Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 12, 2017

Syria - "The regime will be there" - U.S. Concedes Raqqa ... And The Syrian East?

There are strong rumors that the U.S. intends to launch an invasion of east-Syria from Jordan with the aim of occupying the whole eastern area. The Syrian army and its allies launched a move towards the east (red) to prevent such an outcome.


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A new Wall Street Journal piece, primarily about the ISIS held city of Raqqa on the Euphrates, casts doubt on long term U.S. plans for such an occupation. Its core quote:

"We won’t be in Raqqa in 2020, but the regime will be there."

There were already doubts that a big U.S. move in east-Syria was really going to happen. Jordan opposes any such move. While the U.S. and Jordan have trained, equipped and paid Syrian "rebels" to hold a zone of control in south-west Syria, little preparations have been seen for a large move in the south-east. The U.S. has so far vetted and trained at most 2,000 local Arab fighters in the area. Fewer are ready to go. Even with U.S. special forces embedded with them these forces are way too small to take an ISIS defended city or to capture or to hold a significant area. At least ten to twenty thousand troops would be needed (likely more) for such an endeavor. The current force is probably only tasked with taking a few border stations to close down the border between Syria and Iraq. (A move that Syrian and Iraqi forces will try to prevent.)

The upcoming taking of Raqqa by U.S. forces and its Kurdish proxies is now endorsed by the Syrian government and its Russian allies. It seems that an agreement has been made without any public announcement. This agreement may well extend to the other eastern areas south of Raqqa. From the WSJ:

The Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces captured Tabqa Wednesday, a day after the U.S. pledged to arm the fighters. On Monday, the Damascus government for the first time endorsed the group’s battle against Islamic State, with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem complimenting the SDF’s fight against Islamic State at a press conference in Damascus, describing the force as legitimate.

The SDF is now the only ground force with both U.S. and Syrian government approval in the fight against Islamic State as the offensive on Raqqa draws near. The group has long co-existed with the Syrian government, unlike U.S.- backed factions that Damascus deems terrorists in light of their goal to oust President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
...
U.S. President Donald Trump has made clear he opposes the expensive nation-building missions that have historically accompanied U.S. counterterrorism operations to support local governments and prevent insurgents from returning.

For these reasons, Western diplomats say the post-capture plan is for the SDF to hand over the administration of Raqqa to a local civilian council friendly to the Syrian regime. That council could eventually transfer control of the city back to the regime, these diplomats said.
...
On Thursday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Moscow supports the formation of local councils to administer territory taken from Islamic State but said they must not circumvent the Syrian government’s authority, in comments carried by Interfax news agency.

“The U.S. military will be going in [to Raqqa] and trying to figure out who the tribal leaders are,” said an American official involved in the anti-Islamic State campaign. “The regime knows these details. They have a natural home-field advantage and have a way of slowly getting back in. We won’t be in Raqqa in 2020, but the regime will be there.”

Those are unexpected words under two aspects. First - a U.S. government official acknowledges, for the first time, that control of the area will go back to the Syrian government and second - Syrian and Russian officials are informed of and agree with these U.S. plans.

A member of the currently selected Raqqa civilian council denied that the Syrian government will take charge but I doubt that she would be informed of such a high level issue.

It is likely that this scheme extends to other parts of south-east-Syria and even to the north-eastern Kurdish held areas. U.S. Gulf allies and Israel would like the U.S. to occupy the east and to "block" a "Shia crescent" that reaches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon. But any U.S. position there would be a hostile occupation which would have to fight off Syrian government forces, local Arab resistance, remnants of ISIS and Shia militia from Iraq. The "Shia crescent" is anyway a chimera. Iran was well able to supply Hizbullah in Lebanon even as Iraq was occupied by U.S. forces. At that time the road from Iran to Syria was blocked, the alleged "Shia crescent" was interrupted but supplies to Hizbullah still flowed unhindered. Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally, will never agree to a Kurdish statelet in north-east Syria. Even a somewhat autonomous Kurdish area will only be tolerated if the Syrian government is in supreme control of it. A U.S. occupied zone in the landlocked Syrian east is of no strategic value to the U.S. It is surrounded by potential enemies and it would permanently require significant military resources. A return to Syrian government control is the best alternative.

But despite a likely agreement the Syrian government forces will continue their moves towards the east. The U.S. can not be trusted. In September 2016 a ceasefire and cooperation deal was agreed upon between Secretary of State Kerry and the Russian government. The fight against ISIS would be coordinate between all countries, including Syria. The U.S. military sabotaged the deal by launching air attacks on Syrian government forces in Deir Ezzor which were besieged by ISIS. This enabled ISIS to take a significant part of the government held areas there and to nearly eliminate all those forces. The U.S.-Russian agreement fell apart.

Any agreement with the U.S. that ISIS areas in Syria will fall back to government control, independent of who liberated them, should be welcome. Military hawks in the Trump administration, the sectarian Gulf countries as well as Israel will try to interrupt such a move. The Syrian government and its allies must therefore continue their own operations and liberate as many ares as possible by themselves. They must stay aware that a Trump administration might, at any time, revert to the old plan of establishing a "Salafist principality" in the area - even when such an unruly proxy would make little sense for it.

Posted by b on May 12, 2017 at 10:37 AM | Permalink

Comments

Indeed its not the worst idea to let SDF take Raqqa.
First, this will be a battle with high casualties which SAA and allies can hardly afford without risking losing other areas due to redeployment of troops.
Second, the fight for Raqqa will take a heavy toll on civilians and make the captors quite unpopular. I doubt many Raqqa residents will consider the capture of an Arab city by mainly kurdish forces "liberation" no matter how bad IS is.

SAA/allies should consolidate Northern Hama, solidify defenses around West Aleppo and most of all concentrate on reducing the Ghouta pocket.
Also, Daraa should not be ignored.

Posted by: KerKaraje | May 12, 2017 10:47:58 AM | 1

US to liberate Raqqa just to return it to Syria? I'm not buying it. Either its a smokescreen so Syria/Russia wouldn't object, or there will be some exchange involved.

Posted by: Harry | May 12, 2017 11:12:19 AM | 2

"...But any U.S. position there would be a hostile occupation which would have to fight off Syrian government forces, local Arab resistance, remnants of ISIS and Shia militia from Iraq..."

Hey, sounds like another Afghanistan. Just what we need. So... how many U.S. targets... er, troops can we send over? Oh, and we're gonna need a bigger air base.

"...A U.S. occupied zone in the landlocked Syrian east is of no strategic value to the U.S..."

U.S. chicken-hawk neocons are well aware of that.

"...Military hawks in the Trump administration, the sectarian Gulf countries as well as Israel will try to interrupt such a move..."

The operative word of certainty being 'will' - no doubt about it. None of us really expect the ham-fisted false flags to just magically stop, right?

Posted by: PavewayIV | May 12, 2017 11:20:09 AM | 3

@2 - Harry

Indeed. One can never be sure when dealing with duplicitous snakes. We already know from Killary's emails that "the establishment" has two sets of positions (and action plans) - public and private. Why should it be any different in this case?


Res, non verba!

Posted by: LXV | May 12, 2017 11:26:38 AM | 4

>>>> Harry | May 12, 2017 11:12:19 AM | 2

US to liberate Raqqa just to return it to Syria? I'm not buying it.
2020 - year of next US presidential election. If Trump hasn't wiped the Islamic State Caliphate off the face of the Earth and withdrawn from Syria, he'll have problems with his base, so I'll buy it.

BTW, how much longer will Saudi Arabia have enough money to buy billions of dollars worth of weapons from the United States that it can't use and doesn't need? Maybe Trump has figured out that that juicy protection racket will only last a couple more years

Posted by: Ghostship | May 12, 2017 11:39:09 AM | 5

The current force is probably only tasked with taking a few border stations to close down the border between Syria and Iraq.
I doubt it's even that - I suspect it was to provide an excuse for the Russians and Syrians to head off for Deir Ez-zor without giving the Saudis a reason to get upset enough with Trump to cancel the upcoming massive arms deal.

Posted by: Ghostship | May 12, 2017 11:49:52 AM | 6

thanks b and for the first 6 comments here.. it is tough to buy what the usa says - as @4 lxv says - one private and one public message, or as you say " The U.S. can not be trusted." as long as everyone is in agreement on that, i guess we can proceed forward being aware of this bottom line..

Posted by: james | May 12, 2017 12:28:19 PM | 7

I agree with PavewayIV @3. False flags are bound to pop back up. Repeatedly stories and reports have been published in the last month, like the one by HRW, alleging that Syria has an undeclared chemical weapons program that it actively deploys with its air force.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | May 12, 2017 12:56:09 PM | 8

That all sounds very good for the future of the region. But the information is coming from the WSJ which like most Western MSM is infested by the CIA so why wouldn't it be desinformation? The US state aparatus blows warm and cold. Just before the recent cruise missile barrage on Syria which was another crystal clear act of US war aggression, Haley had sad positive things about the Syrian government. The WSJ writes what al-Moallem allegedly said but MSM presstitutes are renown for twisting and misplacing facts and what people say so I would like to read it from a more neutral URL source. US military presence in eastern Syria would be costly, so is the one Afghanistan and all the other US military bases around the global within it's hegemony. But after all those years they're still there and even increasing in number and size. Also what Jordan wants or opposes is of little importance as it has one of the weakest governments of the region. It all sounds too good to be true and I don't think the military players that are fighting for the survival of Syria will fall for it. The US will continue trying to carve up Syria into weak statelets.

Posted by: xor | May 12, 2017 1:01:34 PM | 9

This is definitely a positive development. The creation of the safe-zones lead directly to the ability of the SAA to redeploy to the east, Syria still lacks the ground forces to be everywhere at once. This redeploy will allow Damascus to retake the lowest hanging fruit (in terms of geopolitical consequences, only the US, GCC, and Israel will be crying crocodile tears) as well as blocking any potential invasion from Jordan.
Although some would have loved it, the invasion from Jordan was always doomed to be still-born. For one, the manpower would have to be many times what was amassed. Second, you would be securing an area with multiple hostile forces (SAA and allies asking with any over-eager rebels of which there would be many) while being looked upon as occupiers. Third, as much of poodles as the Hashimites are, they realize what a domestic shit storm invading would create and know their own tenuous grasp of their population.
As much as some are loathe to see non-state groups retake Syrian territory, this is the only way forward. Syrian society is too complex and Humpty-Dumpty too shattered to return to the status-quo-ante. The state simply isn't strong enough and too many legitimate Syrians wouldn't stand for it. Allowing for more autonomy, devolution of authority to groups Damascus can exist with, is the best prospect for maintaining the integrity of the country and achieving a peace that is not one of the graveyard. Only then will the country be able to heal.

Posted by: Don Wiscacho | May 12, 2017 1:05:14 PM | 10

" We already know from Killary's emails that "the establishment" has two sets of positions (and action plans) - public and private."

That would be something new. Counting positions is a bit like counting how many angels can fit in a pin head, few authorities insist that two is the max. Deciphering the (putative) position is yet another issue.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | May 12, 2017 1:11:55 PM | 11

@11 - Piotr Berman

How many positions are there in a set?

Nevertheless, I'm sorry you missed the moral of the story: words are cheap; do not listen to what they say...

Posted by: LXV | May 12, 2017 1:30:05 PM | 12

Yesterday in the NYT was an op-ed by the "foreign envoy for the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria." which expresses the justified fear of betrayal, entitled Once we beat ISIS, don't abandon us. Worth reading, also because she points out that their goal is NOT a Kurdish state, an also not some autonomous Kurdish construct in Syria.

These PYD types are not Barzani cleptocrats, their vision is that of Öcalan, which is close to what Libya had under Gaddafi: bottom-up democracy based on councils, not just for Kurds, but for everyone. The civil council for Raqqa was indeed already founded in mid April and includes local Arab tribe leaders. They released a statement after formation.

As far as I've heard, the Yezidis adopted that system happily and it works around Manbij as well. So if we're optimistic, that could be the basis for something that spreads and overcomes the artificial borders drawn by "the West" without being some religious nightmare from the seventh century.

Posted by: CE | May 12, 2017 1:42:04 PM | 13

Americans complain about Russians.

russian reply

Translation: oisya ti oysia, don't be afraid, I will not bump you, do not worry (this is in the context of dancing while twirling a sabre)

Posted by: Piotr Berman | May 12, 2017 1:52:45 PM | 14

The plan outlined by b above fits Trumps long standing pre election positions.
Months back, during the US election campaign, by put up a post on Trump using twitter to keep the MSM endlessly chasing red herrings. He was very good at it.
Starting to look like that is what is happening now. The cruise missile strike, the MOAB, the noise on NK, and now as that is all dying down, the sacking of Comey. All things to keep the media and neo-cons endlessly occupied while he and Tillerson get down to business with Russia.
Time will tell

Posted by: Peter AU | May 12, 2017 2:06:57 PM | 15

- I still think that the US wants to establish a permanent military base in eastern Syria.

Posted by: Willy2 | May 12, 2017 2:15:52 PM | 16

Posted by: Mike Maloney | May 12, 2017 12:56:09 PM | 8

False flags are bound to pop back up.
They might do but I doubt they'll get the result the terrorists expect. Trump's response to last one struck as nothing more than a slap on the wrist for Assad. The incident in Khan Shaykhoun required some response and by doing what he did, Trump quite neatly shut down the demands for a more vigorous response involving the United States intervening in Syria to do the terrorists' work for them. The Assad is evil/jihadist are furry bunnies narrative is too deeply buried in the American psyche and the evidence not available for Trump to stand up and say he wasn't gong to do anything because it was a false flag/ISIS/whatever operation. If Trump has any sense and Rex Tillerson seems to have a lot of it, the White House should have already started a discrete investigation using the FBI/CIA/NSA/etc. into the chemical warfare claims from Syria so that the next time Trump can safely decide what he really wants to do. Alternatively he can get ahead by holding a presser to present the results of the discrete investigation You never know we might get to see Trump as Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) with a slight change of script given Trump's loyalty to the Clintons, G W Bush, Obama, Kerry, etc.
I'm shocked, shocked to find that MI-6 are organizing false flag operations over there!
Although his ego would require him to appear as Rick.

Posted by: Ghostship | May 12, 2017 2:30:32 PM | 17

"The upcoming taking of Raqqa by U.S. forces and its Kurdish proxies is now endorsed by the Syrian government and its Russian allies."

Is there a link to to any official Syrian government statement that makes this endorsement? Russia is happy for anyone to kill the Islamist terrorists so they can't be unleashed on Russia. Its official position is that Syria's national integrity is sacrosanct and to be determined by the Syrians alone. If the Russians concede to external powers dismembering Syria, then presumably the have no problem with external powers dismembering Russia. (/sarc?)

The Syrians have dispatched 500 hardened troops to Deir ez Zor to get rid of the terrorists there. Iraqis are moving to the Syrian border to close that in cooperation with Syria. At some stage the Syrians will move on to the Arab city of al Qamishli in the north east of Syria. There will be a Syria force throught the middle of the supposed Kurdistan. The Kurds are going to have their work cut out holding any territory once the US has gone. If the Syrians say goodbye to territory the Kurds 'gain' through force, then what claim do they have against the territory israel has claimed by force?

It is a big mistake to mistake tactics for strategy.


Posted by: Yonatan | May 12, 2017 2:53:19 PM | 18

One common feature of the Wesley Clark 7 is that Clark's owners knew that they couldn't hold all these 7 countries bordering or in close proximity to Israel simultaneously for a long period of time. In all these countries we have witnessed how they wanted:

1. Regime change and a permit to plunder wealth and resources
2. Corruption to facilitate the plunder
3. Destruction of wealth and welfare producing infrastructure for the people to impoverish and make them dependent on sources under deep state control.
4. Balkanization of each country into competing factions that are easy to manipulate, control and topple.

In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria the destruction of civil infrastructure has been blatant and crass. They take out water, power and sewage first and "bomb them back into the stone age".

So even if Syria comes out of this entire conflict with her borders intact, the Zionist and their deep state cronies will have achieved at least 2 of their goals: Balkanization and destruction of wealth and infrastructure.

Posted by: Heros | May 12, 2017 3:17:28 PM | 19

"We won’t be in Raqqa in 2020, but the regime will be there.”

A 'regime' installed by the 'Assad must go!' Coalition?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | May 12, 2017 3:45:24 PM | 20

@Yonatan #18

It has been reported by several outlets including Al Masdar and Al Araby that Syrian FM al-Moallem has said on May 8 that the SDF fight against ISIS is "legitimate" and contributing to the unity of Syria. That part is not in the SANA write-up of his press conference, though.

Posted by: CE | May 12, 2017 3:53:59 PM | 21

Oops, Al Araby link should go here.

Posted by: CE | May 12, 2017 3:55:40 PM | 22

There were two events that above all else caught my attention following the US arms to YPG news.

1) Redur Xelil's statement that YPG are fighting to build a free Syria for everyone. (It was published in KomNews also, I think)

https://www.reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar/comments/6acmg0/ypg_spokesman_redur_xelils_statement_on_us/

2) Russian flag flying over Afrin. (Flag flying seems to have become a passive-aggressive form of comms.!!)

https://en.eldorar.com/node/5664

Both negated the scaremongering US-following-Israels-plan-to-carve-up-Syria narratives. And both seemed to imply RF and US cooperation both in 'managing' Turkey and resolving the Syrian conflict - which if not resolved delicately and considerately will simply evolve into another's conflict ...

Thanks,b. Excellent piece.

Posted by: AtaBrit | May 12, 2017 4:14:09 PM | 23

Thanks @18 CE
What Moallem said translated in English by anti-Syrian Al Masdar was:
"I think that what the Syrian Kurds are doing in fighting Daesh is legitimate in the framework of their keenness on preserving the unity and integrity of Syrian territories."

Setting asside the mistranslation about what Ahmadinejad said according to Zionists about jews some years ago and as much as I wan't to believe the Syrian foreign ministry stance, I'm not sure if I would call that endorsing and giving full legitimacy to the SDF which also contains a fraction of non-Kurds and is in fact a US creation.

Posted by: xor | May 12, 2017 4:35:33 PM | 24

@24xor... curious why you say al masdar is anti-syrian? i thought it was another russian news outlet mostly..

Posted by: james | May 12, 2017 4:58:45 PM | 25

This is very good news. I have been hoping that the Kurds have been maintaining discrete and friendly ties with Damascus. Discrete because they rely on supplies from the Americans. Hopefully these ties have involved discussing the structure of their post war settlement and the integration of the Rojave institutions into the Syrian state. Mundane issues like who collects what taxes and how those taxes are shared around the country, what languages are used in schools, what flags can local policemen have on their shoulders. If Damascus and the YPG can have friendly discussions about these issues then the future looks a little brighter.

Does anyone have any info about how things are actually going in the Kurdish areas of Aleppo? It would be a litmus test as it is a Kurdish area that is not strictly within the Kurdish cantons, but is nominally controlled by Kurdish militias. How well are they cooperating with the government?

Assad seems happy to accept a less centralized state than existed before the war if that is the price for peace. All the reconciliation programs have had that character. So there is no reason why this shouldn't also apply to the Kurds

Not just Raqqa. It'd be nice to see the YPG taking part in lifting the seige of DZ as well. Under their flag and the Syrian too. Would go a long way to demonstrating that they are fighting for a free Syria for all Syrians. American supplied troops helping Assad... hey this war has made for some strange bedfellows at times... The Americans and Russians are jointly defending (with their ostentatious displays of flags) northern Syria from Turkey.

Of course the Americans cannot be trusted but they are forced to rely on local partners if they are not going to commit large amounts of their own troops. A scenario that seems unlikely given current Washington politics. The only reliable partner the American have found is the Kurds, every time they have tried to train puppet arab partners it has ended up backfiring. But the Kurds have no interest and cannot benefit from confrontation with Assad so they will do the Americans bidding in terms of fighting ISIS but no more than that. Jordan wants no part of invading Syria with force, the potential blowback is far too risky for them. The Americans have no options.

I am much more worried about the south... and the Israelis stirring something up in Daraa... ghostly visions of the SLA South Leb Army...

Posted by: Køn | May 12, 2017 5:15:54 PM | 26

@james #25

xor carried on my linking error and mislabeled the link to Al Araby as Al Masdar. Al Araby is indeed aptly described as anti-Syrian (run by one or the other Gulf "Kingdoms" out of London). Al Masdar is run by Syrian loyalists, namely the son of the guy who runs syrianperspective.

Posted by: CE | May 12, 2017 5:21:37 PM | 27

@27 ce..thanks!

Posted by: james | May 12, 2017 5:54:53 PM | 28

@26 køn.. one can't find a reliable partner, if they aren't themselves reliable.. nice rationalization though, lol.. i agree with you about israels ongoing role here.... and until the issue of israel in a broader sense is resolved, it will continue to be business as usual with usa defending israels right to steal, destroy, murder and etc etc - oh and i forgot the punchline - oppose anti-antisemitism...

Posted by: james | May 12, 2017 6:02:09 PM | 29

I usually copy/paste updates by SyrPers's Canthama, but this time they are too numerous and the overall thread is worthy. So, here's the link, https://syrianperspective.com/2017/05/trump-sued-by-watchdog-to-discover-legal-reasons-for-his-attack-on-syria.html For the applicable thread, scroll to the bottom of the page where you'll find Canthama's first comment made @ 3 hours ago as of now. Lots going on.

Posted by: karlof1 | May 12, 2017 7:12:24 PM | 30

@30 karlof1... i don't know about that... the website https://unitedtoprotectdemocracy.org/ looks like some weird front info collection agency.. one can't learn much of anything about them.. sounds like a scam to me.. and, i can't find canthama's first comment on that 2 day old thread...

Posted by: james | May 12, 2017 7:33:35 PM | 31

Sorry if someone else said so before, don't have time to read every comment:

Sounds good, but maybe too good.

Why should the Kurds and US conquer Raqqa etc. - only to hand it over to the govt at some point later? Only for the glory? Why not rather let the SAA do the dirty work of fighting in urban areas?
Not convinced.

And I'm afraid that a US protectorate in north-eastern Syria, albeit surrounded by more or less hostile enemies, would make a lot of strategic sense. It would be a nice launchpad for future operations in the area, an 'unsinkable aircraft carrier', and a constant threat/ pressure on surrounding states. Plus, it would prevent a stabilization of a broad Iranian sphere of influence.

Let's wait for a week or so how this goes on, it's too early to tell imho and these are just first ideas.

Posted by: smuks | May 12, 2017 7:42:10 PM | 32

b, 'The U.S. can not be trusted.'

That's the bottom line. this news comes from the wsj. even if there is a camp that thinks along these lines in the us - and was the last group that the rump talked to - sabotage is possible, likely. look at all the feel-good comments it's generated here already. they get a lot of response for their two-bits.. see what they do. plan on betrayal

Posted by: jfl | May 12, 2017 7:43:02 PM | 33

@15 yonatan, 'The Syrians have dispatched 500 hardened troops to Deir ez Zor to get rid of the terrorists there.'

link's no good.

Posted by: jfl | May 12, 2017 7:47:27 PM | 34

@Køn 26

Yes, I was hoping the same re the Kurds' relation with Damascus.
This 'friendly fire' incident some weeks back still fascinates me: 20 or so Arab SDF fighters were killed, and this seems to have blown up the Kurdish-Arab coalition...so if the Kurds wanted to halt the offensive towards the south-east by delivering faulty coordinates, they have succeeded. Clever.
With the SDF and the US, it's not easy to tell who is using whom.

It really depends on whether the SDF understand that they can't have their own state. In that case, they'd really become dependent US puppets since all surrounding govts would be mad at them... So their loyalty towards the Syrian state had better be real.

Posted by: smuks | May 12, 2017 7:48:53 PM | 35

elijah j. m. from yesterday... The US-Russia race in Syria: towards a military confrontation?

Posted by: james | May 12, 2017 9:22:02 PM | 36

I'm a little behind the news with these apparent rumors, but it was always said that part of the effect of the de-escalation zones was to free up SAA to move east. And now it seems that these zones were actually proposed by the US.

This, from Lavrov's press conference, as parsed by Alexander Mercouris - whom I rate highly when it comes to understanding international agreements and diplomacy:
Assessing Lavrov's visit to Washington

Lavrov clearly references Trump and Tillerson working together, and the zone idea coming from them - we can't target the original source of the idea any more precisely than the two men, from Lavrov's words. We know now that Tillerson brought the proposal with him on his trip to Moscow during the G7, when Boris Johnson was on the fool's errand of rallying antipathy to Russia. Meanwhile, the White House was on this completely different track from that time and forward.

I think international relations are the very practice of taking what is untrustworthy and forging what is reliable. One can expect false flags and the like from the covert players in Syria - the CIA, Israel, perhaps parts of the Pentagon but perhaps not. But for the US involvement, this will only reflect the degree of Trump's control over his nominally subordinate factions, and not the fundamental relationship between RF and US.

Given the timeline we now know about, and the work it takes to mend the damage wrought by previous administrations - as Lavrov pointedly describes - it doesn't seem quite so probable now that the kind of agreements being forged now at the highest leadership levels of the US and Russia will be lightly discarded, regardless of mutinies below decks.

Posted by: Grieved | May 12, 2017 11:03:27 PM | 37

OMG, can Trump & Tillerson actually be working with the Russians? Given the business relationship maybe, but buyer beware, the U$A has a sorted history on alliances..

Posted by: ben | May 12, 2017 11:38:54 PM | 38

@30 karlof

thanks for the direction to Canthama's comments at Ziad Fadel'a site. very interesting reading.

Posted by: jfl | May 13, 2017 12:44:11 AM | 39

I hope to see those in Syria soon: Russian troops to receive advanced artillery reconnaissance systems

Go Serbia! Serbian military seeks role in demining Palmyra

Posted by: ProPeace | May 13, 2017 1:27:14 AM | 40

Hilarious but it does make sense that Lavrov would try to portray Trump and Tillerson as part of the deal that is effectively ending the war of terror against Syria and putting an end to the neocon dreams of regime change, greater Israel, and pipelines.

Putin and Lavrov don't really care about throwing the US a bone and let them celebrate like a bunch of retards. Syria, Russia, Iran, and Turkey just humiliated the US on an epic scale with this deal. If it keeps a clown like Trump from doing something stupid to try to save face over Syria, so be it.

Posted by: Thadius | May 13, 2017 1:36:35 AM | 41

@40 pp

i've often wondered why military technology had not come up with a means of targeting artillery/missile launch positions from trajectory data. this system seems to work on sound waves. triangulating (?) the location of launch ... or of impact, it seems to work both/either way. something like this is what's needed in donbass. it would certainly make the urkanazis think twice before launching yet another salvo at civilian targets in donbass if they knew they'd be hit themselves as a result of their actions.

Posted by: jfl | May 13, 2017 1:40:53 AM | 42

Thadius 41 i think you have summed it up nicely . Tillerson appears to be bringing some pragmatism to the US position and with Trump providing a distraction , wittingly or unwittingly, I see a glimmer of hope for a reduction in the ridiculous level of international tension bought about by Obama Hilary and the other neocons.

Posted by: Ike | May 13, 2017 2:02:27 AM | 43

JFL 42

Both sides have had radars for counter battery fire in Ukraine for some time. Saw some pics of the US ones the Donbass crowd had captured from the Ukies a year or more ago. Counter battery fire from both sides is very accurate apparently. Both sides there also use drones to direct artillery fire onto other targets.

Posted by: Peter AU | May 13, 2017 2:04:07 AM | 44

@42 there are loads of ways of tracking trajectories (Radar of different wavelengths, Visual, Audio, Heat, Air Pressure changes, etc.). Especially artillery is vulnerable to this. The only solution for artillery is to fire off a round or two and then move position quickly. But this can also be used to political advantage in an area like Donbass where war is going on amongst a civilian pop. Roll your gun up next to a kindergarden shoot off a round or two, drive off, and wait for counterfire to create a 'false-flag' media storm. In fact this is why counterfire is often slower than expected because the counterfire batteries must take some time to establish that they are not being tricked into creating newsworthy incidents.

Missiles can change their trajectories in flight so they are inherently more difficult to track back to their source. Most countermeasures can be defeated by increasing the projectile speed. If you get to hyper-hypersonic with you projectile you make tracking and countermeasures exponentially more difficult. Thus the interest in railguns, and ramjet missiles.

Posted by: Køn | May 13, 2017 3:40:51 AM | 45

@29 James.
Oh I agree you cannot get reliable partners if you prove yourself time and time again to be unreliable.
But reliability can be looked at on two scales. On the macro level USA is always and 'consistently' unreliable and everyone in the ME should know this by now. The Americans aren't always unreliable out of ill will, its also sometimes because of planning incoherence and incompetence.
Nonetheless
Why would an Arab sign up to fight for the Ami's? Either they plan on defecting to the headchoppers after receiving US supplies and training. Or they simply want a US paycheck but have no intention of risking their lives for American goals. Thus the financial blackholes of the AfghanNA, and the IraqiNA etc., soaking up American MIC contracts and being useless.
So on the micro level the US special forces/trainer cunts, though devoid of morals, are reliable soldiers, they have been shown to be passively resisting their higher ups efforts to train proxies. Why train some dodgy Arab guy to shoot a gun when the most likely outcome is that he will then try to shoot you when you have paid him enough to return to his village and buy a house.

Posted by: Køn | May 13, 2017 3:57:12 AM | 46

@jfl @ pau I wish too Novorussian troops had that technology to minimize civilian deaths.

Posted by: ProPeace | May 13, 2017 4:05:28 AM | 47

With Iraq most likely only a few days away from wrapping up Mosul, the PMU is rapidly advancing west towards the Syrian border. And with the Russian de-escallation framework showing no signs of faultering the SAA is starting to mass huge numbers of freed up forces for a corresponding drive to clear the Syrian side of the Iraq border. Iraq and Syria have publicly stated their intentions for Iraq forces to start anti-terror operations inside of Syria in cooperation with the SAA.

The US is going to have to make a decision very soon:

1. Diplomatically and economically threaten Iraq from working with Syria in closing the border
2. Throw in the towel on the entire neocon regime change or partion dreams
3. As crazy as it sounds, actually starting military operations with the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq

Obviously 2 would be the best.

Option 1 seems quite likely although it really is nothing more than kicking the can down the road

I never really considered 3 until I realized just how far Iraq has come in their long slog against IS. Sealing the Iraq/Syria border is the nail in the coffin of the neocon dreams in Syria. I think it is safe to assume that the neocons in Washington are apoplectic in panic right now over the stunning Russian agreement with Iran and Turkey.

They know that their ability to pull off another White Helmet fake chemical attack is over with the de-escalation zones now in effect. But a fake chemical attack in one of the Kurdish areas would allow them to start sending in masses of US regime troops and equipment to support 'our allies the Kurds'.

Posted by: terril | May 13, 2017 4:24:19 AM | 48

It made no sense from day one that the kurds would supply the shock troops to conquer Raqqa. Raqqa is an Arab town -- why would the Kurds sacrifice their soldiers to capture a town that would never accept Kurdish dominion. The Kurds know this as well as the Non-ISIS Arab tribes that previously controlled that city.

It sounds like a bunch of ignorant American advisers thought they could convince some naive Kurds to to provide some cannon fodder for US imperialism to break up Syria. Fortunately, it sounds like the Kurds are not going to be that easily manipulated.

Posted by: ToivoS | May 13, 2017 4:56:54 AM | 49

karlof1 - I second your worthy link. Indeed, Canthama's comments ans summaries always seem both timely and eminently sane. I like it that he doesn't give in to the temptation of being dragged into some nonsensical, tangential mud slinging or a silly back and forth. Always circumspect and respectful. An example to us all.

I just wish his comments were more widely disseminated. Thanks for doing your bit.

Posted by: Merlin2 | May 13, 2017 5:46:22 AM | 50

@Thadius | 41


"Putin and Lavrov don't really care about throwing the US a bone and let them celebrate like a bunch of retards."

In my opinion, Putin and Lavrov have shown time and again that they do care about the US part in this conflict and they do consider that lasting peace is impossible without US co-operation. Lets not forget, this is not just about Syria or Iraq; Putin has always seen it as the end game for US jihadi terrorists in the ME and Central Asia. This can not be achieved without coming to some agreement with the US.


"Syria, Russia, Iran, and Turkey just humiliated the US on an epic scale with this deal"

But the US and Russia have also humiliated Turkey on a yet greater level. Putin and Lavrov seem tl want to prevent the US loaing face, but not so with Turkey; both are quite happy to publicly put Erdogan on his place.

Posted by: AtaBrit | May 13, 2017 6:38:19 AM | 51

A video from March about WH HQ in Aleppo, between JN and IS.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWxQHPwoNMk&feature=youtu.be
(subtitled)

Posted by: Mina | May 13, 2017 9:25:10 AM | 52

"The U.S. military sabotaged the deal by launching air attacks on Syrian government forces in Deir Ezzor which were besieged by ISIS. This enabled ISIS to take a significant part of the government held areas there and to nearly eliminate all those forces. The U.S.-Russian agreement fell apart."

That is false. "The U.S. military" did not sabotage it; Obama himself did. Bernhard drank Gareth Porter's Kool Aid, which attributed the decision (to bomb Deir Ezzor) to Ashton Carter, but Porter is similar to Robert Parry in being partial toward Democrats and making unsupported favorable assumptions about the intentions of Democratic Presidents. There is zero indication that President Obama was unsupportive of Ashton Carter's opposition to Kerry's 9 September 2016 deal with Lavrov. Obama would have fired Ashton Carter for destroying that crucial deal with Russia if Obama actually hadn't approved Carter's decision to bomb Deir Ezzor on September 17th. Obama didn't even issue a squeak of opposition to it, but instead made a transparently false allegation that it had simply been done in error.

Furthermore, Kerry was quoted on September 30th as having said “I think you’re looking at three people, four people in the administration who have all argued for use of force, and I lost the argument.” He was saying that whomever judged "the argument" went with Ash Carter instead of with Kerry. Who judged "the argument"? It was, of course, their boss: Barack Obama.

Sometimes, Bernhard is sloppy and prejudiced in his reasoning. He made an entirely unwarranted assumption here. Barack Obama himself sabotaged Kerry's September 9th deal with Russia. As a historian, it's important to get this right, not to be prejudiced and make counter-evidentiary assumptions.

Posted by: Eric Zuesse | May 13, 2017 9:52:07 AM | 53

Heros 19
I agree. It looks like the goal wasn't to literally take over the countries but simply to destroy them and leave them destitute. It's a crazy form of hegemony but their chessboard does not require conquering actions in the classic sense.

Posted by: Curtis | May 13, 2017 10:06:07 AM | 54

@Eric Zeuss 53

"That is false. "The U.S. military" did not sabotage it; Obama himself did."

Perhaps the CFR informed Obama what it was going to do in his name before they sabotaged the peace deal, but I sincerely doubt that the decision was Obama's to make, let alone that Obama made it on his own.

In all likely hood Vallery Jarret had far more authority to make this decision than Obama since she was the one actually wearing the presidential jockstrap.

This is very similar to the 60 cruise missile attack against Syria that "Trump ordered" because of those "beautiful babies". In this case I would bet that unlike Obama, Trump knew nothing about it until it was already over.

If you have any proof that Obama alone took the decision to sabotage the peace deal the please present it here instead of flaming Bernhard.

Posted by: Heros | May 13, 2017 10:23:57 AM | 55

Eric Zuesse @54

Yes, this had to be said. Why would anyone still coddle and stroke Barak Obama and Democrats in general after everything we've witnessed during and after the presidential election? Obama and Michelle can tell a lot of interesting and important things in their upcoming books but the won't because their whole schtick is to coddle and stroke themselves and one another.

Posted by: Quentin | May 13, 2017 10:25:16 AM | 56

I'm STILL wondering why people persist in blaming the puppets instead of the puppeteers. Com'on folks, policies aren't decided by the front people in ANY administration, especially foreign policies. IMO, they're made by business interests, owned and directed by the uber-wealthy.

Posted by: ben | May 13, 2017 11:01:25 AM | 57

I think it took the Kurdish forces around three months to take Manbij, and then they had to do a deal to get the last of the ISIS fighters to leave. Same at Tabqa - 50 days and some sort of a deal to get ISIS to leave the last strong points at the dam.
How long for the Kurds to take Raqqa? I think the Syrian government forces will be at Raqqa along with the Kurds to kick ISIS out. So long as AQ can be kept bottled up at Idlib.
Tiger forces took Deir Hafer Plain in a matter of weeks. If they can take the Maskaneh plain just as quickly, they will be down to Tabqa in a matter of weeks.

Posted by: Peter AU | May 13, 2017 11:17:31 AM | 58

@46 Køn.. thanks.. that is all fairly self apparent..

@53 Eric Zuesse.. i call bullshit.. but hey, lets turn it into another endless conversation on american politicians and who knew what and when, lol...

Posted by: james | May 13, 2017 12:23:38 PM | 59

Zuesse @53

Yours is a reasonable hypothesis that Obama not Ash Carter directly ordered that bombing. However, it is just that -- a hypothesis without convincing evidence. Somehow I tend to think Carter in collusion with the military were responsible since why would Obama let Kerry walk out on that limb in the first place?

Posted by: ToivoS | May 13, 2017 12:58:56 PM | 60

I'm STILL wondering why people persist in blaming the puppets instead of the puppeteers. Com'on folks, policies aren't decided by the front people in ANY administration, especially foreign policies. IMO, they're made by business interests, owned and directed by the uber-wealthy.

Posted by: ben | May 13, 2017 11:01:25 AM | 57

There are two interpretative paradigms: "puppetology" and "left hand does not know what the right hand is doing". Mind you, if you make your living as a puppet, you must search for a good hand. Sometimes it helps to give that hand a nip. For that manner, the unwashed masses, rather than reaching for pitchforks, more frequently search for uber-wealthy who would be more understanding of their concerns. What would motivate you to sell your soul and become uber-wealthy only to become a cog in a centralized uber-wealthy machine? E.g. put Soros and Adelson in the same room, and what little hair they have remaining would soon be flying.

My view is that foreign policy is no longer a matter of intrinsic interests of the richest. Real looting can occur with the relatively gentle and invisible "neocolonialist" tools. So in the West we see a bunch of vanity projects and justification for "national grandeur" with its military-industrial complexes (that include secret services, think tanks etc. too), but who in the West really cares who controls Aleppo, Sevastopol of Luhansk? (Banderovite spell checker of Safari does not like when I type Lugansk). As a result, literate and numerate folks seem to shun imperialistic think tanks (I mean, possessors of reasonable vocabulary AND junior high arithmetic skills).

Exhibit for the latter: certain Stephen Sestanovich took upon himself to admonish the Administration Trump Should Be Wary of Putin’s Syria Plan. If the Pentagon is right that the United States managed to knock out 20 percent of the Syrian Air Force, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis must surely regret that he didn’t push for two or even three strikes. Knocking out 60 percent of Syria’s planes, especially while Russia stood by helplessly — that would have been a game changer. Someone might tell the president what Richard Nixon used to say: It takes only alittle more effort to really solve a problem than to almost solve it.

The learned professor at Columbia and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (I presume, with literary background, Dostoyevsky etc.) could check Wikipedia: Syrian Airforce has about 460 aircraft of which 3-6 were destroyed for the after-dinner enjoyment of POTUS while he entertained important guests. By taking a larger estimate of the destroyed planes and disregarding the helicopters in counting the size of the fleet we arrive at 2% (but it could be 1% too). Sure, the most powerful military force is fully capable of attaching a zero to digit 2, and this is fully consistent with the "rule of 10" that was already used in antiquity when reporting on military matters. But that means that a "real game changer" would have to repeat "knowing out 60 percent of Syria's planes" about ten times to make "a game changer".

My conclusion is that these guys do not really care anymore. More importantly, how many people in USA, uber-wealthy or not, care if we got "a game changer" or not?

Posted by: Piotr Berman | May 13, 2017 2:03:23 PM | 61

@61 piotr

i think the 'military' types - the chicken hawks - have their fingers to the wind ... when economies are in real trouble, war is 'often' the answer ... and they're prepping for showtime.

the rump is - by definition - a follower and not a leader, as was the hil as well of course, so we may well be rolling down that monstrous hill soon. joining all of our victims of the past 15 years. chickens coming home to roost. for the europeans certainly, if guys like the Macaroon have his way.

'these guys do not really care anymore'. never did. but anything's better than going broke, in their book. even if your and my, and hundreds of thousands/millions of others' entire families have to die. its tough, but they'll buck up under the strain.

and their idea of going broke is down to their last ten million or so ... chump change.

Posted by: jfl | May 13, 2017 3:11:44 PM | 62

@53 ez, 'As a historian, it's important to get this right, not to be prejudiced and make counter-evidentiary assumptions.'

physician, heal theyself. i guess you think you cya by avoiding evidence for your screed all together, in order not to have to make counter-evidentiary assumptions?

sorry to be a bit harsh ... but you set the tone. let me fall back to Toivos' position. obama's whole presidency was as you describe ... or as what i see behind your description ... limp along until the 'smart' guys come to a consensus, then 'let it happen'. elaborate the 'explanation' to the peoples.

i'm actually with james. save it for your book. and apply some argument from evidence at that time. whoever reads your book will require it.

Posted by: jfl | May 13, 2017 3:23:45 PM | 63

b
"The 'Shia crescent' is anyway a chimera."

So true. I realized this when Chris Wallace was interviewing some GOP politician years ago and asked him what they were going to do about the Shia Crescent. I had to laugh. It's never been much of a threat but those who do not like it are Israel and the Sunni states so that means US neocons must hate it too.

Posted by: Curtis | May 13, 2017 3:50:24 PM | 64

Looks like the news blackout over military gains in Syria's been lifted, with many gains reported at Southfront and by Canthama at SyrPers. One I find interesting is the announced coordination between SAA and Iraqi PMU over operations to secure border, https://southfront.org/deputy-commander-of-pmu-syrian-iraqi-border-is-our-strategic-objective/ And judging from the reaction of the Outlaw US Empire-backed terrorists in the region, the entire desert and borders with Jordan and Iraq will soon be secured. Furthermore, from Canthama and other sources, there's a very large contingent of Iraqis fighting alongside Syrian units such that when looked at from afar it can be seen that Iraqi, Iranian, and Lebanese forces have joined Syria to fight the terrorist invasion launched by the Outlaw US Empire and its vassals, and they will prevail. This regional solidarity has put some iron into Iraqi PM Abadi's backbone as he's stated no Outlaw US Empire forces will remain in Iraq after Daesh's defeat. This spells the end for the US-backed Barzani Mafia.

Perhaps the most intriguing report is that "[a]ccording to the Al Mayadeen satellite television channel, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) has sent a delegation to Turkey to discuss the possible Turkish intervention to the Syrian province of Idlib." https://southfront.org/delegation-of-hayat-tahrir-al-sham-visits-trukey-media/

Posted by: karlof1 | May 13, 2017 4:36:14 PM | 65

Posted by: jfl | May 13, 2017 3:11:44 PM | 62

You are mixing several issues. We live in the age of narrow specialization, and one specialty is to provide justification for the acts of our war machine that would make modicum of sense and yet be easy to convert into sound bites. Sestanovich is not responsible for economic proposals or sound bites (let us count it among our blessings). "Little splendid wars" in few places are too small to convincingly affect the economy that churns ca. 10 trillion per year. These wars can do little in macro-economic terms, but for the sectors that lives from them, like Sestanovich, or rely one them as the most cherished form of entertainment (Adelson comes to mind. but in fact, anyone with too much money, stamina too depleted to enjoy younger members of the opposite set and not amount the few lucky members of the major sports teams).

The potential advantage if "splendid wars" is similar to major sports teams: a lot of people root for that team or the other, AND YOU WOULD NOT ROOT FOR PUTIN, WOULD YOU!!!??? Are you for Spiderman, or for Dr. Doom? But the readership of Marvel cartoons is down and the war enthusiasm seems to be tepid even inside the Council on Foreign Relations.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | May 13, 2017 5:50:58 PM | 66

@66

well, i hope you're right - not about your splendid little wars but about the continued absence of a much larger one. the rump is meeting the crown prince next week and some see a us/ksa war on iran coming out of that. i'm afraid it could well be, on the pattern of syria/ukraine.

the plutocrats are ready to defend both the us dollar and petrocarbons as universal energy currencies because their collapse could indeed still the '10 trillion dollar' sow they're all sucking the teats of.

your splendid little war between saudi arabia and iran could easily get away from the bin salman/rump brain trust.

Posted by: jfl | May 13, 2017 7:46:10 PM | 67

@62 well look on the bright side, killer robots will soon be duking it out for our HDTV war entertainment

http://interestingengineering.com/a-closer-look-at-russias-terrifying-gun-wielding-robot-fedor/

Posted by: aaaa | May 13, 2017 7:57:09 PM | 68

@61 Piotr.
Well said.
Looking over the landscape of American geopolitical activities over the last 30 years and trying to divine some co-ordinated plan is a sisyphean task. The main impetus seems to be whatever the most recent and largest political donation happens to want. A natural consequence of trying to run a modern political economy on an 18th century enlightened document. Hey I have a (fake-yellowed) old copy of the American Constitution bought in Philly at the liberty bell souvenir shop and for it's time a fantastic piece of work, as was magna carta, or the code of hammurabi...

Its not just that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing but that octopus like the 8 hands cannot agree on what to pick up and often end up struggling against each other. Or even millipede like with hundreds of feet all trying to march in different directions.

Posted by: Køn | May 14, 2017 3:33:18 AM | 69

Israelis write the whole scenario regarding the ME. The USA is only a helper.
https://youtu.be/ylWyr5W70VM?t=407

Posted by: blue sky | May 14, 2017 6:14:04 AM | 70

@Zuesse 53

Not entirely impossible, but I don't see any evidence there.

Don't forget that it was by no means the first such incident: A number of times, Kerry (in my understanding: with Obama's blessing) negotiated some kind of agreement with Moscow, which was subsequently sabotaged by the Pentagon. Why would he do this over and over, if he stood all alone against the rest of the government?

Trump seems to have reached that same stage now, that Kerry/ Obama reached in c. early 2015.

Posted by: smuks | May 14, 2017 6:45:15 AM | 71

@blue sky 70

I guess you also have a tail that wags its dog.

Posted by: smuks | May 14, 2017 6:46:20 AM | 72

The question that always pops up with Syria is, why did the Syrian government get targeted as a U.S. enemy when it was generally viewed as not-so-bad throughout the Bush Administration - other than its involvement in Lebanon and claims about the assassination of Lebanon's Harriri in 2005? In 2008, it seemed like Syria was being viewed as a neutral in the region, for example:
http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/election2008/2008/10/syria-coming-in-from-the.html

Now, Syrian officials have their eyes set on a thaw with the U.S. They're banking on an Obama administration to support their peace talks with the Israelis. There are grounds for optimism. Not only has Obama publicly endorsed Israeli-Syrian peace talks, but last August Obama's foreign policy advisor, Daniel Kurtzer, visited Damascus and encouraged the Syrians to step up their talks with Israel.

The explanation for the turn against Syria seems to lie with its program to develop extensive economic ties with Iran - not just pipelines, also railroads, roads, and electricity supplies, which involved northern Iraq as well. There are several State Department cables in the Manning Wikileaks detailing how the U.S. was closely watching these developments while (unsuccessfully) attempting to block them. By 2012, it was pretty clear that the economic cooperation deals were moving forward:
http://www.telegraph...Iran-and-Syria-lay-ambitious-plans-for-road-rail-air-and-electricity-links.html

Iran has thrown Syria an economic lifeline by laying ambitious plans for road, rail, air and even electricity links between the two countries, according to official records of high level talks in Damascus.

At this point, it seems the entire U.S. government foreign policy apparatus - State, CIA and Pentagon - decided that Assad had to be overthrown and enlisted the cooperation of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Israel and Turkey in this effort. This vastly amplified the flow of weapons, money and foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq, with most of that ending up allied with Al Qaeda or ISIS groups, the "moderate FSA opposition" being a complete myth.

Over the next three years, it looks like major fractures developed among the overthrow-Assad coalition, including between State and Pentagon, particularly after ISIS captured Mosul in Iraq, as the CIA and State Department continued to support supplying so-called "moderate Syrian rebels" while the Pentagon was more involved in backing the Kurdish forces, is what it looks like. It was still a coordinated policy, see this late 2014 email from Hillary Clinton to Podesta:
https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/55380

Armed with proper equipment, and working with U.S. advisors, the Peshmerga can attack the ISIL with a coordinated assault supported from the air. This effort will come as a surprise to the ISIL, whose leaders believe we will always stop with targeted bombing, and weaken them both in Iraq and inside of Syria. At the same time we should return to plans to provide the FSA, or some group of moderate forces, with equipment that will allow them to deal with a weakened ISIL, and stepped up operations against the Syrian regime.

That was a hopelessly foolish belief; it turned out in Mosul, for example, that the entire Iraq army supported by the US and militias has had to fight a very costly battle to get rid of ISIS, which isn't over yet (media blackout in the U.S., mostly). How exactly the Kurdish forces are supposed to do the same thing in Raqqa mostly by themselves is a mystery. It seems they'd have to coordinate with the Syrian government forces to have any chance, since they're basically militia forces. Giving them heavy weapons, tanks and artillery and so on, alarms Turkey.

So in the long run, it does seem that the situation will go right back to where it was in 2009 - Assad remains in power, Iran continues economic development programs in Syria, etc. There are of course many people in the U.S. and Europe and Israel and the Gulf Arab states (including Syrian ex-pats) who still want Assad out - some want him replaced with a French-style liberal western democracy, some want him replaced with a Saudi-style Islamic dictatorship, but both seem rather unlikely. At best, the Assad govenment might be convinved to cede more power to a parliament and give more regional autonomy to the Sunni south and Kurdish east of the country. But I bet that's how it turns out.

It's sure been a idiotic program from day one, though - hundreds of thousands slaughtered, millions fleeing as refugees, violent terrorist groups rising to global prominence, billions of dollars wasted - all for nothing, all for some stupid regime change game dreamed up mainly by Hillary Clinton and her circle of neolib-neocon regime change artistes, the same crowd that was behind GW Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Posted by: nonsense factory | May 14, 2017 11:59:40 AM | 73

>>>> Peter AU | May 13, 2017 2:04:07 AM | 44

Both sides have had radars for counter battery fire in Ukraine for some time.
Using active radar to detect incoming artillery allows the radar unit to be located faster than the radar unit can locate the artillery if the artillery has radar warning receivers and with rotating antennas or passive arrays the location of the radar could be fairly accurately detected and probably destroyed. Passive radar, separate transmitter and receivers might be better but the transmitter needs to be regarded as disposable as it could have a useful life of a few minutes. The techniques used by the Russian Penicillin system being truly passive are probably the best available as the system can locate the artillery without the artillery being aware that it's been located so it may not relocate immediately or as fast as when it knows there's counter-battery radar in the area. Saw some pics of the US ones the Donbass crowd had captured from the Ukies a year or more ago. Counter battery fire from both sides is very accurate apparently. Both sides there also use drones to direct artillery fire onto other targets.

Posted by: Peter AU | May 13, 2017 2:04:07 AM | 44

Posted by: Ghostship | May 14, 2017 12:24:17 PM | 74

Video of the Penicillin system here. Looks as though it has ground sensors.
https://twitter.com/CT_operative/status/862682028931772426

Posted by: Peter AU | May 14, 2017 7:37:51 PM | 75

@73 nf, 'So in the long run, it does seem that the situation will go right back to where it was in 2009 - Assad remains in power, Iran continues economic development programs in Syria, etc.'

the rump's trip to telaviv, riyadh, and the vatican(!) seem to indicate that the neocons have him on board for their war against iran. they've already destroyed syria, now it's iran's turn.

the saudi crown prince outlined a syria-like program for iran the other day, and now the rump is going to sell 100 billion, or 400 billion, worth of new weapons to him to protect himself from iran's retaliation. the uae has just bought a lot of anti-missile missiles as well.

these people never give up. they must have stakes driven through the place where their hearts would be, if they had hearts.

if they do start a war with iran, i hope iran kicks their asses once and for all. it looks to me that gulf state wahabists are about to bite off much more than they can chew.

the us government doesn't care. they'll sell everyone weapons until they can't any longer. death, devastation, and destruction have been the war criminal usofa's goal in the middle east since 2000. the only ones who can bring the nearly two-decade long string of war crimes to an end are the american people. it would be good if we started anytime now.

Posted by: jfl | May 14, 2017 8:37:56 PM | 76

@74 gs

thanks for the rundown on what's up with anti-artillery detection and targeting systems. what you say makes sense. looks like it's still two years off ... for the russians. longer for everyone else, i suppose.

Posted by: jfl | May 14, 2017 8:41:29 PM | 77

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