Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

Reagan (and Pakistan) created the Taliban, Bush (and Saudi Arabia) nurtured Al Qaida and Obama/Clinton allowed ISIS to grow

August 12, 2016

Ronald Reagan (President from 1981 -1989) and Pakistan’s ISI created the Taliban,

From Politics 116 at Mt Holyoke College

The Creation of Taliban goes back to 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In 1973, The Soviet Union brought their soldiers into Afghanistan claiming to rebuild the crushing economy. However, the Soviet was resented by the Mujahidin (from whom the Taliban evolved from). At the same time, the Soviet Union and United States were engaged in a cold war. The U.S. was genuinely interested in counter power against the Soviet Union. Thus, Soviet Union’s entrance in Afghanistan signaled the Soviet’s increase in power and strength gaining more power and strength so the United States decided to intervene.Because the United States did not want to see the Soviet Union take control over Central Asia, the U.S. decided to fund troops to fight against the Soviet Union. These troops were called the Mujahedeen. The Mujahedeen were armed and supported by several countries including, the U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Under Reagan’s presidency Congress which was led by Democrats, decided to form a partnership with the ISI which would recruit the Mujahideen with the support of the Pakistani military extreme views of Islam, led the Mujahedeen to fight ferociously against the Soviet Union. these extremist succeeded in driving Soviet militants out (1989). This unforeseen defeat caused the Soviets to lose billions of Dollars, and led to the collapse of the Soviet Union After the war, Pakistan was left alone to deal with the problems associated with the post war. Following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. declared a war against Afghanistan. at this point the U.S. realized the seeds they had sown. Taliban was a creation of the Pakistani intelligence agency (the ISI) but was funded by the U.S. The U.S. provided $3 billion to build this Islamic group by providing provided ammunitions, which they forgot to keep track of after the Soviet war. Thus, the U.S. was taken a back when the millions worth in weapons that they had provided were now being used against them. Since the Taliban was a creation of the Pakistani intelligence agency. Pakistan has been reluctant to fight them. It is said that a lot of Pakistani and other military personal were known to be siding with the Taliban. It has further been said that the U.S. is responsible for providing the Taliban with logistical and military advice, along with military hardware . Therefore the Unites States and Pakistan are accountable for the Creation of Islamic extremist Group called `Taliban’.

The success against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan and the need for further jihad gave rise to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida in 1989. George Bush Sr. who was already involved with Saudi support for the Taliban as Vice President under Reagan came into his own as a godfather for Al Qaida as President from 1989-1993. Through the CIA and its many arms, Bush Sr. and Saudi Arabia provided the money and the training. Al Qaida did not become an “enemy” of the US until 2001 when the campaign in Afghanistan was launced in retaliation for the 9/11 atrocities.

BBC (June 2004):

Al-Qaeda, meaning “the base”, was created in 1989 as Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden and his colleagues began looking for new jihads.

The organisation grew out of the network of Arab volunteers who had gone to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight under the banner of Islam against Soviet Communism. During the anti-Soviet jihad Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Some analysts believe Bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA.

The “Arab Afghans”, as they became known, were battle-hardened and highly motivated. In the early 1990s Al-Qaeda operated in Sudan. After 1996 its headquarters and about a dozen training camps moved to Afghanistan, where Bin Laden forged a close relationship with the Taleban.

The US campaign in Afghanistan starting in late 2001 dispersed the organisation and drove it underground as its personnel were attacked and its bases and training camps destroyed.

It was the US occupation of Iraq and their support for the Shi’ite government of Nouri al-Maliki from 2003 – 2011 which provided the motivation for the Sunni backlash. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was leading an Al Qaida faction and, the Guardian writes, “after the US invasion in 2003, he was quickly drawn into the emerging al-Qaida in Iraq under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, getting involved first in smuggling foreign fighters into Iraq, then later as the “emir” of Rawa, a town near the Syrian border. There, presiding over his own sharia court, he gained a reputation for brutality, publicly executing those suspected of aiding the US-led coalition forces – the same brutality that has become familiar to those living in Syria under his group’s control”. By various accounts he was detained at the US Camp Bucca as a low level prisoner from 2004 either for less than a year or upto 2008. 

Possibly he was in detention till 2008, since it is only after 2009 that ISIS takes off and it is only after 2011, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in place, that ISIS expands –  violently and explosively – in Syria and Iraq. Obama and Clinton lost interest in Iraq and dropped the ball on ISIS. They (and Saudi Arabia) were so focused on creating regime change in Syria and toppling Assad that they lost sight of the support (money and training) being provide by the US for anti-Assad groups which included ISIS affiliated groups. David Mizner writes:

“The August 5, 2012 DIA report confirms much of what Assad has been saying all along about his opponents both inside and outside Syria,” says “terrorism analyst” Max Abrams.

The report concerns a period in time when the escalating violence in Iraq had ceased to be a prominent topic in the US press and when its coverage of the war in Syria — mirroring the discussion in Washington — focused on the Assad government, not the forces aligned against it. This may be hard to imagine now that ISIS has become the US government’s favorite monster, but during these months President Obama and his team gave major speeches on Syria that didn’t even mention the group.

Even after ISIS took Fallujah in January 2014, discussion of the group in establishment outlets was scarce. It wasn’t until later in 2014 — after continued battlefield victories and heavily publicized beheadings of westerners — that Islamic State became Public Enemy Number 1.

American officials claimed the ascendancy of ISIS had caught American intelligence by surprise. Yet in the 2012 report — which was circulated widely through the US government — the DIA foresaw the creation of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria. It also said that Islamic State of Iraq could “return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi” and declare an “Islamic state” in western Iraq and eastern Syria.

More than that, the report says the creation of an Islamic state was precisely the goal of the foreign governments that support the opposition:

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

US Defense Intelligence clearly puts the cause for the rise of ISIS on the policy being followed by the US in Syria (by Obama and Clinton), and not primarily on what was happening in Iraq. Mizner again:

While American politicians and pundits have blamed the ascendance of ISIS on former Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki and Assad — or on the removal of American troops from Iraq — the DIA report reminds us that the key event in the rise of ISIS was the corresponding rise of the insurgency in Syria. Brad Hoff of the Levant Report, the first journalist to analyze the DIA report, says it shows that “A nascent Islamic State became a reality only with the rise of the Syrian insurgency . . . there is no mention of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq as a catalyst.”

Maliki warned that the war in Syria could engulf Iraq, yet the United States and its allies kept supporting the insurgency. The American bombing of ISIS, relatively light and sporadic, has only intensified the belief of many Iraqis that the United States doesn’t want to defeat the group.

The US has a well established track record now of creating the very monsters which then becomes their greatest enemies. Obama – in spite of his reputation of over-analysing issues – clearly did not foresee how his inaction in Iraq, and his misguided regime-change actions in Syria, would cause the explosive growth of ISIS. And Clinton, who had little understanding of the complex relations in the Middle East, couldn’t cover for Obama’s blind spots and had no real strategy of her own to bring to the table. Furthermore, Obama and Clinton (and later Kerry) have done little, if anything, to stop ISIS being financed from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

obama no strategy

While Trump’s claim that Obama and Clinton “founded” ISIS is not strictly true, there is little doubt that the Obama/Clinton inaction in Iraq, and their misguided actions in Syria, led directly to the growth of ISIS and the current miserable situation in the Middle East. The Obama/Kerry combination has continued with the Assad obsession and their strategies (or lack of strategies) have been largely ineffective against ISIS. It is only Russian intervention which has perhaps turned the tide.


 

How is Europe going to stop ISIS in Libya?

March 28, 2016

ISIS is shifting to Libya (which is in chaos thanks to the European-led fiasco there), and another 800,000+ refugees can be expected to swamp Italy. And “Europe”, in the shape of the EU, is both unprepared and has no strategy to face that challenge when (not if) it comes.

The Russian intervention has succeeded not only in stopping ISIS advances but turning it into a clear retreat. The Russians have apparently a more determined – and more competent and effective – Syrian army on the ground than the US has with the Iraqi army.

Iraq Syria map

The next target for the Syrian army and Russia after retaking Palmyra could be Raqqa or possibly Deir al-Zour. The Iraqis and the US are making, comparatively, slow progress in retaking Mosul. But at least ISIS is not expanding territory in Iraq.

Once ISIS loses control of Raqqa and Mosul, its remaining territory in Syria and Iraq will be less than the critical mass it needs to sustain operations. Its oil earnings would also dwindle without the physical control of territory.

Just as the US support of opposition groups crippled Assad and allowed a vacuum for ISIS to fill, the European-led fiasco in Libya has only produced chaos with no clear group in authority. This has been exploited by ISIS. For some time now, ISIS has been preparing for shifting from its HQ in Raqqa and has been establishing a new HQ in Sirte (Surt) in Libya. ISIS has already established its version of Sharia rule in the area by carrying out executions and floggings in the town and in the surrounding areas all the way to Ajdabiya. Controlling the Gulf of Sirte would allow the development of new source of oil revenues to make up for the loss of revenues in Iraq and Syria.

Libya map

The US, Europe  and NATO are not doing much at this point in Libya to prevent ISIS from coming in. (There are reports of some special forces and snipers from the US and the UK operating in Libya but there is certainly no concerted effort to stop ISIS). The Russians do not have the same interest to intervene and so Libya is left wide open to ISIS by a bungling Europe. With the current chaos in Libya and the pressure it is facing in Iraq and Syria, I would not be surprised to see ISIS suddenly abandon Syria and expand in Libya. I suspect that the trigger could be the loss of Raqqa.

There are also reports that Boko Haram (which has allied itself with ISIS) is facing pressure from the Nigerian army and is also planning a shift northwards to Libya.

As ISIS expands territory in Libya (and perhaps also Boko Haram), a new wave of refugees into Europe can be expected. The French Defence Minister has estimated that this number could be another 800,000 people. There could be more if Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians and Somalis also start using the route through Libya to Italy. Italy could be swamped this autumn just as Greece has been in the last 6 months.

The Russians have no great objections to additional pressure on Europe. In any case, they would be disinclined to intervene in Libya. The US will not intervene (even though they backed the ill-conceived European adventure to remove Gaddafi). There is no European planning – let alone any strategy – for this scenario. I see no European initiative which can be as decisive in Libya as the Russians have been in Syria.

How is Europe going to stop ISIS in Libya?


 

Syrian forces (with Russian support) advance into Palmyra but Iraqi forces (with US support) make slow progress in Mosul

March 27, 2016

Earlier this week there was a great deal of publicity from the Pentagon about a strike which had killed the No.2 in the ISIS “cabinet”, again. (The No. 2 was also killed in August last year and in 2014).

AtlanticIn August of last year, U.S. officials announced the death of Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, the No. 2 to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and something of a weapons and logistics manager for the terrorist group. It was the second time in less than a year the ISIS leader’s top deputy met with an early demise. On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter added Haji Imam, the Islamic State’s finance chief who went by several names, to the growing list of seconds-in-command to die at the hands of American forces. …. 

What Kerry didn’t mention was that, for at least the third time in 18 months, ISIS would need a new No. 2.

I wondered why there was so much publicity about this event in a week which saw Syrian forces advancing on Palmyra and Iraqi forces advancing on Mosul. Surely the retaking of Palmyra and Mosul would be of much greater significance than the killing of not-indispensable individuals?

But then the reason for the PR blitz by the Pentagon became clear. The Syrian advance on Palmyra backed up by Russian air strikes was moving steadily forward. The Iraqi advance on Mosul, backed by US air strikes, was bogged down. A few IS snipers and some land mines were holding up the entire Iraqi advance. The impression that Russian strategy was, once again, showing up US strategy was unpalatable for Obama and the Pentagon, and so the killing of the ISIS No. 2 was pushed forward to demonstrate US successes.

In any event it was a bad week for ISIS on the battlefields of the Middle East but their guerrilla war in Europe hit Brussels. The recapture of Palmyra by Syrian troops is now imminent. The recapture of Mosul by Iraqi troops may take a little longer. The eventual recapture of Mosul will happen, I think. Even if the Iraqi troops fail – which is not at all impossible – the Peshmerga are close behind. To lose Palmyra and Mosul would be a debilitating blow for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It will surely accelerate their shift into Libya.

Reuters: Syrian army, with Russian air support, advances inside Palmyra

Syrian government forces advanced into Palmyra on Saturday with heavy support from Russian air strikes, taking control of several districts in a major assault against Islamic State fighters, Syrian state media and a monitoring group said. ……. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was the biggest assault in a three-week campaign by the Syrian army and allied militia fighters to recapture the desert city and open up the road to Islamic State strongholds further east. Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said Syrian soldiers and allied militias had taken control of one-third of Palmyra, mainly in the west and north, including part of the ancient city and its Roman-era ruins. Soldiers were also fighting on a southern front, he said.

Syrian media and Arab television channels broadcasting from the slopes of Palmyra’s medieval citadel, one of the last areas of high ground seized by the army on Friday, said troops had advanced inside Palmyra and had taken several neighborhoods. 

The recapture of Palmyra, which the Islamist group seized in May 2015, would mark the biggest reversal for Islamic State in Syria since Russia’s intervention turned the tide of the five-year conflict in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor.

Times of OmanIraqi forces make slow progress against IS 

Iraqi forces made slow progress against IS in the north of the country on Friday in the second day of an offensive touted as the beginning of a broader campaign to clear areas around the city of Mosul. Backed by Kurdish forces and a US-led coalition, Iraqi forces launched the assault at dawn on Thursday, recapturing three villages in the Makhmour area south of Mosul, according to peshmerga commander Najat Ali and an Iraqi army source.

The Iraqi army source, who is taking part in the offensive, said troops were preparing to attack another village on Friday but were being held up because the militants had rigged streets and buildings with explosives. “The mining has slightly slowed down the army,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak to the media. ….. 

Iraqi officials say they will retake Mosul this year but, in private, many question whether the army, which partially collapsed when IS overran a third of the country in June 2014, will be ready in time.

The Obama is the cabbage to Putin as the King .. and pigs indeed have wings

March 17, 2016

Lewis Carroll

The Walrus and the Carpenter
    Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
    Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
    And waited in a row.

`The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
    `To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
    Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
    And whether pigs have wings.’

Putin started his Syrian intervention on 29th September, 2015, much to to the astonishment of the Obama and his overpaid, idiot advisors. “It won’t work” cried the Obama. “An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire …” They were even more astonished when, less than 6 months later, Putin ordered a withdrawal of Russian troops (while still maintaining his air bases and air-defense systems and enough troops to protect Russian assets).

cabbages and kings (Northern Echo)

cabbages and kings (Northern Echo)

But pigs have wings in Syria and Putin is proving himself to be the King to Obama’s cabbage.

Why — and how — Russia won in Syria

A day after Putin announced a Russian withdrawal from Syria, it’s clear that his gamble has turned into a major win for Moscow. Here’s what Russia achieved — and why it was so successful.

First — and most importantly — Russian bombing turned the tide of the war in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor. When the Russian military deployed to Syria, Assad was in serious trouble, …….. Five months later, …. Assad clearly holds the military upper hand. ……“the Russian reinforcement has changed the calculus completely.”

……. Second, Putin recently achieved an important diplomatic objective by forcing the United States to acknowledge that Russia plays a key role in determining Syria’s future. …… The most recent ceasefire beginning on February 27, however, was negotiated in Geneva directly between the United States and Russia. Both sides agreed to act as equal guarantors for the ceasefire, and Obama concluded negotiations by speaking directly to Putin. As icing on the cake, Moscow recently forced Washington to renounce its position that “Assad must go,” with Secretary of State John Kerry stating “the United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” and that the focus was “not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad.”

Third, Putin responded to Turkey’s shoot down of a Russian jet by humiliating Ankara, an emerging rival in the Middle East and Central Asia. Russia deployed advanced S400 surface-to-air missiles near Turkey. ….. Putin also grievously wounded Turkey’s key rebel allies and close ethnic cousins, the Syrian Turkmen. Turkmen rebels reportedly killed the Russian pilots shot down by Turkish jets, and bombing the Turkmen allows Putin to both avenge these deaths — thereby playing to Russian public opinion — while degrading the effectiveness of one of Assad’s enemies.

Putin also hit Turkey where it hurts by playing the “Kurdish card” against Ankara. ……… Russia, though, plays on Turkish fears by providing air support for YPG efforts to fully control the Turkish-Syrian border, ….

Finally, Putin’s Syrian campaign has contributed to weakening the European Union. …….. Russia “weaponizes” refugees by bombing civilian targets and supporting Assad’s troops, thereby causing a substantially greater inflow of refugees into Europe — up to 100,000 from the city of Aleppo alone. Meanwhile, resentment toward Germany’s open-door refugee policy produces rising anger across the EU, ……….

……. Washington’s Syrian policy, meanwhile, remains a hopeless muddle. At various points the Obama administration insisted that “Assad must go” — and that Assad can stay. ……. The United States’ search for moderate rebels led it to support the Free Syrian Army. But FSA militias sometimes tactically ally with al Qaeda’s Syrian branch — effectively putting Washington on the same side at times as the perpetrators of 9/11.

Washington’s Sunni allies have not exactly been trouble-free either. Vice President Joseph Biden publicly accused the Turks, Saudis and Qataris of arming Syrian militants, ………. 

The Obama administration’s proxy strategy epitomizes this confusion. One Pentagon program spent $500 million on a train and equip program …… and even then, the few trainees actually sent into Syria promptly turned their weapons over to al Qaeda.

……….. As Moscow exits the Syrian morass, the five-month-long military campaign represents a clear geopolitical win for Vladimir Putin. 

At least Obama will not be called upon to deal with ISIS in Libya. That is going to be left to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is more likely to be another cabbage and Donald Trump could be a total disaster but he has a tiny chance of turning out to be a King.


 

Six months of Russian intervention shows up 5 years of Obama’s ineptitude in Syria

March 13, 2016

Russia began its current intervention in Syria on September 30th last year, whereas the US began its anti-Assad campaign in 2011:

……… with the financing, training and encouragement of selected “moderate rebels”. They have no doubt weakened Assad but have also been instrumental in creating ISIS.

The Russian intervention has had a focus and an end-game in mind, both of which were missing from the US/NATO “strategy”. The “ceasefire” that is currently in place allows Russia (and Assad) to continue operating against the “terrorists” (ISIS, Al Nusra…) who are not party to the ceasefire. The US is now just following Russia’s lead much to the chagrin of the many Sunni opposition groups and of Saudi Arabia.

The only objective which Obama and Kerry ever had in Syria was to remove Assad but they had no strategy either for that or for what would follow. In Syria, Vladimir Putin has highlighted Obama’s ineptitude.

Canada Free Press:

On February 27, 2016, a ceasefire went into effect in Syria between the forces of the Assad regime and the opposition. The ceasefire was achieved after the United States and Russia reached understandings regarding the terms of the agreement; Bashar al-Assad and the representatives of the opposition who took part in the contacts accepted its terms; and the ceasefire was grounded in a UN Security Council resolution.

The Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other jihadist rebel groups are not party to the ceasefire, and Russia and the United States have agreed that they would continue fighting them in cooperation with one another. In actuality, the ceasefire was reached as a result of the combined efforts of the two superpowers currently engaged in leading the campaign for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. All the other actors are dependent on the assistance of these two powers and are subject to their influence.

In order to translate its military achievements in the Syrian arena into achievements in the realm of international politics, Russia worked intensively to advance the ceasefire along two parallel channels. The first channel was operational – specifically, a joint air and ground offensive against rebel forces aimed at exhausting them, carried out by a pro-Assad coalition including Iran, Syrian military forces that are loyal to Assad, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias. The severe damage sustained by the rebel forces is what brought them to the negotiating table. The second channel focused on advancing a political process, primarily vis-à-vis the United States, but also Saudi Arabia.

Moscow sought to promote the political dialogue while it enjoyed the upper hand on the military battlefield and was able to dictate the outcome of the process. Russia translated its achievements on the ground into a political roadmap for a cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a transitional period toward a solution to the conflict within 18 months. Russian policy with regard to the Syrian crisis was also motivated by Russia’s aspiration to promote its standing within the international arena and reduce the Western foreign and economic pressure leveled against it following its actions in Ukraine. In this context, Moscow led the joint offensive of the forces of the pro-Assad coalition in an effort to demonstrate its determination and to create pressure on the West and on Turkey by means of a massive flight of refugees toward Turkey from the embattled areas. It is unclear whether Russia received anything in return from the contacts that took place behind the scenes between Washington and Moscow, such as an easing of the Western sanctions.

Syria conflict map 13th March 2016 Carter Center

Syria conflict map 13th March 2016 Carter Center

The Russian intervention has seen the ISIS expansion halted and reversed. They have secured breathing space for the Assad regime though they expect to have him replaced in an orderly manner in time. ISIS will shift (is already shifting) to Libya which is in chaos (for which Obama passes the buck to Cameron and Sarkozy). The EU with its shambles of a refugee policy is providing the sink which swallows the bulk of those displaced.

The real Middle East end-game is a very long way away but Russia is reaching its immediate objectives of supporting the Syrian regime, halting the march of Sunni- groups, restraining the ambitions of Saudi Arabia and of getting in the good books of Iran.

The US and Europe will still have to handle ISIS in Libya but here they will not have the Russians to rescue them.


 

Pots & kettles as Obama criticises Cameron over Libya

March 11, 2016

It seems a bit rich for Obama with his utter shambles in Syria to be criticising David Cameron for the shambles in Libya. Not that Obama (and Hillary Clinton) didn’t mess up in Libya as well but the UK and France were taking the lead there.  And while it may have been the fall of Libya which unleashed the weapons and fanatics who morphed into ISIS, they would not have expanded as they did without Obama and Kerry dropping the ball in Iraq and Syria.

The Russian strategy seems to be actually forcing ISIS back, but plan B for ISIS seems to be to setup headquarters in Libya if they are eventually squeezed out of Iraq and Syria. The UK and France have to take their share of the blame for their sanctimonious but ill-thought out “regime change” in Libya, but the real frustration for Obama is that he has compounded the failed end-game in Libya and multiplied it in Syria.

BBC:

David Cameron became “distracted” after the 2011 intervention in Libya, US President Barack Obama has said. Speaking to the Atlantic magazine, he said the operation went as well as he had hoped, but Libya was now “a mess”. The article also said he had warned the PM the UK would have to pay its “fair share” and spend 2% of GDP on defence. …..

…. BBC North America editor Jon Sopel said the unsolicited statement put out by the White House suggested Downing Street had reacted angrily to the article. “It’s like we’ve seen a curtain drawn back on the unspun thoughts of President Obama, complete with frustration as well, and what we’ve seen tonight is the White House trying to close the curtain as quickly as it can,” he added. …….

……. The toppling of the Gaddafi regime in Libya – following UN-backed air strikes designed to protect civilians – led to a power vacuum and instability, with no authority in full control. The intervention was led by the UK and France – and in his interview, Mr Obama reflects on “what went wrong”, saying: “There’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up.” Mr Cameron, he said, became “distracted by a range of other things”.

He also criticised former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saying he had tried to claim the spotlight. The former French president, he said, “wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defences and essentially set up the entire infrastructure” for the intervention. President Obama said the intervention “averted large-scale civilian casualties (and) prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict”. But he added: “And despite all that, Libya is a mess.”

Trying to pass on some of the blame onto Cameron and Sarkozy is not unjustified but it does not put Obama’s utter fiasco in Iraq and Syria into any better light. It really does not help the pot when it calls the kettles black.


 

Two months of Russian air strikes on ISIS more effective than 14 months of US efforts

December 2, 2015

If the Russian supported advances of the Syrian government continue at the present rate, the US-led coalition and the rebels they support may not have too much to say when a Syria, sans ISIS, is carved up. The Russians, regime Syrians, the Kurds and Iran will settle it among themselves. Now this may just be the Russian / Syrian propaganda line, but I suspect that there is some truth in it. Yesterday it was announced that the rebels (mainly al Nusra) would be evacuated from Homs under UN supervision as the Syrian government forces would cease their siege and take over.

I note that the US is now talking about US boots on the ground to support the “good” rebels and this is, I think, a response to a fear of being left out and left behind. Certainly the difference in effectiveness of one month two months of Russian air strikes – with a strategy –  compared to 14 months of US and coalition air strikes, but without a strategy, seems quite remarkable.

Sky:

Bashar al Assad has said US-led coalition bombing in Syria helped Islamic State to expand and recruit fighters.

….. But he praised military action by his ally Russia, which has been accused of targeting moderate rebels as well as jihadists.

Mr Assad said: “Since the beginning of that (US-led) coalition, if you want to talk about facts, not opinion, since the beginning of that coalition, ISIS (Islamic State group) has expanded and the recruiting from around the world has increased.

“While since the participation of Russia in the same fight, so-called against terrorism, ISIS has been shrinking. And al-Nusra (Nusra Front) of course and the other terrorist groups. So this is reality. The facts are telling.”

Asked what it would take to end Syria’s four-year civil war, which has killed more than 200,000 people, Mr Assad said: “When those countries that I mentioned – France, UK, US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some other – stop supporting those terrorists.

“(the next) day the situation will be better and in a few months we will have full peace in Syria, definitely. If they stop.”

The US, UK, and other Western powers fighting Islamic State have demanded that Mr Assad steps down and have backed rebel groups fighting his forces.

Meanwhile the Syrian president has referred to all his opponents as “terrorists” and accused world leaders pushing for his departure of “supporting terrorists”.

The Syrian leader is backed by Russia and Iran and he praised Vladimir Putin for launching a bombing campaign backing Assad’s forces in September.

In a wide-ranging interview with Czech TV, Mr Assad also said: 

:: On The Migration Crisis:

“The feeling is very sad. Especially if you think about every person of those Syrians who left Syria has sad story behind him. It reflects the hardship of the Syrians during the crisis. From this (rational) way of looking at the situation, it’s a loss. Every one of those is a human resources that left Syria. So that will undermine. Undermine your society and your country. Definitely. But at the end we have to deal with the reasons.”

:: On Turkey Downing A Russian Jet:

“I think it has shown the real intention of Erodgan (Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan) who, let’s say, lost his nerve because the Russian intervention has changed the balance on the ground. So the failure of Erdogan in Syria, the failure of his terrorist groups means his political demise.”

:: On Relations With The West:

“If you look at the relation with the West, in 2005 I was the killer. In 2008 and after I was a peacemaker. Then in 2011 I became the vulture. Now, there’s some positive change – of course shy kind of change, not the explicit one.” ……..

I think the Russian air strikes have caught the US and, especially, Turkey, flat-footed. The shooting down of the Russian jet by Turkey seems to have been born out of a frustration at the targeting of the lucrative oil trade between Turkish middle-men and ISIS (and Erdogan’s son is said to be a key player here), but perhaps more importantly at the success of the Kurds.

G20 meets in Turkey today – but will Saudi and Turkish (and EU) support for ISIS be confronted?

November 15, 2015

The agenda of the G20 meeting starting in Turkey today will be dominated by Paris – and so it should.

The G20 is made up of 19 countries and the EU: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the European Union.

129 people died in Paris on Friday night and another 90 are still in critical condition. At least two of the terrorists had posed as refugees passing through Turkey and Greece just about a month ago. One more has now been identified as a known, 29 year old, “radicalised” French citizen.

The G20 is intended primarily as an economic forum, but Paris and Syria and ISIS can be expected to dominate. But I am not sure that any discussions about ISIS will be open enough or sufficiently meaningful in addressing root causes. To do that the agenda would have to include,

  1. the tacit support for ISIS from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and
  2. the funding and growth of ISIS caused by the EU and US support of anti-Assad  rebels, and
  3. the misguided “multiculturalism” in the EU which – among other things – allows Saudi funded, radicalising mosques and madrassas all across Europe, and
  4. the EU “soft” policies which have now probably allowed at least hundreds of terrorists to be sneaked into Europe as “refugees”.

Both Saudi Arabia and Turkey are members of the G20, but their support for ISIS, not officially perhaps, but indirectly and by inaction and by default, will not, I think, be confronted directly. Turkey is a Nato member and is “protected” from criticism of its excesses. Criticism of Saudi Arabia is always muted from those countries dependent on oil imports or defence exports.

A great deal of ISIS financing is from private Saudi sources but surely not without the knowledge of the Saudi authorities. The official Saudi support is ostensibly for groups of Sunni rebels who are opposed to Assad and who are also said to be opposed – sometimes very mildly – to ISIS. Moreover some of these groups are no more than conduits to ISIS and al Qaida. Saudi Arabia’s primary aim seems to be to support anti-Shia groups and opposition to ISIS is only secondary. If ISIS was the only Sunni group available to oppose the Shia forces then Saudi Arabia would make sure they were supported.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Sunni Gulf States, all want the Shia to be wiped off the face of the Earth and if that means supporting the murderous psychopaths of ISIS – well, the end justifies the means.

In the case of Turkey, it is also an overwhelming desire to prevent any Kurdish state which rules their actions. Turkish hatred of a Kurdistan is on a par with the Saudi hatred of the Shia. They are also against terrorism, provided that the Kurds are first defined as terrorists. And ISIS, as an enemy of their Kurdish enemies, is often their friend. Turkey sees Kurdish successes in Northern Iraq and parts of Syria as ominous and are quite happy to bomb Kurds in or close to Turkey, even if it helps ISIS to gain territory.

Greater Kurdistan dreams map from Jon Davis via Quora

Greater Kurdistan dreams map from Jon Davis via Quora

Turkey will not take actions against ISIS if there is any chance that Kurds may gain an advantage.

I don’t expect the G20 meeting to get more than empty statements from Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Obama will order a few more air strikes. The EU is now a dithering and fractured entity. In fact the EU is now part of the problem and European countries (France, UK, Germany …) will need to act independently to oppose and attack the growth of ISIS. The G20 meeting in Antalya will get no commitments

  1. from Turkey to attack ISIS even if it helps the Kurds, or
  2. from Saudi Arabia to shut off all private funding for ISIS, or
  3. even to withdraw official Saudi support from Sunni groups who “leak” funds to ISIS, or
  4. from the EU to stop the funding from the Middle East of radicalising mosques and madrassas in Europe, or
  5. from the EU to winnow out the terrorists and criminals from among the influx of “refugees”

Sunni Muslims across the world need to pay more than lip-service to opposing the barbarism of ISIS. The Shia are already opposed to all things Sunni. But far too many Sunnis – by inaction – allow their own fanatics to prosper. They allow their fanatic imams to continue preaching their brand of hatred. They turn a blind eye to their radicalised sons and daughters. They too harbour dreams of the establishment of a new Islamic (Sunni, of course) Caliphate and have secret sympathies for the objectives of those “fighting” or murdering for this dream.

I am afraid that Sunnis anywhere (and for me that means all over Europe and the Middle East, Africa and even India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia) who do not declare themselves – by word and action – to be against the Islamic Caliphate must be taken to be supporters of, and sympathisers with, ISIS.

Is the US now tacitly accepting the Russian strategy?

October 9, 2015

The US has abandoned its fiasco of a $500 million program for the training of “moderate rebels” who could then have provided the physical presence in Syria for getting rid of ISIS (and Assad). So while the rhetoric against the Russian line continues, it seems apparent that the US is not prepared to work directly for the removal of Assad any more. They seem to have reluctantly accepted that Assad need to stay for some indefinite transition period. But that is precisely the path that the Russians are trying to follow. So even if the US has not exactly thrown the “moderate rebels” under a bus, it seems that they are not going to go very far out of their way to support them with more than some arms and some money.

The US may not have completely abdicated, but seems to be taking a political back seat. Regime change is on hold. They may well content themselves – like any good back-seat driver – with criticising the competence of, and the direction being taken by, the Russian driver.

There is a risk now that Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states will start throwing large sums of money into Syria. Ostensibly it will be for Sunni rebel groups, but much will end up with ISIS and other extreme groups. Iraq of course has joined Iran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime in the Russian coalition.

BBC:

The US is to end its efforts to train new Syrian rebel forces and says it will shift to providing equipment and weapons to existing forces.

Its $500m (£326m) programme was heavily criticised after it emerged that US-trained rebels had handed vehicles and ammunition over to extremists. ……. 

Quoting an anonymous US Department of Defense source, the New York Times reported that the US would no longer recruit Syrian rebels to go through its training programmes in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

Instead, it would establish a smaller training centre in Turkey, where “enablers” – mostly leaders of opposition groups – would be taught operational manoeuvres like how to call in airstrikes, the newspaper said. 

The failure of the programme underscores the wider problem of the inability to create large and effective moderate forces on the ground. It will also have wider repercussions since the programme helped to coordinate support activities between the Americans, the Gulf states, Turkey, and Jordan. The risk now is that those countries may push on with more separate initiatives backing individual client groups.

The end-game is not certain but the Russian end-game is the only one around.

US/Nato lack of strategy being shown up by the Russians

October 8, 2015

The US started its regime change efforts in Syria 4 years ago, in 2011,  with the financing, training and encouragement of selected “moderate rebels”. They have no doubt weakened Assad but have also been instrumental in creating ISIS.

The US and Nato have been taking great pains to avoid providing any support to Assad’s regime, and only providing support to their favoured “moderate rebel” groups. Even though it has always been the fanatic groups who have muscled the “moderate rebels” out of the way whenever they have achieved any gains. US and Nato have had no clear strategy. They have attempted regime change with no idea of what is to come afterwards. They have not been able to even contemplate any plausible end-game scenario, because the “moderate rebels” they support are too fractured and diverse in themselves to form any clear alternative to the regime.

By contrast, the Russians have an end-game in view though it is not clear if that can be achieved. But it does at least provide a clear direction and a focus which is lacking in the US/Nato approach.

  1. rendering ISIS and al-Nusra and Al Qaida and other fanatics impotent, even if it means supporting Assad,
  2. a managed withdrawal of Assad, with the regime still in place but without leaving any power vacuum
  3. a political settlement between the regime (sans Assad) and the other “moderate rebels”

Needless to say, the US and NATO are not amused, though they have no alternatives to suggest when they criticise the Russian cruise-missile strikes from the Caspian Sea. These missiles flew over Iran and Iraq and the strikes were clearly coordinated with them.

4 Russian warships launch 26 missiles against ISIS from Caspian Sea

4 Russian warships launch 26 missiles against ISIS from Caspian Sea

RT:

“Four missile ships launched 26 cruise missiles at 11 targets. According to objective control data, all the targets were destroyed. No civilian objects sustained damage.”

Frigate Dagestan image shipspotting.com

The missiles flew some 1,500 km before reaching their targets. …. Four warships of the Caspian fleet were involved in the missile attacks, the Gepard-class frigate Dagestan and the Buyan-M-class corvettes Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich and Veliky Ustyug. They fired cruise missiles from the Kalibr NK (Klub) VLS launchers. The missiles used are capable of hitting a target within 3 meters at a range of up to 2,500 km.

Nato countries and the US are highly indignant at these attacks and the Russian violations of Turkish air space, which I suspect, were deliberate and were meant to test limits even if they had no hostile intent.

Nato defence ministers are promising to support Turkey and the Baltic States as if they were directly being threatened by Russia. But that, I think, is because they have no strategy of their own. The US also does not like the Russian strategy but has none of its own.

BBC:

A US-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against IS in both Syria and Iraq for months. But Western countries support rebels who have been fighting to oust Mr Assad since 2011. ….

But US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said coalition forces fighting IS in Syria would not co-operate with Russia. “We believe Russia has the wrong strategy,” he said. “They continue to hit targets that are not IS.”

Protesting too much, I think.

The problem for the US is that the boots on the ground to defeat ISIS are not going to come from their pet “moderate rebels”. They can only come from the Assad regime, Hezbollah, Iran and Iraq (along with a thousand or two Russian “advisors”).

 


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