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08 March 2016


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Thank you for the inside information on Hof. I thought you would know him.

David Habakkuk

TTG, Chris Chuba, optimax,

A paragraph in Hof's article which I found of particular interest:

'Although the current pause in high-tempo aerial operations by Russia may be inspired in part by Putin's realization that he was destroying the credibility of his Western apologists and instead delivering a declaration of a renewed Cold War, a decisive ground operation against ISIS could inspire him to renew his Chechnya-like campaign in western Syria.'

I cannot assess how opinion is moving either in the United States or continental Europe, but in relation to Britain this has no connection whatsoever with reality.

A curious 'dual movement', visible throughout the MSM here, has become particularly acute on the 'MailOnline' site. On the one hand, the 'Borgist' propaganda on Syria and Russia has steadily more hysterical – while the other, the contempt manifested by the commentators has become total.

So a report on 6 March is headlined:

'Revealed: MI6 are compiling a secret dossier of Putin's ''war crimes'' in Syria', and opens:

'MI6 and British police are investigating alleged attacks on civilians by Russian war planes in Syria – with a view to prosecuting President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Scotland Yard detectives have flown to Lebanon to monitor air strikes in neighbouring Syria – amid claims that Russian bombers have caused hundreds of casualties by targeting hospitals and schools.'

(See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3478556/Britain-s-secret-dossier-Putin-s-war-crimes-Syria-doctors-war-torn-country-say-Russia-targeting-hospitals-air-strikes-despite-ceasefire.html .)

The 'Best rated' comment, currently with 1338 approvals against 127 disapprovals, reads: 'Stop these propaganda reports against the Russians, who are doing their best to crush ISIS!' The next 'Best rated', with 1108 approvals as against 38 disapprovals, reads: 'I take it they will be arresting Bush and Blair first! Mr Putin is a leader of his Country not a rep for the EU like our lot.'

What makes this drama all the more bizarre is that the enormous success of the 'Mail' has derived largely from the way that the attitudes of those who run it 'mesh' with those of a very large segment of 'Middle Britain'.

Ironically, however, while those who run the paper are still prepared to be used as channel for the kind of 'Borgist' reading of the Russian air strikes which Hof propagates, their readers are having none of it.

The notion that these have been in danger of 'destroying the credibility' of Putin's 'apologists', and being taken as a 'declaration of a new Cold War' is close to demented.


In reply to The Twisted Genius 08 March 2016 at 08:46 PM

It's precisely because of his background that I give very little weight to his proposals. Starting with his eager participation in the illegal and failed invasion and occupation of Iraq he's been an eager and enthusiastic proponent of outsiders imposing military solutions upon the region. I don't know if you read his piece advocating a break-up to be enforced by US "peacekeeping trooops" ( http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/11/25/sunni-vs-shiite-why-the-u-s-plan-to-save-iraq-is-doomed-to-fail/ ) but I did read it at the time with growing incredulity and that incredulity was reinforced reading it again today.

I did most of my growing up in Lebanon and some in Southern Iraq I've being lucky in that I've retained my friends and contacts in both countries - you have no idea how hated and despised American troops are right across the spectrum from the Sadrists to the "ex"-Ba'athists. And quite frankly rightly so - they often behaved viciously and always treated the local populace with contempt. (And yes I am speaking from experience of seeing how they behaved). American troops on the ground would be a destabilising factor not a stabilising one.

Then I read his current piece: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2016/03/06/redividing-the-middle-east-offers-the-best-chance-for-peace/

It's yet another variation on the theme of "we'll divide this place up and force the locals to accept our solution".

It's also profoundly intellectually dishonest full of alarmism such as:

"The Kurds are expanding the land they control, out of Iraq, and into Turkish and Syrian territory."

I dispute this - I think they're trying to consolidate their traditional heartland and to put in a thin buffer around them. This isn't Kurdish expansionism.

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad still holds territory, but only alongside Islamic State."

Not going to be a problem if the coalition fighting alongside Assad, including the Russians wipe them out is it?

"It will mean giving Islamic State a seat at the table, as the British were forced to do with the Irish Republican Army in the 1990s to resolve the “troubles” in Northern Ireland. One, by definition, must negotiate peace with one’s enemies. That is why, in part, the current ceasefire in Syria, which excluded Islamic State, has little chance of achieving any long-term progress."

This is breathtakingly dishonest. The 1990s IRA were not a pack of nihilistic genoicidal torturing barbarians determined to overthrow an entire civilisation.

" Assad will stay in power as a Russian proxy. Iran’s hold on Shi’ite Iraq will strengthen. "

Iran's hold on Shi'i Iraq has been strenghtened as a direct result of American actions and those of its allies. Ditto Russian involvement. To clamber out of hole it's necessary to first stop digging it deeper.

"Out of the new negotiations will have to emerge a Kurdistan, with land from Turkey, Iraq, perhaps Iran, and Syria. "

I wonder if he's ever met any Syrian or Iranian Kurds - because I for one would like to know how three very separate groups who speak mutually uninteligible languages are going to cobble together a state strong enough to hold off their neighbours.

"A Sunni homeland, to include the political entity Islamic State will morph into, will need to be assured via a strict hands-off policy by Baghdad."

He's proposing a Middle Eastern version of the Luxembourg solution except that instead of an "apple of discord at the heart of Europe" this buffoon wants an explosive pomegranate of discord in the heart of the Middle East. Brilliant!!! How come nobody else ever thought of it - unless of course they did and after shuddering in horror hastily put the thought aside.

"A Sunni homeland, to include the political entity Islamic State will morph into, will need to be assured via a strict hands-off policy by Baghdad."

In other words he'll prop up a vicious tyranny and to hell (literally) with the people who have to live under it.

"The payoff of such a broad resolution will be a measure of stability, and a framework to enforce it. American efforts will shift from fanning the flames (American weapons are as ubiquitous as iPhones in the region) to putting out fires."

Dear Mr Van Burren,

The fanning of the flames was successful. You took part in it. You now propose that those who acted as arsonists become firemen.

I have two words for you:

"Revenge culture".

Yours Sincerely


"At risk for not acting: an empowered Islamic State, thriving on more chaos. "

Actually the Russians amongst others are busy dismantling it - your real objection is that you're being excluded.

"An explosive dissolution of Iraq."

That took place with the cackhanded and illegal invasion and occupation of the place an action in which Van Buren was an eager participant. And yes I've read his book (waste of money which I resent). He "got religion and repentance" only after being slapped down and ultimately fired.

"A Russian-Turkish fight that could involve NATO. "

See: Ukraine, it's not the Russians who're spoiling for a fight.

"The shift from a Saudi-Iranian proxy war to a straightforward conflict between the two countries. "

Ummm no, that's because the Iranians aren't suicidal and Saudi Barbaria doesn't actually have an army capable of fighting.

"A spark that forces Israel to act. "

What're they going to do come rolling down off the Golan or strike out using the Shebaa farms as their bridge head. You can just hear the chants of "bring it on" from South Lebanon already.

A mini-world war, in the world’s most flammable region, that will create its own unexpected and uncontrolled realignment of power, and leave behind a warehouse of the dead.

See what I mean about hyperbole and fear-mongering?

And finally:

Yes I can look at a map and so can most people here. I wonder if Van Buren has. I shudder at the thought of a new and weak state without access to the sea at the headwaters of the region's major rivers. How in the name of God would that lead to peace? It's a recipe for more and worse strife.

Words fail me.



I tried to post a reply to TTG but don't know if I succeeded. Based on what happened on another Typepad site I think that what I may have done is in fact posted the same thing repeatedly. Exiting the browser and clearing its cache seems to have fixed the problem.

My sincere apologies if my browser problems gave you extra work.

The Twisted Genius


Your comment went into the spam folder. This happens to others, including myself, from time to time for reasons I cannot fathom.

The Twisted Genius


A thorough and thoughtful dismantling of Van Buren's piece. Well done.


"derived largely from the way that the attitudes of those who run it 'mesh' with those of a very large segment of 'Middle Britain'."

"Middle Britain"?

"The notion that these ..." who? the readers, the Borgists?

Notice: I couldn't force myself to read Hof's rant to the end. If I had, I maybe only had one question. ;)

David Habakkuk


As an ignoramus about the Middle East, I cannot really pretend to judge. But everything you write rings true: it feels like a real world, where so much of what we are fed is obviously la-la-land. And, in a grim way, it is also very funny: 'an explosive pomegranate of discord in the heart of the Middle East' is brilliant.

David Habakkuk


By 'these' I meant the Russian air strikes. I should have been clearer.

As to 'Middle Britain'.

The relations between newspapers and their readers is a matter in which I have a certain professional interest, in that when young I spent happy hours writing leaders for the evening paper in Liverpool in the early morning, and 'subbing' features for the rest of the day.

At the risk of oversimplifying a very complex subject: if there had been newspapers in the 'Lord of the Rings', Sam Gamgee would have read the 'Mail'.

Commonly, its readers regard themselves as the 'middling sort' – the real country, as it were. They would include a lot of the people who, again oversimplifying, I would call the 'NCO classes'.

They would look down on people who read the Murdoch 'Sun'.

Historically, a key part of the stability of British society has derived from the fact that, in general, the 'NCO classes' have had a reasonable degree of confidence in the 'officer classes'.

This is not a matter of fawning deference or unqualified admiration. Such people may very well be inclined to think that the 'officer classes' are not really practical people, and do not know what life is like at the sharp end.

However, there has been a reasonable confidence that 1. the 'officers' are on their side, and 2. that when it comes to war, they lead from the front.

In my view, we have been seeing a fundamental collapse of confidence, among the 'NCO classes', in the 'officer classes'. Where this will end, I do not know. I do not like it.

Chris Chuba

"we better study the hell out of this and learn."
Absolutely, but you know we won't.

Yes, the Russian strategy is fully integrated, unlike us, I think that they actually learned from their past mistakes, especially in Afghanistan, regarding having a total strategy, and in Chechnya (regarding military operations).

I would call this the Putin doctrine, hidden in plain sight. Starting in his op-ed NYT piece he declared that the destruction of govt institutions leads to chaos. So Putin is declaring an aversion to upsetting the apple cart. Even in Ukraine he has not made a move against Kiev because he doesn't want to conquer a territory of disaffected people.

Putin also stresses local sovereignty but balances it using influence to achieve long term reconciliation. So Putin not a Ron Paul.

Both in his 60 minutes interview and in his support of the Geneva plan, he stresses the need to reach out to healthy parts of the opposition. I think that Assad is amenable to this anyway, however, it would be interesting to see how Putin would handle it if he was dealing with a less reasonable partner.

Will we learn from Putin's example? Sadly no. Even now Congressman like Chris Smith want to create a tribunal to hold Assad accountable for war crimes and investigate the Russians for possible war crimes. I live in NJ so I wrote him a nice letter. It won't do any good but I did it anyway.

Haven't any of these great moralists in Washington ever read that pride comes before a fall?


Could this be the latest Borg plan?

The supposed rebels against ISIS is Raqqa might simply be the 'bad' terrorists becoming 'good' terrorists by donning new uniforms and waving a different flag. Then they can claim that they should not be attacked and should be allowed to hold territory and participate in politics. It's off with the old and on with the new!

The Twisted Genius


It's a slick trick, but I doubt the R+6 will fall for it.



Do you really think a transparent ruse like that will work? If so, on what planet? pl


The western idea of a Kurdish state is same as the idea of a jewish state, which the translation is divide and conquer/ control, IMO I am pretty sure that isn't going to happen anytime soon.


"It's a recipe for more and worse strife."

Exactly so. Perhaps the point.

The degradation and division of the area is the goal. The degradation has been achieved: why not try to make official the division, especially if it leads to on-going further degradation?


SAA + allies attack a hilltop in Northeastern Aleppo.
The use of AT missiles for anti infantry work is quite novel from this war - Hezbollah used Saggers in 2006 - but hey why not?

Babak Makkinejad

I understand that Ron, Harry Potter's mate, reads the Mail.


Seems Votel thinks that what Syria needs is a no fly zone, to arm the terrorists and more American boots on the ground. What a well thought out, carefully reasoned and incredibly insane idea.


different clue

The Twisted Genius,

Hopefully the SARgov and Russia between them will have enough secret police and other intelligence resources to look at each suspicious new-wearer of the FSA uniform to see who is what.

The Twisted Genius


Those may not be AT missiles. The Kornet has a thermobaric missile round that is ideal for this kind of work. The newest models have a 10K range. I wouldn't want to face these babies.


A ruse like this could "work", if the R+6 see it, decide that a clever counter ruse is possible so they allow the first ruse to work for a while.

The various Syrian state services are completely capable of playing pretend moderate rebels as well (and why would they not?), I kind of doubt that they can pull this off under ISIS noses in Raqqa however.

Assad does keep paying salaries and pensions in the ISIS areas, and this does give him some levels of sway and influence among the remaining non ISIS people in these areas.


Great summary Dubhaltach. This statement caught my attention:I wonder if he's ever met any Syrian or Iranian Kurds - because I for one would like to know how three very separate groups who speak mutually uninteligible languages are going to cobble together a state strong enough to hold off their neighbours.

I have no direct knowledge about the "Kurdish question". From the history I read years ago it seemed that the Kurds were not given their own homeland when the French and British drew up the borders after the first world war. The reason seemed to be because the various Kurdish tribes ,those living today in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, were warring among themselves. The French and British diplomats were unable to define a coherent Kurdish nation that would not then descend into immediate civil war.

I would be interested in reading more about this but my efforts to find good sources using google searches have not been that productive. Does anyone have a reference that might help me with my confusion?

Chris Chuba

Another difference between the Russians and us is that it feels like they planned their operation for about 100yrs while we go with the plan of the day. Before the Russians went in, Putin talked to Assad and the commander of the Quds force and really took time to understand the situation on the ground and budget accordingly.

In Iraq and Libya, who did we talk to? We talked with these bogus govt in exile types who were fluent in Neocon and knew how to play us. The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes. Lead the world? I'm not certain that we should be using sharp knives to eat our own food until we get a clue.


Perhaps the main focus will be on Damascus?

The Syrian Army has split the East Ghouta pocket.



It might have some success on the planet of Political Accommodation, which could be why it might be tried.

We are told that the names and insignia of most of these groups are just flags of convenience, which they change as conditions dictate. The Syrians and Russians have been notably accommodating towards their opponents, seeking to reduce the number of immediate enemies and to show the rest that they can save both lives and face by, in effect, surrendering on easy terms. While the pro-government forces are in the ascendant, and terrorist morale is weakening, that could be attractive to the wilier and less committed terrorists.

Assuredly, the Syrian government will not believe in the sincerity of most of these deathbed conversions, but it could suit them to pretend to do so, particularly if it means there will be fewer active enemies for a while. Also, the Syrian forces may not be as strong as they would like to appear, and they will still have plenty of fighting ahead of them.

The Borgists might be attracted to this idea as it leaves them with a counter on the board when it comes to political and diplomatic maneuvering at a later stage. The Russians have plenty of other targets in the more important western portion of Syria, and might be willing to accept some Borgist proxies in the east when it is time to wrap up the conflict, especially if this prevents the Borgists from intervening more strongly in the rest of Syria and encourages them to keep the Turks on a leash.

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