"A few minutes after launch, the Falcon 9's first stage separated from the upper stage, then headed back down to Earth to attempt a touchdown on "Just Read the Instructions," one of SpaceX's two robotic "drone ships," which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
The rocket stuck the landing eight minutes after lifting off. SpaceX has now pulled off seven such touchdowns during orbital launches, with five coming on drone ships and two rockets flying back to their launch sites on terra firma. (The previous six landings all occurred after launches from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, between December 2015 and August 2016.)
These rocket touchdowns are part of SpaceX's effort to develop fully and rapidly reusable launch vehicles, a key priority for SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk. Such technology could cut the cost of launches dramatically, potentially enabling much greater access to space, Musk has said." Space.com
Musk is just amazing. He must have nerves of steel. The landing of the first stage booster was only a few feet from the bull's eye on the barge. pl
By Patrick BAHZAD
The snow ball effect keeps on growing. Three days after Buzzfeed published the incendiary private intelligence report that had been circulating inside the Beltway for months, there is still no end in sight to the whole media frenzy. And today's breefing of the House certainly was not intended at making the whole thing fade away. As the endgame emerges more and more clearly, with words such as "treason" and "impeachment" being mentioned with a striking regularity, it looks like caution – once again – is being thrown into the wind. History shows that the inevitable fallout from such an incredible turn of events will be far reaching. What is unclear, is who will benefit from it and who will pay the price. Vae victis !
After each piece of information – or disinformation – that comes to light, we are litteraly bombarded with new speculations that are basically useless at figuring out what is going on. As Inauguration Day approches, chances are, we have not seen the end of it and there still is room for yet another layer of hyperbole.
Hysteria taking over, once again
There are legitimate concerns about what went on, but the current media circus is not the appropriate way to address those questions. Two official reports have now been released, and a third private intelligence report that reads like an indictment also found its way into the press. Elected officials are pursuing an agenda of their own that has nothing to do with the national interest.
Look at the evidence, they are telling us. What evidence ? Asking us to disqualify Trump on the basis on some poorly drafted intelligence reports, or a pile of garbage that could have come right out of a British tabloid, that is a bit of a tough proposition when it comes to the Presidency. Is this what it is all about ? Convincing enough among the American public and in particular among members of Congress that Trump is unfit for office? Or is it just about forcing him into making the policy concessions his opponents in both parties are so eagerly awaiting ?
Up until Tuesday, both courses of action were conceivable, but the leak of the Trump "dossier" changes the equation: unsubstantiated allegations that all major news outlets had refused to publish found their way into the MSM and added what some may have expected to be the final nail in Trump's coffin. There are gaping holes in that narrative though and public opinion as a whole does not seem to buy into it. The question is, however, whether Congress will take the bait. Something very dangerous is looming in the shadows and I can assure you, it is not Vladimir Putin…
With the overnight reports of Israel missile attacks on Mezze Air Base near Damascus certain questions arise:
Nope. Nothing political. No elections. No fake news. Just hockey. The greatest sport in the entire world. Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins came to a sold out Verizon Center here in Washington DC to face their arch-rivals, the Washington Capitals. The air was electric. Alexander Ovechkin, the face of the Capitals, no, the face of the NHL, was poised to score his 1,000th NHL career point and cement his position as a hockey legend.
Only 35 seconds into the first period, “Ovi’s favorite assist man Nick Backstrom got him into the offensive zone, and then Ovi took it from there. A spectacular move to center and an even better shot.” OVI SCOARS!! The crowd goes wild. Well, even more wild than it normally does. Listen to John Walton call it.
Ovi went on to score a second goal and the Caps beat the Penguins 5-2. The Caps moved into second place in the league. What a night.
Among many other things, Ovi is famous for answering “Russian machine never breaks” when asked about a potential injury after being hit with a puck. He barely spoke English at the time. Ovi is as tough as T-34.
He comes from good stock. This is part of an interview with Mama Ovechkina in today’s “Sovetskii Sport.”
"Pavel Lysenkov: What did this 1000th point mean for you? Only four Russians have ever reached this level – aside from Ovechkin, Kovalev, Mogilny and Fedorov.
Tatyana Ovechkina: I am not thinking a whole lot about Kovalev and Fedorov scoring. I am more interested in my son. I am glad he got his 1000th point and accomplished this minimum task.
Pavel Lysenkov: And what is the maximum?
Tatyana Ovechkina: The Stanley Cup, of course. You know that. I am happy for our other guys who played so well in the NHL, Fedorov and the rest. But I am even happier for my son.
Pavel Lysenkov: Now Ovechkin is the headline news on every website, the face on every newspaper front page tomorrow.
Tatyana Ovechkina: Please don’t focus your attention on that. He scored, and forgot about it. You know, I really don’t like all this fuss, don’t give interviews often. Let Sasha play, and that’s it. Nothing else."
Na pravda, Mama Ovechkina, na pravda. “Let Sasha play, and that’s it. Nothing else.”
"Rebuilding in devastated parts of eastern Aleppo has begun now that the entirety of the city has been purged of terrorist groups.
A video released on Wednesday shows tractors and forklifts in the Saif al-Dawla district clearing the streets of sandbags and rubble amid efforts to help civilians return to normal life to eastern Aleppo, which had been under militant control since 2012, PressTV reported.
A mobile hospital in eastern Aleppo has also been established by Russian rescue workers.
“At the moment two tents are deployed: surgical and therapeutic and paediatric. At the moment about 100 people got assistance, we plan to provide help to 100 more,” said Ruslan Guzeev, head of the Russian medical department of special purpose.
Workers have begun returning to factories with Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis stating that the return of Aleppo's industrial capacities being a top priority." AMN News
IMO this place will be rapidly re-built. The Chinese, the Indians, the Europeans, etc. will pour money into a myriad of projects.
Out in the eastern desert the SAA and friends are pushing IS back from around Tiyas air base. NW of Damascus the water supply is going to be turned back on soon as the springs are liberated from the jihadis. The SAA are making noises about an offensive toward Quneitra. I don't understand why. The jihadis there have full Israeli support and the population is much reduced because of the nearby Israeli threat and their long ago destruction of the city of Quneitra.
TTG and I remain committed to the thought that the main threat to the long term viability of the Syrian Government is continued jihadi possession of and now consolidation in Idlib Province. We can only hope that the R+6 alliance is waiting for a visible result from the coming Astana negotiation before deciding on a decisive campaign. pl
"The U.S. director of national intelligence extended an olive branch of sorts to Donald Trump late Wednesday — denouncing media leaks, casting skepticism on reports that Russia has compromising material on the president-elect, and assuring Trump that America's spies stand ready to serve him.
In a statement, James Clapper said he had spoken Wednesday evening with Trump, days after the spy chief and some of his counterparts met with the incoming president to discuss the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election, possibly to help him win.
On Tuesday, CNN, BuzzFeed and other media outlets reported that the intelligence officials had told Trump about an unsubstantiated private report that detailed how Russia's government allegedly had salacious information about him. BuzzFeed published the apparent dossier, which Trump has denounced as false.
"I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press, and we both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security," Clapper said of the information that has come out since last week's intelligence briefing." Politico
I can hear it now. "I told Brennan we should not get involved but he wouldn't listen."
(irony alert) Jimmy Clapper is GOOD, one of the best. My hat is off to him.
It sounds like Obama held out on him in the end for something he wanted, and that was enough ...
By Patrick BAHZAD
There are nine days left until Inauguration Day and it feels like each one of these days is going to count. A shit-storm of epic proportions is blowing over the US, coast to coast, and I cannot remember having witnessed anything of this magnitude since, well, since 9/11 and the case for WMDs. You might think that is a bad analogy. Maybe. But I can smell when something is not right from a mile away and, believe me, something is not right here. I will not engage in lengthy speculations about what is going to happen now, or whether or not someone colluded with someone else. What I am going to do though is present a brief reminder of the facts (the evidence if you like) and then throw in a couple of thoughts based on my personal experience and gut feeling.
To be honest, I don't like Trump. He is a successful businessman though and I respect that. He campaigned hard, said a lot of things (some of which I found disgusting), but he also – obviously – touched on something that is dear to a significant segment of the electorate. He won the election fair and square, in line with the provisions of the US Constitution, and I would challenge anyone to prove otherwise. As far as I'm concerned, that is the end of the story. Now of course, the issues that we have been dealing with since early December are not linked to the election as such. Remember ? The current debate started when the dust had settled on all the claims about "Hillary won the popular vote", "let's do a recount" and so on. I'm not sure this is a coincidence, but that is just me ...
The DHS/FBI "Joint Analysis Report"
Fact is however that the first official IC report to look into the matter of the DNC hack was the DHS/FBIS "Joint Analysis Report" of December 29th 2016. And what a strange report that was, starting with a disclaimer which read that the report was "provided for information purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within". Admittedly, you need to take a few basic precautions with Intel reports. But claiming as a matter of baseline, that you can't be held accountable to anything you're writing does sound a little weird.
There were weirder elements still in the report itself, which is basically a summary of findings made by private cybersecurity companies which dealt with the DNC hack, in particular "Crowdstrike". But those findings only make up for 3 pages out of the 13 contained in this JAR. The rest is related to barely relevant technical details or to mitigation strategies and practices any 5 year old should be aware of. There was also a list of suspicious IP adresses that organizations should be on the lookout for, because they could be linked potentially to the entities that attacked the DNC. Funny enough, some 40 % of these addresses were TOR exit nodes (you can make up your own mind about what this could mean) and some addresses were even attributed to the wrong country: IPs in Switzerland were identified as "Swaziland", Danish IPs as Germans (probably because ".dk" can be easily misread as ".de").
Typos and misunderstandings you might say. But that kind of error, in addition to the global layout of the report, definitely points to a very rushed approach, not to an intel report that is careful worded and thought through. Talking about intel, what did the JAR have to say in that regard ? Well, not much actually, at least not much more than the reports published weeks and months before by cybersecurity experts who had analyzed the DNC hack.
The "Birther" meme attached to President Obama was a cleverly crafted and slimy attempt to derail his Presidential campaign. While it developed a life of its own after his inauguration it never was going to be a call to action by patriots. The Trump - Russia meme in my opinion is a much more serious information operation because it is designed to question the legitimacy of a President Trump defence and foreign policy actions.
To put that another way, this IO is not political point scoring, its attempting to influence U.S. foreign and defence policy in a very direct way - precluding a whole raft of policy options related to normalizing relations with Russia, winding back NATO expansion and other areas that I don't even know about. I don't know if this is against the law or not.
CNN has just led with a story that the intelligence community presented Trump with a dossier alleging five years work by the Russian Government to both compromise Trump and promote his presidential prospects and allege collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government.
"....(CNN)Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.
The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump...."
Buzzfeed obligingly then leaks all 35 pages of the alleged "Memos" on which the summary is allegedly based, that go into scatalogical detail about Trump in Russia.
Folks, to me, it doesn't seem to me that American politics can get more surreal. I don't think I've seen more flaky conglomerations passing as intelligence summaries, ever..... and CNN apparently bought it,..... and the liberal media follow suit. Trump wanted to defile the bed that President Obama slept in at a hotel in Moscow, so he arranged a sex party???
The Alt right are now digging and it seems that at least the plot for that particular memo ( the sex party one) was fed by a prankster to one DNC operative Wilson, who appears to have run with it. CNN, Fake News all of the time.
I'm half a world away in opposite time zones, please tell us what your morning brings... It seems to me that a "Trump the Traitor" meme is a very dangerous creation.
A journey in the cold snows of winter, to the land of my forebears. A light snow fell as I walk to the cathedral my ancestors prayed in before they embarked on their journey to a new life in the New World. A day much like this; at the end of one year, before the birth of the new. Long ago when the world was lit only by fire.
I wonder what they would make of the lights of ours? Electric lamps and guards before the door to the house of God. They would recognize what was within; the joy at the birth of the hope of salvation. Even now, in the winter of such contentment, the song and the joy remains the same.
Such was the day on my arrival in the City of Light that Christmas Day. A chill wind and soft snow with just enough warmth to threaten a thaw. No throngs of gawking tourists; just a long, thin, line of worshipers moving ever forward past the barriers and the watchful eyes of the CRS. Few seats were vacant. Only a few were filled with visitors from distant lands. A sermon in French and in Latin. My ancestors would recognize the temper of our times.
Guards and tourists too at one end. At the other? No throngs at the door, no CRS, no guards visible at all. A few tourists, a few parishioners. Just we few, we happy few. Lost souls hearing the echo of the Word. The soft baa, baaing of the black sheep is heard within the cathedral, though most do not know their condition, nor how close damnation - or salvation, lies. For there at the edge of the Nave stood Mephistopheles with - a bag of cookies. His hand out stretched in temptation to his pupils. His eyes gleaming as he tempts in mockery of the communion.
How close to evil we come, so close, when an anger equal to that of pagan Achilles rises in our breast. Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil, so goes the prayer. A softer passion moved me. I took a few short steps when at the edge of the transept I was brought to a stop by what I beheld at a nativity display. Just beyond the velvet rope, stretched out full length, giving coins and prayers to the baby Jesus, a woman of middling age. Tears ran down her faces; and down the faces of the French women who stood in amazement, in compassion. They crossed themselves and spoke soft prayers to God. Life played out before me in all its sadness and hope and glory. The third calendar day from the one we mark as the birth of our savior. A trinity indeed.
It was a short walk, though one long in contemplation, toward the Cluny and the Medieval Age. How did Goethe put it? Das Ewig Weibliche zieht uns hinan? Long I stood in contemplation in front of her. “I’m with her” has such different meaning here.
Hours later a different longing, a secular one? A primal one? Growling out, from the stomach. A simple longing, for mothers cooking? Such a shift from food for thought, and the soul. I ventured out again, on a different road, one well paved, well traveled:
A few turns, a darkened street, a single lite. So much like that first night in France, in the century passed.
Here it lies, just beyond....an adventure.
This must be the place, for romance,
for, shall I say it, dinner?
Mmm, mm. A full day, a full belly, satiated I journeyed forth again, to find just how late the hour.
Even the night owls had ventured home to bed. An example I was looking forward to follow. Just a few steps more, a minute or two only from this very cafe. It was then, so unsuspectingly, at the very threshold of the Inn that I was set upon so suddenly - by a fierce beast with black hair and white fangs. I thought can it be, the hound, the Hound of the Baskervilles!? Why here is the scoundrel:
Well, he is a hound. More Puppy of Paris than diabolical beast. Lemon (pronounced the French way) the Puppy of Paris. Well there is only one thing to do after being set upon by such as he. Uphold the tradition - of Americans abroad. I took him (with the owners permission) into the courtyard for a round of fetch. It was then the urge struck me; and yes, I did the deed, just like so long ago with Lil' Yeller. I taught a young dog a new trick. There were some hastily concealed smiles, betrayed by flashing eyes, from the ladies behind the counter when they heard young Lemon sound forth the proper greeting to the master when he returns home: "Baarrrooooo!". I wonder how that greeting sounds in French? At least in the future no one will mistake him for a puppy. I know, it was, in a word, Deplorable.
Thus concluded the most important events in the tale of a winter journey.
"The eagerly awaited report on the alleged Russian influence operation and hack linked to the recent American presidential election finally appeared on Friday. It is quite possible that President Obama, the intelligence community, and Congress now hope that the case has been definitively made to tighten the screws on Russia. If that is so, they are delusional. Moscow and Vladimir Putin may or may not be guilty as charged, but the paucity of the evidence being presented by the White House and the Director of National Intelligence suggests that the American people are being very poorly served by those who have been entrusted with protecting the nation.
The report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was entitled “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution.” It followed the short “Joint Analysis Report” that appeared on December 29, produced by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI. The earlier paper was entitled “Grizzly Steppe—Russian Malicious Cyber Activity” but, apart from assertions of suspected Russian activity connected to an unnamed political party, it provided absolutely no evidence that the alleged intrusions into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers and John Podesta emails were anything beyond probing for vulnerabilities to collect information, and carried out by unknown parties. In fact, it didn’t even provide the evidence for that and was instead largely a primer on how to avoid being hacked." Giraldi
There is a refreshing amount of skepticism concerning the unclassified Clapper Report. Good. pl
There appears to be a new shared sentiment among the "I hate Trump and the Deplorables" wing of the Democratic Party and the "I hate Russia, er, the USSR, er foreign devils" wing of the Republican Party.
This shared sentiment is continuously voiced with vehemence and certitude on the basis of an evident belief among the intelligentsia/ignorami that anyone who wishes to improve relations with Russia has demonstrated prima facie evidence of treason in the service of a foreign and malevolent power. Perhaps Vladimir Putin is actually Dr. Moriarty returned with new and improved air guns at his disposal.
IMO the present media campaign against Trump is intended to de-legitimize him as a legally elected chief executive. If that can be accomplished then a bill of impeachment against him for something like "failure to defend the country," or "failure to execute legally binding sanctions" is likely.
Would the insurgents have the needed votes in the senate to convict and expel him from office? Only the event would demonstrate that.
The Deplorables are watching and waiting. pl
" ... how tenable is this for Trump? How long can he go on questioning the information he receives from intelligence briefings, as he seems intent upon doing?" Washpost
Wait for it! The answer to the question is - indefinitely. I would think that the Trump Administration will go through the ranks of the SES/SIS position holders at CIA/DIA/NSA, etc. like a scythe. These folks, of whom I was one (SES-4) are not career protected like the lower members of the federal civil service. In return for their elevated rank (equivalent to military flag officers) they lack actual legal job security and can be much more easily removed. They are usually highly politicized schemers and enablers for their presidential appointee bosses at the very top of the food chain. But who will run things!? Well, pilgrims there are lots of eager beaver GS-15s awaiting their turn and eager to prove their loyally to the administration.
Hey, why not ? Payback is a bitch and people like Clapper and Brennan could not have staged this intelligence "coup" without the cooperation of the SES corps.
And then there is the little matter of the chain of command in the federal government. NEWS FLASH!! The IC agencies work for the president. He does not work for them. If he does not accept their analysis - so be it! They are not semi-divine creatures endowed with some special gift of understanding the world, Well, some are, but not many.
Any intelligence is destined to support decision making for policy. It should NEVER be prescriptive. The news idiots keep asking old intelligence hands what policy should be... What a sad joke.
For Trump, the IC is just another consultant group. pl
Having had fifteen and a half million visits since 2005 in the last eleven years, I have decided once again to seek underwriters (sponsors) for my blogging efforts. This is a small operation. It takes a lot of time. There are opportunity costs for me.
Foundations (preferred) or corporations that make grants to my blogs should understand that the money will go in my pocket in payment for what I do. I will pay whatever costs the blogs have.
What the underwriters will get is an acknowledgement on the blogs (if they want that). They will also assure that I continue doing this for a while. What they will not get is editorial control, content control or title.
I hope that pranksters do not bother me with foolishness that wastes my time. Enquiries should include full contact data; website, phone numbers, a responsible person to contact, etc.
I am grateful to all those individuals who have made donations in the past. pl
"The jihadist rebels of Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) have obstructed the water supply to the estimated 5 million civilians in Greater Damascus for the 13th consecutive day, creating a humanitarian crisis inside Syria's historic capital.
According to an Al-Masdar field correspondent in Damascus, water has become so scarce in Damascus that the price of bottled water has risen exponentially, forcing many to find alternatives in order to deal with this two week long crisis.
Several civilians have also been reportedly hospitalized as a result of poisoning due to drinking water provided by supply trucks, a local source informed Al-Masdar this afternoon.
The water provided by these supply trucks is intended for basic hygienic purposes like showering; it is not meant to drink.
However, due to crisis, many civilians in Damascus have begun boiling the water supplied by these trucks in order to have readily available drinking water." AMN
McCain and Graham love these guys. pl
Hannity on his interview of Assange.
A technical refutation of the "Russia done it" meme.
Real life in Aleppo
By Patrick BAHZAD
We are now over two months into the battle for Mosul, and the initial optimism has definitely faded away. The palpable sense of doggedness about the urban combat taking place in the Eastern parts of the city, reflecting an atmosphere of almost trench-like warfare, contrasts sharply with the easy territorial gains achieved by Iraqi security forces in the first days of the offensive. Early announcements about the imminent liberation of the city and the final fall of the "Islamic State" now sound hollow and premature. The truth about Mosul – that much should have been clear from the outset – is that this will be a costly battle. Costly in time, costly in energy, equipment and planning, and most of all, costly in lives. Overall, a rather sobering and grim outlook. Happy new year…
It is winter in Northern Iraq: the weather is bad, the terrain is muddy, and around Mosul, the morale of the Iraqi forces is low. Weeks of house-to-house fighting have taken their toll, not just in terms of casualties. There had not been any doubts in the initial phase of the offensive, but uncertainties gradually crept into the Iraqi battle plan, so much so that a complete overhaul of the tactical and operational approach to taking back the city was recently announced.
Loopholes in the operational planning
The basic issue is that the Iraqis went in with one plan in mind, and no backup solution in case things did not go as expected. To be fair, looking at it from the safe distance of a D.C. based think tank, this was a "slam dunk" situation. The numerical advantage of the Iraqi "armada" assembled at the gates of Mosul was quite overwhelming and the first days and weeks, although bloodier than many observers imagine, looked encouraging.
In short, the idea was to isolate Mosul from the main LOCs to and from the city, cut of the centre from its immediate hinterland, disrupt IS' territorial continuity along the Tigris valley and thereby shape a battlefield that would be conducive to offensive operations towards the city, while at the same time containing IS attempts at disrupting the logistical trail up to Nineveh plains. The "shaping" phase, although first delayed and then extended a number times, worked reasonably well. Taking back Qayyarah airbase, with its nearby bridge over the Tigris, dealt a severe blow to the Jihadis and laid the groundwork for planning an assault onto the city.
"The New York Times was more aggressive, writing flatly, "Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking." It backed up its story with a link to a joint FBI/Homeland Security report that details how Russian civilian and military intelligence services (termed "RIS" in the report) twice breached the defenses of "a U.S. political party," presumably the Democrats.
This report is long on jargon but short on specifics. More than half of it is just a list of suggestions for preventive measures.
At one point we learn that the code name the U.S. intelligence community has given to Russian cyber shenanigans is GRIZZLY STEPPE, a sexy enough detail.
But we don't learn much at all about what led our government to determine a) that these hacks were directed by the Russian government, or b) they were undertaken with the aim of influencing the election, and in particular to help elect Donald Trump.
The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.
If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now." Matt Taibbi
We've been here before, pilgrims. We've been here before. I wrote the Iraq War hysteria generation up extensively in my 2003 article "Drinking the Koolaid," (link below)
The Bush '43 administration deliberately lied in the media to get the US public to accept war and occupation in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz admitted that while testifying before the US Senate. There had been Iraqi nuclear weapons and chemical weapons programs before the First Gulf War but they were destroyed by UN search parties of inspectors after the war. In this work they were assisted by US intelligence who sent the inspectors to the right places to find the elements of the programs. The inspectors got just about everything, all the enrichment devices for fissionable material, all elements of the chemical program. In the case of the latter the UN took masses of material, piping, etc., and gave the Iraqi government no receipts. As a result after the Bush '43 Administration decided to go to war with Iraq it was possible to claim that the declared inventory of the chemical program was larger than the materiel on hand and that this was "proof" that some of the materiel was hidden somewhere, somewhere... BTW the Iraqi biological weapons program was ever anything but a research program.
Now, we have yet another attempt to generate mass hysteria through the manipulation of public consciousness. In this case the "enemy" is Russia against which an aura of hostility is being created that is part ignorance, part hyper-nationalist aggressiveness, and part residual fear of the USSR (which has not existed for decades). This in spite of the simple truth that if such hostility proceeded to its logical conclusion in a nuclear exchange there would be many millions of dead and wounded on both sides.
As the "icing on the cake" the media now proclaim that the Intelligence Community is a vessel of integrity and patriotic self-sacrifice that, since it hints to us that "the Russians done it," must be believed without question. Well, pilgrims, those who really know the Intelligence Community know that these agencies are run be self-serving political hacks who may once have been people of integrity but who, by the time, they reach the top will say or proclaim anything that advances their personal interest.
Are we mad enough to believe such people? Perhaps Trump is not. pl
For the past eight years, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been able to retain power with a shrinking and ever-more extremist coalition of settlers, religious parties and his own Likud by fending off critics. Hardline critics in his own fragile coalition have pressed for even more extreme territorial grabs in the West Bank and Jerusalem and have in some cases demanded mass expulsions of Palestinians from inside the Green Line. And Netanyahu has been able to explain to them that, while his heart is with them, he cannot go to such extremes because of pressure from the Obama Administration in Washington. Never mind that the Obama Administration never really put any serious pressure on Israel, and poured more money than any previous administration into Israeli security. Bibi cultivated his personal animus towards Obama and Obama's personal animus towards him into a balancing act that kept him in power, even as a growing number of Israelis, including within the powerful security establishment, became more and more disillusioned with him.
Well now, at least as of January 20, 2017, even that feeble excuse is gone. With the appointment of David Friedman as the new U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Netanyahu has an ally, not a critic, coming to town. Donald Trump has contributed to Israeli settlement schools through his charities, and he vows that he will actually implement what every Presidential candidate promises and then drops once in office: to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
This apparent "blessing" could come at a very high price for Netanyahu. No longer able to blame the United States for his "moderation" of his coalition radicals, Netanyahu now must defend his position upfront. And the Attorney General of Israel is expected to soon decide whether to follow National Police investigators recommendations and indict Netanyahu on corruption and graft charges. The last time he was ousted from power, it was on similar corruption charges.
With or without Netanyahu, Israeli is facing an existential decision: to accept a two-state solution and retain a Jewish majority state of Israel, or to go for annexation and repression of a growing Palestinian Arab majority (former President Jimmy Carter called it "apartheid"). Faced with the same dilemma, Netanyahu's rival Ariel Sharon had decided on the core tenet of Zionism: a Jewish majority. He unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, and even sent in Israeli Defense Force units to clear out the Gaza settlers who refused to accept relocation. In a speech in Washington a few years back, a retired IDF General told the audience that Israel has similar plans for removing West Bank settlers from areas to be turned over to the Palestinians. If Israel were to repeat the Sharon example and unilaterally pull out of significant portions of the West Bank--without negotiations or UN intervention--who would object?
The UN Security Council resolution passed this month should serve as a warning: it is becoming less and less feasible to maintain the status quo of creeping settlement expansion and territorial grabs for much longer. Netanyahu should not count on a President Donald Trump covering his back at the UN. It's just not on Trump's list of priorities. If he could throw Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie under the bus, he could do the same with Bibi.
Game situation on 18 January, 2017.
1. Following Task Force Suheil's crushing victory over advancing jihadi reinforcements on the M5 axis east of the Takhtanaz airhead, the task force was loaded on the HETs and other trucks that had followed it and transported back through Aleppo past the Kurdish YPG held Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood at the north end of the city and up through the Syrian Government and Kurdish controlled territory to the north on their way to the Minagh military airfield which was in the control of the Efrin Kurds. This cooperation was made possible by the Assad Government's indication to the Syrian Kurds that some degree of autonomy for them would be granted in a post-war Syria. This route allowed the Suheil Task force to reach Minagh without further fighting and casualties. At Minagh the Suheil Force went into national and area reserve to refit and rest. From this position they could move in several directions to influence future outcomes. Soldiers' families have been flown to Minagh for family time.
2. Some 5th Assault Corps units and the Syrian Marines invested Iblid City to control jihadis trapped within while negotiations are conducted for their surrender.
3. 5th Corps minus those units by-passed Idlib City to the east and relieved Takfaya and al-Fu'a village while being supported from the Taftanaj airhead with artillery and air support to include SU-25 Frogfoot.
4. As soon as the 5th Corps relieved the Shia pocket, the Russians launched an assault in echelon of two battalion tactical groups (BTG) from Taftanaz towards Al Dana some 30 km to the north. The high ground along the Bab al-Hawa Highway just south of Al Dana was taken by a battalion from the uncommitted airborne regiment of the 106th inserted by helicopter. All this was preceded by intense reconnaissance-sabotage activities of Spetsnaz teams of the 45th Brigade. The aim of the operation was to screen the flank of the 5th Assault Corps’ final push to the Bab al-Hawa crossing and to prevent any jihadi reinforcement of the crossing from northern Idlib and Aleppo provinces. The lead BTG reached Al Dana in less than 24 hours. The Russian airborne troops let unarmed refugees and jihadist supporters stream towards the border, even assisting them at times. Armed jihadists attempting to move north with the refugees were dealt with quickly and lethally. As soon as this operation was completed, Russia Today began broadcasting high quality footage of dramatic military action of the BMD-4M airborne assault vehicles, 2S9 Nona-S self-propelled mortar systems and Night Hunter attack helicopters interspersed with images of Russian paratroopers aiding civilian refugees. Correspondents reminded their viewers of the words of the incoming American Secretary of Defense, “No better friend, no worse enemy.”
5. Syrian 5th Corps proceeded to the north pushing irreconcilable jihadis and their supporters before them like herding cats. From Idlib the Bab a-l-Hawa crossing into Hattay, Province, Turkey is about 20 miles as the crow flies (ATCF) or 30 mile by the route to Al-Dana. In response to this oncoming flight of AQ connected jihadis the Turks tried to close their border except for emergency medical attention in Antakya (ancient Antioch) Syria has announced that it will allow the creation of refugee camps under UN supervision and sealed off by the SAA.
6. In the period of this turn Iran with the consent of the Iraqi government relieved Deir-al Zor from the east with a large Iranian task force. The US objected but was ignored. The Iranians then moved NW toward Raqqa and west to link up with the R+6 west of Palmyra.
7. By 18 January the situation in western Syria has been consolidated by the SAR with minor pockets of resistance being mopped up.
When you come in from the field in a US Army field exercise, the first thing you do is take your vehicles to the motor pool to wash all the mud or dust from them. The officers go to the motor pool with the men and usually stand around watching the work and discussing the just finished field problem. It is thought that it is best to get fresh impressions while memories are still "wet." Formal reports and analyses are written later.
1. The long cherished mantra and childish belief of the Poly/Sci/IR/State Department/NSC (Borgist) establishment that war does not provide an answer is incorrect. All of American history: War of Independence, Civil War, Spanish American War, US War Against the Filipino People, WW1, WW2, Vietnam, etc. all demonstrate that war is often decisive in history. For someone to believe that it is not is simply either a refection of what might be called over-education or a lack of knowledge of actual history.
2. The 29 December cease fire in Syria does not affect our game play since it does not apply to IS generally and AQ connected jihadis in western Syria.
"Is it not high time for Israel’s public to wake up to Netanyahu’s deceptions? The countries that voted for this Security Council resolution are not anti-Semitic outliers. They included every major democratic country that belongs to the Security Council. Not one of them voted for the Zionism is Racism resolution, to which Netanyahu so demagogically compared this resolution. Are UK Prime Minister Theresa May or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose foreign minister warmly welcomed the Security Council’s action, anti-Semites? It was only yesterday that Netanyahu boasted of his friendship with Russia’s Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, who voted for the resolution. Are they now Israel’s enemies?
If there has been a betrayal in this latest chapter of America’s relations with Israel, it is Netanyahu who has betrayed President Obama." Henry Siegman
I used to work with Siegman in his peace mongering expeditions across the ME and NA. I have a lot of respect for him. He is an ordained rabbi, whatever ordained means in this context. He was a US Army chaplain in the Korean War. He volunteered for deployment to Korea with the Eighth Army. He has relentlessly pursued justice for the Palestinians because as an ardent Zionist he thinks that if there is not justice Israel is doomed in the long run. I haven't talked to him for a long time but this is vintage Siegman.
IMO there will be neither peace nor justice in the Holy Land. IMO there is not enough good will between the sides to make a peace in which neither side can claim to have vanquished the other. I have been saying that that for twenty years or so. There was a Camelot moment when Ehud Barak was PM and Teddy Kolleck was mayor of Jerusalem when it seemed to be just barely possible that there might be a peace without victors, but the revisionist Zionists like Bibi and Naftali Bennett rallied and that moment passed.
I was recently tasked by someone I trusted with the crime of "approaching anti-Semitism" in my 2 November, 2016 post. "Marc Rich, Clinton and Israel."
"A plague o'both their houses." pl
Administration. Remains the Same.
Scenario Turn 3
January 2 to 10 January 12
The Syrian government has now made it clear through broadcasts on SANA that it intends to clear Idlib Province and other west Syria pockets of jihadi control before the US presidential inauguration and then turn its attention to elimination of IS in eastern Syria hopefully with some degree of coordination with the US led coalition.
Large scale leaflet drops began on 1 January on known areas of jihadi control in Idlib Province exhorting jihadis and in fact all those now under arms in the rebellion to surrender under a government offer of amnesty with UN supervision and to return to their homes if not known to be foreign fighters or jihadi group cadres. The same offer is being made on radio and television 24/7.
Government forces continue offensive action along a number of axes in Idlib Province:
1. Against Jisr al-Shugur. The Syrian Marines continue to be the lead element on this axis. Progress is slow but pressure is continuous. Earlier reports of the presence of Russian armor following the marines have proven to be inaccurate. The vehicles involved are a 12 gun battalion of Russian self propelled 152 mm. howitzers who are engaged in firing into the Jisr al-Shugur defenses in support of the marines and NDF militia in this column.
2. Around the western and northwestern perimeters of government held Aleppo forward pressure continues at what might be called a measured pace.
3. LTG Suheil's Tiger Forces/Desert Hawks division attacked SW along Axis M5 on 2 January followed by the Republican Guard brigade that had taken Khan Touman on 1 January. A column of Heavy Equipment Transporters (HET) accompanied the force.
4. Russian 106th Guards Airborne Division was moved to the Lattakia and Tartous base areas from Tula in Russia in a well coordinated and covert sea and air transfer and was inserted on 3 January into an airhead on and around the former Syrian AF Taftanaz air base five miles east of Al-Fuah' village. Elements of the 45th Guards Airborne Brigade, which were reconnoitering the area since Christmas, seized strongpoints and marked the DZ. A Russian airborne battalion then parachuted onto the airfield to secure it. This was followed by helicopter insertions of the rest of that infantry regiment's men as well as sling loads of much of the division's artillery and mortars. Air landing operations began on the 3,000 foot runway within a few hours bringing in many of the division's armored vehicles. The division's artillery ranged to the Route 60 and M5 approaches from the north as well as in defense of the two Shia villages five miles west of the airhead. Revetments for artillery and aircraft are under construction. 106th airborne division minus the regiment at Taftanaz remains in reserve around Tartous.
5. Spetsnaz teams are adjusting fires for airborne artillery as well as the Russian 152. mm. SP artillery supporting the Syrian Marines and NDF west of Jisr al-Shugur.
6. On 3 January 5th Assault Corps makes steady progress across Idlib Province toward Idlib City against resistance that seems much weakened by the need to send reinforcements to the jihadis defending against threats to Jisr al-Shugur, Taftanaz and the oncoming menace of Suheil Hassan's task force.
7. Russian and Syrian tactical air continues to strike throughout Idlib Province on 2 and 3 January with a focus on road interdiction. Russian strategic air (Blinders) flying from Russian and Iranian bases struck repeatedly on 3 January along the M5 highway targeting jihadi reinforcements going north to engage the Tiger Force coming south to meet them. There were several Russian AF TU-95 Bear heavy bomber attacks on the St. Simeon Mountains west of the M5 crossing of those heights.
On 4 and 5 January there are repeated assaults against both the Taftanaz airhead and the villages of Takfaya and Al-Fu'a. these are repulsed with heavy losses to the lightly armed and somewhat disorganized jihadis. These assaults appear to have been executed to cover the movement north of a large group of insurgents past the flank threats of the Taftanaz airhead and the Shia villages.
On 6 January Suheil Hassan's task force fought a large and sustained meeting engagement astride the M5 highway NE of the Taftanaz airhead and within supporting range of the airhead's artillery and armed helicopters. After several hours of grinding the insurgent lines fell apart and they began to flee south on the M5 engaged along the way by ambushes set up by Spetsnaz, Russian airborne infantry and Hizbullah commandos brought into the area by helicopters. Jihadi casualties were very heavy and many attempted to surrender.
From 7 January onward 5th Assault Corps moved steadily northward toward Idlib City against diminishing resistance that demonstrated a weakness at least partly brought on by the heavy losses experienced in the Aleppo battle and the defeat suffered on 6 January NE of Taftanaz.
As 5th Assault Corps approaches the Jisr-al-Shugur to Idlib City road from the south on 10 January, jihadi forces withdrew from Jisr al-Shugur to avoid being by-passed and cut off.
On 11 January jihadi forces evacuated Idlib City and withdrew to the north through ambushes and interdicting airstrikes.
On 12 January 5th Assault Corps entered Idlib City.
Requirement: Give your opinion as to what further actions R+6 will take before the game ends on 18 January in game time and what the political situation will be on 18 January. pl & TTG
"When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun."
“Twas in the moon of wintertime, when all the birds had fled,
That God the Lord of all the earth sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim
and wandering hunters heard the hymn
Within a lodge of broken bark, the tender babe was found.
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
the angel song rang loud and high
The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair,
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
with gifts of fox and beaver pelt
Jean de Brebeuf, S.J. Martyr and Author of
Christmas in Vietnam.
"The war went on in the central highlands. At Christmas time I decided to hold a detachment Christmas party. I mentioned this to the battalion commander of 3/525, MI Group, LTC Paul Langford during a visit by Langford to Song Be. As we discussed this, a five gallon water jug of home made “hootch” bubbled happily in a corner of my office under the beneficent warmth of an electric light. Pineapple juice, brewer’s yeast and a daily “feeding” of sugar were creating something within that obviously was alive. The application of sugar invariably produced a tempest in the bottle. The men began to think of it as a pet.
Langford ignored the bottle. “Are you going to leave someone to man each station?” he asked. “That’s all right then,” he said when assured. “Let’s not tell Group. They already think you and I are nuts.” I bought cases of Mumm’s Cordon Rouge and other goodies in Saigon, and on the appointed day mysterious personages began to arrive from all over the Border on Air America’s scheduled service. All in all, there were about twenty party goers. The province senior advisor, LTC Ray Suarez and the local CIA boss attended. There was much singing of Christmas carols, as well as a ham, a turkey and such cooked by the kitchen in the Special Forces "B" camp in town. The bald headed, middle aged light weapons man in the team was also mess sergeant. He had been a feldwebel in the Grossdeutschland and later an adjutant-chef in the 2nd REI. Like most of the men in that B Team he felt sorry for me in my exile from SF. He and several others from the B Team were at the party.
The guests sang the "Huron Carol" (in English) to humor me.
“For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given...”
Isaiah, 9:1-3, 5-6
At midnight, celebration was interrupted by the sound of machine gun fire in the distance. The revelers trooped outside to see if they were going to have to fight on Christmas Eve. There were hard words concerning the ancestry of the enemy. Across the wire, across the outpost line, across the valley of no-man’s land were the crests occupied habitually by the “opposition.” From these heights there rose a stream of green, Soviet made “tracer.” The celebrants contemplated this for a minute, and then Suarez suggested a reply. An M-60 machine gun emerged from the house, and while one man fired red tracer into the air, another held the bipod above his head and another fed the gun its belted ammunition. The streams of bullets crossed in the black, star-studded sky. The VC gun fell silent, as did the American. There was a hush as warriors waited for some sign that the hope of common humanity yet lived. The VC fire resumed. Now there were three guns shooting green stars into the blackness. The MI men’s gun chattered merrily, spilling a river of shell casings into the street. Red and green filled the night. "
Every Christmas I post this excerpt from an autobiographical sketch I wrote once. This incident is reminiscent of the legendary football game in no man's land in 1914. The men at the party were of the Third Combat Battalion, 525th Military Intelligence Group, MACV CORDS Advisory Team 94, the CIA and the 5th Special Forces Group. The place was Song Be, Phuoc Long Province. It was 1968.
There is a statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. On the pediment is inscribed, "Love makes memory eternal."
The party-goers are long gone. Some never saw another Christmas. Some died a couple of months later when the men across the way nearly took the town.
They tried for what seemed an eternity but was actually less than a week. We killed six hundred of them in repelling their valiant effort. Some died around my house and in the street in front of my gate. We buried four hundred bodies found in front of and in our (US and Vietnamese) positions. The Second Brigade of the First Cavalry Division was ordered into the fight halfway through the battle. Without them the VC would have killed or captured us all. PW survivors told us how many the enemy lost. They were of the 211th, 212th and 165th VC battalions under VC Military Region 10. By that time these units were mostly North Vietnamese in their manning. They were "foemen worthy of our steel."
God rest all these worthy gentlemen. pl
"La chorale des orphelines de la Fondation de l’Imam Moussa al-Sadr venue chanter Noel à l’église Saint-Elie de Beyrouth en est la parfaite illustration. Ce spectacle, a priori anodin, peut représenter un exemple à suivre pour les autres pays, notamment en Europe, où malgré les vaines tentatives de formatage artificiel des esprits, les uns et les autres vivent dans une méfiance réciproque sans cesse grandissante." claudeelkhal blogspot
On this day in 1776, General Washington led his cold, ill fed and ill equipped army across the Delaware River to attack and decisively defeat the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. It was a morning of bloody footprints in the snow and supreme audacity.
My son captioned the image above after we joked about the idea. Some may find this inappropriate black humor, but we like it. There are a number of inaccuracies. The Hessians were not sleeping off a night of holiday merriment. They were stone cold sober. Washington crossed the Delaware in the dead of the night, not in the light of dawn. That particular flag was not created until six months after the battle. Nevertheless, I like it. It stands for the Army that I remember and love. The Army of the FIDO attitude. (Look it up if you don't understand.) This is the Army that Churchill aptly described when he said, "We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us."
Some pictures from a Karachi newspaper on a rally and procession on Karachi's main street — as part of the Xmas celebrations by the Christian community (in which many local Muslims join). There are more pictures in the paper (at this link).
Administration. All remains the same.
Scenario Turn 2.
Christmas Day to 1 January.
R+6 elements have continued to eliminate pockets of jihadi/unicorn resistance in the Damascus region with many former opposition fighters accepting government pardons and amnesty. Those not willing to do so have been bussed north into Idlib Province. Most of the 5th Assault Corps of the SAA moved north into Hama Directorate after 25 December and attacked to eliminate the Rastan Pocket just north of Homs. By 1 January the pocket was largely gone and the 5th Corps had deployed most of its forces northward to the southern border of Idlib Province where they were positioned by New Year's Eve.
Evacuations from east Aleppo had largely ended by New Year's Eve with UN observer parties wandering about searching for mass graves in east Aleppo and getting drunk at New Year's Eve parties in the nightclubs of the western part of the city.
YPG/SDF forces captured the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River on the day after Christmas.
Deir al-Zor remained firmly in government hands having been reinforced with air delivered supplies and equipment.
The newly promoted Tiger Force Commander, Fareeq (LTG) Suheil al-Hassan was seen in the streets of Aleppo in the days immediately following Christmas leading many to conclude that the reports of his troops (Tiger Forces and Desert Hawks) having remained in the Damascus area were a ruse de guerre.
The day after Christmas jihadi forces attempted to take the two Shia villages of Kafraya and al-Fu'a just north of Idlib City by storm. They were repulsed after hours of fighting with losses on both sides. Russian airborne engineers were airlifted into the villages the next day as well as Hizbullah and IRGC troops to bolster the defenses of the two villages. The engineers have used farm vehicles and explosives to demolish a number of roadside buildings along the 4700 ft. stretch of straight road between the villages. This road is in use as of New Year's Eve as an improvised airstrip for STOL aircraft and helicopters.
SOHR in London has been reporting in late December that Russian Spetznaz and Hizbullah raiding and reconnaissance parties have been engaged in acts of assassination of local jihadi leaders all over Idlib Province and in several cases have left messages pinned to the bodies designed to implicate rival jihadi groups in the area. Among the places raided was the area between the old Taftanaz air base east of the two Shia villages and the national M5 highway a few miles east of the air base.
Near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing three Turkish border guards were abducted the day after Christmas. They were found hanging from telephone poles on the Syrian side of the line. On the chest of the senior man was pinned a note in Turkish, Arabic and Russian that read "Measure for Measure."
It was reported on SANA on New Year's Eve that it is the opinion of the R+6 allies that the jihadis/the unicorns and their foreign supporters are merely stalling for time with talk of nation wide cease fires and negotiations and that the stalling is just an attempt to gain time to consolidate jihadi power in Idlib Province. SANA stated that the Syrian Government and its friends would act in accordance with this belief.
New Year's Day.
Coordinated concentric attacks began at Beginning Morning Nautical Twilight (BMNT) all around the perimeter of Idlib Province:
1. East from Lattakia in the direction of Jisr al-Shugur. The Syrian Marines seem to be the lead element, but there are reports of Russian armor with them.
2. North by 5th Assault Corps in the general direction of Idlib City. Initial priority of supporting fires seems to be tasked to them.
3. All around the western and NW perimeters of the government positions at Aleppo City, attacks began en echelon from south to north in a series of rolling offensives apparently designed to draw jihadi attention and reserves toward the north. R+6 forces have had some success in all these attacks. Khan Touman on the M5 highway fell to the Republican Guard at 1000 AM. Souhail's mobile reserve remained unlocated and uncommitted by the end of the day.
Russian air activity remained heavy throughout the day.
Requirement. State your opinion as to the likely development of game action in the period beginning 2 January to 10 January. pl &TTG
On December 19, the Florida Bulldog, an online news publication, released an October 2012 FBI document, revealing that the Bureau's investigation into Saudi support for the September 11, 2001 terrorists continued for at least a decade after the Joint Congressional Inquiry completed their report and eight years after the 9/11 Commission report partially exonerated the Saudi regime. Attorneys for the Florida publication filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in Federal Court earlier this year, to obtain records relating to the Bureau's internal 9/11 Review Commission.
That internal review commission, chaired by former Reagan Administration Attorney General Edwin Meese, denied that there were new leads on the 9/11 attack, the worst terrorist assault on U.S. territory in history, and sought to discredit an FBI memo citing a second Sarasota, Florida Saudi businessman with close dealings with the Royal Family, who hosted lead hijacker Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 terrorists, and who fled the United States weeks before the attacks.
As part of the Court-ordered document release, the FBI turned over a heavily redacted copy of an FBI "Updates and Initiatives" report dated October 5, 2012 (which was not scheduled to be declassified until December 31, 2037). That document showed that the FBI was still actively investigating leads on 9/11 co-conspirators, and that at least two individuals had been identified as collaborators of two of the hijackers who lived in San Diego for more than a year, prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At least one of those newly identified individuals was working on behalf of Saudi intelligence agents Osama Basnan and Omar al-Bayoumi, and was assigned to assist hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in their "day-to-day" activities. Basnan and al-Bayoumi were subjects of the recently declassified 28-page chapter from the original December 2002 Joint Inquiry Report, which was suppressed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama until July of this year. The two Saudi spies were paid at least $50,000 by then-Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, and one of the pair received regular monthly "salary and expense" payments from a Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation contractor.
Although the names of many of the newly identified contacts with the San Diego terrorists were blacked out of the document, two names were released, because both have criminal ties. Osama "Sam" Mustafa owned a gas station near San Diego, where hijacker al-Hazmi worked in 2000. Mustafa was already a subject of FBI terrorism investigations prior to that time frame, and in 2012, Mustafa was arrested in Tampa, Florida on charges he was part of a $17 million tax fraud scheme. Convicted a year later, Mustafa skipped out on a bond and remains a fugitive to this day. He was sentenced ultimately to 20 years in prison.
The other individual, Mohdar Abdullah, was identified in the FBI document as one of two people assigned by al-Bayoumi on February 4, 2000 to assist the two San Diego-based hijackers in their daily lives. Abdullah, the FBI report explained, "played a key role in facilitating the daily lives aned assisting future Flight 77 hijackers." Abdullah was arrested by the FBI on September 19, 2011 and deported on immigration fraud charges. While in detention awaiting deportation, according to the FBI document, "he bragged to two fellow inmates that he assisted the hijackers. The FBI and SDNY have debriefed these individuals."
The heavily redacted FBI four-page memo, which is one of an estimated 1,100 documents to be released to the Florida Bulldog under the FOIA suit, referenced investigations still underway in Copenhagen, Denmark; London, England; and New York City.
Members of Congress are continuing to work with former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham on pursuing full release of all of the still-classified materials relating to 9/11. Graham told the Bulldog that "This [document] has never been disclosed before and it's to the contrary of everything the FBI has produced so far that has indicated that 9/11 is history. It's interesting that it took them 11 years to get there, and a FOIA to get this information to the public."
While the newly released document shows that the FBI continued to develop new leads on the network of support for the hijackers more than a decade after the attacks, and it reinforced leads first contained in the long-suppressed 28 pages, detailing possible Saudi regime backing for the terrorists, it more importantly suggests that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies will be under renewed pressure to make full disclosure--no matter how it impacts on the already strained U.S.-Saudi relationship.
"Near-complete surprise was achieved by a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance. The Germans attacked a weakly defended section of the Allied line, taking advantage of heavily overcast weather conditions, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance on the northern shoulder of the offensive around Elsenborn Ridgeand in the south around Bastogne blocked German access to key roads to the northwest and west that they counted on for success. Columns of armor and infantry that were supposed to advance along parallel routes found themselves on the same roads. This and terrain that favored the defenders threw the German advance behind schedule and allowed the Allies to reinforce the thinly placed troops. Improved weather conditions permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, which sealed the failure of the offensive. In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment, as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line." wiki
Long ago and far away I served with a man named Bill Harris. This was in Turkey in a big NATO headquarters. Harris was a full colonel and a WW2 paratrooper. I was a very young major just back from Vietnam.
Bill was from Missouri, had attended the University of Missouri and had left that institution in the mid-30s when he ran out of money. He joined the pre-WW2 US Army and had reached the rank of sergeant before the Japanese attacked the fleet at Pearl Harbor.
He spent a few months improving the training of National Guard troops as they mobilized for war and then was sent to the Infantry Officer Candidate school at Fort Benning, Georgia. To his surprise he was assigned to the emerging paratroop force at graduation. He served with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division throughout the war in Europe.
Bill jumped into; Sicily and Salerno in Italy, Normandy and Holland with the 505th Regiment. He was the only man I ever saw who had four stars embedded in his parachute badge, one for each of his combat jumps. At the end of the Market Garden operation in Holland the 82nd Division was pulled back to a rest and training area outside Paris. There, the division built itself a camp and settled down to wait for spring and an anticipated jump across the Rhine. By that time, Bill Harris was a major and the chief operations staff officer (S-3) of the 505th.
Christmas approached and the division prepared to party. Officers' Class A uniforms were brought over from storage in England so that they would look resplendent for an anticipated grand Christmas gala to be held a few days before the holiday. The front was far to the east and the intelligence people thought the Germans would be inactive for a while, certainly long enough for the 82nd to celebrate. The division's engineers built an amphitheater made of canvas and wood in which to hold the officers' party. The structure had concentric circular platforms on which tables for four were placed at higher and higher levels as one moved away from the center. In the very center of the big tent was a dance floor. The division's band combined forces with part of the Air Corps' Glenn Miller Orchestra to provide music. "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "American Patrol" sounded through the wintry night for the party. Women and booze were pre-requisites for such an event. Paris was an easy source for the liquor. Army nurses, Red Cross girls and French women from the city were invited and eagerly accepted.
A video is worth a thousand words.
Well, pilgrims, this is the Aziziya neighborhood in West Aleppo. It is a very multi-confessional district. I particularly like the brass band in Santa suits. They appear to be playing the Syrian National Anthem. Note the two comely teen aged girl scouts standing near the band. The display of flags is interesting; Syria, Russia, Hizbullah. One of our German correspondents on SST informed us the other day that there are now some Christian members of Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia militia. This would make sense because after the 2006 war against Israel Hizbullah assigned priority of its own reconstruction money to Christians in south Lebanon. The tree has a Lebanese cedar emblem on it so I suppose it came from there. The MSM portrays Aleppo as a smoking ruin. What do you say about this, Joe? pl
“He’s a plasterer,” we used to joke, “unless he’s plastered.” The subject of our youthful mirth was a guy named “Joe.” I’m not sure I ever knew his other name. Some called him “wino Joe.” He was a fixture in the area around our little town. He had a two-wheeled wagon, a tall thing that we often saw mounded up with bottles. Joe scoured the highways for empty bottles. The two-cent deposits added up, he said, and often enough for his needs, I guess, he was able to buy a bottle of wine with the proceeds.
I think the stuff might have been called “Golden Pheasant.” It came in flat-sided pint bottles, and I recall seeing Joe hold a full one up to the rising sun one morning. “Breakfast,” he said appreciatively.
There were times, however, when the supply of empty pop bottles was simply insufficient. In those times Joe fell back on plastering. My dad said he was an artisan. I never knew exactly what he meant, but one night late Joe came to do a job and he was so drunk my dad had to hold him on the ladder. The house didn’t have sheetrock then, but rather real plaster with thin, hand-hewn strips of lath behind the uneven, discolored plaster. Sometimes when big chunks fell off we were able to extract long strips of yellowed newsprint with dates from the early 1870s.
When Joe finished the job my dad took out a ten-dollar bill and Joe said, “Nope. That is the ten-dollar bill you loaned me last week. I’m payin’ you back.” My dad shrugged and folded the bill into his pocket.
The next morning Joe was back. He had a sheepish look and he said, “I’d kinda like to look at the job I did last night, I might have had a skinful.”
My dad ushered him inside and they checked the work. I stood in the back of the room and watched. Joe finally turned around, He had an embarrassed smile, “Yeh, that don’t look half bad. Yuh know that ten-dollar bill? I wonder if I could borrow that again?”
It was snowing heavily in Alexandria, Virginia when I first wrote this. The moment reminded me of the time in the '80s when I was in Jerusalem and Amman on government business at Christmas time. It had snowed heavily there as well, an unusual but not unknown event. People were trying to cope with the white, slippery stuff. In Amman I was staying at a very modern hotel with a large circular atrium that went way up into the distant heights surrounded by the balconies that led to bedrooms. The coffee shop was tiered around the well of the atrium. I think the hotel was the Marriott. I arrived at night. In the morning I went down to the lobby to meet the Jordanian Army driver who was to take me to army headquarters. An enormous, decorated Christmas tree filled the atrium. It must have been fifty feet tall. It looked a lot like the tree in the picture. After looking at it for a bit I went to the Qiyada. Among the people I met with there was His Highness, Field Marshal Zeid bin Shaker, Commander in Chief of the Jordanian Army (al-jaysh al-'arabi). When we had finished our business, I told him what I had seen in the hotel. He said he must see it. We got into his car and drove back to the hotel so that he could.
The hotel had covered the tree with star shaped ornaments each inscribed with the name of one of its staff. There were stars with names of all kinds. There were; Marys, Gunters, Muhammads, Seans, Josephs, Ahmads, 'Issas, Pierres, Ivans, Abdullahs, Muhsins, etc. There were hundreds of names.
The prince and I sat at the foot of the tree, drank coffee and chatted. He sent for the manager of the hotel to tell him what a good idea the tree was. His bedouin soldier driver sat a couple of tables away staring at the tree.
Zeid bin Shaker was one of nature's noblemen. He was also an 'Alid, a descendent of the Prophet, a Hashemite cousin of King Hussein, and a Muslim gentleman.
God rest you, merry gentleman. pl
I recommend RT.com and RT America if you get MHz Networks digital broadcast for coverage of the attack in Ankara. The Berlin attack at the Christkindlmarkt in the glow of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche will be well covered in the Western press. That attack seems a repeat of the attack in Nice in July. I will comment on the Ankara attack mostly with RT live updates.
“This is a tragic day in the history of Russian diplomacy. Today, Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov died after being shot at during a public event in Ankara,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Monday evening. The assault on the Russian ambassador is an “act of terrorism,” she added. “We are in touch with Turkish officials, who assured us that there will be a thorough and comprehensive investigation [into the case],” Zakharova said.” (RT)
Putin has already addressed the nation in a televised statement. In addition to praising Ambassador Karlov and expressing his sorrow for his murder, he made the following comments.
"This murder is clearly a provocation aimed at undermining the improvement and normalization of Russian-Turkish relations, as well as undermining the peace process in Syria promoted by Russia, Turkey, Iran and other countries interested in settling the conflict in Syria,"
“We need to know who organized the killing, who gave orders to the assassin.”
“Our only response is stepping up the fight against terrorism. The killers will feel it.”
"An AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici was covering a photo exhibition when a gunman opened fire, assassinating Russia's ambassador to Turkey. He recounts the chaos that unfolded as he captured the scene. "Don't forget Aleppo. Don't forget Syria!" the gunman shouted in Turkish, referring to the Syrian city where Russian bombardments have helped drive rebels from areas they had occupied for years during the war. He also shouted "Allahu akbar" but I couldn't understand the rest of what he said in Arabic." (Richmond Times Dispatch)
An RT update added this about what the assassin said. “Following the shooting of Karlov, the assailant shouted: “Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria!” “Only death can take me away from here. Whoever has a role in this cruelty, they will pay for it one by one. They will,” the man went on to say.” (RT live update)
Turkish authorities said the assassin was a former Turkish police officer who was let go after the failed coup.
“A senior Turkish security official said there are “very strong signs” that the gunman was linked to the network of exiled US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, Reuters reported. He also added that the current investigation is trying to establish links.” (RT live update)
“US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen strongly condemned the attack and has absolutely no links to the gunman, Alp Aslandogan, Gulen’s advisor on media issues, told Reuters. "Mr. Gulen categorically condemns this heinous act,” he stressed.” (RT live update)
So we have an assassin yelling in Turkish and Arabic with threats of retribution for Aleppo while giving the one finger jihadi salute. I think that senior Turkish security official is trying to throw the Russian wolfhound off the scent. I also think the trail will lead to the FSA/Nusra jihadis currently enjoying the benevolence of the West and the Turks. As Putin said, “The killers will feel it.” I can hear my old friend, master sergeant Al Rivers in that booming rebel voice of his, “The shit’s on, good buddy!”
Overview for "hudud hatay," "Borders of Hatay"
SST will now conduct another in the series of war games that have marked our progress toward enlightenment over the years. The goal in such games is to create conditions in which critical and creative thinking can occur with regard to possible or probable futures. The game will be played in three or four turns (TBD). The game will be played in Game Time, not real world time. The Game Time dates and times will be clearly stated and should not be confused with real world times or dates. At the beginning of each turn the control group (pl & TTG) will post a scenario situation for the following turn. The game time Christmas Day situation for the first turn is posted below. Based on that Situation and following Situations, comments are invited that provide the commenters' opinion as to how that Situation would develop over the period of Game Time stated for the turn. The Control Group will judge the worthiness of comments and make decisions as to whether or not they are contributory and should be posted. After a sufficient period of real world time has passed, a new turn scenario will be posted that to some degree reflects the quality of the comments that have been made.
A few cautions for commenters:
1. Do not fight the scenario of the game. The game creates a universe deliberately isolated in time and space from reality. It does that to focus deliberations on a fairly narrow set of possibilities. If you do fight the scenario your comment will not be posted.
2. Do not make comments that reflect real world time rather than game time.
3. Do not make frivolous or obscene comments. If you do, your comments will not be posted and you may be banned from SST.
4. This IS NOT a forecast. It is a probability driven study of one particular scenario. There could easily be others.
"Borders of Hatay" situation as of Christmas Day, 2016.
The Syrian Government stated on Christmas Day that 2017 will be sennat al-nasr, the Year of Victory. By Christmas Day R+6 has re-taken Palmyra with the US led air coalition having operated against IS north of the Palmyra road and R+6 air south of the road as well as in the CAS mode in the immediate area of Palmyra. By Christmas the Tiger Force armor that led the counter-offensive is in the process of being withdrawn from Palmyra for re-fit and rest in the Damascus area. MG Suhail, the Tiger Force commander was interviewed on Christmas Eve in Damascus by SANA and said his men deserved some rest. By Christmas Day the evacuation of east Aleppo is largely complete, a total of around 30,000 having left for jihadiland, and another 100,000 former east Aleppo residents living in government shelters. Relief supplies are beginning to arrive in large quantities. The besieged Shia villages of Kafraya and al-Fu'a a few kilometers north of Idlib City were finally able to send their sick and wounded to Aleppo under the terms of the Aleppo truce. Russia has begun air drops of supplies into these villages. UN observers are in place at Aleppo but the French government, MSM and Brits are still whining about massacres, etc. Turkey continues to provide logistical support to the Nusra connected jihadis through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing into Idlib Province, Syria. The Al-Bab confrontation among the Turks, FSA, the SAA and YPG remains stalemated as does the sadly inept effort of the Iraqi Security forces to re-capture Mosul. The SDF/YPG are still well north of Raqqa and Tabqa, but still capturing villages. Israel continues its more or less open support of IS on the Golan Front. R+6 air continues to strike all over Idlib Province, around Deir al-Zor and in the Palmyra area. There have been a number of assassinations and explosions throughout Idlib province. Speculation abounds as to whether this is the result of continued infighting triggered by the influx of Aleppo rebels in the area or suspected payback strikes by Russian Spetsnaz for the assassination of Ambassador Karlov.
First Turn Requirement.
State your opinion as to what has happened by 2 January, 2017 (Game Time). pl & TTG
Whatever their class or station in life, everyday people have a right to live normal life that has its moments of satisfaction and pleasure and peace. So many people live lives of quiet desperation, and over time, if the conditions of their life continues make them suffer, they will feel alarmed, oppressed and cheerless.
Trump supporters are very aware of these things: the vast wealth that has infiltrated politics, the closing of the doors that were to help them rise in life, the flood of consumer goods, that they are being ignored by the TV news. All this funds indignation and anger that social evils that make them miserable are allowed to continue without efforts to alleviate or change them for the better. They believe it is entirely unjust that they have to suffer from needless misery all their lives.
Many people don’t have time to reflect on the meaning of their lives. Their lives consist of strenuous exertions, back breaking efforts, and for many the rewards for those efforts is piddling. They are fated to work like oxen and their pain only ends when they die. No respite, no encouragement, no praise or honors are theirs. For the majority life offers noting but the slavery of work.
President-elect Trump said he loved uneducated people. His aim was to reach people through their feelings. I may disagree with many of the stances of such people, but uneducated people are still people. They are proud, they fearlessly confront suffering, they provide for their families and children, but without rewards and new incentives, providing for others becomes a thankless task.
People who lack education, who aren’t cultured, who have no knowledge of history are still human beings, and they still have rights. The goal of any political system is to provide the means for people to pursue happiness in any way they can under the law. We all have a right to be happy and contented and proud, They work to expand the benefits and pleasures earned by their efforts. We used to respect “the “common good” as an ideal, but the common good isn't common any more. The common good these days belongs to the elites. If you don’t belong to an elite, you feel betrayed and left behind. No enjoys second place.
Tedious, poorly paid work which offers no prospects, strangles ambition. Human beings must have certain prospects before them or they wither under ceaseless drudgery. A hopeless life is a dismal one. To try to improve your lot, when the social and political conditions denies us any feeing of real worth, is the worst fate imaginable.
When people are trapped in that kind of life they will choose to change it. They hope for escape, and the hope of change helps them to endure their lot. That is what Trump supporters feel. Patrick Henry wrote, “we have it in our power to create the world new.” President-elect Trump campaigned on this idea. He told his supporters that he would build a better, more just order of human society. He said that certain evils had no right to exist, and that he would combat them.
No human being should die feeling that his or her was basically a disappointment.
In 1925, a British clergyman noted these things as enemies of the common people:
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.
Perhaps the battle against such things can begin anew.
The Golden Division of the ISF has reportedly lost 50% of its troops in the Mosul battle thus far. Field Marshal Ashton Carter was out there recently to buck up the "fellows." It must have been an interesting set of discussions. IMO the Iraqis lack the will to take Mosul and the Kurds see it as yet another Sunni Arab city full of people who, like those who are leaving east Aleppo in Syria, are really jihadi supporters. The IS are well dug in at Mosul and it will be necessary to destroy much of the city to re-capture it. I wonder what Mikey Flynn will say about that.
It is cold and wet and nasty out in the field in Syria. That slows everything down. When your clothes are freezing stiff you don't think about much but getting warm.
The dastardly propagandists of the Western media continue to suggest that parts of east Aleppo are still in the hands of the takfiri rats, but that is untrue. The government controls the whole city. The jihadis are just waiting for the bus. Part of the agreement for surrender was that the long besieged Shia villages of Kafraya and Fu'a, a few miles north of Idlib City, would be allowed to evacuate their wounded and sick to government lines. The takfiri rats stopped that evacuation and in retaliation Shia militias in Aleppo halted the outflow of jihadis and their dependents. That will be sorted out. I am curious to know how many people actually were in the jihadi enclave at the end.
I am saddened to learn that the UK government has sent a military mission consisting of 20 officers with ranks up to brigadier to re-establish the military capabilities of escaped and defeated "moderate" FSA unicorns. These unicorns are refugees from the debacle at Aleppo. Well, pilgrims, where are the Brits going to do this training, etc.? Perhaps the unicorn jihadis will be trucked around through Hatay to the area under Turkish Army control between Al-Bab and the Turkish border. There are some SAS types guarding the trainers and in that area they would be fairly secure. OTOH, if they try to do their job inside Idlib Province the UK government should prepare to receive some body bags with full ceremony. pl
"Turkey’s policy aimed at preventing Syrian Kurds from gaining a swath of territory along the Turkish-Syrian border has totally trumped its desire to see the end of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Developments show that Turkey at this point is even enabling Assad’s drive to regain control of Syria. The Turkish drive to capture the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of al-Bab, only 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Turkish border, also aims at curbing Kurdish aspirations. Gaining control of this town has become a matter of prestige for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been arguing for weeks that it is on the verge of being taken.
The problem for Turkey, however, is that it is not just Kurds attached to the People's Protection Units (YPG) — which Ankara views as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — who are racing to take al-Bab.
The Syrian regime also wants the town to consolidate its imminent victory in Aleppo. Al-Bab is a gateway to Aleppo, which also leaves Moscow concerned that it could provide a supply line for anti-regime fighters.
Reports have appeared in the Turkish media claiming that the Syrian army and the YPG are collaborating to enter the town before the Turkish-supported Free Syrian Army (FSA). But following assurances by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim regarding Turkey's intention in Syria, given during his visit to Moscow last week, there are indications that Ankara has obtained a conditional green light from Russia to move on al-Bab."
It does appear that Russia is copacetic with Turkish forces and their FSA allies taking al-Bab… at least for now. The Russians and the SAA clearly have other fish to fry. At least the Turks are occupying the attention of a sizable number of IS jihadis. The Turks have moved three hundred or so “commandos” to al-Bab along with a number of their Leopard 2 tanks. Within the last 48 hours, Turkish authorities report four F-16s have hit 28 IS targets in the area with another 157 targets hit by artillery.
The IS is not just rolling over in this fight. The Hurriyet Daily News said IS has fortified the city with nearly a thousand ditches including two meter wide anti-tank ditches supported by minefields and anti-tank weapons. Three Leopard 2s have been reported to be destroyed by IS TOW-2s and Konkurs missiles as of yesterday. The Turkish/FSA offensive is stalled on the outskirts of al-Bab. The U.S. is providing no air or ground support to this Turkish offensive.
The Turks will probably take al-Bab before too long, but what’s next? Erdogan has answered that question himself. Anadalou Agency quoted Erdogan as saying, "At this moment, we are focused on al-Bab, we have surrounded al-Bab on the west, and we will go from here to Manbij.” Well that should get interesting.
AIN ISSA, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan24) - The US-backed Syrian Kurdish-Arab alliance announced on Wednesday they liberated dozens of villages and approached a strategic town held by the Islamic State (IS) group west of the city of Raqqa. Kurdistan24 correspondent embedded with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported that about twenty villages were liberated from IS in the western countryside of Raqqa.
On the third day of the second phase of the offensive launched last month to liberate the Syrian de facto capital of IS, the SDF advanced about 15 km/9 miles towards the IS-held area of Tabqa, some 60 km (40 miles), to the west of Raqqa.
Several SDF fighters on the frontlines told Kurdistan24 that most of IS insurgents were leaving their positioning without any resistance. "[IS] insurgents don't fight, they just flee in front of our forces," said Hoger, a Syrian Kurdish SDF fighter. Additionally, the fighters said they were fighting IS and helping civilians return to their villages immediately. "After we liberate a village, we clean it and remove the mines, and then we help people return to their homes safely," said Hasan, a Syrian Arab SDF fighter.
SDF officers who talked to Kurdistan24 on conditions of anonymity said the target of SDF and their allies is controlling the Thawra Dam, near the town of Thawra, some 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Aleppo. By controlling the Tabqa dam, the SDF can control the western areas of Raqqa, and then separate those areas from the city, so that IS will be besieged from three sides.
Not long ago, the YPG was threatening to pull out of the Wrath of Euphrates offensive to take Raqqa to aid their brethren in the Manbij Military Council against the Turkish/FSA invasion. Now they are participating in phase two of the operation to take Raqqa. Perhaps the original threat and the YPG columns moving West were maskirovka to move forces into position to strike from the Tishreen Dam towards Tabqa. Looks like the plan worked. U.S. Special Forces and special operations forces are participating in this fight. I’ve also seen videos of Ospreys brings arms and ammunition to the SDF/YPG forces in Ayn Issa. Now we’ll see if IS reinforces this front in any meaningful way.
Both these moves against IS will serve to take pressure off other fronts including Palmyra. Seems the R+6 and the U.S. are okay with all this at the moment. I seriously doubt it will stay that way once Turkey moves agains Manbij in a meaningful way. At some point, this will look like Tolkien's battle of five armies.
"French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday joined calls for international observers to oversee the evacuation of civilians trapped under fire in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
At a meeting with his defence cabinet, Hollande said those trapped by the fighting should “be evacuated in a dignified and safe manner, under the supervision of international observers and in the presence of humanitarian organisations,” the presidency said in a statement.
Hollande also demanded that the population of eastern Aleppo receive “unconditional aid and protection” and said only a negotiated political transition could lead to “a lasting victory over terrorism” in Syria." AFP & AMN
What is this "stiff" polling at now? 4%? 6%?"
On MJ today Mika bleated "but where are they going, all these poor families?" Ayman Mohy ad-Din told her that they were going to Idlib. "Where is that" she stammered. Ayman replied that this is a city and province still held by the jihadis. She stared blankly at him. It appears that she is as stupid and uninformed as Hollande.
The Borgist press carefully avoids describing the civilians voluntarily leaving East Aleppo by Green Bus (Assad Transport, Inc.) as the dependent families of jihadis as well as civilian jihadi cadres themselves. Get on the bus!
BTW I think Francois Fillon looks like a good man to be president of France, but then, I guess I am interfering in the French electoral process.
"The Syrian army has driven militant groups out of the Aleppo areas that remined under their control, First Deputy Head of the Main Operations Department at the Russian General Staff Lieutenant General Viktor Poznikhir announced on December 15.
“The militants have been driven out of all the quarters that remained under their control as a result of the Syrian troops’ offensive. During the operation, over 900 terrorists have been killed, dozens pieces of heavy weapons and other military equipment have been destroyed,” the general said.
Poznikhir added that “105 city quarters with a total area of 78.5 square kilometers” have been liberated by government forces since the start of the offensive in November, 2016.
Over 3,000 militants have withdrawn from Aleppo under the agreement with the Syrian government. Over a half of the militant have been pardoned by the government.
“A total of 3,033 militants have left Aleppo voluntarily, 1,524 of them have been amnestied and released, while the rest are checked,” Poznikhir said.
Separately, over 1,000 militants have been evacuated from Aleppo via a humanitarian corridor opened from Salah al-Din to the settlement of Al-Rashidin-4."
Well, well, well. You heard that this would happen first here and at MoA. It seems that "b" and SSTers can read a map and comprehend what happens when forces meet on a battlefield or in a campaign area.
The Palmyra area needs some reinforcement. The IS "reivers" ("Serenity" reference) should not be allowed to get west of Tiyas. The Palmyra salient was basically untenable with the troops available.
Idlib and the Bab al-Hawa crossing should have priority of resources in the next phase. pl
I lifted this from an EO comment. That is why it has no paragraph breaks. pl
"Colonel – this is an email I sent in response to a reproach that in opposing Western policy in Syria I was supporting a mass murderer, as proved by Assad’s actions in recovering East Aleppo. It’s too long for insertion in your comments section but it occurs to me that if your committee of experts were able to put together an overview of the Syrian war with particular reference to East Aleppo it might give many of us something to fall back on when responding to such reproaches. “The Syrians had to get East Aleppo back or they’d have had little chance of successfully resisting Daesh in the longer term. But what occurred in East Aleppo might also be viewed as a hostage release operation. The Jihadis were fighting from a populated area. It was therefore difficult to defeat them without civilian casualties. For this reason the Russians kept on agreeing to cease fires or "pauses" in the fighting in order to get the civilians out. In the meantime the Jihadis were able to fire indiscriminately into Western Aleppo causing a number of civilian casualties. The pauses the Russians insisted on didn’t work that well because (1) the pauses were used by the Jihadis to regroup and where possible to re-supply, so to some extent the pauses just prolonged the agony. It’s possibly true therefore that more were killed as a result of some of these pauses than were saved. (2) The Jihadis shot at the civilians as they were attempting to leave. In spite of these drawbacks the Russians kept plugging away with the humanitarian pauses and ultimately it did work. By the end they were getting a lot of civilians out and also getting a lot of the Jihadis to lay down their arms. How many moderate rebels did the same we won’t know. The term “moderate rebel” or “rebel” might indeed have some meaning in the Syrian context but it’s a term so often used by the politicians as a euphemism for Al-Qaeda or similar groups that that meaning is never clear. Bear in mind also that many of those Jihadis couldn't really be called true Jihadis anyway. Aleppo was an industrial area before the war. When Daesh took over East Aleppo machinery and equipment was dismantled and taken to Turkey. In addition the sanctions had damaged the Syrian economy. Those two factors meant that many people lost their jobs. When Daesh came in they had a great amount of money behind them so the jobless who’d stayed often enlisted with Daesh in order to feed their families. One aim of the Syrian government was to get these people off the Daesh payroll and back into Syrian society. That seems to have worked, although you can't be sure some won't be shot in a quiet corner later. Some of the Aleppo population who joined Daesh were, however, true believers. Fanatics, just as the invaders were.
1. Having lost the Battle for Aleppo, the Assad must Go crew have now moved on to projecting memes involving false analogies to The Shoah and NAZI Germany as the aftermath of Jihadi defeat in the city. Wild and unsubstantiated rumor is being spread by the UN, SOHR (MI-6) and Western media to the effect that Syrian troops are butchering civilians including THE CHILDREN in the streets in a re-enactment of every sack of a city the propagandists can dimly remember. In fact the Syrians and Russians are evacuating civilians from the recently liberated combat areas, caring for them in makeshift shelters and preparing them for return to their homes. Does the SAA have a list of hard core jihadis who they are looking for and aiming to eliminate? SAA intelligence has had agents inside East Aleppo where they made appropriate lists. These lists would include some fervent civilian collaborators with the jihadi cause. This is war. Dead men don't bite.
2. It seems that the former Nusra front and its allies are moving men up to the Aleppo area from Hama in anticipation of a next phase operation into Idlib province probably oriented on Idlib City and Jisr al-Shugur.
3. ISW is pushing the propaganda theme that the capture of Palmyra by an "army" of Technicals and suicide bombers is a major setback for the R+6. It is not. IMO the attack was made on an opportunistic basis by IS seeking to take advantage of R+6 focus on the Aleppo battle.
4. Palmyra can wait. The ruins and the propaganda leverage that IS capture of them provide are not worth diverting scarce ground assets from the center of gravity of the fight. That center of gravity is in Idlib Province and the Turkish border crossing at Bab al-Hawa. pl
In 1996 I heard the siren song of the developing field of Information Warfare (IW). The concept intrigued me, but I found it was little more than a conglomeration of well established aspects of warfare. IW was visualized as an image of a Greek temple with five columns. The “five pillars” of IW at that time were OPSEC, PSYOPS, military deception, electronic warfare and physical destruction. See. Nothing new. In retrospect, these early attempts were rather crude and simplistic.
Shortly after that, I had the pleasure and good fortune of meeting Tim Thomas. He was a Russian FAO and an analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth. He was an expert in Soviet/Russian military doctrine and in the Russian equivalent of IW, commonly referred to as information confrontation or information-based warfare. We shared an interest in all things Russian and, between us, had a fair amount of experience dealing with Russians. I told him of my experiences with Russian trained cyberneticists and he introduced me to the concept of reflexive control. This theory has been a subject of study in the Soviet Union for over fifty years. It became the guiding principle in the development of the Soviet Union’s/Russia’s growing capability in information confrontation.
Tim Thomas describes reflexive control in his July 1996 article “Russian Views on Information-based Warfare.” He’s written a lot on this subject since then.
"Information manipulation/perception management"
"Disinformation is a Russian technique that manipulates information and misinforms people or groups. Some disinformation procedures are obvious, some unconvincing, and some work through delayed perceptions, rumors, repetition, or arguments. Specific persons or particular social groups can serve as disinformation targets. The purpose of a disinformation campaign is to influence the consciousness and mind of man. In Russia today, where there is an unstable public-political and socio-economic situation, the entire population could serve as the target of influence for an enemy campaign."
"The authorities in Moscow recognize this and are trying to gain control over a most dangerous situation in their view. Clearly, the management of information is essential to their maintenance of stability. Historically, the Soviet Union was very good at developing theories of information management. Their propaganda machine stood at the apex of this effort. One of their most interesting Cold-war methods for managing information and getting people (or an opponent) to do what an action's initiator wanted was described by the theory of reflexive control. Reflexive control is a "branch of the theory of control related to influencing the decisions of others. In a military context, it can be viewed as a means for providing one military commander with the ability to indirectly maintain control over his opponent commander's decision process." Reflexive control involves creating a pattern or providing partial information that causes an enemy to react in a predetermined fashion without the enemy realizing that he is being manipulated. Its aim is to force an enemy commander to make a decision that, through the manipulation of information, was predetermined by the opposing side.“
Our doctrine of IW, now information operations, has come a long way from those early days of the five pillared temple. Perception management, now a core concept of our doctrine, is a first cousin of reflexive control. And we are equally good at it.
I share all this with you, my fellow correspondents, so that you may read two articles from “War on the Rocks” with open, yet critical minds. “WHODUNNIT? RUSSIA AND COERCION THROUGH CYBERSPACE” by Robert Morgus and “TROLLING FOR TRUMP: HOW RUSSIA IS TRYING TO DESTROY OUR DEMOCRACY” by Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts and J.M. Berger describe this year’s series of hacks, leaks and false news as a deliberate Russian information operation targeting the U.S. If you have the time and/or inclination, I suggest you drill down through all the embedded links in the articles. There’s a lot of good stuff there.
As many of you know, I am convinced that all this was the result of a well planned and executed information operation undertaken by the Russian government. I’ve spent a decade working in and around this type of thing and can recognize an elegant information operation when I see one. And elegant it was. No drone assassinations. No extrajudicial kidnappings and imprisonments. No arming of terrorists. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, you magnificent bastard, I salute you.
What I don’t know is the true objective of this operation. Was it to defeat Clinton and elect Trump? Was it to destroy confidence and increase doubt in our political system and/or media? Perhaps it was it something else altogether. One’s answers to these questions seems totally dependent on one’s political inclinations. Since there are so many other factors that brought about our present situation, I doubt we’ll ever know the true motives behind this information operation. Nor will we know its true effectiveness or ineffectiveness. But one thing I can assure all of you, it's happening, baby.