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16 June 2017


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Meanwhile, in Washington...

"(((Ezra Cohen-Watnick))), the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East advisor, want the United States to start going on the offensive in southern Syria, where, in recent weeks, the U.S. military has taken a handful of defensive actions against Iranian-backed forces fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Their plans are making even traditional Iran hawks nervous, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has personally shot down their proposals more than once, the two sources said."

"For Iran hawks in and outside the administration, the civil war in Syria represents a pivotal moment that will determine whether Iran or the United States exerts influence over Iraq and Syria. These Iran hawks fear that if Washington stands by, Tehran will emerge as the dominant player with a land corridor through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

But pursuing a wider war against Iranian-backed fighters in Syria would be 'both unnecessary and extraordinarily dangerous,' said Colin Kahl, who served as national security advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden." - Foreign Policy magazine.

Sounds like a war within the Trump administration is in progress between realists and an ultra Zionist faction on the emergence of a regionally dominant Iran.


In the corner pocket they go.where it all started.triangles can be deadly though.


Where is McMaster in all this "free associating" by these NSC types? I thought he accepted his job understanding that he had to keep this Watnick guy, but that he was in charge.

When Russia entered the fray in Syria, one reason was said to be their concern about the burrowing in of Iran in Syrian military and security apparatuses, not a healthy development in a country they consider is theirs. After all, a lot of officers still speak Russian, not so Persian. It sounds like they would like to constrain Iran to some degree when the fighting is over. If the US is truly paranoid about Iran, then working with Russia makes sense. In any case, an Iraq type failed state in Syria would be a disaster.



I am surprised that Harvey has developed into an ultra-Zionist. He must be surprised to be somehow in his present job and perhaps is being influenced by Watrick. pl

The Twisted Genius


This all consuming hatred for Iran seems to have spread throughout the military and certainly into this administration. Harvey seems to be only one of many who have been consumed by this hatred. I thought he would know better. I find it short sighted and unhealthy.

The recent full blown embrace of the Saudis is also disconcerting. Except for a short stint at the grazing fire level in the 80s, I was never a student of the Middle East. When I arrived at DIA in 95, I was given the Iraq-Iran and Arabian Peninsula portfolio. I came to view the Saudis with more distrust than any other country in my portfolio.

The Twisted Genius


Al Masdar is now confirming the proposed truce in Daraa between the SAA and the rebels. They are also confirming the Iraqi PMU is now in full control of the Al Waleed Border Crossing opposite Al Tanf.

I believe we can expect Israel to do all it can to derail any ceasefire in Daraa and rapprochement between Damascus and Amman. Perhaps one of our Arabists can shed more light on this Arabi21.com article about "In Iran's plan to control the Middle East what is the role of Jordan?" Here's a Google Translate rendition of most of the article.

"Israel's top national security analyst, Yossi Melman, expressed concern about the image of the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, General Qassim Soleimani, who was captured in Syria near the border triangle between Jordan, Iraq and Syria, along with fighters from an Afghan Shiite militia called the Fatimids, (Soleimani recruited to defend Bashar Assad's regime).

"This could be the picture of Iran's victory if it succeeds in strengthening its control of the border crossings between Iraq and Syria, and thus will assert its supreme control over this part of the Middle East," Melman said in an article in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv. The scenario is a nightmare for Israel. "

"For years, Iran has been trying to establish a land link that starts from Iran and passes through Iraq and Syria, and from there to Lebanon and the Mediterranean, and when it does, it can be said that there is a Shiite crescent."
Read more: Has the road from Iran to Lebanon become a reality?

He added: "It is true that Iran can continue its relationship with Assad and Hezbollah, also through the air, as it has done so far, but the ground communication will ease them in sending fighters and weapons, and it will be difficult for Israel to harm these missions. He explained that Israel's concern about increasing the Iranian presence in Syria is double, noting that this presence may encourage Iran to get a foothold also near the border with Israel.

"This presence means reviving the north-east front, which has ceased to be a threat since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq and the civil war in Syria, and the IDF will have to prepare," Milman said. As appropriate to the new threat in the north-east, and the readiness of the Israeli army is very expensive. "




I knew Melman when he was covered as a student attached to the Israeli military attaché's office. he was a funny little wise guy, always filled with snotty attempts at humor. pl



Keep the excellent analysis/commentary coming.

USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96


Well don't trust anybody over 30.

Ezra Asa Cohen-Watnick is the Senior Director for Intelligence Programs for the United States National Security Council. Wikipedia
Born: May 18, 1986 (age 31)

Gene O

Regarding the al-Waleed crossing:

syria.liveuamap is saying that the Iraqi PMU that took the border crossing were tribal Sunni PMU, with help from Iraqi border guards, Iraqi Army Aviation, Iraqi Air Force AND US-led coalition aircraft.


The source they say is Iraq Joint Operations.


A pretty close friend of mine killed himself, around a month before getting 30. ... apparently that wasn't ever Ezra's road in life.

Question to Trump supporters, or maybe, the ones voting on this basis: every change is better then no change at all.

What did I miss, if it felt that concerning Iran Trump always offered basic continuity with the hawks?

Tyler P. Harwell

A curious way to go about setting up a "de-escalation zone", if you ask me, with a barrel-bomb blitz, and the massing of troops for an all-out assault on a city under siege. I have never understood the language of force. But it seems to me there is less change to the Syrian approach to solving these problems than meets the eye. Perhaps all that is different is the way it is talked about.

The news accounts I read last night stated that the SAA forces had stated an intention to declare a unilateral 24 hour cease fire. That I regarded as unexceptional news as if true it would be perfectly consistent with their way of doing business, seen time again, most recently in the area of Aleppo. When they are on the verge of triumph, or so they think, or wish, they make such displays of magnanimity. To those besieged, it comes as an offer they can not refuse; and so, of course, we should expect to read the follow on report that it has been agreed to - by someone, if not everyone.

What does require some de-cyphering is the near-coincidental report you have referred to that states that the government is in discussions with Jordan about opening the nearest border crossing. That might be regarded by some as a case of counting your chickens before they hatch; by others, as a war rumor; by some as disinformation intended to unsettle who do not welcome it; and by still others, as an out-and-out threat. I rather think the Jordanians may fall in to that latter camp.

Prior to an all-out assault that will leave Dera'a destroyed and uninhabitable by nearly all, this ceasefire is being offered as an inducement to leave. But those who are there now have their backs up against the wall, and if they do try to escape will have nowhere to go other than in to Jordan. We may surmise that those eligible consist of "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly". But that is all the same to both Syria and Jordan, as neither wants them. Thus the brief ceasefire (and it will be brief) serves the purpose of the Assad regime in ridding itself of undesirable elements within its population, and perhaps again, by pushing them in to Jordan. The follow up story about border talks adds a note of urgency to the decision to accept the offer, as paradoxically, once it is opened to "normal", which is to say, Assad controlled, traffic, it will be closed to everything else.

In the final analysis, there is no news here.

Ishmael Zechariah

Tyler P. Harwell,
re: "undesirable elements within its population"
Are you sure that those resisting SAA are Syrian nationals? Please provide proof for any speculation.
If they are not:
1-Where did they come from?
2-Who is supporting them and why?
3-Do they have any right to claim legal combatant status?
Thank you.
Ishmael Zechariah

different clue

Tyler P. Harwell,

What if the SAR government offers and gives all the goodbad uglies safe passage and transport to the Idlib Sump? That would get them away from the Syria-Jordan border area and raise the number of CLEJs even more in one concentrated area. Perhaps the SARgov is willing to take the risks of ongoing festerization in Idlib till the whole rest of the country is cleaned up and all the CLEJs are drained into the Idlib Sump. At which point the R + 6 can concentrated all its forces and attention on Pumping The Sump and draining it all the way dry.

Peter AU

According to publicly available figures the pre war population of Syria was around 24 million.
Of these approx 16 million live in government controlled areas. that includes, according to the UN, about 6 million internal refugees. There are 4.5 million external refugees that may be sympathetic to one side or the other or merely escaping the war.
That leaves about 3.5 million. Kurds? according to wikipedia they were 10 to 15% of the syrian population = 2.5 - 3 million.
Islamist "moderate" opposition? Not a lot of numbers left. .5 to 1 million.

According to the DIA report obtained by judicial watch, the driving force behind the insurgency in Syria in 2012 was al Qaeda. I take it AQ is the undesirable portion of the Syrian population?


US' Iran policy is not about Trump, Obama, or any other presidents before them. In its principal it haven't changed a bit ever since Teddy Kennedy shouting "who lost Iran". And I don't think it will change soon , this is, since US feels it's been stratigicly defeated in ME, all fault of Iranian revolution, so the goal the policy is to reverse the revolution with no hole (hope) bared. IMO, they are right, my experience of it is, this defeatism was propagandised out of context and implanted in the American mind. Genies don't back in bottle easy.


"A curious way to go about setting up a "de-escalation zone", if you ask me, with a barrel-bomb blitz, and the massing of troops for an all-out assault on a city under siege. I have never understood the language of force. But it seems to me there is less change to the Syrian approach to solving these problems than meets the eye. Perhaps all that is different is the way it is talked about."

What you seem to omit here is that "those under siege" - an incorrect description, the southern portion of Daraa city in the grip of the various insurgent bands is not besieged by the "regime" at all - did not just very vocally reject that de-escalation zone, but were the ones to re-ignite a stale front far in advance of said zone being established in the first place. And given that this same lot time and time again comes up with an inghimasi- and SVBIED-blitz, it very much seems that force is the only language this lot understands.


Peter AU,

If you have not read this link on the recent history of Syria, and the complex climate, population, and migration issues involved, it's well worth your time.

Babak Makkinejad

US cannot even accept the new Russia, let alone Iran.

Peter AU

Thanks for the link. it is interesting that Polk as a history Professor makes no mention of Ambassador Ford's rabble rousing activities in Syria which is available at the State Department website and also various news article interviews with Ford.
Some time ago, I searched news articles from the period to find the casualties from the first violence at protests in Syria.
After a lot of searching I found an article from that time at an Israeli news site. The numbers were four police/security dead, 3 protestors dead.
that leaves the question of how unarmed, peaceful protestors killed those police.
Polk seems determined that the war in Syria is a civil war caused by drought and poor governance. The more this is looked into, the scene was merely set to enable outside powers to initiate a war in Syria, using Syrians and foreign fighters as proxies, in an attack on Syria by foreign powers.

Peter AU

I see down in the references Polk does have this piece so I find it odd that he refers to the Syrian war as a civil war caused by drought.

"18 So far, few of them have been revealed to the American public although many are of course known to other governments including the Syrian. Wikileaks published one “primer” on subversion called “Influencing the SARG [Syrian Arab Republic Government] by the senior American official in Damascus, William Roebuck, on November 30, 2006. This and other leaked documents are quoted by Kevin Gosztola in the August 5, 2011, The Great American Disconnect, focus primarily on “dirty tricks,” the spread of rumors and other means to divide the supporters of the regime, other actions, notably by the CIA, allegedly in conjunction with moves by the Israelis, Qataris and Saudis were more direct and violent."

Tyler P. Harwell

Correct me, if I am wrong, but isn't Dera'a the town where the boys spray-painted the graffiti on the wall that said "You're next, doctor" in Arabic ? And then street protests ensued ? And shots were fired in to the protesters from roof tops ??

Or was that Homs....

In answer to your question, no I am not sure that those resisting the SAA in Dera'a are Syrian nationals; at least, not all of them. Now to my question: Do you claim that the SAA is entirely made up of Syrian nationals ? Including its air force ? And are the ground troops presently poised to take Dera'a formed of units entirely consisting of Syrian nationals ? If not, answer your own questions with respect to them.

I try not to speculate. It is a fools errand to attempt to prove a speculation. I would say, however, based on my limited knowledge, which is entirely second-hand, never having been there, that at the beginning of the uprising against the Assad regime, the people living in Dera'a were mostly Syrian nationals. Whether there be any left there now I consider an open question. If there are, I would consider them to be quite unfortunate. They indeed may be quite few.

Have you been to Dera'a recently ? Thank you for any reliable information which you can share regarding this subject.

Gene O


Homs. But there was something similar in Hama, and also in the Syrian expat community in Cairo. So perhaps that graffiti was also seen in Daraa?

Tyler P. Harwell

Thank you for this information. I see you are rather tied up now. We can take it up later, if you wish. But yes, moderation does seem to be a commodity in rather short supply these days.


Tyler P Harwell

I don't care what the "boys" painted on anything in Deraa or Homs. The revolt in Deraa was run out of the salafist mosques, fired up by Saudi and Qatari money and Ambassador Ford in his efforts to induce a repetition of the glories of the "Arab Spring." pl

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