Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 22, 2016

Syria: Does This "Cessation Of Hostilities" Allow Attacks On Jaish al-Fatah?

This was just published:

Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria

...
Consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the statements of the ISSG, the cessation of hostilities does not apply to “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.

There is a word missing in the above when compared to the relevant part of UNSC Res 2254:

... specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, ...

The "associated" with Al Qaeda are not mentioned in the cessation document. In Idleb and other parts on north Syria Jaish al Fatah is the major terrorist alliance:

The Army of Conquest ("Arabic: جيش الفتح‎) or Jaish al-Fatah, abbreviated JaF, is a joint operations room of Islamist Syrian rebel factions participating in the Syrian Civil War.
...
At its founding, Jaish al-Fatah contained seven members, three of them — al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa are directly connected to Al-Qaeda or have a similar ideology. With Ahrar ash-Sham being the largest group, al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham together were reported to represent 90 percent of the troops. Another prominent Islamist faction in the operations room included the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria linked Sham Legion (Faylaq Al-Sham). Jaish al-Fatah collaborated with more moderate Free Syrian Army factions such as Knights of Justice Brigade.

Leaving out the "associated" in the cessation of hostilities declaration gives room for Ahrar al-Sham and a few others, which are clearly "associated" with al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in their Jaish al-Fatah alliance, to take part in it.

There are conditions to that. From the "Terms For Cessation Of Hostilities In Syria attached to the Joint Statement linked above:

The nationwide cessation of hostilities is to apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.
...
To take part in the cessation of hostilities, armed opposition groups will confirm – to the United States of America or the Russian Federation, who will attest such confirmations to one another as co-chairs of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26 2016 – their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:
  • To full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, ‑ including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
  • To cease attacks with any weapons, including rockets, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles, against Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and any associated forces;
  • To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
  • To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
  • To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.

The same condition plus a cessation of aerial bombing apply to the Syrian government side.

It is "proposed"(?) that the cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016.

The immediate estimates of various observers of the war on Syria on how long a cessation of hostilities under these conditions would hold varied between 30 seconds and 4 weeks.

The big problem is of course that al-Qaeda is so intermingled with the "moderate rebels" that the U.S. even tried, contrary to UNSC Res 2254, to get the cessation of hostilities applied to it.

Let us assume that Ahrar al-Sham agrees to the cessation of hostilities and follows its terms. The Syrian and Russian intelligence suddenly get good information about the location of the joint operations room of al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa. 

Now would that joint operations room or headquarter be a legitimate bombing target under the cessation of hostilities agreement? In my view bombing it would obviously be allowed because al-Nusra/al-Qaeda is there. But the "moderate" terrorists, the U.S. and their other sponsors would scream bloody murder about such bombing.

That is why I believe that this cessation of hostilities, should it come in force at all, will hold no longer than one week.

Posted by b on February 22, 2016 at 02:35 PM | Permalink

Comments
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The FSA joined up with Jund al-Aqsa and ISIS to break the supply route to Aleppo at Rasm Al-Nafal on trhe main road from Khanasser to Aleppo.

"It is very likely that these forces have coordinated together in order to cutoff the Syrian government’s only supply line to the Aleppo Governorate"

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/isis-rebels-attack-the-syrian-army-together-in-southeast-aleppo/

The SAA has no alternative but to counter-attack, if it has not already done so.

The moderate-extremist difference is a fiction made up for PR purposes.

Posted by: Yonatan | Feb 22, 2016 2:46:28 PM | 1

Just a fraud by the evil empire so the US can claim the lie that Russia is breaking the truce in Syria and Russia/ Assad is denying any chance for peace. A PR lie that MSM will amplify x 1000 - playing their role as war criminals.

Sure these talks might be about trying to extract concessions, but that's a pretty obvious failure and always would have been.

Posted by: tom | Feb 22, 2016 2:55:37 PM | 2

Cessation of Hostilities doesn't even mention al Qaeda, just al Nusra.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Feb 22, 2016 3:00:49 PM | 3

It's a reasonable presumption that the Russians know what they want in agreeing to this text. (More than can be said about the US.) The problem is detecting what they they think the agreement is. Though I can't claim to understand, it sounds as though they're left pretty wide scope. Perhaps the point is to force the US to reveal the locations of rebel positions.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 22, 2016 3:03:23 PM | 4

I posted this on the other thread, but they have already started trying to rebrand Ahrar Ash Sham

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/22/ex-uk-student-clocks-up-air-miles-on-mission-to-rebrand-syrian-islamists

Apparently they are not terrorists but 'ultra conservative islamists' that spend time with western diplomats. The second they are hit the propaganda will be unleashed.

Nothing changes really.

Posted by: Bob | Feb 22, 2016 3:07:36 PM | 5

ub for more: http://nnn.is/the_new_media | Russian paratroopers will extensively use training areas located along its western borders for combat training missions, Airborne Forces Commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov said Friday. Sputnik reports the commander stressed that Russian Airborne Forces units act on the basis of a "tensions in the Baltics, which tend to heighten the situation."

Russian airborne military exercises along Baltic border ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOZ-CgMH4Us

Posted by: ALberto | Feb 22, 2016 3:10:47 PM | 6

Even the BBC can no longer deny that al-Qaeda is a direct ally/child/surrogat of the Saudis

Yemen conflict: Al-Qaeda joins coalition battle for Taiz

The BBC has found evidence in Yemen that troops from a Saudi-led coalition force and al-Qaeda militants are both fighting Houthi rebels in a key battle.

On a visit to the frontline near the city of Taiz, a documentary maker filmed jihadists and pro-government militiamen, supported by UAE soldiers.
...

Posted by: b | Feb 22, 2016 3:16:51 PM | 7

There can't be that many positions outside the agreement's exceptions, and thus subject to the cease-fire. If the US is forced to define them, the Russians will have a pretty good intelligence picture. Ho hum, the Russians will have all they need. If the US doesn't supply the info, then, oh sorry, we made a mistake.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 22, 2016 3:18:28 PM | 8

In response to Bob - #5

More about the same Ahrar al-Sham spokesperson Labib Al Nahhas from Birmingham and Homs, Syria ...

Syrian Islamists, courting West, say they will protect minorities | Reuters – July 21, 2015 |

One of its slain leaders, Abu Khaled al-Soury, had fought alongside al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, links that have complicated Western cooperation.

Writing in the Telegraph, Ahrar's foreign affairs director Labib Al Nahhas said his faction, whose name means "Free men of Syria", was a "mainstream Sunni Islamist group deeply rooted in the revolutionary landscape".

But he also cautioned the West, which has preferred to deal with rebels it deems politically moderate, against expecting a Sunni political movement in its own image.

"Those expecting a "perfect" Sunni alternative according to Western liberal standard are sure to be disappointed," Nahhas wrote.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 22, 2016 3:58:42 PM | 9

Rebranding Jihadists As Moderate Rebels In Syria

Nusra Pushes Out Western-Backed Rebels from Aleppo, Idlib Provinces | Al-Akhbar - Jan. 30, 2015 |

Clashes began when al-Qaeda’s Syria wing, al-Nusra Front, seized positions from the Harakat al-Hazm (Steadfast Movement) west of Aleppo, threatening one of the few remaining pockets of the non-jihadist insurgency.

A Hazm official said by telephone clashes had spread to Idlib and that his group had retaken some areas previously controlled by Nusra.

"There is now fighting in Idlib, in the Jabal al-Zawiya area," he said. In Aleppo province the two groups were also fighting in Atarib, a town 20 kilometers from the Turkish border.

Heavy fighting overnight focused on the Regiment 46 base in western Aleppo and overlapping areas between Aleppo and Idlib province, where Nusra pushed out rebels from many areas in October. The source added Hazm had captured some small checkpoints in Idlib.

Hazm is one of the last remnants of non-jihadist opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria, much of which has been seized by the Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Posted by: Oui | Feb 22, 2016 3:59:47 PM | 10

Additional links:

Jabhat al-Nusra Front in Idlib fighting the Free Syrian Army (FSA)
Hazm is one of the last remnants of non-jihadist opposition

Posted by: Oui | Feb 22, 2016 4:01:30 PM | 11

Hillary Clinton "Russia and China Will Pay" for Supporting Assad Slaughter of Syrians | RT – July 2012 |

Clinton visits Turkey, says use of chemical weapons is a red line - August 2012

Saudi edges Qatar to control Syrian rebel support - May 31, 2013

Obama Sidelined on Syria, Hollande and King Abdullah Deliver Arms to Syrian Rebels | BooMan – June 18, 2013 |

A spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) told reporters in Turkey that the group would not attend the talks while massacres continued inside Syria.

"The National Coalition will not participate in an international conference and will not support any efforts in light of Iran's malicious invasion of Syria," said SNC spokesman Khalid Saleh in an apparent reference to Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters aiding Assad's forces inside Syria.

Syrian rebels in uneasy alliances

(AlJazeera) - There are countless rebel groups in Syria and many have different visions of how the country should be led. The brigades have joined forces in some battles, but it remains to be seen whether they are unified enough to win the war. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 22, 2016 4:02:15 PM | 12

Report on the March 2013 takeover of Raqqa by Syrian rebels and the subsequent rebel infighting   by Lucas Winter – US Army [pdf]

On 5 March in 2013, footage emerged of both Hasan Jalali and Suleiman al-Suleiman surrounded by jubilant rebel fighters. Free Syrian Army, Jabhat an-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham (part of the Syrian Islamic Front) and the brigade of Huthaya bin al-Yaman were the ones taking the city. [Source: Battle of Raqqa – Wikipedia]

Posted by: Oui | Feb 22, 2016 4:21:00 PM | 13

@1 yonatan

Map: Battle for the Khanaser-Aleppo Highway, Main Supply Line to Aleppo


The response to this joint attack conducted by ISIS and other insurgent groups came quickly. In just a few hours the Russian Air Force conducted more than 60 airstrikes on the ISIS and al-Nusra positions at the Khanaser-Aleppo highway. According to reports, the SAA has been also conducting counterattacks recapturing Mount Qamou’ and Mount Al Kafr Sanad.

Its more than unlikely ISIS and al-Nusra will be able to block this vital supply route for a long time, since the SAA will mobilize every available unit to reopen it as soon as possible.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 22, 2016 4:25:05 PM | 14

Oui, thanks for all the links, but I don't see the point in relation to the cease-fire agreement. If "Rebranding Jihadists As Moderate Rebels In Syria" occurs, nice for the the US, but it won't affect the cease-fire agreement, as it is a bi-lateral agreement, and the Russians would have to agree to the rebranding. It is what the Russians think that counts.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 22, 2016 4:25:57 PM | 15

thanks b... making agreements with deception baked in, thanks one of the signers to the agreement is what diplomats do. i imagine russia is fairly hip to the bs and will work with what they have - western propaganda be damned... thanks for the post @7.. how long before we get freedom from the ever lying press?

Posted by: james | Feb 22, 2016 4:30:45 PM | 16

@Laguerre

Just to illustrate, there are NO moderate rebels left. Only least extremist and all will impose Sharia law with no rights for minorities, even if they don't get killed outright. The Ahrar al-Sham is primary example. This has been true for all of 2015 and only after the Russian intervention were the supply lines to and fro Turkey attacked and interupted ... Erdogan's sham and King Salman's arms supply and funding to AQ. All advanced weapons dropped by western nations ended up in the arms of Al-Nusra, IS or Al Qaeda affiliated groups. Western powers rapidly running out of options as reality on the ground shifts.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 22, 2016 4:37:28 PM | 17

re jfl 14

The Aleppo road is very exposed. Interruptions are bound to happen. The recent accounts, like Robert Fisk's, describe it.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syrian-civil-war-isis-refugees-aleppo-to-damascus-a6886446.html

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 22, 2016 4:40:09 PM | 18

@17 Actually if there are any 'moderate rebels' left they will be the first to get the chop if the jihadis take over.

Posted by: dh | Feb 22, 2016 4:41:23 PM | 19

the crux of the matter would seem to hinge on the use of that word 'moderate'... probably many folks actually believe the usa position is moderate too! i guess jackals and hyenas are now moderate..

Posted by: james | Feb 22, 2016 4:45:51 PM | 20

R+6 is fighting on several fronts. And they were advancing at a tempo they were unaccustomed to. If Russia agrees, they probably see a strategic need for a pause to allow the SAA/NDF to continue offensives at Russian tempo.

Posted by: Cresty | Feb 22, 2016 4:55:44 PM | 21

re oui

Just to illustrate, there are NO moderate rebels left.
I couldn't agree more. The point at the moment however is to define which rebels can be attacked according to the present US-Russian cease-fire agreement and which not. In my view pretty impossible. The US will have to reveal its intelligence information on targets for the the Russians to avoid. Not very likely, as it would give the Russians all they want.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 22, 2016 4:57:21 PM | 22

Jordan was tasked to define who were moderate or extremist terrorists, this mission impossible was described thus..'Mission impossible'
An accurate list agreed upon by all sides is "impossible" to draft
-Jordanian former military judge

For his part, Hatem al-Ghuwairi, expert on security issues who previously served as military judge in the Jordanian State Security Court, told al-Araby al-Jadeed an accurate list agreed upon by all sides is "impossible" to draft.

"Since countries are in disagreement over the definition of terrorism and the criteria for designating terror groups, not to mention their entanglement with groups operating in Syria, putting that list together is impossible," he said.http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/politics/2015/11/22/mission-impossible-jordan-asked-to-list-all-terrorists-in-syria
Lavrov was right when this dispute [moderate/extremist] first arose. Anyone carrying arms against the legitimate government is a terrorist. These Jihadis do not negotiate, a military solution is the only and correct way to deal with them.

Posted by: harry law | Feb 22, 2016 5:16:52 PM | 23

I made the following comment at RIA Novosti/Sputnik in response to the first article it published about the ceasefire:

"The greater percentage of terrorist forces are not affected by the ceasefire and will continue to be attacked. Plus, there's conflicting areas of control where smaller groups are subsumed by al-Nursa and Daesh, so they must demarcate themselves clearly if they want to participate/not be bombed etc. We should soon see a map delineating the various groups. The major problem I see is lack of explanation that this is a very limited ceasefire that omits the main combatants, making it ripe for exploitative propaganda by the usual suspects."

http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160222/1035176230/us-russia-syria-ceasefire.html#ixzz40wChGXgV

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 22, 2016 5:18:57 PM | 24

The cease fire is not a naive construction.

I guess that the Russians have not accepted the conditions for a ceasefire without setting it up as a trap. They expect that the conditions imposed by the cease fire would induce deep divisions within these heterogeneous groups where the presence of Al Nusra and Al Qaeda is been hidden by the presence of "nice" Islamists or FSA left overs.
As Russia cannot destroy these groups without been accused of 'war crime' they may want to let these groups split and destroy each other.
Syrian intelligence has certainly infiltrated these groups to encourage splits and internal fights.
How effective will they be that is a question we can see in a few weeks.

Posted by: virgile | Feb 22, 2016 6:10:50 PM | 25

State Dept briefing from today. Not many answers in there, but some interesting discussions. Bottom line, the thing is not completed yet. They're still working on it. Biggest problem is there's no agreed upon neutral monitoring/observing force on the ground. ISSG Task force will meet to flesh out details on SoP soon but no date for a meeting set yet.
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/02/253115.htm

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Feb 22, 2016 6:28:21 PM | 26

One more thing, State Dept Spox was asked what about the rebels who intermingle with al Qaeda/al Nusra. He said we've been telling them not to "hang out" with Nusra or it will send the wrong signal. AP's Matt Lee said "and you'll get killed."

I did not get any sense that some groups who "hang out" with al Qaeda were included or not included in the belligerents who can still be shot at. And nobody asked any questions with names of specific groups, so there was no further opportunity to clarify.

We should ask AP's Matt Lee to ask that Q specifically. Maybe I'll tweet him.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Feb 22, 2016 6:31:15 PM | 27

So is the US request to Russia not to bomb US forces intended to create "pockets of no-fly"-- per Brookings strategy?

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 22, 2016 6:45:00 PM | 28

this agreement is a major victory for Russia

it defines the "moderates" as those groups that agree to sit at the table with Assad NOW, everyone else can be bombed; bye bye to the Saudi-sponsored grouping

a previous post where I expanded on this must have gotten lost in the cyberspace, too late now to try rewrite it

the point is that Russia+Assad+Iran will never be able to obtain a total victory against Us, EU, ALL the border countries (except Lebanon), plus the Gulf monarchies; Russia is content with a stabilizing compromise (whereas Assad would have preferred a total victory)

Posted by: claudio | Feb 22, 2016 6:53:37 PM | 29

So this cauldron holding 800 ISIS will probably be dismantled by the cessation of hostilities-- one way or another.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/syrian-army-completes-east-aleppo-cauldron-800-isis-fighters-trapped-nowhere-to-run-nowhere-to-hide/5509384

Deja vu all over again, but this time no Minsk agreement in the trade-off.

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 22, 2016 6:58:44 PM | 30

Claudio @ 29, So you see this as the endgame? I thought it was only a delaying, reinforcing strategy. Can you give us some indication why it's the endgame complete w negotiated settlement?

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 22, 2016 7:02:03 PM | 31

Considering all b, this latest charade, is probably more PR than substance. Russia should know better than to believe this is a serious attempt to halt the warfare.

Posted by: ben | Feb 22, 2016 7:03:58 PM | 32

Penelope @31

Churkin, the Russia ambassador at the UNSC, recently harshly rebuked Assad for wanting to fight for total victory

I see the "Syrian-led political process" as finally taking off thanks to this agreement: no more delaying tactics by the opposition will be tolerated, they would be a green light to Russian bombings; it's Kerry's way to force everyone at the table

on the other hand, in the present conditions, a political process will result in some kind of federalization, which will be a face-saving mask over a substantial loss of sovereignty of the Syrian state; hence Assad's resistance, and Churkin's rebuff

US, EU, Israel, all the neighboring countries (except Lebanon), the Gulf monarchies, won't let Russia+Syria+Iran claim total victory; the war, and the Syrian country's bleeding, as Churkin implies, will be endless

and then, why should Russia go for permanent war? it's two objectives are, and have always been:
1) put a stop to destabilizing regime changes
2) eradicate groups that could bring terrorist attacks on its soil

plus, this way, through a Us-Russia-guided "political process", Russia sidelines Iran and keeps good relations with Israel (just as the US will sideline its many allies in the coalition)

Russia's eternal wet dream has been to sit at the table with the Us and decide the world's destinies

by the way, of course I don't "know" anything, I'm just guessing as everyone else around here :-)


Posted by: claudio | Feb 22, 2016 7:29:58 PM | 33

@30 Penelope:
I saw some things on Twitter last night that those "800" were wiped up already and there weren't really 800, much smaller number.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Feb 22, 2016 7:30:59 PM | 34

Penelope, can't seem to get my posts through; I wonder if this simple "hello, Penelope" manages :-)

Posted by: claudio | Feb 22, 2016 7:37:22 PM | 35

Penelope @30

The cauldron is closed already. The 800 likely escaped through the gap in the North prior to it closing completely. See syrianperspective.com last two postings and comments by Canthama in both.

Virgile @25

Yes, it is a trap of sorts, and somewhat like Minsk2--Russia cedes nothing and gains everything. It will be interesting to see how the major propaganda outlets spin the conditions for the participants. I predict everyone of them will lie.

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 22, 2016 7:37:58 PM | 36

so, only short messages get through?

Posted by: claudio | Feb 22, 2016 7:40:30 PM | 37

Latest from Ft. Russ:

http://www.fort-russ.com/

Posted by: ben | Feb 22, 2016 7:40:50 PM | 38

Churkin, the Russian ambassador at the UNSC, recently harshly rebuked Assad for wanting to fight for total victory

I see the "Syrian-led political process" as finally taking off thanks to this agreement: no more delaying tactics by the opposition will be tolerated, they would be a green light to Russian bombings; it's Kerry's way to force everyone at the table

on the other hand, in the present conditions, a political process will result in some kind of federalization, which will be a face-saving mask over a substantial loss of sovereignty of the Syrian state; hence Assad's resistance, and Churkin's rebuff

US, EU, Israel, all the neighboring countries (except Lebanon), the Gulf monarchies, won't let Russia+Syria+Iran claim total victory; the war, and the Syrian country's bleeding, as Churkin implies, will be endless

and then, why should Russia go for permanent war? it's two objectives are, and have always been:
1) put a stop to destabilizing regime changes
2) eradicate groups that could bring terrorist attacks on its soil

plus, this way, through a Us-Russia-guided "political process", Russia sidelines Iran and keeps good relations with Israel (just as the US will sideline its many allies in the coalition)

Russia's eternal wet dream has been to sit at the table with the Us and decide the world's destinies

by the way, I don't "know" anything, I'm just guessing, just like everybody else around here :-)

Posted by: claudio | Feb 22, 2016 7:44:45 PM | 39

It depends on the meaning of "is."

Meanwhile the Russians keep bombing the be-allah out of the U.S/Turkey/Saudi/Iraeli supported ISIS.

U.S. Special Forces clearing out path to the Turk border for YPG!

Posted by: Frank | Feb 22, 2016 8:35:20 PM | 40

ot - latest from M K Bhadrakumar.. he draws a potential parallel with pakistan and turkey where turkey still has a choice in going the same direction or not. Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdoroglu coined the term 'pakistanisation' on saturday.. ..

Posted by: james | Feb 22, 2016 8:39:48 PM | 41

Quite cordial, is Vladimir in a good mood?

The statement was first published on the Kremlin’s official website on Monday. This is the full text:

Friends,

I just had a telephone conversation with President of the United States of America Barack Obama. The phone call was initiated by the Russian side, but the interest was certainly mutual.

During our conversation, we approved joint statements of Russia and the US, as co-chairs of the ISSG, on the cessation of hostilities in Syria. Adoption of the statement was preceded by intensive work by Russian and American experts. We also made use of the positive experience we accumulated over the course of cooperation in eliminating chemical weapons in Syria.

Our negotiators held several rounds of closed consultations. As a result, we were able to reach an important, specific result. It was agreed that the cessation of hostilities in Syria commences at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016 on terms and conditions that are a part of the Russian-American statement.

The essence of these conditions is as follows: by 12:00 pm on February 26, 2016, all parties warring in Syria must indicate to the Russian Federation or our American partners their commitment to the cessation of hostilities. Russian and American troops will jointly delineate the territories ...

Posted by: Oui | Feb 22, 2016 8:39:53 PM | 42

@claudio #36 - please keep trying. Fascinated by all you have to say on this

@Penelope #31 - never lose sight of the fact that Russians use diplomacy in sync with military action. Just as we see the armies on the ground progressing every day, so the same can be said of Russia's diplomacy.

Remember, Minsk 2.0 was the surrender terms by which NATO conceded defeat at Debaltsevo, and the US got its specials and mercs out of the cauldron. And the agreement has held the entire situation globally paralyzed in its Russian web ever since.

We have good precedent for trusting Russian ability to make good agreements. This one is beyond me but I'm grateful to those commenters here - and to b - who are trying to parse it.

Posted by: Grieved | Feb 22, 2016 8:54:40 PM | 43


@ 29

this agreement is a major victory for Russia it defines the "moderates" as those groups that agree to sit at the table with Assad NOW,

I'm more inclined to say that it defines those who are willing to stand in these elections.

Assad calls Syria parliamentary election for April.

Published time: 22 Feb, 2016 20:22

https://www.rt.com/news/333290-syria-assad-general-election/

I think this announcement was not any coincidence.

Posted by: alkomv | Feb 22, 2016 9:06:35 PM | 44

I would posit that Russia is keen not to inflame the situation as much as possible.

As much as it might be a forlorn hope there are referenda upcoming in the Netherlands (re: Ukraine) and now the UK (re: exiting the European Union).

Russia would no doubt enjoy favourable results in both of these votes.

What actions do you think Russia could take to ensure that.

For instance. Should Russia pass comment on the UK Brexit Referendum?

Should Russia advise that "It would prefer the UK to remain within the EU as that would keep the UK weak and beholden to Berlin"?

or should Russia advise that "It would hope the UK leaves the EU as that would substantially weaken the undemocratic European Union structures."

I'd suggest they won't make the second statement as that would seem to feed the fears of those who would fearmonger that Russia wanted the break-up of the European Union.

But would they make the first Statement? And would that make Britons more likely to be free of the EU so the UK wouldn't be seen as so weak? (Ie, this is what Russia would want afterall).

Posted by: Julian | Feb 22, 2016 9:08:29 PM | 45

@42 US declares vote invalid due to refugee crisis.

Posted by: dh | Feb 22, 2016 9:25:49 PM | 46

This deal between Russia and the US seems to have reduced Assad to vassal status with Putin promising he will do 'whatever is necessary' to force Damascus to comply with the agreement. Although there hasn't been any statement from Iran yet they must agree with Putin's harsh line in response to Assad's intransigence.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 22, 2016 10:04:07 PM | 47

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-draft-idUSKCN0VV1NJ
Syrian rebels see flaws in U.S.-Russian truce plan
The United States and Russia announced plans for a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria that would take effect on Saturday but exclude groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda's Nusra Front, a loophole Syrian rebels immediately highlighted as a problem.
~~~
The plan allows the Syrian army and allied forces, as well as Syrian opposition fighters, to respond with "proportionate use of force" in self-defense. It leaves a significant loophole by allowing further attacks, including air strikes, against Islamic State, Nusra and other militant groups.

Bashar al-Zoubi, head of the political office of the Yarmouk Army, part of the rebel Free Syrian Army, said that would provide cover for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies to keep attacking opposition-held territory where rebel and militant factions are tightly packed.

"Russia and the regime will target the areas of the revolutionaries on the pretext of the Nusra Front's presence, and you know how mixed those areas are, and if this happens, the truce will collapse," he said.
~~~
A U.S.-Russian statement said the two countries and others would work together to delineate the territory held by Islamic State, Nusra Front and the other militant groups excluded from the truce.

But rebel officials said it was impossible to pinpoint positions held by Nusra.

Posted by: okie farmer | Feb 22, 2016 10:21:30 PM | 48

I've glanced at some of the reportage of this agreement, mostly on RT. I find it compelling that from the UN ambassador all the way up to Putin's statement on this agreement, the Russian side is asking Syria to go along with this program. It may even be imploring, I'm not sure.

I suppose now that there really is a rift between the understanding of Russia and the understanding of Dr. Assad and his people at the moment, with regard to the "ceasefire" calculus. This has bothered me ever since Churkin's uncharacteristic and un-diplomatic interview the other day.

But I get the clear sense that Russia has achieved a plan that is so good that even the soldiers on the ground deep in the thrall of combat should listen to this. And Assad, may Allah bless him, is deep in the fight and deserves our support for his commitment. But the Russians keep saying, listen, Dr. Assad, this is a good thing.

So. This is a good thing, this ceasefire agreement. It calls everyone to the table, and all who remain outside are outcast, and their fates can only be imagined.

Come now, Dr. Assad. Let your Russian friends kill all your enemies, who are their enemies, and settle yourself into the long peace of almost endless negotiation.

Posted by: Grieved | Feb 22, 2016 10:45:08 PM | 49

Well, Grieved @ 41,

I always maintained that Minsk 2 was a stroke of genius-- while just about everybody mocked it as "unenforceable". But I kept saying that the point was that forever after nothing but the provisions of Minsk could be regarded as legitimate.

In the case of Syria, certainly military action is another way to "negotiate". What seemed unacceptable to the jihadi side before has become so-- while not to them, exactly, at least to their US overseers.

However, I should hope that this avoids being another frozen conflict-- especially with Syria not in possession of her petrochemicals. She's going to need a lot of income to rebuild, and hopefully coax a lot of her educated population to return.

A few days ago Thierry Meyssan saw in the comments of the participants of the "Friends of Syria" the commitment that Lavrov & Kerry wd personally handle the negotiations. This wd be a vast improvement if true. US's Jeffrey Feltman has been the head guy in the UN negotiations till now. He's the one who tried years ago to frame Assad & the head of Lebanon for the murder of Lebanon's Hariri. Likely the US was behind the murder. Anyway the charge failed when the witnesses were shown to be fraudulent.

According to Meyssan Feltman, Hillary, petraeus, etc were behind the failure of the 2012 Syrian peace negotiations.

It wd certainly show commitment if Lavrov & Kerry took over the negotiations. Hope Meyssan's right about this.

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 22, 2016 11:27:39 PM | 50

Thanks Joanne & Karlof1 re the info on the Aleppo cauldron.

Oui, thanks for the text of the agreement.

I hope those Syrian civilians in the occupied areas get something to eat soon.

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 22, 2016 11:32:30 PM | 51

Way back when I was a kid, the newspapers always talked about how Nikita Khrushchev always said "agreements are like pie crusts -- made to be broken."

Of course I was expected to believe this, since it came from the sacred mafia stream media.

The American Indians had a different narrative about "agreements."

Posted by: blues | Feb 22, 2016 11:32:56 PM | 52

Sorry if I'm behind the curve or double-posting anything. Have been hitting the books last couple days. If not already covered, this is interesting:

http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/02/22/nato-abandons-turkey-will-not-support-war-against-russia/

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 23, 2016 2:08:14 AM | 53

Claudio, too bad your machine is finking out on you. Can't imagine why it wd send only short messages???
--
Julian, in your question about whether Russia shd comment on the possibility of Brexit, you seem to indicate that Russia wants to weaken EU. I think there's no evidence for that. There was no commentary to that effect when Grexit was threatened.

Also, tho it's not the same thing as EU, Putin has many times spoken about the desirability of a "free trade" agreement w EU. Such an agreement wd de-industrialize all but the most advanced of the participating countries. That's why only Germany profited from EU & all the others are in trouble.

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 23, 2016 2:18:46 AM | 54

@Penelope

Of course Russia got involved in the Grexit debate, it was well worth the self-interest on naval port opportunities and Gazprom for the impact of the Southern Corridor from the Caspian Sea into Europe.

For Brexit there is no need to point to Moscow as it's a self-inflicted wound by David Cameron, UKIP pressure and the fascist, right-wing movement in Europe as a result of refugees coming from war-torn regions in North Africa and the Middle-East. Once again, a self-inflicted wound caused by western old colonial expansion drift for economic benefits.

Closing borders between EU states will blow-up Schengen, partition Europe further into East and West or "old" and "new" Europe.

The economic warnings for abandoning the Schengen accord ...

End to Schengen could mean a dramatic decline in growth for Europe

Posted by: Oui | Feb 23, 2016 3:25:09 AM | 55

@Oui [53]: Bertelsmann is the german version of the pro big-business, neocon thinktanks u have in the US. They are tied at the hip with the german gov. Nobody in his right mind believes anything coming from them. THe arguments for Shengen have been repudiated by some heavyweight economists in Germany. Shengen profits the EU elite and big business, nobody else. Same with mass immigration. Traditionally Germany would align with Russia, but the EU blocks that, which was probably a major reason for it being forced upon Europe.

Posted by: don | Feb 23, 2016 4:30:46 AM | 56

@don

I took the risk of "Bertelsmann think-tank" article [exaggeration], but it must be clear Europe has benefited from the Schengen Accords. Closure of borders for reason of discontent and/or disunity between old and new Europe (see also position on NATO expansion to border with Russia) is not wise.

There are a few other articles with lower economic prognosis for the near future.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 23, 2016 6:30:07 AM | 57

Schengen Expansion Ends Iron Curtain's Hold Over Europe | DW – Dec. 2007 |

    The new signatories of the Schengen Treaty, named after the Luxembourg border village where the no-frontiers pact was born in 1985, will join the current 15 members in enjoying the benefits of deregulated cross-border movement. It's a bit like an early Christmas present at a peak travel time -- some 400 million Europeans will be able to travel by road, rail and ship with increased ease.

    After two years of preparation, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will join the oldest EU states -- Britain and the Republic of Ireland excluded -- plus Iceland and Norway in the extended zone pushing the area's outmost borders hundreds of kilometers eastwards.

Is Schengen Area an added-value for EU countries?

Posted by: Oui | Feb 23, 2016 6:30:37 AM | 58

Penelope @ 51: Thanks for the link, hadn't seen it. Let's all hope they mean it.

Posted by: ben | Feb 23, 2016 9:51:59 AM | 59

February 23, 2016

I paraphrase -

Last night on PBS News Hour news reader Judy Woodruff stated that the Syrian government is committing war crimes in its battles against moderate terr'ists.

Posted by: ALberto | Feb 23, 2016 11:05:28 AM | 60

"Correspondents covering the war in Syria get information from the Pentagon, State Department, White House and their “experts”, believing they represent a lot of opinions on this issue. This type of activity that passes for news journalism, can only be described as shorthand, says Kinser.

“The official picture of events shockingly contradicts what is really going on, and maintaining this position will lead to the continuation of the conflict and condemn the innocent civilians of Syria to an even longer war and painful death,” concludes the columnist of the Boston Globe."

source - http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-war-in-syria-will-become-a-shameful-page-in-the-history-of-the-u-s-media/5509815

Posted by: ALberto | Feb 23, 2016 11:49:44 AM | 61

‘Who/what’ are ‘terrorists/not’ are political discussions that are detached from the ground. (Of course there is a stuggle for accrediting / condemning, x ‘terror’ force.)

At any one time, in Syria, there are several dozens of ‘small groups’ who have a ‘name’, a ‘commander’ or a structure that commands/ organises. There are many charts etc. that attempt to sort (all are confusing, goog has many others...), one ex.

http://bit.ly/1Tx01aO

These are not a unified force like Islamist State, or ‘terror orgs’ or ‘Al Quaida’ or even ‘Al Nusra’ etc.

This is not WW2, where mighty powers face off. It is not Spain 1936. The analysis is off.

Because of the directives to and finance of these groups (Turkey, KSA, USA and others) - nobody wants or can afford the setting up of any kind of ‘army’ - they fund small groups who basically are anti-Assad and ostensibly pro-Islam. It is cheaper and ‘under the radar’, will not lead to WW3, say.

All the ‘rebels’ are mercenaries, paid x, and will change groups when the pay is better. They go where the money is, and fight, but leave if whatever. (Rough estimate: between 200- 250 and close to 1k per month, dollars.) They collaborate all the time.

This is a new aspect of ‘hybrid warfare’ which resembles at a more violent, hyped up, level ‘color revolutions’ and ‘political propaganda by x who has money to pay out’ and it is *NOT* analysed.

It is somehow assumed that ‘ISIS’ has some ‘real aims.’ Note, my remarks imply that ‘rebels’ of different allegiances, such as ‘moderate rebels’ vs. ‘djihadists / terrorists’ is not a distinction one can make.

Pay in the Syrian army is of course much lower.

sidebar: Where are ISIS suporters tweeting from? From the Brookings Institution for 2015.

http://bit.ly/1PVTKmG

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 23, 2016 12:19:48 PM | 62

N@64

Your 'all Syrian rebels are mercenaries' or terrorists meme has been shattered by Putin's recognition of most of the rebel forces as legitimate nationalist forces to be treated with and included in the planned transitional government.

This propaganda line has served its purpose but now that a ceasefire is planned and will eventually be enforced a new more moderate rhetoric will be required to move forward and Assad will probably need to be muzzled so as not to upset the Russia/US plan.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 23, 2016 1:13:47 PM | 63

As usual, Wayoutwaste ignorantly misinterprets reality to suit his twisted worldview. Putin is calling the West's bluff by claiming that Al Nusra and ISIS are still valid targets, because those two represent the lion's share of terrorists committing atrocities across Syria.

Posted by: Bruno Marz | Feb 23, 2016 1:26:03 PM | 64

Noirette @ 64

Obviously WOW didn't bother to click on your links.

Posted by: Ken Nari | Feb 23, 2016 1:48:36 PM | 65

When I read reports from Al Masdar News like this:

Earlier today in the Latakia Governorate’s northeastern countryside, the Syrian Arab Army’s 103rd Brigade (commandos) of the Republican Guard – alongside the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), Fouj Al-Mughawayr Al-Bahir (Syrian Marines), and Liwaa Suqour Al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade) – imposed full control over the village of ‘Ayn Al-Ghazal after a violent battle with the Syrian Al-Qaeda group (Jabhat Al-Nusra), the Free Syrian Army’s “1st Coastal Brigade”, and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham,

I get to the conclusion that this ragtag of terrorists work together.

Posted by: jeanv | Feb 23, 2016 2:30:20 PM | 66

@ Bruno Marz | Feb 23, 2016 1:26:03 PM | 62

You and I may not legally smoke whatever it is WOW smokes, but then neither can WOW whose comments may be direct proof of there being at least one parallel universe. And surprisingly, every so often, like the stopped clock, WOW will actually produce something resembling reality, those those moments pass quickly. It is when WOW starts to be original, then is the time to worry about WOW (like crossing a street, or holding sharp things, or running with scissors) otherwise WOW is about as original as the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma newspaper - nothing to see here, keep moving.

Posted by: Formerly T-Bear | Feb 23, 2016 2:39:49 PM | 67

Putin has made an official statement about the ceasefire.

"The essence of these conditions is as follows: by 12:00 pm on February 26, 2016, all parties warring in Syria must indicate to the Russian Federation or our American partners their commitment to the cessation of hostilities. Russian and American troops will jointly delineate the territories where these groups are active. No military action will be taken against them by the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, Russian Armed Forces and the US-led coalition. In turn, the opposition will cease all military action against the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic and other groups supporting them.

ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nursa, and other terrorist organisations designated by the United Nations Security Council, are excluded from the cessation of hostilities. Strikes against them will continue."

Full text at:

http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/putin-explains-syrian-ceasefire-deal/ri13010

The conditions will be interpreted by both sides to suit their interests. From Russia's point of view it appears to be a last offer to those opposing the Syrian government to cease firing and resort to political dialog. Those that don't will be fair game for RuAF/SAA/Hezbollah/IRG/Kurds.

Posted by: Yonatan | Feb 23, 2016 3:08:52 PM | 68

@67

I have to admire how smoothly Putin has embraced the new reality of partnership not conflict with the US in Syria and his easy casual move to call Obama directly to cement the new agreement. He does this while leaving his, what some would call useful idiots, to flounder in confusion and denial while promising to restrain Assad much like how Hannibal Lector was restrained to a handcart. The next few weeks will be very interesting as things develop and the munchkins flail about begging for more rebel blood.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 23, 2016 3:43:26 PM | 69

"moderate rebels" have a few days' time to decide if they are going to distance themselves (also physically!) from al-Nusra, sit at the table with Assad without preconditions, and start designing a secular and united Syria - or be wiped out;

so finally Kerry devised a way to force them at the table, after the humiliation suffered at Saudi Arabia and Turkey's hands at the last meeting; bye bye to the Saudi-sponsored opposition!

Russia has two aims:
1) put an end to destabilizing regime changes
2) eradicate groups that could carry terrorist attacks on its soil
Stabilizing the Syrian state is the mean to both ends, and sorting the "good rebels" with which to start political negotiations from the "bad rebels" to be eliminated, is the precondition

the rub is that in the present conditions, the "Syrian-led political process" will result in some form of federalization, which is a face-saving way to register a partial loss of sovereignty on part of the Syrian state

so we can understand what was behind the harsh reaction of Churkin at Assad's claim that he would fight to reconquer all of Syria - the Russians want a solution, not an unwinnable endless war against the US, EU, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar!

I wonder what this entails for Iran and the "axis of resistance"; Iran certainly wants a solution, too, but I doubt a US and Russian-led peace process will take into account the interests of the Palestinians and Israel's opponents ... besides, the present Iranian leadership might be tempted to finally join the "international community" and go for real business ...

and finally, let's not forget that Russia's wet dream has always been to sit a table with the Us and decide the destinies of the world

Posted by: claudio | Feb 23, 2016 3:44:46 PM | 70

22

Au contraire, it gives ksailnato exactly what they want: causis belli in the ziomedia that "ru broke the agreement", and a un peacekeeping force with nfz needs implementation.

Posted by: Chipnik | Feb 23, 2016 4:03:34 PM | 71

@Claudio #70 - I have to disagree with your final paragraph about Russia wanting to decide the fate of nations, or even to sit at any table with the US. I think it must be clear to all Russian planners that Russia's greatest security lies in a world at peace. And Russia has a vast land already and zero desire for territorial ambitions, hence zero wish to dictate to others.

I wrote the following elsewhere, about this agreement, and I'm emphasizing here what I think is the most important aspect:

It's the result of continual effort. It's a masterful agreement. It is changing the world back to UN-sanctified agreements within international law, and Putin specifically stated the countries where the US action had produced devastation by breaking out of that previous norm.

Russia and the US are now co-chairs on peace in the world. One by one, countries will come under this umbrella, and Russia has earned its place as principal guarantor of the good behavior of the US through the strength of its arms, and the force of its diplomacy.

This forces US to share information with Russia or risk losing any undisclosed assets in the field to Syrian and Russian firepower. All the bad guys will be destroyed over time. Syria will liberate its land militarily where it can, and through diplomacy and negotiation, over a longer time frame, where it can't (e.g. Golan Heights). Russia will keep the US in check, and the UN will be the benchmark for all disputes of sovereignty.

Posted by: Grieved | Feb 23, 2016 4:32:03 PM | 72

DNA Test Identifies Bomber As A Turk (TAK)

Suicide bomber behind Ankara attack identified as Turk, not Syrian

DNA test designates Abdulbaki Somer as suicide bomber in last week's terrorist attack in Turkish capital, which killed 29 people.

The identity of the bomber was revealed by a DNA test, the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed, adding that the DNA samples provided by Somer's father matched the assailant's DNA.

Somer's father, who lives in the eastern province of Van, had informed the police that his son was behind the attack.

Abdulbaki Somer, born in 1989, reportedly joined the terrorist PKK organization at the age of 16 in 2005, and was based in the Qandil mountains - the PKK base in northern Iraq – until 2014.

See my earlier post where the PKK offspring TAK declared to be behind the Ankara bombing ...

Who are the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks TAK? | Ekurd – June 2010 |

Posted by: Oui | Feb 23, 2016 4:33:22 PM | 73

@62 noirette, 'sidebar: Where are ISIS suporters tweeting from? From the Brookings Institution for 2015. '

Wow! Most ISIS supporters are tweeting from Brookings? You'd think the twits who disguise their tweets, wouldn't you?

I don't follow man-in-the-middle links but googling 'Where are ISIS suporters tweeting from?' got me several links to the same graphic ... from the Brookings institution :)

  866  24% Saudi Arabia
  507  14% Syria
  453  12% Iraq
  404  11% USA
  326   9% Egypt
  300   8% Kuwait
  203   6% Turkey
  162   4% Palestine
  141   4% Lebanon
  139   4% UK
  125   3% Tunisia
3626 100% Total

The only surprise for me was the USA ...

Posted by: jfl | Feb 23, 2016 4:57:59 PM | 75

C@70

I think you underestimate the scope of this agreement, Russia is agreeing to recognize and force Assad to recognize all rebel groups, not just moderate rebels, except for those groups designated by the UN as terrorist groups. This covers everyone involved except for al-Nusra and the Islamic State or so it appears. The stated goal of this agreement and UN resolution is to begin a transition to a new government in Syria, regime change, although some of the old government structure and personnel will be retained.

Iran doesn't seem to be too concerned about the Palestinians these days since Hamas came out in support of the rebels and Iran cut off all their funding about four years ago.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 23, 2016 5:01:20 PM | 76

@70 claudio quote "and finally, let's not forget that Russia's wet dream has always been to sit a table with the Us and decide the destinies of the world"

personally i think your comment here undermines most everything you've said up to this point..

Posted by: james | Feb 23, 2016 5:08:31 PM | 77

@70 claudio,

I would reorder the aims ascribed to Russia, otherwise I agree completely

@72 grieved.

I don't know about 'Russia and the US are now co-chairs on peace in the world' ... Russia, Ok; the USA, are you kidding me?!

But I think the 'co-chairs' on whatever covers the same ground Claudio covered with 'wet dream' ...

Thanks to you both for stating so well the evolving diplomatic situation as it seems to be ... negotiations continue on the ground. So far the ground negotiations seem to be helping the diplomats focus - very well.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 23, 2016 5:11:43 PM | 78

wow - is your wife wearing the hijab yet?

latest from pl @ ssr...

Posted by: james | Feb 23, 2016 5:16:16 PM | 79

WOW, you underestimate what happened at Geneva: the moderate rebels were represented by the Saudi-sponsored grouping, that had no intention to begin any transition in Syria with Assad at the helm, piled up a bunch of preconditions, and finally walked away in spite of Kerry's pleas

the scope of this agreement is to wipe out this "gray area" composed of "moderate terrorists", professional jihadists, radical islamists, and local groups the facto embedded with al-Nusra et al

Assad has to accept to talk with rebels (we'll see how many of them manage to escape al-Nusra and al-Sharam's death embrace) that will disarm without having really been defeated, and will probably hold a dominant position over areas of a federalized Syria, but this is a bitter pill he probably knew he would have to swallow since Putin entered the scene, and was a consequence implied in all the previous peace plans

Posted by: claudio | Feb 23, 2016 5:18:14 PM | 80

james #77

you have a point, that final sentence was a bit out of context, I only wanted to underline how much Putin must have savored his call to Obama, who up to yesterday was denouncing Russia as an "international pariah"

Posted by: claudio | Feb 23, 2016 5:27:22 PM | 81

I didn't see a link to this story posted--further proof that Turkey intimately communicates with Daesh terrorists from an ongoing Turkish court case, https://www.rt.com/news/333359-turkey-isis-military-cooperate/

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 23, 2016 5:56:38 PM | 82

Ukrainians scored a fresh victory over the Russians:

Petroleum bombs were thrown at three branches of the Russian state banks Sberbank and VTB in the western city of Lviv early on Monday, destroying one in a burst of flames and damaging the other two. Also on Monday, attackers hurled stones at a Sberbank branch in Mariupol, in a government-controlled area of eastern Ukraine.

On Saturday, a crowd waving Ukrainian flags and shouting nationalist slogans looted Sberbank and Alfa bank branches in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

The police said on Monday that they had identified 10 people involved in the Saturday attacks, episodes that the Ukrainian news media have taken to calling the “office pogrom.”

The looting and firebombing came amid a burst of nationalist activity over the weekend.

=====

On the negative side, foreign investors somehow are reluctant to invest in Ukraine.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 23, 2016 5:57:22 PM | 83

masks are falling, reading into reuter's reporting:

rebels say the exclusion of Islamic State and Nusra Front will give the government a pretext to keep attacking them because its fighters are widely spread in opposition-held areas
...
The main, Saudi-backed Syrian opposition body said late on Monday it consented to international efforts, but said acceptance of a truce was conditional on an end to blockades of rebel-held areas, free access for humanitarian aid, a release of detainees, and a halt to air strikes against civilians.

So the "rebels" admit their forces are heavily intermingled with al Nusra's (who would have guessed that?); and the Saudi's proxies seem to oppose a political settlement of the conflict: after all, all they have to do halt airstrikes, etc, is to sit at the table with Assad

It appears that soon there won't be many western-backed rebels left to talk with

Posted by: claudio | Feb 23, 2016 7:16:49 PM | 84

Claudio @84

Too bad the conditions are already set and there'll be no changing them. Mixed in their ranks means fighting alongside; in other words, allied, as in partners, affiliates, comrades. They'll weasel and squirm, but the semantics are set. And Daesh has already made a precedent on several occasions of executing those wishing to leave its ranks. So, one of the partial ceasefire's consequences will be setting those wishing to be considered "moderates" against the fanatics, which is laudable!

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 23, 2016 7:27:12 PM | 85

K@85

Al-Nusra and other allied rebel groups are occupying the same geography south and west of Aleppo but they operate under separate flags as separate forces in the larger Army Of Conquest. They are the dominant and most powerful group so I doubt the other rebels will attack them.

It's doubtful but they could sever their ties to AQ and join the other nationalist rebels in this deal. They and the other rebel groups could distance themselves from each other and they could continue their battle with the Axis forces.

The other possibility is that due to these developments they could finally submit to the Islamic State and join in the coming all-out battle for dominance in Syria.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 23, 2016 8:37:26 PM | 86

All the terrorists joining together would be very helpful. Getting them all in one place would make it easier to obliterate them.

Posted by: dh | Feb 23, 2016 8:50:20 PM | 87

And then on the home front.........and OT, but then again another example of how far down the rabbit hole we are

I am providing a link to a posting that asks the following:

Why is it that there was NO mention of the latest mass murder (6 dead) in the US on the Sunday talk shows, nor by the GOP candidates but if the arrested assailant was a Muslim, past example has shown that it would be the current centerpiece of the MSM news and GOP talking points?

Rhetorical question of course. Except humanity depends on us fixing this brainwashing "phenomena" by the ruling class.

http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/2/23/1489827/-Kalamazoo-mass-murder-didn-t-even-rate-mention-on-this-week-s-Sunday-shows

Posted by: psychohistorian | Feb 23, 2016 8:54:18 PM | 88

It's kinda sad to see how many smart people have allowed emotion to cloud their judgement regarding russia.
I am very happy that Russia intervened in Syria - in fact way back when in the early days of the Arab spring when Syria was just being set to 'boil' I posted that Russia's long relationship with Syria would preclude any arrangement a la Libya whereby the Russians agreed to a security council motion on Syria and that I believed Russia would actively intercede on behalf of the Syrian government.
That does not blind me to the realpolitik of the Russian involvement however - this isn't about pink hearts and fluffy unicorns.
The world in general is better off with a multi-polar power structure than the unipolar one amerika constructed following the fall of the USSR, but just because amerika is evil don't be thinking Russia is good. Because it isn't.
Remember that one of the reasons amerika felt it had carte blanche to invade, loot, pillage and rape other nations was because they knew the Russia would be unable to protest too much since their own act in Chechnya was fucking evil. False flag attacks committed by gangsters in Moscow were used by the Russian government to excuse their butchery - the ultimate result of which has been to totally radicalise some Chechens who had started off merely wanting to slip the yoke of imperialism.

That is the past - my concern is that this 'deal' between Russia and amerika involves more pawns than Syria.
Just hours ago pseudo-leftie neoliberal Hollande announced he had sent French special forces into Libya. A week ago Hollande was denying the possibility of such a move and saying a clear mandate from the security council was required for france to put boots on the ground. What has changed? Has Russia untertaken not to block such a motion? Or more likely have the Russian negotiators promised not to make an issue of fukUS intervention in Libya at the UN?
That and other moves against Libya by the english and amerikans who have been rhetorical rather than Hollande's dead set "let's fuck up the Libyans and steal their oil again" (probably to see how it will play out with their public) indicate fukUS are confident that their specious claim that Libya is chocka with ISIS will succeed.

All these interfering motherfuckers are bad new for the people who live in and around what the invaders want. It is naive to imagine any of these sociopathic pricks care about anything other than what they can grab for themselves.
Sure some are worse than others but that is just a transitional phase which changes once a bully boy gets a few scalps on his belt.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 23, 2016 8:55:18 PM | 89

It is not 'ON' but we are getting closer ...

Saudi asks citizens to leave Lebanon

source - http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/02/23/451924/Saudi-Arabia-Lebanon-Hezbollah-alNimr

Posted by: ALberto | Feb 23, 2016 9:07:38 PM | 90

"Saudi Arabia suspended a $3-billion package to the Lebanese army and a remainder of $1 billion in aid to its internal security forces on Friday.

On the same day, a senior Saudi official said the kingdom was making "a comprehensive review of its relations with the Lebanese republic." The Saudi authority said that they have noticed "hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the State."

ibid

Posted by: ALberto | Feb 23, 2016 9:10:01 PM | 91

I did not know this. Perhaps you do so forgive my ignorance. Captagon ...

"A tiny, highly addictive pill produced in Syria and widely available across the Middle East, its illegal sale funnels hundreds of millions of dollars back into the war-torn country's black-market economy each year, likely giving militias access to new arms, fighters and the ability to keep the conflict boiling, according to the Guardian."

I picked this information up reading the comments attached to the above press tv Iran piece referenced above.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/11/19/the-tiny-pill-fueling-syrias-war-and-turning-fighters-into-super-human-soldiers/

Posted by: ALberto | Feb 23, 2016 9:18:46 PM | 92

Debs is dead: some misconceptions have to be explained. Hollande denied that "French boots will be put on the Libyan ground" and now informed about French special forces there. Special forces are special beings, and they do not move around in the same way as hoi polloi like you and me: (a) levitation, particularly as they go around as super-heroes and (b) walking on carpets rolled out by the grateful natives (c) variety of vehicles and lastly (d) barefoot.

More seriously, there are precious few signs of a 'deal' between Russia and USA. Surely, would France be so inclined as to put their people as fighters in Libya they can do it any time they damn please, and perhaps it is safer than a regular diplomatic activity (a high risk occupation in Libya). Stealing Libyan oil is definitely not a motivation (a) oil is cheap right now (b) hard to get any permanent contracts etc. in Libya nowadays. France, like any state that wants to have some stature cultivates a "zone of influence", and they specialize in Sahara and lands adjacent to Sahara, which allows to have an enormous geographical span at rather modest cost. (Check cartoons of the Foreign Legion if you do not believe me).

Sure, USA and Russia have conflicts but also trade ("insults" are topping the list of exchanged commodities) and deals. But again, any state pretending to some stature has to be visible in "the arena of diplomacy".

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 23, 2016 9:24:50 PM | 93

What is surprising is that this peace treaty just came when The Syrian army was taking over Aleppo..it doesn't seem smart to me to call a cess fire right now in those conditions.

In my opinion,Putin does not care if Syria is break up or not as long as there is no pipeline and forced regime change in Syria.Putin wants the interest of Russia to be protected and respected and Russian's voice to be heard with respect ,nothing more.Those two desires of Putin(and the people around him) played in favor of Assad up to this point but with a peace treaty that would allow half of foreign Islamist fighters to be considered as acceptable opposition ,I am afraid this cess fire might only be a Trojan horse. Therefore I understand why Assad is against it(but can he do otherwise?). It is obviously a smart move if you see the all thing from the side of Russia at the moment but it could be a major mistake with time.To me, I am primly concerned by The Syrians and I don't want them to end up with factions in their country that will soon or later, if peace is reached with them ,destabilize the country again either by fomenting a new revolt afterward or taking over politically the apparatus of the Syrian state for the interest of The united state.

What is important is that whatever happens Syria remains secular and united and possibly independent.Anything else will be a defeat and a premise of a new tragedy for the Syrian people.furthermore it could lead to the exact opposite of what Putin want which is to protect Russian's interest in Europe. If an opposition of Islamist rebels supported by the Us and its minions and accepted by Russia ended up winning an election or getting major influence in the country after such a peace treaty ,everything Russia fought for would become unnecessary.

For some reason I see this proposition ,seeing thing as they are on the field, too disadvantageous for the Syrian people. I might have a short view on all this though.

Posted by: lebretteurfredonnant | Feb 23, 2016 9:27:56 PM | 94

@ALberto

Captagon: Logistics and Smuggling Routes

Turks enraged by Saudi executions | The Independent – 1995 |

Anger is also high at the hypocrisy of the Saudis for punishing mostly Turkish truck-drivers for transporting Captagon, a prescription stimulant in Europe that is widely consumed in the Gulf as an orgasm-delaying aphrodisiac.

Turkish outrage may have encouraged the Saudis to stay their hand yesterday during the traditional execution time after Friday prayers: a Pakistani was killed instead. An envoy sent by the Turkish government to Riyadh is being hosted by the Saudis in a guest house as he waits for an audience with the King to try to save 40 other Turks who risk execution.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 23, 2016 10:22:26 PM | 95

The Saudi prince caught up in a drugs bust is lucky it happened in Beirut | The Independent – Oct. 24, 2015 |

It’s not every day you get to bust a Saudi prince. Amphetamines. Twenty-five boxes and six suitcases, all – according to photos and video – stamped with the Saudi Arabia emblem of palm tree and crossed swords, to be shipped out on a private Saudi jet.

And on the boxes can be seen the name of an emir of the state for which David Cameron himself lowers the British flag when the monarch dies. Even this short dispatch may have the effect – fear not – of raising the eyebrows of the Saudi ambassador to London, who has been warning the British that 50,000 UK families may be at risk of losing their livelihoods if we don’t stop whining on about human rights in their Salafist-Wahhabi institutional kingdom.

But relax. Abdul Mohsen bin Walid bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud (born 18 July 1986, according to his diplomatic passport) was reported to have been attempting to fly out of Beirut International Airport with four Saudi chums on his private jet on Sunday. The Lebanese who grabbed them must regret that their customs scanner ever picked up the cargo.

Lebanon charges Saudi prince with drug smuggling | BBC News |

Posted by: Oui | Feb 23, 2016 10:23:28 PM | 96

Brexit: Yes I can imagine Cameron wants out of the EU because of subjugation to the European Court on Human Rights.
Similarly for Saudi King Salman, the subsidy/contract of $3bn for delivering French arms to Lebanon is null and void.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 23, 2016 10:39:13 PM | 98

Saudi family is polygamous and the number of princes and princesses is in four digits. However, the prince caught with Captagon in Beirut has a "rich daddy" that is sometimes regarded as "the most influential prince in KSA". An influential feudal lord cannot afford to be reticent in displaying wealth (historically, not ENTIRELY true, but only if he was putting all his money, and more, into his private army, but, say, 5000 of personal foot and horse was a bit ostentatious too). So, this is a rich dad:

"... luxuries that only the uber wealthy could afford such as the $300 million Airbus A380 jet that Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal bought in 2012 from Airbus and refurbished at the cost of $200 million which made the jet a flying palace."

If you are in a habit of throwing out parties for more than 1000 guest on REGULAR basis, then the claim that 4000 lb of Captagon is for "personal use" has some credibility. Yes, it is more than million pills, but a single party may require a few thousand. In any case, last week KSA made a surprising decision to "cut off military aid to Lebanon", and it is rumored that the cause is the reluctance of Lebanese authorities to release of Abdul Mohsen bin Walid bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, or "prince of Captagon" (dad is Alwaleed = al Walid, and son is bin Walid). And to top that, Saudis got warned not to travel to Lebanon, as it is now apparent that it is not a reliable place to buy Captagon.

As I said, travel ban is sensible, but "cut of of military aid" less so. The story was that Lebanon has very sketchy finances so the military is in rather poor state, and quite importantly, it is a military force number two in Lebanon (guess who is number one). And Saudi influence in Lebanon was smaller than the Kingdom would like. That gave a rise to a very clever scheme: KSA made a grant of 2G $ for Lebanese defense forces for the purchase of weapons, with their top Lebanese pet, Saad Hariri, being in charge of supervising how to spend the money. And in the fullness of time, a large order for weapon was placed in France. And few months later KSA informed that they will not pay. I search for that story and I found this:

By Sean Nevins @seannevins | February 25, 2015

BEIRUT — Earlier this month, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) received a shipment of arms and assistance worth $25 million from the United States. Meanwhile, France has announced that the first shipment in a $3 billion deal of Saudi-funded arms will arrive in the country in April.

From the outside, it looks like Lebanon’s preparing for war: either to fight Hezbollah within its borders, or to protect itself from extremist fighters like Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria to the east or Israel to the south.

However, Hilal Khashan, director of the Political Studies department at the American University of Beirut, told MintPress News that this is not the case. Khashan says there is a good chance the $3 billion worth of French weapons won’t ever be delivered.

“All arms deliveries to Lebanon will have to be approved by the Israelis and the Americans,” Khashan said. “Nothing is allowed against Israeli reservations, and the Americans have to approve it.”

=======

Hilal Khashan was well informed indeed. Why was it worthwhile for KSA to cancel a phantom plan of military assistance?

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 23, 2016 11:21:52 PM | 99

Brexit: Yes I can imagine Cameron wants out of the EU because of subjugation to the European Court on Human Rights.
....
Posted by: Oui | Feb 23, 2016 10:39:13 PM | 98

Not plausible, because ECHR operates under a separate treaty, and it has jurisdiction in places like Russia or "Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean".

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 23, 2016 11:33:50 PM | 100

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