Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 10, 2016

Charles Lister Asks "Moderate Rebels" To Hide Their Cooperation With Al-Qaeda

Dear moderate Jihadis in Syria,

your cooperation with al-Qaeda terrorists is fine with me.

But please cover it up.


Your Jihad advisor

Charles Lister


At the end of April an influential Jihadist scholar in Syria, Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, lauched a new recruiting campaign. A few days later al-Qaeda's leader Ayman az-Zawahiri also called for all Muslims to join Jihad in Syria. The son of Osama Bin Laden, Hamza, also issued such a call. This is an unprecedented recruiting campaign which points to new upcoming offensives.

More and more experts wake up to the long term danger that an entrenched al-Qaeda in Syria poses. Al-Qaeda has little income from taxes or oil but must have some obviously quite generous individuals and state sponsors in the Gulf region. It has more money to spend than the "western" financed mercenaries and can afford to parade the nicer fire trucks. This lets it gain local support. The "water" the Jihadi "fish" can swim in.

Propagandists like Lister try to sell al-Qaeda in Syria as a "moderate" force. It is nothing like that. It is the same al-Qaeda with the same agenda then the one entrenched in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area. The more homegrown Salafist Jihadis of Ahrar al Shams in Syria are now the Taliban of Syria and Turkey is taking up Pakistan's duplicitous role.

Like in Afghanistan in the 1980s the U.S., while probably not directly supporting al-Qaeda, is indirectly facilitating it because it is an effective fighting force which can be used to further short term U.S policy aims. The U.S. delivers thousands of tons of weapons to "moderate" rebels in Syria even as it know that these give half of each haul to their al-Qaeda allies. It also protects al-Qaeda from being bombed by Russian forces during the on and off ceasefire.

But al-Qaeda is still al-Qaeda and its brutal fight for its ideology will not stay in Syria. Just like its earlier incarnation did not restrict its fight to Afghanistan but came back to bite its former sponsors.

Posted by b on May 10, 2016 at 18:08 UTC | Permalink


The US aided and abetted the creation of Al Qaeda and has used it continuously ever since throughout the region. The US strategy is to exacerbate tension and use it. That millions suffer and die is of no concern in the US.

Posted by: AriusArmenian | May 10 2016 19:02 utc | 1

AriusArmenian, No concern at all. It's all part of the exceptionalism bit. Obviously you don't get it.

Posted by: Quentin | May 10 2016 19:28 utc | 2

More and more experts wake up to the long term danger that an entrenched al-Qaeda in Syria poses

The fact that they wake up to this danger about now, disqualifies them as an "experts" to start with, while they were still "sleeping". In general, current state of US "expert community" and think-tankdom, with some minor exceptions, is appalling--concentrated idiocy and incompetence. That, plus malice.

Posted by: SmoothieX12 | May 10 2016 19:31 utc | 3

The cessation of free ca$h flow ending the robbery of crude oil from Syria and Iraq by Turkey has thrown a monkey wrench in the plans of "the exceptional's" New World Order with US in Charge scenario.

Speaking of "Exceptional" take a gander at Israel in Palestine, then take a gander at The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Sort of forming a pattern here now aren't we?

Just me opinion

Posted by: ALberto | May 10 2016 19:45 utc | 4

@ b Like in Afghanistan in the 1980s the U.S., while probably not directly supporting al-Qaeda, is indirectly facilitating it because it is an effective fighting force which can be used to further short term U.S policy aims.

If memory serves well, isn’t there a photo of Rummy of the 1980s meeting with OBL and entourage?

@ AriusArmenian 1

[.] ”The US strategy is to exacerbate tension and use it”

at some point, until it can’t: - Today China, citing provocation, intercepted US naval vessel – guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence

“US Navy Continues Provocative 'Freedom of Navigation' Drills in South China Sea”

On Tuesday, the Pentagon conducted its latest maritime reconnaissance in the South China Sea, performing a freedom of navigation patrol within the 12-mile territorial limit of Beijing’s recently-constructed artificial island. This time, China responded in kind.

some where on the horizon an accident with a trigger on the fuse.

Posted by: likklemore | May 10 2016 19:46 utc | 5

I don't understand why Russia is playing the "negotiate with the liars" game. I guess there must be a reason, but from my vantage point it looks like it just gave (and is giving) the terrorists more time to regroup and rearm.

Posted by: rcentros | May 10 2016 19:47 utc | 6

thanks b... clarles lister - another brookings dolt for the empire.. funny how the packaging is the name of the game, let selling anything else... they don't give a rats ass about whether someone is 'moderate' or not, so long as the long term goal is achieved.. this is the western attitude in a nutshell at this point.. put as much lipstick as possible on the 'moderate' opposition all the while knowing you are supporting al qaeda and worse - all for regime change of course.. i wish these fuckers would go over and volunteer.. we would have less assholes dictating murder and mayhem where they have no right or authority to be even commenting on anything..

as for the west waking up - i very much doubt it.. al qaeda and isis are very much a creation of the wests.. i agree with the general populace of iraq - this is usa created and supported with the usa acting as an umbrella for trans-national corporations in tow with a few ugly countries that are quite okay to continue to the murder and mayhem.. the world is in trouble and doofus's like lister are a good part of the reason for it..

Posted by: james | May 10 2016 19:48 utc | 7

I twixed me twangs ...

"The cessation of free ca$h flow, as a result of actions taken by Russia in Syria, ending the robbery of crude oil from Syria and Iraq by Turkey has thrown a monkey wrench"

Just me opinion

Posted by: ALberto | May 10 2016 19:48 utc | 8


I don't understand why Russia is playing the "negotiate with the liars" game. I guess there must be a reason

The reason being that much more than just Syria and terrorism is at stake. The re-negotiating of the global order was going on for some time now, realistically from 2008. Syria is just another round. In the end, Ukraine and European (real one) security is extremely important and so are the spheres of influence. It is a given. Either Russia will be accepted as equal De jure (De facto Russia never stopped being a factor in global politics, other than in neocon wet dreams) or the transition to real multi-polarity may become a really painful process for the US.

Posted by: SmoothieX12 | May 10 2016 19:56 utc | 9

What the " opposition" really is, is opposed to human dignity and liberty, which the dispicable Lister is trying to sell.
Lister warns about undermining talks, but not about the murderous, torturous Jihadi criminal behaviour of the "opposition."

Posted by: tom | May 10 2016 20:21 utc | 10

"while probably not directly supporting al-Qaeda"

I disagree...Al Nusra is AQ and the US is openly backing them.

Posted by: Shh | May 10 2016 21:27 utc | 11

@ 9, Smoothie,

We all understand Russia has interests beyond Syria, but the question we all have is wouldn't they be better served by a clear cut victory in Syria? How does agreeing to a ceasefire near the point of winning help Russia's global interests? We all understand Russia should not do the ground fighting for the Syrian army, but doesn't letting the fighting go on too long raise the risks for Russia?

Posted by: Lysander | May 10 2016 21:50 utc | 12

Smoothie @ 9, Lysander @ 12

Russia does indeed have interests beyond Syria and one of those interests is that it not be seen as the new world cop to replace the old world cop. Vladimir Putin made this clear in his 2014 Valdai Club speech. The country learnt the lesson of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.

Sure, Russia could have pulverised ISIS once and for all in Syria. That could have led to an endless procession of countries starting with Iraq and Mali, both of which have asked for Russian intervention to help solve their terrorism problems, wanting help. Where would that end?

Does it do any good for Russia to exhaust itself in putting out fires set by the US all around the world? Especially if those fires were deliberately set to pull in and tie up Russian forces?

At least the ceasefire, failure though it is, made one thing clear: the Russian intervention in Syria had a clear and definite purpose (to give Syrian forces the air cover they needed, just as ISIS had air cover from the US) and once that purpose was fulfilled, the Russians stepped back and let the Syrians wipe out ISIS on the ground. Russian participation was not and was never intended to continue endlessly into colonialism by stealth. This was as much for the Western public to see as for the Syrian and Russian people.

Posted by: Jen | May 10 2016 23:10 utc | 13

@11 ssh

I agree that the US directly backs al-CIAduh and has since Graham Fuller - who has now 'got religion' and is selling the 'US can't be cop of the world' line in drag at the - of Iran-Contra fame, the godfather of al-CIAduh, the father-in-law of Ruslan Tsaernaev, uncle of the boys in Boston, founded the operation.

@13 jen

Yes, I think you're right. Russia does not want to be any more involved than she has to be in Syria, and knows that in the end it's up to the people directly involved there to clean up after the USA/EU/GCC.

b, it is good to see them so openly accepting/embracing al-CIAduh as part of the team, isn't it? There's an opening The Donald could drive a truck full of political IEDs through.

Posted by: jfl | May 10 2016 23:42 utc | 14

Good post Jen.

Posted by: okie farmer | May 10 2016 23:44 utc | 15

@ 13, Russia cannot and should not intervene everywhere. Russia really had no responsibility to intervene in Syria and I did not expect it to until it did. Having done so, I fail to see the reason behind ceasefires that occur at the moment of victory. I can't see it even in terms of Russia's global interests. In other words, if the Syrian army can retake Aleppo with Russian assistance, how is it better for Russia that it does not?

Mentioning other countries with terrorism problems where Russia could hypothetically intervene doesn't explain Syria. Russia has no interests in Mali that I know about and at any rate it is much too far away. Iraq would be a direct challenge to the US which Russia might want to avoid for now. And in 2014 Russia in fact did help Iraq when ISIS first splashed into the headlines. When the US refused to deliver the F 16s it had promised, Russia delivered equipment to Iraq quickly. In fact, I suspect the seemingly increased motivation of the US to help Iraq retake Mosul is inspired by fear that the Russians might be invited to help if the US does not.

Posted by: Lysander | May 11 2016 0:02 utc | 16

to James and b. I wondered who the heck was Charles Lister and had to do a search. Yes, he's a royal and loyal part of the media that preaches to those who read and believe (as opposed to the rest of us). And he writes for foundations:

Thanks b for pointing out how this a$$hat is advising the supposedly good guys of the opposition to hide their affiliations with the others.

According to this review of the book:
Lister pushes the idea of the Syrian regime caused the opposition to be so extreme and fueled that extremism. It sounds like Lister is on message.

Posted by: Curtis | May 11 2016 0:14 utc | 17

I suppose some might be surprised by this and the resultant threads ... but the bottom line is that very few Americans give a s---, and those that do usually do so based on the myth of America the good. The reality is far different, and has been from the very beginning. Some can't seem to handle that reality, but there never has been a time when the Americans weren't self obsessed predators. It goes way back beyond the first colonists, and it may simply be nothing more than the western demand that all others should be subservient, or preferably, dead.

Posted by: rg the lg | May 11 2016 0:30 utc | 18

I'm increasingly curious as to exactly who is representing "the rebels" at the negotiating table these days (when seats are not empty)... are they from 5-member "militias" (like regional farm teams) complete with team jackets? I'm also unsure how many "ISIS" fighters are fighting with the rebels in sustained fashion against the SAA as opposed to fighting defensively to maintain control of territory and roads and/or creating terrorist attacks.

I wonder if Zawahiri was trying to prod Baghdadi into making some pronouncement or otherwise show signs of life ...

War on the Rocks: HOW AL QAEDA IS WINNING IN SYRIA Cool timeline.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | May 11 2016 1:16 utc | 19

>> Having done so, I fail to see the reason behind ceasefires that occur at the moment of victory.

How 'bout:

"Do not interrupt your opponents while they continue investing more into the same mistake."

Maybe they figure "let this boil fester here where it's contained, rather than the germs pull out and start somewhere else on their own time table".

Just a guess.

Posted by: dumbass | May 11 2016 1:41 utc | 20

@17 curtis.. thanks for the first link which opens up the freaks mindset for anyone interested in knowing more about him.. what a doofus.. let him go over to syria, instead of being an expert dolt outside of syria.. let him write books in some comfortable place while he supports murder and mayhem in syria.. asshole..

@19 dumbass.. i agree with you.. russia is waiting to see how far these 'moderate' politicians and isis members want to push it.. it appears they want to keep on pushing it - wahabbi light/ or whabbi dark - all the same crap coming from those bastions of neutrality - saudi arabia and turkey. lol..

Posted by: james | May 11 2016 2:22 utc | 21

I have great concerns about the way that opposition to the amerikan inspired takeover of Syria has morphed into opposition to any attempt by the people of the middle east for self determination.
The US was able to exploit the anger of younger generation ME populations by suborning political movements which they had set up. As we have discussed many times before young people in the ME turned to islam because they felt betrayed by both rightist (US) and leftist (USSR as it was then) interference in their nations revealed to be a front for imperialism.

Since all streams of political consciousness are closed off to the people of the ME it is little wonder they seek to attack those they see as the instigators of their oppression.
We may not like some of the policies of Islamism but really it is none of our goddam business - the simple fact is people of the ME are angry because no independent movement has ever been allowed to evolve. Any independent attempts are quickly crushed by one outsider or another. The fact that b's piece relies heavily on commentary from amerikan policy wonks who were the architects of the illegal invasion of Iraq makes me sick.
Not just because giving another vector to those assholes' cruel self interest and arbitrary declarations empowers them even more, but because it is as though the one thing that everyone in 'the west' agrees upon is that the people of the ME are not entitled to have a say in their own destiny.

This is what getting too close to a conflict does - it encourages people to pick a side then support that side no matter what, and I fear that this is what has happened at MoA. The initial opposition to the Syrian conflict was that it was a reaction against amerikan shit stirring but now it has gone far beyond that into a win at any cost jingoism that pays absolutely no regard to a simple truth and that is it wasn't purely amerikan antipathy towards the Assad administration which kicked off this mess, a substantial number of Syrian citizens had felt neglected and/or oppressed by the status quo which existed at that time.
It seems the default position of many people has become to turn the clock back to the political structure pre insurrection. That is damn stupid as it won't fix anything and will leave an unstable mess ripe for exploitation again.
I'm not advocating an end to Pres Assad's tenure and I don't like the thought of Erdogan being able to exert influence over a part of Syria any more than anyone else, but Erdogan interference is the price that has to be paid in the short term to allow Syrian people who are opposed to Assad to enjoy political expression then so be it. There are ways to obstruct a further major uprising that don't involve destroying those areas with a majority Sunni population, but rather allowing them to evolve, they will wake up to the opportunism of Erdogan and Salman themselves. If the upshot of that is a few groups of alenated citizens in 'the west' commit a few more actions against their populations that is unfortunate but needs to be regarded as the inevitable result of centuries of oppression rather the shock, quelle horreur, lets kill all the muslims that it currently is.
The longer nations such as amerika or russia seek to totally oppress islamic populations, the longer the whole fucked up process will continue.

Posted by: Debs is dead | May 11 2016 2:49 utc | 22

@21debs is dead.. you make a lot of good points as usual, but you skip the part about saudi arabia and the other gcc's happy to export wahabbism regardless the murderous fanaticism of the religion.. sure - these folks are going to have to work out stuff for themselves and that would be an ideal set up, but folks are always picking sides.. the usa/west are riding the wahabbi horse at the moment, hoping to use a paid for mercenary group masquerading as a religion and somehow thinking they can keep the 'moderate' opposition separate from them..

at any rate, the muslems and arabs don't need the usa or russia to oppress them.. they can go with the oppressive state of saudi arabia too, all under the guise of leaving it in house for the islamic freaks of the 21st century - wahabbis..

Posted by: james | May 11 2016 3:22 utc | 23

Debs is dead @21

"I'm not advocating an end to Pres Assad's tenure and I don't like the thought of Erdogan being able to exert influence over a part of Syria any more than anyone else, but Erdogan interference is the price that has to be paid in the short term to allow Syrian people who are opposed to Assad to enjoy political expression then so be it."

This is nonsense. For starters, tanks, armored infantry vehicles and missiles are not "tools to enjoy political expression". Imagine that some very nice group of American malcontents removes federal agents from some part of US territory (that happened early this year) and gets heavy weaponry from abroad (that did not happen). Now National Wildlife Refuge in Malheur is back under federal control and no one cares about concerns of that group of farmers.

Furthermore, the type of "political expression" we can observe there has other religious groups running for their lives. I do not care if these people are Salafists or Scientologists, but what passes for "politics" in the "liberated zones" is a string of assassinations and other power games that could be called "backstabbing" except that firearms and explosives are preferred. And the winners are groups that are most disciplined and fanatical, i.e. al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Next, in Bashar's Syria some groups were "left out", but here we see an alternative: the country is turned into ruin. It is also instructive to consider the history of countries that underwent prolonged civil wars. Colombia had 10 years of La Violencia and 60 years later it remains a brutal polarized society. Mexico had ten years if revolution nearly hundred years ago and it stills harbors surprising amounts of violence. And the most recent examples are even worse. The destruction of civil wars is not merely infrastructure and lives, but also deep scars in the psychology of the people and deep suspicion given to all kinds of political compromise. In USA there is a lot of attention to PSD among veterans, but when the entire population is under traumatic stress, the negative result have exponentially worse dimensions. Not a good bargain for "enjoyment of political expression".

Finally, for better or worse, the opposition in Syria is financed from abroad and thus influenced from abroad. And who is doing influencing? The most benevolent group that is involved is CIA, those guys do not give a damn about democracy, moderation etc. but at least they know what is it and are not hostile to it. Then you have Turkish government, increasingly oppressive and dictatorial, with "left out groups" being treated with destruction of villages and cities, moderate malcontents having their properties confiscated (banks, manufacturing companies and of course the press). But the real money comes from a bunch of absolute monarchs who view democracy as a horror to avoid at all costs. So what we see in the region is that instead of spreading democratic values, hitherto democratic states import civil war and dictatorship, in the case of Turkey, and total disfunction of the government, in the case of Lebanon and Iraq (well, in Lebanon it is "imported" because political parties are paid from abroad to be obstructionist, in Iraq it is perhaps more of an internal inability derived from more than one decade of strife that is ongoing).

Posted by: Piotr Berman | May 11 2016 3:47 utc | 24

@19 Dumbass - This is a great point I hadn't considered yet. Thank you. It forces the question, how much of the terrorist force that would have retreated and regrouped in Libya, changed its tactics instead and stayed put, resupplying and reinforcing its numbers in the existing theater of Syria? And to what degree were the terrorists and their nation backers hypnotized by the Russian withdrawal into thinking there was room for one more round of play? What an excellent conjecture, and it parses perfectly.

The war in Syria is already won. The battles continue to play out. The ceasefire has not failed. It remains a tangible fact of life and death on the battlefield. No gain made by Russia has been lost, nor has any advantage been thrown away - Russians don't waste. There should be no fear, not even for a moment, that Russia has made any kind of mistake, or has taken its eye off the battle map for one second, or has acted or will act foolishly in any way.

It takes time to win and lose wars. And Syria is not the only front. But it is one of the fronts. Every moment thus far has been a premature moment to form any conclusions regarding the order of battle, and this moment is the same. We must watch and wait, and prepare, and quietly applaud, as the new world order arises, champion of the ordinary people.

Posted by: Grieved | May 11 2016 5:03 utc | 25

Charles Lister @TSG

The Soufan Group (TSG): The Islamic State – A Summary

Ali H. Soufan (born July 8, 1971) is a Lebanese-American former FBI agent who was involved in a number of high-profile anti-terrorism cases.

Posted by: Oui | May 11 2016 7:19 utc | 26

Lysander at 16" In other words, if the Syrian army can retake Aleppo with Russian assistance, how is it better for Russia that it does not?

I share your frustration and impatience with the Russians agreeing to these cease fires right at the time it looked like they and the Syrians were winning.

However, I am coming to respect Putin's judgement, and patience, he has shown. It looks like he pressured the Donbass army from taking Mariupol right when they were on its outskirts and had the Ukrainian army on the run. That is beginning to look like a good move. Ukraine today is facing total economic collapse without much interest on the part of US and EU to bail them out.

Getting back to Syria, there are a number of things that neither of us really know that could be influencing Lavrov's talks with Kerry. Syria has been fighting continuously for 4 years. Maybe their army could use the time to rehab and gain some well earned rest. Turkey and the Saudis were threatening to directly intervene in Syria a month ago. Did Kerry tell Lavrov that he could stop them in exchange for a cease fire? Also are the Russians linking these Syrian concessions to US actions in Ukraine? I have no idea about the answers to any of these questions. I am willing to give the Syrians and the Russians the benefit of my doubt at the present time and just hope that the Russians are making the right decision.

Posted by: ToivoS | May 11 2016 7:28 utc | 27

Debs is dead @ 21

" ... I'm not advocating an end to [President] Assad's tenure and I don't like the thought of Erdogan being able to exert influence over a part of Syria any more than anyone else, but [if] Erdogan interference is the price that has to be paid in the short term to allow Syrian people who are opposed to Assad to enjoy political expression then so be it ..."

If you had been following MoA's blog since 2011 when the war began, you would know that no moderate opposition against Bashar al Assad's government exists and that so-called "moderate rebels" are up to their necks and beyond deeply embedded with Al Nusra, ISIS and other Saudi-funded and Turkish-supported takfiri groups.

Syria had presidential elections in June 2014 and parliamentary elections only a few weeks ago. Bashar al Assad was voted back as President with over 88% of the vote (voter turn-out being 70% which, in this day and age where 2/3 of the electorate in the US don't bother to turn up at polling stations, is good)and the National Progressive Front, of which the Ba'ath Party is the leading party, won 80% of seats in the Syrian parliament in 2016.,_2014

The full list of Syrian politicians who won seats can be viewed at this link:

It should be clear where the Syrian public's preferences lie and you are in no position to say that they ought to tolerate the interference of a known corrupt and increasingly authoritarian Turkish President in their affairs.

Posted by: Jen | May 11 2016 8:00 utc | 28

The scenario outlined in this post is made confusing by the reference to a previous MoA post, in the second-last paragraph ...

Like in Afghanistan in the 1980s the U.S., while probably not directly supporting al-Qaeda, is indirectly facilitating it because it is an effective fighting force which can be used to further short term U.S policy aims. The U.S. delivers thousands of tons of weapons to "moderate" rebels in Syria even as it know that these give half of each haul to their al-Qaeda allies. It also protects al-Qaeda from being bombed by Russian forces during the on and off ceasefire.

That previous post, contrary to the conclusion insinuated in today's post, makes clear that Lavrov warned the Yankees that anything and anyone which attacks the Syrian Govt will be exterminated by Russia. And imo that is precisely what Russia always intended if and when the Yankees proved (during the non-ceasefire ceasefire) that they couldn't be trusted. The Yankees have now proven beyond a shadow of doubt that they can't be trusted and the only remaining option is extermination of the proxies and their US-UK handlers and coordinators.

The problem the Yankees and Brits have created for themselves is that in pretending that they're not supporting and helping the anti-Syria forces that they are supporting and helping, they're just going to have to watch and whinge when Putin exterminates them. And if Yankees/Brits are in the right place in Syria at the wrong time, they'll be exterminated too.
I can hardly wait to hear the shrill, girlie, excuses for believing so much of their own balderdash...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 11 2016 9:27 utc | 29

@24 pb. ' The most benevolent group that is involved is CIA'

With the exception of that line I think you're right. What's going in Syria, whether the Lebanese, Syrians, Iranians and Russians like it or not, is much larger than Syria. They have to stand together or they'll be picked off individually. I think, I hope, they can do so. They've made tremendous strides since they began openly working together last fall.

Posted by: jfl | May 11 2016 10:22 utc | 30

Brzezinski to Mujahideen - That's your land over there. God is on your side.

Posted by: fast freddy | May 11 2016 11:17 utc | 31

'Cooperation With Al-Qaeda et al' -- They will be dealt with like the Black Plague (by the usual suspects) only after they their 'utility' as shock-troop vandals on the 'uncooperative' status-quo is exhausted.

Posted by: x | May 11 2016 11:36 utc | 32

Russia has been very guilty of right thinking for some time now .I am not sure when this started but I started making notes with the Ukraine and around the time of Hitlerary's declaration of them loosing the information war . It wasn't like they didn't have their people and institutions in place . Most of the masses didn't matter and still don't .....Its the small warriors and groups like MoA that clear things up with small stories like this thread .

Being scared it will end in a big bang is something both sides share .It will probably die a slow agonizing death ,but will fizzle out in the end .....peace

Posted by: Terry | May 11 2016 11:49 utc | 33

I did have a chuckle when one of the "twits" asked Lister for clarification on the meaning of that tweet.

A Lister-lover shot back this reply:
"@BenjaminNorton @Charles_Lister for clarification Ben are you referring to one of the world's foremost terrorism experts as a propagandist?"

Well, yeah, he is.

Lister worked at the Brookings Doha Center, and last I heard he is at the Middle East Institute.

You don't get those gigs unless you have demonstrated an ability to sing for your supper.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | May 11 2016 12:55 utc | 34


We all understand Russia has interests beyond Syria, but the question we all have is wouldn't they be better served by a clear cut victory in Syria?

If you look attentively at how Russia's strategy vis-a-vis USA evolved for the last 7-8 years you will notice one peculiar thing which is constant--Russia remains completely opened to dialogue with the US. What Russia also understands, especially against the background of US "successes" in ME, where US basically squandered most of her political and military capital, that the abrupt victory in Syria (it doesn't take much to drop Pskov and Ivanovo Divisions there together with some Kadyrov's people, but why when it is Syrian Army which must do the work) by default means a strategic and humiliating defeat of the US and this is not conducive to negotiatiosn with increasingly irrational and dysfunctional American elites. This is in a nutshell and in a very vulgar terminology. US is on the way out as a whatever hyper of super-pooper global power and the process is irreversible--Russia wants to make at as painless as possible for everybody. US will remain, no doubt, what we define as a superpower but, like a former Hollywood star, she should understand that she is aging and is not the only game in town.

Posted by: SmoothieX12 | May 11 2016 14:08 utc | 35

To be fair to Lister, he did clarify his tweet, not once but twice.

"@BenjaminNorton That barely merits a response, of course not. I’ve written consistently on Nusra’s cynical exploitation of the opposition."
and then here:
"@BenjaminNorton Nobody can deny opposition groups have cooperated with Nusra - my position has long been that needs to stop ASAP."

Sounds plausible-deniable, so it may be possible to cut Lister some slack.

But, really, this highlights an undeniable truth: if you make your living out of publishing edited (or refereed) article then Do Not Touch Twitter With A Ten Foot Pole.

Because all you will ever do is prove to the world that you are a hapless water buffalo without a good editor - or a knowledgeable referee - standing over your shoulder, politely coughing whenever you start jotting down jibberish.

Charles, baby, get rid of that twitter account ASAP.

You're not as smart as you think you are, and people are starting to notice that you are a twit with a twitter account.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | May 11 2016 14:47 utc | 36

@21 pb and @24 jen - thanks for responding to debs is dead, much better then i did..

Posted by: james | May 11 2016 15:28 utc | 37

Charles Lister is something else I tell ya, absolutely & completely entirely one sided; unfortunately his side is pretty wicked by the fruits born thus far.

Posted by: Au | May 11 2016 15:59 utc | 38

Instead of reconsidering Sanders, now that he is doing so much better than Hillary in one-on-one polls with Trump and Hillary is starting to fall behind in such polls, Democratic Party strategists continue in their blind confidence that Hillary will win. The Hill: Dems brush off polls showing close Clinton-Trump race:

Democrats on Tuesday brushed off polls showing Hillary Clinton in a dead-heat with Donald Trump across three crucial general-election states.

Most Democratic strategists insist that it is very difficult to see a path to the White House for Trump, given his low approval ratings with a number of crucial groups, particularly Hispanics. They also cast a skeptical eye on polls conducted at this point in the election cycle.

I have the impression that they would prefer a Trump victory to a Sanders victory, like the Blairites with Corbyn.

Posted by: lysias | May 11 2016 19:20 utc | 39

What a surprise i wasn't surprised completely when he said this in his tweet.

Posted by: Bruno (@GamerOps) | May 12 2016 0:58 utc | 40

39;Sanders is one of their own,a committed Zionist,and totally OK with Israel uber alles.
Trump is a loose cannon(to them)and has said things no POTUS candidate in 40 years has uttered.
They would rather have HRC,of course,but Sanders is better than Trump,to them,as America First is totally anti Zion.
Of course Trump could be just posing,and tapping nationalist sentiment falsely,but if he is,he'll pay big time.The people are pissed.

Posted by: dahoit | May 12 2016 14:55 utc | 41

At smoothie 35,

Thanks for the explanation. It is certainly a compelling one and it is wise policy to handle the decline of US power cautiously. That said, one also has to consider that the longer the Russian campaign in Syria lasts, the greater the risk that Russia bears. When the Russian intervention started, the Syrian army was on the verge of collapse after a 5 year long exhausting war. While it has certainly been reinvigorated, I can still picture a situation one or two years from now when the Syrian army is again exhausted despite Russian assistance. There seems to be no limit to the amount of money the rich gulf Arabs are willing to spend and no limit to the supply of useful idiots they can send to replace the ones killed on a regular basis. It would not be a good situation for Russia, or anyone really, if the Syrian government collapses while Russian forces are still in Syria.

I well understand that there are many people all over the world that want Russia to fight their battles for them and that Russia must only intervene when it's own purposes are served and for both other reason. I only point out the risk that, having entered Syria, Russia's allies on the ground might exhaust themselves while waiting for others to see the light. Thus leaving Russia in a precarious situation.

Posted by: Lysander | May 12 2016 16:56 utc | 42

likklemore @5,
that famous pic was of Rumsfeld meeting with Saddam Hussein and entourage, back when he was the cia's boy toy.

Posted by: sillybill | May 12 2016 21:04 utc | 43

@42, Lysander

That said, one also has to consider that the longer the Russian campaign in Syria lasts, the greater the risk that Russia bears.

Very true and the risks, most likely, will grow. But here is also another factor--using neocon parlance--"mission creep" in Russia is not the same as in US and so is the manner in which risks are handled. Russian military is also well aware of limitations of Arab militaries (bar some elite units) when conducting serious combined arms operations. Arab record is not very impressive in this field.The main question is, however, this: will Russia accept partition? Who knows. I think by now Russia's leadership is keenly aware that any treaties with US are not worth the paper they written on and that the game today reminds that of tilt labyrinth, with Russia, through her military, turning the plane in order to put the ball into the hole. US elections, Ukraine, Europe and even Pacific--all these factors are in play.

Posted by: SmoothieX12 | May 12 2016 21:12 utc | 44

Jen, smart comments.

Posted by: MRW | May 12 2016 22:27 utc | 45

@42 lysander and @44 smoothie... you might be interested in chiming in on the open thread where a few of us are having the same conversation topic..

Posted by: james | May 12 2016 22:28 utc | 46

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