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20 June 2016


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bth, he probably spoke in Hebrew/Ivrit and they provided simultaneous translation. They would have needed to record that too. A presentation in Ivrit would have somehow stuck out on the site. ...

I never thought you doubted he gave the talk. I was simply interested in the subject of it. I respect your hesitation, it feels familiar.


TTG and Matthew,

I listened to this last night in real time: Stephen Cohen’s weekly WABCNY-AM hour on the John Batchelor Show. Burns's "They won't do anything” is roundly rejected by events of the past week in Syria, and yesterday morning at the State Dept (meeting with Kerry and the 51 letter signers). Which Batchelor and Cohen discuss.

You both, as well as the rest of the commenters here, would find this broadcast interesting. Burns and Haass are off-the-wall. Cohen’s take on the Colonel’s ‘Children's Crusade’ is identical, although Cohen is more trenchant in his stated disdain.

Suwalki Gap to Syrian Skies in the New Cold War. Stephen F. Cohen, NYU, Princeton University, EastWestAccord.com.


As I noted above, after you listen to the Charlie Rose interview, listen to this. it is Stephen Cohen’s weekly hour on the John Batchelor Show, broadcast last night. It references Kerry’s meeting yesterday morning (Tuesday) with the 51 letter signers at State.

Suwalki Gap to Syrian Skies in the New Cold War. Stephen F. Cohen, NYU, Princeton University, EastWestAccord.com.


Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and probably Iran can keep throwing fuel onto a burning fire in Syria to prevent a workable peace.


Russia would have to commitment to Syria far more men, material and money than currently planned to unilaterally impose its will over the spoiler positions of Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Israel. Syrian government is too weak, Iran too polarizing. Perhaps US/Russia working together might accomplish this in the bitter end. But our governments have not come to that conclusion. Thus for now US should focus on reducing IS.


They have one. It is called their army.



The Israeli army is a veto over what the US does? What do you think they are going to do, invade Florida? pl



"Russia would have to commitment to Syria far more men, material and money than currently planned to unilaterally impose its will over the spoiler positions of Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Israel. Syrian government is too weak, Iran too polarizing. Perhaps US/Russia working together might accomplish this in the bitter end. But our governments have not come to that conclusion. Thus for now US should focus on reducing IS." Did the old BTH die? "BTH" now is merely a hasbara spokesman. pl


Scoff if you wish. But there is a better than even chance that the Syrian government under Assad will never be able to reassert control over the Sunni Arab populations in the eastern portion of Syria, or the Kurds for that matter even if IS is reduced. In which case, assuming US eventual reduction of IS, there will be some Sunni Arab tribal power or other local government to fill the void. Having an airbase south of current US positions and west of Iraq might make military sense and political sense with regard to Saudi Arabia and Israeli concerns about unobstructed land routes. Perhaps control could be passed to the Jordanians if the Syrian government is unable as I do not see it in US interest to build any permanent base in Syria.

Babak Makkinejad

Fort Forlorn, For Impossible, Fort Never...



I have said endlessly here that there are not enough troops in the R+6 coalition. Who are you, really? pl

Babak Makkinejad

I think the thinking of the Gulfies and Turks is that we cannot dislodge Iran from Iraq and Syria but we can certainly wreck those 2 countries so that Iranians are only left with ruins.

Gulfies were never the sharpest tools in the tool chest.

Babak Makkinejad

Balance of Power, as is normally thought of, is a number of states politically and militarily neutralizing one another.

What you are describing as Balance of Power is called "Playing one against the Other".

This second policy has often failed; it failed for Qajars and it failed for Mossadegh.


Col., same person all these ten years. An evolving assessment though of what is possible and what those options might look like. Will email separately.


In regard to insufficient R+6 troops as well as the competence of some ISIS forces, the elite SAA forces moving towards Raqqa apparently suffered a severe set back as the result of a well planned ISIS counterattack - leaving weapons behind and many soldiers trapped, with some reports suggesting hundreds of SAA casualties. The best description of this attack and rout I have seen is at the Colonel Cassed web site - translation required, I use Yandex:


Cassad's summary:

"We can state that the competent actions of the military command of the Caliphate (where many former officers of the Iraqi army of Saddam, including graduates of Soviet military academies) neutralized a direct threat to his capital, and once again demonstrated that unceremoniously "black" not to take. A painful lesson for the future, and perhaps the most embarrassing military failure since the disastrous attack of the CAA in the Northern province of Hama in October 2015.The real size of the losses apparently will become clear in the next couple of days. In this rollback, they must be substantial (that is the Caliphate claims to have captured two tanks and 1 23-mm antiaircraft guns."


Col: Practical question: If Syria is so important to Iran, why haven't the Iranians found 30,000 to 40,000 Iranian "volunteers" to defeat Nusra?

David Habakkuk


You write: ‘Perhaps US/Russia working together might accomplish this in the bitter end. But our governments have not come to that conclusion.’

Of course your government – and ours – are not going to come to that conclusion. But a key reason for this is quite precisely that you – and we – have political élites who are quite happy to let the Israelis and Saudis have a ‘veto’.

And in the attempt to maintain their suffocating influence on our countries policies, these élites deploy propaganda with a unanimity, and disregard for objective truth, well worthy of the old Soviet Politburo.

So, for example, on 20 June, the same day as his appearance on the ‘Charlie Rose’ show discussed above, an article by Richard Haass appeared in the ‘Financial Times’, under the title ‘US diplomats speak unrestrained truth to power on Syria.’

In this article, the former director of policy planning at the State Department, and current president of the Council on Foreign Relations, tells us that:

‘“Assad must go” was an early refrain but precious little was done to act on it. Years later, Bashar al-Assad was warned not to use chemical weapons, yet when the Syrian leader defied the warning, he paid no real price.’

As you doubtless are aware, the case that ‘Ghouta’ was a ‘false flag’ has been made – persuasively to my mind – in two articles by one of the most distinguished of post-war American investigative journalists, Seymour Hersh.

(See http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin ; http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line .)

The scientific evidence supposed to establish Syrian government responsibility for Ghouta, meanwhile, has been demolished by Professor Theodore Postol of MIT, in two long papers, the first co-authored with Richard Lloyd.

The chair Postol holds is in ‘Science, Technology and National Security’ at MIT, his PhD in nuclear engineering, and he is a former scientific advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon.

One might have thought he was the kind of figure to whom a former head of policy planning at the State Department would pay close attention. But, it seems, that is not how things work these days.

(See https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1006045/possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.pdf ;http://cryptome.org/2014/08/postol-debunks-kaszeta.pdf .)

In the ‘comments’ section of the ‘Financial Times’, I presented, for the fourth time on their site, a brief account of Hersh’s claims with relevant links and supporting material – also, on this occasion, linking to the Postol pieces.

At least the moderators at the paper appear to have given up deleting my comments. However, at no point do you get any sign of engagement whatsoever.

The underlying mentality was well revealed, when, last November, in the immediate aftermath of the Turkish shooting down of the Russian Su-24, Ivo Daalder – currently president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and formerly U.S. permanent representative to NATO – produced a rush article.

According to his account, Turkey ‘shot down a Russian fighter jet that had entered its airspace and refused to leave despite numerous warnings.’

The paper’s chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf, posted his observations:

‘The pro-Russian trolls are really boring. Can't they find something more interesting to do? They could write a novel, for example. They show the necessary capacity for fiction, at least.’ In the event, it turned out that, without waiting to ascertain the facts, Daalder had simply uncritically accepted Turkish ‘fiction’.

Such are the depths to which what was once a great liberal paper has sunk, under the influence of Wolf and his like.

When anybody disputes the ‘party line’, they either ignore them, suggest they are ‘trolls’ paid by a foreign power, pretend to be bored, or sneer: or some combination of the above.

These people think like the juvenile leftists with whom it was painful trying to argue decades ago. (They’re just very much richer – and of course, much better dressed than the Soviet ‘apparatchiks’ who in other ways they so much resemble.)

The one redeeming feature of this story, from a British point of view, is that both the two pieces by Hersh on Ghouta, and also his articles on the bin Laden cover-up and on the co-operation between the American, German, Israeli and Russian militaries to thwart the attempt to destroy Assad, were published in the ‘London Review of Books.’

(Subsequently, they have been issued together as a book, under the title ‘The Killing of Osama bin Laden’.)

Apparently however, this was because David Remnick at the ‘New Yorker’, Hersh’s long-term outlet, was not interested in publishing this kind of subversive material. The ‘New Yorker’ attempting to ‘speak truth to power’? – perish the thought.

And indeed, a comic feature of Haass’s ‘Financial Times’ article is that he – an ultimate ‘Borgist’ insider – can write, with a straight face, that ‘what these 51 signatories have done is spoken truth to power’. So this bunch of ignorant incompetents – and, it seems quite likely, time-serving careerists – are to be regarded as though they were putting careers and livelihoods at risk.

The people who did that were the courageous analysts at the British defence science laboratory at Porton Down who were instrumental in making it possible for General Dempsey to thwart the project of lending the U.S. Air Force to the jihadists.

What actually comes over from Haass and Ivo Daalder is the depth of the assumption, among post-Cold War Western élites, that their power is unchallengeable and their virtue self-evident. It is that which makes so many of them at once deeply morally repellent and also extremely dangerous.

One piece of good news, however, which has become evident reading comments on the ‘Financial Times’ over the past couple of years, is that very many people can now see right through such people and out the other side.

What more and more us want are policies which have some relation to actual American, and British, interests in the present. We don’t want to be led by people who haven’t realised that the Cold War has ended, or are intent on repaying scores arising out of the traumatic events of twentieth-century European history.

And absolutely the last thing very many of us want is to see it automatically assumed that, when the Israelis or Saudis say ‘jump’, our leaders respond ‘how high?’

Unfortunately, the ‘Financial Times’ pieces are behind a paywall. However, for the record, the relevant links are

https://next.ft.com/content/b1b44ce8-34bb-11e6-bda0-04585c31b153 and https://next.ft.com/content/dde790dc-21e1-393a-96ab-a02b508f7d3c .


Concerning the ban. One cannot shed off a strong feeling there is a quite a bit of hypocrisy involved. ... There weren't other means then collectively punish Russian athletes? I don't know routines and rules admittedly, if there are any to deal with otherwise. ... What is the idea of instead inviting "Russians" everywhere but inside Russia to join the Olympics instead?

It reminds me of images our media brought home from the Brisbane summit. Putin being visibly isolated. I wondered if this conveyed something central. If so, it made me sick nevertheless.


I was acquainted with some senior people at the FT for several years from the 1960s onwards. Samuel Brittan, their financial commentator whom I knew quite well, introduced me to the Editor who had remade the paper into a notable international paper - Fredy Fisher. While they had pronounced views on some issues - particularly economic philosophy - there was a strong, pervasive commitment to intellectual honesty.

Moreover, when it came to news coverage, there was an overriding commitment to finding out and reporting on what was happening, i.e. the objective truth. Obviously, that ethic is long gone. Consider the current Editor, Lionel Barber. As a journalist covering Europe he was a first-class journalist. Now he oversees a propaganda organ.


Our man Croesus was schooled in the uses of religious sentiment by Cyrus:

When Cyrus observed to the vanquished king of Lydia that Persian soldiers were looting his capital city, Sardis, Croesus replied, "Not my city; it's your city now. But here is what you should do to halt the plunder: Tell your soldiers that they must donate their booty in tribute to the gods who ensured their victory."

"You see," instructed Croesus, "Your soldiers must not acquire wealth such that they can oppose you. And by telling them to pay tribute to the gods, you protect yourself from their anger at divesting them of their treasure."

Fast forward (and slightly different aspect of the topic): In a talk before the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), Adam Garfinkle, who acknowledged in the course of his comments his collegial relationship with Douglas Feith, said that he "did not worry about ISIS; ISIS is not the problem, Iran is the problem."

It's a double-problem, given the perspective of the current Israeli minister who feels that Israel needs to keep superpowers in the region, for Israel's protection.

Garfinkle noted that there are thousands of US ships, sailors, and other US assets and personnel within easy range of Iranian missiles. Thus, if Israel attacked Iran, Iran could retaliate by attacking USA assets & people.
Garfinkel said that he would recommend that USA pull out of the region (and give Israel a free hand).

Ironically, USA is defending Iran from an Israeli attack.

(Purchase of 100 Boeings is even more insurance.)


rjj said in reply to rjj... AARRRGH, RJJ!!!

Interesting plot.

But who and what exactly made you so angry? I reread Smoothie's comments and found the first one more interesting today then yesterday. But today, I tried to read BNW's linked JP article.

Personally, I am still wondering how the hell one can recognize "Assad loyalists from the minority Alawite militia" from the images that as he writes: "reach us". Yes, sometimes these nasty irrelevances stay on my mind.

Thanks a lot, Smoothie. Yesterday I may have been reading you too narrowly. What way? Vaguely with the tag Russian expat surfacing, in the latter part, to the extend I recall.


Babak Makkinejad

Israel always has had a free hand in the region; consider what they did in Lebanon in 1982 and afterwards.

There is an Iranian in Israel by the name Shaul Mofaz - was taken to Israel when he was 13 years old from Iran - and later became their Defense Minister.

He understands what the war against Iran, initiated by Israel would entail - perpetual hatred towards State of Israel until she is destroyed - a millenarian Shia project.

Israelis, as I have stated many time on this forum, are Supreme Realists. They would never attack Iran, they would find others such as US or EU to do it for them.


I would appreciate clarification of some cruxes on my mind.

"there is a Sunni World which pines to live in a dream world tranquility"

Hopefully you allow me to do it without the necessary Confucian rigidity. Based on my limited grasp of matters. I may well have certain amount of dislike for intentions to convert others. Or for that matter staging it as in the above linked imagery.

The Christians in the video aren't radicals, since if they are true to their faith they must be convinced the world would be a better place and/or better prepared for the return of Christ.

Neither are the Muslims radicals who now try to convert people and support Isis are truly radicals, while telling the people that one day the whole world will be Muslim.

They are simply not the "sharpest tools in the tool(s) chest".


while I am at it.

I have read references to Iran where the Mahdi surfaced but in some type of threat scenario. Their specific variation on the basic theme, made them much more dangerous. I won't pretend that I ever studied the topic closely enough to understand. ... didn't go further then Wikipedia.

One of the few things I read on Islam, and admittedly missing a solid foundation, even of that not too much stuck. Among those was one publication on the history of "radical Islamists" (maybe the term chosen was Islamism). Would you argue that already that lens chosen is somewhat wrong? A perspective that looks at all the people, more loosely spoken, of the Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab type is wrong? I accept that in Islam there is no difference between religion and/or politics, it is repeated ad nauseam lately. That's what was on my mind.

One final question. You mentioned the father who shot his daughter based on suspicion. He cannot be punished to have done so.

What about this scenario without anyone defending her with a gun.

Let's assume the daughter by chance realized not only that her father mistrusted her, but also how it could be. Realizing there would be no use in talking to him. Whatever she said, he wouldn't believe her. Now lets assume further she sought the help of the Mullahs. They would listen to her case and declared her innocent. Would he still not be punished, when he shot her?


Don't lose the perspective scale-wise here. It is a tactical setback, not the first and not the last, and many more are coming. It is also more than just an issue of the size of the SAA force. Shoigu's meeting with Assad three days ago was for a reason, or, rather, several of them. What could be the scale of these reasons we may (I underscore--may) see fairly soon. Today, however, Russia marks 75th anniversary of the Nazi invasion in 1941. Putin's speech at State Duma gives some hints.


Babak, that's where we differ, where you think balance of power(s) is something natural and God given so one seats out and enjoys the fruits without any work, and I think not . It really takes a lot of artful skilled politics, to bring about a balance of forces that can neutralize your adversaries powers.

Here is how wiki describes it
"When confronted by a significant external threat, states that look to form alliances may "balance" or "bandwagon". Balancing is defined as allying with others against the prevailing threat, while states that have bandwagoned have aligned with the threat. States may also employ other alliance tactics."

"According to Kenneth Waltz, founder of neorealism, "balance-of-power politics prevail wherever two, and only two requirements are met: that the order be anarchic and that it be populated by units wishing to survive". They can do this either through internal balancing, where a state uses internal efforts such as moving to increase economic capability, developing clever strategies and increasing military strength, or through "external balancing", which occurs when states take external measures to increase their security by forming allies."

As said, with regard to Iran, in my previous examples Iran has utilized both above mentioned types in past couple of years. Respectfully I leave it at that.

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