Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

A decision before dinner which Obama would have taken 2 years not to make

April 7, 2017

Risk-filled, reactive, unpredictable, dangerous. No doubt.

But decisive.

In the business and entrepreneurial world it is an axiom that speed of decision is the critical factor but must be accompanied by immense flexibility for course corrections. Few decisions are wholly good or wholly bad. The key is to be “in motion” which allows course corrections – and even U-turns – to be made. Altering any course is impossible if the engine is not running. But the worst case scenario nearly always involves decisions taken too late.

My opinion that Trump has few – if any – ideological hangups but is only a pragmatist is only reinforced by his Syria strikes on the Al Shayrat airfield.

Can business-style decision making work in international politics? That is the question.

But the contrast to Obama’s paralysis by analysis, his unending deliberation and overwhelming risk aversion could not be more stark.

Wall Street Journal:

President Donald Trump’s decision to order military strikes in Syria sets his presidency on a new and unpredictable course that is likely to shape his time in office.

Faced with his first major foreign-policy test—a moment that confronts every new president—Mr. Trump demonstrated a comfort with military action and a flexibility in approach that saw him change course not only on comments he made in the campaign but also on his policy toward Syria in just 48 hours after seeing gruesome photographic evidence from the Asssad regime’s chemical-weapons attack Tuesday.

His decision drew support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have long called for stronger U.S. action in Syria.  

But with his message delivered both in missiles and in a presidential address from behind a podium at his private resort in Florida, Mr. Trump faces the difficult choice his predecessor and other world leaders have grappled with for years: Now what? It’s the question that repeatedly led President Barack Obama to decide against deeper military involvement in Syria.

Just three months into his presidency Mr. Trump will have to find his own answer. He has to confront a litany of risky unknowns.

It is unclear how the Assad regime, or its allies Russia and Iran, will react. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump intends to move the U.S. more forcefully into the Syrian conflict—committing the U.S. military to greater engagement in the Middle East—or whether he plans to hold back beyond sending a signal that the use of chemical weapons won’t be tolerated by the White House.

One message was clear: Mr. Trump is willing to use force and to make decisions swiftly when he is moved to act.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow, brutal death for so many,” Mr. Trump said in a national address. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

It is a dramatic shift from Mr. Obama, who deliberated at length over military decisions and resisted years of calls for a deeper U.S. military involvement in Syria to help bring the conflict to an end. During his own election campaign, Mr. Trump suggested the U.S. should leave conflicts such as the one in Syria for other nations to resolve, including Russia.

The missile strikes mark an early turning point in Mr. Trump’s presidency. It is his first major military order as commander in chief. But it is also the first military decision of consequence that Americans and the world have seen him make after otherwise fitful first weeks as president, which have been marred by controversy and infighting in his own party.

Mr. Trump had in many ways compelled himself to act by vowing on Wednesday to retaliate for the gas attack. He had limited other options given Mr. Obama had cut a deal with the Assad regime, brokered by Russia, to remove its chemical-weapons stockpile instead of launching military action.

Interesting times indeed.


 

Advertisements

Will the EU fall in line when Trump joins with Russia and Turkey in Syria?

January 22, 2017

In 2011 the US, many EU countries (especially France), Turkey and Saudi Arabia started financing and providing weapons to anti-Assad groups in Syria. Many of these groups were, or were allied to, terrorist groups which have in turn warped to become ISIS or al Qaida or the Al Nusrah front. This support was instrumental in helping ISIS to grow into the monster it became. The focus was entirely one of regime change and the downfall of Assad. The EU countries even “encouraged” some of their more radical Muslim groups to send “freedom fighters” to Syria expecting that Assad would soon disappear. Instead these “freedom fighters” soon became willing recruits for ISIS and other terrorist groups. At that time the Russians and Iranians supported Assad but rather passively and through surrogates rather than directly.

Russian support (along with that from Iran and Hisbollah) kept Assad alive in a shrinking territory. Neither the US nor the EU was willing to put its own troops on the ground. With Obama’s risk aversion (indecision) and shifting red lines Assad was spared any knock-out blow. With the growing ISIS threat the Russians finally intervened directly (2014) and turned the tide for Assad and against ISIS. The beginning of the end for ISIS was when Turkey left the US strategy and joined the Russians (and Iran). Aleppo was retaken. ISIS still holds Mosul in Iraq.

Now it looks like the new US administration may very well acquiesce with, if not fully join, the Russian strategy. The US will probably now stop supporting the rebel, anti-Assad factions even though some of them are not allied with the terrorist groups (though many are).

As Trump takes over, a diminished ISIS awaits

ISIS’ caliphate shrinks in 2016 ISIS is losing ground across its self-proclaimed caliphate, according to a new report. Global intelligence and analysis firm IHS Conflict Monitor, which uses open-source intelligence including social media and on-the-ground sources, estimates that ISIS lost 17,600 square kilometers (6,800 square miles) of the land it held in Iraq and Syria over 2016. ISIS’ caliphate in the two countries shrunk by 23% over the course of the year, according to a survey and map released by IHS. The group lost 34% in the same region compared to January 2015. The US-led coalition say ISIS has lost 27% of its territory in Syria — and 61% in Iraq — from its peak. 

In addition to ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa, the militant group retains patches of land not far from Homs and around the ancient city of Palmyra — control of which it regained from the Syrian regime late last year. It also has a presence in the countryside around the eastern city of Deir Ezzor. IHS reported spikes in territory lost by ISIS when the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, took control of the strategic city of Ash Shaddadi in March, moved on to Manbij in May, and in mid-October when Euphrates Shield, Turkey’s ground operation against ISIS in Syria, retook the symbolically significant town of Dabiq.

But what will the EU do now?

I expect that the UK will align itself behind Trump (and that alignment in other areas has already started as Teresa May starts implementing Brexit). With elections coming up in France, Hollande may not have much room to continue with his misguided support of his favourite rebel groups. Merkel is also facing elections and her open door policy has allowed – or is perceived to have allowed – many of the European Muslim, ISIS murderers to return to Europe. Nice and Berlin can be connected to that. My guess is that a splintered and fractured EU will do little and just gradually allow its once strong support of rebel groups to wither away.

Mohamad Bazzi has an insightful commentary in Reuters:

Islamic State lashes out as Turkey flirts with Russia

…. Islamic State is also lashing out at a new and burgeoning Turkish-Russian alliance, which is one of the main factors reshaping the Syrian war today. In late 2016, Turkey backed away from supporting Syrian rebels in Aleppo, which helped the Assad regime and its allies – including Russia, Iran and Shi’ite militias from Lebanon and Iraq – to force rebels from their strongholds in eastern Aleppo and regain full control of the city. In mid-December, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he was working with Turkish leaders to negotiate a new ceasefire between Assad and rebel groups, and to organize a fresh round of Syrian peace talks without Washington’s involvement. The talks are scheduled to start on Jan. 23 in Kazakhstan.

The Syrian conflict has turned into a proxy war that involves regional and world powers – including the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – whose interests sometimes overlap, but at other times lead to multiple conflicts. Soon after the war began in 2011, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States started sending weapons and funds to rebel groups trying to topple Assad’s regime. Some of these rebels were forced into battlefield or tactical alliances with al Qaeda affiliated groups and other jihadists. More recently, Washington has shifted its focus to fighting Islamic State rather than ousting the Syrian regime. Assad’s two main backers, Russia and Iran, are mainly targeting rebel factions opposed to the regime, rather than trying to defeat Islamic State. ……..

…….. Turkish troops and allied rebels are trying to push Islamic State fighters from Al-Bab, a town north of Aleppo, and one of the jihadists’ last holdouts near the Turkish border. But Turkish forces are bogged down in an unexpectedly grueling battle: About 50 soldiers have been killed since Ankara sent its forces into Syria in August, including 16 killed in a single day during an Islamic State counter-attack in Al-Bab.

The battle for Al-Bab is causing other complications and setting up a potential battle between Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and American-supported Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (known by its Kurdish acronym, YPG). The YPG is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of rebel groups, which is leading a ground offensive of 30,000 fighters to oust Islamic State from the city of Raqqa, capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate. The campaign is supported by U.S. air strikes and more than 500 special forces who are helping the rebels gain ground.

In late December, Turkish leaders complained that Washington was not providing similar air support to help Turkish troops advance in Al-Bab. Within days, Russia began coordinating with the Turkish military and carrying out air strikes in the area.

In flirting with Russia, Erdogan’s government is sending a message to the incoming Donald Trump administration that Ankara has other options if the United States continues its support of Syrian Kurdish factions. But as it gets closer to Russia and more deeply involved in fighting Islamic State, Turkey risks incurring the group’s wrath.

Left wing and socialist governments in Europe have been particularly supportive of Palestine and anti-Israel to the verge of being anti-Semitic. (All European socialist parties have a strong anti-Semitic thread which has been hiding under a pro-Palestine, anti-Israel cloak). This support has not only been political but has also provided money for would-be terrorists from Europe. If Trump now moves the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the balance will shift away from the two-state solution, which cannot work, and the EU will face another dilemma.

A US / Russia alliance in the Middle East is a game changer and the EU is too slow, too fractured, too smug and too self-righteous to even realise when the game has changed.


 

Absence of US, EU and UN allows Russia and Turkey to broker Syrian ceasefire and peace talks

December 29, 2016

It seems to have been the absence of the US, the EU and the UN that has allowed Turkey and Russia to broker a ceasefire and peace talks in the 5 year old conflict in Syria.

kerry

Perhaps it could have come earlier if the false – and eventually futile – strategy of getting rid of Assad had not been followed so intransigently by the US, the EU and the UN as a pre-condition. The  Obama/Kerry (earlier Obama/Clinton) foreign policies are degenerating into fiasco. And in the meantime Obama and Kerry still follow a theoretical, but practically doomed, 2-state solution in Israel. The Israel/ Palestine issues will only – can only – be solved by Israel and Palestine.

Perhaps those talks would also benefit if the US and the UN butt out.

The Guardian:

The Assad government and armed Syrian opposition have signed a ceasefire agreement and agreed to begin a new round of negotiations to find a political solution to the country’s civil war, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday.

“We have just received news that a few hours ago the event we have all been waiting for and working towards has happened,” Putin said during a televised meeting with the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.

Putin said three documents had been signed: a ceasefire agreement between the Syrian government and the armed opposition; a list of control mechanisms to ensure the ceasefire will work; and a statement of intent to begin negotiations on a political end to the conflict.

Putin said the ceasefire, which is due to come into force at midnight on Thursday (10pm GMT), was “fragile and will require a lot of attention”. Turkey and Russiawill act as guarantors, Turkey’s foreign ministry said, adding that the agreement excluded groups deemed as terrorists by the UN security council.

In Damascus, the Syrian army said the ceasefire comes after the “successes achieved by the armed forces,” an apparent reference to the capture of rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo earlier this month.


 

Erdogan has “proof” that Obama has been supporting ISIS

December 27, 2016

Hard on the heels of Obama’s betrayal of Israel in the UN Security Council, now comes Erdogan’s accusation – and he says he has proof – that Obama has been supporting ISIS. Now Russia, Turkey and Iran have sidelined the US and the EU from the Syrian process, and Russia has announced today that peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups would begin in Kazakhstan. The Obama/Kerry strategy is in  tatters as it is, and now Erdogan’s accusation gives weight to the suspicion that Obama has even been prepared to support ISIS and other terrorist organisations in his zeal to get rid of Assad. Erdogan made his accusationa at a press conference on Tuesday.

Express: 

ISLAMIC State militants are being supported by America, blasts Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, who claims to have proof at his disposal.

In the wake of two members of the Turkish military being savagely burnt to death by ISIS jihadis, Erdogan has launched a stinging attack on the Obama government, accusing it of supporting the terror cell. 

The 62-year-old, who recently survived a military coup, said: “They (US) were accusing us of supporting Islamic State.

“Now they give support to terrorist groups including Daesh, YPG, PYD. It’s very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos.” …..

Turkey has rushed tanks and heavy weapons to its border and blamed the US-led coalition for inadequate air support after Erdogan’s forces encountered deadly resistence from ISIS militants – 14 Turkish troops were killed. 

SIS claims it has killed 70 Turkish soldiers during the conflict and just a few days ago the warped death cult released a video of two Turkish men being burned alive.

Turkey has entered into an arrangement with Russia and Iran whereby Erdogan’s forces will be awarded the strategic city of al-Bab should they wrestle it from ISIS’ clutches.

Obama’s foreign policy legacy has been dominated by paralysis by analysis and is a legacy of many failures. And now even his intentions, it seems, were not always good.


 

Britain (and the West) “got Syria wrong every step of the way”

December 23, 2016

For over 5 years the Western media has been complicit in pumping out skewed (if not entirely fake) news about Syria. Much of that has been in support of the US/NATO/EU strategy of achieving “regime change” by proxy. This strategy has ostensibly been about support for the “moderate opposition” to Bashar al-Assad only to find that the “moderates” were not so moderate after all.  The financial and weapons support they provided has effectively been used for the growth of ISIS, the Al Nusrah Front and Al Qaida. Only since the Russian intervention a little over a year ago have the terror organisations lost ground. The retaking of Aleppo, which was held by opposition groups directly supported by the West, has been accompanied by a huge media campaign about the atrocities being committed there by the Russians and Assad’s forces. The media are virtually silent about the atrocities in Mosul where US and Iraqi led forces are trying to retake the city.

But the failure of the Obama/Kerry non-strategy now stands ingloriously revealed and, for the first time, the main-stream Western media are prepared to present stark news without too much spin and without too much skew.

It would have been unthinkable – and politically incorrect – for this story to have been published by the BBC before now. Officially, however, the UK and the US and NATO are still continuing to follow the same old discredited policy – but they have become irrelevant as Iran, Turkey and Russia take the lead. If Trump goes along with them and supports the formation of safe havens for the “rebels” to withdraw to, there may be an end in sight for the troubles in Syria.

BBC: 

Britain “got Syria wrong every step of the way”

Britain’s policy on Syria has been “wrong every step of the way”, a former UK ambassador to the country has said. Peter Ford said the UK had made matters worse by not putting troops on the ground and instead encouraging rebel groups to mount a doomed campaign. The situation had led to hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, which could have been foreseen, he added.

The Foreign Office said removing the Assad regime was the only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people. Mr Ford, who was the ambassador in Damascus from 2003 to 2006, said the UK should have put forces on to the battlefield or refrained from encouraging the launch of the opposition campaign.

Speaking on the Today programme: “We have made the situation worse. It was eminently foreseeable to anyone who was not intoxicated with wishful thinking. The British Foreign Office, to which I used to belong, I’m sorry to say has got Syria wrong every step of the way.”

On Thursday, the Syrian army regained full control of Aleppo – which has been a key battleground in the civil war between government forces and rebel groups. It is a notable victory for President Bashar al-Assad in the war which began when the uprising against him began in 2011.

Mr Ford said the president’s government should be given “a little credit” for a “relatively peaceful” end to the siege in Aleppo. He told the BBC government forces would now need to strengthen their hold on the city and defend it against possible counter-attacks.

The former diplomat criticised the Foreign Office for saying President Assad’s demise was imminent at the beginning of the war and for predicting he would lose power quickly. He said the department also said the opposition was dominated by “these so-called moderates, that proved not to be the case”.

He went on: “Now they are telling us another big lie, that Assad can’t control the rest of the country. Well, I’ve got news for them; he is well on the way to doing so.”

Mr Ford said the West has condemned the bombing in Aleppo, yet similar attacks were being carried out in the Iraqi city of Mosul and in Yemen without the same amount of criticism from Britain. He went on: “We don’t talk about atrocities; we don’t talk about war crimes, although they are indisputably being committed in both those theatres.”

The former ambassador said “We will be lucky” if those campaigns ended in the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters on green buses, as was the case in Aleppo. 

The Foreign Office said a political solution and transition away from Assad were the “only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people”. A spokesman added: “The Assad regime has the blood of hundreds of thousands on its hands. There is no way it can unite and bring stability to Syria.


 

US and EU sidelined as Turkey, Iran and Russia sign Syria declaration

December 21, 2016

The opposition to Assad was primarily fueled (and maybe even initiated) by the EU and the US. It was a regime-change exercise where the expectations of the various rebel groups that Assad would be quickly overthrown did not materialise. The Obama/Kerry engagement in Syria can be characterised as being based on wishful thinking and without any implementable strategy.

Until the Russians intervened ISIS, the Al Nusrah front, Al Qaida and other diverse extremist and rebel groups were making daily gains. Turkey of course dislikes Assad, does not like any Kurdish success which helps the formation of a Kurdistan – or at least a Kurdistan which would include any part of Turkey. Nevertheless Turkey sees benefit in allying with Russia rather than with NATO – mainly because they always play both sides against the middle and certainly want to be part of any winning Russian coalition.

In any event, the EU and the US have had to accept a humiliating defeat of the opposition groups they supported in Aleppo. The French in particular have been extremely upset by the reverse suffered by their surrogates. (The attempt by Iraqi forces to retake Mosul with US support continues).

It has got to the point where now Iran and Russia and Turkey (along with Assad’s representatives) arrange meetings about the future of Syria where the EU and the US are not even invited.

But of course the EU and the US are full of high moral platitudes but have made it quite clear that they are not prepared to ‘walk their own talk’.

Countercurrents:

Yesterday, top Russian, Turkish, and Iranian officials met in Moscow and signed a declaration they billed as ending the US-instigated war in Syria. Coming after Russian-backed Syrian army units captured the key city of Aleppo from US-backed Islamist fighters, the deal shows that moves to improve ties between the three countries are continuing despite Monday’s assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov.

“Today, experts are working on the text of the Moscow declaration on immediate steps towards resolving the Syrian crisis. It is a thorough, extremely necessary document,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Dehghan.

Shoigu dismissed US and European initiatives in Syria, declaring that “attempts to agree on joint efforts undertaken by the US or their partners were doomed. … None of them exerted real influence on the situation on the ground.”

The initiative was hailed by officials from Turkey, in a sharp turnaround from Turkey’s support for US-backed Islamist opposition militias in the early years of the war. “Now we are observing a very successful operation to liberate eastern Aleppo from fighters, the evacuation of the families of the opposition from Aleppo,” said Turkish National Defence Minister Fikri Işık.

Meeting with his Russian and Iranian counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and Javad Zarif, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said cooperation between Russia, Turkey, and Iran had “brought about definite successes” in Aleppo. He said he hoped “to spread it to other districts of Syria.”

The expulsion of the Islamist opposition from Aleppo and developing collaboration between Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran mark a major setback for Washington and its European allies. For five years, US imperialism tried to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by backing Islamist militias, a strategy it later expanded to include backing Kurdish nationalist forces in Syria, as well. While this operation was marketed as a revolution in the US and European media, it collapsed because the US-backed forces lacked any real popular support.

Though Turkey is a NATO ally of the United States, Ankara is reacting to the victory of the Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran in Aleppo by developing ever closer ties to Russia. During the launch of a Turkish-Russian joint investigation into Karlov’s murder, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara and Moscow would “not let anyone harm Turkish-Russian relations.” …….

It could well be that if Trump’s administration starts a pull-back from NATO expansionism, the much feared departure of Turkey from NATO could be on the cards again.

…… Amid escalating damage to the Turkish economy and fears that NATO allies, notably in Europe, might not intervene to aid Turkey in a war with Russia, the Turkish regime shifted its foreign policy. It began mentioning a possible rapprochement with Russia and the Syrian regime. In May 2016, Erdogan discharged his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who had previously declared that he ordered the shooting down of the Russian fighter, and apologized to Russia.

This set the stage for Washington and Berlin to tacitly back a coup attempt that nearly succeeded against Erdogan on July 15, and which Ankara blamed on Gülen’s movement. It was reportedly averted thanks to timely warnings from Russia. This inflamed the already explosive tensions not only inside Turkey, but above all, between Erdogan’s government and the major NATO powers.

The Turkish government has reacted by manoeuvring ever more desperately between its ostensible allies in NATO and the major Eurasian powers, Russia and China. In recent months, amid growing economic ties between China and Turkey, Erdogan has repeatedly declared that Turkey might join the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), claiming this would allow Ankara “to act more freely.”

This drew a sharp reaction from NATO. Visiting Istanbul last month for the NATO Parliamentarians Assembly, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with Erdogan and said, “I am sure Turkey will do nothing that could impair the concept of joint defence … and NATO unity.”

Above all, however, Ankara sought closer ties to Russia. Earlier this month, the Russian and Turkish prime ministers, Dmitri Medvedev and Binali Yildirim, met in Moscow. They agreed that “the normalization of the Syrian situation is a priority task for our countries and it will definitely serve to the benefit of the whole region, not to mention Syria, which is currently in a very complicated situation.”

On December 6, Yildirim criticized NATO for “hesitation” and “foot-dragging” in Syria: “Nice words are exchanged about defending civilization against terrorism. But the big terrorist networks challenging us today operate across borders.” He described the Turkish-Russian initiative as a push for a “forceful and united international front to eradicate terrorism.”

Turkey, Russia, Iran Sign Deal On Syria

Turkey, Russia, Iran Sign Deal On Syria


 

Russia accuses US coalition of assisting ISIS attack Palmyra to save Al-Nusra front rebels in Aleppo

December 13, 2016

What has been apparent is that the US led coalition (and France in particular) have a lot vested with the Assad-rebels holed up in Aleppo. France has been particularly active in trying to get the Russians and Assad’s forces to agree to a cease-fire in Aleppo – ostensibly for humanitarian aid – but also for relieving the besieged rebels that they support. Of course the US coalition attacking Mosul in Iraq have not been quite so concerned about the civilians being used as human shields by ISIS.

Of course this could just be Russian propaganda but there is some logic to their claim that the US-led coalition have allowed ISIS forces from Mosul to attack Palmyra to try and force Assad’s forces away from retaking Aleppo and instead to defend Palmyra. It is not inconceivable that the US and France are quite desperate to save the Al-Nusra front rebels they support and are even prepared to ease off on ISIS to that end:

RT: 

A new Islamic State attack on Palmyra from the Mosul region could be ‘orchestrated’ to divert the attention of Syrian government forces from Aleppo and spare the militants entrenched in the city, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The fact that Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) militants launched their offensive on Palmyra from Iraq and “apparently from Mosul” and marched through the “territories patrolled by the aircraft of the US-led coalition makes one think that – and I really hope to be wrong here – that it was orchestrated and coordinated to give a respite to those thugs, who are entrenched in eastern Aleppo,” the foreign minister said during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, as he answered a question asked by RT. 

Lavrov went on to say that the US has been conducting a two-faced policy towards terrorist groups in Syria from the very beginning of the Syrian crisis. The US-led coalition is fighting Islamic State but is studiously avoiding targeting another terrorist group, which is Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, he said.

“There is a significant number of reasons to believe that [Al-Nusra] is being spared as the most effective combat-capable force, which opposes the governmental [forces] of the ground in order to be used for overthrowing the legitimate Syrian government when the time comes,” Lavrov told journalists. …..

That the US is – even now – focused on regime change in Syria and is trying to assist the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front is not at all illogical. The Obama/Kerry strategy in Syria and Iraq is a maze of inconsistencies and fundamentally flawed.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this Russian report held a great deal of truth.


 

Aleppo almost retaken but Mosul must wait for a while

December 9, 2016

The ongoing downfall of ISIS really only began with the Russian intervention in Syria. Even in Iraq, the gradual success against ISIS only really took hold once the Russians showed the resolve in Syria. It has been a repudiation of the absence of an Obama/Kerry strategy. It has also shown quite clearly that it was the US/NATO/ France/UK/ EU/ Turkey obsession with getting rid of Assad which allowed ISIS to grow and then prevented any effective strategy against ISIS from being implemented.

Now Aleppo and its Al Qaeda/ISIS related rebel groups are on the verge of being driven out by Syrian troops with Russian support. In Mosul what was intended to be a liberation of the city – in time for a Clinton success at the US General election – has progressed much more slowly than expected. It has stalled from time to time and it may not even be complete before Obama leaves office. The retaking of Aleppo cannot strictly be compared with retaking Mosul, but it does reconfirm the differences between first, the resolve of Assad’s Syrian troops and the Iraqi army, and second, the difference between the US and Russian implementation of strategies.

Two Reuters reports today caught my eye:

Syrian army’s Aleppo advance slows, but victory in sight

The Syrian army’s advance in Aleppo slowed on Thursday but a victory was still firmly in sight after President Bashar al-Assad vowed that retaking the city would change the course of the six-year-old war. Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying the Syrian army, which has captured territory including Aleppo’s historic Old City in recent days, had halted military activity to let civilians leave rebel-held territory. 

The last two weeks have seen rebels driven from most of their territory in what was once Syria’s largest city, the eastern section of which the insurgents have controlled since 2012. Although there are still many rural areas in rebel hands, Aleppo is their last big urban redoubt. The prospect of its fall, following months of government gains elsewhere, has brought Assad closer to victory than at any point since the early months of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and made half of Syrians homeless.

“Aleppo will completely change the course of the battle in all of Syria,” Assad said, speaking in an interview with the Syrian newspaper al-Watan.

Iraqi troops pull out from Mosul hospital after fierce battle

Iraqi troops who briefly seized a Mosul hospital believed to be used as an Islamic State base were forced to withdraw from the site, but managed to establish a base for army tanks nearby after days of fierce back-and-forth fighting, residents said.

The rapid advance into the Wahda neighborhood where the hospital is located marked a change of tactic after a month of fighting in east Mosul in which the army has sought to capture and clear neighborhoods block by block.

The ferocity of the fighting reflects the importance of the army’s push from southeast Mosul towards the center, their deepest advance in a grueling seven-week offensive to crush Islamic State in Iraq’s largest northern city.

The soldiers seized Salam hospital, less than a mile (just over 1 km) from the Tigris river running through central Mosul, on Tuesday but pulled back the next day after they were attacked by six suicide car bombs and “heavy enemy fire”, according to a statement by the U.S.-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces.

Coalition warplanes, at Iraq’s request, also struck a building inside the hospital complex from which the militants were firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, it said.

The soldiers involved in the action are at the spearhead of a U.S.-backed, 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi forces including the army, federal police, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and mainly Shi’ite Popular Mobilization forces battling to crush Islamic State in Mosul.

Mosul may still take some time but that it will be retaken before too long  seems almost certain.


 

US – Russia deal on Syria is a de facto acceptance of Assad’s position

September 10, 2016

The deal is that US backed rebels will not fight with forces  backed by Russia (Assad’s). That will allow the US, Russia and their proxies to fight ISIS forces wherever they may be in Syria and Iraq. However it is unlikely that Turkey will refrain from attacking Kurdish groups who are also in the front line against ISIS.

PHOTO: Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speak at a press conference, Sept. 9, 2016.

If the deal holds it effectively consolidates Assad’s improving position on the ground. But even if the deal does not hold, the US anti-Assad position is grossly undermined.

Reuters: 

The United States and Russia reached a breakthrough deal early on Saturday to try to restore peace in Syria, but air strikes hours later added to rebels’ doubts that any ceasefire could hold.

The agreement, by the powers that back opposing sides in the five-year-old war, promises a nationwide truce from sundown on Monday, improved access for humanitarian aid and joint military targeting of hardline Islamist groups.

But hours later, jets bombed a marketplace in rebel-held Idlib in northwestern Syria, killing at least 25 people and wounding dozens, according to locals and rescue workers who said they believed the planes to be Russian.

Idlib province has endured escalating strikes by Russian jets in recent months, according to international aid workers and residents, destroying scores of hospitals, bakeries and other infrastructure across rebel-held territory.

Aleppo was also hit from the air and fighting continued on the ground. The army attacked rebel-held areas, both sides said, pushing to maximize gains before the ceasefire deadline. …….

Kerry said the “bedrock” of the new deal was an agreement that the Syrian government would not fly combat missions in an agreed area on the pretext of hunting fighters from the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria which has recently changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Under the new deal, both sides – Russian-backed government forces and rebel groups supported by the U.S. and Gulf states, – are to halt fighting as a confidence building measure.

If the truce holds from Monday, Russia and the United States will begin seven days of preparatory work to set up a “joint implementation centre”, where they will share information to distinguish territory controlled by Nusra from that held by other rebel groups.

Moon of Alabama has this analysis:

It looks as if there has been unseemly resistance to this agreement by parts of the U.S. government. This may have been just for show. But it may also be a sign that Obama lost control of the bureaucracy:

The proposed level of U.S.-Russian interaction has upset several leading national security officials in Washington, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, and Kerry only appeared at the news conference after several hours of internal U.S. discussions.After the Geneva announcement, Pentagon secretary Peter Cook offered a guarded endorsement of the arrangement and cautioned, “We will be watching closely the implementation of this understanding in the days ahead.”

If this deal falls apart, as it is likely to eventually do, all responsibility will be put onto Secretary of State Kerry. Indeed the military and intelligence parts of the U.S. government may well work to sabotage the deal while Kerry will be presented as convenient scapegoat whenever it fails.


 

In Syria, the Obama non-strategy: US supported groups fight US supported groups

September 3, 2016

Eric Margolis has this post in The Unz Review and it only confirms for me that Obama’s lasting legacy will be of his “paralysis by analysis”. Obama’s actions are dominated by his fears. He has good intentions and then gets bogged down as soon as the risk analysis gets under way. His Iraq/ Syria/ Turkey/ Iran strategy – if it can be credited with the label of a “strategy” – has been one of avoiding risks as they appear. His actions are all short-term reactions to the appearance of new, perceived risks. His “red lines in the sand” have proven to be shifting lines. Obama’s misguided actions and his inactions allowed the ISIS expansion to flourish. The containing of ISIS expansion has only been made possible by the Russian intervention and the propping-up of Assad.

Obama’s predecessor, Bush Jr., distinguished himself by not thinking anything through. He rushed to conclusions and to actions without too much thought or analysis. In my definitions of behaviour he comes across, not necessarily as without courage, but as foolhardy. Obama, on the other hand, will be remembered, no doubt, for being intelligent and analytical but without courage.

As Margolis points out, the actions from diverse groups within the US have been chaotic and often opposed to one another.

U.S. vs. U.S. in Syria

 

pentagon-cia

What a mess! In the crazy Syrian war, US-backed and armed groups are fighting other US-backed rebel groups. How can this be?

It is so because the Obama White House had stirred up the war in Syria but then lost control of the process. When the US has a strong president, he can usually keep the military and intelligence agencies on a tight leash.

But the Obama administration has had a weak secretary of defense and a bunch of lady strategists who are the worst military commanders since Louis XV, who put his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, in charge of French military forces during the Seven Year’s War. The French were routed by the Prussians. France’s foe, Frederick the Great of Prussia, named one of his dogs, “la Pompadour.”

As a result, the two arms of offensive US strategic power, the Pentagon, and CIA, went separate ways in Syria. Growing competition between the US military and militarized CIA broke into the open in Syria.

Fed up with the astounding incompetence of the White House, the US military launched and supported its own rebel groups in Syria, while CIA did the same.

Fighting soon after erupted in Syria and Iraq between the US-backed groups. US Special Forces joined the fighting in Syria, Iraq and most lately, Libya.

The well-publicized atrocities, like mass murders and decapitations, greatly embarrassed Washington, making it harder to portray their jihadi wildmen as liberators. The only thing exceptional about US policy in Syria was its astounding incompetence.

Few can keep track of the 1,000 groups of jihadis that keep changing their names and shifting alliances. Throw in Turkomans, Yazidis, Armenians, Nestorians, Druze, Circassians, Alawis, Assyrians and Palestinians. Oh yes, and the Alevis.

Meanwhile, ISIS was inflicting mayhem in Syria and Iraq. But who really is ISIS? A few thousand twenty-something hooligans with little knowledge of Islam but a burning desire to dynamite the existing order and a sharp media sense. The leadership of these turbaned anarchists appears to have formed in US prison camps in Afghanistan.

The US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey armed and financed ISIS as a weapon to unleash on Syria, which was an ally of Iran that refused to take orders from the Western powers. The west bears a heavy responsibility for the deaths of 450,000 Syrians, at least half the nation of 23 million becoming refugees, and destruction of this once lovely country.

At some point, ISIS shook off its western tutors and literally ran amok. But the US has not yet made a concerted attempt to crush ISIS because of its continuing usefulness in Syria and in the US, where ISIS has become the favorite whipping boy of politicians.

Next, come the Kurds, an ancient Indo-European stateless people spread across Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. They have been denied a national state by the western powers since WWI. Kurdish rebels in Iraq have been armed and financed by Israel since the 1970’s.

When America’s Arab jihadists proved militarily feeble, the US turned to the Kurds, who are renowned fighters, arming and financing the Kurdish Syrian YPG which is part of the well-known PKK rebel group that fights Turkey.

I covered the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in eastern Anatolia in the 1980’s in which some 40,000 died.

Turkey is now again battling a rising wave of Kurdish attacks that caused the Turks to probe into northern Syria to prevent a link-up of advancing Kurdish rebel forces.

So, Turkey, a key American ally, is now battling CIA-backed Kurdish groups in Syria. Eighty percent of Turks believe the recent failed coup in Turkey was mounted by the US – not the White House, but by the Pentagon which has always been joined at the hip to Turkey’s military.

This major Turkish-Kurdish crisis was perfectly predictable, but the obtuse junior warriors of the Obama administration failed to grasp this point.

Now the Russians have entered the fray in an effort to prevent their ally, Bashar Assad, from being overthrow by western powers. Also perfectly predictable. Russia claimed to be bombing ISIS but in fact, is targeting US-backed groups. Washington is outraged that the wicked Russians are doing in the Mideast what the US has done for decades.

The US and Russia now both claim to have killed a senior ISIS commander in an air strike. Their warplanes are dodging one another, creating a perfect scenario for a head-on clash at a time when neocons in the US are agitating for war with Russia.

Does anyone think poor, demolished Syria is worth the price? Hatred for the US is now seething in Turkey and across the Mideast. Hundreds of millions of US tax dollars have been wasted in this cruel, pointless war.

Time for the US to stop stirring this witch’s brew.


%d bloggers like this: