Syria Strategy for R+6


I have discussed the present situation in Syria and Iraq with Larry Johnson.  We speak daily.  IMO it is true that US Rules of Engagement on air attacks have recently been loosened and that US ground advisors are pressing their luck more at present than they had and this has resulted in more US casualties.  IMO this is the cost of doing business. 

There are also offensive actions underway in the western suburbs of Aleppo City, on the road to Palmyra and in the greater Damascus area.  And of course Euphrates Shield is a major difficulty for IS. 

IMO none of these actions are key to the outcome for the Syrian Government.  The continued occupation of Idlib Province by the rebels (mostly jihadis connected to AQ) allows a gradual consolidation of jihadi power in that province of essential Syria.  IMO so long as that province is in rebel hands the government will never be able to plausibly claim to control Syria.  pl

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57 Responses to Syria Strategy for R+6

  1. plantman says:

    Is it possible that McMaster and Mattis might want to use a different strategy altogether, like deploying more US ground troops to accompany the Kurds and stop supporting the jihadists altogether??
    Maybe McMaster thinks the CIA plan is stupid and not worth additional support?
    It seems to me, that after 6 years of failing to achieve their objective, it might be a good time to give the CIA the boot.
    But I have no experience in these things, so I don’t know the answer.

  2. pl,
    I share your consternation about the Idlib rats nest. It is an accident waiting to happen. However, I’m consoled by the troubles that are plaguing the jihadis of all shades in the area. The FSA unicorns appear to be having their asses handed to them by the jihadis formerly known as Nusra. The CIA-led support has been suspended. Government spokesmen say it’s just because of the uncertainty of the FSA’s future viability. I’d like to think Trump has been smart enough to rescind the finding that authorized that CIA support in the first place. The Saudis and Qataris won’t say squat about the suspension.

  3. Phil says:

    Colonel, I’d appreciate your insight on a few Syria issues. Apologies if these have been covered in another comment thread.
    – Do you have any thoughts on why the SAA is focusing on pushing that salient into Eastern Aleppo? To cut off IS, to cut off the Turkish-backed rebels?
    – Re your point on Idlib, agreed. What do you think will need to happen for the SAA to move on Idlib?
    – With the announcement that the Turkish-backed rebels are going to move on Manbij, do you see their endgame as a Turkish-controlled buffer zone inside Syria or something more?
    Finally, thanks for a must-read site, even for this leftie…

  4. turcopolier says:

    TTG et al
    IMO eastern Syria; Deir Al-Zor and Raqqa are important to the fight against IS but not really essential to the survival of the Syrian state. If the Trumpists have caused him to cancel the “finding” that allowed support to the AQ connected jihadis in the west, so much the better, but actually I don’t think the “mix” of forces on the anti-IS fight in the east matters very much so long as there are enough of them. Nevertheless, Aleppo city and no Idlib Province were and are core and vital centers of Syrian population and economy. Idlib Province can not be left in enemy hands. pl

  5. Aka says:

    I think Assad is reluctant to touch idilib just yet. If CIA has stopped supporting idilib groups, he might wait more.
    I think SAA will try to link up with kurds in East Aleppo. So that Kurds will have unofficial land route to their conclave in the west without fighting the Turks.
    I also think that kurds and SAA is going to Deir Al-Zor. I think it would aid Assad in appearance sake.
    I think someone has made a deal on above two (east aleppo and Deir Al-Zor) between Assad and kurds.

  6. Aka says:

    *kurdish enclave. not conclave.

  7. Imagine says:

    John McCain took a quiet visit to Syria. How might this affect things?

  8. b says:

    Idleb will be taken care of when it is time for that. It is necessary to clean it but not now.
    Two big powers are actively invading Syria’s east and threaten to occupy it for many decades. There are very significant oil and mineral resources in the east which are needed to rebuild Syria. A hostile “Sunnistan” in the east would be a never ending dagger at the heart of Syria. The Qataris and Turks (with the U.S. behind them) still want their south to north pipeline through eastern Syria which is considered a serious competition for the natural gas imports from Russia into Europe.
    The east IS important to Syria, to Russia and to Iran. Two priorities: 1. To block further Turkish movement to the south. 2. To secure Deir Ezzor from a U.S. takeover and to establish a secure route towards it (possibly with the help of Iraq.)
    Meanwhile several hundred Jihaids in Idleb have killed each other. Why interrupt them?
    The U.S. military, instead of the CIA, is now running the show from the White House. It has not shown any more strategic foresight than the spooks. (One hopes that Tillerson prepares for a more active role.)

  9. turcopolier says:

    I am weary of your endless bigotry against the US. Go away. pl

  10. JJackson says:

    A serious question, not just making trouble. What bigotry?
    b’s comment seems innocuous enough and not particularly about the US. What part of it do you thing wrong or biased?

  11. turcopolier says:

    You have not been paying attention. b consistently depicts the US as the “evil empire” striving to subjugate the world so that US capitalism can loot the economies of everyone. If you have not noticed that you share his opinion. Ah! I forgot. you do. pl

  12. The Beaver says:

    KSA Chihuahua FM made a “landmark” visit to Iraq. That visit was supposed to happen 3 months ago but was continuously postponed by the Saudis.
    This, a day after Iraqi PM Abadi ordered the IrAF to bomb ISIS positions inside Syria (approved by Damascus), especially the Husaybah-Albu Kamal region on the Iraq-Syria border to prevent the flow of ISIS suicide bombers to Baghdad.
    Jubeir told Abadi that KSA wants to “cooperate” more in the fight vs. terrorism and also wants to help stabilise liberated areas. He also told Iraqi FM Ja’afari that the Saudis want to open a border crossing with Iraq as well as run direct flights.

  13. mike says:

    Colonel –
    Agree with the importance of Idlib. The geography also seems to give the Salafis a flanking position on Latakia. And although there is no way they could take over there, it does give them an avenue to send in suicide bombers and terror teams to the Alawite heartland. But Assad seems to have a different strategy for now.
    What is your opinion on the Turkish backed jihadi enclave in northern Aleppo Province? That is a huge chunk of Syria occupied by the Turkish Army and their surrogates. Will Erdogan give that up peacefully at some point in the future? And does Erdo now want even more Syrian land? Hopefully the SAA can block him from doing that:

  14. b says:

    Why is the U.S. trying to tear the secular Syrian state down? It has tried several times since 1948 to the detriment of the Syrian people. Why?
    The NYT Editorial board recently served up this cool aid:

    At least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy,
    Do you believe that?

  15. Thomas says:

    “KSA Chihuahua FM made a “landmark” visit to Iraq. That visit was supposed to happen 3 months ago but was continuously postponed by the Saudis.”
    The Beaver,
    It is their symbolic acknowledgement that they recognize the true lay of the land, and it is time for coffee and conversation about the future.

  16. turcopolier says:

    The US animosity towards the present government of Syria is entirely driven by the Zionists who are following Israeli policy. I suspect the earlier hostility was much the same thing. pl

  17. LeaNder says:

    I somewhat agree with Pat. Never mind I sometimes agreed with b. Too much self-referential lines of thought for my taste.

  18. The Beaver says:

    But it would be interesting to know WHO is parachuting aid to ISIS in Tal-Afar.
    This is the second drop today – first one was on February 21st.

  19. Nightsticker says:

    Col Lang,
    My estimate of the Idlib situation based
    on FARS News, Al Masdar, South Front and
    even the MSM, all parsed carefully.
    1. The R+6 have a strategy for Idlib. It is working.
    The situation there is the result of some thoughtful
    “battlefield shaping” and a little bit of fortunes of war,
    long overdue for the good guys. It is not the American
    way of War.
    2. I note that when R+6 engages in combat, the enemy OOB is
    reduced by 10-50 combatants, the infrastructure is wrecked,
    the R+6 suffer casualties.
    2. When the R+6 bring about a “reconciliation” the enemy OOB
    is reduced by 500-2500 combatants, the infrastructure is not
    wrecked, and there are no friendly casualties.The Syrian nation
    recovers land and population.
    3. Reconciliations, to my surprise, appear to be permanent; I
    have not read of any backslidings or major treachery. Amnesty
    is real.
    4. Idlib is an essential part of the reconciliation strategy.
    It is where they put the the people who do not wish to reconcile.
    There has to be such a place or the “die with their boots on”
    types would remain in place and queer the many local reconciliations.
    5. Interestingly, while safe passage to Idlib for the hard corps is
    guaranteed,they appear to be fair game for all once they get there.
    R+6 forces bomb them. US forces bomb them. R+6 Special units
    assasinate them. Even harder corps rebels capture them, disarm them,
    imprison and kill them. The public health infrastructure is limited
    and death and disease result in their camps. Idlib is a death trap
    more than it is a safe zone.
    6. Idlib’s time is coming. When it does the hard corps element
    remaining will not have the benefit of the information warfare
    campaign waged on their behalf in the Aleppo battle. R+6 forces will
    have a very target rich environment.
    7. I look for the start of R+6 operations on the southern border
    of Idlib to begin in about 6 months. Again heavy reliance on
    negotiations, “surrender or die”,amnesty, airpower.
    USMC 65-72
    FBI 72-96

  20. JJackson says:

    So nothing wrong with this particular post, just a general swipe at b. I don’t think the US evil but some parts of its FP probably deserve the epithet.

  21. turcopolier says:

    IMO US policy is not and has not been “evil,” just deluded. pl

  22. turcopolier says:

    I agree with all that but the problem is that the R+6 may miss the boat as the diplomatic situation evolves. pl

  23. turcopolier says:

    “Too much self-referential lines of thought for my taste.” Curious thing to say. pl

  24. different clue says:

    The Twisted Genius,
    Is it possible that the Assad government and the R + 6 fully understand the danger of a contaminated Idlib Province but are taking a high-risk high-reward gamble on letting the CLEJs have Idlib for now and draining more and more ( perhaps all) of the CLEJs in the rest of the country into the Idlib Sump? And when all the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadis are all the way drained into Idlib and concentrated there, that then the R + 6 will make a very focused effort to perform a “radical jihadectomy” against the “clejjers” in Idlib Province?

  25. different clue says:

    As a merely civilian layman observer, I might guess that saying the military people have not shown any more strategic foresight than the spooks . . . in the teeth of visible evidence that high placed military people worked very hard to prevent the attempt to declare “no fly zones” and try working with the Kurds ( as against the CIA working with the Alphabet Jihadis) is at-the-very-least evidence of bigotry against the American military and its leader-thinkers.
    . . . for example . . .

  26. charly says:

    It depends on your definition of freedom and democracy. The NYT Editorial board definition of freedom has been capitalism and for democracy is what we would do.
    A slight re-writing gives: American military action has been driven by the desire to promote market economies and governments that follow our example. That is exactly what happened.

  27. turcopolier says:

    If you think that you don’t understand the unique nature of Zionist political power in the US. pl

  28. FourthAndLong says:

    Hopefully they turn it into a Götterdämmerung experience a la Hitler’s bunker. Teach the kids a worthwhile lesson.
    Only the Saudis deserve worse IMHO.

  29. FourthAndLong says:

    General Dempsey, IMO, showed remarkable foresight and courage and everyone owes him thanks (except the CLEJ dirtbags).

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think US policy – under Trump – is to continue the agony of Syria.

  31. Yeah, Right says:

    I fail to see how that excuses US leadership from responsibility for its actions.
    Being a thug-for-hire does not make that behaviour any less thuggish, not does it make that actor any less of a thug.
    If the USA is attempting to dismember Syria because The Israelis Want Me To then there are several words I can think of to describe such a policy, but “deluded” is not one of them.
    After all, a US Administration would be under no “delusions” about why the Israelis want Syria to be dismembered, would it?

  32. turcopolier says:

    Yeah, right
    I did not say it excused US leadership. there is no excuse for their stupidity any more than there is for your government in Israel for being so stupid as to want to destroy Syrian secular government. pl

  33. Peter in Toronto says:

    What IS the scope of the influence of this group? I’ve always assumed that Jews in America enjoyed political influence because many of them are high net worth individuals, and through their campaign and other sources of support, could align the elected officials with their desires as it pertains to Israel and her near neighbors.
    Am I wrong here?

  34. mike says:

    Phil –
    CENTCOM General Votel has reportedly committed to protect Manbij from attacks waged by Turkey or Turkish surrogates.

  35. Thirdeye says:

    I can understand the emphasis on ISIS with its potential collapse if the current trend continues. R+6 doesn’t need to be sidelined by overcommitment if everyone else is moving in to fill the vacuum. The east Aleppo advance looks like a move to forestall any move by FSA/Turkey further south. And ISIS is in big, big trouble if R+6 makes a move on the west bank of the Euphrates to the north.

  36. nafi says:

    the skipping stones are headed for the coast

  37. Yeah, Right says:

    OK, so we both agree there is no excuse for the USA’s behaviour in this matter. I guess it then comes down to an issue of motive.
    You appear to believe that the explanation for the USA’s behaviour is “stupidity”.
    I can’t speak for b, but I have to say that to my mind this stretches credulity when discussing behaviour that is repeated over many years and under different US Administrations.
    To paraphrase James Bond: Once is an accident. Twice is happenstance. But three times is war.

  38. turcopolier says:

    Yeah, right
    The advantage that I have over both you and b, An Israeli (made Aliya?) and a German, is that I inhabited the monster that you view from afar. I was sufficiently restrained in my expressions of contempt for the animal that I was not “hurled into the public” (quoting Ron White the bard of Texas) until I had reached the civil service equivalent of a lieutenant general. At that point the beast vomited me up like Jonah’s whale in the sure belief and hope that I would end up like Belisarius of ancient legend. But as Mick Trainor (a Marine’s marine) said to me at lunch one day soon after the hurling “the good guys land on their feet.” All else is history, sort of. But, with regard to your point – “Stupidity” in the case of American ineptitude in dealing with the world is a term of art. It refers to the self inflicted blindness to the actual world that has developed since WW2. The present collective American mind (a generalization to be sure) is the product of massive leveling in American society produced by the “Lake Wobegon” mentality manufactured in the public schools and media. In this mindset the literal equality, sameness and universal progress of mankind toward a brave new world of utopian non-violence and Western style democratic values is a “given,” and the variety of mankind across the world is passing moment soon to disappear. As foreign people you may not know the philosopher comedian Garrison Keilor. He mocked America for decades by saying every week on the “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show that in the prototypical American Town, “Lake Wobegon” “… all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” In Keilor’s America the stratified (but not necessarily White) class and educational structure that produced FDR, Marshall, Dean Atcheson, Martin Luther King, the Dulles brothers, George Washington Carver, Eisenhower, etc. has been kicked to the curb to be replaced in large part by group think mediocrities on both the left and right. When identity politics became the norm in government and society writ large in matters of hiring and favor the quality of strategic thinking at home and abroad was bound to suffer, and it has with the result that we now have a government that in soldier terms does not “know shit from Shinola.” i.e., is STUPID. pl

  39. turcopolier says:

    And the Age of Aquarius has come? pl

  40. Lefty_Blaker says:

    Col. Lang,
    As a reader of this site for the past year or so, I find it to be an invaluable source that has very much educated me on many issues, especially regarding military and related foreign policy issues. Your comments on the “stupidity” of our government is particularly intriguing. Correct me if I am wrong my but you seem to put the blame on the “group think mediocrities” that have been fostered by the “massive leveling in American society produced by the “Lake Wobegone” mentality manufactured in public schools and the media.” I wonder if there is not some other fundamental cause for this “stupidity” in government. I grew up as part of the eastern elite (born in NYC, raised in the suburbs) that had essentially everything laid out for us in terms of educational opportunity and further advancement. i graduated from an elite eastern university in 1982, and everyone that I knew was focused on their own private gain. Not a single one went into government service aside from a few nerdy computer science associates who ended up working deep into stuff they could not talk about. At that time, the focus was entirely on personal gain and there was rampant opportunity for such. It seems that every person in my economic class went for personal gain at the expense of everything else. Public service seemed like a inferior, “stupid” option given all the opportunity laid out for us coming out of this elite educational system. I had friends who made so much money in the go-go days of the 80-90s that they essentially retired. Wall Street was booming, the economy was being more financialized, more stratified economically. Not one of these “best and brightest” went into government except for a few who saw the gains they could make through the DC revolving door. The education system is still quite stratified but those coming out of the top of this system are not going into government. The world really seemed to shifting at that time where we elites had an opportunity to take a larger share of the wealth and we grabbed it with all our might, regardless of what party we identified with. It was self aggrandizement over all else. I wonder what your view on this is.
    Another question I have about the “stupidity” issue is this: it seems that the powerful interests of the “deep state” having been pushing their agenda for some time to benefit their own interests. Aside from how damaging this has been for most of us in the US and in many places abroad, on what level is it “stupid” for these highly motivated players to pursue an agenda that benefits their group so directly? As much as I hate them for all that they have done and are continuing to do, I would call them shortsighted, self-interested, negligent, incredibly destructive and detrimental, etc but I don’t think stupid. The corporate deep state had much to gain at our expense and they been pursuing with all the ability they can muster.

  41. The Beaver says:

    @ Babak
    Isn’t that the wish of Bibi and Likud?
    Once they get Golan Heights and may be parts of Southern Lebanon and may be another 70 yrs Ur.

  42. Valissa says:

    To oversimplify… empires will be empires. Humans and human tribes and their power games are timeless.
    Why are you looking for good behavior from an empire? Or even a country? These are not children or even individual humans to be psychologized and judged accordingly. Suggest studying up on the nature of states, or nation-states and empires, and the types of humans who tend to rise in those in different time periods.
    Get real.

  43. turcopolier says:

    Your argument is just more warmed over “merchants of death” received wisdom. This is precious to the Left and I don’t expect you to give it up. the last thing that people like you in the bi-coastal elites want to accept is that you are culturally isolated and becoming more so all the time. You went to an elite university? So what? By the time you went there the place was teaching the need to destroy the old America and the atmosphere there breathed loathing for the Old Order. You find it surprising that your better contemporaries did not go into government? Why would they? They had been taught to hold the government in contempt. But, cling to your childhood indoctrination… pl

  44. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I repeat again, the Protestant Christians in US and UK among the electorate bear major moral responsibility for all of this; they have caused a clash of civilizations – that due to the centrality of Islam – has become a religious clash.
    There is no way to sugar-coat this or try to avoid talking about it.
    And there is no way to ignore the clash within Islam; Seljuk and non-Seljuk, Revolutionary Islam vs. all others, Shia & Sunni, syncretic vs. Orthodox etc.

  45. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I perfectly understand your background.
    I was riding the train from New Cannon to NYC one December night and a few rich White kids – around my age – walked in. The other occupant was thin aged Black woman who was going back to NYC; very likely a domestic worker in one of those abodes of the gentry around New Cannon.
    The rich White kids started smoking dope, all the while being nervous; the conductor walked in, also Black man, looked around and walked out. The nervous kids were trying to hide their joint, but he ignored them, you see.
    I was seated, facing that Black woman, and we exchanged glaces which shared the same understanding and smiled; spoiled rich White and privileged, oblivious to any sense of decorum or decency – reeking with contempt for all those who occupied a lower station in life than them.
    They reminded me of their counterparts in Iran, whose world was destroyed by the revolt of the Iranian masses in 1979; and good riddance.

  46. ISL says:

    Exactly. good versus evil implies a soul and a conscience, which is something humans are thought to have.
    Aggregates of peoples making decisions within a legal framework – aka a nation – if such a system has a soul and a conscience, then so does my personal computer.
    I feel similarly about giving corporations human rights – I subscribe corporate personhood when and only when Texas hangs one.
    God did not create corporations – humans did – think Frankenstein for a metaphor/

  47. Pundita says:

    Colonel, TTG: Re “Idlib cannot be left in the enemy’s hands” —
    Idlib is largely in the hands of the American, British, and European governments; without massive infusions of aid of all kinds from those entities the entire ‘revolutionary’ enterprise in Idlib would have collapsed.
    I’d like to review this point again. This time I’ll provide more quotes from Sam Heller’s November 29, 2016 investigative report for The Century Foundation, “Keeping the Lights On in Rebel Idlib,” which was received by the chirping of crickets in the press and world capitals.
    Idlib province’s residents numbered rough two million in mid-2016, according to one Syrian relief worker who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity,7 including an estimated 700,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from across Syria.8 They have had to get by in a half-functional war economy sustained in large part by international relief.
    Living conditions in Idlib were better in 2016 than they had been in 2013 or 2014, said the relief worker, “but not like a developed country.”
    Some areas enjoy interrupted grid water and electricity. In many others, electricity is provided by privately owned generators for which residents pay subscriptions, and water is sold from tanker tanks. Residents work in small businesses, construction, smuggling. Many also work in agriculture, including on farmlands seized by Ahrar al-Sham, Fateh al-Sham, and other factions, and leased back to tenant farmers.
    Some public-sector employees—teachers in particular, but also municipal workers and others—regularly cross into regime-controlled Hama to collect wages from the Syrian state.9
    But many Idlibis depended on food, sanitary products, temporary housing, and other relief provided by aid organizations including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mercy Corps, People in Need, and GOAL. Much of that relief was, in turn, quietly sponsored by the United States and other donor governments.10And it has largely run through the province’s local councils.
    There are 144 local councils across Idlib, including thirty city councils …
    Much of local councils’ importance hinges on their relationships with “munazzamat” (organizations), a catchall term that includes everything from development contractors to international NGOs.
    Although some donors that still recognize the Syrian state in Damascus prefer to work with local NGOs and relief associations instead of local councils that operate in defiance of Assad regime authority, most relief organizations and charities have designated the councils their go-to civilian partner at the local level.
    Local councils are thus the main vehicle for external support to their community. They routinely submit lists of vulnerable relief recipients and help coordinate and oversee relief distribution, including going house to house with donor organizations’ representatives to deliver food baskets and other assistance.
    In addition to helping organize relief distribution, councils also provide some intermittently successful municipal services, ranging from operating bakeries13 to street-cleaning and trash disposal,14repairs to the water grid,15 and road maintenance.16
    Many of these more resource-intensive services are supported by international donors such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), which have made support for civilian governance and service provision a priority.
    The United States has provided support through a number of offices, including both USAID proper and USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI), whose “Syria Regional Program” has a more directed, political mandate to support moderate opposition organizations and promote values of tolerance.17
    Some international assistance has been delivered through discrete, branded projects such as “Bil-Akhdar” (In Green) and “Tamkeen” (Empowerment), supported by donors including USAID,18 the United Kingdom Conflict Pool, and the European Union.19
    Much of the story was already available to the public even before Heller’s report. It’s just that it was hidden in plain sight. The website for USAID outlines the kind of assistance the US government has been providing in Idlib, but doesn’t spell out, as Heller does, what it’s actually been supporting and doesn’t specify by region; instead, it offers what I would call a fiction. But any press organization or legislator who was truly interested in what’s been going on in Syria could have easily seen through the fiction.
    I don’t think it’s a digression to mention that the problem for Assad is that the Baathist party bosses had always ignored Idlib Province, as Heller’s report makes clear. That may be one reason he hasn’t called out the foreign governments in public about their activities in Idlib. Since the Russian entry into Syria I think he now has real power, and I hope he can use it to stand up to the party bosses and bring in better government than existed before the uprising began.
    But to return to the present, where do Heller’s explanations leave the kinetic operations against the enemy in Idlib? And the concerns that Idlib must not be left in the enemy’s hands?
    First you’d have to rip the situation out of the hands of people who are bombing Idlib on Tuesdays and picking up the trash there on Wednesdays.
    Whether you want to call this war profiteering, or compassion for war victims, or people who are just trying to show Idlibis how they can have a workable Islamist democratic government while bombs are falling around them, or all three, you’re dealing with an insane situation that is enforced by rich foreign governments.
    So what to do?

  48. Thomas says:

    Doing da Google search, it is Iraqi PMU and Iranian media claiming this was done. It could be disinformation, a lie to score domestic political points, a supply drop to special operators behind the lines doing their duty to send ISers to the existential answer, or, worse case scenario, the rogue scumballs at the CIA are continuing to do their usual stupid shtz.
    If true, I would wager on resupply for behind the line operators.

  49. Chris Chuba says:

    One strategic goal of the SAA does look to be to link up with the Kurdish dominated SDF in order to seal in the Turkish backed Euphrates Shield group.
    Here’s a report from Al Masdar that claims that there was a clash between the SAA and the Turkish forces
    In the past, I know that the Turks have done some cross border shelling of SAA forces but this is the first report I have heard of ground troops getting into a scrap. The article also includes a map that indicates that the Tiger forces are driving to link up with the Kurds at the narrowest point of 8km (about 5 miles). Hopefully that will happen quickly and nip the Euphrates Shield operation in the bud.
    Regarding Idlib vs going after ISIS I think that a lot depends on what the U.S. does since the SAA does not have enough forces to do both. If the U.S. lands adds ground troops to Syria to make a serious run on ISIS, I can picture the SAA going after ISIS because they would be afraid that whatever territory that is taken by the U.S. / SDF won’t be given back in our lifetime. In short, the Syrians are having to choose the least bad choice due to lack of resources but at least Aleppo is secure.

  50. Lefty_Blaker says:

    I said I grew up as part what you characterize as the “bi-coastal elites”, not that I support these elites in any form. My point was not dissimilar to yours regarding what was/is happening in this elite education system now. Government is more viewed as a means to end of wealth generation, not as place to devote ones career to. My contemporaries who consider themselves “good democrats” while pursuing their own self aggrandizement and believing that their efforts would be good for the rest of the country are willfully ignorant. I fought and continue to fight almost everyone in my immediate circle about what the democrats have become since Bill Clinton, arguing as a Never Clinton, Sanders supporter there were very real reasons for Sanders and Trump to have so much support. Now I battle this same group who are blaming everyone but themselves for the abject failure of the Democrats and the rise of Trump.
    In NY it is so very clear that for the last 35 years or so, we have feasted on the demise of much of the country as the center of finance. Obama’s bailout money came right to NY along with a new influx of foreign money to create a huge building boom they we have benefited from while most of the country has languished economically. I am very much an outcast amongst my childhood peers (and family) because I see and talk about what has happening countrywide while we NY have become more enriched. I have worked hard to overcome my childhood indoctrination, which makes me very unpopular in the elite circles I still find myself in mostly due to my work. Now I am increasingly unpopular amongst my friends as I criticize them for there effort to demonize Russia/Putin to achieve their desired removal of Trump. Having lived in a variety of places outside NY, I can see what most of my immediate group cannot: that this country has been decimated by the elites pushing their own interests as the expense of vast swaths of the country.

  51. Lefty_Blaker says:

    I tried to post a response but I believe I might have erased it. It might have been posted but I am not sure. Working on this phone I am not so skilled making posts. I am hoping it went through and you will post it. Otherwise I will try again to respond. It was not quite done when some glitch happened. C’est la vie.

  52. Yeah, Right says:

    Valissa, I am not “looking for good behavior from an empire”, nor would I describe the USA’s behaviour as “evil”
    (I’ll note, in passing, that neither b nor I have used that word).
    But I think that when USA’s behaviour is worthy of criticism then it should be criticized, and so I don’t understand why Pat Lang gets annoyed with b for doing exactly that.
    Such criticism from foreigners is – apparently – a sign of “bigotry”, even though Pat Lang has accepted that there is no excuse for how the USA has behaved.
    It is (again, apparently, as I’m not sure I understand Col Lang’s last post) his contention that foreigners are not qualified to comment on the USA’s foreign policy, though why that should be the case escapes me.
    As far as I understand it he believes the USA’s foreign policy is a topic for internal discussion between Americans as it is a “term of art” that only an American would understand.
    Maybe. I doubt it, since the Colonel also appears to be suggesting that the great majority of Americans don’t understand it either, which rather lets the USA’s leadership class off the hook.
    I look at what b writes, and I find myself agreeing with most of it: the USA is doing enormous damage in the world, and it isn’t doing that because it is stumbling around in some kind of stupor.
    Rather, the USA knows full well the damage that it is inflicting, and simply doesn’t give a rat’s arse.
    I wouldn’t use “evil” to describe that, but nor would I use the word “stupid”.
    The word “venal” would be closer to the mark, but even that isn’t entirely adequate.

  53. Lefty_Blaker says:

    Great story Babak. So many dynamics going there have to do with class and skin color. so appropriate that the black conductor paid those boys of privilege no mind. It might only cause him trouble to deal with them. Seen so much like that in my days in NY, riding the subways which are so often great mixes of people from around the world. I was fortunate in my upbringing in that my Jewish parents who fled Queens to Westchester in 1964, picked a town that had new suburbs built along side older developments populated by Irish and Italian Catholics who mostly worked at a local GM plant. I had a wide range of friends who only saw me as Jewish when they said something off color about Jews and then would
    look at me and say “but you’re different.” My rebellion against my intellectual, non-religious, but elitist Jewish parents was to play sports, something they did not understand. This put me I contact with a wide range of people in my town and thought my early adulthood.
    In fact it was during my athletic career that I first came in contact with Iranians. My university soccer team had a couple of Iranian players who were part of a very wealthy group of Iranians on campus. This was 1978. In fact it was rumored that Ferydun (Freddie) was the best friend of the Shah’s son. these rich kids often received disdain from others on campus, partly from there aggressive treatment of women, partly do to there wealth and also straight racism. In 1979, one of my Iranian friends on the team got stuck in Paris because he could not get a visa to get back in the US. This was all part of my political awakening as I learned why he was now having no such troubles. So that watershed event in Tehran had fundamental impacts on my life even though I was, like those kids on your commuter train, mostly a white privileged kid in the US.

  54. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Yup, like what this fellow told me about his Iranian college roommate at Princeton: “He would get mad whenever I received better marks than him…” evidently because the Iranian fellow could not accept that the child of a pair of school teachers could do as well or better than him, a child of privilege.

  55. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Octavio Paz discusses that in one of his essays, this obliviousness to the consequences of US foreign policy, not giving a rat’s arse, and attributes it the Protestantism and the idea that one can have a personal relationship with God. So, the North American is absorbed in his personal conversation with God and thus does not pay attention to what he is doing.
    I must admit that I find the reasoning rather obtuse and cannot credit it.
    On the other, as far as I have been able to discern US History, Imperialism was the project of the Puritanical North; which, however had been kept in check by the Old South until she was defeated in the War Between States.
    So may be Paz had been right all along.

  56. Henshaw says:

    Peter- This influence has a direct component as you identify, but it also has an even larger indirect component- the significant numbers of Christian evangelicals in the USA who have a soft spot for anything claiming a connection to the Old Testament. Zionists and Israeli Government have nurtured this connection, and play these constituencies like a violin.
    Their bottom line is that Israel can do no wrong, because it’s just going along with Bible prophecy- and how dare anyone question God’s plan …
    And there are many more evangelicals in the USA than Jews (or even than Jews in Israel).

  57. Frank says:

    You should look up the definition of the word bigotry. I don’t think it means what you think it means

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