking-news/russia-losing-its-battle-against-jihadists-in-syria/

    Posted by: Louis Proyect | Jan 28, 2016 7:21:18 PM | 99

    Crosstalk about Syria (10/28)
    Covers the same ground that MoA did in this thread. Pepe talks about relation to the New Silk Road. Discussion gets heated toward the end.

    Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 28, 2016 10:19:58 PM | 100

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