Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 09, 2016

The Wannabe Sultan Meets A Russian Airborne Division - What Is He Going To Do?

The Syrian campaign against the foreign supported terrorists continues with the help of Russia, Iran and other associated forces. This campaign is aimed at killing all terrorists and their associated forces as demanded by the United Nations Security Council resolution 2254.

[r]eiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, [...] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established

The U.S. for now seems to go along with that resolution and lets Syria and Russia do what they must. But there are others who are more invested in Syria than the Obama administration. The immediate aim of the Syrian forces is to close the border with Turkey and to liberate Aleppo city from the Jihadi insurgents. 6,000 additional soldiers from Iran have arrived to support that effort. A major campaign is planned to launch during next months. But the Saudis, Qataris, Turks and Israelis want to fight the Syrian government down to the last Syrian rebel and foreign mercenary. They will not give up the dreams and the very large investments they made to bring Syria down. The Syrian insurgent groups were just summoned to Ankara to receive new orders.

The Saudis made an insincere offer to send its own troops to fight in Syria. This is likely just a cover to incite others to invade the country. Turkey is the most likely candidate. Here a much read Turkish columnist, a feverish follower and mouthpiece of Erdogan, makes the crazy argument that the self defense of Turkey demands to attack Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies:

The war Tehran and Moscow are carrying out in this country is a war against Ankara. These two countries are actually directly fighting Turkey. There is no way to hide this any longer.
...
Turkey must directly intervene in the Syria issue. Military action included. If Iran and Russia are able to enter this country with such flimsy pretexts, if they are able to bomb even the zero point of our border, if they are exiling Syrian civilians to Turkey and attacking Turkey from Syria, then Turkey has far more reason and right than they.

Nobody would want an open war. Nobody would want a war between Russia and Iran and Turkey. They would not even wish this. But this time it is very serious. If a step is not taken today, we are going to have to fight under tougher conditions than today in the future. There is no such thing as the Syrian regime or Damascus administration anymore. The country is being re-designed and this situation is clearly threatening us, the way is directed at Turkey and we are expected to sit in silence and accept this! Which country can surrender to such a thing? There is threat, physical condition and legal reason to intervene.

Similar crazy words are written by Zionist propaganda clowns in major U.S. newspapers. A not yet existing siege of thousands of al-Qaeda/al-Nusra fighters and maybe some 40,000 civilians in insurgent held parts of Aleppo is used to demand a U.S. attack on Syrian and Russian forces. From the Washington Post:

Operating under a NATO umbrella, the United States could use its naval and air assets in the region to establish a no-fly zone from Aleppo to the Turkish border and make clear that it will prevent the continued bombardment of civilians and refugees by any party, including the Russians. It could use the no-fly zone to keep open the corridor with Turkey and use its assets to resupply the city and internally displaced people in the region with humanitarian assistance.

If the Russians and Syrians seek to prevent humanitarian protection and resupply of the city, they would face the military consequences.

A map published last Friday in the Italian 'La Repubblica' without further explanation shows a Turkish invasion of the northern part of Syria which is currently held by the Islamic State. Such an operation would allow the communication line between Turkey and the Islamic State to stay open. That line is endangered by Kurdish and Russian plans to attack the same area and to eliminate the ISIS presence there.

That communication line is important. Last year the U.S. intelligence community stated that there were some 20,000 foreign fighters with ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorists groups in Syria and Iraq. In a congressional testimony today (pdf) the director of national intelligence James Clapper put the current number at 38,000. Turkey claims it closed its border for foreign fighters going to Syria and Iraq. If so how did those additional 18,000 foreign Jihadis enter Syria and Iraq? Did they just drop from the sky?

Those ISIS fighters are unlikely to have come as airborne troops. Russian troops though would indeed fall from the sky should Turkey do something stupid.

Russia has already warned that it was observing Turkish preparation for an invasion. Yesterday it launched an alarm drill for the airborne troops and and military transport aviation of its southern command. The 56th Guards Air Assault Brigade in Kamyshin and the 7th Guards Airborne Division at Novorossiysk were put on alarm. Both units are elite and took part in the Chechen wars. Last year a Russian airborne air defense brigade also underwent alarm training. These force, plus additional air force assets, would likely be the Russian response to a Turkish invasion of Syria. They would fight on Syrian, not Turkish ground, and would beat any medium-size Turkish invasion force to pulp.

Erdogan is blackmailing the EU with the threat to send hundreds of thousands of refugees. I do not understand why the EU, and especially the German chancellor Merkel, allow such behavior. If the EU, or even Germany alone, would use the available economic thumbscrews on Turkey its economy would scream. A warning to German tourist to not go to Turkey because of the danger of terror attacks would cost Turkey billions per year in income. Credit warnings about over-leveraged Turkish banks could be made. Export credit lines could be shortened. Agricultural imports from Turkey could come under greater scrutiny. Within a year Turkey would lose at least 10% of its GDP. But EU and Merkel seem not to mind to be laughed at by the wannabe Ottoman sultan.

The U.S. just snubbed Turkey by declaring that it does not see the Syrian Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization. Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador over the issue.

Erdogan seems to be losing it. He is now the most incalculable factor in the further developments in Syria. But should he invade Syria he can not count on U.S. or NATO support. What is he going to do?

Posted by b on February 9, 2016 at 19:29 UTC | Permalink | Comments (155)

February 07, 2016

Why Kerry Blames The Opposition For The Continuing Bombing In Syria

According to this report from Middle East Eye U.S. Secretary of State blamed the opposition for the continuing bombing in Syria:

US Secretary of State John Kerry told Syrian aid workers, hours after the Geneva peace talks fell apart, that the country should expect another three months of bombing that would “decimate” the opposition.

During a conversation on the sidelines of this week’s Syria donor conference in London, sources say, Kerry blamed the Syrian opposition for leaving the talks and paving the way for a joint offensive by the Syrian government and Russia on Aleppo.

“‘He said, ‘Don’t blame me – go and blame your opposition,’” one of the aid workers, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her organisation, told Middle East Eye.
...
"He said that basically, it was the opposition that didn’t want to negotiate and didn’t want a ceasefire, and they walked away,” the second of the aid workers told MEE in a separate conversation and also on the basis of anonymity.

“‘What do you want me to do? Go to war with Russia? Is that what you want?’” the aid worker said Kerry told her.

The hapless State Department spokesperson claimed that the story was wrong:

John Kirby Verified account @statedeptspox
@Charles_Lister Story wrong. @JohnKerry didn't blame oppo for collapse of talks, doesn't have comms w/regime & hasn't wavered on Asad.

But this lets me believe that the report of Kerry chastising the opposition is right on point:

U.S. Embassy Syria @USEmbassySyria
#SecKerry on bombardment of civilians in #Syria: This has to stop. But it’s not going to stop by walking away from the table or not engaging

So while the State Department spokesperson denies that the U.S. blames the opposition, another part of the State Department does exactly that: "it’s not going to stop by walking away from the table or not engaging". Kerry is clearly embarrassed that the Saudi opposition group ran away from the UN talks in Vienna. He should blame his "allies".

The Wall Street Journal says the opposition group ended the talks before they began on Turkish and Saudi orders:

The Syrian opposition abruptly withdrew from peace talks in Geneva this week under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the main backers of the rebels, according to diplomats and at least a half-dozen opposition figures.

After sabotaging the talks the Saudis came out with an offer to send ground troops to invade Syria if the U.S. would take the command of such an operation. No one is taking that offer seriously. The Saudi troops who try to invade Yemen get beaten to pulp. The Saudis themselves say they had to closed 500 school and evacuate 12 villages with 7,000 people in Saudi Arabia because the Yemenis are now invading them. Their army has lots of expensive toys but is clearly not able to put them to use. The offer to send troops is simply to goad the U.S. into starting a war with Russia.

That is not going to work. The U.S. is now trying to find some end to the conflict in Syria. Someone finally told Kerry that Russia is not in a "quagmire" in Syria but is winning.  The U.S. is in a hurry now as it knows that it will have zero influence left on the issue should the Syrian government and Russia have the time to kill off the opposition. It needs a ceasefire to stay relevant. As Kerry says himself that "whining" about the situation and skipping negotiations will not help the opposition. It will kill it.

Secretary Kerry also called on the Russians to stop their bombing campaign in Aleppo province. But that contradicts the UN resolution 2254 under which the talks in Geneva are held. That resolution clearly calls for a continuation of the Russian and Syrian campaign: THE UNSC

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

The insurgents in Aleppo province as well as in Idleb province are officially allied with the Nusra Front which is Al-Qaeda in Syria. They are clearly a target of the above resolution and thereby a legitimate target of Russian bombs.

Indeed those who criticize Kerry for blaming the opposition because it ran away from Geneva ignore the resolution. It is the plan the U.S. and Russia have agreed to follow. That plan ends the war in Syria in a ceasefire but only when the opposition agrees to one AND cuts all ties with al-Qaeda and ISIS. As the opposition, and its sponsors, are unwilling to do so the Syrian-Russian campaign against them will continue, as agreed upon by the UNSC, until their end.

Posted by b on February 7, 2016 at 15:59 UTC | Permalink | Comments (126)

February 06, 2016

Open Thread 2016-07

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 6, 2016 at 18:10 UTC | Permalink | Comments (132)

February 05, 2016

The Zika Virus Is Harmless - Who Then Benefits From This Media Panic?

The media are currently creating a panic about the allegedly dangerous Zika virus:

There is absolutely no sane reason for this panic campaign.

The virus is long known, harmless and the main current scare, that the virus damages unborn children, is based on uncorroborated and likely false information.

A recent Congressional Research Service report (pdf) about Zika notes:

Zika is a virus that is primarily spread by Aedes mosquitoes [..]. Zika transmission has also been documented from mother to child during pregnancy, as well as through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, and laboratory exposure. Scientists first identified the virus in 1947 among monkeys living in the Ugandan Zika forest. Five years later, human cases were detected in Uganda and Tanzania. The first human cases outside of Africa were diagnosed in the Pacific in 2007 and in Latin America in 2015.

The thing is just one of many thousand viruses that can effect humans. It is known. It is rather harmless. It effects, if there are any at all, are very mild:

A relatively small proportion (about 1 in 4) of infected people develop symptoms. The virus is only detectable for a few days in infected people's blood. [..]

Zika typically causes mild symptoms, including fever, rash, and conjunctivitis, which usually last up to one week. Hospitalization and death following infection are rare.

Only 1 in 4 infected people are affected and any typical flue would be more aggravating to them than this little bugger.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN????!!!!

The CRS report says:

Health experts are uncertain whether Zika causes microcephaly, a potentially severe birth defect involving brain damage. Since October 2015, Brazilian officials have reported more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly in areas with ongoing Zika transmission, up from roughly 150 cases in previous years. Health officials are concerned that this may be a result of infection in the fetus when a pregnant woman is infected.

Synopsis: We do not know if the virus harms unborn children children at all. But that number of 4,000 cases looks suspiciously high.

That is because it is false.

Microcephaly, the so called "pinhead", is not easy to diagnose. There is no standard or certain border value for the size of a newborn baby that doctors can agree on. A baby head may look too small and develop perfectly well or it may look too small and not develop perfectly. Not every case gets regularly reported. There are possible structural reason why this years number differ a lot from last years numbers. A new doctor? A new reporting system? Changed diagnosis guidelines? We do not know.

What we know is that the 4,000 cases number from Brazil that is circulating is a. misleading, b. wrong and c. unrelated to the virus.

The number is misleading because it does not give any real base like the total number of birth to which those 4,000 cases relate. According to a 2009 paper published in Neurology and quoted here:

“Microcephaly may result from any insult that disturbs early brain growth [...] annually, approximately 25,000 infants in the United States will be diagnosed with microcephaly .."

Hundreds of children are born with microcephaly every day. That is sad. But it also tells us that the "big number" of 4,000 is not really that high.

It is also false.

As was reported already a week ago:

New figures released Wednesday by Brazil's Health Ministry as part of a probe into the Zika virus have found fewer cases of a rare birth defect than first feared.

Researchers have been looking at 4,180 suspected cases of microcephaly reported since October. On Wednesday, officials said they had done a more intense analysis of more than 700 of those cases, confirming 270 cases and ruling out 462 others.

So more than half of those 4,000 children reported with microcephaly do not have microcephaly. That the numbers now see such a sharp correction points to problems in the standard of diagnosis in Brazil and elsewhere. Are we sure that we have really correct numbers for earlier years to compare with the current numbers?

But what about that dangerous virus?

Six of the 270 confirmed microcephaly cases were found to have the virus. Two were stillborn and four were live births, three of whom later died, the ministry said.

Only 6 out of 270 were confirmed to have had the virus. Is that a reason to be scared? Or not? That number only tells us that the detection of this virus is rare. It does not tell us how many of the 270 have at a time been infected. It also does not tell us if such an infection has caused microcephaly or not.

But you want another scary headline? "Five out of six kids diagnosed with Zika virus died!!!"

That headline is of course also wrong. We do not know how many, if any, of the surviving kids once had the virus and got rid of it. When were those tests done? Remember that the CRS report noted:

The virus is only detectable for a few days in infected people's blood.

It is likely that the virus can be detected in a dead human body if that body was infected at the time of the death. But in a living body with a working immune system the virus will have vanished after just a few days. It is quite possible that a whole bunch of the surviving children once had the virus, that it caused no harm, and that it vanished.

There is absolutely no sane reason for the scary headlines and the panic they cause.

The virus is harmless. It is possible, but seems for now very unlikely, that it affects some unborn children. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned about it.

As this is all well known or easy to find out why do the media create this sensation?

Cui bono? Has someone a vaccine they want to sell? Is this to damage Brazil's Olympics?

Feel free to speculate.

Posted by b on February 5, 2016 at 20:25 UTC | Permalink | Comments (183)

February 04, 2016

Syria's Enemies Seek Face Saving Escalation Measures

Russia Accuses Turkey of Preparing to Invade Syria

The Russian military said Thursday that it has "reasonable grounds" to suspect that Turkey is making intensive preparations for a military invasion of neighboring Syria.

Images of a checkpoint on the border between the Turkish town of Reyhanli and the town of Sarmada in Syrian taken in late October and late January show a buildup of transportation infrastructure that could be used for moving in troops, ammunition and weapons, spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in an English-language written statement.

He said these were among growing signs of "hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria.
...
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said the ministry would have no immediate comment.

The Russian high command press briefing (vid with English subtitles) includes the pictures of the border post.

Turkey yesterday prohibited a Russian reconnaissance "Open Skies Treaty" flight over the Turkish-Syrian border zone. There are dozens such flights per year over Russia by NATO and over NATO countries by Russia. This is to my knowledge the first time such a flight, which had earlier been requested and accepted, is blocked by the guest country.

The Russian military spokesperson snarked:

It is to be reminded that the Russian Defence Ministry has intensified all kinds of intelligence in the Middle East region.

That’s why, if someone in Ankara thinks that the prohibition of Russian observer flight allows to hide something, it is unprofessional.

The decisive Syrian government victory yesterday cuts off the foreign supported insurgents in Aleppo and Idleb from they supply sources in Turkey and deprives them of their fuel supplies.

In reaction to that victory the supporters of the insurgents and terrorist in Syria are likely to increase their efforts. The negotiations in Geneva failed over the Syrian victory and the Saudis had already promised that such a failure would lead to an increased support. The Saudi Defense Ministry declared today that Saudi ground forces could take part in action in Syria. It is doubtful that the Saudis have a real capability to do so. But the Saudis and others will now again shower the insurgents and Jihadis in Syria with money and new weapons. A Turkish invasion could add momentum to such a move.

Such an invasion would come at the Syrian-Turkish border between Azaz and Jarabulus that is currently under Islamic State control. The Syrian YPG Kurds plan to take that area with Russian help and to seal the border. Turkey does not want that to happen. Its well working lines of communication with the Islamic State must be kept open.

So is a Turkish invasion of Syria in preparation? My guess is yes.

But will it really happen? My guess is no.

NATO will restrain Turkey from such a misguided adventure. It could mean war with Russia and no European NATO country would like that to happen. Without NATO backing the Turkish military is unlikely to follow the order for such a move.

The Russia revelation of the Turkish preparations is increasing the deterrence against such a move. It also means that Russia would react harshly against a Turkish invasion and surely Russia has demonstrated by now that it has the means to do so in decisive ways.

But even while Turkey is unlikely to send its army it may use a proxy force to capture more Syrian territory.

The Zionist lobby in Washington DC in form of the Washington Institute is advising Turkey to invade Syria by proxy to keep the Kurds away from the border zone:

The most effective way to monitor the Azaz-Jarabulus border area would be to ensure that the Syrian side is filled by forces friendly to Turkey, or at least opposed to IS. One possible such group would be the Syrian Turkmens, who are ethnically related to Turks and are being trained by Turkey as a fighting force in northwestern Syria.
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[T]he Turkish armed forces has modern artillery with an effective range of twenty to twenty-five miles, UAVs, and other means to protect its clients administering a prospective safe zone.

These "Turkmen" had occupied northern Latakia where they are just being kicked out by the Syrian army and its supporters. They consist of Turkish "Grey Wolf" fascists, Turkish Islamists and Chechen and Uhigur Islamist mercenaries. They are controlled by the Turkish secret service MIT.

The whole plan has a logical flaw. If, as the Washington Institute lobbyists claim, it is desirable for Turkey to monitor or seal the border from Islamic State infiltration why can't this be done on the Turkish side of the border? Why does this necessitate an illegal invasion by proxy of Syria? I find no plausible answer to that last question.

The lobbyists also skip over the question of potential retaliation. If Turkish artillery fires into Syria then Syria and its supporters are legally justified to fire back by whatever means are needed. A few Russian cruise missiles could easily take care of those Turkish artillery battalions. What would then follow?

Neither the Turks nor the Saudis nor the U.S. nor Israel have given up on their "regime change" war on Syria. But their proxies have taken serious losses and are likely to lose the fight. While we can expect some new attempts of escalation I expect  that these will be mere face saving moves. It just takes some additional time until the reality will sink in and until some other issue can be found to distract from their inevitable retreat.

Posted by b on February 4, 2016 at 19:35 UTC | Permalink | Comments (88)

February 03, 2016

Syria: 'Negotiations' Over Insurgency's Northern Supply Route Concluded

Good news from Syria. The battlefield 'negotiations' over the insurgency's supply route to the north were successfully concluded.

After nearly four years the siege on Nubl and Zahraa has been lifted. The northern supply route from insurgency held areas in Aleppo province and Aleppo city to Turkey has been severed.

Update (12:45 am): A Syrian author in Aleppo just tweeted:

Edward Dark @edwardedark
This is the beginning of the end of jihadi presence in Aleppo. After 4 years of war & terror, people can finally see the end in sight #Syria

End-update


Map by SAA Reporter - bigger, HD version - different map showing a larger area

While fire control over the supply route was achieved yesterday there were still Jabhat al-Nusra forces holding the village Muarrasat al Khan. Those forces were destroyed today with a two pronged attack by the Syrian army coming from east and Hizbullah fighters coming from the besieged Nubl and Zahraa area in the west. Those fighters had earlier arrived by helicopter. At least four higher commander of Nusra and other groups where killed during the fighting. They Syrian army will now continue the offensive to widen and secure the new corridor.

There is now only one supply line left between the insurgents in Idleb and Aleppo province and Turkey. It leads north-west from Idleb city along the M45 motorway and crosses at Bab al Hawa to the Turkish city of Reyhanli (map.) It is some 40 kilometers west of Aleppo city and Russian air superiority make the road dangerous to use. The Russian air force will take care that no major traffic is able to use the crossing. Over the next months the current offensive should also have reached that border zone and seal all other potential crossing venues.

Russia made clear that there will be no end to the war until the border is under full Syrian government control:

"The key point for the ceasefire to work is a task of blocking illegal trafficking across the Turkish-Syrian border, which supports the militants," [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov] said. "Without closing the border it is difficult to expect the ceasefire to take place."

The Russian air strikes will continue until the terrorist organizations are defeated.

Additional progress was made by the Syrian army today in Latakia. East of Aleppo the army took the village  As Sin and has nearly surrounded a contingent of Islamic State fighters at the Aleppo power plant. In Homs province the already surrounded large insurgency held area of Rastan will soon be split in two. In the south new attacks were launched to widen the supply corridor to Daraa.

Morale of the Syrian army has remarkably increased and victory begets victory. I expect the campaign to continue at the current pace. The insurgency in north, south and west Syria is faltering on all fronts and their lack of new supplies will soon lead to more decisive defeats. After the insurgency is mostly destroyed it will be time to take serious care of the Islamic State in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in east Syria. In preparation of that move the Syrian YPG Kurds, with Russian support, are planning to take the rest of the northern border with Turkey from the Islamic State.

Posted by b on February 3, 2016 at 15:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (90)

February 02, 2016

U.S. Does Not Know How Much Territory ISIS Lost In Syria

January 29, 2016

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via Teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

this reflects our estimate that ISIL has lost approximately 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq. Approximately 5 percent of the territory it once held in Syria.

February 2, 2016

John Kerry, Secretary of State, Remarks at the Ministerial Meeting of the Small Group of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL

We have had up and downs, but more recently, more ups than downs, and Daesh lost 40 percent of its territory in Iraq and 20 percent of its territory in Syria.

Somehow I can not find the news that would explain this big change within just three days. I conclude that whatever U.S. officials say about ISIS held territory are just wildarse guesses.

Posted by b on February 2, 2016 at 15:08 UTC | Permalink | Comments (54)

February 01, 2016

Syria 'Negotiates' With New Attacks On Insurgency Supply Routes

The Syrian Arab Army launched a significant new offensive in north Aleppo today. It is another move in the battlefield negotiations that will decide this war.


Map by @PetoLucem - bigger - full HD

The likely objective of the offensive is the creation of a corridor from north-west Aleppo to the besieged towns of Nubol and AlZaraa. The towns are under siege from Jahat al Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and Ahrar al-Sham and are regularly shelled. Such a corridor would also cut through the insurgents main supply route from south-west of Aleppo to Turkey.

The offense has been in preparation for some time and runs in parallel (vid) with other operations in Latakia near the Turkish border, east of Aleppo and in the south. To protect against any Turkish adventure Russia beefed up the available air power. Four brand new Russian Su-35S multi-role fighters arrived in Syria. Russia would like to demonstrate their capabilities. Nine Syrian Mig-29 fighters have been upgraded (recom. reading) with new active electronically scanned (AESA) radars and new missiles. They now fly protective cover for Russian and Syrian ground attack fighters and helicopters against Turkish air interdiction. Syrian T-72 tanks have been upgraded with new defense measures against U.S. anti-tank weapons.

Throughout the last weeks several thousand newly trained troops arrived in the government held north Aleppo industrial zone. These have now launched the fresh attack in the north western direction (red arrows on the map) and already captured several villages. The attack was prepared by massive ground attack airstrikes which hit the frontline positions of the foreign supported insurgents'  as well as their ammunition transports (vid). (Interestingly the destroyed convoy was on a narrow, small road. That proves that major supply roads are no longer available or safe for the insurgents.)

The attack today forestalled planned counterattacks by various insurgent groups and Jabhat al-Nusra. The attacked insurgent units issued urgent requests for reinforcements.

There have been significant skirmishes between Turkey and Syria/Russia in the last days. Turkey claimed that Russian jets intruded its airspace which the Russians denied. It is quite possible that small intrusion happen as the Russian and Syrian ground attack jets bombard insurgents near the Turkish border in Latakia. But the Turks now have to watch out for ready-to-shoot Russian and Syrian air superiority fighters who only wait for a chance to avenge the earlier Turkish ambush of a Russian plane.

Today Turkish artillery fired (vid) against Syrian army positions in Latakia. The 1998 Turkish-Syrian Adana agreement which provided for largely demilitarized Syrian side of the border up to a depth of fifteen kilometer is clearly no longer in effect. Syrian artillery is active against insurgent groups which hide in "refugee camps" near the border. The Turks claim that these are ethnic Turkmen civilians but the video showing the damage in such a camp was released (vid) with the insignia of Jabhat al-Nusra. Some other fighters in the area are Turks from the fascist MHP party.

When the Syrian army and its supporters have cleared the Latakia area near Turkey Russia will install a new far reaching radar and a listening post on one of its hilltops. Such a station will allow the observance of all air and sea movements for hundreds of kilometers into Turkey. It will be part of the price Turkey and NATO have to pay for the ambush of the Russian plane.

Some people think that Turkey would invade Syria if the Kurds move further into the supply corridor north east of Aleppo the Islamic State uses for its dealing with Turkey. I very much doubt such a move as any intrusion into Syria would risk open war with Russia. The Turkish army would only launch that war under a explicit, written order. NATO would not support such a move and Erdogan alone would carry the full responsibility. Most Turkish people are well aware of the economic losses that follow Erdogan's aggressive policies and would likely not support such a hopeless adventure.

Erdogan's grandstanding and interference is no longer effective. The current UN talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and a Saudi supported group of the radical insurgents are a side show. The real  negotiations are on the battlefield and there the Syrian government and its supporters continue to improve their already superior position.

Posted by b on February 1, 2016 at 15:49 UTC | Permalink | Comments (56)