More on the US policy miasma in the ME


"On October 22, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, that it is time for “Iranian militias” that’s fighting ISIS in Iraq to “go home” according to Reuters Agency.

“Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home. The foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control,” Tillerson said.

According to Reuters an US official explained that Tillerson was referring to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and the Iranian Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

However, the PMU consists of Iraqi forces with some Iranian support and assiastance. Considering this, Tillerson statement is either based on very poor understanding of the situation in Iraq, or it might be meant as propaganda, and nothing more."   SF


The PMU are overwhelmingly IRAQI Shia Arabs.  They ARE home.  Tillerson looks foolish sitting next to Adel Jubair (aka The Chihuahua) broadcasting to the world the policy desiderata of the Saudi kingdom.   We all know that DJT made his obeisance to the throne of the Wahhabi state.  Tillerson is obviously there as the deputy mukhtar of America.  Does the Shia run government of Iraq welcome such a statement?  I doubt it.  pl



"US.-backed fighters captured Syria's largest oil field from the Islamic State group Sunday, marking a major advance against the extremists in an area coveted by pro-government forces.

With IS in retreat, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government have been in a race to secure parts of the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province along the border with Iraq."  Chicago Tribune


 Well, pilgrims, IMO the US/SDF has done this to cripple Syrian reconstruction.  The income from this field will be needed for the re-building of places like Raqqa and Aleppo.  What do the neocons and their general officer allies think they are going to do with their possession of this Syrian national property?   Are they going to try to negotiate Kurdish autonomy amounting to independence?  pl



"Turkish troops first deployed in Idlib last Thursday with the purported aim of enforcing the so-called de-escalation zone that Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to in the Kazakh capital of Astana last month. In a statement last week, Turkey’s prime minister said that the operation also aimed to reduce refugee flows into Turkey, prevent conflicts between civilians and militants in Idlib, and establish control points for future deployment in the area.

A wide-scale military campaign against HTS, however, was not listed among the objectives, and Turkey has not demonstrated any hostility toward the group. The two are believed to have coordinated operations in Idlib and HTS has escorted Turkish troops into the province at least four times in the past month."


IMO the new Sublime Porte speaks with Forked Tongue.  How's that for a mixed metaphor?  Sultan Tayyip and his band of neo-Ottomans harbor irredentist dreams with regard to the more or less united lands of the empire as it once was.  .  The Russians have fed them a slice of Syria both in Idlib Province and northeast of  Aleppo City.  It is reported that the Turkish military is occupying eight garrison positions in Idlib including two air bases.  Good luck on getting them to withdraw to Turkey once they are well installed.  pl


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80 Responses to More on the US policy miasma in the ME

  1. Lemur says:

    I have an idea Russia fancies the Turk man as a check on the Persian man.

  2. eakens says:

    I don’t know about Al-Omar Oil Field. It barely produced any oil, even before the SHTF. It’s not much of a strategic gain imo.
    As for Tillerson and US FP, it seems we’re at the stage of the game where we get up from the table, and flip it over.

  3. JJackson says:

    “The foreign fighters in Syria need to go home and allow the Syrian people to regain control”
    I am sure the families of US servicemen in Syria will be delighted to here they are coming home – or is that not what he meant?

  4. outthere says:

    Apparently, the American people also must be shielded from anyone who might point out that the jihadist activity in Niger and neighboring Mali is directly related to the US and NATO bombing of Libya, which enabled al-Qaeda and other Muslim militants to overthrow the secular regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi. That Obama-Clinton operation in 2011, besides producing Qaddafi’s grisly murder and turning Libya into a nightmare, facilitated the transfer of weapons and fanatical guerrillas from Libya to nearby countries in the Sahel – as well as Syria. Since then the US government has been helping the French to “stabilize” its former colony Mali with surveillance drones and Green Berets based in Niger. Nice work, Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. (Citizen Trump was an early advocate of US intervention in Libya.) Need I remind you that the US/NATO regime-change operation in Libya was based on a lie? Obama later said his failure to foresee the consequences of the Libya intervention was the biggest mistake of his presidency.

  5. different clue says:

    It would appear that if the permagov players feel they have lost their “Assad must go” due to Trump, that they can at least have ” Assad must suffer, and so must Syria”.
    I am surprised that the RussiaGov would facilitate the Erdogan occupation of part of Idlib Province. Certainly Erdogan will turn it into de facto annexation as soon as he can. If it looks to the Arab World that Russia has facilitated the Turkification of Occupied Idlib, will this cause the RussiaGov to lose popularity and respect in the Arab World? And if Erdogan establishes illegal Turkish settlements in Occuppied Idlib, how will that look?
    And if Ergogan thinks he is a great chess master, perhaps in a few years time he will cause incidents from Occupied Idlib into neighboring Syria . . . and if Syria responds militarily; will Erdogan claim Turkey has been militarily attacked by a non-NATO member and demand a NATO response under Article Five? Could this be in Erdogan’s mind a future backdoor to “Assad must go”?
    There is still time for EUrope to abrogate NATO, form its own NEATO without America and Canada and withOUT Turkey; and pre-take those pieces off the board out of reach of Erdogan’s grasping little fingers.

  6. b says:

    In Riyadh Tillerson also warned European companies from doing business with Iran. Two days earlier he had (WSJ) given a green light for European companies to do business with Iran. Whatever he says is obviously worthless.

    The Omar oil field is not in the hands of the SDF. Some local ISIS aligned tribes in the area had offered through one SDF gang-leader from Deir Ezzor (a known criminal) to change sides to the SDF. No SDF fighter is even near the area.
    It is obvious that the U.S. now makes efforts to bribe all local ISIS to its side. They will likely continue to fight the SAA under that new label.

    The only thing Turkey did in Idelb was to surround the Kurdish enclave Efrin. For that purpose Erdogan made a deal with al-Qaeda.
    Turkey is a huge headache for Syria. It is unclear to me why the Russians allowed them in. I can only hope that Putin is willing to use his airforce to push them out when the time has come.

  7. turcopolier says:

    To call Qathafi’s regime “secularist” is a bad joke. It completely ignores his efforts to construct a new form of Islam centered around the “Little Green Book” and the Jamahiriya. pl

  8. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You’d be wrong.
    For the first time in 300 years Russia and Iran are separated by buffer states; having a maritime border only in the Caspian sea.
    They have no bone of contention, no territorial claims, no civilization leadership claims, no political claims, no ethnic claims against one another.
    It is Turkey, a NATO state, that has been constantly an irritant to the Russian Federation; supplying Chechen separatists and harboring them in Turkey, being a member of an anti-Russian alliance, and laying claim to the leaders ship of Sunni Muslims (majority of the Russian Muslims) as well as claims to a nebulous pan-Turkic leadership. And there is the little role that they played in Syria.
    Russia will supply Iran as a buffer state against Western Fortress, which includes Turkey – in my opinion.

  9. Re the US intent to make it difficult for Syria to recover, there’s this report…
    Washington Forbids Serbia From De-Mining Syria
    The US tells Serbia that it provided de-mining assistance to them to be used in Serbia only and hinted that if it wants any more help there will be no de-mining of Syria.

  10. JJackson says:

    I thought article 6 made it clear that an attack on forces which were outside NATO boundaries (inc. uninvited in some other state territory) did not qualify. As to why the Russian may be on-board with this Turkish deployment may have something to do with an end-game with the SDF allied Kurds – play nice or we may let our Turkish dogs off the leash. The pocket in the far NW is looking precarious.

  11. Peter AU says:

    Russian strategy in Syria is as much a geopolitical chess game as it is fighting the jihadists. There has been no public condemnation of Erdogan, for his moves in Idlib, coming from Russia.
    A possible reason for the move may be to take the various jihadists in Idlib under state control as in the Jarabulas area.

  12. outthere says:

    Gaddafi was a muslim, and he did change islam in Libya.
    I would not have called Gaddafi “secular”, but Libya under Gaddafi was certainly was “more secular” than Saudi Arabia, where Christian churches are not allowed to exist.
    I view Gaddafi as having searched the political and economic theory of the world (not just religion) to find solutions for government. This search included capitalism, socialism, marxism, and included voluntary cooperatives. And yes there certainly was an element of the cult of personality in the green book, as there was in Mao’s red book.
    Gaddafi was 27 years old when he came to power, and his ideas evolved with experience.
    Perhaps my favorite quote:
    “if we were to restrict ourselves to the support of Muslims only, that would be an example of bigotry and selfishness: True Islam is the one that defends the weak, even if they are not Muslims”.
    I do not feel qualified to “pass judgment” on Gaddafi, have never been to Libya, and I do not speak/read arabic as you do. He certainly accomplished many things, including the economic progress of his citizens, including his great underground river irrigation project.
    I DO think that there would be fewer refugees fleeing to europe, and fewer terrorist gangs in central africa if Gaddafi had not been “overthrown”/killed.

  13. Tel says:

    Erdogen does appear rather adept at playing all sides, now apparently there’s a handshake deal with HTS/al-Qaeda to cooperate with Turkish troops. Let’s see how long that lasts.
    === block quote from article ===
    Turkey and some of the opposition’s secondary intention in this first phase is to establish a Turkish protected area in northern Idlib, which can be used to start a slow and gradual campaign to undermine HTS. Some of Turkey’s long-term partners in Syria, groups like Failaq al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham, are on board with this strategy.
    They don’t want to enter a full-scale confrontation with HTS. Instead, they want to more methodically undermine the extremist wings of HTS, particularly to try to encourage defections and divisions within HTS to make it a more manageable competitor rather than an adversary.
    From what I’m told, Turkish intelligence has been working on this for some time already, in cooperation with opposition groups previously close to HTS. A spate of recent assassinations are apparently linked to this subversion campaign and, perhaps more importantly, so are a number of recent audio leaks of HTS internal communications.

  14. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg says:

    Vindictive as ever, the US means to cripple and break up Syria by whatever means are at hand. It’s hardly a surprise they seized the oil fields.
    The US foreign policy establishment is so far up Likud’s gastro-intestinal tract, they don’t know which way is up anymore.

  15. kooshy says:

    You are factual and correct IMO, thank you

  16. turcopolier says:

    I agree with all that. b makes an issue of the US/SDF having induced a transfer of allegiances of some tribesmen from IS to “the gang.” That is a normal feature of the game of nations. B knows that. pl

  17. Adrestia says:

    Is it possible that this influenced the disappearance (and probable murder) of Musa as-Sadr in Libya? The ‘why’ still intrigues me.

  18. JJackson says:

    I saw, it works for both. If that is the rule for Iraq then why should it not be equally valid for Syria, the problem is, as you point out, that the Tillerson would be blind to that kind of logic. It obviously could not apply to the indispensable nation and the forces of light.

  19. kooshy says:

    Abadi told Tillerson the paramilitary force called Popular Mobilisation “is part of the Iraqi institutions,” rejecting accusations that it is acting as Iran’s proxies.
    “Popular Mobilisation fighters should be encouraged because they will be the hope of country and the region,” he said.
    A few hours earlier, Abadi’s office published a statement rejecting Tillerson’s comments. “No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” it said

  20. kooshy says:

    IMO, Babak makes a reasoned and factual analysis with regard to Russia, Iran, strategic relations. With one caveat/ stipulation IMO, that is Russia is not reliable with regard to her strategic partners (IMO she came a little too late to help Syria) IMO she is willing to drop any partner to be accepted as european/western country. IMO this is correct with regard to Iran nuclear file during Medvedev.

  21. turcopolier says:

    “Abadi told Tillerson the paramilitary force called Popular Mobilisation “is part of the Iraqi institutions” This level of f–k up is evidence of State professionals sabotaging Tillerson. This reminds me of a director of DIA who failed to read the briefing papers before the office visit of a European counterpart. He told the man that he should have brought his lovely wife to Washington only to be told that she had died a year before. pl

  22. turcopolier says:

    That is possible. BTW I detested Qathafi. pl

  23. kooshy says:

    Colonel you mean someone is pulling the rug from under him?, b suggest that someone is him, as he hopes to get fired.

  24. kooshy says:

    Colonel, IMO even if Abadi wanted to send PMU home he couldn’t, I would think he would be going home before PMU, PMU was formed with and after A. Sistani Fatwa, no way that jeni can be put back in the box.

  25. outthere says:

    off topic, but thought you might enjoy talk by Dominic Lieven on Russian revolution:
    The peak of tsarist Russia’s international power and prestige came with the leading role it played in the defeat of Napoleon in 1812-15. The key to Russian military power was its European-style combined arms (infantry/artillery/cavalry) army that used contemporary military weaponry to best effect by training to manoeuvre, coordinate and fight in close-order formation. But Russian power also owed much to elements typical of Eurasian military tradition. Uniquely among the European great powers it employed “colonial” units to great effect in the Napoleonic War: these were the Cossacks, whose traditions were rooted in warfare on the Eurasian steppe. In pre-modern warfare the horse was the equivalent of the modern tank, aeroplane, mobile artillery and lorry: it was in other words essential to reconnaissance, shock, pursuit and mobile firepower. Because of its Eurasian steppe territories Russia was far richer than any of its great-power rivals as regards horses. The Cossacks played a great role in Russian victory over Napoleon but Russia’s immense reserves of horsepower were even more significant.

  26. turcopolier says:

    Whether or not Tillerson wants to leave, I do not think he would screw up this badly without sabotage. pl

  27. Not In Istanbul says:

    The great underground river irrigation project was nothing more than a wrapped up bribe for the Germans. That isn’t my own opinion but that of a civil engineer from Turkey who had worked on that project.

  28. Babak Makkinejad says:

    An uneducated ignorant man, doning the mantle of Pirs & Imams; I can very well belive he ordering Sadr’s murder for showing him the ignoramus that he was.

  29. kooshy says:

    here is Iran’ FM Zarif respond to SS Tillerson in KSA
    “In response to Tillerson, Zarif noted that the anti-Daesh fighters “are already in their homes and have not been waiting and will not wait for anybody’s order,” adding, “If they had waited for orders from Tillerson and US government, today, we would have had Daesh in Baghdad and Erbil.

  30. JJackson says:

    According to the BBC it would also seem he has found unicorns this time in Afghanistan.
    “Thousands of extra US troops are being deployed as part of the strategy to defeat the Taliban.
    Mr Tillerson said he believed there were moderate elements among the insurgents and the US was hoping to engage them in a peace process.”

  31. ISL says:

    Dear Colonel. Fully agree. I just cant envision Tillerson being philosophically in support of anything (including sanctions) that removes oil from the world market and from the potential that in ten or twenty years Exxon might bid on projects. The oil patch has a very long timeline and perspective. Apparently, the Russian sanctions that congress passed have failed to be implemented.
    So I see this as just talking point propaganda for the domestic news, but points designed to embarrass Tillerson (and Trump).

  32. kooshy says:

    Here is a new article on Aljazeera for those who questioned Iran’s effectiveness on Syrian war. Loud and clear.
    “FSA rebels: We would have won if not for Iran”
    He told Al Jazeera: “The Syrian army had all but collapsed and was operating at about 20 to 25 percent of its previous strength when the Iranians came and brought with them Hezbollah, and Iraqi and Afghan militias, who did most of the fighting on behalf of the Syrian army.”

  33. mike says:

    Pro-government sources had claimed six days ago that SAA elements crossed the river at Mayadin and were less than eight kilometers from the Omar fields. I guess the SDF got tired of waiting for the SAA to make a move on Omar. So after they liberated al-Suwah and Markadah and crossed the Khabur river they just kept on going on their way to Busayrah. Not clear to me if they have the entire field or just the north field? I still believe they have a deal with the Russians.
    For sure the PYD and Arab tribes that make up SDF will use Omar and other oilfields to try to broker a seat at the peace table. So far they have been denied that, thanks to objections by the Turkish sultan, even though just about all Syrian opposition forces were given seats at Astana. And Syrian Kurds are not even part of the opposition. They have always said they want to be a part of the Syrian nation, even if led by Assad.
    Eakens says above that Omar itself does not produce much oil. I saw at least one site in the past (cannot find it now) that agreed with Eakens’ statement. The site claimed the value of Omar was not quantity, but instead was the quality of its crude – low density and low sulfur content like sweet Texas crude. Perhaps Oilman2 has some insight? But there are many who claim it is the largest field in Syria. I have no clue which is correct. But looking at Wikimapia it shows that there are a dozen other oil and gas fields – Ghewari, Sayjan, Saban, Jarnof, Azraq, Maleh, Tayani, Tanaq, Younes, Galban, Sarhit, and Shudayha that are clumped together with Omar and north Omar and designated as (plural) “The-Al-Omar-Fields”.

  34. Fellow Traveler says:

    They don’t even know where Tilly is, even when he’s in his 7th floor fortress. Their badges don’t go there anymore.
    He can’t be reading any memos from an under-secretary, because there aren’t any.

  35. Peter AU says:

    Kooshy, I doubt Russia was ready to take on the US prior to 2015. They were still busy putting their own house in order. To make the move into Syria Russia had to be ready to face down the US in a military standoff.
    The other thing, which I had also noticed in eastern Ukraine, was Russia only moved in when Eastern Ukraine and Syria had self selected to those who would stand and fight. Very solid groups to back.

  36. robt willmann says:

    Well, I was afraid something like this was going to happen regarding the oil and gas fields in eastern Syria. However, the Chicago Tribune article in the main posting above, from the Associated Press, is a little unclear to me, although it may be due to the fact that the map of Syria I am using is not very detailed.
    The cutline under the photograph says, “This July 30, 2017, photo shows an oil field controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in Rmeilan, Hassakeh province, northeast Syria (Hussein Malla / AP)”. That 30 July photo, if from the Hasakah province, would be an oil field northeast of Deir ez Zor, as that province is above the Dayr Az Zawr province. Thus, it may not be in the area of the Al-Omar oil field referred to in the body of the article. My map does not show Rmeilan in the Hasakah province.
    The map does show Umar and Umar North oil fields north and northeast of the town of Al Mayadin near the Euphrates River. The Chicago Tribune/AP article says that Syrian troops have “retaken nearly all of the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour, as well as the town of Mayadeen, another IS stronghold, which is across the Euphrates River from the Al-Omar field.” Deir ez Zor is north-northwest of Al Mayadin, and they are both on the Euphrates because the river angles down to the Iraq border. So the article is saying that the SDF and U.S. have penetrated south of my imaginary horizontal line running due east of Deir ez Zor to the Syria and Iraq border. Such a penetration might have occurred if the Al-Omar oil field is the same as the Umar and Umar North oil fields.
    This is surprising to me because I have been guessing that the SDF and U.S. were further north in the area of Raqqa. If the article is correct, the SDF and U.S. have, in addition to focusing on Raqqa, been pushing south in the corridor between the Euphrates and the Iraq border, and are already south of Deir ez Zor.
    However, the article does say: “Al-Manar TV, operated by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, said the fight for Al-Omar was still underway and denied the SDF’s claim to have captured it. The militant group fights alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.” (Notice that the Chicago Tribune/AP calls Hizbullah a “militant group”.)
    Therefore, the area actually under the control of the SDF and U.S. may not be as stated in the article. I hope that the article is incorrect, as that large area in the southeast with oil and gas fields and pipelines is critically important for the real Syria, which does not include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the U.S., Britain, Israel, and other Persian Gulf states.

  37. aleksandar says:

    Why use airforce when you can destroy Turkey with economic sanctions?
    It plays well one time, and will play well again.

  38. The Beaver says:

    @ Kooshy
    It is NOT only someone but many:
    From Foggy Bottom (State Dept regulars) to Nikki Haley to Sen Cotton and the Neocon Central -AEI who have “agents” inside the cabinet.

  39. rjj says:

    How many of Alexander’s generals were homegrown and how many were from away?Started to make a list, but got bogged down. Which were willing and able to put the Cossacks and other irregularish horsemen to good use?

  40. JJackson says:

    mile & all.
    I noted from a USGS map of the fields that there is a railway that runs SE then NE through the various fields. Does anyone know what state this is in?

  41. outthere,
    Actually, what Dominic Lieven has to say in his talk at the Valdai Club meeting is extremely relevant to the current ‘policy miasma’ – which afflicts the British and other West Europeans as much as the Americans, and relates not simply to the Middle East but to the world in general.
    And I would strongly recommend reading it to anyone who is interested in the way that crucial forces which have been responsible for both the splendours, and miseries, of the history of the modern West continue to shape the present and will shape the future.
    There are ironies here. On his father’s side, Lieven is the descendant of a family of Baltic German servants of the Tsars (on his mother’s, he is the descendant of Catholic Irish servants of the British Raj.) So it is of interest that the views of a figure with such a background – which makes for a complex understanding both of empire and nationalism – should be be put forward at an event where the Russian government presents its view of things to the world.
    As Lieven makes clear, partly because of his background he was from the start sceptical alike of ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ views of the Bolshevik Revolution. So he recalls that, when he was a graduate student in 1975, Western opinion was generally divided between those he calls ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists.’
    The former believed that in 1914 Russia ‘already possessed the key elements necessary for evolution into a liberal democracy.’ In the opinion of the latter the ‘the tsarist regime was incapable of peaceful evolution, that revolution was inevitable, and that the Bolshevik regime was the likeliest and legitimate heir of Russian history.’
    What Lieven goes on say is that even then he ‘believed that seeing Russian late-imperial history in these terms had more to do with the Cold War context and ideological battles within the Western intelligentsia than it did with early twentieth-century Russian realities.’ And he continues:
    ‘I never believed that a peaceful transition to democracy was likely. No doubt my peculiar origins had something to do with this. The first original document I ever read about Russian history was the famous report presented to Nicholas II by Petr Durnovo in February 1914 warning that in Russia in that era the triumph of liberalism was impossible and that entry into a European war would almost certainly result in socialist revolution. I was given this as a twelfth birthday present by my uncle Leonid, a child of old Russia and the White emigration, one of whose tutors, incidentally, was Georgii Salomon, the former Social Democrat. My thesis, whose subject was Durnovo and his peers in the tsarist bureaucratic elite, only reinforced this view.’
    (There is a link to the Durnovo memorandum in his ‘Wikipedia’ entry, at .)
    As Lieven has brought out over the years in his discussions of Durnovo, who as Minister of the Interior had been instrumental in the suppression of 1905 Revolution, his memorandum was not the work of an ideological conservative, hostile in principle to the forces of ‘modernity.’
    He simply believed that there were preconditions for the successful actualisation of ‘liberal’ political principles, and that the nature of Russia’s historical development meant that they were not currently present in that country. Because they failed to realise this, Durnovo understood, the activities of Russian liberals were likely to have the unintended consequence of empowering revolutionary radicals.
    This, as I later learnt, was also the conclusion to which the intellectuals who produced the 1909 ‘Vekhi’ symposium, most of them former Marxists, came in the wake of the 1905 Revolution.
    It is actually hardly surprising to see Lieven appearing at the Valdai Club, given that the extent to which Putin – the grandson of a man who cooked for Lenin and Stalin – has identified with the ‘paths not taken’ in Russian history represented by the ‘Vekhi’ authors has been made apparent time and again over the years.
    The link between his readings of events prior to the beginning of the communist experiment, and events after its collapse, was quite explicitly made in one of the articles which Putin wrote prior to returning to the presidency in 2012. Entitled ‘Democracy and the Quality of Government’, it referred to another figure in the tradition to which the ‘Vekhi’ writers, and also the philosopher Ivan Il’yin, belong:
    ‘Russian philosopher and lawyer Pavel Novgorodtsev warned early last century: “Many people think that the proclamation of liberty and universal suffrage will magically direct society onto a new path. But in reality, the outcome of such action is usually not democracy, but oligarchy or anarchy, depending on the turn events take.”’
    (See .)
    It was however striking that when in 2014, Putin provided a ‘reading list’ for regional governors, he included, as well as a work by Il’yin, a highly idiosyncratic choice among the works of the religious philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev, who had been one of the contributors to ‘Vekhi.’
    The book’s title, The Philosophy of Inequality’, is actually misleading, in that it suggests that Berdyaev was simply reactionary, which he was not. Written, as it were, at ‘white heat’ in 1918, it provided its author’s first – and bitterest – responses to the triumph of those the ‘Vekhi’ writers had denounced.
    All this bears upon one of the most important reasons why Western foreign policy is in such a mess: that it has been shaped more by ‘ideological battles within the Western intelligentsia’ than serious attempts to grasp the ‘realities’ of the wider world – in Russia and elsewhere.
    The fact that the faith in the path taken by the Bolsheviks was repudiated by the leaders of Russia, as well as world opinion generally, left those whom Lieven called ‘optimists’ preening themselves.
    The extraordinary success of the post-war ‘Pax Americana’, crucially in Western Europe and parts of East Asia, turned out to addle people’s brains. So, not simply in relation to Russia, in 1989 as in 1914, but in the Middle East and elsewhere, it came to be assumed all societies everywhere ‘already possessed the key elements necessary for evolution into a liberal democracy.’
    The only things standing in the way of the universalisation of the kind of transformations found in West Germany and Japan – accordingly, the installation everywhere of governments that would obedient follow Washington’s lead – were the machinations of evil people, and the ignorance of the masses.
    The appropriate responses were a combination of righteous violence, and an approach reminiscent of that of an elementary school teacher enlightening ignorant pupils. All this was actually very similar to the mentality of the Russian ‘intelligenty’ whom Berdyaev and his associates denounced.
    Ironically, whatever their differences, Lieven’s work as an historian, like the writings of the ‘Vekhi’ authors and the tradition which came out of their work, has at its centre the ambiguities of ‘modernisation.’ In particular, it has focused on the intractable dilemmas it posed for the great multi-religious and multi-ethnic empires which had traditionally dominated Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
    It is now, ironically, Western élites who have adopted a neo-Bolshevik inability to grasp these ambiguities. Another unsurprising consequence of this is that they have increasingly come to adopt what the ‘revisionist’ historian of the French Revolution, François Furet, called a ‘theory of circumstances.’
    Rather than exploring the question of whether the Terror had roots in the fundamental nature of Jacobin ideology, Furet charged, historians of the Revolution had preferred to suggest that it was simply a response to the nefarious designs of the evil opponents of an inherently virtuous project.
    This strategy – continued and developed very successful by Stalin – is precisely that which has been adapted by Western élites since the collapse of communism.
    Rather than accepting that the disintegration of Russia into ‘oligarchy and anarchy’ – so that rather than the Western standards of living for which they hoped, the mass of the inhabitants lost what comforts and securities they had – had something to do with flaws in ‘liberal’ prescriptions, these élites found their ‘theory of circumstances’: Putin.
    And when the policies of these ‘neo-Jacobins’ – which might be a better term than ‘neoconservatives’ – led to a backlash in their own countries, they once again had a ‘theory of circumstances’: Putin.
    When they do notice that the figure they so loathe is not actually a communist, people in the West generally respond by utterly misreading the influences on whom he draws. Quite how inane such misrepresentations can bet is well exemplified by the fact that David Brooks think that Berdyaev and Il’yin represent some kind of ‘tiger of quasi-religious nationalism.’
    It might have helped if Brooks had put ‘Berdyaev nationalism’ into Google. The first ‘hit’ is a piece he wrote in 1934, entitled ‘Polytheism and Nationalism’ – which can be read in about five minutes. From the concluding paragraph:
    ‘The desire to employ Christianity, as a tool for the affirming of national and state might, is far worse a matter from a Christian perspective, than would be outright persecutions against Christianity and religion. It properly befits Christians to lead an heroic struggle for the freedom of Christianity, for the freedom of the spiritual life, against the pretensions of the totalitarian state to nationalise spirit, conscience, thought.’
    (See .)
    The really damnable thing is that it is Brooks and his like who are actually committed to a ‘quasi-religious nationalism.’ And, in seeking to turn the United States into a ‘propositional nation’, they are risking the fate of that other ‘propositional nation’ – the Soviet Union. If you base the cohesion of your polity on an ideology which is nonsense, when it becomes impossible any longer to hide the fact, your polity collapses.

  42. Fellow Traveler says:

    After “saving” Syria, we can now move on to Africa:
    Interested to see Absolute Ruler Xi’s plans for this new frontier.

  43. J says:

    Add to the milieu, last week Russian Vesti had a documentary regarding the CIA’s keystone behavior in Greece, entitled
    A Conspiracy in Athens.

  44. Kooshy,
    Speaking as an old-style ‘Perfidious Albionian’ – a breed now largely extinct, I fear – I think that you have not taken on board the way in which deep-seated perceptions and identifications can, at times, change very rapidly.
    After Gorbachev came to power, and indeed not only through the Yeltsin years but into the early Putin period, those who were ‘making the running’ in Russian policy were looking for integration into the West – indeed, many of them suffered from a kind of pro-Western euphoria.
    The fact that those who sought to be our friends were, time and again, ‘kicked in the teeth’ by people in the West has affected a radical and probably irreversible change in Russian perceptions.
    Unfortunately, people in Washington and London cannot see what is going on, because they keep listening to those who one might call the ‘irrational Westernisers’ – people like Masha Gessen – rather than those who were the ‘rational Westernisers.’
    Someone who is always useful to read on these matters is Dmitri Trenin, who heads the Carnegie Moscow Center. By background a career Red Army officer – I think ethnically Jewish – he is, as it were, a man ‘between worlds.’
    Last December, he published a piece in ‘Foreign Affairs’ under the title ‘Russia’s Post-Soviet Journey.’ It opens:
    ‘When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the hope among those Russians who welcomed its demise was that the newly created Russian Federation would return to Europe. Russia’s victorious liberals and democrats dreamed of a market economy and Western political freedoms, while the bulk of the population longed for well-stocked supermarkets and the post-imperial, post-ideological stability of countries such as Germany and Sweden.
    ‘A quarter-century later, after a tumultuous economic and political transition, Russia has, in fact, moved away from Europe. Russian leaders regard their country as a self-sustained civilization related to Europe yet clearly separate from it. This worldview calls into question not just the legacies of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, both of whom looked at Europe as a model for Russia’s own development, but also much of the Europeanizing Peter the Great’s, as well. The key to understanding this shift lies in the Russian elite’s and Russian public’s experiences with their European counterparts over the last 25 years.’
    (See .)
    So what happened with the ‘Iran file’ under Medvedev has very limited relevance to the current situation, which has been decisively shaped by continued Western support for jihadists, for ‘Banderistas’ in Ukraine, and the extraordinary ‘rolling 24-hours hate’ against Putin.
    As some of us have tried to point out for many years – without success – the natural outcome of these kinds of Western policy was always liable to be the kind of Eurasian consolidation against which Sir Halford Mackinder warned at the start of the last century. In this, Iran can play a crucial role.
    Reversing the effects of these kinds of lunacy would be very difficult, even if the lunatics were not – for the most part – still in charge of the asylum, in Washington and London in particular, and show few signs of waking out of the delirium they have inhabited for so many years.
    Given its manifold weaknesses, in this situation – like the Eastern Empire before it – contemporary Russia is clearly placing great reliance on an extremely sophisticated foreign policy/intelligence bureaucracy, combined with a sophisticated integration of its activities with the deft employment, where this is unavoidable, of armed force.
    (The days of the First Chechen War, when the Russian military was a demoralised rabble, are long gone.)
    In relation to Turkey, this I think dictates a very complex game, in which sudden shifts – in old-fashioned ‘Perfidious Albion’ style – are eminently possible.
    In relation to Iran, as to China, the balance of advantage would seem to be strongly in favour of establishing stable cooperative relationships over the long-term. This does not mean that the Russians are going to consider their interests, in Syria and elsewhere, as identical to those of the Islamic Republic. But they will want to negotiate and balance – and will not fall in with anti-Iranian policies in the future in the way they did in the past.
    There is in my view little reason to question the accuracy and relevance of the brush-off supposed to have been provided by Putin, after Netanyahu went to Moscow in August to try to rescue something from the disastrous series of ‘own goals’ created by ‘neocons’ over the past few years. The Russian leader is reported to have said is that ‘Iran is Russia’s strategic ally in the Middle East’, and, confronted by the Israeli leader’s entreaties, to have responded, ‘unfortunately, we can not help you there.’
    (See .)

  45. The Beaver says:

    A return home to post rebel Aleppo by Ehsani ( on Twitter)

  46. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think it plausible that just like Dean Acheson before him, Tillerson likely “saluted the flag” and followed Trump’s instructions.
    I think it is Trump that has no grasp of what he has walked into – assuming the role of the Mukhtar of Sunni Arabs against the Party of Ali; may be he thinks this is like the Cold War, the bad bad bad communists etc.

  47. Annem says:

    This portion of the latest USG travel advisory on Syria noted yesterday on RT America:
    Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons. They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, and border crossings.
    [My comment: Is this an admission of sorts?]

  48. Red Cloud says:

    The theft of the Omar fields by the SDF was predicted by many here months ago – to which you responded something to the effect of “the SDF has no interest in the Omar oil fields.”
    They sure made a quick move for something they have no interest in.

  49. Pacifica Advocate says:

    The New Silk Road is a project that involves Central Asia, and both Russian and Iranian interests coincide, there.
    Notably, it is the Chinese who are leading the effort on this front.
    Central Asia was historically a battleground where Greater Persia, the Turks, and “Eastern Europeans” (Byzantium/the Hellenes, the later progeny of the Vikings, and the Slavs) fought with one another.
    For most of that period, Greater Persia ruled.
    I strongly suspect the Soviet era allowed the states that would traditionally have been traditionally sublimated by Persian and/or North Indus/Pakistani allure to have discovered a new Nationalism which they are now asserting. Turkey’s secular elite apparently believe they can turn this new ethnic awareness to their own imperialistic ends.
    I also suspect that Turkey is going to be badly burned, by this–but on that, I defer to Babak.

  50. Adrestia says:

    I’m also afraid it was something vulgar without a real reason other than vanity or pride.
    One wonders what would have happened (with Hezbollah and Lebanon) if he had lived?
    Started reading the Iqtisaduna of his nephew Muhammad Baqir, who was killed by Saddam.
    What a family.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Hakim family in Iraq also suffered tremendously; many of its members murdered by Saddam Hussein’s government.

  52. Pacifica Advocate says:

    >>>All this bears upon one of the most important reasons why Western foreign policy is in such a mess: that it has been shaped more by ‘ideological battles within the Western intelligentsia’ than serious attempts to grasp the ‘realities’ of the wider world – in Russia and elsewhere.
    One of the key architects of those “ideological battles” you speak of was Chiang Kai Shek’s China Lobby, which included Henry Luce, Richard Nixon, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and quite a few other prominent members of the Washington Elite. The China Lobby was entirely a construct of money and foreign interests, targeted to exploit the weaknesses and suspicions of one party (the Republicans) over-and-against the policies of the other party.
    Two-party systems: can’t live with ’em, can’t kill ’em. Here we are 50 years later, and we’ve got both parties getting pushed-and-pulled by a foreign lobby.

  53. Kooshy says:

    Thank you for your comment, for sake of the word I hope you are entirely correct on your analysis. Yes, I also think after Ukraine with president Putin in power, Russian leaders have understood that a strong self sufficient Russia can not be accepted as a western partner. But still IMO is the Russian people who have not yet understood that they will not be considered or accepted in Europe if they are going to choose or elect strong nationalist leaders.
    IMO currently they are two contested hot geopolitical regions in the globe, the Eurasia/ heartland, and the Asia pacific, as you imply what can connect these two hot strategic regions is the new Silk Road (OBOR), China, Russia and Iran are crucial for this alternative trade route if and when the sea trade routes are interrupted at various choke points. With that in mind, I agree to contest and resist the European assisted American unipolar hegemony, Russia and Iran are in a better position than China, since they are closer to the heartland. To some extend, after Syria and ever since Ukraine, this cooperation has and is happening let’s hope it continues for sake the world.

  54. mike says:

    JJackson –
    Currently inoperable as far as I know. Last year Russian rail technicians restored a short stretch in Latakia near the coast. Long way to go before any repairs are made in the east. Although the Deir ez-Zor Freight Depot east of the Euphrates at Wail al-Huwayj is under SAA control. So that could be a starting point sometime in the future.
    The oil and gas pipelines are in bad shape also. Most ran through territory previously held by Daesh. There is a battle going on now for T2 Pumping Station, which is key to getting oil from the Omar oilfields to coastal tanker ports such as Tartus, or to refineries:

  55. mike says:

    Red Cloud –
    I remember all the hyperventilation about oil theft. The theft of Syrian oil was by al-Baghdadi’s daesh caliphate. And so, when the SAA did not take those fields back from the daeshi thieves, why shouldn’t other Syrians liberate it and bring it back under the control of Syrian citizens? Or do you believe that the SDF are foreigners?
    And please tell me how you imagine the SDF will export the oil you accuse them of stealing? The pipelines are toast. The SDF is landlocked and does not control any ports. I am still waiting for a Pipelineistan Conspiracy theory. Or the Zionist Zeppelin oil tankers?
    Iran is building a new and major oil refinery in Homs. The Russians and Syrian Government are meeting with the SDF civilian leadership and PYD in Qamislo. Russian reconciliation teams have been inspecting the SDF controlled Conoco natural gas fields. That alone should tell us that there is no theft going on. Just anti-American conspiracy theories floating like farts in the wind.

  56. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    “Obama later said his failure to foresee the consequences of the Libya intervention was the biggest mistake of his presidency.”

    Obama was wrong. It was no higher than his third biggest mistake. Number one was bailing out the allegedly TBTF (To Big To Fail) banks without extracting in return concessions that would have taken them out of TBTF territory. The second was not allowing the Injustice Department to even investigate, let alone prosecute, the millions of individual acts of perjury, forgery and fraud that led up to the 2008 crisis. These acts were NOT limited to the schlubs who signed liar-loan applications. They permeated the entire FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) sector food chain from the loan officers whose commissions depended on their ability to con the schlubs right on through the people who processed the schlubs’ loans into what were fraudulently rated as AAA sausage bonds, and on to the people who ran the companies that forged, for a price, custody transfer documents that should have been made during the sausage making but weren’t when they were needed to prove who held the loan at foreclosure time.
    IMO both of these will eventually do more lasting damage to the USA, at least in the short run, than the Libya fiasco. As Obama is reported to have said in one of his first meetings with the banksters on the matter, “I’m the guy between you and the pitchforks.”

  57. With regard to Dominic Lieven, here he is on a recent edition of Crosstalk held at Sochi for the Valdai Discussion Club. It is a discussion on Russophobia. Worth watching.
    CrossTalk travels to Sochi to attend Valdai Discussion club EXTENDED VERSION

  58. Ingolf Eide says:

    You’ve no doubt read the transcript of Putin’s talk and the following Q&A at Valdai so I’m only bringing out these quotes (for those who haven’t) because they relate so well to what you’re saying here.
    The first was in response to a question about what mistakes Putin believed Russia had made in recent decades:
    “Our most serious mistake in relations with the West is that we trusted you too much. And your mistake is that you took that trust as weakness and abused it. It is therefore necessary to put this behind us, turn the page and move on, building our relations on the basis of mutual respect and treating each other as equal partners of equal value.”
    The second followed a comment that relations between the Western Russia were plagued by pessimism and that perhaps this was overdone since they were even greater differences during Soviet times:
    “We used to be more respectful of each other’s interests. Clearly, respect must be backed up by economic and military power. This is clear. We ourselves are largely to blame for putting ourselves in such a position. In the humiliating situation, as in the 1990s, when we allowed you to access our nuclear facilities expecting you to reciprocate. However, you did not, and expecting you to was probably stupid on the part of those who did so back in the new Russia.”
    I think Putin’s acknowledgement that Russia had been naive in exposing itself to humiliation was a good move. It doesn’t for a moment absolve the US but it shows strength and realism. Putin (and Lavrov) have always sought to be clear and consistent but to my mind Putin in particular has been even more crystal-clear than usual of late. Perhaps it’s because he sees the enormous potential for grievous error based on misunderstanding and wants to do whatever he can to head that off.
    Finally, almost at the end of the Q&A he (politely) gets stuck into Toby Gati (an Asst Secretary Of State under Clinton) who had asked whether “it bothered [him] at all that you are reinforcing every negative stereotype about the US . . . ?”. Definitely worth a read.
    P.S. FWIW, although every point you made in this comment seems right to me, I also suspect that whilst ever Putin is in charge he’ll try to keep the door open to Europe. Not only because I think his attachment to the idea of Europe is heartfelt but also because he probably recognises the dangers of too close a sole embrace with China.

  59. blowback says:

    The Saudi Arabian Crown Prince is blaming Wahhabism on Iran – “they were such radical Islamists after the revoluton that we had to become radical Islamists otherwise we would have been toast”. The usual rubbish one has come to expect from MbS – the Al Sauds made a deal with the Wahhabists long before the Iranian Revolution. As usual The Guardian, bless its poor deluded neo-liberal heart, missed the hint of war with Iran.

    “What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it.

    That’ll work out well.

  60. turcopolier says:

    If memory serves the Al Saud family and the Wahhabis have been allied since the 18th Century. pl

  61. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The sacking of Kerbala and the obliteration of Baq’a,cemetery was also due to Iran?

  62. kooshy says:

    I don’t think this guy is well educated and surely not a good wise politician.

  63. blowback says:

    I knew it pre-dated the fifties but I didn’t mean the 1750’s. Wikipedia dates it to 1744, so the pact is older than the United States. It’ll be interesting to see which fake news sites take MbS’ comment at face value.

  64. kooshy says:

    As per Ubaid’ cat and mice story, suddenly “the cat has become a pious Muslim”

  65. outthere says:

    Thank you very much David
    Your comment took me back to 1961, when I used to see Kerensky shuffling along in vicinity of Hoover Tower. He was at that time 80 years old. I never met him, and he taught only a graduate seminar. His papers remain a treasure at Hoover. I did sit in on Gordon Craig’s lectures, so I got the Prussian perspective. And Gordon Wright’s lectures were also open for the the French perspective. My wife was earning her PhD in history, and I was studying in another field altogether. My favorite history profs were Otis Pease and David Potter. Potter was especially wise and wry in the heyday of civil rights activism, he was I think the only born southerner in the history faculty.

  66. outthere says:

    forgot to mention
    Did you know that Kerensky was refused burial by the Russian Orthodox Church?

  67. outthere says:

    Francis Fukuyama says:
    This is what the Putin regime represents: an entire society psychologically damaged and unwilling to come to terms with its own past, leading to a widespread depression and belief that the country has no future.
    quite a contrast to what Putin actually thinks and says

  68. Red Cloud says:

    It’s funny because the actual Syrian Government had already crossed the river, and obviously needed zero help from anyone retaking the Omar oil fields. It WOULD have been under the control of the Syrians, you know, the people that built those assets in the first place.
    There is no logical argument as to why the SDF would take the fields, unless there is a deal behind the scenes. I find that highly unlikely considering the R+6 doesn’t need any help defeating Daesh at this point. You don’t negotiate away something that you are in position to easily take yourself…

  69. Thomas says:

    “As Obama is reported to have said in one of his first meetings with the banksters on the matter, “I’m the guy between you and the pitchforks.””
    And that is when he he received his lasting lesson in power relations as the Banksters and Backers went to the garden shed, pulled out the pruning hook, melded it into a pike, figuratively shoved it up his fundament, and stuck him outside with lantern in hand.

  70. Ingolf,
    I agree with all that.
    A book I read when young, which had an immense influence on me, was the American historian Garrett Mattingly’s study ‘The Defeat of the Spanish Armada.’ An observation that has stuck with me ever since was that it was a maxim of sixteenth-century statecraft ‘to enjoy the benefits of time.’
    The marvellous way the book was constructed – interweaving events in different parts of Europe, and showing how developments in one place, which could commonly not have been predicted, could change the calculus for key actors in others dramatically, made the point: that it is very often prudent to keep options open.
    This has long seemed to me the basis on which Putin operates in foreign policy. And, crucially, he has an immense advantage over almost all Western leaders, in that he has access to rather good advice from his foreign policy and intelligence bureaucracy, and his General Staff, on which, unless he sees cogent reasons not to, he will act.
    It is partly failure to grasp all this which makes the claims about Russian interference in the election so infantile.
    The strong likelihood is, I think, that on this occasion the advice that he was given was wrong: that it echoed the conventional wisdom in the West, misreading the situation in the way almost everyone over here did, so that Putin’s calculations were based upon the assumption that Hillary was overwhelmingly likely to win.
    If one assumed this was the most likely outcome, why risk compromising the already slim chances of making her see reason about Syria or Ukraine by an intervention which, supposedly, was easily identifiable, and could hardly be expected to swing the election to Trump?
    Precisely because he seeks to ‘enjoy the benefits of time’, I think that Putin will very much want to keep doors open to Europe – and indeed, to the United States. That is one of the – many – reasons why the notion of a military threat to the Baltics, let alone Poland, is also infantile.
    I do however think that what Putin said at the Valdai meeting brings out the very radical effect that recent developments have had on him.
    A Russian academic said that ‘the impression is that Trump is breaking all records in unpredictability’, and ‘it seems that cooperation with Hillary Clinton perhaps would have been more comprehensible.’
    In his response, Putin points out – accurately – that Trump is ‘not the only one to blame’ for his unpredictability: that ‘It also has to do with the intense opposition in the country.’
    This ‘meshes’ with the impression I formed from the interviews with Oliver Stone. Contrary to the conventional wisdom in the West, Putin has consistently sought good relations with the United States.
    What he has come to suspect, over the years, however, is that the combination of entrenched resistance in the bureaucracy, and the deep-rooted hold of ‘exceptionalist’ attitudes in American culture, makes this very difficult.
    And his remarks to Toby Gati I think bring out the extent to the ‘vicious anti-Russian hysteria’ was he as he quite fairly suggests was ‘whipped up’ following Trump’s victory has solidified his pessimism.
    That does not mean that he will stop trying to keep doors open with the United States – for one thing, as you suggest, there is a very clear Russian perception of the dangers of events running out of control, which could at worst lead to escalation to nuclear war.
    And I certainly think he will want to keep doors open with regard to continental Europe – by contrast to Britain, which he has almost certainly decided is a hopeless case.
    (One might have thought this did not suit our interests very well, particularly in the ‘post-Brexit’ world – but then, as I know from experience, against entrenched British ‘Russophobia’, ‘rational’ arguments cut very little ice. ‘Theirs not to reason why …’ as Tennyson put it.)
    And in any case, one has to take on board the extent of the negative impact of recent Western policies. When Asle Toje – who is Research Director at the Norwegian Nobel Institute – suggested, in regard to Ukraine, that ‘From the European point of view, the ball is firmly in the court of Russia,’ Putin keep his temper, but was clearly deeply angry.
    With regard to relations with China, there are clear anxieties on the Russian side about the imbalance of power. How deep these go, and what conclusions are drawn from them, is not easy to calculate, particularly as there are good grounds for private thoughts not being vented in public.
    However, my inclination is to think a major mistake in Western policymaking has been to exaggerate the significance of these anxieties, which may be less significant than widely assumed, for several reasons:
    1. As Gabriel Doctorow argued in a recent piece, which also refers to Lieven’s presentation at Valdai, Russia is both stronger, and has much more to offer China, than generally realised;
    (See .)
    2. Although problems of population movement may be real, they may not be of decisive importance, particularly as in general rural Chinese want to move to the coastal cities, not Siberia. Insofar as there is a real danger of thinly populated areas being ‘swamped’ by migrants, moreover, confrontation with the country from which these people come may hinder rather than help;
    3. If there is not enough support from the West to risk confrontation with China, ‘appeasement’ of that power may be the least worst option;
    4. A possible way of diluting Chinese preponderance is to attempt, as far as possible, to broaden Eurasian integration. A status where China is ‘primus inter pares’ in an integrated Eurasia might be much more comfortable for the Russians than one in which they become ‘junior partner’ in a narrower alliance.
    So, rather than as American and British experts have generally anticipated, Russian fears of China working in Western ‘geopolitical’ interests, they may work against them.
    5. One of the things which is amply apparent from Putin’s remarks is the contrast between the late ‘Eighties and ‘Nineties, where it was widely believed in Russia that ‘appeasement’ of the West – the repudiation of the Stalinist heritage – would work, and the present, where it has been made amply clear that it does not.
    So, it may be a perfectly rational calculation that the Europeans will be much more accommodating, confronted by a Russia ‘empowered’ by an alliance with China, than they will be a weaker country attempting ‘appeasement’.
    As always, of course, Germany is crucial. The longer-term hope among some people of influence in Moscow may be that the economic opportunities available in the new integrated Eurasia will act as a magnet for that country. Even if they cannot pull the country into the integration processes, they might leave it so divided that it can no longer be used as an instrument by congentially ‘Russophobic’ Americans and British.
    All the above is speculation, much of which probably reflects ignorance. However, some of the possibilities I suggest may at least be worth thinking about.

  71. blowback says:

    Sorry but that is FSA Dolchstoßlegende-style rubbish – if you look at the Syrian government casualty figures from the SOHR about 90% of the casualties are SAA, 9% are Iranian-backed militia from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, 1% are Hezbollah and Iranian Army and IRGC casualties are insignificant. So the vast majority of the fighting is done by the SAA. The FSA is blaming it on the Iranians in the hope that the USA will force the Iranians to leave but even if that happened the SAA with Russian air support will continue to wipe out the FSA, Al Qaeda and ISIS.
    The problem a few years back was that Turkish and Gulfie special forces intervened in the fighting and their superior skill and training caused problems for the SAA with the entirely predictable result that the Gulfie intervention pissed off the Russians enough for them to send in the RuAF.
    It’s the RuAF and SAA that are butchering the FSA, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, although I wouldn’t deny that the Iranian-backed militias and Hezbollah are helping. After 9/11, you’d think that Americans would support anybody killing Al Qaeda but it seems certain elements in Washington don’t and are happy to support Al Qaeda’s supporters, financiers and armourers.

  72. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The “Yellow Peril” is always on their minds, it is not, however, on their agenda.

  73. mike says:

    Red Cloud –
    Yes, as I mentioned above, the SAA was across the river and less than eight kilometers from Omar, probably even closer to the Saban oilfields. And much, much closer than the SDF was. They never made a move towards those oilfields. That is why I believe a deal is in place.
    And what you say about R+6 not needing help against Daesh may be true. But it is also true R+6 still needs to defeat enemies in Idlib and pockets in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Rif Damashq, Quneitra, Daraa, and parts of Damascus itself. And then they have to think about kicking the Turkish Army and their proxies out of Syrian land also. So I would guess they are happy for all the help they can get.
    As I said above the SDF is comprised of Syrians. The great majority of the SDF are not rebelling against the Syrian government. They are taking back their homes from the Daesh. You cannot leave Daesh in a sanctuary just because it is in the oilfields. The Omar Oilfields, or part of them, are in fact now under control of Syrians.
    Please tell me how you suspect the eeevil Americans are going to help the SDF smuggle crude oil out of Omar.

  74. Ingolf Eide says:

    Yes, speculating, in various ways, is really all we can do.
    In suggesting Russia is aware of the dangers of too close an embrace with China, I didn’t mean to imply anything negative. The relationship seems immensely productive and is IMO likely to continue flourishing. At Valdai, this is how Putin responded to a question about how he saw Xi Jinping and the relationship with China more generally:
    “As you may know, during our meetings we publicly call each other friends. This speaks to the level of the relationship that has evolved between us on a human level.
    However, in addition to that, we uphold the interests of our states. As diplomats say, they are often very close or identical. An amazing situation has evolved and, God willing, it will continue for as long as possible: we always reach consensus on every issue, even seemingly controversial ones; we always come to terms, look for compromise solutions and find them.”
    So yes, I agree with you re China.
    On the broader question of Russia’s relationship with the West, it seems to me Putin’s deeper attitude became very clear in a comment he made recently at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students at Sochi.
    “What I am talking about is that the world is going through dramatic, global change. I am not saying this is good or bad, just that global changes are going on.
    You have said Russia is a vast territory and it is indeed so – from its western to eastern borders, it is a Eurasian space. But as regards culture, even language, language group and history, this all is undoubtedly a European space as it is inhabited by people of this culture.
    I am saying this because we have to preserve all this to remain a significant centre in the world – and I do not mean it in the military sense or anything else.
    We should not divide everything based on ethnicity and should not look back thinking, say, of the war between France and Russia in 1812–14, but rather look to the future for ways to build a common future and follow this common path.
    This is how we can preserve this vast space and these people as a global centre that is significant for relations with Asian countries and the American continent.
    If it does not happen this would mean division into minor quasi-national associations of states that would eventually lose their significance in the global sense as independent centres.”
    As it happens, there may be some halting steps in the right direction when it comes to relations with Germany. Here’s Steinmeier during the press conference following his meeting with Putin:
    “Russia and Germany are linked by a history that goes back more than a millennium, and this history is too diverse to be viewed in black and white. This is why it is so important for me to resist the alienation of the past few years and to keep saying that we live in Europe together. It is our duty to our nations to always continue looking for what we have in common despite all the disagreements and conflicts.”
    As you say, much damage has been done by the various absurdities of recent years. However, like you, I suspect the tide may be on the turn.

  75. FB Ali says:

    David Habakkuk,
    Thank you for those two detailed comments above. They are very informative, and I learnt many things from them that I did not know.
    I fully agree with you (and Ingolf) on Putin. I think he is a statesman in a class by himself today. It gives comfort to know that all our fates are (partly) in his hands.
    As for China and their Belt and Road plan, I believe Xi (and the other Chinese leaders) are wise enough to ensure that Putin and Russia feel they are equal partners. This is what Putin said about Xi and China in the Valdai Club discussion:
    “As you may know, during our meetings we publicly call each other friends. This speaks to the level of the relationship that has evolved between us on a human level.
    However, in addition to that, we uphold the interests of our states. As diplomats say, they are often very close or identical. An amazing situation has evolved and, God willing, it will continue for as long as possible: we always reach consensus on every issue, even seemingly controversial ones; we always come to terms, look for compromise solutions and find them.”

  76. Philippe T. says:

    Thanks for this analysis. But I am wondering, to which extent the “Perfidious Albion” is “largely extinct ?

  77. ISL says:

    from the same article:
    “Despite the Iranian intervention, the regime and its allies could not win the war, but they were successful in protecting the capital, Damascus, by besieging and keeping the opposition on the periphery of the city,” he added.
    When Russia entered, the war was on a downward trend. Iran gave Syria time and breathing space, but the trend was towards a Syrian jihadistan. For a trip down memory lane see:
    In those days, Iranian aid, training, and personnel slowed the retreat of the regime to urban areas, and then the loss of urban areas. Yes at one point, Iranian and Hezbollah helped the SAA retake territory from the rebels, but those gains were rapidly reversed by additional aid and coordination from Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the jihad groups,
    Meanwhile, from:
    “For Moscow, a strong allied armed force on the ground that is competent both in offense and defense provides numerous benefits to its military campaign. Russian military planners learned the value of this early in the intervention, when regime forces and their allies were unable to take back territory under the cover of Russian airstrikes until the Russians took the lead by dramatically escalating their own attacks. ”
    in reference to Hezbollah. The article goes on to show how Hezbollah and the regime learned to use the air cover to advance. Another review, “Iranian Strategy in Syria,” by ISW suggests Iranian training was to support militia development (in conjunction with Iraq), sniping, and urban warfare, but also that Syria tended not to listen very well to Iranian advice. In contrast, Hezbollah contributed expertise with light infantry combat, which is better matched against lightly armed insurgents.
    This VOA article indicates that Iran both improved by the training opportunity for new weapons and intelligence (I presume electronic).
    “We have gained technical and tactical advancements, militarily and in terms of intelligence collection,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the IRGC, said in a television interview late last year.
    I highly recommend this article, though, which took some searching to find, on the question I raised on another thread: Has Iran significantly improved its military capabilities based on experience in Syria? The answer is a resounding yes.
    Overall, this represents a significant shift in the balance of power in the middle east towards Iran, solidifying the gains when the US overthrew the Iraq-Iran balance by destroying the Hussein regime. It now is reported that Iran is developing its own close air support.
    Delivery of the S-400 and other systems to Iran suggests Russia may be willing to tip the balance further to make a US attack on Iran too costly (economically and politically).
    Note, in all these sources, thanks to 20:20 hindsight, the biases and blindspots are painfully evident.

  78. blowback says:

    The latest from Tillerson:
    “‘Reign of the Assad family is coming to an end’ – US Secretary of State”
    My prediction – Assad will still be president of Syria when Hillary Clinton is nominated as the Democratic candidate for president for the third time in 2024.

  79. Ingolf Eide says:

    That talk by Lieven was just superb. I don’t know enough to properly weigh his analysis of the events surrounding the Russian Revolution and WWI but found it truly fascinating.

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