Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 26, 2013

Syria: The Army Secures The Lebanese Border

This is interesting news from The Independent which I have not yet seen mentioned in U.S. media.
Once a rebel stronghold, the town of Tal Kalakh on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon changed sides at the week-end and is now controlled by the Syrian army.
After the Syrian Arab Army cleaned Al Qusayr of insurgents, the area at the eastern border of Lebanon was closed for insurgency logistics. Control of Tal Kalakh now closes the way through the northern Lebanese border and secures the M1 road from the port city of Tartus to Homs.

The insurgents in Homs city and Homs governorate are now cut off from resupplies. It is only a question of time until they will have to give up. There is more success in that area:

#SAA says it now controls Al-Sha'er oil field in #Homs governerate after days of fighting with Islamic rebels who took control of it #Syria
That the town of Al Kalakh fell through negotiations and without a fight is another positive sign for the Syrian government. The continuing radicalization of the insurgency as well as the rampant warlordism lets even people who somewhat dislike the government seek its protection.

Meanwhile a Saudi/Qatari attempt to widen the war into Lebanon largely failed.

There are two more interesting items in the Independent piece. The first is the - again - proven falsehood of insurgency propaganda:

The Syrian opposition denied that the town had fallen, saying that there was still fighting going on there. In a three-hour visit, I saw no sign of it. Soldiers and civilians looked relaxed and there were no indications of recent destruction, though there are plenty of buildings damaged by shellfire or pockmarked with bullet holes from fighting in 2011 or 2012. The pro-rebel Al-Jazeera Arabic satellite television channel claimed smoke was rising from the town. I did not see or smell any.
The second issue is the so far seldom mentioned facts that the insurgents are paid mercenaries:
Soldiers or guerrillas who have switched sides are often an unreliable source of information about their former colleagues because they denigrate them in a bid to impress their new masters. But Khalid al-Eid did say that his men were “paid $1,300 a month and we got an extra $1,000 if we carried out an operation”. He described how he would make Youtube films – “sometimes they show us firing when there was nothing to shoot at” – which would later be shown on al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera satellite television.
Payment for the insurgents will be the largest single cost in the insurgency's budget, collected in, as described here, or paid directly by the western Persian Gulf countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. That last link also includes this short sentence:
Qatar also provides instructions on battlefield techniques.
That line suggests that Qatari forces, who are mostly recruited from Pakistan (pdf), are on the ground in Syria or at least near its borders. The same folks that trained the Mujahedin and Taliban in Afghanistan are now training the insurgents in Syria. It is then no wonder that one sees the same brutal tactics, suicide bombing and beheading, employed in Syria as one can see in Afghanistan.

Posted by b on June 26, 2013 at 17:03 UTC | Permalink

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Article now says $100 to $300 per month. corrected?

Posted by: biklett | Jun 26 2013 17:41 utc | 1

"That the town of Al Kalakh fell through negotiations and without a fight is another positive sign for the Syrian government. The continuing radicalization of the insurgency as well as the rampant warlordism lets even people who somewhat dislike the government seek its protection."

Reminds me of WWII. There was no love for Stalin when the Germans were invading Russia, but they committed so many atrocities that the locals preferred to fight alongside the devil they knew.

Posted by: Greggg | Jun 26 2013 17:45 utc | 2

This will further demoralize the foreign backed terrorists.

Posted by: Amar | Jun 26 2013 17:56 utc | 3

Regarding what you say about Sheikh Assir's confrontation with the Lebanese army, I would note that the article you cited is in fact an editorial, and highly judgmental; if you compare this news story, about the same issue and also from today's al-Akhbar, you will see that the likelihood of sectarian urban warfare in a number of mixed-sectarian Lebanese towns is still very real.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 26 2013 18:11 utc | 4

What's behind the Russians evacuating Tartus?

Posted by: g_h | Jun 26 2013 18:17 utc | 5

@g_h #4
What's behind the Russians evacuating Tartus?

It was a political move to remove Russian military, since the U.S. is babbling about foreign military presence.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister says all personnel had been evacuated from the navy resupply base in Tartus, Syria, adding that not a single Russian military serviceman remained in the country.

Mikhail Bogdanov made the announcement in an interview with the Al-Hayat newspaper. “Presently, the Russian Defense Ministry has not a single person stationed in Syria. The base does not have any strategic military importance,” the newspaper quoted the Russian official as saying.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 26 2013 18:28 utc | 6

What's behind the Russians evacuating Tartus?

Would like to know that as well. Could be just PR. After all it looks like they just moved out of Tartus base and onto 16 ships that are stationed along the coast. So they haven't "left Syria" in a practical sense. Its a strange move.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jun 26 2013 19:08 utc | 7

Scene from Tal Khalash (

With this border area cut off, the rats in Tripoli will also suffer...No wonder Obama and his tag-alongs are so desperate for some kind of victory, Al-Qaeda victory that is.

Posted by: Zico | Jun 26 2013 19:23 utc | 8

It does sound like the Syrian Army is getting its act together.

Besides Qusayr, the Shia enclaves of Aleppo governate are getting organized to defend themselves and even stage operations against the jihadis. This could cause problems for the rebel supply route from Turkey.

Also, the UN reports that refugees in Jordan are starting to return home, which indicates a more secure situation in southern Syria.

When all is said and done, I expect villages subject to rebel attacks will have their own militias, which was probably not the case before, because they represented a threat to government control. Now they are seen a pro-government.

Worse for Gulf/NATO/Israeli coalition, experienced and trained militias would quickly turn any invasion and occupation into a quagmire.

It turns out that Obama's Smart Diplomacy isn't any more effective than Bush's Dumb Militarism.

Posted by: JohnH | Jun 26 2013 19:31 utc | 9

I think it's fortunate that these beheadings and other atrocities are being uploaded on They make great evidence for prosecution of war crimes. The criminals' faces are on the video as they carry out their heinous acts. Moral and law abiding nations should get together and ask for Nuremberg-like trials and international warrants should be issued. It should be made very hard for these mercenary killers to travel with a sense of comfort around the globe.

Posted by: A.E.Williams | Jun 26 2013 20:05 utc | 10

About Russian evacuation

Maybe they were threatened by terrorists that threatened with attacks on russian soil?

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 26 2013 20:05 utc | 11

I just saw 3 beheadings in Syria. One man and two women. They were then dumped in a hole. I think a charge of aiding and abetting criminals could definitely stand in a court of law against Odummy.

Posted by: Fernando | Jun 26 2013 20:35 utc | 12

Fernando @ 12

Good luck with that in a US law court..As things stand, Odummy IS the law now in the US of A.F*ck the constitution and laws..See how he's hounding that whistleblower all over?? Reagan was kick out of office for doing what Odummy's doing today, although Reagan's was on a small scale.

In Syria, Odummy's terrorist will be supported until they're all defeated..They US knows very well the terrorists won't win. They just want them to prolong to conflict for as long as possible, buying Israel some breathing space to operate in the region.

Posted by: Zico | Jun 26 2013 20:47 utc | 13

And now they try to smear Snowden, even dragging in Iran.

Typical planted CIA bs.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 26 2013 20:59 utc | 14

Haha another slap in the face for the US.

What a circus.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 26 2013 21:30 utc | 15

Funny little post
,tastes a bit like toast
,thinly spread,nicely read
the border has been sealed ,there is no escape this time

Posted by: jub | Jun 26 2013 21:37 utc | 16

This is definitely encouraging news. Hope the SAA can clear the north quickly enough before the big resupply and all of those volunteers from Egypt are trained for combat.

This fiasco for Islamists in Sidon is one of those head scratching stories. Tactically the Sunni militias seem to fight very well. But strategically they seem to be led my morons. The assassination Ambassador Stevens in Libya seems to be perfect example of this. A well executed attack but the consequences were that ts caused the US to reconsider giving their allies in Syria more aid. Now in Lebanon, years of propaganda by the March 14 people (Saudi funded)were setting the stage to convince wide swaths of Lebanon's public that it was all Hezbollah's fault. So Assir (also Saudi funded) attacks and kills 17 national army troops thereby forcing them to wage combat against the Sunni fanatics while Hezbollah sits quietly on the sidelines and watches the war move away from them. It is difficult to attribute things like this to anything but colossal stupidity. If any one can perceive any higher level chess moves in these acts I would like to see them.

Can't help but like the results however. One step closer to another humiliating defeat for US forces in the ME.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jun 26 2013 22:11 utc | 17

since the U.S. is babbling about foreign military presence.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 26, 2013 2:28:46 PM | 6

what do they think all those jihadis are? syrian?

but then the emphasis may be on the word 'military' USrael/qatar/saudi now use mercenaries and now standing armies

Posted by: brian | Jun 26 2013 23:07 utc | 18

This will soon become a two front war. and that means the pressure on the Syrian Army and militias will drop by large degree. You're right, B, Homs will soon fall. The rebels may be able to hold rural districts, but with a serious constraint, if they pop off anti tank weapons and manpads, they'll need a resupply, and away from the Turkish and Jordanian borders, all their supply lines are vulnerable at many points. This is obvious from the many reports of truck and van convoys being spotted, called in to NDF, and blown up.

The new batches of anti-vehicle weapons and their trained operators may be quite deadly, and do pose a serious threat to the Syrian army, but rebel brigades with them grow longer logistical tails. The fighters trained to use them must not be killed or captured, because they're lost both as operational personnel and trainers for other rebels. This means more caution must be exercised, which means less chances to use them. The Konkurs and sa-5 manpads are not as simple as rpgs. The konkurs is wire guided, which means its operator must remain in place to guide it until it hits its target, and he cannot pop up, fire, and run away like with an rpg. So a prepared position must be carefully considered, with fighters deployed and ready to respond properly.

I'm not as well informed about the large scale political meanings as many of you. But it does seem that Qatar tried to punch above its weight in Syria and lost, and has been replaced in many respects by Saudi?

Posted by: Crest | Jun 27 2013 0:05 utc | 19

This bit about the negotiated ceasefire and the difference between dealing with local Syrian rebels and foreign takfiris:

What were the exact terms of the deal that replaced the FSA with the Syrian army? Peace did not break out all of a sudden and it had been preceded by a series of local ceasefires and negotiations arranged by leading local townspeople. Monsignor Michel Naaman, a Syriac Catholic priest in Homs, who has often taken part in mediating such agreements said that “older people in the town had seen much of it damaged and did not want it destroyed”.

He adds that there are many other such deals and agreements in the making. For instance in Homs many people have moved to the al-Waar district for safety, its population rising from 150,00 to 700,000. The Old City, which once had 400,000 people in it is almost empty aside from rebel fighters. He says that ceasefires or agreements for rebels to put down their weapons in return for an amnesty are much easier to arrange when all the rebels are Syrians. “When there are foreign Salafi or Jihadi fighters present, as there are in the Old City, an agreement is almost impossible.”

The Governor Ammed Munir believes “one should try to make a deal in each case without a special military operation”. He says that the Old City of Homs is particularly difficult to deal with because “you can’t have an agreement with so many gangs and in case, there are many tunnels into and out of the Old City”. Overall, there is little fighting in Homs province because of the government success at Qusayr and because these local ceasefires are holding. An injection of more arms and money, which may be the result of last weekend’s Doha meeting of the 11 Friends of Syria could bring a new surge in violence but would not produce a decisive result in the civil war.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Jun 27 2013 0:06 utc | 20

If Stevens was sending guns to al Qaeda in Syria, certainly they didn't want him dead.

Who did that job?

I need to crack open the MOA archives I think.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 27 2013 0:18 utc | 21

Thanks, b. Terrific report.
Here's one of the reason the 'rebels' seemed, to me, to be doomed from the outset.

He described how he would make Youtube films – “sometimes they show us firing when there was nothing to shoot at”

"sometimes" is a pathetically feeble attempt to stretch the truth way beyond breaking point. I can't recall one 'rebel' video which showed them doing anything other than "firing when there was nothing to shoot at.”
I wonder how many 'rebels' have woken up to the fact that they've been comprehensively gulled?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 27 2013 1:25 utc | 22

"I wonder how many 'rebels' have woken up to the fact that they've been comprehensively gulled?"

It's a fair question, but I'm afraid the mark will defend his grifter till the very end. Which, with any luck, is getting closer.

Posted by: Lysander | Jun 27 2013 1:43 utc | 23

@Hoarse "I wonder how many 'rebels' have woken up to the fact that they've been comprehensively gulled?"

Nasrallah is gonna hate to say "I told you so" but... he told them so.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 27 2013 1:57 utc | 24

Syria appears to be rapidly approaching the point where the foreign fighters are no longer an existential threat to the country. Assuming some major NATO bombing campaign is not going to happen.

Syria appears to be crushing the foreign fighters on all fronts:

# The Lebanon border is now for the most part secured

# The small pockets of remaining foreign fighters in the outskirts of Damascus seem to be getting taken out

# There appears to be no significant replacement foreign fighters coming in from across the Jordan border to support the remaining pockets of fighters outside Damascus

# Iraq has moved troops to secure the border and prevent jihadis from setting up training camps in that area

# Homs only has a small and surrounded pocket of foreign fighters left

# The Syrian Army has secured Palmyra/Tadmor in the East without any trouble

# Minnigh looks to be about to be secured now that two nearby towns have been cleared of foreign fighters. Minnigh should give a huge boost to the efforts to cut off Aleppo from its supply lines from Turkey and allow the Syrian Army to continue to secure most of the rest of the North of the county

There is still work to be done on the Jordan border in the South and the Turkey border in the North, but the rate at which the SAA is crushing the foreign fighters it is hard to imagine how these border areas won't be secured.

Other than some action inside of Aleppo by the foreign fighters there appears to be no counter offensives anywhere in the country. The foreign fighters are completely on the defensive. Either standing and getting crushed or fleeing in the face of the SAA advances.

We aren't even hearing or seeing reports of foreign fighters hitting SAA supply convoys. Something that even the smallest and weakest guerrilla force should be executing.

I would assume the next weeks will unfold:

1. Minnigh and the surrounding area is secured and supplies and troops start flowing in to prepare for Aleppo

2. Aleppo continues to be encircled with the foreign fighters slowing being corralled into smaller and smaller sections of the city

3. Homs's last pocket(s) of foreign fighters is cleared

4. While the foreign fighters in Aleppo are being surrounded and cut off from supplies and reinforcements, the SAA will continue to secure the rest of the North

5. The new NDF recruits will continue to take over securing rear areas as the main SAA frontline troops continue their advances

6. Attention then turns to securing the Turkish border in the North, and the Jordan border in the South

Posted by: Pike | Jun 27 2013 1:57 utc | 25

There is a sense of panic in Washington. (It would be worse if they had better information.)

State, today (excerpt of press conference)

QUESTION: But isn’t it true, though, that you really would like to see the balance of forces on the ground shifting in favor of the opposition so they can have an equal setting at the table?

MR. VENTRELL: We have been very clear that we want to support the opposition, that we want their position to improve, and so we’ll continue to work with the opposition among the London 11 and to continue to assist them so that they continue to protect themselves. And of course we want them to have the best possible negotiating position.

QUESTION: And news reports have indicated that now the FSA is organizing to a brigade level, and they have American uniforms. They are wearing American-supplied uniforms – I’m sorry – American-supplied uniforms and so on. And they are waiting to receive arms maybe in mid-July. Can you comment on that?

MR. VENTRELL: We’ve been clear that we’re providing a whole range of assistance. I’m not going to get into all the details, but we’ve been clear that we’re going to provide direct assistance to the SMC.

While we’re on Syria, I just wanted to take – and I talked a little bit about this yesterday – but we continue to be concerned about the regime’s ongoing surges of Tal-Kalakh and al-Qarayatayn. These are neighborhoods in and cities in Homs – Homs province where regime forces, with the support of Hezbollah, have now repeatedly imposed a full siege on the cities. And we are concerned by the implications that there may be major impending regime offenses against these areas. And as you know, the UN Commission of Inquiry has made detailed reporting on the regime’s use of this appalling siege tactic: they cut electricity, food, supplies access, and basically try to starve the people out. And so we think this is particularly appalling and we see it happening in these two cities right now.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 2:58 utc | 26

this appalling siege tactic: they cut electricity, food, supplies access, and basically try to starve the people out

Oh, I must be mistaken, I thought the Syria government was bombing the shit out of them as the US would do, and has done in Iraq and Afghanistan? And so the no-fly zone idea is definitely out? Let's get the story straight, geniuses.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 3:05 utc | 27

@Bacon 26--"equal setting at the table." Hogwash. The US just wants to breathe life back into the rebellion. The time for negotiation was when Assad was reeling. But the US squelched any thought of that. Now that the rebels are reeling, the US is talking negotiations, mostly as a diversion. If the rebels get the upper hand again, there will be no more talk of negotiation.

It's the classic Israeli pattern. When the intifada was going strong, they would say they can't negotiate with terrorists. When there was no intifada, there was no reason to negotiate.

Posted by: JohnH | Jun 27 2013 3:14 utc | 28

Article now says $100 to $300 per month. corrected?
Posted by: biklett | Jun 26, 2013 1:41:40 PM | 1

It works every time...
Pay peanuts - get monkeys.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 27 2013 4:09 utc | 29

@Guest77, comment 21: I have a theory that Stevens was killed because he would not stop picking up local boys for sex. This is something that Salafis take mortal exception to. There is of course remarkably little mention of Stevens' gayness anywhere on the web, apart from one revelatory article in a small online gay mag. I do not for a moment imagine or lean to imply that all gay men are promiscuous, which is far from the case, but here I think I see a pattern: link

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 27 2013 4:11 utc | 30

Religious minorities, which enjoyed freedoms under President Assad, are taking a beating in the regions controlled by terrorists.


Amid growing awareness of the effect the conflict in Syria is having on the country’s Christians, some church leaders in the West are warning that providing arms to combatants in Syria will only worsen the crisis – both overall and for religious minorities in particular.

On Tuesday, a congressional panel will hold a hearing to examine how U.S. policy can safeguard Syria’s vulnerable religious minorities amid the fighting and also once the war comes to an end.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last Wednesday, two leading U.S. Catholic bishops said there was an “urgent need for a negotiated ceasefire and political solution.”

“Instead of arming both sides, the international community should be emphasizing the need for a negotiated solution to the conflict,” wrote Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona.

The Joint Subcommittee Hearing: "Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle" record is here.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 4:27 utc | 31

One testimony at the hearing was by Rev. Majed El Shafie, Founder, One Free World International. His conclusions:

Syrian minorities need the world to listen and to find an effective way to resolve the situation in their homeland. Removing the Assad regime at any cost is not the answer. The United States and its allies must be willing to engage in the long, tedious work of developing a real, democratic Religious Freedom in Syria – Recommendations to United States Congress alternative to the Assad regime rather than just applying a bandaid measure that will in all likelihood backfire on Syria’s minorities and moderate Muslims. The oft-heard saying that, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not always true and is certainly not true in the case of the future of Syria. The United States must support religious minorities in Syria and moderate, liberal forces that will promote a strong, liberal democracy in Syria and ensure that they do not support religious extremists and terrorists prepared to hijack the aspirations of the Syrian people with their dreams of a Shariah-based Islamist haven. Today, will the United States choose to be part of the problem or the heart of the solution?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 4:29 utc | 32

Russia having - even non-fighting - military personel in Syria (Tartus base) could and most probably would have been bent and misconstrued as a pretense for other (anti-Syrian) forces.

And there was nothing to gain for Russia/Syria. Sure enough there is enough Syrian personel and weapons available to defend the harbour. Furthermore, the Russians aren't really gone, they are just some miles outside with a fleet that could if really needed very decisively and on very short notice change the situation in Syria.

Last but not least, while this clearly is an option, the main task of the Russian flotilla is not to engage on the ground in Syria but rather to keep zato/gccz at bay and out of Syria.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 27 2013 4:30 utc | 33

@Mr. Pragma #32
Yes, removing the Russian military from Tartus was brilliant PR move by Putin, removing any pretext for putting US troops there. Brilliant.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 4:51 utc | 34

Another interesting article from the Independent

Iranian sources say they liaise constantly with Moscow, and that while Hizballah’s overall withdrawal from Syria is likely to be completed soon – with the maintenance of the militia’s ‘intelligence’ teams inside Syria – Iran’s support for Damascus will grow rather than wither. They point out that the Taliban recently sent a formal delegation for talks in Tehran and that America will need Iran’s help in withdrawing from Afghanistan. The US, the Iranians say, will not be able to take its armour and equipment out of the country during its continuing war against the Taliban without Iran’s active assistance. One of the sources claimed – not without some mirth -- that the French were forced to leave 50 tanks behind when they left because they did not have Tehran’s help.

If the US is betting on a Sunni Shiite conflict they are fools.

Posted by: somebody | Jun 27 2013 5:22 utc | 35


I really hope so! Was the Russian presence in Syria relevant for that legendary "Geneva 2" meeting?

Posted by: Kal | Jun 27 2013 7:31 utc | 36

guest77 @21. There were stories/rumors? that the Brit special forces liberated small quantities of chemical weapons from Libya early in the Syria debacle. If so, it is obvious where these weapons would end up and what purpose they would serve.

Posted by: Yonatan | Jun 27 2013 8:00 utc | 37

In Idlib - Regime Erodes Hopes for Rebel Enclave in Syria's North

The SAA advance North has reached Nubul and al-Zahraa; Pro-Government communities of some 100,000 people.

Regarding the supposed evacuation of all Russian military personnel, seems to me to be more like one of those rebel 'tactical withdrawals' than a 'brilliant PR move' - in anticipation of all those shiny new weapons reaching the militants.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Jun 27 2013 9:44 utc | 38

Points well made, and Don Bacon | Jun 27, 2013 12:51:38 AM | 33 essecially so, the main point - if we understood the moves we would not be deliberating. In that Russia is the chess player where US tends to be the War monger or ultimatum giver (History proves this); however the current US administration is playing a very different game than one normally expects, so is Obama a Russian? (In jest, as he is African of course) or is the Washington in conflict-Something is missing!

Posted by: kev | Jun 27 2013 11:04 utc | 39

Israel show its colonial mind again.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 27 2013 11:53 utc | 40

/An Australian has been charged under anti-terrorist laws for issuing a how-to list on Facebook for how young men can engage in holy war without getting killed or ending up in Guantanamo Bay.

Zaky Mallah had travelled to Syria and lived with the rebels engaged in the bloody civil war against Muslim hardliner President Bashar al-Assad.

here is how the media portray president Assad: 'Zaky Mallah had travelled to Syria and lived with the rebels engaged in the bloody civil war against Muslim hardliner President Bashar al-Assad.'...................muslim hardliner???the muslim hardlinerw are the FSA, but to sahy Assad is is meant to suggest brutal repressive personality, and induce sympathy in FSA

Posted by: brian | Jun 27 2013 13:03 utc | 41

@ Brian

Wow that article is some of the worst journalism I've read in a while. Even the US press can usually be expected to not make amatuerish mistakes in there propaganda. Notice at the end of the article how it refers to Al Assad as "El Assad" like he is Mexican legend or something.

Also the part calling Assad's secular Baath government "Muslim hardliners" shows that the "journalist" has probably never even watched a 5 minute news segment on Syria before his editor asked him to write the piece. Then there is the quote from Mallah talking about this wannabe suicide bomber going to Syria to "experience the freedom fight".

Wacky article.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jun 27 2013 13:52 utc | 42

Business Standard is an Indian product. I suppose they classify Assad as a sort of Khomeini Jr.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 27 2013 14:05 utc | 43

Crisisgroup: Syria’s Metastasising Conflicts

pretty good situation report in the pdf-report

Obama's 'Alice in Wonderland' Syria Strategy

While some of these partially overlap, administration officials have put forth over a dozen objectives for the United States and its partners in Syria -- in just the last 12 days. Never in the history of third-party interventions in civil wars has so much been asked of so little. This combination of maximalist and minimalist goals without a single clearly articulated strategic objective, or any degree of prioritization, should be troubling to all Americans. The situation brings to mind the condensed quote from a conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."

Posted by: b | Jun 27 2013 14:19 utc | 44

Susan Rice is moving from UN ambasador to national security advisor to the president. On June 25 she presented remarks at a press conference on her UN tenure, 2009-2013.

Rice mentioned US enemies, Iran and North Korea. She also mentioned "political transformations in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan" and " President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons," and also Sudan.

Rice in her prepared remarks somehow neglected to mention the huge failures in Libya, and her Benghazi coverup, and Syria, which occurred during her tenure and with her support. And somewhere she sees accomplishments -- "But I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished together here."

Then Rice took reporters' questions.
On Syria: (excerpts)

Rice: Low moments—those too have been a few. But I think, to be very frank as I suggested in my statement, the repeated failure of the Security Council to unify on the crucial issue of Syria, I think, is a stain on this body and something that I will forever regret, even though I don’t believe that outcome is a product of the action of the United States or its closest partners.

. . the Security Council has three times voted, and three times has faced a double veto—not by the United States but by Russia and China—of very mild resolutions aimed at beginning to address the situation in Syria. Those resolutions didn’t contain sanctions. They didn’t contain the treat of the use of force, much less authorize the use of force. And yet we’ve been paralyzed.

And I don’t know how, in any circumstance, one would ascribe that to a failure of U.S. policy or U.S. leadership when the vast majority of the Council was ready and willing to move ahead.

. . . But with respect to Syria, I think the facts speak for themselves. Iran’s violation of sanctions and its support for the government in Syria is reprehensible. We have condemned it. We have worked forcefully in the Sanctions Committee to strengthen enforcement and to impose penalties for Iran’s violation of the sanctions regime. In this instance and in others—and again there, quite frankly, . . .when action has been blocked, it hasn’t been blocked by the United States.

(The ever-devious Rice on the subject of Syria takes the opportunity to dump on Iran, a minor player, and suggesting that Iran is violating sanctions by supporting Syria, which has no basis. Of course no reporters spoiled this love-in by mentioning it.)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 14:41 utc | 45

Rice: "Low moments, those too have been a few, but I think, to be very frank... "
Sinatra: "Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention... "

By the way, it seems to me there are factional battles going on in the Ecuadorean government. They've disavowed their own asylum voucher for Snowden, which was shown on TV:

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 27 2013 15:06 utc | 46

It appears that Chechniyans are performing an increased role in Syria.

LWJ, Jun 27, 2013

Muhajireen Army uses BMP to launch suicide assault on Aleppo airport

The Muhajireen Army, a jihadist group comprised of foreign fighters and Syrians who are closely tied to al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, claimed credit for two recent suicide assaults that targeted government soldiers at an airport in Aleppo. In one of the two attacks, the jihadists used a BMP armored personnel carrier to detonate a large quantity of explosives.

The Muhajireen Army does not have an official propaganda outlet, and its information is often released via third parties, usually Russian-language websites. Fighters from the Russian Caucasus are prevalent in the Muhajireen Army, and the group's commander is a Chechen.

Also there is this video (h/t Coventry clothier -- Syria Observatory) on an incident involving beheadings. (I only watched the beginning of it. Nightmares are not my thing.)
The SOHR received footage of non-Syrian rebel fighters executing 2 Syrian civilian men who were accused of collaborating with the Syrian regime. The executions, which took the form of beheading with a knife, was committed in front of several onlookers, including children. The perpetrators spoke with a classical arabic accent and did not sound arabic, they sounded Chechniyan.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 15:06 utc | 47

Just chasing that Ecuador thing a bit: it appears that Senator Menendez, head of the relevant Senate Committee - a Democrat incidentally - is threatening to completely screw Ecuador trade-wise if it accepts Snowden for asylum:

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 27 2013 15:22 utc | 48


These people arent right in their heads, same mendez is an aipac shill.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 27 2013 15:53 utc | 49

Something is brewing at the southern Syrian border

Syrian rebels say they need U.S. weapons now

“We welcome Saturday’s announcement, but we can’t afford any more delays,” said a rebel commander who, like others interviewed, gave only his nom de guerre, Abu Diyaa al-Darawi. He said his Free Syrian Army battalion recently lost the southern villages of Itlaa and Basr as-Sham to Assad’s forces, who were aided by Hezbollah.

“Unless we have heavy arms within our hands by the end of the week, we will have lost southern Syria,” said another commander, Abu Mohammed al-Naimi, adding that his 800-strong group of fighters has been engaged in seesaw skirmishes with pro-Assad forces outside the southern village of al-Sheik Maskin.

Thousands return to Syria ‘to defend their homeland’
Around 3,000 Syrians left the Zaatari Refugee Camp on Wednesday evening, the largest single group of returnees since the onset of the conflict, according to the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) and camp officials.

The number of Syrians returning to their homeland has risen from some 100 to 400 per day over the past two months, according to officials, pushing the total number of voluntary repatriations over the past year to over 56,000.

Wednesday’s departures came amid rising calls by rebel officials on refugee communities to return to Syria to “defend” their hometowns and villages from a reported growing number of Hizbollah and Iranian fighters sweeping through southern Syria.

Mohammad Al Saad was one of Wednesday’s returnees who claim they aim to join rebel forces upon their arrival in Syria.

U.S. Begins Shipping Arms for Syrian Rebels

WASHINGTON—The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans.

The shipments, related training and a parallel push to mobilize arms deliveries from European and Arab allies are being timed to allow a concerted push by the rebels starting by early August, the diplomats and officials said, revealing details of a new covert plan authorized by President Barack Obama and ...

The ins have losses in the South. Jordan sends a wave of new fighters (returning refugees) and the U.S. is giving them weapons.

This all seems to be preparations for now, not yet a big fight. But we can expect a major attack on the south next month with a push for a "save zone" and from their an attack on Damascus.

Lets hope that the SAA reads that the same way and has a good "welcome" prepared for it.

Posted by: b | Jun 27 2013 16:11 utc | 50

Re Russia evacuating Russian nationals from Tartus...

I suspect that Putin thinks ZATO IS stupid enough to stage an unprovoked attack from outside Syria with Cruise missiles followed by, or in concert with, fighter jets. Keeping his Syria Defence Contingent off shore will serve several purposes IF ZATO launches an assault (any such assault will have to be very BIG to stand any chance of success).

1. It reduces the risk of 'accidental' strikes on Russian ships/personnel and allows any such strike to be interpreted as hostile and deliberate, and punished immediately.

2. From scattered offshore positions, it'll be quicker and easier to pinpoint launch sites of any attack and then destroy those sites. The Russians can't afford to sit around taking pot-shots at individual missiles/aircraft; that will be Assad's job for the first 12-24 hours of an attack. Russia's job will be to make any such attack "not worth the price" to the attackers (in less than 24 hours). So if ZATO does attack things will get very violent, very quickly.

But I think the offshore move will be enough to spoil ZATO's appetite for slaughtering civilians in Syria from (what they wished could be) a safe distance.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 27 2013 16:28 utc | 51

@ 50
Thousands return to Syria ‘to defend their homeland’

I think that, given conditions on the ground, it's more likely that refugees are returning because their former homes have been liberated. That's human nature, not the purported story that families are returning to fight against the government. Why would they do that?

And, lookey here, the "journalist" who wrote that article for the Jordan Times, Taylor Luck, works for the Washington Post.

So this appears to be a new (to me) twist -- the US enlisting US MSM propagandists to spout their obscenities for friendly foreign print media. "How pundits keep spinning us to death" -- Norman Solomon

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 16:53 utc | 52

b @ 50. Amen.

Am I alone in thinking that this is happening way too late? If Obama didn't believe so much of his own balderdash he could have done this a long time ago. I'm not convinced that 'returning refugees' can be vetted with any degree of accuracy before giving them weapons. But since America's aim is to destroy Syria, it probably suits Obama just as well if half the armed refugees are pro-Assad and half are anti.

What a wonderfully humanitarian chappie, that Obama ain't.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 27 2013 16:58 utc | 53

Thousands return to Syria ‘to defend their homeland’

The same story appeared in the Washington Post on June 22.
Syrian refugees returning home to fight
By William Booth and Taylor Luck

Booth plagiarizes.
WaPo, Jan 18, 2013

Washington Post to suspend William Booth over Panama Canal story

The Washington Post will suspend a veteran foreign correspondent after the newspaper found that a story he wrote contained several unattributed sentences from a science journal.

The article, which appeared on the front page of Sunday’s newspaper and online the day before, was written by William Booth, a longtime Post reporter and chief of the paper’s Mexico bureau. It described the expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate a new generation of super-size cargo ships and the race among U.S. ports to keep up with the bigger vessels.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 17:11 utc | 54

re 29

Article now says $100 to $300 per month. corrected?
Posted by: biklett | Jun 26, 2013 1:41:40 PM | 1

It works every time...Pay peanuts - get monkeys.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 27, 2013 12:09:12 AM | 29

I don't think you know what an unskilled labourer's wages are like in the Arab Middle east. $10 a day? I think that's what I used to pay for unskilled labour in Jordan and Iraq. Things may have changed since then (the 1980s), but then there's not much alternative employment these days in Syria.

Posted by: alexno | Jun 27 2013 17:33 utc | 55

Re Ecuador & Snowden -- latest - reports from rt dot com and dailypaul dot com - quote from dailypaul below

"Ecuador gives up, unilaterally and irrevocably the said customs benefits…What’s more, Ecuador offers the United States economic aid of $23 million annually, similar to what we received with the trade benefits, with the intention of providing education about human rights…”

The Ecuadorians say that this is not the old South America.

Posted by: Northern Night Owl | Jun 27 2013 18:45 utc | 56

Hoarsewhisperer (51)

I suspect that Putin thinks ZATO IS stupid enough to stage an unprovoked attack from outside Syria with Cruise missiles followed by, or in concert with, fighter jets. Keeping his Syria Defence Contingent off shore will serve several purposes IF ZATO launches an assault (any such assault will have to be very BIG to stand any chance of success).


2. From scattered offshore positions, it'll be quicker and easier to pinpoint launch sites of any attack and then destroy those sites. The Russians can't afford to sit around taking pot-shots at individual missiles/aircraft; that will be Assad's job for the first 12-24 hours of an attack. Russia's job will be to make any such attack "not worth the price" to the attackers (in less than 24 hours). So if ZATO does attack things will get very violent, very quickly.

If zato really did something stupid like that - and I don't think they will (although reality teaches again and again that one should not lightheartedly assume an upper limit for zusas stupidity) - they would invite humiliating hell.

I think (as you indicate) it's reasonable to assume that Assad has some albeit limited air defense capability (incl. S-300) available although I doubt that Syria could withstand a *massive* air attack. On the other hand the probability of zusa/gccz having enough material (cruise missiles, jets) available near Syria can be considered as being very low.

More importantly though, any offensive action by or from another country (like jordania) would invite - and justify - Russia to officially enter the theater. Considering the current situation on the ground it can be reasonably assumed that Russian units could be somewhat north of Damascus within 24 - (max) 48 hours. Furthermore they could have S-400, Pantsir and some hundred "marines" landed at Tartus within hours a) to cover their convois going toward Damascus and b) to immensely drive up both risk and cost for zusa/gccz.

Once arrived at the two positions (west of Homs and north of Damascus) Russia not only could create a denied area basically covering the whole of Syria but they could also destroy any major enemy positions, and very seriously threaten or even create havoc in turkey, israel and jordania (think "Iskander").

But the ugly side goes on ...
Being there and being there officially and legitimately they would allow Assad to quite comfortably clean up Syria and, being done, to retake the Golan heights without any chance for israel to do much more about it than being unhappy.

I'm not sure whether the above mentioned Syrians (if they are Syrians ...) come "back" in order to simply return or in order to support the terrorists. But even sending in more (and now well equipped) terrorists into Syria is way more credible than any country attacking Syria. The first might still be tolerated, the latter would make zato/zusa/gccz's worst nightmare come true.

Furthermore any such attack would invite and legitimize Russia to generously weaponize not only Syria but quite possibly also Iran.

All in all it comes down to:

Usually zusas criminal wars are instigated by israel. This time, however, israel is among the countries that definitely does not want to see Iskander and S-300 systems in Syria.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 27 2013 19:05 utc | 57

b, I do think that you get the tone of your article slightly wrong (no criticism, we think what we think).

The significance of Tell Kalakh is whether or not this abandonment of the revolt by one town, is going to lead to large numbers of others following. If it is, as Cockburn says, an isolated case, then Asad & co are going to have trouble in reconquering the entire country. They are too weak to reconquer the country militarily, strategic roads lost or not.

If, on the other hand, the abandonment of the revolt by Tell Kalakh led to a wider desertion elsewhere, then the revolt would be effectively over. There are two precedents in recent Middle Eastern wars, which suggest that this could happen.

The first is the end of the Iraq-Iran war in 1988. After the death of Khomeini (well, several months later) the Iranian troops gave up fighting. Suddenly, Iraqi troops advanced, and pro-Iraqi militia went without opposition from the border as far as Hamadan (probably MEK). It was this that led to the ceasefire. Iraq being too weak to profit from the victory. I imagine that Iranians had had enough of the war. Most have forgotten this.

Secondly when the Sunni revolt in Iraq against the Americans came to an end, and many joined the Sahwa (Awakening), although advertised by the US as a success, it was in fact because they'd had enough of the war and al-Qa'ida, who pillaged them mercilessly.

Will the same happen in Syria? We are in the phase of decision right now. If Asad & co are brutal over Tell Kalakh, then the war will continue. If things go well in Tell Kalakh, then we may see a widespread desertion from the revolt.

However, I should say that even if the locals desert the revolt, there will still be the jihadis. I would think there will still be jihadi-created instability many years in the future, and will the regime ever retake completely the country?

Posted by: alexno | Jun 27 2013 19:27 utc | 58

I believe #50 'b' is making a mistake when he believes an anonymous "US official" quoted by WSJ saying the CIA has begun moving weapons to Jordan, weapons which will be distributed to Syrian rebels in Jordan.

Here's words by Jordan's king Abdullah in an interview with a Saudi newspaper within the past few days. In my interpretation of these words, Jordan does not intend to participate in any way in arming the Syrian rebels:

"I have always warned that it would be easy to export the Syrian crisis across borders due to the neighbourhood’s interweaving demographics..... Those who are keen on the future of the region, its stability and the security of its people must put an end to the regional expansion of the Syrian crisis.... This solution is: An immediate end to violence and the launch of an inclusive political transition process where all components of Syrian society are engaged — I repeat, all components of Syrian society — along with a review and reconciliation process."

The king's words above are consistent with what he's been saying for more than a year and are consisistent with what other Jordanian government officials have been saying very recently. For other recent statements about Syria by Jordanian gov't officials on the record see

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 27 2013 20:38 utc | 59

I never wanted to use the term, "empire". Cuz it's kinda played out, I will still use the phrase "powers that be". The extremely kind folks who still pay attention to my posts know that is what I always use when referring to the USA-Israel-Rothschild-industrial-military-digital-neo-liberal complex. It's too easy to just blame "the juuuuuuuuice"...My partial upbringing in USA, was heavily infused with Shoa-holocaust indoctrination.
The majority of shows on the idiot box has portrayed many sympathetic characters from that ethnicity (I don't care what anybody say's, it's a race).
My judeo-Christian religious foundation compels me to believe that in someway my creator "chose" them at some point in time.
However, I have travelled and lived abroad, learned other languages, explored other beliefs. My current inclination is that inspite of the fact of their being "chosen".
They are (not all) a nasty, selfish, wickedly mean people.
So they are intertwined, they are enmeshed with the powers that be.
They are part of the empire.
I've finally gotten to the point.
This empire, which like the empire in the "star wars" series, was under the power of the Sith.
These people are the sith.
The Syrians, Hizbollah, Iran are the Rebels
Cuba, Nicaraugua, Venezuela & Ecuador are the Pirates of the Carribean.
The USAgov has just imposed a openly gay man as ambassador on Dominican Republic.
The country's people don't want him, (I don't care that he is gay) however this is a conservative Catholic country. The empire has told them to accept this satrap and be silent.
The empire, who everytime it suffers a defeat, people everywhere are happy.
The Sith controlled empirium who has it's very own version of Emperor Palpatine ODUMMY the 1st!!!
For he won't be the last!!!
This country has been ruined, the Supreme Court has imposed the lifestyle of a few upon the majority of the population. The empire crushes all in its maw.
How will this all end?
Uprisings, revolts, Taksim, Occupy, Arab springs, Brasilian bus fare protests????
Are these movements going to into something larger. Something more global??
Will the globalization advanced and pushed by the Empire, be the vehicle the causes it's end?
Will we the people, the 99% finally get sick of it all, will we go and just eat cake????

Posted by: Fernando | Jun 27 2013 20:49 utc | 60

Today 27 Jun 2013 the king of Jordan met with US foreign minister Kerry. On the Syrian crisis, the king told Kerry that Jordan's stand is firm regarding this issue and Jordan calls for a comprehensive and transitional political solution to end bloodshed and preserve unity of Syria and its territorial integrity and limits its catastrophic consequences on the whole region.

The government of Jordan first and foremost wants peace and orderliness in Jordan. Being a party to arming the Syrian rebels would be contrary to that. Here's an insance of what the government of Jordan wants:

The 28th Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts opens on Wednesday at the ancient Roman city of Jerash. This year’s festival includes around 120 local and Arab folk troupes, in addition to plays, poetry readings and intellectual debates. Headlining the festival are major Arab musical artists Kathim Al Saher, Nancy Ajram, Carole Smaha, Ayman Zbib, Najwa Karam, Assi El Helani and Diana Karazon. The festival’s activities conclude on July 7.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 27 2013 21:00 utc | 61

re 60. I agree Jordan should look after its own interests. But is it really doing so? 1000 American troops are installed for "training". Evidently for preparing an invasion of Syria. Does Jordan have any choice, if the US has assembled an "exile army", and decides to launch it on Der'a?

Posted by: alexno | Jun 27 2013 21:14 utc | 62

There's a 52-page report on Syria by Crisisgroup dated 27 Jun 2013 and linked to at #44. The report was unable to hold my attention or win my patience, and I quit skimming it about a third way through. If you read it and thought something in it was actually worthwhile, please post the item you thought was worthwhile.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 27 2013 21:39 utc | 63

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jun 27, 2013 9:52:29 AM | 42

yes the bit about Assad as being a 'muslim hardliner' a phrase that suits Zacky is bad journalism but good propaganda; as it goads the reader to viewing Assad as something not very nice. Such language is what inspires the jihadis to see their mission as 'glorious'

Posted by: brian | Jun 27 2013 21:42 utc | 64

'Rice mentioned US enemies, Iran and North Korea. She also mentioned "political transformations in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan" and " President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons," and also Sudan'

a world without nukes..except in US Israel and any state that decides getting rid of them is not a good idea...all said in the tone of reasonable diplomacy that politicians have to master to succeed in their careers

Posted by: brian | Jun 27 2013 21:45 utc | 65

"The significance of Tell Kalakh is whether or not this abandonment of the revolt by one town, is going to lead to large numbers of others following. If it is, as Cockburn says, an isolated case, then Asad & co are going to have trouble in reconquering the entire country."

Tal Kalakh has no relevance to Syria defeating the foreign backed.

It is nice that the Syrian army was able to save damaging the city and endangering civilians. But other than that it is no different than tens of other cities and villages in the surrounding area that have been purged of foreign fighters.

Just more garbage 'journalism' from the British press trying to spin yet another defeat for the foreign backed mercenaries and jihadists.

Posted by: Pike | Jun 27 2013 22:46 utc | 66

@ 59.
My judeo-Christian religious foundation compels me to believe that in someway my creator "chose" them at some point in time.

She told me that She didn't choose them.
Guess who I believe?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 28 2013 4:41 utc | 67

Australia's new Deputy PM, anthony albanese gave a speech on syria recently.

Posted by: brian | Jun 28 2013 8:20 utc | 68

alexno | Jun 27, 2013 1:33:25 PM | 55
(Re peanuts and monkeys)

I'm not disputing the $100 - $300 p/m figure in biklet's post nor your first-hand observation of $10/day a generation ago. I was prompted to make the peanuts / monkeys comment by a hazy recollection that US 'contract mercs' in Iraq, specifically, were paid $1500/day (or at least their employers were paid that sum by the USG) and were generally required to have formal military service/training/experience.

There's some evidence that the 'rebels' are regarded by their paymasters as expendable monkeys.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 28 2013 11:49 utc | 69

@ Hoarsewhisperer #69

Speaking of Syria, mercs are being hired in Eastern Europe as well (ex-military, cons, etc) for $15000/month, but calculated per day ($500), due to SAA disposing of this cannon fodder quite quickly.

From Asia/Africa its cheaper to hire for petro-monarchies ($500-1500/month), but their skill level is often non-existent, and few months training can only help so much. Usually they're very poor guys who cheaply sell their lives to help out their families, etc.

Posted by: Harry | Jun 28 2013 12:23 utc | 70

Parvizyi, AP talks of "statements from US and other Western and Arab officials that Jordan has been facilitating arms shipments and hosting training camps for Syrian rebels since last October." That date is probably much too recent; compare the base camps in Turkey, which have been there since early 2001.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 28 2013 14:52 utc | 71

A statement on the record by a high-ranking official of the government of Jordan about what's happening in Jordan is infinitely more reliable, trustworthy and better-informed than a statement about Jordan from an anonymous "US diplomat" quoted in any newspaper.

@ Rowan Berkeley #71 I agree with what you were saying to 'b' last week and the week before about not believing WSJ's anonymous sources on Syria. But I don't understand what you're trying to say to me at #71. For one thing, Jordan and Turkey are two different governments with two different perspectives and different policies on Syria-related matters.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 28 2013 20:46 utc | 72

The Deputy Prime Minister of Australia is the second-most senior officer in the Government of Australia. The current officeholder, Anthony Albanese, also holds the office of Leader of the House of Representatives (Australia) and he is is also the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and in addition he is also the Minister for Regional Development. As linked to by Brian #68, he recently made a speech at a "Hands off Syria" gathering in Sydney. He said (1) the disputes in Syria must be resolved by the people of Syria alone, and the powers outside Syria should butt out, (2) religious fundamentalism is bad, (3) the current government of Syria constitutes a "sophisticated secular State".

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 28 2013 20:52 utc | 73

This 'hands off' business shouldn't even be a question, given the UN Charter, which is being neglected and abused by the US and its allies when it pleases them, as on Syria, and (wrongly) invoked in other cases. Might as well scrap the UN.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 28 2013 20:57 utc | 74

@Harry | Jun 28, 2013 8:23:41 AM | 70, So true - We lost security guards in Sierra Leone to an 'external' recruiting drive (UK based security contractor) or Iraq 'Security', the deal on paper was around $1200, the worker would be paid via its Gov. To cut a long story short, all SL recruits were repatriated as they were caught stealing for food, they stated the monies received (Home) was barely $200, that also included the ‘finders’ cut - Many were also recruited for the Libyan conflict. Most, if not all were trained by companies like G4S, Akal and a few independents using the same training manuals, more of going through the motions than 'Training'.

Posted by: kev | Jun 28 2013 23:33 utc | 75

Stealing food! Those guys should get with the program. Stealing from taxpayers is where it's at.

Posted by: dh | Jun 29 2013 0:06 utc | 76


It is sort of sad to see Manning have his whole trial, and yet be overshadowed in all possible avenues of sympathy (being gay, being a whistleblower) by other events (the DOMA ruling, Snowden).

Poor guy can't catch a break.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 29 2013 0:38 utc | 77

I bet General Cartwright (Stuxnet leaker) will get off easier. But of course he isn't, you know.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 29 2013 1:27 utc | 78

It's now a crime to support Al-Nusra Front. Group listed as terrorists by Aust gov.

Posted by: brian | Jun 29 2013 1:27 utc | 79

Togetherness, it works for FSA & AQI

LWJ, Jun 29

Al Nusrah Front claims joint operations, including a suicide assault, with Syrian rebel groups
By Bill RoggioJune 29, 2013

The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, claimed it launched two suicide assaults and other attacks with Syrian rebel groups, including an Islamist unit and two Free Syrian Army brigades.

The Al Nusrah Front made the claims in a series of statements released by its official media outlet, the Al-Manara Al-Baydha' Foundation. The statements were obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The attacks were carried out with the Nasser Salahuddin Brigade, an Islamist group from the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, and the Dera' al Assima, Liwa al Habib al Mustafa, and Liwa' al-Tawhid, three Free Syrian Army brigades that operate in Damascus.

I hope they know that it's forbidden to swap weapons. NO!

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 29 2013 3:50 utc | 80

galloway does syria a service by posting Nabil naims excellent interview: gets a much wider viewership

Posted by: brian | Jun 29 2013 4:34 utc | 81

Parviziyi 72: "A statement on the record by a high-ranking official of the government of Jordan about what's happening in Jordan is infinitely more reliable, trustworthy and better-informed than a statement about Jordan from an anonymous "US diplomat" quoted in any newspaper." That's a very arbitrary claim. Assigning degrees of credibility to sources whether official or journalistic is inevitably a subjective thing: one decides whom to believe based on one's aggregate picture of the entire world, how it works, what is regarded as normal or what is tolerated by mass media. I'm still astounded by the degree to which mass media everwhere simply accept Big Lies, as if they were rules set down by an umpire for a game. I suppose that unless one sells out and becomes a paid servant of some empire or interest, one simply becomes a bit more confident in one's guesstimates after one has spent more years watching the media, tracing the lies and contradictions, and so forth. Anyway, here is something relevant, though it comes from a source notorious for shameless fabrications, DEBKAfile today. 'Usrael' is my abbreviation for 'the US and Israel':

According to our sources, USrael, Saudi and Jordan are forming up to move in on a section of southern Syria to compensate for their inability to prevent Aleppo falling to Assad’s army. The idea is to let the Syrian ruler seize control of the North, while USrael, Saudi and Jordan push the Syrian army and Hizballah out of the South, a kind of volatile partition which it is hard to imagine Tehran accepting lying down. This concept has two more major flaws:
1. USrael are too slow and hesitant to achieve their goal before Assad steps in to put a stop to their plan.
2. For it to succeed, the Druze population of southeastern Syria must be won over and cooperate. Through the nearly two and-a-half years of the Syrian civil conflict, Druze leaders have chosen to sit on the fence,using their neutrality to stay safe. They will continue to hold back until they are sure which side is the winner.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 29 2013 6:49 utc | 82

'This pattern of an al-Qaradawi pronouncement quickly followed by White House action began in Egypt in January 2011. On January 26, 2011, speaking in an interview on Al-Jazeera television, al-Qaradawi issued an unambiguous demand that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak step down:

"President Mubarak … I advise you to depart from Egypt … There is no other solution to this problem but for Mubarak to go…"

By January 29, a mere three days later, Obama fell in line and told Mubarak that "an orderly transition must …begin now…"

It was not long afterwards—on February 21, 2011—that al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa, again on Al-Jazeera television, calling for the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. The Islamic revolution against Qaddafi's regime had broken out just days before, on February 17. The news that President Obama had signed a secret order, known as a "presidential finding," to authorize covert U.S. government support for the al-Qa'eda-dominated militias then fighting to oust Qaddafi, emerged in late March 2011. Reports cited "government sources," however, who said the president had signed the finding "within the last two or three weeks." In any event, by March 14, 2011, U.S. envoy Christopher Stevens had been named official liaison to the Libyan opposition, which consisted primarily of al-Qa'eda militias such as Ansar al-Shariah, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), and Libya Shield. The president's cover story about intervening in the Libyan uprising cited a pending "massacre" in Benghazi "that would have….stained the conscience of the world." Of course, there was no such massacre in the offing, but rather the very real possibility that Benghazi, the center of the rebel uprising, might have fallen to Qaddafi's advancing forces. Had Benghazi fallen, the jihad offensive in Libya could well have been stopped in its tracks. So, once again, the U.S. administration lost no time in hopping to follow al-Qaradawi's lead after he called for another Islamic Awakening domino to fall.

It might be noted that a similar sequence of events in Syria apparently precipitated the al-Qaradawi call for jihad against Bashar al-Assad and his Shi'ite Iranian and Hizballah backers as well as the U.S. administration's pledge to send weapons (openly) to the Syrian rebels. It was the fall of rebel-held Qusayr to Syrian regime forces on June 5, 2013 that seemed to spur both the al-Qaradawi jihad fatwa and Obama's decision to follow suit and expand assistance to the al-Qa'eda and Muslim Brotherhood-led rebels.

In each of these instances — Egypt, Libya, and now Syria — it is "completely clear," as Barry Rubin writes, "that the United States is backing people who hate it." It is also completely clear that, at least since President Obama green-lighted the Islamic Awakening in his June 2009 Cairo speech, U.S. policy has been turned upside-down: in very tangible terms, the U.S. government has joined the forces of jihad to overthrow the unfaithful Arab and Muslim rulers that the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi so blatantly threatened (along with the U.S. and Israel) in his late September 2010 call for jihad. In so doing, U.S. leadership is deliberately and proactively enabling the self-declared forces of Islamic jihad and shariah, who make no secret of their enmity and loathing for the U.S. and Western civilization in general, to come to power in country after country of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.'

Posted by: brian | Jun 29 2013 8:57 utc | 83

@ Rowan Berkeley #82: You might be right to be dubious in the case of an isolated statement from a Jordanian government official that isn't consistent with statements from other Jordanian officials or isn't consistent with what the same official says on other occasions. But I linked to consistent statements from the king and the prime minister, on multiple occasions, incorporating statements of principles as well as statements of facts, and stated on the record. What they say is what they believe and what they believe is what they say.

Meanwhile US diplomats are grossly ignorant about reality in Arabic countries, on a host of levels. If you can't agree with me about that, I say you haven't been paying attention to the question these last 10 years. Statements off the record, which are reported as from an anonymous source, have relatively little information value compared to the statements on the record. An off-the-record anonymous "US diplomat" is grossly unreliable about the facts in Jordan or the principles of the government of Jordan; and he should not to be given any credence whatsoever if what he says is inconsistent with what the government of Jordan consistently and repeatedly says.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 29 2013 16:01 utc | 84

Parviziyi, let's just wait and see, shall we? Either the 'NATO and non-NATO allies', as the US partners in aggression like to call themselves, will launch a surprise attack on Syria from Jordan, thereby proving that the Jordanian leaders have been issuing lying denials in the run-up to it, or they won't, in which case the denials will have been sincere.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 29 2013 17:27 utc | 85

For the last two weeks the government of Turkey has still not made a public statement about arming or not arming the Syrian militants from Turkish jurisdiction. ,

Turkey is the jurisdiction from which the USA government could possibly transfer weapons to the Syrian militants: the governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have said they won't allow it (and I imagine Israel wouldn't allow it). The transfer is currently prohibited by Turkey. If the USA government aims to give weapons to the Syrian militants, it has to get the transfer legalized in the jurisdiction of Turkey. The USA government is not going to tell its employees to violate Turkish law (except it may do so covertly on a small scale via CIA but it couldn't scale up if the operation remainded illegal in Turkey).

The international Doha "Friends of Syria" meeting on 22 Jun 2013 agreed that all material support for the Syrian militants is to be channeled through an organization of the militants called the "Supreme Military Council". The bulk of the members of the "Supreme Military Council" are based in northern Syria on both sides of the Turkey-Syria border. On or about 24 Jun 2013 the "Supreme Military Council" held a meeting near the Bab al Hawa Turkey-Syria border crossing, in Hatay or Idlib. The chairman of the "Supreme Military Council" told Sky News on 25 Jun 2013 "I have not received a single thing" in weaponry so far from the Doha powers. He also said he hasn't even been told what weapons to expect. He had to explain this to doubters at the meeting of the council, he said. Another member of the Supreme Military Council, Colonel Abdul al Aygedi, commander of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, told Sky News after the meeting that he resigned his seat on the council to "focus on the defence of the city", but he told Sky News that the council "is a waste of time and has no role to play". Talk of American material assistance channeled through the council was "just talk, just promises, nothing will happen. The Americans never deliver", he said.

As of 19 Jun 2013 the US has disclosed that it has given US$10 million worth of material aid to the "Supreme Military Council" so far, which the US has said has been in the form of food and medicine.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 29 2013 17:27 utc | 86

@ Rowan Berkeley #85: You're not hearing the principles and perspectives that the Jordanian officials are expressing. They've been saying the same thing for more than a year and they've left lots of statements on the record. I suggest you read them slowly and carefully. Your notion that they may be lying has no intelligent basis.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 29 2013 17:46 utc | 87

Parviziyi, I honestly don't thionk you're living in the real world. As you know, there are very large numbers of Syrian refugees in camps in northern Jordan. It is very widely reported, it has been very widely reported for six months to a year now, that CIA and possibly other secret services are selecting people from these camps, arming them, and sending them back across the border into Syria as terrorists. There have been substantial battles between Syrian border troops and groups of these terrorists either entering Syria from Jordan or exiting from it back to Jordan again. You can dismiss all these reports as fabrications, if you wish. But when you start talking as if you really believe that even the Syrian/Turkish border is so far innocent of such transfers, I have to laugh. The reporting of the activity on that border is not just widespread but omnipresent. The situation was summarised by Sibel Edmonds as long ago as Nov 2011, as follows: Col Riad al-Assad, head of the Free Syria Army, has been working since May 2011 with the US & NATO from inside the USAF base at Incirlik, smuggling US weapons into Syria, participating in US psychological and information warfare inside Syria as the middle-man whom Syrian protesters tend to trust, and helping to funnel intelligence and military operators across the border and organise night-time drop-offs by air. The joint US/NATO secret training camp in the USAF base at Incirlik began operations in Apr-May 2011 to organize and expand the dissident base in Syria. Since then, in addition to Col Riad al-Assad, several other high-ranking Syrian military and intelligence officials have been added to operations HQ in the USAF base. Weekly weapons-smuggling operations have been carried out with full US/NATO participation since May 2011. The HQ also includes an information warfare division where US-NATO crafted communications are directed to dissidents in Syria via the core group of Syrian military and Intelligence defectors.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 29 2013 18:37 utc | 88

Steve Gowans latest (June 28). He's become positively prolific on the US Syria scam - more posts in a single month than I can recall for several years.
There's lots of good stuff but this really tickled my fancy...

Neither does the FSA have a political program committed to democracy. “Eliminate Assad” does not necessarily mean “create democracy.” It could mean “create theocracy” or “create a US-puppet regime.” Hence, what the FSA wants to replace Assad with, is not defined, but given that the organization is backed, armed, supported and guided by the United States, its European satellites, and Arab royalist dictators (an iconoclast has dubbed the loose alliance of rebel groups the Foreign Supplied Army) we can guess that the answer is: whatever the FSA’s backers, prime among them Washington, say.

The Myth of the Secular, Pro-Democracy Syrian Rebel

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 29 2013 19:09 utc | 89

Parviziyi @ 86.
Interesting comment. It reminds me of something...

I remember now... "gulled."

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 29 2013 19:26 utc | 90

On the present US-inspired offensive from Jordan. According to the news, 3000 men have been released from Jordanian camps in order to return to Syria. Today, one checkpoint has been taken.

My Syrian student, who was in a camp in Jordan, has obtained political asylum in France. He was afraid that he would be forced to take part in an operation of the rebels. I would imagine that he was a similar situation to the other 3000. Most don't want to fight, but are being forced, in order to preserve their families. We will have to see, but I wouldn't be surprised if the operation fizzled out. After all, the US is not going to provide heavy weapons.

Posted by: alexno | Jun 29 2013 20:40 utc | 91

Date 28 Jun 2013, from b's favourite source of daily news:

"What is the United States doing to deliver on Obama's June 14 pledge to provide increased military aid for the rebels [thus far]? Let me quote the succinct summary of one of my Syrian rebel contacts: "Nothing ... not even a single bullet.""

Date 28 Jun 2013, from another of b's preferred sources of news:

"When the Obama administration begins arming Syrian rebels through the CIA, something news reports say will happen within the next month, it probably it will be acting without help from [any of] its European allies." (Ref).

I mentioned the defector Anthony Albanese at #73. Here's an arbitrary futher example of the daily ongoing defections from the regime, with this one in a daily newspaper published in New Jersey, USA on 27 Jun 2013:

"When will the United States learn the dangers of selecting sides in an on-going civil war? The Syrian rebels do not represent a popular resistance.... The Bloomfield-based New Jersey Peace Action is... circulating a petition urging President Obama to abstain from supporting any... arming of any faction in the conflict.... According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted on June 11, just 15 percent of those polled favor U.S. military action, and only 11 percent want to provide arms to the opposition." [The figure went up to 35% after Obama's announcement on June 13, most of the increase coming from party-line followers of the USA Democratic party.] "The same poll showed that 42 percent of those polled prefer to provide only humanitarian assistance, with almost 25 percent of those polled believing the United States shouldn't take any action. These attitudes cut across party lines and almost all demographic groups."

PS @ Hoarsewhisper #89: You're mud-slinging and it's impotent. If you have some evidence to support yourself, produce it.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 29 2013 21:07 utc | 92


I am willing to believe that the statements of Jordanian officials reflect both the personal unwillingness of Abdullah to attack Bashar as well as the political desire to keep Jordan's military out of direct engagement in the Syrian conflict. Even so, Jordan has other pressures that compromise its ability to be entirely neutral. Partly because of Jordan's financial challenges and treaty entanglements, the US, Israel and Saudis are able to exert a lot of influence on Jordan's decisions. Thus, Israel has been given permission to use Jordanian airspace to attack Syria and "secular" rebels are being allowed to be trained by the CIA near the Syrian border (and Saudi money helps pay some of Jordan's bills). Adding to the strain on Jordan's economy are the vast number of refugees who are draining Jordanian resources (especially when the international community has been far behind on its promises of humanitarian aid). Jordan certainly has strong incentive to get these refugees back to Syria -- even if sending them back as rebel fighters or enabling a no-fly-zone in southern Syria are not Jordan's top preferences for doing so.

It is perfectly reasonable to believe that Abdullah is concerned about the stability of the region and would prefer that the Syrian conflict and Israel/Palestine conflict be resolved by negotiations. But that doesn't mean that the US, Israel, France or Saudis will pay much attention to Jordan's preferences.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Jun 29 2013 22:26 utc | 93

Another defector, USA political talkshow host Glenn Beck, 17 Jun 2013: . The video is 3:43 long. I found it worth watching all the way through, not for any intrinsic merit but for the evidence that my foreign enemy is fracturing seriously within on Syria.

I got the link from

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 29 2013 22:41 utc | 94

@ Rusty Pipes #93: You claim that Syrian rebels are being allowed by the government of Jordan to be trained by the CIA near the Syrian border in Jordan. The government of Jordan denies it. I claim that you are misinformed. I claim you have no evidence. What's your evidence? A report in a Western newspaper from an anonymous "US diplomat"? Is that your evidence? On basis are you making your claim?

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 29 2013 22:49 utc | 95

Another defector in the USA mass media, Ben Swann, 27 Jun 2013, best from time 4:50:

Posted by: Parviziyi | Jun 29 2013 23:27 utc | 96

Parviziyi @ 91.

You supplied all the evidence I needed to justify my remark. I don't think you made it up so it was good enough for me.
"Hoarsewhisperer" was invented to 'sling mud' as you put it. It got tired of restrained self-censorship by moderate, inoffensive, commentators in the MSM and the www.
I describe it as pointing out the truth as I see it, as bluntly as possible.
"Impotence" is close to the mark though. I'm unaware of any change mine, or anyone else's comments have made to the status quo. But let's keep banging our heads against the same wall, each in his/her own way, until someone says something that really does make a difference, eh?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 30 2013 4:27 utc | 97

Re 96.
In case there's been a misunderstanding "gulled" was a reference to the 'rebels' not Parviziyi.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 30 2013 5:11 utc | 98

Assad-busters: At a secret base in Jordan, U.S Special forces are training Syrian rebels for war...but loads fear sleeper cells in their nation will wreak a terrible revenge

Concerns were raised further last week with news that the CIA and US Special Forces are training Syrian rebels at a secret base in the remote south-west of the country.

The Free Syrian Army fighters are mainly from Daraa, where the uprising began in March 2011.

It is not known how many of the rebels have passed through the US base, but it is understood 20 to 45 at a time have been attending two-week courses since December – and are being trained with Russian-designed 14.5mm anti-tank rifles and 23mm anti-aircraft weapons.

Operation Eager Lion may have ended two weeks ago but 900 combat-ready American servicemen remain behind, with many now based close to the strategically important northern border.

Disquiet over what may happen next is felt all over this desert kingdom – a key ally of Britain and America and one that has played a pivotal role in the power struggle in the Middle East.

However, there is also this:

Manas: Kyrgyzstan backs closure of US airbase ...

Kyrgyzstan's parliament has voted to end the US lease on its military air base at Manas in July 2014.

The bill was approved by 91 votes to five, and will become law once signed by President Almazbek Atambayev...

Many troops are expected to pass through Manas as the US pulls out more than 30,000 of its forces from Afghanistan by early next year....

Russia also has an air base in Kyrgyzstan, for which it agreed a 15-year extension last year.

Posted by: somebody | Jun 30 2013 8:01 utc | 99

The article that the Jordanian PM etc was so busy denying was this one:
and here is the denial from the PM, among other things:

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 30 2013 8:49 utc | 100

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