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03 August 2016


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Chris Chuba

The premise of the op-ed is that Assad has to be punished for violating the ceasefire, gag, cough, puke.
The point of the ceasefire was to allow the non-Jihadist rebels to separate from the Jihadists like Al Nusra, they didn't. They are also ignoring that Assad's forces were attacked.

Pushing terrorists into neighboring Turkey?
They mentioned this about three times so this is a really big issue for them. I'm playing the world's smallest violin after Turkey served as a highway to allow terrorists into Syria to begin with as well as supplying them with weapons and even military advisors. Are these guys trying to make us ill with this hypocrisy.

"Mr. Putin is more interested in demonstrating that Russia and its friends are winning in Syria and the United States is losing. ...Mr. Putin knows the United States will not take action to punish Russia for its support for the Assad government"
I read this from Neocons all of the time and it still amazes me. They have convinced themselves that everyone else is trying to undermine the U.S. rather than look after themselves. Notice the child like need to 'punish Russia' for their impudence, daring to oppose the U.S. This is self-projection, Neocons want Russia to lose, this is very important to them. To turn all foreign policy where the U.S. is at the center and top of everyones list on all matters is pure narcissism. Should I build a dam in Bangladesh, yes, but only if it screws the U.S.


Robert C
"400million spent" It was Iranian money that we had impounded 30 odd years ago. pl



Iran received this at the same time as they released these individuals. How do you think the Islamic Republic of Iran is going to present this outside of the US and how will that affect American foreign policy efforts?


There must be some coordination going on; Roger Boyes at the Times had an op-Ed blaming Assad's continued existence on Obama's weakness and America's lack of resolve militarily. If only Assad were removed, unicorn armies would magically sweep aside terrorism from the face of the earth. He then resurrects the bogeyman du jour of Western Europe-terrorism by migrant populations displaced from the Syrian conflict.
(Putin is devilishly clever.....)

Larry Kart

How does Ross look himself in face in the mirror? What a pile of nonsense. That it is, or tries to be, "rational" in tone makes it much more insidious. I can see Ross weasel-like punim in my mind's eye as I type. No doubt the Colonel can speak to this much better than I can, but I've been in meetings with some guys like this. As a psychiatrist archly said to me after I described such an encounter, "You have my permission to shoot him."

Babak Makkinejad

The sense of it is similar to what I gathered reading the Persian language sources online.

I think the Russian Federation is always ready to conclude a suitable deal with US. But I think the Iranians have no such hopes, certainly not on Syria.

Babak Makkinejad

One has to ask Roger Boyce why he does not advocate UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to once again take up the "White Man's Burden" and invade Iran, Iraq, Syria and run them just like Christ Church?



I decided long ago that colonialism ultimately benefits the colonized rather than the metropole. So, to hell with it! pl


Larry Kart

I know Ross and Tabler and many of their familiars. This dynamic duo is right up at the top as advertisements for "propaganda man." pl


Brunswick: History.


Col: You are channeling Benjamin Disraeli now. Not a bad thing since Disraeli was England's Most Interesting Prime Minister.


b, agreed. Nuances, Ross/Tabler have a slightly different target audience then Efraim Inbar. Maybe?


Besides, I


blaming Assad's continued existence on Obama's weakness and America's lack of resolve militarily

The broken record of beaten to death cliches emanating from mass-media and political "elites" is more than just lack of imagination, it is, as I stated not for once, a complete absence of situational awareness of outside world. It is also a complete, rather dramatic, almost to a state of primordial vacuum, absence of understanding of military force and of its application. This can happen to anyone who refuses to study real history, not some concocted narrative. It is totally legitimate, in fact, warranted to describe this state as Modus Operandi of current "elites". Acting on false assumptions and then expecting a desired result. It is also another definition of insanity.


Largely agree. Engels comes to mind immediately: "Despite her Slavic dirt and baseness, Russia still provides civilizing influence on her Middle Asian subjects"(c).


I simply don't understand why the West and America in particular must needs be an enemy of Iran. They're the natural hegemon of the region with the most developed culture and industrial base, along with Syria. A sane US foreign policy would ditch the degenerate, terror funding Saudis, declare strict neutrality concerning rent seeking, scheming Israel, and make some sort of apology to Iran for the Shah and sicking Saddam on them. They're not insane xenophobes. Iran cooperates with non Islamic countries that treat it equitable quite admirably. Shias have treated our middle eastern religious compatriots the best out of all the the Muslim sects.

Shia Hezbollah fighters render honours to Christian icons and churches: http://thesaker.is/a-very-telling-picture-of-a-hezbollah-fighter/

Iran left to prosper would keep Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon stable, and function as a check on the destabilizing designs of Israel, Turkey, and the GCC. They could become a trusted integration point for China, the US, and Russia which would ameliorate the Carter Doctrine.

David Habakkuk


A few thoughts on the very interesting pieces linked to on this thread. As I have no claims to be a Middle East expert, I may well be barking up the wrong tree.

A key line in the in the piece by Aram Mizaei put up by ‘the Saker’ seems to me to be ‘Iran needs Syria and an access to its southern regions (Quneitra) to maintain its support for Lebanese Hezbollah.’

One key purpose of the piece by Efraim Inbar on the ‘Jerusalem Post’ site appears to be defend the proposition that Hezbollah is some kind of ‘existential enemy’ of the West.

What in fact arises here is a radical incompatibility between Iranian and Israeli security interests.

As has been clear for a long time, the increasing range, accuracy and lethality of missiles which can strike Israel from hardened Hezbollah positions provides Iran with a ‘deterrent’ capability which it has every reason to feel it needs.

The difference between being able to land a missile say, with an accuracy of half-a-kilometre, and an accuracy of 100, or even 20, metres is the difference between the ability to damage a society and totally to destroy it.

For precisely that reasons, these improving – and purely ‘conventional’ capabilities pose an ‘existential threat’ to Israel. (As to the notion that ‘Iron Dome’ poses an effective counter, LOL.)

This is not because Iran, and Hezbollah, cannot be ‘deterred’ from attack – which is patently not the case.

However, a fundamental problem for Israel is maintaining the conviction in the minds of the educated and technologically sophisticated élites on which the country depends that they are better off bringing up their children under the shadow of Hezbollah missiles, rather than, say, in San Francisco.

A problem, however, is that the attempts to destroy the ‘Shia Crescent’ by toppling Assad, coming on top of the toppling of that of Saddam, and then that of Gaddafi, have precipitated both the migration crisis and the turning of Sunni jihadism towards attacking soft targets in Europe.

And both of these developments, although in a complex way, present something not all that far from an ‘existential threat’ to the continent.

From a rational European point of view – also I think a rational American one – certain logics open up.

And they point to a situation which used to be very familiar to the statesmen of ‘Perfidious Albion’ – when the shifting kaleidoscope of events means that one has strong common interests with erstwhile adversaries, while fundamental differences of interest open up with long-standing allies.

At that point, of course, the erstwhile adversaries have strong interests in encouraging the perception of commonality of interest.

The erstwhile allies – and also, those individuals and groups in our own countries who for various reasons are strongly invested in the long-standing alliances – have the strongest possible incentives to discourage it.

Whatever their objective merits or lack of them, a key point about these ‘logics’ is that they are very simple, and read, essentially, as follows.

Total destruction of the ‘Islamic State’ is now a key Western interest. This gives us a strong common interest with Putin’s Russia, the Syrian Government, and also the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As to the notion that we should take to the ‘smelling salts’ over Assad’s use of ‘barrel bombs’ – these are serious matters, pious propaganda is out of place.

These ‘logics’ imply a strong divergence of perceived interest with the Saudis and other ‘Gulfies’, and, critically Israel – so long as that country’s leaders believe that their security depends on the destruction of the Assad regime.

In relation both to the Ross and Tabler piece, and also that by Efraim Inbar – certain dilemmas faced by Jews are critical.

A central implication of the ‘logics’ I describe is that they put into a wholly new light the – largely successful – efforts of the leaderships of the Jewish ‘communities’ in the United States and Britain to define Jews as a ‘people’ with a right to ‘self-determination’ in Israel.

If one accepts the ‘logics’, it is evident that Jews are left with a choice. One possible route is to seek to define the interests of Israel in a way radically different from its current leadership and ‘neocons’ like Ross and Tabler.

Another is to attempt to revive older conceptions of a non-Zionist Jewish identity – conceptions which Zionists have been largely successful in destroying. Another is to revert to the notion that Jews should abandon conceptions of a distinctive Jewish identity altogether, and ‘assimilate’.

Unsurprisingly, attempts to evade these ‘logics’ have led to a vast amount of ingenious apologetics – of these, the piece by Ross and Tabler is a rather undistinguished example.

So, people continue to insist that there is a ‘third force’ of ‘moderate insurgents’, supporting which allows one to oppose Assad and the jihadists at the same time – even though this claim has been exposed as palpable nonsense.

It is further argued that supporting Assad only strengthens the jihadists. It seems to me that the Efraim Inbar piece is simply trying on a new variant of this line of attack – asserting that, as it were, leaving the snake injured but not dead implies less of a terrorist threat to Europe, rather than more.

The piece by Roger Boyes – who was a hack when I knew him slightly years ago and hasn’t I think changed much – is simply a reiteration of the standard British ‘borgist’ fare. The increasingly hysterical tone of this is, in my view, largely due to the patent fact that more and more people here find it ludicrous.

The common Western habit of imputing motives, intentions and analyses to Putin without providing a shred of evidence to support them is not one I wish to imitate.

(Really, does it often seem to me that MI6, the source of a good few of these stories in Britain, thinks one should do intelligence with an ouija board!).

However, being speculative, one might argue that Putin may well be trying to finesse a range of objectives which are in inherent tension.

The suggestion by Ross and Tabler that ‘Mr. Putin is more interested in demonstrating that Russia and its friends are winning in Syria and the United States is losing’ is, in my view, pure BS. The notion that getting others to ‘eat their spinach’ – to use Ms. Nuland’s immortal phrase – is wise statesmanship is not one Putin shares.

Right from the start, he has tried to use the argument that Russia and the West have a common interest in combating jihadists as the basis for a rapprochement.

Likewise, he has consistently cultivated good relations with Israel.

In part, it would seem, this is because he hopes the Israelis may help, as it were, ‘call the dogs off’ in relation to the United States. But it is also material that Putin is not anti-Semitic. (Unlike the ideological heirs of the Lviv pogrom, with whom Ms. Nuland likes to make common cause.)

A really difficult tension to finesse, clearly, has been that between seeking agreement with the United States, and allowing that country and its allies to provide equipment, training and organisation to the anti-Assad forces.

But then, this is a complicated issue. Whatever the success or failure of Putin’s approach to the United States government, the spectacle – referred to in the Aram Mizaei piece – of the United States asking the Russians not to target al-Nusra positions represents, as far as many people in Britain are concerned, a most massive ‘information wars’ own goal on the part of the 'borg'.

How arguments on these matters between Putin and his close associates have developed – and it is possible that there is a very substantial divergence of views between, for instance, Patrushev, Sergei Ivanov, and Lavrov – is an interesting question.

(Likewise, what these people say to each other, when they discuss the relative merits of a Clinton and Trump presidency, and whether it may or may not be sensible covertly to ‘put an oar in’ to influence the outcome, is an interesting question.)

It is not a question on which one can expect any enlightenment from ‘borgists’ like Ross and Tabler, or Boyes.

Faced by the sudden realisation that what they had assumed was an unquestionable ideological ‘hegemony’ may be vulnerable – something dramatised by the ‘Brexit’ result – a ‘rational’ strategy is to attempt to play to a traditional ‘Cold War’ Russophobia.

This is also a reason why, although I hear the arguments made by those on SST who suggest that, if elected, Hillary Clinton may respond to the climate in the United States which is patently averse to fresh foreign adventures, I am not persuaded.

I think that, bizarrely, it is because the ‘neocons’ with whom she is totally identified – and on whose financial backers she has been totally dependent – are correct in perceiving an ‘existential threat’ to Israel, that confidence that she will be restrained in what she does lacks any basis.

So I stick by my argument that ‘lesser evilism’ says: vote Trump.



"I simply don't understand why the West and America in particular must needs be an enemy of..."

We don't, neither do we need to be anyone's permanent friend.


O'Hanlon is a hack of the first order

Brookings as a whole is a collection of hacks. Moreover, most of US think-tankdom is a collection of hacks. Some exceptions do exist but those are far and between.

Babak Makkinejad

I think it is rather more interesting to ask: "Why is EU enemy of Iran?"

How did that happen?


The odds Ross and Tabler's recommendations being followed by Obama, Hillary or Trump are absolutely zero. The Israelis have become tone deaf to the mood of the American people with regards the Middle East.

Likely US course of action is continued airstrikes on ISIS under any US administration, continued US support of an unofficial Kurdish government in Syria and Iraq both financially and covertly. Let the Russians, Syrian government and Iranians deal with Nusra et al while we pretend not to notice. Our ME allies wanted Kerry to carry the proposal (as unlikely as it was to be accepted) to Putin. It was leaked, presented and rejected. Perhaps the Russians will have a practical counter, but I don't think the US administration has the time or will to propose another even if prodded by its ME allies.

Separately IS will now take years to bring down. Iraq offensive on IS will persist but push to Raqqa won't happen now as an aligned effort. Russia and US could have teamed up to finish IS but that train left the station. Sadly. I cannot help but fear both Russia and the US are vulnerable to a 911 redux from IS or AQ.


I think you touch on an interesting point ; Many actors to the "peace of Syria " play (to paraphrase Churchill) are involved with very different end states in mind.
From an Israeli perspective, Iran-Hizb'u'allah represent "existential" threats in public discourse, but more likely in private, make a very dangerous strategic conundrum to Israeli planners. Chaos in Syria leads to a cumulative pressure on the Jewish psyche to secure the homeland. How ? Terror.
What I understand from your post is that Likud and Bibi have successfully played on these "existential" fears in the Jewish psyche to camouflage their right wing agenda. Instability in Syria feeds into the narrative that Europe is under Muslim attack and is therefore not safe for Jewry (cf Netanyahu's remarks about France). Hence the only safe haven for Jews is Israel.
I see a tension between this political/ideological posture as used in the political arena in Israel and the military/securocracy assessment of the threat of Iran-Hizb'u'allah. Netanyahu and Erdogan have a lot in common, politically and militarily.

David Habakkuk


I think you raise a range of very interesting questions.

One point. It is important to keep in mind that the ‘suicide pact’ between Israel and the United States works both ways. So American ‘neoconservatives’ adopted the ‘Moby Dick’ approach to adversaries.

Invariably, these are seen as figure of monstrous malice, directed at oneself – and equally invariably, it is assumed that the appropriate response is to destroy them.

This is also Netanyahu’s approach. And the result of the collaboration between him and American ‘neoconservatives’ – aided and abetted, of course, by my own country – has been one disaster after another.

Quite patently, it is not the approach of leading figures in the Israeli ‘securitocracy’.

Your phrase ‘a very dangerous strategic conundrum’ is I think peculiarly apt. Many members of the ‘securitocracy’ are very well aware that the ‘name of the game’ for Israel has to be trying to get ‘devil and deep blue sea’, ‘rock and hard place’ choices right.

A lot of them clearly understand that although the ‘two-state solution’ has always had massive problems, the alternative – indefinite occupation of the West Bank – is a disaster, not least because it is a moral disaster: as was well brought out in a ‘Politico’ piece entitled ‘Netanyahu vs. the Generals’ last month.

(See http://tinyurl.com/jztz4bg .)

But as there now clearly is not going to be a ‘two-state solution’, it is not obvious to me how they see the ‘end state’.

As to the question of Netanyahu’s successful playing on Jewish fears, this needs more thought.

But, in brief, he has done a great deal to create a situation where, in Britain, one has a polarisation. There is an increasing propensity for the – very many – people of Jewish origin in Britain who have some identification with Israel but are deeply uneasy about what that country has become to retreat into silence, and/or move away from ‘Jewish’ identity.

One is then left with a ‘Jewish community’ who regard it as their role to be cheerleaders and apologists for the Netanyahu brand of Zionism, or whose questioning of it is insipid and ineffectual: read the ‘Jewish Chronicle’.

Conspicuous by its absence is any serious thinking about an ‘end state’.

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