Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 07, 2020

A Peek On The Situation In And Around Syria

The recent financial turbulence in the oil markets and the global depression will have a large impact on the conflicts in the Middle East.


Last night the Iraqi parliament elected a new prime minister. Mustafa al-Kadhimi is seen as a technocrat with a good track record and politically neutral to all sides. His cabinet includes a number of experienced people who are known for effective work.

Astonishingly both, the U.S. and Iran, have supported Kadhimi.

Secretary Pompeo @SecPompeo - 1:09 UTC · May 7, 2020

Great to speak today with new Iraqi PrimeMinister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Now comes the urgent, hard work of implementing the reforms demanded by the Iraqi people. I pledged to help him deliver on his bold agenda for the sake of the Iraqi people.


Javad Zarif @JZarif - 9:56 AM · May 7, 2020

Congratulations to Prime Minister @MAKadhimi, his Cabinet, the Parliament and most importantly the people of Iraq for success in forming a new Government.

Iran always stands with the Iraqi people and their choice of administration.

Kadhimi has lots of work waiting for him. The low oil price means that Iraq's budget will have a huge deficit. It will have to borrow a lot of money most likely from the IMF. The money may come with U.S. conditions.

There has recently been a wave a small ISIS attacks. The Jihadis were equipped with night vision devises. There is strong suspicion that the U.S. is again using ISIS to pressure the government.

The U.S. wants Iraq to take a position against Iran and the Iraqi militia which Iran sponsors. But Kadhimi can not do that without losing support in the parliament. Iraq also depends on Iranian energy.


The military situation in Syria has changed little. The ceasefire in Idleb governorate seems to hold. Russian and Turkish troops patrol on parts of the M4 highway after Turkey had some harsh exchanges with the Jihadis from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham who had tried to prevent the patrols. Turkey will have to get rid of the Jihadis, who have led the war against Syria from its very beginning, one way or another.

Throughout the last months Russian foreign policy grandees and oligarchs had published essays that argued that the Syrian government had to look more at the economic situation in Syria, which is very bad, instead of pushing for military solutions. It was not fully clear what they were aiming at.

Then a conflict between President Assad and Syria's prime oligarch Rami Makhlouf broke into the open. Danni Makki digs into the whole saga. Makhlouf is a maternal cousin of Assad. Whoever wanted to do business in Syria during the war had to go through him. He sponsored his own militia and charity. Makhlouf, the richest man in Syria and owner of Syriatel and lots of other companies, has now been pushed aside. But he is fighting back.

Makhlouf has little chance to win. In 2017 the Jabar brothers, also oligarchs with their own militia, were also getting too interested in their personal profits and power. Riam Dalati tells their story and how they were unceremoniously moved aside.

Assad's position is now stronger then ever and Russian companies will  now be happy to do business in Syria without a Mr. Five Percent in between.


Turkey, working together with Qatar, has hired some 10,000 Syrian 'rebels' to fight in Libya on the side of the Government of National Accord and its Jihadi militias. The GNA troops have been trounced by the Libyan National Army under General Haftar. Turkey has also sent its own troops with Turkish made drones to attack Haftar's position. But most of the drones were shot down immediately. The UAE, which supports Haftar's LNA, has now sent 6 Mirage fighter jets to Egypt and uses them to bomb GNA and Turkish positions in Tripoli and Misrata.

The 'rebels' Turkey hired have taken a lot of casualties but have not yet received their promised money. That news has reached Idleb were further recruitment efforts by Turkey now fail to gain traction.


The Turkish Lira continues to fall. The Central Bank, under control of wannabe Sultan Erdogan, had spent more than $25 billion to prevent the Lira from breaking the barrier of 7 Lira per U.S. Dollar. It is now at 7.2 Lira/US$ and sinking further. The 44 year old Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak is Erdogan's son in law and unqualified for the job. The Fed has rejected a request from Turkey for a swap agreement that would have provided the country with more U.S. dollar. Those are urgently needed:

S&P Global estimated on Wednesday that Turkey’s economy needs to refinance close to $168 billion over the next 12 months. That equates to 24% of the country’s GDP.

The record-low lira makes it more costly for the country’s government and companies to pay back their dollar-denominated debt. That $168 billion of short-term external debt and only $85 billion in gross FX reserves means the so-called “coverage ratio” is only around 50%, one of the lowest of any emerging- market economy.

Erdogan can (again) ask the Emir of Qatar to step in but the sum he needs is larger than what Qatar might be willing or able to provide. That leaves the IMF as the only way out. But after previous IMF loans to Turkey and the harsh austerity measures that came with them any talk of IMF loans in Turkey is political poison and a sure way to lose elections.

Erdogan will have to cut his losses in Libya and Syria as these conflicts have become economically unsustainable.


The Ponzi scheme the Central Bank of Lebanon had used for 30 years to bind the Lebanese Pound to the U.S. Dollar has finally fallen apart. Within months the pound fell from 1.500 per US$ to now below 4.000 per US$. Everybody who had money in a Lebanese bank has lost most of it. Lebanon's riches of the last 30 years are gone. The country needs a new business model which will be difficult to find. Ehsani explains how it came to this.

Saudi Arabia:

Today the U.S. announced that it is removing its Patriot missiles from the country. Two fighter squadrons in the area will also leave. The U.S. navy will recall some ships from the Persian Gulf region. In early April Trump had threatened the Saudis with such measures if they failed to reduce their oil output and to thereby raise the global oil price. Some output was reduced but the old price is falling further for a lack of demand.

Without U.S. protection a further Saudi war against the Houthi in Yemen will become untenable.

All the above countries are also massively affected from the current pandemic. This probably less from death in their relatively young populations than from the economic consequences that will lead to more poverty and hunger.

If there is a winner of all these crises in the region it is Iran.

Posted by b on May 7, 2020 at 17:40 UTC | Permalink


Thanks b hope you are correct "Makhlouf, the richest man in Syria and owner of Syriatel and lots of other companies" out of the pic... it remind me of Indonesia's Suharto mister 10%

Posted by: JC | May 7 2020 17:53 utc | 1

B, thank you very much for the update! I don't thank you enough -- my excuse is that I don't want to clog up your comment section with thanks every day -- but thank you for being here, for all you do.

Stay safe.

Posted by: Pundita | May 7 2020 18:07 utc | 2

great update b.. thanks... fascinating the background story on the syrian financial dynamics.. i will look at those links later...

i like the general conclusion turkey will have to back out of syria and libya based on being financially squeezed... i wonder what turkey would be like without erdogan fantasizing about reestablishing a 21st century ottoman empire?? we might find out sooner then later...

all of these tin pot dictatorship oil rich countries are really a sick bunch.... i guess it is the byproduct off having too much money and not enough brains..

Posted by: james | May 7 2020 18:27 utc | 3

Great sitrep b txs. @all, do check the various twitter threads b links to, they are very informative..

Posted by: Lozion | May 7 2020 18:34 utc | 4

Finally a surcease from the pandemic and the deaths and suffering, and back to the joys of the chaos, killings and terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Libya and the Kingdom of Decapitations.

What a blessed relief.

(Good SitReps, 'b'). We thank you for your tireless contribution to the global search for Truths.

Posted by: Red Ryder | May 7 2020 18:35 utc | 5

What about Israel helping Turkey? What happened to that conversation? I thought that Israel and Erdogan were on the verge of getting chummy over Israeli desire to have Turkey fight Syria forever? They can probably influence the American and others to come to Turkey's aid but will demand a lot of something. Iraq is going to get worse once the new PM makes it clear which side he chooses. I imagine he will choose America and then that won't last long till a new PM is needed. Meanwhile Media Rationalization of Racist Hinduphobia or: How Tulsi Gabbard is demonized for fun and profit

Posted by: Kali | May 7 2020 18:39 utc | 6

james @3--

You should ponder the fact that both Canada and the Outlaw US Empire are also "oil rich countries [led] by a really sick bunch." There's the book Petrotyranny, published in Canada in 2000 by John Bacher that's a decent book except that it omits any deep study of the first Petrotyranny--the USA!

Posted by: karlof1 | May 7 2020 18:44 utc | 7

B at his best and away from the dreaded Cov....discussion lol

Thanks for this.

Posted by: Skeletor | May 7 2020 18:45 utc | 8

thanks b for revisiting a crucial area pushed off the pages by corona crisis.

[..] "The U.S. wants Iraq to take a position against Iran and the Iraqi militia which Iran sponsors. But Kadhimi can not do that without losing support in the parliament. Iraq also depends on Iranian energy." [.]

as usual the U.S. displays its convoluted geopolitics. Repeatedly continues to grant month to month waivers to Iraq for purchase of Iran electricity and gas while at the same time wanting Iraq to take a position against Iran.
Exceptional idiots attempting to insert barriers between neighbours.

May 6, 2020. WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States will grant a 120-day waiver for Iraq to continue importing electricity from Iran to help the new Iraqi government succeed, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the newly installed Iraqi prime minister.

"In support of the new government the United States will move forward with a 120-day electricity waiver as a display of our desire to help provide the right conditions for success," the State Department said in a statement on a call between Pompeo and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Washington had repeatedly extended the exemption for Baghdad to use crucial Iranian energy supplies for its power grid for periods of 90 or 120 days, [.]

Posted by: Likklemore | May 7 2020 18:54 utc | 9

Is Trump pulling protection from Saudi because they pump too much oil?
Or simply because they can't pay the protection money no matter how much they pump?

Posted by: Michael Droy | May 7 2020 19:04 utc | 10

Excellent b. If there is one common thread going through all these, it is - If you don't have the money - you can't fight wars.

With the double whammy of low oil pries and stalled economies we are going to see a lot of changes. I would like it to be less combat, but I fear it more likely to be undisciplined militants and troops who prey even more on local populations.

One you could add to the above list is is the worsening situation on the Yemini island of Socotra (Houthis v US and SA, v UAE etc.) A disaster because of it's unique flora.

(US Near Iran )
- Two US jet fighter squadrons also have left the re­gion.
- US will con­sider a re­duc­tion of the U.S. Navy presence in the Per­sian Gulf.
- US officials say that Tehran no longer poses immediate threat against Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Stonebird | May 7 2020 19:11 utc | 11

The United States and Turkey have a lot in common. Both countries are led by narcissistic and incompetent clowns nepotistically driving their countries off the proverbial cliff. Both geniuses concocted half baked colonial plans, and felt they could just grab other people property (think Venezuela, Syrian, Libyan oil) in total impunity. Soon enough, Sultan Erdogan will get his first bankruptcy star to match cretin Orange in business failure department.

Posted by: Horatio | May 7 2020 19:12 utc | 12

"..all of these tin pot dictatorship oil rich countries are really a sick bunch.... i guess it is the byproduct off having too much money and not enough brains..james@ 3
karlofi beat me to it james - or were you referring to Alberta?

Posted by: bevin | May 7 2020 19:17 utc | 13

"night vision devises" always is a heads up that Photonis may be involved.

Posted by: bjd | May 7 2020 19:29 utc | 14

Stonebird # 11

The unique flora of Socotra is severely impacted by marauding goats and in war they are fine and immediate tucker for the pot. With any luck the Dragon Blood Trees will get a chance for successful reproduction. AFAIK Not much else worked as there was great resistance from humans to the proposals to reign in their goatherding.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | May 7 2020 19:34 utc | 15

I suspect Uncle Sam has removed troops from Saudi Barbaria so that a palace coup d'etat against Bin Sawman can proceed. Not a day too soon.

Posted by: Trailer Trash | May 7 2020 19:46 utc | 16

B, I loved this post more than most. I love to read the links that you post on topics that are of interest to me, and these quick summaries help my strategic mind make a picture faster. Please do at least 1-2 of these a week, and do thorough and detailed posts in other days. I believe it will be appreciated by the audience.

Posted by: A | May 7 2020 19:52 utc | 17

Nice Sitrep as usual.

Some points:
-Elijah is seeing the ISIS surge as bigger an more threatening as you. He mentioned the US just cut their intelligence sharing with Iraq when ISIS went on the offensive. PMU is mobilized, but without the intelligence from drones etc. Iraq is sadly blinded to a big extent.
With ISIS being so well outfitted, using effective strategies, and giving PMU high casualties, this may well become the start of something very ugly. Iraq will win, but casualties in human life and economic damage plus panic on top of Corona will still be a hellish combination.

-That Turkey will have to end its ottoman ambitions because of economic, has been said since many years. And politically it is at least equally untenable.
Erdogan lives from his economic policy, but in the last years also from the semi-fashistic mixture of Turkish ultra-nationalism and Islamic Sunni "values" (MB style).

He can take the IMF money and then just paint the blame on the evil western countries. But leaving Syrian territory believing to be Turkish heartland, or giving up North Syria as buffer zone against PKK would NEVER the excuseable. NEVER. Not for his voters, OR 85% of Turks, who overwhelmingly support one brand or another of Turkish Ultra Nationalism (with the Sunni Islamic ideology also supported by most).

This mindset can not be rationalized looking through rational eyes, but it has its own kind of logic.

And giving up even an inch of belived "Turkish soil" is not even an option for the huge majority. Be that "Turkish soil" Turkish or Syrian, or Iraq, or Greek.

Posted by: DontBelieveEitherPr. | May 7 2020 19:56 utc | 18

It's only a few months since Trump repeatedly declared his ownership of the oil fields in north-east Syria:

We kept the oil. I kept the oil. (...) we kept the oil. (...) we have the oil

That's not very much to boast about these days, now that oil prices are a lot less than what they were back then.

Posted by: Brendan | May 7 2020 20:09 utc | 19

If there is a winner of all these crises in the region it is Iran.

Yup, always, at least for the Iranian government, if not for most Iranians. And it doesn't even have to try to win - it just has to sit back and watch Washington and its puppets acting like idiots and handing victory to Teheran.

Posted by: Brendan | May 7 2020 20:14 utc | 20

If Pompeo is so happy about the new iraqi PM, does that mean that John Bolton knows where Mustafa al-Kadhimi's children live?

There is activity in Syria on some fronts.

In the northeastern desert, ISIS hideouts are getting cleaned up slowly. ISIS had an easy time while the action was going on around Idlib, but now they are getting their fair share of attention. Quite possibly the resurgence in Iraq is related to this. I hope that a joint syrian, iraqi, russian and iranian effort will seriously clean out the last bits of the black plague.

At the same time, Syria is about to root out some stay-behind Al Qaida and ISIS clusters in southern Daraa. That region was pacified by agreement a few years ago and the factions that only pretended to agree have now shown their hand. Spring time weeding time.

I am not sure that LNA is really successful against Erdogan's brotherhood proxies in western Lybia. If GNA manages to capture the airbase in the west, that would be a very big setback for Hafter.

Posted by: Lurk | May 7 2020 20:21 utc | 21

I think the key ingredient is a weaker more compliant Erdogan. This could lead to a quicker end to the Syrian war, with Assad the winner.

Posted by: aniteleya | May 7 2020 20:22 utc | 22

uncle tungsten | May 7 2020 19:34 utc | 15

We will probably have a "save the goats" campaign soon. Send in the army ?

Yeah but, - they are fighting over the island, so that is not going to be much better than lonely goat herders. Unfortunately it was a foregone conclusion that someone would lay claim to the place sooner or later because of it's situation,
I notice it is a regular habit of occupying armies to choose nature reserves or places of natural beauty because people avoid living there (Guam, or was it near Okinawa?)

Posted by: Stonebird | May 7 2020 20:51 utc | 23

Bikini Atol was easily cleared of pesky humans... Paradise.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | May 7 2020 21:24 utc | 24

Thanks b! This type of information is what I (we?) come here for.

Posted by: Yevgeny | May 7 2020 21:36 utc | 25

I had to come back up to see who has written the article from RIAC, which I had not payed attention to at first, to test that it was not written by the SOHR or the Syrian opposition.

For that travel we, and above all the Syrian people and legitimate government, did not need so many saddlebags...

For to go now surrendering to the "recommendations" of the US, the IMF and the EU, Assad could have surrendered the country at the very first moment, as he probably was offered.

That Syria has its own problems with its own oligarchs, is what? A discovery by these thinking brains of the Valdai Club? This guy has probaly gone bald behind his ear after the effort. Why does he not mention as a solution for the reconstruction of Syria the need of the US leaving the oil fields which it has been exploting?

The oligarchy is very much the most accute problem everywhere, starting with Russia, still not free from that lacra dating the "reform" of the USSR, through its willing demolition, a problem the Coronavirus pandemic has not made but putting in everybody´s sight.

Because, who are the remaining wealth of the nations being transferred to, in face of the collapse ( willing/planned, or not, I will put my hand on the fire for the first case...since this all resembles way too much the demolition of the USSR, this smells of rat all the way.. ) of the capitalist system?

We have the German government bailing out Lufthansa under the exigence by its owners of that rescue being under no conditions. the same happens in the US with Boeing and the fracking industry..

In Spain we have open the economy for the big business already just after Easter, under directive of the Banco de Santander in Spain, permanent guest at the Bliderberg Group meetings.... Some countries in the EU have established there will be no rescue for big corporations who evade taxes through tax havens in the EU, but we, for what it seems, are going to rescue ´em all...

Taking a look at the state of certain EU banks previous to the pandemic, one gets the real picture on that some were going to collapse with or without Coronavirus anyway.

Most of the population in the world is facing unemployment, misery, and highly likely hunger, and then, it is Syria who need to ongo reforms, or Lebanon for that matter?. The Lebanese Central Bank belongs to the West Banking System, as all the rest of the Central Banks. The Lebanese government ahs been ALWAYS occupied by West and Saudi puppets, just until recently, when Hezbollah and other representatives of the Lebanese people entered the government, jut when the West decided to bankrupt Lebanon.....

All Mediterranean countries were making a living of tourism, as they own enough historical sites and good weather to offer this kind of services in the international labor order. But, why tourism was wiped out? Most probably to turn the fortunes of some in Syria and Lebanon, and also, by passing, in the EU.....

Some were having trouble with the Brexit´s bill, the sanitzing of their biggest banks, and the growing contestation in the streets, what better way to revive themselves and their industries than ruining some southern pigs to then indebt them for the centuries to come as they did with Greece? Curiously, or not so, these are the same actors hoping to take a piece of the cake in Syria and Lebanon and allied in the US coalition...

Some were losing the war on Syria, the Chinese were willing to invest there, and make her, along with Pakistán, part of the B&R initiative, which would had seen a flourishing Syria and also Pakistán. Instead you have the Chinese economy paralized and the chains of distriution cut off, becuase of the Coronavirus. Terrorism is being pushed against Pakistán and also, as the recent incident with some "afghans" in the border, towards Iran, all aimed at definitely destabilishing the zone and giving the shot of grace to the Chinese initiative.

The thing is that we all need way too postponed reforms everywhere, so as to not being continuously robbed, and in a cheeky big way every ten years or so. i
In fact, what we need is a world wide socialist revolution ( never the time was so propice, since when the same illnesses, and I am not talking here about the Covid-19, were affecting us all at unison...? ) and dust off the guillotines...We could start with all those idle people talking heads "thinking" at the clubs of the rich, like the Valdai Club, the Bilderberg Club, the Davos Summit.....and so on...those who never get untidy by any shake of "destiny"... then follow with parasitic politicians, bought and receiving direct orders from these clubs, make the great cleaning, disinfecting it all...

When the 2008 crisis was starting to hit in Spain, and things started to paint gloom, I was learning a langauge with a charming group of colleagues. One of my peers, a woman with the voice and face of a little girl, a very good person, said once that in face of not being payed she will be willing to go out in the streets with the sawed-off shotgun...
Of course, she was joking....although, was she really doing it? Do not think, this was not marginal people, but what you would call middle class...

Posted by: H.Schmatz | May 7 2020 22:02 utc | 26

@ H. Schmatz 26. "The oligarchy is very much the most accute problem everywhere, starting with Russia, still not free from that lacra dating the "reform" of the USSR, through its willing demolition, a problem the Coronavirus pandemic has not made but putting in everybody´s sight."

Yes that's true, USSR was "gamed" and so are we being gamed.

About the "shot-gun" yes, when people lose everything, then they "lose it" (meaning they become "pitchforks").

Pax, Comrade.

I agree.

Best, Old Man!

Posted by: Walter | May 7 2020 23:34 utc | 27

Thank You, B.
This is an excellent report, and analysis. I am heartened, and glad, to read this news.

Posted by: Joshua | May 8 2020 0:09 utc | 28

@ 7 karlof1... i am aware of that, but the money and support qatar are providing turkey is part of turkeys problem as i see it - that is one of the oil rich tin pot dictatorships i was thinking of when i said that... i hope oil stays really low and shuts down the tar sands in alberta permanently... i see oil tutures are putting on a pretty good showing since the beginning of may... the link on oligarch Rami Makhlouf is pretty fascinating...

i am curious how iraq gets out from under usa seems they can be manipulated easily as they are so vulnerable financially... the usa put them in this position for the very reason the usa continues to be in iraq with no interest in leaving.. they will continue to cultivate isis and iraq needs to figure out a way to get rid of them..

Posted by: james | May 8 2020 1:38 utc | 29

@ 13 bevin... i think b was writing an article on the middle east and i happened to note qatar and uaes direct involvement in the libya dynamic.. i was referring to those tin pot dictatorships... but hey - if you want to talk about alberta and canada here - go for it, lol.. i suppose it depends on ones perspective how much of a difference there really is in all this oil money-rape...

Posted by: james | May 8 2020 1:41 utc | 30

"... Throughout the last months Russian foreign policy grandees and oligarchs had published essays that argued that the Syrian government had to look more at the economic situation in Syria, which is very bad, instead of pushing for military solutions. It was not fully clear what they were aiming at ..."

When the partners of the Russian International Affairs Council, on whose platform Aleksandr Aksenenok wrote the article from which B draws the above quote, include such luminaries as the Rand Corporation (itself funded by various beloved US government agencies like the Pentagon and DHS among assorted others), the Carngegie Endowment for International Peace and Voice of America, what these Russian government flunkies and handmaidens of oligarchs like Mikhail Khodorkovsky are advocating for Syria is a neoliberal economic regime that will push the country back into the precarious state it was in before 2011 when the Assad government was persuaded to adopt neoliberal "reforms" that had the effect of alienating people in those parts of Syria that rapidly came under ISIS domination, through the privatisation of natural resources. Doubtless Rami Makhlouf and his family must have benefited from such "reforms".

There is the possibility that the West may see in Makhlouf the Syrian equivalent of a Khodorkovsky, and Makhlouf might play up to the West to get support. Who thinks the West might be stupid enough to throw its weight behind Makhlouf and drum him up as the legitimate successor to Assad, the worthy Syrian equivalent of ... erm, Venezuela's shining knight in armour Juan Guaido???

Posted by: Jen | May 8 2020 1:51 utc | 31

very good point jen... thanks for making that... makhlouf will indeed be used as leverage and we are back in the same divide and conquer place where we left off..

Posted by: james | May 8 2020 2:02 utc | 32

´administration announced removal of Patriot from Saudi Arabia´ ...
I will believe it when it actually happens. Is it possible that this news was planted as a test of reactions ? Just thinking.
I also thought that b wrote an excellent summary of events in ME, before i saw the chorus of other commenters with the same feeling. Thanks ´b´!

Posted by: bystander 4 | May 8 2020 3:05 utc | 33

Thanks b. It was a masterful tour d'horizon, and took a lot more work to produce, I think, than might be apparent from the ease of reading.

Posted by: Grieved | May 8 2020 3:17 utc | 34

Has Pompeo got a problem with alcohol?
It's hilarious that the drunker Pompeo gets, the more Trump encourages him to stagger to the White House podium and shoot his mouth off. I mean, how hopelessly drunk did Pompeo have to be to accuse China of withholding cooperation in solving the Coronavirus problem? And how blind drunk was he when he congratulated Iraq's new PM and then shot himself in the foot by 'permitting' Iraq to import energy from Iran for a few more months?

Delusions of grandeur + too much booze could hardly be described as essential aids to diplomacy - except in AmeriKKKa...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 8 2020 3:27 utc | 35

When Makhloof did nothing to defend the oil and gas fields when it seems he easily could have, makes the whole thing look like a deliberate sell-out. In other words, treason.

So how do Makhloof's family connections protect him. What power did his mother actually have? Henry VIII would have had this guy's head on a stake at Traitor's Gate before a day had passed. The mother and other family members would be warned that if they created difficulties they would meet the same fate. Confiscating the wealth, estates, cars, etc would also happen.

Antoinetta III

Posted by: Antoinetta III | May 8 2020 4:20 utc | 36

Very informative article. This is the kind of thing I come to MOA to read and learn from.

Posted by: Norwegian | May 8 2020 5:10 utc | 37

Is it possible that the common thread connecting Trump's loud and irrational senior appointees is alcoholism? Trump is teetotal. People don't accidentally give up booze. If someone said that John Bolton, for example, isn't a hopeless piss-pot, would anyone believe them?
Alcohol - great for Dutch Courage and saying stupid stuff, but too addled to notice...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 8 2020 5:32 utc | 38

Kinda off topic but since it is about USuk & war I'll stick it here.
Haven't been able to get to the local dungeon in ages what with the lockdown 'n all so I've been punishing myself by watching BBC news. It's up there with fingernails down a blackboard - anyway I notice that today (Friday afternoon here/thurs night england) they have been pushing "VE" day on the beeb. Apparently it is 75 years on friday the 8th of May from when Marshal Georgy Zhukov who had beat the Nazi into submission like an old tin drum, invited the englanders, amerikans & french to Berlin to witness the nazis signing their unconditional surrender.
Natch none of the beeb footage shows the moment of victory when a Soviet corporal hung the red flag complete with hammer 'n sickle off the reichstag. No, no, no the footage is all dancing in london etc. Another generation of englanders to be fed the lie that england won the war, that the blighty spirit that gave the drongos brexit for the rich will take them to the sunlit uplands etc.
Reality must be distorted, englanders must not be told that more Londoners died of coronavirus in the last few weeks than were killed by Nazi bombs during the blitz - thanks to their government's recalcitrance getting arse into gear about impending pandemic. Just like the day when england surpassed Italy in numbers of covid deaths was relegated to the bottom of page 3 by some scandal about a professor on the corona team being caught breaking the social separation thingy by getting horizontal with a colleague's missus, the masses will be distracted from some other tale of incompetence by being encouraged to relive the ww2 legend.

I dread to imagine what murder & larceny USuk are committing in Syria, Iraq & Yemen while all the news is about My Corona

Posted by: A User | May 8 2020 5:39 utc | 39

Antoinetta III @ 36:

Rami Makhlouf's aunt Anisa Makhlouf was married to former President Hafez al Assad and is Bashar al Assad's mother. The Makhlouf family's wealth dates back to Hafez al Assad's time as President. It seems Bashar al Assad had to wait for his mother to pass away before he had enough support and confidence to move against Rami Makhlouf.

Posted by: Jen | May 8 2020 6:07 utc | 40

Fuck me dead right now on the beeb some prof of media studies is explaining the semiotics of "we'll meet again" to applause for the NHS dutifully conflating the parademic with 'beating the Hun'. Always important to remember that for the official englander take on ww2 it was always England > Germany not "the people of the world defeated the fascists" which is always what it was.

Everyone is talking in that dreadful 'received' english ' where people are taught to sound as though they had a private/public school education - except Vera Lynn she who sang "we'll meet again" who at 90+ has her strong London accent. That received accent (which is wot former prosecutor now leader of the new-old, meek Labour Party also uses as his 'voice) includes 'dame' Vera's daughter who prolly copped an expensive edumucation on the earnings from the song. Irony abounds.

No, No, No - I gotta stop! some distant decendent of the Churchill has grabbed the mike and is patronising all & sundry - doubtless in the hope he wjll be put on the ticket of some safe tory seat next election After all Winnie's grandson Nicholas Soames copped it hard over brexit - lost his seat after 30 years of loyal bagmanning.

Posted by: A User | May 8 2020 7:48 utc | 41

This commenter on SF has some interesting viewpoints (on the preparations at Daraa):
Willing Conscience (The Truths • a day ago
The Russian backed 5th army corps was sent in a week ago to try and sort out the mess here but that's turned out to be a pointless exercise, because now the Iranians have just done the same thing too and sent in some of their guys as well.
Many of you think this will make it easier to sort out the mess in Daraa and Quneitra but it won't, it'll just make it a hell of a lot harder.
And Russia is under pressure closer to home too, because apart from the problems they have in Deir ez Zor, Aleppo, and recently Daraa and Quneitra, it now seems Latakia is catching on fire too.
Rami Makhlouf and his forces are now becoming the focus of Assad's ire, disloyalty to Syria is no longer being tolerated, the Russians are finally starting to put their foot down and hopefully Assad and Syria will reap the benefits.
I wonder what the Iranians will say if Rami ends up in jail, that port they want to establish in Latakia may be put on the backburner if he gets himself locked up, which will probably make the Russians very happy indeed, but the Iranians won't be.

Some reports are saying Assad's wife Asma is the person really going after Rami, they're saying it's not really the Russians or Assad leading the charge, and at first I wondered why they were saying that, what the hell could Assad's wife do to help solve Syria's economic mismanagement and political disloyalty problems, but then I looked up her profile and I can see why some reports are saying that.

Posted by: marx2 | May 8 2020 8:00 utc | 42

@ marx2 | May 8 2020 8:00 utc | 42

From the moment Asma Assad recovered from her cancer and returned into the public view, she has been leading a big anti-corruption action. Seems that it has finally begun to take out the big wigs.

The majority of syrians have long been unhappy about corruption at the heart of the state. It was one of the factors in the 2011 protests. Taking out Makhlouf and other oligargs could well boost Assad's popular approval.

Posted by: Lurk | May 8 2020 9:37 utc | 43

There is strong suspicion that the U.S. is again using ISIS to pressure the government.

I presume the US is still pushing its plan for a Sunnistan in western Iraq to some degree. That's ISIS territory. There has to be some interrelationship.

Posted by: Laguerre | May 8 2020 10:07 utc | 44

@33 Bystander 4: "I will believe it when it actually happens"

Actually, I could well believe it. There are only so many Patriot batteries to go around, and I am firmly of the opinion that the Patriot batteries in Saudi Arabia were originally protecting US Military bases in Iraq before Trump sent them Following The Money.

So, yeah, if Trump and Fat Mike intend some more misadventures against Iran then they may have decided they need those Patriot missiles back in Iraq, otherwise they can kiss their military bases goodbye.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | May 8 2020 10:24 utc | 45

- Assad is quite right when he wants to remove a number of syrian oligarchs. I think the most important point is that these syrian oligarchs have their own militias. It was OK when in the war Assad needed every help he could find but now with the (civil) war winding down he must eliminate any domestic military threat to his government.

Posted by: Willy2 | May 8 2020 12:39 utc | 46

"Vera Lynn she who sang "we'll meet again" who at 90+ .."
I guess 103 is 90+. She really meant it: "We'll meet again, and again and again and..."

Posted by: bevin | May 8 2020 13:54 utc | 47

The Syrian resistance to America's colonial occupation increases.

The following news item is particularly interesting with 2 American troops who have been reportedly captured by the Syrian resistance:

"On April 27, a US Hummer vehicle that carried American troops was attacked by locals in Deir Ez Zor. The vehicle was later found completely burned, but it is not known what became of the troops who were being transported to the important oil fields of al-Omar and al-Tank, which are being occupied by the US military, on orders by Trump to steal the oil. ‘Al Mayadeen’ media reported the names of one sailor and one soldier, with eye-witness information that the two Americans were kidnapped."

Syrian Resistance to the US Occupation Escalates

Posted by: ak74 | May 8 2020 14:58 utc | 48

Regarding the Makhlouf situation, an article today in Haaretz suggests that this reflects jostling between Russia and Iran for influence in Syria.

In-fighting between Syria's two main defenders would be counterproductive with respect to freeing the country from Saudi/Turkish/Israeli/FUKUS interference, however it could explain several trends that otherwise seem to make little sense.

Russia needs to hasten Iran’s departure from the arena. This is why it permits Israeli attacks on Iranian bases. It does this with coordination, and unsurprisingly, did not respond to the six airstrikes attributed to Israel in the last two weeks. Moscow also kept silent when Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel is not only working to limit Iranian entrenchment in Syria, but aims to get Iran out of Syria completely.

However, it's not just the Israeli strikes that are causing the current decline in Iranian forces in Syria. Russia kept Iran out of the agreements it signed with Turkey for imposing a ceasefire in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the country. It is also keeping the Iranians out of the policing activity carried out by the Russian military police.

Not sure if I buy this interpretation, but if it's correct then Putin would appear to be less of a savior for the Syrian people and more of an opportunist for Russian interests.

Posted by: farm ecologist | May 8 2020 15:42 utc | 49

to jen, marx2 and lurk: Thank you for providing those details and perspective. Interesting times.

Posted by: Miss Lacy | May 8 2020 16:24 utc | 50

It is high time troops from all NATO countries excluding Turkey were positioned on the Greek/Turkish border as a warning to the Turks firing on Frontex. Greece has a large contingent of Leopard II tanks and should move them into position. Italy should look to its security to the south and have NATO focus on Turkish threats through Libya.

It might be time for German companies to reconsider subcontractors in Turkey.

Posted by: Paul Greenwood | May 8 2020 16:51 utc | 51

Why missing this piece of news? Finally some light in the Middle Eastern chaos!

Posted by: Mina | May 8 2020 17:43 utc | 52

@49 FE. Well then if its from Haaretz, it must be true! Thank you for seeding FUD from Israeli sources and the exit is that way..

@53 Indeed Ashenlight. Higher signal-to-noise ratio, like MoA used to and should be, imo..

Posted by: Lozion | May 8 2020 18:18 utc | 53

While Erdogan is supposedly marshalling Syrian militias from 'Turkish' areas of Syria, it is being reported that Assad is doing the same, at the behest of the Russians, to support Haidar's efforts in Libya. You mention the introduction of UAEAF Mirages into that situation, but the UAE was providing 'humanitarian bombardments' of Libya, on behalf of the Sauds, before Obama an NATO thought that was great idea. There are many stinky fingers in what's looking like a hodgepodge of thoroughly mixed 'interests'.

Posted by: Kevin Quinn | May 8 2020 19:10 utc | 54

re: Turkey
Remember 2023 is big. Albayrak is in position to ensure that Erdogan arrives at that date still as President. And he will pull it off at any cost is my guess. Bringing in IMF is an immediate threat to the control that Erdogan and Albayrak require to pull it off. So, no, IMF will not be brought in. But the economy is key, no two ways about it, and Turkey is haemorrhaging expensive dollars. Interesting to see what they pull out of the hat this time. Also interesting to note that ALL the financial aid being handed out due to Covid is in the form of loans! So, there is an acute understanding of the economic difficulties, that's for sure!

As for Syria and Libya, I agree less with you on their importance to the Turkish people. Of course Turkey is run on Nationalist fervour, but it has many sources and as long as the glass is full no one seems to care. And don't forget Erdogan has already survived a massive 180 degree turn on Syria. He will survive a withdrawal or whatever from Libya and/ or Syria. It is far easier to manage than the economy because it touches so few Turks directly - it's primarily information management which is extremely tight in Turkey! (Rumours that Albayrak, again, sends a daily 'round up' of headlines to a WhatsApp group consisting of all media chiefs!).
Turkey's withdrawal from Libya I think would be easy and no one would notice. Turkey's 'withdrawal' from Syria could be disguised by construction contracts, resulting in a continued 'presence', if Putin can persuade Assad to agree to it. If you recall, Erdogan begged the international community to fund him to the tune of 150bn dollars for exactly that purpose a couple of years ago. While some work is already underway it is nothing near that scale. It could present a convenient 'exit' strategy.
But to be honest Syria need not be that difficult either. Davutoglu all but killed the 'New Ottoman' dreams, so there's not that much left other than media hype. People are very tired of the conflict.

Posted by: Egor68500 | May 8 2020 19:33 utc | 55

@farm ecologist | 49
"Russia needs to hasten Iran’s departure from the arena. This is why it permits Israeli attacks on Iranian bases. It does this with coordination, and unsurprisingly, did not respond to the six airstrikes attributed to Israel in the last two weeks."

I agree with you that it is indeed a very dodgy interpretation of events. The very idea that Russia is unhappy with Iran's presence is, imho, rubbish. The issue re. Israeli strikes as I understand is yes, Russia is informed - Israel refused to agree to informing Syria directly - and Russia informs Syria which then takes precautionary action. The reason is surely that Syria is not in a position to go to war with Israel, Russia will not, and Iran will not at least not yet. So, there is a delicate balance here.

As far as Idlib agreements are concerned there is significant rivalry between Turkey and Iran - Iran has slammed Turkey on several occasions over its unwillingness to abide by agreements - and again. this is Russia working in the best interests of Syria (and of course it's own) and keeping tensions at their minimum and progressive cooperation at its maximum where possible - but there are also other factors at play which mean that resolving Idlib is being dragged out intentionally, of course.)

But anyone pushing narratives about significant rivalry between Iran and Russia has an ulterior agenda. Simple as.

Posted by: Egor68500 | May 8 2020 19:56 utc | 56

@ 49 farm ecologist.... i think @ 53 lozion and @56 egor68500 see it more clearly, especially egor68500s last comment.. this has been discussed countless times at moa..

Posted by: james | May 8 2020 21:10 utc | 57

Posted by: Lozion | May 8 2020 18:18 utc | 53

Thank you for seeding FUD from Israeli sources and the exit is that way..

Well that's a bit harsh. My question was sincere, believe it or not. I view Haaretz as kind of a mixed bag, as it does have some excellent writers (e.g., Gideon Levy).

Posted by: farm ecologist | May 8 2020 21:25 utc | 58

farm ecologist... i agree with you.. haaretz is a mixed bag - and as you note gideon levy is always a pleasure to read...i thought lozion was a bit harsh, or maybe it was a quick off the cuff comment from him... french is his first language and i know he means well!

Posted by: james | May 8 2020 21:43 utc | 59

For some reason, it seems that the most
obvious tandem play in Mediterranean is so
overlooked. I am glad — because the less
obvious the better. The presumed conflict
between Damascus, Russia and Turkey
over Kurds resulted in Damascus taking over
20% if its territory, ended Kurdish quasi-
Government in Kobane and ended free flow
of arms and people across porous Turkish
kurds controlled border. Now is patrolled by
Turkish Russian forces. Today, Turkey and Russia
are controlling M-4 East-West highway . This
splits Idlib. Turkey sealed border to prevent
HRS creating pushing refugees into Turkey.
Now, non-HTS militants are pulled away from
HTS, the Western supported entity. And who
is spreading info that Syrian militants are
being killed in Libya and nit being paid? Naturally,
those that want these to STAY in Idlib
and serve HTS, not trust bad Turkey.
Turkey and Russia are double-tagging Libya
as well. Now, neither Hefer nor Tripoli can
run to US or France to cut the deal.
Tripoli was left for granted in US pocket while
Trump was negotiating with Heftar. Hefter
was threatened by US but now all if a sudden
he is not winning — and he cannot be blamed for
not caving in to Trump. Turkey deal with Tripoli
has put a question mark on Israeli-Greek pipeline
and disputed East Med gas reserves.
I find it very unrealistic to pillory Erdogan, as if he
is not domestically under pressure by pro-NATO
wing that is doing everything possible to do him in.
It is his orientation to Asia and Russia that is the
problem. He tests the opposition all the time —
by asking US for currency swap, knowing it will
be rejected. This exposes his opposition as
stupid and naive expecting Western help. Same
he did with demanding NATO help in Idlib.
West ddid not want Syria to take over Idlib —
screaming violations, bombing hospitals,
generating refugees. NATO refused to help —
even if Turkey asked for Europe to take
refugees. Then Turkey took UNILATERAL
action, prevented refugee flow, cut deal with
Russia which means with Assad. NOW he
demonstrated to Us propped opposition that
NATO will not protect Turkey if fighting in Idlib
generates refugees. Turkey must cut deal
with Russia to protect itself — remove terrorists
and have other lay arms. And relocating
fighters to Libya means removing many foreign
fighters from Syria. Those HTS used because
they have no home in Syria and could not
Layvdown arms.
Idlib will be solved when foreign fighters
are relicated and locals accept restoring lical
government with Damascus funding.

We cannot just ignore facts and enjoy
neocon assault on Erdogan. It was tried

It was tried four weeks ago in Riyadh.
Would be coup leaders arrested. This is a
reason for sudden US withdrawal from
Saudi Arabia and Gulf.

Posted by: Bianca | May 9 2020 3:13 utc | 60

b concludes:

If there is a winner of all these crises in the region it is Iran.

Yet Iran is not a winner in the coronavirus crisis. In fact, they are one of the hardest hit countries in the world.

Difficult not to notice that Iran's aging leadership is highly susceptible to Covid-19. And sanctions make Iran even more vulnerable.

<> <> <> <> <>

As someone with a cynical viewpoint wrt the Empire's ambitions, I was one of the skeptics of the latest Russian-Turk Idlib agreement. Could it be that the Empire took their foot off the gas because it found a different way to pressure Iran? Could it be that killing Iranian leadership and destabilizing Iran was as important a goal as derailing/decoupling China's economy?

In time, we may have answers to these questions.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | May 9 2020 12:18 utc | 61

Thanks for this update b and I (belatedly) join the chorus of thankful readers.

What has been puzzling me since the start of the Covid hysteria: why don't the actors in Syria seize the moment and mop up remaining resistance energetically? Never a better moment with the Western audience so thoroughly distracted by the Covid hysteria and the very real acceleration of the bursting of The Everything Bubble. All this laborious cease-fire stop-and-go, the undoubtedly unnerving tracking and discovering of false flags "gas" incidents in the making - isn't now the best time to pursue long-held objectives?

Posted by: Leser | May 10 2020 17:03 utc | 62

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