By Patrick BAHZAD
This is it then. The battle for Mosul, which had first been announced (a bit hastily) by Iraqi government officials in mid-2015, has finally begun. An improbable alliance of Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni tribesmen and Shia militias, some of them supported and trained by Western advisers, is now besieging IS' Iraqi capital, with Coalition aircraft ruling the skies over Northern Iraq. Considering the various forces involved, there is not much doubt left over the outcome of the battle. The combined might of Western air forces and Special Ops, regular Iraqi units and various ethnic and sectarian militias will prevail against the armies of the Caliphate, at least what is left of them inside Mosul. Yet, the careful optimism displayed by many in the media could be proven wrong somehow, especially with regardsto the prospects for long term survival of the "Islamic State".
The high plains of Northern Iraq have probably not seen anything like it since the Mongol armies arrived in the region and pretty much smashed anything that got in their way in their late 13th century. Back then, they destroyed Mosul after its ruler sided with their ennemies, the Egyptian based Mamluks. Now, in late 2016, tens of thousands of troops have gathered again in Nineveh, mostly to the East and South of Mosul, and have begun closing in on the defenses IS' has had two years to build up, both around and inside the city.
The Symbolism of Mosul
The highest priority for those involved in retaking Mosul will be to avoid the scenario that the Jihadis are probably bracing themselves for: a protracted siege dragging on for weeks or months, involving heavy civilian casualties and featuring the kind of doomsday narrative that IS used to prophesize for its Dabiq outpost in Northern Syria, now lost to Turkish sponsored groups.
The highly symbolic nature of the coming fight cannot be overstated. What is at stake, is not just the future of Mosul, not even the destruction of the territorial and economic base of the Caliphate in Iraq. It is actually the future of the whole country that will probably be shaped along the lines of the events to come. Actually, there is no lack of symbolism when it comes to Mosul's recent past and its significance for its immediate future.
Mosul is the city where Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday ("Ace of Hearts") and Qusay ("Ace of Clubs") were taken out by members of TF20 and the 101st Airborne, on July 22nd 2003. They did not go easy though and it took a four hour gunfight –with an A-10 and an OH-58 involved – to level their safehouse to the ground. But instead of Mosul turning into the place of death for the heirs to the Baathist "monarchy" of Iraq, the city became the place of birth to the "Caliphate" of Abubakr al-Baghdadi, a somewhat bizarre, yet not totally unlikely successor to Saddam Hussein.
The SAA is carving up rebel held neighborhoods in West and East Ghouta near Damascus. They have the upper hand and are going about their business in a workmanlike way while pushing rebels into surrender agreements that transport those who want to go to the killing ground in Idlib Province where they are conveniently grouped in targetable packages. I wonder if evidence will emerge in East Ghouta as to what actually happened there in the supposed government Sarin gas attack in 2011. No matter! No one in the media would believe anything contrary to the Borgian meme that "da guvmint done did it."
A couple of our brethren here are writing pieces on Mosul and Deir al-Zor. I will abstain from talking about those places so as to not "step on" their work.
At Aleppo the rebels (read jihadis) have staged yet another offensive to try to break the lines of circumvallation around East Aleppo. I agree with South Front that their effort will fail and only result in many more dead rebels. A basic fact of combat is that the side up and moving when contact is made, loses more people. The rebels are up and moving forward. More power to them! pl
"The CIA’s own assessments of the program have been viewed with suspicion by some at the White House, officials said. “Does it make any sense that the people who are totally invested in this program . . . are the same people who are writing analyses of the Syrian opposition on which decisions are based on the future of that program?” the first U.S. official said.
Amid the setbacks in Syria in recent months, key figures in the administration have advocated prioritizing the fight against the Islamic State, rather than against the Assad government. But agency officials disagree with this rationale, saying that the Islamic State can’t be eradicated until a new government emerges capable of controlling the terrorist group’s territory in Raqqa and elsewhere."
Just to get things straight - the CIA is now by law the "National Clandestine Service." It pursues information using human agents (mostly by liaison) and it executes presidential policy in covert actions authorized by presidential "findings." All of this is accomplished by the Directorate of Operations (DO)
Since the US IC re-structuring during the Bush Administration, the CIA no longer has a significant internal analytic body independent of the Directorate of Operations (the spies and covert operators).
The independent analysts in the IC are in DIA and State-INR and the work products reflect that.
The analysts they do have at CIA all essentially work for the DO, the people who run covert action and presumably favor the programs.
Therefore, it can be seen that as the person quoted underlined above asserted, the CIA is essentially a "Self Licking Ice Cream Cone." (SLICC). pl
"Speaking during an opening ceremony for an educational institution in Bursa on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared the way that Syrians and Iraqis have been driven away from homes because of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS; ISIS/ISIL), to how Turkish people were once forced out from the same cities.
Erdogan added that the cities of Mosul and Aleppo belong to the Turkish people." AMN
If you know anything about the history of the Ottoman Empire you should not be surprised by this. These two cosmopolitan ME cities were among the most important in the empire. Baghdad was another but there was always a large Arab majority there, Mosul and Aleppo were much more diverse. It was only in the Kemalist consolidation of the Turkish Republic in the 1920s that Turkish sovereignty over these places was surrendered officially.
This statement makes clear what Erdogan's ultimate ambition is and ensures that no Iraqi government will ever acquiesce in the participation of Turkish troops in the liberation of Mosul or Kirkuk.
Only an ignorant neocon fool like Ashton Carter would think differently.
Perhaps the Clinton Administration's foreign policy team, Wolfowitz, Bolan, Petraeus, Keane et al will be able to bully the Iraqis into accepting this. I think not. pl
Let's see-- -
54,000 Iraqi government forces,
40,000 odd Pesh Merga,
Various US Army and USMC artillery units firing in support,
Coalition air pounding the bejayzus out of the environs and approaches to the city.
3 to 8 thousand IS madmen in the city.
A million or so civilian inhabitants give or take 100k.
IMO this is going to be a near run and protracted thing.
The ISF clearly like to win battles without fighting.
IMO IS's most likely CoA (course of action) is to seek to make a prolonged and suicidal defense of the city taking advantage of the ISF's great sensitivity to its own casualties. A thousand man stay behind force, indifferent to their casualties, fighting from ruined buildings and also indifferent to civilian losses can make a prolonged and expensive fight.
It is sadly amusing to see how favorably the Borgist media gaze benignly at the approaching spectacle while howling in rage at the impending defeat of their jihadi friends at Aleppo. pl
"Dabiq is considered a major ISIL stronghold with symbolic importance to the group, Dabiq, 10 kilometers from the Turkish border, is cited in apocalyptic Sunni prophecy as the site of an end-of-times battle between Christian forces and Muslims. Islamic State named its online magazine after the town in 2014. Every new edition of Dabiq opens with a quote by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mentor of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claiming, “The spark has been ignited in Iraq, and its flames will grow until they burn the Crusader armies in Dabiq.”
Graeme Wood wrote in March 2015 that "... much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.... The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character.... pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it."
William McCants wrote in February 2015 "Westerners are not used to encountering apocalyptic messages in Islamist propaganda. Al-Qaeda downplayed Islamic prophecies of the Day of Judgment, preferring more accessible political rhetoric and wary of stirring messianic fervor.... the Islamic State is different. While its tactics and strategies are practical, its goals and motivations are eschatological. The interplay has expanded the group’s territory and enlarged its ranks."" Global Security
What fun! The jihadi nuts are fighting each other for this mythologically significant little town on the plain of the Fertile Crescent.
What could be better! And to make this even sweeter the Sultan Tayyip's forces are going to help the non-IS jihadis fight Caliph Ibrahim's screwballs in this mayhem.
Just stand back and watch, folks. There are only so many jihadis available as potential semi-human wastage and this is a good opportunity to process as many of them as possible into used "humans."
A good side benefit of this is that while these characters are fighting each other they are effectively removed from the game board of the fight for Aleppo. pl
"While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region. This effort will be enhanced by the stepped up commitment in the KRG. The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure. By the same token, the threat of similar, realistic U.S. operations will serve to assist moderate forces in Libya, Lebanon, and even Jordan, where insurgents are increasingly fascinated by the ISIL success in Iraq." John Podesta to HC in 2014
This did not affect her. The Clintons and Clintonfoundationworld have continued to this day to receive massive infusions of cash from both Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
It looks to me as if the Houthis (Ansar Allah party) have a response to the American/Saudi aggression against Yemen that could mean real trouble coming up for merchant ships and tankers going through the Bab el Mandeb. Crew members of the HSV-2, the modern, very fast, Australian built, UAE auxiliary ship (seemingly designed by someone who was under the influence of the Italian film-director Federico Fellini), that was gutted by fire and explosion on October 1 have been quoted in the press in Gulf newspapers as saying that the attack began about 3 a.m. with most of the Ukrainian/Central European crew of 24 asleep. There was a powerful explosion which lurched the ship down on one side, the force of which suggests either an antitank Kornet or an Iranian Noor. The aluminum superstructure began to burn. I believe the video, whoever provided it, is accurate. I believe this because the vast horseshoe of windows on what I assume is the observation deck clearly show fire burning behind them, once you understand how unusual the ship is. A crewmember states that there were small boats around the ship steadily firing small arms into the ship.
"Chief of the Directorate of Media service and Information of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Major General Igor Konashenkov promised that no U.S. aircraft would be immune from the threat the S-300 and S-400 air defense batteries pose in case of military strikes on the government-controlled areas. Konashenkov pointed to the airstrikes against Syrian government forces in Der ez-Zor as one of the primary motivating factors in importing the potent weapon systems." southfront
This could not be more clear. If the US and its allies attack government forces in Syria the forces involved will be engaged by Russian forces. pl
" ... behind the lofty rhetoric about solidarity and the images of heroic rescuers rushing in to save lives is an agenda that aligns closely with the forces from Riyadh to Washington clamoring for regime change. Indeed, The Syria Campaign has been pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria that would require at least “70,000 American servicemen” to enforce, according to a Pentagon assessment, along with the destruction of government infrastructure and military installations. There is no record of a no-fly zone being imposed without regime change following —which seems to be exactly what The Syria Campaign and its partners want.
“For us to control all the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia. That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee this month." Max Blumenthal
Dunford should be careful if he wants to keep his job until retirement. John McCain immediately and angrily denied that that a NFZ in Syria would inevitably mean war with Russia.
I agree with Dunford.
The wall to wall R2P and Ziocon campaign to destroy the Government of Syria is in high gear. Unfortunately for the R2Pers, Government of Israel and Ziocons the rebels are losing the war. The Borgist press talk endlessly of air strikes in Aleppo as part of the propaganda meme, and do their best to ignore the daily disintegration of the jihadi rebels in East Aleppo.
The SAA, Palestinian militias long resident in Syria, Hizbullah from both Lebanon and Iraq, Iranian troops and the Aleppo Kurds in the Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood are systematically disassembling the jihadi pocket in East Aleppo.
The more that progresses the more the IO war for American public acquiescence ramps up.
The "White Helmets" are reputed to be in line for a Nobel Peace Prize. pl
"Abu al-Ezz, commander, says about Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda): “We are one part of al-Qaeda. Our principles are: Fighting vice, pureness and security. Our affairs and our way have changed. Israel, for example, is now supporting us, because Israel is at war with Syria and with Hizbullah." Todenhofer
"Our aim is the downfall of the dictatorial regime, the tyrannical regime, the regime of the apostate. Our aim is the conduct of conquests, like [the great Arab general] Khaled ibn al-Walid made them. First in the Arab world and then in Europe." Todenhofer
"To whom did the U.S. hand those missiles before they were brought to you? Were those missiles first given to the Free Syrian Army by the U.S. and from there to you?
No, the missiles were give directly to us. They were delivered to a certain group. When the “road” was closed and we were besieged we had officers here from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States." Todenhofer
"We do not recognize the ceasefire. We will reposition our groups. We will undertake in the next, in a few days an overwhelming attack against the regime. We have rearranged all our armed forces in all provinces, in Homs, Aleppo, Idlib and Hama." Todenhofer
"You do not want those 40 trucks with aid supplies to bring those into the eastern part of Aleppo?
We have demands. As longs as the regime is positioned along Castello road, in al-Malah and in the northern areas we will not let those trucks pass. The regime must retreat from all areas in order for us to let the trucks pass. If a truck come in despite that we will arrest the driver.
Why did a few of your groups pull back a kilometer or 500 meters from the Castello road?
The regime used highly developed weapons against us. We received a backlash. That is why we silently retreated, to recover and to attack the regime anew. But this attack must lead to the downfall of the regime.
So that was a trick, a military tactic?
Yes, it was a military tactic." Todenhofer
Jurgen Todenhofer is a German journalist. He traveled to Aleppo where he interviewed Abu al Ezz, a Nusra Front Commander. MoA, Barish and several others have written of this interview but there are several things about it that I find so interesting that I will comment as well.
1. al-Ezz states clearly that Israel considers the Nusra Front jihadis to be allies because Israel is at war with Syria and Hizbullah. I have often written that Israel is an inept and short sighted analyst of its own interests. The Nusra Front is presently fighting its other enemies in Syria, but do the Israelis believe that when that is done the basic jihadi impulse against Zionism will have disappeared in an aura of good feeling created by Israeli support for the jihadis?
2. al-Ezz states that deliveries of US weapons (presumably by CIA) is made directly to them and not to the Free Syrian Army "moderates. He also states that both Israel and the US have liaison people positioned with the Nusra Front in Syria generally and in East Aleppo specifically.
3. al-Ezz makes it clear that at the time of the interview the jihadis intended to use the ceasefire as cover for a re-positioning of forces and were preparing for a general offensive to be launched after forces were re-positioned under protection of the ceasefire. We have now seen part of that in Homs and Hama Provinces.
4. al-Ezz makes it clear that the jihadis in East Aleppo are indifferent to the suffering of whatever remaining civilian population are still trapped there with them. For the jihadis the movement of relief supplies into East Aleppo is just something to be used as "a military tactic." pl
By Patrick Armstrong
The Bellingcat site has a piece entitled "Confirmed : Russian Bomb Remains Recovered from Syrian Red Crescent Aid Convoy Attack" which includes this picture as well as several others. You may look at the others, but this one picture is apodictic proof 1) that the Russians (or Syrians) didn't do it and 2) that Bellingcat is a loyal servant of the Borg.
He spends a lot of efforts to establish that the metal piece is the tail piece of a Russian-made OFAB 250-270 Fragmentation High Explosive Bomb. No argument there, I'm sure it is. Said bomb has 92kg of explosive. Which is quite a lot.
If said bomb has exploded in this not very large room, all those cardboard boxes would be torn to pieces and burned. To say nothing of a lot more damage to the room itself. Therefore it did not explode in that room.
If said bomb was a dud and did not explode, where is the rest of it? Therefore the bomb is not a dud.
Therefore the bomb piece was put there to make it look as if the Russians had done it. (And not very competently either: note that it is supposed to have come through the ceiling and neatly placed itself underneath some undamaged cardboard boxes.)
If it is necessary to produce a fake picture, then the Russians didn't do it.
And, as a bonus, by perpetrating this fraud, Bellingcat has also proved that he is a stooge of the war party.
A lot to deduce from one photo, isn't it? It used to be that it took more effort to disprove Bellingcat's fakes. He's losing his touch.
" ... the launch of the offensive called into question the entire premise of the agreement painstakingly negotiated by Kerry and Lavrov over the past eight months: that Russia shares the Obama administration’s view that there is no military solution to the conflict. On that basis, U.S. officials have explained, Moscow would be willing to pursue a negotiated settlement in return for a cease-fire and the prestige of eventually conducting joint military operations in Syria alongside the United States against terrorist groups.
At a news conference in New York, Lavrov offered a starkly different point of view. He said it is the United States that needs to come around to the idea that President Bashar al-Assad is the only viable partner in the fight against terrorism, calling his army “the single most efficient force fighting terror in Syria.”
“Little by little, life will make everyone understand that it’s only together that you can fight terrorism,” Lavrov said.
His comments, alongside the events of the past week, suggest that Russia and Syria still believe the war can be won outright, without recourse to negotiations that the United States has said offer the only way out of the Syrian tragedy." Liz Sl at the Washpost.
Well, pilgrims, this war was always winnable. We have said that at SST for a long time and continue to believe that this is the truth. IMO the Russians have also known it was the truth but have been willing to humor the Borgist foreign policy establishments to learn what possibilities there might be for a general improvement of Russian-US relations. Having now been screwed by the US/the jihadis/and Gulfie "friends" in; a couple of ceasefires designed to allow the jihadi/unicorns to re-group and re-supply, the evidently treacherous attack on SAA forces at Deir al-Zor and the IO flim-flam over the Red Crescent convoy the Russians and their pals seem to have decided to go for the "win the war" option.
As of today, forces have been massed at Aleppo for the purpose of eliminating the East Aleppo rebel pocket. This pocket has now been without re-supply for an extended period. This is true for both the jihadi rebels and the civilian population, many of whom are rebel supporters.
IMO the main effort by R+6 is taking place at the SE side of the East Aleppo pocket. That is now underway with massive CAS from Russian aerospace forces.
At the same time Palestinian militia allies with CAS have attacked the fortified Handarat refugee camp at the NE corner of the pocket. IMO this is a secondary attack intended to prevent the rebels moving forces south to oppose the main R+6 effort.
This is an excellent plan.
At the same time there is an unconfirmed report from SOHR in London (pro-rebel) that a Russian force with 3,000 men has been positioned at al-Safir about 12 km. SE of the main attacks on the Aleppo pocket. If this report is correct this force is well positioned to reinforce the main attack or be used in a defensive move against a rebel effort elsewhere. It would be in the Russian operational tradition to pass a reinforcing "wave" or echelon of forces through the initial assault forces when they become exhausted by combat.
At the same time the remarkably ineffective Turkish/FSA effort along the Turkish border NE of Aleppo ensures the distraction of IS forces which might interfere with R+6 efforts at Aleppo City.
The foreign policy establishment (Borg) in the West wants to believe that war is obsolete as a factor in the story of humanity. People created by poly sci/ IR programs across North America and Western Europe are convinced that they are smarter, and more "evolved" than mere soldiers. They believe that they have inherited the earth and that their cleverness will always prevail over mere force.
We will now have a demonstration that this is not true. pl
"“I am confident that such coincidences require serious analysis and an investigation.”
On September 19, a humanitarian convoy consisting of 31 trucks was attacked while heading to Aleppo. According to the Red Cross, 20 civilians and one aid worker died as a result. Initial reports by the organization claimed the convoy had been targeted by an airstrike.
On Tuesday, the UN backtracked on its earlier claims that the convoy was hit by military planes.
"We are not in a position to determine whether these were in fact airstrikes. We are in a position to say that the convoy was attacked," UN humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said.
Speaking on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria, Lavrov said that the Russia and US-backed plan included the creation of a demilitarized zone around the Castello Road near Aleppo. The minister added that while the Syrian government forces have started their withdrawal, the militants have not followed suit." AMN
Pilgrims! I don't know what you see in this photo of the convoy attack site but I do not see evidence of an air attack unless the air weapon was something very precise like an armed UAV.
There is no blast damage on the roadway itself. There are no pieces of the exploded or unexploded ordnance itself. The overhead power lines are uncut. There does not seem to be damage to nearby structures.
What I see is a burned truck. pl
"The US has expressed regret for the strikes, while Australia, which says its planes were among a number of international aircraft involved in the operation, expressed condolences to the victims' families.
(In light of; the decline in the economy of SA, the apparently successful Yemeni guided missile attack on Taif, SA (700 Km from the Yemen border), and the presence of Yemeni forces in the Asir Province of SA it seems appropriate to re-publish this post. It was originally posted in April, 2015)
"Pakistan's parliament voted on Friday not to join the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, dashing Riyadh's hopes for powerful support from outside of the region in its fight to halt Iranian-allied Houthi rebels.
Saudi Arabia had asked fellow Sunni-majority Pakistan to provide ships, aircraft and troops for the campaign, now in its third week, to stem the influence of Shi'ite Iran in what appears to be proxy war between the Gulf's two dominant powers.
While Saudi Arabia has the support of its Sunni Gulf Arab neighbors, Pakistan's parliament voted against becoming militarily involved.
"(Parliament) desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis," it said." Reuters
IMO Saudi Arabia lacks the military capability to intervene successfully in Yemen. This is equally true in what was North Yemen (YAR) and also in the former PDRY. SA's armed forces were always built for show with a lot of expensive equipment that they were never capable of employing except at the elementary "stick and rudder" level of operations. The maintenance contracts for all that equipment have always been impressive. On the ground the Saudis possess a Wahhabi beduin manned force in the SANG that is designed to maintain population and territorial control and in its more modern parts to overawe the Twelver Shia majority population of the Eastern Province (where the oil and gas is located). The rest of the Saudi Land Forces are pretty much a jobs program for poor people from the Asir and Najd regions. In its warlike pronouncements thus far SA is mimicking the PR employed by he US, but such PR methods do not win wars against determined opponents. Egypt is dragging its feet. The coalition allies have contributed little except for the US. pl
"Ground troops would certainly face stiff resistance from the Houthi militiamen. Seasoned guerrilla fighters, they seized parts of southern Saudi Arabia during a brief war in 2009, killing over 100 Saudi troops.
Saudi Arabia has not ruled out a ground attack, but its allies appear wary of such a move. The kingdom has asked Pakistan to commit troops to the campaign, but that country is deeply divided over participating in an operation that could anger its own Shiite minority.
Though fraught with risk, continued airstrikes and a possible ground incursion may be the only choices that Saudi Arabia sees itself as having, said Imad Salamey, a Middle East expert at Lebanese American University. He said that officials in Riyadh probably are concerned that relenting could be perceived as weakness, especially by Iran."
IMO Saudi Arabia is headed for an embarrassing failure in Yemen, one that will reveal its true nature as a gang of nepotistic hedonists sitting on immense wealth.
What could be more tempting? pl
I have been puzzling over the emerging Turko/Russian relationship and in the end have decided that Erdogan and Putin have reached an agreement in which Turkey has a green light from Russia to destroy Kurdish attempts to build an autonomous region in the northeastern wing of Syria so long as Turkey stops supporting FSA/jihadi efforts to bring down the present Syrian government.
I suspect that the Turks will try to cheat on this arrangement through covert support to the rebels west and south of Aleppo but they will have a difficult time doing so under the watchful gaze of the Russian aerospace forces and Russian intelligence.
IMO the Turks will seek to manage their relationship with NATO as a hedge against Russian and Iranian potentials as future threats. The NATO and larger US incomprehension of the perfidy of Erdogan's government will make such an ambiguous duplicity possible.
On the ground the meat grinder attrition battle at SW Aleppo City is going well for R+6. Russian airpower is killing off a great many jihadis, men who must be gone to make the Russian goal of a negotiated peace in which Assad's government remains in place a reality.
The jihadi attack into northern Hama is a problem but one that will prove temporary and yet another opportunity for attritional warfare against the rebels. Unfortunately many civilians will suffer while the effort to re-take lost ground is underway.
It will be interesting to see how large the Russian ground presence at Aleppo City will become.
US politics. I am more convinced than ever that HC will be president. IMO the NY Times estimate of an 80% chance of that happening is "on the money" unless there is a much larger hidden pro-Trump, pro-Republican vote than anyone in the media believes. I think there is such a vote but doubt that it will be big enough to carry the day for him. The consequences of her election will be fell indeed. IMO she will follow a reckless path toward the ideal future she desires. I doubt that the Republicans will lose control of the House of Representatives and their possession of many state governments will be obstacles to her desires. The use of Executive Orders is likely to be frequent. The police powers of the federal government will be to be heavily used.
US foreign policy. IMO she is going to be frustrated in her desire to make all the world's children (populations and governments alike) behave as she thinks they should. she understands very little of the nuts and bolts of military affairs and imagines that symbolic uses of military forces will result in compliance with her desired result. This will be reflected in things like declarations of "safe zones" in hostile territory without regard to the cost in blood and treasure.
Turkey, Russia and the US. So far, Turkey appears to be a "top" in this three sided game of international affairs. the Turks are not subtle. The sainted occupant of the caliphal throne in Ankara succeeded in bullying the EU into giving him six billion Golden Greckels (euros for you Germans), and now has brought Obama/Biden/Kerry to heel in the matter of our wayward support of Syrian Kurds. "All the world wondered." I will not comment further on the tactical situation east of Aleppo City. TTG does a great job on that. But.... It does surely seem to be the case that the US is now Erdogan's bitch.
Syria tactical. The recent negotiated surrender of rebel forces near Damascus and the progress made in recapturing East Ghouta are very helpful to R+6. About 3,000 soldiers will be freed up for movement north to the Aleppo City battle. IMO unicorn/jihadi losses in the Aleppo battle have been severe and the reinforcements coming from the south will contribute to an even higher body count inflicted on the rebels. The break in the R+6 siege lines around East Aleppo has not been useful as a supply route because it is covered by fire. IMO that will continue to be the case and the starving will continue there. I would wager that there are few live dogs or cats in the rebel occupied area. Will Turkey attempt to intervene directly in the Aleppo battle? I doubt it.
Syria diplomacy. The Obamanite fantasists still seem to believe that the Russians can be talked into abandoning their Syrian allies. pl
1. Joe Scarborough and his MJ crew are on a hyper-nationalist journey in which the Cold War image of the USSR continues to dominate their collective Borgasm.
2. They fret and fret over a variety of issues such as the supposed Russian intention to invade Ukraine. What proof there is for that escapes me but, no matter... Why do they bother to ponder this possibility? If it is going to happen, that will become manifest. If it does not happen, well, it did not happen. The only reason one would be interested in forecasting something like this would be if one contemplated a forestalling effort and I do not think that is a real option for the US and its Borgistic pals. Mutual nuclear annihilation lurks in the background and the JCS knows that well.
3. Donald (the Closer) Trump and his minions are the object of intensive Borgist media efforts to portray them as agents of Vladimir the Hood (LeCarre reference). It is now discovered that Berlusconi (the Letch) was also a servant of The Evil One brooding in his Kremlinesque castle (Lord of the Rings reference). I actually think the Letch was interestingly human and nothing like a Borgista. Can anyone doubt that this latest smear campaign is directed by the Obamanite information operations center in the White House?
3. The Turks. Ah yes, the Turks. On the one hand they are going to attend cooperation meetings in Teheran with Russia and the Shia mullahcracy. On a second hand they are talking about improving relations with the Syrian government. With yet a third hand they have in the last couple of days let 1,000 jihadi reinforcements pass through the Turkish Hatay Province border crossings for the evident purpose of reinforcing the jihadis at Aleppo where these creatures have lost a lot of men. It would seem to me that the Russians and Iranians know about this since I do. I think the Sublime Porte did things more skillfully than this but, what do I know?
4. Then there is the Aleppo battle itself. This thing has become such a meat grinder for the jihadis that the R+6 must think it worth continuing for a while. As someone on SST mentioned there has emerged a pattern in which Syrian forces advance into a rebel held area of the city and then withdraw to allow the jihadis to re-occupy it. This is a great convenience since the area you withdrew from is "target rich" after the jihadis advance int it. And then there are the hunting trips across Idlib Province being conducted by Russian and Syrian air. This must be a real meat market.
Hilly is going to have a lot to deal with in her role as mother of us all.
Babak suggested that we should have Korea and the South China Sea included in our list of strategeral concerns. I agree.
Korea. This nightmare state is evidently not going to suddenly disappear. Therefore, we must think about it. IMO they will keep doing product improvements on their missiles and nuclear weapons until they have one that will range Japan, Guam, Oahu or some such place. What will we do about that? Will we wait to see if they ever decide to perform such a mad act? The retaliation would be awesome (teen talk). Would we then invade North Korea along with our Spam tinned meat addicted South Korean friends for the purpose of occupying the ruins? If we did, the South Koreans could be counted on to do the occupying. You probably not want to watch the "sausage making" process of occupation, but ... A bigger question would be - what would Big Grandma do about all this? The neocons are not focused on this problem because it does not involve Israel so she might be without comprehensive advice on this one.
The South China Sea (China). The Chinese evidently want to be a maritime power and to that end have been constructing man made islands built on the "foundation" of tiny sand bars that stuck up out of that distant sea in which I used to SCUBA dive and ... other things. The US Navy seems perpetually absorbed in Alfred Mahan's vision of a world dominated by SEAPOWER! Mahan believed that if you control the sea you control the world. The air power guys seem to have second thoughts about that, but, no matter ... Mahan is the unofficial patron saint of the US Naval War College where he was a professor and wrote his earth shattering tome "The Influence of Sea Power on History." I'm a Clausewitz man. Mahan never seems to go away. I have been subjected by navy people to a lot of harangues on the Soviet sea power menace in the USSR's "drive to warm water ports" in India, Pakistan, Alexandria (once upon a time) and Syria!!. Now, the Fu Manchu menace is "crowding" the sea lanes in the South China Sea with these island bases. After she is installed in the White House the Borg Queen will have to deal with some old sea dog channeling Bull Halsey who wants to "show'em." How will she deal with that?
How would Trump deal with that? Who knows? But ... pl
There is not enough data with which to do an adequate job of analysis on all that is occurring just now, but I think I must make a preliminary "stab" at it with the understanding that all this is subject to revision.
1. Russia/Turkey. "My dear friend" is what Erdogan called Putin several times yesterday, and now Erdogan has issued an "ultimatum" to the US to hand over Gulen or forget about its relationship to Turkey. Firstly, lets get the nukes out of Incirlik. Why tempt the sultan? Secondly, does this mean that Turkey will abandon its support of the non-IS rebels in Syria? My SWAG would be that it does not. I would expect that Erdogan will try to have it both ways. IMO he will try to surrepticiously continue to make Turkey available as strategic depth to the rebels while simultaneously trying to obtain Russian support against the emergence of anything like a Syrian statelet. Whether or not the YPG Kurds and the SDF Arabs advance to al-Bab, heavy IS counterattacks should be expected as the occupation of Manbij threatens remaining IS communications from Turkey to the Caliphate.
2. Iraq. The US/Iraqi effort on the axis Baghdad-Mosul is going to take a long time to develop. The Iraqi Army and militia forces still have a long way to go to develop the kind of capability that the Pesh Merga and YPG Kurds already have. A Clinton Administration advised by people like Morell and the AEI neocons would likely double-down on the Iraq effort with US ground troops to carry the offensives all the way to Raqqa and Mosul. Would the US then let the Iraqi government run the country? IMO that is an open question. Big Grandma (the Borg Queen) may well think that the children do not play together well enough to be left unsupervised.
3. Afghanistan. IS and the Taliban have made a deal to cooperate against the Kabul government. This doesn't sound like good news. The government is saddled with "forces of order" that are far too large and expensive for it to ever afford. It seems to me that this makes the Afghan government something familiar to me, i.e., a regime with large, fairly clumsy forces trying to defend a number of more or less besieged localities against guerrillas who control the countryside. All of this makes Afghanistan an unacknowledged overseas protectorate of the US. Will Big Grandma double down there as well?
4. Libya. US, French and British SF are engaged on the ground in holding back the IS "hordes." Well, smallish "Hordes," are evidently the case at present. But ... small "hordes" may grow. What will Big Grandma do then?
5. Ukraine. I don't know. Someone please tell me.
6. Syria. My SWAG is that R+6 will be able to seal off the penetration in SW Aleppo and re-isolate East Aleppo. The jihadi friendly media are doing their best to depict the jihadi rebels and their supporters in the pocket as something like Robin Hood and his archers or maybe the Cisco Kid fighting off the forces of Spanish oppression. That doesn't work very well. Jihadis are, well, jihadis, but the process of myth building will probably make them heroic figures just as the Argentinian adventurer, Che Guevara has become a tee-shirt theme. If the Turks do not provide enough support across the Hatay border crossings, the rebel losses at Aleppo and along the dusty, air stricken roads in Idlib will have greatly weakened the rebels. We will then see if R+6 has enough strength and energy to launch an offensive into Idlib. If not, then the Russians and Iranians will have to re-think their deployed strength levels in Syria. pl
"SA evidently is shipping all this in from their major base at Sharura in the Rub' al-Khali (Empty Quarter). It goes down the hard surface road to this Wadi'a border crossing (pictured above) and thence down through the Sunni territory of the Hadramaut into Shabwa Governorate and on to Aden. Some also goes west to Marib Governorate of Yemen. There are also sea shipments int othe port of Aden directly.
The Saudis are well advised to avoid the Najran to Sa'da to San'a axis. That is real "Indian Country" from their point view. " Quoting myself from August, 2015
"Despite the fact that the Saudi-led coalition has launched a full-on attack and invasion of Yemen, a group of poorly armed and poorly trained “militiamen” have successfully defeated the Saudis, Qataris, and Emirates – themselves backed by the United States in terms of intelligence and strategic assistance – and have not only dealt massive blows to coalition forces but have now managed to inflict blows to the Saudis on their own territory.
In a story that went virtually unreported in the West, the Houthis managed to wrest control of three Saudi military bases in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province, located near the Saudi-Yemen border in January of this year. The bases Jabal al-Doud, al-Aril, and Madba were all seized by Houthi forces and fighters with “allied Popular Committees.”" mintpress
Jes' to he'p yeh with the sittee-ayshun in Yayman amungst the Ayrabs, long ago I used to spend me time amongst the grandfathers of some of the men who now adhere to the Houthi sect of Zeidi Shiism. This was unusual because the US military attaché usually stayed in Sanaa (the capital) with occasional trips to Hodeidah. I wandered around. Why? I was restless. In doing that, I came to know the various populations of "Yayman," The Zeidi Shia tribesmen from Sanaa north to the Wadi Najran in Saudi Arabia's Asir Province and east to the Rub' al Khali, the Sunni tribal villagers south and SW of Sanaa, the city people. I came to know them well.
The Zeidi hill men who now adhere to Houthism (?) are in the main, runty, stunted, Qat chewing drug addicts who drink Red Label by the quart in the afternoon to come down from their Qat high. They are insular, xenophobic (this extends often to the people in the next valley or on the next ridge). They are heavily armed with infantry weapons such as the AK, RPG, and mortars. Many of them served in the Yemeni Army, defected to their tribe and brought bits of gear like tanks and anti-aircraft weapons with them. They LOVE to fight. Together with the pro-Salih elements of the Yemeni Army they have whipped the Saudi hirelings and their mercenary friends just about every time they have met. pl
"Israel has encouraged its oil-rich Saudi ally to find out more African allies in its interminable conflict in neighboring Yemen, and curb the increasing influence of Iran in the African continent. Mr. al-Jubeir has allegedly conveyed a message from the Saudi ambitious minister of war, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, luring the desperate and destitute African nation into joining the war by promising unimaginable sums of money,
Saudi Arabia is looking for further 5,000 Senegalese child soldiers–each soldier shall receive $ 5.000 per month, a mouth-watering offer —to initiate the ultimate decisive battle for Sana’a (the Yemeni capital city) in order to recapture it from Yemeni revolutionaries." AMN
It doesn't get better than this in terms of historic irony.
France once owned Senegal. Volunteer professional Senegalese artillery units in the French Colonial Army were famed for their steadfast service. Now the Saudis, who, IMO, have only regretfully and perhaps not altogether given up enslaving Blacks want to hire Africans to fight the Yemenis in a knock down, drag-out fight for Sanaa?
It doesn't get better than that. Hang in there, Chihuahua! FIDO! pl
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Comments on the battle for Aleppo Elijah Magnier
(Posted on Twitter end July/early August)
There are 11 Jihadists and 11 non-Jihadists groups, all together in this Aleppo battle, working together and fighting side by side.
Previous information confirmed Jabhat al-Nusra (JFS) is holding bodies of #Russia officers & pilots & that Ahrar al-Sham was the negotiator
"Public institution 4prisoners" is asking: 1. "liberation of all prisoners held by regime & Hezbollah" 2. "Lifting of siege on all cities".
Rebels gathered mltnts from different frnts 4Aleppo. If this fail, it will be a hard hit 4long,w/ blame 2each other
All ground troops are under Iran command. Russia coordinates with Iran ( country) not with groups.
Although Nusra & rebels maintain media black out, their attack on #Aleppo Ramous and Mansoura failed to achieve the desired objective.
Fatimiyoun are badly trained, unprepared: Iran unwilling to inject adequate forces
Russia is aggressively refreshing Syria army armament (that is new info)
If Iran injects more troops, regional countries will behave differently with rebels
Russian AF is active daily but rebels, including Nusra, injected large number of militants. No 2be underestimated
It was only due to Russia air support that SAA and allies managed to circle Aleppo+
Russia gave up on advertising strikes but these are tens every single day non stop
Russia was complaining about lack of enough Iranian forces on the ground. Nobody can win by AF only
Russia no longer believe in #USA will of cease-fire or peace process. Aleppo is important 4 everybody
No Iranian regular troops, just usual advisors. Iran allies r deployed own this front (Aleppo). Russia wants Aleppo more than Iran
Elijah Magnier is a leading Arab war correspondent writing for the Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Rai.
"Despite several rebel attempts at re-opening their last Aleppo supply road and repelling government forces, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) was able to capture the entire Bani Zaid district after a string of recent advances near the Castello road.
Just hours later, the SAA also took control of the Ashrafiyah district, marking a total collapse of rebel groups in northern Aleppo.
Meanwhile, the YPG attacked insurgents at the Bani Zaid district from its western flank as well as taking control of the Youth Housing Project, a site formerly used by Islamist rebels to shell the Kurdish neighbourhood of Sheikh Maqsoud.
Next, government troops will likely try to secure the Castello road and provide civilians a safe way to exit rebel-held districts in East Aleppo." Al Masdar News
"Jaish al-Fatah is withdrawing much of its fighting force from the Latakia governorate in a last-ditch effort to turn the tables on the Syrian Arab Army in Aleppo, the Al-Masdar Al-‘Arabi information website reported on Friday. Al-Masdar Al-‘Arabi claim that these reports are ‘very credible’.
Islamist reinforcements were observed arriving in both western and southern Aleppo. Jaish al-Fatah is going to launch at least one major offensive on government positions in the province in the very near future, and hopes not only to relieve distressed and besieged rebels in Aleppo, but also to cut off the Syrian Arab Army’s supply lines to the governorate’s provincial capital.
On the other hand, the redeployment of the rebels significantly weakens their Latakia frontline, endangering Idlib from its western flank.
At the same time, if the Syrian Arab Army takes control of the city of Aleppo, the Idlib province will be its next target. The Jaish al-Fatah leadership is well aware of this threat of the existential survival of the Islamist coalition." South Front
"At least 75 families have been transferred from the besieged neighborhoods of east Aleppo to the government controlled districts in the west, a local military source told Al-Masdar on Saturday.
The rescued families will be provided shelter and necessities by the government and Russian forces, while the latter continue to transfer people from east Aleppo.
Most of these civilians were living under the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) rule near the Bani Za’id District before the aforementioned area was captured by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) on Wednesday." Al Masdar News
For those of you who are interested in such things I offer the following observations concerning today's Syrian situation.
The R+6 encirclement of East Aleppo grows ever more solid. All counter-attacks intended to break the cordon have failed. South Front thinks that the next SAA move will be to try to take Kafr Hamra just outside the encirclement to the NW. Evidently the rebels have been using this place for firing positions for indirect harassing fire into the government and YPG south of Kafr Hamra. It is easy to see why they would want to do that but they should expect this effort to be a focal point for more counter-attacks. There will be other counter-attacks intended to break through to East Aleppo but Kafr Hamra is likely to be a main effort for the rebels. In other reporting cited above it is noted that the rebels are pulling a lot of their men off the western Latakia front where they have been very engaged with R+6. These are among the forces that will undoubtedly be thrown into counter-attacks at Aleppo City. The decision on the part of the rebels to strip their western Latakia front is IMO indicative of rebel and/or Turkish belief that the outcome at Aleppo will be politically decisive in the outcome of the war especially in the context of the desperate internal situation now faced by Turkey.
Surrenders of non-jihadi rebels now in the city are being facilitated by the government. That is likely to remove many fighter from the contest.
The civilian population flow out of East Aleppo has begun and will probably grow larger and larger. pl
Race riots inevitably end in contention over what social woes led to the trigger point, with one overarching element: a white power structure ruling a black populace.
Baltimore left behind that vestige of segregation long ago, yet the city nonetheless has been perched on the edge of chaos for much of this week, as African American protesters took to the streets to express grievances over police abuse and urban neglect.
“We ain't talking about color,” said John Baptist Watkins III, 53, sitting on the steps of a boarded-up brick row house on North Avenue, as men nearby peddled drugs — one of the few ways to earn money in this part of town.
Even the city's African American elected officials, Watkins said, “have no clue what is going on in the city.”" LA Times
If the cops in Baltimore broke Grey's neck they should be prosecuted for homicide.
Nevertheless, it should be remembered that, as I wrote earlier today, the list above should include the state prosecutor who is black and Major General Singh, the Adjutant General of Maryland, a politically appointed state officer, who is also black and a woman.
IMO the root cause of this catastrophe in the life of the City of Baltimore is a lack of available jobs that are accessible to entry level men who are not well qualified for jobs that require education and self discipline in a changing economy.
The reason for this scarcity of jobs is the loss of industrial enterprise in the Baltimore area. This is a historic phenomenon that results from changes in the world economy. US government has been complicit in this change. Can the US government help reverse the loss of industry in Baltimore, probably not. pl
Well, pilgrims, the cops who have been acquitted should sue all those involved including the City of Baltimore. pl 27 July, 2016
"Binali Yildirim said in a televised address Wednesday that Turkey is expanding its circle of friends, adding: “I am sure that we will return (our) ties with Syria to normal. We need it.”
The statement follows the restoration of diplomatic ties with Russia and Israel. Ankara cut ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad after a popular uprising erupted in 2011.
The Turkish government has consistently cast the departure of Assad, who enjoys the backing of Iran and Russia, as necessary for a successful political resolution to the conflict in Syria.
Turkey, which borders Syria, is now is home 2.75 million Syrian refugees. It has served as a base to political representatives of the Syrian opposition and various rebel groups seeking to unseat Assad." washpost
I will have to see it to believe it.
If all this happens the Syrian government will eventually emerge as one of the strongest military powers in the Levant. The Israelis and the Gulfies would then have reaped the whirlwind.
Such a future would be the most profound kind of defeat for the Borg and its servants in Washington. I am particularly thinking of the malevolent creature Ash Carter.
I hope, but need to see more before I will believe. pl
If you read through all the linked material below, you might reach something like the conclusions that I have:
1. Turkey continues to allow/support re-supply and reinforcement of Nusra/Ahrar al-Sham forces in the Latakia and Aleppo princes of Syria. These forces continue to play the major role in attempts to block government and YPG interdiction of the Castello Highway into rebel held parts of Aleppo City. This is presently the only available LOC into rebel territory. As of the 11th of July the SAA Tiger forces armored brigade has closed from the north to within several hundred meters of the Castello Highway after having taken, lost and re-taken the Mellah farms area. at the same time the YPG Kurds having re-taken the Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood south of the Castello Road are also close enough to make the road unusable to the rebels through attacks by fire. The RUAF contributes mightily to this interdiction situation through more or less continuous strkes on the road in its loop from the west through the jaws of the SAA and YPG disturbance of this route into the city.
2. In response the rebels, principally Nusra Front and other jihadi groups supported by Turkey, the US and Saudi Arabia have been heavily shelling government held parts of the city using weapons and ammunition that continued to be supplied by their foreign sponsors through Turkish border control posts on the Hatay Province/Syria border. It should be noted that the government held parts of Aleppo City are the place where the great majority of Syrian civilians live.
3. Additionally, the variegated rebel groups are counter-attacking on the ground wherever they can engage. They are attacking the Tiger Forces brigade from the NW seeking to threaten the rear line of communications of the brigade enough to force another withdrawal from the high ground overlooking the Castello Highway. This worked once a few days ago and the brigade had to fight to re-take the lost ground, losing men and equipment in the process. At the same time rebel forces are attacking to the NW and SW from WITHIN the rebel held parts of the city with the evident objective of opening a new LOC to their friends outside the government area of Aleppo City by breaking out of what is now an encirclement.
4. If the rebels within the encirclement cannot break out somewhere or re-open the Castello Road as an LOC to the inner city they are certainly going to lose their foothold in the city . It will be just a matter of time.
5. At Manbij east of Aleppo, the SDF/YPG Kurd/Arab alliance have so far been unable to capture the city. This, despite heavy US air support and the mentorship of US SF. This not a good sign. Here as in the defeat of the SAA attempt to advance to Tabqa air base, a shortage of means on the ground is evident.
6. While all this is occurring the MSM in the US is trying to develop the idea that Erdogan has made a serious effort to regain Russian favor by distancing Turkey from the non-IS jihadi AQ allied rebel forces in Lattakia and Aleppo provinces. These are the same jihadi forces that Turkey has continued to help with massive assistance to the present day. At the same time, apparently to "sweeten" the appeal of Turkey's "offer" to the Russians, the US has supposedly made an offer of joint operations in Syria to the Russians, perhaps from Incerlik Air Base at Adana in Turkey. I agree with those like "b" who say that this is yet another trick like the late un-lamented cessation of hostilities.
7. Erdogan is trying to win the day through chicanery. The Russians would be well advised to demand several "pounds of flesh" at each stage of a rapprochement. with Turkey.
8. At the tactical level, it would seem logical that ground mounted surveillance radar placed on the heights overlooking the Castello Road would enable SAA artillery fire and Russian air in keeping the road closed to rebel traffic. the road can easily be cratered by Russian air and all bridges or overpasses wrecked and collapsed. In that situation, repair work should be interesting and challenging. pl
"Frankly, I doubt that Suheil has enough men and tanks in hand to accomplish the closure of the Aleppo pocket from the north." Quoting myself in my post "The Greatest Battle."
"After the liberation of the Mallah Farms, the Syrian Army troops are now deployed in only 1,5 km from the militants’ last supply line to Aleppo City – the Castello road.
This poses a significant threat to Al Nusra and its allies in Aleppo. If pro-government forces are able to cut off the Castello road, the militants will be besieged in the northeastern part of the city without any supplies." South Front
If the map is accurate the R+6 has now come close to the presumptive objective of Suheil's operation. IMO this is the isolation of the rebel zone in Aleppo City and we will learn a couple of things:
"Israeli intelligence Chief, Major General Herzi Halevy, said that the last three months have been the most difficult for ISIS since its inception. In a speech delivered at “Herzliya” conference yesterday , Halevy explicitly said “Israel” does not want the situation in Syria to end with the defeat of ISIS “, the Israeli NRG site reported. “Withdrawal of the super powers from the region and letting Israel alone in front of Hezbollah and Iran that possess good abilities Will make “Israel” in a hard position” . Therefore, we’ve to do all we can so as not finding ourselves in such situation”, the Israeli chief intelligence added." AMN
Well, that's honest. pl
"More than 50 State Department officials signed an internal memo protesting U.S. policy in Syria, calling for targeted U.S. military strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and urging regime change as the only way to defeat ISIS.
I have the feeling deep down in my bones that the Kurds of Rojava are using the current YPG/SDF offensive to take Manbij as a means of reuniting with their brothers and sisters in Afrin. They sense the possible. CENTCOM spokesmen have assured us, and Turkey, that the Arabs are in the lead in this offensive to take Manbij, that only 500 Kurds are taking part in the fighting and that they will leave once the objectives are accomplished. I seriously doubt all of this.
The map above was made two days ago. As of this morning the YPG/SDF forces may have completed the encirclement of Manbij or they may have left an escape route to the northwest open. They definitely have continued further west to Al’Arimah. They are halfway to Al-Bab. All those yellow dots on the map are Kurdish villages and towns just begging to be connected. Now that the chase is on, I don’t see how those YPG fighters can resist the temptation to fulfill their Rojavan dream… or at least try.
U.S. Special Forces and French special operations forces are advising/assisting the ground forces around Manbij. Our air support can come from our carrier off the coast as well as from our airbase in Turkey. I don’t see any signs of this support being withdrawn before the Kurds can realize their objectives. What will we tell Erdogan if that happens? Tango sierra?
This map is the work of a good cartographer. It conveys accurate information and tells the story that the cartographer intends to tell. It is the work of Ariyan Mahmoud (@AriyanMahmoud). His twitter description states, “I am mainly interested in history. I create maps too.” With this map, I think he intended to say that Rojava will be one.
I took several courses in cartography many years ago. I still have my Rapidograph pens, though I doubt cartographers use those much anymore. Below is another map by another cartographer who describes himself as a historian, conflict analyst and map maker. Emmanuel Pene is an editor of “The Maghreb and Orient Courier” and founder of the website agathocledesyracuse.com, a treasure trove of maps. This particular map, also done two days ago, depicts the disposition of YPG/SDF forces around Manbij. Here we can see smaller units arrayed along the road networks with a lot of space between these units and a vast amount of empty space behind them. This is probably an accurate depiction of how troops are deployed throughout Syria. Colonel Lang is right. There aren’t enough troops.
1. Unless the US JCS are once again "off the reservation" and talking to the Russians behind the backs of the Obamanites, I don't think there is much effective coordination between the US and Russia over Syria other than the flight de-confliction regime.
2. The flight de-confliction regime works well. We haven't shot each other down yet, so ... We now have the USS Harry Truman battle group standing inshore off Syria to launch attacks in Syria and Iraq. This very likely requires passage through Russian controlled airspace within their air defense umbrella. So ...
3. Raqqa will be heavily defended. IS cannot afford to give the place up. there are probably quite a few Arab Sunni "civilians" there who support IS. That has proven to be true at Fallujah. As the R+6 force proceeds after the taking of Tabqa air base, resistance will get stiffer and stiffer. We will see how well they do against that. We will also see if the SDF really wants to sacrifice a great deal to capture this large city. Their American "minders" are urging them forward, but, we will see ...
4. The Russians evidently thought they could make an honest deal with Kerry/Obama. Well, they were wrong. The US supported jihadis associated with Nusra (several groups) merely "pocketed" the truce as an opportunity to re-fit, re-supply and re-position forces. The US must have been complicit in this ruse. Perhaps the Russians have learned from this experience.
5. In the "truce" the Turks, presumably with the agreement of the US, brought 6,000 men north out of the non-IS jihadi defended area along the Turkish border. This is the area around Azaz and to the east. They trucked them around and brought them through Hatay Province in Turkey to be sent back into the Aleppo Province and to the city of Aleppo itself. These men have been used in capturing Khan Touman SW of the city and in driving the YPG Kurds out of the part of the city that they held. It will cost a lot of men to restore these situations. Someone said to me that the border crossings from Hatay are under surveillance. Well, so what! That does not prevent the Turks supplying the jihadis through these crossing points.
6. The same someone said that the result of the "cease-fire" positions Putin well in peace negotiations. Yawn! As I have said repeatedly, most sensible people know that you have to win on the battlefield unless you are Kerry and the girls at the WH. There will now be more blood rather than less because of the Kerry/Obama attempt at cleverness.
7. In a wonderfully clear proof of an absence of coordination between IS and the AQ linked groups (Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, etc.) IS launched a major offensive into the area from which the Turks removed the 6,000 men now in the Aleppo area. IS has now taken most of that area and are nearly at the gates of the town of Azaz.
Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. pl
There are indications being reported that Russia is on the verge of launching a new offensive against Al Nusra in the Aleppo area. For the first time, Al Monitor reported on Friday, "converging signs indicate a relaunching of part of the Russian military operation — with renewed coordination with the Syrian army — ever since Moscow unilaterally decided to halt the Aleppo operation and impose a truce, even on Damascus, which reluctantly agreed to it." The problem, Al Monitor says, is that the truce "has allowed armed factions, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to reorganize and rearm their ranks and rebuild most of the infrastructure destroyed by the joint Russo-Syrian operations." Though they don’t say it, this would suggest a double cross on the part of the US and its allies against Russia stemming from the regime change mentality that the US and certainly the Turks and the Saudis never abandoned. The intervention this time around, Al Monitor says, will be directed at isolating Al Nusra from other armed groups. "It should be noted that isolating Jabhat al-Nusra from other armed factions, which is a difficult and complicated objective, would strike a painful blow to those factions since Jabhat al-Nusra’s military and ideological might form the backbone around which those factions unite."
The Al Monitor report goes on to indicate that over the past weeks, there has been a policy disagreement among Putin‛s top advisors. The military favors a re-engagement in Syria, while the Foreign Ministry believes that work towards a political settlement must continue. The problem for the diplomats, however, has been the continued US refusal to cooperate with Russia in the military sphere against ISIS either in Raqqa or northern Syria. "Moreover, neither during Russia’s military operation nor after the truce went into effect did the Americans stop re-arming militant factions," Al Monitor goes on. "It should be noted that this has been a clear Obama policy objective aimed to prevent embarking on any political solution as part of the United States' desire to isolate Russia." This, it seems to me, is the height of stupidity.
This brings us back to the signs of preparation of a new operation. The Russians this week disembarked ground forces and paratroopers in the port of Tartus to support more than 3,000 Russian volunteers dispatched to the region in the past few weeks, in a bid to revive coordination with the Syrian army. Furthermore, Syrian sources stated that the Russian joint command staff, which coordinated aerial support operations last fall, had returned to the Hmeimim military base in Latakia province to begin preparations for new operations.
Coherent with this report is one in Al Jazeera, which reports that the Russians have sent three messages over the past few days: First, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front is to be blamed for violating and jeopardising the truce; Second, the US is to be blamed for failing to separate the "moderate opposition units they control from terrorists; and, third, the Turkey border is still being used to smuggle weapons to "terrorists" in Syria. "These statements are being made for a reason. Moscow may be justifying and paving the way for a large-scale offensive against al-Nusra," says AJ. They say until now the Syrian government, Iran and Russia did not share the same goals in Syria because the Russians wanted to tip the balance towards compromises at the negotiating table, but that didn‛t work. "Now, the Russian air force has clearly stepped up its engagement. Heavy air strikes in the northern province of Aleppo, particularly on and near the only road in and out of the rebel-controlled east of the city, has practically laid siege to the enclave."
The Russian offensive might even have begun already. Al Masdar reports, this morning, that "The Russian Air Force has illuminated the night-sky over the northern Aleppo countryside tonight with their relentless airstrikes over the jihadist controlled ‘Anadan Plains." An Al masdar correspondent in the area reported 15 air strikes over night.
The most that the Russians have said on this so far seems to be the remarks that Anatoly Antonov, the deputy defense minister, made in at the Shangri La Dialogue conference in Singapore. He said that the situation in Syria remains complicated and that "There is still much to be done to support the Syrian army..." The Russian reconciliation center at Russia's airbase in Latakia reported, yesterday, ten cease fire violations, most in Aleppo and attributed, as they have been over the past several days, to Jaish al Islam. Perhaps Al Nusra won‛t be the only target of a renewed Russian offensive. Al Nusra, they say, "has regrouped its forces, replenished armament and ammunitions storages, and launched active warfare having exploited opportunities of the ceasefire regime and locations of “moderate opposition” formations, which had been located in the same regions." "In the south-west from Aleppo, armed formations (more than 1,000 men) launched offensive on positions of the Syrian Armed Forces near Buraij and military training town located in al-Nasr sector. The attack has been performed from Ansari, which had been controlled by forces of 'moderate opposition.‛" The Russians report that more than 270 civilians were killed and hundreds more wounded by militant shelling.
Kurdish units on Aleppo province are also under attack. "Kurdish militia units left the defended positions in the neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsood in Aleppo and retreated as a result of intense artillery fire and non-stop attacks by the militants from Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham terrorist groups on the positions of Kurdish militia and volunteers from local residents," a spokesman for the Russian center told Sputnik.
To the southeast, the Syrian army is pressing ahead with its offensive towards Raqqa. The Syrian army has reportedly liberated a new hilltop along the Salamiyah-Raqqa Highway this morning and is closing in on Arak, on the highway to Deir Ezzor.
The US backed SDF is also still on the offensive. SDF units are now reported to be 5-6 km from Manbij. "We made big progress and we are trying to ensure the safety of civilians before we begin our assault on the town," said Sharfan Darweesh, a spokesman for the Military Council for Manbij.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, the signs are that, in contrats to the Russian work with the Syrian army, the Iraqi army isn’t up that’s expected of it from the US. In a lengthy report posted, on June 3, Reuters announced that the US effort to train a combat capable Iraqi army has failed. They attribute the failure, in part, to Iraqi reliance on Shiite militias and the continuance of the sectarian divide. While there have been some military successes " the presence of 4,000 American troops has failed to change the underlying Iraqi political dynamics that fuel the rise and growing power of sectarian militias." About the only success has been the Iraqi special forces—also known as the Counter Terroris Service--but they're in danger of wearing out after two years of continuous combat. The Iraqis, of course, deny that there's any problem, and they say that the Shiite militias are firmly under control, that is, that they're not under the sway of Tehran and the IRGC.
The New York Times followed the Reuters report with one of their own, reporting that “An exhausted and ill-equipped Iraqi Army faces daunting obstacles on the battlefield that will most likely delay for months a long-planned major offensive on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, American and allied officials say.” The Times goes on to say that "The delay is expected despite American efforts to keep Iraq’s creaky war machine on track." The US military is increasingly running the support functions of the Iraqi army, particularly logistics, the movement of supplies, fuel, water, food, ammunition, from depots in Baghdad to Iraqi army units in the field, because, for whatever reasons, the Iraqi army is simply unable to make those functions work. US advisors are pushing the Iraqis to improve their equipment maintenance and are the lead in preparing detailed schedules for moving troops, training them, and delivering ammunition and equipment to the battlefield. “Extending the reach of the Iraqi security forces also requires logistics planning,” General MacFarland, the US military commander in Iraq, said. “We are doing a great deal of that for the Iraqis because we recognize that Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
"There was no longer any way for me to rationalize the importance of process without direction, negotiations without substance or even the use of the word “peace.” Our overinflated optimism at Camp David had had real costs. After raising expectations we couldn’t deliver on, we blamed Arafat for the summit’s failure, and that made it easier for him, in the wake of Sharon’s provocative visit to the sacred Temple Mount, to acquiesce to and encourage the violence that would become the second intifada.
U.S. diplomacy can be effective when we have partners willing to make decisions, when all parties feel an urgency to make those decisions and when gaps separating the parties can actually be bridged. The Iran nuclear agreement, while greatly flawed, is a case in point. It succeeded because it was not a transformational but a transactional arrangement, a highly detailed arms-control accord of arguably limited duration and scope that both the United States and Iran wanted for their own reasons. Aaron Miller in the Washington Post
Yes. That was written of Saul on the road to Damascus, but Aaron seems to have had a similar experience.
I have always liked Miller. I met him in passing several times and listened to him speak portentously on a number of occasions and was always struck by his lack of any sense of limits in the possibility of "managing" history. There was none of this embittered "humility" in him then. He bestrode the world as a diplomatic colossus.
But ... He has always seemed to me to be an honest man, a kind of diplomatic Bernie Sanders, and he has also seemed to me to solely serve the interests of the United States. This is unlike his former boss, Dennis Ross who, IMO, has always been a person divided in his loyalties. Let us remember that Ross has publicly stated that the Israelis are "my people." If that is so, how could he negotiate in good faith for the interests of the United States?
Miller admits in this crie de coeur that he was overly confident in thinking that the basic identities and Jungian collective dreaming of whole peoples could be dealt with by diplomatic trickery and BS. He has the courage to admit that one of the worst of such "adventures" was the Camp David II negotiation in which he, Ross, Bill Clinton and "the lads" from State and the NSC attempted to bully Arafat and his people into accepting Israel's agenda of recognition by the Palestinians in return for nothing much at all. The Borgist crew thought that; forced isolation, Clintonian seduction and a threatening manner would do the job for "peace."
At lunch some days after this ploy failed I told Ross that there had never been a chance of success at Camp David II; 1- Arafat was not authorized before the meeting by any body of Arab political consensus to grant concessions to Israel. He had been told by a meeting of states in Morocco that he could attend the meeting but was not authorized to make concessions. Once at the meeting the American side systematically prevented him from consulting with the Arab states to seek authority. 2- It is a feature of Arab culture that there is little belief in "win-win" solutions and a great belief that all of life is a "zero sum game." In general it is thought that there are winners and there are losers. Full stop the Brits would say. In general Arabs believe that parties to a conflict negotiate to achieve as painless and as graceful a surrender by the weaker party as possible. The normal Arab assumption is that a request to talk is simply a signal of acceptance of defeat. In the context of CD II, it is clear that Arafat and many other Arabs thought Palestinian persistence had finally achieved its goal and that the Americans and Israelis were about to surrender to Palestinian demands regarding East Jerusalem, etc.
Ross stared at me when I told him this and said he had never thought of the situation in terms of Arab psychology. Yes, they bestrode the world. pl
As has been noted on this site in recent weeks, a decisive military victory could be achieved in Syria by the R+6 forces, with the addition of two divisions of Russian troops. The remaining strongholds of both the Islamic State and Nusra could be over-run in a matter of months, under such a beefed-up Russian deployment. Clearly, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top military commanders are aware of this reality. Yet, so far, despite recent hints of a further Russian military deployment into Syria, no such decisive decision has been taken, begging a fair question: What is holding the Russian President back from bringing the Syrian war to a short-term successful conclusion? Sane military and intelligence circles in the United States would quietly applaud such an intervention, President Obama would make some public pronouncements of complaint, but would not do anything further. Saudi Arabia would sulk and ultimately blame the Obama Administration for "allowing" such an outcome, that flies in the face of their persistent goal of installing a Sunni Salafist regime in Damascus. Even the would-be Sultan of the New Ottoman Empire, President Erdogan, would take it in stride--so long as Syria remained a unified nation without a large portion hived off into an independent Kurdistan.
IMHO, President Putin is holding back for larger strategic reasons that go beyond Syria or the Middle East. Putin knows that there are growing splits within Europe over both the NATO provocations against Russia, which will be advanced at the upcoming NATO heads of state summit in Warsaw in early July. He knows that the European Union will soon be deciding on whether to extend the sanctions against Russia beyond the July 31 expiration date, and that there are a number of important European states where there is diminishing enthusiasm for the sanctions and for the ostracizing of Russia. Putin just visited Greece and offered to invest in a major gas storage facility that would be a tremendous boost for the desperate Greek economy. Italy's Prime Minister Renzi has broken ranks and announced he will attend the St. Petersburg Economic Forum later this summer. European Council President Junker has announced he, too, will attend. Germany's Foreign Minister Steinmeier has issued statements during a recent tour of the three Baltic states, in favor of pulling back from the Russian sanctions, if not all at once. He has linked lifting of the sanctions to "progress" on Russia's part in implementing the Minsk II agreement on eastern Ukraine. Russia has been asked to support a plan for elections in the Donbass region, overseen and policed by the OSCE. Nobody is talking about rolling back the status of Crimea in all of the talk of reducing or terminating sanctions. European nations are divided.
Putin is also in the process of successfully engineering his own "Asia pivot," one that is based more on economic than purely military ties. The recent visit to Russia by Japanese Prime Minister Abe was an important signal that Tokyo is not willing to always follow Washington's lead--when vital Japanese economic and diplomatic interests are at stake. Abe will attend the Far East Economic Forum in Vladivostok this summer at Putin's invitation, and Putin will visit Japan before the end of the year. There is a real prospect that the northern islands dispute, which has been a barrier to close Russian-Japanese economic ties, will be settled sometime in mid-2017, according some well-placed Japanese friends.
In short, President Putin is taking into consideration a complex series of global developments and opportunities. He will act decisively, but not in haste. The Russian military intervention in Syria, launched last September, has stabilized the Assad regime and seen the Syrian Army rebuilt into a far more effective fighting force. Putin has also seen that Iran's effectiveness in Syria has proven to be over-rated. When Russia pulled back some of its military support for the Assad government earlier this year, anticipating that Iran would be able to fill that vacuum, it proved not to be the case. Russia is now quietly back in Syria on a scale equal to the peak of the late 2015 intervention.
It may be fairly debated whether the broader calculations--NATO's pending deployments along the Russian western front, the emerging splits in Europe, the opportunities in Asia--warrant holding back from an all-out decisive offensive in Syria. But it is clearly the case that there are global strategic factors that are in play. Putin is taking the long view and the global view of how Russia can best manage a dangerous and unpredictable world disorder.
If you watch the embedded SITREP in this South Front report you will learn that the authors at South Front (I assume we are in one way or another talking about Russians) agree with me that the R+6 coalition is attempting to do too much with insufficient forces. This is a recipe for failure. South Front attributes to the SAA an intention to attack east from Palmyra, West at Aleppo City to close the gap and completing the closure of the Aleppo City pocket. IMO they lack the force to simultaneously run both these operations successfully. The SAA had to move the Tiger forces back to the Aleppo area to make such operations possible. As I wrote before this is an indicator of insufficient force available. At the same time the SAA has not moved forward NW of Jisr ash-Shugur to close the border crossing points through which Turkey is sending jihadi reinforcements from Hatay Province into Idlib Provnce and to Aleppo City. the evident inability to do that is yet another indicator of insufficiency of forces.
At the same time the Syrian Kurds are at least making a gesture of advance toward Raqqa, Syria. Whether these Kurds will really want to capture the largely Arab City remains to be seen.
The Iraqis are advancing towards the Syrian border along the Euphrates River. What happens when Iraqi forces reach the border. The disinclination of the US to cooperate with Russian supported forces on the other side of the border mkes thi a big question.
Lastly, what do the Russians think they are doing? What? pl
"The operation of the Syrian government forces in the Aleppo city is facing a real challenge. A critical moment in the activity of the loyalists was the fall of the town of Khan Touman that has been seized by Al Nusra and the group’s allies. Iranians took major casualties in the clashes there. Meanwhile, Palestinian militias failed to cut the militants’ supply lines in the area of Handarat. The source of this situation isn’t a secret. It’s a low level of the staff planning exercise and tactics of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC). For example, to rely only on irregular military formations in the atempt to cut off the supply lines of the militants near Aleppo is a major mistake.
Describing this operation, Western experts argue some difficulties between Moscow and Teheran. According to them, Iran is pushing a military solution of the Syrian crisis, while Russia is supporting the international diplomatic efforts as the only successful way. Iranian forces are also dissatisfied by the low level of the Russian air support at Khan Touman, ignoring bad weather conditions at that time. SouthFront doesn’t support the radical views of the Western experts because the ongoing diplomatic efforts don’t exclude the ability to conduct military operations against the sides, excluded from the ceasefire. However, the recent developments have shown clearly that the IRGC isn’t able to independent offensive or defensive operations without the Russian air support and let’s be clear without Russian military strategists." South Front
South Front is well connected in Russian military circles. In this military Sitrep for the 23rd of May the publication makes several interesting and probably well informed assertions:
Well, pilgrims, unity of command and purpose are necessary to success in war. if Russia has given up the fight for a united Syria then Syria will eventually be a geographical expression, something like Italy before the mid-nineteenth century. An Alawi/minorities enclave on the coast would be possible and one or more salafi emirates would e IMO likely.
Iff all this is true, Kerry HAS succeeded in winning through diplomacy what could not be achieved on the battlefield. pl
Hmmm ... Votel, the commanding general of US Central Command went to visit in northern Syria where the GBs are shepherding the SDF/YPG toward Raqqa as best they can. That must be a great deal like herding cats. The Arabs in SDF have every reason to want to take Raqqa away from IS, The Kurds in YPG? Not so much. But ... When you have acquired a major sponsor and the Turks are lurking across the border to the north you had better be at least somewhat cooperative. I would expect that Votel's visit was in the nature of a coordination before major effort. I can only hope that his four star presence did not inhibit progress already made. I note that there is to be an increase in US AWACS presence in the area. The AWACS is a flying command post for air operations. Does this indicate an increase in air activity to come?
And now Kerry agrees to targeting of the al-Nusra front and those who are operating with them? Will wonders never cease?
Russia will participate in a sizable way in re-building Syria's energy industry? That doesn't sound like a decision to withdraw support from the Syrian government. pl
'On the ground, pro-regime forces continued to tighten their grip on key urban terrain despite the diplomatic negotiations. Pro-regime forces mounted renewed attacks on opposition-held districts of Aleppo City following the expiration of a local truce on March 11. Pro-regime forces also increased the pressure on the besieged opposition enclaves on the outskirts of Damascus, including a major advance in Eastern Ghouta. The encirclement of Aleppo City and the expulsion of opposition groups from the capital remain two of the top strategic priorities of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." ISW
I summon the obviously competent analysts at ISW to abandon their employment by the the Ziocon ISW and presumably by a vendu retired general whoever he is. If you leave these clapped out neocons I promise to try to raise the money to create a new home in which you can write without foreign interference. In the meantime I will send the Kagans and Nuland (down with Russia!) more money to keep you afloat. Come to Jesus-Muhammad-Moses!
Yes, the Syrian government is doing what it can to save Syria as a multi-confessional state, but, IMO they lack the means. Also, IMO the Russians seem to be susceptible to BS from Obama/Kerry. This is sad. It should seem sad to you.
How long will you persist in following this awful cause of deception? pl
"The Syrian Arab Army’s 525th Regiment of the 18th Tank Division was under heavy attack near the T-4 Airport; this prompted a direct military intervention from their Russian advisers. In just two days, the Russian Marines helped the Syrian Armed Forces recapture the initiative in east Homs, while also recovering several points near the Al-Sha’ar Gas Fields and T-4 Military Airport. Now, with the Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces” pushing south towards the Al-Sha’ar Gas Fields, the Russian Marines can go back to their original role, which includes advising the Syrian Armed Forces." AMN
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/russian-marines-participate-east-homs-battle/ | Al-Masdar News
I have understood that Russian marines were in Syria to secure their air base complex and naval facilities at Latakia and Tartus as well as to do some line troop re-training. Now we see them committed to actual front line combat.
IMO this backs up my contention that the R+6 alliance in Syria lacks enough quality ground combat units to accomplish their many obvious objectives in population and geographical control of Syria's territory and resources.
It is easy to list the SAG's primary and current operational and strategic needs:
All of that indicates to me that there just are not enough ground troops in R+6 to sustain the stated goal of the SAG to re-conquer the country. Why is that? Syria is a substantial country and many, many of its citizens loath and fear the prospect of living and dying under jihadi rule. Nevertheless, millions have fled to: Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Europe and Canada. Among these migrants are hundreds of thousands of men of military age (of all confessions) who have chosen to abandon their country to its fate.
The bi-polar policy of the US with regard to Syria contributes to this flight in that it both encourages resistance to the Syrian Government and also encourages the belief that the collapse of IS is inevitable and therefore personal self sacrifice would be foolish.
Russia, Hizbullah and Iran must be considering the inevitability of a negotiated peace that will destroy the Syrian state if the present correlation of forces continues. That inevitability is certainly the main objective of the neocons and R2P. pl
"Russia has recently turned part of the Syrian desert city of Palmyra into a military base to use as an ‘operation room’ to target terror group in the war-torn country. AFP’s Andrey Borodulin released a video showing the recently-established, fully-fenced base where the sophisticated Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft system was deployed. Pantsir-S1 is a combined short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system. It represents the latest air defence technology by using phased array radars for both target acquisition and tracking." Al Masdar News
This looks like a permanent installation. pl
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/video-russia-sets-new-military-base-palmyra/ | Al-Masdar News
"Kerry said that without a ceasefire in Aleppo, Syria's largest city before the civil war erupted in 2011, the violence there was in danger of spiraling out of control. The plan now being worked on to ensure a more lasting ceasefire would try to separate rival forces from militias, which are not covered by the ceasefire.
"The line they are trying to draw now would prohibit any kind of incursion of Aleppo, it will not allow Aleppo to fall," Kerry said. He added that the truce was holding in areas of Damascus and Latakia region where he said there had been a "meaningful" drop in violence.
Kerry said the United States was trying to determine which opposition group was responsible for a rocket attack on a hospital in Aleppo on Tuesday, saying there was no justification for such "horrific violence."
He repeated the United States would never accept a transition that included Assad.
"If Assad's strategy is to somehow think he's going to just carve out Aleppo and carve out a section of the country, I got news for you and for him - this war doesn't end,"" Kerry said. NY Times
Kerry was at the White House correspondents dinner and then went to the airport to leave for this meeting in Europe. Maybe he was suffering from sleep deprivation and jet lag at the presser. How else can you account for the idiocy of the statements repeated in this NY Times article? I have written here several times that to think one can gain at the negotiating table through BS and trickery what one has not been able to secure on the battlefield is a vapid, vain notion. I continue to think that true.
The US is threatening Assad, Russia and Iran with dire consequences if Assad does not agree to abandon Syria by 1 August? What possible leverage does Kerry think the US has with which to back up that threat? "Carpet bombing" of Syrian government facilities and forces? A massive Turkish Army invasion of the North of Syria? A Gulfie invasion of Southern Syria? Poisoned cigars as a present for Assad? More and heavier weapons delivered to the Unicorn army of the FSA? (an indirect delivery to the jihadis) A US expeditionary force?
No? What then? Ah! Perhaps Kerry will persuade his consort Teresa to embargo Syria. No more Ketchup for Assad! pl
By Patrick BAHZAD
Five months ago, Paris was hit by a series of simultaneous terror attacks the likes of which it had not seen before. Initial reactions by the French government were characterized by a long forgotten belligerent tone, which probably also bore testimony to the disbelief of the French people at the sight of these attacks in the nation's capital. France had entered a new phase in the struggle against Jihadi terrorism, just as Brussels would a few months later in a follow-up attack. The West has no choice but to brace itself for this type of events. In Europe, but also in the US, despite better protection through natural as well as man-made defences.
For now though, we must go after the individuals who were behind the attacks, even if they are hidden in some shadowy basement somewhere in the Middle-East. Getting to them however will not be an easy task and will involve more than just following up on the bread crums left by the footsoldiers who were sent to do the dirty work. Understanding how things got to the point we're at today, is also part of the process. That is the rationale for this piece, which will look into lessons that can already be taken from what happened and analyse what kind of threats are out there, before turning to the individuals who might possibly have ordered the attacks and for what purpose.
Arrests were made, but this is far from over
In truth, a number of people involved in these gruesome killings were already taken into custody and charged, particularly the much talked about Salah Abdelslam, brother to one of the Paris suicide bombers and driver to three men who blew themselves up outside the “Stade de France”. Considered a crucial piece in the European terror puzzle, Abdelslam managed to avoid capture for almost four months, before being arrested by Belgian police in March 2016, in what seems to have triggered his accomplices’ decision to organise the Brussels bombings.
Contrary to what many headlines suggest however, it’s highly unlikely that he’s anything like a ringleader or logistics expert. He may still hold some vital information nonetheless, in so far as he stood at the junction between various cells within the IS network. And while Abdelslam’s role as well as other aspects of the ongoing investigations were widely publicized, in particular the alleged use of encryption tools by the terrorists, other pieces of information have gone mostly unnoticed, even though they have much further reaching implications.
In the last two weeks however, a couple of articles and open source pieces were published that give some insight into the search for the real “masterminds” behind the Paris attacks. The Jamestown Foundation for example published an interesting piece about the men who pulled the strings ("Recent Attacks Illuminate IS' Europe Network"). So has French Intel newsletter “TTU” ("Abou Souleiman: l'émir français de Daech").
However incomplete and fragmentary, these pieces are asking the right questions and provide some good insights. Of particular interest is the role allegedly played by a French national in the planning and organisation of the attacks, a man whose executive position in the "Islamic State" would be quite uncommon for a European. But before getting there, it's important to look into how IS terror developed over the past years and what can be already be learnt from the recent attacks.
"The long-awaited Aleppo offensive recently took a backseat to the much needed Palmyra-Deir Ezzor assault after the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) threatened to retake the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) just two weeks after it was liberated by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). However, the High Command of the Syrian Armed Forces has once again reverted their attention to the large-scale Aleppo offensive after the recent failure of the Geneva Peace Talks and the collapsing nationwide ceasefire. On Saturday night, an Al-Masdar correspondent in Damascus confirmed that the Syrian Arab Army’s plans for the Aleppo offensive have been once again green-lighted by their Russian and Iranian military advisers in southeast Aleppo." AMN
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/hezbollah-syrian-army-renew-plans-aleppo-offensive/ | Al-Masdar News
"President Barack Obama has ruled out deploying US ground troops in Syria and says military efforts alone cannot solve the country's problems.
"It would be a mistake for the United States, or Great Britain... to send in ground troops and overthrow the [Bashar al-] Assad regime," he told the BBC.
He also said he did not think so-called Islamic State would be defeated in his last nine months of office.
But he said: "We can slowly shrink the environment in which they operate.""
Obama's mania for regime change in Syria continues to be on full display. This is matched by a belief that he evidently treasures that wars cannot be resolved on the battlefield. This must have the character of "religious" belief for him because history demonstrates in every era that wars usually end in defeat for one or more contestants and that history is shaped by that military outcome.
He also persists in believing that he can gnaw at the level of Syrian government confidence and public support in that country until it collapses leading to a republic of liberal government, etc. This is nonsense. the collapse of the present government will IMO lead inevitably to a jihadi state following a continuation of the civil war absent the present Syrian state.
Nevertheless, Obama seems resolved to forbid the introduction of major American ground maneuver units in Syria. Good! Can we hope that President Clinton would share that resolve? I doubt it.
With regard to the City of Aleppo, I await with anticipation some indication that the R+6 has actually decided what their major emphasis should be in continuing the war needed to demonstrate the wrongheadedness of Obama's dictum that wars cannot be won. pl
With the negotiations between various parties underway in Kuwait and just over one year since the outbreak of hostilities, perhaps it is time to evaluate the conflict in Yemen.
If we were to rely solely on media reports, in English or those in Arabic, we would be fooled into thinking that the war was just as real as that in Syria, or perhaps akin to Libya but with an air component. This is not the case.
The war does not pit Sunni against Shia
The war does not include ground troops from the Gulf
There is no siege imposed by the Gulf and allied nations (US, Australian, UK navy etc)
Yes, the Gulf coalition does bomb Yemen from the air but there has not been a wholesale destruction of infrastructure. There are not hundreds of civilians dying from Saudi air strikes.
After 13 months of this war total dead stands at an estimated 6,000 people. Most of those are armed combatants from both sides.
If there were a real land and naval blockade of Yemen then we would have seen a humanitarian disaster on a vast scale. There would have been many thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of dead from famine by this point. Yemen is a country fast running out of water. Much of the remaining water lies deep beneath the surface and to extract it you need a pump. The pump needs diesel which, until now, is heavily subsidized by the state. This means all villages and most towns would rapidly run out of water for drinking and irrigation if there was an actual siege.
Additionally, the Saudis have ensured that the exchange rate of the Yemeni rial has held up by making sure they back the central bank with hard currency. If the rial spiraled out of control then no one would be able to afford staple foodstuffs. In this poor country, more in common with sub-saharan Africa than the Arab world, people would soon expire.
The question is why the Saudis would want to do this. The answer is that they first of all do not wish to be responsible for a famine, nor do they want to see thousands of Yemenis escaping death by walking into Saudi Arabia. They also have adopted a tactic of a steady squeeze on the Huthi and Ali Abdallah Saleh coalition. They prefer to negotiate slowly and carefully with the major tribes in the north, bringing them onto side with a mixture of financial incentives and political reality. The system will not change, they say, but those who wield power will.
"To fulfill its self-imposed obligations as sole superpower, the United States would need a citizenry that subscribes to the cwarrior-patriot’s code: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. How sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country. Most Americans are far more likely to subscribe to the code vividly displayed each weekend in Style sections of newspapers. There, the appeal of dying for one’s country takes a backseat to the latest tips on relationships, restaurants, recipes, street wear, household furnishings, and places to be seen.
Between what our duties as a self-proclaimed indispensable nation ostensibly require and what our freewheeling culture encourages, there exists a contradiction. In the White House, the Pentagon, and the Congress, the stewards of U.S. national security policy assume they can manage that contradiction. Yet day-by-day, evidence suggesting otherwise piles up." Dallas news.
Colonel (Ret.) Doctor Bacevich believes that the numbers recruitable for the US armed forces on a voluntary basis are not large enough to sustain a foreign policy as aggressive as ours.
He and I fought in Vietnam. We had over 500,000 troops there in 1968 just before Nixon's phased withdrawal began. There were also several hundred thousand anticommunist native troops. South Vietnam and the adjoining countries were very large. The numbers available to us were, IMO, marginal in the task of trying to defend the country against the Viet Cong/NVA.
If that is so, then how ridiculous was the attempt to occupy and pacify Iraq and/or Afghanistan with what amounted to a relative handful of men. It was obvious from the beginning that the numbers available were too small. The voodoo semi-religion of COIN was used to inflict the delusion of sufficiency of forces on the armed forces of the US. This doctrinal fantasy was spread by people like McMaster, Nagl, Kilcullen and a cluster of other "children" who professed to have learned in libraries that VN was lost to the communists because the US blundered around in the jungles and rice paddies throughout the war trying to re-fight the Battle of the Bulge or the Okinawa campaign. In fact the US sought assiduously to apply the COIN folly to VN throughout the war, and did it with resources that were vastly greater than any available in the GWOT. I was there and worked with the CORDS/COIN apparat. So, I guess I probably know what I am talking about.
Colonel Bacevich does not seem very specific about the solution to the question that he poses.
It seems clear to me that the draft will not return. Bacevich says that as well. He and I agree that American culture is now so sybaritic and self-obsessed that it is unlikely that the force necessary to pursue our self-assigned mission of world "purification" can be created and maintained.
As a rationalist I feel it necessary to say that the "reach" of US foreign policy has, since 9/11, exceeded its "grasp." We should give up our R2P dreams and define US security interest as being the defense of the homeland. If we do that then the numbers available and our policy would begin to match. pl
Various interesting developments in the news today:
"... the polling hours in Damascus, which suffered a lot from the fighting, had to be extended until 11 pm to accommodate all the voters.
There were even polling stations set up by the government in recently liberated Palmyra and Al-Qaryaten, though those polls were largely symbolic because the inhabitants of those towns have not yet been able to return to their homes due to widespread destruction, prior to liberation by the Syrian Arab Army.
The voter participation rate is key to this election, more important than the individual candidates who were elected.
Here’s why: you need to understand elections in a constitutionally-created state, in which one party dominates, in terms of a strike vote in a trade union.
It demonstrates continuing confidence in the leadership at a turning point in the struggle. A union would not be satisfied with a strike vote of 58%, going into a strike. And probably the Syrian government would have wished for a higher rate going into the negotiations at Geneva. But it knew from the start that holding the elections under the conditions of war and occupation was a gamble, because there are a lot of eligible voters living outside of Syria right now, living in places besieged by the terrorists, and who have died but not yet been accounted for.
Taking into account these factors, the participation rate would probably have been much higher." Southfront
120,000 Syrians in exile in Lebanon returned to the country for the purpose of voting. I think a participation rate of 58% is pretty good considering the ongoing war all over the country. IMO the results indicate that Assad could probably win an internationally supervised election for president.
The Borgist media refuses to take much note of the election.