LTG Sean MacFarland comments on the SDF, Manbij and Raqqa – TTG


LTG Sean MacFarland is the outgoing commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR). He made these comments today in his final briefing to the Pentagon press corps by Skype from Baghdad.


The Syrian Democratic Forces control the vast majority of Manbij, and it should fall completely to the group of Kurdish and Arab fighters within “a week or weeks,” said MacFarland, the top commander of the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State group coalition. Local humanitarian groups in Syria estimate the Islamic State group controls about 10 percent of the city that it had held for about two years. “The enemy resistance is getting weaker by the day,” the general said. “Manbij must be pretty important to the enemy because there are a lot of foreign fighters there and they have not cut and run. They are fighting pretty hard in that city.”

The operation has been seen as a proving ground for the Syrian Democratic Forces, MacFarland said. The force has established itself as capable of playing a key role in the eventual fight to reclaim Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto Syrian capital. The United States has provided some arms and training to the force, which successfully captured a large swatch of land in northeastern Syria before mounting its attack on Manbij.

“They have gone a really long way to ensuring us that they can be the defeat mechanism for the enemy in Syria, at least around Raqqa,” said MacFarland, who will turn over command of the coalition later this month to Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend. “They have the wherewithal, the capacity, and the will to close with and defeat the enemy in a dense, urban fight, and they’re doing a very good job of it.” The SDF have been backed by hundreds of coalition airstrikes since launching the assault on Manbij on May 31. To date, more than 2,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed in and around the city, MacFarland said.

Manbij sits on a major supply route running from Raqqa to the outside world through Turkey. The city also has been a key training location for militants fighting in Syria and Iraq and for others charged with conducting terrorist operations outside of those countries.

For the SDF, it will serve as a staging and preparation area for the attacks on Raqqa, about 80 miles southeast of Manbij. MacFarland expects the battle to clear the Islamic State group from Raqqa, which is likely at least several months away, to look much like the Manbij fight. The presence of thousands of civilians have complicated the mission, and it has been slowed at times by the militants’ effective use of explosives and snipers.

At least a dozen SDF fighters have been killed in the battle and hundreds more have been wounded, MacFarland said. “Raqqa will resemble Manbij in many respects,” the general said. “We’ll look at it closely, we’ll study it, and we’ll apply those lessons going forward to make sure we have the right capabilities, force levels and shaping efforts around the operation to ensure success in Raqqa.” (Stars and Stripes)



My guess is that the CJTF-OIR plan for the SDF is still under negotiation based on the fact that the SDF is still largely dependent on the military forces of the YPG. The YPG would certainly rather continue the offensive towards Al Bab with the goal of eventually linking up with the YPG in Afrin. The Green Berets, who have been with the YPG/SDF fighters all these months, will be between those Rojava Kurds and the CJTF-OIR in Baghdad. What they can convince both parties about the realities of the battlefield will probably influence the decision. If it was me, I’m afraid I’d be guilty of going native and do what I could to let the YPG continue their drive to the west. What develops between Russia and Turkey over the next few weeks or months will also factor into these negotiations. We’ll see.


Full text of the Pentagon briefing:

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80 Responses to LTG Sean MacFarland comments on the SDF, Manbij and Raqqa – TTG

  1. mike says:

    Jordan MacTaggart, a Coloradan volunteer with the YPG, was KIA in Manbij just two days ago. He was the second from Colorado to die fighting with the within the last month in Syria.

  2. mike,
    Quite a few foreign volunteers fighting with the YPG have been killed over the last few weeks. MacFarland said there were only 12 SDF fighters killed in the fighting for Manbij. What that indicates to me is that it is the YPG that is doing the bulk of the fighting. If that 12 figure is anything close to accurate, that means that there may be more foreign volunteers with the YPG than there are SDF fighters.

  3. Barish says:

    I was wondering about the unlikely casualty-rate of 12 SDF – which, formally, does include YPG – vs. the 2.000 ISIL-people supposedly taken out. Simply leaving YPG-losses out of the count would explain the figure mentioned.

  4. Peter Reichard says:

    The fall of Raqqa should be a final rather than an immediate goal. Taking territory may look good on the battle map but wars are won by destroying armies which depend on logistics. A link up with the SAA west of Al Bab will finally isolate all the rebels south of Manbij from their Turkish lifeline and create a new supply line to Afrin and Aleppo. I fear that the temptation of a political victory will prove to be too strong and they will move south instead of west just as the allure of liberating Paris and Rome may have led to lost opportunities for decisive victories in World War Two.

  5. Lemur says:

    Turkey FM told NTV a transition in Syria with Assad is not possible. This comes *after* the pow-wow in Moscow (of which John Helmer was rather sceptical). So, in reference to the Russian-Turkey-Kurd-Assad square, it looks like the Sultan still wants to have his cake (Assad gone) and eat it too (no Kurdish state). The Russia Turkey rapprochement so far seems largely diplomatic and economic – a return to the status quo before the Su-24 was shot down.
    I hope the Kurds do continue toward their Afrin canton to impress the choice between them and Assad in starker terms on Ankara. Rustle some jimmies.

  6. LeaNder says:

    I sure would like to see the map LTG MacFarland refers to.
    GEN. MACFARLAND: Yeah. Well, first of all, Turkey is a NATO ally. They provide us with all sorts of important support for this campaign. And I would anticipate that that will continue.
    As far as the Russians go, I’ll give you an example of a challenge that they presented, and that was bombing a camp full of Arab resistance fighters that we were working with in southern Syria.

    Is the “New Syrian Army” the group he is referring to?

  7. turcopolier says:

    So, the US plan is to direct the YPG/SDF to Raqqa to fulfill Obama’s political dream of a legacy of victory. I, too,would “go native” and urge the Kurds to follow their own destiny. Neither of us would last long after doing that but, FIDO. pl

  8. LeaNder,
    Yes, that’s the group. I think it can best be described as a lame old donkey with a paper horn taped to its forehead that the coalition is trying to pass off as a unicorn.

  9. pl,
    FIDO indeed. I’d like to think our brothers with the YPG had something to do with the CJTF decision to support the Manbij offensive rather than pushing the drive to Raqqa weeks ago. I think I hear the faint sound of “The Rising of the Moon” with a Kurdish accent. Perhaps you hear it, too.

  10. elkern says:

    The IS supply line from Turkey has had at least covert support from AKP (not bothering to shut it down counts as support). Was/is this due to…
    – using IS as tool against Assad/Baathist/Secular gov’t of Syria?
    – using IS tool against Kurds?
    – actual support for IS’ goal of reinstating the/a Caliphate?
    – high-level bribery/extortion? (KSA funds to AKP?)
    – plain old (low-level) corruption & incompetence?
    AKP/Turkey can’t be happy about YPG success; they are not fooled by the “dress” labeled “SDF” (made in USA!). Have we talked/bribed them into dropping support for IS, allowing it only for other anti-Assad groups (Sunni, non-Kurdish ones at least)? If so, why wouldn’t the supply lines to IS have evaporated already?
    If AKP isn’t ready to give up on IS, they’ll be pissed about the loss of Manbij.
    What can/will they [try to] do about it?

  11. Vic says:

    Yet another upbeat no problems here assessment from a General Officer in the “sand box”. Seems that as a group they have been saying that everything is going well for over a decade, yet no victory. They have a huge credibility problem.
    The Kurds in the SDF are excellent. The Sunni fighters are typical for Arab forces. The only good news is that the ISIS Sunni fighters are no better than the Sunnis in the SDF. It seems like ISIS foreign fighters do most of the heavy fighting.
    What ever the SDF does next it will be slow and preceded by overwhelming amounts of American fire power that destroys everything ahead of them. I’m not expecting much from them (except for the Kurds).
    I’d rather see us support the Kurds in taking all the territory along the border with Turkey. This would cut ISIS/JN LOCs. It is also generally believed that one should avoid (if possible) attacking into enemy strength. Raqqa is strong, the border is not as strong.
    We probably will not do that given Obama’s sensitivity to Turkish wishes as well as election year considerations.

  12. turcopolier says:

    Yes, “a marching tune.” pl

  13. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Col. Lang and TTG,
    I have yet to read and understand a coherent ME policy except PNAC, and that should really be re-named PNIC. In the absence of a policy, I find it hard to understand military actions of the USA. Thus my question:
    Could you please speculate on the long-range plans of the USA for the kurds? Are SF being fielded to help kurdish aspirations from humanitarian concerns? Do you think the kurdish corridor so dear to the Borg will achieve peace in the region? Is there another plan? Also, do you think tayyiban Turkey is the only nation supporting and supplying “ISIS” at this point?
    Your comments would be much appreciated.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  14. The Beaver says:

    @ TTG
    Surprisingly no one asked about the fiasco at Abdo Kamal when the op was aborted, some New Syrian Army soldiers were captured and their weapons were looted by ISIS. This happened because the air strikes they were promised were diverted to Iraq when news came that the Iraqi forces were pursuing ISIS fleeing the South of Mosul ( hence the destruction of Qayyarah AB by ISIS when they realised that they couldn’t hang on to it).
    More than two weeks after the fact at Abdo Kamal, here comes CBS news, last night, announcing to the world that there are moles within teh New Syrian Army and showing ( I would believe) the same video that ISIS has broadcasted two hours after they looted the weapons.

  15. Serge says:

    >At least a dozen SDF fighters have been killed in the battle
    Well that’s an understatement. IMO the fact that it is taking 2.5-3 months to clear out this town initially defended with 600 ISIS at the very most, totally surrounded facing both numerical/air superiority, shows the uphill battle the SDF faces in this theater. The entire offensive has been one big salient for 3 months now,with ISIS controlling very strategic high ground/forest surrounding it.As evinced by the major ISIS offensive to the north in the past 3 days the SDF will have no choice but to consolidate in some direction after Manbij is cleared. But I do not think that they are operationally up to the task. Certainly far more than a “dozen” SDF were killed in manbij, I do not think that they can operationally sustain losses for another Manbij-type battle in both Al-bab and jarablus, which they are sure to face; never mind Raqqa et al

  16. Ishmael Zechariah,
    We use the Kurds in whatever way we can in order to further our goals in the region. We don’t give a rat’s ass about the aspirations of any of the Kurds. That’s the way it’s always been. My first experience with this policy occurred in 1988. I was tasked to convince a Barzani to provide support to our potential operations targeting Iran. His contention was that Iran was not the problem, Saddam Hussein was. At that time, we didn’t see it that way and didn’t care what the Barzanis thought. In that vein, the Borg don’t give a damn about any Kurdish corridor. Their focus still is “anybody but Assad.” My own opinion is that the Rojava Kurds should seek federation or some kind of semi-autonomy within a greater Syria. An independent Rojava between a hostile Turkey and Syria is not viable and a sure road to suicide.
    OTOH, those who worked with the Kurds for any length of time generally grow to admire them. 10th SFGA has a long history with the Kurds extending back to our First Gulf War. The current SOFCENT commander was a 10th Grouper both as an A Team leader and a Group Commander. Perhaps he has developed a soft spot for them. However, SF is not working with the Rojava Kurds out of humanitarian concerns. They are there to defeat IS.
    The Gulfies are working with the Turks to support IS. Why we continue to kiss any of their asses is beyond my comprehension. We should be sanctioning the Gulf sheiks and covertly draining their money until they can’t support their Wahabbist adventurism. And then quietly tell Erdogan he could be next unless he drops his support for the jihadis in Syria.

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is a coherent strategy: “Israel above all else”, “Keep Iran down”, “Pump the oil”.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree, Kurds are the geopolitical cannon fodder used by the states around them.
    I told one of my colleagues back in 1985 that it would be a good idea for US to settle with Iran but he could not see the necessity of that – I imagine he was imbued by the hubris that often befalls the very powerful and the very rich.

  19. elkern says:

    We kiss ass
    for cheap gas.
    But we ARE draining them, too. KSA is bleeding $B in Yemen, Syria, etc. When they run out of gas, or we finally bother to invest in alternatives, they’ll be SOL, PDQ.
    My concern is the Madrassas they have built around the world. That will take time to fix; so far, nobody has a good fix for the contagious mind-disease they spread. Prosperity MIGHT help; maybe a well-targeted drug epidemic (like how cocaine helped kill 1960’s leftism). What would give the people who jump/fall into terrorism a reason to live & love rather than kill & die?

  20. Haralambos says:

    For marching tunes, my candidates are :
    Both are originally Irish.

  21. Peter says:

    I’m highly suspicious of the entire Abo Kamal incident where ISIS supposedly captured a bunch of new weapons. I’m not completely convinced any battle even actually took place. Seems like a very convenient way of arming ISIS to me. Same situation near Azaz along the Turkish border how there were constantly skirmishes going on between the unicorns and ISIS, where ISIS would take back territory that had been lost just days prior and capture and bunch more weapons and supplies. It would all be one hell of a cover for arming ISIS and it works like a charm.

  22. FB Ali says:

    “We use the Kurds in whatever way we can in order to further our goals in the region……the Borg don’t give a damn about any Kurdish corridor. Their focus still is “anybody but Assad”.
    I fully agree!
    Of course, “anybody but Assad” would likely mean Jihadis. That would just add to the list of countries the US has ‘opened’ to them. It appears crazy from any rational angle, but the Borg’s policy goals have never been rational.

  23. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    It appears that I did not formulate my question properly. You state “We use the Kurds in whatever way we can in order to further our goals in the region”. What I was trying to ask was “What are those US goals in the next decade or so?” These goals are probably orthogonal to Russian interests-given statements such as those of Morell.
    The Borg’s quest to oust Assad might be based on the existential threats Iran and Hezbollah might pose for the masters of the earth. There has been speculation and some evidence that the izzies support IS, and some speculation that IS is a Borg construct. I am not sure that decisive destruction of IS by the Russian axis is an outcome desired by the Borg. I might be wrong.
    Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.
    Thanks for the response.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In regards to the mosques & madrassas in the European Union, I should think that there are two steps that EU authorities could take:
    1. Restrict their funding sources to EU sources and apply the same funding policies that are currently applied to the official Christian denominations; make them state-supported (since the time of Napoleon.)
    2. Draw up an official syllabus of what Islam is – emulating the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China in their dealings with Islam.
    The number two step, in effect, would mean that there would be no freedom of religion in EU when it comes to Islam.
    Over the years, and in the light of repeated deadly attacks against the Shia, the Christians, and the Sunni Muslims from a variety of the 4-schools in Pakistan over decades, I have regrettably come to the conclusion that there are million, perhaps tens of millions, of souls who are mentally ill in that poor country.
    We saw what happened when Wotan took over the German people – per the diagnosis of Carl Gustav Jung – and I fear for Pakistan as well as her neighbors.
    I do not know what can be done about all these mentally deranged people in Pakistan, however.
    Lastly, in my view, likely a minority of 2, the only alternative to Jihadists etc. is the Usuli Doctrines of Shia Islam.
    I know that the sight of all those emotional Shia Muslims beating their chests in their multitudes during Ashura is an embarrassment and an affront to many Sunni Muslims all over the world; but it is only there that you will find any compassion, mercy, and delicacy of feeling in Islam.
    Your best friend in that endeavor against Jihadists, Salfis, neo-Salafis, Wahhabis, Deobandis and assorted other benighted and lost fellow-travellers, again – being a minority of one, would be the Islamic Republic of Iran – in my opinion.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Iran and Hezbollah do not pose any existential threats against the United States or her formal alliance members of NATO.
    Israelis do provide medical services to Jihadists; I have read such reports over the past few years.

  26. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    According to this post at Russia Insider yesterday, virtually nothing came of the Putin/Erdogan meeting.

  27. Serge says:

    From my view it only serves to further cloud things up to imbue the masters of the earth with some type of ability for clairvoyance vis a vis their actions in the region. I have always believed that the rise of IS in the 2010s is a completely unforeseen consequence of our wilful policy to topple Assad, in the honest groupthink jacked up “arab spring”(which I continue to believe,to this day,STARTED organically)-era belief that the “regime” can be replaced with a viable friendly alternative. Just as I believe that the masters of the earth honestly thought that Iraq could be turned into a friendly pro US fief post Saddam(but it did not).
    The masters of the earth are flying by the seat of their pants way more than we would like to believe. IMO saudi/USA/ other State support for IS is highly overrated. All of these country’s actions in the past 5-13 years certainly fostered the perfect environment for the incubation of the organization,many jihadis that ended up folding to IS in summer ’14 and before/after were certainly funded by these states at some point(even the israelis directly in the specific case of the Golan-bordering groups that defected)-as has been said, a jihadi is a jihadi. I do not believe that any state actor currently knows quite what to do with IS on the long term, or even fully appreciates the potential existential threat of the fire they are playing with poses to the existing political order in the region. I believe that the saudis see their export of salafism on a very narrow level, just as the Israelis and USA see their manipulation of the actors in the region on a very low/narrow level,without very much regard for true long term implications. The Israelis on a long term scale have yet to regard the folding of the entire region to IS as a greater existential threat than the supremacy of Iran

  28. Ishmael Zechariah,
    What people do not grasp is that the security situation of a Jewish settler state in the Middle East is, whatever it does, inherently weak and probably unsustainable.
    The problem has been compounded by the fact that the ‘suicide pact’ between Israel and the United States actually works both ways.
    So, Netanyahu has embraced the ‘Moby Dick’ version of the world, which has deep roots in traditions, brought to the ‘New World’ by Puritans from England, which themselves have deep roots in the ‘Old Testament’, and beyond that in currents of thinking going back to Zoroastrianism.
    Subsequently, these were ‘Americanised’ under the impact of the Indian Wars – while alternative traditions coming out of England were marginalised with the defeat of the South in the Civil War.
    As Melville brilliantly brought out, within these intellectual frameworks, the assumption is always that one represents the forces of virtue, that the only possible explanation for the behaviour of adversaries is the hatred of the evil for the good, and that the appropriate response is to destroy the forces of evil.
    When Netanyahu sees Iran as Amalek, and Hillary Clinton Putin as the new Hitler, you see the coming together of old myths.
    What is lost is the lesson which Melville taught so well, because he was so thoroughly formed by the mentality against which he was rebelling: that adversaries have other concerns in life, apart from one’s destruction, and that an obsessive focus on destroying them may produce calamitous consequences for oneself.
    Among the end result of the attempts of – very stupid – American (and British) ‘neoconservatives’ to find an escape for Israel from its probably unsustainable strategic position has been the creation of the ‘Shia Crescent’, and the ‘existential threat’ posed by the steadily improving range, accuracy, and destructive power of Hizbullah missiles in South Lebanon.
    To understand what is going on, it is necessary to grasp that, in a very real sense, this is an ‘existential threat’. How can one conceivably regard Israel as a ‘safe haven’ for Jews, when it could be blown to pieces by Hizbullah missiles in an afternoon?
    How can you possibly maintain the stupid fiction that a Jewish graduate student is somehow necessarily better off in Tel Aviv, rather than going back to the cafés of ‘Under der Linden’, where perhaps their great-grandparents once drank coffee?
    Does anyone seriously think that the likes of our fellow committee-members ‘LeaNder’, ‘b’, ‘Ulenspiegel’ – not to speak of our alas departed ‘confused ponderer’ – are somehow itching to ‘revert to form’, starting doing Hitler salutes, and massacre every Jew they can lay their hands on?
    Any such suggestion is, quite palpably, the most ludicrous BS.
    Among the many consequences of all this, of course, is the fact that, at all costs, it is necessary for the ‘Borg’ in the United States and Britain to obscure both from their fellow-citizens and themselves, the obvious truth that the security interests of the Israeli state, as defined by Netanyahu and his ‘fellow-travellers’ are directly antithetical to the interests of those fellow-citizens.
    But of course, as the realisation of the actual state of affairs sinks in, a natural result is a revival of anti-Semitism. So Zionism will fail in its goal of providing a ‘save haven’ for Jews from the persecution of the ‘goyim’, while, quite possibly, reversing the total discrediting of anti-Semitism which resulted from the ‘Shoah’.
    Sometimes I am inclined to think that, irrespective of whether or not there is a God, empirical evidence suggests that there probably is a Devil.

  29. giovanni says:

    That would make sense if the YPG/SDF felt like they had an ally in the SAA. All the evidence is that they do not. If you read the YPG cadre Twitter feeds, you find frustration that SAA units remain in and around Qamishli and Hasakah. There was no YPG excitement when briefly the other rebels were trapped in Aleppo. And the response of the YPG leaders to rebel complaints about what happened around the Castelo Rd. was merely to reiterate that they have not and do not wish to aid the government.
    You may think the YPG are “natural allies” with the government. That is wishful thinking.

  30. The Beaver says:

    @ Babak
    However, the defenders of Bibi will tel you that they have been helping “the good guys”

  31. mbrenner says:

    It is clear, by statement and action, that Washington’s priority in Syria as of now is to thwart all and any efforts by Russia to establish its presence in the country and to shape developments. Dealing with terrorism is most definitely seen as a subordinate interest. Here, a practical differentiation is made between ISIS and al-Qaeda & Assoc on grounds other than pure threat potential. Does this make strategic sense? is it logically consistent? Obviously, no.
    As Babak notes, in does make sense in the Israeli frame of reference. Does this mean that Israel explicitly dictates American policy everywhere in the Middle East. I believe not – but the American foreign policy Establishment has so internalized the justifications put forward by Israel and Israeli sympathizers for the tacks taken on everything from Yemen to Syria to Iran that the practical effect is the same.

  32. mbrenner says:

    The NYT is publishing an enormously long, multi-part essay that occupies entirely its Sunday Magazine; it’s titled; “How The Arab World Came Apart.” It’s already on the web and, for my sins, I’ve perused it. Purportedly an account of the tragedy that has befallen the region, along with an interpretation of that historic development, it in fact is something quite different. The essay is structured as a novelistic recounting of the experience of 6 persons. Everything that has occurred is viewed through that optic. Political, and deeper social, analysis is thin to the point of vanishing altogether. There are some interesting vignettes.
    A personal recommendation. If you have had your fill of lithesome young woman cladin skimpy bikinis playing volley ball in the sand, and/or people swimming in Rio, or renditions of the Star Spangled Banner – then you may wish to consider looking at this glossy human interest narration of history. If not, you may prefer to consider those European detective series of which the colonel is so fond.

  33. turcopolier says:

    “That is wishful thinking.” Thanks. Do you look for opportunities to be offensive? pl

  34. The Beaver says:

    It could be because one wonders what really goes on there as far as CIA is concerned .
    BTW For whom does Clarissa Ward work for ??
    CNN’s Clarissa Ward, US’s answer to Carol Malouf glorifies terror groups in Aleppo in her testimony at UNSC
    Like I said before on one of the threads -FrUKUS know how to play the game.
    I guess there is no paid agent for the Saudis in Yemen since the Yemenis are worst off

  35. b says:

    “How can you possibly maintain the stupid fiction that a Jewish graduate student is somehow necessarily better off in Tel Aviv, rather than going back to the cafés of ‘Under der Linden’, where perhaps their great-grandparents once drank coffee?”
    Most of the Jews in Israel are from east-Europe. Jews in Germany were only a very small (richer, more intellectual) part of the European Jews the Nazis tried to eradicate.
    A lot of Nazi-German anti-Jewish attitude came from (racist) anti-Slavic as well as (economic) anti-Communist attitude. Most European Jews were Slavs or lived in Slavic countries. Lots of the Communists intellectuals were Jews. During WWII the Nazis killed at least four times as many Slavs as Jews.
    “Does anyone seriously think that the likes of our fellow committee-members ‘LeaNder’, ‘b’, ‘Ulenspiegel’ – not to speak of our alas departed ‘confused ponderer’ – are somehow itching to ‘revert to form’, starting doing Hitler salutes, and massacre every Jew they can lay their hands on?
    Any such suggestion is, quite palpably, the most ludicrous BS.”
    I would not guarantee that for the mass of my compatriots. The anti-Slavic element is still there. Merkel and co are trying to inflame that again in support of (partly U.S. induced) anti-Russian policies.
    An recent, still small influx of Jews from Israel to Berlin is already raising some issues there. They seem to be obnoxiously presumptuous and that does not play well with the broader population.

  36. Michael Brenner,
    I am feeling my way on this. But it seems to me that the distinction you make between Israeli influence, and the internalised perspectives of Israeli sympathisers, is critical.
    Something I find puzzling is that very deep – and interesting – divisions in Israeli society which have been building up for a very long time seem to have so little impact on the country’s ‘sympathisers’ in the United States and Britain.
    A recent column by Uri Avnery was entitled ‘The Shot Heard All Over the Country”.
    It was an exploration of the implications of the now notorious shooting of the wounded Palestinian by an Israeli medic, Sergeant Azaria – informed by Avnery’s own very complex awareness of European history.
    (See .)
    A crucial part of the story, in Avnery’s telling, was the increasing takeover of the Israeli military by the ‘national-religious’ element. His exploration of the implications ended:
    ‘Now the army, the last bulwark of national unity, is being torn apart. The high command is openly attacked as leftist, a term not far removed from traitorous in current Israeli discourse. The myth of military infallibility lies shattered, the authority of the high command profoundly damaged, criticism of the Chief of Staff is rampant.
    ‘In the contest between Sergeant Elor Azaria and the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot, the sergeant may well win. If convicted at all for blatantly disobeying orders, he will get off with a light sentence.
    ‘Killing a defenseless human being has turned him into a national hero. His was the shot that was heard all over the country. Perhaps all over the world.’
    An interesting exchange between Avnery and a much younger Israeli, Na’aman Hirschfeld, which originally took place in Hebrew in ‘Haaretz’, surfaced recently on the +972 site.
    (See .)
    An extract from Hirschfeld’s account of why he was leaving Israel for Germany:
    ‘“The common excuse [for emigration] is despair,” Avnery asserts, going on to suggest that the collapse of Israeli democracy will be assured “if everyone who is able to resist this process gives up and moves to the coffee shops of Unter den Linden.” All of which leads Avnery to emphatically call on “the wonderful young people of Berlin” to return to Israel and “storm into politics, organize, change things, form new forces, [and] take control of the government.”
    ‘To this I reply: no thanks. I will not sacrifice my children’s future for a hopeless struggle. Desperation is indeed the reason why I left. I despaired of the ever-present catastrophe that is gradually unfolding before our eyes. I despaired of the brainwashing, propaganda, political spin and intentional deception. I despaired of bloodthirsty mobs intoxicated with fear and hate. I despaired of Israeliness, which has been emptied of all substance to the point that what remains is only the negation of others. I despaired of the government’s cynicism, of the establishment’s incompetence, and of the ever-spreading corruption. But, above all, I despaired of desperation.’
    Something which puzzles me is why so many of those American and British Jews who have political influence appear so completely detached from the tragic elements of the history now unfolding in Israel.

  37. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Also Eric Dogens (sic.)

  38. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Uri Avnery furnishes as much insight about Israel as Noam Chomsky does about the United States.

  39. Ishmael Zechariah,
    IS is not a Borg construct. Perhaps they are ambivalent to IS compared to their all consuming dedication to oust Assad, but the Borg did not create it. Their support of the unicorn army indirectly supports IS and that doesn’t seem to bother the Borg. I doubt they care if Russia ever manages to destroy IS as long as Assad goes and the Iranian land bridge to Hezbollah is broken. That’s all the Borg cares about. Someone else can put a finer edge on Borg regional goals, but I believe the Borg and the Likudniks are in lockstep on this.

  40. JMH says:

    Cheerleader for al Qaeda pretty much covers it.

  41. michael brenner says:

    In the case of American Jews, I believe that what we are witnessing is clinical sublimation. No one but a few fundamentalist crazies would overtly support the murderous action of that soldier – as apparently do many Israelis. It is convenient, though, to accept the vague argument that there must be some justification since otherwise there would not be so much support for the soldier among Israelis.
    A similar process occurs at the political level where in poll after poll, a significant majority of American Jews back a true negotiated 2-state settlement. At the same time, only a few will take the public stance of breaking with Israeli leaders and the juggernaut of the organized Jewish lobby. The incentives to do so simply do not exist since the adverse consequences are not directly seen or felt.
    As to elected officials, they share all these sentiments – AND worry about donations (more than they do vote switching).

  42. michael brenner says:

    A few more words on this topic. American Jews, like all Americans, are exceptional. In this context that means that while they have acute feelings of empathy with Israel when it is threatened in concrete ways, the ‘existential’ threat, which is more in the nature of free-floating dread, is less acute than it is for many European Jews – and certainly Israelis. Distance and their own security have something to do with that. Of course, that does not hold for dyed-in-the-wool Zionists.
    A related point is that only a very few can reconcile emotionally or intellectually the deeply entrenched humanistic principles with which they are imbued (the product of two millennia in the diaspora, no experience of exercising state power all that time, and debt to the Enlightenment that liberated them) with the behavior of Israel and the Israelis. That is why sublimation is such a pervasive, and necessary, phenomenon. Let’s remember that the ruthlessness of some Jewish Bolsheviks, and Communist officials elsewhere, never has fully registered. For those who even bother with history, Stalin was the evil one – the Jewish Bolsheviks misguided idealists. In that faint memory, Yagoda et al are absent. Therefore, the gap between collective self-image and current Israeli behavior is exceptionally wide – and difficult to manage.

  43. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    TTG, David Habakkuk, b, Mbrenner, and all;
    Thanks for a level of discourse which one can rarely find these days. May your shadows never grow faint.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  44. Ishmael Zechariah, you’re very welcome.

  45. alba etie says:

    ‘To life English .. to life! ”

  46. turcopolier says:

    TTG, AE
    A much under rated film. A neighbor woman watched it at my house and laughed at the end saying “such things do not happen.” I said nothing. Having never been adopted in a longhouse, she could not know. pl

  47. Chris Chuba says:

    Manbij vs Aleppo
    CNN had one of those hysterical stories about how Aleppo is suffering because of Assad’s siege on the eastern half of the city and they read a letter by the last 13 doctors who are charged with caring for, as they claim, 300,000 inhabitants. They were urging Obama to intervene in Syria.
    I immediately thought of Manbij which has been under siege for a much longer time than Aleppo. Manbij is a pretty big city in its own right, certainly ten’s of thousands of civilians at the start of the siege, I wonder when Clarissa Ward will visit and checkup on the medical and food situation in the remaining pocket of ISIS held area?
    They also reported on the Russian story about the rebel use of poison gas in Aleppo but only reported on the victims and not the actors. The anchor made a sloppy inference to Assad and the Russians being guilty of war crimes. The reporting on Syria, in the U.S. is in itself criminal.
    BTW one of the sources that I read on Syria is almasdarnews. They have a pro-Syrian govt bias but overall, I’d say that they report both good and bad news on the war. Does anyone know who runs it, it is hosted in Syria or is it hosted in another country? It’s superior to the Iranian Farsnews which only seems to report good news on the Syrian conflict.

  48. alba etie says:

    Col Lang
    It is my most favorite film – full stop .

  49. BraveNewWorld says:

    The problem is that the US only listens to the Israel side. Read any list of people attending any thing at the state department and it reads like a bar mitzvah guest list. Arabic? None.
    Turn on TV during the week you see 50 Jews an hour. Arabs? None unless they are playing the part of a terrorist.
    Sunday news shows if they aren’t American Christians then they are Jews. Arabs? None.
    Because there is no one to stand up and say “Hey that is complete BS”. Jews get away with saying any thing they want.

  50. pl and alba etie,
    Farewell to the King is a marvelous film. There are scenes where I feel my gut tighten and adrenaline flow no matter how many times I watch it. It sends me to times long ago and places far away. I found a version online (with Portuguese subtitles) if anyone wants to watch and can’t find a DVD or VHS version.

  51. chantose says:

    A minority of two, perhaps.
    Do you think a “revolution of the jurists” style, Islamicly guided republic could ever take hold in any of the Suni states?

  52. b says:

    Someone did the numbers on that 44,000 word junk piece of historic revisionism.
    Qatar is mentioned 0 times.
    NATO is mentioned 0 times.
    Saudi Arabia is mentioned 2 times.
    The CIA is mentioned 2 times.
    Mentions three countries that fell apart and attributes that to solely to their borders not being completely aligned with tribal/sectarian borders. Not to the fact that all three, Iraq, Libya, Syria were U.S. enemies and destroyed by military intervention.

  53. Peter Reichard says:

    Points well taken, but the YPG need not be an ally of the SAA to realize that the big picture requires that the cutting of the supply line to Turkey is critical to the final victory over ISIS.

  54. Peter Reichard says:

    Bravo! In just ten words the most concise description of US Middle East foreign policy.

  55. LeaNder says:

    Thanks, TTG, sounds interesting. Never heard of it.
    Beyond great discussion on this thread.

  56. giovanni says:

    Your point taken as well.
    I would add that I was surprised that the SAA did not attempt to push the front before al-Bab while the YPG was hitting ISIS 8-10 miles away. Whether out of direct self-interest in that ISIS was likely to be weaker while the Kurd/Turkmen alliance was hitting them; or out of the belief that even a minor supporting action would help the YPG defeat the mutual primary foe.
    Maybe surprise is too strong. But I had hoped for something of the sort.
    It’s another sign that the distance between the two groups is mutual, and that Assad, like other actors in the arena, sees ISIS instrumentally rather than as as an existential threat.
    It’s interesting in analyzing motives and interests that the Russians did provide some air support for a YPG action from Afrin several months ago against the non-ISIS rebels.
    On the other hand, the Russians are not Assad. In Manbij, the US air force had the primary support role, so one can’t assume the Russians wouldn’t have supported that action if the US weren’t there.

  57. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you.
    You are probably right; I feel sorry for them as they have to live, mentally, this dual life.

  58. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not know.
    But I believe that somehow the definition & discussion of “What is Islam?” should be taken out of the proverbial Public Square – where any idiot can gather around himself a few ignoramus adherents and create disorder.

  59. turcopolier says:

    I wondered at SAA inaction in the Aleppo-al Bab-Manjib act but decided that it was another evidence of shortage of forces. pl

  60. turcopolier says:

    Correction to the wiki on the film. Learoyd is not a deserter from the US Army. He is a master sergeant who escapes from the Philippines after the surrender to the Japanese and tries to flee by boat with others, being shipwrecked along the way on Borneo. pl

  61. LeaNder says:

    thanks Pat.
    Usually I like to read this later, but the editing caught my attention. Including the question, does the original script still exist?

  62. LeaNder says:

    “clinical sublimation”?
    In a nutshell? Reminds me, I have to read the book about the Sleep of the Analyst, a cousin once recommended me on the topic.
    I am not sure, that only “fundamentalist crazies” understand or find ways to understand. It’s still the WOT, I guess. And while, as some pointed out, apart from Paris it’s not quite spectacular as New York – London – Madrid and/or Paris more recently to remain in “the West”. …
    This almost escaped my attention, since basically I seem to be very, very close to your recent argument not least here:
    “American Jews, like all Americans, are exceptional.”
    Exceptional due to power? A big country that can afford a big military? Americans are more safe then others, both Jews and non-Jews?

  63. turcopolier says:

    How would I know? pl

  64. Serge says:

    Reports of a 500-car ISIS convoy of 2,500 “”human shields””(read:diehard supporters and families of ISIS fighters), held hostage supposedly by 100 fighters either breaking out or leaving under agreement from Manbij to Jarablus. All still very shady, but fits with my contention from the start that there were no more then 600 ISIS fighters in Manbij from the start, no chance of the 2-4K total killcount put out by USA/SDF

  65. LeaNder,
    Partly, to use Michael Brenner’s formulation ‘distance and their own security’.
    But it is also the case that it has been easy for American Jews, particularly since the Holocaust, to ‘buy into’, whether it be out of honest conviction, cynicism, or a mixture of both, the myths of American nationalism – which come originally out of English Puritanism.
    It is partly out of this that there arises what is both and American, and a Jewish, tragedy: that there is commonly an inverse correlation, among American Jews, between influence and genuine intelligence.
    In recent years, the same pattern has increasingly come to prevail in Britain.

  66. different clue says:

    Actually, aren’t most of the Jewish Israelis descended from Arab country Jews? (Or at least were until the big influx of Soviet-type Jews from the post-Soviet dis-Union)?

  67. LeaNder says:

    Babbling alert? If I may? Based on my background, these matters interest me of course.
    I might correct the Wikipedia version after I watched the movie.
    Watching it may help me understand why you, TTG and Alba Etie, if I get matters right, disagree so heavily with the average critique of the film. According to the Chicago Sun and Washington Post in the much longer entry on German Wikipedia the plot is supposedly predictable. Thus my attention on the editing process, vaguely with what you call “the Borg” in mind.
    The plot reminds me a bit of Apocalypse Now. Which may be inspired too by Pierre Schoendorffer’s novel Farewell to the king/L’Adieu au Roi. No, wrong see second link, it was inspired by John Milius, the director.

  68. LeaNder says:

    b, considering lenght “on that 44,000 word junk piece of historic revisionism”, the New York Times has a new feature, apparently you can find the place you had to stop reading for one reason or another once you return:
    The chapters mirror your five missing or almost missing items choice.
    not on topic here, but elsewhere. I doubt “anti-Slavic sentiments” or the respective racial studies still matter today in Germany or Europe except maybe on the fringe, and maybe not even there. No people with a Slavic background among the victims of the NSU.

  69. LeaNder says:

    David, I doubt that some type of mass exodus would solve the problem.
    I can understand Uri Avnery’s hesitancy concerning a one-state solution and his desire to keep dissenters at home. They seem to represent a constantly diminishing number.
    As Norman Finkelstein once wrote: It’s not about what I want, its about what is possible.

  70. turcopolier says:

    I heard the author of the NY Times piece explain himself to a friendly interviewer on the Newshour. In speaking of the Egyptian revolution and its aftermath he skipped over the legitimate government of Mursi, the MB and other Salafists and went directly to the overthrow of Mursi by the army ignoring the fact that Mursi’s government quite evidently intended to create a shariah law state which would have oppressed women, gays, minorities, Christians and just about anyone else who was not a Sunni Salafist. pl

  71. turcopolier says:

    Joseph Conrad’s story and the “Apocalypse Now” movie derived from it deal with the descent into madness of a superior being who becomes a savage. In Schoendorfer’s novel and the film FTTK there is nothing mad about Leroyd. He makes a rational adaptation to life among the Dyaks while continuing to be a civilized man by my standards which are perhaps not yours. pl

  72. BraveNewWorld says:

    I think their declaring themselves an independent state from Syria puts an end to any belief they are allies. They have now guaranteed that at some point Assad will throw them under the bus.

  73. BraveNewWorld says:

    “The Russia Turkey rapprochement so far seems largely diplomatic and economic – a return to the status quo before the Su-24 was shot down.”
    That would amount to a complete surrender by Putin an a complete victory for Erdogan. Does that sound like how that relationship really works?

  74. BraveNewWorld and all,
    This is a translation (mostly Google Translate) of an article from Izvestia on 12 Aug concerning the Russian-Turkish talks. If this happens, Putin and Assad win big time.
    After a series of meetings of the joint Russian-Turkish commission, primarily in Moscow , which included representatives of the diplomatic and defense agencies, and intelligence services, Victor Vodolatsky, the Deputy Chairman of the Duma Committee on Defense, discussed the question of the closing of the Syrian-Turkish border.
    “These meetings are a continuation of the dialogue between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Among other things, we discussed the steps towards peace in Syria, so of course we raised the question of the closure of the Syrian-Turkish border to stop the flow of terrorists and weapons. Thus militants will be deprived of any kind of external support. This issue is also important because it is directly related to ensuring Russia’s national security. For our part, we can provide the Turkish side satellite images of locations through which the traffic of weapons and militants,” said Vodolatsky.
    According to “Izvestia”, the Turkish side is already considering such a possibility, and with the normalization of Russian-Turkish relations and the specific agreements reached between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara’s response is likely to be positive.
    As noted in this context a member of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, Igor Morozov, Turkey’s relations with Europe and the United States today are not the best, so Ankara will focus on Russia. It presents the opportunity to reach a compromise on this controversial subject, and under conditions that Moscow will dictate.

  75. BraveNewWorld says:

    AMN is run by Leith Abou Fadel. His twitter feed is here. Well worth following.

  76. BraveNewWorld says:

    Apocalypse Now is a reworking of the book, Heart of Darkness.

  77. different clue says:

    David Habakkuk,
    Any one brain has only so much mental energy to be able to expend on all that one brain’s mental activities. If the possessor of that brain spends “more” mental energy on building and excercising genuine intelligence; the possessor of that brain has less mental energy left over to spend on pursuing, building and exerting influence. And vice versa. At least, such is my feeling.
    If my feeling is correct, then it should not be surprising that the Jews with influence should not understand or even see the inner decay of the IsraelGov’s thinking and acting . . . and the attendant outer decay of Israel’s position. The seekers and builders of Revisionist influence within Israel put so much of their brainergy into influence that they have no brainergy left for intelligence. And their fellow travelers and sympathisers in the UK and the US did the very same. And they used their pure influence to Long-March through the Jewish institutions and organizations in Britain and America and purge all non-Revisionists from those organizations. That includes all the non-Revisionists who had achieved a 50-50 balance inside their brains between some genuine intelligence and some influence.
    Since Stephen Cohen for example has invested his brain energy in the one-sided development of genuine intelligence with zero brain energy left over for any other-sided development of influence, it should be no surprise that Stephen Cohen has no influence over anything.

  78. turcopolier says:

    Really? You discovered that? pl

  79. giovanni says:

    I guess I didn’t think it was very harsh language, but I’ll try not to make such statements going forward.

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