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26 March 2016


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When I was last in Cuba, helping to deliver aid to a blind kids school, I became aware that these blind kids couldn't get access to Braille paper because of the US blockade of the island. Hardly notional.

Chris Chuba

This is a very timely post Col. Just today I was thinking about the pasting that ISIS is taking in Palmyra as I was watching the seemingly endless coverage about how U.S. forces killed the ISIS's #2 man. Wonderful, we killed their finance minister who can be replaced. The only newsworthy aspect of that was that he was a member of Al Qaeda in Iraq, oh, and he was in an Iraqi prison as well. So this was fallout from the Iraq war but this was not mentioned of course.

The only way that the SAA will get any attention will be if they capture Raqqa. BTW ISIS seems to be putting up stiff resistance in Palmyra against approx. 5,000 Syrian troops (according to militarymaps.info). I am hoping that this means that they have committed significant resources there and that the loss of Palmyra will be very painful for them. When the Syrians lost Palmyra in 2015 it really opened up western Syria to ISIS so I am hoping that the reverse is true today.



The US sanctions regime would not have prevented the Cubans from importing braille paper from countries other than the US. http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Braille-paper-shipping-from-Shanghai-to_927964513.html?spm=a2700.7724857.29.372.nrhkRS For example. didn't I ban you? pl


Col Lang, on the plus side the WPo article is at least positive and uses the words "Syrian government forces" instead of "Assad's Army" or "Assad's soldiers" and they actually acknowledge "Russian and Syrian warplanes" hitting 56 targets! This is a major shift from previous WPo Syrian articles that I have come across. So there maybe hope. Col J.J. is not alone, unfortunately, I have been constantly surprised by the lack of depth and understanding on many issues by many top and former government officials and "experts" especially when it comes to Russian related issues. This quite sad in that being misinformed and basing an opinion on poor information as an "expert" leads others down the wrong path towards bad "solutions". Somewhere, I read a story that I'll paraphrase and I can't remember the author:

"During the interview, the politician lied to the reporter. When he read the morning paper he knew his view was right."


If you want another giggle if it wasn't also so sad; Mark Toner was asked the same question the next day and his answer was just as pathetic:


My guess is Mark has a conscience and is trying to reconcile what he thinks is correct with the State Department's "party line" that he is employed to spin. I wouldn't last a minute in his shoes.

Bill Herschel

Yes, it was. I would only add that, in addition to lying about the importance of the Russian intervention in Syria, the nomenklatura is also puffing up America's military intervention as loud as it can:

"[the Islamic State's] base in Syria is being pummeled by American airstrikes" from "A Top ISIS Leader Is Killed in an Airstrike, the Pentagon Says" at


What nonsense! The U.S. was turning a blind eye to ISIS oil shipped to Turkey until the Russians called the world's, or attempted to call the world's, attention to it.

The Big Short was essentially one off. The 500 billion dollars a year, *unaudited*, to the Pentagon is on-going and it is not clear it benefits anyone except arms merchants and retired generals.


And, is Obama absolutely in the thick of it? Yes. Absolutely Yes.


...a surprising article to find in the Times.


Oh but it does, due to the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, signed by Bill Clinton, which states, amongst other things:

"Any non-U.S. company that deals economically with Cuba can be subjected to legal action and that company's leadership can be barred from entry into the United States. Sanctions may be applied to non-U.S. companies trading with Cuba. This means that internationally operating companies have to choose between Cuba and the U.S." Meaning potential economic suicide for any large company that engages in such trade.



I'll bet you I could find a jobber somewhere who would sell them all the braille paper they want. 3rd world middle men are easy. They were just BSing you and you fell for it. pl


wrt conscience: wondered why he was cringing, writhing and trying to climb under the desk. why didn't he want to be there? some possible explanations: he was poorly prepared, incompletely briefed, badly hung over, off his agoraphobia meds, or conflicted. [in ~ descending order of likelihood]

The clip certainly belongs in "You Think You Had a Bad Day Compliation."

different clue

There are also some prominent bloggers who try to muffle-zone their blogs. I am thinking of Professor Juan Cole in particular. I still read there from time to time and I used to comment. Sometimes my comments would post and sometimes not. I got a feeling if my comments were to "mean" or "harshly stated" they would not print.

Semi-recently I read him referring to the "Assad regime" once too often. So I wrote a comment asking why he kept referring to the SARgov as the "Assad regime" when he knew very well it was the only legitimate government in any part of Syria. I then asked him if he wanted to see Syria become a jihadi Islamic Emirate. That one went into "moderation" and never appeared, and since then my comments over there never even appear in "moderation" I suppose I may try again from time to time, but it looks like muffle-ization is sometimes employed at Informed Comment.

Ishmael Zechariah

Colonel Lang,

How can an experienced military man like Colonel Jack Jacobs rely on a single source of information for a public announcement? Surely he was trained better than that and must have been a G2 sometime. Perusing readily available military maps and war videos would have provided him with a counterpoint to the official (muffled) narrative. If he is truly misled-as opposed to having drunk the kool-aid- perhaps he will get on the same program a month hence and admit publicly to being wrong.

I agree with Tigermoth that most of us pilgrims here at SST would not last a femtosecond in Toner's job. I guess we are just not intellectual enough.

Ishmael Zechariah


Colonel, thank God you are writing these short plain rebuffs to the bullshit being fed us. Their length is about all those I forward them to can take--because the recipients have short attention spans and even less history under their belts or desire to know it--but they are valuable interventions I add to the recipients’ day. Yeah, I stick it to them. I only get away with it because you are a military man with a stellar record they can verify, and not some “fucking Lib” as one constantly accuses me of being for not agreeing with his Interpretations of FOX minute-30-quick-and-dirty mindless pronouncements.

Anyway. Thanks.


Colonel, this waaay OT the topic at hand--so if unsuitable to publish here, fine--but I thought you might be interested in Stephen Cohen’s regular Tuesday broadcast this week on the John Batchelor Show (WABC-RADIO AM NYC). Batchelor’s show has a massive audience. Cohen is discussing NATO and Russia after Brussels. I snorted when I heard his characterization of Breedlove, which matches your own.


You have to scroll down to "Nato and Russia After the Brussels Attack” with Stephen Cohen. It will stream live, or there is some mechanism for download but I find the whole thing byzantine on this site.

Charles Michael

Yes a noticeable change, even on BBC it is now the Syrian Government forces,

The last outrage in Brussel after Paris November, may be turning the tide, albeit on a limited scale. French and Uk politics of regime change are still not to be questionned.

Associated to these some awakening to reality on the ground, and slow U-turn, I have the impression of a certain about of collaboration, or more exactly tasks repartition between US and Russia. US in Irak and Russia in Syria.
There enter the very different Kurds parts and IMO there are not close to make a unified Kurdistan. That whould be some relief for the failed Sultan on his shaky throne.
The sporting competition between US and Russia is somewhere unequal considering that the Irak state and army can not compare with the resilient Syrian leadership and winning SAA (and allies).

Is there still a plan to destabilize Northern Lebanon? Daesh seems to be pusching in Al Nostra territory in Daraa.

Margaret Steinfels

In the same vein: The Tale of the Frog and the Scorpion.

"The fable of the scorpion that persuades a frog to carry it across the river, then stings it, drowning both. Russia, having rescued Mr. Assad with its air force, is the frog. Now it is swimming for a political settlement to the Syrian war, hoping to cement its renewed status as a global power — but given Mr. Assad’s history, he may very well sink the negotiations and explain, as several diplomats put it, that making deals is not in his nature."



humm, not sure that will comfort you, but it's the same here in Europe.
Not purely an American disease.


Col., the muffled zone isn't just Syria. Its also everything that is happening in Iraq. We have a major troop escalation occurring and casualties are sure to follow. The problem I have is that if the country is sending troops to war, it should be in the public view. We risk a divergence where the professional soldiers are at war and the country is at the mall. Again. Put another way if a war isn't worth discussing, it isn't worth fighting. I personally think the American public is wildly underestimated by the borg. If the situation in Iraq and Syria were explained to them perhaps in a serious policy speech, then I think they would rise to the occasion and perhaps we wouldn't find ourselves with such a contorted foreign policy situation.



I have heard that fable told by Middle Easterners for 40 years. It usually involves a turtle and a scorpion and is cited by Arabs as proof of their own nuttiness. I don't agree with any of your analysis. IMO the Russians have done very well and are in no need of rescue by anyone, certainly not us with our phony allies in Iraq and our phony "offensive" toward Mosul. if the Iraqi government ever gets there it will be because Russian air bled IS to death by reducing their oil income, something we never did. As for Assad's character, you don't know enough Middle Eastern people to make a judgement as to his character relative to the other scumbag ME politicians. And furthermore, our brethren in Christ will be free to live as Christians always have in republican Syria. That is why they are fighting on the side of the government. pl



The Muffled Zone is in the US and apparently in Europe as well. pl


Seamus is correct. Many Canadian companies (particularly, mineral companies) have in the past curtailed their desired investment in Cuba due to the American threat of punishment.

It's a real and continuing pernicious extraterritorial enforcement of United States "law". Canada, officially, considers any attempt by the US to enforce the Helms-Burton law on a Canadian company to be a legal nullity.

The act is an affront to Cuban sovereignty. If Obama wants to signal better relations with Cuba, he should issue an executive order curtailing enforcement of the act to some legal minimum, or, better, try to get congress to repeal it.



I doubt that such an executive Order would be legal and you have missed the fact that he has appealed to Congress to repeal it? Hey, get real. I buy thyroid medicine for my dog from Canadian on-line pharmacies that fill the orders from factories in India, Singapore and China. The pills are mailed to me through US Customs as dietary supplements. you can buy just about any kind of prescription drugs that way. The US sanctions are ridiculously full of holes. If you want to get around them, you can. Hey, I was an international business man for 10 years. You can't BS me on how international trade works sanctions or no sanctions. BTW, why are Cubans still driving all those 50s US cars around? They could have bought nice little Ladas or those Czech things in the good old days before the Warsaw Pact collapsed. pl

scott s.

My local paper (Honolulu Star-Advertiser) carried a rather prominently-placed NYT article by Anne Barnard on it under the head "Government forces advance into Palmyra". Actually some the most extensive reporting I've seen on it, other than just repeating what USG mouthpieces have said.


If the Syrians have re-taken the Citadel at Palmyra- with obvious Russian help- how can Jack Jacobs claim that their intervention has been to no avail? The Russians have helped the Syrians turn things around..can't he see that? It really cuts his credibility



"a rather prominently-placed NYT article by Anne Barnard on it under the head "Government forces advance into Palmyra."" Interesting. I searched the NYT archive and did not find it. pl



This could be an interesting addition to the discussion on if Obama even controls his own government.



apologies if this is a double post. computer froze and not sure if it cleared or got sent.

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