Tag Archives: Syria

Why Will the US Leave Syria Soon? The Kurds are Waking Up. By Elijah J. Magnier

The US is losing its last excuse to stay in Syria—the Kurds. From Elijah J. Magnier at ahtribune.com:

The Syrian army is conducting its southern campaign with the pacification of the last two percent of the Qunietra province that remains under the control of the “Islamic State” (ISIS) terrorist group. That will free tens of thousands of troops of the Syrian army and its allies from the burden of fighting in the south of the country and will mark a turning point in the seven years of war imposed on the Levant. The whole of Syria will be liberated from the territorial control of militias and jihadists. What remains of occupied Syria is under the control of two countries: territories held by the US and Turkey in the north. However, these occupations do not seem tenable, particularly now that the Kurds, in control of 23% of Syria, have decided to respond positively to the Syrian President’s call to engage in dialogue or face war. The US cannot stay for much longer in Syria; it will find a face-saving way to leave very soon.

The US presence in Syria had several aims:

  • To divide Syria and establish a Kurdish state in the north under the name of Rojava, under the US military “protection”, like Iraqi Kurdistan during Saddam Hussein era. The US was not against a Kurdish state to include Syria and Iraq. However, Iraqi Kurdistan, under Masood Barzani, dashed its hopes of independence when he refused to follow US advice to postpone a move to break away for 18 months. Barzani’s premature decision to separate from Iraq was confronted with a strong reaction from Baghdad troops who took control of Kurdistan’s borders and resources.
  • Leave the rest of Syria in an endless bloody war between Salafi-Takfiri jihadists and other groups. This war was meant to advance the cause of ISIS, whose enemies were not the distance US (notwithstanding the proximity of US troops) but closer to hand (ISIS set his objective to fight and eliminate the “nearer enemy” — mainly Shia, secular and Sunni who disagree with its “state” versus al-Qaeda traditional goal of prioritising the “far enemy” although this objective was not prioritised in the Levant): Lebanon, Jordan, and the rest of the Middle East. ISIS advances would have been detrimental to the “Axis of Resistance” (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah) or at least would have interrupted the flow of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon (from Iran through Syria). Hezbollah would have been cornered into the south of Lebanon, a Shia enclave surrounded by Israel on one side and a hostile government to the north with Takfiri ruling in the other parts of the country.

To continue reading: Why Will the US Leave Syria Soon? The Kurds are Waking Up.

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Turkey is Getting off the U.S. Reservation, by Tom Luongo

Turkey has one foot in Europe and one in Asia, and it plays every geoppolitical end against the middle. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

This year’s BRICS Summit was a big show.  No question.  The main event was provided by Turkish President cum Dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan wants to a a “T” to the acronym, making them the BRICTS.

Erdogan also made it very clear Turkey’s shift away from the West will proceed faster if the bullying and marginalization continue.  For months now, Turkey has struggled with a crashing Lira and sovereign bond market.

The poster child for the unfolding sovereign debt crisis.

The Trump Administration knows that Turkey is slipping from its grasp.  Do you ever wonder why certain countries’ currencies get trashed when others with worse balance sheets or balance of trade don’t?

You should.  Because asking that simple question will lead you to asking “Why X?  Why Now?”

And in Turkey’s case it is for many reasons:

  1. Turkey was key in assisting Iran resist pre-JCPOA sanctions by laundering Iranian oil sales in physical gold through Turkish banks.
  2. Turkey is highly dependent on foreign energy imports and is one of Iran’s largest customers.
  3. To alleviate this foreign-energy dependence Turkey, through Russia, are building nuclear power plants and the Turkish Stream pipeline.
    1. Turkish Stream will provide Russian Gas from Gazprom at an effective discount since most of its capacity is targeted for European destinations and Turkey will likely get transit fees for that gas offsetting some of the costs of the gas they buy from Gazprom.
  4. Turkey refuses to comply with Trump’s edict to not buy Iranian oil in November.
  5. Turkey is buying S-400 missile defense systems from Russia
  6. The U.S. blocked the sale of F-35s to Turkey as a retaliatory measure.  Given the F-35’s cost/benefit ratio, I’d say Turkey wins on that front as well.
  7. Turkey’s occupation of Northern Syria was a blocking move to keep the U.S. from moving West to Afrin and uniting the Kurdish cantons.

I could go on, you get the point.

To continue reading: Turkey is Getting off the U.S. Reservation

Robert Fisk: “I Traced Al-Qaeda Missile Casings In Syria Back To Their Original Sellers”, by Tyler Durden

Robert Fisk, the reporter who poured cold water on the latest Syrian “gas attack,” continues to practice investigative journalism without a license. He’s tracing evidence back to his source, which is something reporters used to do. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Finally, a journalist for a mainstream UK media outlet is methodically tracking weapons shipment serial numbers and English-language paperwork recovered from al-Qaeda groups in Syria, and he’s literally showing up at arms factories and questioning arms dealers, including officials at the Saudi Embassy in London, asking: why are your weapons in the hands of terrorists? 

Veteran Middle East war correspondent Robert Fisk recently published a bombshell report entitled, I traced missile casings in Syria back to their original sellers, so it’s time for the west to reveal who they sell arms to. In it Fisk recalls a bit of detective sleuthing he’s lately been engaged in after stumbling upon a batch of missile casings and shipment paperwork last year hidden in what he describes as “the basement of a bombed-out Islamist base in eastern Aleppo” with the words “Hughes Aircraft Co/Guided Missile Surface Attack” emblazoned on the side of the spent tubes.

Of course, the Syrian government recaptured the area from Islamist insurgents including al-Nusra terrorists and their allies in December 2016, and has made rapid gains throughout the country’s east and south since; and Fisk has been trekking around the country to see what he can find.

His “detective story” as he calls it actually seems to solicit the help of the public, and begins as follows:

Readers, a small detective story. Note down this number: MFG BGM-71E-1B. And this number: STOCK NO 1410-01-300-0254. And this code: DAA A01 C-0292. I found all these numerals printed on the side of a spent missile casing lying in the basement of a bombed-out Islamist base in eastern Aleppo last year. At the top were the words “Hughes Aircraft Co”, founded in California back in the 1930s by the infamous Howard Hughes and sold in 1997 to Raytheon, the massive US defence contractor whose profits last year came to $23.35bn (£18bn). Shareholders include the Bank of America and Deutsche Bank. Raytheon’s Middle East offices can be found in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Kuwait.

There were dozens of other used-up identical missile casings in the same underground room in the ruins of eastern Aleppo, with sequential codings; in other words, these anti-armour missiles – known in the trade as Tows, “Tube-launched, optically tracked and wire-guided missiles”

To continue reading: Robert Fisk: “I Traced Al-Qaeda Missile Casings In Syria Back To Their Original Sellers”

They Knew Too Much, by The Oriental Review

Did Israel evacuate White Helmets from southern Syria because if captured by the Syrian government, they might divulge some secrets Israel and the US would rather not have known? From The Oriental Review at orientalreview.org:

The countries of the West used Israel to evacuate members of the White Helmets from southern Syria.  They couldn’t be allowed to fall into the hands of the Syrian government — at least, not while they are still alive.

Essential human-rights defenders

Damascus is almost finished liberating southwestern Syria. The military’s Operation Basalt was extremely successful, allowing them to regain control of the occupied provinces of Quneitra and Daraa(at present the Syrian army has only a small chunk of land left to liberate from the jihadists).  Many of the local gangs simply surrendered. Those militants who wanted to remain underwent a procedure of reconciliation with the authorities, while the others were put onto green buses and sent to Idlib.

However, those militants included some very valuable specimens — members of the “Syrian civil defense”, or, as they are more simply known, “the ​​White Helmets.” If they were taken prisoner, that would be a serious problem for the US and its allies, since the members of that organization might have a lot to say once they were in front of the cameras. And the damage caused by their statements would be far worse than the fallout over the admissions made by Hassan Diab — the boy the “helmets” named as a victim of a chemical attack in Douma, who admitted that the attack had been staged for the photographers. And it would be so much worse, simply because the White Helmets — or at least their leaders — knew so much more.

White helmets fake
This is not Aleppo, Syria, but rather the streets of Europe where a “save Aleppo” protest was staged. Actors posing in fake dust and blood proved just how easy it is for anyone to create “war victims” anytime, anywhere.

The White Helmets have been the West’s most important weapon on the propaganda front of the Syrian war. They have acted as the local human-rights activists who have been snapping photos and shooting videos about the “chemical attacks” that that “bloody tyrant” has carried out against his own people. And based on precisely these facts, the US and its partners imposed sanctions against Damascus and have carried out acts of revenge in the form of attacks that would have been nothing less than carpet bombing, had Moscow not been careful to issue stern warnings about the consequences of these attacks.

To continue reading: They Knew Too Much

 

How Syria and Ukraine Drove the Russia Hawks Insane, by David Stockman

Most Americans haven’t a clue what’s really gone on in Syria and Ukraine the past few years. From David Stockman at antiwar.com:

In Part 1 we referenced the infamous hysteria triggered in Salem Massachusetts by Betty Parris (age 9) and Abigail Williams (age 12).

In 1692 their prepubescent imaginations were apparently more than capable of detecting the evil doings of witches at loose in their community; and a population hopped up with Calvinist enthusiasm for the supernatural works of the Almighty apparently was also capable of lapsing into collective madness – at least for a spell.

But who would have thought that in the year 2018 the grizzled adults and racketeers who populate the Imperial City would fall prey to the same momentary outbreak of deliriums?

After all, Vladimir Putin was the very same Putin who made a mere cameo appearance in the 2012 presidential debates. He got an honorable mention when Barack Obama appropriately schooled Mitt Romney on the fact that Russia was not America’s principal national security threat.

Indeed, the MSM commentators who are shrieking about Trump’s parlay with Vlad today were knowingly furrowing their brows about Romney’s alleged gaffe back then.

So the question at hand is what changed? How did the politics as usual debating points about the status of Russia and Putin only 69 months ago turn into a veritable Salem style hysteria?

We’d suggest two pivotal events turned the Imperial City upside down. To wit, Barry lost his nerve in August 2013 on the Syrian red line and Donald Trump won the 2016 election in the red zones of Flyover America.

In between, the mainstream media completely lost its grasp on reality as the Imperial City dove headlong into it latest and greatest Indispensable Nation adventures by intervening in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Yemen, and Iraq for the third time.

The Indispensable Nation conceit, of course, is the ultimate cover story for the work of Empire and is the polar opposite of the rudimentary America First notions on which Donald Trump rode into the White House.

As it happened, the Indispensable Nation meme flourished when the neocons and liberal interventionists became ascendant during the Clinton and early Bush 43 era; and they virtually ran the policy tables after 9/11 as the full-throated War on Terrorism cranked up a powerful head of steam.

Nevertheless, the acolytes of Empire nearly lost their political lunch when Shock & Awe in Iraq turned into a bloody quagmire and the retaliation against the Taliban for harboring the 9/11 conspirators ended up as an endless trillion dollar war in the Hindu Kush.

To continue reading: How Syria and Ukraine Drove the Russia Hawks Insane

Middle East Alliances, Old and New, by Rebecca Gordon

A review of US policies and wars in the Middle East, and it’s not very pretty. From Rebecca Gordon at tomdispatch.com:

My father and I always had a tacit agreement: “We will never speak of That Part of the World.” He’d grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Norfolk, Virginia. His own father, a refugee from early-twentieth-century pogroms in what is now Ukraine, had been the president of his local Zionist organization. A liberal in most things (including his ardent opposition to both of the U.S. wars against Iraq), my father remained a Zionist to his dying day. We both knew that if we were ever to have a real conversation about Israel/Palestine, unforgivable things would be said.

As a child in the 1950s, I absorbed the ambient belief that the state of Israel had been created after World War II as an apology gift from the rest of the world to European Jews who had survived the Holocaust. I was raised to think that if the worst were to happen and Jews were once again to become targets of genocidal rage, my family could always emigrate to Israel, where we would be safe. As a young woman, I developed a different (and, in retrospect, silly) line on That Part of the World: there’s entirely too much sun there, and it’s made them all crazy.

It wasn’t until I’d reached my thirties that I began to pay serious attention to the region that is variously known as the Middle East, the Arab world, or the Greater Middle East and North Africa. And when I did, I discovered how deep my ignorance (like that of so many fellow Americans) really was and how much history, geography, and politics there is to try to understand. What follows is my attempt to get a handle on how the Trump presidency has affected U.S. policy and actions in That Part of the World.

Old Alliances…

The United States has a long-standing and deep alliance with Israel. During the Cold War, Washington viewed that country as its bulwark in the oil-rich region against both a rising pan-Arab nationalism and real or imagined Soviet encroachments. In fact, according to the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.”

To continue reading: Middle East Alliances, Old and New

 

The Black Belt Strategist, by Robert Gore

Putin has made many of his critics look like fools, thus the rage and hysteria.

Vladimir Putin is a black belt in judo, the only Russian and one of the few people in the world to be awarded the rank of eighth dan. He also practices karate.

A fundamental principle of martial arts is using an opponent’s size and momentum against him. This is Putin’s strategic approach. Westerners demonize Putin, but few try to understand him. Trying to understand someone else is regarded as a pointless in narcissistic America, selfie-land. Perhaps 90 percent of the populace is incapable of grasping anything more subtle than a political cartoon.

That’s a pity, because Putin has accomplished a geopolitical triumph worthy of study. He’s catalyzing the downfall of the American empire, and it has nothing to do with subverting elections or suborning Trump.

Putin became acting prime minister in 1999, then president in 2000. The Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse devastated Russia. The economy shrunk and life expectancies fell. A group of rapacious oligarchs, many with Western backing, acquired Soviet industrial and commercial assets at fire sale prices.

Putin coopted the most important oligarchs, letting them hold on to their loot and power in exchange for their allegiance. This bargain has been a bulwark of both his continuing political support and his reportedly immense personal fortune. He quelled a long-running insurrection in Chechnya and stabilized the situation there, exchanging a measure of autonomy for a declaration in the Chechen constitution that it was part of Russia. During his first two terms, from 2000-2008, the economy began recovering from the 1990s. Projecting a law and order image while stifling critics, he solidified what has become his unwavering support, winning 72 percent of the vote in the 2004 presidential election.

A coterie of highly placed idiots in the US and Europe insist that Putin’s ultimate goal is to reconstitute the former Soviet Union on his way to global domination. Russia’s GDP, after 18 years of recovery, is $1.4 trillion, compared to almost $20 trillion for the US and over $17 trillion for the European Union. Russia’s military budget is $61 billion, versus $250 billion for NATO nations (excluding the US) and over $700 billion for the US. The scaremongering screeds never say where Russia will get the money to invade and conquer former Soviet provinces, much less conquer the world. Putin, unlike America’s high and mighty, realizes from Soviet experience that empires drain rather than augment an empire’s resources.

Conquering the world is one thing, throwing the American empire to the mat another. Putin must have smiled when George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, purported mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The US’s hubristic rage led it into what has been a quagmire at best, a graveyard at worst, for a string of invaders, including the Soviet Union.

Defenders fighting on their own turf have huge advantages over occupying forces, rendering conventional invasions virtually obsolete. Relatively inexpensive grenades, mines, IEDs, and shoulder-launched missiles, often supplied from outside the country, take out expensive tanks, artillery, aircraft, and military personnel. The insurgents know the language and territory, they’re supported by the local populace, they can set off remote bombs and blend in with the civilians. They aren’t going anywhere and can wait out the invaders, sapping their morale and political support back home.

Eighteen years after the Afghanistan invasion, Putin is still smiling. With each military failure since, the US became more stupidly belligerent, bearing massive costs in blood and treasure. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia: talk about letting the enemy defeat itself! And as the US plunged into one inextricable morass after another, it plunged ever deeper into debt.

Russia, meanwhile, has one of the developed world’s lowest debt ratios, stockpiles gold, and is divesting its US debt. It has teamed up with China on the Belt and Road Initiative. That series of projects, financed primarily by the Chinese, advances Russia’s and China’s interests and influence across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. This approach seems to garner more support than US bullets and bombs.

Russia’s one military foray in the Middle East has been Syria. Obama’s hapless strategy (regime change? terrorist eradication?) left the US at cross-purposes with itself. Putin suffered no such confusion, helping Bashar al-Assad turn the tide against the insurgents. The US pretends to have done the same. Putin strengthened the Shiite axis—Iran, Iraq, Alawite Syria, and Hezbollah—about which Israel, Saudi Arabia, and US neoconservatives have fretted for years. The insurgents are on the run and all the US can do is shout: “And we helped!”

Putin scored a geopolitical coup. He effectively stood by his allies, in contrast to America’s ineptitude and ever-shifting alliances and objectives. The conflict sent hundreds of thousands of refugees to Europe. Russian intervention reversed the flow. Saner souls in Europe have to be questioning European subservience to the US and NATO.

Putin has expressed his consternation at NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders, especially the prospect that NATO could incorporate Ukraine. While that’s an understandable concern, the expansion hurts the US more than Russia. The US didn’t intervene when Russia got involved with Georgia, the Crimea, or Ukraine. Why? Somebody in Washington looked at a map and determined that with Russia’s decided geographical advantage, the game wasn’t worth the candle.

NATO leaves its members hostage to the likes of Lithuania, Montenegro, and Croatia. It’s always at the borders that empires first falter. The US is treaty-bound to go to war to defend tiny, far-flung states that are a stone’s throw from Russia. The US lays out the lion’s share of the money, stations soldiers, and maintains bases pretending that it would actually defend these geopolitical midgets. Putin must smile at the effort wasted on the nonexistent possibility that he’ll invade.

Often, he doesn’t even need to lift a finger to body slam the US. The Democratic party and neoconservatives, and their toadies in the media and intelligence community have rabidly peddled an evidence-free concoction that he and Trump colluded to deny Hillary Clinton her ordained presidency. It’s emblematic of America’s deranged politics.

“Masculine” is now a pejorative. Identity is everything, merit nothing. A military that hasn’t won anything in 73 years is widely honored. Men in dresses enter women’s restrooms. Confronted by intellectual challenge, college students retreat to safe spaces. People who illegally enter the country are given most of the privileges of citizenship, including state-provided benefits. Americans watch an average of five hours of TV a day. Over 60 percent are obese and an opioid epidemic kills tens of thousands. Even mainstream media pundits fret about an impending “civil war,” and for once they might be right. None of this is Putin’s doing, but he’s undoubtedly amused at all this decadence and division.

Trump is determined to pick America up off the mat. SLL has said repeatedly that his foes are most worried about their own criminality being exposed and prosecuted. That’s essential if the country is ever to regroup and recover. Trump’s summit with Putin and subsequent press conference performance left his foes foaming at the mouth, bandying terms like “disgraceful” and “treason.” That he braved the idiotic torrent before and after the summit, seemingly unperturbed except for a few acerbic tweets, suggests that he’s got something up his sleeve. Judging by their insane hysterics, the opposition knows it. As always, their tactics betray desperation and weakness, not strength.

That something up Trump’s sleeve may well be the initiation of criminal proceedings against a long list of suspects for everything from obstruction of justice to conspiracy and treason, just in time for the midterm elections. That’s more a hunch than a hypothesis. However, it won’t be a bolt out of the blue if it happens. If it doesn’t happen by the midterms, it most likely never will.

You Should Be Laughing At Them!

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