Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 31, 2016

A Deal Over Syria That Left The U.S. Out

Thanks to all for the good discussion of Mark Sleboda's post here. His central thesis: the recent Turkish invasion of Syria was against Russian interests, Russia basically left Syria hanging and lost out in the NATO war on the country.

But my sources told me of behind-the-scenes agreements that went against the U.S. orders and plans. All relevant news published recently also points to a different story. Turkey has aligned with Russia and Iran and some, may be temporary, agreement was found with regards to the conflict in Syria. The U.S. was lost in the chaos that followed when two of the U.S. proxy forces, Syrian Kurds and Turkish led "moderate rebel" Jihadists, fought each other around Jarablus.

My own doubts about what was really happening were expressed three weeks when I asked: Who Now Leads The War On Syria - The CIA Or Turkey?. Its conclusion:

It could be that Turkish-U.S. cooperation on Syria, despite the coup-attempt in Turkey, is still excellent. That would imply that major conflicts playing out in the spy world and in the media are orchestrated fakes to confuse Syria and its allies.

But these conflicts may also point to real fighting behind the scenes. Fighting about who will be stuck with the tar-babies al-Qaeda in Syria and other "rebels" are likely to become.

Since then the fog has lifted a bit. There is a real conflict between the U.S. and Turkey. Turkey indeed moved on a plan that Russia, Iran and Syria had agreed with. The U.S was caught off guard. The real tar-baby for the U.S. turned out to be the Syrian Kurds, who in their utter hubris and pushed by the U.S., overextended their possibilities and alienating everyone around them. The U.S. had counted on their fighting prowess to clean Raqqa and to rule over east and central Syria but that dream is now over. The U.S. was eventually forced to side with its NATO ally Turkey to prevent it from moving even further towards Russia. The Kurds lost some 400 men in fighting for Manbij only to be told to move out again - without any gain. They will not give one man to conquer Raqqa.

Three recent reports now add to the discussion. The first by Genevieve Casagrande a "Syria analyst" of the neocon Institute for the Study of War:

Turkey’s intervention in Jarablus is a turning point in American-Turkish relations and the war against ISIS. Erdogan’s willingness to commit military force to the anti-ISIS fight fulfils longstanding American demands for Turkey to increase its contribution to the anti-ISIS mission. The recapture of Jarablus and ongoing operations to clear remaining ISIS-held portions of the border west of Jarablus have set the desired conditions for an offensive to retake Raqqa city by eliminating ISIS’s final supply line from Turkey.

That view somewhat agrees with Mark in that this move is seen as to the advantage of the U.S.  But it is devoid of reality. No one will touch Raqqa now as all U.S. plans towards that were based on Kurdish cooperation. The U.S. is currently outside of the game frame and without control over any of the actors. It has no canon fodder left it could push towards any attack.  Also - moving Turkish soldiers and influence down south and deeper into ISIS land does not cut ISIS's supply lines to Turkey. It just shortens the run to the virtual border crossing ISIS couriers will have to take. There was and is no need for Turkey to invade Syria at all if the aim were to shut down its border to prevent traffic to and from ISIS crossing it.

The "analyst" is in her early to mid twenties, has a BA in English, partied in Dubai and Jordan to learn a bit of Arabic and sorted Youtube videos from Syria for various U.S. foundation. A "Syria analyst" with little relevant knowledge and no experience but trained enough to avoid any critical thought while writing down whatever neocon nonsense she is told. One must disregard any piece that positively quotes her. Was she hired to look good on TV or to amuse the various buffoons of the Kagan clan?

Two news reports by real analysts and reporters who walk the grounds about which they write give some clearer idea of what is really happening. Mohammad Ballout writes for Lebanon's Assafir newspaper. His latest as translated by Yalla La Barra:

The Syrians and the Turks are on the verge of a security understanding that will lead to a political one. The indications of this unprecedented understanding are not yet clear. But its first headline, without any surprises, is a trade off: the Turks backing off in Aleppo and closing the crossings used by some of the armed groups (the most important ones) in the north in exchange for the Turkish forces to be given the freedom to destroy the Kurdish project in Syria. In other words, the city of Aleppo goes to Syria and the corpse of the Kurdish project in Syria goes to the Turks.
...
It can be said that the Turks have taken a first step to separate the moderate opposition from the extremist groups. Turkey’s recent diversion of thousands of fighters from the fronts of Aleppo and Idlib represents a Turkish initiative to separate the factions it directly mentors from the extremist groups who coordinate their operations.

There are doubts though that the Turks can complete escape from the U.S./NATO frame:

It’s likely that this deal will face questions about the American role, and Turkey’s ability to advance it’s understanding and coordination with the Russians, Iranians and Syrians – namely, the resistance axis – without US approval is unlikely. The ability of Erdogan to shift from Turkey’s traditional/historical position against the resistance axis, and rebel against Washington is questionable.
...
Until now, real indicators of a change in the Turkish position on the ground still need a lot of time, especially in Aleppo. However, there are indications that the Americans are feeling uncomfortable about the Turkish-Iranian-Russian rapprochement and have instructed their agencies to stop providing the Turks with military/security information in Syria.

Turkey does not depend on U.S. intelligence in Syria. It surely has better sources and connections than the CIA or anyone else but the Syrians themselves. I see little, if any, ability left with Washington to tell Erdogan what to do or not to do. There are also significant measures Russia, Iran and Syria can take to penalize Turkey (or the Saudis) should Erdogan try to deviate from the deal. A few new weapons in the hands of the PKK (or Houthis) could cost Turkey (Saudi Arabia) more than they are able to gain in Syria.

Elijah J. Magnier reports for the Kuwait AlRai on the deal with some special insight on the Russian role:

During their meeting in St. Petersburg and following consecutive reunions later, plus an exchange of visits by high-ranking military officials, Russia and Turkey agreed on the role the Turkish forces could be offered in Syria, within specific parameters that will serve both sides interest, as long as there are limits and guarantees offered by both parties.
..
Russia has accepted a Turkish incursion into Syrian territory due to the Kurds’ declared hostility to the government in Damascus when YPG forces attacked and expelled the Syrian army from al-Hasakah city to the suburbs, with US backing, – a clear intention to initiate the partition of Syria. Russia stands against a Kurdish state ruled by the US in the new Kremlin Mediterranean base, Syria.
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Turkey expressed its willingness to collaborate and instruct many rebel groups under its direct influence, to reject unification, avoid the merger proposed by Nusra, and keep its distance from the Jihadists, mainly in the northern city of Aleppo. [...] Turkey agreed to avoid any contact or clash with the Syrian army, mainly around Aleppo, in support of the Syrian rebels and jihadists.
...
Russia made it clear to Turkey that it will not tolerate any infringement of the agreement or any clash with the Syrian Army drawing clear redlines, and threatening that its Air Force will hit the Turkish forces and its proxies in case of any similar violation.

All these talks were not just between Turkey and Syria (in Algeria) or between Moscow and Ankara. There was a wide framework discussed between all relevant forces - Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Turkey and others and only the U.S. (it seems) was left out. I do not see this as a loss for Russia - not at all. The Syrian government was barely alive when Russia intervened just 10 month ago. It has now regained a lot of its land and capabilities. The U.S. and Israeli plans for a divided Syria have been warded. The strategic landscape has been changed. That's a lot of progress in a quite short time.

Surely Syria would like to be in a better situation, but its resources are limited and neither Russia nor Iran are willing to go all-in (and risk attacks on their homelands) to recover the last corners of the country. The deal with Turkey will prevent control of the U.S. over significant parts of Syria and the federalization of the country the neocons promote.

The Obama administration is unlikely to implement any new big plan with which it could regain the initiative. It will kick the can down the road and leave the problem to the next president. Meanwhile ISIS will stay alive but will, devoid of resources, continue to deteriorate. That apple will either fall down on its own or be an easy pick for a later time:

Decisional sources told me “Damascus and its allies are not willing to lose one single man to regain control of Raqqah. If the US wants with all its proxies, the Kurds or even Turkey to knock at the gate of Raqqah, they are most welcome to do so. Aleppo, mid Syria and its north are far more important than sending forces to be drained against ISIS that is just waiting to show a last show of strength before being whipped.

Posted by b on August 31, 2016 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (147)

August 30, 2016

Open Thread 2016-29

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 30, 2016 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (269)

August 29, 2016

NYT Laments Of Allegedly False Russian News Stories - With A False U.S. News Story

The New York Times is desperate for new readers and therefore tries to branch into the realm of The Onion and other satirical sites. It attempts to show that allegedly Russia controlled media spread false stories for political purpose - by providing a false media story. The purpose of the NYT doing such is yours to guess.

The sourcing of that Page 1 story is as weak as its content. It starts with claiming that opponents of Sweden joining NATO must be somehow Russia related and are spreading false stories:

As often happens in such cases, Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the false reports.

Duh! But it must have been Russia. Because Swedish internal opposition to joining NATO would be incapable of opining against it. Right? Likewise anti-EU reports and opposition to the EU within the Czech Republic MUST be caused by Russian disinformation and can in now way be related to mismanagement of the EU project itself.

The sourcing for the whole long pamphlet is extremely weak:

But they, numerous analysts and experts in American and European intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centerpiece of the foreign policy of President Vladimir V. Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 largely to forestall that possibility.

Whoa! "Experts in American and European intelligence" can of course be trusted not to ever spread false stories or rumors about Russia influencing "news". Such truth tellers they are and have always been.

Then follows, in a claim about false stories(!) spread by Russia, that factually false claim that Russia "invaded Georgia in 2008". It was obvious in the very first hours of the Georgia war, as we then noted, that Georgia started it. A European Union commission later confirmed that it was Georgia, incited by the Bush government, that started the war. The NYT itself found the same. All Russia did was to protect the areas of South Ossetia and Abchazia that it was officially designated to protect by the United Nations! No invasion of Georgia took place.

And what was the alleged reason that Russia "invaded" Georgia for? "Largely to forestall".."NATO expansion"? But it was NATO that rejected Georgia's membership in April 2008. Why then would Russia "invade" Georgia in August 2008 to prevent a membership that was surely not gonna happen?

Utter a-historic nonsense.

The who tale, written by Neil MacFarquhar, is a long list of hearsay where Russia is claimed to have influenced news but without ever showing any evidence.

Not mentioned in the story are:

  • the systematic, extensive U.S government slanting of news through the Broadcasting Board of Governors and Voice of America and RFE/RL as well as through dozens of U.S. military financed "news" sites and social media fakes
  • the extensive cooperation between the New York Times and the CIA with spying as well as with manipulating foreign news
  • the acknowledged spreading of false stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq an behalf of the Bush administration by the NY Times itself.

As Carl Bernstein described in his book about the CIA and the media:

Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the [Central Intelligence] Agency were Williarn Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Tirne Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune.

By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.

Bernstein shows that the NYT cooperation with the U.S. government and its intelligence agencies was very extensive and continues uninterrupted up to today.

To lament about alleged Russian influence on some news outlets while writing a disinformation filled piece, based on "experts in American and European intelligence", for an outlet with proven CIA cooperation in faking news, is way beyond hypocrisy.

Through this piece the NYT becomes its own parody. Did the author and editors recognize that? Or are they too self-unconscious for even such simple insight?

Posted by b on August 29, 2016 at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (67)

August 28, 2016

The Turkish Invasion Of Syria As Path To "Regime Change"

by Mark Sleboda
(via facebook)

The US-backed Turkish invasion of Syria with its proxies in tow now moves further into Syria to seize Al-Bab in a landgrab to create Erdogan's (and the U.S. neocon Brookings Institute's) long desired jihadi "safe haven"/"no fly zone" for al-Qaeda & friends to operate and stage from with impunity from Russian and Syrian airstrikes.


Map by Peto Lucem - bigger

Al-Bab is a "backdoor" on key routes south to Aleppo from the Turkish border.

Turkish supplies for the Islamic Army of Conquest offensives in South Aleppo and Latakia: arms, ammo, supplies, even artillery, tanks have been reported as flowing like water over the Turkish border

Turkey is obviously not coordinating its incursion with the Syrian government which condemns it as a violation of its sovereignty. The Kremlin's impotent calls for Turkey to coordinate with Damascus while waving the old Geneva communique have been completely ignored. Unfortunately there is little they can do at this point without engaging in a full scale war with Turkey and the U.S. in Syria. Something the Kremlin lacks the will to do. Turkey/U.S. intend that their proxies take Aleppo as leverage in settlement negotiations to force Assad to step down, or partition if that fails.

Both the Turkish and FSA flags, (not the Syrian flag), were raised over "liberated" Jarablus

Securing the Jarablus corridor from a westward YPG advance in attempts to link their "cantons" east and west along the Turkish border prevents supply lines to "Syrian rebels" from Turkey from being cut. That's why Turkey has taken action here while however grudgingly accepting Kurdish control over large stretches of Syrian-Turkish border everywhere else without taking action. The ratlines to the "rebels" are Turkey's primary concern here. Kurds are an important but demonstratively second concern.

Turkey's incursion was backed by US air-cover, drones, and embedded special forces per the WSJ. These were there largely to prevent Russia and Syria from even thinking about taking action against the invading forces.

Turkey is moving into Syria not just with its own military, but with thousands of "rebel opposition groups" including US-backed FSA brigades allied with AlQaeda/Nusra/Sham and the child head-chopping al-Zinki who are reported to form the vanguard. Syrian territory is outright being turned over to them by the Turkish military, simply exchanging control from one group of terrorist jihadis (ISIS) to others who are more media acceptable and more direct proxies of the Erdogan regime, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

That said, ISIS has not resisted the Turkish advance at all - simply "melting away" (or exchanging one set of uniforms for another?). No stay-behinds, no suicide bombers, no IEDS, nothing. No fighting. Zero casualties. Turkish and "Syrian rebel" forces literally strolled in to Jarablus taking selfies and posing for cameras. Tag-team turnover.

The Kurdish YPG/SDF have proven that they have become nothing but lickspittle currs for the U.S., despite being betrayed, dutifully responding to the leash and withdrawing from Manbij which they bled for, and all positions east of the Euphrates on Biden's orders as he staged a press conference in Ankara with Erdogan. They have served their part in providing another layer of pretext for Turkey to invade Syria.

Layers of Pretext for Turkish invasion of Syria:

  1. "Liberating" Jarablus from ISIS to give it to al-Qaeda
  2. Giving Jarablus to al-Qaeda to deny it to Kurds
  3. Safe/No Fly Zone for al-Qaeda
  4. Neocon Plan B - Partition of Syria (if necessary)

The question has been raised about Russia's and Syria's supposedly "muted response" to all this and that their existing protestations (linked below) to the contrary are actually "lies" and that both are somehow in agreement and collusion with everything Erdogan is doing above in some kind of grand Eurasian alliance conspiracy and agreement to end the conflict in Syria ...

Right? This theory is really too absurd and far-fetched wishful thinking to warrant addressing. See Moscow: Russian Foreign Ministry Expresses Concern About Turkish Operation in Syria", Damascus: Syria condemns Turkey’s breach of Syria’s sovereignty in Jarablos

What kind of response do you expect? Do you think Russia would shoot U.S. and Turkish planes out of the sky and bomb Turkish forces in Syria? The Turkish coup upheaval aside, the Turkish military is still large enough several times over to crush the small Russian military taskforce in Syria. To say nothing of where things would go from there in a war with NATO.

What did Russia do when U.S., UK, France etc quietly put their own special forces and troops on the ground in Syria over the last year? What was the Kremlin's response just days ago when the U.S. declared a no fly zone over their SDF proxies attacking Syrian government forces and threatened to shoot down Russian jets?

Nothing. They did nothing then just like their "muted" objections now. Not because they want it to happen or are "in on it" but because there is nothing they can do about it short of openly attacking and going to war with the U.S. and Turkey (i.e. NATO) which the Kremlin is NOT willing to do for Syria.

They are likewise not going to make threats or demands about violations of Syria's sovereignty that they will not and cannot back up. Such bluster is not their style. It achieves nothing. They will continue to play the long game in Syria and hope events still turn their way without direct military confrontation with the U.S. and Turkey. They continue to push for a negotiated settlement on terms favorable to Damascus. Everyone is still playing the charade that they are all in the conflict in Syria to fight terrorists when we all know that it is just a front and the symptom for regime change. That game goes on, just now with Turkey upping the ante.

The U.S. and Turkey want a negotiated settlement too - they are just not willing to accept the current status of forces and intend to escalate and create new facts on the ground, primarily in and around Aleppo, that they hope will force Russia to accept that "Assad Must Go!" ensuring a settlement more favorable to them.

Erdogan has actually always been much louder and more insistent in demanding a "safe haven"/"no fly zone" for the proxies over the Jarablus corridor than the US. Erdogan pushed for it several times, and Obama refused, apparently infuriating his own State Department, CIA, and foreign policy elite in the process. Now Erdogan's tantrums and witch-hunt over the lack of Western support during the attempted Kemalist military coup, have blackmailed Obama into acceding to this, in order to restore relations.

Overall, however the US has put the hegemon's name, power, and prestige on the line for "Assad Must Go!" They simply cannot accept anything less than regime change. In the end, particularly after Clinton comes to power in the U.S. early next year and escalates the situation further than Obama has been willing as he tries to run out the clock, I am afraid that Russia will simply throw up their hands and walk away with whatever they can still get - not willing to go to World War III over Syria. A gambit the U.S. has no such reservations about. And that is the Kremlin's weakness, and why red line after red line of their's keeps getting crossed closer and closer to Russia's borders itself.

When Russia itself is at last on the line and in the targets, it may not have any friends left willing to stand by it.

 

[Note by b:

I can not decide which side has the upper hand. The "west" or Russia and its allies. Mark's well thought out version above may be spot on. But little birds tell me that all is going along a common Russian-Turkish plan to which the U.S had to acquiesce. Russia's potential threat to Turkey, should it try to cheat, is seriously arming  the PKK Kurds. Remember the anti-armor missiles and that one MANPAD they recently used? Those were warnings. Both versions make sense in their own. But can both be right?]

Posted by b on August 28, 2016 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (188)

German Pro-Atlantic Paper Admits: Ghouta Sarin Attack Committed By Al-Qaeda

The German paper Die Welt is staunchly pro-NATO and pro-U.S. It always follows the official, conservative propaganda lines up to the dot on the last i. But in today's Sunday edition one of its well-connected journalists and department head argues for a change of direction on Syria. Assad is not going to go away and "the west" needs to accept that to prevent a Salafist take-over of that country.

Buried in the German language piece is this version of events of the 2013 Sarin attack in Ghouta and the "lack of response" by the Obama administration (my translation):

When on August 21 2013 the nerve gas Sarin was used in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, [Obama] had to make a decision. He ordered to prepare an attack by sea-launched cruise missiles. But the British secret service was in possession of a sampling of the used Sarin. An analysis showed it not to be Sarin from the Syrian regime, but from the inventory of al-Nusra. Obama dropped his plan.

There are several problems with this line of events. The British parliament had rejected an attack on Syria. The U.S. congress refused to authorize one. If Obama would have attacked, the Republicans would have, without doubt, started impeachment procedures against him. The domestic policy implications, not the origin of the Sarin,  stopped Obama's attack plans.

The explanation of Die Welt reporter, that al-Nusra Sarin's was different from Syrian government Sarin, is also dubious. According to a recent extensive report based on interviews with an al-Qaeda aligned "rebel" in Syria, al-Qaeda acquired the Sarin from a storage facility of the Syrian regime when it conquered the Syrian base of Regiment 111 in late 2012. This was before the split of al-Nusra and the Islamic State. There would thus be no difference between "regime Sarin" and "al-Qaeda Sarin".

But even completely independent of the origin of the Sarin, U.S. missile experts had long concluded that the missiles which carried the Sarin in the attack could not have been fired from government held areas. Their range was simply too short. Thus the event must have been a false flag attack.

Nonetheless, the German newspaper analysis is a sign that the tide has turned and that the official "regime change" storm is calming down. The dismantling of a major official propaganda item, like the Sarin attack, points to the introduction of a new narrative. How that will develop further is yet to be seen.

Posted by b on August 28, 2016 at 04:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (103)

August 26, 2016

The Childish Villain-ification Of Donald Trump

This pic comparing a young Donald Trump with a child figure in some old Nazi propaganda was posted by Doug Saunders, supposedly a serious international-affairs columnist at the Canadian Globe and Mail.

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It is illogical, childish nonsense. But Saunders is by far the only one disqualifying himself as serious commentator by posting such bullshit. Indeed, the villain-ification of Donald Trump is a regular feature which runs through U.S. and international media from the left to the right.

A few examples:

Pinochet. Chavez. Trump? - Politico, Cher compares Donald Trump to Hitler at Clinton fundraiser - Foxnews, Cher Slams Trump At Clinton Fundraiser; Likens Him To Stalin - CBS, Cher Compares Trump to Mao - Newsbuster, Trump is the GOP's Frankenstein monster - Washington Post, Biden on Trump: ‘He woulda loved Stalin - USAToday, Huffington likens Trump to Kim Jong Un - MSN, What Hugo Chávez and Donald Trump have in common - Reuters, The best way to thwart Trump Vader - CNN, Warning From the Syrian Border: Trump Reminds Us a Bit Too Much of Assad - Rolling Stone, News Quiz: Trump Rally or Erdogan Event? - The Intercept, Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing - TPM, Trump’s not Hitler, he’s Mussolini - Salon, Media ethics writer compares Trump to Hitler - Politico, Donald Trump’s Insane Praise of Saddam Hussein - Daily Beast, Trump and Lenin - Miami Herald, Insult, provoke, repeat: how Donald Trump became America's Hugo Chávez - The Guardian, The Unstoppable Trump Monster - The Atlantic, Donald Trump is GOP's Dark Lord Voldemort - Townhall, Donald Trump is The Joker: Forget Mussolini and Hitler - Salon, Donald Trump’s Mansions and Saddam Hussein’s Palaces Are Basically the Same - Vanity Fair, Trump and Baghdadi Join Forces - Huffington Post, Echoes of Joe McCarthy in Donald Trump's Rise - RealClearPolitics, Donald Trump's bromance with Vladimir Putin - CNN, Trump's flirtation with fascism - Washington Post, The Maoism of Donald Trump - The New Yorker.

Is there any villain in U.S. (political) culture Donald Trump has not been compare to? Let me know what to search for.

I doubt that this assault on Trump's character is effective. (Hillary Clinton is a more fitting object.) Potential Trump voters will at best ignore it. More likely they will feel confirmed in their belief that all media and media people are anti-Trump and pro-Clinton.

The onslaught only validates what himself Trump claims: that all media are again him, independent of whatever policies he may promote or commit to.

Trump's economic policies as U.S. president would be catastrophic for those most likely to vote for him. Pointing that out, instead of inventing idiotic comparisons to this or that "bad person", would be more effect in dissuading people from voting for him.

Posted by b on August 26, 2016 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (135)

August 25, 2016

Open Thread 2016-28

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 25, 2016 at 03:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (110)

A Phony War On ISIS

Soldiers of the Turkish Land Forces engaged in intense firefights when entering Syria to dislodge the Islamic State from the border city of Jarablus. (Not.)

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The Turkish HDP parliament member Hişyar Özsoy claims (vid) that the Turkish operation is to save ISIS from the Syrian Kurds, not to liberate Syria of ISIS or to secure the Turkish-Syrian border. There is some logic in that.

Posted by b on August 25, 2016 at 05:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (112)

August 24, 2016

Kurds Lose Out As Neo-Ottoman Turks Steal Syria's Jarablus

Early this morning Turkey invaded Syria. A contingent of 1,500 Turkish sponsored "Syrian rebels", aka Islamist from all over the world, were accompanied by some Turkish special forces and twenty tanks to capture the city Jarablus at the Turkish-Syrian border. The move followed a night of artillery warm-ups and bombing raids. Shortly after noon the "Syrian revolution" flag and the Turkish banner(!) were raised over the city.

There was no resistance to the move. The Islamic State, which had been informed of the attack, had evacuated all fighters and their families out of Jarablus. (The families went to Raqqa but the fighters went where?) No shots were fired. As one commentator remarked: They even left mints on the pillows. The toleration of ISIS by Turkey, which includes some not so secret support, will likely continue.

 


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The claimed aim of the Turkish move is to close the Turkish border to ISIS. That claim is obviously nonsense. The border can be closed on the Turkish side. To move the crossing point a few kilometers south does not change anything. The second, more plausible claimed aim, is to prevent the movement of the Kurdish YPG forces, under the U.S. assigned label SDF, towards west-Syria. Such a move would create a Kurdish statelet all along the Turkish border and endanger Turkey itself while it is fighting a Kurdish insurgency on its own ground.

The Kurds had announced the move west and recently taken the city of Manbij away from the Islamic State. This with the help of heavy U.S. bombardment. As part of their future plans a new SDF-Jarablus Military Council was announced yesterday. But the head of that entity was assassinated just three hours after the introductory press conference. The Kurds blamed the Turks for the killing. Today the Turkish government announced that it will not only take Jarablus but also Manbij and throw the Kurds back east behind the Euphrates river.

The U.S. had so far supported the Kurdish move towards west-Syria with special forces and air support. But it reacted to the Turkish move against its alliance with the Kurds as it always did over the last 30 years. It immediately betrayed the Kurds as a bigger interests arouse. Turkey is a NATO ally that threatens to move to a closer alliance with Russia and Iran. The U.S. can not condone that. The Kurds will therefore again have to suffer for their gullibility and ambition.

U.S. vice president Biden arrived in Ankara today for a penitential pilgrimage. The Turkish government accuses the U.S. to have been involved in the recent coup attempt against it. There may well be some truth to that. In a public snub Biden was received at the airport of the Turkish capital by the deputy mayor of the city. For now the Turkish president Erdogan will continue his way no matter what the U.S. says or does.

The real plan behind the Turkish invasions is way beyond ISIS or the Kurdish issue. As Turkish papers were eager to point out, the invasion happened to the day 500 years after the battle of Marj Dabiq north of Aleppo:

The battle was part of the Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–17) between the Ottoman Empire and the Mamluk Sultanate, which ended in an Ottoman victory and conquest of much of the Middle East, ...

The choosing of this date points to Erdogan's real ambition: To recreate an Ottoman empire which would include at least north Syria and north Iraq.

There has been little protest by the Syrian government against the Turkish move on Jarablus. It lamented a lack of coordination in fighting terrorism. Not that it could have done much else. After five years of war there is no capacity left to oppose its big northern neighbor. No protest at all came from Syria's allies Russia and Iran. Blunt words were reserved for U.S. behavior on the Syria issue and its support for al-Qaeda. There clearly is some kind of agreement between Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey to accommodate the Turkish invasion.

Any sympathy for the Kurds, which might have led to some countermove, has vanished after Kurdish YPG fighters recently attacked Syrian government forces in the north-eastern city of Hasakah. That attack, completely useless and unnecessary in the big picture, cost them- as predicted - their dream of a viable nation state. The Kurdish gamblers, like they always tend to do, became overambitious and now lost all they had gained. They will have to retreat eastward, surrounded by enemies and without any friends left in today's world. What can the anarcho-marxists of the YPG do now? Ally with and bleed for wahhabi Saudi Arabia? For how long?

The "Syrian rebels" Turkey used to march towards Jarablus were pulled from the ongoing attack on the Aleppo city front. The Syrian government forces will be somewhat relieved to have less enemies to kill (vid) in their defense of the 1.2-1.5 million of their people in the city. But that relief will only be for a short time. As the emphasis of the Marj Dabiq battle shows, Erdogan's ambition are much bigger than some rural strip of land along the Syrian Turkish border. He wants to rule over Aleppo in Syria as well as over Mosul in Iraq. The war on Syria in the west, run by Turkey, the U.S. and various Gulf states, will continue. In this bigger context the Turkish move to Jarablus is a mere skirmish on the side.

Posted by b on August 24, 2016 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (109)

August 23, 2016

NYT Again Misreports On Iran - Claims Conflict With Russia Without Any Source

This NYT piece on Russia and Iran lacks any source for the main claim made in its headline and repeated in its first paragraph:

Iran Revokes Russia’s Use of Air Base, Saying Moscow ‘Betrayed Trust’

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iran on Monday annulled permission for Russian planes to fly bombing runs into Syria from an Iranian base, only a week after having granted such extraordinary access, saying that the Kremlin had been unacceptably public and arrogant about the privilege.
...
Iran’s minister of defense, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, accused Russia of having publicized the deal excessively, calling the Kremlin’s behavior a “betrayal of trust” and “ungentlemanly.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, told reporters in Tehran that the permission had been temporary and “it is finished, for now.”

There is no source quoted in the piece that claims Iran "revoked" or "annulled permission". That is not too astonishing as no such claims were ever made in Iran. But how can the NYT claim that?

What really happened:

Russia has been using the Iranian Hamedan airbase on-and-off since at least last November. It is a way station and refueling point on flights from Russia to Syria and it was used to repair Russian airplanes that had this or that troubles:

A Russian Su-34 bomber landed at Hamadan Air Base on November 23rd, 2015. Most likely the Su-34 plane was en route to Syria and had a technical issue, preferring to land safely at Hamadan. There it was met by a technical team which arrived on November 24th, 2015, aboard an IL-76 cargo plane, and made repairs. Both planes left the Hamadan airbase.

Earlier this month Russia sent heavy long range bomber to Hamedan. There they refueled and were armed with large bomb loads. They flew the short trip to Syria to destroyed al-Qaeda positions in Idlib province. Russia, as well as Iran, knew that "western" governments would notice the stationing of the bombers. The planes are big and easily visible on satellite pictures. To preempt western propaganda over the issue they publicly announced the arrival.

Iran is traditionally very opposed to any foreign troops on its ground. Some 20 conservative opposition politicians in the Iranian parliament used the announcement to question the "moderate" Rohani government. Yesterday the Iranian defense minister lamented that the Russian announcement of the airbase use, made with Iranian knowledge, was too loud and too public. He now had to answer questions from parliament and no minister anywhere likes to do that. At no point did he claim that anything was "revoked". Meanwhile, and unrelated to the issue, the Russian's bombers were on their way home from their first round of sorties flown out of Hamedan.

This was a purely internal Iranian tussle and the Rouhani government only wanted to quiet the opposition on the issue. The remark by the defense minister was about style, not substance. How the NYT got from there to reporting that Iran "revoked" something is inexplicable.

Russian jets and bombers will soon be back in Hamedan, though now probably without big press announcements. Here is the confirmation from one of the highest ranking politicians in Iran:

Speaker of the Iranian Parliament has emphasized that flights of Russian fighter aircraft are still being performed from Nojeh airbase in Hamedan.

Ali Larijani made the remarks during the Parliament open session on Tuesday morning, when answering the comments of MP Mahmoud Sadeghi.
...
In response to the MP’s comments, Ali Larijani underlined that Russian jets are still carrying out military missions from the Iranian airbase; “Iran holds cooperation with Russia in the fight against terrorism and the alliance between the two countries would benefit Muslims in the region.”

Like with many of its other reports on Syria and Iran this NYT piece was again nearer to fiction than fact.

For the reality of the ongoing war, on the ground reported pieces based on local and historic knowledge are much more valuable than anything "western" mainstream media provide. To really understand the ongoing conflicts and alliances, non-mainstream pieces like this one - Washington’s Sunni Myth and the Middle East Undone - are invaluable and highly recommended. misreports

Posted by b on August 23, 2016 at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (96)

August 22, 2016

Syria - The U.S. Creates More Chaos While The Grown-Ups Talk Resolution

Last week a Chinese admiral visited Damascus and promised support. The Indian Minister of State for External Affairs also passed by. The Turkish deputy intelligence chief was there for secret talks. Earlier the Turkish president visited Russia and the Turkish foreign minister visited Tehran. Those are a lot of talks between big and important countries and players in the conflict over Syria. None of them, not even Barzani, is in the U.S. camp.

I assume that this outbreak of diplomacy, which bypassed Washington, led to concern that the U.S. might be left out of a resolution in Syria. It had to play a card of its own. That is the most likely explanation for the sudden clashes in Hasakah where the Syrian Kurdish YPG is suddenly determined to kick out the Syrian army garrison that protects the Arab population there. U.S. special forces are "advising" these Kurds.

The Syrian army garrison is cut off and the Kurds are well able to overwhelm it. They issued an ultimatum to the Syrian soldiers to either lay down arms or to die. The aim of this move is the creation of north-eastern block in Syria that is completely under Kurdish control (and sprinkled with new U.S. bases.) This would give the U.S. at least some control over the future of Syria. Somehow the U.S. must have talked or bribed the YPG Kurds into creating this statelet in north-eastern Syria. I believe that this is a severe miscalculation by the Kurds which they will come to rue. The U.S. is not a reliable friend and it will not defend the Kurds should the other actors turn against them with their whole might.

The Russians are currently trying to negotiate a new ceasefire in Hasakah and may well apply some pressure of their own. Earlier in the conflict it was the Syrian army and the Russians who supplied and supported the Kurds with weapons and ammunition to defend themselves against the Islamic State and the U.S. supported "moderate rebels". To now turn against these benefactors is treason.

The Turkish prime minister says that any such Kurdish statelet would be "unacceptable" for Turkey. Such a statelet would become the rear basis for the PKK Kurds fighting in Turkey for Kurdish autonomy. The PKK is killing a dozen Turkish security forces per week. But a fight against the Turkish state is one the PKK can not ever win. Only half of the Turkish Kurds, probably less, support them and even the political left in Turkey, which so far supported some kind of federation, is now turning against them. To involve the Syrian front into this fight, and thereby additional enemies, makes little sense.

With intensive U.S. air support the YPG Kurds recently kicked the Islamic State out of Manbij. The Islamic State fighters were allowed to evacuate together with their families. They will fight and kill on another day. North of Manbij on the border to Turkey lies Jarablus (the red dot on the map), currently also in the hands of the Islamic State. This is the next target of the Kurdish forces (purple) who want to annex the whole Syrian-Turkish border region from the east to the west up to the Mediterranean.


Map via ISW

Jarablus was a main supply point for ISIS as long as Turkey allowed goods and people to cross the border. That seems to have stopped, at least for any significant amounts. It is not for that reason the Turks will not allow that Kurds take the city. Turkish artillery is hitting Islamic State targets around Jarablus and a contingent of "moderate Syrian rebels", aka Islamist Turkmen from Central Asia, is preparing in Turkey to cross the border and to take Jarablus from the Islamic State. Some of the Turkish artillery strikes also hit YPG positions. Which side of that three way fight will the U.S. support? Will it, as one insane "expert" demands, bomb everyone for "moral symbolism" and to be seen as "willing to exercise its rightful superpower role?"

The U.S. meddling in Syria is creating more and more chaos. Soon everyone will be fighting everyone else. Is that the intent? Whatever - one can hope that those large, grown up, older nations - Russia, India, China and Iran - now align their plans and steer this conflict towards some saner, bearable solution.

Posted by b on August 22, 2016 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (115)

August 21, 2016

Death Of Brother Of "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" Appears To Be An Add-On Fake

Related to the "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" stunt here is a little item that only increases my distrust of the truthfulness of the whole tale.

On Friday August 19 Middle East Correspondent Raf Sanchez and Said Ghazali of the British Telegraph reported of an interview with the father of the allegedly wounded boy in the orange seat:

Abu Ali, the father of the child whose haunted face now peers out from newspaper pages across the world, described his family’s final night of normalcy in an interview with a Syrian activist on behalf of The Telegraph.
...
Contrary to the reports of the Aleppo doctors who treated Omran, the little boy is only three years old and not five. Omran has been released from the hospital along with his four siblings and all the children are quietly recovering, his father said.

Confirming the above the Syria Campaign, a part of the mostly U.S. financed anti-Syrian propaganda apparatus, had published this on August 18:

Thank god all Omran’s family are safe. His mother had some bad injuries in her legs. His father suffered a minor head injury. His 7 year old sister went through a surgical operation this afternoon and she is doing well.

Note that there is no mentioning of an injured boy.

On Saturday The Telegraph's Middle East correspondent Raf Sanchez reported a quite different story than the one he himself had told just a day earlier:

It emerged Saturday that Omran Daqneesh’s older brother Ali had succumbed to injuries suffered in the same airstrike that propelled his sibling onto television screens across the planet.

Ali, 10, was out on the street when a Russian or Syrian regime bomb fell on his family’s building in Aleppo’s Qaterji neighbourhood on Wednesday.

While the rest of his family suffered minor injuries as their flat collapsed around them, Ali appears to have been more fully exposed to the bomb blast and died in hospital.
...
Omran’s father, who asked to be identified only by the nickname Abu Ali, meaning “father of Ali”, received mourners at the family’s temporary home on Saturday. Omran, three, and his three surviving siblings stayed inside the house as Abu Ali accepted condolences on the street.

The BBC noted:

The elder brother of Omran Daqneesh, the Syrian boy whose dazed and bloodied image shocked the world, has died of wounds sustained when the family home in Aleppo was bombed, activists say.

The Syria Solidarity Campaign said 10-year-old Ali "passed away today due to his injuries from the bombing of his house by Russia/Assad".

The second Telegraph piece is accompanied by the picture of a boy with what looks like a minor bloody (but completely uncleaned and not disinfected(!)) scratch on the upper left cheek. The eyes are closed and two tubes hang loosely from his mouth. A cardiogram sensor is fixed on the chest below his shoulder. The caption to that pic says "Ali (left) was killed in the blast ...". Is he really dead?

One day we learn from the father and others, that:

  • all children, including Ali, are fine
  • all are recovering
  • all had left the hospital

The next day we learn that:

  • Ali was severely injured
  • Ali died of these injuries
  • in a hospital (which ignores basic trauma care) that he apparently never left.

The Telegraph's stenographer, who wrote both stories, ignores these large contradictions between the two tales.

I for one believe that both stories are false and that the whole bombing and rescue incident never really happened but was staged. The "rescue" was a stunt and all stories around it, like the "dead Ali", are mere fairy-tales of various "activists" paid by this or that "western" propaganda campaign.

There was a time when newspapers like The Telegraph and other media employed journalists who followed up on stories and verified the claims made to them. For many media outlets that is obviously no longer the case. Today any "activist" can skype the stenographer from anywhere, tell a fantasy story of a bombing in east-Aleppo and have it printed. A day later he can call again with a totally different version of that fantasy story and have that printed too. No questions asked.

Is it any wonder that readers and viewers shun such media?

Posted by b on August 21, 2016 at 12:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (82)

How The Hasakah Clashes End The Kurdish Nation Dreams

Severe fighting in Hasakah, in north-east Syria, continues between Syrian government forces and U.S. advised Kurdish YPG groups. It is still unclear why these clashes broke out after years of mostly peaceful co-existence in the city.

These clashes convince Turkey that the danger of a Kurdish state creation is imminent. This will unite the Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi hostile positions towards such plans. This unity ends the dreams of an independent Kurdish nation.

The YPG declared that it wants all Syrian government forces to leave Hasakah. But those forces are the sole protection of the large Assyrian (Christian) and other minorities in the city. These minorities fear to be ethnically cleansed by the Kurds who try to install their own state in the north of Iraq and Syria.

Map via ISW

The Syrian army and local auxiliary defense forces recruited from the minorities defend a large part of the city but are surrounded.

Map by Agathocle de Syracuse - bigger

A recent second offer for a ceasefire by the governor of the province was the rejected by the YPG and its local Asayish proxy force. The YPG instead ordered reinforcements to the frontline.

U.S. special forces were in the area when the clashes started. Their role in these is mysterious. They nearly came under fire when Syrian Arab Army planes bombed some of the YPG positions. The U.S. command tried to directly contact the Syrian command to prevent the U.S. troops from being hit. The Syrian command did not respond. The U.S. then made a show of force with its air force to protect its troops. But those troops have absolutely no legal basis for their presence in Syria. They claim to be working with the YPG to fight the Islamic State, but the Islamic State is far from Hasakah which lies in the middle of a large Kurdish controlled area.

As even a mainstream German defense correspondent somewhat irritated asks:

thomas_wiegold @thomas_wiegold
In other words: U.S. Forces practising area denial to other nations forces in their own territory?

The U.S. has absolutely no legal standing in this and everyone knows. The Syrian air force simply ignores the U.S. planes and continues its mission of defending its comrades on the ground. While some sources claim that the U.S. Special Forces contingent has been pulled back from the Hasakah area the somewhat reliable SOHR outlet in Britain reports that they have been reinforced with more U.S. troops arriving.

The Hasakah conflict is now more than a minor local conflict. As remarked in our the last piece on the Hasakah clashes:

Any move against the Syrian army in Hasakah will be watched carefully from Ankara. Turkey fears, with valid reason, that the U.S. supports the Kurdish aim of a national entity in Syria and Iraq. This would endanger Turkey with its own large Kurdish minority.

If the Kurds expel the Syrian forces from Hasakah with U.S. support, Turkey will know that any U.S. claim to not work against its Turkish ally's interest is false. This would deepen already high Turkish animosity against the U.S. and would accelerate its move towards some alliance with Russia and Iran.

There are signs that this predicted turn by Turkey is indeed accelerating. This move was initiated in the recent Turkish talks with Iran and Russia but the Hasakah clashes now play a role. On Friday the Syrian government sent a signal to Ankara when it, for the first time, publicly associated the Kurdish YPG forces in Syria (with which it had mostly been aligned so far) with the Kurdish PKK forces who fight the Turkish state.

Ankara responded in kind and, for the first time, allowed for a compromise in the war on Syria that would keep the current Syrian government in power:

Istanbul is concerned about the growing power of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces across the border and opposes any moves toward Kurdish autonomy or independence. The Syrian government, too, has grown uneasy with the Kurdish forces in the north, who enjoy close relations with the U.S. government, an open antagonist of Syria's Assad.

Damascus has largely refrained from attacking its homegrown Kurdish forces, ...

However on Friday, the Syrian military's General Command released a statement referring to the Kurdish Asayesh internal police force as the "military wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)."

The Turkish concession followed the next day:

Speaking to foreign media representatives in Istanbul, [Turkish Prime Minister] Yildirim said Turkey would aim to become more of a regional player with regard to Syria in the next six months.
...
"There may be talks (with Assad) for the transition. A transition may be facilitated. But we believe that there should be no (Kurdish rebels), Daesh or Assad in Syria's future," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

"In the six months ahead of us, we shall be playing a more active role," Yildirim said. "It means not allowing Syria to be divided along ethnic lines ... ensuring that its government is not based on ethnic (divisions)."

This new Turkish position is very much in line with the Russian, Iranian and Syrian one. This is a significant step back from the old position, also taken by the U.S., that "Assad must go" as a precondition for any talks. Unfortunately we do not know if this is meant seriously or just another Turkish diversion from more nefarious plans.

Last night a suicide bombing, seemingly planned by the Islamic State, hit the wedding of a Kurdish politician in Gaziantep in the south-east of Turkey near the Syrian border. More than 50 people were killed. Kurds in Turkey will blame the Turkish government of supporting the Islamic State and thereby for this attack. Instead of acknowledging that this attack is an obviously planned provocation, Kurdish groups will use it to justify harsher resistance. Intensified clashes between Kurdish forces and the government forces of Turkey, Syria and (soon) Iraq will follow.

In my view the Kurds are overplaying their cards.

They have been seduced by U.S. and EU promises of support. This will, in the end, not come through. Historically the Kurds, in all their divergent ethnic, sectarian, linguistic and political flavors, have been unable to unite long enough to form a common entity. There never was, and likely never will be, a common Kurdish position that held for more than a few month. The clashes in Hasakah bring a completely unnecessary complication for their plans of a national Kurdish entity. They predictably unite Syria, Russia, Iran and Turkey against them. These are strong states that can and will block the illusory Kurdish dreams.

Promises of U.S. and EU support will not be followed up with anything but some token words. Those countries have bigger interests than supporting the illusory plans  of some unruly tribal people in the east-Anatolia mountain ranges. Even the large hydrocarbon deposits in Kurdish majority areas will not be enough to influence their positions. The Kurdish areas are landlocked. Without long-term secured access routes through those countries the Kurds are now fighting all those riches are just worthless dirt in the ground.

Posted by b on August 21, 2016 at 05:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (85)

August 19, 2016

No ISIS There - Are U.S. Troops In Hasakah "Advising" Kurds To Attack The Syrian Army?

Yesterday a fight broke out between Syrian Arab Army troops and local Kurdish forces in the predominately Kurdish city of Hasakah in north-eastern Syria. Hasakah, with some 200,000 inhabitants, has held a SAA garrison for years. There is some enmity between the Kurds and the soldiers but the situation is generally peaceful.

There have been earlier fights but these were local rivalries between Syrian auxiliary National Defense Forces from local Arab (Christian) minorities and some gangs who form a Kurdish internal security force under the label Asayish. Such fights usually ended after a day or two when grown-ups on both sides resolved the conflict over this or that checkpoint or access route.

The Islamic State (grey on the map) once threatened Hasakah but that danger is now far away.


Map via ISW

Yesterday another fight broke out, but got serious. The Syrian air force was called in to defend against direct attacks on the SAA garrison and minority quarters:

Syrian government warplanes bombed Kurdish-held areas of the northeastern city of Hasaka on Thursday for the first time in the five-year-old civil war, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and a monitoring group said.
...
The Syrian government still has footholds in the cities of Qamishli and Hasaka, both in Hasaka governorate, co-existing largely peacefully with YPG-held swathes of territory.

The cause of this week's flare-up was unclear.
...
Xelil said government forces were bombarding Kurdish districts of Hasaka with artillery, and there were fierce clashes in the city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war using a network of activists, said warplanes had targeted Kurdish security forces' positions in the northwest and northeast of the Hasaka city.

The reason that fighting started might have to do with U.S. troops who, for whatever reason, seem to be in Hasakah. The U.S. military now laments that these troops came under Syrian air force fire:

The Syrian airstrikes took place in the northeastern city of Hasaka, an area that has seen increasing ground clashes between the Kurdish YPG fighters present and the Syrian regime forces. There was a small number of U.S. Special Operators acting as advisers to the YPG when the Syrian airstrikes began.

After the Syrian Su-24s began to strike, the U.S. immediately contacted the Russians, Davis said, and made clear that American aircraft would respond if coalition forces were under attack.

The Russians explained that they were not the ones conducting the strikes and the U.S. scrambled manned fighter aircraft to the area to protect the Americans and allies under attack.

By the time the U.S. and coalition aircraft arrived the Syrian attack jets had left.

There is no Islamic State in the area which is now far away from the front line.

  • Why are U.S. troops, who have zero legal grounds of being in Syria at all, in Hasakah city or the wider area?
  • Who are they "advising" there and for what purpose?
  • Why does rare local fighting starts to get serious just when U.S. troops are in the area?

The U.S. has the chutzpah to "warn" the Syrians of defending their own troops on Syrian grounds:

Additional U.S. combat air patrols have been sent to the area yesterday and have been flying there today, as well.

Davis said that the Syrians would be "well-advised" not to interfere with coalition forces on the ground in the future.

Syrian government forces are attacked by Kurdish troops who are "advised" by U.S. special forces. According to the U.S. spokesperson the Syrian air force is not allowed to defend them? What has this to do with "fighting ISIS" in eastern Syria which is allegedly the sole reason for U.S. troops being in Syria?

The Syrian air force was back over Hasakah today and continued to bomb position from which the Syrian army was attacked. They would not be flying there without Russian consent. Does the U.S. military want to start a fight with the Syrian air force and its Russian backers?

The YPG Kurds claim they are now evacuating civilians from some city quarters. They seem to expect a prolonged conflict.

Any move against the Syrian army in Hasakah will be watched carefully from Ankara. Turkey fears, with valid reason, that the U.S. supports the Kurdish aim of a  national entity in Syria and Iraq. This would endanger Turkey with its own large Kurdish minority.

If the Kurds expel the Syrian forces from Hasakah with U.S. support, Turkey would know that any U.S. claim to not work against its Turkish ally interest is false. This would deepen already high Turkish animosity against the U.S. and would accelerate its move towards some alliance with Russia and Iran.

Posted by b on August 19, 2016 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (119)

August 18, 2016

The "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" - Another Staged "White Helmets" Stunt

This pic is making the rounds in "western" media together with a tearful story from "activists" in a neighborhood in al-Qaeda occupied east-Aleppo.


bigger

A boy, seemingly wounded, sits quietly in a brand new, very well equipped ambulance. At a point he touches what looks like a wound on his left temple. He shows no reaction to that touch.

The two minute video (also here), from which the pic is taken, shows the boy being handed from the dark above to some person in a rescue jacket and carried into the ambulance. There he sits quietly, unattended, while several people take videos and pictures of him. One other kids, not obviously wounded, is then carried to the ambulance.

As the story is told:

Mahmoud Raslan, a photojournalist who captured the image, told the Associated Press that emergency workers and journalists tried to help the child, identified as 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, along with his parents and his three siblings, who are 1, 6 and 11 years old.

"We were passing them from one balcony to the other," Raslan said, adding: "We sent the younger children immediately to the ambulance, but the 11-year-old girl waited for her mother to be rescued. Her ankle was pinned beneath the rubble."

An internet search for "Mahmoud Raslan", the claimed "photojournalist", finds no other pictures or videos attributed to that name.

There are about 15 men standing around the scene and doing nothing. (Next to a "just bombed" site in a warzone? No fear of a double-tap strike?) At least two more men, besides the videographer, are taking pictures or videos.

Another kid is carried into the ambulance. In the background there is someone with a white helmet wearing a shirt of the U.S./UK financed "White Helmets" propaganda group.

An animated wounded man is walked towards the ambulance.


bigger

Like the boy, the man seems to have a wound at the upper head. But like the boy he is not bleeding at all. There is some red colored substance on his face but no blood is flowing. That is astonishing. When I rode ambulances as a first-responder, people with head wounds always bled like stuck pigs (they often messed up the car which I then had to clean). As WebMD notes:

Minor cuts on the head often bleed heavily because the face and scalp have many blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. Although this amount of bleeding may be alarming, many times the injury is not severe ...

The amount of red colored substance on the boy and the man do not correspond to the amount one would expect from even a minor head wound. There are also no bandages applied or anything else that could have been used to stop an actual head wound from bleeding.

Compare the above to this recent picture from a boy in west-Aleppo. (No "western" media showed this boy and his suffering. He is not on "our side".) The boy suffered a head wound after an improvised missile from al-Qaeda and its associates hit his neighborhood. He is in care, the bleeding has been stopped. The amount of blood on his body and soaked into his cloth is a multiple of that seen in the above pictures. The blood is also mixed with the other dirt on his face, not painted over. This looks like those patients in my ambulance. This looks real.

 

All attributes of the "boy on orange seat" scene and of the video are the same that can be found in dozens of "White Helmets" videos. It is the same theme that occurs over and over again in our picture collection Dramatic Rescue! Man With Kid Runs Towards Camera!.

I am inclined to believe that the video above is just as staged as the other "White Helmets" videos and pictures. The look of the boy's wound is a bit more realistic than usual but the lack of bleeding, that no one attends to the boy, his non-reaction to touching the "wound" and the general setting of the video scene lets me believe that it is staged.

This new, widely distributed propaganda item comes again at a moment where al-Qaeda and its associates in Syria are in trouble. The Russian air force is hitting them in the rear area of their attack on west-Aleppo and it is hurting them badly. A "humanitarian ceasefire", which can then be used to reorganize and resupply, is urgently needed. The propaganda helps to increase the pressure for such a demand.

Some of its sponsors want the "White Helmets" nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The organization itself lobbies for it on its website. Has anyone else ever done such?


bigger

Have they no shame asking themselves for the prize? This right above another version of their main corporate brand attribute, a "Dramatic Rescue! Man With Kid Runs Towards Camera!" picture. Asking for a Nobel right above another staged scene?

But why not? Obama was nothing more than a marketed product when was handed the Peace Nobel. He then bombed people in seven Muslim dominated countries to dust. There is no good reason then to not give that prize to yet another propaganda tool which also wants more war.

Then again, I find a nomination for the Academy Awards, maybe in the category of "Best Marketed Fakes", more appropriate.

Posted by b on August 18, 2016 at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (240)

August 17, 2016

Open Thread 2016-27

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 17, 2016 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (233)

August 16, 2016

Massive Russian Air Campaign To Stop U.S.-Al-Qaeda Attack On Aleppo

The west of Aleppo city has always stayed under control of the Syrian government. It inhabits about 1.5 million people. Over the last two weeks it has come into imminent danger of falling into Jihadi hands.

With large U.S. and Gulf supplies of new weapons, ammunition and intelligence some 10,000+ radical Jihadis, led by al-Qaeda in Syria, attacked Aleppo city. After several days they managed to break the south-eastern defense and created a small corridor into east-Aleppo. The area is besieged by government forces and under Jihadi control.


Aleppo as reported by "western" media

Several other large attacks followed but could barely be held back. The government forces are a mix of local defense units and auxiliaries from Afghanistan and Iraq. Their defenses seemed little prepared for the onslaught of suicide vehicles followed by mass infantry attacks. Moral was low and positions were given up without proper coordination.

The Syrian government and its allies could not use helicopters to support the defense as newly arrived MANPADs used by the Jihadis endanger any aircraft that flies low and slow.

To stop attacks and to prepare for counter moves valuable reserves had to be activated. Elite forces of the Lebanese Hizbullah and the Tiger brigade of the Syrian army were thrown into the battle. They managed to hold the Jihadi attacks for now but lack the mass to respond in kind.

The Russians have warned since April that such a large Jihadi offense was imminent, but it held back from any response while in talks with the U.S. administration. But the U.S. willingness to talk was largely a deception in support of the now ongoing attack.

The Jihadi campaign aims to occupy all of Aleppo city. It was named after a man who, in 1979, mass murdered a group of cadets belonging to a religious minorities. Should the Jidadis manage to win in Aleppo thousands of civilians will likely die. This would not only effect minorities. Aleppo is a Sunni city and the war is, contrary to "western" propaganda, not between religious minorities and the general Sunni population but between radical Sunni sects and their mainstream brethren.

About two weeks ago the Russian military openly prepared an appropriate response. Their most modern spy plane, a Tu 214R was send to Syria to collect targeting information. This in addition to two Il-20M reconnaissance planes already deployed there. Navy maneuvers along the Syrian coast as well as in the Caspian sea were prepared. Agreement with Iran about support measures were arranged.

At least seven Russian ships, all capable of launching Kalibr cruise missiles, were positioned in the east-Mediterranean and in the Caspian Sea. Yesterday long range Tu-22M3 strategic bombers and Su-34 tactical bombers deployed to Hamedan airbase in Iran. The route from Hamedan to Syria is 60% shorter than from Russia. The planes will thus be able to fly more often and with additional load. Iraq granted overflight rights. This open cooperation, publicly announced with pictures from the Iranian base, sends a loud message to the "international community" of Jihadi supporters. China adds to it by announcing tighter cooperation with the Syrian military.

Today a large scale bombing campaign against all support, supply and reserve assets of the Jihadis attacking Aleppo was launched. All major communications points, headquarters, depots and assembly areas between Aleppo and the Turkish border west of it will be bombed. Any reconnoitered fixed target will be attacked, probably multiple times, and destroyed. Then moving convoys and other targets of opportunity will come under attack. The campaign will continue for several days.

Such large scale attacks in the rear of attacking forces have no immediate influence on the front-lines. Expect some renewed Jihdai attacks on Aleppo city proper to divert from the slaughter of their assets in the rear. But after a few days their front-line supplies will run out and no new supplies will be there to arrive. The general attack on Aleppo will then falter.

All of this will only stall the situation in Syria. The Syrian government currently lacks the capability to retake and secure the large area between Aleppo, Idleb and the Turkish border. Additional changes in the strategic situation will be needed to turn the war into either direction.

But the then likely failed attack on Aleppo will have chewed up a large amount of assets and personal the U.S. supported Jihadis and their allies are able to deploy. The center of gravity of the war will probably move elsewhere, away from Aleppo proper.

All this of course depends on luck and all the other imponderables of war.

Posted by b on August 16, 2016 at 05:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (161)

August 15, 2016

New Government Of Yemen Ready To Accept Saudi Surrender

(Update: @Khabaragency translated and published this post in Arabic: موقع أمريكي: السلطة اليمنية الجديدة مستعدة لقبول "استسلام" آل سعود قبل 12 ساعة و 37 دقيقة )

Day by day the life in Yemen becomes more difficult for the people on the ground. The Saudis have restarted bombing and seemingly hit everything in sight - schools, hospitals and food supply routes. Food is running out. But Yemen now has a new legitimate government. And the Saudis will have to either follow the conditions it will set, or all-out lose their war.

UN supervised negotiations between the former Yemeni president Hadi, supported by the armed forces of various Gulf countries, and a the Houthi alliance with the former president Saleh have failed. The Saudis demanded total surrender. A retreat of the Houthi from the capital Sanaa, a complete re-installment of Hadi as president and a handing over of all heavy weapons. The Houthi/Saleh side would never have agreed to such conditions. It would leave them without assets at the mercy of a vengeful enemy. The fighting on the ground continued throughout the four month negotiations though at a lower intensity.

When the failure of the negotiations was obviously imminent, Houthi and Yemeni army forces re-invaded Saudi Arabia. For 200 km of the Saudi-Yemeni border from the Red Sea to inland eastwards Yemeni forces initially invaded at 6 locations 5-20km deep. Video showed them in sight of the Saudi city Narjan, with half a million inhabitants, shelling the electricity station and military barracks. Laughably a joint statement from the governments of the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia and UAE demanded that:

the conflict in Yemen should not threaten Yemen’s neighbours.

A joke. A Saudi invasion of Yemen is fine with them, to respond in kind is not?

The Saudis renewed their air attacks on the capitol Sanaa and other Yemeni cities. Military targets in Sanaa had already been bombed at least twice. The current attacks make no sense and are a pure terror campaign.

Two days ago a Saudi double airstrike hit a school near the northern Yemeni city of Saada:

Doctors Without Borders wrote that the “final number of injured from Haydan school is 28 & 10 deaths. All between 8-15 years old ..."

The Saudis denied that a school had been hit. They claimed that the 8 years old, undernourished children were in a military training camp. They have learned from their new Zionists friends. The chutzpah in their response to the school bombing reports was strong:

"We would have hoped MSF would take measures to stop the recruitment of children to fight in wars instead of crying over them in the media."

An important bridge on the main supply route to Sanaa, over which 90% of its food comes in, was destroyed by a Saudi attack. Today a Saudi airstrike hit a well known hospital in Hajjah. At least 31 civilians, including hospital personal, were killed and many more wounded.

The Saudi king used the occasions to hand out a month's extra salary as war bonus to all "active participants" on the Saudi side.

The Saudis blackmailed the United Nations, with silent U.S. approval, to not accuse Saudi Arabia of any of its atrocities and crimes with regards to its war. They threatened to stop all payments to all UN programs. The relevant UN reports are "cleaned" before being published. No longer will you see any UN comments on "Saudi airstrikes". Atrocities are now void of any origin.

Before the war Yemen was already dirt poor. It is now much poorer. Most infrastructure is destroyed. Nearly all factories have been flattened. The country is under a total blockade. The economy is in tatters. People die of hunger. Some 80% of the population is in dire need of humanitarian aid.

But the Yemenis will not give up. They did not start the war. But they will end it on their terms. They continue to response to Saudi attacks on Yemen with attacks in Saudi Arabia. Mysteriously new self made rockets appear from nowhere and hit Saudi troops and installations. All Saudi ground attacks in Yemen have ended in failure. Their proxy troops, hired from various African countries and South America, get beaten as soon as the enter the central Yemeni highlands. Their paid Yemeni allies are unreliable and tend to switch sides without notice. Only al-Qaeda in Yemen is a trusted Saudi ally.

The U.S. and UK continue to support Saudi Arabia in their slaughter of Yemenis. The U.S. provides targeting intelligence and air refueling. Since April 2015 the U.S. air force refueled Saudi and allied planes bombing Yemen over 5,500 times. The U.S. delivers huge amount of bombs and weapons. Since Obama came into office the U.S sold Saudi Arabia weapons and ammunition for a cool $111 billion. Seven percent of the sales price is a commission that flows directly into Pentagon coffers. Generals involved in these deals end up in very posh industry jobs. For the U.S. weapon industry, the Pentagon and U.S. generals involved, the Saudi killing of Yemenis is extremely profitable.

But the Saudis are losing the war. Not only is it very expensive to hire all the mercenaries and U.S. specialists to maintain (and man) Saudi weapons but the material loss of expensive weapons is quite big. Over 50 main battle tanks have been lost to Yemeni attacks. Many more infantry carriers and other vehicles have gone up in flames (vid). Long videos show the Houthi winning nearly every engagement. They are way better soldiers than the Saudis.

On the political side the Yemenis outmaneuvered the Saudis and the long ago ousted Hadi proxy government. Late July the Houthis and the former President Saleh  and his supporters, once the Houthi's enemies, formalized their alliance with the  formation of a common "supreme political council". But to have real legitimacy the alliance needed some formal acknowledgement by the Yemeni people. It has now managed to gain that.

Despite Saudi bomb attacks on Sanaa the parliament was called into session. Out of 301 members 26 have died. The total remaining is 275, a legal quorum is half of that (138). On Saturday 142 parliament member attend the session and unanimously voted to form a new government.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua was the only one with decent reporting on the ground:

"The Council of Representatives unanimously recognizes, ratifies and blesses the formation of the Higher Political Council to rule the country from it's geographically far north to Aden in the south, and from east to the west of Yemen's official borders," Parliament Speaker al-Raiee and the attending MPs voted with "Yes" as showed by the state TV.

The president, vice-president, and members of the Higher Political Council performed their constitutional oath in the parliament. Today the Houthi dominated Supreme Revolutionary Committee under Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi stepped down as de-facto ruler of Yemen. It had ruled Yemen since February 6 2015. Power was handed over to the newly formed Higher Political Council which is an alliance of Houthi politicians with the GPC party of former president Saleh. The former president Hadi, in Saudi exile, is also a member of the GPC. But his time is now certainly over. He is unlikely to be ever seen again in Sanaa.

Yemen now has a new government. Its formal, public formation with the vote of the parliament gives it enough legitimacy to be accepted by most Yemenis. It will be very difficult to cast it aside.

The UK Foreign Secretary tries nonetheless:

"I am seriously concerned about actions being taken by elements of the Houthis, the General People’s Congress, and allies in defiance of the Yemeni Constitution and the UN process, and encourage all parties not to take any action that undermines the possibility of peace."

According the Yemeni constitution Hadi's election, without any competitor and no "No" vote on the ballot, was unconstitutional. He was "elected" in 2012, for a two year period. His unconstitutional mandate as president has long ended.The side the UK represents and that now insists on constitutional legitimacy has none at all.

Despite all their weapons, arrogance and money the Saudi herders of camels have again lost against the people of Yemen.

As the Hadith says:

Belief is from Yemen, wisdom is from Yemen! Pride and arrogance are found among the camel-owners; tranquility and dignity among the sheep-owners.

"Halfmen" the Syrian President Bashar Assad once called the jokers of the Saudi ruling family. He was too generous. Should the al-Sauds not soon agree to retreat from Yemen, to end their war and to appropriate financial compensation, the Yemenis will start to take Saudi cities. They are strong enough to do so, better dancers (vid) and they have the strong belief and the military means needed to achieve that.

That would be a huge loss of face and the end of the political career of the Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Clown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Posted by b on August 15, 2016 at 01:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

August 14, 2016

Open Thread 2016-26

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 14, 2016 at 07:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (153)

August 13, 2016

Happy Birthday Fidel

 

No one can look back over 20th and 21st century history, without studying the work and ideas of this Cuban who wrote a small Caribbean island into the pages of “true global history,” as told by the people.

Posted by b on August 13, 2016 at 12:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (111)

August 12, 2016

Six Killed Pediatricians Sign Letter To Obama

We are used to quite a lot of warmongering propaganda against Syria. The "last hospital in Aleppo gets destroyed" - week after week after week, reports by Physicians For Human Rights on Syria turn out to be scams, videos and pictures of "children rescued" by the U.S./UK payed media group "White Helmets" are staged.

But the yesterday released and very well propagandized Open Letter of Aleppo Doctors takes the crown of warmongering anti-Syrian fakes:

We are 15 of the last doctors serving the remaining 300,000 citizens of eastern Aleppo. Regime troops have sought to surround and blockade the entire east of the city.
...

Look who signed that open letter:

Stenographing the letter's propaganda the Guardian cleverly notes:

It has not been possible to verify the names of all the doctors listed in the letter.

May be because these names are those of famous Jihadis? But if only the fake names were the problem ...

Notice that there is no general practitioner among those fifteen doctors. This while general practitioners are usually the largest share of medics in any country. Even more astonishingly, six of the fifteen (no. 1, 2, 4, 12, 13, 14) are identify as "pediatricians".

Hmm - ain't those supposed to be dead? All of them? Wasn't the last pediatricians in east-Aleppo killed on April 28?

Our "western" and Gulf governments pay a lot of our taxpayer money for such anti-Syrian warmongering. The "White Helmets" alone receive $60 million. We should at least demand better fakes and more plausible lies for such large expenditures of our money.

Source: Ali Ornek

Posted by b on August 12, 2016 at 04:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

August 11, 2016

Media Builds Up Enemies For Hillary's Wars

Another example that so-called news in U.S. media is often more propaganda than valid information is this NYT piece on the "hack" of the Democratic National Committee:

WASHINGTON — A Russian cyberattack that targeted Democratic politicians was bigger than it first appeared and breached the private email accounts of more than 100 party officials and groups, officials with knowledge of the case said Wednesday.
...

A "Russian cyberattack"? How can the NYT claim such, in an opening paragraph, when even the Director of U.S. National Intelligence is unable to make such a judgement?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, speaking about the hack of Democratic Party emails, said on Thursday the U.S. intelligence community was not ready to "make the call on attribution" as to who was responsible.

All the NYT lays out to backup its claim of a "Russian" hack is an anonymous Intelligence Committee staffer who claims U.S. intelligence agencies "have virtually no doubt" about it. If that were true why would the boss of these intelligence agencies publicly point out such doubts?

There is not even any evidence that the publishing of emails incriminating the DNC for manipulating the Democratic primaries were the result of any "hack". It might have well been an insider who copied the material and handed them to Wikileaks for publication. After the leak the DNC data analyst Seth Rich was mutilated and murdered near his home in Washington DC. The case was obviously no robbery. Julian Assange of Wikileaks pointed out that the circumstances of Rich's death are suspicious. I first attributed that claim to Assange's typical exaggerations, but the facts speak for themselves. The case indeed looks very much like a targeted killing. Who did it and and why?

The "Russia is guilty" claim for whatever happened, without any proof, is becoming a daily diet fed to the "western" public. A similar theme is the "barrel bombing" of (the always same) "hospitals" in Syria which is claimed whenever the Syrian government or its allies hit some al-Qaeda headquarter.

All this propaganda is in preparation of the rule of the "We came, we saw, he died. Hahaha ..." psychopathic queen of war Hillary Clinton.

As Marc Wheeler, aka emptywheel, reminds us:

6:13 AM - 10 Aug 2016 emptywheel @emptywheel

The actions to ensure we will escalate our wars are being taken as we speak. January will be too late to stop it.

Posted by b on August 11, 2016 at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (77)

August 09, 2016

Clinton's False Assassination Outrage Only Helps Trump

The Hillary-bots are trying to construe some Trump babble as a call by him to 2nd amendment supporters to assassinate Hillary Clinton.

It is difficult to find such a suggestion even in the out-of-context sentences Clinton supporter are spreading around:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” he said, adding: “Although the second amendment people – maybe there is, I don’t know.”

My first thought when reading that was that he called for 2nd amendment supporters to organize against Clinton picking supreme court judges that would limit the current 2nd amendment interpretation (in my view: back to its original meaning). That the NRA, which Trump mentions, has lots of political organizing power is well known. To interpret that as call for assassination is widely off the mark.

To see a real moron and psychopath openly calling for murder (of Russians and Iranians), turn to the former CIA bigwig and Hillary acolyte Mike Morell.

The quote the Clinton supporters cite sounds different when put into the wider context. Within the usual disjointed talk Trump was giving it doesn't even come near to an assassination suggestion or a threat.

Via Daily Beast reporter Gideon Resnick the full quote:


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Those incoherent remarks were certainly off-the-cuff babble without a prepared script. Difficult to follow even if someone were interested in doing so.

Some pitiable opposition researcher at Hillary's campaign headquarter must have listened closely to Trump for some line that could, somehow, be construed as something OUTRAGEOUS. That was then blasted to all the usual Hillary bots who immediately spread it around.

The Clinton campaign does not get it. As suggested here earlier the "outrage" the Clinton campaign constructs out of such quotes will only help Trump to win more votes. It will also infuse more mistrust against the media who spread it around. The Trump campaign is already using it for that purpose.

The best of it, from Trump's view, is that he now gets another full news cycle of free advertising on every media channel. This while Clinton spends at least $13 million for TV adds around the Olympics where Trump spends $0.

There are many ways to beat Trump. Constructing arguably false outrage from some throw-away remarks certainly isn't on of them. The election will likely be decided on voter turn-out and get-out-the-vote volunteering efforts. There is little, if any, enthusiasm for Clinton. Trump is winning more hard-core believers with any such Clinton attack.

Posted by b on August 9, 2016 at 06:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (156)

Who Now Leads The War On Syria - The CIA Or Turkey?

Some reports about the recent al-Qaeda attack on Aleppo suggest a leading role Turkey is playing in this operation. This contradicts my analysis of a Turkish foreign policy change moving from a solely western orientation towards a more eastern one. Such a change implies a less intense Turkish engagement in Syria.

Earlier reports by the Economist and the Financial Times pointed to less active role of Turkey in Syria. But a new Financial Times piece (Textcopy) emphasizes the role of Turkey in supplying and training various oppositions groups, especially al-Qaeda, while minimizing U.S. involvement:

[T]he offensive against President Bashar al-Assad’s troops may have had more foreign help than it appears: activists and rebels say opposition forces were replenished with new weapons, cash and other supplies before and during the fighting.

“At the border yesterday we counted tens of trucks bringing in weapons,” said one Syrian activist, who crosses between Syria and neighbouring Turkey. “It’s been happening daily, for weeks … weapons, artillery — we’re not just talking about some bullets or guns.”

Two other rebels, who, like all those interviewed, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, described cash and supplies being ferried in for weeks.

Just ten days ago the FT cited Syrian rebels as saying "Turkey was [now] inactive as rebels struggled." The Economist said Turkey was now "periodically closing the Bab al-Hawa border crossing". In the new piece claims that Turkey is the operational, logistical master behind the Aleppo attack; that the attack was planned in Ankara and al-Qaeda/Nusra troops were possibly trained by the Turkish military. Moreover it claims that mass supplies over the border have intensified in recent days instead of coming in dropwise throughout the months before.

Ahrar al Sham, the Taliban like, U.S. supported terrorist group in Syria, is also suddenly empathizing extensive Turkish help.

These reports do not fit each other. According to these reports Turkey is either pulling back from the war on Syria or is intensifying it. What is it?

Yesterday the Russian President Putin met the Iranian President Rouhani in Azerbaijan. Today the Turkish President Erdogan meets Putin in St. Petersburg. In a TASS interview accompanying today's meeting Erdogan talks of new relations with Russia but still insist that "Assad must go" at about any price. He also says that al-Qaeda aka Jabhat al Nusra is, in his view, not a terrorist organization because it sometimes fights the Islamic State. That is consistent with U.S. and Israeli support for al-Qaeda in Syria.

In a counter to Turkish bluster Putin sent an agreement for a permanent Russian airbase in Syria for ratification to the Russian parliament. The message to Turkey is that Russia will not leave the scene and must be accommodated.

The meeting will, one way or another, set new political directions for the war on Syria. Turkish-Russian cooperation may intensify and the war peter out, or the conflict will further intensify with a renewed Russian engagement.

The FT piece emphasizing very recent mass logistics through Turkey (which may or many not have happened) was probably placed to depict Turkey in a more "western" role than it currently has. That would limit Erdogan's room to maneuver in St. Petersburg. But is it really plausible that Turkey, after a recent bloody U.S. coup attempt, intensified its back-work for the CIA,  even when it knows that this will hurt urgently needed new relations with Russia and Iran?

While the recent FT article is emphasizing Turkey's role, it is playing down U.S. engagement:

“The Americans, of course, knew what was going on. They ignored it to put some pressure back on Russia and Iran,” said a western diplomat in contact with the opposition.

We can be sure that the CIA is doing much more than just ignoring weapon supplies or looking on. The thousands of tons of weapons reaching al-Qaeda and other insurgents were brought in from Bulgaria on U.S. chartered ships. The MANPADs recently delivered to the Taliban equivalent in Syria, Ahrar al-Sham, certainly passed through U.S. hands. The FT also mentions Kerry's August 1 deadline which we believe marked a U.S. set date for the long planned Aleppo attack,  and for the new siege on the 1.2-1.5 million civilians on the government side of the city.

A recent New York Times piece (in which the paper for the first time admits intensive, longtime CIA involvement in Syria) emphasizes the central operational role of U.S. activities in the war on Syria:

For several years, the C.I.A. has joined with the spy services of several Arab nations to arm and train the rebels at bases in Jordan and Qatar, with the Saudis bankrolling much of the operation.

It is either Turkey (says the FT) or the CIA (says the NYT) which is in the lead. This contradiction adds to other finger pointing about who is the master conductor of, and culpable for the anti-Syrian operations.

One example: The Turkish military recently "rescued" a CIA spy who was wounded in the north Latakia region of Syria. The U.S. send helicopters to help its asset. The spy turned out to be journalist Lindsey Snell working on a report with Nusra for the intelligence outfit Vocativ. She was put into Turkish jail for illegally crossing the border. Was this another game or some real disagreement?

It could be that Turkish-U.S. cooperation on Syria, despite the coup-attempt in Turkey, is still excellent. That would imply that major conflicts playing out in the spy world and in the media are orchestrated fakes to confuse Syria and its allies.

But these conflicts may also point to real fighting behind the scenes. Fighting about who will be stuck with the tar-babies al-Qaeda in Syria and other "rebels" are likely to become.

Posted by b on August 9, 2016 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (106)

August 08, 2016

NYT Covers Up Complicity In Iran Spy's Execution

Iranian authorities recently executed a scientist for treason after they determined that he was a long-term spy for the United States. The history behind the man is a bit weird. He had, so is said, for some time spied for the U.S. within an Iranian nuclear research center when it was decided to extradite him. He flew to Saudi Arabia from where the CIA brought him to the United States. It paid him a load of money and set him up under a new name in Tuscon, Arizona. The man did not feel well in his new setting. He released a video in which he claimed to have been taken against his will and that he was tortured and pressed by the CIA to spill Iranian secrets. He demanded to be send back to Iran. He arrived there but his story apparently did not hold up. He was eventually sentenced to death and executed.

A weird spy tale and one that certainly still has some secrets. But what is really curious is how one reporter at the New York Times, who once outright claimed that the man worked for the CIA, is now very vague about it. The man is dead. He can no longer be harmed. Why hold back now if not to hide ones complicity in his death?

On July 15 2010 NYT writer David Sanger left no doubt that the man was a long term CIA assets:

U.S. Says Scientist Aided C.I.A. While Still in Iran

The Iranian scientist who American officials say defected to the United States, only to return to Tehran on Thursday, had been an informant for the Central Intelligence Agency inside Iran for several years, providing information about the country’s nuclear program, according to United States officials.
...
For several years, Mr. Amiri provided what one official described as “significant, original” information about secret aspects of his country’s nuclear program, according to the Americans.

This account by the Americans, some of whom are apparently trying to discredit Mr. Amiri’s tale of having been kidnapped by the C.I.A., provides the latest twist in one of strangest tales of the nuclear era.

Sanger noted that the CIA wanted to discredit the scientist. But why then repeat those claims? He also noted that publishing the claim was likely to get the man into deep trouble:

“His safety depends on him sticking to that fairy tale about pressure and torture,” insisted one of the American officials, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified while discussing a classified operation to attract Iranian scientists. “His challenge is to try to convince the Iranian security forces that he never cooperated with the United States.”

Trying to convince Iranian authorities that you are no spy, while the NYT prominently lays out the story that you are, is not an easy task. Why did the NYT, knowing of the potential consequences for the man, publish the claims at all?

Does Sanger feel regret about having outed the man, now that he has been executed? Consider his mealymouthed version of the above claim in today's report on that case:

How an Iranian’s Spy Saga Ends, 6 Years Later: He’s Executed

...
It now appears he may have begun work as an American source while he was still in Iran.
...

That very qualified sentence - "now appears", "may have" - comes down in paragraph 11 of the story. Not in the very opening paragraph as written by Sanger six years ago. How come that today it "now appears" when this was claimed with near certainty in the other story six years ago?

Why change the story at all after those six years? Why these qualifications now that the man is dead? Is this covering up the NYT's and Sanger's personal complicity in the man's death?

Posted by b on August 8, 2016 at 07:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

August 07, 2016

Aleppo (Again) Turns Into Focal Point Of The War On Syria

On Thursday I judged that the U.S. supported al-Qaeda attack in southwest Aleppo was failing.

Despite the failure of their main thrust, al-Qaeda and its allies launched a third phase attack towards Ramouseh district a few hundred meters further north. A tactical mistake as the attackers failed to build a decisive Schwerpunkt. ... Local fighting still continues on the front lines but the government positions seem secured and the attacking force is slowly getting ground down.

That judgement was premature.


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The Jihadis retreated after their first three attacks but renewed their efforts with fresh troops on the next day. This time they concentrated on one focal point. Another frontal assault throughout Friday failed, but a fifth major strike followed in the darkness of Friday night. A total of five vehicle borne suicide bombs broke the defense line of the Syrian government forces and Jihadi forces stormed into the wide area of the Artillery Academy. The compound is a hard to observe mixture of small open fields, garages, office and quarter buildings. The sparsely manned defense lines were overwhelmed or circumvented. By Saturday night most of the academy was in the hand of the Jihadis. A small corridor to the Jihadi held east-Aleppo was opened but is not secured.


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The Syrian government forces are bringing up reserves and additional forces. A counterattack is likely to follow soon. The battle for Aleppo is now the strategic Schwerpunkt, the focal point of the fight for north-Syria if not of the whole war.

According to earlier reports by the Guardian journalist Chulov, Vice News and Dutch TV, east-Aleppo is essentially empty. The population has long fled to government held areas. "Spookstad",  ghost-town, is the title of the Dutch TV documentary from there. "Western" media now laud the Islamists for lifting the siege the Syrian government held over the area. But the new Jihaid corridor in south-west Aleppo is cutting off 1.5 million people in government held west-Aleppo. Now these are under siege with the besieging forces having promised to slaughter many of them. This is somewhat recurrence of the situation in 2013 when west-Aleppo, to little attention of the media, was also cut off from all resupplies by "moderate rebel" forces.

The "western" think-tank and media fanboys of al-Qaeda are celebrating the breaking the siege of east-Aleppo while a much bigger siege is created against a much larger population. Their cheer-leading for al-Qaeda is literarely indistinguishable from al-Qaeda's own propaganda.

The Russian air force was heavily engaged, but not very visible in the defense of the Artillery Academy. Its main focus are the supply lines of the Jihadists. But efforts in the logistic depth of the theater always take some time to show significant effects on the front lines. What was regrettably missing was direct helicopter support for the defenders. Russia has a number of excellent front line helicopters in Syria. But there was arguably reason not to use them. Last Monday a Russian helicopter was shot down some 40 kilometers south of Aleppo and all crew and passengers were killed. The Russians believe that the helicopter was taken down my a man portable air defense missile (MANPAD) delivered to Jihadis either by or with the knowledge of the U.S. They fear that the attackers of Aleppo have a significant number of these weapons.

The breaking of a corridor towards east-Aleppo was announced as only the first part of a plan to conquer and occupy all of Aleppo. More than 5,000 attackers took part in the first phase. There are rumors - unconfirmed - that an additional 10,000 attackers have been activated and are on the march towards the city.

The whole attack on Aleppo was planned since at least April. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry prevented Russian reactions against the preparations and build up by holding out a possible cessation of hostilities and a political solution of the conflict. At the same time the U.S. and its allies delivered new weapons and equipment to al-Qaeda in Syria and its aligned forces. Videos from the Jihadi front lines show every fighter in well kept uniforms and armored vests with plenty of weapons and ammunition available.

The current attack on Aleppo is only one part of a larger U.S. plan to bring Syria (as well as Russia and Iran) to its knees. We do not yet know all the plan's phases, parameters and aims. We also do not know the responses the other side has prepared to counter them. All observers (including me) should keep that in mind when judging the day-to-day changes of the situation.

Posted by b on August 7, 2016 at 03:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (173)

August 06, 2016

Open Thread 2016-25

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 6, 2016 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (123)

August 05, 2016

Why Do U.S. Experts Suddenly Find Syrian Rebel Sectarianism "Extraordinary"?

Anti-Assad luminaries in the United States suddenly play surprised that their beloved "moderate" insurgents are a bunch of racist and sectarian head choppers. But this was obvious as even the very first demonstration against the Syrian government in March/April 2011 were driven by sectarianism. Countless members of minorities in Syria have since been murdered by "western" and Gulf supported "moderate rebels".

Why do these anti-Syrian "experts", who supported the genocidal insurgents, suddenly find that abhorrent?

The "moderate rebels" and al-Qaeda in Syria currently attack the government held parts of the city of Aleppo. Part of their attack plan is the storming of the Artillery Academy in Ramouseh district. The academy was the scene of mass murder in the 1979-1982 Muslim Brotherhood uprising against the government. The name they chose for the battle make their intentions clear.

3:07pm · 4 Aug 2016 - Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha

Battle is named after "Ibrahim Yusuf", an Ikhwani who murdered ~80 Alawite cadets in Ramouseh Artillery Base in 1979 pic.twitter.com/7TVYiZNeBP

London Times reporter Hala Jabar explains:

2:00am · 5 Aug 2016 - Hala Jaber @HalaJaber

Recap: Former #AQ#Nusra now moderate #Jabhat_Fath_alSham, name 3rd phase of liberating Aleppo after Ibrahim_al_Yussuf, who they deem a hero.

.2/ They deem #Ibrahim_al_Yussuf, a hero, for separating Sunnis 4rm #Alawites & apostates & executing 80 Alawites of them, in 1979.

.3/ That incident took place in Aleppo's artillery school then. Now JFS/JAS is promising 2 "conquer" same artillery school & kill Alawites.

.4/ So now they-- his "grandsons" -- pledge to do same "blessed" thing. Kill all #Alawites & desecrate their bodies. https://www.youtube.com/embed/LqEw_6_Dzpo

.5/ This all in the name of phase three of the "blessed battle"to conquer" #Aleppo.

The bloody sectarian name for the battle is promoted not only by al-Qaeda under its sham new name but by all U.S. supported "moderates" who take part in it. The political leader of the U.S. supported Zinki group, members of which recently beheaded a sick child, is a near relative of Ibrahim al Yussuf.

The Muslim Brotherhood insurgency in Syria between 1979 and 1982, of which al Yussuf was part, was a series of bloody guerilla attacks and mass murder incidents against the state and minorities. It finally ended when the government trapped the leadership and many militants in the city of Hama and fought them down in a bloody urban battle. Many members of the militant cadre of the movement fled to foreign countries. Some came back to reignite their killing spree when the protests in Syria started in 2011.

For those who have been watching the developments in Syria the sectarian motive of the insurgents is certainly no surprise at all. But here are two U.S. "experts" who suddenly find them "extraordinary".

Robert Ford was U.S. ambassador to Syria from 2011 to 2014 and one of instigators of the protests against the Syrian government. He has since feverishly argued for more weapons for the insurgents and for U.S. bombing to destroy the Syrian government and the country.

1:27 PM - 4 Aug 2016 - Robert Ford @fordrs58

If oppo fighters' goal n #Syria now 2 separate Alawi citizens &kill them, then the fighters don't merit outside help. Up to them 2 clarify.

Joshua Landis is professor for Middle East studies. In his blogposts and public comments he has been mealy-mouthed about condemning the insurgents whatever they did, but was always negative about the government. He thinks that a new President Clinton:

has to re-escalate but w/o major costs. Trick will be to bomb w/o making many commitments or getting sucked in

Tricky indeed, but she "has to" do it. Right?

About the Aleppo battle announcement:

7:50pm · 4 Aug 2016 - Joshua Landis @joshua_landis

Extraordinary statement by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham declaring intent to separate Sunnis fr Nusairis (Alawis) & kill them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqEw_6_Dzpo

"Extraordinary" in this is only that these "experts" suddenly find something surprising that has been central to the insurgency from its very beginning.

Consider:

Analysis of Syrian Protest Movement - Mazda Majidi, April 2011
[The opposition movement] undoubtedly includes many thousands who simply a desire a society free of poverty and state repression. But it has also included sectarian religious forces who want to overthrow the country’s secular orientation, and have chanted “Alawis to the coffins, Christians to Beirut.”

Syria's Minorities & Split Loyalties: Through the Sectarian Lens Albawaba - Feb 1 2012
Chants heard at revolution rallies have been to the tune of: "Alawis to the coffins and Christians to Beirut."

The World’s Next Genocide - NYT Nov 2012
[I]nside Syria those chanting “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to their graves!” have become more than a fringe element. Human Rights Watch and other groups have documented cases of rebels executing Syrian soldiers and Alawites regarded as government collaborators.

Here is video from the early March 2011 protests in Syria. They were clearly sectarian with the protesters loudly threatening to kill minorities.

What was so difficult to understand with "Alawis to the coffins" and other genocidal "revolutionary" slogans and deeds that Ford and Landis did not comprehend them throughout the last years?

What has changed that Landis and Ford now act surprised about the "extraordinary" sectarianism of the insurgencies they supported and still support?

Posted by b on August 5, 2016 at 05:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (69)

August 04, 2016

Kerry's And Al-Qaeda's "Very Different Track" Attack On Aleppo Fails

Early in May U.S. Secretary of State Kerry set a deadline for "voluntary" regime change in Syria:

[He] said “the target date for the transition is 1st of August” in Syria or else the Assad government and its allies “are asking for a very different track.” Hoping that “something happens in these next few months,” he said the political transition would not include President Assad because “as long as Assad is there, the opposition is not going to stop fighting.”
...
Kerry made those remarks after meeting with the UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. They agreed to establish a monitoring ceasefire center in Geneva, Switzerland, ...

By the time of that statement al-Qaeda in Syria and U.S. supported insurgents had already broken the February ceasefire announced by Russia and attacked Syrian government positions in the rural area south of Aleppo city.

Negotiations since May between Russia and the U.S. over Syria have not led to any tangible results. In retrospect the U.S. tactic seems to have been willful delay. The U.S. made some laughable offer to Russia and Syria to effectively accept defeat in exchange for common attacks on al-Qaeda. This was rejected without much comment.

The current attack on the government held Aleppo by al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al Nusra aka Fateh al Scam) was launched on August 1st. With up to 10,000 insurgents participating the attack was unprecedented in size. August 1st is exactly the same date Kerry had set as starting date for "a very different track". This is likely not a random coincidence.

Despite the very large size of the "Great Battle of Aleppo" and its possibly decisive character for the war neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post has so far reported on it.

The U.S. had long prepared for an escalation and extension of the war on Syria. In December and January ships under U.S. control transported at least 3,000 tons of old weapons and ammunition from Bulgaria to Turkey and Jordan. These came atop of hundreds of tons of weapons from Montenegro transported via air to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. According to the renown Janes Defense military intelligence journal these Bulgarian weapons ended up in Syria where the Syrian army confiscated some of them from al-Qaeda and U.S. supported insurgents.

During the ceasefire and negotiations with Russia, the U.S. and its allies continued to arm and support their proxies in Syria even as those were intimately coordinating and integrating with al-Qaeda. The U.S. does not consider these groups to be terrorists, no matter with whom they associate or whatever they do. Even when such a group beheads a 12 year old, sick child in front of running cameras the U.S. State Department continues to support them and opines that "one incident here and there would not necessarily make you a terrorist group."

Good to know ...

The Russian Defense Ministry warned since April that large amounts of weapons and men were crossing from Turkey to Syria:

The Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) in Syria is planning a major offensive with the aim to cut the road between Aleppo and Damascus, the chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Sergey Rudskoy, has said.
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"According to the information we have, about 8,000 Jabhat al-Nusra militants have concentrated to the southwest of Aleppo; up to 1,500 militants have gathered to the north of the city," Rudskoi said.

A Jabhat al-Nusra spokesperson claimed that the attack on Aleppo was planned for "several month". The U.S.-Saudi weapon supplies at the beginning of the year and the Russian observed deployment of forces in April were likely in preparation of the current attack on Aleppo. Kerry's "very different track" remark fits right into these. But the large "very different track" attack failed. 


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The attack started on Sunday and by Monday the 2nd the insurgents (green areas) managed to break Syrian government (red) defenses at the south-western border of Aleppo city. The plan was to break through roughly along the black line. Several vehicle based suicide attacks breached the Syrian front line. The insurgents captured the large, unfinished apartment project 1070 and several hilltop positions. On Tuesday phase 2 launched when they attempted to take the Artillery Academy base a few hundred meters further east. But after intense Syrian and Russian air strikes and nightly counterattacks nearly all positions fell back into Syrian government hands. Despite the failure of their main thrust, al-Qaeda and its allies launched a third phase attack towards Ramouseh district a few hundred meters further north. A tactical mistake as the attackers failed to build a decisive Schwerpunkt. A tunnel deployed bomb destroyed parts of the Syrian army positions in Ramouseh but the defense line held. The attack was repelled. Additional break-out attacks by the 2-3,000 fighters inside the besieged al-Qaeda controlled areas in east-Aleppo city failed too. Al-Qaeda never managed to break the siege of the eastern areas and to thereby cut off the government held, densely occupied western areas from their supply route south towards Damascus.

Local fighting still continues on the front lines but the government positions seem secured and the attacking force is slowly getting ground down.

Al-Qaeda and allies had to deliver their attack from rural Idleb and Aleppo over open terrain towards the western Aleppo city borders. Here is where the Russian airforce and long range artillery concentrated their fire. As usual in such situations more attackers were killed on the approaches to the front line and in forward supply areas than on the front line itself. A Russian cruise missile even destroyed (vid) an arms supply storage used by Jaish al-Islam, the al-Qaeda controlled insurgency alliance, in Bab al Hawa, Idleb, at the Turkish border. Several arms convoys on their way towards Aleppo were destroyed in other airstrikes.

Both sides currently accuse each other of minor gas attacks against each other civilians. The insurgents started these as they always do when they lose ground. This time the Syrian and Russian side immediately responded with their own claims. It is now he-said she-said - who can decide? These attacks or reports seem to be more diversions than serious incidents.

After the defeat of the third phase of their attack al-Qaeda and its allies broke off their original plan of an attack in six phases and pulled back. In Russian military doctrine such a situation demands a counterattack with a wide ranging, strategic pursuit of the retreating enemy. We may now see a lightning fast operation in which reserve troops held by the Syrian government proceed westwards and northwards from Aleppo under intense air cover.

There are no current plans on the government side to capture the insurgent areas in east-Aleppo which are under government siege. These can wait and their condition deteriorate before any costly move against them follows.

Reports of additional Russian attack planes arriving for the next phase of the conflict have not yet been confirmed.

All together Kerry's "very different track" failed to achieve the desired aim. The government held Aleppo city was not cut off from the rest of the government held areas south of it. The attacking force, the largest insurgent concentration in this war, suffers up to 1,000 casualties and a large amount of its equipment was destroyed. A pursuit might shatter its remnants.

In another Syrian trouble spot Kurdish YPG fighters besiege and slowly conquer the Islamic State held city of Manbij in the east. They are supported by U.S. special forces and intense coalition air attacks. The city of Manbij is now mostly destroyed. The once 100,000 inhabitants are in dire straits. Up to 200 civilians fleeing the city were killed in U.S. air attacks. But as the operation is U.S. led no "western" humanitarian organization has lamented their fate.

Posted by b on August 4, 2016 at 05:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (79)

August 03, 2016

How Not To Run An Anti-Trump Campaign

The whole U.S. political and media establishment is right now running a full fledged anti-Trump campaign. The points this drive brings up are minor issue, rumors or outright lies.

It is premature to run such a campaign now. One can not tell the same story over and over again for nearly a 100 days. People will either get tired of it or will endorse Trump as the poor small boy that everyone is bullying and beating up.

Some spat over a dead soldier who the Clinton campaign (ab)used for her campaign gets way overblown. Unfounded rumors that some Republicans are going to replace Trump are just a repetition of the same nonsense that spread a month ago. It only heightens the media's lack of credibility. It is similar to the claims that "the Assad regime will fall any minute now". We have heard for the last five years and no one believes it. Unsourced claims that Trump asked why the U.S. can not use nukes are not credible. Especially when they are transported by a lowlife like MSNBC's Scarborough and immediately denied. If true at all, the issues is likely taken out of context. 

On the other side, news about Clinton actively lying is so obviously suppressed by the New York Times that even its public editor laments about it. CNN claims that Hillary meets "boisterous crowds" when no-one shows up.

This wont work. This imbalance is not sustainable. The Clinton campaign managers who orchestrate this onslaught are shooting their wads prematurely.

It does not matter that Trump indeed has small hands or that he fibs on every details. The majority of the people hate Clinton. This media campaign will fall back on her. She will be perceived as the bully increasing her already strong negatives.

Posted by b on August 3, 2016 at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (126)

August 01, 2016

The Larger Context Of The Jihadi Attack On Aleppo

Al-Qaeda in Syria and associated forces are currently driving a large scale attack from the south-west into Aleppo city. Their aim is to create a new corridor between the Idleb/Aleppo rural areas they occupy and the besieged al-Qaeda controlled areas in east-Aleppo. Between 5,000 and 10,000 al-Qaeda fighters, using U.S. supplied equipment, are taking part in the battle. Formally some of the fighters are "moderates" but in reality all this groups are by now committed to implement Sharia law and to thereby suppress all minorities. They made some initial progress against government forces but are under fierce attack from the Syrian and Russian air forces.

The Russian General Staff has warned since April that al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Fateh al Sham) and the various attached Jihadi groups were planing a large scale attack on Aleppo. An al-Qaeda commander confirmed such long term planning in a pep-talk to his fighters before the current attack.

This shines a new light on the protracted talks Secretary of State Kerry has had for month with his Russian colleague. The U.S. tried to exempt al-Qaeda from Russian and Syrian attacks even as UN Security Council Resolutions demanded that al-Qaeda and ISIS areas be eradicated. Then the U.S. tried to make an "offer" to Russia to collectively fight al-Qaeda should Russia put its own and Syrian forces under U.S. control. We called this offer deceptive nonsense. All this, it now seems, was delaying talk to allow al-Qaeda to prepare for the now launched attack.

Another step in the delaying, though a failed one, was the re-branding of Jabhat al-Nusra as Fateh al-Sham. Some "western" media called that a split from al-Qaeda but in reality is was a merging of al-Qaeda central and Nusra/al-Qaeda in Syria under a disguising new label. Al-Qaeda's Qatari sponsors had demanded the re-branding so al-Qaeda in Syria could publicly be sold to "western" governments and their public as "moderate rebels". But the sham failed. It was too obvious a fake to be taken seriously. The "western" support for al-Qaeda will have to continue secretly and in limited form.

The current attack on Aleppo is serious. The Syrian army lacks ground forces. Significant professional ground forces from Iran were promised but never arrived. Iran was still dreaming of an accord with the U.S. and therefore holding back on its engagement in Syria. The Afghan farmer battalions Iran recruited are not an alternative for professional troops. Defending against an enemy that is using lots of suicide vehicle bombs to breach fortifications and death-seeking Jihadis to storm field positions is difficult. It demands diligent preparation excellent command and control.

If this attack can be defeated the huge losses al-Qaeda will have to take might end its open military style war. If al-Qaeda succeeds with the attack the Syrian army will need very significant additional ground forces to regain the initiative.

But no matter how that battle goes strategically the U.S. is sniffing defeat in its regime change endeavor. It is now proposing to split Syria. Syria and all its neighbors are against this. It will, in the end, not happen, but the damage Washington will create until it acknowledges that fact could be serious. Russia can and should prevent such U.S. attempts of large scale social engineering.

Russia on the other side has now to decide if it wants to escalate enough to create more than the current stalemate. Over time a stalemate becomes expansive and it may, at any time, suddenly turn into defeat. The U.S. negotiation positions so far were obviously not serious. The U.S. delayed to allow for further large attacks on the Syrian government. The alternative for Russia is to either leave Syria completely or to escalate enough to decisively defeat the Jihadis. That is not an easy decision.

Today some Jihadis shot down another Russian helicopter over Syria. The bloody body of the dead pilot was dragged through the mud by some local nuts and the video thereof proudly presented. If the Russian government needs some public pretext to go back into Syria it now has it. Also today the Islamic State threatened to attack Russia within its border. Another good reason to return to Syria in force. Of note is that Russia is already extremely pissed over the unreasonable hostile climate towards it in Washington DC. It will have consequences.

The Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei today acknowledged that the nuclear agreement with the U.S. is a failure. The U.S. did not deliver on its end. Iranian money is still blocked in U.S. controlled accounts and no international bank wants to do business with Iran because the U.S. is threatening to penalize them. The conclusion, Khamenei says, is that no deal with U.S. over any local issue in the Middle East is possible and that all negotiations with it are a waste of time. This new public position may finally free the limits the Rouhani government of Iran had put on Iranian deployments to Syria. Why bother with any self-limitation if the U.S. wont honor it?

How the situation in Syria will develop from here on depends to a large part on Turkey. Turkey is changing its foreign policy and turning towards Russia, Iran and China. But how far that turn away from the "west" will go and if it will also include a complete turnaround on Syria is not yet clear. Should Turkey really block its borders and all supplies to the Jihadis, the war on Syria could be over within a year or two. Should (secret) supplies continue, the war may continue for many more years. In both cases more allied troops and support for the Syrian government would significantly cut the time (and damage) the war will still take. That alone would be well worth additional efforts by Syria's allies.

Will Tehran and Moscow agree with that conclusion?

Posted by b on August 1, 2016 at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (136)

 
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