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06 December 2012


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Clifford Kiracofe

One of the few somewhat balanced reports in the press I have seen:

"One of the reasons that President Bashar al-Assad has not been toppled like the Arab Spring dictators of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen is that he has a strong base of support. Rebels have found to their cost that some of the suburbs are doggedly loyal to Mr Assad, and refuse to allow the anti-government forces to pass through....."

But analysts and ordinary residents of Damascus tell a different story: one in which, in many areas, the regime remains very much in control, and indeed cannot be deposed by purely rebel military offensives.

"In Damascus, there is no sign that the city is about to fall," said Samir.

"Too many people support Bashar al-Assad. Everything is fine in my neighbourhood. There are all the supplies we need, and life is almost normal. If the men that you call the Free Syrian Army are there, then they are hiding from the army.

"In the regular army there are Sunnis, Christians and Alawites. The FSA are Muslims that want to liberate us, but then why don't the Muslims in Assad's army want to fight for the FSA?"
There are tens of thousands of well-armed, well-trained Syrian soldiers, plus many civilians who will fight to the death for the government, because they feel they have nowhere to go if it falls".
But then I saw that the Muslim Brotherhood leads the FSA, and no one wants that. I don't want to live in an Islamic state.
At another checkpoint rebels came onto a bus full of people and demanded the Christians give them their crosses. Then they told us that Christianity is not a religion."

Quite a difference in reporting between this Brit journalist and the breathless American stenographers posing as journalists who serve as propagandists for the White House and State Dept....

Clifford Kiracofe

One of the key "players" in US Syria policy. It is useful to look into where policy comes from and from whom. People make policy, it is not delivered by storks:

"Who: Special Advisor for Regional Affairs Ambassador Fred Hof
What: Presentation on Syria
When: 1600-1730, 18 September 2012
Where: DLI, Weckerling Center, Gold Room.

This event is open to all NPS and DLI students. He is giving a similar presentation in San Francisco. The following is from that site:
Ambassador Frederic Hof, US Department of State’s Special Advisor on Transition in Syria, will provide remarks regarding US policy, engagement with the Syrian opposition and efforts to reintegrate Syria into the international community. While the focus remains on removing the Assad regime, stopping the violence, and easing the refugee situation the State Department is also looking at what comes next for the Syrian people.
Ambassador Hof will also discuss the challenges ahead for Syria, including the formation of a transitional government, protection of all ethnic and religious communities, drafting a new constitution, holding elections, economic revitalization and reinstating rule of law."...
Ambassador Hof is a 1969 graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and began his professional career as an Army officer. He is a Vietnam veteran and served as a US Army Middle East Foreign Area Officer, studying Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute in Tunisia and receiving a Masters Degree from the Naval Postgraduate School. He served as US Army Attaché in Beirut, Lebanon and later in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Director for Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestinian Affairs...."

Biographic data/Hof interview:

Clifford Kiracofe

beaver, there is some dispute on South Stream despite the announcement the other day:

Charles I

Hof was on Charlie Rose I think it was Friday. To me the most telling remark was that post Assad planning was well advanced across at least 7 U.S. cabinet departments and other institutions, whoever or whatever the FSA is.


Charles I

I was Hof's desk officer at DIA when he was shot in a Beirut street by someone under ambiguous circumstances. It has never been clear to me if it was a militia under Syrian control or maybe the Syrian Army. Luckily the woman in the car with him was unharmed. pl

Charles I

Good Lord, I have chills, this place is so dialed in. Thanks for sharing

Clifford Kiracofe

Charles I,

Excellent data, many thanks. Yes, inter-agency planning well advanced...oh joy.

Isn't his present title something? "Special Advisor on Transition."

Just as Harper, says...deja vu.

Any Russian Iskanders floating around Syria yet?

There is heavy opposition in some quarters in Germany to the Patriot deployment which also involves some troops: SPD, retired miliary. The Dutch, however, seem good to go. The German opposition seems blacked out in the US press.

Clifford Kiracofe

More reporting on the new military council:

"The rebel commander from near Damascus said the group had chosen Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss, who defected from Assad's army, as its chief of staff. It also had divided Syria into five regions, each of which will be under one of Idriss' assistants.

The new structure diminishes the role of previous leaders in the Free Syrian Army. Brig. Gen. Mustafa al-Sheikh, who headed the FSA's Military Council, will play no rule in the new structure, the commander said. Riad al-Asaad, the head of the Free Syrian Army, will retain a symbolic post."

More of Harper's deja vu. The five "regions" remind me of various Cold War Era Soviet style liberation movement "fronts" established in targeted countries. This time around instead of Soviet patrons running Marxisit-Leninist "liberation movements" it is US patrons running Islamist-jihadi "liberations movements" to include Al-Qaeda types and MB.

Charles I

Hm, you could have French, British, Russian, U.S. Zones, who gets the fifth?!


SAA infantry taking a break.
A sniper is shooting at them, and a tank (or at least something that goes BOOM) is engaging something, probably the sniper.
They look tired but not green.


Very graphic: salafists encourage a young boy to chop the head of 'Alawite police office'.

Clifford Kiracofe

Back in the day, the Cold War, the Soviets when assisting their national liberation movements would provide for such assistance from countries adjacent to the target country. For example, take the Rhodesia war during which Mozambique and Botswana were used.

The fronts inside the target country were given "patriotic" names, the such and such front. Each front had corresponding external support mechanisms.

Thus with the "West" using the old Soviet model, today one would expect the US-Saudi-Qatari-NATO supporters of their Syrian national liberation movement(s) to use adjacent countries: Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and so on. The "front" adjacent to each country would be assisted by operations based in that country.

Now we can see how long it will take the "Western" press to report on how all this is going to work in the next phase of the war. That is, what are the fronts in terms of location, who commands each front, the fighters in each front, the order of battle, and of course how each front is linked to the external support mechanisms for that front. I'd like to see some maps as well to illustrate the press stories and some organization charts, too.

After some 20 months, the New York Times has a story of al-Nusra...of course, useful now to the White House and State in their efforts to reconfigure the war some at least superficially for propaganda purposes.


The Russia factor in the Syria imbroglio cannot be ignored. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has been in direct contact with the Syrian government and has received assurances that they have no intention of using CW against their population or against Turkey. Lavrov added today that the only danger of CW is if chemical weapons fall into the hands of the Salafist rebels. It is becoming more and more embarrassing to the Obama Administration that the only really successful rebel fighters in Syria are allied with al-Qaeda. NYT on Sunday ran a useful profile of al-Nusra, an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq that has Iraqi and Syrian fighters with extensive experience killing Americans during the Iraq occupation. They are now concentrated inside Syria, receive a significant amount of the cash and weapons from the Saudis, and are behind all the suicide bombings and most of the successful tactical military operations. In the same way that we entrusted the post-Qaddafi Libya to a network of al-Qaeda allied forces, including the Libyan Shield (a defacto arm of the new Libyan Defense Ministry headed by the top al-Qaeda operative in Libya) and Ansar al-Sharia (the group behind the killing of Ambassador Stevens and the three CIA officers), we are defacto giving the keys to Damascus to another al-Qaeda network. Of course, we will soon place al-Nusra on the State Department terror list, and we denied them a seat at the weekend soire in Turkey creating the new unified military command. But all of the commanders selected for the new military command are working openly with al-Nusra. My reading is that there is a military stalemate and political stalemate that could go on for some time--and this is going to all look very bad for the Obama Administration and all our allies in this mess.

Clifford Kiracofe

Additional deja vu considerations would include the longstanding relationship between the Egyptian MB "Special Apparatus" (paramiliary) and the Syrian MB. The Iraq relationship to the Syrian MB with regard to paramiitary training back in the day (1980s etc) should be recalled for context. Also the present role of AQ/Iraq in Syria and in Iraq.

Arguably, the US branding al-Nursa is merely a fig-leaf and a pose. In operational terms, the US/NATO is allied with al Qaeda directly and indirectly against the Assad government and has been for the last 20 months.

A political settlement between the Assad government and some internal opposition groups might be possible, some say. However, the US/NATO supports the external opposition political group and its military wing which have been created by Washigton etal. to serve "Western" not Syrian interests.

Clifford Kiracofe


Despite the cosmetic US blacklisting of al-Nusra, the leader of the Syria National Coalition just said the US should reconsider and defended al-Nusra. This comes after FSA commanders said they want good relations with al-Nusrah and the Syrian MB denounced the blacklisting move.

At least Reuters is on this:

"(Reuters) - The leader of Syria's opposition coalition urged the United States on Wednesday to reconsider its decision to designate the militant Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist group, saying religion was a legitimate motive for Syrian rebels.

"The decision to consider a party that is fighting the regime as a terrorist party needs to be reviewed," Mouaz Alkhatib told a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Morocco, where Western and Arab states granted full recognition to the coalition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

"We might disagree with some parties and their ideas and their political and ideological vision. But we affirm that all the guns of the rebels are aimed at overthrowing the tyrannical criminal regime."


"The decision to blacklist al-Nusra, an important fighting force in the uprising, has already triggered criticism from the powerful Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. A senior Brotherhood official said it was wrong and hasty.

"They are seen as (a group that) can be relied on to defend the country and the civilians against the regular army and Assad's gangs," Brotherhood deputy leader Farouq Tayfour told Reuters on Tuesday.

Alkhatib said it was "no shame" if Syrian rebels were driven by religious motives to topple Assad. "Religion that does not liberate its people, and does not eliminate repression, is not authentic religion," he said."

Our boy, al Khatib the Islamist.

So how long will it take the newsmedia to report that the Syrian MB, the Egyptian MB, and various extremists in Iraq to include AQ types have been in the same bed for decades...decades.

Do you think the Brits and the French told Washington to the effect "we have experience in the region, just leave it to us and we can work with the MB and radical Islamists in the Syria regime change project?" Not to mention the Saudis and Qataris telling Washington the same?

Charles I

Joshua Landis was on CBC Radio 1's dinner time show As It Happens last evening.

He foresees that the the U.S. will now become involved in trying to manipulate the composition of any new government by all the means that have failed in Iraq & Afghanistan. Pressure to isolate al Nusra, sanctions on suppliers, bankers, bribes, etc will be applied as the lesson has not been learned yet and must be repeated. Until the patient is insane.

All ending up in a new theatre of drone ops.

With recognition today, one assumes the campaign is now truly afoot. Canada's FM, John Baird, however, has not signed on, citing salafist etc fears.

114 countries back new Syrian coalition


deja vu all over again.

Clifford Kiracofe

Charles I,

Landis is a well informed academic, married to the daughter of a Syrian military officer I believe, and the view you report certainly ties into the SST sense on all this.

Very pleased to hear your FM is cautious. It would appear he is well advised by your security services. I hope Canada can remain sensible on the matter despite arm twisting from Washington and London.

The Friends of Syria operation is a method devised by the US and cohorts in regime change to circumvent the United Nations process and thus international law. There is a consensus in the US foreign policy establishment that when desired the UN is to be circumvented through "coalitions of the willing" as the Security Council resists regime change projects.

What is not clear to me is the actual technical diplomatic situation. There would seem to be a break in state to state relations as states are treating with the government in exile and have recognized it. A de facto a state of proxy war exists between the 114 governments recognizing the government in exile group and Damascus. So the technical legal and diplomatic situation seems murky.

I would have thought Syria would by this time have undertaken some special operations of its own against certain countries in the region with which it is at war through the jihadis they use as proxies.

So as the region disintegrates over the next four years, and the new Cold War with Russia and China intensifies, how does Hillary claim any success in foreign policy when she runs for president in 2016?


"I would have thought Syria would by this time have undertaken some special operations of its own against certain countries in the region with which it is at war through the jihadis they use as proxies."

I was considering earlier if Assad had a prayer staying in power. If the Israelis are ambivalent about jihadi chaos at the gates, and Nusra is non grata with the Obama admin, perhaps this could all be twisted into a last chance for Assad.

Clifford Kiracofe

Here is a good technical piece on Iraq as a training ground for the global jihadis, including the ones in Syria just now:


deja vu...

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