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Thread: A Mediterranean Battlefield - Syria

  1. #851

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    Syrian Girl has been a great source of real information through the war. Lovely tribute!
    "I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

    The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
    Karl Marx.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963, replied Ms Rice Davies when the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her.

  2. #852

    Default Regional and international balance in the Levant (2): Russia’s role in the Syrian war...

    Regional and international balance in the Levant (2): Russia’s role in the Syrian war and the tactical differences with Iran

    Elijah J Magnier

    27 December 2016

    https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/...ces-with-iran/

    Following the request of President Bashar al-Assad to his allies for an urgent intervention to prevent the fall of Damascus in March 2013, Iran and its proxies moved into Syria to restore some balance to the battlefield. But the flow of jihadists from many countries in the area and internationally, plus indiscriminate external military and financial support to all groups fighting the Syrian government: all this created a serious threat to several cities.

    Among them was the province of Lattakia where millions of Syrian of all religions had found shelter away from the war. The city was hosting millions of displaced Syrians, also the Russian naval base in Tartus. The danger reached also Aleppo: Damascus and its allies were certain Aleppo was about to fall and were ready to accept the defeat and the loss of the second biggest Syrian city. The Syrian Army and its allies were about to pull out their forces from all rural areas and regroup around the main cities to defend and create a demarcation line: this was at the beginning of 2015. The partition of Syria was more than ever a real possibility, and the north of Syria was about to be invaded by Jihadists and their rebel allies. It was not possible to win this war with an unceasing flow of men and weapons from the north, east and south into Syria.

    The Iranian leadership, after consultation with Damascus, decided in April 2015 to send the commander of the Quds Forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) QassemSoleimani to Moscow to explain to the Russian leadership the danger Syria, and above all Latakia and Aleppo were facing. Jihadists coming from Turkey to rural Latakia shelled the Russian naval base. The US administration’s plan to divide Syria was about to take effect and Iran and its allies were powerless to stop it. Iran would have to provide tens of thousands of its own troops, but that option, which seemed realistic at the time, was rejected due to the treaty between Saudi Arabia and Turkey which allowed them to move their own forces into Syria. This would have added another dimension to the war in Syria and opened the gates to a wider regional and even more destructive conflict. The Russian intervention was the only solution left.

    Moscow was convinced: a few months later, in mid 2015, Russia sent its planes, refurbished the Hamemeen military airport (which became its air base) and the command centre, from where it would run its Syrian operation to re-create the lost balance among forces on the ground.

    But the reasons behind Russia’s intervention were not, at the outset, to save the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but to stop the Syrian state from disintegration and prevent the US from threatening Moscow’s access to the Mediterranean. Syria also allowed the Russian President Vladimir Putin to reaffirm Moscow’s role in the Middle East, as a superpower and main player after a long absence. The challenge was worth attempting even in thisdifficult country called Syria where the US, the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Iran were all in the same theatre and on the same stage.

    Russia decided to fully engage in Syria on condition that Iran would provide the ground forces, a move which would take advantage of the Russian air force intervention. Russia was not ready to involve troops because for fear of the Syrian quagmire, so it confined its ground force intervention to limited and specialised units. Iran asked the Lebanese Hezbollah to secure tens of thousands of fighters and brought from Iran and Iraq a total of 8,000 men. Iran’s stance was adamant: a battle against ISIS and al-Qaeda ideologists needs similar fighters on the other side to hold the ground in equal confrontation. The regular Syrian Amy was certainly not sustained by a similarly strong ideology and firm objectives to fight and hold the ground, given the disproportionate number of attacking forces in many battles across Syria.

    But Russia’s views and objectives differed from those of Iran in Syria. Iran believed Assad in person was the key essential partner, and represented the guarantee needed for the “axis of resistance”. Tehran was convinced that any other Syrian President during a time of war would not be able to cope with so much pressure: multinational alliances were gathering against him in response to his partnership with Iran, Hezbollah and various Palestinian groups, and the countries of the region were directing a considerable flow of finances to the opponents of the Syrian government. Iran, moreover, strongly believed (and still believes) that the war in Syria must end with the total elimination of the “Islamic State” (ISIS/Daesh) and al-Qaeda (Nusra or Fatah al-Sham) together with all the other jihadist ideologists. These jihadists, if not eliminated, would certainly spill over into neighbouring countries on the Lebanese and Iraqi borders, representing a huge potential threat to Iran’s allies and, in consequence, to its own national security.

    Russia engaged in the war in Syria, imposing its own priorities, to liberate the land considered the most crucial for its own benefit and its own national security.Tehran and Damascus on the other hand wished to widen the involvement on multiple fronts. The organisation of military operations here raises complex issues, because Russia maintains and seeks to continue a good politico-economic relationship with the many countries involved in the war, especially Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel.

    Russia learned a lesson from Afghanistan, avoiding the involvement of large numbers of troops on the battlefield, limiting its presence to small artillery units, Special Forces, intelligence units, and commanding staff officers to support its air strikes. The Russian Ministry of Defence allocated the same budget usually spent on training domestically to be invested in Syria for its new pilots and officers to train on real objectives.

    Contrary to the predictions of most western analysts and media expectations, Russia was able to establish, in the first six months of its intervention, the balance of forces needed to impose President al-Assad as a negotiator and as an essential part of the solution to end the war in Syria.

    In March 2016, President Putin – despite the objection of all of his allies on the ground – announced the end of military operations and his willingness to negotiate a peace process, imposing his will over Syria and Iran. But he has not been able to impose his will on the West, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and these have certainly not yet said their last word.

    Iran opposed Russia over the first cease-fire agreed between Moscow and Washington. Tehran believed the US was looking to gain time for the jihadists and rebels to re-organise themselves. The Americans have more experience than the Russians in stopping battles when they believe those they are supporting are losing. In fact, a few weeks later, while the US Foreign Secretary John Kerry failed to separate the US and its allied proxies from jihadists, these launched a massive attack, regaining in days what took Iran and its allies months to recover in the first battle of Aleppo.

    Russia was focused, with concern, on the mainstream media which was largely directed against Moscow, even at the cost of turning a blind eye to jihadists like al-Qaida. Both Washington’s foreign policy and the international press tolerated those who had committed the biggest single and most destructive act of terrorism against the US (9/11). And even if Russia went along with the US, its aim was still not to liberate all of Syria as Iran and Assad wanted, but to reach a politically negotiated settlement with Assad as a partner, though not the only one.

    The Russian offer was unsuitable for a game with so many players: the US wanted to halt the air force activity but avoid Assad and his allies victory; Qatar and Saudi Arabia wanted to remove Assad by diplomacy or military means as the Saudi Foreign Minister declared endlessly; Iran wanted to eliminate all jihadists to avoid seeing these back on tract again, which is exactly what happen with ISIS several years after its defeat in 2008 in Iraq; Assad wanted to fight, taking advantage of Russian air force and his allies ground forces supporting the Syrian Army.

    Moscow ignored the allies’ wishes until new elements imposed themselves and pushed Russia to change its mind: the turkish downing of the Sukhoi 24. This changed Russia’s stance into an aggressive one towards Turkey and its proxies in Syria. At the same time, the US Foreign Secretary was unable to keep his promise (and the agreement) to separate jihadists from rebels : this wasdue to an internal power struggle with the Pentagon (as he himself declared).

    It was obvious to Russia, to the great joy of Iran, that Washington was only buying time, even when the jihadists and their allies managed to break the siege of east Aleppo and recover important strategic hills in Homs.

    Events effectively re-imposed Russian – Iranian harmony. Russia pushed its whole weight into the battlefield after the jihadists’ and rebels’ second battle of Aleppo, brought its fleet to the Mediterranean,enlarged its naval and air bases on the Syrian coast and decided to offer Aleppo, all of Aleppo, to Assad and disregard any call from Washington. In fact, Iran and Russia agreed to bring in Turkey because of its strong influence over many (– though not all) – of the jihadists and rebel groups operating in Syria.

    Following thousands of Russian airstrikes, the Syrian government regained control over the second biggest city of Syria, the industrial capital, Aleppo, ending any dialogue between Moscow and the present US administration.

    Again, Damascus, Iran and Russia disagreed on Aleppo: Moscow agreed to evacuate thousands of jihadists and rebels from the east of Aleppo, despite the objections of both allies to the agreement, which was offering free access to jihadists and rebels without any return. The two partners wanted to exchange all prisoners of war captured and detained in east Aleppo, and wanted the evacuation of a similar number of civilians from the two besieged cities of Fua and Kfarya in rural Idlib.

    Russia wanted to put on one side the east Aleppo issue and conclude a deal as soon as possible. For Russia, regaining territory and a city like Aleppo was more important than engaging in an exchange of prisoners and civilians that might take weeks to achieve. Turkey offered to allow 1250 wounded to exit the two Shia cities to calm Russia’s partner, in exchange for 13,000 jihadists, rebels and their families. The deal was considered possible by Russia who managed to impose it on all partners. With the withdrawal of the last militants from east Aleppo, Damascus found the bodies of dozens of soldiers executed.

    Today, Moscow is uninterested in dealing with the actual US administration in its last days of power. Nevertheless, Obama decided to embarrass his successor, President Donald Trump, by signing a decree to arm the Syrian rebels (those operating closely with al-Qaeda and other jihadists) with anti-aircraft missiles. The effect of such a decision won’t change the course of the war in Syria for as long as Turkey continues to work closely with Russia and Iran to distance the Islamists and rebels from the jihadists. Despite the fact that President Putin announced it was time to negotiate a cessation of hostilities over all the Syrian territory, his American counterpart is still engaged with the language of war. In fact, Obama’s policy is in line with Iran’s policy. Iran doesn’t consider the potential deal with jihadists to be achievable.

    Tactically, there are differences of priority regarding the next step after Aleppo: today, Russia sees a military priority for ground troops to go to Palmyra to re-take it from ISIS whereas Iran considers that the battle should concentrate on enlarging the security perimeter around Aleppo from Rashideen-4 to abu-Duhur and Khan al-Asal up to the Idlib area, restoring Tel el-Eis and breaking the siege of the cities of Fua and Kefraya. The Syrian government believes the priority lies in liberating the whole Damascus area, Duma and the south of Damascus.

    Russia could agree on multiple fronts as long as ground forces are available to benefit from its air bombing. Moscow always sees Syria from its own perspective, taking into consideration its allies’ views in many but not all cases. Moscow keeps in mind its relationship with the other important players in the Middle East, i.e. Saudi Arabia and Israel.

    Syria is headed toward more battles but a peace deal is visible on the 2017 horizon. Sometimes diplomacy necessitates the language of guns and fire to impose peace on the participants. One thing is certain: the jihadists certainly will not be laying down their arms for the simple reason that this would blow away the essence of their ideology: they would have to choose to migrate to a country outside Syria.

    Yet despite what Tehran and Damascus believe, there are already many rebels ready to be reconciled and lay down their arms. The last word over the future of Syria has not yet been said. The Middle Eastern policy of the forthcoming US president, Donald Trump, will be important in prolonging the war or pushing, along with Russia, towards the end of it. Whatever Trump’s decision, Moscow is headed towards consolidating itself in Bilad al-Sham to achieve the end of this war before it reaches the end of its seventh year: it won’t be practically possible to stop all belligerents before May-June 2017
    .
    "There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

    Joseph Fouche

  3. #853

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    Patrick Cockburn discusses the peculiar alliance between Russia, the US and Syria against Turkey, as the war in Syria appears to be reaching its end game

    Battle for Manbij shows Syria’s civil war is almost over – and it looks like Bashar Assad has won


    Isis is under military pressure on every side and it seems to be more than it can stand


    Patrick Cockburn @indyworld Monday 6 March 2017 15:30 GMT


    manbij-syria.jpg
    A convoy of US forces armoured vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli, on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, on March 5, 2017 AFP/Getty


    Winners and losers are emerging in what may be the final phase of the Syrian civil war as anti-Isis forces prepare for an attack aimed at capturing Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian fighters say they have seized part of the road south of Raqqa, cutting Isis off from other its territory further east.


    Isis is confronting an array of enemies approaching Raqqa, but these are divided, with competing agendas and ambitions. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main fighting force is the Syrian Kurdish Popular Mobilisation Units (YPG), backed by the devastating firepower of the US-led air coalition, are now getting close to Raqqa and are likely to receive additional US support. The US currently has 500 Special Operations troops in north-east Syria and may move in American-operated heavy artillery to reinforce the attack on Raqqa.


    This is bad news for Turkey, whose military foray into northern Syria called Operation Euphrates Shield began last August, as it is being squeezed from all sides. In particular, an elaborate political and military chess game is being played around the town of Manbij, captured by the SDF last year, with the aim of excluding Turkey, which had declared it to be its next target. The Turkish priority in Syria is to contain and if possible reduce or eliminate the power of Syrian Kurds whom Ankara sees as supporting the Kurdish insurrection in Turkey.

    Tales of trauma from Syria's refugee children


    Turkey will find it very difficult to attack Manbij, which the SDF captured from Isis after ferocious fighting last year, because the SDF said on Sunday that it is now under the protection of the US-led coalition. Earlier last week, the Manbij Military Council appeared to have outmanoeuvred the Turks by handing over villages west of Manbij – beginning to come under attack from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militia backed by Turkey – to the Syrian Army which is advancing from the south with Russian air support.


    syria-war-map.jpg


    Isis looks as if it is coming under more military pressure than it can withstand as it faces attacks on every side though its fighters continue to resist strongly. It finally lost al-Bab, a strategically placed town north east of Aleppo, to the Turks on 23 February, but only after it had killed some 60 Turkish soldiers along with 469 FSA dead and 1,700 wounded. The long defence of al-Bab by Isis turned what had been planned as a show of strength by Turkey in northern Syria into a demonstration of weakness. The Turkish-backed FSA was unable to advance without direct support from the Turkish military and the fall of the town was so long delayed that Turkey could play only a limited role in the final battle for nearby east Aleppo in December.


    We shouldn't feel too optimistic if Isis are defeated in Mosul


    Turkey had hoped that President Trump might abandon President Obama’s close cooperation with the Syrian Kurds as America’s main ally on the ground in Syria. There is little sign of this happening so far and pictures of US military vehicles entering Manbij from the east underline American determination to fend off a Turkish-Kurdish clash which would delay the offensive against Raqqa. The US has shown no objection to Syrian Army and Russian “humanitarian convoys” driving into Manbij from the south.


    There are other signs that the traditional mix of rivalry and cooperation that has characterised relations between the US and Russia in Syria is shifting towards greater cooperation. The Syrian Army, with support from Russia and Hezbollah, recaptured Palmyra from Isis last Thursday with help from American air strikes. Previously, US aircraft had generally not attacked Isis when it was fighting Syrian government forces. Seizing Palmyra for the second time three months ago was the only significant advance by Isis since 2015.


    Turkey could strike at Raqqa from the north, hoping to slice through Syrian Kurdish territory, but this would be a very risky venture likely to be resisted by YPG and opposed by the US and Russia. Otherwise, Turkey and the two other big supporters of the Syrian armed opposition, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are seeing their influence over events in Syria swiftly diminish. Iran and Hezbollah of Lebanon, who were the main foreign support of President Bashar al-Assad before 2015, do not have quite same leverage in Damascus since Russian military intervention in that year.


    American and British ambitions to see Mr Assad removed from power have been effectively abandoned and the Syrian government shows every sign of wanting to retake all of Syria. If Isis loses Mosul and Raqqa in the next few months there will be little left of the Caliphate declared in June 2014 as a territorial entity.


    The remaining big issue still undecided in both Syria and Iraq is the future relations between the central governments in Baghdad and Damascus and their Kurdish minorities. These have become much more important as allies of the US than they were before the rise of Isis. But they may not be able to hold on to their expanded territories in post-Isis times – and in opposition to reinvigorated Syrian and Iraqi governments
    Source
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

  4. #854

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    Has the UN become a tool of the USA?

    A Flawed UN Investigation on Syria

    March 11, 2017

    Exclusive: U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda, especially on the war in Syria, as occurred in a distorted report about last year’s attack on an aid convoy, explains Gareth Porter.
    By Gareth Porter
    The March 1 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry asserted that the bloody attack on a humanitarian aid convoy west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was an airstrike by Syrian government planes. But an analysis of the U.N. panel’s report shows that it was based on an account of the attack from the pro-rebel Syrian “White Helmets” civil defense organization that was full of internal contradictions.
    A White Helmets member pointing to the aftermath of a military attack.
    The U.N. account also was not supported by either the photographic evidence that the White Helmets provided or by satellite imagery that was available to the commission, according to independent experts. Further undermining the U.N. report’s credibility, the White Helmets now acknowledge that rockets they photographed were not fired from Russian or Syrian planes but from the ground.
    Like last December’s summary of the U.N.’s Headquarters Board of Inquiry report on the same incident, the Commission’s report described the attack as having begun with “barrel bombs” dropped by Syrian helicopters, followed by further bombing by fixed-wing planes and, finally, strafing by machine guns from the air.
    The March 1 report did not identify any specific source for its narrative, citing only “[c]ommunications from governments and non-government organizations.” But in fact the U.N. investigators accepted the version of events provided by the White Helmets chief in Aleppo province as well as specific evidence that the White Helmets had made public.
    The White Helmets, which are heavily funded by Western governments and operate only in rebel-controlled areas, are famous for using social media to upload videos purporting to show injured children and other civilian victims of the war.
    Last year, a well-organized campaign pushed the group’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize and a Netflix film about the group won an Oscar last month. The United Nations and the mainstream Western news media have frequently relied on White Helmets accounts from war zones that are not accessible to outsiders. But the White Helmets’ officials have pursued an obvious political agenda in support of opposition forces in Al Qaeda-dominated zones in Aleppo and Idlib where they have operated.
    On Sept. 19, immediately after the attack on the aid convoy, the chief of the White Helmets organization in the Aleppo governorate, Ammar al-Selmo, presented a dramatic narrative of a Russian-Syrian air attack, but it was marked by obvious internal contradictions.
    At first, Selmo claimed in an interview that he had been more than a kilometer away from the warehouses where the attack occurred and had seen Syrian helicopters dropping “barrel bombs” on the site. But his eyewitness account would have been impossible because it was already dark by the time he said the attack began at about 7:15 p.m. He changed his story in a later interview, claiming that he had been right across the street at the moment of the attack and had heard the “barrel bombs” being dropped rather than seeing them.
    Selmo insisted in a video filmed that night that the attack began with Syrian helicopters dropping eight “barrel bombs,” which are described as large, crudely constructed bombs weighing from 250 kg to 500 kg or even more. Citing a box-shaped indentation in the rubble, Selmo said the video is showing “the box of the barrel bomb,” but the indentation is far too small to be a crater from such a bomb.
    Selmo continued the account, “Then the regime also target this place with cluster bombs two times, and also the aircraft of the Russians target this place with C-5 and with bullets,” apparently referring to Soviet-era S-5 rockets. The White Helmets photographed two such rockets and sent it to media outlets, including the Washington Post, which published the picture in the Post story with credit to the White Helmets.
    Story Contradictions
    But Hussein Badawi, apparently the White Helmet official in charge of the Urum al Kubrah area, contradicted Selmo’s story. In a separate interview, Badawi said the attack had begun not with “barrel bombs” but with “four consecutive rockets” that he said had been launched by government forces from their defense plant in Aleppo province – meaning that it was a ground-launched attack rather than an air attack.
    Map of Syria.
    In an email response to a query from me, Selmo retracted his own original claim about the S-5 rockets. “[B]efore aircraft’s attack on the area,” he wrote, “many land to land missiles attacked the place coming from the defense factories which [are] located in eastern Aleppo [east of] the city, regime controlled area. [T]hen aircraft came and attacked the place.”
    But such a rocket attack from that “regime controlled area” would not have been technically possible. The Syrian government defense plant is located in Safira, 25 kilometers southeast of Aleppo City and even farther from Urum al-Kubrah, whereas the S-5 rockets that the White Helmets photographed have a range of only three or four kilometers.
    Moreover, the Russians and Syrian government forces were not the only warring parties to have S-5s in their arsenal. According to a study of the S-5 rocket by Armament Research Services consultancy, Syrian armed opposition forces had been using S-5 rockets as well. They had gotten them from the CIA’s covert program of moving weapons from Libyan government stockpiles to be distributed to Syrian rebels beginning in late 2011 or early 2012. Syrian rebels had used improvised launch systems to fire them, as the ARS study documented with a picture.
    Significantly, too, the explicit claim by Selmo that Russian planes were involved in the attack, which was immediately echoed by the Pentagon, was summarily dismissed by the U.N. panel report, which stated flatly, without further explanation, that “no Russian strike aircraft were nearby during the attack.”
    Misplaced Evidence
    Yet, despite the multiple discrepancies in the White Helmets’ story, the U.N. investigators said they corroborated the account of the air attack “by a site assessment, including analysis of remnants of aerial bombs and rockets documented at the site, as well as satellite imagery showing impact consistent with the use of air-delivered munitions.”
    The “White Helmets” symbol, expropriating the name of “Syria Civil Defense.”
    The U.N. Commission’s report cited a photograph of the crumpled tailfin of a Russian OFAB-250 bomb found under some boxes in a warehouse as evidence that it had been used in the attack. The White Helmets took the photograph and circulated it to the news media, including to the Washington Post and to the Bellingcat website, which specializes in countering Russia’s claims about its operations in Syria.
    But that bomb could not have exploded in that spot because it would have made a crater many times larger than the small indentation in the floor in the White Helmet photo – as shown in this video of a man standing in the crater of a similar bomb in Palmyra.
    Something other than an OFAB-250 bomb – such as an S-5 rocket — had caused the fine shrapnel tears in the boxes shown in the photo, as a detail from the larger scene reveals. So the OFAB bomb tailfin must have been placed at the scene after the attack.
    Both U.N. imagery analysts and independent experts who examined the satellite images found that the impact craters could not have come from the “aerial bombs” cited by the Commission.
    The analysis of the satellite images by United Nations specialists at UNITAR-UNOSAT made public by the U.N. Office of Humanitarian Coordination on March 1 further contradicts the White Helmet account, reflecting the absence of any evidence of either “barrel bombs” or OFAB-250 bombs dropped on the site.
    The U.N. analysts identified four spots in the images on pages five and six of their report as “possible impact craters.” But a U.N. source familiar with their analysis of the images told me that it had ruled out the possibility that those impact points could have been caused by either “barrel bombs” or Russian OFAB-250 bombs.
    The reason, the U.N. source said, was that such bombs would have left much larger craters than those found in the images. Those possible impact points could have been either from much smaller air-launched munitions or from ground-based artillery or mortar fire, but not from either of those weapons, according to the U.N. source.
    Expert Challenges
    A former U.S. intelligence official with long experience in analysis of aerial photos and Pierre Sprey, a former Pentagon analyst, both of whom reviewed the satellite images, agreed that the spots identified by UNOSAT could not have been from either “barrel bombs” or OFAB-250 bombs.
    The former intelligence official, who demanded anonymity because he still deals with government officials, said the small impact points identified by the U.N. team reminded him of impacts from “a multiple rocket launcher or possibly a mortar.”
    Sprey agreed that all of those impact points could have been from artillery or mortar fire but also noted that photographs of the trucks and other damaged vehicles show no evidence that they were hit by an airstrike. The photos show only extensive fire damage and, in the case of one car, holes of irregular size and shape, he said, suggesting flying debris rather than bomb shrapnel.
    Sprey further pointed to photographic evidence indicating that an explosion that the U.N. Commission blamed on a Syrian airstrike came from within the building itself, not from an external blast. The building across the street from some of the trucks destroyed by an explosion (in Figure 9 of a series of photos on the Bellngcat website) clearly shows that the front wall of the building was blown outward toward the road, whereas the rear wall and the roof were still intact.
    The photograph (in Figure 10) taken from inside the remains of that same building shows the debris from the blast was blown all the way across the street to the damaged truck. Sprey said those pictures strongly suggest that an IED (improvised explosive device) had been set in the house to explode toward the trucks.
    In embracing the Syrian-air-strike narrative — although it falls apart on closer examination — the U.N. “Commission of Inquiry” thus fell into line with the dominant Western political bias in favor of the armed opposition to the Syrian government, a prejudice that has been applied to the Syrian conflict by U.N. organs since the beginning of the war in 2011.
    But never has the evidence so clearly contradicted that line as it has in this case – even though you will not learn that by reading or watching the West’s commercial news media.
    Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
    Source
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

  5. #855

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    < Older Newer >
    Why Trump’s Syria 'Surge' Will Fail
    written by ron paul
    monday march 13, 2017
    undefined


    Last week President Trump significantly escalated the US military presence in Syria, sending some 400 Marines to the ISIS-controlled Raqqa, and several dozen Army Rangers to the contested area around Manbij. According to press reports he will also station some 2,500 more US troops in Kuwait to be used as he wishes in Iraq and Syria.


    Not only is it illegal under international law to send troops into another country without permission, it is also against US law for President Trump to take the country to war without a declaration. But not only is Trump’s first big war illegal: it is doomed to failure because it makes no sense.


    President Trump says the purpose of the escalation is to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, its headquarters in Syria. However the Syrian Army with its allies Russia and Iran are already close to defeating ISIS in Syria. Why must the US military be sent in when the Syrian army is already winning? Does Trump wish to occupy eastern Syria and put a Washington-backed rebel government in charge? Has anyone told President Trump what that would to cost in dollars and lives – including American lives? How would this US-backed rebel government respond to the approach of a Syrian army backed up by the Russian military?


    Is Trump planning on handing eastern Syria over to the Kurds, who have been doing much of the fighting in the area? How does he think NATO-ally Turkey would take a de facto Kurdistan carved out of Syria with its eyes on Kurdish-inhabited southern Turkey?


    And besides, by what rights would Washington carve up Syria or any other country?


    Or is Trump going to give up on the US policy of “regime change” and hand conquered eastern Syria back to Assad? If that is the case, why waste American lives and money if the Syrians and their allies are already doing the job? Candidate Trump even said he was perfectly happy with Russia and Syria getting rid of ISIS. If US policy is shifting toward accepting an Assad victory, it could be achieved by ending arms supplies to the rebels and getting out of the way.


    It does not appear that President Trump or his advisors have thought through what happens next if the US military takes possession of Raqqa, Syria. What is the endgame? Maybe the neocons told him it would be a “cakewalk” as they promised before the 2003 Iraq invasion.


    Part of the problem is that President Trump’s advisors believe the myth that the US “surge” in Iraq and Afghanistan was a great success and repeating it would being the victory that eluded Obama with his reliance of drones and proxy military forces. A big show of US military force on the ground – like the 100,000 sent to Afghanistan by Obama in 2009 – is what is needed in Syria, these experts argue. Rarely is it asked that if the surge worked so well why are Afghanistan and Iraq still a disaster?


    President Trump’s escalation in Syria is doomed to failure. He is being drawn into a quagmire by the neocons that will destroy scores of lives, cost us a fortune, and may well ruin his presidency. He must de-escalate immediately before it is too late.
    Source
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

  6. Default U S Invading Syria (quietly)

    Well, so much for Trump getting out of foreign adventurism and focusing on building up the middle class.

    Though a number of U.S. soldiers were previously deployed to Syria under the Obama administration, the U.S. government has just sent an additional 400 troops to Syrian territory without congressional approval, without approval from the Syrian government, and without approval from the U.N.

    Given the illegality of the move, the real question regarding the operation must focus on the motive. Why is the United States military, under a president who ran on a campaign of focusing less on wars abroad, sending more troops to Syrian territory? Trump supporters often argue this is to fulfill his campaign promise to defeat ISIS.

    The first thing to note, however, is that ISIS has already been more or less defeated, with or without American assistance. ISIS currently has one major stronghold left in Iraq, which American air power is currently assisting various Iraqi militias on the ground to crush. The terror group also has one final remaining substantial stronghold in Syria.

    If this is the case — and as ISIS soldiers flee Mosul in Iraq and head towards Syria — one is left to wonder why on earth the Trump administration is also sending 1,000 American troops to Kuwait, as well. According to one anonymous official, the Kuwaiti deployment is “about providing options,” whatever that means.

    The second thing to note is that since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iranian influence has been spreading throughout the Middle East. The biggest winner of the Iraq war was Iran, namely because the United States and the United Kingdom ousted Saddam Hussein, a Sunni who spent years bombing and gassing Iranians. Shortly after, Hussein was replaced by a U.S.-backed, Shia-led government that was able to align itself with Tehran. In 2005, Iran formed a formal defense agreement with Syria, creating a three country-strong wedge between NATO and the Caucasus region, which was further strengthened with the addition of Lebanon, which is home to Iran’s proxy army, Hezbollah.

    The most complicated aspect of this alliance is the fact that it may soon include Yemen, as a Houthi-led insurgency may create an Iranian-aligned government on Saudi Arabia’s border (contrary to what the mainstream media claims, Iran’s support for the Houthi movement is incredibly limited, but the possibility of an alliance with Tehran is very real).

    The resistance to this Iranian-led alliance by the U.S.-Israel establishment can be seen in a variety of ways. For example, in 2013, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, told the Jerusalem Post:

    “The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”

    According to the Post, Oren said this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

    RELATED: U.S. Army Announces Troops Will Stay In Syria After ISIS Defeat

    In the case of Iraq and Syria, Iran’s influence has been integral in recent developments. Iranian militias have already done the bulk of anti-ISIS fighting on the ground in Iraq, yet the U.S. wants to swoop in at the final stages and claim a victory they have ultimately contributed very little towards.

    On top of this, Saudi Arabia is also sending ground troops to Syria with the express purpose of preventing liberated areas of Syria from falling into the hands of Syria, Iran, and/or Hezbollah.

    The United States and its allies are now illegally moving into Syrian territory for one main purpose: to shape the outcome of the battle. Even though Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States officially all have the same goal of defeating ISIS, in reality, they all disagree on what should follow.

    “The upshot is that it’s still unclear who will take Raqqa when Mosul falls,” said one senior official involved in discussions, as reported by the Guardian. “The Americans are still hedging on the Kurds, even though the Turks are adamantly opposed. The Russians want the Syrian army and the rebels to do it, under their tutelage.”

    The only question that matters now is to what extent Saudi Arabia and the U.S. will go to enforce their desired outcome on the Syrian regime. Will they fight off Iranian and Syrian troops, which will only further complicate the battle arena as Russia provides unquestionable air power to the aforementioned troops on the ground?

    With the presidency of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin has lost his monopoly on unpredictability and his ability to outmaneuver the United States’ foreign policy goals in the Middle East. This is because of how reckless Trump is proving himself to be.

    In order to avoid a catastrophic war, the Americans and the Saudis may be relying on the fact that their presence there may act as a deterrence to the Syrians and Iranians. If possible, this would ensure that Syrian troops stay well clear of those areas occupied by American troops, and as such, avoid coming under fire. If that is the case, it is still unclear what international legal principle gives the United States the right to take territory from the Syrian government and hand it over to its allies on the ground, a move that may, in essence, be a deal-breaker for Syria, Iran and/or Russia.

    One thing is clear, however. The Trump administration will not willingly allow an outright victory for Iran and Russia in Syria. Despite ramping up his anti-Iran rhetoric while claiming to be less concerned with the Assad government in Syria, Trump is evidently keeping open the Syrian military option laid out for him by Barack Obama as a means of directly targeting Iran.

    How will this end?
    Source
    "We'll know our disinformation campaign is complete when everything the American public believes is false." --William J. Casey, D.C.I

    "We will lead every revolution against us." --Theodore Herzl

  7. #857

    Default

    Clearly, some caveats are needed in regard to the following article by Voltaire's Thierry Meyssan.

    Firstly, the terminology he uses about Trump "converting to democracy" will be met with howls of derision in the USA and Western Europe.

    Secondly, Meyssan's first language is French, his second I believe is Syrian (where he fled after receiving death threats in France from right-wing forces attached to French Intelligence Service, following his testimony to a French judicial inquiry about the far right and their assassination use and out sourcing by SDECE) --- and although he speaks what seems to me perfect audible English, I have often noted clumsy translation from French to English in some of his articles.

    It seems to me that the article is entirely about the situation in Syria and the "democracy" terminology he uses in his title is specific to that.

    In the final analysis I think his choice of the caption is clumsy and unsuitable for westerners but probably very suitable for Syrians and others in the middle east and environs thereof. To wit: the article first appeared in the Syrian publication Al-Watan.

    The White House converts to Democracy

    by Thierry Meyssan

    A considerable step has just been taken by the Trump administration – his principal diplomats have announced that they recognise the right of the Syrian people to democracy. They admit that as a nation, the Syrian people made the sovereign choice of Bachar el-Assad as their President. That is the end of all the rhetoric about forced « democratisation » which accompanied the military adventures of the previous administrations.


    VOLTAIRE NETWORK | DAMASCUS (SYRIA) | 4 APRIL 2017

    عربي DEUTSCH ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΆ ESPAÑOL FRANÇAIS ITALIANO PORTUGUÊS РУССКИЙ TÜRKÇE


    Nikki Haley

    Slowly, the Trump administration is organising its new Middle East policy.

    After having reformed the National Security Council, after having exchanged intelligence with the Russian army, after having forbidden his men to continue to support the jihadists wherever they may be, and after having launched genuine attacks on them in Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Somalia, the new President of the United States has announced that he is putting an end to his country’s interference in Syrian politics.

    The US ambassador to the Security Council, Nikki Haley, did not stop at announcing that overthrowing President el-Assad was no longer Washington’s « priority » - she clearly declared that only the Syrian people had the right to chose its own President. Her declaration was immediately confirmed by the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.

    In order to understand the progress this indicates, let’s remember that since 2012, the Feltman plan has been working for the abrogation of the sovereignty of the Syrian People.

    Let it be known – with Donald Trump, the White House has finally converted to democracy, in other words - « Government of the People by the People, for the People », according to the famous phrase of Abraham Lincoln. The United States are in the process of becoming a normal power. They are abandoning their imperialist ambition. They have renounced the Wolfowitz doctrine of global domination. They once again recognise that all Humans are born equal, whether they are Westerners or not.

    The astonishment of the member states of NATO was as great as the measure of the event – and because since 9/11 they have been using the concept of democracy completely back to front, they said nothing.

    Finally, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Marc Ayrault, spoke up. « The question is not to enquire whether or not we must throw Assad out », he declared. « The question is to know whether the imternational community will respect its own engagements ». Translation - « The question is not to enquire what the Syrians want, but whether or not the United States and its allies (the « Friends of Syria ») will respect the promise of the Obama administration to re-establish a French mandate for Syria. »

    For François Hollande’s team, and since bad news never arrives alone, Ankara was the first to drop Paris. After a visit with Rex Tillerson, Erdogan announced that he was giving up the idea of creating a « safe zone » in Manbij and Rakka - an elegant way of admitting that he was unable to extend to Syria the illegal occupation that Turkey has maintained in Cyprus since 1974. So that’s the end of the Franco-Turkish alliance.

    In any case, the return of NATO to international law has begun. It joins the position of Syria, which has defended it with its own blood, and that of Russia and China, which protected them by seven successive vetos at the Security Council.

    The next step is the one already taken by Syria in July 2012 – that is, to convince the whole of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to stop manipulating international terrorism. That is to admit that the current version of the Muslim Brotherhood is not an Arab brotherhood at all, but a branch of the British Secret Services – and to recognise the fact that they are not Muslims, but hide behind the Qr’an in order to push forward the cause of Anglo-Israëli imperialism.

    Thierry Meyssan

    Translation
    Pete Kimberley

    Source
    Al-Watan (Syria)
    Source
    Attached Images Attached Images
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

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