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05 February 2018

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Christian Chuba

Amazing how no on in the echelons of U.S. leadership ever questions why Assad always launches his WMD attacks as soon as his forces have Syria's Al Qaeda affiliate on the run.

Stonevendor

Okay, I am slightly off topic here. I was looking for some confirmation of the Syrian/allied artillery exchange with the Turks. I came across this piece that was in the Times on the first. There may be others out there that sometimes feel a bit unsure about where things are happening due to map scale or maps in languages you do not read. I like the map in this article. I had not realized that our Special Forces, and presumably A.F. forward observers, were this far west into Syria. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/world/middleeast/syria-turkey-kurds-militias.html

kooshy

Colonel Lang, did you see this news on AMN, "Syrian Army allows massive YPG convoy to travel to Afrin from their lines'
god only knows what is going on in Syria? it's a mess, was that to stop the Turks going to Al Eis.

ToivoS

Any kind of political analysis of situations like this requires some kind of understanding of which forces control which territories. This damn story changes every few days. Along with completely unexpected forces showing up where things seem to be fixed. Ever since Turkey appeared on the scene in Northern Syria I have not been able to make any sense of what is happening there.

Has anyone discovered an analyst that can see more than a week ahead?

confusedponderer

Re Haley & in thrall of Borgists.

It seems she is attracted by John Bolton, her destructive, cunning and IMO rather malicious hard core neocon predecessor. She twittered this insight in July 2017:

"Great to see @AmbJohnBolton back @USUN. Thanks to his years of public service to our country, he continues to share great advice & wisdom."

His great advice and great wisdom? Ah yes ...

I had the pleasure that an indian senior (20+ years of service) UN guy back then did explain me what he did when US ambassador at the UN, and how and why it was cunning what he did, and how and why it was destructive and what he was after. It turned my stomach to get it explained to clearly.

So, unlike Haley, I always thought Bolton was a ruthless, destructive, nutty, if cunning, nasty man. I never seen his "wisdom". Rather I saw an arsonist who likes to play with fire.

For Haley he, with all his "wisdom", is an inspiration. He was also inspirational for Trump, but not inspirational enough.

Bolton didn't make it to Secretary of State ... because of his moustache. See? How very maverick-ish to make a difficult decision on so simple grounds.

Ah well, perhaps Trump is daily being too savaged by his hair thing on his head. I assume that having to face mirrors likely can be a terror.

Whatever about that moustache, and assuming that the story is correct - I for my part don't see the problem in what is over Bolton's mouth but that what comes out of it.

Donald Trump passed over a potential candidate for Secretary of State because of bushy moustache, according to insiders close to the incoming US President.

Several of Mr Trump’s associates said they thought that John Bolton’s brush-like moustache was one of the factors that handicapped the bombastic former United Nations ambassador in the sweepstakes for the role.

“Donald was not going to like that moustache,” said one, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I can’t think of anyone that’s really close to Donald that has a beard that he likes.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-secretary-of-state-reject-john-bolton-moustache-transition-president-elect-cabinet-a7489576.html

JW

Whats going on ? Iran wants influence and bases as far as the sea, to enable it to convince the Israelis to emigrate en masse. The West want to stop them now, everyone except Hezbollah will want to stop them when the last FSA / AQ /etc have almost died off, and Erdogan want to continue mugging people as a form of foreign policy.
Run those actions simultaneously and you have the current outcome.

A. Pols

"1. Nikki Haley is either completely gullible or is in thrall to some collection of Borgists at State."

Both

JPB

I am hearing that Russia has temporarily banned Turkish aircraft from flying in Syrian airspace, including Afrin. Plus there are reports that the Syrian Armed Forces are stationing AAA and SAM systems in the north.

Erdogan may have outlived his usefulness to Putin.

JPB

Stonevendor -

A small number of US and troops from other coalition countries have been in the Manbij area since August 2016 when it was liberated from the headchoppers. More were sent in 2017 when TFSA from the Euphrates Shield enclave started threatening Manbij. No secret there, it has been previously announced publicly.

Account Deleted

I have happily discovered an analyst who has consistently been right on many aspects of the way the Syrian conflict has played out, despite its manifold complexities. If you find one that claims to be able to "see" ahead, I'd suggest he/she may better be described as a clairvoyant.

As to things being "fixed" - I guess an expectation that such a state is attainable, or indeed desirable - betrays something of one's ontological preferences. In any case, Syria appears to me to be an object lesson in the futility of such expectations.

Balint Somkuti, PhD

Even though I have my own reservations about US benevolance about Syria, what happens if primus enter pares goes running amok?

Sid Finster

My SWAG is that Haley knows she is lying and does not care. Right now the Deep State wants its war on Syria as a prelude to a war on Iran, so Haley is for war as long as that will advance her career.

If tomorrow the Deep State were to declare for the Khmer Rouge, she would scream for the death of Lon Nol Imperialists and Enemies of the People(R) with the most touching sincerity.

In fact, most of our elected and unelected career politicians exhibit similar levels of mendacity, on a level that is indistinguishable from sociopathy. Just that in Haley it's more shameless and obvious. Maybe she is not as good an actress as some, I don't know.

John_Frank

With respect to the allegations surrounding the usage of chemical weapons, yesterday the UN Security Council had an open meeting to discuss the situation in Syria.

The meeting was held to consider a letter submitted by the Secretary General to the Council on February 1 concerning the latest report from the Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

http://undocs.org/S/2018/84

At the beginning of the meeting Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs presented her briefing.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/unoda-web/documents/Remarks+of+the+High+Representative+to+Security+Council+on+Syria+-+5+Feb+2018.pdf

In turn, after the meeting the UN press office published the following news release

Proof of chemical weapons use in Syria should be met with ‘meaningful response,’ UN disarmament chief http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58533#.WnnRx65Kupo

During the meeting Ambassador Haley spoke. Her remarks have been posted on the US mission to the UN website:

Ambassador Haley Delivers Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on Chemical Weapons Use in Syria https://usun.state.gov/highlights/8286

The UN has posted a video of the entire meeting:

The Situation in the Middle East (Syria) - Security Council, 8174th meeting
http://webtv.un.org/watch/the-situation-in-the-middle-east-syria-security-council-8174th-meeting/5726590308001/

The member states were seeking to have the Security Council President issue a statement condemning the recent reports of the usage of chemical weapons in Syria, but they were unable to achieve the needed consensus.

Russia submitted a resolution that would replace the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism which had been shut down. However the proposal is not acceptable to the United States in its current form for the reasons stated.

Follows is a summary of the meeting as prepared by the UN secretariat:

Amid New Reports of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria, United Nations Top Disarmament Official Says International Community Obliged to Enact Meaningful Response
http://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sc13196.doc.htm

Although not posted yet, ultimately people will be able to read the entire meeting record at https://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.8174

Ambassador Haley may be pushing for US military action in response to the most recent claims of chemical weapons usage in other forums, but she did not call for such action during the UN Security Council meeting.

As to Defense Secretary Mattis, he spoke to the Press on February 2 at which time he issued a warning and expressed concerns about the usage of Sarin gas.

Media Availability by Secretary Mattis at the Pentagon
https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1431844/media-availability-by-secretary-mattis-at-the-pentagon/

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the chemical weapons that were -- the State Department was talking about just a little bit yesterday, that mentioned chlorine gas? Is this something you're seeing that's been weaponized or – just give us a sense.

SEC. MATTIS: It has.

Q: It has. Okay.

SEC. MATTIS: It has. We are more -- even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use, the likelihood of sarin use, and we're looking for the evidence. And so that's about all the more I can say about it right now, but we are on the record, and you all have seen how we reacted to that, so they'd be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical convention.

Then later on during the same press briefing:

"Q: Can I ask a quick follow up, just a clarification on what you'd said earlier about Syria and sarin gas?

SEC. MATTIS: Yeah.

Q: Just make sure I heard you correctly, you're saying you think it's likely they have used it and you're looking for the evidence? Is that what you said?

SEC. MATTIS: That's -- we think that they did not carry out what they said they would do back when -- in the previous administration, when they were caught using it. Obviously they didn't, cause they used it again during our administration.

And that gives us a lot of reason to suspect them. And now we have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it's been used.

We do not have evidence of it. But we're not refuting them; we're looking for evidence of it. Since clearly we are using -- we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions, okay?

Q: So the likelihood was not what your -- you're not characterizing it as a likelihood? I thought I used -- you used that word; I guess I misunderstood you.

SEC. MATTIS: Well, there's certainly groups that say they've used it. And so they think there's a likelihood, so we're looking for the evidence.

Q: Is there evidence of chlorine gas weapons used -- evidence of chlorine gas weapons?

SEC. MATTIS: I think that's, yes --

Q: No, I know, I heard you.

SEC. MATTIS: I think it's been used repeatedly. And that's, as you know, a somewhat separate category, which is why I broke out the sarin as another -- yeah.

Q: So there's credible evidence out there that both sarin and chlorine --

SEC. MATTIS: No, I have not got the evidence, not specifically. I don't have the evidence.

What I'm saying is that other -- that groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground have said that sarin has been used. So we are looking for evidence. I don't have evidence, credible or uncredible."

In that regard three reports from Reuters:

January 30 Exclusive: Tests link Syrian government stockpile to largest sarin attack - sources
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-chemicalweapons-exclusiv/exclusive-tests-link-syrian-government-stockpile-to-largest-sarin-attack-sources-idUSKBN1FJ0MG

"The Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile has been linked for the first time by laboratory tests to the largest sarin nerve agent attack of the civil war, diplomats and scientists told Reuters, supporting Western claims that government forces under President Bashar al-Assad were behind the atrocity."

February 1 - U.S. says Syria may be developing new types of chemical weapons https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-usa/u-s-says-syria-may-be-developing-new-types-of-chemical-weapons-idUSKBN1FL65L

"The Syrian government may be developing new types of chemical weapons, and U.S. President Donald Trump is prepared to consider further military action if necessary to deter chemical attacks, senior U.S. officials said on Thursday."

As to the Friday media briefing by Secretary Mattis on February 2, Reuters reported:

U.S.' Mattis says concerned about Syria's potential use of sarin gas
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa/u-s-mattis-says-concerned-about-syrias-potential-use-of-sarin-gas-idUSKBN1FM1VJ

On Monday, February 5, the Bild, a German outlet published a report alleging that Iran was supplying Syria with missiles to deliver chemical weapons and that some of the materials in the weapons came from Germany. The report analyses missiles with gas canisters allegedly used in a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Damascus on January 22, 2018.

Deutsche Bauteile in Assads Giftgas-Raketen
https://www.bild.de/politik/ausland/headlines/gas-deutsche-teile-54697308.bild.html

The Bild article relies on work carried out by an entity known as Syrians for Truth and Justice and the online investigative journalist website Bellingcat operated by Eliot Higgins.

Also read the following reports posted on the Bellingcat website:

January 23 - Despite Trump’s Threats, Chemical Attacks Continue in Syria
https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018/01/23/despite-trumps-threats-chemical-attacks-continue-syria/

February 1 - For the Third Time This Year, Chlorine is Used as a Chemical Weapon in Douma, Damascus https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018/02/01/third-time-year-chlorine-used-chemical-weapon-douma-damascus/

February 5 - Images from the January 22nd 2018 Chlorine Attack in Douma, Damascus
https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018/02/05/images-january-22nd-2018-chlorine-attack-douma-damascus/

February 5 - More Details of the January 22nd 2018 Chlorine Attack in Douma, Damascus https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018/02/05/details-january-22nd-2018-chlorine-attack-douma-damascus/

Also read the following reports posted by Syrians for Truth and Justice:

August 21, 2017 - Non-Stop Using Chlorine Gas as a Weapon in Syrian Conflict https://stj-sy.com/en/view/185

December 2, 2017 - New Attack by Toxic Gases on a Battlefront in Harasta- Damascus Countryside “Testimonies Confirm Using "Organophosphorus Compounds” https://www.stj-sy.com/en/view/344

January 21, 2018 - Exposure of Six Civilians to Poisonous Substances in Eastern Ghouta- Damascus Countryside https://www.stj-sy.com/en/view/391

February 5, 2018 - Syrian Forces Use Chemical Weapons in Duma for a Second Time in a Month. Joint Report: Bellingcat & Syrians for Truth and Justice https://www.stj-sy.com/en/view/413

(Do not shoot the messenger. As to the Bild report, the summary relies on Google translate, the original article being in German. Since the Bild report relies on work done by Bellingcat and Syrians For Truth and Justice, I have linked to various reports providing details of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria since July, 2017 produced by these entities for your reference.)

catherine


Re: Nikki Haley

This is all you need to know about Haley and why Trump (or rather Adelson) appointed her to the UN.

'Between May and June, 2016, Sheldon Adelson contributed $250,000 to Haley’s 527 political organization, A Great Day, funds that she used to target four Republican state senate rivals in primaries. Adelson was the largest contributor to her group, which raised a total of $915,000.'

(Not coincidentally, however, Sheldon Adelson was the GOP’s and Trump’s single biggest donor)

"Perhaps Adelson gained an unusual interest in South Carolina’s state senate, but it seems more likely the investment was a show of support for Haley’s hawkish pro-Israel positions. Adelson, who is also the largest donor to the extreme right-wing Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), has long pushed stridently anti-Iran positions, suggesting in late 2013 that Washington detonate a nuclear weapon in Iran’s territory unless Tehran complied with demands that it completely abandon its nuclear program.
And, as Weiss wrote, Haley had come through for Adelson already in 2015, when she signed without any reservation the first law against boycotts of Israel— about the same time as Adelson convened an anti-BDS summit in Las Vegas.''
https://lobelog.com/nikki-haley-neocon-heartthrob/

DianaLC

Thank you. I hear "chemical attack" now and know I need to get away from the Tee Vee and come here instead.

The Beaver

Colonel,
Today at House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing :
Former Ambassador Ford:
-If purpose to deter Iran from attacking Israel, perhaps we should have troops in Israel instead of eastern Syria.
-US forces in eastern Syria. Iranians in western Syria. Our forces about 350 miles from Iranians. Not likely Iranians going to leave Syria. Mistake to think Russians will push them out. Hi-level consultations btw us, Israel Jordan to develop menu of options about how to deter.
-when I was US ambassador in Syria in 2007, Iranians were there. Iranians long been there. They don't need a road/land bridge. They fly things into Damascus airport.

Thought he has learnt his lessons, but I must be hoping for too much !

Richardstevenhack

Two points:

That the reports of SAA shelling of the Turks comes from "opposition resources" needs no caveat.

That there is also a report claiming that the shelling of the Turks comes from Iranian militia also needs no caveat. Clearly someone wants to blame both the SAA and Iran, which dovetails neatly with the US/Israel desire to "roll back Iran" out of Syria as well as get a full-scale US/NATO/Israel war on Syria started, which has been the goal from Day One of the Syria crisis.

The new rise of "chemical WMD" charges against Syria clearly also feed into the now-confirmed continued desire of the US/Israel for a full-scale air campaign against Syria.

As I believe I've mentioned before, it ain't over until it's over. The US clearly has not given up a desire to go to war with Syria as a precursor to Israel and the US taking out Hizballah (to the degree that is possible) which is also a precursor to starting a war with Iran.

Also, read a report the other day that John Bolton is still considered a candidate for Secretary of State should Tillerson be forced out at some point, which I still think is quite likely. Such an appointment would signal the absolute end of any notion of Trump being interested in rapprochement with Russia and would also guarantee war with Iran.

Because John Bolton is a raving neocon lunatic - which is what the moustache tells you.

kooshy

I don’t understand why we think Nikki Haley shouldn’t be who she is, and should pursue policies other than what she does. IMO, she is no different than Samantha power. They both are/were equally anti-Russia, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, and pro-Israel pro KSA, and have same position with regard to NK or China, so what is the difference, what has changed. IMO, they are not selected to pursue US foreign policy, they are only there as Israel’gate keepers, they are just there to make sure nothing against the interests of Israel passes, just like, what just happened in UNSC on Jerusalem. IMO, US for her own policies, doesn’t give a damn about UN or UNSC, she does what she wants, and when she wants, and are not shy saying it like it is. She is there as the Israel’ veto power over the rest of the word, in case something not kosher comes up to UNSC. IMO, US’ UN ambassadors only job is to protect Israel at UN, they are a retribution from the elected president of US (of either political party0 to Israel lobby for helping them getting elected. If Nikki is a gift for Adelson’ money, whoever Hillary would have appointed to UN, would have been a gift to Haim Saban or another billionaire Israeli first SOB. This country’ sovereignty has been successfully hijacked in almost 50 years. Nevertheless, I believe WE the People are the sole responsible party for loss of control, as well as what Nikki does and who she does it for.

John_Frank

Earlier today, jihadists backed by Turkey in the Afrin conflict claimed the YPG had used chemical weapons.

https://t.co/vDos2chHTr

In response to these claims, the YPG has issued a statement denying the claim, saying the Turkish military fired artillery shells containing a chemical weapon, which harmed their forces, so they moved to the high ground, while the jihadists remained in the low lying areas, so suffering the consequences.

http://bit.ly/2GQkIgl


Have the Turkish military and the Turkish backed jihadists used chemical weapons in the past in Syria?

Three tweets by @EndiZentarmi

https://twitter.com/EndiZentarmi/status/961005969336688640

Also

https://twitter.com/EndiZentarmi/status/961012542645600256

As well as

https://twitter.com/EndiZentarmi/status/850651337733943297

Along with one tweet by @AzadiRojava:

https://twitter.com/AzadiRojava/status/960962329448976384

In addition, as to the current claim:

https://twitter.com/4rj1n/status/960962657020010497

(The writer is unable to verify the competing claims and is simply posting them for information purposes.)

JamesT

JW

You wrote "everyone except Hezbollah will want to stop [Iran from spreading its influence and bases] ...".

You sir, are wrong. There are a lot of people in the world, and certainly in the Arab world (including Sunnis) who see Iran's influence as a welcome counterweight to the US/UK/Israel. They remember what happened in 1953 and don't buy into what CNN is pushing. I say this based on face to face discussions I have had with Arabs.

John_Frank

Yes and earlier today the OPCW issued the following statement:

OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria Continues Investigations into Allegations of Chemical Weapons Use https://www.opcw.org/news/article/opcw-fact-finding-mission-in-syria-continues-investigations-into-allegations-of-chemical-weapons-use/

The portion relevant for our purposes reads:

"THE HAGUE, Netherlands – 7 February 2018 – Recent allegations about the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Aran Republic continue to be of grave concern to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), whose mandate is “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals … for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic”, is investigating all credible allegations and provides regular reports for consideration by States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). A rigorous methodology is employed for conducting an investigation of alleged use of chemical weapons. The FFM report will take into account corroboration between interviewee testimonies; open-source research; medical reports and other relevant documentation as well as the characteristics of any samples obtained by the FFM. The FFM works closely with States Parties including the Government of 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.

OPCW Director General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü reiterated: "Any use of chemical weapons is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the hard won international norm prohibiting these weapons. Those responsible for their use must be held accountable. These abhorrent weapons have no place in the world today."

In turn, in my view, the UN Security Council needs to reach an understanding on the re-establishment of a OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism so that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons are brought to account.

The Beaver

whoever Hillary would have appointed to UN, would have been a gift to Haim Saban or another billionaire Israeli first SOB.

It would have been either the "F* Europe" Tonia Nuland or the rapporteur social worker to Israel Wendy Sherman who is stilllearning all the dirty tricks from Madeleine.

Greco

JW, that sounds about right.

I agree with the good Colonel's assessment, except on one point. I don't think Mattis is being biased; to put it in less kinder terms, I think he's being a willing political hack.

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