Overall conflict (2011–present)
(For a more detailed map, see Cities and towns during the Syrian Civil War)
|Ba'athist Syria and allies|| Syrian Opposition|
| Kurdish self-administration|
|Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and allies|
| Syrian government forces
Allied armed groups:
| Syrian Revolutionary Command Council
Allied armed groups:
Joint operations rooms:
| Kurdish Supreme Committee
Allied armed groups:
|Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
"Although Russia sees Assad as "spent," Moscow still does not want to see the regime crumble. But it seems unwilling to insert itself into Syria's geopolitical nightmare, at a huge political and economic cost, to support a figure that it ultimately believes is on the way out.
"It is willing to see a settlement in which Assad goes into honorable exile, likely in Russia itself," Galeotti said. "Obviously Russia would not want the regime to fall, but what can they really do? The Russians could surge in Damascus, say approximately 5,000 troops. But they're actually probably deploying and cycling as many troops as they can in Donbas [eastern Ukraine] without overstretch.""
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-assad-syria-civil-war-2015-9#ixzz3kVykgPU6
"In the coming weeks thousands of Russian military personnel are set to touch down in Syria, including advisors, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division, and the pilots who will operate the aircraft.
Past reports have stated that the Russians were in talks to sell the Syrians a package of MiG-29 fighter jets, and Yak-130 trainer jets (which can also serve as attack aircraft.) The current makeup of the expeditionary force is still unknown, but there is no doubt that Russian pilots flying combat missions in Syrian skies will definitely change the existing dynamics in the Middle East." YNET
"The Patriot missiles had been installed by NATO in Turkey as from January 2013, in order to prevent the Syrian Air Force from deploying on the frontier. As a result, the jihadists of the al-Nusra Front (al-Qaïda) were able to seize the North of the country, and as from the summer of 2014, this no-fly zone was occupied by the Islamic Emirate.
Thus, during the battle of Kobane, the Syrian Air Force were unable to bomb the Islamic Emirate, and Syria was obliged to attempt a land attack to save the city. Since it was unable to advance the last thirty kilometres, the Atlantist Press presented the Kurdish forces of the YPG as being independent of Damascus, although the Syrian Arab Republic had supplied it with weapons and was paying its soldiers.
The Patriot missiles, initially deployed by Germany and Holland, are today German and Spanish. They will first of all be revised and modernised, then redeployed in Lithuania, at the Russian frontier." Voltairenet
I can't confirm any of this yet - Soon. It makes a lot of sense to me in this situation. If there is real WH consent to this, then that is indicative of 1- weakening Israeli/AIPAC policy power in the US government. Bibi and company have wanted Assad destroyed in order to pursue their vendetta against Hizbullah and Iran 2- USMC General (ret.) Allen will probably soon be gone having made a fool's bargain with Erdogan in which Erdogan completely duped him into supporting Erdogan's war against Kurds (America's allies) 3- The NATO installation of Patriot missiles on the Turkish/Syrian border assisted the Nusra led Islamist and other rebels to occupy Idlib Province and the area between Aleppo and the Turkish border north of the city. How? NATO in effect provided air defense for the rebels against the Syrian Air Force who might have prevented the takeover. The Western media and the R2Pers also bear responsibility for this through constant propaganda about "barrel bombs," and "chlorine gas."
In a related matter, it appears that David Petraeus, the disgraced four star general (one of the Great Captains according to Joe Scarborough) still has an audience among the cretins in the NSC staff and State Department. He is pushing the idea that the US should back the "moderates" in the Nusra Front (al-Qa'ida) That these people are the sworn enemies of the US means nothing to him. I wonder where he got that "idea." pl
"A spokesman for Ahrar Al Sham said that the organization accepted to negotiate. The talks started in the beginning of August in Istanbul and ended with a deal on a short cease fire without solving the problem. “The Iranians have gone mad. They want us to give up Zabadani, move its people out, and in return they will move all the inhabitants of Kafraya and Foua’a and relocate them in a site close to the Lebanese borders or in the Rif of Hama. They warned us and the Turks that if we capture the two villages, they will move the Shia inhabitants out anyway but will then reduce the two villages to rubbles. They will level them to earth. We refused the offer”, the Spokesman said.
The Iranians have not gone mad. They are simply implementing what we described previously as “Plan B”. It is obvious that the trilateral alliance has a clear concept of how Syria will be partitioned. Zabadani will be the spring board to clear the southern Damascus belt of either opposition presence or Sunni presence or both if necessary. The idea is to secure Qalamoun and Damascus, re-enforce defenses around the controlled stretch of territory that includes Hama and then see what will come in the diplomatic channels.
While it is normal that the joint Assad-Hezbollah-IRGC command has a clear division of labor that serves one clear plan, it is not obvious that the Syrian opposition has a unified parallel plan, either to abort the trilateral partitioning intentions or to wage a meaningful counter-attack." Middle East Briefing
It is clear now that the scheming and maneuvering of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have finally weakened the Syrian government enough to being about its downfall in the not too far distant future.
The impending emergence of Iran from international isolation reduces the willingness of the Iranian government to endlessly, and expensively continue to support the Syrian government. The IRGC may wish to fight on forever in Syria but the government and the Ayatollahs probably do not.
The Arab author of this piece is hostile to the Syrian government but IMO he has it right when he speculates that what he calls the "trilateral alliance" (Syrian Army/IRGC/Hizbullah) now see their best chance of salvaging something from the coming "train wreck" as being a demography based partition agreed to at some negotiating table. Such a partition will require considerable ethno-sectarian cleansing and transfer of populations from areas to areas, something like the Ataturk/Venizelos transfer of the 20s.
IMO the jihadis of various colorations will dominate post Assad Syria. They will struggle over the extent of their territories and the Alawis, Shia and Christians will become residents of a besieged coastal enclave or reduced to dhimmitude under the jihadis.
Will the "trilateral alliance" be able to hold Damascus very long after Assad departs? I doubt it, and then the butchery will really begin. pl
By Patrick BAHZAD - updated on August 25th, 5 a.m. EST
It has been three days now since Ayoub Al-Khazzani, the shooter of the Amsterdam to Paris train, was taken into custody. Under French anti-terrorism law, investigators can keep a suspect for up to 96 hours (4 days) before charging him with anything. What is known so far fits a pattern that has been seen previously in several high-profile terrorism cases.
Similarities with other notorious Jihadi gunmen are striking in more than just one way, yet authorities are still reluctant to admit Khazzani is an Islamic terrorist. Investigators and counter-terrorism experts however have much less doubt about the kind of individual they are dealing with. All too often already, they have come across the type of personality and curriculum such as Ayoub Al-Khazzani's.
From Morocco to Spain
Born in Morocco in 1989, Khazzani grew up in the North of the country, in the city of Tetuan. Interestingly, this city has a long history as a hotbed of Jihadi terrorism. In January 2007 for example, the most important Moroccan network sending fighters into Iraq was dismantled in Tetuan. At the time, 32 locals were arrested and later sentenced to long prison terms.
Additionally, the five Moroccan nationals who had perpetrated the terrible Madrid train attacks of 2004 were all from Tetuan. Three weeks after the bombings, they were rounded up by Spanish police and blew themselves up rather than surrender. A sizable fraction of Moroccan suicide bombers who went to Iraq in the mid-2000s were also from Tetuan.
And finally, it has to be mentioned that no later than two months ago, a public demonstration of the city's Salafi preachers and their followers took place officially - quite an event in its own right in the Sherifian Realm - calling for implementation of Sharia law in the country.
Ayoub was 18 when his family left Tetuan for Spain, in 2007. They first lived in Madrid for three years, before moving south to Algesiras. Oddly enough, it seems the Khazzani family had a particular talent for picking up places known for their Islamic radicalism. Just as the slums of "Jamaë Mezouak" in Tetuan were and still are a stronghold of Salafism, so was the neigbhorhood of "El Saladillo" in Algesiras, home to the Khazzani family since 2010.
By Patrick BAHZAD - updated on August 22nd, 7.30 am EST
In yet another case of "lone gunman syndrome", a potentially catastrophic terror attack was foiled yesterday by two US servicemen on the "Thalys" highspeed train going from Amsterdam to Paris.
As more details are trickling in about the incident that happened Friday afternoon, it has become clear to law enforcement that we are dealing again with a lone gunman/terrorist carrying out yet another isolated attack.
Although the French Ministry of the Interior has cautioned against jumping to conclusions, Belgian Prime-Minister Charles Michel has acknowledged that a major terror attack had been avoided. Given that the incident took place on a train between Belgium and France, two investigative teams (the French Counter-terrorism Task Force and the Belgian Federal Prosecution Office) are closely cooperating and currently looking into the events as well as into the alleged shooter's identity and past.
What happened and who was involved ?
It was 5.45 pm local time and the "Thalys" was just short of the border to France, when a man sitting in the last carriage of the highspeed train opened fire, shooting at least one round with his handgun and seriously wounding one man.
Among the passengers, who immediately ducked down, were three American tourists (two of them US servicemen) who saw the gunman pass them by as he was pursuing one of the train conductors. The shooter was trying to continue firing his handgun and was carrying an AK-47.
As it turned out, the primer of the AK was faulty, so that the rifle didn't go off when the shooter had first tried to use it. Instead he had picked a handgun out of his backpack but only managed to fire one bullet. Somehow, in his frenzy, he ejected the magasine of his weapon and carried on pulling the trigger as he went after the conductor. With no ammunition in the chamber and no magasine engaged, he was however unable to do anymore damage.
The present strategy of the US for defeat of IS is ultimately dependent on the Turks. Turkey is the main pathway through which IS receives recruits of both sexes and the main pathway through which IS continues to export oil to raise money. Erdogan's Turkey has until very recently barred the US from the use against IS of air bases built and maintained by the US for NATO. These bases are at Incirlik, Diyarbakir, and Batman.
Retired USMC general John Allen has arrived at an agreement with Erdogan for use of these bases for surveillance, attack and SAR purposes in the war against IS. This will be a great convenience to the US air forces.
The problem with this deal is that Turkey and the US have different expectations and goals in this arrangement.
The US wants the bases for the IS war.
The Turks want to facilitate the downfall of the present Syrian government in order to advance the cause of Sunni triumphalism in the Levant. In this, they are complicit with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni moneyed parties in the Gulf. The prospect of a Syria dominated by a Nusra Front led government does not bother Erdogan at all. He has much the same result in mind for Turkey if he can only get enough seats in parliament to change the pesky constitution with its elements of Kemalist secularism. He also must complete his purge of the officer corps of the Turkish armed forces who remain a threat while brooding over the present government of their country.
The Turks also want the US to help them bomb the Kurds (ALL THE KURDS) into submission or extinction, whichever comes first. To this end the Turks will use their own forces and to extent that they can persuade, the forces of the United States and the Europeans. the "allied" Arab air forces have little more than a symbolic political value in this.
For the United States, Turkey's desire to crush Kurdish nationalism is a major problem. The notion that the Pesh Merga, YDP and PKK Kurds are indifferent to each others' fates is an example of the kind of ignorant magical thinking that has run American policy in the ME since the neocons and R2P "crowds" have come to be dominant. In fact the Kurds despite their political and tribal differences are one people. If the United States is complicit in attacks on Kurdish fighters of any kind, it will risk with a high probability of occurrence the loss of the Kurdish ally.
I have been increasingly inclined to reluctantly accept the notion that the US should fight IS directly on the ground and in the air with its own forces and without regard for Arab "allies," not because the jihadis are an existential threat to the US but, rather because they menace civilized life in the Islamic World and across the rest of the world as well. In this context the obstacles presented by Erdogan's policies and crypto alliance with the Islamists are an obstacle to any future destruction of the Islamic State's caliphate. Without true Turkish cooperation victory over the IS phenomenon is not possible and the US should not attempt it. Turkey is IS's de facto protector.
The destruction of IS and Nusra would not mean that future jihadi movements would not someday arise, but such destruction would win time, and that would be enough. pl
PS Marcus says he has rejected the world and will not return but adds that I can use his image as an emblem of my musings.
By Patrick Bahzad
In the last few days, a flow of media reports surfaced claiming that the "Islamic State" had launched chemical attacks against Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq, using shells containing mustard gas. Even if the news of the alleged use of such weapons by al-Baghdadi's troops seems absolutely possible, there must be something about the month of August, chemical attacks and the Middle-East ... Two years ago, almost to this day, news of another terrible attack almost triggered Western intervention in the Syrian quagmire. Unknown to most however, August 2013 in Eastern Damascus was not the first and only instance in which a large scale and deadly attack using a chemical agent may have happened in the post-2003 madhouse the Middle-East has turned into.
While US Central Command has been very careful in its reaction to the recent news about prohibited weapons being used against the Kurds, with its spokesman Col. Ryder stating that "we really don't know what if anything may have been used", major news outlets – the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News to name but a few - were very quick to pick up that story, often adding as an explanation that the chemical agent must have come from Bashar al-Assad's allegedly destroyed stockpile of WMDs.
Events of Eastern Ghouta in August 2013
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which had already supervised the destruction of the Syrian arsenal of chemical and biological weapons in 2013-2014, is now going to launch an inquiry into this supposed breach of international law. We will see what conclusions the OPCW can draw from its analysis on the ground. Most likely, nothing conclusive will surface and no smoking gun will turn up … What is more interesting about this story is that it emerged two years exactly after the Eastern Ghouta events of August 2013, which almost triggered an Western intervention in the Syrian civil war.
What happened back then is still open to a certain level of conjecture. Western intelligence agencies and NGOs quickly condemned a Syrian military operation using a nerve agent (sarin) against insurgents and civilian populations in the South Eastern suburbs of Damascus. A special investigation by the UN however refrained from specifically designating which party could have launched the attack and an independent review by the MIT even alleged the rockets used to deliver the deadly payload could only have been launched – if at all – from rebel controlled areas.
The UN report also noted a couple of inconsistencies in the evidence that was collected at the time in Damascus, inconsistencies that have not been explained so far by any party involved. The death toll of the Ghouta events is also open for debate, with the casualties varying between 287 victims (according to French intelligence), 355 (according to the NGO "Médecins sans Frontières"), 502 (according to the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights") and 1702 (according to the "Free Syrian Army").
Turkey - The Turkish foreign minister yesterday announced on Turkish TV that no Turkish soldiers will be sent into the "buffer zone" to defend it. Well, then who will defend it? "Turkmen Volunteers?" This would be a transparent ploy, something like the Chinese "volunteering" to fight the US in Korea. The first time a Turkish soldier or jandarm para-military bitches to the media about being "volunteered" Erdogan will have a lot of trouble. Perhaps the unicorn army of non-jihadi anti-Assad resistants? Their leading wave of conquest was just handed its hat, ass and overcoat by the Nusra Front. The effort to train such people is revealed to be totally ineffective. I ask again - Who and what is defending Incerlik Air Base in turkey? IS has demonstrated its ability to operate within Turkey. Air base defense is not an idle question.
HC - News on the jungle telegraph in Washington holds that contrary to any expectation of Clintonian sanity in the e-mailgate caper, HC's staff transmitted information over her non-government e-mail account that they knew had previously been judged to be classified. If that is true, she is in a lot of trouble both politically and legally as are people who were in her former staff. This behavior would be vastly different from transmitting information that had not yet been classified by State or some other government department.
IS chemical weapon use - There is some evidence that IS has repeatedly used chlorine gas or mustard gas against Kurdiah fighters. The Borg's immediate knee-jerk reaction is to suggest that perhaps IS obtained these munitions from the Assad government. Well, pilgrims, these chemical agents are not all that hard to make.
Ramadi - The US and Iraq tell us that Ramadi is about to fall to the forces of light. Well, we are waiting...
Odierno's parting shot - The departing US Army Chief of Staff, Ray Odierno, affectionately known as "The Desert Ox," announced at a final presser that it might be necessary to partition Iraq. Abadi's government reacted in fury to that, and why not. The Shia Arabs want to rule Iraq as it was and in one piece. It will be interesting to see what the new CoS is like. He is a Princeton grad rather than WP.
Political projection for 2016 - A Republican ticket made up of Kasich/Fiorino or Kasich/Rubio. pl
Having performed the modern equivalent of the ancient practice of predicting the future based on examining the entrails of a sacrificial animal, I'd like to share my findings with this Committee.
The young Saudi Prince Muhammad, having sown his wild oats in Yemen, seems to have now been taken in hand by the elders of the clan. In the process, of course, he perpetrated the most notable war crime of the post-WW2 era. Having drawn in the US as a (probably reluctant) aider and abettor, he has also ruled out any valid grounds for the US media and sundry 'keepers of the world's conscience' to expostulate in horror every time Rami Abdelrahman announces from his London basement that the vile Assad's forces had killed a dozen or two civilians. Not that this will stop them, of course.
The clan elders steered Prince Muhammad (still the face of the regime, being the apple of his father the King's eye) to Cairo, where he was lectured on the facts of life by President el-Sisi (and then signed a pact between Egypt and Saudi Arabia). In the 'world according to Sisi', the villains are Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the various jihadi groups, while anyone fighting them, such as Assad of Syria, are good guys. Turkey is up to no good; it backed the MB and now supports the jihadis; it aims to re-establish its rule over the Arabs. Iran and Hizbullah are undoubtedly suspect as Shia, but have their hearts in the right place as they also fight jihadis. And, of course, all this needs lots of money, so thank you in advance for your generous assistance.
Field Marshal el-Sisi himself is currently on a roll, but his future is anything but certain. Having been let out from the penalty box where he'd been put for a while by the US, he has been compensated by a shower of F-16s, money, high-level visits, etc. With the blood he has already shed, and his continuing tough ways, he may have a suicide bomber get close enough some day. Or, if things start to go downhill in the country, another general or a junta may remove him.
"The basic fundamentals of the Doha talks were: 1) A rejection of the scenario of partitioning Syria, as it will create more instability and provides no end to the war, 2) Adopting the parameters laid by the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and by Moscow, 3) Working on an unofficial demarcation of areas of influence, 4) Negotiating, separately first, with Arab Sunni players and the Iranians to determine the final status of these areas of influence, a la Taif agreement, while leaving the door opened to direct talks later on, 5) General elections in Syria with a prior understanding that Assad will not run and that the new government will include representatives of all components of the Syrian society.
(Taif was the deal that ended the Lebanese civil war. It was based on an unofficial partitioning of the country to areas of “natural” sectarian and political control combined under a sectarian dosed central government)" MEB
The author recognizes that this "solution" is partition in all but name as it was in Taif1 -Lebanon.
That agreement was negotiated over the heads of the Lebanese combatant factions and Hafez al-Assad by the triad of; Philip Habib, Dick Murphy and Rafik Hariri. Habib was then Reagan's world-wide diplomatic mister fix-it. He had been raised in New York City in a Jewish neighborhood although he was the child of Lebanese Maronite immigrants. He spoke Yiddish and supposedly had a magic touch with those who spoke the language (and their overseas kin). Rafik Hariri was the darling of the Sudeiri faction of the Saudi Royal family. He had begun life as a poor boy in Sidon, Lebanon, had emigrated to SA, had become a Wahhabi and made vast amounts of money constructing public buildings for the royals. Rumors abound as to what the connection was but I will not list them here. He was a Saudi "citizen" at the time of negotiations. And then there was Richard W. Murphy, the US ambassador in Saudi Arabia. I worked for him there at the time. He and Habib were busy most of the time traveling around the ME in Hariri's plane trying to unravel various Gordian Knots. They schmoozed their way to what looked like a peace deal between the Lebanese (Gemayel) government of the day and Israel. That fell apart when Hafez al-Assad learned of it. The Lebanese were desperate for an end to their self immolation and the Habib/Murphy/Hariri flying carpet managed to arrange a meeting at Taif in Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, this was held in one of the royal guest houses that Hariri had built. There, the Saudis and the Americans arranged a deal that effectively partitioned Lebanon while preserving the image of a single sovereign country. The deal did not require Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. Hafez-al-Assad gave his assent with the understanding that Lebanon would be within Syria's sphere of influence. The Saudis required that Hariri resume his former Lebanese citizenship and be appointed prime minister by the rump parliament that theoretically still existed in Beirut or what was left of Beirut. The US assented and someone informed the Lebanese of the agreement. Lebanon has been a mess ever since with massive sectarian and political tensions just below the surface of daily life. Lebanon continues to be treated as a regional pawn by all those interested. Perhaps the Lebanese deserve this for allowing themselves to be abused and participating in the abuse. Perhaps Lebanon, a colonial construct, should never have been a single country. It was, after all, merely a French conceit. For this deal to be made required not only the total exhaustion of the Lebanese fighting factions but also the acquiescence of all external players.
The Saudis have now been busy buying off Sisi. That should work in this context. Turkey will be enthusiastically "on board" under present management. Are Russia, Hizbullah and Iran likely to accept defeat at the hands of; the Children's Crusade, the Izzies, and the 'Desert Irish?"
I doubt this is possible considering the mischief the US is fostering against Russia, the general attitude towards Iran of The Borg, and American insistence at Israel's direction that Hizbullah are merely terrorists. pl
"Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.
"Hasan: In 2012 the U.S. was helping coordinate arms transfers to those same groups [Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda in Iraq], why did you not stop that if you’re worried about the rise of quote-unquote Islamic extremists?
Flynn: I hate to say it’s not my job…but that…my job was to…was to to ensure that the accuracy of our intelligence that was being presented was as good as it could be." Hoff quoting parts of the Flynn interview
IMO Hasan did not do a good job on this interview.
- Hasan has the usual third world notion lodged in his head that Flynn as Director of DIA had some executive authority over Obama Administration policy in Syria or Iraq (or anywhere else). He did not. As he said (quoted above) "It's not my job..." He does state in the interview that he tried to persuade people in the Obama Administration not to provide assistance to the Nusra group. They are clearly an AQ group. Nusra is not the same as IS. In fact they are competitors for world-wide leadership of the 'umma , (the world wide community of Islam). It is not really his job to try to persuade the civilian government that they should not adopt a particular policy but when you are that high up in the intelligence world the temptation to tell dummies that they are wrong is overwhelming. That kind of honesty eventually cost him his real job.
- Flynn says in the interview that the Obama Administration in its eagerness to obey Bibi's dog whistle demand for Assad's destruction decided quite willfully to accept the presence of Nusra in the coalition of forces it was (and is) trying to assemble against Assad.
- Flynn tries to explain that the foreign paper that is the basis of the additional DIA analysis PREDICTED that something like IS would arise. This is not to say that DIA accused the Obama Administration of assisting what became IS.
- The DIA paper did say that the DIA analysts believed that those who supported the destruction of the Syrian Government would welcome the rise of a "caliphate." The paper does not accuse the US government of being among those who would welcome this development. It must be remembered that the basis of the DIA paper was the analysis of a foreign intelligence paper received in liaison. pl
Joe Scarborough is a small-bore thinker but he worries his way through problems of perception until he approaches comprehension. His street rat instincts then lead him through a maze of double speak on the air as he seeks to force Mika's kaffeeklatch to acknowledge the obvious. Why is he so devious? Simple - he knows that "the masters" in The Borg will do him in if he is perceived to be too independent. When was the last time you saw Freeman interviewed on network TV?
This morning while the birdies were perched around the stammtisch table, Joe asked Richard Haass, president of the CFR, if it is really necessary to rid Syria of Bashar Assad. Haas blinked a few times and then said that Assad was the cause of both rebellion in general and the growth of IS and Nusra. Joe let that go of course. He will return to the subject like a dog returning to a ripe bone long buried in the back garden.
Haass has been president of CFR since 1990 -? He has long presented himself as a deep thinker and a neutral party (almost) in the great struggle of the Zionist state to realize its self perceived destiny in the ME. His predecessor at CFR, Les Gelb, was, IMO, almost comically one sided in this matter however crudely he sought to disguise the fact.
Haass has been more careful, but today the look of surprise and something like alarm that came over him was striking. What was visible in that moment was a deep need to reinforce the message, the message that people like him and Dennis Ross are, IMO, engaged in injecting into the blood stream of The Borg.
Israel is deeply in thrall to a Revisionist Zionist fantasy in which all the surrounding states must be rendered impotent and harmless. That kind of thought led AIPAC and its more covert allies to drive the US towards war and invasion in Iraq. It mattered not at all that the case to be made about WMD programs in Iraq was a total fabrication. It mattered not at all.
Now, the main visible theme in the Likudnik effort is the idea that Hizbullah, the Syrian Government and Iran are, in combination, the greatest threat to the dream yet faced. In fact, Syria has long supplied Hizbullah and has served as a port of entry for Iranian weaponry and advisers on their way to Hizbullah. The present Syrian government must therefore be destroyed.
Joe asked Haass what would replace Assad.
The answer was that a junta of Alawi generals is the mostly likely outcome when Assad is removed.
In this response can be seen the vision of a Syria that will accept a role as a Morgenthau Plan style entity that accepts its fate as a pastoral vassal of Israel.
What next, Joe? pl
"... the American-aligned unit, known as Division 30, in fighting off the assault, according to an American military spokesman and combatants on both sides. The strikes were the first known use of coalition air power in direct battlefield support of fighters in Syria who were trained by the Pentagon.
The attack on Friday was mounted by the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda. It came a day after the Nusra Front captured two leaders and at least six fighters of Division 30, which supplied the first trainees to graduate from the Pentagon’s anti-Islamic State training program.
In Washington, several current and former senior administration officials acknowledged that the attack and the abductions by the Nusra Front took American officials by surprise and amounted to a significant intelligence failure." NY Times
"a significant intelligence failure?" No! No! Based on my 34 years experience in government in the war-fighting, policy and intelligence fields I would bet you a month's pay that the intelligence community told the policy people (elected and appointed) that the Nusra Front are inherently and permanently enemies of the United States and the west in general.
What has happened in this is that the policy people, unable to find tools with which to bring down the Syrian government, (at Israel's behest) have been working for the last several months at the considerable task of convincing themselves that not all Nusra jihadis are "bad people." Some are now said to be "misguided" by policy people in the hope that the Nusra Front can be made into useful idiots willing to serve the interests of what they would call the Crusader and Zionist foe.
Well, pilgrims, if someone or some group of someones in the IC contradicted that idea I am quite sure that the response from the policy side would be to tell them to go play amongst themselves quietly whilst the grown-ups talk.
Contributing to this catastrophe visited upon the hapless 60 members of Division 30 (the Unicorn Army) is the willingness of Israel to support the rebels fighting the Syrian Government south of Damascus. Guess what! These rebels include Nusra Front elements. Israel is treating their wounded in Israeli hospitals and providing them close air support.
Well, pilgrims, if Israel thinks they are all right...
By Patrick Bahzad
In a recent turn of events, Turkey has stepped up its military operations against the "Islamic State", but also against Kurdish PKK fighters and their logistical bases in Northern Syria. The development that triggered the Turks springing into action was a suicide bombing that occurred last week in Suruç, on the Turkish side of the border to Syria, near the town of Kobane. While many observers expected Ankara to step up its efforts and rein in ISIS' freedom of action on Turkish territory, secretly hoping for stronger measures to be taken against the Jihadi militants on Syrian territory as well, the Turkish airstrikes against Kurdish groups have come as a surprize and a shock. This dual strategy however is perfectly explainable and should remind all those interested in fighting the "Islamic State" that national interests in the region are very diverse and that the US-inspired anti-ISIS coalition has to deal with a number of national agendas, making the implementation of any common plan all the more difficult. To Ankara in particular, it looks very much like the Kurds and their militant groups are just as much a part of the problem as is the "Islamic State".
Kobane, the Kurdish border-town close to where last week's bombing took place, did rise to fame last year when Kurdish "Peshmerga" fighters managed to contain and roll back an IS offensive. However, the success of the Kurdish irregulars, whose name literally means "those facing death", was largely conditioned by massive US and Coalition airstrikes. During the four month siege of Kobane, nearly 80 % off all anti-ISIS strikes in Iraq and Syria took place around Kobane. This alone should help put the Kurdish performance into context and help understand that the aura of courage and resilience of the Kurds is also an image that was carefully crafted by PR-agencies in the West.
Kurdish History Repeating Itself
In truth, the Kurds have a reputation as fearsome mountain fighters. Early converts to Islam, they have always lived in their current areas of population, but rarely – actually never – formed an independent political entity. The 19th century in particular was crucial to their dispersion and lack of unity. Confronted with an increasing political and administrative centralisation by the Ottoman State, the Kurds started an insurgency, but – just as today – their lack of internal cohesion brought their downfall and what was left of earlier semi-autonomous Kurdish emirates gradually disappeared, as Ottoman armies put an end to local leadership.
However, the "Sheikhs" that the Ottoman Sultans designated to replace earlier feudal leaders would prove almost as difficult to manage as their predecessors and insurgency practically became the normal state of play in Kurdish populated areas of the Empire. While these insurgencies played a crucial role in shaping the feeling of a Kurdish identity and fed the Kurds' longing for autonomy and independence, they also fostered a fractured political landscape, with clans and families – often the offspring of the "Sheikhs" who had been put in place by the Sublime Porte – fighting for legitimacy as representatives of the Kurdish people.
He thinks we should leave the "civilized world" and move to a nice, warm island where we can concentrate on finding ripe coconuts, good bananas, the odd lobster and where the doings of the
Fundament of Borgistas will not so oppress us.
He raises the following points:
- The Turks describe their Indian Reservation in NW Syria as being a "no-fly" zone for their favorite non-IS rebels. These include the Nusra front.
- The US anti-IS czar, General (ret.) Allen USMC says it is not a no-fly zone.
- Who is going to defend this Indian Reservation?
- The Turks have now graciously given us access to four air bases that we built and maintained on their territory. We did this because they were once something like NATO allies of the United States.
- The Turkish Deputy PM has once again insulted a woman member of parliament by telling her that she should shut up BECAUSE she is a woman. We need allies like the Erdogan government? Oh, I forgot we have other allies like that, the Saudis!
- The Turkish Air Force has now begun to bomb installations of the PKK. This is a problem for the US since the other Kurds; PM, YPG, etc. do not share Turkey's view of the PKK and the various Kurdish groups are the only people effectively fighting IS. We (Allen) traded the Turks our de facto agreement to this in return for the use of the air bases? Have we considered the fact that Turkey may now become unstable over this intervention? I hope someone is thinking about air base security.
- An unnamed "senior US official" said today that the US does not seek the military defeat of the Syrian Government. No? You could have fooled me. Oh, I forgot (getting old) that we hope that Assad will decide to commit personal and national suicide by allowing us to jaw-bone him into leaving.
- Kurdish and Syrian government forces have driven IS back from Hasakah in NE Syria. Will the Turks accept that or will they bomb IS's enemies there because they are Kurds and Syrian Government? US air reportedly put in 10 strikes at Hasakah to help with the anti-IS effort. We are not helping the Syrian Government?
I suggest a de-confliction office somewhere to prevent US/Turkish/Syrian engagements.
Marcus and I will continue to discuss the possibility of escape. I am thinking of Bora Bora. I remember the old San Miguel ad that began "I was standing on the beach at Bora Bora..." pl,
The relations between Turks and 'Mountain Turks' i.e. Kurds is a long and bitter one. Of late there has been relative calm for a while since the arrest of PKK leader Ocalan, and Erdogan's peace ouvertures to the Kurds.
Erdogan's spelt out his peace terms in a way ponly an Islamist could, which in substance can be summed up as 'Forget about your irredentism, aren't we all Muslims? Come into the fold!' Given that many Kurds are leftists (i.e. secular), that cannot have been all that appealing.
In foreign policy, Erdogan has switched from zero-problems with our neighbours to zero-friends, embracing with both arms regime change in Syria after the Arab Spring.
Assad had given Syria's Kurds a degree of autonomy at the beginning of the civil war, probably to prevent his forces from overstretch and based on the insight that he wouldn't be able to hold these territories anyway. That caused the Turks even more headaches than they already had over the Kurds, because they saw in this the looming spectre of Kurdish statehood.
Erdogan's tool of choice to remedy that has been Islamist groups, notably ISIS, which has been expanding in Iraq and Syria at the expense of Kurds and the Iraqi and Syrian governments alike. Erdogan's support for ISIS is rather well documented by now:
Recently, Turkey has also been carrying out airstrikes at PKK targets, apparently with US approval. The concession underlines the extent to which US influence on Turkey is practically limited, just as it is limited in the case of Saudi Arabia bombing of Yemen. Even when the US think it's a bad idea, there is little they can do to stop it, and opposing it would only further reduce leverage.
It appears that vis a vis the Kurds the Turkish strategy was from the onset to use ISIS to squeeze the Kurds in Syria and Iraq and prevent them from declaring a Kurdish state (the seizure of Mosul, the 'Kurdish Jerusalem', was a major blow to Kurdish aspirations). Doing that, Erdogan ignored that when you put pressure on an ethnicity that lives in four countries in that way, it is near impossible to localise the conflict.
Predictably, ISIS eventually carried their fight into Turkey proper, when one of their suicide bombers murdered 30 and wounded 100 in the town of Suruc, across the border from Kobane. According to the BBC, Kurdish activists in Suruc played a vital role during the siege of Kobane, sending food and medicine to the YPG Kurdish fighters to bolster their supplies.
The victims belong to the Kurdish youth movement of Federation of Socialist Youth Associations. Many representatives of the pro-Kurdish party HDP, which had a strong and unprecedented showing in the last election, hail from that movement.
If Erdogan lives up to expectations, official investigations into the matter will be lukewarm, and the blanket veil of secrecy cast over the affair (and Turkish support for ISIS in general) suggests that not much will come out of it. Turkey initially blocked Twitter access to stall Suruc bomb coverage.
It appears Erdogan is invested in supporting ISIS against Assad and the Kurds. That would appear even more so, if there is something to the story that his daughter is running a hospital that is secretly treating ISIS fighters. But then, the Middle East is an effing rumour mill.
In any event, Erdogan has eventually succeeded in not only soundly alienating the Kurds, but in destabilising not only Syria but Turkey itself also. Quite a feat.
" President Obama acknowledged setbacks in U.S. efforts to fight “nimble” and “opportunistic” Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, but reaffirmed his ongoing strategy of battling the terrorist organization yesterday after a rare meeting with top military brass at the Pentagon.
“As with any military effort, there will be periods of progress, but there are also going to be some setbacks,” Obama said. “But today, it’s also important for us to recognize the progress that’s been made.”
Critics say the ongoing campaign, in which the United States provides airstrikes and military advisors while relying largely on regional forces on the ground to hold Islamic State fighters at bay, is unsustainable." Boston Herald
Critics of the BHO Administration often say that Obama has no real strategy for dealing with IS, AQ and all the other phenomena of 21st Century jihadism. They are not correct. Obama has a strategy. He described it once again in a visit to the Department of Defense at the Pentagon.
The underlying principle in his "plan" is his belief in the inability of the US to impose its will on foreign jihadis by sheer force. This belief is expressed well in statements such as "there is no military solution," "Ruritanians must win the fight for themselves (with our help), and "the government must reach out to ------- (some flea bitten minority). Well, pilgrims, that is "nation building" by whatever euphemistic name you prefer.
"Nation building' is now a dirty word in US power circles because it is understood to connote "Counterinsurgency" (i.e. "nation building). This is a doctrine created by the former colonial powers after WW2 in which the metropole sought to devise a method with which revolutionary independence movements could be defeated. In the end the method as described by Bernard Fall involved: "Political Action + Economic Development + Counterguerrilla operations." The belief was that these ingredients would produce friendly countries or still colonized but malleable territories and populations.
It never really worked if the opponents were serious people. The record of failure of the COIN idea is impressive. There are very few real successes recorded in history. The Philippines under Magsaysay, the defeat of the Tupamaro guerrillas in Uruguay, British success against EOKA in Cyprus, there are only a few such examples. All of them involve providentially good, local, authentic leadership.
The USA has repeatedly tried to apply this philosophy of war (basically more development than fighting). It has never worked for us. In the end the effort costs too much, is too cruel in an extended and public way and requires more patience than is native to the American soul. Vietnam (the American public gave up), Afghanistan (the flea bitten hostiles still run the countryside), Iraq (the sectarian and ethnic flea bitten still hate each other), Syria (we insist that this time we will succeed in re-organizing the country).
Obama's strategy against the jihadi menace (and it is a menace) is to "help," to "assist," to "supply," to provide air support, to "train," to "guide" governments. This is COIN, folks. This is "nation building." Obama and the generals and what's his name? Ah! Carter! promise that a few hundred billion dollars more and another generation of US soldiers "advising" will yield something in these far flung places that will seem to us to be familiar and not threatening. What a crock! Does Obama really believe this nonsense served up by his slicky boy preppy staffs?
The ugly truths are that the wars in the MENA area are not the product of misunderstanding and money corruption in government. In fact, they are the current manifestation of ancient and potent group rivalries, rivalries in which killing and dying are quite ordinary things and in which with few exceptions most people are quite willing to "screw" their group enemies to the wall.
The genteel fantasy of COIN inspired reconciliations is just that, a fantasy that has nothing to do with the savagery of real life in MENA. In the case of IS as it spreads and metastasizes across the land, the fantasy has no chance whatever of defeating a real army, led by men whom we spurned and threw out into the street to starve.
So, what the hell do we think we are doing? You tell me! pl
So much news, so little time to work on this. I confess to having been distracted most of the day by telephone and internet time trying, finally successfully I think, to resolve a minor issue with the VA over allotment payments for my VGLI premiums. I got older and the premiums went up and I needed to make a small change. The only efficient US government people on the phone are the Social Security folks. I cannot say enough good about them.
US Military Strategy - Maybe Dempsey is trying to soft-pedal this but the references to Russia as an adversary are disturbing. How far forward are we going to lean against Russia in the context of new hand-picked senior people in the JCS who have probably been asked by the WH and Carter if they will accept the R2P view of the world? That is obviously Obama's view as well. If it were not, Obama would have gotten rid of the Harpies (male and female) by now. For god's sake, people look at how the first World War started.
Cordesman - He seems to want us to move from military alliances to civil-military alliances in which the US would "coordinate" everyone's actions. If this is the case, then Cordesman and his crew have become imperialists in the true sense of the word.
Boko Haram - The Borg has been pushing the line that the Nigerian army under new management has been eliminating the scourge. This most recent attack would indicate that BK has re-positioned itself and is still a big problem as are newly minted IS franchises in Afghanistan, and the Caucasus. This problem is growing, not shrinking. IMO it will be necessary to defeat the Caliphate on its home ground in Syria and Iraq, defeat it militarily and discredit it in the minds of Muslims or possible future Muslims who dream of a much greater 'Umma.
Syria SW Front - ISW reports with some detail on the "progress" the rebels are making with Israeli, Jordanian and US support. ISW seems to want to see this coalition of the unicorn/Nusra forces take Damascus or so weaken the Syrian government that it will fall as part of the general onslaught of Islamist forces from other quarters. ISW seems to think that would be a good thing. Why that would be escapes me. (irony)
Shark Alert - North Carolina is studying the shark menace. There have been several attacks on their coast that are reminiscent of the "Jaws" films. My suggestion for dealing with this threat to our civil right to wade in the water would be to stay out of the water.
"After fierce clashes with loyalists, rebels, including Islamist fighters, surrounded the village of Hader, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group said.
“Hader is now totally surrounded by rebels, who just took a strategic hilltop north of the village,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
The village lies along the cease-fire line, with the Israeli-occupied Golan to the west and the border with Damascus province to the northeast.
Abdel Rahman said the rebels had received reinforcements from elsewhere in Qunaitra province, which covers much of the Golan." Daily Star
"Despite surviving more than four years of civil war, the Syrian regime might still fall, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday.
“We would like to see a transition in which Assad disappears from the scene,” Carter testified before the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee. “That is possible because his forces are much weakened.”
Government forces are more and more isolated in and around Damascus and in the Alawite-majority region of the northwest of the country, Carter said." Daily Star
SECDEF Carter actually said this week that the "best thing" would be for Bashar Assad to remove himself from the scene. That is pretty funny since Assad's certain fate would be extradition and execution from whatever refuge he might seek.
Israel is playing its usual two-faced game with the Druze. Many Druze serve in the IDF and Israeli Border Police. Israel wants the rebels to destroy the present Syrian government in the belief that whatever successor government might then exist would be weak, disorganized and harmless to them. To that end the Natanyahu government is quite willing to see the Druze inhabitants of Hader, a village just beyond the UNDOF zone, be massacred by "rebels" many of whom are the Izzies newfound Nusra friends.
Understandably, the Israeli Druze are displeased by this and last week a group of them attacked with stones IDF ambulances that were evacuating "rebel" casualties to IDF hospitals so that they could be repaired and returned to the fight.
At the top of the Israeli list of priorities is the destruction of Hizbullah and the rocket artillery and guided missile threat it poses to most of Israel. Iron Dome is an inadequate defense against that threat and the IDF has no real "stomach" for another ground fight against Hizbullah. Much of the Israeli animosity against Assad is probably based on his long term alliance with Hizbullah.
I asked an Israeli officer last week if he knew what Irish Alzheimer's was. He did not so I explained that it is a condition that occurs when one forgets all else but one's real or imagined enemies. He laughed but clearly did not grasp the reference. pl
By Patrick Bahzad
With discussions having recently taken place about the best course of action in the fight against the Islamic State, a short overview of the modus operandi of IS troops on the tactical level seems helpful to understand how their military capabilities can be targeted, and to what effect. The following assessment is based on IS operations undertaken mostly in Iraq in the period since early June 2014.
As a preliminary remark, it has to be pointed out that ISIS' operations in Syria, although they have been been taken into account for comparative purposes, are dependent on other contingencies and are only mentioned in case of notable discrepancies with Iraq. It also needs to be mentioned that, as an adaptive organisation, the Islamic State would probably be able to change its tactics if there was a significant overhaul of the Coalition's strategy.
For all these reasons, the following assessment should only be seen as indicative of IS' tactics so far and shouldn't be considered a projection of any course of action they might take over the months to come, in particular during Ramadan which is about to start.
A "Survivalist" Organisation
One of the most important things to stress about ISIS is that this is an organisation that has learnt to fight and survive – despite heavy losses – in an environment where they were totally outmatched technologically and under the constant threat of US air-power. The other decisive aspect to their military capabilities is the input of former military and intelligence personnel from the Saddam era.
In its early days, "Al Qaeda in Iraq" lacked the military, logistical and organisational skills of the former Iraqi military and it had a hard time surviving the US led "Surge". However, what was left of AQI in 2009 had merged with the ex-Baathist element and had gradually morphed into a structure that had learnt its lessons the hard way. Renamed "Islamic State in Iraq", it was led by a group of people skilled enough to seize any chance to expand and consolidate their organisation.
The very nature of the terrain that this war is being fought on, i.e. the presence of ISIS on both sides of the international border between Iraq and Syria, makes for a third element with huge implications for the Coalition. Iraq was always seen as the top priority of ISIS leadership, but their expansion into Eastern Syria - both as a logistical base and a sanctuary - has changed the equation. The scope of this change however will not be analysed further in detail in this piece. Instead we will focus primarily on the characteristics of the Islamic State as a hybrid organisation mixing terror, insurgency and urban warfare tactics.
My mother always sais that, when we children were quiet, we usually tended to have mischief on our minds. I guess, it isn't any different with interntational policy meetings of which you hear basically nothing, and of Camp David you heard basically nothing.
Gareth Porter reports, that the deal the Gulfies have apparently proposed to Obama at Camp David was that they would tolrate a US-Iranian deal only if they get to destroy all their links, real or imagined, to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The US, concerned about Jihadis getting out of control again, apparently replied that that was ok only if they kept their pets on the leash and make sure that they don't crap on the carpet.
While Al Jazeera asked Al-Joulani fawning questions, according to Syria Comment, Al-Joulani during the interview confirmed his allegiance to al-Qaida twice, saying that he receives orders from its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, all without follow up questions.
Al-Joulani went on to say that JaN's overall goals are overthrowing Assad and defeating Hezbollah, and that Syria would not serve as a base for an attack on the Americans or Europeans.
Just to make things perfectly clear, JaN soon after angrily denied having broken with Al Qaeda.
"Al-Nusra "completely denies reports of a break-up with Al-Qaeda," the group said in a statement released on Twitter.
It said Al-Nusra "remains the backbone of jihadists" in Syria, "the first into battle, dedicated to unifying the ranks around sharia (Islamic law)... righting injustice and defending the disadvantaged".
It denied "completely all reports of a meeting with Qatari or other intelligence services or seeking Qatari or Gulf funding, as this is contrary to the principles on which Al-Nusra has been based from the start".
There is IMO little reason to believe that the Gulfies will be able to control their proxies. Porter is IMO absolutely right when he writes that the disavowal of global jihadist aims in the short run does not mean that the organization has abandoned those aims.
Assuming JaN makes more progress towards Lebanon, and succeeds in seizing Damascus and overthrowing the Syrian Government, there will be the question after the post-Assad order. I find it highly implausible that the group that did all the fighting will allow itself to be excluded from power. Historically it has rarely if ever worked that way. Why should it now?
Beyond that, JaN will likely continue in the mission and take on Hezbollah in their heartland, Lebanon.
This is yet another good piece of work, almost. Its methodology and logic are very familiar to me and reflect the presence in its work force of a good many who learned the trade in the US Armed Forces.
Unfortunately, the work is fatally marred in its Conclusions section. This section abandons the work of intelligence analysis for policy advocacy in that it clearly presses for an alliance between the US and the Islamist forces now fighting the Syrian government.
It does that in the apparent belief that these forces can be controlled and manipulated after their victory and installation in Damascus as the triumphant vanguard of Islamic rule throughout the ME.
This is, of course, absurd. The victors will be unwilling to hand over power to a feeble "army" of semi-secular rebels of the sort favored by ISW, McCain, Graham et al. Would they fight each other? Of course they would. This kind of reduction to struggle amongst Muslim factions is a never ending feature in Islamic history. Does the word tawa'if mean anything to ISW? From Islamic andalus to post Soviet Afghanistan the pattern is recurrent. The inevitable intra-Islamist struggle would not be a fertile ground for R2P inspired installation of a "liberal" government.
The attachment of a "policy prescriptive" conclusion to this document calls into question the integrity of ISW's work products when they are labeled "intelligence forecast."
One must ask if ISW is affecting Obama Administration policy or is it merely indulging the obsessions of its proprietors?
By Patrick Bahzad
On Wednesday, French Air Force Chief – General Denis Mercier – gave an interview to Lebanese newspaper "L'Orient le jour" and offered an interesting view on the ongoing anti-ISIS campaign as well as the current Coalition strategy aimed at fighting the "Islamic State".
The interview is interesting for several reasons. First of all, it can be considered the French armed forces' official take on the current strategy in Iraq and Syria, especially after the recent summit that was organised to discuss future measures (and the ensuing announcements made by the White House). General Mercier has been an effective fighter pilot and squadron leader. He also has extensive experience in planning and leading air campaigns, in so far as he was in charge of the French participation in the strikes against Libya in 2011. Finally, he has already been officially announced as the next Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), based in Norfolk, Virginia.
Although SACT is as much a political command as it is an operational one, it nonetheless is a key player in NATO's restructuring towards the challenges of tomorrow, with the Command's mission being is basically to provide the conceptual framework for the conduct of future combined joint operations and define how future operations will be conducted. Previous Commanders of SACT include Gen. Lance Smith (USAF) and Gen. James Mattis (USMC).
For all these reasons, it's worth having a good look at Gen. Mercier's statements. According to him, the Coalition strategy is flawed and should be based more on the blue-print that was used against Gaddafi's Libya. Basically blasting US tactics, he said the USAF was wasting its time bombing “150 pick-up trucks a day” instead of focusing much more on "ISIS command and control structures". The General was being quoted as stating in particular that "in Libya, we went after Qaddafi's centres of gravity… it was by attacking these centres that we managed to topple Kadhafi, not by firing at 150 pick-up trucks a day. Otherwise we would still be there. It is exactly the same problem in Iraq today. We are only targeting the frontline".
The main issue, according to Gen. Mercier, is that IS' command structures are not necessarily in Iraq, but mostly in Syria now. The situation there is very sensitive, because any determined action against the "Islamic State" might also strengthen Bashar al-Assad, which the US want to avoid at any cost. The other side to the problem seems to be internal Iraqi politics, Baghdad having specifically asked that IS' centres not be hit on Iraqi territory. The reasons behind such demands could be diverse, but the current Iraqi government might fear some sort of backlash, like a major bombing campaign on the capital or attacks against the Shia south.
Regarding the performance of the air campaign however, Gen. Mercier seemed to confirm previous statements by US officials, going even a step further: "If the Coalition hadn't been there, quite frankly, this war would be over. ISIS would be in Baghdad now. Thanks to the airstrikes, we gave Iraqi forces some freedom of action for ground operations. That's it, but it is already a big achievement. Anything further is up to them".
No doubt, issues regarding the Shia sectarian militias are at the centre discussions currently held to determine the future course of action. What is also beyond doubt, is that sending in 450 US trainers into al-Assad airbase in Anbar province is not going to be enough …
A reminder: We solved nothing in Iraq. We broke the fragile British construct that was the Kingdom of Iraq. We own it but cannot fix it. What will result ultimately will be; a Shia Iraq from Baghdad south to the Gulf, a Kurdish place in the mountains, and IS stretching across Syria and Iraq. Are SA, Lebanon and Jordan not next on the Islamist agenda.
Former RAF Habbaniya was the center of the balance of British presence in Iraq. Look at the pictures of chapels, cemeteries, and swimming pools for the British troops. Do the pictures not give you a frisson of deja vue? If not, you are dull.
Habbaniya is the place we will defend and try to make Sunni tribesmen and Shia cowards into fighters? The omens for this are not good.
Wherever it is that we will try to do this, we should fortify and defend this place heavily. otherwise, the IS will see it as a place to bring us to battle, either there or along the logistic trail to the east. pl
"Ukraine had an NGO driven bloodless coup (kind of). This coup was clearly the doing of the U.S. ... The CIA appears to have a record of incredible incompetence"
That is not so, not quite, and that deserves some elaboration.
Of course, Bush 43 authorised the CIA do do destabilisation missions in Iran to achieve regime change, so take that with a grain of salt. But today, regime change is largely run out of the State Department. In the 70s, the CIA's history of coups and regime change caught up with it and was met with a public backlash that culminated in the climatic Church comittee hearings.
The politicians who wanted to keep doing these things irrespective of that moved the programs out of sight, and shipped staff and shop over to other organisations and found new sources of funding.
Lest these programs be again interrupted through pesky "oversight" by elected representatives, the new venue needed to be outside the bodies of the executive branch. The solution was government funded NGOs in the mold of Germany's Parteinahe Stiftungen.
Today, to the extent they concern 'soft power', such activities are run by the State Department through surrogates - semi official (USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, CIPE and ACILS), contractors and public relations firms or (congenially) entirely private (Soros' Open Society Foundation) and professional activists (OTPOR veterans). This is being supported by sympathetic journalists (providing friendly coverage or joining the fight) and pundits, lobbies (especially the transatlantic ones - Marshal Fund, Atlantic Society etc.) and think tanks (think Freedom House etc).
The semi-independent 'NGO' character of USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, CIPE and ACILS guarantees continuity in the democratising mission even with changes in government. The diverse ideological thrust of each organisation also addresses different different segments in the society of "to be developed" countries. It also provides plausible deniability. Also, these programs may be run by genuine idealists, who are not serving the US government, let alone the CIA, and will not think of themselves that way.
A lot of US support to Poland's Solidarity movement during the Cold war went trough the AFL-CIO linked ACILS, who apparently were far better connected than the CIA.
In a nutshell, these bodies run their various programs autonomosly in a decentralised fashion. In the absence of intervention, they do so on auto-pilot in accordance with the bipartisan consensus (on regime change in Russia, Cuba, Venezuela etc pp), much like on tram lines - and they may not get every memo.
A perfect example for that is the recent case of USAID vs. Cuba in which USAID sponsored a free twitter-ish program to organise resistance to overthrow the Castros - while the US administration at the same time pursued normalisation with Castro's Cuba.
TTG and I have decided to divide up the task of writing of the dangers present in the possibility of escalation in the Syria/Mediterranean area and/or in the NATO/Russian confrontation over Ukraine and the ultimate borders of Russia.
Syria and the Mediterranean - To my surprise I find that many people do not understand that military escalation is not a coldly rational process of war gaming action/reaction in a Hegelian way. The "Wizards of Armageddon" of fifty years ago may have imagined that this was the case but few of them had ever fought anyone nor had they borne the weight of seeking to exercise or advise restraint when group think, imagined proofs of masculinity and fantasies of national destiny were in the air. To some extent the Marxist notion of war as a conspiracy to seize and exploit resources plays into the idea that an escalatory process can be halted whenever the game looks unprofitable. All of history provides evidence that this is not the case. An example would be the deliberations of the Japanese war council before Pearl Harbor. In those discussions the emperor's advisors believed that US determination to stop their drive to power in Asia required them to go to war. It was understood by the members of the council that the US was potentially much the stronger power but in the end the council told Hirohito that if Japan did not fight the US they (the Japanese) would not be the men their ancestors had been.
It may be that the danger of an escalatory incident leading to war may be greater in eastern Europe but my personal focus is on the Levant and Mediterranean. In that area I deeply fear an incident at sea or in the air against Russian forces that could lead us to mutual destruction.
Those challenged in self-esteem may seek to prove themselves by goading The Bear but I learned not to do such stupid things. pl
"BEIRUT: Iran has sent 15,000 fighters to Syria to reverse recent battlefield setbacks for Syrian government troops and wants to achieve results by the end of the month, a Lebanese political source has told The Daily Star.
The militia force, made up of Iranians, Iraqis and Afghanis, the source said, have arrived in the Damascus region and in the coastal province of Latakia.
The source said the fighters are expected to spearhead an effort to seize areas of Idlib province, where the regime has suffered a string of defeats at the hands of a rebel-jihadi coalition.
Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds force, was in Latakia this week to shore up preparations for the campaign, the source said." Daily Star
My SWAG is that this is just the beginning of a large scale Iranian intervention in the Syrian civil war.
The entry into the Syria war of a large number of Iranian Quds force led troops would be a game changer. Whether the fighters are Iranian, Iraqi or from the dark side of the moon their presence might well make a decisive change in the balance of combat power in Syria. This article mentions Iranian forces in the Damascus area. They would be useful there in clearing close suburbs of Islamist forces. The entry of Iranian forces in the Latakia region of the Alawi coastal homeland is also significant. Latakia is a significant port and a suitable port of entry for Iranian heavy equipment for defense of the Alawi homeland and the re-capture of Idlib Province.
As I recall the Russian Navy has a port facility at Latakia. Will the world community seek to blockade Latakia and other Syrian ports?
Hizbullah's Nasrallah has made it clear that his organization will continue to fight alongside the forces of the Syrian government. The fighting in the Qalamoun area in the anti-Lebanon mountains east of the Bekaa Valley seems to be going well from the point of view of the Syrian government, but the Islamist coalition of the "Army of Conquest" is making gains in the northwest while IS is attacking the Syrian government garrison at Hasakha in NE Syria.
The aggressive and largely successful IS campaign in Anbar Province continues with the latest development seeming to be a deliberate shutting off of Euphrates River water at the Ramadi Dam near that city. The media seem to think that a scarcity of water at Baghdad is the major threat from this but IMO a major fall in water levels in the river will make IS's movements north-south much easier against government positions south of the river.
There are rumors circulating of a countervailing "army" of Sunni jihadis being assembled in Turkey by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
We will see. We will see. pl
"“The world will be surprised by what we and the Syrian military leadership are preparing for the coming days,” the state Islamic Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) quoted him as saying, according to the London-based daily.
The Quds Force commander’s comment comes after a recent visit to Syria where he toured the Latakia region, which has come under threat from rebels after they seized the nearby Idlib province last week following months of sweeping victories against the regime.
Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that Soleimani “began his trip in Jourin, which lies on the contact point with the opposition forces that form the Army of Conquest.”
The town, which lies a little over 40 kilometers east of Latakia, is not far from rebel lines in the Al-Ghab Plain, where regime forces have begun to bolster defense lines ahead of an expected insurgent attack. " BI
My SWAG would be that Soleimani intends the introduction of IRGC (Qods) troops and cadres in the struggle near Aleppo. pl
(Irony Alert) Psaki actually looks better this way. She was on the tube this AM reciting her talking points over and over. Her eyes appeared filled with fear at the prospect of being considered the "Baghdad Barbara" of the now and present debacle in Iraq. Well, she is right. A number of the "little people" like her will be sacrificed in a grand auto da fe, while the bigger wigs escape to re-infiltrate the policy/media Borg. Jeb Bush's campaign is full of such people, the detritus of earlier "waves" of Borgian thought and efforts, "mushroom shaped cloud," etc.
Last evening PBS broadcast a special show designed to sell the idea that Obama's feckless behavior will be altogether responsible for Syria's eventual descent into amirates for IS and maybe Nusra if they don't all swear their allegiance to IS. According to this production, there was a magic moment at which the secular, blessed Syrian revolutionaries could easily have been sponsored with a modicum of US effort for an easily triumphant victory over the Syrian government, but, no, according to Frontline the best efforts of R2Pers like Ambassador Robert Ford to inspire resistance to Assad were brought to naught by Obama's foolish resistance to ideas of actual revolution. Ideas based based on outmoded notions of state sovereignty and international law. No UN resolution to go to war was available because of the dastardly Russians, Chinese and Ugh! Iranians. Who do they think they are, actual countries? The speakers in the program were stacked in favor of actual members of the Syrian resistance, like Jouehati and other fellow traveling Borgites. When we got to the great Sarin caper, the program never bothered to mention that the UN, Sy Hersh and many others believe that this attack was part of the larger Borg Information Operations plan. the only two people with any sense or objectivity on the show were Colonel Bacevich and Joshua Landis.
In Iraq, IS yesterday attacked an outpost of the Ya Hussein crowd near Fallujah. Three car bombs attacked simultaneously from three directions, crossing the rivers on their last journey and sending somewhere between 17 and 30 Ya Husseiners on theirs. I don't know how many Death Before Everything people took Ramadi from the fleeing. I hear anything from 123 to several thousand, but this latest attack should point to the simple fact that the north shore of the Euphrates is wide open and there are a number of bridges. Do you want me to draw you a diagram?
Someone has now pointed out that it took the USMC a long time to capture Ramadi and that the Ya Husseiners are not US Marines. It looks to me that Anbar is gone. pl
(The police fort at Latrun where the tiny Arab Legion stopped the Palmach in 1948)
"Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Iraqi forces "showed no will to fight" as the Islamic State militant group captured the city of Ramadi, and he rejected calls by Republican lawmakers to commit ground troops to the conflict.
"What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter said in a CNN interview that aired Sunday. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight. They withdrew from the site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."" Washpost
It is unfortunate that one must mention the ongoing debacle in Syria and Iraq on this day in which we remember the brave.
Secretary Carter correctly rebuked the Iraqis for their lack of determination at Ramadi. As he says the Iraqi military and police forces outnumbered the attacking IS forces by 10 to 1 and were much more heavily armed and yet they still ran away as fast as their US provided ground vehicles and aircraft would carry them. How many Iraqi citizens have since been killed at Ramadi by IS as a consequence of this cowardice?
The excuse provided by apologists for this Iraqi behavior is that the US did not bring down a ring of fire from the air so that the IS nasties would not have to be fought on the ground.
This is the Great Arabian Dream Machine at its best. The GADM has been around a long time. I remember that in the Israeli War of Independence it was widely said that John Glubb had betrayed the Arab cause and that this is why Israel came into being. In fact, if it had not been for the small Jordanian Army of that time, the Arabs would have lost ALL of Palestine. I have been repeatedly told by Arabs that America supplies the Israelis with equipment that is invulnerable to hostile fire and that this is why Arab armies have repeatedly been defeated by the Izzies. I have been told that in 1967 it was American tank crews who defeated the Egyptian Army. The number and baleful effect of such self deceptions seems endless.
In this case, the Iraq forces did not have as much air support as they would have wanted. I think it is fair to point to the total lack of air support available to the much smaller IS force.
Carter is not "free lancing" in making critical statements about the Iraq forces. He is not, in Ollie North's memorable phrase, "a loose cannon on the gun deck of the ship of state." The Obama Administration is considering its options about Iraq.
Those who pay attention to such things in the US know that the plaintive appeals of the neocons (McCain, Graham, Pletka, Keane, AEI, the ISofW, etc.) for just a few thousand more advisers, etc., are really a ploy to seek full re-engagement in the anti-jihadi war, a re-engagement of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers and trillions more of our money.
This will not happen. pl
Over the months when IS was first showing its oats in Mosul more than a year ago, this Committee of Correspondence had a lively discussion over the participation of the Anbar tribes as supporters of IS. Some focused on the leaders of the tribes, one of whom was Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, head of the Dulaim Tribe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Hatem_al-Suleiman
IBT reports that just before the takeover of Ramadi, the leaders of the Anbar tribes arranged for the arrival of a large supply of weapons for IS. The Anbar tribes are now voting for IS with their means and men. The evidence is that IS has a strong contingent of local tribal support who want to have control of their own domain, free of the Shia. http://www.ibtimes.com/sunni-tribesmen-helped-isis-take-control-ramadi-leaders-say-1934441
Observers can easily conclude the reality is that IS has been birthed as a new, nationalist country. If so, should it be treated as a state and not as a non-state actor terrorist group? IS apparently has substantial loyalty and support from the inhabitants of Anbar that are now forming an identity as a People and not as an imposition from the outside. Once a People form an identity, the whole game changes irrevocably.
To a large degree, the identity of the Sunni as a nationalist People clinches the success of IS as a state, but this success is not without consequences. No longer can the nationalist People be reformed back into Iraq, even by fair treatment or coercion. It seems that the a substantial portion of the inhabitants of Anbar and the IS controlled parts of Syria are now or beginning to be IS nationals.
This actual reality necessitates a complete change in the manner the IS is opposed. If the People of IS are IS, then, no longer are they victims who must be saved-they are culpable participants. IS nationalists will never accept reintegration into Iraq, not matter how constituted. To beat IS, its People must be conquered in the same way as the Germans or Japanese were. We have not yet acknowledged that reality has moved from a non-state actor paradigm to a contest of states versus states.
Similarly, if IS is an enemy nation state, then supporting it in arms is treasonous for nationals of the states at war with it instead of such support just being a crime. Iraq can treat IS as a secessionist enemy. Other nations may take sides. ISs boundaries will be set by struggles with it neighbors.
Acknowledging the “statehood” of IS greatly clarifies the scope of the conflict and its nature. Recognition may ultimately provide a context for a peace process. Declaring IS a nation-state will enable relations with it by treaty and negotiations. Recognition will force IS to expose its leaders and diplomats. We know how to deal with a state while we have not yet really figured out how to deal with a whatchamacallit like IS is now. Naming IS a state will give the world a language tool to use in dealing with it.
In newspeak, the evidence is that the "self-described Islamic State" is no longer "self-described" a state, it is a state, and we should treat it thus--as an enemy state. There is much to be gained by granting the monster state status.
Why not give IS the status of statehood it claims and see what happens?
By Patrick Bahzad
After the Islamic State’s recent and overwhelming victory in Ramadi, the Iraqi government as well as analysts in D.C. seemed to be in a state of shock and disarray. ISIS is officially losing ground since the start of the US led airstrikes in September 2014. With the rout of the Iraqi army in Ramadi however, this narrative becomes harder and harder to sell. Earlier this year, victory of Shia militias in Tikrit had been seen as the beginning of the end for Abubakr al-Baghdadi’s organization. That assessment has now been called seriously into doubt, as the armies of the Caliphate seem to march on. Even though it is difficult to give an accurate estimate of ISIS’ military capabilities, they’re a force to be reckoned with, and they can challenge anything the current Iraqi government can muster against them.
Why months of airstrikes and hundreds of “sorties” haven’t stopped the Jihadis has several reasons. On the one hand, there are undoubtedly unresolved issues between Washington and Baghdad that have a bearing on the proficiency of the counter-IS campaign. Recent reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), stating that “coalition” airstrikes killed 170 ISIS members in the past months in Syria, should be taken with utmost caution. An allegedly independent opposition NGO, the SOHR is run out of London by a few individuals with a dubious track-record. According to – hopefully – more reliable accounts, i.e. the daily briefings of US Central Command, the first three months of consistent airstrikes managed to hit about 300 vehicles, but only 25 ISIS fighters …
This sobering result is more in line with developments we're seeing on the ground, as the death of several mid- to high-ranking ISIS leaders has not been enough to halt the overall momentum of the Caliphate’s troops, at least for now. The fact of the matter is, the Islamic State is an organization that has survived years of attempts by the Americans to destroy it. They know how to survive against an enemy that rules the skies and can see about everything that moves on the ground. They’re also hard to penetrate or read, which is very much related to the experience brought forward by former Baathist army and intelligence officers who joined the organization. What recent events in Ramadi have shown to those who might have forgotten about it, is that the Caliphate actually has an army. It is not exactly built along the same rationale as Western armed forces, but it has structure, “command and control” and a genuine ability to maneuver and fight, unlike some of the Iraqi government troops.
I hear from competent reporters on the ground in Iraq that a great panic has set in within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. Abadi, like his Shia co-religionist Maliki, has been engaged in a thorough effort to disadvantage all the Sunni populations of Iraq. This would include; the Kurds (90% Sunni), the Sunni Arabs, the Sunni Turkomans, etc. To accomplish this, Sunni majority areas have been systematically deprived of weaponry and funding for years. Alternatively, Shia manned army and police units were stationd in Sunni areas like Mosul for the purpose of keeping the Sunnis under control
Now, to quote that notable American of the '60s and 70s.. H. Rap Brown, "the chickens has come home to roost." Shia units have collapsed and fled wherever they have met IS on Sunni populated ground and under resourced Sunni units have been defeated in Sunni majority areas like Anbar Province. Is Tikrit an exception to that? No. The IS withdrawal from the city was, IMO, a calculated IS ploy successfully executed for the purpose of fixing government forces in place while IS mobile forces moved to Anbar.
The Shia government in Baghdad has run out of cards. Their "army" has lost so much US supplied equipment that the remaining units are an isolated remnant and the government is reduced to relying on former Shia murder squads in the militias. Not surprisingly the Shia bigwigs are thinking of exile.
At the same time, the US government is suffering the effects of a cognitive dissonance that has prevailed since the First Gulf War and which became all controlling with the accession to power of GW Bush and the Svengalis of the neocon cabal.
The snake oil sold by the neocons contains the basic ingredients of disrespect for local cultures and a belief that the Muslims have no culture worth living by or respecting. This attitude has permeated the US government leading to an unjustified expectation that in the end the natives would be "reasonable" and would accept US tutelage in becoming "modern" and will remain attached to their former beliefs only so far as they are decorative.
We now see the result of this attitude and its resulting policy all over the Middle East and North Africa. The only US responses have been; more BS hurled at the governments, US military trainers exposed to unreasonable risks and bombing, lots of bombing.
I wrote earlier this week of the US policy collective or "Borg." That Borg is so densely structured and inflexible that it is incapable of adapting to the rejection that reality has visited on its dreams.
As a result the Borg is falling to bits internally, incapable of dealing with unfolding disaster. Names like Bataan and the Chosin Reservoir come increasingly to mind. pl
" what will the Daesh do next? They will have to organise the defence of Ramadi, certainly, as they will likely face an onslaught of unrelenting proportions from the Shi’a militiamen that will be sent against them. However, they will continue to surprise with their maneuvering, as they have done since the feinted attacks across Iraq in the spring of 2014 culminated in the fall of Mosul in June.
They could, very easily, reopen their fronts against the Kurds in Syria – perhaps keen to exploit the still real fear in the Turkish government about the strengthening of what are seen to be PKK-linked Kurdish fighters and organisations in the three cantons of Jazeera, Kobane, and Afrin. Certainly, from the perspective of the Daesh, any attempt to join Qamishli, in Jazeera, with Kobane would need to be prevented, or else they lose their important border crossings with Turkey.
They could also move, with relative ease, in Syria; or they could continue to press the Kurds hard around Kirkuk and Mosul – pressure the Kurds would find hard to contend with. Or perhaps they may even move beyond their regular stomping ground of Iraq and Syria and attempt to destabilise Jordan or Lebanon further – with both countries being dangerously exposed to Daesh influences. Or, of course, they could push on Baghdad and stoke the sectarian conflict with their Shi’a arch-rivals as far as they can – with potential disastrous consequences.
It is difficult for an outsider to say, but the lessons we should take from Daesh are clear: that without an alternative for those who live in the realm of Daesh to support, that can actually protect them when they do stand up, then it should be expected that the legitimacy and therefore strength of the Caliphate will continue to grow.
The Iraqi government – politically and militarily – have no answer to Daesh that results in an end-game of Iraqi unity, unless that unity is achieved through the domination of the state and country by Shi’a militias." RUSI
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iranian official, said Tehran was ready to help confront Islamic State, and he was certain the city would be "liberated".
Islamic State, which emerged as an offshoot of al Qaeda, controls large parts of Iraq and Syria in a self-proclaimed caliphate where it has carried out mass killings of members of religious minorities and beheaded hostages." Reuters
"Resistance is futile," proclaimed the Borg in an endless, mindless repetition of the ultimate in group-think. Today we have the policy Borg speaking with one voice. John Kerry in South Korea and USMC BG Weidly in Baghdad have the same talking points, exactly the same talking points.
Thought control became a priority for the US military after US policy (not the military) was defeated in VN. After much soul searching and rummaging about in the farther reaches of pseudo spirituality and science, the armed forces leadership stopped looking at such things as; spoon bending, fire walking and psycho-kinesis as expressions of non-material power and an explanation for defeat in VN and decided that we had simply been defeated at home in the media and because of that among the people. Clausewitz would have appreciated that thought.
An infamous essay called "Mind War" was authored in that time by Paul Vallely (Fox News consultant) and a strange fellow named Michael Aquino. Aquino was later notorious as the High Priest of the Temple of Set, a Satanist cult in California (where else?). This paper, written by this pair of half baked psychological operations reservists, somehow insinuated itself into the thinking of the US Army, then into all of the Defense Department until it came to be an article of faith that "Information Operations," (propaganda- IO) and "Kinetic Operations" (shooting people as necessary) were equally effective ways to wage war. This belief led to an exaggerated faith in the IO side of COIN (hearts and minds) and repeated attempts to change through persuasion the basic beliefs of the many different peoples of the earth who simply do not want to be changed by foreigners. As a result of this kind of thinking we have done all kinds of foolish things. Among them; we attempted to persuade the hard core Dawa Shia activist al-Maliki that he should be politically "inclusive" with Sunnis whom he regarded as the enemies of God and of his blood. We also situated outposts in totally hostile parts of Afghanistan next to villages from which our men would never be able to defend themselves. We were trying to be persuasively nice.
Worst of all it came to be consensual thought in the US government and among their co-opted media "friends" that it was normal to propagandize the American electorate in order to block political action intended to prevent or stop a war. This was an odd development for a country in which the United States Information Agency (USIA) was forbidden by law to direct its propaganda at US audiences.
That kind of approach took us into war in Iraq. The Republican Party is now trying to deal with the truth of that crime and their tribe of midget candidates is having a hard time justifying what their party did. Good! At the moment 76% of registered Republicans are shown by polling to think that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Good! Unfortunately it took a very long time for the Koolaid and BS to lose its potency.
We are still captives of the IO internal propaganda mindset and dogma. In Iraq, Syria and Yemen the US government in all its many parts continues to lie to us in order to control us. The government narrative is that all goes well. Defeat at Ramadi is nothing, "a momentary setback" is the theme propagated by the government while a minor raid in Syria is trumpeted as a distraction from the catastrophe that is now so clear to see in Iraq.
The most hurtful thing of all is to see an officer of the US Marine Corps, sworn to protect The Republic, stoop to lie to us from Baghdad in the service of WH talking points. Ah, but perhaps he believes the BS. When you are part of the Borg you eventually come to believe that the talking points are the only reality and that defeat is evidence of impending victory.
Locutas said that resistance is futile. Perhaps it is. pl
Information about "Groupe Alpha" leaked on French radio-show
by Patrick Bahzad
The cat is out of the bag: last Saturday, a famous French radio-show aired a programme disclosing information about the existence of what is called the "Groupe Alpha". Although this is not the first time rumours have surface about the existence of this unit, the details that emerged now certainly make for an interesting read.
From "La Main rouge" to "Groupe Alpha"
The last time France's intelligence services used "targeted assassinations" on a large scale was during the Algerian War for Independence (1954-1962). French SDECE (the predecessor to today's DGSE) hit between 200 and 300 targets during that period, either Algerian activists, arms dealers or even lawyers who had made common cause with the Algerian insurgents. Those killings were handled internally or sub-contracted to an informal proxy of French intelligence called "La main rouge".
After the Algerian War and until the mid-1980s, "targeted assassinations" became an exceptional task for DGSE or other branches of French intel, like the "11e Régiment Parachutiste de Choc" or the "Service Action", with the notable exception of Lebanon, where French agents killed the mastermind and operatives behind the assassination of French ambassador Louis Delamare in Beirut in the early 1980s. It is also rumoured that a certain car bomb explosion on a market in Damascus was staged by French agents or proxies around the same period.
There is a lot of interesting news this weekend:
- Former Egyptian president Mursi has been condemned to death on the inevitable charge of whatever it was that they charged him with this time. The Sisi government is determined to kill him and a lot of other MB/salafist people in the belief that "dead men don't bite." Egypt is one of the more sophisticated countries in the region and they can't manage a change of government without killing the losers? This is really quite indicative of the hopelessness of trying to meddle in the internal affairs of such places.
- Having failed to persuade the Zeidi Yemenis to do anything they wanted by bombing them on the American model, Saudi Arabia has now declared a cessation of air ops. One can only wonder if the Washington whiz kids played a large role in the "thinking" reflected in all this. The Zeidis say they await the Saudis next move,
- Obama met a lot of Gulfie second stringers at Camp David. The gripping and grinning and flesh pressing produced nothing, actually less than nothing since the Arabs must have gone away even more convinced that the US has no idea what it is doing in the ME. Whoever it was that persuaded Obama to do a sit down with these guys should be fired or never listened to again, but that won't happen.
- It is revealed that Jeb Bush (el-Jebe) is temperamentally unsuited to be US president in the 21st Century. He believes in such things as moderation, family loyalty, rational thought, etc. He might have been useful in the 19th Century but, surely not now. It is also revealed that his foreign policy advisers are the same lying bastards who got us into Iraq. Wow! BTW, who are HC's foreign policy advisers?
- On The FZ Global Public Square circus, Mr. 1% groupie (FZ) interviewed Gates (richest man in the world) from Seattle. There, they indulged themselves in an orgy of exultation and exaltation over the strength of the American economy as reflected in the prosperity of the Seattle region with all its new style high tech industry, high education levels and other wonderfulness. The underlying idea in this was the joy felt in the wonders of free trade based on international and regional comparative advantage. All the world is now a free trade zone, FZ exulted, and how foolish the people who oppose TPP really are. What was left out of this discussion were the large pockets of distressed and poverty stricken people (mostly colored) in the urban regions of the east and mid-west as well as the emergence of what looks like a permanent large underclass among those same people. Many of the former industrial cities of the east have at least partially emptied themselves of the White blue collar class. In mute acceptance of economic theory they have moved to follow jobs. People of color often do not want to do that. They do not accept the idea of disappearing into a larger population and want to live in their own ethnic communities. I don't think FZ visits them much or cares about the obstacle to his theories that they represent.
- As b has stated in a comment on another thread we will see the real and perhaps final test for the Iraqi government when the "Hashd Sha'bi" Shia militia are committed to the fight in Ramadi. IMO the US (and friends) in the government/military/media/academic world have no comprehension that IS is an alternative civilization seeking to emerge. Because of that willful ignorance they are headed for a massive shock.
- Oh, yes, there was the much promoted story of the SF raid on a little site in eastern Syria. Good job boys! This was not the Waterloo of IS but the IO campaign on 24/7 news was a good distraction from the disaster at Ramadi.
- The British TV Highland/Jacobite romance "Outlander" has reached a level of psycho-sexual descent in which I (shamefully) watched last evening as Captain Jack Randall of the Hanoverian dragoons nailed the hand of the noble Hieland laird Jamie Fraser to a table so that he would not be inconvenienced by resistance whilst buggering him. This was in Wentworth Prison (wherever that was). This occurred after Randall licked Fraser's scarred back and gave him a big smooch as Fraser's wife looked on. Now I'll grant you that life in the Highlands in 1740 was probably not without its inter-cultural problems but this seems a bit much. A question that occurs is whether this series was watched in Scotland before the recent election. BTW, I notice that some people in a number of northern English counties are engaged in a Twitter campaign to decide if they should join Scotland.
- I am told the DoD has placed me under interdict and that my e-mail can no longer pass through their servers and SST can not be accessed from DoD computers. That will solve things. pl
"A tricky problem is that the rebels have been fighting alongside a group called Jabhat al-Nusra, which is an affiliate of al-Qaeda. Sources said Tuesday that it’s likely that in coming days a Jabhat al-Nusra faction will split publicly from al-Qaeda and join the Army of Conquest. At that point, there could be a tipping point in the north, with a broad coalition allied against both the Assad regime and the Islamic State. Jordan and Israel have developed secret contacts with members of the Jabhat al-Nusra group along their borders.
Another potential game-changer is a new U.S. willingness to support a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border. This haven, backed by U.S. air power, would allow some refugees to return home while providing a staging area for an expected assault by a U.S.-trained new Syrian army, whose first units have just been formed, against the Islamic State’s capital in Raqqa." Ignatius
IMO Ignatius is a mouthpiece for CIA and the Obama White House. In this column he has identified himself as a Koolaid distributor:
- It is a "tricky problem" that Nusra is an AQ affiliate? Nusra IS AQ. AQ is a sworn enemy of the US. Aligning ourselves with them is a lot like the brilliant scheme the Germans had for sending the Bolsheviks into Russia in 1917.
- At last! At last! "There could be a tipping point in the north..." This smacks of cloud cuckooland self delusion by CIA and the kiddies at the White House. The key phrase here is "there could be." Yes, and the moon may be made of green cheese. This is log rolling at its worst. The problem with this is that it will have to be made to happen in reality not in fantasyland. Hizbullah and the Syrian armed forces are moving right along in clearing the Qalamoun sector.
- "... a new U.S. willingness to support a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border." Really? Really? The US armed forces leaders, SECDEF and CJCS have made it publicly clear that a "no fly zone" is the first act in a new war, a war in which the US will have to destroy the Syrian Air Force and anti-air defenses and keep them destroyed and suppressed so that a victory of the - What? "Army of Conquest" will march triumphantly into Damascus so that the head chopping of all who oppose Wahhabi jihadism can begin in earnest. The term "Army of Conquest" is a reference to the sweeping early Muslim conquests in the Levant, Iraq, Iran and North Africa in the 8th Century AD. The name tells us all we need to know. The Israelis want this? They have gone mad. If such a scheme should succeed the Izzies would have a jihadi state facing them on the Golan Heights. Who will fly in support of this "no fly zone?" Will it be the CIA Air Force, a new Air America? General Welch, the USAF Cof S was on Morning Joe this morning. Was he there to pimp for the "no fly zone?" He looked uncomfortable and his hosts looked puzzled.
- "a U.S.-trained new Syrian army, whose first units have just been formed," Just been formed? Just been formed? After months and months of searching for Syrian recruits who would not quickly defect to the jihadis after graduation, there are now a handful of men in training to form the cadre of a force expected to reach 20,000. The WH and CIA are locked in a competition for the title of "Least Knowledgeable In Military Affairs." Well, pilgrims, It will take AT LEAST a couple of years to train such a force. First you train the individuals, then you train small units like squads (ten men maybe), then you train companies (150 men maybe), then you train battalions (500 men maybe) than you train brigades (1500 men maybe). At the same time command staffs must be educated to work together and a multiplicity of special training tasks in signals, weapons, etc. must be accomplished. While you are doing this you hope the whole political structure of external support. internal rivalries, etc. does not simply fall apart as things do so frequently in the ME.
"An expected assault against the Islamic State Capital of Raqqa..." This is not worth commenting on ...
IMO David Ignatius wins the title of most gullible, most sold out and "Least Knowledgeable In Military Affairs." pl
"The Nusra Front and its allies in Syria's Qalamoun region vowed Tuesday to "eradicate" ISIS after a series of provocations by the notorious Al-Qaeda splinter group sparked a round of inter-jihadi clashes.
The Twitter accounts of the Nusra Front and the Qalamoun branch of the Army of Conquest, a coalition of jihadi parties led by Nusra, announced that they had been fighting with ISIS in west Qalamoun, along the border with Lebanon.
The long statement highlighted that its fighters were against inter-jihadi conflict, especially since the area is surrounded by Hezbollah from the east and the Syrian army from the west.
The statement said that clashes between ISIS and other Syrian rebels in the past had been thwarted because of the existence of ISIS members who showed “loyalty to all Muslims.” But those member were either killed in clashes, exiled or executed by ISIS itself, the statement added." Daily Star
The Syrian Army is attacking in this stretch of the Lebanese border around Qalamoun even as its Hizbullah ally attacks the same jihadi forces from a different direction.
In the midst of this fight the Nusra and IS jihadis have chosen to go to war with each other in the very presence of their enemies.
I would expect to see them eradicated from the Qalamoun area shortly.
In the Yemen situation, former president Salih's political party has sent a delegation to talks in Riyadh. Hmmm.... Well, pilgrims, don't expect Salih to play anything straight with anyone. He would feel that he had failed himself if he did. He would feel that he had not been all that he could be. At least that is what I thought when I hunted with him along ago. That was when he was aligned with the USSR and before he became one of GW Bush's best friends.
I see that the Nusra led coalition against Assad is calling itself the "Army of Conquest." This is a direct "lift" from references in early Muslim historians to what they called jeish al-fath . This term is to be found in such works as futuh al-buldan (The Conquest of the Nations) by Al-Balathuri pl
"Amid widespread speculation that the government will declare war so it can cancel the upcoming legislative elections, Gursel Tekin, secretary-general of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on May 7, “Turkey will enter Syria with a military operation tonight or Friday.” Tekin claimed he had been tipped off by a reputable source and added, “I am calling on the prime minister. Please get up and say, ‘There is no such madness. That is a baseless claim. Deny what I said.’”
The government remained silent for hours, allowing Tekin's accusation to generate even more excitement and speculation. The war agenda naturally found its place in election campaigns. Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP), told a gathering in Tunceli that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will do everything possible to take Turkey to war with Syria.
Ultimately, it was not the president or the prime minister who denied Tekin’s assertions, but Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz, while being persistently questioned by reporters. “Let him disclose his sources,” Yildiz said. “We suggest he should review his source.” It wasn’t enough, however, to temper the fears that Erdogan might go to war if he thinks he won't get the 400 parliamentary seats he so covets. al-monitor
Ashton Carter told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on May 6 that a no-fly zone in Syria is “a difficult thing to contemplate” and described the establishment and enforcement of “safe zones” as “a major combat mission.”
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad acknowledged on May 6 “setbacks” against opposition forces and terrorist groups. In recent weeks, an alliance of Islamist groups, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, defeated Syrian government troops in and around Idlib, as Reuters reported Al-monitor
1 - Erdogan will not take Turkey into war with Syria because he knows that to do so is to risk revolt or a mutiny.
2 - The US will not do SA's bidding in this matter. The cost in blood and treasure would simply be too high. Carter's statement makes that clear.
Without Turkish intervention the present rebel gains will soon be reversed. SA has no cards to play except money and bribery. Their ventures in Syria, Iraq and Yemen will fail with a possibility of instability to follow in SA. pl
"Two officers from the military operations command for Salahuddin province where Baiji is located said the insurgents had now pushed so far into the complex that it was almost impossible for planes to target them without damaging the refinery as well.
Photographs published by Islamic State show crates of ammunition they say were plundered from Iraqi forces in Baiji and the disfigured bodies of policemen identifiable only from their blue camouflage uniforms. The pictures cannot be independently confirmed.
Colonel Imad al-Saiedi, who commands an army infantry regiment positioned near the refinery said it had been completely surrounded after militants cut all remaining supply routes used by the security forces.
“Daesh fighters have been launching multiple suicide car bomb attacks against our troops’ positions daily and due to the lack of reinforcements almost two thirds of the refinery is now under their control,” he said." Reuters
What happened to the part about IS being in decline? In other later breaking Iraqi news, PM Abadi's government has expressed its outrage over the wording of the US Military Assistance bill now in Congress that by statutory necessity describes the Pesh Merga and Sunni tribal recipients of $771 million in aid as "countries." You see, pilgrims, the US does not give visible aid to armed rebels, etc. Now, such aid can be given but by law it has to be given as part of a covert action program approved by the prez as such and run by you know who... Brennan's Battling Bastards!! My guess is that someone did not want their "management" of this money. pl
"The offer of a truce comes days after the Houthis started shelling Saudi border towns, prompting renewed air strikes in Yemen, and as the militia advanced into a last central area of Aden, a city whose fate is seen as pivotal to Yemen's civil war.
At a news conference alongside Jubeir, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the proposal and said neither Riyadh nor Washington was talking about sending ground troops to Yemen.
Saudi Arabia's military spokesman had said late on Wednesday that all options were open, including ground operations, to stop the mortar attacks on its border towns.
"We particularly welcome a new Saudi initiative to try to bring about a peaceful resolution through the announcement of their intent to establish a full, five-day, renewable ceasefire and humanitarian pause," Kerry said." Reuters
Damned decent of the Saudis! Shows their respect for the plucky little Zeidi irregulars who are unaccountably able to shell the city of Najran in SA, shut down its schools and airport, etc.
At the same time the Yemeni Ambassador to the UN has appealed for UN peacekeepers to be sent in to "save Yemen." Thank God! Help is on the way. Saudi Arabia expressed its approval of this move as did Yemeni president Hadi, now in exile in SA.
In yet more news the Evelyn Waugh inspired (Black Mischief) Zeidi Houthi/Yemen Army force in the south has captured the center of Aden.
Thankfully, John Kerry remains confident. pl
"Casting aside U.S. concerns about aiding extremist groups, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have converged on an aggressive new strategy to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The two countries — one a democracy, the other a conservative kingdom — have for years been at odds over how to deal with Assad, their common enemy. But mutual frustration with what they consider American indecision has brought the two together in a strategic alliance that is driving recent rebel gains in northern Syria, and has helped strengthen a new coalition of anti-Assad insurgents, Turkish officials say.
That is provoking concern in the United States, which does not want rebel groups, including the al-Qaida linked Nusra Front, uniting to topple Assad. The Obama administration worries that the revived rebel alliance could potentially put a more dangerous radical Islamist regime in Assad’s place, just as the U.S. is focused on bringing down the Islamic State group." AP
Well, that tears it. BB Assad (barrel bomber) is done for. pl
"Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Tuesday that his forces and Syrian allies would clear the rebels out of the border region north of the capital Damascus that insurgents use as a main supply route for arms and fighters.
Although he did not disclose when his fighters would start a major assault in the Qalamoun area, his group said on Wednesday that its fighters had hit a gathering of militants on the Syrian side of the border, inflicting heavy casualties.
Lebanese officials have warned Iran-backed Hezbollah against launching a major cross-border attack, which they say would drag Lebanon, which suffered a civil war from 1975 to 1990, further into the years-long Syrian conflict.
On Wednesday, Hezbollah said its fighters had retaken part of a hilltop in Lebanon's eastern border area known as Kherbat al-Nahla overlooking the Syrian side of Qalamoun." Reuters
Ah, not so fast, Lone Ranger. The Hizbullah cavalry are on the way. pl
Is German newspaper "Der Spiegel" playing us? Or is it being played?
by Patrick Bahzad
Last week, the English online edition of German newspaper "Der Spiegel" published a report about ISIS that caused a bit of a buzz … Two months after US magazine "The Atlantic" got nationwide attention for its piece depicting the "Islamic State" as a sort of larger Muslim equivalent to David Koresh's "Branch Davidians", we were now served a wholly different story. ISIS was not a group of lunatics and fanatics who would like nothing better than precipitate the End of days through the battle of "Dabiq", but a creature designed and built by ex-Baathist Iraqi officers, acting as puppet masters of their Jihadi pawns. That is what crucial documents giving insights into the "Islamic State" revealed, according to "Der Spiegel". It did sound almost as if Saddam Hussein had come back from the grave, with a vengeance.
What is interesting is that the article offers a sharp analysis of the genesis of ISIS, giving an credible account of the roots and causes for its emergence, mixed with a narrative that would be more appropriate for a mediocre Hollywood thriller. Questions need to be asked, not just about the authenticity of the documents, but also about the circumstances of their discovery and the flaws in the storyline of "Der Spiegel". In other words, what could have been an excellent background piece turned into a sensationalist article that should be cut back to size.
If you take the word of "Der Spiegel" for it, the months' long mission of their investigators in the war stricken Middle-East managed to come up with some ground-breaking news, a discovery maybe of the same magnitude as Schliemann finding the ruins of Troy ! That's a thing with today's investigative journalism, never be short of a hyperbole … It's always helpful to sell a story in the short run, while in the long run, everybody will have forgotten if your headline gets bedunked.
The story uncovered by "Der Spiegel"
What the German magazine claims to have discovered is a bundle of documents handwritten by one of the masterminds behind the rise of ISIS. This man, Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi by birth, but known as "Haji Bakr" in the Islamic State, was shot dead in January 2014 in Northern Syria by a rival group called the "Syrian Martyr's Brigade". It took this group a while to realize who they had taken out, but when they did, they got their hands on a few sheets of paper, described by "Der Spiegel" as the blueprint for ISIS' organisation, tactics and strategy. In short, the motherload of intelligence about ISIS and enough to unveil the mysteries surrounding the emergence and internal structure of the "Islamic State".
According to "Der Spiegel", these documents prove beyond any doubt that the leadership of the Islamic State was made-up of ex-Baathist officers, who used the same methods than under Saddam Hussein, only under a different pretense (Salafism instead of Baathism), in order to carve out a State of their own making. The baseline being of course that ISIS was not what it looked like, and that the religious fanatics who seemed to be in charge, were only the puppets of more shadowy figures, namely the ex-cronies of Saddam Hussein.
What we are seeing in Saudi Arabia is the seizure of power by one section of the Sudeiri faction in the Saudi Royal family. The late King Abdullah was not a Sudeiri and relations between him and the Sudeiris were always a bit tense. King Salman, who is reputed to be a bit gaga (kharaf) is seeking to ensure the succession for his part of The Family. He, like all the Sudeiris, are much influenced and obliged to the Wahhabi, Hanbali ulema. Abdullah, with his half rwalla bedawi descent was less so. The new crew seem to be listening to the ulema desire for Sunni triumphalism in the Levant. To that end they, along with their pals in the GCC, (notably Qatar) and Erdogan (the semi-crypto Turko-Islamist) have convinced themselves that Assad's government has lost the war and will soon fall. They have conjured this image from Syrian government reverses in the north and a profound hope. There is also a supposedly effective combat alliance (including Nusra) that is thought to be Assad's bane. We will see if they are correct. In any event the professional bits of the US Government are fearful that if the present Syrian government goes down, chaos will ensue that will end in an Islamist government. I agree.
In the Yemen/SA crisis it is my view that the Saudis have bitten off far more than they can chew. We must remember that Saudi Arabia is a medieval relic politically speaking. The country has no secular constitution. it has no democracy, no freedom of the press. Nor does it have freedom of religion. there is little tourism in SA other than groups herded around by companies reminiscent of Intourist in the old USSR. There are really no citizens, only subjects. Foreigners let in are those useful to the autocratic oligarchy. The armed forces are status symbols and convenient occasions for private diversion of what passes for public money. The younger generations in The Family have been much exposed to Western military schooling and imagine that they understood what they more or less listened to in lecture halls. They did not understand. In reaction to their hereditary fear of Yemen and Iran these sprigs of the "royal" tree have picked a fight with all the nasty little Yemenis and will have a hell of a time escaping the disgrace of eventual apparent failure. pl
"... the Atlantic Council offered one way forward: converting the underpowered training mission into a project to build a 50,000-member “Syrian national stabilization force” capable of imposing order across the country." Washpost Editorial Board
"As a starting point it would require the creation of the northern Syrian safe zone that Mr. Obama has resisted for years. But it would offer a path to ending the Assad regime and its crimes." Washpost Editorial Board
"... stated that the United States must put the train-and-equip initiative "on steroids." The recommended program creates a robust, three-division stabilization force of 50,000 Syrians that would be able to fight and defeat any enemy standing in the way of a legitimate and inclusive Syria. He explained that as the Syrian National Stabilization Force (SNSF) gains ground and popularity, the force will attract patriotic elements of the Syrian Arab Army and other rebel forces to fill its ranks." Atlantic Council
"... the SNSF must have the capability and means to fight their enemies in offensive missions as well as the ability to conduct defensive, humanitarian, and security missions. In order to create this force successfully, the United States and its allies must lead the initiative in several efforts, to include establishment of a no-fly zone in parts of Syria where the SNSF can operate militarily and the Syrian National Command authority can establish governance." Atlantic Council
Washington is infested by a sub-stratum/class of marginal academic performers and bureaucratic "hangers-on" who make a living by burrowing into the world of; political appointments, congressional staffs, media contracts, think-tankery and relentless self promotion. These are often people with no talent for business who are incapable of making a living other than within the confines of the "policy" world.
On summer nights in Washington one can see foot long rats scurrying around the Willard Hotel, Lafayette Park and, of course The Treasury. These rodents are so fat and sleek that they have difficulty in hiding themselves. Their be-whiskered snouts can be seen protruding from beneath trash receptacles while the ends of their hairless tails are visible at the other side of the trash can.
We are often told (by Barack Obama among others) that our ancestors sought a "more perfect union" in the creation of the United States. The implication is that they sought a worldly and more or less secular utopia. They did not. The contemporary meaning in those words from the constitution of the United States was that the framers sought a more efficient and effective government than that which had existed under the Articles of Confederation. The framers were solely concerned with the practicalities of government in their new country. The "more perfect union" phrase is one of a number of goals listed and is clearly not intended as the governing theme of the Constitution.
Having chosen to misunderstand the preamble to the constitution, and therefore the "purpose" of America, much of our ruling class now profess to believe that it is the purpose of the country to "reform" our society to their taste and to inflict the same norms on the rest of the world. To that end it is held to be more or less self-evident that ancient motivations for international policy are at an end and that all, all of mankind should re-organize itself to our taste.
In pursuit of that belief the United States in the 21st Century seeks revolutionary change everywhere and to accomplish that has been willing and continues to be willing to pay very high prices in blood and treasure even unto the risk of nuclear war with those with whom we can truly commit mutual suicide.
by Patrick Bahzad
About a month ago, the US were taken over by some kind of metaphysical frenzy. A lengthy piece about "What ISIS really wants" – published by Graeme Wood in "The Atlantic" – caused quite a stir, not just among its readers. The article focused in part on interesting facts and truths about the religious nature of ISIS and the beliefs of its followers, but the reason it probably echoed so well with "average" Americans was because of its references to the supposedly messianic and apocalyptic ideology of ISIS. Some of the observations made by the author were quite relevant, but he also missed basic clues as to real symbols the "Caliphate" is trying to conjure up. Listing up the rights and wrongs of Wood's article would be complicated and require long explanations, some of them debatable, but it seems appropriate to seize this opportunity in order to examine the points raised and analyse them from a different angle, especially regarding the article's central piece about the myth of "Dabiq".
First of all, credit has to be given to Wood for not shying away from tough questions we need to ask ourselves with regard to the rise of the Islamic State and its "Caliphate". Wood also adopted a laudable approach in the sense that he apparently tried to understand the religious rationale behind some of ISIS' actions. But however interesting and refreshing such an attempt may be in a media landscape that seems obsessed with gruesome descriptions of ISIS atrocities only, Wood's account about the motivations of the Jihadists was deeply flawed.
Trying to understand what makes ISIS fighters "tick" – that is, what they fight for and why they kill – is quite difficult when you don't get to speak to a single one of them. Talking to scholars and recruitment agents of various Jihadi movements may help, but it certainly isn't equal to tapping the source. Admittedly, in Wood's own words, getting access to such source equals almost to a "mission impossible". Nonetheless, Wood is thus compelled to put forward other components of the supposed ISIS narrative, some of which would cause head-shaking among the hard core of the group's ideologists.
An interesting but partial background piece
The highly perilous exercise Wood engaged in – that of deciphering the ISIS symbolism – put a lot of emphasis on unveiling the apocalyptic message behind the organisation's ideology. By doing so, Wood left out elements in the "Caliphate" narrative that are of much higher importance. At best, this points to a good marketing strategy for the article published by "The Atlantic", aimed at raising interest and creating a buzz among readers more familiar with messianic Christian sects rather than Takfiri and Wahhabi groups. At worst, it could be seen as part of an information war with ISIS, attempting to produce a counter-narrative about the group's real motives and interfering with its credibility among potential supporters.
As was already observed long ago by a well-known think tank working closely with the US government, one angle of the war against the Jihadi groups is to attack their ideology, the goal being to "deny extremists the high ground of Islamic politico-religious discourse", thus prevailing in the war of ideas and "empowering moderate Muslims to counter the influence of the radicals". For this reason alone, one can't dismiss the notion that something might have been at work here that didn’t just have to do with an objective and neutral description of the beliefs of the "Caliphate" supporters. The link established between the ISIS online magazine's title "Dabiq" and some obscure references to an End of time battle occurring in a place of that name raises questions as to how seriously the article was researched and what purpose it was supposed to serve in that regard.
After all, presenting ISIS as an organisation hoping for Jesus to come and save them from the Antichrist is not exactly a statement likely to encourage conversions among fundamentalist Muslims. Furthermore, describing this as a central piece in the group's ideology is quite disturbing. It is this imbalance between aspects totally ancillary to the Caliphate symbolism and basic clues that should not have escaped a trained eye that is particularly striking.
The Proclamation of a new "Caliph"
In his article, Wood mentions among other things the first sermon given by the self-proclaimed Caliph in the Great Mosque of Mosul on July 5th 2014. As a side-note, it has to be said that the aforementioned sermon actually took place one day earlier, on July 4th, during Friday Prayer. This may sound like a detail, but details matter, in particular when it comes to ISIS. Wood also fails to notice that the "Caliphate" itself was proclaimed a few days earlier, on June 29th, another symbolic date, as it was the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.
Of course, political reasons may also have played a role in ISIS and al-Baghdadi's decision to proclaim the Caliphate. The group even carried out some market research on social media prior to its decision, but failing to mention the date of June 29th and its relevance is a mistake, as it carries huge symbolic and religious weight. Al-Baghdadi's sermon may have taken place on July 5th – or rather July 4th – and it was recorded in HD resolution, but what iscrucial, is the designation of a new "Caliph" on the first day of Ramadan, the month in the Islamic calendar during which the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet (Sūrat al-ʿAlaq, verses 1-5).
The irrepressible Tom Friedmann, inventor of the famous Friedmann Unit, vanguard of provocative and out-of-the-box political thought opines in a recent piece titled "Go Ahead, Ruin My Day" that while awful, ISIS is also useful:
"Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?
In 2002, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (the Taliban regime). In 2003, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran’s proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad.
ISIS, with all its awfulness, emerged as the homegrown Sunni Arab response to this crushing defeat of Sunni Arabism — mixing old pro-Saddam Baathists with medieval Sunni religious fanatics with a collection of ideologues, misfits and adventure-seekers from around the Sunni Muslim world. Obviously, I abhor ISIS and don’t want to see it spread or take over Iraq. I simply raise this question rhetorically because no one else is: Why is it in our interest to destroy the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq? Because the Shiite militias now leading the fight against ISIS will rule better? Really?"
Yes, really? Indeed, why is it in the US interest to destroy ISIS, when they could be used to roll back Iran? What a waste! Should not the US be arming ISIS (directly)? What are “some stirred-up Muslims” compared the the threat posed by Iran?
And lest one thinks ISIS controlling Iraq or Syria instead of the Shia would be a bad thing, Friedmann assures the reader that it's a toss up - given only bad choices, one is as bad as the other!