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28 June 2017

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Kutte

Babak Makkinejad,
De Gaulle's situation in 1940 was completely different from that of 1958, when he was recalled by the military for the purpose of "saving" Algeria, then realizing that French rule in Algeria was unsustainable, which nearly got him killed. Gorbachev also realized that communism was unsustainable, but did not manage a controlled exit. I was pointing out parallels, not comparing or even equating.

Mikey

FWIW: Turkish Army offensive to begin this weekend to expel Kurds from northern Aleppo

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (10:00 P.M.) – New reports regarding a massive Turkish Army build-up in northern Aleppo have emerged after military sources confirmed to local outlets that a large-scale offensive was brewing, aimed at driving the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) out of the Efrin region.


https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/turkish-army-offensive-begin-weekend-expel-kurds-northern-aleppo/

turcopolier

Mikey

I am also concerned with ultimate Erdoganist goals are with regard to Aleppo City and Idlib Province. pl

turcopolier

jackrabbit

I forgot to include Marcus the purple assed mandrill of peace and Publius Tacitus as being members of the luncheon group. :You actually believed that BS about the lunch club? "The superficial observation" There is nothing superficial about the explanation. IMO DJT suffers from massive developmental disorders. You are clearly a member of the "resistance" and seeking to damage the Republicans by insisting that DJT is a fully functional adult not driven by his demons. IMO you are wrong. pl

makelovenotwar

Hersh interview
quote
There was, we knew about a meeting. The word was from the Russians to us, our intelligence services, was if you have a guy there, you’re buying somebody, we, you, like to pay money to get information or other reasons, if you have somebody going to that meeting on April 4th, in this town, in a command and control center, don’t let him go. Find a way to get him out gracefully. And so that was kept very secret.

So the planning was done for days because it involved, the zone is called, it’s at the operational zone six, really is what they call it. It’s a Russia operational zone. Syria operational zone. We do not operate there, militarily, with planes, bombing. That’s done by the other services. It was a Syrian plane, an upgraded Syrian plane with a special Russian bomb, laser guided bomb. Russia, unlike us, Russia’s, they don’t spend the money we do on laser guided stuff. The Russians tend to be cherry about it but this is going to be laser guided. They brought in a better version of an old MIG called an SU24 Syrian jet with a very senior Syrian General piloting.

If you have a covert, if you’re running people, you’re running agents, intelligence agents inside, let’s say al-Nusra. If you’re running operations inside their operations, why would you want to talk about it before or after? You don’t.

There was a basement there. Very likely there would be a lot of stuff supplied there, stored there, including, plastic containers full of cooking oil.

You may know under a lot of heat, in an explosion, plastic develops into something that in World War I was know as phosgene, another poisonous chemical. Any cloud can be … We all know from fires, that people die from smoke inhalation. Any cloud can be very damaging.

What did not happen is Syria did not drop a sarin bomb that morning. It was known to everybody in the command. Period.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/06/seymour-hersh-trump-ignored-intel-bombing-syria.html

LondonBob

Going by what Bannon's friend has said regarding Shayrat it was partly a political decision due to domestic pressures from neocons and partly sending a message to NK, China, Russia, Iran etc. Of course it was in the end a purely symbolic strike. Did it change anything, no.

Not convinced by Hersh's account that the intelligence Trump was shown showed anything but the Syrians were responsible, whether they were or not. Trump is still surrounded by many people who desire regime change/destruction in Syria.

LondonBob

I expect Trump was trying to get some leverage for his meeting with Putin next week, sure conceivably there might be some U2 incident tricks going on in the background, maybe even Trump is forestalling them. After all this the guy who completely bluffed Comey in to actually telling the truth.

Given Trump's modus operandi I will go for my first explanation. No need to be dumb as the media and needlessly chase around in circles whatever Trump throws out there to keep them distracted whilst the administration gets on with business. Is Trump moving towards regime change in Syria contrary to his long established position on matters there, or did the US just announce that the Syrians are welcome to fight ISIS in the east and are looking to withdraw from Tanf.

Mikey

How does Sheldon Adelson strike you?

Babak Makkinejad

No no no; he was the one that gave that famous speech, calling on all Frenchmen to join him - yes he had help but that is like saying that Churcil had help.

Babak Makkinejad

Since I am considered a Gaullist by my French friends, I must object to your point of view - de Gaulle was trying to save a legendary creature called France; from 1940 until he resigned.
One could say that Providence or Destiny called on him to so. And he did so against the grain of so many French.

1664RM

People are asking what kind of man Mattis is?

Well, as a Brit I was once under his command. He certainly 'talks the talk' but I doubt whether he has ever actually 'walked the walk'.

He was commissioned into the USMC Reserve as an Officer right at the time when the US was fighting its most costly war since WW2 .... he managed to avoid that one ... how convenient ... its a moot point that has never gained any attention.

One glance at his bio shows hardly any soldiering experience .... ever ... before Senior Command beckoned. By that time you are a long way from the reality of what is happening.

To a man who has had to walk the walk on quite a few occasions he appears to be like many of his brethren .... rather a perfumed prince who can impress the politicians with his simplistic & jingoistic BS & 'jives' ... he is also a 'lead rather than bread' kind of guy when it comes to fighting in a modern multidimensional complex theatres that we have found ourselves bogged down in during this century.

Sadly the cleanliness of Krulaks '3-Block' concept was wide if the mark - I wonder if he had a hand in that one?? ... the reality is that the the people hated our very being there & with a 'lead rather than bread' lead who can blame them. You only get one chance to make an impression & can never repair a broken reputation.

Personally I don't go for all the irrelevant BS about urging his subordinates to go read about the exploits of Marcus Aurelius nor his 'fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan was really great fun' comments.

All well & good for a general who has swallowed the USMC Manual on just about everything but look at his very unimaginative & one dimensional ideas & solutions to Afghanistan & Syria & you will simply see another retired old armchair general supporting the MIC.

I also laughed at his criticism of the parlous state of the US Armed Forces. Part of which he was in command of until only just recently.

Its probably better that SECDEF is usually a Civilian ... these cowboy types tend to get carried away with themselves.

Kevlar Flak & Pot is on for imcoming!

Kutte

When Trump began his cancidacy, everybody laughed, called him an idiot etc. Yet he had a plan, and it worked. That, on earth, makes me think that he also has a plan for his presidency. Despite appearing as a buffoon, he has a good sense of distance, a good sense of proportion, and is also willing to fight if need be, as Mr. Comey found out. Where Nixon panicked, Trump kept his cool. He might offer South Korea and Japan a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, and, as they are likely to refuse, then say: We offered you, but if you don't want our help, we might as well go. Which is probably what he wanted in the first place. Saudi Arabia tells him Qatar is guilty of this and that, and he says go ahead. Once the Saudis made a mess of it, he will wash his hands. The same with the Syria attack, which Publius Tacitus keeps saying this will lead to his impeachment. He will just say that he was lied to, and then fire these "helpers", whom he never wanted in the first place. Remember what Truman did with McArthur. He did not like him ever, but could never fire him because of his reputation. So he let him do what he liked in Korea, and when things went sour, he fired him, which he always wanted. I commented on another occasion, the worst thing you can do is under-estimate Trump. In any case, we should know very soon whether there is anything to that.

Greco

It may be possible that Assad and Putin don't have as much control over their armed forces as may be thought.

Take for example the Litvinenko saga. He was the ex-FSB agent who had died of polonium poisoning. The more popular theory puts it that Putin had ordered his assassination, much like how the exiled Trotsky was killed with an ice pick; however, another theory posits that his poisoning was brought on by his involvement in a smuggling operation. That is to say, he fell terminally ill after improperly handling the polonium. For all we know he was still an FSB agent working undercover, but it's also possible he was simply corrupt.

I don't want to speculate too much because there are a lot of important considerations that remain unclear and plenty of reason to be skeptical of the claims regarding Assad ordering CW attacks or even having possession of CWs at this stage.

Harper

Clearly there is a need for credible international observers on the ground to verify the ordinance being used by the Syrian Air Force, and to also verify where there is evidence that rebel factions are using CW. OPCW is one candidate for such a mission, with representation from Russia, the United States and other parties. There is so much subjective debate over the sanity, qualifications, strategy of President Trump that it colors the evaluations process, when something like the charges of planned CW use arise in public. Given the environment, I read the Mattis statements as a walk-back from the prospects of deeper U.S. military engagement directed against the Syrian Armed Forces and potentially other R+6 forces. I do hope that the Trump-Putin meeting takes place and leads to a calming of the situation(s). The one area where Trump has excelled has been the one-on-one meetings with other world leaders, where his apparatus has reportedly done excellent prep work and where Trump "the closer" was able to operate on comfortable grounds.

David Habakkuk

John_Frank,

I think it would be unwise to take the Hersh report entirely at face value.

It needs to be seen against the background of his earlier writing, and above all the account of the ‘false flag’ at Ghouta on 21 August 2013 he published in the ‘London Review of Books’ in April 2014 under the title ‘The Red Line and the Rat Line’.

(See https://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line .)

According to his account, the attempt to use this to inveigle the United States into a new disastrous war in the Middle East was frustrated by General Dunford’s predecessor as CJCS, General Dempsey, with the co-operation of scientists from the British Defence Science & Technology Laboratory at Porton Down.

At the crucial time, General Dempsey was able and willing to present Obama with ‘slam dunk’ from tests they had conducted on samples provided by the GRU that proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Syrian government forces were not responsible.

From the outset, an attentive and unbiased reader, prepared to do some follow-up work with Google, could see that it was wildly unlikely that Hersh’s central contentions were not true – but that equally unlikely that his sources were telling ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’

The only way the story made sense was that if key elements in the British and American governments had been complicit in covering up earlier ‘false flags’, and if the results of tests on samples from these done at at Porton Down which demonstrated that they were such had been covered up.

Once one realised this, one could see that frustrating the new ‘false flag’ which could be expected required a number of figures, with General Dempsey in the lead role, to resort to extraordinary steps.

My reconstruction of the ‘back story’ to the ‘Red Line and Rat Line’ article, based purely on ‘open source’ information, was posted by Colonel Lang back in April, under the title ‘ Sentence first – verdict afterwards?”’ If anyone can produce objections based upon the identification of genuine errors of fact or logic in it, I am willing to consider them. So far, nobody has.

(See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/04/sentence-first-verdict-afterwards-a-revision-by-david-habakkuk-14-april-2017.html .)

Pressing reasons why the ‘back story’ needed to be suppressed were, obviously, implicit in my account of what it was: among them the need to protect honest and courageous scientists at Porton Down from punitive action by people in a position to take this who had everything to lose by having the truth exposed.

In frustrating the attempt to use Ghouta to inveigle the United States into handing over Syria to jihadists, and equip them with a sophisticated CW arsenal, General Dempsey was spectacularly successful. However, seriously denting the ‘groupthink’ according to which it was self-evident that Assad was responsible for that an earlier incidents proved impossible.

Accordingly, it has long seemed likely that, when circumstances were again propitious, a fresh ‘false flag’ attempt would be attempted. The election of Hillary Clinton would certainly have created favourable conditions. It has been more surprising that her defeat did – a fact which is clearly registered in the exchanges between the ‘American Soldier’ and the ‘Security Advisor’ which accompany Hersh’ article.

It also important here to realise that the people who organise these ventures are – as Putin attempted to point out to Western leaders in his speech to the U.N. back in September 2015 – cruel, but not stupid. There is clearly a ‘learning curve’: the sophistication of ‘false flag’ attempts has greatly increased since the crude ones practised at Sheikh Maqsoud and Saraqeb back in April 2013.

If one looks carefully at the article, and the accompanying conversation, it seems to me clear that both are shaped by an overriding purpose.

It is expected that the organisers of the last ‘false flag’ will attempt to build on the its success by staging a new one – and, as the article and conversation both bring out, Trump has boxed himself into a corner where it is extremely likely that he will continue as the ‘useful idiot’ of the Salafists and those who are determined to prevent a decisive victory for the ‘R+6’ in Syria at almost any cost.

What is liable to make persuading him to draw back particularly difficult is the fact that you in the United States have – as we also do in Britain – élites who have been sleepwalking into very dangerous territory in foreign and security policy.

The list of inanities from General Mattis I could quote is a long one. Among headlines in recent months, ‘Iran world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism”, Mattis says’; and ‘Sec. Mattis on Russia: “NATO is not a threat and they know it”. On Afghanistan, ‘Mattis: “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now”’, appeared to give some grounds for hope, but what the story revealed him as saying – ‘we will correct this as soon as possible’ – quickly revealed that hope as baseless.

And then there was the long piece by Mark Perry in ‘Politico’ last December, entitled ‘James Mattis’ 33-Year Grudge Against Iran: Many in the Pentagon worry that Trump’s pick for defense secretary is looking for a fight in the Middle East.’

(See http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/james-mattis-iran-secretary-of-defense-214500 .)

If you look closely at the remarks of the ‘senior adviser’ which form the basis of the Trump article, as also the ‘on the ground’ reporting from the ‘American Soldier’ – it is clear that they are crafted to maximise the chances that, in the event of a new ‘false flag’, the top military advisors to Trump will act as Dempsey did over Ghouta. It seems likely, although it is not certain, that the ‘senior adviser’ and the ‘Security Advisor’ are one and the same person.

Once one gets this far, it may be apparent why there could be reasons why – as with the ‘Red Line and Rat Line’ account, it would have been judged inappropriate, at this juncture at least, to go into the full ‘back story’ of what happened at Khan Sheikhun.

A close look at the material in ‘Die Welt’, and also the interviews that Hersh has given subsequently, does I think reveal some pointers to it.

(For the interviews, see http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=19413 ; http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/seymour-hersh-syria-bombshell .)

FB Ali

1664RM,

Glad to read a first-hand perspective on Mattis - especially from an 'old soldier'. I have little doubt that you are correct in your assessment of him.

It seems most US military men in high command positions today conform to this pattern - little actual combat experience, lots of staff etc background.

LondonBob

Despite his past statements I find Mattis has grown on me, perhaps the responsibility of his position has tempered his prior bellicosity. That said I would still be surprised if he weren't advocating striking Syria almost as much as I would be surprised to find out that he was crafting the evidence to support such a position. Ultimately he seems loyal and honourable.

McMaster on the other hand seemed positively giddy on the Sunday talk show at events after Shayrat and was cooing every time Nikki Haley was mentioned. As Bannon's friend said of M & M ask a surgeon if you need surgery and what answer do you get? Bannon seemed to be the biggest holdout regarding military action and lets not forget this all happened after his removal from the NSC. Might be nothing, might not.

Just because Brennan was no longer CIA head they all suddenly changed stance on Syria, Russia?

I would also like to know where Israel and Kushner are in all this. The NY Times article on the last CW claims say the intel came from a foreign country.
https://twitter.com/EHSANI22/status/879861019849437185

So for me that part of Hersh's story does not add up.

pmr9

John Frank

I think it's becoming clearer what happened, so let me try to answer your five questions with what we now think are the most likely answers.

Did the Syrian Air Force launch an attack on a jihadist facility in Khan Sheikhun resulting in a toxic gas cloud being emitted causing mass casualties?

No

- Did that toxic gas cloud contain a sarin like substance?

Probably not, though it might have contained something irritant. The white cloud was produced by smoke generators at two sites, one southwest of town and one just north of the tel. The US military battle damage assessment misinterpreted this cloud as the result of secondary explosions caused by an airstrike on stored chemicals.

- Alternatively, did the Syrian Air Force launch a chemical weapons attack using sarin gas?

No

- If the toxic gas cloud did not contain a sarin like substance and the Syrian Air Force did not launch a chemical weapons attack using sarin gas, who did? Was someone trying to create an incident that would cause the administration to change its policy towards Syria?

The rebels staged a false flag chemical attack with massacred captives, using IEDs and smoke generators to mimic an airstrike.

- Later that day, did the Syrian Air Force carry out an attack on the local hospital in the area, causing additional casualties?

The Syrian air force struck a building at the quarry/cave complex on the eastern edge of town at about 11.30 am. The hospital, in chambers that were excavated deep into the cliff, was undamaged.

Jackrabbit

That's closer to the truth than anything that has been proposed. But it seems that few want to look beyond easy explanations.

What strikes me is Trump's many-faceted relationship with the Clinton's. Trump supported Hillary in 2008 and picked up on the 'birther' nonsense that she instigated.

Procopius

Yes, but he (rightly) views them as hostile to his agenda, to the limited extent he has an agenda, so he ignores them. I think if Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell talked to him it might have more effect, but probably it wouldn't. He seems to be very impulsive.

Procopius

During the cold war there was a new way of predicting the future developed. It was called Kremlinology, and it depended on analyzing visible events, like pictures of who was on the dais at the May Day parade and who was not in the published pictures, to try to guess how bad last year's grain harvest was. Interpreting Trump's Tweets is about as useful.

pmr9

The briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on 29 June comments in detail on the US allegations that Syria is preparing another chemical attack, and on the Khan Sheikhoun story.

"the scenario will be the same. Some incident occurs in an area controlled by militants, resulting in civilian casualties ... just as the last time, purported evidence will be demonstrated to the Western public: [explosion] craters and some murky footage and photos of dead bodies allegedly made during the incident will go viral online. Then it will be proved that it was all staged in the same way as some well-known organisations demonstrated before. "

She cites the VIPS letter and the Hersh article on the secondary release of a toxic cloud.

"According to these veteran experts, in Khan Shaykhun, a Syrian plane dropped a bomb on the ammunition depot of a local Al Qaeda group where the noxious agents were in fact stored. A gust of wind created a cloud that rose as a result of the explosion, spread to a nearby village and led to numerous casualties."

"On June 25, German Die Welt published an article by Seymour Hersh saying that the Trump administration has ignored US intelligence services’ report that there is no evidence of chemical weapons being used in Khan Shaykhun. As for the symptoms of chemical poisoning, they were probably caused by the cloud of the chemical substance that was stored at the target of the attack."

She appears to have mixed up Col Lang and SST with Alastair Crooke and Conflicts Forum

"The Conflicts Forum, an online resource run by former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke, published a series of materials by US investigative bloggers who are also critical of the US administration’s version of the Khan Shaykhun events."

I don't think she really believes that the victims were killed by the cloud: she also notes that there were very few adult women among the corpses, with obvious implications.

The story that a US military damage assessment, based on satellite images, showed a cloud of smoke pouring from the presumed attack site and spreading over town has appeared through at least three different channels: our own Publius Tacitus, the VIPS letter and Seymour Hersh's article. It's hard to explain how secondary release of stored chemicals could have caused so many casualties or how it could have led to positive tests for sarin (now apparently confirmed by samples obtained by the Syrian government and passed to OPCW). A more plausible explanation of the cloud is given by Adam Larson's analysis of the videos recorded from a distance by rebel cameramen. This shows that the white fog originated from two different sites, and that the quantity of fog produced continuously over at least 20 minutes are consistent with military-type smoke generators, rather than with an explosion.

John_Frank

Since posting this comment, the OPCW Fact Finding Mission has released their report. According to the press release dated June 30:

OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Confirms Use of Chemical Weapons in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 30 June 2017 — In a report released by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) confirmed that people were exposed to sarin, a chemical weapon, on 4 April 2017 in the Khan Shaykhun area, Idlib Province in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The FFM’s mandate is to determine whether chemical weapons or toxic chemicals as weapons have been used in Syria; it does not include identifying who is responsible for alleged attacks. An advance team for the FFM was deployed within 24 hours of being alerted to the incident. For security reasons, the FFM was unable to visit Khan Shaykhun. The rapid deployment to a neighbouring country, however, enabled the team to attend autopsies, collect bio-medical samples from casualties and fatalities, interview witnesses and receive environmental samples.

A rigorous methodology was employed for conducting an investigation of alleged use of chemical weapons that took into account corroboration between interviewee testimonies; open-source research, documents, and other records; and the characteristics of the samples including those provided by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

The Fact-Finding Mission report has been shared with States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW’s Executive Council, which will consider the FFM’s findings at an Executive Council meeting scheduled for 5 July 2017.

The report has also been sent to the United Nations Security Council through the UN Secretary-General and the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism.

The Director-General stated: “The OPCW FFM has confirmed the use of sarin, a nerve agent, at the 4 April incident in Khan Shaykhun in Syria. I strongly condemn this atrocity, which wholly contradicts the norms enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention. The perpetrators of this horrific attack must be held accountable for their crimes. In this context, the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism assumes high importance.”

The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism was established by the UN Security Council (Resolution 2235, 7 August 2015) with the mandate to identify “to the greatest extent feasible” individuals, entities, groups, or governments who were perpetrators, organisers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons in Syria, where the OPCW FFM determines or has determined that a specific incident involved or likely involved the use of chemicals as weapons.

lally

pmr9

In addition to Ms Zakharova's briefing commentary on the possibilities of "rebel" induced false CW flag events, there was this response during the follow-up Q&A:


Answers to media questions:

"Question: You have mentioned possible Western provocations related to the allegations about a planned chemical attack in the West. Do you have any new information regarding this?

Maria Zakharova: We do have new information. I tried to present it. We believe that a provocation involving a fake chemical attack is being prepared. More precisely, such a provocation cannot be ruled out in the towns of Saraqeb or Ariha. We will share more information on this matter when and if we receive it."

http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2804352

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