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23 October 2017


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Whether or not Tillerson wants to leave, I do not think he would screw up this badly without sabotage. pl

Not In Istanbul

The great underground river irrigation project was nothing more than a wrapped up bribe for the Germans. That isn't my own opinion but that of a civil engineer from Turkey who had worked on that project.

Babak Makkinejad

An uneducated ignorant man, doning the mantle of Pirs & Imams; I can very well belive he ordering Sadr's murder for showing him the ignoramus that he was.


here is Iran' FM Zarif respond to SS Tillerson in KSA

"In response to Tillerson, Zarif noted that the anti-Daesh fighters “are already in their homes and have not been waiting and will not wait for anybody’s order,” adding, “If they had waited for orders from Tillerson and US government, today, we would have had Daesh in Baghdad and Erbil.



According to the BBC it would also seem he has found unicorns this time in Afghanistan.
"Thousands of extra US troops are being deployed as part of the strategy to defeat the Taliban.

Mr Tillerson said he believed there were moderate elements among the insurgents and the US was hoping to engage them in a peace process."


Dear Colonel. Fully agree. I just cant envision Tillerson being philosophically in support of anything (including sanctions) that removes oil from the world market and from the potential that in ten or twenty years Exxon might bid on projects. The oil patch has a very long timeline and perspective. Apparently, the Russian sanctions that congress passed have failed to be implemented.

So I see this as just talking point propaganda for the domestic news, but points designed to embarrass Tillerson (and Trump).


Here is a new article on Aljazeera for those who questioned Iran’s effectiveness on Syrian war. Loud and clear.

“FSA rebels: We would have won if not for Iran”


He told Al Jazeera: "The Syrian army had all but collapsed and was operating at about 20 to 25 percent of its previous strength when the Iranians came and brought with them Hezbollah, and Iraqi and Afghan militias, who did most of the fighting on behalf of the Syrian army."


Pro-government sources had claimed six days ago that SAA elements crossed the river at Mayadin and were less than eight kilometers from the Omar fields. I guess the SDF got tired of waiting for the SAA to make a move on Omar. So after they liberated al-Suwah and Markadah and crossed the Khabur river they just kept on going on their way to Busayrah. Not clear to me if they have the entire field or just the north field? I still believe they have a deal with the Russians.

For sure the PYD and Arab tribes that make up SDF will use Omar and other oilfields to try to broker a seat at the peace table. So far they have been denied that, thanks to objections by the Turkish sultan, even though just about all Syrian opposition forces were given seats at Astana. And Syrian Kurds are not even part of the opposition. They have always said they want to be a part of the Syrian nation, even if led by Assad.

Eakens says above that Omar itself does not produce much oil. I saw at least one site in the past (cannot find it now) that agreed with Eakens' statement. The site claimed the value of Omar was not quantity, but instead was the quality of its crude - low density and low sulfur content like sweet Texas crude. Perhaps Oilman2 has some insight? But there are many who claim it is the largest field in Syria. I have no clue which is correct. But looking at Wikimapia it shows that there are a dozen other oil and gas fields - Ghewari, Sayjan, Saban, Jarnof, Azraq, Maleh, Tayani, Tanaq, Younes, Galban, Sarhit, and Shudayha that are clumped together with Omar and north Omar and designated as (plural) "The-Al-Omar-Fields".

Fellow Traveler

They don't even know where Tilly is, even when he's in his 7th floor fortress. Their badges don't go there anymore.

He can't be reading any memos from an under-secretary, because there aren't any.

Peter AU

Kooshy, I doubt Russia was ready to take on the US prior to 2015. They were still busy putting their own house in order. To make the move into Syria Russia had to be ready to face down the US in a military standoff.
The other thing, which I had also noticed in eastern Ukraine, was Russia only moved in when Eastern Ukraine and Syria had self selected to those who would stand and fight. Very solid groups to back.

robt willmann

Well, I was afraid something like this was going to happen regarding the oil and gas fields in eastern Syria. However, the Chicago Tribune article in the main posting above, from the Associated Press, is a little unclear to me, although it may be due to the fact that the map of Syria I am using is not very detailed.

The cutline under the photograph says, "This July 30, 2017, photo shows an oil field controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in Rmeilan, Hassakeh province, northeast Syria (Hussein Malla / AP)". That 30 July photo, if from the Hasakah province, would be an oil field northeast of Deir ez Zor, as that province is above the Dayr Az Zawr province. Thus, it may not be in the area of the Al-Omar oil field referred to in the body of the article. My map does not show Rmeilan in the Hasakah province.

The map does show Umar and Umar North oil fields north and northeast of the town of Al Mayadin near the Euphrates River. The Chicago Tribune/AP article says that Syrian troops have "retaken nearly all of the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour, as well as the town of Mayadeen, another IS stronghold, which is across the Euphrates River from the Al-Omar field." Deir ez Zor is north-northwest of Al Mayadin, and they are both on the Euphrates because the river angles down to the Iraq border. So the article is saying that the SDF and U.S. have penetrated south of my imaginary horizontal line running due east of Deir ez Zor to the Syria and Iraq border. Such a penetration might have occurred if the Al-Omar oil field is the same as the Umar and Umar North oil fields.

This is surprising to me because I have been guessing that the SDF and U.S. were further north in the area of Raqqa. If the article is correct, the SDF and U.S. have, in addition to focusing on Raqqa, been pushing south in the corridor between the Euphrates and the Iraq border, and are already south of Deir ez Zor.

However, the article does say: "Al-Manar TV, operated by Lebanon's Hezbollah, said the fight for Al-Omar was still underway and denied the SDF's claim to have captured it. The militant group fights alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces." (Notice that the Chicago Tribune/AP calls Hizbullah a "militant group".)

Therefore, the area actually under the control of the SDF and U.S. may not be as stated in the article. I hope that the article is incorrect, as that large area in the southeast with oil and gas fields and pipelines is critically important for the real Syria, which does not include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the U.S., Britain, Israel, and other Persian Gulf states.


Why use airforce when you can destroy Turkey with economic sanctions?
It plays well one time, and will play well again.

The Beaver

@ Kooshy

It is NOT only someone but many:
From Foggy Bottom (State Dept regulars) to Nikki Haley to Sen Cotton and the Neocon Central -AEI who have "agents" inside the cabinet.


How many of Alexander's generals were homegrown and how many were from away?Started to make a list, but got bogged down. Which were willing and able to put the Cossacks and other irregularish horsemen to good use?


mile & all.
I noted from a USGS map of the fields that there is a railway that runs SE then NE through the various fields. Does anyone know what state this is in?

David Habakkuk


Actually, what Dominic Lieven has to say in his talk at the Valdai Club meeting is extremely relevant to the current ‘policy miasma’ – which afflicts the British and other West Europeans as much as the Americans, and relates not simply to the Middle East but to the world in general.

And I would strongly recommend reading it to anyone who is interested in the way that crucial forces which have been responsible for both the splendours, and miseries, of the history of the modern West continue to shape the present and will shape the future.

There are ironies here. On his father’s side, Lieven is the descendant of a family of Baltic German servants of the Tsars (on his mother’s, he is the descendant of Catholic Irish servants of the British Raj.) So it is of interest that the views of a figure with such a background – which makes for a complex understanding both of empire and nationalism – should be be put forward at an event where the Russian government presents its view of things to the world.

As Lieven makes clear, partly because of his background he was from the start sceptical alike of ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ views of the Bolshevik Revolution. So he recalls that, when he was a graduate student in 1975, Western opinion was generally divided between those he calls ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists.’

The former believed that in 1914 Russia ‘already possessed the key elements necessary for evolution into a liberal democracy.’ In the opinion of the latter the ‘the tsarist regime was incapable of peaceful evolution, that revolution was inevitable, and that the Bolshevik regime was the likeliest and legitimate heir of Russian history.’

What Lieven goes on say is that even then he ‘believed that seeing Russian late-imperial history in these terms had more to do with the Cold War context and ideological battles within the Western intelligentsia than it did with early twentieth-century Russian realities.’ And he continues:

‘I never believed that a peaceful transition to democracy was likely. No doubt my peculiar origins had something to do with this. The first original document I ever read about Russian history was the famous report presented to Nicholas II by Petr Durnovo in February 1914 warning that in Russia in that era the triumph of liberalism was impossible and that entry into a European war would almost certainly result in socialist revolution. I was given this as a twelfth birthday present by my uncle Leonid, a child of old Russia and the White emigration, one of whose tutors, incidentally, was Georgii Salomon, the former Social Democrat. My thesis, whose subject was Durnovo and his peers in the tsarist bureaucratic elite, only reinforced this view.’

(There is a link to the Durnovo memorandum in his ‘Wikipedia’ entry, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyotr_Durnovo .)

As Lieven has brought out over the years in his discussions of Durnovo, who as Minister of the Interior had been instrumental in the suppression of 1905 Revolution, his memorandum was not the work of an ideological conservative, hostile in principle to the forces of ‘modernity.’

He simply believed that there were preconditions for the successful actualisation of ‘liberal’ political principles, and that the nature of Russia’s historical development meant that they were not currently present in that country. Because they failed to realise this, Durnovo understood, the activities of Russian liberals were likely to have the unintended consequence of empowering revolutionary radicals.

This, as I later learnt, was also the conclusion to which the intellectuals who produced the 1909 ‘Vekhi’ symposium, most of them former Marxists, came in the wake of the 1905 Revolution.

It is actually hardly surprising to see Lieven appearing at the Valdai Club, given that the extent to which Putin – the grandson of a man who cooked for Lenin and Stalin – has identified with the ‘paths not taken’ in Russian history represented by the ‘Vekhi’ authors has been made apparent time and again over the years.

The link between his readings of events prior to the beginning of the communist experiment, and events after its collapse, was quite explicitly made in one of the articles which Putin wrote prior to returning to the presidency in 2012. Entitled ‘Democracy and the Quality of Government’, it referred to another figure in the tradition to which the ‘Vekhi’ writers, and also the philosopher Ivan Il’yin, belong:

‘Russian philosopher and lawyer Pavel Novgorodtsev warned early last century: “Many people think that the proclamation of liberty and universal suffrage will magically direct society onto a new path. But in reality, the outcome of such action is usually not democracy, but oligarchy or anarchy, depending on the turn events take.”’

(See http://www.russkiymir.ru/en/publications/139691/ .)

It was however striking that when in 2014, Putin provided a ‘reading list’ for regional governors, he included, as well as a work by Il’yin, a highly idiosyncratic choice among the works of the religious philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev, who had been one of the contributors to ‘Vekhi.’

The book’s title, The Philosophy of Inequality’, is actually misleading, in that it suggests that Berdyaev was simply reactionary, which he was not. Written, as it were, at ‘white heat’ in 1918, it provided its author’s first – and bitterest – responses to the triumph of those the ‘Vekhi’ writers had denounced.

All this bears upon one of the most important reasons why Western foreign policy is in such a mess: that it has been shaped more by ‘ideological battles within the Western intelligentsia’ than serious attempts to grasp the ‘realities’ of the wider world – in Russia and elsewhere.

The fact that the faith in the path taken by the Bolsheviks was repudiated by the leaders of Russia, as well as world opinion generally, left those whom Lieven called ‘optimists’ preening themselves.

The extraordinary success of the post-war ‘Pax Americana’, crucially in Western Europe and parts of East Asia, turned out to addle people’s brains. So, not simply in relation to Russia, in 1989 as in 1914, but in the Middle East and elsewhere, it came to be assumed all societies everywhere ‘already possessed the key elements necessary for evolution into a liberal democracy.’

The only things standing in the way of the universalisation of the kind of transformations found in West Germany and Japan – accordingly, the installation everywhere of governments that would obedient follow Washington’s lead – were the machinations of evil people, and the ignorance of the masses.

The appropriate responses were a combination of righteous violence, and an approach reminiscent of that of an elementary school teacher enlightening ignorant pupils. All this was actually very similar to the mentality of the Russian ‘intelligenty’ whom Berdyaev and his associates denounced.

Ironically, whatever their differences, Lieven’s work as an historian, like the writings of the ‘Vekhi’ authors and the tradition which came out of their work, has at its centre the ambiguities of ‘modernisation.’ In particular, it has focused on the intractable dilemmas it posed for the great multi-religious and multi-ethnic empires which had traditionally dominated Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

It is now, ironically, Western élites who have adopted a neo-Bolshevik inability to grasp these ambiguities. Another unsurprising consequence of this is that they have increasingly come to adopt what the ‘revisionist’ historian of the French Revolution, François Furet, called a ‘theory of circumstances.’

Rather than exploring the question of whether the Terror had roots in the fundamental nature of Jacobin ideology, Furet charged, historians of the Revolution had preferred to suggest that it was simply a response to the nefarious designs of the evil opponents of an inherently virtuous project.

This strategy – continued and developed very successful by Stalin – is precisely that which has been adapted by Western élites since the collapse of communism.

Rather than accepting that the disintegration of Russia into ‘oligarchy and anarchy’ – so that rather than the Western standards of living for which they hoped, the mass of the inhabitants lost what comforts and securities they had – had something to do with flaws in ‘liberal’ prescriptions, these élites found their ‘theory of circumstances’: Putin.

And when the policies of these ‘neo-Jacobins’ – which might be a better term than ‘neoconservatives’ – led to a backlash in their own countries, they once again had a ‘theory of circumstances’: Putin.

When they do notice that the figure they so loathe is not actually a communist, people in the West generally respond by utterly misreading the influences on whom he draws. Quite how inane such misrepresentations can bet is well exemplified by the fact that David Brooks think that Berdyaev and Il’yin represent some kind of ‘tiger of quasi-religious nationalism.’

It might have helped if Brooks had put ‘Berdyaev nationalism’ into Google. The first ‘hit’ is a piece he wrote in 1934, entitled ‘Polytheism and Nationalism’ – which can be read in about five minutes. From the concluding paragraph:

‘The desire to employ Christianity, as a tool for the affirming of national and state might, is far worse a matter from a Christian perspective, than would be outright persecutions against Christianity and religion. It properly befits Christians to lead an heroic struggle for the freedom of Christianity, for the freedom of the spiritual life, against the pretensions of the totalitarian state to nationalise spirit, conscience, thought.’

(See http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1934_391.html .)

The really damnable thing is that it is Brooks and his like who are actually committed to a ‘quasi-religious nationalism.’ And, in seeking to turn the United States into a ‘propositional nation’, they are risking the fate of that other ‘propositional nation’ – the Soviet Union. If you base the cohesion of your polity on an ideology which is nonsense, when it becomes impossible any longer to hide the fact, your polity collapses.

Fellow Traveler

After "saving" Syria, we can now move on to Africa:

Interested to see Absolute Ruler Xi's plans for this new frontier.


Add to the milieu, last week Russian Vesti had a documentary regarding the CIA's keystone behavior in Greece, entitled

A Conspiracy in Athens.


David Habakkuk


Speaking as an old-style ‘Perfidious Albionian’ – a breed now largely extinct, I fear – I think that you have not taken on board the way in which deep-seated perceptions and identifications can, at times, change very rapidly.

After Gorbachev came to power, and indeed not only through the Yeltsin years but into the early Putin period, those who were ‘making the running’ in Russian policy were looking for integration into the West – indeed, many of them suffered from a kind of pro-Western euphoria.

The fact that those who sought to be our friends were, time and again, ‘kicked in the teeth’ by people in the West has affected a radical and probably irreversible change in Russian perceptions.

Unfortunately, people in Washington and London cannot see what is going on, because they keep listening to those who one might call the ‘irrational Westernisers’ – people like Masha Gessen – rather than those who were the ‘rational Westernisers.’

Someone who is always useful to read on these matters is Dmitri Trenin, who heads the Carnegie Moscow Center. By background a career Red Army officer – I think ethnically Jewish – he is, as it were, a man ‘between worlds.’

Last December, he published a piece in ‘Foreign Affairs’ under the title ‘Russia’s Post-Soviet Journey.’ It opens:

‘When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the hope among those Russians who welcomed its demise was that the newly created Russian Federation would return to Europe. Russia’s victorious liberals and democrats dreamed of a market economy and Western political freedoms, while the bulk of the population longed for well-stocked supermarkets and the post-imperial, post-ideological stability of countries such as Germany and Sweden.

‘A quarter-century later, after a tumultuous economic and political transition, Russia has, in fact, moved away from Europe. Russian leaders regard their country as a self-sustained civilization related to Europe yet clearly separate from it. This worldview calls into question not just the legacies of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, both of whom looked at Europe as a model for Russia’s own development, but also much of the Europeanizing Peter the Great’s, as well. The key to understanding this shift lies in the Russian elite’s and Russian public’s experiences with their European counterparts over the last 25 years.’

(See http://carnegie.ru/2016/12/25/russia-s-post-soviet-journey-pub-66569 .)

So what happened with the ‘Iran file’ under Medvedev has very limited relevance to the current situation, which has been decisively shaped by continued Western support for jihadists, for ‘Banderistas’ in Ukraine, and the extraordinary ‘rolling 24-hours hate’ against Putin.

As some of us have tried to point out for many years – without success – the natural outcome of these kinds of Western policy was always liable to be the kind of Eurasian consolidation against which Sir Halford Mackinder warned at the start of the last century. In this, Iran can play a crucial role.

Reversing the effects of these kinds of lunacy would be very difficult, even if the lunatics were not – for the most part – still in charge of the asylum, in Washington and London in particular, and show few signs of waking out of the delirium they have inhabited for so many years.

Given its manifold weaknesses, in this situation – like the Eastern Empire before it – contemporary Russia is clearly placing great reliance on an extremely sophisticated foreign policy/intelligence bureaucracy, combined with a sophisticated integration of its activities with the deft employment, where this is unavoidable, of armed force.

(The days of the First Chechen War, when the Russian military was a demoralised rabble, are long gone.)

In relation to Turkey, this I think dictates a very complex game, in which sudden shifts – in old-fashioned ‘Perfidious Albion’ style – are eminently possible.

In relation to Iran, as to China, the balance of advantage would seem to be strongly in favour of establishing stable cooperative relationships over the long-term. This does not mean that the Russians are going to consider their interests, in Syria and elsewhere, as identical to those of the Islamic Republic. But they will want to negotiate and balance – and will not fall in with anti-Iranian policies in the future in the way they did in the past.

There is in my view little reason to question the accuracy and relevance of the brush-off supposed to have been provided by Putin, after Netanyahu went to Moscow in August to try to rescue something from the disastrous series of ‘own goals’ created by ‘neocons’ over the past few years. The Russian leader is reported to have said is that ‘Iran is Russia’s strategic ally in the Middle East’, and, confronted by the Israeli leader’s entreaties, to have responded, ‘unfortunately, we can not help you there.’

(See http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/234703 .)

The Beaver

A return home to post rebel Aleppo by Ehsani ( on Twitter)


Babak Makkinejad

I think it plausible that just like Dean Acheson before him, Tillerson likely "saluted the flag" and followed Trump's instructions.

I think it is Trump that has no grasp of what he has walked into - assuming the role of the Mukhtar of Sunni Arabs against the Party of Ali; may be he thinks this is like the Cold War, the bad bad bad communists etc.




This portion of the latest USG travel advisory on Syria noted yesterday on RT America:

Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons. They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, and border crossings.

[My comment: Is this an admission of sorts?]

Red Cloud

The theft of the Omar fields by the SDF was predicted by many here months ago - to which you responded something to the effect of "the SDF has no interest in the Omar oil fields."

They sure made a quick move for something they have no interest in.

Pacifica Advocate

The New Silk Road is a project that involves Central Asia, and both Russian and Iranian interests coincide, there.

Notably, it is the Chinese who are leading the effort on this front.

Central Asia was historically a battleground where Greater Persia, the Turks, and "Eastern Europeans" (Byzantium/the Hellenes, the later progeny of the Vikings, and the Slavs) fought with one another.

For most of that period, Greater Persia ruled.

I strongly suspect the Soviet era allowed the states that would traditionally have been traditionally sublimated by Persian and/or North Indus/Pakistani allure to have discovered a new Nationalism which they are now asserting. Turkey's secular elite apparently believe they can turn this new ethnic awareness to their own imperialistic ends.

I also suspect that Turkey is going to be badly burned, by this--but on that, I defer to Babak.


I'm also afraid it was something vulgar without a real reason other than vanity or pride.

One wonders what would have happened (with Hezbollah and Lebanon) if he had lived?

Started reading the Iqtisaduna of his nephew Muhammad Baqir, who was killed by Saddam.

What a family.

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