"... a city of sharply contrasting halves, and one side clearly appears to have the upper hand.
In a park on the government-held side, families picnic while children line up to buy balloons and popcorn. A few miles away, on a sprawling university campus, thousands of students attend class. Downtown, the city’s cinema plays the latest Hollywood films. In the evenings, the restaurants fill.
War brings death and discomfort, but life continues here with a surprising degree of normality.
It’s a far cry from the images of Aleppo the world has seen during Syria’s war: the rubble-filled streets, the carcasses of buildings, lifeless bodies being dragged out of piles of detritus after airstrikes. But that is the rebel-held side.
There, the mishmash of armed groups in control are almost entirely encircled and were brutally bombarded before a recent cease-fire brought some relief. Sitting right on the battle lines, the old city of Aleppo is in tatters. The 13th-century citadel that rises above its now scorched markets with their famed vaulted ceilings is a Syrian army base." Washpost
The Borgist (foreign policy establishment) media description of the situation and living conditions in Aleppo city has been mendacious (lying). With the exception of Frederick Pleitgen, TV journalists (most especially from CNN) have consistently traveled to Aleppo with Syrian government cooperation and protection, have stayed in hotels in the government held part (most) of the City and then ventured into the rebel held pocket with its small population of Sunni fanatics, jihadi fighters and FSA unicorns for the purpose of misrepresenting the situation as being one in which "hundreds of thousands" of Alleppans (halabiyeen) are living in Leningrad siege conditions under frightful government and Russian bombardment while starving to death in the hope of achieving basic human rights. What a crock! This is the worst kind of memetic manipulation of images. In the latest such effort that has come to my attention the Anglo-American CNN "flavor of the month," Clarissa Ward traveled to Aleppo (once again over the government held road LOC) to "report" from the rebel pocket in Aleppo City. There, dressed like a salafi nun from hell, she went to moan about how tough things are for those who "fight for their religion." I guess that Pleitgen was just too even handed for the powers that be at CNN. He has now been "exiled" to Europe.
In contrast we have this unaccountably wonderful story in today's Washington Post about real life in Aleppo. Read it. Notice the women students wearing the hijab at Aleppo University in government held Aleppo.
It continues to be my opinion that reduction of the rebel Aleppo and Idlib pockets should be a very high priority for the Syrian government. Getting the electricity back on soon in government held Aleppo should be matter of great concern now that the SAA has recaptured the main power plants. That alone should trigger a wave of defections from among "the pure" in the rebel pocket. pl
"Today the New York Times printed a full-page ad telling Hillary Clinton she has to reject her adviser Sidney Blumenthal and his allegedly anti-semitic son Max, because of Max Blumenthal’s tremendous book on Israel’s militant rightwing political culture, Goliath. The ad on page A7 was paid for by Shmuley Boteach, who has gotten tons of money from Sheldon Adelson. It concludes that Clinton is asking friends of Israel to count on her support for the always-vulnerable Jewish State. If she won’t dissociate herself from her discredited advisor Sid Blumenthal and his rabid, Israel-hating son Max how can we?" Mondoweiss
Here you have a perfect example of the efforts of Revisionist Zionist Jabotinskyites to suppress dissent from their extremist views and control the narrative of the larger world's discussion of Israeli policies and politics.
In the interest of full disclosure - I wrote a jacket blurb for "Goliath." It is a fine book. I recommend it highly.
Tell me, pilgrims, how is it that Sidney Blumenthal has been "discredited?" He is discredited for having given his friend HC advice? Was he responsible for the way she and her staff chose to disseminate that advice? He did not work at the State Department. They did. pl
" ... if the DoJ declines to prosecute after the Bureau recommends doing so, a leak-fest of a kind not seen in Washington, D.C., since Watergate should be anticipated. The FBI would be angry that its exhaustive investigation was thwarted by dirty deals between Democrats. In that case, a great deal of Clintonian dirty laundry could wind up in the hands of the press, habitual mainstream media covering for the Clintons notwithstanding, perhaps having a major impact on the presidential race this year.
The FBI isn’t the only powerful federal agency that Hillary Clinton needs to worry about as she plots her path to the White House between scandals and leaks. For years, she has been on the bad side of the National Security Agency, America’s most important intelligence agency, as revealed by just-released State Department documents obtained by Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents, though redacted, detail a bureaucratic showdown between Ms. Clinton and NSA at the outset of her tenure at Foggy Bottom. The new secretary of state, who had gotten “hooked” on her Blackberry during her failed 2008 presidential bid, according to a top State Department security official, wanted to use that Blackberry anywhere she went.
That, however, was impossible, since Secretary Clinton’s main office space at Foggy Bottom was actually a Secure Compartment Information Facility, called a SCIF (pronounced “skiff”) by insiders. A SCIF is required for handling any Top Secret-plus information. In most Washington, D.C., offices with a SCIF, which has to be certified as fully secure from human or technical penetration, that’s where you check Top-Secret email, read intelligence reports and conduct classified meetings that must be held inside such protected spaces." Observer.com
So, basically the problem arose because she likes her Blackberry (so do I) and she did not want to climb into the traveling SCIF that was hauled around on her world-wide tourism.
Evidently a lot of the stuff that she and her minions sent around the world on an easily intercepted E-mail system had (irony alert) been originally intercepted by US SIGINT overseas. Naughty! Naughty! NSA has very little sense of humor about such things.
IMO the president can suppress DoJ action on an NSA complaint against her just as he can with regard to an FBI suggestion of an indictment of her and her personal staff. Both the FBI and NSA are Executive Branch institutions and if he orders them to shut up, they will have no choice but to do so.
BUT, as the author states, there will then be a firestorm of leaks to the media from both these groups that will be beyond belief. Even the media will eventually understand the import of what they are told. pl
"Cruz has given audiences a preview of just how extreme his administration would be. When speaking to an Iowa audience before the caucus, he got turned to the topic of military action against ISIS. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark. But we’re sure going to find out.” – referring to possible usage of nuclear or indiscriminate carpet bombing. Evoking images of sand, was clearly a ploy at riling up his base at fighting what they consider an existential war against desert peoples.
On the subject of Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, Cruz co-sponsored the Senate resolution justifying Operation Protective Edge, which eventually killed over 2,000 Palestinians. Even though he has no power to do so, he continually states that he would “declare Jerusalem the eternal capitol of Israel” on his first day in office. This is clearly aimed at resonating with a base that relishes the dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims, as evidenced by this posting by a purported Cruz supporter.
Oddly, I know all these men. Where did I go wrong? Ah, too much time inside the Beltway! What kind of man says he would be willing to destroy whole populations with nuclear weapons?
These four men collectively summon up images from the history channel, and they are not good images. pl
"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (from a Winston Churchill House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)
I was asked by one of our SST readers why I thought the Borg (the foreign policy establishment) was not identical with the US political system. I quote below from my response.
"Many people yearn for a simple explanation lodged in a massive world wide conspiracy that seeks to control all aspects of life, something like S.P.E.C.T.R.E. or the Protocols of..., or maybe the Illuminati. Well, it is not that simple. There is NOT one giant conspiracy and the foreign policy establishment has many parts none of which is altogether dominant. It is really a giant consensus among those who can punish or reward in terms of media exposure, degree awards, fellowships, jobs in the government, ridicule or praise, hostility or friendliness, etc. American politics contains some of the same people that are in the Borg (i.e., the foreign policy establishment) but although the two circles overlap they are not the same. The US government was created on the basis of the idea that power should be limited and divided to prevent easy domination of the system by individuals and factions. It was never intended that the system should be efficient. It was built to be inefficient. Today there has emerged a political consultant class that exists to subvert the built in limitations of the US governmental system. They make a fine living by renting themselves to people who want to beat the system and achieve more power than was ever intended by the founders and framers in their constitutional experiment. To do this the consultants describe the political system as merely another form of "marketing" as in the business world where; market share, PR and "branding" are all and content is a very secondary matter. If you listen carefully you will hear unending talk on TV of political and individual "brands" and "media markets.". The "juice" to make this system work is massive contributor money donations, especially from the rich. Contributor money buys access and favors. This totally corrupts the system in favor of the selfish and fanatical. Trump and Sanders do not play by the present rule. they have or raise their own money and appeal directly to the citizenry who believe correctly that the political class abandoned them in the search for personal advancement. Because of that they threaten the existence of the present electoral "industry," and for that they are seen correctly as a threat to political life as an occupation." pl
The Atlantic has just published a long essay, The Obama Doctrine, by their Washington national correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg. Based in most part on wide-ranging reflective interviews with President Barack Obama, the article makes extensive use of direct quotes from that interview. Considerable space is devoted to the various American engagements in the Middle East along with Obama’s views on prospects for the region. It is a remarkable journalistic event insofar as it represents a preemptive attempt by a sitting President to shape the discourse about his record and his legacy. What he says is revealing - less as analysis and interpretation of actions taken, though, than as an ‘exhibit' of all that is peculiar about Obama’s policy-making style - and what the implications for American diplomacy have been.
Obama's overall stance is one of dissociation from his own administration and its conduct. Throughout, he appears to be referring to himself in the 3rd person. This can be seen as the soon to be memoir writer's attempt to cast himself as detached statesman while distancing himself from errors made. However, this degree of dissociation by a still incumbent President is odd. It suggests that he has been playing the role of participant-observer while in the Oval Office. Moreover, it conveys his sense that somehow the words he utters are equivalent to actions. Indeed, a feature of his Presidency has been a frequent mismatch of words and deeds which never get reconciled. Nor do they in this seemingly candid interview. That raises a cardinal question: is this honest reflection or a characteristic flight from accountability?
Two, this strange attitude is most pronounced in his remarks about the Middle East. For example, he inveighs against allowing the United States to be placed in a position of picking sides in Islam's Sunni-Shi'ite civil war. He is especially adamant about the dangers of American power being used as a tool of the Saudis to advance their cause. Yet, this is exactly what he has been doing in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Bahrain. Moreover, he never has confronted the KSA leaders about the promotion of wahabbism or their concrete support for ISIl and al-Qaeda (in Syria and Yemen - where they fight side-by-side with Saudi troops) - either in private or in public.
Let’s step back and reflect on this. Barack Obama, President of the United States, in telling a journalist that his most important ‘ally’ in the Middle East has been aiding and abetting America’s mortal enemies – and that they should stop. Yet, three years after those hostile actions began he has yet to voice his displeasure directly in numerous meetings. Instead, he gets an interview published in a magazine that the Saudi leaders might pick up in the waiting room at the Mayo Clinic on their next medical visit. If there is any sense or logic to this, it must conform to a mental process never before encountered.
When the announcement of a partial withdrawal was made I was as surprised as anyone. I thought: Daesh is not been defeated, the threat of Ankara doing something extraordinary has not disappeared, the Syrian Army still needs air support to liberate other parts of the country, I can't believe that Putin trusts either Washington's promises or its ability to fulfil them. I then went on the Presidential website and found this: "In this context, Mr Putin said that Russia’s Armed Forces have fulfilled their main mission in Syria and a timetable for the withdrawal of the Aerospace Forces’ main air grouping has been agreed." A timetable is not the same as withdrawal, I thought. But then it transpired that aircraft were in fact leaving and the formal meeting of Putin, Shoygu and Lavrov was published. So, think again: the schedule was for the present and not the future.
I think we now know three things. 1) Not all the Russian aircraft are leaving, in fact large-scale strikes against Daesh positions near Palmyra occurred yesterday. 2) Strikes are possible from outside Syria. We have seen the use of long-range aviation from Russia and cruise missiles from the Caspian and Mediterranean. 3) Russian aircraft can be moved back in under 24 hours if needed.
I think Pat’s choice of the times of Andrew Jackson as mirroring our own age of discontent was brilliant. I would like to add a few comments.
The rise of Andrew Jackson marked a new development in American political institutions. From 1812 to 1828, historians tell us that the two-party system had disappeared, replaced by personal, local, sectional conflicts that had come to predominate over broad policy discussions at the national level. The power of the presidency had declined, and the propertyless masses had begun to infiltrate politics.
The world of Thomas Jefferson had begun to expire even before he retired as U.S. President. The Federalist Party was destroyed by the 1812 War. The 1820’s were a time of huge discontent, financial panics, threats of rebellion, and outbursts of violence. Much of the mood was due to the fact that thriving and vigorous classes felt that the central government was either hostile or indifferent to their needs and interests. Jefferson’s promise of equal rights for all had been betrayed, replaced a single class who kept most of the benefits to itself. The class responsible for their bondage was indifferent to its effects on the wider populace.
For example, the new Western states felt their development was being thwarted or sidelined by the economic policies of the East. The impact of the new industrialism of the Northern and Middle states, especially the capitalist reorganization of what had been journeymen industries, spurred discontent to a fever pitch fed by several financial panics. The broadening of suffrage resulted in even more discontent, because the masses believed they were being denied the same advantages enjoyed by the East. Western famers or Eastern workingmen felt themselves suffocated by the existing order and were eager for change. They threw their effort at passing reforms that would vindicate their social status. They wanted security, but even more, they wanted respect. The depression of 1828-9 proved a tipping point.
" ... the SAA and its allies supported by a significant number of Russian warplanes which remain in Syria are continuing active actions against terrorists excluded from the ceasefire agreements. SouthFront also received information that Putin’s decision of the partial withdrawal from Syria concided in time with a regular rotation of the aircraft involved in the Russian operation in Syria. The Russian Aerospace Forces rotate aircraft at the Hmeymim airbase regularly because of a high number of combat sorties conducted by them. By this decision, Russia is also holding an initiative at the diplomatic field. This fact is confirmed by US Secretary of State John Kerry’s decision to visit Russia next week to discuss the Syria crisis." AMN/Southfront
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/southfront-military-situation-overview-syria-march-16-2016/ | Al-Masdar News
Hezbollah has mobilized more soldiers to help liberate the strategic desert city of Palmyra (Tadmur) after originally sending a small contingent to aid the government forces during the preliminary assault on the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS) defenses. Hezbollah’s fighting prowess in this rugged mountainous/desert terrain gives them a strategic advantage over several other units participating in this offensive. Once Palmyra is liberated from ISIS, Hezbollah will likely turn their attention to the eastern slopes of the Qalamoun Mountains, where several terrorist groups have entrenched themselves near the town of Qarah on the Lebanese border.
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/hezbollah-mobilizes-liberate-palmyra/ | Al-Masdar News
Once again, it is my opinion that IS is collapsing in Syria and Iraq. They are starving to death as the money runs out, lost to R+6 and US air action against oil exports through Turkey. At the same time equipment and men are not coming down the reciprocal transport route from Turkey.
Hizbullah's willingness to invest more men in the struggle to take Palmyra is indicative of the continuing ambitions of the anti-jihadi alliance. A similarly aggressive effort is being made by the Syrian garrison of Deir az-Zor. IS seems incapable of halting that and a link-up with Syrian government forces to the west can be expected soon.
We await the advance of the 4th Syrian Corps into the Idlib cauldron battle. pl
"Jackson's quick temper was notorious. Brands says, "His audacity on behalf of the people earned him enemies who slandered him and defamed even his wife, Rachel. He dueled in her defense and his own, suffering grievous wounds that left him with bullet fragments lodged about his body." However, Remini is of the opinion that Jackson was often in control of his rage, and used it (and his fearsome reputation) as a tool to get what he wanted in his public and private affairs.
Brands also notes that his opponents were terrified of his temper:
On the last day of the presidency, Jackson admitted that he had but two regrets, that he "had been unable to shoot Henry Clay or to hang John C. Calhoun. " Wiki on Jackson's Temperament
Some themes remain vital in human affairs for a very long time. A long standing one in the history of the English speaking peoples (Churchill's phrase) is the issue of whether or not government and its control over people's lives should be highly centralized in the service of the interest of metropolitan elites or widely dispersed among the people. This difference of opinion developed after Magna Carta and by the 17th Century had become a split in English life between the Country Party and the Court Party. That distinction was imported to North America and has remained an enduring feature of US political life to the present day.
In 1828, the main issues in the US presidential election were related to this old disagreement concerning governance. The incumbent president, John Quincy Adams, was in many ways an archetypical establishment figure. The son of the second president, he spent his entire life in the federal government, advocated positions that would be popular today in the Borg; emancipation, centralization of financial services and debt in the Second National Bank, etc. He so loved the federal government that, deprived of the White House in 1828, he ran for the House of Representatives where he then served for many years as a figure of the emerging Northern nationalist faction along with Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.
Opposing Adams was Andrew Jackson, the man he had defeated four years before when what was called a "corrupt bargain" was struck in the House of Representatives. Neither man had enough votes in the electoral college to be elected. Jackson was anything but an establishment creature. He was altogether a self made man who had clawed his way up from the bottom of the social order to become rich, powerful and a national military hero. He was rough and crude and he told the ordinary people that he would level the playing field for white men in the USA. He did not hesitate to encourage harsh and violent behavior and had himself personally supervised the removal to the trans-Mississippi of the highly Europeanized tribal Indians of the Southeastern US. Why? The Indians were in the way of the establishment of large scale agribusiness and the settlement of the region by whites and their black slaves. He was quite un-apologetic about all this. When Jackson was inaugurated he threw open the doors of the White House for a reception to which one and all were invited. The crowd famously tracked mud all over the rooms and carpets, stood on the needle point embroidered chairs and got gloriously drunk while they sang bawdy songs. He was re-elected for a second term and to this day is thought of by the Democratic Party as one of their two founding figures. The other being Thomas Jefferson, a somewhat different man, an aristocrat who chose to side with his beloved yeomen farmers.
Now we have Donald Trump, the grandson of a German immigrant from a little country town. The name was originally "Drumpf." Donald Trump's father and his son after him strove mightily and became rich in the dog eat dog world of New York City business where sharp elbows and an abrasive, abusive, bullying manner are requirements for success unless you have that magic commodity, "old money." If you have that, then you can be gracious. Donald trump's daughter, Ivanka, now has old money and is reported to me to be gracious. Donald Trump tells the mainly white spiritual descendants of Jackson's supporters that he will make them whole again both in their self image and in their pocketbooks. That is a powerful message in the face of left wing insistence that white voters are a wasting asset in America.
Opposing him we have the John Quincy Adams figures of the "modern" age; Hillary Clinton, who openly advocates minority interests in what Trump's supporters see as a zero-sum game of political and economic warfare, Bernie Sanders who seems a gentle, well mannered man but who nevertheless is openly in favor of the same kind of re-distributionist policies that most Trump supporters see as an effort to deprive them of control over their own destiny. And then in the background are the politicians, media flunkies, and political consultants for whom Trump threatens a re-definition of politics and parties. pl
"President Vladimir Putin said on Monday "the main part" of Russian armed forces in Syria would start to withdraw, and instructed his diplomats to step up the push for peace as U.N.-mediated talks resumed in Geneva on ending the five-year war.
Syria announced President Bashar al-Assad had agreed on the "reduction" of Russian forces in a telephone call with Putin. Western diplomats urged caution and the anti-Assad opposition expressed bafflement, with a spokesman saying "nobody knows what is in Putin's mind".
Russia's military intervention in Syria in September helped to turn the tide of war in Assad's favor after months of gains in western Syria by rebel fighters, who were aided by foreign military supplies including U.S.-made anti-tank missiles." Reuters
At first glance this seems like a valiant effort to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory," but, maybe not. Bibi's pal, Biden in his recent presser in Israel said something like "even Russia has heard the Lord about Syria." That led Bibi to caution him on the spot to consider whether or not he wanted to use these words. Biden may have been in Israel to shop for a retirement villa on the beach, but among his tasks may also have been the job of informing Natanyahu of a bargain with Russia over Syria and Ukraine. IMO "bth" is probably right that we will soon see remarkable "progress" in a settlement of some kind over Ukraine and a reduction or removal of sanctions on Russia. US "officials" have been quoted today as this having "dropped from the sky." Well, pilgrims, "officials" often don't know what their betters are up to.
Syria? Perhaps the judgment in Moscow is that the process of strengthening the R+6 local forces has progressed far enough that as someone wrote here "they can take off the training wheels." Well, they are on the ground and not I, but I remain concerned about the relatively small forces at the disposal of the Syrian government. Is partition in the future? I suppose we will have to wait to know.
None of this can be good news for Bibi.
I will welcome analytic posts on this development by member of the committee. pl
"So what would happen if we learned that there is microbial life on Mars, or that it has existed there in the past? Well it would only challenge everything we know. We would have to come to grips with not having a unique status in the universe and will have to work out how to include extraterrestrial "life" in our existential or religious beliefs – to name a few.
On a scientific level, there's a lot at stake. Of course, it would also lead to major new efforts to find life on planets beyond Mars and even beyond our own solar system.
The first challenge if life is ever detected will be to prove that we didn't bring it there from Earth – a difficult task to achieve. Careful cataloguing of the "bioburden" load on the spacecraft and from the cleanrooms it was assembled in can provide a check on what organisms might have been present on the spacecraft when it left the Earth. Fundamentally though, life that arose beyond the Earth would likely result from subtly different chemical processes, so to find out for sure, a detailed in situ biochemical analysis would be required." phys.org
The political farce in the US and the never ending spectacle of the Borg's failures in the ME are boring. Now, here is something interesting. pl
"The Russian Air Force has caught the so called “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham” (ISIS) off-guard in east Hama, striking their main supply route from the Al-Raqqa Governorate to the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) on a number of occasions today. However, the latest airstrike by the Russian Air Force has proven to be the most lethal, destroying an entire ISIS convoy of reinforcements that were tasked to back-up their exhausted fighters at the Palmyra front in the eastern countryside of Homs. According to a military source, the Russian Air Force caught the ISIS convoy attempting to make their way from the large village of ‘Aqayrbat in east Homs to the city of Palmyra." AMN
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/russian-air-force-picks-off-isis-reinforcement-convoy-east-hama/ | Al-Masdar News
Well, this piece speaks of repeated Russian strikes against IS efforts to reinforce in the Tadmur (Palmyra) area against the Syrian Army's advance spearheaded by the Tiger Forces brigade.
Once again, IMO the wheels are coming off the IS wagon in Syria and Iraq. The question does not seem to be whether Raqqa will be lost by IS but rather when and to whom. pl
"U.S. and Iraqi officials said U.S. special forces captured the head of the ISIS unit trying to develop chemical weapons in a raid last month in northern Iraq.
The U.S.-led coalition said the chemicals ISIS has so far used include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard which is not very potent. "It's a legitimate threat. It's not a high threat. We're not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it," U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters Friday.
The coalition began targeting ISIS' chemical weapons infrastructure with airstrikes and special operations raids two months ago, Iraqi intelligence officials and a Western security official in Baghdad told the AP.
Airstrikes are targeting laboratories and equipment, and further special forces raids targeting chemical weapons experts are planned, the officials said. "
So.... IS has and is using chlorine and mustard gas in Iraq. Well ... pilgrims, if you can make those chemical agents, you can make Sarin nerve gas like the weapon used by someone at Ghouta in the east Damascus suburbs in 2013. At the time one of the arguments voiced for assignment of guilt in the Ghouta attack was that the insurgents could not possibly have such weapons because they lacked the ability to manufacture them. As I wrote at the time it is not very difficult to make such chemical weapons. The industrial processes are simple and the ingredients are widely available on the international markets for the making of such things as insecticides. IS is not Nusra or some of the other jihadi groups who were at Damascus in 2013 but the implication for what may have happened at Ghouta should be clear. pl
I have looked at what sources I could find with regard to the Syrian Army's "Tiger Forces."
this organization is described in the wiki as a division. This can mean anything in the Middle East. The fanciful description of various formations as divisions does not give you any real idea of the size of a group. It is described as directly subordinated to the Syrian Army chief of staff as you would expect with regard to an outfit that is used as national level "fire brigade" maneuver reserve.
MG Hassan, the commander of this "division" was an air force intelligence officer for most of his career and became a ground forces commander when asked in 2013 to create this unit. Remarkable. He declined promotion from colonel to brigadier general a year or so ago in order to remain with his men. It is a common practice in armies to promote an officer and then transfer him to a larger job. The Syrian government's response to his refusal was to promote him to major general and allow him to stay with the force he had created. This too is remarkable.
The Tiger Forces have as organic assets something called the Cheetah Forces (Team 3 and Team 6) and associated militia forces that work with the division on a regular basis. All of this seems armor heavy.
This is a unit in the process of becoming a legend in its own time.
I would like to make up an Order of Battle for the Tiger Forces. Any ideas? pl
"RAMOS: And that you won't deport immigrants who don't have a criminal record?
RAMOS: ... and those who don't have a criminal record.
CLINTON: Of the people, the undocumented people living in our country, I do not want to see them deported. I want to see them on a path to citizenship. That is exactly what I will do.
"RAMOS: And can you promise not to deport immigrants who don't have a criminal record?
SANDERS: I can make that promise."
Transcript of Debate on 9 March 2016
I decided that we would not have partisan arguments on SST but it seems to me that Clinton's and Sander's remarks concerning adult aliens in the US who do not have a criminal record (other than the illegal residence itself) would apply to all who are presently in the US or who will come in the future.
This is a matter of national import in terms of the ability to control immigration.
Surely the announcement of such a policy would trigger a mass effort to enter the US by any means possible. pl
Earlier today, [7 Mar 2016] Major General Suheil al-Hassan, commander-in-chief of the Tiger Forces, was officially deployed to the Palmyra frontline after carrying out two succesful offensives against ISIS at Kuweiris Airbase and along the Ithriya-Khanasser supply route to Aleppo city. According to intel delivered to al-Masdar exclusively, General Suheil Al-Hassan brought with him the ‘shock troops’ of the Tiger Forces and the Suqur al-Sahara Brigade (Desert Falcons).
Both these units are specialized in offensive warfare and outflanking ambushes; thus, their redeployment hints at the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) intentions to recapture the strategic city of Palmyra. This desert city holds several historical monuments which are listed at UNESCO’s World Heritage; however, Palmyra (often referred to as Tadmur) was captured by ISIS in March of last year and has remained under the group’s control ever since. (Al Masdar News)
Liberating Palmyra, the beating heart of Syria, will be an important psychological victory for Assad and the Syrian people. It will also be an important step in lifting the siege of Deir ez Zor. This R+6 offensive demonstrates who has the initiative. IS will now have to concentrate their forces to address this new threat, thus relieving pressure on other fronts.
To the east of Deir ez Zor, YPG/SDF forces are consolidating their hold on the countryside around Shaddadi. They will undoubtedly soon resume their offensive towards Deir ez Zor. If these two offensives are able to meet at Deir ez Zor, IS will truly have their nuts in a vice.
There is so much going on in the world that I want state my opinions during these interesting days. I don't claim that this is reportage, only my opinion:
ISW produced this map. SST thanks them.
Now that the government life-line road to Aleppo City is firmly re-established the time has come to pull the drawstring shut an complete the encirclement of the city itself.
The Gap between the Kurdish held area in the mouth of the Aleppo Gap and the government held area in Sheikh Najjar Industrial City appears to be about 2 miles across relatively easy ground. Given the way the R+6 forces and the Russian/Syrian air have been fighting this should be a very doable thing.
The Syrian government has no incentive to starve or bombard the Syrian civilians in the rebel held part of the city. The amnesty offer and Russian brokering mechanisms in place for post encirclement surrenders of non jihadi fighters (unicorns) have worked well in other parts of the country. Jihadis can be escorted out of the encirclement and into IS held country near Al Bab or into the mixed lot of rebels in Idlib Province where they can await their fate and final spiritual "victory."
The peace negotiations will be re-started soon at Geneva. The R+6 should get this done before that occurs. pl
I began this piece with these words.
We are responsible for the rise of Trump. Every time we have not made the extra effort, every time we leave something undone that has moral or spiritual and intellectual value, every time we don’t do something honest or good or worthy, we provide the soil for a man like Trump to rise and flourish.
We have allowed ourselves to become slaves to the poking of gadgets or TV news or reality shows --every time we let apathy overcome the force of effort and let us evades the effort required to read and study in order to understanding how the world works and our place in it we have created Trump. He is the mammoth created by our own laziness, ignorance and irresponsibility. Every time we tried to be just like everybody else we provided ground for the rise of Trump.
Our country was formed by aristocrats, men of learning and man of breeding. They knew that society is by nature aristocratic. They said so. The Founders were men of the world: they were lawyers, farmers, planter-business men, speculators, investors. They feared popular uprisings (Is not the rise of Trump a kind of popular uprising?) They were suspicious of democracy because they thought individual self-interest “the most dangerous and unbrookable quality of man,” and it was their aim to control it. They gloried in the feeling that they were doing something new that benefit the bulk of the people. They did not think that the superior person is a petulant individual who thinks he is superior to the rest. In their lives, they made great demands on themselves, piling up duties and displaying the stamina to conquer difficult obstacles; they were driven by their own idea of perfection and warned against excessive self-interest and greed and self-aggrandizement. People who had no ideal of perfection were chaff, and they were the wheat. No society was possible without moral and intellectual standards. It was the effort to develop them that infused pride to people’s efforts.
“There is a degree of animal spirits and showy accomplishment which enables its possessors to get a start in the majestic world, says Hazlitt. He goes on in another essay, to describe people who “strut and swagger and bluff and jostle his way through life, and have the upper hand of those who are his betters in everything but health and strength.”
The Founders, bewildered and speechless, would gaze helplessly at today’s political world.
"Final results from Iran’s February 26 elections to Parliament and the clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, show that the moderates have clinched a resounding political victory. In the 290-seat Parliament, the reformist allies of President Hassan Rouhani won at least 85 seats, while the moderate conservatives secured 73 seats. Together they will control the House. The hardliners, who were steadfastly opposed to Mr. Rouhani’s reform agenda, won only 68 seats. In the 88-member Assembly of Experts, the clerics backed by reformists and centrists claimed 52 seats. This is not the first time Iranian voters have spoken their mind against the hardliners. For the last many years they have consistently pushed reformist or less conservative candidates through Iran’s rigid electoral process. Still, last week’s twin elections were highly significant for Iran’s polity in general and Mr. Rouhani in particular for a number of reasons. This was the first election after Mr. Rouhani secured the historic nuclear deal with world powers last year, ending the country’s isolation in return for giving up its nuclear programme. The hardliners were opposed to the nuclear deal. Even the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had warned the political leadership several times against any rapprochement with the West. The hardliners had also opposed Mr. Rouhani’s plans to open up the country’s economy and reach business deals with overseas companies, including those from the West. " The Hindu
The MSM of the West seem uninterested in the results of the Iranian election. I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the political dance underway among moderates, hardliners and reformers. I look forward to a collection of knowledgeable comments on this subject. pl
Ratty is definitely on to something. To be on the water in any kind of craft can be therapeutic. IMHO the sound of the surf can only be equalled by the sound of the wind in the pines. Both together… heaven. You can’t buy that kind of therapy with a million dollars. One of the saddest things I often saw on the streets of D.C. was the herds of young, ambitious suits with ear buds in their ears, eyes and thumbs glued to their smartphones, totally oblivious to their surroundings. Borg aspirants, no? It is no wonder so much self serving and destructive idiocy is produced in Washington. As I have said for the last four years, I think we deserve a break... or at least a little vicarious diversion from the madness that surrounds us.
Once again, I invite the SST Committee of Correspondence to follow the running of the Everglades Challenge which begins this Saturday morning. The event is organized by a colorful group of adventurers who call themselves the Water Tribe. The Everglades Challenge is an unsupported, expedition style adventure race for kayaks, canoes, and small sailboats. It starts at Fort DeSoto in Saint Petersburg, Florida and ends at Key Largo. The distance is roughly 300 nautical miles depending on one's course selection. Updates on the progress and tribulations of the participants will be posted on the Water Tribe forums. The boats are tracked by SPOT satellite. Their progress can be seen on this tracking map.
To truly get a feel for this event, I recommend you set aside an hour and a half to view this video about 2013 running of the Everglades Challenge. There’s some excellent banjo and fiddle work as well. For a sense of the history of the area, here’s an interesting article about Chokoloskee in the Oxford American.
This year 98 boats will be taking up the challenge. Some will not make it to Key Largo. Some may not even make it to Fort DeSoto. It’s been said that half the challenge is getting to the start. I believe it. The winners usually make the voyage in two days or so. The allowed time limit for successfully finishing the race is eight days. I would take the full eight days. Why rush to shorten such a grand experience?
I discovered this event several years ago. It’s still on my bucket list, along with building the boat. As I approach 63, I’m not worried about running out of time. One Water Triber named Jarhead (a former Marine officer) is doing the Florida Coastal Challenge of about 1,600 miles. He set sail a week ago from the Alabama border, making his way along the Florida panhandle in his 21 foot Sea Pearl. By Wednesday evening he was approaching Fort DeSoto. This is the latest Water Tribe forum update on his progress as of 1700 hours, 2 March:
Just heard from Jarhead. He said he is not going to come into Ft. DeSoto tonight. He is going to head inside Anclote Key, drink a beer and smoke a cigar. He sounded great and said, "I love sailing again."
This old coot is 71 years old. BTW, before anyone takes offense, I look forward to being referred to as an old coot.
Yes, I still plan on doing this some day. In addition to building the boat, I have to obtain a release from SWMBO to undertake such a crazy-assed and dangerous adventure. She has stood by me through thick and thin and, quite frankly, has had her fill of my risking life and limb. She would be happy to have us live out the remainder of our lives quietly, happily and contentedly as hobbits in the shire. This sounds wonderful… but the ring still calls out for me.
"Over a hundred rebel unit commanders agreed to the ceasefire and signed a corresponding agreement. Over 1,000 militants laid down their arms in the Damascus province and have since been relocated from the battlefields.
Field commanders of Mujahideen Khora and El-Furqan formations which operated south of Damascus in the Kafar-Shams district likewise signed ceasefire documents, as did Maamum Shukru al-Habbusa, the leader of Burkan Khoran. This meant 600 more militants laid down their arms.
Two major formations in Deraa province, Armiya al-Ababil and Jaysh al-Yarmuk, agreed to the ceasefire and their leaders signed the declaration forms. This action took 2500 militants off the battlefield." Southfront
Wall to wall, the R+6 are progressing in the task of running a marvelously successful ANTICOIN campaign. The Syrian government has declared an amnesty for non-jihadi rebels. As you can read above that seems to be doing well. It is better to work on re-integrating them than to kill them all which is the alternative policy choice.
Across the country the war goes on against the jihadis. ground is being regained everywhere, ground that will be useful in the final battles needed to make Syria jihadi free. The attritional battle is also going well.
Turkey appears to be stymied by the threat of Russian arms and the War Party hawks in the Borgist US government is "turning and burning" in frustration. The post-Dempsey US Defense Department and JCS is now completely in the hands of the Borgist war party who obviously lust for a confrontation with Russia. It would be tempting to attribute this "bloody mindedness" to male hormonal excesses but, unfortunately the worst of the worst are women.
IMO the war in western Syria will be largely ended in the next couple of months. After that, the R+6 will make their contribution to the destruction of IS (the enemies of God).
The Iraqis? We will see... pl
PS Don't let Southfront starve to death. They are hard up. pl
Especially as the shattering scale of destruction becomes apparent – Poroshenko says that Ukraine lost two-thirds of its military equipment (just one video of dozens) – Westerners who have been misled by the propagandist character of their media outlets are ready to believe that Russia must have been supplying the rebels with weapons and ammunition. While it is likely that some stuff crossed the border, there is another source that few Westerners are aware of.
What most Western commentators do not understand is that the USSR was preparing to fight World War II all over again with huge armies fleshed out with millions of conscripts and reservists. Millions of soldiers need immense quantities of weapons and ammunition and they need them to be ready and waiting for them as they are mobilized Consequently there were arms dumps all over the western USSR. Most of these sites were named as the headquarters of a division which had a skeleton staff in peacetime but would receive a flood of reservists who would find everything they needed to go to war with waiting for them.
The Soviets divided their formations into 3 categories. As far as I can remember after thirty years, Cat I were fully manned, equipped and ready to go; Cat II were partly manned but fully equipped and Cat III were at much lower levels. The idea being that Cat I formations were ready to go immediately (when the Wall came down I remember learning that the units in East Germany were on 48 hours notice to move. A stance, by the way, that indicated they were not intending to attack; and since NATO wasn’t either, that’s probably why we’re all still here). The Cat II formations would be ready to go in a week or so, while the CAT III formations would take a few months.
The whole Soviet system was based on waves of attackers (echelons) attacking, one after another, seeking out the weak spots; reinforcing success. So the Cat I formations in, say, the DDR and Polish PR assumed support from Cat II formations in their rear, in the Belarussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR and so on; behind that were the reserves of Cat III divs in the RSFSR etc.
When the whole thing stopped, this system was torn apart. Russia assumed responsibility for the stuff in the Warsaw Pact countries and Ukraine, for example, nationalized what was in its territory. As to the forward-based Cat I formations, Russia wound up responsible for the equipment and moving it to Russia, as to the personnel, the conscripts went home and the various nationalities went to their own countries. In short, almost overnight a tank division all ready to go would be turned unto an understaffed pile of equipment waiting to be quickly moved into Russia. I don't think there were any Cat I formations in the Belarussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR; I think I remember that they were all Cat II there. These movements were accomplished quite quickly and the whole carefully constructed arrangement was destroyed. I used to explain what had happened with the analogy that Russia had got the spear head and Ukraine and Belarus had got the spear shaft; neither being much use without the other. But the enormous supply dumps necessary to bring Cat II divisions up to Cat I would have remained in Ukraine (and Belarus).
For some years Russia pretended that sites on its territory were actual divisions (I was in regular contact with our CFE and Vienna Document inspectors through this time) but the only things inspectors would ever find when they went to inspect the location of an so-called motorized rifle or tank division in the 1990s were fields of poorly maintained AFVs, officers and no troops. (We used to speculate that the secret that the Russians were guarding was that they had no soldiers – oh, they’re all out on a training exercise; oh yeah, with no officers and no equipment? But, as the CFE Treaty only covered equipment and the Russians were completely open about that, there was no problem.) Incidentally, training was impossible: I remember a Russian woman telling me that her brother was a company commander – he had two soldiers in his company! “Empty formations” was the expression used.
Then, suddenly one summer (I can’t remember the year: some time between the two wars in Chechnya), we received a blizzard of notifications (as required under the CFE Treaty) each saying something like “remove the xth MR Div from the list; enter the zth Storage Base at the same location”. When all this was completed, there was a much smaller number of divisions (which were gradually being transformed into independent brigade groups) and many storage bases. After thinking about it, we decided that the storage base idea was an attempt to provide employment in lieu of pensions for surplus officers. (In meetings at this time, the Russian military were always telling us that they simply could not afford the pension and housing obligations for the hundreds of thousands of unnecessary officers. Other ranks were easy to reduce, of course: as they’re conscripts, they can just be sent home early). These changes also recognized the reality that the old Soviet formations had gone forever.
Things began to change after this. I well remember one of the inspectors returning from an inspection of a brigade at Buynaksk in 1998 or 1999 quite excited: here, at last, was a complete formation with all the necessary equipment and men and (very significantly) a commander who commanded the whole thing. No more pretending that a handful of listless officers and field full of equipment would some day magically fill up with conscripts and become a real division. This process seems to have started in the North Caucasus and is one of the several reasons for the much improved Russian performance in the second Chechnya war.
So at the end of this process the Russian Army 1. had the beginnings of a rational structure (brigade groups) 2. had abandoned the fantasy that it was a huge multi-division army with a temporary manpower problem 3. pseudo-divisions with insecure storage of weapons manned by dispirited officers were transformed into something more secure and purposeful and the process of disposing of obsolete and insecure weaponry could begin. With money and a stable government since 2000, other improvements have been made as well.
Nothing like this happened in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. So one can expect the territory of Ukraine to be littered with piles of poorly guarded weaponry and “empty formations”. A Russian official recently confirmed this when he said: “When the USSR collapsed, the Ukrainian territory was replete with millions of guns, mines, artillery systems and other weapons. The area where the combat activities are held today, where Kiev leads its punitive operation, is no exception — there were weaponry warehouses which the militia seized.” Slavyansk, in particular, is said to have a particularly large dump in an old mine.
In short, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are in the sorry state the Russian Armed Forces were in the 1990s but with another decade and a half of neglect. Much of this decayed equipment doesn’t work any more, but, if you cannibalize 100 tanks and get 10 runners, that’s a lot better than nothing. And, it should be remembered, the Donbass is full of mechanics, technicians, artificers and so forth. To say nothing of plenty of people who through conscription and the Afghan war, know how to operate them. Most of the weapons used in east Ukraine are from Afghan war vintage; the BM-21 Grad, arguably the most important weapon in the rebels’ arsenal and responsible for fearsome destruction, for example, has been around since the 60s. And finally, a characteristic of a lot of Soviet equipment was that it was easy to operate and very very rugged. (Remember that these guys actually got a T-34 that had spent the last 50 years sitting on a concrete slab in the rain and snow up and running: all the points illustrated at once!)
The other thing I recall that we learned when it was all over, was that, in contrast to the Western style of having dumps in floodlit spaces surrounded by fences, barbed wire, armed patrols and so on, making the site very noticeable but strongly protected, the Soviet style was to have something much more discreet in an out-of-the-way place and rely more on silence to secure it (an old mine, of which there are many in the Donbass, would be ideal). Given that the USSR military headquarters was in Moscow, it is quite possible that the Kiev government doesn’t even know where many of these dumps are. One service that Moscow could be providing is to tell the rebels where to look.
So, I have no difficulty seeing the rebels coming across (or being directed to) a dump and getting weaponry and ammunition; they have people who can get it working again and plenty of ex-Soviet Army veterans to make them work. On top of that is the equipment captured when Ukrainian conscripts abandon positions (quite a lot – this site attempts to make a photographic record) and a few things bought or bribed. So far all they would have needed from Moscow is maybe some command and control equipment and target acquisition services.
So Ukraine's military problem today is that it has the two-decades decayed remnants of what was originally planned to be a first line of support for the best and most ready elements; never to be a stand alone force. And during this time Kiev has starved this remnant and sold off the best stuff abroad (Georgia got a lot from Ukraine). So, the rebels and the Kiev forces are much more evenly matched than would be the normal case in a rebellion against the center They are both learning on the job, but the rebels have much more motivation while Kiev has a larger stock of weaponry on which to draw.
Thus the rebels are doing better faster than would normally be expected and have a good stock of weapons and ammunition. This is one of the reasons why so many in the West believe that Russia must be helping them.
A two-part series in the New York Times (Feb. 28-29) gives details, some new, some not, on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's role in the 2011 decision to join France and England in attacking Libya. Ostensibly to protect civilians threatened by Qadafi, the joint venture under a UN resolution, ended in the death of Qaddafi, the failure of an interim government, the emergence of militia fighting, the entrance of ISIS, and today--chaos. That is the first installment.
The second installment goes on to describe the after-life of this failure: efforts to pull Libya back together, the increasing inattention by all parties, except the Libyans, to the growing disorder, failed efforts to rein in the militias, and the long-term consequences for the ME and Africa of the dispersal of Qaddafi's armory to Islamic forces.
What may be of particular interest here are the sources for the story, the influence (or lack thereof) by other Obama Administration officials, the role that Clinton and her deputies played in the decision, and the somewhat surprising, at least to me, claim that there was little official intelligence about Libya available as decisions were being made. Much of the "information" is said to have come from news stories.
I realize that many here are not Clinton fans. Be that as it may, what interests me is how the story lays out the decision and its aftermath.
" ... that state of affairs does not satisfy the SAA which ordered the Republican Guard’s 102nd Brigade and 416th Regiment to fully liberate Eastern Guta from the Islamists. SAA is supported by National Defense Force (NDF) militias and Palestinian Liberation Army units.
It appears that the attack will be focused on the Tel Ferzat heights and the agricultural college campus. These are the militants’ last strongholds in eastern Damascus.
Commandos of the 103rd Republican Guard Brigade are performing beyond reproach in Latakia’s north-east, where they are operating with naval infantry and volunteer formation support. Nearly whole region is now clear of the militants.
Syrian commandos forced Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham off two key heights and approached the border with Turkey which is now only 2km distant. A few more heights remain to be cleared of the Islamists.
Earlier reports that the main supply road to Aleppo was cleared proved premature. Tiger Forces did indeed clear most of the towns along the “road of life”, however it still remains under militant fire.
Tiger Forces with Hezbollah support finally threw ISIS out of Al-Hamam. The commandos entered the village last evening and then forced the militants to abandon it. Militant counter-attack had failed, with the loss of 30 of their comrades. Additional 40 were wounded.
Stubborn fighting against ISIS is ongoing along the Sheikh Hilal–Ithriyah road, which is a secondary supply route into Aleppo. SAA forces received significant air support which struck militant reinforcement columns coming from Hama. It is expected the opening of both routes is only a matter of hours, and then the path to Aleppo will be once again clear." South Front
I am beginning to appreciate this "cease-fire." In essence the R+6 war against jihadis will continue as will the US coalition struggle with IS. At the same time TTG's favorite Kurds (with the help of our GB brothers) will press forward with efforts as fine as the recent victory at Shaddadi. Politically, the Russian coordination center at Lattakia has hung out the welcome banner for more or less non-jihadi resistance groups. this is splitting off those groups from the jihadis whom, we should remember, are still legitimate targets and objectives for air and ground action. At the same time, a somewhat reduced operational tempo provides an opportunity to rest and refit troops/militias committed too long to continuous combat. pl
"Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iraqi army and police posts on the western outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 12 security forces and seizing positions in a grain silo and a cemetery, officials said.
The largest assault near the capital in months was still raging, said security officials who blamed Islamic State. A news agency that supports Islamic State said the group had launched a "wide attack" in Abu Ghraib.
Suicide bombers in vehicles and on foot attacked government positions 25 km (15 miles) from the centre of Baghdad and next to the international airport, government officials said.
Dozens of militants driving Humvees and pickup trucks fixed with machine guns attacked from the nearby Islamic State-controlled areas of Garma and Falluja, army and police sources added." Reuters
Well, so much for Iraqi government domination of the western approaches to Baghdad. The notion is laughable. IS in Northern Arabia may collapse from defeat in Syria and at the hands of the YPG Kurds. In that event the Iraqi "army" may re-occupy Mosul but that would be problematic in itself since IMO the Shia government in Baghdad will continue to oppress any and all Sunnis available for oppression. Like a leopard they cannot change their essential spots. pl
" ... the Saudis may be applying pressure to secure the release of a member of the royal family held in Lebanon since October on drug charges. Abdul-Mohsen al-Waleed Al Saud was detained in Beirut after authorities seized two tons of amphetamine Captagon pills before they were loaded onto his private plane.
On Wednesday, a Lebanese prosecutor indicted Al Saud of dealing and using drugs. Other analysts suggest Saudi Arabia may be seeking to compensate for its declining hold over Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia’s influence has been dwindling in Lebanon since early 2011 when Sa’ad Hariri was ousted. For the past two years, the Saudi-backed March 14 coalition has failed to see one of their leaders elected president. Now they are nominating legislator Suleiman Franjieh, a close ally of Hezbollah, for the country’s top job.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is boosted by recent victories in Syria. The resistance movement is fighting alongside the Syrian army against Takfiri militants supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies. “Saudi Arabia is feeling for a good reason that its influence in Lebanon is on the decline,” said Ayham Kamel, a Middle East expert with the political risk and consulting firm, Eurasia Group. “The Saudi message is don’t think you can translate victories in Syria and control the system in Lebanon. We have plenty of leverage through our economic muscles,” Kamel told the Associated Press." South Front
The Saudis should stick to their usual practice of the widespread distribution of money in Lebanon for the purpose of buying influence. This is their customary form of action and Lebanese of all confessions and classes are more than willing to participate. At the same time, most Christians, Sunni Muslims, Hizbullah and all the other associated Shia forces in Lebanon are determined to remain free of Saudi political control. This determination will not, of course, prevent the acceptance of Saudi money delivered through various "laundries." pl
Submit suggestions and I will judge the net of that. It will become a post on SST. It will stand forever triumphant against the machinations of the neocon/R2P hordes, maybe. pl
"While carcass candidates dance around life-and-death issues, the familiar flock of war vultures circle coolly overhead. Campaign promises notwithstanding, those who whisper in the ears of America’s front-runners are overwhelmingly united in further destabilizing and exploiting the Middle East.
Nation-states seeking sovereignty, independence, and equitable relationships with their neighbors may need to look to themselves for the leadership, strategy, and means to effectively resist a militaristic global tyranny. When looking to the US, it is prudent to consider what an unidentified Irishman purportedly observed decades ago: “…You can depend on Americans to do the right thing when they have exhausted every other possibility.” South Front
As I suspected, indeed knew in some cases, the neocons have once again succeeded in infiltrating major US institutions in pursuit of their goal of control through universal presence in the ante-rooms of power. In this case the institutions are the campaign staffs of ALL the remaining candidates. (Sanders maybe not?)
I would be curious as to whether Rand Paul's staff was similarly controlled. Perhaps it was not...
My guestimate just now, subject to future judgment as events roll out, is that Clinton's campaign will implode at some point and that Trump is likely to be the 45th president of the United States.
Will he prove biddable once in office? Only time will tell. pl
"The expanded interventions of Russia and Iran into the Syrian Civil War have shifted the trajectory of the conflict in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, granting him the strongest position on the battlefield as of February 24, 2016. Regime forces bolstered by Iranian ground troops and Russian air support have achieved major gains against both the Syrian armed opposition and ISIS in Northern Syria since September 2015, marking a fundamental shift in battlefield momentum following a compounding series of regime losses in the first half of 2015. President Assad now sits within reach of several of his military objectives, including the encirclement and isolation of Aleppo City and the establishment of a secure defensive perimeter along the Syrian Coast. The regime and its allies will likely retain their battlefield gains if there is no intervention by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or the UAE. Russian campaign designers have clearly planned the ongoing operations in northern Syria, introducing to the Syrian battlefield signature Russian doctrinal concepts such as frontal aviation, cauldron battles, and multiple simultaneous and successive operations. These have made the joint Syrian-Russian-Iranian military operations more effective for a longer duration than previous operations. The offensive operations conducted by the regime and its allies may nevertheless culminate over the 90-day timeframe, as pro-regime forces attempt to advance deeper into core opposition-held terrain and take high casualties. Regular reinforcement of ground capabilities by Iran and Russia will therefore remain necessary over the next three months in order to maintain this level of momentum in the face of continued manpower shortages, attrition, and opposition military actions designed to slow and divert the campaign." ISW
This is good work! I have a few quibbles but not many. I would argue that "signature Russian doctrinal concepts" displayed are really just military common sense applying the principles of war in a modern context without distraction by the COIN delusion. I would agree that military force presently available to R+6 for the post cease-fire war is marginal in numbers of units and the number of fighters. I continue to believe that ISW is correct in asserting that reinforcement of these numbers by Iran and Russia will be necessary for the re-consolidation of Syrian government control in some sort of political arrangement that will involve a substantial devolution of powers to regional alignments. pl
Friends & Colleagues
Writing critical commentaries in bold language has consequences. One of them is being placed on assorted “No Invite” lists. That shunning does have its compensations, though. It adds to the time available to indulge pastimes. Mine include viewing European detective film series.
They are instructive.
If I am not on more "no invite" lists than DR. Brenner, I wish to make a formal complaint to the Blacklist Section at AIPAC and its subordinate branch at the WH. BTW, we too, watch a lot of Euro crime. "Engrenage" would be my favorite. pl
THROUGH THE DETECTIVE'S LENS
Detective stories have been making a splash on European screens for the past decade. Some attract top-notch directors, actors and script writers. They are far superior to anything that appears over here – whether on TV or from Hollywood. Part of the impetus has come from the remarkable Italian series Montelbano, the name of a Sicilian commissario in Ragusa (Vigata) who was first featured in the skillfully crafted novellas of Andrea Camilleri.
Italians remain in the forefront of the genre as Montelbano was followed by similar high class productions set in Bologna, Ferrara, Turino, Milano, Palermo and Roma. A few are placed in evocative historical context. The French follow close behind with a rich variety of series ranging from a revived Maigret circa 2004(Bruno Cremer) and Frank Riva (Alain Delon) to the gritty Blood On The Docks (Le Havre) and the refined dramatizations of other Simenon tales. Others have jumped in: Austria, Germany (several) and all the Scandinavians. The former, Anatomy of Evil, offers us a dark yet riveting set of mysteries featuring a taciturn middle-aged police psychiatrist. Germany’s gem, Homicide Unit – Istanbul, has a cast of talented Turkish Germans who speak German in a vividly portrayed contemporary Istanbul. Shows from the last mentioned region tend to be dreary and the characters uni-dimensional, so will receive short shrift in these comments.
"If you watch this in its entirety (using subtitles which you have to turn on at the bottom of the video), you come away with the idea that the entire "treaty", or whatever, which the U.S. said from the very beginning that Russia would not adhere to and was not serious about, is, in fact, being implemented by Russia and ignore and undermined by the U.S. In other words, the entire purpose of the "treaty" was to be able to say that Russia was not adhering to it, when in fact it is the U.S. who is ignoring it while Russia is attempting to implement it. A gigantic, damnable deception intended to influence American public opinion against Vladimir Putin and nothing else. Thus, we can expect going forward nothing but lies and deceit on the part of the U.S. with regard to Syria, the goal always being regime change in Moscow. That's it. Very, very simple. That's our government at work. Unless of course, the Russian MOD presentation is just totally dishonest propaganda, and the U.S. is bending over backwards to implement the cease fire while Russia is sabotaging it. The U.S. and its allies, Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel. Do we have any more information about the article in the Jerusalem Post about dozens of Russian Generals being killed by a car bomb in Syria? " Bill Herschel
News Flash! - The Soviet Union is long dead and gone. We won that one but seem unable to move on to a world in which Russia is not necessarily an enemy of the US.
Senator Corker, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Senate, Joe Scarborough ("when I ran fer the House..."), General Breedlove (or some kind of ...love), SACEUR, Secretary Ashton Carter, SECDEF, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Lindsey Graham (TLOLFSC), etc. are all apparently committed to the notion that world affairs are like a primary schoolyard contest for domination and that the only thing that matters is to rule the playground. Lying and deception are clearly considered to be fair tactics in this global game of dodge ball.
How 19th Century! pl
Courtesy of ISW we have this depiction of the state of play in NW Syria as of 25 January, 2016. IS, Nusra and other jihadi groups have attacked the desert road from Ithriya east and then north through Khanassar north to Aleppo. This is presently the lifeline to all government held forces in the Aleppo area as well as the civilian population of the government held portion of Aleppo City.
The Syria civil war is not going well for rebel forces including the jihadi IS and Nusra. The war is going so badly for the allies of Obama, the Saudis and Erdogan that a diplomatic ploy is now underway to try to wrest victory from the jaws of defeat in the "cease-fire."
Apparently the preparations are nearly complete for a great kesselschlacht in Idlib Governorate. The R+6 forces stand on the heights above Jisr as-Shugur on the west in Lattakia Governorate. R+6 forces stand ready in the countryside west of Aleppo City. R+6 forces are ready to the south in the Homs Governorate. Russian and Syria air have complete air supremacy.
The desert road is merely a distraction at this point. The rebels should be crushed in Idlib and the M5 highway to the south opened to commercial traffic.
To do otherwise is to accept the BS being peddled on the diplomatic scene and a Syria that will eventually be a jihadi state. pl
"The truce will not cover the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and any other militias designated as terrorist organizations by the U.N. Security Council. Both the U.S. and Russia are still targeting those groups with airstrikes. The State Department made the five-page plan public after Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone Monday.
Russia will surely press on with an air campaign that it insists is targeting terrorists, but which the U.S. and its partners say is mainly hitting "moderate" opposition groups and killing civilians. While ISIS tries to expand its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and neighboring Iraq, al-Nusra is unlikely to end its effort to overthrow Assad. The Kurds have been fighting ISIS, even as they face attacks from America's NATO ally Turkey. And Assad has his own history of broken promises when it comes to military action." NBC news
Someone explain to me what the point of this "cease fire" will be.
Are Lavrov and Kerry just playing kissy face for the world audience?
Is this an example of the diplomats' delusion that little steps lead to big steps and then to "The Peaceable Kingdom?" Yes, yes, I know all about negotiating techniques. I was a diplomat for quite a long time.
IS, Nusra and "other groups designated by the UN" will not be included in the "cease fire." Does that mean that the US led coalition and R+6 will be free to continue to wage war against them?
In NW and SW Syria the non-IS rebels and the "secular" FSA unicorn groups are very mixed together. The US probably likes that. These favored rebels might be able to gain a respite from the defeats they have been suffering and the disaster they are facing at the hands of R+6.
Trickery, delusions, fantasies, these will be the fruits of such a "cease fire." If the "cease fire" occurs, the parties will use the time gained to prepare for the resumption of hostilities. pl
The Australian ABC has allegedly obtained video (link below) of an ISIS recruiter; cleric Syamsudin Uba, peddling his wares at a mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, to what is believed to be potential ISIS recruits:
"They declare that territory as Islamic State where God's law is upheld fully and where there isn't any intimidation from foreign countries……….
…….And based on their sacrifice of their blood and wealth they declare an Islamic State…...
…...Even though the infidels wouldn't acknowledge it (an Islamic state), even though the United Nations wouldn't acknowledge it……..
…………………….Muslims don't need that, Muslims only want the blessing from God, in a state where the laws of God are implemented fully. Even when the infidels don't like it……………..
……...When you get there soon, God willing, you won't have to pay rent, you don't have electricity and water bills," he said.
Comment: Indonesia is the most populous (about 200 milllion) Muslim state in the world. Its stated national philosophy is "pankasila"the five principles:
Belief in the one and only God .
Just and civilised humanity.
The unity of Indonesia.
Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives.
Social justice for all of the people of Indonesia.
As a general rule Indonesia is a pretty, relaxed, place. There are important nationalist considerations, but there is no direct linkage between Islam and a national agenda. The "one God" principle requires that Christians, Muslims and Jews, Animists, etc. co - exist. As you can no doubt imagine Saudi Wahabists have been trying to gain a larger foothold in the country for at least Thirty years via the usual route of charities and schools. I am not privy to the counter efforts made by the West, if any.
Indonesia controls the Straits of Malacca as well as the deep water channels between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea so its radicalisation, let alone possible tolerance of ISIS operations) would not be just a regional nightmare.
One hopes that the Indonesian Government, perhaps assisted by its many Western friends, pushes back against Wahabist ideology wherever it is found and ensures that ISIS does not get a hold in the region
As for potential Indonesian recruits to ISIS, I guess the best message we could send is some graphics of what is in store for them at the hands of the R+6.
"The report was an inventory of what U.S. intelligence knew—or more importantly didn’t know—about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Its assessment was blunt: “We’ve struggled to estimate the unknowns. ... We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program.”
Myers already knew about the report. The Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it, but Rumsfeld’s urgent tone said a great deal about how seriously the head of the Defense Department viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war. But he never shared the eight-page report with key members of the administration such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell or top officials at the CIA, according to multiple sources at the State Department, White House and CIA who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. Instead, the report disappeared, and with it a potentially powerful counter-narrative to the administration’s argument that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons posed a grave threat to the U.S. and its allies, which was beginning to gain traction in major news outlets, led by the New York Times.
While the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iraq was at the heart of the administration's case for war, the JCS report conceded: “Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”" Politico
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/iraq-war-wmds-donald-rumsfeld-new-report-213530#ixzz40pNX4o5G
I missed this in Politico last month, but a kindly friend who likes to be known as "Bigfoot Six" brought it to my attention. A .pdf of a scan of the document can be found at the links below.
The J-2 section of the JCS staff is a bit of a bureaucratic fiction. There are a few officers on the Joint Staff who are called the "J-2 Section" (intelligence directorate - including the USAF two star who signed this report) but DIA manages the function and does all the real work.
The basic story here is that Rumsfeld asked the J-2 in September 2002 what we (the US) did not know about Iraqi WMD programs. DIA labored and produced the enclosed report that said clearly that although they (J-2/DIA) had many assumptions about Iraqi WMD, the authors knew precious little about the actual programs.
This was not a desired response and Rummy sent the paper to General Richard Myers, USAF (then chairman of the JCS) covered by a rather panicky sounding note.
So, pilgrims, the BS about the "go to war decision" having been based on bad intelligence is just that, BS.
I don't think Bush 43 lied to the American people. I think he was bull-dozed by the neocons like most Americans.
Interestingly, this document was released and declassified in 2011 and was at some point in the "Rumsfeld Archive." That is Rummy's "how great I am" archive. The funny little running horse stamp is from the Rumsfeld Archive.
Seems like there ought to be a criminal conspiracy charge available for what Rumsfeld and Myers did and also did not do about this.
Once again the brave boys and girls at DIA deserved our gratitude for the risk they took in writing this document. pl
" ... Determined to complete the encirclement, the Tiger Forces launched a vital assault to capture the last village located between their positions along the Aleppo-Raqqa Highway and the Jibreen District of Aleppo City. The assault proved successful as the Syrian Armed Forces imposed full control over Umm Turaykiyah in the Al-Safira Plains. As a result, 800 ISIS terrorists that were fighting the Syrian Armed Forces at the strategic city of Al-Safira and its nearby village of Tal ‘Aran found themselves encircled for the first time in this war. The 800 ISIS terrorists have no outlet to retreat and they have no available supply lines; this means, they will either surrender to the Syrian Armed Forces or fight till the death. Given ISIS’ history; it is very likely that they choose the latter…" Al Masdar News (AMN)
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/tiger-forces-complete-the-east-aleppo-encirclement-800-isis-fighters-trapped/ | Al-Masdar News
I suggest that "the latter" would be a good outcome. The encircled IS people should be easy meat out in that flat, open country. The air forces will have a field day. pl
Yet another map, this one from "South Front." pl
"A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.
Given Erdogan’s megalomania or mental instability and the aggressiveness and inexperience of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman (defense minister and son of King Salman), the only person who probably can stop a Turkish-Saudi invasion is President Obama. But I’m told that he has been unwilling to flatly prohibit such an intervention, though he has sought to calm Erdogan down and made clear that the U.S. military would not join the invasion.
So far, Erdogan has limited Turkey’s direct military attacks on Syria to cross-border shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that have seized territory from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in northern Syria. Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters, known as YPG, to be terrorists but the U.S. government sees them as valuable allies in the fight against Islamic State terrorists, an Al Qaeda spinoff that controls large swaths of Syria and Iraq." Robert Parry
The status of the supposed letter to Kerry from six senators is still unclear to me so I have removed it. OTOH the Parry article can stand by itself. pl
" Syrian rebels have brought at least 2,000 reinforcements through Turkey in the past week to bolster the fight against Kurdish-led militias north of Aleppo, rebel sources said on Thursday.
Turkish forces facilitated the transfer from one front to another over several nights, covertly escorting rebels as they exited Syria's Idlib governorate, traveled four hours across Turkey, and re-entered Syria to support the embattled rebel stronghold of Azaz, the sources said.
"We have been allowed to move everything from light weapons to heavy equipment, mortars and missiles and our tanks," Abu Issa, a commander in the Levant Front, the rebel group that runs the border crossing of Bab al-Salama, told Reuters, giving his alias and talking on condition of anonymity." NY Times
Before this transfer of rebels to Azaz, there were only a limited number of rebels (unicorns and jihadis) in Idlib province between the R+6 forces at Aleppo, as well as farther south astride the Damascus highway (the M5) and the R+6 forces in east Lattakia Province.
The Turks have now cooperated with the Idlib rebels in moving 2,000 fighters from Idlib Province to the Azaz pocket north of the R+6 force that obstructs movement of rebel supplies and forces from Turkey south into Aleppo Province.
The 2,000 moved into Turkey's Hatay Province through a normal border crossing post and then their convoys were escorted north and then east so that they could re-enter Syria in the Azaz Pocket.
Good! The Turks' role is fully transparent and there are many fewer rebels (mostly jihadis) in what will be seen in history as the Idlb Pocket as the situation progresses. The effectiveness seen thus far in the over all campaign planning demonstrates the effect of the high quality schooling that Russian officers have been receiving in their service schools as well as experience of the kind gained in the 2nd Chechen War.
I would think that for the present support to the YPG Kurds fighting around Azaz will be limited to the continuation of the Russian air defense umbrella to keep the Turkish air force out of the fight and provision of as much materiel support as can be mustered. The Azaz Pocket can await elimination until other phases of the over all plan are finished.
For the moment the action farther east of the R+6 forces in moving to take Tabqa air base and in so doing to cut IS off from re-supply, reinforcement and oil sales in Turkey is a critical, possibly decisive move against IS in Syria. The YPG Kurds have already closed the route to Turkey east of Lake Assad. Closure of the two routes to the northwest would probably force IS back into Iraq because of a lack of communications and re-supply routes. A good deal of care will be taken I would think to guard against IS counter-attacks to try to break the interruption in their LOCs, but R+6 total air supremacy over desert country should be able to deal with that problem.
The present fighting in the city of Aleppo itself is, IMO, more of a distraction than anything else. The city will fall of its own weight if it is completely isolated for an extended period. If the government is wise it will allow humanitarian relief of the rebel occupied parts of the city while encouraging defections and evacuation of remaining rebel forces. pl
There has been some perhaps idle speculation that perhaps Obama's mind has wandered from the business of foreign policy in the direction of his self image as a savior who will direct the United States in the direction of a general leftism.
His press conference today at the ASEAN leaders meeting should put an end to this line of musing. In it, in addition to trashing ALL the Republican presidential candidates, he made it clear that he regards the effrontery of Russian assertiveness as something not to be endured. The source of the madcap statements and agitation of those like Ashton Carter and General Breeedlove is made clear. Obama is the source.
According to him a militarily dictated outcome is simply not possible in Syria. The counsel of his R2P advisors came through clearly. His vision of the world is evidently that of Hicks' "Peaceable Kingdom." This would seem to be a vision in which the course of human history driven by age-old desire for group and individual dominance is at an end and a global Borgist peace is imposed through the superior moral clarity and threats of "the enlightened."
Obama said today that the present R+6 campaign is unimportant and that 75% of Syrian territory is still outside the control of the government. Yes, but most of that is uninhabited. He knows that.
It is clear to me now that that Obama is the Grand Master of the Borgist Order.
By Patrick BAHZAD
The "crazies in the basement" is an expression that was coined originally by some unknown member of George W's administration. It used to designate the small clique of Neo-Cons who had found their way into Bush junior's team of advisors, before they rose to dubious fame after the 9/11 attacks. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, at the time Colin Powell's chief of staff, described their status enhancement from "lunatic fringe" to top executives in the White House with his Southern sense of humour, adding that they had become almost overnight what was henceforth called the Cheney "Gestapo". And what happened over the weekend in the Middle-East – and in D.C. – certainly looked like a distant but distinct reminder of that period in the early 2000s when "crazies" coming right out of a dark basement took over the policy agenda on questions that would require adult supervision.
What had caused this wave of schyzophrenic hysteria taking over large portions of the mainstream media, think tanks, political analysts and pseudo-military experts ? To be honest, if you want to get to the bottom of it, you would have to dig real deep into the pool of strategic mediocrity combined with PR-spin that has taken over most of the Western world since the start of the Syrian civil war (and actually way before).
The ISSG communique
Let's try and keep things simple though. It all started on Friday when the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) announced that an agreement had been reached regarding the Syrian conflict, providing for key measures to be implemented as far as humanitarian aid, cessation of hostilities and political transition were concerned. Kerry and Lavrov had worked hard to achieve this result and all of a sudden, it looked like years of efforts and resources aimed at removing Assad had been wasted and were actually going down the drain.
The announcement of this "cessation of hostilities" agreement did not go down well with the sponsors of the Syrian rebels (and Salafi or Jihadi groups) which were committed to overthrow Assad at any cost. In particular, the ISSG communique specified that terrorist groups recognized as such by the UN were specifically excluded from any form of cease-fire. In other words, not only would ISIS continue to be targeted by the Western Coalition (CJTF "Inherent Resolve"), but so would the Nusra Front and smaller Jihadi groups present in North-Western Syria, as well as any "Joint Operations Room" in which these groups featured prominently.
Basically, it also meant that most of the groups fighting Assad in that area were still "fair game" to both the RuAF, the SAA and their allies. Factually, it was a recognition that there is almost no "moderate" insurgency left in Syria, for reasons that can be debated of course, but in the end, there is no hiding from this fact, despite the massive PR-effort that the public in the Western world is being subjected to, day in, day out.
Following the ISSG statement, the sponsors of the armed insurrection – whether they were in Ryiadh, Ankara, Washington or Paris – panicked and went into over-drive. If the road map that was the "cessation of hostilities" agreement was implemented, even in parts, chances were that the regime change strategy would face total failure and the proxy rebels in Syria would contemplate assured destruction at the hands of the Russian lead military campaign on the ground.