Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 10, 2016

Kerry's "Please Make Assad Go" Begging Rounds Look Utterly Silly

Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top adviser on international affairs, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had asked "Iran to help so that Bashar Assad leaves.

"We should ask them: "What does this have to do with you? Shouldn't the Syrian people decide?'"

"From Iran's point of view Bashar Assad and his government should remain as a legal government and legal president until the end of his term. And Bashar Assad shall be able to take part in a presidential election as any Syrian citizen. And their precondition that Bashar Assad should go is a red line for us."
Jerusalem Post

I have wondered for quite a while why Kerry is running from door to door with this childish insistence that Bashar al-Assad has to leave as President of Syria.

Let's assume that Assad leaves tomorrow and is replaced with some other intelligent Syrian nationalist. Someone who, like Bashar al-Assad, has majority support of the Syrian people to continue the current course.

What would change?

Yes, Bashar Assad has some symbolic character for the Syrians fighting for their state. But a good inner-Syrian propaganda campaign could easily project a like picture onto a new face. The strategic interests and the policies involved in Syria would not change at all.

After the U.S. supported "rebels" broke the ceasefire by attacking government position in south of Aleppo and in Latakia the Syrian army is preparing for a big offensive. The aim is to free all of Aleppo governate from the "rebel" al-Qaeda menace. Changing the Syrian head of state would not change these military plans. They have, like national interests, their own logic.

Does Kerry understand how silly he looks when he makes these 'Please make Bashar al Assad go' rounds?

Posted by b at 09:40 AM | Comments (40)

April 09, 2016

Open Thread 2016-14

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:57 PM | Comments (231)

April 08, 2016

U.S. Delivers 3,000 Tons Of Weapons And Ammo To Al-Qaeda & Co in Syria

The United States via its Central Intelligence Agency is still delivering thousands of tons of additional weapons to al-Qaeda and others in Syria.

The British military information service Janes found the transport solicitation for the shipment on the U.S. government website FedBizOps.gov. Janes writes:

The FBO has released two solicitations in recent months looking for shipping companies to transport explosive material from Eastern Europe to the Jordanian port of Aqaba on behalf of the US Navy's Military Sealift Command.

Released on 3 November 2015, the first solicitation sought a contractor to ship 81 containers of cargo that included explosive material from Constanta in Bulgaria to Aqaba.
...
The cargo listed in the document included AK-47 rifles, PKM general-purpose machine guns, DShK heavy machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, and 9K111M Faktoria anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) systems. The Faktoria is an improved version of the 9K111 Fagot ATGW, the primary difference being that its missile has a tandem warhead for defeating explosive reactive armour (ERA) fitted to some tanks.

The Janes author tweeted the full article (copy here).

One ship with nearly one thousand tons of weapons and ammo left Constanta in Romania on December 5. The weapons are from Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. It sailed to Agalar in Turkey which is a military pier and then to Aqaba in Jordan. Another ship with more than two-thousand tons of weapons and ammo left in late March, followed the same route and was last recorded on its way to Aqaba on April 4.

We already knew that the "rebels" in Syria received plenty of weapons during the official ceasefire. We also know that these "rebels" regularly deliver half of their weapon hauls from Turkey and Jordan to al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra):

Hard-core Islamists in the Nusra Front have long outgunned the more secular, nationalist, Western-supported rebels. According to FSA officers, Nusra routinely harvests up to half the weapons supplied by the Friends of Syria, a collection of countries opposed to Assad, ..

U.S. and Turkey supported "rebels" took part in the recent attack on Tal al-Eis against Syrian government forces which was launched with three suicide bombs by al-Qaeda in Syria. This was an indisputable breaking of the ceasefire agreement negotiated between Russia and the U.S. It is very likely that some of the weapons and ammunition the U.S. delivered in December were used in this attack.

Millions of rifle, machine-gun and mortar shots, thousands of new light and heavy weapons and hundreds of new anti-tank missiles were delivered by the U.S.. Neither Turkey nor Jordan use such weapons of Soviet provenience. These weapons are going to Syria where, as has been reported for years by multiple independent sources, half of them go directly to al-Qaeda.

From historic experience we can be sure that the consequence of this weaponizing of takfiris will be not only be the death of "brown people" in the Middle East, but also attacks on "western" people and interests.

Skyscrapers falling in New York and hundreds of random people getting killed in Paris, Brussels, London and (likely soon) Berlin seem not enough to deter the politicians and "experts" that actively support this criminal war on Syria and its people.

Posted by b at 01:35 PM | Comments (59)

April 07, 2016

What Qualifies A Politician?

This seems to be unqualified reporting.

Washington Post April 6 2016

Washington Post April 7 2016

Anyway.

What does qualify a politician?

Posted by b at 11:52 AM | Comments (83)

April 05, 2016

Syria - As Rebels Break Ceasefire Army Gathers For New Campaign

The ceasefire in Syria held for some five weeks but is now about to end. During the ceasefire Russia reduced its forces in Syria and the Syrian Arab Army made significant progress against the Islamic State.  But the opposition and their sponsors abused the ceasefire to rearm. They prepared and executed new attacks against the Syrian government and Syrian civilians.

The sponsors of the opposition, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. delivered new arms and munition to the "moderate" opposition. It is known that up to half of all supplies the "moderates" receive is inevitably delivered to al-Qaeda in Syria. The sponsors also broke a long-standing taboo and introduced portable anti-air missiles (MANPADs) onto the battle field. Several fighters of the U.S. and Turkey supported Al Hamza brigade posted pictures showing off their new toys. The U.S. claims that these fighters are supposed to only fight the Islamic State. But the Islamic State has no aircraft and these weapons are clearly to be used against the Syrian government and its supporters.

Today Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist group near to al-Qaeda, downed (video) a Syrian Su-22 ground-attack plane with a MANPAD near the city of Tal Eis, south of Aleppo city. The pilot, Lt. Col Musad Zayed Hirani, was taken prisoner by al-Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al Nusra). This incident shows that MANPADs immediately proliferate on the battle field and beyond and may soon be used against civilian planes in the Middle East and around the world.

Also today "moderate" rebels launched improvised artillery attacks on the mostly Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood in the government held parts of Aleppo city. At least 17 civilians were killed and more than 50 were wounded.

The "moderate" opposition in Syria which is receiving official U.S. support is not willing to distance itself from al-Qaeda:

“We absolutely do not agree with Jabhat Al Nusra. We do not want Jabhat Al Nusra’s ideology to be in Syria now or in the future. But we need fighters who will fight with us against the regime," said Zakaria Malahefji, a political officer with Fastaqim Kama Umrit, a coalition of rebel groups in the city of Aleppo.
...
“Jabhat Al Nusra are our brothers," said Hajj Bakri, a rebel leader in Hama. “We have no problem with them."
...
“Our relationship with Jabhat Al Nusra is good and there is a collaboration with Jabhat Al Nusra in military operations and security responsibilities," said Abu Zeid, a commander with the hardline Salafi militia Ahrar Al Sham in north-western Syria’s Akrad Mountains. As one of the most powerful rebel factions in the war, Ahrar Al Sham is Al Nusra’s most important single ally.

Al-Qaeda in Syria was, like the Islamic State, not part of the ceasefire agreement. The U.S. officially regards al-Qaeda in Syria as a terrorist entity and enemy. Al-Qaeda has zero interest in any negotiated peace and is therefore doing its best to sabotage it. During the last weeks it succeeded in convincing the "moderates" to join it in renewed fighting:

Faced by an internationally-mediated cessation of hostilities that threatened to irreversibly erode its influence, Nusra had begun in mid-March a process of talks inside Syria aimed at convincing opposition groups to resume their fight against the regime. As such, the last 48 hours of opposition advances south of Aleppo represent a victory for al-Qaeda in its efforts to undermine the political process and to put back in place conditions more amenable to its long game strategy for Syria.

On Saturday several U.S. supported "moderate" rebel groups joined al-Qaeda in an attack on the government held city of Tal Eis in the south Aleppo countryside:

Syria's partial cease-fire appeared to be unraveling Saturday as fierce fighting between government forces and opposition fighters, including members of the al-Qaida affiliated Nusra Front, erupted outside the country's second largest city of Aleppo and other parts in the country's north.

At least 25 pro-government and 16 opposition fighters died in the clashes south of Aleppo, where the Nusra Front and rebel militias captured a village overlooking a major highway, a Britain-based monitoring group told The Associated Press.
...
A number of groups — including some nominally party to the truce agreement — acknowledged on social media that they were battling government forces.

The Islam Army, whose political coordinator heads the opposition delegation during halting peace talks in Geneva, announced it had killed 20 government soldiers in fighting outside Damascus Friday. It announced Saturday it was also fighting in the south Aleppo countryside, though the group is not known to have a major presence there.

It is obvious now that the "moderate" rebels have broken the ceasefire and are openly in full cooperation with al-Qaeda.

Unless the opposition sponsors manage to immediately reign in their proxies, all out war in Syria will soon be back. The Syrian government and its allies are now mobilizing more forces to regain the lost areas in the southern Aleppo country side. For the first time 'advisors' of the regular Iranian army (not the Revolutionary Guard) will take part in the fighting. The Russian air force is likely to reintroduce some parts of its Syria contingent that had been withdrawn.

The Russian side had agreed with the U.S. to stop the fighting and to take the political walk through negotiations in Geneva. This decision was made against the wishes of the Syrian government and its Iranian allies. They would have preferred to at least free Aleppo city of all opposition forces before any talks.

But even if the ceasefire now breaks down the Russian move was valuable. It showed that it is able to hold its allies to a ceasefire when promised. It also demonstrated that the U.S. side is either not able, or not willing to implement and keep a ceasefire but abuses such period to rearm its proxies for new fighting.

The coming Syrian government campaign, with full support of its allies, will likely be at a more intense level than its last offensive. That attack had the rebels on the run, defeated and in parts fleeing the battle field when it was stopped by the ceasefire agreement. The coming attack will be more intense and will not stop until the opposition has taken very significant damage.

Today the Syrian army issued a statement asking all civilians to leave the areas held by the opposition within the next 48 hours. It promises that the new campaign will "give a lesson" to al-Qaeda and its followers.

Posted by b at 10:14 AM | Comments (98)

April 04, 2016

Selective Leaks Of The #PanamaPapers Create Huge Blackmail Potential

A real leak of data from a law firm in Panama would be very interesting. Many rich people and/or politicians hide money in shell companies that such firms in Panama provide. But the current heavily promoted "leak" of such data to several NATO supporting news organization and a US government financed "Non Government Organization" is just a lame attempt to smear some people the U.S. empire dislikes. It also creates a huge blackmail opportunity by NOT publishing certain data in return for this or that desired favor.

Already some 16 month ago Ken Silverstein reported for Vice on a big shady shell company provider, Mossak Fonseca in Panama. (Pierre Omidyar's Intercept, for which Silverstein was then working, refused to publish the piece.) Yves Smith published several big stories about the Mossak Fonseca money laundering business. Silverstein also repeated the well known fact that Rami Makhlouf, a rich cousin of the Syrian president Assad, had some money hidden in Mossak Fonseca shell companies. He explains:

To conduct business, shell companies like Drex need a registered agent, sometimes an attorney, who files the required incorporation papers and whose office usually serves as the shell's address. This process creates a layer between the shell and its owner, especially if the dummy company is filed in a secrecy haven where ownership information is guarded behind an impenetrable wall of laws and regulations. In Makhlouf's case—and, I discovered, in the case of various other crooked businessmen and international gangsters—the organization that helped incorporate his shell company and shield it from international scrutiny was a law firm called Mossack Fonseca, which had served as Drex's registered agent from July 4, 2000, to late 2011.

A year ago someone provided tons of data from Mossak Fonseca to a German newpaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The Munich daily is politically on the center right and staunchly pro NATO. It cooperates with the Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and some other news organization who are all known supporters of the establishment.

The Sueddeutsche claims that the "leaked" data is about some 214,000 shell companies and 14,000 Mossak Fonseca clients. There is surely a lot of hidden dirt in there. How many U.S. Senators are involved in such companies? Which European Union politicians? What are the big Wall Street banks and hedge funds hiding in Panama? Oh, sorry. The Sueddeutsche and its partners will not answer those questions. Here is how they "analyzed" the data:

The journalists compiled lists of important politicians, international criminals, and well-known professional athletes, among others. The digital processing made it possible to then search the leak for the names on these lists. The "party donations scandal" list contained 130 names, and the UN sanctions list more than 600. In just a few minutes, the powerful search algorithm compared the lists with the 11.5 million documents.

For each name found, a detailed research process was initiated that posed the following questions: what is this person’s role in the network of companies? Where does the money come from? Where is it going? Is this structure legal?

Essentially the Sueddeutsche compiled a list of known criminals and people and organizations the U.S. dislikes and cross checked them with the "leaked" database. Selected hits were then further evaluated. The outcome are stories like the annual attempt to smear the Russian president Putin, who is not even mentioned in the Mossak Fonseca data, accusations against various people of the soccer association FIFA, much disliked by the U.S., and a few mentions of other miscreants of minor relevancy.

There is no story about any U.S. person, none at all, nor about any important NATO politician. The highest political "casualty" so far is the irrelevant Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson who, together with his wife, owned one of the shell companies. There is no evidence that the ownership or the money held by that company were illegal.

So where is the beef?

As former UK ambassador Craig Murray writes, the beef (if there is any at all) is in what is hidden by the organizations that manage the "leak":

The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is financed by the U.S. government through USAID.

The "leak" is of data selected by U.S. friendly organization out of a database, likely obtained by U.S. secret services, which can be assumed to include much dirt about "western" persons and organizations.

To only publish very selected data from the "leaked" data has two purposes:

  • It smears various "enemies of the empire" even if only by association like the presidents Putin and Assad.
  • It lets other important people, those mentioned in the database but not yet published about, know that the U.S. or its "media partner" can, at any time, expose their dirty laundry to the public. It is thereby a perfect blackmailing instrument.

The engineered "leak" of the "Panama Papers" is a limited hangout designed to incriminate a few people and organization the U.S. dislikes. It is also a demonstration of the "torture tools" to the people who did business with Mossak Fonseca but have not (yet) been published about. They are now in the hands of those who control the database. They will have to do as demanded or else ...

Posted by b at 12:25 AM | Comments (287)

April 02, 2016

U.S. CentCom History: "2014 - Syrian Terrorist Group ISIS Invades Iraq"

Significant parts of the U.S. military, its secret services and its politicians want to deny any culpability in the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Thus they resort to extreme falsifications of historical facts. They create fantasy narratives that completely leave out their own mistakes.

The U.S. Central Command created a coalition of several countries' military to wage war on ISIS. The operation is known under the the moniker "Inherent Resolve". CentCom created a website that propagandizes the operation. On the About page of that website we find this "History" of ISIS:


bigger

HISTORY

In the summer of 2014, a new terrorist group which had risen during the chaos of the Syrian Civil War attacked across the Syrian-Iraqi borders and seized large swaths of Iraqi territory in the Euphrates River Valley and northern Iraq. Several Iraqi towns fell to the invaders, who called themselves “The Islamic State.” By the end of summer, it seemed that Baghdad itself was threatened by IS.

This is not only far away from the truth but an outrageous fabrication to deny and distort what really happened. ISIS was not created in Syria but in Iraq, it existed way before 2014 and its existence has nothing to do with war on Syria. To state that ISIS somehow came from Syria and in 2014 invaded Iraq is like claiming that Hitler invaded Germany in 1944.

ISIS was created in Iraq due to the U.S. war on Iraq. The leading ISIS members, former Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters, found each other and planned the creation of ISIS Caliphate in 2006 in the U.S. prisoner camp Bucca in Iraq:

According to a CBS News investigation, at least 12 of the top leaders of ISIS served time at Camp Bucca, including the man who would become the group's leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. CBS News obtained photos of 10 of them in Bucca's yellow prison jumpsuits.
...
"I think it's undeniable that one of the main causes of ISIS's explosive growth after 2010 was Bucca. It's where they met, it's where they planned," said Patrick Skinner.

Skinner is with the Soufan Group and was a former CIA case officer who spent time in Iraq.

It is undeniable that ISIS started in Iraq years before the war on Syria:

October 2006 - AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri announces the creation of Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and establishes Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its leader.

April 2010 - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes leader of ISI after Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri are killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation.

April 2013 - ISI declares its absorption of an al Qaeda-backed militant group in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front. Al-Baghdadi says that his group will now be known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani rejects ISIS's attempt to merge with the group.

The above CNN timeline jumps over 2011 when the Al-Nusra's leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani was sent by al-Baghdadi to Syria from Iraq to reorganize Al-Qaeda cells that were secretly established in Syria long before the first demonstrations there took place. Al-Jawlani, who had also been imprisoned in Camp Bucca, came to Syria in March 2011 when the first demonstrations against the Syrian government just started:

A leader of Jordan’s ultra-Orthodox and banned Salafi movement said al-Baghdadi sent al-Golani and Abu Jleibeen, a senior al-Qaeda operative who has a relationship by marriage to al-Zarqawi, to fight in Syria, ..

Like Ahrar al-Shams, Jabhat Al-Nusra cells were secretly establishing themselves even before the "revolution" in Syria began:

The Ahrar started working on forming brigades “after the Egyptian revolution,” Abu Zayd said, well before March 15, 2011, when the Syrian revolution kicked off with protests in the southern agricultural city of Dara’a.

To claim that the Islamic State somehow started in Syria, as CentCom does, is to claim the opposite of what really happened. The Islamic State under Baghdadi sent fighters and leaders to Syria to created and prop-up the "revolution" against the Syrian state. The religious and philosophical roots of ISIS are grounded in Wahhabism and are of Saudi, not Syrian or Iraqi, origin.

Another fake history story is build by the CIA elements and U.S. politicians who launched the war on Syria from the "color revolution" side. Witness this astonishingly false CBS headline: Obama Nixed CIA Plan That Could Have Stopped ISIS: Officials

The CIA in 2012 proposed a detailed covert action plan designed to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, but President Obama declined to approve it, current and former U.S. officials tell NBC News.
...
[The CIA chief] Petraeus and others who supported the plan believe it could have prevented the rise of ISIS, Assad's use of chemical weapons, the European refugee crisis and the tens of thousands of civilian deaths that have happened since, the former officials say.

Overthrowing the Syrian government would have created more chaos in Syria which very likely the Islamic State, already established in Syria at that time in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra, would have used to take Damascus and to gain primacy in Syria. Everything else is pure wishful thinking which ignores the military superiority the Takfiri groups like Ahrar, Nusra and ISIS have always had compared to the "moderate" Jihadist rebels that have direct U.S. support. The CBS piece is also about the former CIA man who was the original author of the covert action plan. He seems to disagree with what the CBS headline claims:

Looking back, Laux now says he doesn't believe his or any other covert plan could have stopped the rise of ISIS or ended Syria's bloody civil war. "There were no moderates," he says.

It is frightening to think that Central Command, which is supposed to fight the Islamic State, might believe its own propaganda, that ISIS came from Syria. One can not successfully fight ISIS when one does not know its real origin: the U.S. war on Iraq and CentCom's own meager to ignorant performance during that war.

Posted by b at 11:45 AM | Comments (63)

April 01, 2016

Open Thread 2016-13

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (168)

March 31, 2016

Chicken Propaganda (Graphic)

This circulates as the picture of a Sunni boy slaughtered by Iran led Shia militia in Fallujah, Iraq.

But like many pictures and videos from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere this one does not show the full extend of the massacre.

More pictures of the boy ...

Cont. reading: Chicken Propaganda (Graphic)

Posted by b at 06:08 AM | Comments (45)

March 30, 2016

How The U.S. Continues To Arm al-Qaeda

Exhibit 1

According to rebels in the Turkish border zone, weapons have flowed steadily into Syria since the ceasefire began. Even those who hope for a political settlement aren’t betting on one any time soon. Instead they’re stockpiling for the next round, which they expect will be as desperate as the last.
...
“We ask the Friends of Syria and they give us,” [Colonel Hassan Rajoub, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Division 16], said with a smile. “They have just now given us new supplies of everything. But we want some special weapons to give us a little bit of leverage.”
...
[S]everal FSA commanders said the United States had been forthcoming during the ceasefire period, replenishing arms stocks and leaving open the possibility that some anti-aircraft missiles might be released into northern Syria.

“We expect a surprise,” said one satisfied commander.
...
“The U.S. military commanders are always with us,” Rajoub said. “We ask. They are very cooperative. They understand our needs.”

---
Around Aleppo, It’s Not Peace—Just a Break, Thanassis Cambanis, Century Foundation, March 28 2016

Exhibit 2

Hard-core Islamists in the Nusra Front have long outgunned the more secular, nationalist, Western-supported rebels. According to FSA officers, Nusra routinely harvests up to half the weapons supplied by the Friends of Syria, a collection of countries opposed to Assad, and has regularly smashed FSA factions that were corrupt and inefficient — or that Nusra thought were getting too strong or too popular.
---
The Syrian Revolution Against al Qaeda, Thanassis Cambanis, Foreign Policy, March 29 2016

Posted by b at 12:19 PM | Comments (31)

March 29, 2016

Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention - by Richard Galustian

The extensive piece below on the situation in Libya is by Richard Galustian, a long time Middle East and North African security specialist and author. In February we discussed the whitewash U.S. media is giving Hillary Clinton and the U.S., British and French 2011 war on Libya. In March we borrowed from Richard Galustian's work in and on Libya for a look at some curious personal interests in the current build up to a sequel of the earlier war.

Galustian discusses the situation on the ground in Libya, the details of the various local groups and interests involved and the continuing and coming international interference in Libya. He analyses possible alternative steps forward. His thoughts on the subject are based on his extensive on-the-ground knowledge of the tribes and militias of Libya. This presents a unique insight into the most complex labyrinth of inter-connected Libyan and foreign interests.

---

Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention

by Richard Galustian

It is something that had never happened in any country since the formation of the United Nations. The UN has, without an election, created unilaterally its own government for a country, and then immediately recognized it. The Government of National Accord, the GNA for Libya is a government based in exile and not elected but chosen by the "International Community".
 
A concerted effort over Easter for the GNA in exile in Tunis to 'take power' in Tripoli failed completely despite the spin and false optimism of the UN and the U.S. and UK in particular.
 
Let's rewind a little.
 
The recent United Nations plan to bring peace to Libya and eliminate ISIS was/is a two stage process fraught with great risk, uncertainty and is poorly thought out.
 
First is to persuade Libya’s factions to unite under a Government, the GNA while it is in exile. Second, to provide weapons, training and air support for a newly united Libyan army to attack ISIS. 
 
These are totally unrealistic expectations that will never happen.
 
The background needs to be understood. The critical fact being that Libya’s main factions are divided into two very loose camps.
 
One camp supports the elected parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk. The other is made up of the previous parliament, the General National Congress (GNC) and supports 'Libya Dawn', an Islamist-led coalition of militias that include the extremist elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) revolutionaries. The LIFG is an al-Qaeda offshoot.
 
Civil war began in July 2014 when 'Libya Dawn' seized Tripoli by force after the elections saw sharp losses for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies including notably former leader of the LIFG, the infamous Abdel Hakim Belhadj, currently suing in the London Courts the then Foreign Minister and MI-6. 
 
The HoR won international recognition straight after the UN announced its election was free and fair, but under intimidation (that's when Islamists destroyed Tripoli International Airport etc) from militias, the HoR fled east to Tobruk.
 
To further complicate the situation one must realize that within these two camps are a lattice work of rivalries and tribal divisions.
 
Libya has no ‘third force’ of police or army acceptable to all sides. The militias are the third force! Essentially they represents 'guns for hire'. The army and police are first and second.
 
The problem for the international community is while destroying ISIS is their stated priority, both Libya’s rival camps see each other as the greater threat. ISIS is a threat, but neither camp believes it is an existential threat, so the priority for both camps is fighting each other.
 
 
    1.1 In Derna,1.2 In Sirte,1.3 In Sabratha
2 Tobruk (HoR) Government Forces
    2.1 Regular forces, 2.2 Petroleum Facilities Guard, 2.3 Zintan + Warshefa militias
3 'Libya Dawn'
    8.1 Sanctions - stop and search ships and planes, 8.2 Muslim Brotherhood, 8.3 Libyan Institutions, 8.4 Benghazi
Conclusion

Map of Libya, Oil and gas locations
 
 
1 ISIS in Libya
 
Bases: Derna, Sirte, Sabratha; Strength: 6,000 (Pentagon estimate)
 
1.1 In Derna
 
ISIS arrived in Libya in the summer of 2014 and established control of the eastern town of Derna, aided by a Yemeni preacher and a group of 200-300 ISIS fighters, many of them Libyan, includes many of the Al Badr Brigade, which had fought in Syria and Ansar Al Sharia whom some credit for killing the US Ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi.
 
In June 2015 a mixed force of regular army and an Al Qaida affiliated militia, Omar Mukhtar Brigade, pushed ISIS out of the town to its base in the forested green mountains to the south, the only high ground in the East.

Cont. reading: Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention - by Richard Galustian

Posted by b at 10:17 AM | Comments (56)

March 28, 2016

Syria - How The Palmyra Victory Changes the Narrative

The liberation of Palmyra is a decisive turning point in the war on Syria. While there were earlier military successes by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the publicity value of securing the valued Roman ruins of Palmyra is much higher than any earlier victory. It will change some of the false narratives of the conflict.

The Syrian government is no longer "the Assad regime" and the Syrian Arab Army no longer the "Assad forces". Ban Ki Moon, the head of the United Nations, congratulated the Syrian government to its success:

In a news conference in Jordan, Ban said he was "encouraged" that the UNESCO world heritage site is out of extremist hands and that the Syrian government "is now able to preserve and protect this human common cultural asset".

One important part of liberating Palmyra was the use of Russian electronic warfare equipment to interfere with electromagnetic signals around Palmyra. The Islamic State rigged the ruins with improvised explosive devices but was unable to remotely detonate them.

The myth that the Syrian and Russian government are in cahoots with the Islamic State, told by various propagandist as well as the British and U.S. government, has now proven to be false. But other false claims are still made:

Lost in the celebrations was a discussion of how Palmyra had fallen in the first place. When the Islamic State captured the city in May, the militants faced little resistance from Syrian troops. At the time, residents said officers and militiamen had fled into orchards outside the city, leaving conscripted soldiers and residents to face the militants alone.

That depiction of the battle is pure nonsense. The Islamic State offensive that ended with its occupation of Palmyra took thirteen days from May 13 to May 26 2015. Heavy fighting and several Syrian army counter offensives took place during those days. After the Islamic State finally captured the city, the Syrian army immediately prepared for a larger operation to regain the city. This was launched successfully in July 2015 but for lack of air support the gains made were again lost a week later.

Throughout the 2015 fighting around Palmyra the U.S. air force, which claimed to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, did not intervene at all. ISIS was free to resupply through the open east-Syrian desert.

The sole reason that the Islamic State could successfully attack Palmyra was a very large ongoing attack by al-Qaeda Jihadists and CIA mercenary forces on the Syrian government forces in Idleb governate. The Syrian army moved troops from Palmyra to defend Idleb and Latakia and the forces left behind were no longer large enough to repel the Islamic State attack.

The attack on Idleb, for which the CIA allowed its proxy forces to directly cooperated with al-Qaeda, was supported by electronic warfare from Turkey which disrupted the Syrian military communication. The attack and the obvious cooperation between the Jihadists and Turkish and U.S. secret services was the reason that Russia and Iran decided to intervene in the conflict with their own forces. It had crossed their red line.

What followed was the roll up of all "rebels" that posed an immediate danger to the Syrian government. After Turkey ambushed a Russian jet all "rebel" forces supported by Turkey became priority targets. When the success of large scale offensives in Latakia and around Aleppo was established, Russia imposed a cease fire on the U.S. supported forces and on the Syria government. This cease fire freed up the Syrian, Iranian and Russian forces needed to successfully take back Palmyra. From there on the attack will progress eastward to Deir Ezzor and later on to Raqqa.

The Palmyra victory was the biggest defeat yet of the Islamic State. It poses a problem for the Obama administration:

Washington has endeavored to portray the battle against Islamic State as a project of the United States and its allies, while accusing Moscow of attacking “moderate” rebels instead of the extremists. Palmyra seems to embody an alternative narrative.

Congratulations, though still with loads of obligatory anti-Assad rhetoric, are now coming from unexpected corners like the conservative mayor of London:

I cannot conceal my elation as the news comes in from Palmyra and it is reported that the Syrian army is genuinely back in control of the entire Unesco site.

There may be booby traps in the ruins, but the terrorists are at last on the run. Hooray, I say. Bravo – and keep going.

I concur.

Posted by b at 05:50 AM | Comments (93)

March 27, 2016

Palmyra's Liberation, Ishtar's Resurrection And The Easter Walk

The Syrian Arab Army and its allies have taken the Palmyra ruins and Tadmor city next to them from the Islamic State. To the chagrin of the U.S. State Department (vid), the Islamic State occupiers pulled back into the eastern desert after losing some 500 men. The Syrian government can now use the air base in Palmyra and from there regain control of the eastern desert country up to Deir Ezzor and the Syrian/Iraqi border in the east and towards the Jordan border in the south.

The Easter holidays and the fertility symbols of the hare and the eggs are said to be derived from the Germanic goddess Eostre or Ostara. But it is probably more likely that they derive from the older Mesopotamian goddess of Ishtar:

Ishtar is the Mesopotamian East Semitic (Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the earlier attested Sumerian Inanna, and the cognate for the later attested Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte. Ishtar was an important deity in Mesopotamian religion which was extant from c.3500 BC, until its gradual decline between the 1st and 5th centuries AD in the face of Christianity.

Interestingly the myth of Ishtar includes her descent into the underworld of death and her resurrection and return to life after higher divine intervention:

One of the most famous myths about Ishtar describes her descent to the underworld. In this myth, Ishtar approaches the gates of the underworld and demands that the gatekeeper open them.  ... The gatekeeper hurried to tell Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. Ereshkigal told the gatekeeper to let Ishtar enter, but "according to the ancient decree". The gatekeeper let Ishtar into the underworld, opening one gate at a time. At each gate, Ishtar had to shed one article of clothing. When she finally passed the seventh gate, she was naked. ...

After Ishtar descended to the underworld, all sexual activity ceased on earth. The god Papsukal reported the situation to Ea, the king of the gods. Ea created an intersex being called Asu-shu-namir and sent it to Ereshkigal, telling it to invoke "the name of the great gods" against her and to ask for the bag containing the waters of life. Ereshkigal was enraged when she heard Asu-shu-namir's demand, but she had to give it the water of life. Asu-shu-namir sprinkled Ishtar with this water, reviving her. Then, Ishtar passed back through the seven gates, getting one article of clothing back at each gate, and was fully clothed as she exited the last gate.

Ishtar brings us back to Palmyra which hails from the same age:

Palmyra entered the historical record during the Bronze Age around 2000 BC, when Puzur-Ishtar the Tadmorean (Palmyrene) agreed to a contract at an Assyrian trading colony in Kultepe. It was mentioned next in the Mari tablets as a stop for trade caravans and nomadic tribes, such as the Suteans.

Today there is a hotel named Ishtar just a two minute walk away from the ruins of Palmyra. Book it for your next years Easter holiday.

For me Easter (or Ishtar?) is no Easter without rereading Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Easter Walk from his Faust I opus:

Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,

Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.

They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.

For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world's night,
All have come out to the day's broad light.

The people of Syria, of Palmyra/Tadmor, have good reason to celebrate today. And to take a happy Easter walk. Happy Easter!

Posted by b at 05:21 AM | Comments (67)

March 26, 2016

The Wahhabis' War On Yemen One Year On - When Will Riyadh Fall?

One year ago the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, supported by the U.S., the Brits and several Gulf states, launched a war against Yemen:

Yesterday the Houthi led rebellion had kicked the Saudi/U.S. installed president Hadi out of the country and took control over most of its cities including the southern capital Aden. The Houthi are allied with the former president Saleh, himself a Houthi and replaced two years ago with his vice president Hadi after a U.S. induced light coup. Saleh and the Houthi are supported by significant parts of the Yemeni army.
...
There seems to be the idea that Saudi/U.S. selected president Hadi, out now, could be reintroduced through force. The U.S. claims that Hadi was "elected" but with a ballot like this any "election" is a mere joke. There is no way Hadi can be reintroduced by force.

A year later the Houthis are no longer in Aden. Saudi proxy troops, which include "western" mercenaries, "liberated" it. But Aden is now infested with Al Qaeda and Islamic State militants who launched several suicide attacks over the last days killing many more people than were recently killed in Belgium. It is known that at least Al Qaeda in Yemen has direct Saudi support and is fighting on its side.

But despite all its proxies, massive bombing and many announcements the Saudis did not get anywhere near the capital Sanaa. Instead Houthi forces attacked Saudi forces within Saudi Arabia and destroyed several hundred Saudi tanks and armored vehicles.

The Saudis and the U.S. and British military supporting them are guilty of war crimes willfully targeting hospitals, schools and civilian infrastructure as well as many people who were not involved in the war. Haykal Bafana talked to BBC Newshour today from Sanaa in Yemen about the war and the Saudi crimes.

Shortly before the war started Pat Lang wrote:

The Houthi descendants of my old acquaintances are not servants of Iran. They are not dangerous to Western interests. They are dangerous to AQAP. Get it? Salih will return. pl

That is as right today as it was a year back. Here are some pictures from Yemen today.

A pro-Saudi demonstration in Yemen as published by Saudi media:

Half of the anti-Saudi demonstration on Sabaeen Square in Sanaa (video) today. Saleh's GPC party had called for it. Former president Saleh attended and the crowd sang the national anthem. Saleh is baaaackk!:

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A separate anti-Saudi demonstration in Rawdah Sanaa. The Houthi had called for this one. Many women attended:

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The Saudis managed to bomb the Yemenis back to Saleh! If the Saudis continue with their war on Yemen, Yemen will survive. But it will be Saudi Arabia that will at the end be destroyed. Riyadh, not Sanaa, will fall.

Posted by b at 01:27 PM | Comments (59)

March 25, 2016

Roundup Of Current News On Syria

In January the Jordan King Abdullah talked to a bunch of U.S. lawmakers behind closed doors. He accused Turkey of willfully transferring "refugees" and terrorists to Europe and of doing oil business with ISIS.

Those well founded accusations is not new for anyone who actually followed the issue. What is new is that some U.S. lawmaker felt a need to leak this now:

King Abdullah of Jordan accused Turkey of exporting terrorists to Europe at a top level meeting with senior US politicians in January, the MEE can reveal.

The king said Europe’s biggest refugee crisis was not an accident, and neither was the presence of terrorists among them: “The fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy and Turkey keeps on getting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

Asked by one of the congressmen present whether the Islamic State group was exporting oil to Turkey, Abdullah replied: ”Absolutely.”
...
The king presented Turkey as part of a strategic challenge to the world.

"We keep being forced to tackle tactical problems against ISIL but not the strategic issue. We forget the issue [of] the Turks who are not with us on this strategically."

He claimed that Turkey had not only supported religious groups in Syria, and letting foreign fighters in, but had also been helping Islamist militias in Libya and Somalia.

Abdullah claimed that "radicalisation was being manufactured in Turkey" and asked the US senators why the Turks were training the Somali army.

That Turkey is supporting Jihadis not only in Syria but also in Libya and in the Balkans has been documented but was missing from main stream news. We can hope that some of the bigger media will now pick up on this.

In Syria the Syrian Arab Army is proceeding to envelope the Islamic State held city of Tadmur/Palmyra. It is systematically taking the heights around the city but has not yet brought the fighting deeper into the city. The Islamic State fighters have defended well so far but have no means to counter the heavy Syrian and Russian air strikes that support the ground troops. They are losing a lot of men. There are strong sandstorms announced for the next 72 hour which will make further air support impossible. The Syrian troops would be well advised to hunker down along defensible lines for now and to only take on the city once the sandstorms are over and air support is again available.

In south-west Syria, right next to the Israeli and Jordan border, Shuhada al-Yarmouk is fighting and making gains (map) against U.S. supported insurgents. Shuhada al-Yarmouk is believed to be part of the Islamic State. It has never officially announced such but is led by a known Islamic State commander. One wonders how the group, completely cut off from other Islamic State held areas in east-Syria, can resupply and take care of its wounded. In the past Israel had supported and supplied Jabhat al-Nusra fighters on the Golan heights against the Syrian army. Is it now supporting the Islamic State against U.S. supported insurgents in south Syria?

The talks between Secretary of State Kerry and The Russian President and Foreign Minister have brought no immediate new results. But it is important to see that the U.S. now has to admit that its attempt to "isolate" Russia has failed:

His mission in Moscow centred on Syria, but Kerry also ushered in a warm front, interpreted as a softening of the often-hostile rhetoric between the U.S. and Russia.

Both parties confirmed the UN timetable for steps to be taken by the Syrian government and the opposition. The Russians again emphasized that the Kurdish people in Syria must be involved in the talks. At the same time they warned the Syrian Kurds that any element of autonomy or federation will likely be much less than they envision:

MOSCOW, March 25. /TASS/. Moscow is explaining in its contacts with Kurds that Syria is an indivisible country that should not be broken into parts, Russia's presidential envoy on the Middle East and North Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters on Friday.

One should ignore all the claims that Russia wants to federalize Syria. I see no evidence for that and I believe that Russia knows well that any federalization would be more troublesome than a centralized Syrian state.

Posted by b at 01:00 PM | Comments (38)

Open Thread 2016-12

Judas: Still on for Friday?
Jesus: Friday?
Judas: Yeah, the last supper.
Jesus: The what?
Judas: Supper, normal supper with the fellas.

---

News & views ...

Posted by b at 10:42 AM | Comments (141)

March 24, 2016

Clinton's Plan To "Defeat ISIS" Is A Threat

Hillary Clinton's three part plan to defeat ISIS is to:

  • Defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria
  • Destroy ISIS everywhere
  • Prevent ISIS attacks in the U.S.A.


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That plan, to me, seems similar to George W. Bush's plan to defeat the Taliban which was to defeat the Taliban. Or maybe more like Nixon's plan to defeat drugs which had nothing to do with drugs but was actually a plan to criminalize blacks and antiwar hippies.

The real motive behind the above Clinton nonsense may be the interest of the powers-that-are to keep the war on ISIS going forever. Obama already did his best to establish ISIS. He refrained from fighting it in its infancy in 2012, refrained from holding it back in Iraq to "regime change" Prime Minister Maliki and kept its revenues flowing until Putin shamed him into finally bombing its oil infrastructure.

Clinton's plan, which declares only aims without any steps to reach them, would mean endless wars in this or that Middle East country and/or in Africa or Asia. It means further suppression of any privacy and opposition at home.

It is not a plan but a threat. Will she win votes with such nonsense?

Posted by b at 02:22 AM | Comments (109)

March 22, 2016

Mr. Trump Goes To Washington

Donald Trump toured Washington yesterday for backroom meetings with Republican party bigwigs, for pandering to the Israel lobby and for an examination by the neoconned Washington Post editors.

The Republican party has given up its resistance to Trump. See for example the Republican functionary John Feehery who opined on February 29 that Trump is an authoritarian, and:

We beat the Nazis and the Japanese in the World War II and protected freedom and democracy by beating the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It would be a damn shame if we lost it all by giving in to the authoritarian impulse in this election.

The same guy only twenty-two days later:

Republican voters can support the nominee picked by a majority of the voters, they can sit this election out, or they can start a third party. The last two choices give the White House to the Clinton machine.

I am not happy that Donald Trump could be our nominee, but I am learning to live with that distinct possibility.

That, in short, is the revised position of the Republican party. It has given up on fighting Trump and will now propel him into the White House. What will happen thereafter? Who knows?

Trump is pure marketing. A salesperson throughout. This video explains how his linguistics works - words with only very few syllables, strong buzzword at the end of the sentences. It is fourth grade reading level language. Exactly the level needed to sell his product to the U.S. public and the Republican party. He is an expert in doing this.

But what product does Trump sell? Does he know it? Does he know how that product functions? Is he serious in what he claims that product to be. I have my doubts.

So has Par Lang. He remarks on yesterday's Trump appearance at the U.S. Zionists beauty contests:

Trump's pander was so extreme that one ponders the possibility that he was mocking the audience.

Trump probably does not even care what political product he sells. For now he is selling the salesman himself. Buy Trump and all problems will be solved. He does this convincingly. Most of what he said so far is just nonsense and solely for marketing purpose. There are only few consistent political lines that did not (yet) change over time. These are the lines that rile the Washington Post editors:

Donald Trump endorsed an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs Monday during a day-long tour of Washington, casting doubt on the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and expressing skepticism about a muscular U.S. military presence in Asia.
...
“At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?’ ” Trump said in the editorial board meeting. “I know the outer world exists, and I’ll be very cognizant of that. But at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially the inner cities.”

Trump said U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, breaking with nearly seven decades of consensus in Washington. “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” he said, adding later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”

To this the editors opine:

Unfortunately, the visit provided no reassurance regarding Mr. Trump’s fitness for the presidency. “I’m not a radical person,” he told us as he was leaving. But his answers left little doubt how radical a risk the nation would be taking in entrusting the White House to him.

But who are the real radicals, the real radical risk? The salesperson Trump or the neoconned Washington Post publisher and editors? You may judged that from this excerpt at the end of the talk's transcript:

[FREDERICK RYAN JR., WASHINGTON POST PUBLISHER]: You [MUFFLED] mentioned a few minutes earlier here that you would knock ISIS. You’ve mentioned it many times. You’ve also mentioned the risk of putting American troop in a danger area. If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?

TRUMP: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

RYAN: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS? [CROSSTALK] ...

The salesperson stopped there. Instead of answering that question Trump asked for personal introduction to the people taking part in the event. To nuke some lunatics in Toyota technicals is not Trumps idea of his product. He would not sell that. Not even for gaining the support of the WaPo neocons.

Buying Trump is buying a pig in a poke. One does not know what one might get. But I find it unlikely that he would pursue an interventionist policy. Then again - George W. Bush also pretended to be a non-interventionist - until that changed.

But Trumps current non-interventionist position is a big contrast to Hillary Clinton. She unashamedly offers her well known toxic brew of neo-liberal and neo-conservative orthodoxy. She will wage war, Trump may. As a foreigner that is the decisive difference to me.

But if I were a voter in the U.S. my position would be based on economic policies. There Bernie Sanders is surely preferable to Trump and very much preferable to Clinton.

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (115)

March 21, 2016

How Do Weekly Demonstrations Indicate A Lack Of Free Speech?

This sentence, in a typical Guardian human rights sniveler piece about Cuba, has me confused:

“I’ve been detained and beaten countless times,” said Eralidis Frómeta Polanco, an activist who turned up in the all-white clothes of the demonstrators, who march silently along 5th Avenue each week in protest at the lack of freedom of expression. [emphasis added]

What actual "freedom of expression" do these people claim to lack? It is obviously not the freedom to publicly demonstrate each week. So what is it?

My hunch is that these are the typical rabble rousing agitators who accompany each and every U.S. "regime change" attempt. By promoting these the Guardian is propagandizing the weaponization of human rights. "Regime change", chaos and atrocities are allowed if done behind the veil of promoting a few selected human rights like some freedom of expression. Indeed, the U.S. government co-opted "human rights" (vid, start at ~10min) as pretext for nefarious deeds.

But what about the human right to work, the human right to equal pay, the human right to just and favorable remuneration, the human right of an adequate standard of living or the human right to free education? Cuba is a champion of promoting these rights while the U.S. is shunning all human rights whenever it fits its purpose. When was the last time Human Rights Watch, or the Guardian, has called out for economic and social human rights? Would they ever support "moderate rebels" who fight for those?

Posted by b at 05:31 AM | Comments (77)

March 19, 2016

A U.S. 2016 (S)Election Circus Threat

Your likely choices:


Pics via Billmon

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (109)

March 18, 2016

The Islamic State Is Pretext To Again Mug Libya

There are currently two governments in Libya. A "moderately Islamist" one in the west in Tripoli and one in the east in Tobruk. The eastern one is internationally recognized and "secular" but also supported by some Salafist groups. Both governments have their own parliament and various supporting militia. In the middle of the long east-west coastline the Islamic State led by some cadres from Iraq and Syria has taken a foothold in Sirte. It is recruiting followers from north Africa and moving to capture nearby oilfields to finance its further expansion.

The "west" is alarmed about this development and wants to intervene with military force. Special forces from several countries are already on the ground. But both governments and their parliaments do not want such foreign intervention.

The UN or someone came up with the glorious idea of creating a third government which is supposed to supersede the two existing ones. The task of this third government will be to "invite" foreign forces and to rubber-stamp whatever they will do. That third government is now constituted in Tunisia and has zero power on the ground in Libya:

[T]here is no guarantee that the other factions will back down. So what is a war between two rival governments backed by militias risks becoming a war among three rival governments, none of which recognize the others ..

Naturally the Libyans hate that idea of a foreign imposed government. They will likely fight any third force that tries to usurp their sovereignty. Confronted with a foreign imposed government and foreign military forces more Libyans will join the Islamic State to fight the intruders. The shortsightedness of the UN and the "western" governments on this issue is breathtaking.

But there is still a lot of money to be made in Libya and especially the French and British governments want to keep robbing the country blind. This requires some feet on the ground. The "brain" and a likely main profiteer behind all this seems to be one well known figure.

A revealing piece in the Times of Malta describes some of the astonishing political-business connections behind the scenes:

[A] major military operation by a collection of foreign powers is in the works to tackle Isis and install a UN-backed government but the shabby way it has been put together carries the risk it will blow back in everyone’s faces.

First, there is the strange situation that [Britain’s Ambassador to Libya, Peter] Millett takes his orders from Britain’s Libya envoy, Jonathan Powell, a contractor to the FCO. Yes, the same Powell who, along with then prime minister Tony Blair, brokered the deal with Muammar Gaddafi to end his dictatorship’s isolation a decade ago - and lead to fat Blair consultancies with that same tyrant after the prime minister left office.

Among other beneficiaries of this new opening up of Gaddafi’s dictatorship was a massive property development contract handed out to a company chaired by none other than Powell’s brother, Lord Charles Powell, which also involved an array of colourful London-based, well-known Arab millionaires. Which makes Powell more of a close relative of an interested party.

Libya is awash with weapons and munitions of all kinds and these are bought and sold in open markets. With the right amount of money one can easily buy powerful anti-tank weapons or anti-air guns readily installed on the ubiquitous Toyota technicals. But Britain also wants to sell, not buy weapons:

Millett revealed that he wants to sell Libya yet more [weapons] - but only to the ‘right’ militias, that is, those supporting the new UN-backed government of national accord (GNA).

The GNA, designed to replace Libya’s two warring governments, in Tripoli and Tobruk, is the cornerstone of Western policy in Libya, designed to unite the country to turn its united guns on Isis. Hence the weapons.

Millett insists the weapons will only go to the ‘right’ militias, an echo of a Western statement about supporting the ‘right kind’ of terrorists in Syria in the war against Isis.

Here now comes the real business part with the most valuable piece being the Libyan Investment Authority with some $65 billion in assets. This fond is owned by the Libyan people but whoever controls it will be able to siphon off tons of money:

Cont. reading: The Islamic State Is Pretext To Again Mug Libya

Posted by b at 01:34 PM | Comments (43)

March 17, 2016

Open Thread 2016-11

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:35 PM | Comments (211)

March 16, 2016

Syrian Kurds Risk Their Gains With New Federalization Demands

Everyone seems to agree that the recent Russian surprise move in Syria is to its advantage. The Russian government declared that it had achieved most of its aims in Syria and decided to continue its operations there with a smaller forces. As the current ceasefire seem to hold the necessity of further air attacks is much diminished. About half of its planes in Syria were ordered to fly back home. Significant forces will stay deployed and the planes could be back within 24 hours should the need arise.

A Russian source on the ground explains how this fits into a larger plan:

Russia has managed to turn the balance of power up side down in six months of its intervention in Syria. Regardless the control of a vast strategic land to the regime in Damascus, the Kremlin forces all parties to sit with Assad representative around the Geneva table when these were rejecting the idea for the last four years of war. Russia is pushing for a free election, within the area under the regime and the rebels’ control, under the supervision of the United Nations.
...
Russia, according to high-ranking sources, informed Washington, Damascus and Tehran of its step of reducing forces in Syria. The Kremlin expects from the United States to exert its promises to impose on regional parties, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to stop all sorts of weapons and financial supply to all rebels without exception. The USA is confident to obtain from its regional allies in the Middle East this commitment at the cost of joining the bombing, with Russia, of all those willing to continue fighting and violate the open-date Cease-fire in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Turkey see no longer Syria as a possibility to implement their old plans and agreed to act accordingly.

We will see if the U.S. is really committed to this plan. Will it stop arming al-Qaeda or will it launch another crazy attempt to achieve "regime change" in Syria.

It would be out of character for Washington to just let go and to let Russia win the cause. That is why I suspect that the U.S. somehow arranged the following scheme.

Cont. reading: Syrian Kurds Risk Their Gains With New Federalization Demands

Posted by b at 10:45 AM | Comments (98)

March 14, 2016

Putin: Withdrawal Of Russian Forces From Syria Starting March 15

This is an extremely interesting and likely very smart move. Putin again catches everyone off guard.

TASS reports:

Putin orders to begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15

March 14, 20:40 UTC+3

The Russian leader hopes the withdrawal of Russian troops will become a good motivation for launching negotiations between political forces in the country

MOSCOW, March 14. /TASS/. Putin orders Russian defense minister to begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15.

The Russian president said he hopes the start of the withdrawal of Russian troops will become a good motivation for launching negotiations between political forces of that country and instructed the foreign minister to intensify Russia’s participation in organization of peace process in Syria.

Via other sources Putin said: The armed forces achieved their goals in Syria. The two Air Force and Naval bases in Syria will stay and operate normally. The move was in agreement with the Syrian government.

I believe that, for this to have happened, there must be a deal in place with the U.S. to wind up the Syria situation. What did Putin get in return?

And what units will actually pull out? Three military cooks departing while civilians take up their jobs?

The tide of the war on Syria has changed. There is no longer a danger that Assad will lose the fight.

There were some Russian artillery and special forces units taking part in the ground operations in north Latakia. Latakia is now mostly cleaned up and the Russian bases there are no longer in danger. (The S-400 air defense will of course stay.) Will these troops now be pulled out?

Or is this, as announced, an "incentive" to put some urgency on progress in the Geneva negotiations?  (An "incentive" that can be taken back should it not have the intended results.)

One can also think of this as a message to the U.S. to get serious: "Don't take our help in fighting ISIS for granted. We can simply secure Assad and leave. Then you alone will have to clean up the Jihadi mess you created."

Posted by b at 01:56 PM | Comments (135)

U.S. Politicians Discuss Accountability

At Nancy Reagan's funeral George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton discussed the prospects of being held accountable.


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Posted by b at 10:35 AM | Comments (45)

March 13, 2016

Syria: Another CIA Supplied Group Hands Its Weapons To Al-Qaeda

Syria's Idleb province is held by Jabhat al-Nusra, aka al-Qaeda in Syria, and Ahrar al Sham with a sprinkling of "moderates" added to the mix. While Nusra and Ahrar have support from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the "moderates" are supported by the CIA which provides them with anti-tank weapons.

When in 2013 these groups stormed government held positions in Idleb, Nusra, Ahrar and Islamic State Jihadis were leading the fighting and employed suicide bombers. Their attacks were supported by electronic warfare measures from Turkey which disabled the Syrian Army's communication. The CIA "moderates" were integrated as anti-tank teams using their U.S. supplied weapons in support of the Jihadi offense.

The U.S. supported groups in Idleb are currently grouped under the moniker "Division 13" or "Brigade 13". The cessation of hostilities in Syria means that all these "moderates" in Idleb province have time to discuss their ideological differences. Jenan Moussa (@JenanMoussa) is the "Roving reporter Arabic Al Aan TV. Based in Dubai but roams around MidEast". She reports on Syria from a mostly pro-opposition standpoint and has long favored "moderate" as well as "not-so-moderate" Jihadis.

Here are some of here recent tweets:

Jenan Moussa @jenanmoussa

Jenan Moussa Retweeted ياسين ابو رائد

Nusra attacks FSA supporters protesting Assad in #Idleb province. Nusra bans FSA flags, allows only Jihadi banners.

4:44 AM - 11 Mar 2016

Yesterday Nusra had meeting in Idleb with activists & local Syrian journalist urging them all not to carry FSA flags, only Jihadi banners.

Here full video of Nusra attack on protestors in Maaret ElNoman. Its seriously amazing some dared to carry FSA flag https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=D-_ymP4BMxo

Anti regime protests also in Sarmada, Harem &Darkoush in Idleb province. Protestors carried both FSA &Jihadi banners

In Nusra mentality, FSA flag seen as 'pro-democracy &pro-secularism'. They have banned it but can't yet enforce ban in their territories.

Moment when Nusra attacked AbuElias AlMaaeri, local anti-Assad celebrity. They took his mic for singing FSA slogans https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CdRReICWEAAq-sa.jpg

On Saturday some reports from Idleb claimed that Division 13 fighters, enraged that their propaganda protests were disrupted by Nusra, attacked some Nusra positions and fighters in Idleb.

Cont. reading: Syria: Another CIA Supplied Group Hands Its Weapons To Al-Qaeda

Posted by b at 03:30 AM | Comments (58)

March 12, 2016

NYT Conceals U.S. Control Over Anti-Russian "Pro-Democracy Nonprofit"

What is a pro-democracy nonprofit?

Pro-Democracy Nonprofit Is Banned in Russia

MOSCOW — A nonprofit group that promotes democracy has become the latest American-linked group to be banned in Russia under restrictions on “undesirable” organizations signed into law by President Vladimir V. Putin in May.

The office of Russia’s prosecutor general on Thursday outlawed the group, the National Democratic Institute, claiming in a statement that the it posed “a threat to the foundations of Russia’s constitutional order and national security.”

The above quoted NYT piece studiously avoids to describe what the "pro-democracy nonprofit" really is. There is no mention at all of its sources of money or its relations to non-Russian governments.

The National Democratic Institute, a group promoting democracy and civil society, had operated in Russia directly since the late 1980s, but it decided to close its offices there in 2012, according to its website. It has continued to establish programs in Russia through partner organizations, however. Madeleine K. Albright, an former United States secretary of state, is its chairwoman.

When asked about U.S. sanctions against Iraq Madeleine Albright once said (vid) that 500,000 killed Iraqi children were "worth it". Any organization led by here must surely be a morally good. But who pays it? And what for? 

To know what exactly this "nonprofit" is, is certainly relevant to understand the Russian position. But the NYT writer hides from the readers the fact that the NDI is a U.S. government financed organization. It is a "nonprofit organization" in the same sense that the U.S. Armed Forces are a "nonprofit organization". The NDI has been involved throughout the years in dozens of right-wing "regime change" coups. Its direct parent organization is the U.S. National Endowment of Democracy:

The private, congressionally funded NED has been a controversial tool in U.S. foreign policy because of its support of efforts to overthrow foreign governments. As the writers Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld remarked in the January/February 2007 NACLA Report on the Americas: "Since [1983], the NED and other democracy-promoting governmental and nongovernmental institutions have intervened successfully on behalf of 'democracy'—actually a very particular form of low-intensity democracy chained to pro-market economics—in countries from Nicaragua to the Philippines, Ukraine to Haiti, overturning unfriendly 'authoritarian' governments (many of which the United States had previously supported) and replacing them with handpicked pro-market allies."[2]

NED works principally through four core institutes: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDIIA or NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), and the Center for International Private Enterprise—representing, respectively, the country's two major political parties, organized labor, and the business community.

To call the NDI and its brothers and sisters non-government organization is obviously wrong. To call them "pro-democracy" is only right when one has some fondness for the peculiar kind of "democracy" in foreign countries that sets U.S. business interests above the interest of its own people.

What the Russian prosecutor general kicked out of Russia is obviously a U.S. government organization. The NDI was acting clandestinely by secretly financing local groups in Russia which work against the duly elected Russian government and against the interest of the Russian people.

But the petty-minded NYT, with its slavishly U.S. centric view, can not allow its readers to learn such facts.

Posted by b at 12:03 PM | Comments (48)

March 10, 2016

'The Obama Doctrine' Is To Whitewash His Foreign Policy

The Atlantic publishes Obama's great whitewashing of his own foreign policy. It is the result of a series of interviews with Jefferey Goldberg written up into one gigantic piece under the headline "The Obama Doctrine". Throughout the piece Goldberg and Obama touch various foreign policy issues, mainly in the Middle East.

The ostensible purpose is to refute hawkish critics of Obama who say that he has not been militaristic enough or was 'leading from behind.' Judging from comments to the piece in various media the readers seem to fall for that. But the real purpose of the piece is to hide the militaristic, dangerous to catastrophic decision Obama has made on many foreign policy issues.

The real Obama has used the military to wage open or hidden wars in more countries than any president since the second world war. Obama has ordered thousands of unknown people be killed by drone strikes in ten or so countries. He has used clandestine means for illegitimate regime change from Honduras over Ukraine to Iraq where, as he admitted in an earlier interview, let the evil of ISIS grow for the sole purpose of ousting Prime Minister Maliki. Instead of making room for the inevitable growth of China, Obama is preparing to wage a preemptive war against it.

The whitewash includes a lot of juicy, diverting quotes that many people will like. It bitches about foreign paid think tanks in Washington and the Saudis. It lambastes Cameron and Sarkozy. It badmouths his own hawkish advisers.

When it discusses why Obama let his 'red line' on chemical weapons in Syria slip and did not bomb the country it tries to paint Obama's decisions on Syria as sensible and reasoned. But what is sensible or reasoned in ordering the CIA to ship thousands of Jihadis, recycled from his war on Libya and earlier conflicts, to Syria? What is peaceful in arming and paying sectarian "rebels" with billions of dollars to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government? The piece does not mention those facts and the interviewer never touches those questions.

Obama criticizes the Saudis and Iran for waging proxy wars in Syria and Yemen. But Iran came in only after Obama and the Saudis waged war on those countries. Without him Yemen would not be bombed and Syria would be peaceful. It is he who enables the Saudi misdeeds.

On Libya the president blames France and Britain for dropping the ball after Ghaddafi was killed. But it was the U.S. that enabled and directed the war, flew most attacks, dropped 7,700 bombs and had its people on the ground training and organizing the Jihadis for attacks on government positions. Here the fake 'leading from behind' is used to blame the allies when the inevitable consequences of the war, the destruction of the functioning state Libya, appear.

In general the piece is somewhat interesting and shows some insight into Obama's thinking. But if you take the hour that is at least needed to read it keep in mind that this was published for a purpose. Obama is preparing his next career step. With the Goldberg interviews and this piece he is attempting to wash the blood off his hands and to whitewash his legacy.

Posted by b at 01:13 PM | Comments (135)

March 09, 2016

Ignatius, Off His Meds, Has Syria Delusions

The public relation functionary for the CIA, the Pentagon, Israel and the Saudis - David Ignatius of the Washington Post - forgot to take his meds. Thus he experienced an outbreak of acute delusions:

The campaign in eastern Syria is directed by about 50 U.S. Special Operations forces now on the ground there, joined by about 20 French and perhaps a dozen British commandos. They’re working with about 40,000 Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters dubbed the Syrian Democratic Forces; all but about 7,000 are from the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG.

Those numbers are waaay off. The more realistic numbers are some 10,000 YPG and some 1,000 Arabs. Even those numbers include lots of village guards that can not be counted on as soldiers. The core forces are in the low thousands.

U.S. commanders hope soon to augment the U.S. ground force in Syria to about 300 troops who can train and assist these fighters. With this broader U.S. base of operations inside Syria, it’s hoped that special forces from other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, could play a role there.

Us.commanders may "hope" that they will be allowed 300 more forces on the ground. But I doubt that the Obama administration will now agree to such an escalation. It would risk to spoil the current understandings with the Russians. Likewise with the UAE contingent.

The next stage in the assault may come to the west of Raqqa. Syrian fighters backed by Turkish commandos appear poised to move south from Jarabulus, where the Euphrates River crosses from Turkey into Syria, toward the area around Manbij. Other U.S.-backed forces hold the Tishrin Dam, about 55 miles northwest of Raqqa. The Turkish-led campaign could finally close the gap in its border, through which the Islamic State has maintained its supply lines.

What a load of bollocks. The Turkish military has said laud and clear that will not commit any forces to Syria without an explicit UN mandate. No such mandate is likely to pass.

The "other U.S. backed forces" at the Tishirn Dam are YPG Kurds. The Turks have declared them to be terrorists and the Kurds see any Turkish soldier as their enemy. There is no way that they would let Turkish commandos pass towards Manbij. And why does Turkey need to invade Syria to close the "gap in its border"? How about closing the border on the Turkish side as is usual. Are there Mexican troops in Texas to close the southern U.S. border "gap"? If the Turks would invade through Jarablus their aim would be to protect their allies in the Islamic State, to keep the logistic line to it open and to fight the Kurds. The Ignatius take is completely off from any reality.

A limited southern push toward Raqqa was begun recently by a small unit of Jordanian and British special forces that captured a former regime outpost in southeastern Syria, close to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.

Here is news Mr Ignatius. The "capture" of Al Tanaf crossing by some Jordanian trained Syrian "rebels" and with U.S. air support failed. The crossing is still in the hands of the Islamic State.

In Ignatius' fairy tale book the Syrian government forces and its allies are nowhere to be seen fighting against the Islamic State. But is the Syrian Arab Army and its allies who are squeezing the Islamic State from the west and the south with the current attacks on Palmyra, south-east of Aleppo and towards Tabqa. It is the Syrian army that is defending some 200,000 civilians which are besieged in Deir Ezzor. It is the Syrian army that just launched a big operation in the south-eastern desert that will clear the approaches towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.

A sane policy discussion on Syria will never take place in the U.S. when the news consists of such insane fantasies.

Posted by b at 09:46 AM | Comments (78)

March 07, 2016

U.S. Central Command Promotes The War On Yemen Where Al-Qaeda Is The Only Winner

Daniel Larison recaps the War on Yemen:

The Saudi-led intervention has been going on for over eleven months, and in that time it has failed in all of its stated objectives. The Houthis have not been driven from the capital, the former president has not be restored to power (not that most Yemenis would want him there now anyway), and the intervention certainly hasn’t produced the stability that the Saudis laughably claimed to be bringing.
...
Yemenis have been sorely deprived of basic necessities for almost an entire year thanks to the Saudi-led blockade, and the majority of the population is starving or at great risk of doing so. At least four-fifths of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The country’s health care system has all but collapsed, medical facilities are coming under repeated attack (including repeated bombings by coalition aircraft), medicine and fuel are in short supply, and the lack of access to clean water has made the spread of disease much worse. Every problem Yemen had before the intervention has grown far worse than it was, and the country’s infrastructure has been wrecked by the coalition bombing campaign that the U.S. supports.
...
Since the Saudis and their allies started pummeling Yemen with indiscriminate bombing and the use of inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions last March, the U.S. has been reliably backing the Saudis in this unnecessary and indefensible war with weapons, refueling, and intelligence. The U.S. has helped the Saudis to whitewash and obscure their crimes, and the Obama administration has done this despite credible reports from multiple human rights organizations and the U.N. that the Saudi-led coalition is likely guilty of war crimes and possibly even crimes against humanity.

The U.S. not only continues to whitewash the Saudi crimes but is still actively propagandizing and reinforcing the false Saudi claim that Iran is in cahoots with the Houthis. I have yet to see even one picture from the war in Yemen that shows any Iranian weapon or munition. There are lots of pictures though that show Houthis using weapons they pilfered from incompetent Saudi troops or their proxies.

The Australian navy today captured a weapon smuggling ship in the Arab sea. They reported:

The Australian Navy said that one of its ships patrolling the region, the HMAS Darwin, intercepted a small, stateless fishing vessel about 170 nautical miles off the coast of Oman when it made the discovery.

On board they found more than 2,000 pieces of weaponry -- including 1,989 AK-47 assault rifles and 100 rocket-propelled grenades.
...
An Australian Defense Ministry spokesman told CNN there were 18 people of various nationalities on board the ship, but officials could not initially confirm that their identification documents were valid.

Authorities believe the weapons were headed for Somalia based on interviews with crew members, but that information is preliminary and may change as the investigation continues, the spokesman said.

Someone bought 2,000 old AK47s and some RPGs, maybe in Iraq or elsewhere in the Gulf, to sell them in Somalia. That makes sense. There is an ongoing civil war in Somalia and selling weapons there has little risk.

But here is the U.S. Central Command making up nonsense about the Australian find:

According to a U.S. assessment, the weapons were believed to be initially sent from Iran and were likely intended for Houthi rebels in Yemen, Lt. Ian McConnaughey with the U.S. Navy told CNN.

U.S. Central Command is still gathering more information to determine the arms' final destination, McConnaughey said.

There is zero evidence for that claim that these are weapons from Iran on their way to Yemen. Indeed the circumstances as reported by the Australians seem to make that unlikely. But the CNN report, from which the above is taken, is headlined Weapons seized by Australia may have come from Iran, intended for Houthis thus supporting the false Saudi claims.

Yemen is flooded with weapons. The Saudi have several times dropped thousands of new weapons to their proxy forces in south Yemen. Many of those weapons were seized by the Houthis and those that reached the Saudi proxies were immediately sold off to the highest bidder. Every modern assault rifle one might think of is available in Sanaa's weapon markets. Why would anyone ship old AK47 to Yemen where even the poorest households already have better weapons?

Remarks a Yemeni analyst:

Cont. reading: U.S. Central Command Promotes The War On Yemen Where Al-Qaeda Is The Only Winner

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (65)

March 06, 2016

Syria - Preparing For The Next Major Push

There seems to be some progress in the regional "games" around the conflict in Syria. The Turkish Prime minister Davutoglu currently visits Iran. The Iranians let some lucrative economic projects dangle in front of his eyes. But the main points were about Syria. According to this Turkish source Davutoglu said these issues were agreed upon:

taylieli @taylieli

#Turkish PM Davutoglu: We've reached on deal with #Iran for 5 matters: 1) A joint visit to #Jordan to discuss on #Syria, on coming days (1)

2) The continuity of ceasfire in #Syria
3) The unity of #Syria
4) The participitation of all -internal- actors in #Syria's future (2)

5) The joint act to defeat all kind of terrorism inc. #Isil in the geography of #ME. (3)

This smells like an bit of  change in the so far rigid Turkish position.

Russian military transport traffic through the Bosporus has markedly increased. A lot of new trucks, tanks and artillery are coming to Syria. In the summer the Russian aircraft carrier will take station at the Syrian coast. This is likely the build up for a major campaign.

Meanwhile the U.S. is building a second (small) airport in north east Syria to, allegedly, support its Kurdish proxy forces there in the fight against the Islamic State. Syria and Russia should be very careful in allowing such creeping occupation. It is difficult to get rid of such U.S. incursions once they are established.

On Friday another U.S trained, paid and armed force, probably only a few dozen or so, attacked the Syria-Iraq border crossing at Tanaf which was in the hand of the Islamic State. The "rebel" marketing campaign claimed that this group was the "New Syrian Army". The border crossing is also near the Jordan border from where these fighters came. They had U.S. (or Jordan) air support and managed to capture the handful of lone buildings in the desert that constitute the station. But 24 hours later the Islamic State said it was again in full control of it. If true, and I believe it is, this "new Syrian army" is a sad joke and will not play a role in the race to Raqqa.

In total everyone seems to use the current relative quiet of the "cessation of hostilities" to move into launch positions for a possibly final campaign against IS and the other objectionable subjects.  It will be a hot summer in Syria.

 

Posted by b at 01:57 PM | Comments (71)

March 05, 2016

Open Thread 2016-10

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (221)

March 04, 2016

Whereas The Paper Of Record Gauges The Big (Or Small?) Global Question

A 'newspaper of record'..

.. is a major newspaper that has a large circulation and whose editorial and news-gathering functions are considered professional and typically authoritative.

As such the trusted New York Times reliably ponders the most important topics of U.S. and global polices. Here is an outstanding example:

 

bigger - Link

After spending some 350 well chosen words examining the issue at hand, the distinguished author concludes:

So, yes, the size of Trump’s penis matters ...

We should all be proud to merit such epiphany.

Cont. reading: Whereas The Paper Of Record Gauges The Big (Or Small?) Global Question

Posted by b at 01:20 AM | Comments (144)

March 03, 2016

Russia Is 'Weaponizing' ... Everything

NATO Commander Breedlove agrees, naturally, with LunaticOutpost.com.

Russia is 'weaponizing' everything: robotic cockroaches, MS Word files, Jedi mind tricks, Soviet history and Syrian immigrants. Whatever one might think of.

 

Posted by b at 07:46 AM | Comments (82)

March 02, 2016

Kerry's "Plan B" - Attack Syria From Lebanon - With Saudi and Turkish Help

We yesterday described what looks like a Turkish-Saudi plan to raise a Salafi-Sunni militia in north Lebanon to then attack nearby Syrian regions held by the Syrian government. Such a new front of the conflict in Syria would necessarily involve fighting in Lebanon as the Lebanese Shia Hizbollah movement is actively supporting the Syrian government. The plot would destabilize Lebanon, probably throwing it back into the brutal times of the Lebanese civil war.

There was no confirmation of such a plot yesterday, just several signs for it like the ship with weapons from Turkey that was caught by the Greek coastguard on its way to north Lebanon.

The existence of such a plan was confirmed today. We still can no say for sure that the plot is part of a U.S. "Plan B" to achieve a violent "regime change" in Syria, but we know that the U.S. is informed about the plan.

In his Washington Post column today the unofficial CIA spokesperson David Ignatius writes about the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman:

The young Saudi has sometimes been more bold than wise, as in his war in Yemen, his decision to break diplomatic relations with Iran and his new effort to destabilize a Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon.

Syria is not mentioned in that part of the Ignatius column but any capable Sunni militia in Lebanon, created from Salafist groups in Tripoli and Syrian Sunni refugees in Lebanese camps, would extend itself into Syria and become a threat to the government held western Syria.

Ignatius, as surely also the U.S. government, was informed by the Saudis themselves. The above quoted paragraph continues:

But his role as a change agent is unmistakable. He “wants to transition Saudi Arabia very quickly,” said Adel al-Toraifi, the Saudi information minister, who’s just 36 himself, in a visit to Washington last week.

My hunch is that this plan is too bold to have grown solely in the minds of the Turkish and Saudi regimes. The U.S. is likely not only informed about it but deeply involved. The possibility of such a plan to counter the recent Syrian and Russian successes on the battlefield was first mentioned in a piece published in early February by the Washington Institute, a think tank founded and funded by the Israel lobby.

Last week Secretary of State Kerry mentioned a "Plan B" should the recent cessation of hostilities in Syria fail:

US Secretary of State John Kerry provoked widespread speculation when he referred in testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee last week to “significant discussions” within US President Barack Obama's administration about a “Plan B” in Syria. The speculation was further stoked by a “senior official” who told CBS News that options under consideration included "'military-like' measures that would make it harder for the regime and its allies to continue their assault on civilians and US-backed rebels.”

A violent Salafi militia from Lebanon storming into Syria would certainly be a "'military-like' measures that would make it harder for the regime and its allies".

The author of the last linked text, Gareth Porter, dismissed the chance of a real "Plan B" but had not yet included the Lebanon plot scenario in his considerations. He continued:

Kerry suggested that the US was still a player in the Syrian contest for power. Regarding Chairman Bob Corker’s comment that the Russians had been “accomplishing their ends” in Syria, he argued that the Russians and the Syrian government could take control of Aleppo, but that “holding territory has always been difficult”. Kerry claimed that the Russians could not prevent the opposition from getting the weapons needed to continue the war, as long as the US and its allies were supporting them. He offered no explanation for that claim.

The Turkish-Saudi weapon smuggling into Lebanon is an explanation for the claim Kerry made. Syria and Russia are in the process of closing off the Syrian-Turkish border. If the Saudis can build a weapon pipeline into north Lebanon it will become quite difficult for Syria and its allies to hold the Syrian territory near the Lebanese border.

In a speech yesterday Hizbullah chief Nasrallah discussed the general Saudi threat to Lebanon at length but did not mention the Sunni militia plot:

"Saudi which treats Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Bahrain like that, treats Lebanon the same way," Sayyed Nasrallah concluded, addressing the Saudis: "Your problem is with us, it is not with the country or with the Lebanese..."

Nasrallah is right, but the Saudis will not care when the Lebanese people or their country get hurt due to some nefarious scheme to attack Syria and Hizbullah. Nor will the United States.

There are obvious signs for a plan to use Saudi controlled Sunni militia from Lebanon against the Syrian government and its supporters. The U.S. is, in my view, very likely involved in this plot. But we still do not know if this plan will ever be implemented. The recent Saudi threat to send its army into Syria turned out to be a pure (dis-)information campaign to unsettle the Syrian government's side. The recent revelations about the plot in Lebanon and the "Plan B" may also be pure deception and illusionary to gain some leverage for the coming negotiations.

But the ship the Greek coastguard caught was real and such a plan would have a good chance to create lots of troubles for Syria and its supporters. My advice to the Syrian government and its allies is to prepare now to eventually counter it.

Posted by b at 05:09 AM | Comments (81)

March 01, 2016

Syria: A Turkish-Saudi Countermove In Lebanon Threatens Latakia (Updated)

Updated below

Fabrice Balanche is a French professor and a specialist on Syria's political geography. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute (formerly WINEP) which is part by the U.S. Zionist lobby. So far the writings of Balanche for WINEP have been rather sane, neutral analyses.

In a piece published on February 5 he looked at the situation after the Syrian campaign cut the northern insurgency supply line to Turkey. At the end Balanche muses about possible countermoves by the Turkish and Saudi supporters of the insurgency:

Yet Turkey and Saudi Arabia may not remain passive in the face of major Russian-Iranian progress in Syria. For example, they could set up a new rebel umbrella group similar to Jaish al-Fatah, and/or send antiaircraft missiles to certain brigades. Another option is to open a new front in northern Lebanon, where local Salafist groups and thousands of desperate Syrian refugees could be engaged in the fight. Such a move would directly threaten Assad's Alawite heartland in Tartus and Homs, as well as the main road to Damascus. Regime forces would be outflanked, and Hezbollah's lines of communication, reinforcement, and supply between Lebanon and Syria could be cut off. The question is, do Riyadh and Ankara have the means and willingness to conduct such a bold, dangerous action?

Some Turkish, Saudi or CIA strategist may have had the same thought, or may have taken up Balanche's idea:

Cargo ship from Turkey full of weapons seized by Greek authorities

According to Greek and Turkish sources, a cargo ship containing thousands of weapons, ammunition, and explosives was seized by Greek authorities on February 28th. The ship– sporting a Togo flag– had reportedly left a Turkish port in Izmir and was traveling to Lebanon as well as the southeastern African coast.

The above source is not always reliable, but Elijah J. Magnier, reporting from Syria for the Kuwaiti paper AL RAI, just confirmed the news:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
#BreakingNews: Fuelling Lebanon?
#Greece arrest crew of a ship 6 #Syria/n, 4 #India/n 1 #Lebanese carrying weapons from #Turkey to #Lebanon.

The ship was carrying 6 containers of which 2 full of weapons designated to a harbour in #Lebanon, intercepted at #Greece Crete #Island.

Very alarming indeed & shows a possible escalation planned n #Lebanon when the #SaudiArabia / #Hezbollah/#Iran relationship is at its worse.

This indicates that #Lebanon is no longer outside the circle of the war in #Syria and is supposed to be dragged in

It is unlikely that this is a purely Turkish operation. The Saudis do have enormous influence in Lebanon due to their frequent bribes paid to the various actors there. The general Saudi influence is now somewhat diminished. None of the major Lebanese followed the Saudi's demand to take its side and to seek conflict with Syria or Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia party that supports the Syrian government. But there are still groups in Lebanon, especially Salafis, which the Saudis essentially command. 

Cont. reading: Syria: A Turkish-Saudi Countermove In Lebanon Threatens Latakia (Updated)

Posted by b at 10:06 AM | Comments (50)

Reading About Zika May Hurt Your Brain

The Zika virus is harmless but since late December the media, for whatever reason, try to created a panic about it. That campaign continues. The New York Times, a main culprit here, has mentioned Zika in more than 250 stories since late December.

The virus is know to infect humans since 1947. While most people will not even feel an infection, those few who do will have a few days of rashes, inflamed eyes or joint pain. Soon their immune system will create antibodies against the virus and everything will be fine.

But even while Zika is known to be less harmful than an average flue, one headline after the other tries to create the impression that it is some really awful, new bug that may be responsible for about any ailment. That it may spread like wildfire and may have other terrible consequences. May, as in 'the sky may fall', is indeed the most operative word here.

Consider:

One may hope that the above heap of nonsense may teach people to ignore such speculative content. But that hope may be in vane.

Posted by b at 06:40 AM | Comments (21)

February 29, 2016

Sanders Must Offer Tulsi Gabbard The VP Slot. Now!

Tulsi Gabbard, a U.S. Congress representative from Hawaii, stepped down as a vice chair of the Democrat National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders. In the video below the fold she explains her reasoning. It is Clinton's militarism in foreign policies that makes her take the other side.

Described as "libertarian-leaning progressive" the woman is smart, pretty and speaks well. She is also a former officer in the U.S. military with combat experience and an interest in foreign policy.

Politically her endorsement is manna from heaven for Sanders.

Sanders should IMMEDIATELY offer her the Vice-President slot. Her task in the campaign is to stand in on all foreign policy issues. Sanders then can continue to focus on inequality in the United States.

Hillary Clinton would have no chance to beat that team. Unlike the neoconned Clinton, a Sanders/Gabbard ticket can attract young voters which will be needed to beat Trump. If Clinton runs against Trump the large and growing "anything but Clinton" crowd would likely let her loose.

Someone tell Sanders that he better act fast to announce her nomination before Clinton collects more states and takes away the buzz that the Sanders campaign urgently needs.

 

Cont. reading: Sanders Must Offer Tulsi Gabbard The VP Slot. Now!

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (105)

#BREAKING News As Propaganda

For your daily media competence training:

The hint that the above AFP #BREAKING tweet was nonsense is the use of the word may. Like in "#BREAKING Sky may have fallen". There is also the rhetoric redundancy in "have starved to death".

But notice the 217 retweets which likely will have caused many secondary retweets and many, many more viewer impressions.

Three hours later ...

Cont. reading: #BREAKING News As Propaganda

Posted by b at 12:54 PM | Comments (23)

February 28, 2016

On The NYT's Sorry Whitewash Of Clinton And Her War On Libya

The New York Times has a two part piece about the U.S. war on Libya and especially Hillary Clinton's role as the then Secretary of State in it. Adhering to the NYT's editorial line, the overall picture of Clinton is painted in sympathetic colors even when it describes the disaster she created.

Overall it is a whitewash of history based on the lies that the "humanitarian intervention" was perceived necessary because Ghaddafi was about to "kill civilians". It is not unexpected that the NYT would write such nonsense. The NYT editors had themselves endorsed the war and the paper lauded the immediate result. It is guilty of inciting the war just as much as Clinton is.

But the story of the "humanitarian intervention" for the Libyan people in March 2011 is hogwash.


Libya, Spring 2011

The attack on Libya was well prepared. Radical Islamist under Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who had once been held in a secret CIA prison, were violently attacking the Libyan state with financial and military support from Qatar. Ghaddafi acted in response to them and in a proportional manner. There never was any danger of a "massacre in Benghazi" (at least when Ghaddafi was still alive). That he reacted at all was used as pretense to launch a war that had been conceptualized earlier.

French intelligence was on the ground in Libya and coordinating the "protesters" in Benghazi in February 2011. The UK and France had prepared themselves for attacking Libya under the disguise of a military air maneuver called Southern Mistral. It was planned to start in late March 2011 but when everything was in place the maneuver was "suspended" and converted into the actual attack on Libya. This was straight out of deception 101. The maneuver scenario:

SOUTHLAND : Dictatorship responsible for an attack against France's national interests.
FRANCE : Makes the decision to show its determination to SOUTHLAND (under United Nations Security council resolution n°3003).
UNITED-KINGDOM : Allied country as determined in the bilateral agreement. The United Kingdom supports France through the deployment of its air assets.

All points lead to the conclusion that the attack on Libya had been planned long before the first protests in Libya began.

The NYT write up also misses out on the intent of the war and Clinton's push for it:

The consequences would be more far-reaching than anyone imagined, leaving Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven, a place where the direst answers to Mrs. Clinton’s questions have come to pass.

The "than anyone imagined" line is funny because just a few paragraph later the piece itself claims that there were people in the government who indeed foresaw the consequences:

Some senior intelligence officials had deep misgivings about what would happen if Colonel Qaddafi lost control. In recent years, the Libyan dictator had begun aiding the United States in its fight against Al Qaeda in North Africa.

“He was a thug in a dangerous neighborhood,” said Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency at the time. “But he was keeping order.”

Just like the U.S. military intelligence the Canadian military knew exactly what would happen after an overthrow of Ghaddafi.


Al Qaeda's flag flying above the courthouse of Benghazi, Fall 2011

Some lonely blogger warned before the "intervention" of a coming disaster in a still deeply tribal country:

The misrepresentation of this conflict in the media may well lead to military intervention by "western" forces. These would then have to fight those tribes which for whatever reason support Ghaddafi. With "western" intervention the situation on the ground would quickly deteriorate. This would cost a lot more lives than any situation in which the Libyan people fight this out by and for themselves.

Libya is now, as predicted, a failed destroyed state. Leaving failed destroyed states behind has been the consequences of ALL U.S. wars in the last 20 years. The wars on Yugoslavia left several of those. Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya all ended up destroyed. Are we to believe that its the same bug that infests every U.S. intervention? Or is it not rather more plausible that the outcome of destroyed states is the intended feature of U.S. bellicose interventions?

The war on Libya was not a "failed intervention". It was a war with the aim of creating a failed state on the geography of Libya. In the larger strategic contest Libya was the nut the U.S. needed to crack to get entrance in Africa. Ghaddafi was the most prominent person urging for African unity and preparing for a common market and a common currency. Now Africa is more divided, left without the significant Libyan economic backing and can be further chopped up piecewise.

The special forces the U.S., Uk and France now put again onto Libyan ground to fight the Islamic State" will only increase the chaos by attracting another backlash:

The Libyan officials said the presence of Western forces was not welcomed by ultraconservative Salafist factions, who are allied with Libya’s eastern army and perceive the foreign intervention as an “occupation.”

Clinton's role in inciting the war was very aggressive. She has learned nothing from the mess she created. It is no wonder that she is the darling of the neoconservatives as well as the liberal interventionists. There is no bombing she would not endorse. The way she proclaims her line “We came, we saw, he died!" (vid) ending in laughter, points to a deeply psychopathic background. Letting her be the, likely unelectable, presidential candidate would be a disaster for the Democratic Party.

Posted by b at 12:07 PM | Comments (104)

February 27, 2016

Is The U.S. Preparing A "Color Revolution" In Russia?

Via the former Indian ambassador M K Bhadrakumar we learn that the Russian government is preparing for a "color revolution" attempt during the parliament elections in September:

The annual meeting of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the successor organization to the Soviet-era KGB is an important occasion to take the temperature in the ‘East-West’ relations. (The Cold War cliche is becoming useful once again.) President Vladimir Putin’s customary address at the FSB meeting was the hallmark of the occasion on Friday in Moscow.
The sensational part of Putin’s speech is his disclosure that the FSB is in possession of definite information that plots are being hatched in the West to stir up political turmoil in Russia as the country heads for crucial parliamentary election in October. Putin avoided the use of the expression ‘color revolution’ but hinted at it.

The various U.S. services and the neocons in the State Department would certainly like to invite some revolt in Russia. But the chances for a successful putsch in Moscow are tiny. There is no competent opposition to the current government and a bit of economic trouble is not what incites Russians to take on the state. They would have hanged Yeltsin every other day if it were so.

It would be much easier if Washington would accept Russia as it is and make some room form it in global polices. But that never can be, right?

Altogether, a grim scenario has been projected here with regard to Russian-American relations through the remaining period of the presidency of Barack Obama. The core issue for Russia all along is that the US interferes in its internal politics with a view to create political disharmony and weaken the Kremlin, forcing it to adopt policies that are in harmony with American regional and global strategies.
...
The US cannot countenance Russia (or any country for that matter) in such nationalistic mode, presenting formidable headwind against its global strategies.

Trump or Sanders winning the U.S. presidency could result in more friendly relations with Moscow. But there are many in the various bureaucracies, especially in the Pentagon, who have their budget depending on a hostile relation with Russia (and China). Their voices will be hard to silent. This makes it more difficult to solve the ongoing crises in Syria and Ukraine:

Putin has forewarned that Moscow will defeat any US design to instigate political turmoil in Russia, no matter what it takes. Trust Putin here. However, the big question remains: How could regional conflicts such as Syria or Ukraine be possibly addressed when the two big powers are locked in an existential struggle?

Should the U.S. really attempt to create some kind of trouble around elections in Moscow we can expect an intensification of the conflicts in both theaters, Ukraine and Syria, during the summer. If only to intensify the "Putin is Evil" message the "western" media were told to spread in their populations.

Posted by b at 10:55 AM | Comments (103)

February 25, 2016

Open Thread 2016-09

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (204)

February 24, 2016

Syria: A First Major Win Due To The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement

The Russian/Syrian agreement to the cessation of hostilities in Syria is seen critical from a military point of view. It would have been better to use the current momentum and to proceed fighting instead of giving respite to the enemy.

But the agreement has one huge advantage. It excludes the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. Every "western" media report on the agreement and its likelihood to proceed now has to admit what has long been denied. That the unicorn U.S. supported "moderate rebels" are in deep alliance with al-Qaeda.

Even the grey lady now concedes:

many of the anti-Assad groups aligned with the United States fight alongside the Nusra Front

The readers of such piece note that the U.S. is actually supporting the terrorists it claimed to be fighting for the last 13 years. Somehow that does not compute. This will put pressure the Obama administration. It can hardly blame Russia and Syria for continuing a campaign against Al-Qaeda even during a cessation of hostility with U.S. supported "moderates". The U.S. lauds itself over killing alleged Al-Qaeda followers in drone strikes all over the world. How can it blame Russia for doing like in Syria?

But not only "western" media are now exposed. The new situation compels the actors behind Nusra/al-Qaeda to reveal their positions:

"The PYD is supported because it fights against ISIL. Nusra Front is also fighting against ISIL. Why is it bad?" [the Turkish President Erdogan] asked.

"AIDS also kills ISIL? Why is it bad?"

Just in time the BBC is reporting what everybody watching the war on Yemen already knew. Al-Qaeda is fighting together Saudi and other Gulf troops in their assault on the city of Taiz.

Since 9/11 the "western" public has been conditioned to see Al-Qaeda as the evil enemy. I do not think that it is possible to eradicate that within a few weeks or month.

With the push for the cessation of hostilities the Russian/Syrian side has won a major point in the public relation position. It is becoming clear to even average "western" reader that they are fighting real terrorists while the U.S. and its allies support at least associates to terrorists, if not the terrorists themselves.

 

(Sorry for light posting. I am busy.)

Posted by b at 02:25 PM | Comments (80)

February 22, 2016

Syria: Does This "Cessation Of Hostilities" Allow Attacks On Jaish al-Fatah?

This was just published:

Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria

...
Consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the statements of the ISSG, the cessation of hostilities does not apply to “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.

There is a word missing in the above when compared to the relevant part of UNSC Res 2254:

... specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, ...

The "associated" with Al Qaeda are not mentioned in the cessation document. In Idleb and other parts on north Syria Jaish al Fatah is the major terrorist alliance:

The Army of Conquest ("Arabic: جيش الفتح‎) or Jaish al-Fatah, abbreviated JaF, is a joint operations room of Islamist Syrian rebel factions participating in the Syrian Civil War.
...
At its founding, Jaish al-Fatah contained seven members, three of them — al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa are directly connected to Al-Qaeda or have a similar ideology. With Ahrar ash-Sham being the largest group, al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham together were reported to represent 90 percent of the troops. Another prominent Islamist faction in the operations room included the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria linked Sham Legion (Faylaq Al-Sham). Jaish al-Fatah collaborated with more moderate Free Syrian Army factions such as Knights of Justice Brigade.

Leaving out the "associated" in the cessation of hostilities declaration gives room for Ahrar al-Sham and a few others, which are clearly "associated" with al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in their Jaish al-Fatah alliance, to take part in it.

There are conditions to that. From the "Terms For Cessation Of Hostilities In Syria attached to the Joint Statement linked above:

The nationwide cessation of hostilities is to apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.
...
To take part in the cessation of hostilities, armed opposition groups will confirm – to the United States of America or the Russian Federation, who will attest such confirmations to one another as co-chairs of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26 2016 – their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:
  • To full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, ‑ including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
  • To cease attacks with any weapons, including rockets, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles, against Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and any associated forces;
  • To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
  • To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
  • To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.

The same condition plus a cessation of aerial bombing apply to the Syrian government side.

It is "proposed"(?) that the cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016.

The immediate estimates of various observers of the war on Syria on how long a cessation of hostilities under these conditions would hold varied between 30 seconds and 4 weeks.

The big problem is of course that al-Qaeda is so intermingled with the "moderate rebels" that the U.S. even tried, contrary to UNSC Res 2254, to get the cessation of hostilities applied to it.

Let us assume that Ahrar al-Sham agrees to the cessation of hostilities and follows its terms. The Syrian and Russian intelligence suddenly get good information about the location of the joint operations room of al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa. 

Now would that joint operations room or headquarter be a legitimate bombing target under the cessation of hostilities agreement? In my view bombing it would obviously be allowed because al-Nusra/al-Qaeda is there. But the "moderate" terrorists, the U.S. and their other sponsors would scream bloody murder about such bombing.

That is why I believe that this cessation of hostilities, should it come in force at all, will hold no longer than one week.

Posted by b at 02:35 PM | Comments (132)

February 21, 2016

What Is The Purpose Of The "Most Effective Application Of Firepower"?

I think it fair to say that the targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict.

To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare
Feb 19, 2016 - NYT Op Ed by Michael V Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009.

Despite nearly 15 years of U.S. counterterrorism operations after the Sept. 11 attacks, Clapper said, “there are now more Sunni violent extremist groups, members and safe havens than at any time in history.”

At one point, Clapper described his grim presentation, only half jokingly, as a “litany of doom.”

Feb 9, 2016 WaPo report on Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing of the Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.

If the result Clapper reports reflects the "most effective application of firepower", what is that application's purpose?

Posted by b at 11:06 AM | Comments (96)

February 20, 2016

U.S. Ignores Own UNSC Resolution - Tells Russia "Stop Bombing Al-Qaeda!"

UN Security Council Resolution 2254 calls for a "ceasefire" in Syria. A "ceasefire", unconditioned according to the resolution, would be for the whole country but would exclude certain groups:

[r]eiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, [...] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, as set forth in the 14 November 2015 ISSG Statement;

The resolution also underlines Syria's sovereignty. The UNSC is:

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, ...

The whole UNSC, including the U.S., France and Britain, agreed to this resolution.

But the U.S., France and the UK now want to erase these significant parts of the resolution.

  • They no longer want a ceasefire but only a "cessation of hostilities".
  • They demand that under such a "cessation" all bombing of al-Nusra/al-Qaeda and its associated entities should stop.
  • They now want to ignore Syria's just reaffirmed sovereignty.

The Saudis and its puppies in the Syrian opposition disagreed with the UNSC resolution. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry promptly blamed them for preventing a ceasefire but was then pulled back. In last weeks negotiations in Geneva Kerry took the Saudi position and thereby sabotaged any real ceasefire talk which would include much more than just a stop of firing. Kerry agreed only to a lower level "cessation of hostilities". As the former Indian ambassador to Turkey M K Bhadrakumar remarks:

Whereas a ceasefire brings in legal obligations, which would commit the US to sit across the table and meet the Russian – and, more importantly, Syrian – military counterparts and draw up detailed modalities of implementation, UN Security Council supervision and so on, the ‘cessation of hostilities’ can be punctuated at will without breaking international law.

Meanwhile, US and its allies are keen to gain access to all nooks and corners of Syrian territory, which will eventually help to mobilize any military operations under Plan B, especially ground operations. The humanitarian missions provide the cover for reconnaissance and ground work.

The West has let loose a massive propaganda barrage against the Russian operations. Equally, the refugee crisis moulds the western opinion. The NATO is inching towards the conflict zone.
...
At any rate, a humanitarian intervention in Syria may be just what President Barrack Obama needs to salvage his reputation.

Bhadrakumar quotes Lavrov who was livid over this foul play which ignored the agreed upon UNSC Resolution.

U.S. rhetoric and propaganda over alleged Russian human rights violations in the war has since increased.

Despite Russia's concern over the low level of a "cessation of hostilities", it insisted on common meetings at the working level to lay out the rules for the "cessation". The first meeting only took place yesterday, the day the "cessation" was originally supposed to begin.

It was the U.S., especially the Pentagon, that had dragged out the start of the talks. At the meeting the U.S. inserted a new condition, copied from the Saudis string puppet opposition, into the talks.

The U.S. now demands, contrary to the UNSC resolution, that the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Syria should no longer be fought.

The Washington Post reports of yesterday's meeting:

Cont. reading: U.S. Ignores Own UNSC Resolution - Tells Russia "Stop Bombing Al-Qaeda!"

Posted by b at 10:24 AM | Comments (136)

February 19, 2016

"Are Green Berets Leading The YPG In North-West Syria?" - "Wrong Question ..."

A few days ago we asked the speculative question: Are Green Berets Leading The YPG In Taking The Azaz Pocket? That question was, as we will see, wrong. It is not the YPG that is the relevant part here but some other groups fighting next to it. We wrote:

The Kurds in the Azaz pocket have also some support from a professional military. Their moves are very purposeful and controlled. They are clearly coordinated with the Syrian army. The coordination with the Russian airforce works well and there is ground fire coordination with the SAA.
...
Who are the professionals that are helping the YPG to take the Azaz pocket?

My first thought was of course Russian Spetsnaz. But I asked around and none of my usual sources would confirm this. The sources acknowledged that the YPG in west Syria has special force support but there was some quite unexpected silence over who these forces were. It is clear to me that these are not Syrian special forces. The YPG does not want to be seen as an adjunct to the Syrian government. No one would confirm to me that these are Russian forces even as that would be of no great surprise to anyone. This leads me to speculate that some U.S. special forces are directing the YPG in the Azaz pocket. This in coordination with the Syrian army and the Russians.

The idea presumed a split between the CIA, which arms the jihadis with TOWs and other toys, and the U.S. military, which helps the Kurds against the Islamic State jihadis in north-east Syria.


big

At Sic Semper Tyrannis Pat Lang and The Twisted Genius, both experienced and higher level former spec ops, found that unlikely.

But there are now additional data points which support my crazy idea. The "Kurds" besieging the Azaz pocket from the west and the south are not all Kurds. They have local allies with whom they are organized under the label Syrian Democratic Forces. Indeed, according to this report, the Kurds have pulled back from the southern Azaz line and leave it to an allied group. Some of the pro-Syrian troops now there are intimate friends of the U.S. military:

Cont. reading: "Are Green Berets Leading The YPG In North-West Syria?" - "Wrong Question ..."

Posted by b at 02:19 AM | Comments (131)

February 18, 2016

Ankara Bombing Fails To Achive Strategic Changes

The bombing in Ankara yesterday killed 27 mostly military people. It was a big car bomb and a suicide attack.The Turkish government claims that the person who did this was one Saleh Nejar and also claims that he is connected to the Syrian Kurdish group YPG.

There is no way to verify this. But the YPG has so fare never used any car bombs or done any suicide attacks. It never touched any target in Turkey. It officially denied to have taken any part in it.

The Turkish group PKK has done vehicle bomb attacks and a few suicide attacks but not in Ankara or any other major west-Turkish city. Its attacks are usually operational, not strategic like this one.

In the last Turkish version of its magazine the Islamic State had called for attacks in Turkey and on Turkish soldiers. It is the entity that has most to win through such an attack that would predictably be blamed on the Kurds. It is the most plausible culprit.

The attack could also have been arranged by the Turkish secret service MIT. But the number and type of casualties seems to be too high and valuable for a stage-managed false flag attack.

The Turkish government first claimed that that the PKK was responsible for the attack and send fighter jets into the Qandil mountains in Iraq to bomb some PKK positions. The Turkish Prime Minister then blamed the Syrian YPK and then the Syrian President Assad. Next will be Russia, the Jews and the Illuminati.

The Turkish government called in the ambassadors of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to present its evidence. A "western diplomat" told the Wall Street Journal that the evidence shown was "not conclusive". That is the diplomatese expression for "bullshit". The Turkish attempt to use the attack to change the U.S. and EU relations to the YPK failed. The YPK and its associated Arab and Turkmen forces is a very valuable asset for the U.S. to fight the Islamic State. It will refrain from condemning it as long as that is the case.

The YPG groups in west Syria are fighting together with others under the label Syrian Democratic Forces. These and the mysterious additional attendants are pressing Jihadi forces in the Azaz pocket at the Turkish border. They are now seeing more resistance. The Turks use artillery to protect the Jihadis in Azaz and the number of enemies has grown. One "rebel" tells Reuters that 2,000 "rebels" with some tanks came from Idleb through Turkey to Azaz. That number is dubious. The British MI6 outlet SOHR as well as a Turkish pro government daily put the numbers at 350 on Monday and another 500 on Wednesday. To transport the tanks through Turkey would likely have been too much a hassle. I doubt that any reached Azaz.

I suspect that many of these "rebels" in Azaz are actually Turks of some radical nationalist and Islamist faction as well as Grey Wolf fascists which have strong connections to the MIT. Pictures show such "rebels" in Latakia with Turkish and Islamic State flags and in Azaz with their typical Grey Wolf hand sign.

The more "rebels" join the fight in the pocket the less will be in Idleb and elsewhere. The Syrian army and its allies will be happy when lots of the "rebels" join the Azaz pocket and are kept there by the YPG. There is no urge yet to eliminate them.

The Syrian army today liberated Kinsaaba in Latakia near the Turkish border. It was the last bigger holdout of "rebels" in the governate. The Syrian troops in north Latakia can now mop up what is left of the "rebels" and then move to the eastern ridge of the Latakia mountains. From there they can look down onto Idleb province and the city of Jisr al Shughour. When the big battle for Idleb province begins during the next months that city will be their first target.

Yesterdays attack in Ankara has moved less than expected. While the Turks would like to enter Syria and fight the Syrian government troops as well as the YPG they are to afraid of the Russian forces to go alone. NATO and the U.S. are for now unwilling to give them any cover.

Posted by b at 02:20 PM | Comments (84)

February 17, 2016

Today's Attack In Ankara Could Be A False Flag Incident

In March 2014 tape recordings of a meeting between the Turkish then Foreign Minister Davutoglu, the chief of the Turkish intelligence MIT Hakan Fidan and others leaked to the public. They talked about a false flag attack on Turkey to be used as a justification form a Turkish attack on Syria. The new was mostly ignored by the "western" main stream media. As I wrote about the tape:

The major points from my view:
  • Turkey has delivered 2,000 trucks of weapons and ammunition to the insurgents in Syria.
  • There are plans for false flag attacks on Turkey or Turkish property to justify an attack from Turkey on Syria.
  • The Turkish military has great concerns going into and fighting Syria.
  • The general atmosphere between these deciders is one of indecisiveness. Everyone seems to be unclear what Erdogan wants and is waiting for clear orders from above.
  • Shortly before the meeting the U.S. military presented fresh plans for a no-fly zone over Syria.

Consider those 2014 plans for a false flag when reading this just-in news:

At least five killed in huge explosion in car bomb attack in Ankara"

A big explosion that officials said was an "act of terrorism" took place in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing at least five people and injuring another 10.

Ankara Governor Mehmet Kılıçlar said the officials believe the explosion was caused by a car bomb.

News reports say buses carrying military personnel have been targeted. The explosion took place as the buses were arriving at a military lodging facility in downtown Ankara, according to reports.

Ömer Çelik, a spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), wrote in Twitter that the explosion was an "act of terrorism."
...
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the authorities have received information about the blast and were looking into it. Davutoğlu was scheduled to depart for Brussels for a visit later this evening but he canceled the trip and headed to the presidential palace to attend a last-minute security summit.

The attack was near a Turkish military headquarter in Ankara. The announced numbers of wounded and killed are still increasing by the minute.

Turkey will likely blame the Turkish Kurdish PKK for this incident and will extend the blame to the Syrian Kurdish version of the PKK, the YPG. But if this is not a Turkish stage-managed false flag attack it is more likely an Islamic State terror attack than one by the PKK.

Michael Horowitz @michaelh992
#ISIS released the latest edition of its magazine in Turkish, specifically targeting the Turkish military #Turkey
6:58 AM - 26 Jan 2016

As to what follows from this incident consider also this:

Saud Al Tamamy @Saud_AlTamamy

Saud Al Tamamy Retweeted قناة الإخبارية

For the second time in less than 24 hours: a phone call between King Salman and President Erdogan.

MK Bhadrakumar, who was India's ambassador in Turkey in 1998-2001, reminds us that disagreements between Turkey and the U.S., like the ones we have seen during the last weeks, are not necessarily what they seem:

Although Washington and Ankara appear to be preoccupied with a verbal brawl over christening Syrian Kurds as “terrorists” or not, there is a long history of the two NATO allies working in tandem while dissimulating difference of opinion to mislead outsiders.

Turkey has a consistent record of making defiant noises but ultimately falling in line with Washington’s guidelines. Such situations can be multiplied. Thus, it is entirely conceivable that the open support voiced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday for Turkey’s proposal to create a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria would have enjoyed some measure of American approval.

Turkey's Prime Minister yesterday said they would not give up on the Azaz pocket and the city of the same name currently held by CIA/Turkey/Saudi sponsored terrorists against the Russian supported Syrian Kurds.

The hectic communications over the last days, the likely fall of Azaz to Syrian Kurds and this "terror attack" in Ankara lets me assume that we will very soon witness a serious escalation by Turkey and its allies against Syria and its allies.

Posted by b at 01:06 PM | Comments (132)

February 16, 2016

Are Green Berets Leading The YPG In Taking The Azaz Pocket?

The Syrian Arab Army and the YPG troops of the Syrian Kurds are making good progress in the Azaz pocket. The pocket formed after the Syrian army cut through the "rebel" corridor between Aleppo city and the Turkish border. The aim now is to push all foreign proxy forces who are still in that pocket (green) back north into Turkey and to get full control of the border.

 


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The Syrian-Russian command decided to let the YPG (yellow) have the fun of cleaning the pocket only to taunt the Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan has a serious domestic policy problems when the Kurdish forces gain control in parts of Syria that the wannabe Sultan Erdogan regarded as sacred neo-Ottoman ground. His court jester, the Prime Minister Davutoglu, announced that his country would not allow the town of Azaz to fall to Kurdish fighters. He will have to eat a flock of craws over that.

The Turks are firing artillery from Turkish ground in the north onto Kurdish position in the pocket. Turkish special forces are likely near the front line to control that fire. But artillery alone can not make the difference. The Kurds have air support from the Russian airforce which Turkey no longer dares to attack. The Russians will not attack the Turkish artillery as such an attack could widen the war. The Kurdish troops will have to suffer through that barrage as they push out the Turkish and CIA paid proxies. Some reinforcement for the CIA proxies arrived from Idleb. These passed from Idleb into Turkey and from Turkey into the pocket. The destruction of these forces in the Azaz pocket will make the further fights  of the Syrian army in Idleb and elsewhere a lot easier.

The Turks see the Kurds as terrorists and demand that everyone joins that view. The U.S. declined and several other states have protested against the Turkish use of artillery against the Kurds. The U.S. sees the Syrian Kurds as friendlies. In east Syria it helped the Kurds to kick the Islamic State out of Kobane. There are U.S. special forces on the ground in east Syria to prepare the Kurds for new attacks on the Islamic State. These also act as Forward Air Controller to direct U.S. air strikes.

The Kurds in the Azaz pocket have also some support from a professional military. Their moves are very purposeful and controlled. They are clearly coordinated with the Syrian army. The coordination with the Russian airforce works well and there is ground fire coordination with the SAA. The line of demarcation between them has likely been agreed upon a while ago. This animated GIF shows the development in the pocket over several days. The town Kafr Naya was, for example, first taken by the Syrian army, but then the army pulled back from it and the Kurds immediately took over. Some local forces, former "rebels", in Kafr Naya then joined the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is the U.S. label used for the YPG whenever it has some local Arab forces attached to it.

Who are the professionals that are helping the YPG to take the Azaz pocket?

My first thought was of course Russian Spetsnaz. But I asked around and none of my usual sources would confirm this. The sources acknowledged that the YPG in west Syria has special force support but there was some quite unexpected silence over who these forces were. It is clear to me that these are not Syrian special forces. The YPG does not want to be seen as an adjunct to the Syrian government. No one would confirm to me that these are Russian forces even as that would be of no great surprise to anyone. This leads me to speculate that some U.S. special forces are directing the YPG in the Azaz pocket. This in coordination with the Syrian army and the Russians.

Is that a crazy thought? Consider: The Syrian YPG Kurds are supported by the U.S. military. They received weapons and ammunition from the U.S. military and, at least in the east, have some U.S. military special forces embedded with them. These Pentagon supported YPG troops currently fight foreign proxy forces in the Azaz pocket which are supported, equipped and paid by the CIA, the Saudis, the Turks and other Arab U.S. "allies". The CIA is running the show. The Turkish NATO member is shelling the Pentagon supported YPG to protect the CIA supported "moderate rebels". The current CIA director was once the CIA Chief of Station in Riyadh and has intimate connection to the Saudi rulers (and their pockets?).

It was the military's Defense Intelligence Agency that warned in 2012 of the emergence of a "Salafist Principality" - the Islamic State - in Syria and Iraq. It warned against continuing the CIA support for the "rebels". It was the Pentagon that sabotaged the White House intent to create another "moderate rebel" force to attack the Islamic State:

The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’

Clearly, the Pentagon hates the CIA support for the "moderate rebels". The CIA support has fed not only the "rebels" but also al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Continuing that path would likely result in a radical al-Qaeda controlled Syrian government and another thankless, years long military expedition to oust it.

The U.S. has several kinds of special forces. The famed SEALs as well as the army's Delta Forces are by now mostly door kickers. They do night raids and other SWAT commando like stuff. The Army Rangers have joined them in the bloody business of killing Afghan farmers. The U.S. special forces that are trained and able to direct a local guerrilla are the Green Berets. A very discreet type of people that work in small teams and are trained in local languages and habits.

So who is helping the Kurds. My hunch is that these are not the "polite green men" of the Russian Spetsnaz, who enabled the people of Crimea to rejoin with Russia, who are now helping the YPG. I believe that the Pentagon sent some of its own "green" people to help the YPG to kick the asses of the CIA supported Jihadis out of Syria. This in tight coordination with the Syrian and Russian forces.

The Obama administration for now decided to accept the Russian offer to pull its chestnuts out of the Syrian fire. But it does not want to give the Russian any credit for doing so. And while the Pentagon has firmly joined the Russian camp some years ago, the White House interventionist borg are ready to again change course and to again support the CIA, the Saudis and Turks in their "moderate Jihadis" mischief. The Green Berets, should they indeed be in north-west Syria, better do their job well and defeat the CIA proxies in a decisive manner.

The above is speculative based solely on my personal hunch and it may be completely wrong. It would probably make for a good movie plot. But could it be right? Has the Pentagon send its specialists to help the Syrians, Russians and Kurds to kick out the CIA sponsored Jihadis? Please let me know your take.

Posted by b at 05:35 PM | Comments (103)

 
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