Syria, 5 February 2016


Interesting things in the news today concerning Syria:

-The Russian MG who briefs at the MOD went to  a lot of trouble today to demonstrate with overhead photos that Turkey is still helping IS export oil from Syria.  One route goes north through the area east of Qamishli into Turkey where the masses of tanker trucks are just waved across the border by the Turks.  This flow probably has a lot to do with why the Russians are going to start using Qamishli airfield as a base.  The Russian briefers are quick to ask the rhetorical question as to why US air is not cutting off that flow.  Yet another flow goes into Turkey through the gap still existing between the Kuweiris air base salient and the YPG Kurd positions west of the Euphrates dam. 

– R+6 forces continue to drive south from the juncture they made in the last days north of Aleppo.  This juncture closes the main supply route (MSR) from Turkey into the mass of rebel forces west and SW of Aleppo City.  R+6 wish of course to provide some depth to the block on rebel supplies that they have created.

– Syrian civilians are leaving the part of the city still occupied by rebel forces.  They know that in one form or another a major fight for the inner city will happen and they sensibly want to get out of the way.  IMO the Syrian government is pleased to have them leave temporarily.

– Saudi Arabia now offers to send its ground troops to Syria.  What a great idea!  They should do that.  I can hardly wait for the spectacle of the "savage" Saudi Land Forces' engagement of R+6 forces.  pl

This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Middle East, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, The Military Art, Turkey. Bookmark the permalink.

103 Responses to Syria, 5 February 2016

  1. mbrenner says:

    I presume that what the Saudis have in mind in giving a talking point for those in Washington promoting an American intervention. The KSA would provide local cover (and color) a la Kuwait. Operation “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

  2. raksh wah says:

    are the Turks sending their forces in? is Russia tryin to bait the Turkish air force by sending the SU fighters across the border with the back up of their SAMS?

  3. Joe100 says:

    Col Lang –
    Do you have a link to today’s Russian MOD briefing you are referring to w/english subtitles?

  4. 505thPIR says:

    Saudi Soldiers in Syria locking horns with the the Islamic state… No blow-back there and certainly, no exchange of ideological DNA that gets brought “home”. Bet there is going to be some killer roadblocks in unimportant locations by the KSA military juggernaut!

  5. SmoothieX12 says:

    is Russia tryin to bait the Turkish air force by sending the SU fighters across the border with the back up of their SAMS?
    No. If anything else, deploying S-400 and Su-35Cs (in addition to SU-30SMs) serves the objective diametrically opposite to baiting.

  6. Jack says:

    Why aren’t Borg media asking Hillary, Rubio, et al about the IS-TURKEY oil laundering program? Where are the various C-in-C wannabes on this matter? How come no one’s asking Sec. Carter who hasn’t loved a war yet?
    I continue to be impressed with what the Russians have accomplished militarily in Syria with an economy a tenth of ours. A big difference seems to be that they have effective partners on the ground in the SAA, Hezbollah militia and the IRGC soldiers.

  7. SmoothieX12 says:

    Is it me, or Mizintsev and Ralph Peters are remote relatives?

  8. Brunswick says:

    Empty words. Saudi is already a “partner” in the military campaign against ISIS, they sent 4 F-15’s with some Eurofighters as top cover, and flew a few sorties for the first two weeks, then went home.
    They still kept their name on the letterhead though.
    Saudi ground forces are getting curb stomped in Yemen, and have lost cities in Narjan province to the Ansruallah fighters.
    The Saudi’s are just making empty promises in the hopes they can sucker the US into a ground war in Syria, in the hopes of saving their pet Jihadi’s from the R+6.
    They also hope that this empty threat will have some impact on the so called “Peace Talks” in favour of their pet Jihadi’s.
    R+6 is just going to ignore this empty threat in public, but in private, they are going to watch the Houthi vids and take vodka shots every time the Houthi’s blow up a Saudi Abrahm’s or LeClerk.

  9. Rd. says:

    “Saudi Arabia now offers to send its ground troops to Syria”
    ?? I thought the ksa troops were already in Syria for the last 4-5 years!!!!
    terrorizing the Syrians, cutting throats and eating livers!!! sounds like the ksa official did not see that memo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. SmoothieX12 says:

    I continue to be impressed with what the Russians have accomplished militarily in Syria with an economy a tenth of ours.
    Russian economy is not one tenth of US economy. It is much, and I mean much, larger than one tenth and, the share of manufacturing sector in Russian economy (42%) is twice than that of the US (21%)
    The trick, also, not in GDP “value” but in its structure and the number of enclosed technological cycles nation possesses. While much smaller than US economy, Russian economy (its value) is, probably, smaller by 3 to 4 times only. But then again, if value of Facebook is any indication, selling air probably also counts as productive economic activity. There is a reason why US “elites” are constantly “surprised” or “shocked” by Russia–when one operates in the “economic” la-la land of FIRE (Finances-Insurance-Real Estate) “economy” it is difficult to understand that iPhones don’t grow on the trees and need to be produced.

  11. Liza says:

    Adding to Erdogan’s misery: Syrian Kurdistan is opening a diplomatic office in Moscow. Similar offices will soon be opened in France and Germany. Apparently, “facts on the ground” have determined that Syrian Kurdistan will be an autonomous region.

  12. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    IMO the Russians have a definite goal and are working to achieve it with all means at their disposal. The US-KSA-Israel-Turkey axis dares not articulate its real goals in the region.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  13. b says:

    The video channel of the Russian military with all briefings is here:

    Again a good Russian briefing. Compared to these, contemporary U.S. military briefings or department spokespersons are a sad joke.

    The Russian have a daily “stick it to Turkey” routine by now. Yesterday they called the Turks “amateurs” and “unprofessional” for stopping a Russian “open sky” overflight at the Syrian border. They said that Russia has more means of getting good intelligence and immediately demonstrated it.
    Today RT-Ruptly made a dedicated clip to show off R-77 AA missiles (max 80-110 km range) on the SU-35s in Syria.
    The also announced a 24/7 operational alarm posture for these planes.
    The Russian would really love the chance to use these missiles against Turkish fighters.
    That SU-24 the Turks ambushed on Erdogan’s explicit order will be remembered as the most expensive plane EVER.

    According to the Guardian’s Martin Chulov, who was in rebel held parts of Aleppo city last year, only 40,000 people were then living there.
    That number will have decreased since. Keep that in mind when the western media will be filled with “millions under Aleppo siege” propaganda.
    In all its recent battles the Syrian army has taken care to leave one hole open in any “Kessel”. They want the insurgents to flee and not to waste their soldiers’s live to dig them out. I therefore do not expect a real siege in east Aleppo city but pressure attacks from the south, east and west to push the insurgents out through the still open exit in the north-west.

    The Saudis have been sending thousands of their best “ground troops” to Syria and Iraq for years. They now want to send those fat uniformed dudes the Yemenis beat up every day? That would be fun.

    The Turks have created and trained new “Turkmen” units (Turkish fascists, Islamists, Chechens, Uyghurs) under MIT order to invade the area between Avaz and Jarabulus under artillery cover from Turkey. The plan was published by WINEP:
    That move would prevent the Kurds from taking that area and it would keep the Turkish supply lines to ISIS (and the oil) open.

  14. turcopolier says:

    Rd & b
    IMO the Saudis who are with the jihadis in Iraq and Syria are not members of the Saudi armed forces. The SAF don’t have the balls for this kind of thing. pl

  15. turcopolier says:

    I agree that it is quite skillful to leave an exit point which R+6 have done. pl

  16. turcopolier says:

    You mean Mezvinsky? I never thought of that. I must ask Ralph. pl

  17. Jack says:

    According to the link you provided, Russian GDP in 2015 is $2 trillion. Our GDP is $18 trillion. Ok, we’re 9 times larger if you want that kind of precision. I was noting scale.
    At the end of the day you’ve got have a reasonable apples to apples comparison. Even if you compare manufacturing output we’re much larger.

  18. JohnH says:

    Presumably the old souk, the old city, the Christian quarter and the citadel will all be leveled. Tragic. I wonder if the Hafaz al-Assad Mosque, west of the old city, survived. The Hotel Baron, where Agatha Christie wrote the Murder on the Orient Express, was already in shambles before the current unrest, so presumably it was left to crumble on its own.

  19. J says:

    Saudi land forces interdiction? More like the Keystone Stooges running into each other to get out of R+6’s way as they grind ISIS into the dirt.
    спецназ would have fun playing with them.
    The ГРУ has a good handle on MIT’s mischief. The Turks are being such boneheads.

  20. Matthew says:

    b: Warning, FSA mental breakdown alert. See

  21. jerseycityjoan says:

    This is somewhat off topic but it looks like that with Bernie Sanders, we have a candidate who really intends to reduce our military commitments. Obviously this wouldn’t just affect our NATO allies but our Middle East policies as well:
    Article subhead: “Sanders campaign says US tired of ‘defending the rest of the world’ as surging candidate closes gap with Hillary Clinton in national polls”
    “The defence relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom will “absolutely” change if Bernie Sanders is elected president, his campaign said on Thursday.
    Tad Devine, chief strategist for the Sanders campaign, said the UK should be prepared to re-evaluate that relationship if the Vermont senator’s surging campaign ends in a general election victory, as Mr Sanders believes it is time the US stops “spending so much of its resources defending the rest of the world”.
    “Bernie has been very outspoken about his priorities in terms of the collective defence of the United States and our allies,” Mr Devine told the Telegraph, noting that it will be “very different than the current military industrial policy of the United States”.”
    It looks like more of America is willing to consider Sanders. The Telegraph also reports his nationwide poll numbers are up a lot:
    “Even more worryingly for Mrs Clinton, a poll conducted after Iowa showed the race tightening dramatically nationwide, with Mrs Clinton on 44 per cent and Mr Sanders on 42 per cent.
    The same polling organisation, Quinnipiac, had Mrs Clinton leading 61-30 in December.

  22. Kooshy says:

    A Tactical military question for PL or PB:
    Now that the R+6 in western Aleppo have divided the Takfires aka rebels to two parts, northerners with their LOC to Turkey still open, and the southerners with their LOC disconnected for most parts.
    My questions is for next few days/ weeks how the war in this parts is going to be fought. Isn’t more difficult for the Syrian gov friendly forces to fight on one’ opposite directions north and south? Or the southern side is so disseminated that they no longer count?

  23. turcopolier says:

    I anticipate a concentric battle with pressure exerted from as many directions as possible including form the sky. there will probably be a whole or two left open in the encirclement to give direction to the flight/pursuit. They are easier to shoot if they are trying to go somewhere. pl

  24. SmoothieX12 says:

    The question was in a manner of joke–they have a somewhat (well, a lot) in common in face features, albeit Mezvinsky looks weirder. That struck me silly a little bit. I apologize for confusion.

  25. SmoothieX12 says:

    Sorry, correction–I meant Mizintzev of Russia’s GOU of General Staff.

  26. turcopolier says:

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that industrial production = military capacity. pl

  27. SmoothieX12 says:

    1. US GDP is inflated grossly. It is still larger than Russia’s and by a lot, but I hope you understood my sarcasm about Facebook?
    2. GDP which matters (and even that is not the end) is PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), here, Russia’s GDP is 3.6 trillion. Sorry to break it to you, but since we are at the military discussion, for Russia a very advanced SU-35C does not cost $65 million (as it is offered to China), but something around $12-15 million. That is why Russia today builds simultaneously 7 advanced SSGNs and SSBNs, not to mention 4 already in IOC, and feels quite all right. US PPP index is about 18.2 trillion.
    18.2 / 3.6 = 5.05.
    Now comes this very important fact which can give you a bit of the insight. It is not just GDP (PPP), it is GDP’s structure that matters and here, as an example, China depends almost 70% on….Japan for her guidance systems. Russia, effectively, depends on nobody in her vast spectrum of weapons–she simply produces them all. How this happens? History (a real one) could give some answers. Now, some mental forensic experiment: I charged you 5 bucks and scratched your back, after that, you charged me 5 bucks and scratched mine. You know what Goldman-Sachs will count it as? As 10 bucks of GDP produced. In reality, however, we produced much-much less than that, if not zero altogether. Did our mutual scratching of the backs contribute to our military power? No. But I am pretty sure that some dude with Ivy League “degree” in some crap would be able to make a killing on IPO from this transaction on Wall Street. Someone may even get a Nobel Prize in economics modelling that.

  28. Jack says:

    What I’m gathering is that the Russians have a very capable and efficient military industry. I recognize that they’ve had a large arms export business for a long time.
    I was remarking that they are demonstrating serious expeditionary capabilities in Syria. Not sure they have the capacity to move and support huge ground forces thousands of miles away. And at the end of the day their Syrian involvement is rather small in terms of equipment and forces and financial commitment.

  29. Thirdeye says:

    That’s my take as well.

  30. oofda says:

    On CNN tonight, they touted the possible entry of Saudi armed forces into Syria as a really big deal, as if the Saudis were a veritable Wehrmacht, ready to blitz through IS and end the Syrian problem. They obviously haven’t been reading SST or other sites that detail the real state of Saudi forces. It was really appalling to watch that and think that this is what passes for a major U.S. media outlet. And even more appalling to think this is what the powers that be think.

  31. Jack says:

    It would be rather sad and feed hopelessness if the Borgist candidates Hillary and Rubio get nominated. While I’m philosophically far from Sanders, I prefer him to any Borgista. We’ll see how the people in SC, NV and those voting on Super Tuesday say. Let’s see how Trump and Sanders do in those states.

  32. paulj says:

    40% of US GDP is from the financial industry…which doesn’t produce anything. It’s an extraction machine.
    So 40% of US GDP is vapor.

  33. turcopolier says:

    “a veritable Wehrmacht?” This fantasy must be the result of all the BS about an Arab coalition leading the way. pl

  34. Alexey says:

    You produced 4 dollars in taxes by scratching each others back. And few cents of those could be spend on military =)

  35. SmoothieX12 says:

    Yep, sounds about right. Albeit, I would dare to say that it is closer to 50% and then some due to all those financial toys as inflation and export of it elsewhere through a bunch of financial “tools”. But even this gives some point of reference. Actually, any visit to Walmart (or Macy’s) gives some insight into the real state of the affairs.

  36. turcopolier says:

    Ah, I was told today that two brigades of the 101st Airborne Division are going to Iraq, not just one. This probably is related to the Saudi Juggernaut. pl

  37. Aka says:

    it’s not only that.
    Remember what Putin said about Turkey in his Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly.
    Some highlighted points to consider.
    “We will never forget their collusion with terrorists. We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change. I would like them to remember this – those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back, those hypocrites who tried to justify their actions and cover up for terrorists.
    I don’t even understand why they did it. Any issues they might have had, any problems, any disagreements even those we knew nothing about could have been settled in a different way. Plus, we were ready to cooperate with Turkey on all the most sensitive issues it had; we were willing to go further, where its allies refused to go. Allah only knows, I suppose, why they did it. And probably, Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their mind and reason.
    Our actions will always be guided primarily by responsibility – to ourselves, to our country, to our people. We are not going to rattle the sabre. But, if someone thinks they can commit a heinous war crime, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, or a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional. We’ll remind them of what they did, more than once. They’ll regret it. We know what to do.”
    I think this is part of that. It’s part of Russia’s revenge.
    moonofalabama posted about this back then.

  38. Eliot says:

    Col. Lang,
    Does Saudi Arabia even have the forces available? They appear quite tied up in Yemen.
    – Eliot

  39. Bandolero says:

    How would you interpret this? Quote:
    Moments ago, the Syrian Arab Army imposed full control over Al-Naymah town after a blitz offensive was launched east from Daraa city during the evening hours. … According to a source close to Al-Masdar, the Syrian Arab Army’s 38th Brigade of the 5th Armored Division stormed the defensive positions of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) inside Al-Naymah which quickly forced Islamist rebels to flee east towards Sayda town. Reconnaissance by the Syrian security forces indicate than the rebel defensive line inside Al-Naymah had been heavily thinned out due to a major redeployment to Sheikh Meskin two weeks ago and subsequent loss of manpower at Daraa city. This explains how the Syrian Arab Army was able to capture the town without meeting much resistance. …
    I checked this news item, and it looks to me like it’s true.
    What do you think: Are the rebels in Daraa province that short of manpower – or did they just make a mistake?

  40. Tel says:

    That oversized financial industry can also operate as a military wing… a few bucks in the right place at the right time can buy you a friend, or start a regime change.
    Exactly how effective those Weapons of Mass Destabilization are in practice is hard to say. In Libya they easily destabilized the country, but haven’t done much to actually win anything. They just left a mess behind. Egypt is not a whole lot better.
    I accept Turcopolier’s argument that sooner or later you need to take it to the ground game; the other factors are support for that but cannot replace it. The US tried to get their “boots on the ground” working in Iraq and Afghanistan but really struggled with bad management, bad planning, poor choice of local allies.
    The other thing you need for any large scale project is a good idea of what you intend to achieve and why. Often I doubt whether the US even has that much.

  41. Bandolero says:

    Regarding the Saudi Arabia offer to send its ground troops to Syria when the US leads, I think it’s a quite transparent attempt to help Adelson’s darling Rubio in New Hampshire. Rubio wants to win there, and policy regarding Syria may be a critical factor in the primary.
    Rubio has Arab ground troops for Syria in his programm, and opponents said, that’s unrealistic. So, now Rubio can say: see, the arabs already offered grund troops. my programm is perfectly realistic.
    A couple of weeks ago, the Saudis announced their non-existent “islamic coalition” to fight against ISIS. That was directly before a major Republican presidential TV debate. Rubio then used the Saudi statement in the debate to tell people how realistic his foreign policy ideas are.
    Now we have version 2.0 of that transparent Saudi attempt to boost Rubio’s chances for the nomination with hot Saudi propaganda air. I think it’s quite transparent.

  42. Jack says:

    How GDP is computed is known. And even PPP has its flaws. I agree GDP is not a good yardstick because it’s focus is consumption. We see how silly pursuit of GDP gets with millions of vacant apartments in China or theories that unbridled growth in government spending leads to prosperity since it will increase aggregate demand. However, in any comparison there’s got to be a common yardstick. You will not get any argument from me decrying importance of manufacturing. Nor that financialization of an economy improves capital formation and reduces risk. However, the sign of a vibrant system is not just their ability to manufacture within their borders advanced military equipment. The technology evolution curve requires continual intellectual property development. That requires an environment where entrepreneurs can incubate ideas and capital flows to innovation. Now, you may think Facebook is frivolous, but the hundreds of millions who use it everyday may disagree. You may also believe a composition created by a musician has no value, but to those who listen to that artist it may be quite different. Are you saying that Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy did not contribute any value? The question is where is most of the value being created? In the conception and design or the physical manufacturing? The software content of systems is rising. Just look at autos or aircraft. Major innovations are taking place in molecular biology that require very little traditional industrial manufacturing.
    Look, while the Soviet Union had great academies of science and math, and developed prowess in space and military technology they were unable to provide their people with an equivalent standard of living compared to the west. What good is all that capability if the people had to line up all day to get the basics. Their system imploded ultimately. Today, where do you think entrepreneurs and engineers and scientists from around the world want to come to create their dreams?

  43. The Unready says:

    I think you are completely underestimating the number of civillians in rebel-held Aleppo. Even the immediate frontlines are populated by a desperate few – many people have nowhere to go and have no desire to live in a camp even if they had the means to get there. Also, empty homes get broken into and everything is stolen or squatted. A recent Turkish estimate is 300,000. Even that seems low to me.
    What i know is that there are markets, traffic, schools etc.. life goes on.

  44. D says:

    When last I saw the part of the “Saudi Wehrmacht” I was working with, it was mostly out of uniform during duty hours and playing graba$$ with each other. But that was decades ago. Perhaps they have become more fearsome since then.

  45. turcopolier says:

    The Houthis don’t seem to think so. pl

  46. cynic says:

    Saudis have already made themselves obnoxious to the Syrians.Some won’t be going home. Here’s a story of how the locals dealt with the remaining Saudis when the siege of those two towns was lifted.
    ‘Most remnant terrorist rodents fled, ignoring the orders of their mostly Saudi commanders. I have been informed by a giggling Wael that the Saudi trash was taken out to alleyways and beheaded on the spot by angry citizens. It was glorious.’

  47. turcopolier says:

    Isn’t Queensland the tropical north of Australia? Crocodile Dundee country? What do you do there? “Weapons of Mass Destruction” are defined as chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. Which of these were employed in Libya? pl

  48. D says:

    I’m not surprised. Everybody in southwest Saudi – including members of the “Wehrmacht” – was terrified of the Yemenis who came into town in their garlanded long hair, huarache sandals, skirts, short swords, and jackets which often concealed a pistol in a shoulder holster. But the terror was hidden behind a smug arrogance about Yemen’s poverty.

  49. cynic says:

    Sir Josiah Child the famous mercantilist and Governor of the East India Company observed that, “Profit and Power should jointly be considered.” The Americans optimise their resources for Profit and the Russians for Power.

  50. turcopolier says:

    When I was DATT in Sanaa I traveled a lot in the Zeidi Shia mountains between Sanaa and the Saudi border just south of the Wadi Najran. Later I was DATT in SA. It was perfectly clear from these experiences that the Zeidis are the men that the townie Saudis pretend to be. pl

  51. Bill Herschel says:

    “With servers in over 190+ countries, use the internet like a local, wherever you are. See server list…”

  52. turcopolier says:

    IMO it is an open question as to whether or not jihadi prisoners are entitled to 4th Geneva Convention protection as PWs. pl

  53. turcopolier says:

    Manpower resources are usually limited and the rebels south of Damascus are largely cut off from reinforcement and supplies. A decision to reinforce at Sheikh Miskeen was not rewarded by success and the rebels lost men there that are not available any longer. This brings to mind the letter home of a Confederate colonel after Gettysburg. “Whatever we might have gained there could not possibly match the irreplaceable value of those we left there…” From a militarily didactic POV I would say that the grinding phase south of Damascus has born the fruit of enemy collapse. pl

  54. turcopolier says:

    IMO the whole Saudi Wehrmacht Juggernaut fantasy is indicative of the existence of a Great American Dream Machine to complement the Arab one. pl

  55. annamaria says:

    “…bad management, bad planning, poor choice of local allies…”
    A clear symptom of unaccountability.

  56. Seamus Padraig says:

    Exactly. Finance sector shell games and asset price inflation may, by some measurements, contribute to a nation’s gross, but they have nothing to do with PRODUCT, as nothing real is produced. Where this country went wrong was in shutting down and exporting all of our industry, and then replacing the lost production with phony ‘growth’ generated by the Fed’s magic printing press.

  57. alba etie says:

    Smoothie X12
    When the Syrian Civil war is over and President Assad is rebuilding his country will there be some sort of Sino- Russian Marshall implemented ? And will the USA , EU and others that called for president Assad’s removal be excluded from this obvious construction boom ? When I look at Chechnya I see a vibrant economy ; will Syria be the same ?

  58. alba etie says:

    Seamus Padrig
    Yes and this hollowing out of our manufacturing sector continues today with the TTP .

  59. hemeantwell says:

    “That oversized financial industry can also operate as a military wing… a few bucks in the right place at the right time can buy you a friend, or start a regime change”
    An article of July 2014 in New Left Review (Putin’s World Outlook, by
    Gleb Pavlovsky), discussed Putin’s view of the Russian oligarchy in similar terms. Here’s a sorta long quote:
    “His thinking was that in the Soviet Union, we were idiots; we had tried to build a fair society when we should have been making money. If we had made more money than the western capitalists, we could have just bought them up, or we could have created a weapon which they didn’t have. That’s all there is to it. It was a game and we lost, because we didn’t do several simple things: we didn’t create our own class of capitalists, we didn’t give the capitalist predators on our side a chance to develop and devour the capitalist predators on theirs.”

  60. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Re: “It’s an extraction machine.”
    Exactly! And if you want to understand how the process works, its roots in history, how far back in history the threat of financialization of economies was perceived (think Sumer in the third millennium BC), how intimately it is tied to military power, and the mortal threat it poses to civilizations, including the USA, buy or borrow a copy of Michael Hudson’s “Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy.” If you read only one non-fiction book this year, “Killing the Host” should be it. Below is a link to a guest post today (Saturday, 2/6) at Naked Capitalism by Paul Craig Roberts describing the book and Hudson’s diverse background. Roberts, who joined the Exalted Order of the Shrill early in the Bush 43 administration, was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during the Reagan Administration. He was also a long-time columnist at “Business Week” magazine.
    “Killing the Host:”
    PCR on Hudson:

  61. alba etie says:

    Ishmael Zechariah
    How will the Turkish Military react, (separate from Erdogan and his minions ) to a Kurdistan independent entity in Syria ,?

  62. alba etie says:

    Should the West be concerned about a power vacuum in Yemen after this current conflict that would allow ISIS or other Jihadis to set up bases there ? Like perhaps what we are seeing now in Libya ?

  63. Trey N says:

    Yep, as its Empire crumbles the infamous “Byzantine Beltway politics” is approaching the fantasy state of its namesake in its dying days (aka the “Adolf in the Bunker Syndrome” — “Where is Steiner??!”).

  64. IMO the battle against ISIS really the battle for who exactly controls the Turkish border or portions thereof. Russia could nicely call NATO’s bluffs by enforcing Syria/Turkey border policing/controls.

  65. Chris Chuba says:

    There was a discussion earlier regarding nominal GDP (valued in U.S. $) vs. PPP GDP. While PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) has it’s flaws IMO it is closer to reality. Since Russia was the topic of comparison …
    If you look at nominal GDP, the one that Obama and and Republicans favor, Russia is basically Spain (Obama’s speech) and 1/2 Germany.
    If you look at PPP GDP, the one they avoid, Russia is on a par with Germany and over 2 times Spain’s.
    Which measure rings true to you? Which measure captures the fact that Russia has satellites, nuclear power, manufactures top notch military weapons, and is the second largest exporter of agricultural products, behind the U.S., and in the top two in both oil and natural gas production?

  66. SmoothieX12 says:

    Look, while the Soviet Union had great academies of science and math, and developed prowess in space and military technology they were unable to provide their people with an equivalent standard of living compared to the west.
    You can take a look at the state of the Soviet Union by the 9 May 1945 and this may give you some idea about starting conditions. To put it mildly, European part of USSR was utterly destroyed, 27 million people were dead. In general:
    1,710 towns wholly or partly destroyed
    70,00 villages wholly or partly destroyed
    25,000,000 homeless in 1945
    – 50%of all urban living space destroyed
    – 75%of all rural living space destroyed
    30% of national wealth destroyed. 2/3 of Wealth in occupied zone destroyed
    31,850 industrial enterprises destroyed (formerly employed 4,000,000)
    40,000 miles of railroad track destroyed
    4,100 railroad stations destroyed
    13,000 bridges destroyed
    15,800 Locomotives destroyed
    429,000 railway cars destroyed
    98,000 Kolkhozi
    1,676 Sovkhozi
    2,890 Machine-Tractor stations
    137,000 Tractors(=30% of 1939 total)
    5,000,000 pieces of mechanical equipment
    7,000,000 horses (=34% of 1939 total)
    17,000,000 cattle (=30% of 1939 total)
    20,000,000 hogs (=71% of 1939 total)
    27,000,000 sheep and goats (=29% of 1939 total)
    110,000,000 poultry
    So, sure, it is such a “minor detail” to start thinking about “standard of living” when half of your population barely had anything to eat. As none other than rabid anti-communist (in reality Russophobe, communism was merely a cover) Richard Pipes correctly noted: “Such figures are beyond comprehension of most Americans.” (c) And I may add, of even West Europeans. Just to give you an example, neither me nor my wife had any grandfathers (I did later regained one when my grandma remarried another WW II officer veteran)–all, including on my father’s side a grandmother, KIA or MIA on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War. And we are a typical Russian family in this regards. Understanding of how the country was rebuilt literally from ruins is more important issue than comparing standards of living, say in 1960s and 1970s, USSR and USA. You just exhibited the feature of which I write and talk a lot–Anglosphere is radically un-conditioned by the realities of the continental warfare. Let me put it in prospective for you: Leningrad alone, during 900-day siege, in WW II lost more people than United States lost throughout its military history combined. Only by late 1950s–early 1960s did the life in the USSR began to resemble something of a normal human life with the emergence of a strong consumer economy.If my memory doesn’t fail me, West Germany closed its last post WW II restoration program by mid-1980s. And you, I hope, understand the difference between 1980s FRG and USSR.

  67. SmoothieX12 says:

    When the Syrian Civil war is over and President Assad is rebuilding his country will there be some sort of Sino- Russian Marshall implemented ?
    I don’t know about China, but I may speculate about Russia and I may say that large privileged credits (with the possibility of later forgiveness of at least some of them, as it is known practice with post-Soviet Russia) are a definite possibility. With Russia, obviously, becoming a main contractor for infrastructure, industrial and extraction projects. This, plus a worst Israel’s and Turkey’s nightmare: this time Syrian Armed Forces could be seriously modernized. But that is just my speculations and I may only rely upon open sources of information.

  68. Nuff Sed says:

    Fars News is reporting (from its own source) that the R+6 (or 4+4 as Kooshy has it) are have their sights on Tall Rif’at (that they are only one village away from it).
    The Syrian Arab News Agency has stated that they have taken out some terrorist positions in Sawran, which is NE of Tall Rif’at and diredtly due east of Azaz.
    Things are moving fast. Nuff Sed.

  69. Diabolik says:

    Curiously, yesterday’s print edition of Italian Daily ‘La Repubblica’ contains on page 14 a map of northern Syria, without any accompanying explanatory article, entitled ‘Turkey’s Plan’.
    ( I have uploaded a screenshot of the map to picpaste: )
    This map outlines not only the projected invasion area, the Rojava region of Syrian Kurdistan, but also the number of Turkish troops involved, namely 10’700. Likewise planned: six ‘refugee centers’, 11 ‘logistical centers’ and 17 ‘safe areas’.
    This is double curious, since officially Turkey of course doesn’t have any such plan. The announced occupied area is not surprising, since it would directly threaten Aleppo and keep open ISIS supply/oil-shipping lines.
    A Western ‘refugee horror’ media blitz would provide cover, no doubt.

  70. PeterHug says:

    It often is easier to create and implement effective policy when you’re not trying to achieve multiple, mutually exclusive policy goals.
    This remains a nontrivial problem for the US in the Middle East.

  71. turcopolier says:

    nuff sed
    Like I wrote, first the grinding, then the collapse, then the pursuit until the last jihadi croaks. (literary reference: ’til he spouts black blood and rolls dead out” Let’s see, who wrote my formula first – Ah, Napoleon, then Clausewitz, then Stonewall, then maybe who, Lord Slim of Burma? pl

  72. SmoothieX12 says:

    Quoting Pavlovsky is not a sign of good judgement;-) The guy is as shallow as they come and that is why he faded into obscurity in Russia.

  73. Jack says:

    I understand the argument of the post-war starting point and I am deeply sympathetic to the suffering caused by the war. But…is that the primary reason for the low standard of living for the average person during Soviet times? What is your explanation for why the Soviet Union imploded?
    FYI, I have known a few who fled the communist era eastern Europe and Russia.

  74. Thomas says:

    “Yesterday they called the Turks “amateurs” and “unprofessional” for stopping a Russian “open sky” overflight at the Syrian border.”
    That is funny because the Sultan said the same thing about the Obama administration (along with a pointed remark that just because you say something doesn’t make it happen) in an interview with Chinese television back in early August. Which is true and he launched the Syrian Refugee Gambit shortly thereafter knowing they would turn it into a cluster eff.

  75. cynic says:

    Do Muslims recognise the Geneva Conventions if they are not in the Koran and the Sunnah? Do they even take prisoners other than as slaves?
    I was surprised to find that eating the liver or heart of a fallen foe, far from being an aberration, goes back to the beginning of the religion.
    ‘Hind an Arab woman who lived in the late 6th and early 7th centuries CE; she was the wife of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, a powerful man of Mecca, in western Arabia. Both Abu Sufyan and Hind originally opposed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. She was the mother of Muawiyah I, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, and of Ramlah bint Abi Sufyan, who was one of Muhammad’s wives.
    Incident of alleged battlefield cannibalism:
    Hind is infamous in Islamic history for her exultation at the defeat of the Muslims at the Battle of Uhud when she ate the liver of Prophet’s slain uncle Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib. Although she later converted to Islam, the founder of the Umayyad Caliphate Muawiyah I was thus later slandered to be an illegitimate son of a cannibal.’
    I was even more astonished to find that cannibalism is today sanctioned by the highest authorities in Islam.
    ‘Al-Azhar finds their support for cannibalism in Islamic authority. According to Al-Shafie, who is considered to be the founder of Islamic jurisprudence:
    One may eat the flesh of a human body. It is not allowed to kill a Muslim nor a free non-Muslim under Muslim rule (because he is useful for the society), nor a prisoner because he belongs to other Muslims. But you may kill an enemy fighter or an adulterer and eat his body (716 in volume 1, Al-Kortoby)’
    It may even be standard practice.
    ‘It is vital to keep in mind that the act of cooking the head of an enemy is rooted deeply in the Islamic religion. The most famous warrior in Sunni Islam’s history, Khalid ibn Walid, decapitated the head of a man named Malik ibn Nuwayrah, before raping his wife; he placed it under a cooking pot in which he cooked food and from which he then ate out of it. The Hadith for this recounts:
    And he [Khalid] ordered they bring his [Malik’s] head and he placed it with two other rocks and he cooked on top of the three a pot, and Khalid ate from it that night in order to terrorize the renegade Arabs and others.
    This story is further substantiated by the Arab scholar Ibn Khallikan, who writes the story thus:
    [T]he head was put in the place of one of the three stones which supported the flesh-pot. Malik, as we have said, surpassed most men by the abundance of his hair, which was so thick, that the meat was cooked in the pot before the fire had reached the skull. …Khalid seized on the wife of Malik,–or by another account he purchased her out of the booty, — and married her. (1)
    We must now realize: we have not seen the full face of Islam yet; true Islam is more than just terrorism with bombs and guns; it is a cultic system which emphasizes human sacrifice and cannibalization of Allah’s enemies. My father and I have been forewarning on this with our past articles on cannibalism and human sacrifice being promoted in Egypt, found here and here.
    Our predictions of cannibalism on the rise are becoming increasingly true. First Al Azhar University decreed that it was permissible to cannibalize enemies of Islam, then human sacrifice was being promoted by Safwat Hegazi, then a Syrian rebel grilled a man’s head, now we have actual footage, recently released, of a Syrian jihadist eating the heart of his enemy..’
    I doubt that Obama will be bringing this sort of thing to the attention of the American and Western public.

  76. LeaNder says:

    look, I a) am very, very open to “national sensitivities”* **, and thus reparation claims, but when I stumbled across them in the larger Greek crisis debate, where the argument was at one point in time that the Greek reparation demand figures exactly balanced Greek debts, I
    a) did not like the equation – in this context
    b) asked one or the other supporters, what they feel Russia should demand.
    “West Germany closed it’s last post WW II restoration program by mid-1980s”
    That’s not correct, on a state level it feels it was post Glasnost.
    To not go into arguments concerning Greece. Who decided to enter the Eurozone, without first putting their demands on the table …
    Concerning Russia, apparently the Cold War that followed WWII took care of the basic set up that the “Soviet Zone” or as it was called when I grew up “East Germany” took care of that, while West took care of the rest not Soviet Union, maybe including allied countries, part.
    Again, the “cold war” did not help:
    “West Germany closed its last post WW II restoration program by mid-1980s”
    Not the mid-1980’s, but quite possibly after the German reunification is my guess. After all, that led to some type of hysteria all over Europe. … And maybe partly to the Eurozone in an attempt to appease other European nations? I am no expert, but by now I am aware you can twist it any way you want it.
    * strictly, assuming Jack is American, he could have considered what you feel was an insult, wasn’t at all meant to be.
    ** there was a certain amount of reflection or awareness that earlier reparations WWI concerning Germany may have at least partly triggered WWII

  77. Jack says:

    And….aren’t you the guy that believes that Fed conjuring up new money to engage in “asset swaps” of financial instruments is Super Awesome?

  78. b says:

    This not my estimate but that of Martin Chulov, a reporter for the Guardian, WHO WAS THERE. I linked the source above.
    Now who am I to believe? A “Turkish estimate” that of cause implies that Turkish interest are involved in it or a western reporter (who is certainly not pro-Assad) who was actually there?

  79. Charles Michael says:

    Thanks for providing these figures, I am ashamed to have ignored them, worth not to have thought about that aspect. To my own defence I was born in devastated France, the food stamps for food allocations were in use up to 1947/48, something very vivid in my parents memory and so transmitted in my education.
    One statistic, on a more military topic:
    German army casualties in their Russian campaign, represent 80 % of all German military losses during the WWII. How many people knows in the Western World ?

  80. Charles Michael says:

    I rather see this development as some anticipation of the Irak evolution possibly looking more to Syrian new situation.
    By removing Sadham and totaly destructuring the state an almost unescapable result, soon or later, was the majority shiite taking the uper hand.
    More so with the Iran re-born.
    More so if the Irak Kurdistan is drifting away.
    More so with the real but exagerated sunnites/shiites divide promotion campaign.

  81. Babak Makkinejad says:

    shah Ismail of Safavid dynasty had a wine bowl made of the Uzbek King’s head.
    And yes, I think he deserved it.

  82. Babak Makkinejad says:

    They are not, they are unlawful combatants; specially those with non-Syrian nationality.
    The Red Coats would just hang the bunch of them from the nearest trees.

  83. SmoothieX12 says:

    strictly, assuming Jack is American, he could have considered what you feel was an insult, wasn’t at all meant to be.
    What my feelings have to do with anything? It is merely my long standing contention, and a fairly academic one at that, that any substantive discussion on anything related to the modern world is simply a waste of time without strongly considering and factoring in the realities of WW II and post-WW II world. We live in the world today which was shaped on the battlefields of WWII. Any military-political and even economic discussion without understanding that is a waste of time.

  84. SmoothieX12 says:

    I am ashamed to have ignored them,
    You shouldn’t be. People learn, that is how, in my mind, any discussion should go. Yes, Western Europe was also roughed up pretty badly, but, unlike in the East, Hitler was not conducting the war of annihilation.

  85. Charles Michael says:

    No way, in Europe we do have already the refugee crisis for years and absolutely no action taken except total dissentment.
    Pictures will be schoking, tears will be from the crocodile sort, action will lead to naming a commision, commission report will be edited, etc…
    Saouds & Co corrupt partners + Turkey know they would be on their own, if they don’t: good luke.

  86. jerseycityjoan says:

    Jack and All:
    I suspect there are a lot of Americans who never thought they’d vote for anybody like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders — but will. I certainly don’t think “anything can happen” and that revolution is on our doorstep but I think change that we thought just a few months ago impossible may be possible now.
    I don’t want Trump to be President but I think he did us all a big favor to run. I intend to vote for Sanders in the primary. If he is having his staff give the UK fair warning of his intentions clearly he is serious about making our First World allies do a lot more for themselves. This is an absolute necessity if we are ever going to get ourselves make on a sound financial footing again. And of course it’s high time that our military personnel stop bearing the personal burden of defending those who choose not to defend themselves.

  87. SmoothieX12 says:

    What is your explanation for why the Soviet Union imploded?
    One of the most decisive factors was national (ethnic) issue. Multicultural empires simply cannot exist for a long time. Centrifugal forces by 1970s were already felt. USSR was practically torn apart partially due to inadequacy of the nationalities policy, partially due to utter incompetence of Gorbachev and his “team”. This question of “why USSR imploded” is still being debated in modern day Russia. That is the reason why I am very disturbed by “balkanization” of the United States–this is not a healthy trend, to say the least.

  88. Diabolik says:

    Be that as it may, i find it remarkable that Repubblica has found time to produce and publish this map without bothering even to conjure up a story. It sits on the page like a classified ad.
    “What are The 39 Steps?”

  89. YT says:

    RE: “I doubt that Obama will be bringing this sort of thing to the attention of the American and Western public.”
    Why not, old sport?
    It brings light to the… mindset of reverts.

  90. Slightly off topic, but has anyone on the rebel side realized that the SAA and allies could possibly reach Bab Al-Hawa border post through Kurdish Afrin enclave now that they have reached and consolidated Nubl&Zahra ? Up until now, all scenarios were based on idea of a push West of Aleppo over M4 and Khan Thouman.
    But with the junction made to Nubl&Zahra, there is now a new tactical option for R+6 … Scary prospect for those who might be trapped in the “Idlib pocket” !

  91. Croesus says:

    Thanks for this perspective.
    For some time I’ve grappled with the contrarian, or perverse, notion that Germany has been treated unjustly for many years. I learned about Allied firebombing campaign and could not stop being outraged.
    Apparently Germany pulverized Leningrad before the major Allied firebombing campaign against Germany began in earnest. My thought processes are being re-aligned. (Fortunately even an old human brain is more malleable than that of a dog.)
    Why did Germany attack Leningrad?
    nb. I never had grandparents either. Mine were Italian; they lost their homes in Italy due to Mussolini’s Ethiopia campaign. I continue to be annoyed that the ordained narrative of WWII overemphasizes one side of the story. This distorted history renders invisible the suffering endured and the courage demonstrated by so many people, like my grandparents, and yours.

  92. Aristonicus says:

    As a former Queenslander, I am sad to say that while we are referred to by ‘the southerners’ as ‘the Deep North’, ‘Crocodile Dundee country’ is confined to the Far North and the North West (and the Northern Territory). The rest, I would say, only significantly differs from New South Wales in the humidity and from Mackay north no summer beach-going [due to box jellyfish].

  93. b says:

    The big counter clockwise move from Aleppo east to Nubl/Zahraa then along the border to Bab al-Hawa and further south before turning east again.
    Yes. That plan is a possibility some have thought about.
    A new big operation is coming up. I could be the above but that may depend on what the Turks will do.

  94. Fred says:

    I like the quote but it didn’t work out too well for the one obsessed with the Leviathan. Obsession describes our neocons well.

  95. alba etie says:

    Smoothie X 12
    I am curious about China ‘s potential emergence as a Great Power . It was interesting that the Chinese Navy helped escort the CW out of Syria . Its also interesting to see China open a base in Dijuboti & finalize I think the port construction in Gwadair Pakistan .China is also building a rival canal through Nicarauga -(but unfortunately it will destroy two World Heritage Sites ‘) My belief is that having a “multi polar world ” is a safer one then having the Master of the Universe ” western neocons run things from the DC Beltway Think Tanks .

  96. turcopolier says:

    It was Ahab’s time. pl

  97. SmoothieX12 says:

    China is already a great power–this is an axiom, not a theorem anymore. How “great” is this power? I don’t know exactly. I have my suspicions. While impressive on the outside, Chinese PLAN (Navy) still lags horrendously behind in submarine technology–it is nowhere near the league of the US and Russian submarine forces. China still can not, even with the copy at hand, reproduce decent, let alone advanced jet engine, hence desperate desire, which was granted, to get hands on SU-35s. So is true for their, however ambitious, space program. They are modernizing, to be sure, and they certainly have a lot of money–next 8-10 years will show. They started reorganization in their Armed Forces recently. But then comes this quirky question of how we define “Great”, “Super”, “Hyper” and other “powers”. Political definitions simply do not do anymore. But yes, I reiterate, China is a Great Power.

  98. Thomas says:

    In the heart of Africa there is the myth that eating the liver of someone you killed will prevent their spirit from haunting you. Hind probably learned that from teething on the tit of her African nursemaid. While she did try to eat Hamza’s liver, Momma Umayyad ended up spitting it out because it was too tough to chew.
    The Umayyads originally opposed the Muslims because they were looking after their commercial caravan operations and didn’t take too kindly of being raided by them. Once an understanding was reached, the family accepted Islam.
    Whatever rationale (maybe filming a Jihadi Jackass series for MTV – Mujahideen Television?) the modern day Black Flag Brigades use to justify the dining habits, it only goes to show that Creative Reality is a global human phenomenon.

  99. alba etie says:

    Smoothie x 12
    Yes definition of the power of States can be tricky particularly in an international economic & security environment that continues daily to be more interdependent .

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