Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 28, 2015

Is The Fall Of Idlib Part Of The Nuclear Negotiations With Iran?

Some ten days ago there were rumors of an imminent jihadist attack on Idlib in north west Syria. Idlib, a governate city that once had 100,000 inhabitants, is only a few miles from the Turkish border and the Syrian government forces only held a narrow corridor towards it.

Three weeks ago the Turkish government closed all nearby border crossings between Turkey and Syria to  civil traffic. Four days ago a coalition of Jabhat al-Nusra (the alQaeda affiliate in Syria), the Islamist Ahrar Al-Shams group and a few smaller groups started an all out attack on Idlib. At least 1,500 fighters took part in the attack. Four huge vehicle borne suicide attacks on government held road barriers broke the outer government defenses.

The Syrian army sent a few reinforcements but those were not enough to hold the attacks coming simultaneously from three sides. Today the government forces retreated and formed a new blocking line south of the city. Jabhat al-Nusra published videos showing some of its fighters in the center of the seemingly empty city. This map by Peto Lucem shows the current situation.


Other videos and pictures out of Idlib show only very few captured vehicles. One T-62 seems to have been destroyed and only one more plus three infantry carriers were captured. This suggest that the government side had already pulled out its heavy weapons and was ready to cede the city to its opponents.

Under current circumstances the city was of little strategic, military or economic value but it took rather large efforts to hold and resupply it. Giving it up while intensifying efforts in the more strategic areas in the south and around Damascus is the right decision from a purely military point of view but is still a loss in the propaganda and political ground of the war.

But with obvious nearby Turkish (and U.S.) support for Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist groups any further efforts to hold the city against a determined attack would have taken disproportionate forces and would have weakened defenses elsewhere.

It is an interesting coincidence that three simultaneous events in three countries,

all seem to be designed to weaken Iran-allied forces. This at the same time as the negotiations over Iran nuclear program in Switzerland reach their climax. Does this coincidence suggest a central coordination of these attacks designed to weaken Iran's (psychological) position in the nuclear negotiations?

Posted by b on March 28, 2015 at 16:49 UTC | Permalink


Who is the U.S. supporting in Syria?

"General" Salim Idriss, Chief of the Free Syrian Army, who says this

I made a mistake criticizing Al Nusra's role in #Syria they're now the only party involved that represent aspirations of Syrians with action

AlQaida "represent aspirations of Syrians" ?!?

Posted by: b | Mar 28 2015 18:01 utc | 1

The reports so far from Idlib do not indicate the city has fallen.I am saddened you have chosen to believe compromised sources. I have been to Idlib many times and do not recognize the scene depicted in the few videos I've looked at. Idlib is very important to us. It is a provincial capital with serious symbolism. My nephews in the Syrian army might dispute your adoption of the propaganda flooding the western press.

Posted by: Ziad Abu Fadel | Mar 28 2015 18:21 utc | 2

What's keeping Russia from intervening directly?

Posted by: aaaaaa | Mar 28 2015 18:24 utc | 3

Make no mistake, the so called 'arc of resistance' Syria, Hezbollah, Iraq, Iran and Yemen are under attack, and will be for the foreseeable future, those five countries face an existential threat, unless they hang together, they will be hung separately. Because Iran has been under US sanction since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, it cannot be the nuclear file which stops any rapprochement, rather the vast number of conventional missiles they and Hezbollah possess, more than enough to destroy Israels infrastructure, concentrated as it is, in and around the Tel Aviv Metropolitan area. I do not think the US has it in its DNA to do a reasonable deal with Iran, I think the negotiations will stall and go the way the North Korean ones did, then George Bush refused under hardline pressure to supply N Korea with 500,000 tons of oil per year and a couple of light water reactors. N Korea went on to build the bomb. The pressure on the US this time, is that most Nations want to trade with Iran again, and will see US intransigence as a good reason to do so. Especially Russia, China and the other BRIC's. Leaving the US and Israel as the odd men out, and with only the military option on the table. That's when the US electorate will rise up,[hopefully] as they did when Obama threatened to bomb Syria. Interesting day's ahead.

Posted by: harry law | Mar 28 2015 18:24 utc | 4

Syria & Iran have the bomb ...

Russia, Syria and Iran have a mutual defense pact.

Watching NCAA Sweet Sixteen last night. Charlie Rose being a Duke alumnae showed up. Charlie touted his Sunday evening Bashar Al-Assad interview

" The entire interview will air on PBS during “Charlie Rose” on March 30. The interview, which occurred today, comes nearly a week after Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS News that the United States is open to negotiating with Assad in order to broker peace for the war-torn nation."

source -

Posted by: Alberto | Mar 28 2015 18:38 utc | 5

This is no coincidence.
In my view, the "10" countries coalition have just fell into a trap set by the USA to weaken them so they will have no choice than to accept the US-Nuclear plan in exchange for an official protection by the USA against Iran "hegemony".
The USA knows very well that these attacks are noisy but useless. They may appear to the naive coalition as 'weakening' Iran through destroying Houthis military apparatus, while in fact they will not only re-inforce the Houthis in their determination to oppose Saudi and USA hegemony in the region but bring in also the average yemeni Sunni who hates Saudi and USA as well.
Hadi is a puppet and will never be able to rule Yemen.
The Zaydis represent 30% of Yemenis, they won't disappear in thin air.

Posted by: Virgile | Mar 28 2015 18:45 utc | 6

It was interesting that Al Qaeda attacked Houthis as Saudi planes were bombing them. That was a quite strange coincidence.

Posted by: Crest | Mar 28 2015 18:49 utc | 7

Alarming if true.

Interestingly, Fox news, the BBC and Reuters are calling a spade a spade - "Al Qaeda", "Jihadists" and "Hardline Islamist insurgents". A far cry from the sanctimoniously titled Free Syrian Army.

We're witnessing a rapid reversal of fortunes around Aleppo and Idlib since Aleppo was on the cusp of full encirclement by Government forces. So appalled were the Turks by the prospect of Syrian Government forces rolling over the militants in the North and having nothing left to defend (or to provide the basis for a buffer zone, about which they're obsessed), and by the remarks that Kerry made regarding negotiations with Assad, that they're sticking the knife in - just as the Saudis are now doing in Yemen when the Houthis banged on the gates of Aden.

I'm not convinced that this is an attempt to weaken the Iranian hand at the nuclear talks, rather it is the result of frustrated American regional allies attempting to assert themselves at a time when US interests appear to deviate from their own.

I think Obama is as keen to reach an agreement as anyone. But it is a difficult juggling act to achieve this whilst maintaining good relations with Iranian foes.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Mar 28 2015 19:20 utc | 8

can I just say that Erdogan is POS terror-lover.
How he's president of Turkey is beyond me

Posted by: aaaaaa | Mar 28 2015 19:32 utc | 9

"On Saturday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was angry and shamed by the failure to halt the Syrian civil war.

Speaking at an Arab League summit in Egypt, he promised to step up diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting."

Ban Ki Moon. Has the UN ever had such a powerless sap at its head? A huge swatch of the globe, from Nigeria to Afghanistan, has remained in flames under his watch and he feels "shame". No progress made towards peace in any of these situations. Just resign already, you wet rag of a man.

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 28 2015 19:42 utc | 10



Posted by: jo6pac | Mar 28 2015 19:48 utc | 11

This seems to be a decent article showing how the opposition in Syria has been completely absorbed by al Qaeda and ISIL. It also notes how these groups are the hold outs to UN efforts to find some kind of peaceful solution.

The many and varied groups fighting in Syria’s civil war have long been in a tug-of-war to control the northern city of Aleppo, but the current clashes have effectively lumped the factions in two camps: opposition brigades unofficially aligned with al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) or forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

In Aleppo, JAN is part of a joint military operation room with two of the most well-equipped anti-regime rebel brigades in the north: Jabhat Shamiya (the Levant Front) and Jabhat Ansar al-Deen (Supporters of the Religion Front). The two coalitions have pulled resources and manpower from a variety of formerly independent brigades, bringing together hard-line extremist groups like the Islamic Front and the Mujahedeen Army with more secular units of the Free Syrian Army.


In 2013, the Syrian opposition included a large number of Islamist brigades that were neither moderate nor jihadist but were aligned with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, under an umbrella organization called the Commission of the Shields of the Revolution. Two years later, the brigades have begun to slowly disperse.

“So far, few battalions have pledged allegiance to the more extremist groups that are currently on the rise in Syria, such as the Nusra Front and the Islamic State,” Raphaël Lefèvre of the Carnegie Institute’s Middle East Center wrote. “But this could be about to change.”

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 28 2015 19:50 utc | 12

Good question, b. I suspect it's the sort of question which all but answers itself.
Fwiw, I liked your Fee Syrian Army. It more accurately reflected their motivation than the laughably dishonest Free Syrian Army. A similarly truth-enhancing nugget of distortion could probably be applied to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (in London not far from the BBC).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 28 2015 20:07 utc | 13

More hints of independence show by France. What choice do they have, really? France has to know that ISIL poses a real threat to their safety, while the conflict in Syria - just like the conflict in Ukraine - is more of a US pipe dream than anything.

A senior French officer accompanied confidentially the parliamentary delegation that visited Damascus on February 25 and met Major General Ali Mamlouk, a key Syrian security official, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported.

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 28 2015 20:16 utc | 14

Latest news - Islamist groups seize Syrian city of Idlib and

Posted by: GoraDiva | Mar 28 2015 20:58 utc | 15

Sorry about my phrasing 'the so called 'arc of resistance' it is a real resistance and must be supported by all people who favour Independent sovereign states in the region. The traitor Abbas supports the Saudi invasion of Yeman, Nasrallah said of him, when the Israelis decide to invade the West Bank and Gaza, you have no case to argue, just go home, you have no case. Meanwhile a PA official calls on other Arab states to bomb Gaza. Incredible

Posted by: harry law | Mar 28 2015 21:26 utc | 16

Harry law @16 : thump up.

Posted by: Alan | Mar 28 2015 22:00 utc | 17

Does this coincidence suggest a central coordination of these attacks designed to weaken Iran's (psychological) position in the nuclear negotiations?

Posted by b on March 28, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

Sure why not, eh?

lets throw it in there and treat it as the null hypothesis until proven otherwise

always wisest to presume the worst where d'Empire is concerned

Posted by: Lucas Brake-Pipe | Mar 28 2015 22:41 utc | 18

This may confirm b.'s thesis -

Posted by: GoraDiva | Mar 29 2015 0:53 utc | 19

This is ww 3 chicos, it must now move to Asia to become truly global oh America why u do this?

Posted by: Fernando | Mar 29 2015 2:12 utc | 20

DiFficult to see any of the flash points not going from bad to worse. Tanks on the way to Ukraine, Yemen about turning into a full blown ground war, Bolton straight up calling to bomb Iran- wtf is up with that by the way, nice job WaPo- lots of noise on economic sites about SHTF scenarios... It just feels like multiple crises on the verge of spiraling out of control, and the US is pouring fuel on every fire in one way or another.

Posted by: Colinjames | Mar 29 2015 3:13 utc | 21

Just because terrorists and their media are saying they have taken Idlib, doesnt make it true. Lets wait for the real confirmation.

P.S. About Iran's nuclear deal, the only reason it potentially could happen is because West hates Russia even more than Iran, and they need oil/gas from somewhere. Other than that deal would be impossible, as always.

Posted by: Harry | Mar 29 2015 3:22 utc | 22

No pivot to Asia, ever. This is the stone Sisyphus rolls uphill in vain; or it is a parallel universe where an ape plays the part of the mythic hero condemned, for eternity, in Hades. This is the ground where the Empire breaks. Evil has had its run, but it can not progress much further.

Posted by: Copeland | Mar 29 2015 4:57 utc | 23

What's keeping Russia from intervening directly?

Posted by: aaaaaa | Mar 28, 2015 2:24:15 PM | 3

Other than supplying the Syrian government with material support, if you are talking about something such as troops or direct air support, I would say common sense.

Posted by: sleepy | Mar 29 2015 8:23 utc | 24

@3 and 24, regarding Russian military support for Syria

It might be the case that Russia supplied nuclear missiles to Syria in 2013.

It is not a secret that NATO countries such as Turkey and Germany have control over nuclear missiles stationed in their territory. And now Obama has allowed to be revealed that the US helped Israel develop thermonuclear weapons.

Gordon Duff had a convincing article in 2013 that the US has financed an Israeli ICBM launch facility. And he elsewhere reported there were reasons to believe that an Israeli bomb attack on Syria had been a nuclear one.

So, one might easily draw certain conclusions from a report in the Arabic language Syrian newspaper Dam Press (translated here by Global Research) that Putin in a trip to London (to which he brought his own food and water) let it be known to Cameron that "some new arms which have never left Russia before will be delivered to the Syrian military." The article ends with the words "He also added that Russia will supply Syria with Skean 5 ground-to-sea missiles that are capable of hitting and sinking any target up to 250 km off the Syrian coast."

When I mentioned this to an Israeli friend that I suspect to be close to Israeli intelligence, I got this satisfying response:

One may well doubt this report, for it says that the Russians will supply Syria with "Skean 5 ground-to-sea missiles that are capable of hitting and sinking any target up to 250 km off the Syrian coast."
As you may see here Skean 5 is a NATO name of Chusovaya nuclear warhead intermediate range ballistic missile, the last of them dismantled in 1989; not likely to be resurrected and given to Syria.
It seems to me this report is one of many disinformation attempts; never checks anything.

In short, it looks like Syria has nukes, and that everyone who should know, knows. It's even been telegraphed to us plebs.

Posted by: sarz | Mar 29 2015 10:48 utc | 25

I think you're reading too much into what happened in idlib. The fact is that idlib has mostly been taken by the multiple terror groups in coordination with Turkey to slow down the SAA progress near Aleppo. The sad part is that it is looking like elements inside the city that formed part of the defence groups armed by the syrian govt facilitated the attack and fall of the city. The SAA is now surrounding the city and will likely bomb the shit out of it. The SAA can't afford another open route from Turkey this deep close to Latakia and Aleppo so we will see some major bombardment to shut this down.
As far as Yemen, the so called arab coalition will fall apart as quickly as it was put together as soon as the Yemenis start their response. Saudis haven't learned from history and the idiot sissi will lose so much which will also likely mean his own end. Nasser lost over 20000 troops when he took on the Yemen, sissi with his saudi masters will lose even more.
There's only one winner in this battle, Israel. There's a lot of people smiling in the Mossad HQ these days.

Posted by: Brad a | Mar 29 2015 12:11 utc | 26

That 'report' came from the London based "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights". Not exactly an honest broker here. Ziad is right, let's not fall for premature propaganda.

Posted by: kafkananda | Mar 29 2015 13:05 utc | 27

I see Ziad stopped by, gotta admit I was questioning this narrative...
I had seen some news items on the alleged fall of Idlib and they seemed highly questionable....

Posted by: Penny | Mar 29 2015 13:13 utc | 28

As for the broader question of a coordinated attack upon resistance forces, I'd bet on it. Things are unraveling quickly now for the darker Hegemonic powers and desperate times demand desperate measures.

Posted by: kafkananda | Mar 29 2015 13:16 utc | 29

Galloway has a new episode of Kalima Hora called "The ISIS Crisis":

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 29 2015 13:37 utc | 30

guest77 @ 29: Excellent Galloway, thanks.

Posted by: fairleft | Mar 29 2015 14:55 utc | 31

It also could be a gesture in the direction of everyone who is opposed to US talks with Iran. (Neocons, Saudi Arabia, ...... )

Posted by: Willy2 | Mar 29 2015 17:04 utc | 32

I have no idea why some here doubt that Idlib has fallen. Even the Syrian government news agency has reported that the government forces have moved southward to form a new line.

The videos of Nusra et al from Idlib clearly show the clocktower and other central landmarks and government buildings. It is completely clear, and has been when I wrote the above, that Nusra and Ahrar now rule in Idlib.

Posted by: b | Mar 29 2015 17:11 utc | 33

Idlib has definitely fallen. As I mentioned earlier, this was a well planned attack coordinated by Turkish intelligence and relied heavily on elements of civil defence in the city that were either turned or bribed.

The SAA has been bombing relentlessly and has now dispatched their top gen in the north with heavy reinforcements to take it back. Gen nimr, or tiger, is already on site and expected to start any time now.

Posted by: Brad a | Mar 29 2015 17:43 utc | 34

I had been reading reports that Nursa, et. al had the run of the place because the SAA took up defensive positions in their bases. My reading (which is only that) was that Idlib has "fallen" but since no units were destroyed the situation could take a 180° at any time.

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 29 2015 19:18 utc | 35

Of course that could well be your typical military CYA.

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 29 2015 19:19 utc | 36

@31 - Much as I respect Galloway, Its great to watch the audience take him to task over his "ISIL gets no support from anyone - any thing else is a conspiracy theory" line which he presses continually.

He sometimes let's his ideological views color his analysis much. I think that is most certainly the case here.

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 29 2015 21:06 utc | 37

here some interesting additional stuff regarding the fall of Idlib:

Posted by: KerKaraje | Mar 29 2015 21:25 utc | 38

@sarz no. 25

It is not a secret that NATO countries such as Turkey and Germany have control over nuclear missiles stationed in their territory.

Under Nato's nuclear sharing program, both security for those nuclear weapons and control over arming them resides with the US government.

As far as Russia having some similar agreement with Syria, my impression of Russian foreign policy is that it is too measured, rational, and deliberate to introduce nuclear weapons into the Mideast

Posted by: sleepy | Mar 30 2015 1:15 utc | 39

sleepy @ 39

Under Nato's nuclear sharing program, both security for those nuclear weapons and control over arming them resides with the US government.

Belgium or Iran, Where’s The Nuclear Threat? Europe’s Five “Undeclared Nuclear Weapons States”

President Gul: U.S. nukes in Adana under Turkish control

Posted by: sarz | Mar 30 2015 7:47 utc | 40

@sarz no.40

Your first link makes no reference at all to who has control over u.s. nuclear weapons.

In your second link, Gul responded to the question as to who controls u.s. nuclear weapons in Turkey:

“Every military installation within the borders of Turkey is under the control of Turkish authorities. There cannot be a military entity in Turkey that is not under the control of Turks.” Abdullah Gul said.

He dodged the question completely. No one has any doubt that all military installations in Turkey are "under the control of Turkish authorities". Turkey could close Incirlik tomorrow, restrict US usage any way it sees fit, and send the US Air Force home if it chose to.

But the 39th Air Base wing of the USAF which is stationed at Incirlik is not under the Turkish military command structure. It ultimately reports to the US president. Are you seriously saying that the USAF in Turkey is now a unit of the Turkish Air Force?

"In peace time, the nuclear weapons stored in non-nuclear countries are guarded by U.S. airmen though previously some artillery and missile systems were guarded by US Army soldiers; the Permissive Action Link codes required for arming them remain under American control. In case of war, the weapons are to be mounted on the participating countries' warplanes. The weapons are under custody and control of USAF Munitions Support Squadrons co-located on NATO main operating bases who work together with the host nation forces.

As of 2005, 180 tactical B61 nuclear bombs of the 480 U.S. nuclear weapons believed to be deployed in Europe fall under the nuclear sharing arrangement.[6] The weapons are stored within a vault in hardened aircraft shelters, using the USAF WS3 Weapon Storage and Security System."

Posted by: sleepy | Mar 30 2015 8:40 utc | 41

sleepy @ 41

What part of this sentence from the first link do you disagree with?:

While Germany is not categorized officially as a nuclear power, it produces nuclear warheads for the French Navy. It stockpiles nuclear warheads (made in America) and it has the capabilities of delivering nuclear weapons.

And here is a summary quote from the Wikipedia article titled "Nuclear Sharing":

Nuclear sharing is a concept in NATO's policy of nuclear deterrence, which involves member countries without nuclear weapons of their own in the planning for the use of nuclear weapons by NATO, and in particular provides for the armed forces of these countries to be involved in delivering these weapons in the event of their use.

As part of nuclear sharing, the participating countries carry out consultations and take common decisions on nuclear weapons policy, maintain technical equipment required for the use of nuclear weapons (including warplanes capable of delivering them), and store nuclear weapons on their territory. In case of war, the United States told NATO allies the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would no longer be controlling.[1]

My overall point was to flesh out the moral and legal landscape in which nuclear proliferation by Russia, if any, has taken place. I need have mentioned no more than the tip of the iceberg, Obama's admission of US help to Israel with thermonuclear weapons.

Posted by: sarz | Mar 30 2015 11:04 utc | 42

37;Yeah,I like Galloway,but I turned off the tape when he said that their is no US or Israeli support for IsUS.He's pussyfooting around.

Posted by: dahoit | Mar 30 2015 15:29 utc | 43

@ sarz

I don't disagree with anything your citations say. I disagree that they say what you think they do. Where, for example, in your first link does it say that Germany has control over arming US nuclear weapons? It doesn't.

And your second citation doesn't address the issue either. It summarizes the shared nuclear policy. Nowhere does it indicate that the US has given up control of nuclear weapons to Germany, Luxembourg, Denmark, or anyone else.

Posted by: sleepy | Mar 30 2015 23:10 utc | 44

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