Is Fighting Al-Qaeda In Aleppo Good Or Bad? - U.S. Unable To Decide
There is currently a barrage of propaganda in the "western" media in support of "rebels" in east-Aleppo. It is all about "hospitals" and "children" but the aim is to stop a Syrian army assault on the "rebel" held quarters of the city. U.S. officials are again talking about "intervention", meaning open war, to prevent the Syrian army and its allies from storming the "rebel" held eastern parts. It would not work but that is not the only reason why it is a strange idea.
"It is primarily al-Qaeda that holds Aleppo," said (vid) the spokesperson of the U.S. led 'Operation Inherent Resolve', Colonel Warren. That was back in April and al-Qaeda (aka Jabat al-Nusra) has since strengthen its capacities in the city. The French Syria expert Fabrice Balanche tells Le Monde Le Figaro (translate from French):
[Al-Qaeda's] grip on Aleppo's east has only increased since the spring of 2016, when it sent 700 reinforcement fighters while moderate brigades fighters began to leave the area before the final exit was closed. The provisional opening of a breach of the siege of Aleppo in August 2016 (Battle of Ramousseh) has further increased its prestige and influence on the rebels.
The UN Special Envoy for Syria DeMistura told (vid, 27:43) the UN Security Council:
We have seen information from other sources that tell us more than half of the fighters present in eastern Aleppo are al-Nusra. We have also seen reports alleging the intentional placement of firing positions close to social infrastructure, inside and aside civilian quarters.
So why does the U.S. want to stop the Syrian government forces in their attempt to free the parts of the city which are undoubtedly held by al-Qaeda?
Under U.S. Proxy Attack Russia Readies For Full War In Syria
U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing September 28 2016 - Spokesperson John Kirby
QUESTION: But what I don’t think we have heard here is, so what are the consequences for Russia if this agreement falls through beyond some interagency discussions about options that have not yet been chosen? What are the consequences for Russia other than Secretary Kerry won’t talk to them on this particular issue going forward?
MR KIRBY: The consequences are that the civil war will continue in Syria, that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft.
The Russian Federation interpreted that not as a prediction or warning, but as a direct threat.
Monument to defense of Sevastopol in the second world war 1941-1942 - bigger
The ceasefire agreement fell through. The U.S. essentially blocked it by NOT pushing its proxy forces in Syria to follow its provisions. It blamed, as usual, the Russian side which had followed the ceasefire nearly to the letter.
Then this happened:
Russia Finds - Shaming The U.S. Government Into Action Can Work
Russia has now managed twice to shame the U.S. into action against Jihadis by publicly demonstrating that the U.S. is not really committed to its promises.
During 2014 and 2015 the U.S. did very little to attack the Islamic State. U.S. strikes hit irrelevant targets like an "ISIS excavator" or some lone truck. Meanwhile ISIS was making millions per day from pumping oil out of the Syrian desert and selling it to Turkish contacts. Hundreds of Turkish tanker trucks assembled near the oil wells in south-east Syria waiting to load. No airstrike would hit them.
The Russians saw this and were appalled. The loudmouth U.S. spoke about its big coalition and attacking ISIS but did essentially nothing. The Russian President Putin then decided to shame the U.S. and Obama personally. On November 15 2015 at the G20 meeting in Turkey he walked around the table and showed satellite pictures to his international colleagues. Hundreds of trucks waiting in the Syrian desert for loading without fear that anyone would harm them:
Special Interests Create The "Good", The "Bad" And The "Compelling" Story - The Media Tell It
A thoughtful analysis by Amanda Taub of the New York Times describes why some wars get more "western" public attention than others:
Conflicts gain sustained American attention only when they provide a compelling story line that appeals to both the public and political actors, and for reasons beyond the human toll. That often requires some combination of immediate relevance to American interests, resonance with American political debates or cultural issues, and, perhaps most of all, an emotionally engaging frame of clearly identifiable good guys and bad guys.
Yemen’s death toll is lower than Syria’s, and although Al Qaeda does operate there, Yemen’s conflict has not had the kind of impact on American and European interests that Syria’s has. There is no obvious good-versus-evil story to tell there: The country is being torn apart by a variety of warring factions on the ground and pummeled from the air by Saudi Arabia, an American ally. There is no camera-ready villain for Americans to root against.
Those are good observations. But they themselves are part of the process they describe. They artificially create "good" and "bad" and are driven by "interests". (Side note: I doubt the sweeping claim "Yemen’s death toll is lower than Syria’s". The famine in northwest Yemen is very severe. The number of dead is simply not known yet but like in the hundred-thousands.)
Reporting does not depend on the existence of good and bad or the existence of a compelling story. Such thinking is just idealized nonsense. It is the media that creates the (often artificial) sides of a war on behalf of the interests. Good and bad are not inherent, they are constructs. A real compelling story is not needed. One can be created any time though it will likely not be a true one.
(This post is pinned to the top. Please scroll down for new content.)
During the twelve years this Moon of Alabama blog is up we only once asked for financial contributions. That was eight years ago. The money received then payed for a decent laptop. That very laptop is still in daily use to produce the content for this blog.
But the laptop's life is coming to an end. So are my current abilities to carry the costs for running this blog. The hosting fees are fairly minor and the cost for a new laptop probably bearable. But I do lose a lot of necessary income due to the time spent researching and writing the daily post. This now necessitates to ask for compensation.
Carl Spitzweg - The Poor Poet - bigger
You can donate with a credit card through the PayPal button below.
More preferable though are direct payments. Transaction costs are less for direct bank-wire transfers, for cashing checks or simply cash. Please email me at MoonofA @ aol.com (discard the blanks) for the necessary contact data.
Thank you very much
b aka Bernhard
Open Thread 2016-32News & views ...
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:
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.
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:
"Experts" Fail To Debunk Todenhöfer Al-Qaeda Interview
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?
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.
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?
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?
"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?
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!
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 not 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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:
U.S., Israel Launch Airstrikes On Syrian Government Forces - Directly Supporting ISIS And Al-Qaeda
- 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.
Open Thread 2016-31
News & views ...
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.
"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?
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
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?
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.
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.
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":
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Open Thread 2016-30
News & views ...
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:
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
"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.
Syria - Who Wins In The Turkish-Russian Deal?
Two headlines today support the claim that "western" media reporting often defies the observable reality.
- Washington Post: For the first time since 2013, ISIS has no border with NATO
- Independent: Isis 'cut off from rest of world' as rebels expel Islamists from Turkish border
- From the last one:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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 Deal Over Syria That Left The U.S. Out
Thanks to all for the good discussion of Mark Sleboda's post here. His central thesis: the recent Turkish invasion of Syria was against Russian interests, Russia basically left Syria hanging and lost out in the NATO war on the country.
But my sources told me of behind-the-scenes agreements that went against the U.S. orders and plans. All relevant news published recently also points to a different story. Turkey has aligned with Russia and Iran and some, may be temporary, agreement was found with regards to the conflict in Syria. The U.S. was lost in the chaos that followed when two of the U.S. proxy forces, Syrian Kurds and Turkish led "moderate rebel" Jihadists, fought each other around Jarablus.
My own doubts about what was really happening were expressed three weeks when I asked: Who Now Leads The War On Syria - The CIA Or Turkey?. Its conclusion:
It could be that Turkish-U.S. cooperation on Syria, despite the coup-attempt in Turkey, is still excellent. That would imply that major conflicts playing out in the spy world and in the media are orchestrated fakes to confuse Syria and its allies.
But these conflicts may also point to real fighting behind the scenes. Fighting about who will be stuck with the tar-babies al-Qaeda in Syria and other "rebels" are likely to become.
Since then the fog has lifted a bit. There is a real conflict between the U.S. and Turkey. Turkey indeed moved on a plan that Russia, Iran and Syria had agreed with. The U.S was caught off guard. The real tar-baby for the U.S. turned out to be the Syrian Kurds, who in their utter hubris and pushed by the U.S., overextended their possibilities and alienating everyone around them. The U.S. had counted on their fighting prowess to clean Raqqa and to rule over east and central Syria but that dream is now over. The U.S. was eventually forced to side with its NATO ally Turkey to prevent it from moving even further towards Russia. The Kurds lost some 400 men in fighting for Manbij only to be told to move out again - without any gain. They will not give one man to conquer Raqqa.
Three recent reports now add to the discussion. The first by Genevieve Casagrande a "Syria analyst" of the neocon Institute for the Study of War:
Turkey’s intervention in Jarablus is a turning point in American-Turkish relations and the war against ISIS. Erdogan’s willingness to commit military force to the anti-ISIS fight fulfils longstanding American demands for Turkey to increase its contribution to the anti-ISIS mission. The recapture of Jarablus and ongoing operations to clear remaining ISIS-held portions of the border west of Jarablus have set the desired conditions for an offensive to retake Raqqa city by eliminating ISIS’s final supply line from Turkey.
That view somewhat agrees with Mark in that this move is seen as to the advantage of the U.S. But it is devoid of reality. No one will touch Raqqa now as all U.S. plans towards that were based on Kurdish cooperation. The U.S. is currently outside of the game frame and without control over any of the actors. It has no canon fodder left it could push towards any attack. Also - moving Turkish soldiers and influence down south and deeper into ISIS land does not cut ISIS's supply lines to Turkey. It just shortens the run to the virtual border crossing ISIS couriers will have to take. There was and is no need for Turkey to invade Syria at all if the aim were to shut down its border to prevent traffic to and from ISIS crossing it.
The "analyst" is in her early to mid twenties, has a BA in English, partied in Dubai and Jordan to learn a bit of Arabic and sorted Youtube videos from Syria for various U.S. foundation. A "Syria analyst" with little relevant knowledge and no experience but trained enough to avoid any critical thought while writing down whatever neocon nonsense she is told. One must disregard any piece that positively quotes her. Was she hired to look good on TV or to amuse the various buffoons of the Kagan clan?
Two news reports by real analysts and reporters who walk the grounds about which they write give some clearer idea of what is really happening. Mohammad Ballout writes for Lebanon's Assafir newspaper. His latest as translated by Yalla La Barra:
The Syrians and the Turks are on the verge of a security understanding that will lead to a political one. The indications of this unprecedented understanding are not yet clear. But its first headline, without any surprises, is a trade off: the Turks backing off in Aleppo and closing the crossings used by some of the armed groups (the most important ones) in the north in exchange for the Turkish forces to be given the freedom to destroy the Kurdish project in Syria. In other words, the city of Aleppo goes to Syria and the corpse of the Kurdish project in Syria goes to the Turks.
It can be said that the Turks have taken a first step to separate the moderate opposition from the extremist groups. Turkey’s recent diversion of thousands of fighters from the fronts of Aleppo and Idlib represents a Turkish initiative to separate the factions it directly mentors from the extremist groups who coordinate their operations.
There are doubts though that the Turks can complete escape from the U.S./NATO frame:
It’s likely that this deal will face questions about the American role, and Turkey’s ability to advance it’s understanding and coordination with the Russians, Iranians and Syrians – namely, the resistance axis – without US approval is unlikely. The ability of Erdogan to shift from Turkey’s traditional/historical position against the resistance axis, and rebel against Washington is questionable.
Until now, real indicators of a change in the Turkish position on the ground still need a lot of time, especially in Aleppo. However, there are indications that the Americans are feeling uncomfortable about the Turkish-Iranian-Russian rapprochement and have instructed their agencies to stop providing the Turks with military/security information in Syria.
Turkey does not depend on U.S. intelligence in Syria. It surely has better sources and connections than the CIA or anyone else but the Syrians themselves. I see little, if any, ability left with Washington to tell Erdogan what to do or not to do. There are also significant measures Russia, Iran and Syria can take to penalize Turkey (or the Saudis) should Erdogan try to deviate from the deal. A few new weapons in the hands of the PKK (or Houthis) could cost Turkey (Saudi Arabia) more than they are able to gain in Syria.
Elijah J. Magnier reports for the Kuwait AlRai on the deal with some special insight on the Russian role:
During their meeting in St. Petersburg and following consecutive reunions later, plus an exchange of visits by high-ranking military officials, Russia and Turkey agreed on the role the Turkish forces could be offered in Syria, within specific parameters that will serve both sides interest, as long as there are limits and guarantees offered by both parties.
Russia has accepted a Turkish incursion into Syrian territory due to the Kurds’ declared hostility to the government in Damascus when YPG forces attacked and expelled the Syrian army from al-Hasakah city to the suburbs, with US backing, – a clear intention to initiate the partition of Syria. Russia stands against a Kurdish state ruled by the US in the new Kremlin Mediterranean base, Syria.
Turkey expressed its willingness to collaborate and instruct many rebel groups under its direct influence, to reject unification, avoid the merger proposed by Nusra, and keep its distance from the Jihadists, mainly in the northern city of Aleppo. [...] Turkey agreed to avoid any contact or clash with the Syrian army, mainly around Aleppo, in support of the Syrian rebels and jihadists.
Russia made it clear to Turkey that it will not tolerate any infringement of the agreement or any clash with the Syrian Army drawing clear redlines, and threatening that its Air Force will hit the Turkish forces and its proxies in case of any similar violation.
All these talks were not just between Turkey and Syria (in Algeria) or between Moscow and Ankara. There was a wide framework discussed between all relevant forces - Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Turkey and others and only the U.S. (it seems) was left out. I do not see this as a loss for Russia - not at all. The Syrian government was barely alive when Russia intervened just 10 month ago. It has now regained a lot of its land and capabilities. The U.S. and Israeli plans for a divided Syria have been warded. The strategic landscape has been changed. That's a lot of progress in a quite short time.
Surely Syria would like to be in a better situation, but its resources are limited and neither Russia nor Iran are willing to go all-in (and risk attacks on their homelands) to recover the last corners of the country. The deal with Turkey will prevent control of the U.S. over significant parts of Syria and the federalization of the country the neocons promote.
The Obama administration is unlikely to implement any new big plan with which it could regain the initiative. It will kick the can down the road and leave the problem to the next president. Meanwhile ISIS will stay alive but will, devoid of resources, continue to deteriorate. That apple will either fall down on its own or be an easy pick for a later time:
Decisional sources told me “Damascus and its allies are not willing to lose one single man to regain control of Raqqah. If the US wants with all its proxies, the Kurds or even Turkey to knock at the gate of Raqqah, they are most welcome to do so. Aleppo, mid Syria and its north are far more important than sending forces to be drained against ISIS that is just waiting to show a last show of strength before being whipped.
Open Thread 2016-29
News & views ...
NYT Laments Of Allegedly False Russian News Stories - With A False U.S. News Story
The New York Times is desperate for new readers and therefore tries to branch into the realm of The Onion and other satirical sites. It attempts to show that allegedly Russia controlled media spread false stories for political purpose - by providing a false media story. The purpose of the NYT doing such is yours to guess.
The sourcing of that Page 1 story is as weak as its content. It starts with claiming that opponents of Sweden joining NATO must be somehow Russia related and are spreading false stories:
As often happens in such cases, Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the false reports.
Duh! But it must have been Russia. Because Swedish internal opposition to joining NATO would be incapable of opining against it. Right? Likewise anti-EU reports and opposition to the EU within the Czech Republic MUST be caused by Russian disinformation and can in now way be related to mismanagement of the EU project itself.
The sourcing for the whole long pamphlet is extremely weak:
But they, numerous analysts and experts in American and European intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centerpiece of the foreign policy of President Vladimir V. Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 largely to forestall that possibility.
Whoa! "Experts in American and European intelligence" can of course be trusted not to ever spread false stories or rumors about Russia influencing "news". Such truth tellers they are and have always been.
Then follows, in a claim about false stories(!) spread by Russia, that factually false claim that Russia "invaded Georgia in 2008". It was obvious in the very first hours of the Georgia war, as we then noted, that Georgia started it. A European Union commission later confirmed that it was Georgia, incited by the Bush government, that started the war. The NYT itself found the same. All Russia did was to protect the areas of South Ossetia and Abchazia that it was officially designated to protect by the United Nations! No invasion of Georgia took place.
And what was the alleged reason that Russia "invaded" Georgia for? "Largely to forestall".."NATO expansion"? But it was NATO that rejected Georgia's membership in April 2008. Why then would Russia "invade" Georgia in August 2008 to prevent a membership that was surely not gonna happen?
Utter a-historic nonsense.
The who tale, written by Neil MacFarquhar, is a long list of hearsay where Russia is claimed to have influenced news but without ever showing any evidence.
Not mentioned in the story are:
- the systematic, extensive U.S government slanting of news through the Broadcasting Board of Governors and Voice of America and RFE/RL as well as through dozens of U.S. military financed "news" sites and social media fakes
- the extensive cooperation between the New York Times and the CIA with spying as well as with manipulating foreign news
- the acknowledged spreading of false stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq an behalf of the Bush administration by the NY Times itself.
As Carl Bernstein described in his book about the CIA and the media:
Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the [Central Intelligence] Agency were Williarn Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Tirne Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune.
By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.
Bernstein shows that the NYT cooperation with the U.S. government and its intelligence agencies was very extensive and continues uninterrupted up to today.
To lament about alleged Russian influence on some news outlets while writing a disinformation filled piece, based on "experts in American and European intelligence", for an outlet with proven CIA cooperation in faking news, is way beyond hypocrisy.
Through this piece the NYT becomes its own parody. Did the author and editors recognize that? Or are they too self-unconscious for even such simple insight?
The Turkish Invasion Of Syria As Path To "Regime Change"
The US-backed Turkish invasion of Syria with its proxies in tow now moves further into Syria to seize Al-Bab in a landgrab to create Erdogan's (and the U.S. neocon Brookings Institute's) long desired jihadi "safe haven"/"no fly zone" for al-Qaeda & friends to operate and stage from with impunity from Russian and Syrian airstrikes.
Al-Bab is a "backdoor" on key routes south to Aleppo from the Turkish border.
Turkish supplies for the Islamic Army of Conquest offensives in South Aleppo and Latakia: arms, ammo, supplies, even artillery, tanks have been reported as flowing like water over the Turkish border
Turkey is obviously not coordinating its incursion with the Syrian government which condemns it as a violation of its sovereignty. The Kremlin's impotent calls for Turkey to coordinate with Damascus while waving the old Geneva communique have been completely ignored. Unfortunately there is little they can do at this point without engaging in a full scale war with Turkey and the U.S. in Syria. Something the Kremlin lacks the will to do. Turkey/U.S. intend that their proxies take Aleppo as leverage in settlement negotiations to force Assad to step down, or partition if that fails.
Both the Turkish and FSA flags, (not the Syrian flag), were raised over "liberated" Jarablus
Securing the Jarablus corridor from a westward YPG advance in attempts to link their "cantons" east and west along the Turkish border prevents supply lines to "Syrian rebels" from Turkey from being cut. That's why Turkey has taken action here while however grudgingly accepting Kurdish control over large stretches of Syrian-Turkish border everywhere else without taking action. The ratlines to the "rebels" are Turkey's primary concern here. Kurds are an important but demonstratively second concern.
Turkey's incursion was backed by US air-cover, drones, and embedded special forces per the WSJ. These were there largely to prevent Russia and Syria from even thinking about taking action against the invading forces.
Turkey is moving into Syria not just with its own military, but with thousands of "rebel opposition groups" including US-backed FSA brigades allied with AlQaeda/Nusra/Sham and the child head-chopping al-Zinki who are reported to form the vanguard. Syrian territory is outright being turned over to them by the Turkish military, simply exchanging control from one group of terrorist jihadis (ISIS) to others who are more media acceptable and more direct proxies of the Erdogan regime, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
That said, ISIS has not resisted the Turkish advance at all - simply "melting away" (or exchanging one set of uniforms for another?). No stay-behinds, no suicide bombers, no IEDS, nothing. No fighting. Zero casualties. Turkish and "Syrian rebel" forces literally strolled in to Jarablus taking selfies and posing for cameras. Tag-team turnover.
The Kurdish YPG/SDF have proven that they have become nothing but lickspittle currs for the U.S., despite being betrayed, dutifully responding to the leash and withdrawing from Manbij which they bled for, and all positions east of the Euphrates on Biden's orders as he staged a press conference in Ankara with Erdogan. They have served their part in providing another layer of pretext for Turkey to invade Syria.
Layers of Pretext for Turkish invasion of Syria:
German Pro-Atlantic Paper Admits: Ghouta Sarin Attack Committed By Al-Qaeda
The German paper Die Welt is staunchly pro-NATO and pro-U.S. It always follows the official, conservative propaganda lines up to the dot on the last i. But in today's Sunday edition one of its well-connected journalists and department head argues for a change of direction on Syria. Assad is not going to go away and "the west" needs to accept that to prevent a Salafist take-over of that country.
Buried in the German language piece is this version of events of the 2013 Sarin attack in Ghouta and the "lack of response" by the Obama administration (my translation):
When on August 21 2013 the nerve gas Sarin was used in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, [Obama] had to make a decision. He ordered to prepare an attack by sea-launched cruise missiles. But the British secret service was in possession of a sampling of the used Sarin. An analysis showed it not to be Sarin from the Syrian regime, but from the inventory of al-Nusra. Obama dropped his plan.
There are several problems with this line of events. The British parliament had rejected an attack on Syria. The U.S. congress refused to authorize one. If Obama would have attacked, the Republicans would have, without doubt, started impeachment procedures against him. The domestic policy implications, not the origin of the Sarin, stopped Obama's attack plans.
The explanation of Die Welt reporter, that al-Nusra Sarin's was different from Syrian government Sarin, is also dubious. According to a recent extensive report based on interviews with an al-Qaeda aligned "rebel" in Syria, al-Qaeda acquired the Sarin from a storage facility of the Syrian regime when it conquered the Syrian base of Regiment 111 in late 2012. This was before the split of al-Nusra and the Islamic State. There would thus be no difference between "regime Sarin" and "al-Qaeda Sarin".
But even completely independent of the origin of the Sarin, U.S. missile experts had long concluded that the missiles which carried the Sarin in the attack could not have been fired from government held areas. Their range was simply too short. Thus the event must have been a false flag attack.
Nonetheless, the German newspaper analysis is a sign that the tide has turned and that the official "regime change" storm is calming down. The dismantling of a major official propaganda item, like the Sarin attack, points to the introduction of a new narrative. How that will develop further is yet to be seen.
The Childish Villain-ification Of Donald Trump
This pic comparing a young Donald Trump with a child figure in some old Nazi propaganda was posted by Doug Saunders, supposedly a serious international-affairs columnist at the Canadian Globe and Mail.
It is illogical, childish nonsense. But Saunders is by far the only one disqualifying himself as serious commentator by posting such bullshit. Indeed, the villain-ification of Donald Trump is a regular feature which runs through U.S. and international media from the left to the right.
A few examples:
Pinochet. Chavez. Trump? - Politico, Cher compares Donald Trump to Hitler at Clinton fundraiser - Foxnews, Cher Slams Trump At Clinton Fundraiser; Likens Him To Stalin - CBS, Cher Compares Trump to Mao - Newsbuster, Trump is the GOP's Frankenstein monster - Washington Post, Biden on Trump: ‘He woulda loved Stalin’ - USAToday, Huffington likens Trump to Kim Jong Un - MSN, What Hugo Chávez and Donald Trump have in common - Reuters, The best way to thwart Trump Vader - CNN, Warning From the Syrian Border: Trump Reminds Us a Bit Too Much of Assad - Rolling Stone, News Quiz: Trump Rally or Erdogan Event? - The Intercept, Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing - TPM, Trump’s not Hitler, he’s Mussolini - Salon, Media ethics writer compares Trump to Hitler - Politico, Donald Trump’s Insane Praise of Saddam Hussein - Daily Beast, Trump and Lenin - Miami Herald, Insult, provoke, repeat: how Donald Trump became America's Hugo Chávez - The Guardian, The Unstoppable Trump Monster - The Atlantic, Donald Trump is GOP's Dark Lord Voldemort - Townhall, Donald Trump is The Joker: Forget Mussolini and Hitler - Salon, Donald Trump’s Mansions and Saddam Hussein’s Palaces Are Basically the Same - Vanity Fair, Trump and Baghdadi Join Forces - Huffington Post, Echoes of Joe McCarthy in Donald Trump's Rise - RealClearPolitics, Donald Trump's bromance with Vladimir Putin - CNN, Trump's flirtation with fascism - Washington Post, The Maoism of Donald Trump - The New Yorker.
Is there any villain in U.S. (political) culture Donald Trump has not been compare to? Let me know what to search for.
Open Thread 2016-28
News & views ...
A Phony War On ISIS
Soldiers of the Turkish Land Forces engaged in intense firefights when entering Syria to dislodge the Islamic State from the border city of Jarablus. (Not.)
The Turkish HDP parliament member Hişyar Özsoy claims (vid) that the Turkish operation is to save ISIS from the Syrian Kurds, not to liberate Syria of ISIS or to secure the Turkish-Syrian border. There is some logic in that.
Kurds Lose Out As Neo-Ottoman Turks Steal Syria's Jarablus
Early this morning Turkey invaded Syria. A contingent of 1,500 Turkish sponsored "Syrian rebels", aka Islamist from all over the world, were accompanied by some Turkish special forces and twenty tanks to capture the city Jarablus at the Turkish-Syrian border. The move followed a night of artillery warm-ups and bombing raids. Shortly after noon the "Syrian revolution" flag and the Turkish banner(!) were raised over the city.
There was no resistance to the move. The Islamic State, which had been informed of the attack, had evacuated all fighters and their families out of Jarablus. (The families went to Raqqa but the fighters went where?) No shots were fired. As one commentator remarked: They even left mints on the pillows. The toleration of ISIS by Turkey, which includes some not so secret support, will likely continue.
The claimed aim of the Turkish move is to close the Turkish border to ISIS. That claim is obviously nonsense. The border can be closed on the Turkish side. To move the crossing point a few kilometers south does not change anything. The second, more plausible claimed aim, is to prevent the movement of the Kurdish YPG forces, under the U.S. assigned label SDF, towards west-Syria. Such a move would create a Kurdish statelet all along the Turkish border and endanger Turkey itself while it is fighting a Kurdish insurgency on its own ground.
The Kurds had announced the move west and recently taken the city of Manbij away from the Islamic State. This with the help of heavy U.S. bombardment. As part of their future plans a new SDF-Jarablus Military Council was announced yesterday. But the head of that entity was assassinated just three hours after the introductory press conference. The Kurds blamed the Turks for the killing. Today the Turkish government announced that it will not only take Jarablus but also Manbij and throw the Kurds back east behind the Euphrates river.
NYT Again Misreports On Iran - Claims Conflict With Russia Without Any Source
This NYT piece on Russia and Iran lacks any source for the main claim made in its headline and repeated in its first paragraph:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iran on Monday annulled permission for Russian planes to fly bombing runs into Syria from an Iranian base, only a week after having granted such extraordinary access, saying that the Kremlin had been unacceptably public and arrogant about the privilege.
Iran’s minister of defense, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, accused Russia of having publicized the deal excessively, calling the Kremlin’s behavior a “betrayal of trust” and “ungentlemanly.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, told reporters in Tehran that the permission had been temporary and “it is finished, for now.”
There is no source quoted in the piece that claims Iran "revoked" or "annulled permission". That is not too astonishing as no such claims were ever made in Iran. But how can the NYT claim that?
What really happened:
Russia has been using the Iranian Hamedan airbase on-and-off since at least last November. It is a way station and refueling point on flights from Russia to Syria and it was used to repair Russian airplanes that had this or that troubles:
A Russian Su-34 bomber landed at Hamadan Air Base on November 23rd, 2015. Most likely the Su-34 plane was en route to Syria and had a technical issue, preferring to land safely at Hamadan. There it was met by a technical team which arrived on November 24th, 2015, aboard an IL-76 cargo plane, and made repairs. Both planes left the Hamadan airbase.
Earlier this month Russia sent heavy long range bomber to Hamedan. There they refueled and were armed with large bomb loads. They flew the short trip to Syria to destroyed al-Qaeda positions in Idlib province. Russia, as well as Iran, knew that "western" governments would notice the stationing of the bombers. The planes are big and easily visible on satellite pictures. To preempt western propaganda over the issue they publicly announced the arrival.
Iran is traditionally very opposed to any foreign troops on its ground. Some 20 conservative opposition politicians in the Iranian parliament used the announcement to question the "moderate" Rohani government. Yesterday the Iranian defense minister lamented that the Russian announcement of the airbase use, made with Iranian knowledge, was too loud and too public. He now had to answer questions from parliament and no minister anywhere likes to do that. At no point did he claim that anything was "revoked". Meanwhile, and unrelated to the issue, the Russian's bombers were on their way home from their first round of sorties flown out of Hamedan.
This was a purely internal Iranian tussle and the Rouhani government only wanted to quiet the opposition on the issue. The remark by the defense minister was about style, not substance. How the NYT got from there to reporting that Iran "revoked" something is inexplicable.
Russian jets and bombers will soon be back in Hamedan, though now probably without big press announcements. Here is the confirmation from one of the highest ranking politicians in Iran:
Speaker of the Iranian Parliament has emphasized that flights of Russian fighter aircraft are still being performed from Nojeh airbase in Hamedan.
Ali Larijani made the remarks during the Parliament open session on Tuesday morning, when answering the comments of MP Mahmoud Sadeghi.
In response to the MP’s comments, Ali Larijani underlined that Russian jets are still carrying out military missions from the Iranian airbase; “Iran holds cooperation with Russia in the fight against terrorism and the alliance between the two countries would benefit Muslims in the region.”
Like with many of its other reports on Syria and Iran this NYT piece was again nearer to fiction than fact.
For the reality of the ongoing war, on the ground reported pieces based on local and historic knowledge are much more valuable than anything "western" mainstream media provide. To really understand the ongoing conflicts and alliances, non-mainstream pieces like this one - Washington’s Sunni Myth and the Middle East Undone - are invaluable and highly recommended. misreports
Syria - The U.S. Creates More Chaos While The Grown-Ups Talk Resolution
Last week a Chinese admiral visited Damascus and promised support. The Indian Minister of State for External Affairs also passed by. The Turkish deputy intelligence chief was there for secret talks. Earlier the Turkish president visited Russia and the Turkish foreign minister visited Tehran. Those are a lot of talks between big and important countries and players in the conflict over Syria. None of them, not even Barzani, is in the U.S. camp.
I assume that this outbreak of diplomacy, which bypassed Washington, led to concern that the U.S. might be left out of a resolution in Syria. It had to play a card of its own. That is the most likely explanation for the sudden clashes in Hasakah where the Syrian Kurdish YPG is suddenly determined to kick out the Syrian army garrison that protects the Arab population there. U.S. special forces are "advising" these Kurds.
The Syrian army garrison is cut off and the Kurds are well able to overwhelm it. They issued an ultimatum to the Syrian soldiers to either lay down arms or to die. The aim of this move is the creation of north-eastern block in Syria that is completely under Kurdish control (and sprinkled with new U.S. bases.) This would give the U.S. at least some control over the future of Syria. Somehow the U.S. must have talked or bribed the YPG Kurds into creating this statelet in north-eastern Syria. I believe that this is a severe miscalculation by the Kurds which they will come to rue. The U.S. is not a reliable friend and it will not defend the Kurds should the other actors turn against them with their whole might.
The Russians are currently trying to negotiate a new ceasefire in Hasakah and may well apply some pressure of their own. Earlier in the conflict it was the Syrian army and the Russians who supplied and supported the Kurds with weapons and ammunition to defend themselves against the Islamic State and the U.S. supported "moderate rebels". To now turn against these benefactors is treason.
The Turkish prime minister says that any such Kurdish statelet would be "unacceptable" for Turkey. Such a statelet would become the rear basis for the PKK Kurds fighting in Turkey for Kurdish autonomy. The PKK is killing a dozen Turkish security forces per week. But a fight against the Turkish state is one the PKK can not ever win. Only half of the Turkish Kurds, probably less, support them and even the political left in Turkey, which so far supported some kind of federation, is now turning against them. To involve the Syrian front into this fight, and thereby additional enemies, makes little sense.
With intensive U.S. air support the YPG Kurds recently kicked the Islamic State out of Manbij. The Islamic State fighters were allowed to evacuate together with their families. They will fight and kill on another day. North of Manbij on the border to Turkey lies Jarablus (the red dot on the map), currently also in the hands of the Islamic State. This is the next target of the Kurdish forces (purple) who want to annex the whole Syrian-Turkish border region from the east to the west up to the Mediterranean.
Map via ISW
Jarablus was a main supply point for ISIS as long as Turkey allowed goods and people to cross the border. That seems to have stopped, at least for any significant amounts. It is not for that reason the Turks will not allow that Kurds take the city. Turkish artillery is hitting Islamic State targets around Jarablus and a contingent of "moderate Syrian rebels", aka Islamist Turkmen from Central Asia, is preparing in Turkey to cross the border and to take Jarablus from the Islamic State. Some of the Turkish artillery strikes also hit YPG positions. Which side of that three way fight will the U.S. support? Will it, as one insane "expert" demands, bomb everyone for "moral symbolism" and to be seen as "willing to exercise its rightful superpower role?"
The U.S. meddling in Syria is creating more and more chaos. Soon everyone will be fighting everyone else. Is that the intent? Whatever - one can hope that those large, grown up, older nations - Russia, India, China and Iran - now align their plans and steer this conflict towards some saner, bearable solution.
Death Of Brother Of "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" Appears To Be An Add-On Fake
Related to the "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" stunt here is a little item that only increases my distrust of the truthfulness of the whole tale.
Abu Ali, the father of the child whose haunted face now peers out from newspaper pages across the world, described his family’s final night of normalcy in an interview with a Syrian activist on behalf of The Telegraph.
Contrary to the reports of the Aleppo doctors who treated Omran, the little boy is only three years old and not five. Omran has been released from the hospital along with his four siblings and all the children are quietly recovering, his father said.
Thank god all Omran’s family are safe. His mother had some bad injuries in her legs. His father suffered a minor head injury. His 7 year old sister went through a surgical operation this afternoon and she is doing well.
Note that there is no mentioning of an injured boy.
On Saturday The Telegraph's Middle East correspondent Raf Sanchez reported a quite different story than the one he himself had told just a day earlier:
It emerged Saturday that Omran Daqneesh’s older brother Ali had succumbed to injuries suffered in the same airstrike that propelled his sibling onto television screens across the planet.
Ali, 10, was out on the street when a Russian or Syrian regime bomb fell on his family’s building in Aleppo’s Qaterji neighbourhood on Wednesday.
While the rest of his family suffered minor injuries as their flat collapsed around them, Ali appears to have been more fully exposed to the bomb blast and died in hospital.
Omran’s father, who asked to be identified only by the nickname Abu Ali, meaning “father of Ali”, received mourners at the family’s temporary home on Saturday. Omran, three, and his three surviving siblings stayed inside the house as Abu Ali accepted condolences on the street.
The BBC noted:
The elder brother of Omran Daqneesh, the Syrian boy whose dazed and bloodied image shocked the world, has died of wounds sustained when the family home in Aleppo was bombed, activists say.
The Syria Solidarity Campaign said 10-year-old Ali "passed away today due to his injuries from the bombing of his house by Russia/Assad".
The second Telegraph piece is accompanied by the picture of a boy with what looks like a minor bloody (but completely uncleaned and not disinfected(!)) scratch on the upper left cheek. The eyes are closed and two tubes hang loosely from his mouth. A cardiogram sensor is fixed on the chest below his shoulder. The caption to that pic says "Ali (left) was killed in the blast ...". Is he really dead?
One day we learn from the father and others, that:
- all children, including Ali, are fine
- all are recovering
- all had left the hospital
The next day we learn that:
- Ali was severely injured
- Ali died of these injuries
- in a hospital (which ignores basic trauma care) that he apparently never left.
The Telegraph's stenographer, who wrote both stories, ignores these large contradictions between the two tales.
I for one believe that both stories are false and that the whole bombing and rescue incident never really happened but was staged. The "rescue" was a stunt and all stories around it, like the "dead Ali", are mere fairy-tales of various "activists" paid by this or that "western" propaganda campaign.
There was a time when newspapers like The Telegraph and other media employed journalists who followed up on stories and verified the claims made to them. For many media outlets that is obviously no longer the case. Today any "activist" can skype the stenographer from anywhere, tell a fantasy story of a bombing in east-Aleppo and have it printed. A day later he can call again with a totally different version of that fantasy story and have that printed too. No questions asked.
Is it any wonder that readers and viewers shun such media?
How The Hasakah Clashes End The Kurdish Nation Dreams
Severe fighting in Hasakah, in north-east Syria, continues between Syrian government forces and U.S. advised Kurdish YPG groups. It is still unclear why these clashes broke out after years of mostly peaceful co-existence in the city.
These clashes convince Turkey that the danger of a Kurdish state creation is imminent. This will unite the Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi hostile positions towards such plans. This unity ends the dreams of an independent Kurdish nation.
The YPG declared that it wants all Syrian government forces to leave Hasakah. But those forces are the sole protection of the large Assyrian (Christian) and other minorities in the city. These minorities fear to be ethnically cleansed by the Kurds who try to install their own state in the north of Iraq and Syria.
Map via ISW
The Syrian army and local auxiliary defense forces recruited from the minorities defend a large part of the city but are surrounded.
A recent second offer for a ceasefire by the governor of the province was the rejected by the YPG and its local Asayish proxy force. The YPG instead ordered reinforcements to the frontline.
U.S. special forces were in the area when the clashes started. Their role in these is mysterious. They nearly came under fire when Syrian Arab Army planes bombed some of the YPG positions. The U.S. command tried to directly contact the Syrian command to prevent the U.S. troops from being hit. The Syrian command did not respond. The U.S. then made a show of force with its air force to protect its troops. But those troops have absolutely no legal basis for their presence in Syria. They claim to be working with the YPG to fight the Islamic State, but the Islamic State is far from Hasakah which lies in the middle of a large Kurdish controlled area.
As even a mainstream German defense correspondent somewhat irritated asks:
No ISIS There - Are U.S. Troops In Hasakah "Advising" Kurds To Attack The Syrian Army?
Yesterday a fight broke out between Syrian Arab Army troops and local Kurdish forces in the predominately Kurdish city of Hasakah in north-eastern Syria. Hasakah, with some 200,000 inhabitants, has held a SAA garrison for years. There is some enmity between the Kurds and the soldiers but the situation is generally peaceful.
There have been earlier fights but these were local rivalries between Syrian auxiliary National Defense Forces from local Arab (Christian) minorities and some gangs who form a Kurdish internal security force under the label Asayish. Such fights usually ended after a day or two when grown-ups on both sides resolved the conflict over this or that checkpoint or access route.
The Islamic State (grey on the map) once threatened Hasakah but that danger is now far away.
Map via ISW
Yesterday another fight broke out, but got serious. The Syrian air force was called in to defend against direct attacks on the SAA garrison and minority quarters:
The "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" - Another Staged "White Helmets" Stunt
A boy, seemingly wounded, sits quietly in a brand new, very well equipped ambulance. At a point he touches what looks like a wound on his left temple. He shows no reaction to that touch.
The two minute video (also here), from which the pic is taken, shows the boy being handed from the dark above to some person in a rescue jacket and carried into the ambulance. There he sits quietly, unattended, while several people take videos and pictures of him. One other kids, not obviously wounded, is then carried to the ambulance.
As the story is told:
Open Thread 2016-27
News & views ...
Massive Russian Air Campaign To Stop U.S.-Al-Qaeda Attack On Aleppo
The west of Aleppo city has always stayed under control of the Syrian government. It inhabits about 1.5 million people. Over the last two weeks it has come into imminent danger of falling into Jihadi hands.
With large U.S. and Gulf supplies of new weapons, ammunition and intelligence some 10,000+ radical Jihadis, led by al-Qaeda in Syria, attacked Aleppo city. After several days they managed to break the south-eastern defense and created a small corridor into east-Aleppo. The area is besieged by government forces and under Jihadi control.
Aleppo as reported by "western" media
Several other large attacks followed but could barely be held back. The government forces are a mix of local defense units and auxiliaries from Afghanistan and Iraq. Their defenses seemed little prepared for the onslaught of suicide vehicles followed by mass infantry attacks. Moral was low and positions were given up without proper coordination.
The Syrian government and its allies could not use helicopters to support the defense as newly arrived MANPADs used by the Jihadis endanger any aircraft that flies low and slow.
To stop attacks and to prepare for counter moves valuable reserves had to be activated. Elite forces of the Lebanese Hizbullah and the Tiger brigade of the Syrian army were thrown into the battle. They managed to hold the Jihadi attacks for now but lack the mass to respond in kind.
The Russians have warned since April that such a large Jihadi offense was imminent, but it held back from any response while in talks with the U.S. administration. But the U.S. willingness to talk was largely a deception in support of the now ongoing attack.
The Jihadi campaign aims to occupy all of Aleppo city. It was named after a man who, in 1979, mass murdered a group of cadets belonging to a religious minorities. Should the Jidadis manage to win in Aleppo thousands of civilians will likely die. This would not only effect minorities. Aleppo is a Sunni city and the war is, contrary to "western" propaganda, not between religious minorities and the general Sunni population but between radical Sunni sects and their mainstream brethren.
About two weeks ago the Russian military openly prepared an appropriate response. Their most modern spy plane, a Tu 214R was send to Syria to collect targeting information. This in addition to two Il-20M reconnaissance planes already deployed there. Navy maneuvers along the Syrian coast as well as in the Caspian sea were prepared. Agreement with Iran about support measures were arranged.