Interesting material from “Conflicts Forum”


Conflicts Forum distributes articles and reports that we think might be of interest – in doing so, CF is not endorsing the content of the articles or papers, nor do they reflect any corporate view of CF. They are articles, reports, papers, etc. that we think might be of interest.

Comments on the battle for Aleppo Elijah Magnier 

(Posted on Twitter end July/early August) 

There are 11 Jihadists and 11 non-Jihadists groups, all together in this Aleppo battle, working together and fighting side by side.

#ISIS is d weakest force n #Syria, easy 2overcome. Nusra, foreign fighters & Jihadists, enjoying "western blessing" r much stronger

Previous information confirmed Jabhat al-Nusra (JFS) is holding bodies of #Russia officers & pilots & that Ahrar al-Sham was the negotiator

"Public institution 4prisoners" is asking: 1. "liberation of all prisoners held by regime & Hezbollah" 2. "Lifting of siege on all cities".

Rebels gathered mltnts from different frnts 4Aleppo. If this fail, it will be a hard hit 4long,w/ blame 2each other

All ground troops are under Iran command. Russia coordinates with Iran ( country) not with groups.

Although Nusra & rebels maintain media black out, their attack on #Aleppo Ramous and Mansoura failed to achieve the desired objective.

4000 Nujaba', 4000 Fatimiyoun & #Hezbollah in #Aleppo to face Nusra, Jihadists & rebels.

Fatimiyoun are badly trained, unprepared: Iran unwilling to inject adequate forces

Russia is aggressively refreshing Syria army armament (that is new info)

If Iran injects more troops, regional countries will behave differently with rebels

Russian AF is active daily but rebels, including Nusra, injected large number of militants. No 2be underestimated

It was only due to Russia air support that SAA and allies managed to circle Aleppo+

Russia gave up on advertising strikes but these are tens every single day non stop

Russia was complaining about lack of enough Iranian forces on the ground. Nobody can win by AF only

Russia no longer believe in #USA will of cease-fire or peace process. Aleppo is important 4 everybody

No Iranian regular troops, just usual advisors. Iran allies r deployed own this front (Aleppo). Russia wants Aleppo more than Iran

#Russia is planning to increase its Air Force in #Syria. The battle of #Aleppo seems a Russian battle.

Elijah Magnier is a leading Arab war correspondent writing for the Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Rai. 

The Larger Context Of The Jihadi Attack On Aleppo

Moon of Alabama blog, 1 August 2016

Al-Qaeda in Syria and associated forces are currently driving a large scale attack from the south-west into Aleppo city. Their aim is to create a new corridor between the Idleb/Aleppo rural areas they occupy and the besieged al-Qaeda controlled areas in east-Aleppo. Between 5,000 and 10,000 al-Qaeda fighters, using U.S. supplied equipment, are taking part in the battle. Formally some of the fighters are "moderates" but in reality all this groups are by now committed to implement Sharia law and to thereby suppress all minorities. They made some initial progress against government forces but are under fierce attack from the Syrian and Russian air forces.

The Russian General Staff has warned since April that al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Fateh al Sham) and the various attached Jihadi groups were planing a large scale attack on Aleppo. An al-Qaeda commander confirmed such long term planning in a pep-talk to his fighters before the current attack.

This shines a new light on the protracted talks Secretary of State Kerry has had for month with his Russian colleague. The U.S. tried to exempt al-Qaeda from Russian and Syrian attacks even as UN Security Council Resolutions demanded that al-Qaeda and ISIS areas be eradicated. Then the U.S. tried to make an "offer" to Russia to collectively fight al-Qaeda should Russia put its own and Syrian forces under U.S. control. We called this offer deceptive nonsense. All this, it now seems, was delaying talk to allow al-Qaeda to prepare for the now launched attack.

Another step in the delaying, though a failed one, was the re-branding of Jabhat al-Nusra as Fateh al-Sham. Some "western" media called that a split from al-Qaeda but in reality is was a merging of al-Qaeda central and Nusra/al-Qaeda in Syria under a disguis[ed] new label. Al-Qaeda's Qatari sponsors had demanded the re-branding so al-Qaeda in Syria could publicly be sold to "western" governments and their public as "moderate rebels". But the sham failed. It was too obvious a fake to be taken seriously. The "western" support for al-Qaeda will have to continue secretly and in limited form.

The current attack on Aleppo is serious. The Syrian army lacks ground forces. Significant professional ground forces from Iran were promised but never arrived. Iran was still dreaming of an accord with the U.S. and therefore holding back on its engagement in Syria. The Afghan farmer battalions Iran recruited are not an alternative for professional troops. Defending against an enemy that is using lots of suicide vehicle bombs to breach fortifications and death-seeking Jihadis to storm field positions is difficult. It demands diligent preparation excellent command and control.

If this attack can be defeated the huge losses al-Qaeda will have to take might end its open military style war. If al-Qaeda succeeds with the attack the Syrian army will need very significant additional ground forces to regain the initiative.

But no matter how that battle goes strategically the U.S. is sniffing defeat in its regime change endeavor. It is now proposing to split Syria. Syria and all its neighbors are against this. It will, in the end, not happen, but the damage Washington will create until it acknowledges that fact could be serious. Russia can and should prevent such U.S. attempts of large scale social engineering.

Russia on the other side has now to decide if it wants to escalate enough to create more than the current stalemate. Over time a stalemate becomes expansive and it may, at any time, suddenly turn into defeat. The U.S. negotiation positions so far were obviously not serious. The U.S. delayed to allow for further large attacks on the Syrian government. The alternative for Russia is to either leave Syria completely or to escalate enough to decisively defeat the Jihadis. That is not an easy decision.

Today some Jihadis shot down another Russian helicopter over Syria. The bloody body of the dead pilot was dragged through the mud by some local nuts and the video thereof proudly presented. If the Russian government needs some public pretext to go back into Syria it now has it. Also today the Islamic State threatened to attack Russia within its border. Another good reason to return to Syria in force. Of note is that Russia is already extremely pissed over the unreasonable hostile climate towards it in Washington DC. It will have consequences.

The Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei today acknowledged that the nuclear agreement with the U.S. is a failure. The U.S. did not deliver on its end. Iranian money is still blocked in U.S. controlled accounts and no international bank wants to do business with Iran because the U.S. is threatening to penalize them. The conclusion, Khamenei says, is that no deal with U.S. over any local issue in the Middle East is possible and that all negotiations with it are a waste of time. This new public position may finally free the limits the Rouhani government of Iran had put on Iranian deployments to Syria. Why bother with any self-limitation if the U.S. wont honor it?

How the situation in Syria will develop from here on depends to a large part on Turkey. Turkey is changing its foreign policy and turning towards Russia, Iran and China. But how far that turn away from the "west" will go and if it will also include a complete turnaround on Syria is not yet clear. Should Turkey really block its borders and all supplies to the Jihadis, the war on Syria could be over within a year or two. Should (secret) supplies continue, the war may continue for many more years. In both cases more allied troops and support for the Syrian government would significantly cut the time (and damage) the war will still take. That alone would be well worth additional efforts by Syria's allies.

Will Tehran and Moscow agree with that conclusion?

[The writer is a blogger with extensive military experience who closely follows military developments in Syria]

Kerry's And Al-Qaeda's "Very Different Track" Attack On Aleppo Fails

Moon of Alabama blog, 4 August 2016

Early in May U.S. Secretary of State Kerry set a deadline for "voluntary" regime change in Syria:

[He] said “the target date for the transition is 1st of August” in Syria or else the Assad government and its allies “are asking for a very different track.” Hoping that “something happens in these next few months,” he said the political transition would not include President Assad because “as long as Assad is there, the opposition is not going to stop fighting.” … Kerry made those remarks after meeting with the UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. They agreed to establish a monitoring ceasefire center in Geneva, Switzerland, …

By the time of that statement al-Qaeda in Syria and U.S. supported insurgents had already broken the February ceasefire announced by Russia and attacked Syrian government positions in the rural area south of Aleppo city.

Negotiations since May between Russia and the U.S. over Syria have not led to any tangible results. In retrospect the U.S. tactic seems to have been willful delay. The U.S. made some laughable offer to Russia and Syria to effectively accept defeat in exchange for common attacks on al-Qaeda. This was rejected without much comment.

The current attack on the government held Aleppo by al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al Nusra aka Fateh al Sham) was launched on August 1st. With up to 10,000 insurgents participating the attack was unprecedented in size. August 1st is exactly the same date Kerry had set as starting date for "a very different track". This is likely not a random coincidence.

Despite the very large size of the "Great Battle of Aleppo" and its possibly decisive character for the war neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post has so far reported on it.

The U.S. had long prepared for an escalation and extension of the war on Syria. In December and January ships under U.S. control transported at least 3,000 tons of old weapons and ammunition from Bulgaria to Turkey and Jordan. These came atop of hundreds of tons of weapons from Montenegro transported via air to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. According to the renown Janes Defense military intelligence journal these Bulgarian weapons ended up in Syria where the Syrian army confiscated some of them from al-Qaeda and U.S. supported insurgents.

During the ceasefire and negotiations with Russia, the U.S. and its allies continued to arm and support their proxies in Syria even as those were intimately coordinating and integrating with al-Qaeda. The U.S. does not consider these groups to be terrorists, no matter with whom they associate or whatever they do. Even when such a group beheads a 12 year old, sick child in front of running cameras the U.S. State Department continues to support them and opines that "one incident here and there would not necessarily make you a terrorist group."

Good to know …

The Russian Defense Ministry warned since April that large amounts of weapons and men were crossing from Turkey to Syria:

The Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) in Syria is planning a major offensive with the aim to cut the road between Aleppo and Damascus, the chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Sergey Rudskoy, has said. … "According to the information we have, about 8,000 Jabhat al-Nusra militants have concentrated to the southwest of Aleppo; up to 1,500 militants have gathered to the north of the city," Rudskoi said.

A Jabhat al-Nusra spokesperson claimed that the attack on Aleppo was planned for "several months". The U.S.-Saudi weapon supplies at the beginning of the year and the Russian observed deployment of forces in April were likely in preparation of the current attack on Aleppo. Kerry's "very different track" remark fits right into these. But the large "very different track" attack failed. 

The attack started on Sunday and by Monday the 2nd the insurgents (green areas [see map in link above]) managed to break Syrian government (red) defenses at the south-western border of Aleppo city. The plan was to break through roughly along the black line. Several vehicle based suicide attacks breached the Syrian front line. The insurgents captured the large, unfinished apartment project 1070 and several hilltop positions. On Tuesday phase 2 launched when they attempted to take the Artillery Academy base a few hundred meters further east. But after intense Syrian and Russian air strikes and nightly counterattacks nearly all positions fell back into Syrian government hands. Despite the failure of their main thrust, al-Qaeda and its allies launched a third phase attack towards Ramouseh district a few hundred meters further north. A tactical mistake as the attackers failed to build a decisive Schwerpunkt. A tunnel deployed bomb destroyed parts of the Syrian army positions in Ramouseh but the defense line held. The attack was repelled. Additional break-out attacks by the 2-3,000 fighters inside the besieged al-Qaeda controlled areas in east-Aleppo city failed too. Al-Qaeda never managed to break the siege of the eastern areas and to thereby cut off the government held, densely occupied western areas from their supply route south towards Damascus.

Local fighting still continues on the front lines but the government positions seem secured and the attacking force is slowly getting ground down.

Al-Qaeda and allies had to deliver their attack from rural Idleb and Aleppo over open terrain towards the western Aleppo city borders. Here is where the Russian airforce and long range artillery concentrated their fire. As usual in such situations more attackers were killed on the approaches to the front line and in forward supply areas than on the front line itself. A Russian cruise missile even destroyed (vid) an arms supply storage used by Jaish al-Islam, the al-Qaeda controlled insurgency alliance, in Bab al Hawa, Idleb, at the Turkish border. Several arms convoys on their way towards Aleppo were destroyed in other airstrikes.

Both sides currently accuse each other of minor gas attacks against each other civilians. The insurgents started these as they always do when they lose ground. This time the Syrian and Russian side immediately responded with their own claims. It is now he-said she-said – who can decide? These attacks or reports seem to be more diversions than serious incidents.

After the defeat of the third phase of their attack al-Qaeda and its allies broke off their original plan of an attack in six phases and pulled back. In Russian military doctrine such a situation demands a counterattack with a wide ranging, strategic pursuit of the retreating enemy. We may now see a lightning fast operation in which reserve troops held by the Syrian government proceed westwards and northwards from Aleppo under intense air cover.

There are no current plans on the government side to capture the insurgent areas in east-Aleppo which are under government siege. These can wait and their condition deteriorate before any costly move against them follows.

Reports of additional Russian attack planes arriving for the next phase of the conflict have not yet been confirmed.

All together Kerry's "very different track" failed to achieve the desired aim. The government held Aleppo city was not cut off from the rest of the government held areas south of it. The attacking force, the largest insurgent concentration in this war, suffers up to 1,000 casualties and a large amount of its equipment was destroyed. A pursuit might shatter its remnants.

In another Syrian trouble spot Kurdish YPG fighters besiege and slowly conquer the Islamic State held city of Manbij in the east. They are supported by U.S. special forces and intense coalition air attacks. The city of Manbij is now mostly destroyed. The once 100,000 inhabitants are in dire straits. Up to 200 civilians fleeing the city were killed in U.S. air attacks. But as the operation is U.S. led no "western" humanitarian organization has lamented their fate.

The Case for (Finally) Bombing Assad

DENNIS B. ROSS and ANDREW J. TABLER, NY Times Op-Ed, August 3, 2016 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration wants to reduce the violence and suffering in Syria and, at the same time, quash jihadist groups there. This is why the White House is now pushing a plan for the United States to cooperate with the Russian military in Syria, sharing intelligence and coordinating airstrikes against the Islamic State and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. In return, Russia would force the government of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to stop using barrel bombs and air attacks in areas in which neither extremist group is present.

Wiping out terrorist groups in Syria is an important goal and, after years of death and destruction, any agreement among the country’s warring parties or their patrons may seem welcome. But the Obama administration’s plan, opposed by many within the C.I.A., the State Department and the Pentagon, is flawed. Not only would it cement the Assad government’s siege of the opposition-held city Aleppo, it would push terrorist groups and refugees into neighboring Turkey. Instead, the United States must use this opportunity to take a harder line against Mr. Assad and his allies.

Secretary of State John Kerry hopes that this understanding with Russia will help lead to progress on other issues, including restoring the “cessation of hostilities,” a partial truce that began in February and broke down in May, and returning to negotiations on a political transition. These are reasonable goals, which are also embodied in a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted last December.

But a leaked text of the proposed agreement with Russia shows that it is riddled with dangerous loopholes. American and Russian representatives are now delineating areas where the Nusra Front is “concentrated” or “significant” and areas where other opposition groups dominate but “some possible Nusra presence” exists. This will still allow Mr. Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers to attack the non-Nusra opposition in those areas, as well as solidify the Syrian government’s hold on power.

More worrying is that the Assad government lacks the manpower to hold rural Sunni areas and so will rely on Hezbollah and other Shiite militias to do so. These brutal sectarian groups will most likely force the Nusra Front and other Sunni rebels to decamp to Turkey, bringing them, and the threat of militant violence, closer to the West. The fighting will similarly displace Sunni civilians, leading more of them to try to make their way to Europe.

The administration’s initiative with Russia is driven by either hope or desperation, but surely not by experience. During the partial truce, Russia took advantage of similar loopholes that permitted it and the Assad government to keep fighting the non-Nusra and non-Islamic State opposition. Such violations have allowed Mr. Assad and his allies to gain territory and besiege Aleppo.

The Obama administration appears to believe that President Vladimir V. Putin is looking for a way to limit Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. We doubt it. Mr. Putin is more interested in demonstrating that Russia and its friends are winning in Syria and the United States is losing. He will not alter his approach unless he becomes convinced that it has grown too expensive. Instead, because Mr. Putin knows the United States will not take action to punish Russia for its support for the Assad government, he and Mr. Assad will probably treat the emerging agreement no differently from the previous ones.

There is an alternative: Punish the Syrian government for violating the truce by using drones and cruise missiles to hit the Syrian military’s airfields, bases and artillery positions where no Russian troops are present.

Opponents of these kinds of limited strikes say they would prompt Russia to escalate the conflict and suck the United States deeper into Syria. But these strikes would be conducted only if the Assad government was found to be violating the very truce that Russia says it is committed to. Notifying Russia that this will be the response could deter such violations of the truce and the proposed military agreement with Moscow. In any case, it would signal to Mr. Putin that his Syrian ally would pay a price if it did not maintain its side of the deal.

If Russia does want to limit its involvement in Syria, the threat of limited strikes should persuade it to make Mr. Assad behave. Conversely, if the skeptics are right that Mr. Putin will get serious about a political solution only if he sees the costs of backing Syria’s government increasing, the threat of such strikes is probably the only way to start a political process to end the war.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have long said there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Unfortunately, Russia and Iran seem to think there is — or at least that no acceptable political outcome is possible without diminishing the rebels and strengthening the Syrian government. It is time for the United States to speak the language that Mr. Assad and Mr. Putin understand.

Dennis B. Ross, a former senior Middle East adviser to President Obama, and Andrew J. Tabler, the author, most recently, of “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle With Syria,” are fellows at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy [WINEP is a leading US neo-con think tank].

This entry was posted in Iran, Middle East, Policy, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, The Military Art. Bookmark the permalink.

102 Responses to Interesting material from “Conflicts Forum”

  1. michael brenner says:

    We often have bemoaned the failure/inability of the Obama people, and the Washington foreign policy establishment generally, to think through the implications of their failed plans for Syria (+Turkey, + the Gulfies)or to do any contingency planning. Instead, life on fantasy island goes on impervious to real world events. This judgment is based on the complete absence of evidence to the contrary. Yet, it does defy the most elementary logic.
    Therefore, this open-ended question. Does anyone know of, or seen signs of, serious reassessment anywhere in or around official Washington?

  2. Just a short comment on the Aleppo battle, because getting into all the ins and outs would call for a piece in its own right.
    “Jabhat Fatah al-Sham” (JFS, i.e. AQ) and friends may have mobilized a large number of fighters for the counter offensive, which aims at breaking the siege and actyally reversing it, i.e. encircling regime held Western Aleppo.
    this sounds not just ambitious, but quite adventurous actually. For a couple of days, they’ve been announcing a “big surprise”, or even the “biggest surprise in the war yet”. Well, it’s been 3 days now and still no surprise.
    The truth is, the balance of power in and around Aleppo is such that a rebel victory is highly improbable. On the contrary, looking at it from a bit of a cynical perspective, one might consider that the 10 000 men gathered for that offensive by JFS actually represent a “target rich environment” more than anything else.
    Regardless of the latest hype and its outcome, the battle for Aleppo is far from over. If the regime prevails, as I expect, it would still take weeks or months to empty Eastern Aleppo from the many groups who’ve chosen to hide among the civilian population there.
    Now as far as the renewed calls for striking Assad are concerned, one can only hope that the “crazies” who dare uttering such demands will remain in the basement they belong, after this year’s presidential election.

  3. Fred says:

    “Defending against an enemy that is using lots of suicide vehicle bombs to breach fortifications and death-seeking Jihadis to storm field positions is difficult.”
    This seems to be an understatement but clearly points to the problem of front line defense with militia units. The civilian equivalent was the terror attack in Nice. That would be very easily repeated in any US city.
    The comments from Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei were also starteling.
    “…. acknowledged that the nuclear agreement with the U.S. is a failure. The U.S. did not deliver on its end. Iranian money is still blocked in U.S. controlled accounts and no international bank wants to do business with Iran because the U.S. is threatening to penalize them.”
    No wonder Obama wants to talk about the $400 million instead of his duplicity. Not a word from Hilary or our press corps on that.

  4. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Presently, foreign embassies in Tehran, have to import cash to pay for their day-to-day operations.
    The South Korean Ambassador to Iran confirmed this 2 weeks ago; 7 months after JCPOA.

  5. SmoothieX12 says:

    Russia no longer believe in #USA will of cease-fire or peace process. Aleppo is important 4 everybody
    Wrong wording. Russia (that is real Russian decision-makers) doesn’t really believe USA since August 2008. After February 2014 the term “believe” doesn’t apply altogether. Algorithm of Russia’s actions in Syria is directly connected to Ukraine and European affairs in general.

  6. Thomas says:

    “Does anyone know of, or seen signs of, serious reassessment anywhere in or around official Washington?”
    Yes, from final article:
    “The Obama administration wants to reduce the violence and suffering in Syria and, at the same time, quash jihadist groups there. This is why the White House is now pushing a plan for the United States to cooperate with the Russian military in Syria, sharing intelligence and coordinating airstrikes against the Islamic State and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.”
    This is what the captain of the ship would like to do.
    “But the Obama administration’s plan, opposed by many within the C.I.A., the State Department and the Pentagon, is flawed.”
    “There is an alternative: Punish the Syrian government for violating the truce by using drones and cruise missiles to hit the Syrian military’s airfields, bases and artillery positions where no Russian troops are present.”
    This is what the cruel crazies that commandeered the engine room are trying to get done.

  7. different clue says:

    Are the CIA, State Department and the Pentagon all in a state of veiled mutiny against Obama? If he ORders them to do things in furtherance of “Crush the jihad, live with Assad”, will they OPENly mutiny and carry out their own “punish Assad, support the Jihad” plans?

  8. Ken Roberts says:

    @ SmoothieX12 …
    Can you please clarify what August 2008 represents, in terms of Russia – USA “belief” relationships? I think of financial crisis, but you are perhaps referring to something else?

  9. different clue says:

    Patrick Bahzad,
    If Clinton wins the election, the Clintonites in Authority will bring all the crazies back out of the basement and put them back in overt charge of planning and executing the Prime Clintonite Directive of “Assad must go.” In practice, this will mean full support for all the jihadists, including undercover support for ISIS if the Clintonites think they can get away with it.

  10. different clue says:

    Is the duplicity Obama’s, or does he face an underground mutiny from all the Borgists and Clintonites wormed and buried into all the different agencies which affect the carrying out of the US side of the Iran deal?
    Then too, does the deal call in detail for unfreezing all the different things that Khamenei says it does on the timetable that Khamenei says it does? Or is Khamenei also creating a narrative here?

  11. Amir says:

    Not a surprise to many in Iran at all: US did not respect tha Algiers Accord, the very first arrangement with IRI. Everyone remembers the double dealing during the Saddam’s invasion of Iran. This duplicity was only repeated when Iran was branded as Axis of Evil after assisting US in Afghanistan against the Taliban/Al Qaeda. The Syrian & Libyan backstabbing, when their government opened up to the west is also a testimony to this habit of braking treaties. An agreement between unequal partners is a recipe for broken promises by the stronger of the two partners.
    As I told before, Iran have up a non-existent nuclear weapons program for a recognition, it will not receive.
    The only benefit Iran received, is exposing the hypocrisy and peeling off the sanction by working with third countries.

  12. The Beaver says:

    After some have decided that AQ are the good guys to fight ISIS, now others are saying ( the author is NOT alone) “that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.”
    Guess some have drunk that Kool Aid the path for Peace in the ME is thru Tehran 🙁 ( didn’t work for Baghdad nor Damascus but…)
    Just have to wait for Mama Albright to advise HRC who to put at Foggy Bottom and Pentagon

  13. The Beaver says:

    How can you forget Mikheil Saakashvili- the darling on McCain and Palin back in August 2008 after the diplomatic crisis between Georgia and Russia wrt South Ossetia and Abkhazia

  14. ira says:

    I believe he´s referring to the Russia-Georgia war.

  15. SmoothieX12 says:

    Russian-Georgian War of 08-08-08 and McCain’s “We are all Georgians now”.

  16. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to Ken Roberts 05 August 2016 at 02:09 PM
    August 2008 Russo-Georgian war.

  17. bth says:

    It could also mean that the US administration turns its limited resources to Mosul and Iraq and simply let’s Assad and friends deal with the rebels in Syria.

  18. elkern says:

    I think Diff Clue has this right (Obama really wants the deal with Iran to work, but moles in the bureaucracies don’t). The Cheney-Bush Neo-Cons did a particularly good job of stacking the Treasury Dept with their spawn. What’s the word/phrase for that? “burrowing in”? – when political appointees get reassigned to “civil-service” positions just before a new administration throws them out.
    I just hope that the Pentagon is more resistant to this kind of infiltration. The Military would have some defenses that other departments don’t: the Moles all wear Suits, not uniforms. CIA might be a different story – I’d love to hear more about that here.
    Treasury has been leading the fight against Iran for a decade now. That’s much more fun than trying to collect taxes from people who can afford good lawyers.

  19. bth says:

    Khamenei will always blame the US. He can hardly say that there are better investment opportunities around the globe than in Iran. So easier to always blame the great Satan.

  20. bth says:

    No question there is linkage between Syria, Ukraine/Crimea and sanctions. I would speculate there is also linkage to low oil prices but that is just a guess. Wasn’t July 31 the date the Russian economic sanctions also rolled over? I think that is one reason August 1 was a key decision date in Russia and the US with regards to Syria.

  21. bth says:

    Georgia-Russian War

  22. bth says:

    So a few developments.
    US sent today 400 more soldiers to Qayara air base south of Mosul for logistical support. Note to keep official headcount down the US military is not counting troops on temporary duty.
    ISIL leadership and their families are leaving Mosul heading mainly toward Syria and also selling their houses. Offense date is planned for September.
    ISIL destroyed housing and land deeds for the area which will effectively mean minorities will have difficult time establishing property rights after the conflict.

  23. SmoothieX12 says:

    the darling on McCain and Palin back in August 2008
    Actually, this nutjob is epitome of MO of US foreign policy consensus. The guy worked as Senior Statesman at Tufts U. School Of Law and Diplomacy (I am not kidding) after a disaster he engineered. Now, look at Petro Poroshenko–another shining example of…. You can easily fill the blanks.

  24. SmoothieX12 says:

    Wasn’t July 31 the date the Russian economic sanctions also rolled over?
    Majority of Russians (with the exception of hacks from Moscow’s High School Of Economics) applauded it–the reasons for that is a separate topic. Still, today, overwhelming majority of Russians support sanctions on themselves. I am not being facetious and do not exaggerate.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Actually, the US & EU economic siege engines have been removed from striking distance of Iranian Economic Fortress (however, they remain intact to be rolled back into position in due course.)
    In the meantime, Iranian blockade runners are diligently making any deals that they can, where they can, for however long they might.
    From what I read on the Internet, trade with East Asia, including, oil, is resuming and is approaching pre-sanctions levels.
    Economic relations with the Russian Federation has significantly improved and Russian Government is making loans to Iranian state sector to buy Russian civilian products & systems.
    Even Indians are showing their flag with modest amounts of investments in Chahbahar.
    Trade with EU – excepting a few bright spots such as with French automakers – does not seem show a lot of traction; perhaps because all those EU-oriented Iranian businesses have been eviscerated during that economic war.
    I also think that since US has finally publicly accepted all Iranian Nuclear activities within NPT, she could negotiate with Iran.
    Thus, if Trump with his “The Art of the Deal” reputation is elected to be the next US President, he could further negotiate with Iran.
    Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, would be unlikely to try; in my opinion.

  26. Ken Roberts says:

    Thanks all !

  27. BraveNewWorld says:

    Congress is blocking Iran getting it’s money back not Obama. To be fair to the US, Congress told Iran to blow it out their a__ before the deal was done and they were never going to get a penny no matter what they did. Obama/Kerry spun the yarn that they would be able to get it done without Congress. Good cop/bad cop?
    Now onto the UN states who are doing what they are told by the US Congress. This position is really stupid. What chance do you think there will ever be in getting a deal done with old Kim in North Korea, maybe the Pakistanis one day or any one else after screwing Iran, after screwing Hussein after he let inspector in to spy … err rummage around for WMDs that the US gave him to use on Iran. After killing Gaddafi after he disarmed. The US does not honour deals period. Even with it’s closest allies.
    The potential trading block in the Middle/Far East is waaaay bigger than the one to the West. The financial system to the East owns the West. What was gained here by Washington? I see Israel contacted Washington again today to bi_ch about the JCPOA in an effort to get their allowance dialed up.
    Congratulations western states in completely failing to make the world a safer place.

  28. BraveNewWorld says:

    Iran tried to buy $25B dollars worth of civilian aircraft from Boeing. Congress is blocking the deal. Will Iran just decide not to replace it’s civilian aviation fleet and watch the old birds crash? No, they will buy Chinese, Russian, Brazilian or maybe European but thats doubtful as the EU politicians would rather blow their brains out rather than cross Washington.
    Instead of blaming Mexico/China for the loss of US jobs maybe Americans should ask their politicians WTF for a change.

  29. Amir says:

    Who blames whom is besides the point. It is about the purse, period.
    It is not a question of investment opportunities. Even during the Saddam’s war on Iran, Iran financed the defense within it’s discretionary budget. It did not have to (and probably couldn’t) take loans and fight it on the condition of largess of people (e.g. House of Al Saud, Kuwait and GCC in case of Saddam).
    The issue at stake is that Iran can not repatriate it’s OWN money that is paid to it for the services and good that the country delivers, as overall the world trade and financing there of is $ denominated. Euro was a partial solution but obviously direct dealing with local currencies is the ultimate way of circumventing this (illegal) THIRD PARTY embargo.
    The U.S.G. not only bars it’s own company’s to deal with Iran but also bars third parties to do business with Iran. The latter is illegal, if one wants to live within WTO rules. But then again, the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
    As previously the local currencies were unstable, the circumvention through use of them would have had a higher exchange rate risk. However with the rise of the Chinese economy, the latter point becomes rather mute. Obviously, the same goes with Russia through a different mechanism of oil for defense purchases.
    If USG sanctions one country, then it will be quit effective. When it starts sanctioning half the humanity, basically they are sanctioning themselves.

  30. Amir says:

    From a Russian and Iranian perspective, it would be an utter stupidity to backtrack from their current position. Order #227 “Not One Step Back”, should be the mantra as more retreat will eventually lead to a rout.
    This whole oil price dumping business as weapon, can be easily countered. At the end of the day, there is Yemen and the Al Saud know it. Above all, the population in Russia and Iran has more internal cohesion while the Al Saud’s have to buy the loyalty of their subjects (yes not their citizens, their nationals, their countrymen, … but their SUBJECTS as defined in their Wahabi law). They can only carry on so long with the low oil price, especially when they are stuck with at least three protracted wars.

  31. jld says:

    From where else an embassy (from any country in any country) could find the budget to cover their operating expenses?
    Tapping into local “friendly mafias”?

  32. BabelFish says:

    One point, a lot of good options for short-haul aircraft from countries you mentioned, particularly Embraer. Only Boeing and Airbus build the craft they really need for high density, long-haul work. They can buy used aircraft but those need heavy maintenance (D check level). I am a little fuzzy on what availability there is for that, particularly for spares. They obviously would prefer to buy new aircraft and Boeing and Airbus would love to sell those to them.

  33. Kooshy says:

    IMO, nothing much will change between Iran and US, and US allies, unless US Borgistas can accept and swallow stratgic independence of the Iranian state. You are right that now at least tactically US has accepted Iranian NPT rights, but as incase of any agreement US agrees to, including arm control agreements they can be” rolled back” or throw it in the bin ” renegotiate”, get blocked in congress etc. IMO it’s not easy for US to change her ME policy, to do so, like incase with China, there need be a big stratgic shock, like the VN war. It took them 25 years to recognize China, while they were deep in Cold War with another SP state USSR. That condition doesn’t exist yet.

  34. Kooshy says:

    He means they ( forign embessies) can not transfer funds through banking system for operating expenses. Importing cash in suitcase.

  35. Chris Chuba says:

    The most striking thing from this article that rings true to me is the assertion that Washington is keen on a partition of Syria which its neighbors strongly reject. This might explain why Erdogan is attempting a rapprochement with the Russians because a Kurdistan would be totally unacceptable to him. The fracture between the geniuses in Washington and the Islamist Erdogan might end up helping Syria. It’s a sad day if this ends up being the case, this is something I will be watching for, to see if this rift is a fake out or real.
    So Iran really doesn’t have access to the $100B, interesting, so what did we do, we transferred the accounts into their name but don’t let them spend it? I’d be interested to learn more about the mechanics of how we ‘gave’ Iran their money back. It’s kind of like how we never annexed Guantanamo, it’s still part of Cuba but we have a permanent lease. We can be pretty cynical, that we play these games is one thing, I just wish we would turn down the volume the volume in our self-righteous chest thumping.

  36. FB Ali says:

    In addition to the extracts from various published sources that Conflicts Forum circulates frequently, the weekly commentary by Alastair Crooke that it also sends out is extremely valuable.
    An extract from his latest:
    “Some powerful figures clearly want any winding down of this ‘new’ Cold War dead in its tracks. Trump’s questioning of the hostilities with Russia, of the purpose of NATO, and of the costs to the US of it being a global hegemon have turned them cold.
    Does he (Trump) not understand, (these ‘ancien régime’ figures seem to say,) that rapprochement and entente with Putin now, could bring the whole structure tumbling down? It could collapse America’s entire foreign policy? Without a clear Russian ‘threat’ (the ‘threat’ being now a constant refrain in the US Beltway), what meaning has NATO? – and without NATO, why should Europe stay “on side, and [do] the right thing”. And if Damascus, Moscow and Tehran succeed in emerging with political credit and esteem from the Syria conflict, what price then, the US-led “rules-based” global order? Especially, if those who reject it, and who opt to stay out of the globalised order, find that they can so do – and emerge empowered and with their influence enhanced? If the political ‘rules-based order’ does erode, what then will be the future for the inter-connected, and presently shaky, US-led, global financial order and governance?”
    He has got it quite right. Sickeningly right!

  37. Jack says:

    FB Ali
    Crooke gets to the heart of the matter. That’s why everything including the kitchen sink is being thrown at Trump in the hope that something sticks and the Borg Queen can emerge triumphant. But…Trump has opened Pandora’s Box by speaking the unspeakable. He may well be defeated in November but the next person who rallies the Trump voters will be more sophisticated and more ruthless. The next demagogue that speaks to and for flyover country may incite violence and sharpen the edges of rhetoric. The longer the Borg continues to disenfranchise those in flyover country the greater the probability that the resolution will be accompanied by guillotines.

  38. Ken Roberts,
    At the risk of producing yet another of my overlong comments, I think it is worth making a few suggestions as to the reasons why August 2008 was a critical turning point in contemporary history.
    Curiously, following the Georgian War, the ‘NYT’ – aptly named ‘Pravda on the Hudson’ – actually published a translation of what is, I think, a critical Russian text: an article by Sergei Karaganov, who had been one of the original Gorbachev-era ‘new thinkers’, and remains today a figure of some moment in Russian security circles.
    (For an English translation, see .)
    The article began: ‘Curses fall from my mouth.’ In my view, the most significant section read:
    “‘At one time, during the Communist times of the weakening and decay of the USSR, members of the dissident intelligentsia and simply intellectuals were asking the strictly speculative question: what if the country throws off the stranglehold of Communist ideology and the socialist economy and becomes capitalist and free? Most believed that a free and capitalist world would welcome us with open arms. A minority of these unrestrained romantics said that a strong capitalist and economically more effective and free Russia would cause no less opposition than the Soviet Union.
    “‘It appears that the latter came out the “winners” in the argument.
    “‘The basis of the cold war was more geopolitics than ideology.”
    What the invasion of Georgia finally destroyed was a ‘narrative’ of Russian history in which the Cold War was seen, essentially, as a self-inflicted disaster, precipitated by the Communist take-over of the country, and also specific decisions by Stalin.
    As an old-fashioned ‘Perfidious Albionian’, this reading of history seemed to me very much in our interests, and not something I wanted to see disturbed. (But then, we old-fashioned British imperialists were always excessively cynical!)
    And in the event, we – both in the United States and Britain – took the decision to expose Gorbachev and the advisers on whom he based the ‘new thinking’ as gullible fools.
    Ironically, my hunch is that – despite the manifold problems and dangers the ‘new Cold War’ causes for Russia – in one way Western policy has done the country a favour.
    Commonly a new ‘consensus’ is easier to form when people from different ends of an argument have to say: we got a lot right, but also have to admit that we dismissed what the ‘other side’ was saying much too casually.
    So in the late ‘Eighties, both civilian intellectuals like Karaganov, and also some military intellectuals – names known to me include General-Mayor Valentin Larionov, Colonel Vitaly Shlykov, and Colonel Viktor Girshfeld – came to consider that the nature of the General Staff’s contingency plans for war had been a disaster for Russia.
    Among the critical figures in devising these plans was Colonel-General Mahkmut Akhmetovich Gareev (note the name.)
    Later, as President of the Academy of Military Sciences, he was a highly influential figure in the attempts of the Russian military to adjust to the realities of Soviet collapse.
    I do not have a link, but my recollection from Jacob W. Kipp’s ‘Facebook’ page is that Gareev was seated close to Putin at the ‘Victory Day’ celebrations earlier this year.
    So, if figures like Gareev have to admit they got a lot wrong, but their achievements are honoured, and figures like Karaganov have to admit they also got a lot wrong, but were right about crucial matters …
    Then, hey presto! – you have the makings of national consensus.
    The people left out, of course, are the corrupt oligarchs who the American and British ‘élites’, it seems, are still hoping they can re-install in power in Russia – and, of course, the ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys.’
    (See .)
    But if Western policy chooses to place its face in such people –
    Perhaps the ‘PNAC’ should be renamed the ‘PNCC’ (Project for a New Chinese Century.)

  39. Croesus says:

    “ISIL leadership . . .selling their houses.”
    To whom?

  40. b says:

    “I think Diff Clue has this right (Obama really wants the deal with Iran to work, but moles in the bureaucracies don’t). The Cheney-Bush Neo-Cons did a particularly good job of stacking the Treasury Dept with their spawn. ”
    The Deputy Secretary of the Treasury for “terror financing” and sanctions (a Zionist position always in the hand of a Jew) serves “at the pleasure of the president”. He could be fired tonight IF Obama wanted to do so.
    I find it astonishing that people still believe that Obama does not want what the bureaucracies, who “serve at his pleasure” are doing.
    It is a simple trick of his to let some people believe that. But he has never intervened against of those “obstructionist” even as he easily could have done so with the stroke of a pen.

  41. Thomas says:

    different clue.
    In regards to the Pentagon, the civilian side has already shown a lack of professionalism, integrity, and honor.
    If there was an attempted mutiny, they would lose, severely. This is why you are seeing a full court press of propaganda, the informed individuals of Borg understand that this is the rear guard action.

  42. Thomas says:

    “At the risk of producing yet another of my overlong comments,”
    Please continue.
    “Perhaps the ‘PNAC’ should be renamed the ‘PNCC’ (Project for a New Chinese Century.)”
    Or a Proclamation for a New Acceptance of Civility, with certain entities being put in their proper place not withstanding their professional message massaging.

  43. VietnamVet says:

    Our host’s, FB Ali’s, DH’s above and your comments are why SST is so vital. A question has risen what are the issues that will bend the horseshoe and have Trump and Sanders supporters voting for the same candidate? In my opinion they are the obvious corporate media bias and propaganda plus the realization that the Cold War 2.0 has restarted and we are at more danger of annihilation today than during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not to mention the destruction of the Western Blue Collar Middle Class.
    If candidates do not rise to solve these existential failures in the next few years, the splintering of the Western Alliance into ethnic enclaves is assured if WWIII doesn’t end it all first.

  44. Valissa says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the new Alistair Crooke piece. I could not find it at the Conflict Forum website (or anything else more recent than 5/4/16 ).
    After doing an online search I found it here…
    Stalling Obama’s Overtures to Russia
    I know that Crooke posts articles at HuffPo as well. And there are a couple more recent than at his own site. Is there a new Conflict Forums website?

  45. Kooshy says:

    Gen. Ali, this same sentence is also true with regard to Iran and those who suggest a rapprochement with Iran is possible. All caps are what I replaced in Alastair’
    “Does he (Trump) not understand, (these ‘ancien régime’ figures seem to say,) that rapprochement and entente with IRAN now, could bring the whole structure tumbling down? It could collapse America’s entire MIDDLE EAST foreign policy? Without a clear IRANIAN ‘threat’.

  46. F.B. Ali,
    You have repeatedly linked to pieces by Crooke.
    At the outset, I had reservations about him (partly, a deep distrust of MI6!)
    But in the past few years, he has more and more seemed to me to be ‘on the money’.
    However, material he produces does not seem, any longer, to be surfacing reasonably promptly on the ‘Conflicts Forum’ website. This makes it more difficult both to keep up oneself, and alert others to the material.
    Doubtless, like a lot of other people, he has too many commitments and not enough time.
    But if it was possible for him to get the website into better order, it would help.

  47. FB Ali says:

    I’m afraid the people who run the CF site are rather lax in putting stuff up on the website. Perhaps because they are fully occupied in their mailings to their lists (that’s how I get mine).
    You’ve done well to track the piece down; maybe that’s a good place to find his future commentaries as well – he writes them every Friday.
    On the ME, and the wider ‘game’ being played, he is invaluable!

  48. FB Ali says:

    I fully agree. Obama is a fraud who came along just for the ride!
    Look at Nuland, and Brennan, and Hillary – for God’s sake!
    That his successor is to be chosen from between Hillary and the Donald is a terrible indictment of the current American political system. What more could one expect after the pervasive TV culture, Citizens United, the Borg well-established in Washington, and the fat cats well-established in Wall Street and beyond?
    That is why the revolt by the people symbolized by the Tea Party and the Trump supporters was a sign of hope. But this has been subsumed into the system. As Jack says above, next time around it may well be accompanied by the guillotine (but be sure the Borg is well prepared for that).

  49. Valissa,
    Thanks for the link.
    It seems a concerted effort may be in order, to get Crooke to sort out his website.
    But, in passing, reading his current reflections produces, in me, a sadness.
    As I noted in my earlier comment on this thread, back in 1989 very large elements in the Soviet intelligentsia – both ‘dissident’ and ‘establishment’, the two always being more closely interrelated than we wanted to think – knew that Marxism-Leninism and communism had been blind alleys.
    At that point, an enormous amount of people, throughout the former Soviet Union – not simply among the restive members of national groups seeming to break away from it, and those who would become ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ – liked and trusted the United States.
    As did very many other people, the world over.
    The squandering of that affection and trust, over the subsequent generation, seems to me a tragedy.

  50. Ken Roberts says:

    David … Thanks — your point in quote below is what I was trying to understand, why Aug-2008 might be seen as a tipping point. I did not notice the structural change at the time, just more noise of the stuff-happens variety. But afterwards we see better. Or at least my eyes are opening.
    Thanks again, kr.
    David Habukkuk wrote:
    “What the invasion of Georgia finally destroyed was a ‘narrative’ of Russian history in which the Cold War was seen, essentially, as a self-inflicted disaster, precipitated by the Communist take-over of the country, and also specific decisions by Stalin.”

  51. Thomas says:

    “(but be sure the Borg is well prepared for that).”
    I would not bet the farm on that ideal, whose going to enforce Borg Law?

  52. different clue says:

    I don’t blame “Mexico and China” for our job losses. I blame our own OverClass and our Free Trade Treason Presidents for deliberately crafting Trade Treason Agreements which were carefully engineered on purpose with malice aforethought to dismantle industries in America, pack up and ship all the parts and pieces to designated production-export platforms overseas, and “re-mantle” them in place over there. I can hardly blame Mexico and China for taking honest advantage of a situation carefully engineered for them to take honest advantage of.

  53. different clue says:

    I understand these sanctions to be a sort of experiment in “home-market protectionism” to shelter and protect internal economic up-buildment. Would I be wrong to see it that way? Would I be wrong to think the Russians themselves see it that way? As a “protectionised” economic-development opportunity?

  54. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Col. Lang, SST;
    Slightly OT, but this might be interesting as well:
    Let us see what happens.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  55. SmoothieX12 says:

    Let me put it this way–British glam of 1970-s (Slade, Sweet, T-Rex) played a larger role in collapse of communism than Solzhenitsyn or Pasternak;-) Most of Soviet dissident “intellectuals” were and are very ignorant people, the same as those in the West who proclaimed them to be such (that is “intellectuals”).

  56. FB Ali says:

    Crooke is clearly on the ‘right’ side now. He quotes Col Lang sometimes, and often circulates Bernhard’s pieces from his excellent Moon of Alabama website! More seriously, his point of view is clearly that of any sane, intelligent person who has no axe to grind, except portray reality and the truth (as far as it may be determined). With his background, and extensive study of the subject, he gets to more of it than most of us.
    I would suggest you get on to his mailing list (my ‘qualification’ for it was to be a poster on SST!). Alternatively, there is the website that Valissa discovered (though that would not get you the material of the type that Col Lang posted above, which comes out almost every day).
    All that said, I agree that it would be much better all around if he/they got, and kept, the CF website more current.

  57. FB Ali says:

    I don’t know what the outcome would be, but “they” are certainly preparing for that eventuality.
    The tools they would use are the same they are using all over the world (and some at home, too): the NSA, CIA, FBI, the career military, the ‘even-more-career’ Special Forces, mercenaries (or contractors, as they are called), militarized police forces (with their us-them mentality), etc.

  58. Ghostship says:

    Things are no going well in Aleppo:
    Jihadists advance on Ramousah district, cut supply route

  59. Tyler says:

    We all know it would not mean that. Nothing in Big Grandma’s scope has ever indicated it would need that.
    Clinton needs a better grade of intern.

  60. Tyler says:

    A lot of people using triple bankshot 3D chess logic because they want to pretend that their Cocoa Messiah isn’t flawed and secretly is a non-globalist.
    Easier than facing the reality that Obama is basically GWB in blackface when it comes to FP.

  61. turcopolier says:

    Sounds like the jihadis in east Aleppo attacked to link up with the ones attacking from the outside. They are learning. Now we will see what the R+6 counter will be. pl

  62. FB Ali says:

    There was a second “squandering” of positive feelings towards the US – after the 9/11 tragedy. Almost everywhere people felt sorrow at the loss, and feelings of sympathy and support for the US. For a while it seemed ObL had lost the gamble that he had embarked on.
    But he had read the Borg (and their tool, Bush) right – for them this occasion was just an opportunity to continue their long-term schemes. The huge rallies of ordinary people, in the US and the West, against war, were merely taken by the Borg as an indication that a more concerted brain-washing and confusion-creating operation was necessary in future.
    The Borg’s success in this regard can be seen in the way people in the US have resignedly accepted the wars going on ever since, and effectively detached themselves from them.

  63. PeteM says:

    Interesting comment, David but aren’t Putin and possibly Gareev now part of and partnered with the corrupt Oligarchs? even if you take the reports of Putin’s wealth and divide it by ten he is still in that corrupt group.

  64. Babak Makkinejad says:

    II agree with that assessment.

  65. Lemur says:

    related article of interest on the Sultan Question (SQ)
    Theory from Katehon (Russian conservative think tank) that the Turkish statements about Aleppo were intended for domestic consumption only – reassuring the masses – rather than reneging on pivoting toward RF.
    If this is correct, we should still remain optimistic on a modus vivendi between the wolf and the bear.

  66. Babak Makkinejad says:

    To contemplate religious as well as political ideas as well as practices, one has to be a cynic – establishing in advance that one’s understandings and results are, ultimately, untrustworthy and unreliable. That best that one could hope for is a partial understanding with a limited scope for success in action – in space and time.
    One needs more men such as Voltaire, Stolypin and Machiavelli, Roosevelt and Wendell Holmes and fewer men such as Robespierre, Rousseau, or Savonarola.
    It is interesting to me that in England, where institutions are endured to strain until they break, the ruling classes made sure that there was never ever going to be another Cromwell enjoined to passions of the Mob.

  67. jld says:

    Well, well, well… “Olympic season” time for a little entertainement (like in 2008 and 2014)

    Local reports indicate that the early morning Ukie attack near Armyansk, Crimea, targeted and took out a Russian border post

  68. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Since the United States has removed the restrictions on US-made airplanes landing in Iran, a leasing company can purchase all the Boeing (and Airbus) airplanes that Iran wants or needs and then lease them to various Iranian airline companies.
    I think financing is much bigger hurdle since Iranians, as far as I can tell, do not have the money to pay for these airplanes; they have to get loans.
    Already, in Iran, some are grumbling on spending money on such luxury items as airplanes – long haul or not. Keep in mind that for decades airplane travel had been subsidized by the Islamic Republic – another government hand-out.

  69. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Yes, that seems to be highly unlikely; The Borg cannot tolerate the Russian independence; a much more consequential state than Iran.
    I learnt from Professor Mearshiemer ( that power politics is unavoidable; a look at the history of the Iranian plateau established that only the paranoid and the strong survive.
    I also learnt, from Margaret Mitchell ( that men like war and cannot help themselves.

  70. Thomas says:

    “The tools they would use are the same they are using all over the world (and some at home, too): the NSA, CIA, FBI, the career military, the ‘even-more-career’ Special Forces, mercenaries (or contractors, as they are called), militarized police forces (with their us-them mentality), etc.”
    Yes I understand, but it requires the participants to comply with the orders by the Borg, and if they are ones leading the insurgency to restore the Republic? As Shelby Foote says you fight with your people and the elite are not a large group nor respected at this time (having built up ill will for the past sixteen years).
    Though the Neo-Cons in the Borg would try to burn the house down before accepting defeat. If they try and go for it, then it is civil war.

  71. PeteM,
    I am not a Russianist – never lived there, do not know the language. So I make what sense of it I can – as with the Middle East – in large measure by following people who do have ‘local knowledge’ and seem to make sense.
    On the question of how far Russia is, and is not, a ‘kleptocracy’, I would recommend a review by Richard Sakwa of Karen Dawisha’s study ‘Putin’s Kleptocracy.
    (See .)
    However, there is another aspect to all this.
    What happened in Russia in the ‘Nineties was something close to the ‘withering away of the state’ of which Lenin dreamed – and it is a very terrible thing.
    A natural consequence of this is an interpenetration of the formal structures of the state and organised crime. Already, both long-standing elements in Russian history and the nature of the Soviet system facilitated this.
    In this context, the kind of ‘shock therapy’ advocated by the ‘Fachidioten’ from Harvard was not exactly a very helpful approach.
    Ironically, Americans have, in their own traditions and literature, ample resources for trying to enter imaginatively into the opportunities and dilemmas the absence of an effective state, and the interpenetration of state agencies and organised crime, creates.
    Perhaps ‘Red Harvest’ by that great, rackety, writer Dashiell Hammett might be a good start.
    Unfortunately, people do not use such resources.

  72. Babak Makkinejad,
    There is a great deal more to be said about this.
    Of course ‘power politics is unavoidable’ – I don’t need Mearsheimer to tell me that.
    (In any case, he is a ‘realist’ – whether he is less stupid than other ‘realists’ I am not clear.)
    It is a half-truth to say ‘only the paranoid and the strong survive.’
    One might suggest that this was Hitler’s view.
    Following it, he did not take the advice of the diplomats of the German Moscow Embassy – people whose expertise was unrivalled in the West at the time.
    In essence, they accepted Trotsky’s view of Stalin. But of course, if you are a conservative German, why should you object, if a ‘national communist’ leader devotes an enormous amount of attention to putting an ice-pick through the head of the most important ‘international communist’?
    Again, if the Red Army has what is – apart from the German – the most intellectually sophisticated command group in the world, why should you worry if Stalin is so afraid of a ‘Napoleon’ that he shoots the best of them and replaces them with incompetent cronies like Voroshilov and Budyonny?
    From the German Moscow Embassy’s point of view, the conclusion was obvious: what Germany needs to do was to adjust the Anticomintern Pact by incorporating in it the power against which it was initially directed – the Soviet Union.
    You would then have a ‘continental bloc’, economically autarkic, with no need to fight wars against anyone.
    As to the Anglo-Saxon powers, they can, as it were, go jump in the lake (the Atlantic.)
    Paranoia has its problems. And strength needs to be combined with intelligence – otherwise, as with German armies, it can be excessive confidence in what is a real strength that leads to your destruction.

  73. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Not “Intelligence” – that has never been the issue, or lack thereof – it has always been the absence of a that elusive quality called “Judgement”.
    The Borg lacks Judgement, Stalin had it, the Shah did not and so on an so forth.
    There is an analogous, equally elusive quality in Epistemology: Insight” – some have it, most do not.
    Neither quality can be taught or acquired or cultivated – they are like innate mental muscles.
    Please note that the advocates of rules based systems are enemies of both “Judgement” as well as Ïnsight”.

  74. PeteM says:

    I am also not a Russian although I am named for one and I also seek answers to improve my limited understanding of the current situation there.
    You supplied me with much to ponder but avoided my simple question with the skill of a politician so I will rephrase it. With what we may believe we know about the Russian Kleptocracy isn’t it logical to assume that the leader of that Kleptocracy and many of his subordinates, political and military, have taken on the identity and benefits of being in the Oligarchy and are in fact leading it?
    I’m certain that some of these Russian Oligarchs see greener pastures in the west but most seem to have made and are maintaining the deal they made with Putin to support his rule while receiving favorable treatment for their business dealings so long as they stay out of Putin’s politics.

  75. Babak Makkinejad,
    This can easily become an argument about words.
    As to Stalin, he got some things right and other things catastrophically wrong.
    On the run-up to ‘Barbarossa’, I would recommend to you a recent piece by Andrei Kokoshin, who was one of the leading Soviet ‘new thinkers’.
    (See .)
    As to the origins of the Cold War – as George Kennan clearly understood, Stalin disastrously over-extended Soviet power.
    One of the most brilliant of nineteenth-century Russian conservatives, Konstantin Leontiev, had warned Alexander III against the temptations of ‘Pan-Slavism’.
    In realising the agendas of the late-nineteenth century Pan-Slavs and neo-Slavs, Stalin boxed Russia into a situation where it was hopelessly over-extended.
    It could not realistically hope to maintain its control over the non-Russian and non-Orthodox populations in Eastern Europe, but could not withdraw without risking precipitating a process of disintegration which was always liable to become uncontrollable.
    Unlike almost all American historians, some contemporary Russian historians have actually read Kennan – and so have some understanding of what ‘containment’ as he understood it was about.
    (See .)

  76. BraveNewWorld says:

    What do you make of the reports that the Russian airforce has been mostly missing during this battle?
    Mean while those reports of the Admiral Kuznetsov coming in October seem to be pure PR if it is only going to carry 15 fighters and 10 helicopters.

  77. turcopolier says:

    Bullshit. Whenever the enemy does well some idiot always claims something like that. pl

  78. Lemur says:

    Latest anti russian agitprop:
    looks like this is ‘the narrative’ for the next few days. white helmets are pushing it, Jihadi admin on syria livemaps have it plastered all over.
    Apparently, Russia is attacking ‘innocent civilians’ in Idlib as revenge for Aleppo.
    I’m guessing Idlib City is the provisional centre of the Caliphate?

  79. PeteM,
    I didn’t ‘avoid your simple question’, but simply referred you to what seems to me an informed and balanced discussion of the issue you raised.
    However, it seems sensible to expand.
    While it seems reasonably clear that Putin’s ‘sistema’ has strong ‘kleptocratic’ features, a basic problem is that what we ‘believe we know’ about how things work in Russia very often turns out to be wrong.
    And here, to be blunt, a basic problem is that the system of ‘corrupt oligarchs’ which ruled Russia when Putin came to power was, in some measure, a Western creation.
    I would recommend to you two two articles published in March 2005 in the ‘Moscow Times’ by Catherine Belton – now with the ‘Financial Times’. These are based upon interviews with Christopher Samuelson and Christian Michel, who then ran a company called Valmet.
    (See .)
    Sometimes, ‘narcissists’ get so full of themselves that they let the cat out of the bag. What Belton provides us with is an historic account of the education in Western ‘business practices’ given, from early 1989 onwards to some of ‘the corrupt oligarchs’ who dominated Russia when Putin came to power.
    It seems reasonably clear that this education had the deliberate intention of creating a Russia controlled by a classic ‘comprador’ élite.
    According to Belton’s account, ‘with the help of British government connections Valmet had already built up a wealthy clientele that included the ruling family of Dubai’. At the time, meanwhile, according to Belton, the company had ‘already partnered up with Riggs Bank, one of the oldest banks in the United States’.
    In fact, the purchase of a 51% stake in Valmet by Riggs was reported in April 1989. On Riggs, there is a great deal of material – see for example a December 2004 story in the WSJ, entitled ‘Riggs Bank Had Longstanding Link to the CIA.’ One finds its name surfacing in the newly-released ‘28-pages’, as well as other places.
    (See ; )
    It is against this background that one needs to read some critical paragraphs in the Belton articles:
    ‘It has been a battle for empire as well as wealth, according to Samuelson, a well-connected financier. “[President Vladimir] Putin appears to be trying to rebuild the Russian empire. That’s where the danger is because it will inevitably lead to clashes with the U.S.,” Samuelson said during more than seven hours of interviews in the lounge bar of the well-appointed Goring Hotel, locked in a wedge of prime London real estate between Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace.
    ‘Under Putin, the Kremlin has turned the tide against these Yeltsin-era business barons toward increasing state dominance. Not content with tightening political control, he has also moved his top aides into key positions at state-owned energy companies and is bidding for the creation of a new state-controlled energy behemoth to boost the Russian government’s influence over global oil supply. Instead of being snapped up by a Western group, Khodorkovsky’s oil major has been partially swallowed by state-owned Rosneft.
    ‘In part, this clampdown on laissez faire capitalism is also a backlash against the tactics of little known, inside players like Samuelson and Michel. They had joined hands with upcoming oligarchs like Khodorkovsky to help build schemes to minimize taxes, which drained the federal budget and weakened the Kremlin to such an extent that eventually Khodorkovsky could seek to eclipse Putin’s hold on power.’
    So we have a company which seems to have emerged out of the extremely dodgy world of links between elements in the British elite and Gulf ‘royals’, and may also have had links to element in U.S. intelligence, and which appears to specialise in shady financial engineering designed among other things to minimise taxes paid to governments.
    According to Belton, that company has been engaged in attempting to prevent its Russian protégés having to pay taxes, which of course creates massive difficulties in providing services for a population which had been largely pauperised, in part by Western-sponsored ‘shock therapy’.
    One purpose of this, apparently, is so to weaken Putin that Khodorkovsky can mount a political challenge.
    Actually, this was the second attempt at such a challenge by the protégés of Samuelson and Michel – the first, by Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili, had led to their going into exile.
    That many of the ‘siloviki’ whom were installed in key positions as a result of Putin’s successful counter-offensive aren’t exactly wearing hair-shirts seems to me reasonably clear.
    A major difficulty, however, is that people in the West fail to grasp that in the ‘information wars’ between Putin and the ‘siloviki’ on the one hand, and figures like Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky on the other, it is necessary to be aware that a great deal of ingenious disinformation is put out.
    Let me illustrate this point by reference to the study by Karen Dawisha which Sakwa was reviewing. Regrettably, I have not had time to read it, but in the course of other work had occasion to check out her section on the question of the relations between the FSB and the notorious Ukrainian mobster Semyon Mogilevich.
    Rather remarkably, she simply accepts as authentic – which means unedited – a transcript of material from the famous Kuchma tapes, which purports to establish a close personal relationship between Putin and Mogilevich.
    In fact, the processing and dissemination of the relevant sections of transcripts was done in London by clients of Berezovsky – Yuri Shvets and Alexander Litvinenko, the latter at the time being an agent of MI6. And the direct link of Mogilevich to Putin is rather clearly the product of an edit – a fact of which Dawisha should have been aware.
    The purpose of the exercise, meanwhile, was to attempt to demonstrate that Mogilevich, while acting as an agent for the FSB, and under Putin’s personal ‘krysha’, had tried to obtain a ‘mini-nuclear bomb’ for Al-Qaeda.
    Both part of a crucial letter from Litvinenko making this claim, and the relevant extract from the Kuchma tapes, are on the ‘Litvinenko Inquiry’ site.
    (See ; .)
    Let me give you another example, from the Belton article. The question of the involvement of element of the KGB both in sponsoring economic ‘reform’ projects, and in laundering funds out of Russia, is one of critical importance.
    However, a key source on whom she, like many other Western journalists, relies, is the former GRU officer Anton Surikov. As it turns out, Surikov – now dead, with a list of possible culprits as long as one’s arm – was also Mansour Nathoev, a Cherkess nationalist. It has been suggested that he had links with elements in Western intelligence – whether reliably or not, I cannot say for sure.
    (On his identity, see .)
    There is nothing necessarily wrong in being a Cherkess nationalist – but to present him as though he were an impartial source on the Russian security services argues either dishonesty or incompetence (if not both.)
    And this is the problem I have with the question of how far Putin, personally, is involved in corruption. You can’t ‘take the reports of Putin’s wealth and divide it by ten’ – it would be necessary to look carefully at specific claims.
    And, as the two examples I have cited indicate, both important sections of Western academia, and the MSM in general, are simply uncritical in recycling material from opponents of the current Russian government.
    As to Gareev, he had reached normal retirement age when the Berlin Wall fell, and I have seen no evidence whatsoever that he has ever been engaged in business. That corruption was pervasive in the Russian military at the time of the First Chechen War – almost surreally so, in fact – seems clear. What the situation is like now I simply do not know.
    But as we have seen in Syria, the military competence of Russian forces is a hell of a lot better than it was then.

  80. PeteM says:

    Thank you again, David for this detailed response. It seems you have answered my question with a ‘yes’ as the excerpts above verify that Putin has taken control and installed his subordinates in the most critical and profitable energy sector that supplies the government with much of its funding. The problem with oil/gas rents of this magnitude is that they offer too many opportunities for corruption.
    I do agree that western finance and expertise was used by the Russian Oligarchs to expand and improve their operations and tax avoidance schemes are SOP but I do question the notion that they are a creation of the West. This seems to strip them of their agency and paint them as weak tools of capitalism. From what I have read about them they were already in positions of power in the USSR or had connections to that power and couldn’t wait for the fall of Communism so they could become capitalist pigs using their positions and just needing financing and expertise to move into that class.
    The propaganda about Putin recreating the old Russian Empire is useful to frighten the rubes and keep the vassal states in Europe in line. I doubt that Russia with a GDP comparable to Mexico, and less productive, will be doing much expanding in the near future.

  81. PeteM,
    I didn’t answer your question with a ‘yes’.
    If you think I did, you are either dishonest or stupid, or quite possibly both, and it really is only worth my while arguing with you if it gives me an opportunity to present evidence or arguments which may be of some interest to others.
    There are very many members of this most wonderful ‘Committee of Correspondence’ Colonel Lang has created, who, coming from a whole range of different backgrounds, and with very different views about very many things, are trying to struggle towards some reasonably sane view of things.
    Quite patently, you are not one of them.

  82. SmoothieX12 says:

    I doubt that Russia with a GDP comparable to Mexico, and less productive, will be doing much expanding in the near future.
    Sir, for starters. Before repeating monetarist cliches try to apply much more (still inaccurate) PPP GDP comparison here:
    But this is beyond that. Comparing Russia’s economy, which is a first world economy producing just about everything from computer chips to space ships and most complex weapons systems in the world domestically with that of Mexico–one has to be completely lost and have no situational awareness whatsoever to even bring this up. This is precisely mode of thinking in US “elites” which brought us today to the brink of a global confrontation.

  83. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The GDP of Russia in twice that of Mexico’s – not to mention the fact that Mexico is protectorate of US and Russia a great power.
    I think you are making a very very bad – an very common mistake – which is to underestimate Russia and the Rus based on economic output.
    Russia was never a great economic power but was always present in the European politics and later in the world politics; often decisively.

  84. PeteM says:

    I thought I was mocking the US/Western propaganda about Russia/Putin being an Imperialist threat and the economic comparison whether GDP or PPP are the same and are facts about economic power which is what matters most today.
    Russia is certainly a world power because they have nukes and Mexico is not but that doesn’t change their economic situation. Russia may build many things but they have to import many things such as machines and engines which shows a large underdeveloped sector of their economy. They are over dependent on commodities for revenues and low oil/gas prices have already affected their military spending and led to austerity policies being imposed.
    I’m not criticizing Putin or Russia just relating facts that surprised me when I discovered them not long ago. Most everything I buy, equipment, tools and clothes are made in China which is why they are an economic powerhouse but I don’t recall ever seeing a Russian product except for my neighbor’s old Belarus tractor.

  85. PeteM says:

    At its height the USSR had a GDP about one half the size of the US at that time which is comparable to China today. I avoided making an economic comparison between the US and Russia today because the difference is so extreme mentioning it would only cause anger.
    You and Smoothie seem to be implying that Putin has plans and the ability to regrow the Russian Empire without or with an imagined economic base which I can’t see as being possible.
    The Russian empire was certainly a world power in its time as was the USSR and Russia today remains a world power due to its nukes but economically it doesn’t compete.

  86. SmoothieX12 says:

    Russia is certainly a world power because they have nukes
    No, Russia is a world power not just because of nukes, but because, among many things, Mexico buys Russian-made commercial jets and Russia flies into space and builds and operates GLONASS and ISS, among many other things.
    I’m not criticizing Putin or Russia
    Please, feel free to do so. There is a lot to be criticized both in Putin and in Russia. My point was not about that. My point was about basing criticism on solid understanding of scales and a framework. In other words–based on good situational awareness.

  87. Valissa says:

    “You and Smoothie seem to be implying that Putin has plans and the ability to regrow the Russian Empire without or with an imagined economic base which I can’t see as being possible.”
    PeteM, your statement has nothing whatsoever to do with what either David or Smoothie was saying. There is no Russian empire building going on. Naturally as a country they attempt to influence events and the leaders of other countries in their favor when they can (as all countries do), and since they are a large and powerful country they will typically have greater effect (and therefore trigger “concern”) than a smaller less powerful country. That Putin as head of the Russian nation is standing up to the American Empire, and demanding to be listened to and treated with respect and not as a vassal, does not mean that Russia desires empire.
    What I am observing from your comments is an ongoing and conscious attempt to twist the conversation towards highlighting Borgist talking points about Russia. Your conversational behavior leads me to be suspect of your motives for participating in this conversation. However, I am quite amused that you think you can somehow trick the folks at SST into falling for your BS. Good luck with that 😉

  88. giovanni says:

    Can’t believe how far Aleppo spun in the 3 days since this post

  89. giovanni says:

    One big question in Syria today would seem to be what will the Kurds/allies do, fresh from their victory in Manbij? Probably lick their wounds for a while. Yet this will surely free up some men for other tasks. Do they want to link Afrin and Manbij? There are certainly more Kurdish towns in the remaining ISIS land north of Aleppo.
    It’s been an extraordinary 13 years for the Kurds.

  90. Valissa,
    Actually, it can be quite useful to have such quintessential example of Anglo-American ‘Brezhnevism’ as ‘PeteM’ contributing.
    He writes:
    ‘Most everything I buy, equipment, tools and clothes are made in China which is why they are an economic powerhouse but I don’t recall ever seeing a Russian product except for my neighbor’s old Belarus tractor.’
    This gloriously misses the point. If one wants to look at matters in traditional ‘power-political’ terms, the possible threat to the United States is not Putin reconstructing the Russian Empire – it is a ‘Mackinderite consolidation’ of Eurasia based on a Chinese-Russian alliance.
    Such a consolidation provides internal lines of communication which may over time reduce Chinese vulnerability to U.S. naval power very considerably. It may also challenge that power.
    On the website of U.S. Naval Institute, you will find a report of the upcoming joint Chinese-Russian naval exercises in the South China Sea – following last year’s joint exercises in the Mediterranean.
    (See .)
    For decades, Russian naval planners spent an enormous amount of effort and ingenuity devising ways to sink American carrier battle groups. They retain formidable capabilities in weapons design and I suspect are developing them in cyber-warfare.
    So of course, what the United States really needs is a coming together of these and Chinese manufacturing power. Then ‘missiles like sausages’ really might be something more than the BS it was when Khrushchev made the claim.
    In addition, other regional actors are being drawn in. So we now see a coming together of Russia and Turkey, as well as of Russian and Iran. On this, as on other matters, the former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar has interesting things to say.
    (See, for example, ; .)
    There is an irony here, in that one of the failures of American Cold War policy lay in how long it took for tensions between the Soviet Union and China to be understood and exploited.
    But given that ‘Fifties-retro’ seems in style, with not just Hillary but ‘Clintonistas’ all over the place – not just the Jeffrey Goldberg, but the Remnicks and Krugmans – discovering their inner ‘Tail-Gunner Joe’, perhaps one should not be surprised.
    What these people also seem unable to understand is that there is, today, a serious ideological challenge to American ‘exceptionalism’, and that it is indeed coming, in part, from Russia.
    Some interesting discussions of this aspect can be found on the website of Sergei Karaganov, to whose reflections on the Georgian War I linked earlier – see His piece entitled ‘New Ideological Struggle?’ is of particular interest.
    What makes these of very great interest is that his account of the collapse of the ‘moral authority’ of the ‘Pax Americana’ since the turn of the century is located within a framework of an explanation of how great this was among a very substantial segment of the Russian intelligentsia – ‘official’ as much as ‘dissident’ – at the end of the Cold War.
    An interesting feature in Britain is that the ‘Brezhnevite’ complacency of the ‘old guard’ in an institution like the ‘Financial Times’ is coming under sustained attack from its own readers.
    Yesterday, their chief foreign affairs commentator, Gideon Rachman, published an article entitled ‘The global democratic recession’, lamenting the ‘global retreat’ of ‘political freedom’.
    Unfortunately, the comments are behind a subscription wall. But the ‘most recommended’ were uniformly hostile. As often, at the top of the list were remarked by one ‘MarkGB’. Some time back, he set up his website, which reproduces his comments with other materials.
    His most recent comment begins ‘I will believe the FT’s passion for ‘democracy’ when you and your colleagues start holding your own ‘side’ to account.’ It concludes:
    ‘So … we can keep writing about how great “liberal democracy” is, and watch one half of the rest of the world hold its nose at the stench of our hypocrisy, the other half laugh itself stupid … or … we can start holding our own to account, and have a fighting chance of being taken seriously when we talk about “democracy”.’
    (See .)

  91. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In a contest if wills between the Russian Federation and France or England, whom do you think would prevail?
    USSR withstood a war launched by an entire continent, having a lower GDP that the Third Reich all throughout the war.
    And Napoleon before the Third Reich.
    If your yard stick is GDP, then you would not be grasping a very decisive factor in human relations: “The Will to Power”.
    I hope that very many others in the United States or EU do not share your misconceptions; it will surely lead to the destruction of US & EU in any war against the Russian Federation.
    Do you people have death wish?

  92. SmoothieX12 says:

    Babak, the real indicator of the real economic might is a GDP structure and a number of enclosed technological cycles. Ask yourself questions, how many nations in the world can, completely out of own resources, produce top notch jet engine, first class jet fighter, space launch vehicles, build nuclear power stations and submarines, operate space stations and global navigation systems etc. Once you answer these questions to yourself, you will understand why Russia is the “enemy”. I can give you a hint–to count those nations you will need fingers on one hand.

  93. PeteM says:

    I have to wonder what Borg propaganda you are reading because what I’ve read consistently overestimates and exaggerates Russian capabilities. The NATO buildup on Russia’s border is sold as defense against imminent Russian invasion of eastern European nations. I was mocking that propaganda by showing the real economic situation and military limitations Russia faces but Italy might have been a better choice for economic comparison with Russia even though their economy is larger than Russia’s.
    The problems I face with trying to discuss the reality of Putin’s Russia is that Borgist propaganda, like most all propaganda, is spun from a basis of facts and Manichean views of this conflict don’t allow for separating fact from fiction.
    Putin’s standing up to the Hegemon is a defensive posture relying on the economic power of China to backstop their limited economic power. The rest of the BRICS are either quiet or crumbling.
    What continues to be confusing for me is what goals and aspirations appear to be projected onto Putin by some of his supporters. I’ve read most of his speeches on this topic and he repeatedly states that he wants Russia to join/partner with the Borg collective not as a vassal but a decision making associate in the New World Order. These statements of intent must make the Chinese wonder about their new ally.

  94. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Karaganov, in the article to which you had supplied the URL, stated:
    “…German Chancellor Angela Merkel was said to have accused the Russian leader of living in an unreal world…”
    On this forum, over the years, 2 German commentators had made similar remarks about me, in the light of ideas that I had espoused and defended.
    It must be that very many Germans “live in an unreal world.” and not just Frau Merkel.
    By the way, you can replace “Russia” with “Iran” and much of the article would still make sense.

  95. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You do not need to convince me…

  96. Valissa says:

    David, thanks for all the great links! I have not had the time recently to devote to searching for and keeping up with insightful geopolitical commentary, so it has been a pleasure today to catch up a bit.
    Once upon a time I subscribed to FT, but now I’m satisfied with the 2(?) free articles per month I’m allowed as a non-subscriber. Therefore I was able to read Rachman’s article there as well as the responses in the large comment section. And there are many interesting and thought provoking comments. It was well worth the time and energy to read through them.
    The Rachman piece and the Karaganov one complement each other in interesting ways. I observe that there are currently multiple ideological struggles regarding the meaning & value of certain ideas that have been foundational to Western political narratives. Definitions of and narratives about Democracy (including it’s comparative value to other forms of gov’t), Freedom (from or of or to; personal freedom vs. political freedom), Human Rights vs. Individual Rights, Liberalism vs. Conservatism (attachment to L/R thinking), and so on, are all being discussed with great nostalgia for the past and lamenting of the present and future.
    IMO, it’s all a sign of grand narratives breaking down as events in the real world fail to conform to the realm of Platonic Ideals, or to be more precise the belief that “…non-physical (but substantial) forms (or ideas) represent the most accurate reality.” Western intelligentsia seems to be caught in the throws of the “five stages of grief” as the impending destruction of well beloved narratives becomes more and more obvious. Narratives change as societies do. Reality is a bitch… the Goddess Kali rampages (Hindu symbol/archetype associated with time, change and destruction). New and modified forms and narratives will emerge as will eventually a new normal. In the meantime these changes trigger much fear and retrenchment. All fascinating to observe, yet also quite historically normal in the bigger picture.
    Regarding Mackinder and his geopolitical theories, I am rather ambivalent about his “Heartland Theory” and geographical pivot points. But from the point of view of basic geography, supplemented by basic economics and mutual self interest, it is clear that an alliance between Russia and China is a formidable challenge to the supremacy of Pax Americana. As Pax Americana continues to shoot itself in the foot (including pushing the bear and dragon together), and more and more Asian countries find it more beneficial to do business with China and Russia, the levers of power will shift more and more away from US. Of course Pax Americana will still be very powerful, but it’s days as supreme hegemon are waning. This is naturally very painful for members of the Borg. But I will not waste any sympathy on them.

  97. PeteM says:

    I wonder where you get this information about Russia? lists Russia’s largest imports as machinery, needed to make things, electronics, to control them and vehicles. Their fastest growing imports are gems and precious metals, ores, slag and ash and other manufactured goods.
    It seems that Russia is at least somewhat dependent on foreign suppliers for some of the raw materials and components to build their manufactured goods just as most other countries are.

  98. SmoothieX12 says:

    I wonder where you get this information about Russia?
    Overwhelmingly NOT from “Western” mainstream economic sources. In general, being Russian and with a peculiar background i happened to know a thing or two on account of Russian economy which are missing from most of the West’s sources. F.e. I know what real hi-tech is and which of it is produced in Russia.
    lists Russia’s largest imports as machinery, needed to make things, electronics, to control them and vehicles.
    Russia does import machinery and a lot of it–all that is the result of 1990s slaughter of Russia’s machine building complex which was impressive. Since 2008 massive tectonic shift has occurred in this respect with massive localization of JV and imports and very fast growth in domestic enclosed technological cycle production. It is called Import Substitution.
    Here is a little thing you may find helpful:
    In general, it is my long-standing position that in most fields when dealing with Russia (economy especially) the West lives in a parallel universe (Hence Obama’s “shredding” of Russian economy) and that is why embarrassments follow one after another. When one considers Moscow High School Of Economics to be a “reliable” predictor and reporter on real Russian situation one can expect all kinds of surprises. It is also very dangerous.

  99. PeteM says:

    I don’t mean to minimize the great strides Russia has made in the last twenty years and their move to increase import substitution is important if only to remedy some of the effects of Dutch Disease. I also don’t think Putin wants Russia to become a hermit kingdom but a modern capitalist state immersed in the global economy. Both these goals have been set back somewhat by the sanctions and low oil/gas prices and especially by the fact they have difficulty in securing the needed investment funds required for the rebuilding of their internal production.
    Separating the spin from the facts is always required to get a clear picture about anything reported in western media but the basic facts remain when the hype is discarded.
    I’d like to hear more about this Russian hi-tech and its potential in the world marketplace. Today’s tech hotspot and profit center seems to be communications devices, does Russia have an offering in this growing area?

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