“Nothing is so good for morale … “


"CENTCOM chief, Gen. Joseph Votel warns against throwing Syria's "moderate" rebels under the bus, Stars and Stripes reports. "I can think of a number of groups…who we have been working with, who have been very, very good partners to us and done our bidding with our support, with our coalition support. So I think we should look to do that, and I hope we will find a way to continue to do that," he told a conference in Washington on Wednesday."  Todays D Brief



 "U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel on Wednesday urged the incoming Trump administration to reverse course and continue an Obama administration program to train and equip Syrian moderate rebel forces as the campaign to retake Raqqa gathers force.

That would amount to a major about-face for the president-elect. During the election campaign, Mr. Trump sharply criticized the program and the handling of the Syrian conflict, saying U.S. officials “have no idea who these people are.”

The four-star general, speaking at an event sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington, said the United States and its allies were reaping the benefits of a military training program in Syria." 

The program is an integral part of President Obama’s overall strategy to eliminate the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, from Syria and the rest of the Middle East.  Washtimes 



"Nothing is so good for the morale of the troops as occasionally to see a dead general." 
   - Field Marshal Lord Slim 

Slim was a truly great fighting soldier.  He understood that the Grunts want to know that their commanders share the risks.  A dead general makes that point. 

General Votel is clearly a creature of the Obama Administration's confused policies in the Greater Middle East.

It would be one thing if Votel is speaking here of the YPG/SDF forces that US SOF has been training, equipping and advising in Kurdish Syria.  IMO that should continue.

If, on the other hand Votel is talking about the Syrian and non Syrian medievalist scum fighting to destroy secular, multi confessional government in Syria, then he is deluded and should be removed pour encourager les autres. (Byng)  Our "moderate" allies in East Aleppo as well as all over Syria have routinely murdered prisoners of war, beheaded children who said things they disliked, destroyed and violated ancient places of worship, refused to allow civilian evacuations in Aleppo.  IMO they are not deserving of treatment as prisoners of war under international or, for that matter, US law.  The Syrian government should dispose of them as they see fit.

The Admiral Byng principle of using dismissal or worse as a means of encouraging better performance should be applied to the politically minded military losers who now inhabit so many positions in the US armed forces.  Trump was right in his campaign statements concerning general officers of the GWOT.  Let the axe fall wherever needed.  Flynn will have an opinion as to who should be retired.   Let us hope that the pseudo institution of the general officers mutual protection club does not apply.  pl  

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90 Responses to “Nothing is so good for morale … “

  1. Stumpy says:

    The words “retake Raqqa” as spoken by Sec. Clinton during the campaign, along with no-fly zone and the question as to whether Saudi funding was coerced or merely invited.
    Before any more American blood is spilled on Syrian soil would someone please explain why it is in the American interest to “retake” Raqqa?

  2. Ghostship says:

    Maybe it’ll be over sooner rather than later, although there will be opposition from Washingon, Qatar, and perhaps Riyadh. And obviously some of the terrorist groups are opposed.
    “Syrian rebels in secret talks with Moscow to end Aleppo fighting”
    Turkey-facilitated negotiations without US show how Washington could become sidelined
    Syrian rebels are in secret talks with Russia to end the fighting in Aleppo, according to opposition figures, a development that shows how the US could become sidelined in some of the Middle East’s most pivotal conflicts.”


  3. doug says:

    It seems our foreign policy has been, for 15 years now, to facilitate building some sort of firewall against Iran at the cost of decimating the existing secular structures. Authoritarian states that they were and are, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq still had significant religious diversity. Even Iran is considerably more Western, in the sense of religious tolerance, than Saudi Arabia.
    The only thing that makes sense is that Iran is considered such a more capable regional threat to Israel and the West that it justifies support of the jihadis and dealing with their excesses as secondary to the goal of achieving Sunni hegemony.
    But this goes against American, and Western principals. It is difficult to carry out a war adverse to one’s core principles. It tears at the soul.

  4. mike allen says:

    Colonel –
    Great quote from Field Marshal Slim. I’ve been reading his bio. The man had a good sense of humor. His troops in the 6th Gurkhas called him Slimbo. And like you he was a writer. Had to be as he claimed that his SWMBO, although a Scottish girl, was not thrifty at all and overspent his salary near every month. So as a young company grade and even when a field grade he wrote articles and short stories for The Daily Mail, Blackwood’s Magazine and many other periodicals in the interwar years to supplement his income. I haven’t found any of his short stories but am looking.
    After the war he was asked by the BBC to give a series of broadcasts. The aim was of lifting the spirits of the nation, like he had lifted the morale of the 14th Army in Burma with his talks. He wrote his own scripts, and fought off any attempts by bureaucrats to change them. I understand they were a big hit during the UK’s economic woes at that time.
    PS – 182,000 active duty.

  5. Both Votel and Flynn also have a serious case of the ass with Iran. This seems to be a common attitude with a lot of general officers. Probably stems from the taking of our Embassy in Tehran, the failed rescue attempt and the Beirut Airport bombing. I don’t know if Trump is really down on Iran or just down on a deal with Iran not negotiated by him. At some point we have to get over all that, at least on a professional level. Our belligerence with Iran, even if we drop the Assad must go thing and our support for the unicorn jihadis, is just another road to eventual confrontation with Russia.

  6. turcopolier says:

    How about this thought – that they are just sucking up to the AIPAC driven policies of their civilian masters. pl

  7. The Beaver says:

    Hit that nail on the head.

  8. turcopolier says:

    mike allen
    + 35,000 USMCR. Added to the active force, that is much larger than the British Army. I find Slim to be one of the most impressive senior Allied commanders of WW2. Among the Americans I think Truscott approaches that level of performance. pl

  9. pl,
    AIPAC is certainly the Gríma Wormtongue whispering in the generals’ ears, but i think the generals are still nursing long healed wounds.

  10. The Beaver says:

    @ TTG
    And the French govt. is at it again. I thought their main worry is Daech.
    Hypocrisy on the part of the Brits – they are partly responsible for what is happening in Yemen but no qualms about it and yet they are keen for a draft at the UNSC before year end since they know they will bet Power to back them up.

  11. Cortes says:

    “Uncle Bill” Slim enjoyed the wholehearted support of his troops . Unusually for the days, he took pains to emphasise the contributions of all the “backroom” staffs involved and took the trouble to make himself aware of the conditions that all were enduring.
    A useful is perhaps the Ray McGovern essay on Petraeus, at least as far as the reported views of Admiral Fallon:

  12. Walter says:

    Doug, I think Col Lang disagrees with me, but I believe it’s mostly about money; US policy makers direct their policy where their financial backers (Saudi Arabia, Zionist Jews, Rich Gulfies) direct them in exchange for the promise of $300,000 speeches, consulting fees, board appointments, campaign contributions etc. there are all kinds of sneaky ways to get paid . It is the way of the world and has been for eons. I believe it’s the same with our domestic policy in which is directed by who will pay government officials the most money when they leave office or even during office. I agree with you that our foreign-policy in the middle east does not make sense from a logical or moral standpoint, but it does make sense when viewed as the path for the interested parties to keep their jobs, get paid, climb the ladder of success.

  13. Here’s my best guess: if they can’t overthrow the Syrian government everywhere, they might try and hive off Raqqa in the east and turn it into some kind of protectorate. That way, they might still be able to build their pipeline up from KSA or Qatar all the way into Turkey and on to Europe. Also, they could use such a ‘free’ enclave as a kind of Kosovo to destabilize neighboring governments that prove uncooperative.

  14. Or confrontation with China. The Chinese, I heard, get about 25% of their oil from Iran now.

  15. Seacoaster says:

    Slim also wrote Unofficial History, about his experiences as an imperial soldier during the interwar years. Read it on deployment a couple years back, great little book:

  16. Seacoaster says:

    Agree 100%. Things are even worse in the purely domestic realm, with bankers coming and going as Treasury Secretary. For all the empty “drain the swamp” talk, the most important thing we could do would be ironclad laws to minimize if not end the revolving door.

  17. kooshy says:

    Colonel FYI here is an interesting video of a Hezbollah fighter training Russian troops in syria how to say (send) a “Salvat” invocation to the profit and his bayet(household) and a Labayk to Imam Hossain.

  18. Laura says:

    mike allen–I don’t know if you caught this article from Andrew Bacevich … speaking of Generals in general. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/on-winning/

  19. VietnamVet says:

    This is my pet peeve. The General is basically saying that he needs his proxy forces to overthrow the Syrian government for Israel, Turkey and the Gulf Monarchies without mentioning the many downsides like supporting head-choppers or an OSU Muslim student running amok. The only mention of these inconvenient facts is on a few internet sites. If there were American conscripts fighting in Syria, their mothers and fathers would be telling Congress-people to declare war and win it or get their sons and daughters the hell out of there.

  20. Anna says:

    Agree. Israelis have been quite clear about their preference for ISIS as compared to the strong secular Syria and Iran. Basically, the US military has been used to advance Israel’s goals.
    “Ya’alon: I would prefer Islamic State to Iran in SyriaDefense minister says jihadists don’t ‘have capabilities’ of Islamic Republic, which he brands Israel’s ‘greatest enemy’
    The Congress’ recent resolution for no-fly zone in Syria makes it clear that the Israel-firsters are greatly alarmed by the demise of ISIS in Syria. No wonder that the resolution (Resolution 5732, the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act”) has received zero publicity on MSM; any explanation would expose the resolution as an attempt at protecting the ISIS by the US: https://off-guardian.org/2016/11/28/media-silent-as-lame-duck-congress-passes-resolution-for-syrian-no-fly-zone-provoking-war-with-russia/

  21. doug says:

    I don’t discount pecuniary motivations. They tend to afford a path of least resistance. But I believe most people try to do what they believe is the right thing. Of course Daesh followers are the same. They see a path to salvation and killed non-believers are just collateral damage for the greater good.
    Americans, like people everywhere though perhaps a bit more so, tend to think other people are just would be Americans awaiting release from their chains. It’s human nature but so is resistance to foreign occupation. We know that. We just couldn’t resist the urge, once in Iraq, to reform them in something approximating our ideal of what their society should be like. The British were much better at that. They also had more practice.

  22. turcopolier says:

    Most people have no idea what the right thing is. Iraq? We invaded Iraq because the neocons wanted to make the ME safe for Israel by transforming Middle Easterners into people who were really western in their thinking and indifferent to a disruption of the world of Islam. It was believed and still is by the neocons that transformation of Iraq would trigger a social revolution in the ME and it did. We are still living with the results of the “Arab Spring.” You are new here. We have been discussing this topic for many years. Look at the SST archives. Please don’t lecture me with a lot of trite statements. pl

  23. Cee says:

    Col. Lang,
    I think Gen. Mattis is good for morale. Awaiting your opinion.

  24. Pundita says:

    Pardon my interruption with a highly technical question but it’s not entirely off topic. When a barrel bomb is dropped from an airplane or kicked out of a helicopter, can it make sort of a right turn while it’s falling toward the target instead of falling straight down?
    I ask because I’ve been thinking about panoramic photos I’ve seen of bombed-out E. Aleppo. It finally struck me that most of the roofs look intact; it’s the lower stories that are blown out.
    Granted there could be some special law of gravity at work in these ancient cities. But on the chance that heavy objects tend to fall straight down in Aleppo, is it possible that much of the damage to these buildings was done not from above but from below, as in ‘rebels’ and SAA firing missiles at each other from buildings, or from the ground into the buildings?
    This concludes my technical question. But while I’m on technical matters, and in case some missed the report: At some point (the news report, published within the past week, didn’t say when), the Syrian air force began using drone surveillance to compensate for their lack of precision bombs. The result was virtual pinpoint accuracy with the bombings.
    This might have been a factor in the devastating SAF airstrikes in E. Aleppo in recent weeks.
    And I think it would explain why the Russian air force reportedly pulled back from bombing the city. Even with el-cheapo dumb bombs, the Syrians were getting the effect of precision bombs when they used the drones for targeting.
    That was all the report mentioned about the drones (gifted from the Russians and/or Chinese, perhaps?). But I’d assume the precision bombing made it harder for the bad guys to use human shields and to claim that ‘blind’ SAF airstrikes were killing large numbers of civilians.
    The claim might still fool readers of say, BBC or NYT, but it probably wouldn’t fool the Syrian civilians.

  25. Mark Logan says:

    It may be they, along with Mattis, acquired their case during Iran’s support of the Shia militias in Iraq in the last decade.
    I see danger in Trump surrounding himself with men who harbor that grudge. He has selected yet another Iran hater as head of CIA. Should the only way he can see to get the spending he desires from Congress is a state of war….

  26. kooshy says:

    IMO, a carved up territory is not very safe to invest billions in a pipeline that no end user be willing to sign up or finance like in Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. but a carved up territory it is a very good tool for negotiating and getting concessions.

  27. kooshy says:

    TTG, I totally agree with your notion on the deeper reasons of the US general animosity with regard to Iran or more correctly IRI. But, on the other side also, I have seen even before the revolution, a general feeling of animosity and anger among ordinary and intellectual Iranians toward the American Government the Borg
    for the 1953 coup, although from what I have learned Iranians were thankful and in love with US (Truman) after WWII for helping and supporting Iran to get the USSR pull its troops out of Iran. IMO, US will never have a better, stable Friend and an inexpensive low maintenance support, ally in ME other than Iran, only if she could accept and deal with an independent foreign policy Iran which coincidently both countries have many mutual regional and global interests.

  28. doug says:

    Sir, I’ve been reading your blog for over 10 years and commenting infrequently for most of that time. I particularly enjoy the range and knowledge your committee bring to it.
    I’m fully aware of the significant, dominant, influence of the neocons, as I have also read Commentary since the 70’s. My response to Walter was intended to point out that financial motivations are significant but not visceral. It likely was a major motivation for Cheney, but for neoconservatives, the survival and protection of Israel is perhaps their major concern. For them, that focus is the “right” thing and no doubt most convince themselves it also is for the United States. Some of my Jewish friends fear, like me, the asymmetrical relationship is unhealthy for both countries but they remain silent in their communities.

  29. BraveNewWorld says:

    Netanyahu cleared the air a few years ago when he made a speech where he said the goal of the sanctions against Iran was to make sure that Israel remained the economic power in the Middle East.
    The problem with Netanyahu is it takes American presidents 7 years to figure out what a lying sack of he is.

  30. kooshy says:

    One more observation I may add to my earlier comment is, that the iranian revolutionary government was able to isolate and implement to her constituency her animosity and hatred is with the American Government, but my last 35 years observation is this same feeling was not done in a same way here in the states, in other words the US ruling system/ Governments never seriously tried to make her constituencies understand that her beef is with the Iranian government/system and not the Iran as a nation a culture and a revolution, IMO that was wrong.

  31. turcopolier says:

    Mark Logan, TTG et al
    Until the First Gulf War Israel maintained a semi-secret alliance with Iran. This had begun in the time of the monarchy in Iran and it continued in the time of the Islamic Republic. At that time Israel thought Iraq to be its most dangerous opponent and as is customary with the Israelis they backed the farther potential enemy against the nearer. This alliance persisted during the Iran-Iraq War. It extended to secret grey and black market procurements of materiel for Iran, then under wartime sanctions with regard to arms ales. The alliance extended to exchange of combat intelligence against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. At that time we possessed an Iranian Air Force defector, a colonel, who had been the manager for the relationship. The meetings were held monthly in Switzerland. And, of course, Israel was in the forefront of those influences that caused the inception of the Iran-Contra Affair which in the Iran portion was intended to enable Iran to fight Iraq more effectively. I was the principal witness before the Tower Committee with regard to the effect that the intelligence provided to Iran had on the combat situation in the war. In order to testify effectively I read all existing US government records (including those of the CIA) as to how the Ollie North crew got started on this and the Israelis clearly wanted Iran benefited in a number of ways. All that came to an end after the US and the coalition destroyed Iraq as a military power in the Gulf War. After that the Israelis began to focus on Iran as a country that could conceivably at some point on the future destroy Eretz Israel with a couple of nuclear weapons. As that obsession grew, the memetic propaganda machine became more and more engaged in the process of selling Iran as an utterly evil world menace. Sanction followed sanction, etc. In that context the hatred of these generals and the legions of other faithful group thinkers became inevitable. pl

  32. BraveNewWorld says:

    Go back and read news stories from the first two or so years of the war. The Jihadists would drive across a city behind a massive barge of artillery. Then the SAA would push back behind a barrage of artillery. Rinse repeat. The people running the arty were often new to the experience as they may have just stolen their first artillery piece or just been recruited into the SAA so accuracy wasn’t possible even if desired.
    As truly shocking as the damage is it is surprising it isn’t even worse.

  33. turcopolier says:

    Capturing is not stealing. First, I think the level of damage is exaggerated and where it is bad it is concentrated and heavily photographed by the press. Syria is a “muffled zone” in which propaganda operations including those of the Western press have a great opportunity to create mental images of destruction to suit their purpose. The same thing is true of the numbers thrown around. I have on occasion challenged the numbers to WINEP and ISW people at meetings. They are unable to defend them since almost all of the come from SOHR in London. The man who runs that just pulls them out of his a-s after talking to a lot of his “sources” in the region. This is equivalent to the way Allen Pinkerton made intelligence estimates for McClellan. Lastly, the pre-CW Syrian Army was not very skilled. Like the Egyptian Army they were mostly an internal security force. They had a lot of poorly maintained East Bloc equipment but couldn’t do much with it. They are now quite different. Clausewitz was right. war itself is the best teacher if you survive. pl

  34. turcopolier says:

    He said the dominant power in the ME, not the dominant economic power. Israel has virtually no trade with the surrounding countries. Being the dominant economic power is a meaningless concept for them. Having Haifa and Tel Aviv destroyed is their obsession. pl

  35. turcopolier says:

    IMO Cheney’s supposed greed is much exaggerated. He was/is as big a neocon as the others. pl

  36. Babak Makkinejad says:

    This guy, the New York Times columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof, a Jew, travels to Iran, is showered by the hospitality of Iranians, and when back in New York City, he writes another columns clamoring for more sanctions against Iran, especially wishing for pain inflicted on the Iranian people, “with apologies to Iranian people”, he wrote.
    He reminded me of how a Palestinian described Moshe Dyan; “He is a gentleman. He slaps you in the face and then bends down, picks up your kafiyyah, and hands it to you.”

  37. Valissa says:

    Trump Chooses an Outspoken Ex-Marine to Lead Defense http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-chooses-an-outspoken-ex-marine-to-lead-defense/ar-AAl2169
    After retiring from the military, General Mattis told Congress that the administration’s “policy of disengagement in the Middle East” had contributed to the rise of extremism in the region. The United States, he told lawmakers in 2015, needs to “come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values.”
    But in some important policy areas, General Mattis differs from Mr. Trump, who last week began filling the top ranks of his national security team with hard-liners. General Mattis believes, for instance, that Mr. Trump’s conciliatory statements toward Russia are ill informed. General Mattis views with alarm Moscow’s expansionist or bellicose policies in Syria, Ukraine and the Baltics. And he has told the president-elect that torture does not work.
    Despite his tough stance on Iran, General Mattis also thinks that tearing up the Iran nuclear deal would hurt the United States, and he favors working closely with allies to strictly enforce its terms.
    So Gen Mattis wants to be tough on Iran, tough on Russia (unlike Trump), and doesn’t think the US has been proactive enough in the Middle East. How is this “good for morale”? Other than the fact that Mattis is not a fan of torture?
    Sadly I’m starting to think Patrick Cockburn may be correct in his assessment…
    Trump’s Team Will Start New Wars in the Middle East http://www.unz.com/pcockburn/trumps-team-will-start-new-wars-in-the-middle-east/
    In theory, Trump is a non-interventionist; opposed to US military involvement in the Middle East and North Africa, he wants to bring the war in Syria to an end. But he has simultaneously opposed the agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme and criticised Barack Obama for pulling the last US troops out of Iraq in 2011 (though in fact this was under an agreement signed by George W Bush).
    But Bush and Obama were both non-interventionists when first elected – until the course of events, and the enthusiasm of the Washington foreign policy establishment for foreign military ventures, changed all that.
    The US army and air force is today heavily engaged in Iraq and Syria and that is not going to end with Obama’s departure.
    Anyone want to take bets on how long it will take for Trump to be fully assimilated into the Borg?

  38. pl,
    I forgot about that Israeli-Iranian relationship. Strange days.
    My first experience with our intransigence on Iran was in 1989. I was in a SMU developing a Barzani. The target was Iran. This lead couldn’t grasp this. His problem was with Saddam’s regime, not Iran. The SMU was fanatically focused on Iran as was Delta and JSOC at that time. There were quite a few veterans of Desert One and supporting operations around at that time. The SMU was also incensed about the loss of a member on Pan Am 103. Many held Iran responsible even if it was just on the emotional level.

  39. Green Zone Café says:

    Colonel, TTG,
    Generals like Votel, Flynn, and Mattis have more recent reasons than the 1982 Beirut bombings to have a grudge against Iran. Iran trained and equipped Iraqi militias like Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq who were doing some nasty stuff to US forces as the 00’s went on. AAH in particular was considered an agent of the IRGC, and General Suleiman’s forces were active in Iraq. In general, there was a great improvement in the accuracy of indirect fire from Iranian training from 2006 on, and the introduction of shaped-charge penetrating IEDs. There was also the assassination campaign by the “Special Groups” against Iraqi employees of the US mission and Iraqi government officials friendly to US, and things like the raid on the Karbala government office which killed five US soldiers from 4/25 ABCT and the kidnapping and killing of USAID contractors from the Ministry of Finance in 2007.
    Given the threat that the US posed to Iran, and the aggressive rhetoric about Iran from officials and pundits close to Bush, it made sense for Iran to degrade the US in Iraq. I never took it personally that they were trying to kill me with regular indirect fire. It made sense from their point of view. I did wonder why the US tolerated it at the time, though: it seemed like some kind of punishment was deserved. Maybe there was some covert punishment ,because the outrageous stuff that happened in 2007-08 tapered off.
    There was a great missed opportunity when Iran worked with the US in Afghanistan and offered to reset relations in 2002. This was recounted by James Dobbins and Flynt and Hilary Leverett.
    Who knows how those generals see it?

  40. Imagine says:

    Re: 7 yrs: I don’t think this has been accomplished yet.

  41. turcopolier says:

    “How is this “good for morale”?” IMO the team he has put together will either not last long or they will assimilate Trump. pl

  42. Sam Peralta says:

    Col. Lang
    Trump’s first year in office will be very interesting. He’s going to have to learn how to navigate the shark infested waters of DC. He’s a complete outsider to the machinations among all the politicos and the very powerful K Street lobbyist machine. I believe he recognizes that to get started he needs the people who have worked the system.
    IMO, you have characterized him very well in your earlier comments that his businessman instincts make him very transactional. I look at the whole Carrier episode as perfectly fitting in that mold. So, one can see him threatening, then backing off and then working some kind of deal with the various participants. My sense of what I have seen of him on the campaign trail is that he doesn’t like to be distracted with complicated policy. He is in his most natural element working deals and selling. I think that while all those who he has selected for various cabinet positions think they may have his ear and can snow him, he is going to rely on his kids and his son-in-law Jared for the real advise. I also believe he’ll fire a few people along the way just to keep his team on their toes and not get too big for their britches. We’ll see soon enough how all this pans out. I think the first year will seem rather rocky with the media continuing to play gotcha with him and faking outrage so easily.

  43. doug says:

    Sir, Perhaps so. Cheney certainly echoed the more extreme neocon positions. I’m quite grateful George W. Bush ignored Cheney’s, fairly public, bleating to bomb Iran near the end of his term in office.

  44. jld says:

    “…and killed non-believers are just collateral damage”
    I would be very, very surprised if any Jihadist were to see killed non-believers as “damage”.

  45. jld says:

    I think Trump is just representative of a Borg “modernist faction” which successfully staged a coup against the old guard of rancid neocons.

  46. robt willmann says:

    News of an event against the development of peace in the Middle East happened on what is now yesterday, 1 December 2016, when the U.S. Senate passed the Iran Sanctions Extension Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives had passed on 15 November 2016. The Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, Public Law 104-172, was to expire automatically by its sunset provision on 31 December 2016–
    “Section 13. Effective Date; Sunset.
    (a) Effective Date.-This Act shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act [Aug. 5, 1996].
    (b) Sunset.-This Act shall cease to be effective on December 31, 2016.”
    The statement of policy in the original sanctions law is–
    “Section. 3. Declaration of Policy.
    The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to deny Iran the ability to support acts of international terrorism and to fund the development and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them by limiting the development of Iran’s ability to explore for, extract, refine, or transport by pipeline petroleum resources of Iran.”
    The vote in the House was 419 in favor, 1 against, and 14 not voting. The only member with any guts who voted against it was Thomas Massie (Repub. Kentucky)–
    The vote in the Senate was 99 in favor, 0 against, and 1 not voting (Bernie Sanders)–
    The very short law extending the sanctions for another 10 years to 31 December 2026 is here–
    President Obama can veto it, but it obviously passed by a veto-proof margin.
    Now that Donald Trump said today that he is going to announce on Monday that he will appoint retired Marine Corps General James “Mad Dog” Mattis to be the new secretary of defense, the circle around Trump with a pre-existing condition against Iran continues to be formed. This enhances the danger that the advisors may — as Col. Lang mentioned above — assimilate Trump.
    Keep in mind that China imports a lot of oil and gas from Iran.

  47. johnf says:

    Its worth remembering that American politicians might take buckets of Israeli money and swear to do all sorts things to their donors, but when, say, at the time of the Iranian nuclear deal vote, it comes to actually voting against the interests of their own country, they don’t do it. The Republicans largely did, the Democrats largely didn’t. These days, with the Democrats as the out-of-office War Party, it would probably be the other way round.
    Words are cheap, actions matter.

  48. rjj says:

    not one of the BBC broadcasts, but ….
    sound is not so good. it can be improved by fiddling the speaker controls. On windows system clicking the voice cancellation option improves it a lot. Also clicked Omnisound and speaker equalization.

  49. Peter Reichard says:

    That is the 64 thousand dollar question, will the mercurial Trump with his good people skills and BS detector keep replacing cabinet ministers until he finds those who agree with his gut instincts or will he, ill informed as he is be coopted by his advisers through the information they filter to him? I fear the latter will be true. The best thing about the man is his attitude towards Russia especially in regard to the current situation in Syria, the worst his attitude towards the Islamic Republic. He seems to be putting together an Iran war cabinet, a dangerous development. 2017 will be interesting.

  50. LeaNder says:

    incensed about the loss of a member on Pan Am 103
    Well yes, Lockerbie.
    One of the two central suspected state actor’s in two revenge scenarios: ‘Iran Air Flight 655’ and ‘USS Vincennes’, 1988?
    Quite a while ago I watched by chance a documentary on one of our public media channels (Phoenix, I guess) looking into matters. …
    Do I recall correctly that the suspicion against Iran is given most fodder by PLA/PFLP intelligence? Scenario offered: Iranian agent, preparing suitcase for the member/son of a Beqaa Valley clan involved in drug trade, supposedly on board with a DEA agent unaware of the contents of the suitcase.
    Here is a rather long British documentary:

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That was the purpose of Iranian cooperation; to gauge the possibility of resolving their differences with USA.
    2007 was another crucial year when a different tack could have been taken with Iran but escalation was preferred by US, EU, China, Russia, India etc.
    Looks like some in US wish to discard the JCOPA cease-fire deal as well.

  52. Pundita says:

    Ah so. Thank you for that clarification! So the great damage, at least in Aleppo, was not chiefly from barrel bombs. Someday a true history of the Syrian War may be written. That should be quite a story.

  53. Pundita says:

    Syria is such a muffled zone it veers toward the Twilight Zone. i think the most troubling part is that the propaganda operations against Syria’s government give lie to the claim that modern communications make it harder to fool the public. But once the public realizes it’s been hoaxed by gov and press, it becomes even more distrustful of both. The end of this road is anarchy.

  54. The Beaver says:

    @ Babak
    Did he do a detour via Riyadh? Like Dennis Ross who is in love with the dauphin there.

  55. Babak Makkinejad says:

    My guess would be that he was supporting Israel – his real country – to the hilt.

  56. kooshy says:

    Colonel, me feeling of Trump as a true business minded person he is, that he wouldn’t mind what his employees say or think he will hear it but at the end he wants you to do what he thinks decides and say, we already saw that during the campaign with him and Pence. Interestingly last night with regard to commerce secretary he said, they question me why you picked him, it’s easy folks because he made money you want your commerce secretary to know how to make money. That is a how a business man thinks, how to make money and go on.

  57. Pundita says:

    1. Colonel, from Washtimes quotes you provided, it strikes me that both Trump and Votel ignore the larger issue, which is a government’s use of a proxy army to get under the wire of illegal invasion of another country.
    The American public doesn’t seem to want an airing of the issue. But it was one thing when proxy warfare was the province of a few governments; today any government can play; e.g., Cairo’s use of proxy fighters to harry Ethopia’s government over a dam dispute.
    Also, the problem with the US using ‘good’ proxies, e.g., YPG, is that one gov’s ‘good’ militia is another’s terrorist army — witness Turkey’s response to US use of YPG.
    So the US doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it criticizes governments that use outright terrorist groups for proxy war. The response boils down to Monkey See Monkey Do: If the US can do it, why can’t we?
    The upshot is that the proxy warfare craze is turning the entire world into that floor game where the players end up in a tangle. Except the game is played with bullets and bombs.
    2. Lavrov statement today as reported by Sputnik provides rough estimate of oppo fighters left in E. Aleppo:
    “As I have already mentioned, according to our intelligence,… practically all armed opposition groups in eastern Aleppo report to al-Nusra Front. Nusra has some 1,500 militants there, while other groups under its command have up to 6,000 militants,” Lavrov stressed.
    That seems to be the latest estimate of the number of fighters left in Aleppo. Also, frm the report, RU intel suspects the new “Army of Aleppo” is just the latest name change for Nusra.

  58. gowithit says:

    Yes,the Congressional vote had the majority against “the interests of their own country”, but not a sufficient majority to overcome Obama’s veto. Now, it is in Trump’s Court, with Iran bomb throwers like Votel at CIA, Lt Gen Flynn as Nat Sec Adviser, and Gen Mattis (who reently called Iran and Assad the two major enemies in MidEast) likely at DOD

  59. ancient archer says:

    It is just incredible listening to what Votel and his ilk continue to say. Have they not realised that they have lost, both on the ballots at home and with bullets in aleppo? Or are they just avoiding the harsh truth by burying their heads in the metaphorical sands of bureaucracy

  60. Valissa says:

    An interesting observation, thanks!
    Here is a great post by Paul Craig Roberts on Trump’s Appointments http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/12/02/trumps-appointments-paul-craig-roberts/
    We do not know what the appointments mean except, as Trump discovered once he confronted the task of forming a government, that there is no one but insiders to appoint. For the most part that is correct. Outsiders are a poor match for insiders who tend to eat them alive. Ronald Reagan’s California crew were a poor match for George H.W. Bush’s insiders. The Reagan part of the government had a hell of a time delivering results that Reagan wanted. …
    What about the hot-headed generals announced as National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defense? Both seem to be death on Iran, which is stupid and unfortunate. However, keep in mind that Gen. Flynn is the one who blew the whistle on the Obama regime for rejecting the advice of the DIA and sending ISIS to overthrow Assad. Flynn said that ISIS was a “willful decision” of the Obama administration, not some unexpected event.
    And keep in mind that Gen. Mattis is the one who told Trump that torture does not work, which caused Trump to back off his endorsement of torture.
    So both of these generals, as bad as they may be, are an improvement on what came before. Both have shown independence from the neoconservative line that supports ISIS and torture.
    Keep in mind also that there are two kinds of insiders. Some represent the agendas of special interests; others go with the flow because they enjoy participating in the affairs of the nation. Those who don’t go with the flow are eliminated from participating.
    Goldman Sachs is a good place to get rich. That Mnuchin left 14 years ago could mean that he was not a good match for Goldman Sachs, that they did not like him or he did not like them. That Flynn and Mattis have taken independent positions on ISIS and torture suggests that they are mavericks. All three of these appointees seem to be strong and confident individuals who know the terrain, which is the kind of people a president needs if he is to accomplish anything.
    PCR is hilarious here in response to PropOrNot…
    Dear President Putin http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/11/28/dear-president-putin/
    Apparently it caught the attention of someone over at Sputnik…
    ‘My Life as a Putin Stooge’: Paul Craig Roberts Expertly Trolls Feds, WashPo https://sputniknews.com/politics/201611301048019573-roberts-passport-wash-post/

  61. Kooshy says:

    Further to the comment I made earlier, the US goverment and the media not only didn’t try to separate Iranians from thier goverment, like you said, they purposely advocated and punished the Iranian population as hard, but that was not enough, they went further, and punished and sanctioned Iranian Americans in the same way to the point that they sanctioned away the expatriates from thier ancestral homes, family and belongings. To a point that if you even inherited your parents home you will need to obtain a US goverment licence to be able to transfer your inhreated wealth to your new home country here in US.

  62. Valissa says:

    So far, Trump is repeating his anti-interventionist message…
    ‘New Era of Peace’: Trump Vows to Stop Regime Change During 1st Stop of ‘Thank You’ Tour http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/new-era-peace-trump-vows-stop-us-toppling-regimes-during-1st-stop-thank-you-tour/ri17960
    Donald Trump promised a “new era of peace” during the first stop of his “Thank You” tour in Cincinnati, Ohio, vowing that the US will stop trying to overthrow world governments and will cooperate with countries fighting terrorism.
    The president-elect also promised to cooperate with any country interested in destroying Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
    … “We will destroy ISIS. At the same time, we will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks,” Trump said, as quoted by The Washington Examiner.
    I expect Trump discussed the regime change issue with Mike Pompeo before he selected him to head the CIA, and that Pompeo is on board with Trump’s new FP direction. But will the rest of The Agency cooperate?

  63. turcopolier says:

    IMO you have some of this wrong. IMO Obama under Borg, i.e., FPE control sent all of the jihadis EXCEPT IS to destroy the Assad government. With regard to Flynn if you are referring to the 2012 analytic document that DIA published concerning USG intentions I continue to believe that was a foreign third party analytic paper received in liaison from some foreign service. That happens often in the normal course of business. the paper as published by DIA does not look like something DIA would have originated and I approved thousands of such papers. Does Flynn deserve credit for going to the WH with it? Sure he does. Did Trump make clear to these three men the policy he intends to follow? Who knows? Did they agree with him just get the job? Who knows? pl

  64. Valissa says:

    All good points, pl, and thanks for the clarification.

  65. kao_hsien_chih says:

    What is amazing too is the multinational nature of the 14th Army, with troops drawn literally all over the world representing the British Empire, and my understanding is that all these nationalities universally revered Slim. Remarkable feat for anyone, and one does have to have a bit of respect for some things, ideas, and people that emerged from Britain’s imperial history.

  66. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I had heard about it. Someone whom I know has connections to highly placed people in government was at a dinner with General Mattis at the same table and she was talking about how the general really hated Iran, at least in course of otherwise casual dinner conversations. Similar stories keep coming out about other people expected to play important roles in the incoming administration and the hostility really seems genuine (although I don’t know if one should make too much of dinner conversations from a second hand source). I always wondered what the deal with this hostility to Iran was (esp since the colonel who has dealt with Middle Eastern matters for decades does not seem to share this hatred) and what the prospect of this seeming hostility making problems with our foreign policy choices.

  67. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That was my observation too, also in Canada.
    Iran and Iranians have been treated shabbily for decades, it will take more than JCOPA to change the hardened attitude of Iranians.

  68. MRW says:

    I fear the latter will be true.

  69. MRW says:

    Kooshy, he’s just oiling the public.

  70. MRW says:

    @robt willmann,
    How does this impact or cause other activity by other signers to the Iran agreement? What does our reaction now alter the Agreement?
    This enhances the danger that the advisors may — as Col. Lang mentioned above — assimilate Trump.
    Did the Colonel write of dangers? I don’t see that. Where is it?

  71. turcopolier says:

    “Did the Colonel write of dangers? I don’t see that. Where is it?” Say whut? pl

  72. turcopolier says:

    mike allen
    Your brother Marine Mark Shields said tonight on the Newshour that only USMC officers eat after their men in the field. I assure you that this is not true and I confess to being deeply offended. pl

  73. FkDahl says:

    Hell cannons can raze a small building or knock a corner off a large ones: and their trajectory (to use the word loosely) would certainly create the effect you describe.

  74. pl,
    Wow! That is a truly offensive thing for Mark Shields to say. I expect him to issue a retraction and apology within the next 24 hours. There is little as sacrosanct as the custom of officers never eating before all the men are fed in the field. It is simply not done.

  75. BraveNewWorld says:

    Respectfully sir, that is not correct. His words were “dominant economic power”. Israel may not do a lot of trade with it’s neighbours but it most definitely is an economic power in the region thanks to all the US money spent to make it so. Oodles of arms, medical, electronics etc are designed and produced in Israel not to mention a fair bit of agriculture which is what they need the Palestinians for in the same way Americans need Mexicans.
    They have preferential trade deals with the EU and LOTS of subsidies for their companies and research come from the EU. Do they have money like the Gulfies? No. But their economy isn’t based purely on pumping oil either.
    Thee reason that being the economic power is important is that it helps keep their military ahead of every one else’s beyond what the US does.
    Now having said that, if the US and EU stopped pumping so much money into Israel I think their economy would come very close to collapsing.
    You are likely to ask for a link to the story I was originally referencing and I no longer have it or can’t find it. I have looked for it a couple of times over the last couple of years. It was an address to a business group in one of the countries up near Russia but I don’t remember which.

  76. Valissa says:

    The headline was the best part of that article. But, that is the ultimate question.
    My intention has been to stay neutral and open-minded about Trump, but it’s been a challenge. The drama of the paradigm shift versus status quo is very seductive, and it’s hard to resist playing the speculation game.
    BTW… Chris Cillizza, a key political analyst at WaPo, is turning the corner on his view of Trump. He gives a remarkably positive analysis of Trumps cabinet picks.
    Maybe Donald Trump knows what he’s doing with these Cabinet picks https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/02/donald-trump-deserves-more-credit-than-hes-getting-for-his-cabinet-picks/
    Still, viewed as of today with Hweitkamp and Manchin potentially in play and Mattis and Haley already picked, it’s hard to say that the doomsday predictions for Trump’s Cabinet have come true — or anything close. What we’ve seen so far is a smart melange of close allies, well-respected establishment types and a few picks with helpful political repercussions for the party Trump now leads. Give credit where credit is due.
    The status quo is starting to accept Trump.
    Then Trump goes for the paradigm shift…
    Trump speaks with Taiwanese president, a major break with decades of U.S. policy on China https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-spoke-with-taiwanese-president-a-major-break-with-decades-of-us-policy-on-china/2016/12/02/b98d3a22-b8ca-11e6-959c-172c82123976_story.html
    Looks like he did this knowingly. This is one way Trump will be very different than Obama. Trump is going to want to meet and socialize with the other world leaders and get to know them so he can negotiate with them directly if need be. How will the State Dept. deal with it when he ignores their advice? Obama was not much interested in building relationships with the leaders of other countries. Expect this aspect of Trump’s personality will have a significant impact on foreign policy.

  77. mike allen says:

    Never heard of him. Who is he?

  78. mike allen says:

    Never mind, I googled him and recognize him now. But the transcript adds the caveat: that I know. So he may have meant no offense and was only speaking from what he knew of his own service. Has he ever been a correspondent attached to Army units?
    But I do recall hearing many years ago about the other story Shields told regarding General Mathis standing OD duty on Christmas Eve while a Brigadier at Quantico.

  79. turcopolier says:

    “It was just a rumor, but it does give one an idea of the sort of mentality pro-war groups in the UK feel about the place, and where they place their hopes” Why are you spreading rumors? I “called” you on this before when you made statements of supposed fact that you could not support. If you want to state an opinion, do so but do not claim your opinion is a pseudo fact. pl

  80. turcopolier says:

    mike allen
    Mark Shields was once an enlisted Marine. His head is filled with the usual Marine bullshit about the Army. You, of course, are suggesting that what he said about us may be true. pl

  81. Peter Reichard says:

    Trump is admittedly not well read in history and foreign policy and is on a steep learning curve. Lacking a deep understanding of these subjects makes him more vulnerable to having his decisions subtly tilted by his advisers towards their agenda through the selective information they feed him than someone like Henry Kissinger would be.

  82. robt willmann says:

    The Iran nuclear deal will be difficult from a political standpoint to unravel because it is between Iran and six countries. From the preamble: “The Islamic Republic of Iran and the E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) have decided upon this long-term Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”
    United Nations security council resolution 2231 of last year addressed the agreement. Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA can be found here (104 pages, the Iran agreement starts on pdf page 8; you have to have ‘cookies’ on with your browser to view or download it)–
    The Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 dates back 20 years. I have not read the JCPOA and do not know if it contains a provision looking at the Iran Sanctions Act. At the very least, the JCPOA, along with UN resolution 2231, will eventually remove all UN-related sanctions that exist because of Iran’s nuclear program.

  83. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Due to the avowed and acknowledged leadership of the United States of the “Fortress West”, the greater danger, in my opinion, is for the United States to commit herself and “The West”, willy-nilly, into a centuries long war with Islam.
    West of Diocletian lines, the intellectual ground for such a war could be sought in the Enlightenment Tradition. East of the Diocletian Lines, anti-Islam attitudes (for historical reasons) obtain in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Hungary.
    They would march gladly against Islam; expecting a quick victory due to their perceived strategic preponderance; in my opinion.
    The only substantial constrain that I can see against a religious war between Fortress West and Islam is the Catholic Church and the Vatican.

  84. mike allen says:

    Colonel –
    I may have suggested somesuch back when I was a Pfc. But back then I also suggested the same about Marine units other than my own. There is as you well know a great deal of mockery and insult among most military units. I have heard taunts and somewhat overripe slander from Soldiers in the 82nd, Sailors in the Silent Service and even from an Air Force tin-knocker. It comes with the territory and with the pursuit of team spirit. It would still be there if we all wore the mythical Joint Forces purple.
    Regarding your comment about Mark Shields head being “filled with the usual Marine bullshit about the Army”: Are you suggesting there is no Army BS about Marines and Sailors and Airmen? Maybe or maybe not in the O Club, but you know darn well there was some among the troops. Perhaps you or your NCOs even fostered it?

  85. turcopolier says:

    mike allen
    Point taken. There is something about Shields’ smugness that just pisses me off. I got on much better with Jim Lehrer who was another former Marine. pl

  86. turcopolier says:

    I don’t think CIA, jihadis or anyone else can get in or out of East Aleppo now. pl

  87. turcopolier says:

    Israel is not economically part of the ME. How can it dominate the region economically? pl

  88. Green Zone Café says:

    Ya, even though Iran is buying Boeings, the Congress voted to continue sanctions.
    This will be the first test of Trump. He did say “no more regime change” in Ohio a couple of days ago.

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