Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 30, 2016

Syria - The U.S. Propaganda Shams Now Openly Fail

The Obama administration, and especially the CIA and the State Department, seem to be in trouble. They shout everything they can against Russia and allege that the cleansing of east-Aleppo of al-Qaeda terrorist is genocidal. Meanwhile no mention is ever made of the famine of the Houthis in Yemen which the U.S. and Saudi bombing and their blockade directly causes.


by Carlos Latuff - bigger

But more and more major news accounts support the Russian allegation that the "moderate rebels" the U.S. is coddling in Syria are actually in cahoots with al-Qaeda if not al-Qaeda itself.

Reuters reports (though only at the end of a longer story):

In Aleppo, rebels in the Free Syrian Army are sharing operational planning with Jaish al-Fatah, an alliance of Islamist groups that includes the former Syrian wing of al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, in nearby Hama province, FSA groups armed with U.S.-made anti-tank missiles are taking part in a major offensive with the al Qaeda-inspired Jund al-Aqsa group.

The Wall Street Journal is more direct and headlining: Syria Rebels Draw Closer to al Qaeda-Linked Group

Some of Syria’s largest rebel factions are doubling down on their alliance with an al Qaeda-linked group, despite a U.S. warning to split from the extremists or risk being targeted in airstrikes.
...
Some rebel groups already aligned with Syria Conquest Front responded by renewing their alliance. But others, such as Nour al-Din al-Zinki, a former Central Intelligence Agency-backed group and one of the largest factions in Aleppo, pledged allegiance for the first time to the front in recent days.

Indeed the al.Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham announced publicly that the CIA's Nour el-Din Zinki and Suqour al-Sham joined its Jihad

As little back as August the State Department defended Zinki after some of its member abducted a Palestinian boy from a hospital near Aleppo and beheaded him in front of a video camera:

[I]n State Department briefings, [..] spokesman Mark Toner downplayed the incidents, or the possibility that the US would stop arming Nour al-Din al-Zinki just because they beheaded a child..
...
Toner insisted [..] “one incident here and there would not necessarily make you a terrorist group.”

The new news reports follow after an interview by the German former politician and journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer with an al-Qaeda commander published in English on this site. The commander said that Nusra (aka al-Qaeda) were directly supplied, via a subgroup, with U.S. TOW missiles. He added about such groups:

They are all with us. We are all the al-Nusra Front. A groups is created and calls itself "Islamic Army", or "Fateh al-Sham". Each group has its own name but their believe is homogeneous. The general name is al-Nusra Front. One person has, for example, 2,000 fighters. Then he creates from these a new group and calls it "Ahrar al-Sham". Brothers, who's believe, thoughts and aims are identical to those of al-Nusra Front.

Another interview recently published by the former military Jack Murphy was with a Green Beret soldier who served in Turkey and Syria. The Green Berets are special forces of the U.S. army. They are specialists in training and  fighting with indigenous guerrilla groups against governments the U.S. dislikes. The soldier interviewed was ordered to train "moderate Syrian rebels" in Turkey. Parts of the interview (paywalled) are quoted here:

"No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort”, a former Green Beret writes of America’s covert and clandestine programs to train and arm Syrian insurgents, “they know we are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘Fuck it, who cares?’”. “I don’t want to be responsible for Nusra guys saying they were trained by Americans,” the Green Beret added.
...
Murphy states bluntly: “distinguishing between the FSA and al-Nusra is impossible, because they are virtually the same organization. As early as 2013, FSA commanders were defecting with their entire units to join al-Nusra. There, they still retain the FSA monicker, but it is merely for show, to give the appearance of secularism so they can maintain access to weaponry provided by the CIA and Saudi intelligence services. The reality is that the FSA is little more than a cover for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra. ...

It is one thing when Russia says somesthing, but another when Reuters, WSJ, and independent German and U.S. subject experts report this as facts. The first can be shunned as "Putin lies" but the others are extremely hard to refute.

The Russians are right. The U.S. did not separate the "moderate rebels" from al Qaeda, as it had agreed to in the ceasefire agreement, because the "moderates" and al-Qaeda are the same. The "moderates" are al-Qaeda. This was not unknown. The 2012 Defense Intelligence Analysis said as much. The CIA of course knew this all along. But the Saudi tool heading the CIA, John Brennan, can not admit such as his masters in the Gulf are also the ones who finance al-Qaeda.

They buy the weapons Brennan's people hadn over to al-Qaeda. The "end-user" according to this certificate for a weapon buy in Ukraine is Saudi Arabia. But who will believe that the Saudi dictators need for example 100 obsolete T-55 tanks? The weapons on the certificate, for an estimated $300-$500 million, are obviously for al-Qaeda in Yemen and in Syria. (Did Joe Biden or his son, both heavily engaged in Ukraine, get a provision from the deal?)

As the facts accumulate how long can the New York Times and Washington Post keep up with their propaganda claims. One has to admit, they really try their best. Unfortunately for them, their best is only mediocre. The NYT today found out that Vladimir Putin Relishes His Role as Disrupter. How does the NYT know what Putin "relishes"? The reporter did not ask Putin himself. But he did ask some knowledgeable experts with insight into Putin's inner mind and those assured the author that this is indeed the case. They know exactly how Putin feels. They are Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director and Robert Kagan, leading voice of of the neocons and Clinton promoter. Some "experts".

Add that to dozens of stories on how "Russia indiscriminately bombs civilians/hospitals/bakeries in east-Aleppo" but never hits any "rebels" because none occur in these stories at all. A recent NYT piece of that kind had 14 "voices" in it. Eight belonged to various propagandists associated with the "White Helmets", four were "western" diplomats, one Syrian government official and a Russian spokesperson were quoted at the end. No Russian military and no one from west-Aleppo, where by far most people in the city live under government protection and daily rocket hail by the "rebels", were even asked.

But all those tales we hear about the devilish Russians MUST be true! Even the 7 years old Bana Alabeb now tweets from east-Aleppo about her tragic fate under indiscriminate Russian assaults. This in perfect English and with an excellent WiFi and Internet connection as her many "White Helmets" photo attachments and her videos attest. But the whole city is devastated and in ruins she says, with phosphor bombs going off right in front of her house.

But Bana is a very responsible little lady:

Bana Alabed @AlabedBana

Dear world, it's better to start 3rd world war instead of letting Russia & assad commit #HolocaustAleppo

1:53 PM - 29 Sep 2016

Here "mother" phoned up the Daily Mail for an "exclusive" and assures us that this is all true. The Telegraph has her in a slideshow with sad music and the Guardian promotes her too. Another Gay Girl in Damascus media fail. In 2011 the Guardian also was part of that scam. If that 7-year old girl is in east-Aleppo and not in Denmark or the UK, I must be on Mars. No sane reader will take such a stunt serious. What Public Relation company came up with this sorry flimflam?

Like the "moderate rebels" fantasy, such tales and the nonsense the "White Helmet" propaganda outlet distributes, are starting to fail. The UAE's National, a well established international newspaper, recently dug a bit around the White Helmet's creator, a "former" British military agent working for Gulf defense interests. That does not sound charitable. This is noticeable report, even as it still lacks any details, as it is the first in a major paper that shows some auspiciousness against that outlet.

The Obama administration's lies about the "moderate rebels" are now openly discussed in major media. The propaganda of #HolocaustAleppo (isn't abusing the holocaust meme anti-semitic?) is turning into a laughing stock.

Russia is upping its stake in Syria. Additional Russian SU-24, SU-25 and SU-34 jets are arriving. Nearly 6,000 Russian soldiers are on the ground. The CIA's  al-Qaeda "rebels" are losing in east-Aleppo and are in stalemate and under pressure elsewhere. They will be bombed to smithereens. A few new BM-21 multiple missile launchers and heavier anti-air artillery was delivered to them. But those are just band-aids on lethally bleeding wounds. Even MANPADs will not change the situation one bit.

The U.S., the Saudis and especially Brennan's CIA have lost that fight. Will Obama and Kerry admit it? Or will they throw another Hail Mary and do something crazy?

Posted by b on September 30, 2016 at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (130)

September 28, 2016

A Few Links On Syria And Other Issues

Just a few links ...

The White House and State Department are miffed that Syria and Russia are cleaning up their Jihadis in Aleppo city.

There is a false claims evolving in western "news" that the current Aleppo operation led to the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement. Two points on this: 1. The ceasefire did not "break down". It expired after a previously agreed period. Both sides did not agree to a prolongation. 2. The most important ceasefire point was the physical separation of al-Qaida and other U.S. proxy rebels. The U.S. was unable (or unwilling) to fulfill that point.

See: Moscow Makes Public Full Text of Russia-US Deal on Syria

The main priority in Syria, according to the document, is the demarcation of territory controlled by Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups and territories controlled by Syrian rebels.

After the end of the ceasefire the U.S. and its subaltern allies are flooding Syria with new weapons:

Both rockets and MANPADs are part of a "Plan-B" the CIA had already developed in May 2015 but which was held back until now. There are likely additional military elements to this plan. On the diplomatic side the U.S. (and its stooges) -obviously unable to act rationally- now imitate defiant children. "If we can't get exactly what we want we will never again talk to you."

A very major issue for Syria (and one reason why many Syrians flee the country) are U.S. and EU sanctions. Their consequences were so far hardly ever reported. Here is the first major piece in U.S. media about them: U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

In a 40-page internal assessment commissioned to analyze the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, the U.N. describes the U.S. and EU measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Detailing a complex system of “unpredictable and time-consuming” financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”
...
An internal U.N. email obtained by The Intercept also faults U.S. and EU sanctions for contributing to food shortages and deteriorations in health care.
...
The email went on to cite sanctions as a “principal factor” in the erosion of Syria’s health care system.

The piece also explains that the Syrian and Russian behavior towards insurgent occupied cities is in no way more severe than the usual U.S. procedures:

Meanwhile, in cities controlled by ISIS, the U.S. has employed some of the same tactics it condemns. For example, U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. replicated this strategy to drive ISIS out of Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods. In Fallujah, residents resorted to eating soup made from grass and 140 people reportedly died from lack of food and medicine during the siege.

To help with the sanctions and other issues China had recently agreed with Syria to provide medical support. But just like Russia, China is now considered a U.S. enemy and the CIA and Pentagon are eager to fight it.

Risky business: Is US supporting anti-Chinese militants in Syria?

With war hawks in US/Turkey/Qatar/Saudi arming and funding anti-Chinese militants in Syria that are planning more attacks on Chinese embassies and interests abroad, coupled with US gunboat diplomacy in the South China Sea, this dangerous “deterring the dragon” combination risks turning into a “provoking the dragon” scenario, and may escalate into a military conflict between two nuclear powers.

(The piece also includes this vignette about the anti-Chinese TIP Uighurs in Syria:

Later videos emerged of US/UK-funded White Helmet members with two captured young Syrian soldiers in Kahn Touman, and taunting “Assad, Russia, Iran and China, are they stronger than god?” The two soldiers were later executed by TIP militants.)

U.S. official: THAAD to be deployed to deter North Korea threats

THAAD is a long range missile defense system. Putting it into South Korea makes no sense if one wants to counter shorter ranged North Korean missiles. The target here is obviously China. This will have consequences.

---

A lot of hype is made today about two hospitals in east-Aleppo that were allegedly bombed:

The second piece, in the Washington Post, originally included this sentence:

Neither hospital was seriously damaged and both are expected soon to function again, ...

I pointed that out several times today to "bombing" hypers including to Washington Post writers. Soon after that the piece was "updated" and the sentence changed to:

Both hospitals are expected to be repaired, but they are badly damaged.

Still, according to the piece, only two people were killed in the relevant strikes and three injured. Had the attacks actually targeted the crowded hospitals both would have been destroyed and many more people would be dead. Instead the hospitals seem to have received only collateral damage from strikes on nearby military targets. But pointing that out does not fit the U.S. propaganda line.

Meanwhile the U.S. and its allies continue their daily business of killing people in Syria and elsewhere.

---

I somewhat agree with this election take by Peter Hitchens:

The world's fixated on Trump. But Hillary could drag us ALL into a catastrophic war

After Monday's TV show with Clinton and Trump CNN had published a poll claiming that Clinton was the winner of the debate by a wide margin. CNN later released (pdf) the poll data. It turns out (page 9) that only white people and only those above 50 years of age responded to the question. The poll was also heavily skewed towards democratic voters. In other words: it was completely fictional and useless besides giving Clinton additional (false) media momentum.

Scott Adams' take: Clinton won the debate last night. And while she was doing it, Trump won the election. He had one thing to accomplish – being less scary – and he did it.

 

Posted by b on September 28, 2016 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (137)

September 27, 2016

"Experts" Fail To Debunk Todenhöfer Al-Qaeda Interview

The Todenhöfer interview with an al-Qaeda commander (video) has al-Qaeda promoters on the edge. They now try to come up with all kind of nonsense to explain that the interview is a "hoax".

UPDATE (Sep28): Todenhöfer now responded to the "hoax" allegations and complete refutes them. END-UPDATE

One "Syrian activist", Mohamed Al Neser, started a chain with a curious claim against the veracity of the interview by looking at this picture taken during the interview by Jörg Todenhöfer's son Frederick.

Mohamed Al Neser @M_Alneser

Nice try Todenhöfer but "AlQaeda" commander with golden ring is 8th wonder

11:44 AM - 26 Sep 2016

Oh, really? Osama Bin Laden was the 8th world-wonder?

Hassan Hassan, a Gulf stooge hyping war against Syria, has long been very protective of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's branch in Syria. He picks up the claim above and remarks:

Hassan Hassan Verified account @hxhassan

Hassan Hassan Retweeted Mohamed Al Neser

Indeed -- an AQ commander wearing gold isn't the most credible of pictures.

12:07 PM - 26 Sep 2016

Not credible?

One self declared anti-Syria expert with exactly one (bad) piece published in his whole life, Tobias Schneider, joins the sad club:

Tobias Schneider @tobiaschneider

(4) As @hxhassan pointed out earlier, the purported "Nusra commander" is wearing a golden ring - a complete and utter no-go for jihadists.

7:16 AM - 27 Sep 2016

A "complete and utter no-go"? Also for one Abu Musab al Zarqawi? As ABCNEWS reported on May 13 2004 (copied here):

Crucial clues into the masked men seen in the videotaped beheading of American Nicholas Berg may come from the tape itself, as well as Berg's body, federal investigators involved in the case say.

After analyzing the audio of the tape, the CIA has concluded with "high probability" that the masked speaker, who also carried out the beheading, is Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the top al Qaeda figure in Iraq.
...
A close examination of the tape shows none of the five masked men is wearing gloves, so federal officials are trying to determine if there are any tell-tale tattoos on their hands. One of the clues the FBI and CIA is studying is the large gold ring Zarqawi is wearing on his right hand, giving off a glare several times during the six-minute tape.

That should say it all about the credibility of those "experts" who try to discredit the Todenhöfer interview. Notice how they copy from each other.  They are their own echo-chamber, well financed but mostly clueless. Over the next days we will likely see more such "experts" making the same nonsense claim.

Another claim against the veracity of the interview is that no al-Qaeda commander would ever admit to get indirect help from the U.S. and direct support from Israel. But it has been obvious for years to everyone watching that weapons going to U.S. proxy forces in Syria are systematically handed over to al-Qaeda. The few fighters the Pentagon trained admitted that they did so. Israel has for years been seen and publicly admitted helping the Jihadis in the Golan heights. The al-Qaeda dude in the interview did not spell any secret. He just repeated what is publicly known. How does that challenge the veracity of the interview?

In the interview the AQ commander also claims that some U.S. and other experts are with them and train them in technical specialties. That sounds dubious or at least exaggerated until you read this recent piece by U.S. special operators who themselves claim exactly the same (and hate it).

The war mongers and Gulf lobbyists in Washington DC have launched a new propaganda campaign to prevent the liberation of al-Qaeda occupied east-Aleppo by the Syrian army. They demand air attacks and cruise missile swarms against Syrian and Russian planes and installations. The Todenhöfer interview comes at the worst moment for them. They will try everything to attack its credibility. So far they have failed.  

Posted by b on September 27, 2016 at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (80)

An Inconsequential Debate

These two were on some TV show last night? They subsequently had champagne?

From the first reactions I see the show made no difference to the outcome of the U.S. election. Both sides spin that their paymasters won.

My hunch is still that this election will come down to a deeply felt "not-Clinton" attitude in the general U.S. electorate.

Would that be good or bad? I don't know. Both candidates are obviously lying. Clinton proudly knows some very selective facts. Her general plans can be inferred from her political history. They would be mostly bad for this world. Trump doesn't care about facts, nor do most voters. Nobody seems to know what his real plans would be. With him we all are in for a lot of surprises - likely bad ones.

From a global perspective the election again shows why U.S. global influences must be cut to size. The fate of the world should not be left in the hands of some Intellectuals but Idiots, to people who can not see beyond their noses, to "thinkers" for whom human history starts with their high school prom. Their linear analysis, their inexperience with real life, their linear solutions are inadequate for our complex, non-linear world. This needs to change.

Such a change requires some cataclysmic events. Both candidates seem well positioned to achieve such.

Posted by b on September 27, 2016 at 01:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (119)

September 26, 2016

Todenhöfer: Interview With Al-Nusra Commander "The Americans stand on our side"

This interview by Jürgen Todenhöfer was first published in German on September 26 2016 by the Kölner Stadtanzeiger, the major newspaper in the Cologne region. (The interview was copied and translated to English by Bernhard for educational and academic purposes.)

Interview with al-Nusra commander "The Americans stand on our side"

By Jürgen Todenhöfer

It was the seventh trip by my son Frederic and me to the civil war country Syria. We were there for 13 days. Words can only barely describe the extend of damage and suffering on both sides.

We conducted the interview ten days ago with a commander of the al-Qaida branch "Jabhat al-Nusra". Abu al-Ezz reported quite openly about his financiers Saudi-Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. We were able to exactly research the identity of the man and know practically everything about him.

Interview in the stone quarry in Aleppo

The interview was arranged by a rebel from Aleppo. I have had contacts to Syrian rebels for years. It was conducted outside of Aleppo in a quarry in direct sight- and shooting-distance of Jabhat al-Nusra and could only be reached safely by a member of al-Nusra.

His fighters were partially not masked, i.e. easily identifiable. Part of his statements were nearly verbally confirmed shortly thereafter by a mufti in Aleppo. Other assertions about the lack of interest of rebels towards a ceasefire and an international aid-convoy also bore out. Just like his predictions about planned military activities in several cities of Syria.

Abu al-Ezz, commander, says about Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda): "We are one part of al-Qaeda. Our principles are: Fighting vice, pureness and security. Our affairs and our way have changed. Israel, for example, is now supporting us, because Israel is at war with Syria and with Hizbullah.

America also changed its opinion about us. Originally "IS" and us were one group. But "IS" was used in the interests of big states like America, for political reasons, and was steered away from our principles. It became clear to us that most of their leaders work with secret security services. We, Jabhat al-Nusra, have our own way. In the past they with us, they were our supporters.

Our aim is the downfall of the dictatorial regime, the tyrannical regime, the regime of the apostate. Our aim is the conduct of conquests, like [the great Arab general] Khaled ibn al-Walid made them. First in the Arab world and then in Europe."

Part 2 - The Interview by Jürgen Todenhöfer with the rebel commander Abu al-Ezz

Jürgen Todenhöfer: How is the relation between you and the United States? Does the U.S. support the rebels?

Abu al-Ezz: Yes, the U.S. support the opposition, but not directly. They support the countries which support us. But we are not yet satisfied with this support. They should support us with highly developed weapons. We have won battles thanks to the "TOW" missiles. We reached a balance with the regime through these missiles. We received the tanks from Libya through Turkey. Also the "BMs" - multiple rocket launchers. The regime excels us only with their fighter jets, missiles and missile launchers. We captured a share of its missile launchers and a large share came from abroad. But it is through the American "TOW" that we have the situation in some regions under control.

To whom did the U.S. hand those missiles before they were brought to you? Were those missiles first given to the Free Syrian Army by the U.S. and from there to you?

No, the missiles were give directly to us. They were delivered to a certain group. When the "road" was closed and we were besieged we had officers here from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.

What did those officers do?

Experts! Experts for the use of satellites, missiles, reconnaissance work, thermal surveillance cameras ...

Were there also American experts?

Yes, experts from several countries.

Including Americans?

Yes. The Americans are on our side, but not as it should be. For example we were told: We must capture and conquer "Battalion 47". Saudi Arabia gave us 500 million Syrian pounds. For taking the "al-Muslimiya" infantry school years ago we received from Kuwait 1.5 million Kuwaiti dinar and from Saudi Arabia 5 million U.S. dollars.

From the governments or from private persons?

From the governments.

The fight is difficult, the regime is strong and it has support from Russia ...?

We will fight until the downfall of the regime. We will fight Russia and the West because the West does not stand on our side. The West only sends us mujahedin, it facilitates the way of those fighters. Why doesn't the West support us properly? We have many fighters from Germany, France, Great Britain, America, from all western countries.

You have many fighters from Europe in Aleppo with the "al-Nusra front"?

Many, many, many!

How many?

Many.

What do you think about the ceasefire?

We do not recognize the ceasefire. We will reposition our groups. We will undertake in the next, in a few days an overwhelming attack against the regime. We have rearranged all our armed forces in all provinces, in Homs, Aleppo, Idlib and Hama.

You do not want those 40 trucks with aid supplies to bring those into the eastern part of Aleppo?

We have demands. As longs as the regime is positioned along Castello road, in al-Malah and in the northern areas we will not let those trucks pass. The regime must retreat from all areas in order for us to let the trucks pass. If a truck comes in despite that, we will arrest the driver.

Why did a few of your groups pull back a kilometer or 500 meters from the Castello road?

The regime used highly developed weapons against us. We received a backlash. That is why we silently retreated, to recover and to attack the regime anew. But this attack must lead to the downfall of the regime.

So that was a trick, a military tactic?

Yes, it was a military tactic.

Was the aim of this tactic to receive food or the reallocation of fighters?

We did not agree to the ceasefire.

Does that hold only for the al-Nusra Front or for all other groups, the rest of your allies?

The applies to all our integrated groups, who are our allies.

Islamic Front, Islamic Army?

They are all with us. We are all the al-Nusra Front. A groups is created and calls itself "Islamic Army", or "Fateh al-Sham". Each group has its own name but their believe is homogeneous. The general name is al-Nusra Front. One person has, for example, 2,000 fighters. Then het creates from these a new group and calls it "Ahrar al-Sham". Brothers, who's believe, thoughts and aims are identical to those of al-Nusra Front.

Is that your own opinion or also the opinion of higher management levels?

That is the general opinion. But if someone comes to you and makes you a 'moderate fighter' and offers you to eat and to drink, will you accept that or not?

450,000 people were killed in this war. I have been to Aleppo and Homs. Many parts are destroyed. If the war continues the whole country will be destroyed. Millions will die. ... In Germany we once had the 'Thirty Years' War' ...

We are now only 5 years at war, that is comparatively short!

Would you accept someone from the Assad-regime within a transitional government?

We accept no one from the Assad-regime or from the Free Syrian Army, which is called moderate. Our aim is the downfall of the regime and the founding of an Islamic state according to the Islamic sharia.

The people of Aloush, who traveled to Geneva for negotiations, accepted a transitional government.

There are Syrian mercenaries. Aloush fights with the al-Nusra Front. The groups Turkey houses and from which the Free Syrian Army was created have earlier been with al-Nusra Front. These people are weak people, they received a lot of money, they sold themselves. They must follow the orders of their sponsors.

The "Islamic Army and the "ISlamic Front" negotiate in Geneva

Because their leaders were produced in the West. They are counseled and paid by western secret services and the secret services of the Gulf states to fulfill the aims of those countries.

We are here at the most forward observation point of the Sheik Said area. This are is under our control. Behind those houses and al-Majbal are regime soldiers. Our armed forces are 200 meters from here.

-End-

You can read the original German version of the interview at the Kölner Stadtanzeiger

Posted by b on September 26, 2016 at 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (132)

September 25, 2016

Syria - Conflicting Reports, Dubious Witnesses Challenge Convoy Attack Case

The Washington Post tries an "explainer" piece to reconstruct the recent attack on an aid convoy in Urum al-Kubra, west of Aleppo. The sources are anonymous U.S. officials and members of the U.S./UK paid agitprop organization "White Helmets". I am curious about one of those "witnesses":

That Monday was a warm fall evening. Ammar al-Selmo, a local rescue worker, was making tea in a building across the street. Stepping onto a balcony just after 7 p.m., when it was already past dusk, he said he listened to a helicopter swoop in and drop two barrel bombs on the convoy.

Haven't we heard that name before? Ammar al-Selmo?

Reuters:

"There are planes in the sky now," Ammar al Selmo, the head of the Civil Defence rescue service in the opposition-held east, told Reuters from Aleppo on Saturday morning.

Another WaPo pieces also say that Selmo is not just a local tea drinking rescue worker in Urum al-Kubra:

By nightfall, more than 100 bombs had landed, and more than 80 people were dead, said Ammar al-Selmo, head of the Aleppo branch of the White Helmets civil defense group.

So Anmar al-Selmo is some average local dude in Urum al-Kubra, outside of Aleppo city. He is, at the time, head of al-Qaeda's propaganda shop within the besieged east-Aleppo. Let me guess: The guy sits somewhere in Turkey and is talking to "reporters" via some untraceable Internet application. They have no idea where he really is, nor any interest to find out.

There are more issues with the "explainer" piece. It says that the convoy was loading in Urum al-Kubra to then go into Aleppo city:

On a clear afternoon last Monday a line of humanitarian aid trucks eased to a stop in front of a cluster of warehouses packed with aid supplies 15 miles outside the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Omar Barakat, director of the local Red Crescent branch, supervised the loading of the 31-vehicle convoy, which was scheduled to drive into the battered city that evening.

But the International Committee of the Red Cross said the opposite:

Around twenty civilians and one SARC staff member were killed, as they were unloading trucks carrying vital humanitarian aid.

Other sources confirm this:

U.N. officials said the U.N. and Red Crescent convoy was delivering assistance for 78,000 people in the town of Uram al-Kubra, west of Aleppo city.

The convoy was unloading goods for Uram al-Kubra say the Red Cross and the UN. But it was loading goods for east-Aleppo says WaPo? Hmm ...

Curious is also that the U.S. now claims that both, Russian and Syrian government forces, conducted a strike on the convoy:

Eyewitness accounts, along with social media postings and video, including footage of the wreckage, added to assessments by U.S. defense officials, show that the convoy was obliterated by airstrikes, first by helicopters dropping barrels loaded with explosives and shrapnel — a long-standing tactic of the Syrian government — and then by Russian bombers.

Earlier U.S. Secretary of State Kerry claimed that Syrian government forces were "evidently" responsible for the attack. Later U.S. intelligence claimed "the Russians did it":

Mr. Kerry initially said Syrian forces were "evidently" responsible for the convoy attack, which killed at least 12 people. The U.S. officials said new intelligence indicates that Russian forces, rather than the Syrians, conducted the strike.

And now it is both? And this conclusion is based on what? "Eyewitness accounts" from one Ammar al-Selmo who sits who-knows-where?

The "explainer piece also says that the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov demands an investigation of the incident. But it was UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien who first called for an independent investigation:

I call for an immediate, impartial and independent investigation into this deadly incident. The perpetrators should know that they will one day be held accountable for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

There is no response yet by the U.S. to this UN demand. Might that be because the U.S. and its media can't get the facts straight?

Posted by b on September 25, 2016 at 06:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (121)

September 24, 2016

Corbyn Wins In Stunning Defeat Of Blairite Establishment

In a stupendous defeat of establishment and pseudo-left media like The Guardian, as well as Blairite interventionists, Jeremy Corbyn again won the Labour leadership elections.

Corbyn received more votes than the last time he was elected.

A massive campaign against Corbyn had been driven by nearly all British media and nearly all established Labour MP's. It prevented Labour attacks on the Tories when those were in deep trouble over the Brexit vote. Those MPS must shut up - or leave.

It is now up to Corbyn to develop a new political Labour platform that offers a real alternative to the destructive rerun of Thatcher policies by Prime Minister Theresa May. It could be the start of a dawn of the left in all of Europe.

Congratulations to him and good luck!

Posted by b on September 24, 2016 at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (71)

September 23, 2016

Hillary Clinton Lost

The U.S. presidential election of 2016 is decided. Hillary Clinton will not win. She knows it:

(You can turn the sound off. It is irrelevant.)

Clinton was talking during a video conference of the Laborers' International Union of North America. She is furious with everything around her. She does not understand why she (again) failed.

The polls are turning against her. "But Trump is lying!"

Of course he is. Everyone knows he is lying. He is a salesman seeking his own advantage. He is expected to lie and to exaggerate. He does not even hide it. He is authentic in his lying.

That's why he is - to many people - still a likeable man who one can deep down basically trust.

Hillary Clinton is a politician. She claims not lie. But from her extensive public record people know that lying is exactly what she does. She is thereby not authentic. She does not inspire confidence. Nor does she inspire sympathy. Just see her terrible, angry performance above.

Does she really believe that campaign ads with Michael Hayden, Max Boot and other failed neocons will get her any votes?

She already lost the young people. She lost the military who are far less interventionist than the politicians. No one of the real, non-interventionist left will ever vote for her. Here move to the right, away from criticizing the Republican party, enables Republicans to win more congressional seats than necessary:

Through the end of May, the plan to “disaggregate” Trump, as it was described in one lengthy email, remained a source of frustration for Miranda, the campaign’s go-between on messaging at the DNC. In the same email, subject-lined “Problem with HFA [Hillary For America],” he argued that the campaign’s frame — that “Trump is much worse than regular Republicans” — would give down-ballot GOP candidates an “easy out” and put every Democrat not named Clinton at a possible disadvantage. (“It might be a good strategy ONLY for Clinton,” Miranda wrote.) Worse, he added, the strategy would put the party “at odds” with the its own broader message against Republicanism.

This is a (well deserved) disaster for her party.

There is some Hail Mary chance for the Democrats to still win. Immediately retire Clinton for medical reasons. Draft Sanders and offer Tulsi Gabbard the vice-presidency. Otherwise, I predict, Trump will win.

To what outcome?

Nobody knows. Electing Trump is a blind dart throw with unpredictable results. But that still feels better than to again see a Clinton in the White House.

Posted by b on September 23, 2016 at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (142)

September 21, 2016

Syria - The Aid Convoy Attack Points To Further Escalation

The show-down over the damaged aid convoy west of Aleppo is reaching comedy level.

The UN/SRC convoy came from the government held west-Aleppo. It had reached a Syrian Red Crescent center in Umm al Kubra in the "rebel" held area further west where it started to unload. Something happened and many of the trucks burned or where otherwise damaged. Allegedly some 20 people were killed. The incident happened shortly after the ceasefire had officially expired. U.S. sponsored "White Helmet" propaganda teams where there when or shortly after the incident happened.

Here are various claims that were made about the incident (I am time restricted and will for now not provide links for each of these):

The U.S. and its allies claim that the convoy was bombed in an air attack. The Russians deny that they or the Syrians executed any such attack.

The "rebels" had various version. Syrian jets AND helicopters did it; "Barrel bombs" were used; a sustained attack over hours ...

U.S. Secretary of State first claimed that the Syrian did it, than that the Russians did it; helicopters had attacked. The Pentagon then came up with two Russian SU-24 fixed wing aircraft as the culprits. But the U.S. then claimed that the attack went on over two hours which is longer than a pair of SU-24 could sustain.

The Russians said neither they nor the Syrians attacked. They alleged that "rebels" attacked the convoy; that there had been no bombs, only damage from fire.

The pictures of some trucks show damage that is mostly from fire, but there also seem to have been some explosions and shrapnel impacts though no big direct hits. For me that leaves both possibilities open - an air or artillery attack or a simple local sabotage operation.

I don't know what really happened.

But independent from what happened is the question of motive.

Why would the Syrian Air Force attack the Syrian Red Crescent with which it has good relations and which also works in all government held areas? Why would the Syrian or Russian forces attack a convoy which earlier had passed through government held areas and checkpoints and was thereby not carrying contraband? I find no plausible reason or motive for such an attack. Nor has anyone else come forward with such.

A few days ago the "rebels" had accused the UN, which had goods on the convoy, of partisanship and said they would boycott it. "Rebels" in east Aleppo had demonstrated against UN provided help and said they would reject it. There was a general rejection of the ceasefire by the "rebels" and they were eager to push for a wider and bigger war against Syria and its allies. Al-Qaeda in Syria even made a video against the ceasefire. A part of the ceasefire deal is to commonly fight al-Qaeda. They naturally want the deal to end. The attack on the aid convoy seems to help their case.

The motive argument makes an attack by the "rebels" plausible and an attack by Syria and its allies implausible.

Kerry spoke at the UN today and performed some funny stunts that had the silly purpose of blaming Russia.

He said that Jabhat al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa are al-Qaeda and U.S. enemies and must be fought. He did not explain why the U.S. -for the last five years- provided al-Qaeda with weapons and munitions (via its sponsored "rebels"). He did not explain why the U.S. so far did not do anything about al-Qaeda in Syria. He did not explain why the U.S. did not order and forced its proxy "rebels" to distance themselves from al-Qaeda as it had promised at the begin of the ceasefire. Laughable nonsense.

Kerry then demanded a no fly zone over north-west Syria to prevent attacks on aid convoys. The whole UN erupted in laughter (silently). Surely he would love that. His "rebels" could then rearm, regroup and openly prepare for new attacks as they did under the first ceasefire in February. No, Russia and Syria will not again agree to that, nor will the UN Security Council. The demand was a lame joke.

But the gloves are coming off. The Syrian/Russian side is convinced that the U.S. willfully attacked Syrian forces in Deir Ezzor to hand the city to ISIS. The "rebel"/U.S. side (or their relevant public) will convince itself (despite lack of evidence) that the Syrian/Russian side is willfully attacking hospitals and humanitarian convoys. The words in front of the UN got markedly sharper.

I am afraid that we will soon see another serious escalation of the conflict. An incident between U.S. and Russian planes or something like that. This is playing with fire in a room full of dynamite.

This show is no longer about Syria. The conflict is now part of the U.S. election campaign. It is also about some very stupid need of some adolescent nations to prove to the world that their balls are the biggest. Stupid and deadly nonsense that will kill many bystanders and solve nothing.

Posted by b on September 21, 2016 at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (246)

September 20, 2016

Deir Ezzor Attack Enables The "Salafist Principality" As Foreseen In The 2012 DIA Analysis

Two recent attacks against the Syrian Arab Army in east-Syria point to a U.S. plan to eliminate all Syrian government presence east of Palmyra. This would enable the U.S. and its allies to create a "Sunni entity" in east-Syria and west-Iraq which would be a permanent thorn in side of Syria and its allies.

A 2012 analysis by the Defense Intelligence Agency said:

THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME ...

Note that the described plan mentions exactly two cities - Hasakah and Deir Ezzor.


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On August 18 Kurdish YPK units suddenly attacked Syrian government positions in the center of Hasakah in the north-east of Syria. Before this incident the relations between the two entities had been decent despite some earlier, small clashes. The attacking Kurds were under advice from U.S. special operators. When the Syrian air force intervened the U.S. threatened to down its planes. The Syrian forces had to eventually retreat from populated areas in Hasakah and are now confined to an airport next to the city. They are cut of from supplies and will eventually have to give up.

(For the Kurds these attacks proved to be a political catastrophe. Not only did they lose all support from the Syrian government and Russian side, but Turkey used these clashes to justify its invasion into Syria. This ended the Kurdish national dream of a continues area from Iraq to the Mediterranean.)

On Saturday U.S. airplanes attacked the most important Syrian government position in Deir Ezzor. Nearly a hundred Syrian soldiers were killed and most of the heavy equipment the Deir Ezzor garrison had left was destroyed. Immediately after the attack fighters of the Islamic State occupied the bombed out government positions. These Islamic States fighters now own the heights above the Deir Ezzor airport. A day later the Islamic State shot down a Syrian government plane near Deir Ezzor.

The city and its 150,000+ inhabitants are surrounded by the Islamic State. They had been supplied from Damascus by nightly flights to the airport. As the Islamic State now has fire-control over the airport as well as anti-air weapons those supply flights are no longer possible. The U.S. air attack practically closed down the Syrian government ability to supply the city. If this situation continues the city will fall to the Islamic State.

The U.S. plan is to eventually take Raqqa by using Turkish or Kurdish proxies. It also plans to let the Iraqi army retake Mosul in Iraq. The only major city in Islamic State territory left between those two is Deir Ezzor. Should IS be able to take it away from the isolated Syrian army garrison it has at least a decent base to survive. (Conveniently there are also rich oil wells nearby.) No one, but the hampered Syrian state, would have an immediate interest to remove it from there.

North of that entity would be a Kurdish area with no ambition to expand south. North-west of the Deir Ezzor entity would be the friendly Turkish controlled "Safe Zone" that Erdogan plans to create.

The two recent moves by U.S. forces in east-Syria are consistent with the plan for a "Sunni entity" or "Salafist principality" described in the 2012 DIA document. Such an entity blocks the land connection of the "Shia crescent" which connects Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This is the "isolation" of Syria foreseen in the DIA analysis. A "Sunni entity" in east-Syria also provides a path for the gas pipeline from Qatar via Turkey to Europe. The Syrian government had rejected the construction of such a line which goes against the fundamental interests of its ally Russia.

At first glance this U.S. policy seems to be shortsighted, There is no way the envisioned "Sunni entity" would ever become stable. Instead it would continue to be a source of terrorism which would hit far beyond the borders of Syria and the surrounding states. But it is exactly the instability of this construct that will allow for further U.S. presence in the area.  A source of insecurity that can be activated, or shut down, whenever convenient.

Posted by b on September 20, 2016 at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (163)

September 19, 2016

U.S. Allies 'Volunteer' To Share (Implausible) Blame For Deir Ezzor Attack

The U.S. is trying to distribute the blame for its air support of ISIS against the Syrian Arab Army in Deir Ezzor.

The facts, not put into doubt by any U.S. statement, via the Russian military report after Saturday's incident:

"Today at 17:00-17:50 Moscow time, international anti-Daesh coalition (two F-16 and two A-10 jets) carried out four strikes on Syrian government forces' units encirled by Daesh near Deir ez-Zor airport. The coalition's aircraft entered Syrian airspace from the side of the Iraqi border," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.
...
As a result of the attack, 62 Syrian soldiers were killed and some 100 others were injured, according to information received from the Syrian command in Deir ez-Zor, he said.

The Syrian government now says some 82 soldiers were killed in the attack which also destroyed 3 T-72 tanks, 3 infantry fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun and at least 4 mortars. Following the attack the Islamic State troops stormed the Syrian government position on the Jabal Thardeh hill. They are now able to harass the airport of Deir Ezzor, the only supply line for the ISIS besieged city and the 150,000+ civilians living there under government protection.

We note that this was not the first U.S. attack on Syrian government forces in Deir Ezzor. Back in December 3 Syrian soldiers were killed in an air raid.  In June a U.S. air attack on Manbij killed some 100 civilians. No U.S. attack on any ISIS target in Syria ever came near such casualty numbers.

It is very doubtful that this was not an intended attack. Even Human Rights Watch recognized Saturday's mass murder as "signal" to the Syrian government (before deleting its tweet).

Now the blame has to be spread.

Early Sunday Australia jumped in claiming its jets had taken part in the attack:

Australian aircraft were involved in a US-led coalition operation which killed dozens of Syrian soldiers stationed near Eastern ISIS stronghold city of Deir Ezzor, the Australia's Defense Department confirmed.
...
"Australian aircraft were among a number of international aircraft taking part in this Coalition operation," the Defense Department said in a statement.

Late Sunday the Danes followed:

"Two Danish F-16 [fighter aircraft] participated in these attacks along with the aircraft of other nations. The strikes had been stopped immediately after the Russian side reported that the positions of the Syrian servicemen had been hit," the military command authority of the Danish Armed Forces said in a statement issued Sunday.

This morning, the BBC defense correspondent says, the UK also claimed guilty:

Jonathan Beale @bealejonathan

BBC understands @RoyalAirForce jets might have been involved in #Syria Airstrikes that killed 60 + Syrian soldiers.

Four planes attacked and four airforces claim to have been part of it? That is neither plausible nor realistic.

Only the U.S. operates A-10 ground attack planes. Neither the U.K nor Australia own or operate F-16 fighters. While the Danish airforce deployed F-16s to the Middle East theater, those planes were send to only operated in Iraq, not in Syria:

Denmark will send seven F-16 fighter jets to help combat IS militants in Iraq, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said on Friday.

"I am very pleased that there now is a broad coalition, including countries in the region who want to... contribute," she said at a press conference, adding that the Danish fighter jets would not join US planes in bombing targets in Syria.

Additionally the Syrian military said that the planes came from Erbil in the Kurdish ruled northern part of Iraq. No other nation but the U.S. is known to use the Erbil facilities for fighter flights.

The drones which had kept surveillance over the area were also U.S. ones:

The strike began in the early evening, when planes attacked a group of vehicles that American surveillance aircraft had been watching for several days, according to a Centcom official ..

Obviously someone in a U.S. command phoned up U.S. allies and asked them to please share the blame for the "mistaken" U.S. air support for the ISIS ground attack: "If all are guilty, no one is guilty and no one can be punished."

A famous book and movie is the template for such play:

As Poirot pursues his investigation, he discovers that everyone in the coach had a connection to the Armstrong family and, therefore, had a motive to kill Cassetti. Poirot proposes two possible solutions ... The first solution is that a stranger boarded the train and murdered Cassetti. The second one is that all 13 people in the coach were complicit in the murder, seeking the justice that Cassetti had escaped in the United States. He concedes Countess Helena Andrenyi didn't take part, so the murderers numbered 12, resembling a self-appointed jury. Mrs. Hubbard .. confesses that the second solution is the correct one.

The U.S. says some 67 nations have joined its "coalition" against ISIS. Eight more U.S. allies will soon be found who's planes took also part in the raid: "What about that PA-18 from Luxembourg?"

With many parties claiming the crime the one real culprit can not be convicted. This new Murder on the Orient Express will stay unpunished.

The ceasefire in Syria is breaking down. The U.S. did not fulfill its promise to separate its "moderate rebel" proxy forces from al-Qaeda. No smokescreen of lamenting about humanitarian access can change that fact.

The Russian and Syrian airforce will soon go back to work. Any soldiers of the U.S. "coalition" in Syria should watch out for those planes. If the U.S. and its allies can make "mistakes" like in Deir Ezzor, others may also show imperfections in their operations.

Posted by b on September 19, 2016 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (195)

September 17, 2016

U.S., Israel Launch Airstrikes On Syrian Government Forces - Directly Supporting ISIS And Al-Qaeda

The U.S.

  • refuses to publish the details of the agreement with Russia about the ceasefire  in Syria
  • has done nothing over the last days to separate, as promised, the "moderate rebels" it supports in Syria from al-Qaeda
  • today bombed a Syrian army position in support of an Islamic State attack in Deir Ezzor.

Details of the last attack:

"Today at 17:00-17:50 Moscow time, international anti-Daesh coalition (two F-16 and two A-10 jets) carried out four strikes on Syrian government forces' units encirled by Daesh near Deir ez-Zor airport. The coalition's aircraft entered Syrian airspace from the side of the Iraqi border," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.
...
As a result of the attack, 62 Syrian soldiers were killed and some 100 others were injured, according to information received from the Syrian command in Deir ez-Zor, he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that Daesh terrorists launched an offensive soon after the US-led coalition aircraft attacked the Syrian government forces.

The death toll is likely to increase.

Earlier today the Syrian Arab Army had announced that 1,000 fresh soldiers arrived in Deir Ezzor to liberate it from ISIS.

The U.S. planes came from Erbil in the Kurdish separatist region of Iraq.

The Syrian troops were holding positions on Jabal Tharda, a mountain that overlooks Deir Ezzor's airport. The mountain is now fully under Islamic State control. With this IS has firecontrol over the airport and the Deir Ezzor garrison as well as more than 150,000 civilians living under government protection are thereby cut off from supplies and any further reinforcements. Government forces have launched a counterattack to regain the vital position.

At the same time the Israeli air force attacked Syrian positions in the Golan height after al-Qaeda lobbed a mortar towards Israeli forces signaling the need for support. This has become the official format of Israeli support for al-Qaeda in the area with Israel claiming that the Syrian army is responsible for any and all attacks from the Syrian side no matter who initiates them.

Intense attacks from inside the surrounded, al-Qaeda occupied east-Aleppo on Syrian government positions were launched in the late afternoon local time. Fighting there is ongoing.

Earlier today artillery fire from Turkey hit Syrian army positions in Latakia.

The U.S. air attack on Deir Ezzor was certainly not a mistake but well planed.

It is a signal to Russia and Syria. I am not sure though what lunacy it is supposed to convey.

Posted by b on September 17, 2016 at 02:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (325)

Open Thread 2016-31

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 17, 2016 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (64)

September 16, 2016

Syria - CIA Vetted "Rebels" Chase U.S. Forces Out Of Town

According to the WSJ the U.S. agreed to join a further invasion of Syria by Turkey and its proxy forces:

The U.S. has agreed to send about 40 special-operations troops to work alongside Turkish forces to fight Islamic State in northern Syria, U.S. officials said.
...
The joint mission will take the forces east toward the northern Syrian town of Dabiq, a symbolically significant Islamic State stronghold. U.S. special-operations forces will operate as combat advisers and generally under the same guidelines as other special -operations forces are working inside Syria, U.S. officials said.
...
Ankara first proposed the idea of U.S. special -operations forces accompanying Turkish troops late last month as it planned a joint mission into Syria’s northern city of Jarabulus.

One can reasonably assume that the planned presence of U.S. forces amid a Turkish invasion has the sole purpose of deterring Russian or Syrian moves against it. With U.S. forces around the Russian command will have to think twice before bombing any Turkish advance beyond the borders of  their agreement with the Russians.

The deployment of some 40 U.S. special forces to Al Ra'i did not go well. The Turkish "Free Syrian Army" proxies threatened to kill the U.S. forces. They called them "unbelievers" and "crusader pigs" and the U.S. forces had to retreat under Turkish cover (video). Some FSA spokesperson later claimed that the dispute was over U.S. support for the Kurdish dominated SDF, which at times had fought against the FSA. Unconfirmed reports now say that the special forces are back in Al Ra'i after certain FSA groups were ordered out of the area. There are also reports claiming the U.S., after the special forces were chased out of town, "accidentally" bombed some FSA group in Al Ra'i. Ooops.

However, the hostile FSA forces will be around and U.S. Special Forces are obviously seen as their enemy. If the U.S. forces proceed together with the other FSA groups they will certainly have to watch their back at any and all times.

The Turkish supported sectarian "moderate" FSA groups are the very same groups the CIA has "vetted" and provided with TOW missiles and other weapons. But nobody should be astonished that such groups, driven by religious zeal, eventually turn on their sponsors. They have done so in each historic parallel one can think of.

The current ceasefire in Syria is already breaking down. U.S. media claim that Russia and Syria are blocking UN aid to the al-Qaeda ruled areas in east-Aleppo but other media say that the "rebels" are the ones threatening the convoys. In east-Aleppo al-Qaeda demonstrators held a rally (vid) against UN aid.

Russia says that the U.S. is trying to fudge on the terms of the ceasefire agreements and pushes the U.S. to publish the full accord. That is blocked by the State Department:

On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington that the full text of the deal worked out with Russia on the truce in Syria will not be made public. “It does deal with sensitive issues that we believe, if made public, could potentially be misused,” he said.

Translation: "It is more difficult to cheat on the agreement if the terms are public."

The U.S. supported opposition forces are using the ceasefire to prepare for new attacks on Hama and in the north of Aleppo city. I expect those to start at the beginning of next week. They will meet prepared defenses and ferocious attacks by Syrian and Russian air forces.

Posted by b on September 16, 2016 at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (75)

September 15, 2016

"Dictator" Or "Crucial Ally" - How Does Clinton Decide?

As one Michael Curry points out, Clinton's social messaging team is simply incompetent.

From a series of Clinton tweets attacking Trump over his assumed foreign policy:

Hillary Clinton @HillaryClinton

4. If you were willing to work with Qaddafi—a known terrorist and dictator—is there anyone you aren't willing to make a deal with? Who?

9:32 AM - 14 Sep 2016

---

Hillary Clinton @HillaryClinton

Hillary Clinton Retweeted Donald J. Trump

13. How can we know you won't (again) impulsively damage relationships with crucial allies to preserve your own ego? Hillary Clinton added,

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016

7:53 PM - 11 Dec 2015

9:48 AM - 14 Sep 2016

Is such incompetence in messaging a reflection of Hillary Clinton own confusion? Or are the categories "terrorist and dictator" versus "crucial allies" solely depending on the size of payments to the Clinton Foundation?

Posted by b on September 15, 2016 at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (53)

September 14, 2016

Friedman Attempts "Bash Putin" Stick - Screws Up For Hubris And Stupidity

A lame as ever Tom Friedman joins the Putin bashing circus and, as a hundred columnists before him, connects Putin to Trump to hit his real target. But as also characteristically for him, Friedman demonstrates a lack the knowledge and understanding that few others are able to reach. Thus, Putin is bad, because:

A 2015 report in The Moscow Times noted that “life expectancy in Russia has been growing several times slower than in the rest of the world for the past 20 years, according to a research by the U.S.-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.” That coincides almost exactly with Putin’s leadership of the country. The article explained, “During the period of 1990-2013 [life expectancy] only grew by 1.8 years in Russia, while the global average number increased by 6.2 years, pushing Russia out of the top 100 countries with the highest life expectancy and placing it in 108th position — between Iraq and North Korea.”

Here is graph with the life expectancy in Russia.


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One can obviously distinguish two periods with very different trends: In the 1990s the Harvard boys taught Russia a lesson in laissez-faire robbery. Life expectancy fell from 63.76 years for men in 1990 to 58.53 in the year 2003. It started to recover in 2005 and went up since. In 2010 life expectancy for men was back at 63.09 and in 2015 it reached 65.92.

How much of that was Putin's fault?

Putin became acting President of the Russian Federation on December 31 1999. Most of the 1990s he was First Deputy Chairman of the Government of Saint Petersburg - hardly the position that made him responsible for the health of the Russian nation. Putin was not at all responsible when life expectancy fell in Russia. But he was responsible when it again started to grow and is responsible for the success since.

In 2015 Russia ranked 110 in the WHO country list of life expectancy. Hardly great, but much better than 15 years earlier when Putin became responsible for the issue. During Putin's fifteen years in the top jobs life expectancy in Russia increased by some 7 years, nearly 12%.

Increasing the life expectancy of a nation is hardly the sign of a "strong" leader (whatever that may be). But it is a sign of a reasonably well led and working administration of a country.

Don't expect such in the U.S. if Tom Friedman's favorite candidate, Hillary Clinton, wins the presidency. The level of knowledge and decency of Friedman and Clinton are about par. As someone who knows personal failure, one Colin Powell, so nicely expressed:

"Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.”

Just see the (Friedman) example above. I for one would choose a Putin over a Hillary Clinton any time.

Posted by b on September 14, 2016 at 08:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

September 13, 2016

Washington Post - Mocking Conspiracy Theories While Creating Their Own

The Washington Post makes fun of the spouting of conspiracy theories over Hillary Clinton's health. "Hehehe - just look at those crazies":

Body doubles, secret doctors: Clinton conspiracy theories blossom after pneumonia diagnosis

Before Sunday morning, the conspiracy theories collected under the hashtag #HillarysHealth were numerous.
...
For a few hours, Clinton's stagger toward the van that took her to her daughter's New York apartment was interpreted as proof that the worst conspiracy theories had been right — and just as importantly, that the media had covered them up.

The accusation of covering up such theories was something Washington Post editors could not stand. They immediately found one to give credit on their own:

The man who discovered CTE thinks Hillary Clinton may have been poisoned

Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who has made the NFL so uncomfortable with his discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brains of deceased players, suggests that Hillary Clinton’s campaign be checked for possible poisons after her collapse Sunday in New York.

The only question: Whodunit? Easy for the Washington Post: "Putin, Putin, Putin, Trump ..."

He wasn’t giving up on Twitter, adding that his reasoning is that he does not trust Russian President Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who has expressed admiration for Putin.

Days before this latest episode the Fred Hiatt Funny Pages, aka WaPo Opinions, had originated another wild Putin/Clinton conspiracy idea:

The Russians attempt to throw the election. They might try to get Trump elected. Alternatively — and this would, of course, be even more devastating — they might try to rig the election for Clinton, perhaps leaving a trail of evidence designed to connect the rigging operation to Clinton’s campaign.

So, according to Anne Applebaum, the Russians want Trump elected. Alternatively they don't want Trump elected. They would therefore take care to elect Clinton. So whatever the outcome: Putin did it. And why would he do that? Because "Putin, Putin, Putin, Trump ... ." Isn't that enough reason?

Such writing follows the "North Korea Law of Journalism" as Adam Johnson aptly named it. It says:

Editorial standards are inversely proportional to a country's enemy status as it relates to the U.S. State Department.

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Election time is always a silly season in U.S. media. But I do not remember any campaign as utterly silly as this one. This "Putin did it" mania about anything that might ever happen is existential madness.

Besides - it is sad to see a once serious Washington Post drowning in a self created swamp of gossip and gutter journalism.

Posted by b on September 13, 2016 at 02:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (69)

September 12, 2016

On Views Of The War On Syria - By Debs is Dead

by Debs is Dead
lifted from a comment

It is sad to see so many are so locked into their particular views that they see any offering of an alternative as 'neoliberal' or laughable or - if it weren't so serious - Zionist.

1/ I do not see the Syrian civil war as racist or race based, I do believe however that the rejection of all Islamic fundamentalism as being entirely comprised of 'headchoppers' is racist down to its core. It is that same old same old whitefella bullshit which refuses to consider other points of view on their own terms but considers everything through the lens of 'western' culture which it then declares wanting and discards.

2/ Noirette comes close to identifying one of the issues that kicked off the conflict, that the Syrian government put staying in power via adopting neoliberal strictures ahead of the welfare of Syrians. I realize many have quite foolishly IMO, adopted President Assad as some sort of model of virtue - mostly because he is seen to be standing up to American imperialism. That is a virtuous position but it doesn't make President Assad virtuous of himself and neither does it reflect the reality that when push came to shove Assad put his position ahead of the people of Syria and kissed neoliberal butt.

3/ President Assad revealed his stupidity when he didn't pay attention to what happens to a leader who has previously been featured as a 'tyrant' in western media if he lets the neoliberals in: They fawn & scrape all the while developing connections to undermine him/her. If the undermining is ineffective there is no backing off. The next option is war. The instances are legion from President Noriega of Panama to President Hussein of Iraq to Colonel Ghaddaffi of Libya - that one really hurts as the Colonel was a genuinely committed and astute man. Assad is just another hack in comparison.

4/ These Syrian leaders are politicians, they suffer the same flaws of politicians across the world. They are power seekers who inevitably come to regard the welfare of their population as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

5/ My Syrians friends are an interesting bunch drawn from a range of people currently living inside and outside of Syria. Some longer term readers might recall that I'm not American, don't live in America and nowadays don't visit much at all. The first of the 'refugee' Syrians I got to know, although refugee is a misnomer since my friend came here on a migrant's visa because his skills are in demand, is the grandchild of Palestinian refugees - so maybe he is a refugee but not in the usual sense. Without going into too many specifics as this is his story not mine, he was born and lived in a refugee camp which was essentially just another Damascus suburb. As he puts it, although a Palestinian at heart, he was born in Syria and when he thinks of home it is/was Damascus. All sides in the conflict claimed to support Palestinian liberation, yet he and his family were starved out of their homes by both Syrian government militias and the FSA.

When he left he was initially a stateless person because even though he was born in Syria he wasn't entitled to Syrian citizenship. He bears no particular grudge against the government there but he told me once he does wish they were a lot smarter.

On the other hand he also understands why the people fighting the government are doing so. I'm not talking about the leadership of course (see above - pols are pols) but the Syrians who just couldn't take the fading future and the petty oppression by assholes any longer.

6/ No one denies that the opposition have been used and abused by FUKUSi, but that of itself does not invalidate the very real issues that persuaded them to resist an austerity imposed from above by assholes who weren't practicing what they preached.

I really despair at the mindset which reduces everything to a binary division - if group A are the people I support they must all be wonderful humans and group B those who are fighting Group A are all evil assholes.

If group A claim to support Palestinian self determination (even though they have done sweet fuck all to actually advance that cause) then everyone in Group B must be pro-Zionist even though I don't know what they say about it (the leadership of the various resistance groups are ME politicians and therefore most claim to also support Palestinian independence). Yes assholes in the opposition have done sleazy deals with Israel over Golan but the Ba'ath administration has done similar opportunist sell outs over the 40 years when the situation demanded it.

I fucking hate that as much as anyone else who despises the ersatz state of Israel, but the reality is that just about every ME leader has put expedience ahead of principle with regard to Palestine. Colonel Ghadaffi would be the only leader I'm aware of who didn't. Why do they? That is what all pols and diplomats do not just Arab ones. According to the European model of diplomacy imposed upon the globe, countries have interests not friends.

As yet no alternative to that model has succeeded since any attempt to do so has been rejected with great violence. The use of hostages offered by each party to guarantee a treaty was once an honorable solution, the hostages were well treated and the security they afforded reduced conflict - if Oblamblam had to put up one of his daughters to guarantee a deal does anyone think he would break it as easily as he currently does? Yet the very notion of hostages is considered 'terrorism' in the west. But I digress.

The only points I wanted to make was the same as those I have already made:

  • A solution which reduces numbers of humans killed is worth attempting.
  • Just because someone chooses an option that you disagree with does not make them evil or headchoppers or Islamofacist.
  • On balance I would rather see Assad continue as leader of Syria but I'm not so naive as to believe he is capable of finding a long term resolution, or that there are not a good number of self interested murderous sadists in his crew. By the same token I don't believe all of those resisting the Ba'athist administration are headchopping jihadists or foreign mercenaries. This war is about 5 years old. If either side were so simplistically good or evil it would have ended a long time ago.
  • Plus one more - it is humorous and saddening to see people throw senseless name-calling into the mix. It is the method preferred by those who are too stupid and ill informed to develop a logical point of view.

If you want to call me a Zionist lackey of the imperialists or whatever it was go right ahead - it is only yourself who you tarnish, I'm secure in the knowledge of my own work against imperialism, corporate domination and Zionism but perhaps you, who have a need to throw aspersions are not?

Posted by b on September 12, 2016 at 03:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (116)

Deplorable

To those deplorables who catch pneumonia:

This is a high-risk disease for elderly and infants. It can be contagious. To delay therapy is irresponsible.

Posted by b on September 12, 2016 at 02:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (66)

September 09, 2016

Syria - How Long Will The New Cessation of Hostilities Hold?

Tonight Russia and the U.S. agreed to some new Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) in Syria.

The general negative points:

  • This CoH, like the first one in February, comes at a moment where the Syrian government forces have an advantage in the field and are on the verge of renewed offensives.
  • It gives the opposition the time to reorganize and rearm.
  • It severely restricts Syrian sovereignty.

The general positive points:

  • The Syrian government lacks the capacity for a fully military solution of the conflict. The agreement is a possible path to a political solution.
  • It gives the government time to rebuild its army and to issue and train on new equipment.
  • It has enough flexibility to allow for local escalation when and where needed.

On the agreement itself.

  • The Syrian government has, according to the Russians, agreed to it.
  • The parties agreed to keep many details secret to prevent other actors from spoiling it.
  • The agreement will start on sundown of September 12

The timeline, as far as announced or known:

  • A general CoH for with a trial period of 48 hours.
  • If the CoH holds during the trial period it will be prolonged to one week.
  • After one week successfully passed, the U.S. and Russia will start common action against al-Qaeda in Syria.

Some Details as AP describes them (there is some doubt that this is 100% correct):

The military deal would go into effect after both sides abide by the truce for a week and allow unimpeded humanitarian deliveries. Then, the U.S. and Russia would begin intelligence sharing and targeting coordination, while Assad's air and ground forces would no longer be permitted to target Nusra any longer; they would be restricted to operations against the Islamic State.

The arrangement would ultimately aim to step up and concentrate the firepower of two of the world's most powerful militaries against Islamic State and Nusra, listed by the United Nations as terrorist groups.

The agreement excludes the area in south-west Aleppo where the recent attempt by al-Nusra and others to lift the siege on east-Aleppo failed. The Castello road in north-west Aleppo will be demilitarized to carry aid. (It is yet unknown who will supervise and enforce this by what means.)

It looks as if there has been unseemly resistance to this agreement by parts of the U.S. government. This may have been just for show. But it may also be a sign that Obama lost control of the bureaucracy:

The proposed level of U.S.-Russian interaction has upset several leading national security officials in Washington, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, and Kerry only appeared at the news conference after several hours of internal U.S. discussions.

After the Geneva announcement, Pentagon secretary Peter Cook offered a guarded endorsement of the arrangement and cautioned, "We will be watching closely the implementation of this understanding in the days ahead."

If this deal falls apart, as it is likely to eventually do, all responsibility will be put onto Secretary of State Kerry. Indeed the military and intelligence parts of the U.S. government may well work to sabotage the deal while Kerry will be presented as convenient scapegoat whenever it fails.

This new CoH is unlikely to hold for more than a few weeks:

  • Too much is left undefined. This allows any party to claim the other side broke it whenever convenient.
  • The powers who agreed on the deal do not have control over main elements on the ground.
  • There are too many parties, inside and outside of Syria, who have an interest in spoiling the CoH.

 

Posted by b on September 9, 2016 at 11:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (153)

Open Thread 2016-30

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 9, 2016 at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (124)

September 08, 2016

NYT Shaming Of Gary Johnson Fails With Four(!) Hilarious Mistakes

The U.S. election campaigns and their news coverage are generally embarrassing. But this incident of miss-coverage by the acclaimed paper of record beats many others. While attempting to criticize a candidate's lack of awareness or knowledge the NYT author and his editors demonstrate four times that they have neither.

The libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was asked a question of foreign policy relevance and did not know the answer. The question was about a city in Syria but, like it or not, no city in Syria has significant relevance in the general context of the U.S. presidential elections.

“What is Aleppo?” Mr. Johnson asked after he did not get some question about it.

The New York Times, which mocks any candidate but Hillary Clinton, found that small lapses remarkable enough to write a whole piece about it. But its reporter and his editors show a bigger lack on knowledge than Johnson did. The headline: ‘What Is Aleppo?’ Gary Johnson Asks, in an Interview Stumble. The reporter, one Alan Rappeport, did not know either.  Here is the first version he and his editors put out:

“What is Aleppo?” Mr. Johnson said when asked on MSNBC how, as president, he would address the refugee crisis in the Syrian city that is the de facto capital of the Islamic State.

No. Aleppo is not the de facto capital of the Islamic State.

Some time later the NYT editors were made aware of that and changed the text. But check the result:

“What is Aleppo?” Mr. Johnson said when asked on MSNBC how, as president, he would address the refugee crisis in the Syrian city that is a stronghold of the Islamic State.

This new version in the NYT was just as wrong as the first one. The largest parts of Aleppo city, as well as of its population, are within the realm of the Syrian government. Parts of east-Aleppo are in the hands of al-Qaeda. The Islamic State, an enemy of both the government and al-Qaeda, has no significant presence (if any at all) in any part of the city.

Later on someone told the editors that the once corrected version was just as wrong as the original one. Another correction was applied:

“What is Aleppo?” Mr. Johnson said when asked on MSNBC how, as president, he would address the refugee crisis in the war-torn Syrian city.

That at least fits. But all the corrections do not explain why the NYT author describes Aleppo as especially significant to the refugee crisis. True, a lot of people have moved out of al-Qaeda infested east-Aleppo. But most of the moved into the government held west-Aleppo, not abroad. Other Syrian cities, like Idleb or Raqqa, have proportionally lost many more of their original population than Aleppo city did.

No immediate Correction note was added when the first change of the original text was made. (No Correction note was added for the second change.) Some time after the first correction was made the NYT added this note:

An earlier version of this article misidentified the de facto capital of the Islamic State. It is Raqqa, in northern Syria, not Aleppo, the Syrian capital.

Yes, the editors botched the Correction note. Aleppo is not the Syrian capital, Damascus is.

About an hour later this minor fact was made known to the NYT staff and a Correction of the Correction was added.

The NYT exhibits a serious lack of knowledge in a piece that is supposed to ridicule a politician for his lack of knowledge. It is:

  • making a major mistake in a central fact of the original piece,
  • applying a correction that is just as wrong as the original version,
  • applying a second correction but still getting the major basic fact wrong and
  • applying a correction note with a huge mistake that again demonstrates a basic lack of factual knowledge.

This embarrassing episode shows again that neither U.S. politicians nor U.S. media have any real knowledge of issues beyond U.S. borders. Despite that sorry fact deadly instruments of U.S. power are used abroad without much thought whenever this or that foreign interest bribes the right people in Washington DC. U.S. powers are often used simply because they can be used, not because it makes any sense to use them.

There is no reason for any U.S. politician to know about Aleppo but for the sorry fact that the U.S., through its proxies, kills the people of that city.

The U.S. should stop all interventions in foreign affairs. If only to spare its politicians, "experts" and media such demonstrations of their absurd incompetence.

Posted by b on September 8, 2016 at 12:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (122)

September 07, 2016

Steady Progress For Saudi Coalition In Yemen (Or Not?)

Gulfnews, October 6, 2015 - Al Houthis flee last bastion in Marib

Al Houthi militiamen who had been occupying large parts of Yemen fled their last bastion in Marib en masse on Tuesday, according to news reports, ...
...
Arabic language news outlets reported that coalition forces and the Yemeni Popular Resistance successfully retook the Al Zor area in the city of Sirwah, the last Al Houthi stronghold in Marib province.

Gulfnews, September 5, 2016 - Yemeni forces move to push Al Houthis out of Marib

Yemeni forces waged a fresh offensive on Monday aimed at driving Al Houthis out of their last bastion in the Marib province.

Government officials and army commanders speaking to Gulf News say the assault was backed by heavy air support from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, ...
...
“The national army and resistance forces attacked Al Houthi militants and Saleh’s forces in Serwah, their last stronghold in western Marib,” an official close to the governor of Marib told Gulf News on the condition of anonymity.

The town has been under Al Houthi control since their takeover of many parts of the country in 2015.

h/t Haykal Bafana

Posted by b on September 7, 2016 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

"Destroyed" And "Collapsed" Al-Quds Hospital In East-Aleppo Receives 46 Patients

Airstrike destroys Syrian hospital amid fears of ‘catastrophic’ turn in fighting, Washington Post, April 28 2016

An onslaught of airstrikes in rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Aleppo has killed scores and destroyed a hospital supported by international aid groups, activists and humanitarian workers said Thursday, prompting the United Nations to warn of a “catastrophic deterioration” that could intensify an already dire humanitarian crisis.
...
Airstrikes Wednesday night collapsed a hospital supported by ...
...
[..] it was the hospital raid late Wednesday that was likely to have the most devastating humanitarian impact, U.N. and other aid officials said.

Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo’s al-Sukkari neighborhood had an emergency room, an intensive-care unit and eight doctors and 28 nurses on staff, Doctors Without Borders said. It was “well known locally,” the organization said on its Twitter account Thursday.

At least 14 patients and medical staffers — including three doctors — were killed when the hospital was hit by a “direct” strike, the aid group said. One of the doctors was Mohammed Waseem Maaz, Aleppo’s last pediatrician, activists said. Another was a dentist.

Chlorine attack deepens fears among besieged Aleppo residents, Washington Post, September 8 2016

The Syrian government dropped a bomb containing chlorine on a besieged neighborhood in the city of Aleppo on Tuesday, heightening fears among people who are cut off from the outside world and unable to escape, according to residents and hospitals in the area.
...
A statement from the al-Quds hospital, which received 46 of the patients, said that all were suffering from breathing difficulties and that “a strong smell of chlorine emanated from their clothes.”

So the "destroyed" and "collapsed" Al-Quds hospital in east-Aleppo has been rebuild during intense fighting in the area? And it is big enough to take 46 patients? It is also very well equipped? A picture in Washington Post shows a youngster in the "Al-Quds hospital" with a breathing mask. Next to him are five electronic infusion pumps. More expensive medical electronic equipment is visible in the background. This, supposedly, in an area that is besieged, has no electricity, is under constant bombing and with no access to the outer world?

Also: Isn't it astonishing that the Syrian government always launches these "chlorine attacks" shortly after the "rebels" suffered a military defeat? Or are these attacks, claimed only by the "rebels", a propaganda diversion from their military defeats?

(Note also this oddity: Months after "Aleppo’s last pediatrician" was killed, as claimed in the first piece above, six (killed?) pediatricians from east-Aleppo signed a letter to U.S. president Obama.)

The "White Helmets", on whose reports both the above WaPo pieces are based, received $60 million from the U.S., UK and other governments for their public relations work. For such high expenses we taxpayers should demand more consistent propaganda.

Or should we demand that news organization, for which we as consumers also pay, hire writers who are competent and of integrity. Real journalists who debunk, instead of promote, obvious bullshit like those "Al-Quds hospital" fairy tales above.

Posted by b on September 7, 2016 at 05:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

September 05, 2016

Syria - Who Wins In The Turkish-Russian Deal?

Two headlines today support the claim that "western" media reporting often defies the observable reality.

Isis has lost control of its last territories on the border with Turkey, monitoring groups say, in a major blow to the group's ability to receive foreign fighters from the rest of the world.

Neither is ISIS cut of from the world, nor from NATO. Fighters as well as goods can still cross to and from Turkey like they did throughout the last years.

Just take a look at the map:

bigger

The Turkish-Syrian border between Azaz, Al-Ra'i and Jarablus, with ISIS (grey) on the southern side, was always open for traffic between the two areas. Now the Turkish army and Turkish proxy forces of "moderate rebels" moved into the green strip of land on the Syrian side. This did not seal or close the border, as other countries had demanded. It simply moved the border south. Crossing between the ISIS held area and the Turkish controlled area will now be easier because media will have no access to the area. Deals will be made out of sight and money will flow as well as traffic.

There was no fighting at all about the strip between ISIS and the Turkish forces. The Turks told ISIS to move south and it did so before the Turks and its mercenaries moved in. There was not even one Turkish casualty from fighting ISIS over the area. The change of the territorial borderline was obviously done in mutual agreement.

It is ridiculous that some media try to sell that as a closing of the border or as a cut off. It is the opposite.

Turkey's main intention with this move was to prevent a connection of the (yellow) Kurdish areas in the east and the west. Such a Kurdish controlled connecting strip along the border would indeed have sealed it. ISIS traffic would not have been allowed to pass Kurdish checkpoints.

Turkey will probably try to annex the area it has taken. There are plans to build new cities on the Syrian side to house refugees currently in Turkish camps. Turkey could thereby offload a major burden its war on Syria has brought onto it.

Russia and Iran had agreed to the Turkish move into the area after Turkey promised to end its support for attacks on Aleppo city. It has yet to be seen if Turkey will stick to this promise. Some of the Turkish proxy fighters involved in the attack on Aleppo were pulled back and moved to the now occupied border strip. But material support for the attack in form of ammunition and other supplies seems to continue.

Two decent analyst argue that the agreement, while not entirely preferred, is still in Russia's and Syria's advantage.

Elijah Magnier says (Arabic) (English, unedited) that Russian policy in Syria is like a Matryoshka doll with one item placed inside the other. The most elaborate of these dolls has 50 levels of nesting with a total of 51 dolls. Says Magnier:

Putin seems have pulled out his first Matryushka doll by bombing the enemies of Damascus last September. He pulled out the second smaller doll when accepting a cease-fire. Then he pulled out a third doll by helping to besiege Aleppo the first time. The fourth was skilfully brought out when he supported Erdogan and approved –Putin before Obama – a safe passage for the Turkish troops into Syria.

Should Turkey move away from the agreement, or the U.S. try something nasty, another outer doll of the 47 left will be removed and a new Russian plan will become visible.

Raphaël Lebrujah of the French Mediapart giving his view (French) (English, machine translated) the Turkish-Russian deal:

Putin has just played a masterstroke. Indeed, in addition to having obtained many benefits from Erdogan, he just throw Turkey, an old adversary in the Syrian hell. Erdogan was carried away by his obsession, the fight against Kurdish.
...
Russia achieved the feat with one stone three hits against three opponents of the regime: the Kurds, the Syrian Islamists and Turkey. By destabilizing relations within these three actors and one against throwing in others it is a masterstroke. Better, the US appear to be divided between pro-Turkish and pro-Kurdish. Indeed, the CIA and US policies appear closer to the Turkish interests and the pentagon, that of the Kurds.

Economically Russia wins by again opening trade with Turkey. The "moderate" Islamist in the new Turkish zone are now separated from the al-Qaeda groups around Aleppo. Turks and Kurds in Syria will stay busy with fighting each other. Indeed Russia can use the Kurds against Turkey should Erdogan try to play foul. A few anti-tank or anti-air weapons smuggled into Turkey's east from Armenia will hurt the Turkish army in its fight against the local PKK. The Turkish conscript army, already weakened through purges after the recent coup, can not absorb high casualties without alarming the Turkish public.

ISIS will still be connected to Turkey. But its fighting power is severely diminished and it is already falling back into guerrilla mode. It now mostly avoids open battles. It will be ground down over time.

Surprises may still come from ISIS as it has some very well trained personnel. Its new military commander is Gulmurod Khalimov, a special forces officer from Tajikistan, long trained in counterterrorism by U.S. advisors and special forces. He replaces the dead Abu Omar al-Shishani, a Chechen special force officer from Georgia, long trained in counterterrorism by U.S. advisors and special forces. Look there! The Russians just dropped a barrel bomb! Nothing to see here, Nothing at all ...

Posted by b on September 5, 2016 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (122)

September 04, 2016

Syria - U.S.-Russian Deal Fails (Again) Over Continued Support For Jihadis

Since the February ceasefire in Syria, which was broken by U.S. supported Jihadis, Russia tried to press the U.S. into fulfilling the UN Security Council resolution 2254. The resolution signs off on the ceasefire but demands that all nations continue to fight the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

But the U.S. continued to support al-Qaeda and its various front group in Syria like Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa. "Moderate rebels" were armed with modern weapons by the U.S. and trained in camps in Turkey and Jordan. They were sent to Syria to integrated with al-Qaeda and made it impossible to fight one group without hitting the other. The U.S. used this ploy to protect al-Qaeda from Russian and Syrian attacks. Such attacks, it claimed, would break the ceasefire as they would also hit its "moderate rebels".

To gain some negotiating advantage Russia and its Syrian allies closed all access to east-Aleppo which is held by Jihadis. The U.S. sponsored rebels and al-Qaeda responded with an attack in south Aleppo which then broke the new established siege.

But that move was a hail-Mary pass. "Rebels" from all fronts were pulled together to support the attack. MANPADs were delivered to deny Russia the use of attack helicopters. With the help of an al-Qaeda mass suicide attack the "rebels" took the artillery college and adjacent areas in south Aleppo and managed to open a corridor into east-Aleppo. This was a serious set back for the Russian plans.

The response was constant bombing of the hinterlands of the "rebel" held parts of Aleppo and Idleb governate which made any supply of their front difficult. The Russian and Syrian air forces destroyed the "rebel's" infrastructure, supply sites and their command and control elements. This took some time to show the inevitable effect. But today the Syrian army and its allies reconquered the artillery college and the Jihadi path into east-Aleppo is again closed.


Map by Peto Lucem - bigger

It is likely that the now failed plan of lifting the siege on east-Aleppo was so costly, with over a 1,000 rebels dead, that a repeat of any such attack is no longer possible.

But the Russian pressure to commonly fight al-Qaeda has still not resulted in an agreement. Late in June some hawks in the U.S. administration leaked "conditions" under which the U.S. would agree to Russia's demands. Those conditions were ridiculous. The Syrian government would have to ground its airforce and would have to stop fighting its immediate enemies while Russia would only be allowed to targets the U.S. agreed to. The negotiations had only one purpose:

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

But Russia insisted. Recently it seemed that the U.S. would finally agree to separate its "moderate rebel" Jihadis from al-Qaeda but it continued to demand that Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa should also be excepted from attacks. This as even U.S. experts acknowledge that these are mere front groups for al-Qaeda itself:

The United States risks losing the war against extremism in Syria if it continues to allow Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to be seen by the Syrian people as the victors in Aleppo. Ahrar al-Sham is as much a part of al Qaeda’s long game in Syria as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. It shares the same goal to shape Syria’s population in a way that facilitates global jihad, and its pragmatic approach advances al Qaeda’s aim to build a durable safe haven in the Levant.

Today the Russian-U.S. negotiations failed again. The U.S. accused Russia, without any specifics, of backtracking on already agreed parts of the deal while Russia says the U.S. insists on continued protection of al-Qaeda elements.

The Obama administration does not want a deal at all. It wants to kick the can down the road for the next administration to pick up while all parties in Syria continue to bleed.

It also has no interest at all to subdue or eliminate radical Jihadis. It continues to support and supply these.  A London Times reporter recently found that one rebel commander, Hakim Anza, who shot the reporter point blank while he was handcuffed and imprisoned by rebels in Syria, is now the leader of a "vetted" and CIA supported "moderate rebel" group:

Two of his brothers joined the al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front. One of them spoke on record about his loyalty to al-Qaeda to The Times. Meanwhile The New York Times ran a story about a war crime committed by Hakim Anza in 2012.
...
Last month, however, video surfaced of Hakim Anza proving that he was not only free, but was also serving in a CIA-vetted Syrian rebel group, First Regiment (al-Fawj al-Awwal), which was receiving US weaponry, including Tow missiles, as well as air strikes in support of their operations.

Hakim Anza is one of the "moderate rebels" the U.S. wants to protect from Syrian and Russian attacks. There is no reason to assume that any other "rebel" the U.S. supports in Syria is a less dangerous man. These brutes are the people the Obama administration wants to empower to rule that country.

One hopes that Russia has sufficient plans to eliminate them even while the U.S. continues to block any cooperation.

Posted by b on September 4, 2016 at 11:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (92)

September 02, 2016

CIA "Journalist" Spy With Al-Qaeda Arrested In Turkey - Media Acquiesce - Endanger Real Journos

On August 9 we reported here on a U.S. spy, Lindsey Snell, who worked with Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and was arrested when crossing the border from Syria into Turkey:

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.

There is no doubt from the available information that Snell was a spy. The Turkish media call her such. She was with Nusra, not for the first time, had some trouble and needed to get out. The U.S. military launched a huge operation to help her. That is not the treatment a real journalist would get.

Three weeks after our report some professional journalist finally picked up on the story and asked during the U.S. State Department briefing:

QUESTION: Do you have any information about a U.S. citizen who was arrested in Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Who was arrested in Turkey? Yes. I can confirm that U.S. citizen Lindsey Snell was detained in Turkey on the 7th of August, 2016. She is currently being held in a prison facility in Hatay Province. I believe that’s how you say it. Consular officers from the consulate in Adana visited Ms. Snell most recently on the 26th of this month and are providing all possible consular assistance. The embassy and the department are following this case closely. State Department officials have been in contact with Turkish Government officials regarding this case.
...
QUESTION: [...] was the arrest at all related to her profession as a journalist or in any case – any way associated with that?

MR KIRBY: What I – what we understand is that she has been charged with violating a military zone, but I can’t speak to her reasons for being in Syria, for traveling there. I can’t speak to that. What I can tell you is that we’ve been informed she was charged with violating a military zone.

The State Department "can't speak of" what Snell did in Syria - twice. Why? Is that secret? Note that Kirby does not even call that "U.S. citizen" a "journalist", even while his keyword provider calls her such.

Despite the reluctance of the State Department to call Snell a journalist the main stream "western" media, picking up from the State briefing, now calls her such and does not mention that Snell is obviously a spy. The BBC, CBS and NBC have reports of the issue. But none of those reports touches on the very weird circumstance of Lindsey Snell's "rescue" and "arrest". None of them will tell you you that she was a spy.

NBC goes the furthest by digging up another State source and quoting the Hatay regional governor:

A State Department official said the U.S. government was aware of Snell's presence in Syria and that helping her to get to a safe location was the agency's consistent and overriding goal.

U.S. personnel were dispatched to the Turkey-Syria border to support Snell's safe exit from the war-ravaged country but Snell was subsequently detained by Turkish authorities, the official said.
...
Hatay's governor, Ercan Topaca, told the state-run Anadolu Agency: "A U.S. journalist was captured while she was trying to cross the border illegally; she was taken to court and remanded. The trial phase is ongoing. For now, we do not know if she is a spy or not."

 

NBC  just mentions that "U.S. personnel were dispatched". That sounds like a bureaucrat drove to the border to help the "journalist" to enter Turkey. But that "U.S. personnel" consisted of two armed drones and several military helicopters which flew in the area over several days while the exfiltration of Snell was ongoing. Has anyone ever heard of any journalist for whom the U.S. military would launch such an extensive operation? The Turkish media had made no secret of what happened.  As Hurriyet reported on August 7:

A female intelligence agent from the United States has been saved by Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) soldiers after a two-day operation on the Syrian border, according to a report. Drones and helicopters participated in the operation to save the agent, who had been wounded in Syria.

Two U.S. helicopters landed in a village in the Yayladağı district of the southern province of Hatay on Aug. 5, prompting locals to call officials and report the landing.

Is there any real freelance "journalist" who embeds with Jabhat ql-Nusra and for whom the U.S. would "dispatch U.S. personnel" in the form of helicopters and Hellfire armed drones? No. It is obvious that there was some very "special interest" for Snell and unlike the usual "western" media Hurriyet has no problem reporting that:

[T]he U.S. agent, whose name was not revealed as she was on a confidential operation, was assigned to a task in Syria and wounded on Aug. 3, after which she called for evacuation. She reportedly sent her coordinates to U.S. officials, allowing them to determine her exact location.
...
Two U.S. drones scanned the area for two days, as two U.S. helicopters were on standby on the Turkish side of the border.

Snell was picked up by Turkish agents and arrested for crossing the border unauthorized. The Turkish intelligence service MIT will dislike any U.S. spy who tries to get involved with one of its bests assets in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra aka al-Qaeda.

The Turks want to keep Nusra under their own control. Even after making nice with Russia Turkey continues its nefarious relations with the UN designated terrorists. According to the Russian military Turkey is up to today supplying Nusra in Idleb and Aleppo:

"We see that the opposition in general and Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham in particular keep receiving enforcements through the Syrian-Turkish border [...]" Rogachev told RIA Novosti.

The mainstream "western" media must be intentionally holding back on the case of agent Lindsey Snell. None of them mentions the use of U.S. helicopters and drones with regards to the "journalist". The governor of Hatay had confirmed their extensive use. Isn't such a use of military assets extraordinary? The facts about the "rescue" are openly available and have been reported by serious Turkish media.Why leave them out? Why let the cover-up stand?

I would have expected more inquisitiveness and concern from CBS, NBC and from the BBC about the "journalist" cover the CIA uses for this agent.

There is an official ban on the CIA use of "journalist" cover for foreign operations since 1977. There are of course exceptions and whoever expects the CIA to stick to regulations or laws needs some lessons in reality perception. Still, any such use by the CIA makes the life of real journalist more difficult and more dangerous.

One would expect of serious media and real journalists to point that out, to raise some public hell with the CIA and to generally show more concern about the issue.

Posted by b on September 2, 2016 at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (78)

 
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