Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 30, 2016

New U.S. "Offer" To Cooperate With Russia in Syria Is Deceptive Nonsense

In February the U.S. and Russia agreed upon a ceasefire in Syria. Al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat a-Nusra) and the Islamic State were explicitly excluded from it. In April al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Sham and a number of U.S. supported "moderate rebels" attacked Syrian government forces south of Aleppo. They broke the ceasefire and Syrian government forces, after taking heavy losses, responded.

The Russian government has since urged the U.S. to push its proxy forces to re-accept the ceasefire. It demands, rightfully, that the U.S. supported "moderates" separate themselves from al-Qaeda so that al-Qaeda can be attacked without further collateral damage. The U.S. rejects that so far claiming that the rebels are too "intermingled" with al-Qaeda. A separation is thereby not possible, it says. At the same time it demands that Russia and Syria refrain from attacking al-Qaeda because that would hit those "moderates" that fall under the ceasefire.

That is hogwash and clearly designed to protect al-Qaeda. After months of pledging with the U.S., Russia finally said so and relaunched attacks against the "intermingled" groups.

Now suddenly the U.S. is seeing the light and is offering military cooperation against al-Qaeda in Syria. That is - if you believe this rumor of a new U.S. "offer", reported, suspiciously, by a wannabe neocon writer on the Washington Post opinion pages:

The Obama administration has proposed a new agreement on Syria to the Russian government that would deepen military cooperation between the two countries against some terrorists in exchange for Russia getting the Assad regime to stop bombing U.S.-supported rebels.

The United States transmitted the text of the proposed agreement to the Russian government on Monday after weeks of negotiations and internal Obama administration deliberations, an administration official told me. The crux of the deal is a U.S. promise to join forces with the Russian air force to share targeting and coordinate an expanded bombing campaign against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, which is primarily fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The deal is allegedly supported by Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. That is somewhat curious. Kerry is the one who demanded a harsher line against Syria and Russia and was the point man in accusing the Russian of bombing the al-Qaeda associated "moderates".

In exchange [for some cooperation], the Russians would agree to pressure the Assad regime to stop bombing certain Syrian rebel groups the United States does not consider terrorists. The United States would not give Russia the exact locations of these groups, under the proposal, but would specify geographic zones that would be safe from the Assad regime’s aerial assaults.

"Specify geographic zones" without specifics is pretty much nonsense. No one will take such an offer serious. What if the zone is specified as "Idleb governate" or "east Aleppo" or some other wide area where al-Qaeda and the rebels live and fight side by side? The Russians and Syrian would get practically nothing but they would have to stop attack those who attack them?

Even the hawkish former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, says that this idea is bullshit:

There’s not enough reliable intelligence to distinguish Jabhat al-Nusra targets from the other rebel groups they often live near, Ford said. And even if the Syrians agreed not to bomb certain zones, there would be no way to stop Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups from moving around to adjust.

Moscow and Damascus will laugh at such an "offer".

The U.S. is indeed protecting al-Qaeda because al-Qaeda, not U.S. supported "moderates, is the only force which keeps the Syrian government side from winning. The Zionist lobby confirms this:

Because most Jabhat al-Nusra fighters are fighting Assad, if the plan succeeds, Assad will be in a much better position. Meanwhile, the other Sunni Arab groups that are left fighting Assad will be in a much weaker position, said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The strategy could allow Assad to capture Aleppo, which would be a huge victory for his side in the civil war.

“If the U.S. and Russia open up on Jabhat al-Nusra, that changes the dynamics on the ground in Aleppo and Idlib,” he said. “It would definitely benefit the Assad regime ..."

The plan, if it was correctly "leaked" to the WaPo author, is nothing but additional delaying and obfuscation. The U.S. has no interest in ending the fighting in Syria. It wants to keep the conflict going as long as possible to "bleed" Syrian, Iran and Russia as much as it can.

The Russian government should finally accept that and end the conflict by solely military means.

Posted by b on June 30, 2016 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

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b4real @96

Perhaps my use of "provoking" the US has too many negative connotations. For the last 20 years the US has claimed to be the world's only superpower, the indispensable nation and the world's policeman. They use these terms to cover their naked aggression. I think most of here would agree but many in the US especially the many in the elite that determine foreign policy do not; they see US action as benevolent. Many of them continue with these beliefs of our over-all goodness even when we actively back Salafi terrorists to destroy legally established governments like Iraq, Libya and Syria. The US has had a free hand in carrying these wars and have to see it as our national right.

Russia has come along and challenged deeply those deeply held American beliefs. I think Russia is right and that US is wrong both morally and legally. However, it can be very dangerous being right. That is what worries me. If a major confrontation between Russia and the US is inevitable (it really is not, but is becoming increasingly likely) I think having it in Syria is not the best place from Russia's perspective. The Russians couldn't begin to protect a logistics path that far in the ME. As you pointed out in your piece above their actions and reactions on their border were executed brilliantly. The US knows that sending in troops to fight Russians in Georgia, Crimea or Ukraine would mean very heavy US losses, at least, and possibly nuclear war.

I am not going to second guess Russia's actions in Syria, Putin and Lavrov know more than I do, but we should realize they are taking a big risk.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jul 2, 2016 12:48:35 PM | 101

@101 ts, '... but we should realize they are taking a big risk'

The alternative is ... what, exactly?

Posted by: jfl | Jul 2, 2016 6:22:31 PM | 102

jfl @102

First let us make it clear what the risks are:

Hillary has called for a no fly zone over Syria. This is a quote from Michelle Flournoy (Hillary's probable Sec of Defence) from two weeks ago:

I have argued for increasing U.S. military support to moderate Syrian opposition groups fighting ISIS and the Assad regime, like the Southern Front, not asking U.S. troops to do the fighting in their stead. I further argue that the U.S. should under some circumstances consider using limited military coercion – primarily strikes using standoff weapons – to retaliate against Syrian military targets in order to stop violations of the Cessation of Hostilities, deter Russian and Syrian bombing of innocent civilians and the opposition groups we support, and set more favorable conditions on the ground for a negotiated political settlement.

This was her response to Russia's bombing of the Al qaida forces near the Jordan border. In a larger statement she is threatening to use missiles against "proxy" (meaning Russian bombers) forces.

That is a serious risk. So what happens if the US used one of its standoff weapons to shoot down a Russian airplane? Will Russia respond by destroying the launch pad for one of these standoff weapons? What if it was a US navy Aegis class destroyer?

What alternative would Russia have in that scenario? Do nothing? Go to war against the US in the Eastern Mediterranean? I am not sure they would have any good alternatives. That is why their current position in Syria is so risky. As I mentioned above I believe Russia's position is morally and legally justified. But is it militarily defensible?

Posted by: ToivoS | Jul 2, 2016 7:25:36 PM | 103

One man learned to plant seeds on an accident. Man crossing a creek during a storm, spilled all he had gathered. Returned to that spot much later and noticed the new growth. Once he knew he could grow food, he was set for life.

The other sect spent countless hours hunting and gathering food. They saw the other living a relatively leisurely life and disovered he was growing most of his food. This clan figured out they could survive by stealing the produce. These must be killed.
Actually you're wrong. Hunter-Gatherers were very leisurely, while farming is intensive work, especially in the olden times.

Posted by: bbbb | Jul 2, 2016 8:40:35 PM | 104

Sorry - I was a little irritated for no reason.. but H/G to my understanding had extensive periods of leisure, provided that food was easily available

Posted by: bbbb | Jul 2, 2016 8:42:30 PM | 105

Posted by: ToivoS | Jul 2, 2016 7:25:36 PM | 103

Is it possible that you've allowed yourself to be spooked by uninformed drivel from a nitwit spokeswoman from the United States of Blowhards? The fact that Yankees purport to believe so much of their own bullshit doesn't place any obligation on anyone else to believe it. We're talking about Russia vs the USA. Both have weapons which can strike a target 12,000 miles from the launch site. The whole notion of "stand-off weapons" is ludicrous in that context.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 3, 2016 12:55:59 AM | 106

@106 hoarse

I more or less agree with your assessment, hoarse, but even if the Russians were not in relatively good shape, their alternative looks to me to be fighting the same crew in Russia itself. They've done that before ... and are very well aware of just what that envolves.

I don't know how this is going to work out, but I've quit second-guessing the Russians based on a US-derived profit/loss sheet. They're much more serious than Hillary or Michelle or the other armchair amazons, who are going to find themselves in over their heads in very short order, if their foolish rhetoric is to be believed.

Posted by: jfl | Jul 3, 2016 8:07:42 AM | 107

jfl @107

I was simply pointing out that what Russia is doing is risky. I wouldn't call that second guessing. What I fear is that the fools that run our foreign policy (especially the incoming Queen of Chaos and her likely Sec of Def Michelle) either do not realize the risk or believe they can bluff Russia down. I hope there are some sensible people in the military that can educate them.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jul 3, 2016 12:25:06 PM | 108

@ 107, 108

Mutually Assured Destruction worked because the assumption of rational actors also works BUT it leads to deadlock. MAD has been replaced with BERSERKER, reliance on IRRATIONAL actions which have advanced the frontline to Russian borders. Don't be surprised to see Berserking reflected about the moment push comes to shove and find out exactly what it is like to be recipient rather than initiator. My guess is rational actors at that moment will be a highly desired quality.

Posted by: Formerly T-Bear | Jul 3, 2016 12:55:53 PM | 109

I'm far from being a military tactician, BUT can anyone see a way for Russia to clear out the US backed groups around Aleppo AND clear the way for Syria to keep the US and it Western allies out of the large desert regions to the east.

In other words, can they mop things up before January 2017 so that the Hawks and Harpies are blocked from further warfare in Syria?

Of course, the US could always use every means at its disposal to reseed the takfiries, etc....

Posted by: jawbone | Jul 3, 2016 1:45:16 PM | 110

In other words, can they mop things up before January 2017 so that the Hawks and Harpies are blocked from further warfare in Syria?
Posted by: jawbone | Jul 3, 2016 1:45:16 PM | 110

But it's unlikely that they can do so without punishing the suppliers and re-suppliers of headchoppers, which I suspect is what b was insinuating when advocating "solely military means." i.e. there won't be anyone left to talk to so they will no longer need to waste time talking (to ppl who don't listen) and can concentrate on 'getting the job done'.

For Russia, Syria is small bikkies compared with defending Russia. It'll all boil down to how stupidly the Yankees want to play it.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 4, 2016 12:53:17 AM | 111

Any armed combatant is fair game for the Syrian Arab Army by any means short of nuclear devises or derivatives like the supposedly 'depleted' uranium projectiles the US has left scattered all over the Iraq testing ground.

Russia will have to see what exactly is in the American proposal and suffer the "Russians won't co operate" tag if it isn't acceptable, which I doubt it will be as certainly being disingenuous from the get go. The two nations missions in Syria are in direct contrast so where can a deal be made that isn't a disadvantage to the other in this zero sum play.

Posted by: BRF | Jul 4, 2016 11:07:29 PM | 112

Israeli drones spotted over the Golan Heights prior to airstrikes

A senior officer from the Syrian Arab Army told Al-Masdar News on Wednesday morning that several Israeli reconnaissance drones were seen flying over the Golan Heights and Sheba’a Farms before two missiles struck Ba’ath City in the Al-Quneitra Governorate.

Not long after their drones captured footage in Syrian and Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force’s attack helicopters fired two missiles at the Workers Housing Facility inside Ba’ath City.

You'd think that the Russians would at least have popped the drone ... maybe this is part of the new Erdogan-Putin-Netanyahoo playbook?

Check out the Google Map ... all of Palestine and the Golan are shown as part of Israel, just a faint, unlabeled dotted-gey line around them. Purely temporary. What obscene pigs the google twins have turned out to be, eh?

Posted by: jfl | Jul 6, 2016 7:20:17 AM | 113

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