Thoughts on Syria – 7 June, 2016

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1.  Unless the US JCS are once again "off the reservation" and talking to the Russians behind the backs of the Obamanites, I don't think there is much effective coordination between the US and Russia over Syria other than the flight de-confliction regime.

2.  The flight de-confliction regime works well.  We haven't shot each other down yet, so …  We now have the USS Harry Truman battle group standing inshore off Syria to launch attacks in Syria and Iraq.  This very likely requires passage through Russian controlled airspace within their air defense umbrella.  So …

3.  Raqqa will be heavily defended.  IS cannot afford to give the place up.  there are probably quite a few Arab Sunni "civilians" there who support IS.  That has proven to be true at Fallujah.  As the R+6 force proceeds after the taking of Tabqa air base, resistance will get stiffer and stiffer.  We will see how well they do against that.  We will also see if the SDF really wants to sacrifice a great deal to capture this large city.  Their American "minders" are urging them forward, but, we will see …

4.  The Russians evidently thought they could make an honest deal with Kerry/Obama.  Well, they were wrong.  The US supported jihadis associated with Nusra (several groups) merely "pocketed" the truce as an opportunity to re-fit, re-supply and re-position forces.  The US must have been complicit in this ruse.  Perhaps the Russians have learned from this experience.

5.  In the "truce" the Turks, presumably with the agreement of the US, brought 6,000 men north out of the non-IS jihadi defended area along the Turkish border.  This is the area around Azaz and to the east.  They trucked them around and brought them through Hatay Province in Turkey to be sent back into the Aleppo Province and to the city of Aleppo itself.  These men have been used in capturing Khan Touman SW of the city and in driving the YPG Kurds out of the part of the city that they held.  It will cost a lot of men to restore these situations.  Someone said to me that the border crossings from Hatay are under surveillance.   Well, so what!  That does not prevent the Turks supplying the jihadis through these crossing points.

6.  The same someone said that the result of the "cease-fire" positions Putin well in peace negotiations.  Yawn!  As I have said repeatedly, most sensible people know that you have to win on the battlefield unless you are Kerry and the girls at the WH.  There will now be more blood rather than less because of the Kerry/Obama attempt at cleverness.

7.  In a wonderfully clear proof of an absence of coordination between IS and the AQ linked groups (Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, etc.) IS launched a major offensive into the area from which the Turks removed the 6,000 men now in the Aleppo area.  IS has now taken most of that area and are nearly at the gates of the town of Azaz. 

Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.  pl

This entry was posted in As The Borg Turns, Current Affairs, Middle East, Policy, Russia, Syria, Turkey. Bookmark the permalink.

132 Responses to Thoughts on Syria – 7 June, 2016

  1. Avatar BrotherJoe says:

    How would an implied Russian threat to arm Turkish Kurds affect the situation. Would it cause Erdogan to back off ?

  2. Avatar Barish says:

    “These men have been used in capturing Khan Touman SW of the city and in driving the YPG Kurds out of the part of the city that they held”
    As far as I understand it, the jihadis and their unicorn auxiliaries merely succeeded in driving YPG out of a youth housing complex directly south of the Castello road, which allowed effective firing control over what passed through there.
    As for lessons the Russians learned, given Lavrov’s pledge to up support of SAA around Aleppo, one can assume they did.
    One could also consider this: the unicorns have thrown quite a few forces here at Aleppo – Jaish al Fatah, usually assigned to the Idlib province, premier among them – all gathered in one place…is it beyond scope to assume this force’s back can be broken, and if such happens, what can we expect to see then?

  3. Avatar Fredw says:

    “The US supported jihadis associated with Nusra (several groups) merely “pocketed” the truce as an opportunity to re-fit, re-supply and re-position forces.”
    Not clear to me what the complaint is. Isn’t that what everybody does during truces? You never know when the fighting might start up again.
    It does puzzle me what the Russians expected. They were quite supportive of the truce at the beginning, so they had something mind. But I doubt they expected anything different from the rebels. Their hopes must have been for our reaction. I don’t see how we’ve double crossed them, but we haven’t given them anything either.

  4. Avatar turcopolier says:

    fredW
    “Not clear to me what the complaint is” That is because you are pro jihadi. pl

  5. Avatar Ghost ship says:

    That worked out well for the non-IS jihadis since it weakened the non-IS jihadi forces in northern Aleppo Governorate so much that IS was able to capture most of the territory the non-IS jihadi forces occupied around Azaz and Mareah.
    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/southfront-isis-regroups-final-push-capture-azaz-pocket/
    Perhaps that was the intention of the Turkish government.

  6. Avatar Brunswick says:

    As part of the Cessesation, the US was supposed to either:
    – get their pet jihadi’s to stop aiding and abetting alQuida, withdraw from shared spaces with al-Quida, provide the locations of those spaces to the US and the R+6, and either join the Cessation, or join in operations against alQuida,
    – or, failing this, the US was supposed to allow the addition of these pet jihadigroups to the terrorist lists.
    The US has done neither.

  7. Avatar mbrenner says:

    As the conflict(s) continue to elaborate themselves, prospects for a resolution – of any sort – fade. Our modern bias is to believe that every problem situation allows for, and leads to a resolution – in the foreseeable future. The lethality of our weaponry points to that conclusion. History tells us otherwise, though. Conflicts that lasted for decades, with attendant destruction and disruption, occurred quite frequently. Think of the 30 years war in Germany in the 17th century. Or the wars between the Moghul Empire and the Marathas (17 – 18 centuries). Probably, there is a Middle Eastern counterpart.
    In the case of Syria/Iraq, the likelihood of irresolution is increased by the incongruous fact that the parties who have the means to potentially force a resolution will not employ them – because their stakes are not high and out of fear that employment could lead to a wider conflict. That applies to the US, Russia,Turkey and Israel. The ideological element is another complicating factor.
    It would take the combined talents of a Talleyrand and a Bismarck to find a way out of this imbroglio. Putin seems to be looking for such a pis aller. Obama? Our guy has told us that his overriding goal before he rides off into the sunset is to prevent “any really bad shit from happening.”

  8. Avatar turcopolier says:

    mbrenner
    Our meddling prolongs the pain. Afghanistan is a prime example. As I told someone else here this could easily go on for another ten years in Syria. IMO the thing we should worry about is a Hillary tantrum leading to war with Russia. pl

  9. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think there is a way out, both in Syria and in Ukraine; namely informal partition into spheres of influence.
    That worked between USSR and US, no reason that it cannot be replicated.
    I speculate that in due course that would come to pass but not before a lot more damage is inflicted in Syria and in Ukraine.
    If I be correct, this would be analogous to JCOPA cease-fire deal of 2015 which enshrined a deal that had been on the table since 2006.

  10. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree but it also has the effect of damaging any potentially productive relationship between US and the Shia Crescent – or in Ukraine – between Russia and the West.
    For the Russians, their dream of “Common European Home” is now dead and buried – to their deep regret, I think.

  11. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    For countries, going back on one’s word, or this type of trickery, is only useful if they could win and prevail. Then no one would be able to take them to task or to retaliate.
    But if they cannot prevail, then their word has been established to be worthless and they can no longer get action from others – the usual story of “Crying Wolfe” comes to mind.
    Specially for superpower like US, if the words of her leaders over such trifles is not trustworthy, then where and how on could trust them on larger issues?
    By the way, a Roman Consul tricked the Parthians once using the ruse of a Peace Ceremony and succeeded in killing many of them. The Parthian King survived to fight another day and the war continued.

  12. Avatar Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Peace,
    “One could also consider this: the unicorns have thrown quite a few forces here at Aleppo – Jaish al Fatah, usually assigned to the Idlib province, premier among them – all gathered in one place.”
    All in one place? What a dream for TAC planners. No need to waste KABs.
    Ishmael Zechariah
    p.s: Ghost ship,
    re: “Perhaps that was the intention of the Turkish government”,
    The turkish regime has its head too high up its own GI tract to have intentions which matter. I really, really! wonder who is running this show.

  13. Avatar Barish says:

    I think rather than Turkish MiT-handlers favoring ISIL to whatever ragtag “moderates” assembled there, they might simply have been less than impressed with results of the latter against the former – a course of action they’d never have pursued had they not been forced into it in the Azaz-corner after the siege on Nubbl and az-Zahra was lifted by SAA.
    Azaz had effectively become useless following that, and re-purposing that territory as a springboard for the “moderates'” very own campaign of conquest against ISIL hasn’t worked either, so no wonder they pulled what insurgents they can from there.
    MiT, and by extension Tayyip appear far more interested in throwing the dice in Halab. May they fail in that endeavor, too.

  14. Avatar Exordium_Antipodean says:

    The Russian sponsored truce was perhaps first a diplomatic offensive which then pivoted to a PR one. What do I mean?
    In his Charlie Rose interview, Putin laid down the rationale for the Federation’s intervention: Assad is the source of stability, therefore he must be supported. In order to avoid, ‘day after’ problems – ie a Syrian quagmire – Russia was clear a final solution to the conflict must be diplomatic. They were envisaging a compromise where the essential institutional power structure was preserved but reformed against political excesses.
    Such a settlement is unacceptable to the NATO/GCC/Zionist Empire. Their objectives were never humanitarian, but geopolitical. Putin knew this. So why did he switch to a diplomatic tack when he knew it was destined to fail? Well, Russia was suffering in Western media for bombing ‘moderate’ head choppers. In 4th gen warfare, as even Israel found out, the World Court of Public Opinion matters. The liberal ideology that pervades most of the West requires solicitude for this vague abstraction known as ‘humanity’ wherever it may be found. In the old days we used to believe God became man and left ‘the other’ to his mercy. But now we’re convinced man has become god. As Spengler noted, the West’s Prime Symbol is Infinity. We get all het up when someone is attacking someone thousands of miles away from us, for they are a constituent part of ‘god’. (How else do you explain our religious devotion to the R2P sacrament?). So Russia has to expose the lying media and Western politicians as the aggressor against humanity. Now Lavrov has his justification in the form of a US omission to act. Have attained the PR highground, R+6 return to the military theatre.

  15. This Hillary scenario is very worrying. Can it escalate to a nuclear exchange? A couple of Russian blogs (The saker, Cluborlov) seem to think Russia is preparing for an attack.. http://cluborlov.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/a-russian-warning.html

  16. Avatar apol says:

    In reply to Babak Makkinejad.
    Respectfully.I think this tactical retreat of President Putin’s has enabled him to inform continental Europeans who the real enemy is.
    Erdogan’s new role as dictator, which emerged forcefully during the ‘intermission’, will have shown up the media ‘Putin bashing’ for the hollow tripe it is.
    All those German and Swedish women who no longer feel safe outside at night..how many are dreaming of St Vladimir coming to their rescue?
    In parallel with Erdogan’s blackmailing over refugees the credability of Angela Merkel has declined sharply to reveal her true nature as a NWO puppet. This a big plus for Russia.
    Europe is the ‘prize’ for Russia.
    Is Europe being prized away from the post WW2 US domination?
    Rising european nationalism surely points to that.
    No doubt this is occupying minds at Bilderberg this week.
    Gladio anybody?

  17. Avatar Chris Chuba says:

    1. Thanks for the explanation regarding the Midnight Express run that the Turks pulled about the relocation of the Jihadis I was genuinely puzzled as to how the Azaz area suddenly collapsed and ISIS gained so much ground there. Now it makes sense.
    2. Even if the SAA can’t take Raqqa right away, just taking Tabaqa military airport, along with the SDF (Kurds in garnish) taking Manbij will finally cut off most of ISIS from Turkey (as was mentioned before on SST); finally. It won’t end ISIS but that will have to hurt them quite a bit. A sign of whether ISIS considers this important will be to see how they react to it. Will they stop attacking Deir Ezzor and send reinforcements to reopen the route?
    I also wonder if the MSM will suddenly start giving us sob stories about the suffering of civilians being starved by the brutal Assad regime in Raqqa.
    3. If Kerry was intentionally stalling Lavrov just to buy time to rearm all of the rebels to make it harder for the Russians then I don’t even know what to think. I suppose I would be able to admire his skill but not his work. From what I have read, it looks like Lavrov actually thought he developed a rapport with Kerry but what do I know? (nothing really, just going by some Lavrov interviews that I read)
    https://southfront.org/lavrov-ukraine-usa-qa/
    “Lavrov: You know, I have spoken to him [Kerry] many times on the very same topic, when we have discussed Syria. It is very pleasant to communicate with him. Since January, we have spoken on the phone more than 30 times, and we have had four personal meetings …
    And when we discuss these matters with Kerry, I say “John, okay, why are you hurting yourself again?” He told me. In 2003, Iraq, I was a Senator and I voted against. I told him “excellent”. Obama was also against. Wonderful. What about Libya? – Yes, Iraq was a mistake.

    They say that this was a mistake but it’s in the past. This is their logic. So let’s get busy with what we want now. But we also want to get busy in Syria. However, the method must be worked out by learning at least a little bit from the lessons learned from past experience.”
    Lavrov’s tone in the article appears that he believes that he can almost mentor Kerry because he perceives him as reasonable but misguided. No good deed goes unpunished.

  18. The YPG/SDF offensive towards Mabij seems to be progressing rapidly. Kurds are at or in the outer limits of the city on three sides. The road between Jarabulus and Manbij has been cut as has the road south to Raqqa. There are some reports of IS forces fleeing Manbij to the west. These are unconfirmed and doesn’t make a lot of sense in light of other reports of other IS forces leaving the siege of Azaz to reinforce Manbij. Perhaps the Afrin YPG may take this opportunity to push to the east.
    I get the impression that the build up and much heralded attack on Raqqa was a deception operation to cover the river crossing operation at Qara Qawzak. Pretty damned slick. It also looks like the Kurds have been invited to the next round of peace talks (whenever that happens).

  19. Avatar BraveNewWorld says:

    As some one who is neither Russian or American let me say you can shove your spheres of influence right up your …

  20. Avatar Daniel Nicolas says:

    I could see a Trump Presidency negotiating a win-win-win deal:
    USA coordinates with Russia and Syria to end the conflict in Syria, utterly defeat IS, and agree to a new anti-terrorism coordination treat, to be joined by any others in the UN.
    – Terrorists in Syria are defeated.
    – IS is defeated, Iraq free of this brand of terrorism for now.
    – Syrian/Iraq Refugees are able to return home in peace to rebuild their country.
    – Syria re/opens rebuilding & stabilization contracts up for US company bids. |
    – Once the country is stabilized, Assad agrees to hand power to new Interim President – General Hassan – for 2 years, with the acknowledgement that Hassan will pardon Assad for any potential wrongdoing made necessary to hold the country together to survive the war. FDR sent Japanese Americans to internment camps, and Americans still re-elected him 3 times. Assad can live out the rest of his days despite his harsh rule.
    – New open elections scheduled for fall of 2018 to allow for the rebuilding of the country and return of Syrian refugees worldwide to Syria.
    – USA ends economic sanctions with Russia, Syria, Russia agrees to new anti-terrorism treaty.
    And so on. President Trump gets a huge plate of foreign policy wins on his record in the first year.
    “The Bear and Eagle Join Forces to Defeat Global Terror.”
    “Trump Brings Peace – Syrian Civil War Over.”
    “Trump Sends Refugees Home Safe.”
    “Can’t Stump Trump – IS Defeated in last holdout City”
    “Russian Bear Tamed by Trump Administration – new anti-terrorism treaty with Russia signals new era of peace and prosperity for both nations”
    “Trump Towers Over Damascus, Interim Syrian president installed. Congress Approves New Treaty.”
    and so on.
    Perhaps I am far too optimistic, and a swift end to the madness of the current foreign policy is nowhere in sight no matter the new President.

  21. Avatar Ghost ship says:

    I’ve seen it suggested elsewhere that the Turkish believe they’ve been hustled by some in the Washington borg. Their theory is that the Washington borg want IS to take control of the whole of northern Aleppo Governorate and eliminate the non-IS jihadis so then the YPG/SDF can with American air support capture it all from IS while the Washington borg claims that they have stuck to their agreement with the Turkish not to attack the non-IS jihadis at the same time as they continue to complain that the Russians are bombing “moderate” non-IS jihadis. Somehow, I don’t think it’ll end well.

  22. Avatar Ante says:

    The oil price recovery has allowed Russia’s state budget to stabilize, which means their intervention, especially in its present tiny state, can continue without worry about cost.
    Why did they stop at the precipice of massive victory, I have no idea, there’ve been just a few material benefits, as far as I can tell. It has given them time to convince Iran to send more men, and it has allowed more time for some reorganization and refitting of the Syrian army. It has coincided with (Saudi led?) rerouting of foreign jihadis from Syria/Iraq to Libya/Yemen.
    The cessation of hostilities seemed to come with a tacit agreement for the US to swtich from pretending to engage Daesh to actually attacking them. The ISF/Hashd progress against Daesh is a big help. The Hashd winning battles while the US haughtily withholds air support is great for morale, and lets the locals see through daesh’s aura of invincibility. When daesh is defeated, Syria will control its oil production again.
    What does Russia want? They seem to desire a united, sovereign, non islamist controlled Syria, and an end to the war. What are they willing to do to make this happen? What is Iran willing to do? What are the US/Turkey/Saudi willing to do to achieve the opposite? There was such a golden moment, when Saudi was bogged down in Yemen, when Aleppo was on the verge, I would like to hear their explanation for their decision.

  23. Avatar mbrenner says:

    Stephen Cohen disagrees with the view that Putin miscalculated because he bought into Lavrov’s unjustified optimism. His take is that Putin very much is in charge and that the challenge – which is not personal/political since no one can contest him – comes from the ‘nationalists’ who are quite vocal. The latter’s main concern is Ukraine, NATO moves, Europe. For both Putin, and the latter, Syria is secondary – more a test of what can or cannot be done with the Americans than intrinsically important for Russian interests. Cohen does not refer to any sort of Putin-Lavrov tensions. I suspect that Putin and Lavrov are on the same wave length with some honest differences perhaps on tactics re. Washington. The real pressure is from the “right.”
    Putin genuinely seems to want: implementation of Minsk II; some sort of deal on Syria that reduces al-Nusra while leaving ISIS to the Americans; and a return to the status quo in Europe with the exception of Crimea. The last means Ukraine remains a strategic grey zone, and no enhanced NATO military presence around Russia’s periphery. I don’t think Washington will agree, and the Europeans are too weak/pre-occupied to prevent their being swept along. Indeed, we have discouraged Petroshenko from going all out to meet his commitments stipulated in Minsk II. And the recent NATO moves go well beyond anything done in the days of the USSR. The “war party” will only be stronger after January, So Putin’s room for maneuver which is closing every week will narrow even further. The West in effect is imposing a new Cold War on him.

  24. I wouldn’t bet on Euro women voting for anything but the status quo legitimated by the Official Narrative. Look at the recent Austrian Presidential elections. Women overwhelming plumped for the Austria hating Green party candidate, while men voted for the Freedom Party.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxpVwBzFAkw

  25. Avatar Earthrise says:

    Yea of little faith (which I am not advocating by the way). The cease fire is nothing more than an effective counter-disinfo campaign run by Moscow. They have almost totally disarmed all of the AngloZionist propaganda angles, and have set themselves up for an impending Sukhoi Storm to come rumbling in again from the north. So what if the Jihadis have rearmend, what tiny gains have they made these four months? Russia can just swoop in and destroy all these arms caches like they did last year. I have felt the frustration too, but I am also careful not to cheer too loudly for young Russians to sacrifice their lives. The US does not win on the battlefield, they win the propaganda war in service to dirty geo-politics. Russia has almost de-clawed this weapon, and soon they can finish the job, if it is in their interest.

  26. Avatar jld says:

    I am far too optimistic,

    No, no, no, this has nothing to do with “optimism”, you are completely delusional!
    This because you seem to think Syria problems are a matter of “means” rather than “ends”.
    Beside the Russians (may be, even may be…) who wants to achieve what you dream about?
    Nobody…

  27. Avatar Charles Michael says:

    You are making a good point there: EU is the sick man of globalistan.
    – on dependance on Russia for energy: UK has doubled its import of Russian gaz, Germany is doubling the North Stream gazoduc, Italy, Austria and Greece are looking for a revival of South Stream.
    – EU economy is paying for the sanctions specially but not only in agriculture.
    EU Central Bureau, has buried the Deuch negative referendum but they have to face Brexit in 2 weeks, then Spain new elections one week after, Polish new gov. march to authoritarianism, countries in the Balkans fencing against refugees, 10 % unemployment average, and so on. It is one crisis after another, and none is solved.
    Then you have the NATO saber rattling, and answer in kind of Putin.
    But it doesnot stop there, to explain Russia strategy of negociation: it is reaching also to an other neighbour: Japan.
    Also voting in July, and Abe needs 2/3 majority to be able to change the very war-antogonistic Constitution.
    Japan has still not signed the Trans Pacific Treaty.
    And in July the SOC will meet and most probably Iran will join, maybe with India and Pakistan.
    So peacenik Putin is well positionned to talk peace and mutual respect.

  28. Avatar LeaNder says:

    Campaigner or true believer that the reality can be changed to fit the Trumpian type of “change now” by “making America great again”?
    His foreign policy speech seemed to contain serial traps to your idealist vision.

  29. Avatar Poul says:

    Interesting claim from the Turkish foreign minister about US guarantees. I would bet on it been hot air.
    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-guarantees-no-pyd-presence-west-of-euphrates-after-ops-on-isil-turkish-fm.aspx?pageID=238&nid=100176
    Quote:
    “If the YPG [People’s Protection Unit, the military wing of the PYD] wants to give logistical support on the east of the Euphrates then that is different. But we do not want even a single YPG militant to the west [of Euphrates] especially after the operations. The U.S. has given a guarantee about this,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said June 7 during a televised interview with state-owned broadcaster TRTHaber.

  30. Avatar bth says:

    Then how would you explain Finland’s attempt to join NATO after all these years?

  31. With reference to the comments by ‘Exordium_Antipodean’ and ‘apol’ and ‘Earthrise’ about the role of public opinion in all this.
    In a post on his ‘Russia Observer’ site, the former long-serving Canadian government analyst of Soviet and Russian policy, Dr Patrick Armstrong, who has also posted here, focuses on a piece which appeared on the ‘MailOnline’ site two days ago.
    It was headlined ‘NATO shows Putin who’s boss: 31,000 troops, tanks and jets from 24 countries begin the largest war game exercise in eastern Europe since the Cold War in response to Russian aggression.’
    (See https://patrickarmstrong.ca/ ; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3628307/NATO-shows-Putin-s-boss-31-000-troops-tanks-jets-24-countries-begin-largest-war-game-exercise-eastern-Europe-Cold-War-response-Russian-aggression.html#comments .)
    As Dr Armstrong noted, the response of commenters was complete contempt.
    Aptly, in my view, he quoted the three ‘Best Rated’ comments in full. One gets an interesting result, I think, if one strings these together:
    ‘(1.) So we organize a huge premeditated military show of Force with thousands of troops on Russias doorstep because of what??? (2.) These fools are barking up the wrong tree! They should worry about ISIS and migrants crisis NOT Vlad. (3.) So this is what NATO is doing when they are not too busy training ISIS troops in Turkey?’
    What emerges is a coherent narrative – and it is teetering on the brink of being a narrative about treason.

  32. Avatar bth says:

    US and Russian military are reportedly now communicating twice daily on Syria. I interpreted Lavrov’s comments on trust as having to do with how information was shared since the US is allied with Turkey.
    Turkey has certainly been making a point that peace cannot be achieved without their agreement. I believe this would explain the USS Harry Truman’s combat flights into Syria and Iraq. Also there is a question about what happens in Libya this summer that might involve air support.
    The US has been consistent for at least a year that it will attack IS in Syria and Iraq and that its targets are Raqqa and Mosul. The US has not agreed to support the regime of Assad and in fact has been clear that Assad is not acceptable in any negotiated permanent peace the US endorses. That Russia has chained itself to the fate of the regime, same as it ever was, is a mistake it has made and frankly wasn’t the position they had even this winter which was much more flexible.
    The US betrayal meme has largely been generated by Russia for its internal consumption. Lavrov’s recent extensive and impressive interview was to domestic reporters. I read it as a partial attempt to contain via the Foreign Ministry the growing general narrative in Russia that it had the rebels on the ropes as proof of the concert in Palmyra and Putin’s insight into the world while normally infallible was tricked into ceasefire by cunning Americans and by his desire for moderation to his enemies, which behold, is now shown to be a miscalculation, hence Russians should prepare for renewed struggle and economic sacrifice for the national cause. This will be soon manifest with increased defense expenditures for Syria and fiscal budget tightening in a midyear adjustment that will be felt domestically. Meanwhile Russia’s ever useful bloggers link to sites expounding on imminent nuclear war caused by aggressive Americans which Lavrov discussed as not going to happen. I view this narrative as largely for Russian domestic consumption.
    One can only imagine how strange and confusing the Trump/Hillary debate can be viewed from untrusting Russian perspective.
    Lavrov/Putin and Obama/Kerry probably had no doubt that a ceasefire would fail this time around. Alternately viewed as a middle step in what will be a long process, it makes more sense. Those that are with JAN are more clearly identified and hopefully will commit to an Aleppo pocket where SAA/Russia can now pound the heck out of certain neighborhoods with artillery or dumb bombs and no one will think twice about it since the ceasefire can be dispensed with politically.
    Also the ceasefire tested whether the regime and the Iranians could actually take ground. They can’t it seems. Also one might guess the Russians that have put their prestige on the line in Syria might feel the Iranians misled them about their military commitment, their economic support and trade prospects that are needed in Russia to keep a battered manufacturing sector going through a rough period of economic sanctions. Iran welched on Putin. Russia might rightfully ask what the Iranians are actually bringing to the table besides an endless sectarianism that will prevent meaningful peace negotiations.
    There is emerging a general division of labor emerging where SAA and Russia deal with the al-Qaeda in the northwest of Syria. For the US this is nearly impossible to do politically with Turkey. And on the other hand the US/Kurds focus on IS in the east on both sides of the Iraq/Syrian border which is something the Russian/Assad regime can’t do though they want a seat at the table in the event IS collapses in the west. The Kurds might have more interest in taking farmland, fungible grain supplies and oil fields in the east over urban siege warfare the US wants them to undertake against Raqqa.
    Meanwhile in eastern Europe US and Russian backroom diplomatic efforts do appear to be creating some calm in the Ukraine and one might see a means toward partial relief of economic sanctions if this can hold into late summer. This is occurring quietly though the fellow travelers shrill about nuclear war in the blogosphere. Note Lavrov addressed nuclear war this head on as nonsense in his lengthy discourse about a week ago.

  33. Avatar LondonBob says:

    The last elections the anti NATO party won, with NATO membership very much an issue. Of course national leaders can be influenced by other means, however Finland have just reaffirmed their policy of neutrality.
    Hopefully Sweden will continue to remain neutral as well, although of course NATO etc. have been very active for years attempting to influence Sweden into joining.

  34. Avatar turcopolier says:

    TTG
    The withdrawal of IS forces from around Marea and AZAZ in the west would seem to me to indicate that IS going to make a major fight in the Manbij area to resist further SDF advances to the west. Turkish reaction to all this is unpredictable given the level of Erdogan’s delusions. I agree that the SDF will not make a serious effort to capture Raqqa. The price would simply be too high. IMO the main emphasis should be on cutting the IS supply line to Turkey on both sides of Lake Assad. pl

  35. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Stupid.

  36. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Do you want Peace or do you want war?
    At any rate, what is your recommendation?

  37. Avatar bth says:

    The US is quite happy for the Russians and SAA to defeat JAN. Reduction of JAN is necessary. Maybe Obama can’t say that out loud, but the US has no interest in an al-Qaeda emirate emerging in NW Syria. Turkey may have a different opinion which would restrict US direct involvement regarding JAN.

  38. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am not sure what you mean by “Europe is the prize for Russia”. In my view, the dream of common European home from Cabo da Roca to Vladivostok is now dead and buried – not to be resurrected for Heaven knows how long.
    Analogously, the dream of the Muslim Commonwealth is finished – it was always an impossibility in any case – to be replaced by the Shia Sphere (are you paying attention BraveNewWorld) and the rest of Islamdom; in search of Pure Islamic Government or Pure Secular Democratic Government, whichever the case may be.

  39. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    “What is Iran willing to do?”
    Iran will stand by Assad even if SAR’s area of control is reduced to a coastal enclave.
    For Iran, in my opinion, the war in Syria will not end until all the enemies of SAR have been destroyed or, alternatively, like Lebanon, Iran’s equities are respected.
    But as the war has progressed, it has taken more and more a nature of an overt religious war in defense of the Shia, their Sacred Sites, and their religion.

  40. Avatar turcopolier says:

    bth
    So, basically you think that the Obama view of how to conduct affairs in Syria and Iraq is both wise and effective. as for the SAA’s ability to take ground you don’t seem to have noticed that the SAA is now way east of Tadmur and within 20 kilometers of Tabqa air base. pl

  41. Avatar bth says:

    Russia probably needs pricing in the $85-$95 range per bbl. to meet fiscal budget needs. US probably needs $67-85 range to prevent dismemberment of the fracking miracle. Saudis probably need about $37ish.

  42. Avatar bth says:

    Given the domestic political constraints of minimizing US involvement (congress did not approve a full year contingency going forward, congress also unwilling to declare war and administration unwillingness to ask for anything that looks like a declaration or to admit in public the extent of its involvement in Syria), plus the friend-enemy relationship we have with the Shia government in Iraq and Erdogan in Turkey, I’d say he is working within the constraints of reality.
    In Iraq I think the US military has done a petty good job with limited resources of shaping the battlefield by denying artillery support to Shia sectarian groups trying to cross the Tigris south of Mosul, containing IS on all fronts, and it is doing a pretty good job with managing the Kurds though I’d like to see us step up the funding and support as I think they are long-term allies. Also I think Obama has decided to accept the Iranian role in Iraq as inevitable and consigned them to their predisposition of carving a land route roughly from Iran to Baghdad and nearly due west toward Syria. Short of political reform in Iraq which doesn’t seem likely, I would imagine Iraq will fracture in reality with the US eventually supporting a Sunni Arab force that occupies territory formerly controlled by IS. This force may already be organizing near Irbil. And I think the Iraqi Kurds have made their deal with the Turks to trade O&G with the Erdogans in exchange for being left alone in Iraq.
    As to Syria, I don’t think Obama wants the Assad regime to collapse with the massacre that entails, but he must acknowledge the Turk and Saudi condition that Assad himself go. Plus US cannot bring JAN or IS to the negotiating table under any circumstances. I do not believe the US can go after JAN in the north without Turkish support which it does not have. US does not have enough men on the ground and is dependent on air from Turkey at this time so dealing with al-Qaeda in the NW is something US can do. So Russia must deal with JAN. Once done then US ceasefire effort might have more success.
    As to Raqqa. I do not believe US can get Kurds to take the city. The fungible countryside maybe different. That is why I like to keep track of trucking routes. Also I’d suggest we keep an eye on who controls the grain silos after the current wheat harvest. US efforts in Syria against IS are understated by the US for domestic reasons and certainly Russia-Syria do not want to acknowledge any success by US/Kurds, so it is generally ignored in the media.
    As to SAA advance eastward, I do not find it impressive. The evidence we have is a puff piece article, some video footage by a drone of two tanks and some pickups behind a berm reportedly 20 miles out. Now if SAA cut off IS supply lines WSW of Lake Assad which I think is doable, then I would be impressed. One might ask why SAA lets the IS supply line around the western side of Lake Assad remain open. One might also wonder if SAA wants IS to raid the other rebels in order to weaken them. I view the SAA ‘on the Raqqa’ article as a statement that they want a seat at the table in the event US/Kurds make a sudden breakthrough to the south. I would keep an eye on the natural gas fields that feed the Syrian utility grid, the dam and electrical generators at the SE corner of Lake Assad and the location of the old Russian oil field concessions as more likely targets than Raqqa itself.

  43. Avatar Delta Echo says:

    It would only make sense that the Russian military is gaming out a Hillary Presidency and taking a posture of being proactive and aggressive. I think that they have learned that the neo-con left (esp. Hillary) is orders of magnitude more threatening than Trump. Hillary has been vocal about calling Putin “Hitler” and promising to shoot down Russian jets and confront Russia militarily on Ukraine. Trump has expressed the desire to be allies with Russia and be friendly with Russia. I say this in all seriousness, a Hillary Presidency could leave this country a giant smoldering glass field.
    OT (sort of): I used to have contact with S/As working Hillary’s protective detail– USSS and DSS (Hillary wanted both, as former First Lady and SECTATE). I never heard a good word about her and would hear many stories of what a miserable human being she is. I was talking with a special agent for a federal agency earlier this year. The agent said none of the agents in the office wanted to work a protective detail when the Secretary of their agency meets with Hillary because Hillary makes it and them miserable. NB: this same S/A is a Democrat and thinks Trump is crazy. (Btw, I also met Trump once and he was the most gracious and down-to-earth celebrities I ever met).

  44. Avatar bth says:

    Lavrov was just in Finland last week trying to convince them that the hungry Bear only eats Ukrainians

  45. Avatar bth says:

    You have become rude and increasingly petty.

  46. Avatar SmoothieX12 says:

    Russia is always preparing for the attack and, for the most part, rightly so. With the exception of 1990s short stint as West’s “partner”, Russia’s geopolitical imperatives do not change–strong defense and deterrence are one of them. While the situation is worrisome somewhat, I don’t think anyone is really planning to fight conventional war in Russia’s vicinity. Not out of goodness of the heart, of course, but because it will be suicidal and I do not mean escalation towards nuclear threshold. Certainly, not on Russian side.

  47. Avatar turcopolier says:

    bth
    “the Assad regime” Ah, you mean the Syrian Government (the one with the seat in the UN). pl

  48. Avatar bth says:

    NATO is short men and armor. Also NATO aggregate defense funding has not jumped. Putin and Lavrav know this as do the NATO countries. We should not let hyperbole drive the discussion.

  49. Avatar turcopolier says:

    bth
    Your comments seem different than they were. pl

  50. Avatar bth says:

    Yes I think the diplomatic course is going to find a deal to be had with the Syria Government but Assad will have to exit stage right for the Turks and Saudis to end their support of the rebels.

  51. Avatar bth says:

    probably do to a few unfortunate typos on my part.

  52. Avatar turcopolier says:

    bth
    IMO there is no deal to be had. The Sunni triumphalists in
    Saudi and Turkey will never rest until Syria is a Sunni sharia state. pl

  53. Avatar bth says:

    Smoothiex12, do you see Russia wanting to reduce the anxiety of its western neighbors or do you see Russia wanting to keep the scare up as a matter of self defense?
    If Russia wants to reduce the anxiety level, how would she go about it? What tangible indicator would a western observer experience?
    I’m not asking you to justify Russia’s position and she has legitimate concerns of her own. But if she wanted to reduce the anxiety level and demonstrate it with tangible actions; what would they look like?

  54. Avatar bth says:

    But didn’t Assad’s dad successfully put down several Muslim Brotherhood revolts? 1985? His approach if I remember was to surround a city, level it for a few weeks with artillery, then send in the goons to haul off the survivors and their families. His reign of terror lasted for some decades in this manner.
    One might ask, is it better to follow the Assad father’s approach – surround, level with massive conventional barrages and then round up the survivors for persecution. Or as the current approach, precision bombing one at a time times several thousand which soon degrade to barrel bombs and let the rebels booby trap houses with IEDs use human shields.
    In either way, it seems like a bloody mess resulting in civilian casualties plus destroyed cities. One being short and the other being long protracted. Yet the father’s regime remained in power for a long time and the son’s has not.

  55. As a Brit, I am in no position to judge whether it is actually that, as ‘bth’ suggests, a U.S. President must ‘acknowledge’ – which appears to mean simply accept – the Turk and Saudi condition that Assad must go.
    But precisely the suspicion that this kind of thing is the case – that the American government is a kind of large ‘dog’ wagged by a range of ‘tails’, prominently among them Saudi and Israeli, but also Turkish, which largely accounts for the way opinion is changing in this country.
    It appears to be a fixed conviction among Western élites that the very evident changes here and elsewhere in Europe are the product of diabolically clever Russian propaganda. Actually, this is largely irrelevant. The ‘information wars’ between Russia and NATO consist largely of the latter scoring ‘own goals’.

  56. Avatar The Beaver says:

    @ Babak
    The ministers of Defense of Russia, Syria and Iran are meeting in Tehran tomorrow whilst the SAA and Hizb’Allah are making in roads in Deir Ezzor after the SyAF bombed the ISIS local HQ two days ago.

  57. Avatar The Beaver says:

    @ bth
    Ain’t going to happen. Watch the speech of Assad from yesterday:
    President Bashar al-Assad in his speech today addressing to the People’s Assembly of the 2nd legislative term noted that the fascist regime of Erdogan was focusing on Aleppo because it is the last hope for his Muslim Brotherhood project.
    “Aleppo will be the grave where all the dreams and hopes of that butcher will be buried”
    From the FB page of Tiger Forces:
    https://www.facebook.com/Tiger.Forces007/

  58. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree.

  59. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Not at all, it was stupid for Fins to try to get into NATO and stupid for US and other NATO states to even consider it.
    Just as it was stupid to admit the 3 Baltic states into NATO.

  60. Avatar Les says:

    Israeli jets strike Syrian military targets in Homs
    http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.723701
    Israel has previously been accused of striking targets in Syria belonging to the Syrian military and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

  61. Avatar jld says:

    Ah! But blatant propaganda and constant mendacity is a bit wearing.
    Could you, for instance, give us the references/sources which makes you think that
    Lavrov is “trying to convince them that the hungry Bear only eats Ukrainians”?

  62. Avatar jld says:

    Yup!
    Kinda difficult to fit someone else shoes…
    😀

  63. Avatar Linda Lau says:

    Reminds me of Muhammad Ali and the Mamelukes at the Citadel.

  64. bth,
    To be blunt, a very significant body of opinion in ‘Middle Britain’ regards the notion that because Putin was not prepared to see Ukraine – including Sevastopol – incorporated in NATO, he may be contemplating invading Finland, or Poland, or indeed the Baltics, as complete BS.
    So the question such people are asking themselves is: Are people who talk such tripe fools, or knaves, or both?
    On the changes in opinion in Britain, I have provided relevant links to comments in the British media – particularly the ‘MailOnline’ – time and again. And I have done so once more on this thread.
    If people like you want to completely to destroy the legitimacy of American leadership of the West, you are going the right way about it.
    A very large body of opinion in Britain is – for good reason – deeply concerned about the effects of mass immigration, and about terrorism.
    More and more, the intelligent elements of this current of opinion see figures like Obama, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Petraeus, and Ashton Carter, as enemies.
    This is nothing to do with being ‘anti-American’ – for such people, the ‘enemy within’ – Blair, Cameron, and Merkel – is simply another version of the ‘enemy without’.
    But, increasingly, such people do not see Putin as the ‘enemy without’.
    They see him as a friend – one of us.

  65. Avatar The Beaver says:

    Would have thought that , by now, he would know when to shut up. However , reality is that he is a hypocrite and blaming others, whilst awaiting for the Chilcot report:
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/08/tony-blair-accuses-jeremy-corbyn-of-standing-by-as-syria-is-bombed
    “I’m accused of being a war criminal for removing Saddam Hussein – who, by the way, was a war criminal – and yet Jeremy is seen as a progressive icon as we stand by and watch the people of Syria barrel-bombed, beaten and starved into submission and do nothing,” Blair said.

  66. Avatar Daniel Nicolas says:

    Many of the problems in Syria are a direct result of insane practices by The United States. “Nobody” wants to:
    – stop the practice of USA supplying terrorists with weapons and money to destabilize countries in the middle east?!?
    – end the mass migration of refugees caused by said war in destabilized countries?
    – defeat IS completely?
    – establish friendly relationships with nuclear Russia, rather than isolating and antagonizing them to the point of sparking world war 3?
    These are not extreme positions held by only a few. Do you mean Nobody in the current USA administration? I will agree to that.

  67. Avatar The Beaver says:

    Colonel,
    A bit OT:
    After threatening the US, now the chihuahua Saudi FM is blackmailing the UNSG wrt CAAC:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/08/saudi-arabia-united-nations-blacklist-yemen-ban-ki-moon
    Ban ki-Moon is w/o spin since he has nothing to lose – he is on his last few months as UNSG but one wonders sometimes – may be he has been told that South Korea would lose somehow.

  68. Avatar different clue says:

    mbrenner,
    I believe the DC FedRegime/Borg Industrial Complex is most of all trying to impose a new Cold War on the American public. They want to get us back under fear-based obedience and discipline. They want the Trump/Sanders eruption to go no further. They want to prevent any more such eruptions from ever occurring.

  69. Avatar different clue says:

    Earthrise,
    Zbigniew Brzezinski has long wanted Russia destroyed. Does he want that for Anglo reasons? Zionist reasons? Or other reasons of his own?

  70. Avatar turcopolier says:

    bth
    Are you really the same “bth?” Your version of Syrian history is a cartoon that ignores the sectarian malevolence of revolts against the Syrian government (a multi-confessional government) over the decades. The reduction of much of Hama to ruins followed unrelenting Sunni Muslim Brotherhood suicide car bomb attacks in Damascus and across the country as well as the mass murder of graduating cadets from the Syrian air force academy in Aleppo. What was the government supposed to do, roll over and surrender to the jihadis as you seem to want them to do now? You appear to have gone over altogether to the dark side and to now be a supporter of Borgist policies of regime change, support for the jihadis and their swinish Gulf supporters. pl

  71. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    That is very much my impression too; Erdogan behaves like a man who has been betrayed and is no exacting the price of that betrayal.
    On the other hand, did someone instruct the PKK leaders to pick a fight with him?

  72. Avatar MRW says:

    bth,
    Are you calling mbrenner hyperbolic?
    If so, you need to listen to this, because you have missed the point.
    https://audioboom.com/boos/4667614-anakonda-16-on-the-russian-frontier-stephen-f-cohen-nyu-princeton-eastwestaccord-com
    If I have misunderstood your comment, my apologies.

  73. Avatar charly says:

    Sweden neutral? Their policy hyper Nato

  74. Avatar VietnamVet says:

    Colonel,
    The Kremlin’s attention has to be on Ukraine first.
    The Syrian stand down confirms Russia’s willingness to negotiate and the West’s unwillingness to give peace a chance. The wild card is the “New World Order”. The outsourcing of jobs, the influx of migrants, austerity and the constant war are creating a pressure cooker with the white working class in despair:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/07/the-incredible-crushing-despair-of-the-white-working-class/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_wonk
    Men with nothing to lose man barricades.
    There is a full blown religious war underway in the Middle East. This is a natural response to a quarter century of war, over population, ethnic cleansing and theft of resources. It will not end until Turkey, Israel and the Gulf Monarchies are brought to heel. A change of the governments in the USA, UK, France and Germany will be required before an alliance can be formed with Russia and China to eliminate the danger from the Islamic State. Until then, the holy war will continue for years or until there is no one left.

  75. Avatar Thomas says:

    “So the question such people are asking themselves is: Are people who talk such tripe fools, or knaves, or both?”
    Neither, they are malevolent destroyers of human society, a publicly proclaimed goal of this Creative Reality Cult.

  76. Avatar MRW says:

    IMO the thing we should worry about is a Hillary tantrum leading to war with Russia.
    C’mon. How else is she going to prove she’s one tough babe, a real Thatcher or Queen Elizabeth (the first one)? She can’t be a peace prez, Colonel. That’ll prove women are national security weaklings. Veni, vidi, eenie, meenie, miney, mo.

  77. Avatar Charles Michael says:

    “Europe is the prize for Russia”.
    If I read correctly apol, the expected price for Russia is a realistic, sober Europe. Russia doesn’t really need Europe on the opposite EU very much needs Russia (Russian ressources and potential for developpment).
    In fact it would be a match in heaven and the end of US unipolar world while still enforcing the White Man rule
    On second thougth I am not sure I don’t prefer this headless subservient EU.

  78. Avatar bth says:

    Check it yourself, Google Lavrov and Finland. Monday.

  79. Avatar bth says:

    It is possible Finland and Sweden may join NATO in unison. It is actively being debated. This is only happening because the Russians are creating an atmosphere of fear amongst its border states. Russia and NATO have got to dial this down.

  80. Avatar bth says:

    Do you think Britain will leave the EU? On my last visit there I came away thinking that it actually would. This is worrisome.
    As to Ukraine, I doubt it ever had a chance of joining NATO even if invited which so far as I can tell it never was. In my opinion a gross miscalculation by Putin on what the international reaction would be which will be felt now for years to come.

  81. Avatar Barish says:

    1982, actually. DIA summed up the Ikhwan-revolt from way back rather succinctly in this here document, released to the public in 2012:
    https://syria360.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/dia-syria-muslimbrotherhoodpressureintensifies-2.pdf
    Should you mistrust that particular site providing the document, you can view it here too:
    https://www.scribd.com/doc/106583424/DIA-Syria-MuslimBrotherhoodPressureIntensifies
    And as you yourself state there:
    “[…]precision bombing one at a time times several thousand which soon degrade to barrel bombs and let the rebels booby trap houses with IEDs use human shields.”
    Thus, said “rebels”, supported by various outside parties as they are – whose continued material, political and PR support is instrumental in enabling them to continue doing that -, damn themselves.

  82. Avatar Mark Logan says:

    mbrenner,
    Could Putin be saying to the Euro’s behind closed doors: “The key to stopping the refugees is ending the conflict, and if you want me to do that…”?

  83. Avatar Wonduk says:

    ISIL propaganda is preparing for the further loss of cities and territory. Promises followers eternity, that even after the death of leaders, its “Caliphate” will remain standing. Al-Naba issue 34 (7 June 2016) pushes a defiant theme that reminds me of the Nazis’ last years. For that see Serrano Smith’s “German Propaganda in Military Decline”. Could be that some of the bigger players of ISIL have already packed their bags, and are preparing for a life elsewhere. UN reports transits through Libya (S/2016/501) at http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2016/501. I think by the end of the year they’ll be back underground, much of leadership and middle management in a neighbouring country to Syria, plenty of additional hangers-on to spare. That country will then proceed to find and arrest the “ISIL number three” every couple of months.

  84. Avatar Henshaw says:

    Now if SAA cut off IS supply lines WSW of Lake Assad which I think is doable …’
    Have a closer look at the terrain. Dier Hafer to Meskene is closely settled irrigated farmland, ie lots of buildings, irrigation channels, and other obstacles that IS would be able to put to good use. Advances through this kind of terrain likely to be slow and costly. Also, use of airpower would inevitably result in the destruction of economic assets in this very productive area- things that will be needed once hostilities cease.
    Contrast that with the sparsely settled semi-desert terrain along the road south of the Tabqa airbase. Ideal for airpower to clear IS strongpoints ahead of your advance, with minimal co-lateral damage.

  85. Avatar Charles Michael says:

    The flaw on the “Bashar Al Assad cannot stay” is quite obvious. In any election process personnality matters.
    As you have illustrated by bringing-in the US actual election quigmire: entitled HC ans Jeb, gave birth to the Trump and Sanders phenomenoms.
    So apart from the legal and hugely supported BAA where will you find non-terrorist backed contenders ?
    The Russian repeated position is: peace, transition by legal Syrian Government, new constitution and elections.
    Without peace first there is no chance to let a contender emerge from the chaos in a transition period.

  86. Avatar jld says:

    Not that I disagree with your points, I could be counted among the “nobodies”, but I mean nobody with a capacity to act.

  87. Avatar jld says:

    IMO the ‘bth’ moniker has been taken over by a PR professional, and a pretty good one at that, too bad he is working for the dark side.
    The interesting question is, on whose payroll?

  88. Avatar sans racines says:

    I would agree that this is the opinion of those analysing the situation with an open mind.

  89. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Russia can do things in the Baltics to which the NATO states are powerless to respond in any meaningful way.
    There could incidents along ethno-linguistic lines in all 3 Baltic states with bombing and so forth; eventually resulting the Russian President sending Russian Army to protect Russia communities from massacre. It would called Humanitarian Intervention – the Slavic flavor.
    Russian forces would be reprising what Turkey already had done in Cyprus.
    Ultimately, NATO would not and cannot do anything. Even if Russians bisect Tallinn or all but surround Vilnius, no one, absolutely no one, in the United States or Europe would be willing to trade Los Angeles for Kaliningrad or Stockholm for Tallinn.
    One has to be able to fight a war. If NATO states are not willing to see their major cities go up in smoke and hundreds of thousands of their soldiers die and join their dead kin from WWII on the steppe, it stands to reason that recognizing the Russian sphere is the better part of valor.
    Of course, then, US Think Tanks could continue churning out their anti-Russian diatribes for the next few decades until the world changes again.

  90. Avatar Bill Herschel says:

    There has been a lot of conjecture about the relationship between ISIS and Saudi Arabia and the United States. And then there is the video of the State Department spokesperson Kirby, I believe, essentially saying that ISIS was better than Assad.
    What the conjecture (and I) miss is that, if ISIS can be construed to be an ally of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, then what does that say about the power, intelligence, and effectiveness of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia or Israel for that matter? Recall that Israel’s army is now used exclusively to kill civilians in Palestine.
    Nothing good is the answer. Nothing good. Can it be so ironic as to be the case that we spend >$500 billion a year on “Defense” and it is no good? Signs point that way. And I haven’t even mentioned the F-35.
    One wonders how long it would take the Russian forces in Syria to destroy the Harry Truman battle group.

  91. Avatar bth says:

    My point was that I don’t see the destructive difference to a city under a short siege and intense conventional artillery bombardment and a long siege with thousands of ‘smart’ bombs. Both destroy the infrastructure and innocent people. The only difference being that Assad’s dad’s approach worked in putting down rebellion and his son’s demonstratively has not.
    Further you asked me Monday if I thought Syria would fracture into essentially state-lets. I answered you with probabilities and assessments based on obtaining 3 goals (destruction of JAN, destruction of IS and negotiated confederation with Kurds) under one scenario where Russia greatly stepped up its game in Syria in August with boots on the ground (men and armor) and one scenario where they did not for a two year period. Odds of Syria staying together in 2 years were about 1:3 in the intervention scenario and almost nothing if Russia did not. Also that Assad removal was a known condition to peace by at least two governments that could prevent peace.
    So you don’t like the answer? Don’t ask the question. Then you let nearly a dozen St. Pete factory trollers ‘fill the space’ which is what the technique is called by the EU disinformation committee. Col, I am used to the incessant Russian trolling but your Borgist accusation cuts deeply.

  92. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Two items:
    “Innocent Civilians” – in the Siege of Vicksburg by Grant, the people being maimed and killed, where they, by any chance, the “guilty civilians” and thus deserving of what they got?
    “Odds…about 1:3” – how does one calculate the odds which require, in probability theory, to be based on many repeatable and repeated events. Unless you are invoking some sort of Bayesian statistics?
    I think one can have peace if one agrees to be subjugated by the other side – Mankind does not behave that way. Invoking Peace, as an ultimate metaphysical moral principle, will inevitably mean acceptance of subjugation – in my opinion.

  93. Avatar jld says:

    we spend >$500 billion a year on “Defense” and it is no good?

    The Archdruid has an interesting piece on just that and its probable causes:
    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2016/06/they-died-of-progress.html

  94. Avatar SmoothieX12 says:

    Sir, it is very difficult to explain anything to anyone who comes here not to learn but to push pretty primitive propaganda and agenda, as you do. You are not here to learn and the fact that you continue to spread basic lies (such as your repetition of grossly overstated problems with Russia’s budget, as one example)is a manifest proof of that. If you don’t know basic facts on Russia and Russian history and present state of the affairs–I am of no help to you, except repeating what I already told you: your sources on Russia are complete crap and are run either by neocons or by “Russians” such as crook and murderer Khodorkovsky and his ilk. I am ready to talk to people, even if they have different opinion than me, if they are able to communicate with real facts and avoid platitudes and blanket statements. You are not the case. Either change your “sources”, which, as I already pointed out are simply propaganda and a very incompetent one at that, or we have nothing to talk about. Good luck.

  95. Avatar bth says:

    Thanks for the correction. I don’t know why I thought 1985

  96. Avatar bth says:

    Your point is well taken but your scenario is conditioned upon the Syrian government’s crushing defeat of both JAN and IS. Neither appears likely without a large Russian ground presence to stiffing the SAA.

  97. Avatar bth says:

    So I asked you this question, “If Russia wants to reduce the anxiety level, how would she go about it? What tangible indicator would a western observer experience?” I ask this because it is a critical step in the diplomatic process of Russia and NATO countries coming together in some sort of Syrian co-strategy as I am reasonably certain issues in Ukraine and the subsequent economic sanctions on Russia are linked in the back channel to the ME policies. There is diplomatic linkage.
    Your vitriolic response answers sufficiently thank you. There isn’t going to be a progressive step(s) to reduce tensions. I am sad to hear it. It is a missed opportunity for the western world.

  98. Avatar Barish says:

    “So you don’t like the answer? Don’t ask the question. Then you let nearly a dozen St. Pete factory trollers ‘fill the space’ which is what the technique is called by the EU disinformation committee. Col, I am used to the incessant Russian trolling but your Borgist accusation cuts deeply.”
    I think we can all agree that accusations of “being a bot”, “shill” or “troll” go nowhere and are below acceptable threshold. Having said that, they should be dropped and points made be the focus.
    On to those:
    “Also that Assad removal was a known condition to peace by at least two governments that could prevent peace.”
    The problem is that there’s a lot more attached to “Assad must go!”, including forcing a hand-picked “opposition” whose only job is to execute the desires of Tayyip and al-Saud (those are the “two governments” you allude to, right?). Understandable course of action to take in those “at least two governments'” interests, but it doesn’t have much of anything to do with the Syrians themselves deciding their country’s post-war order, no?
    Now, Syrians deciding over Syria themselves as called for by the ISSG would be best translated into an election to be held, including the current head of state, Assad, and accept said election’s result. Colonel Lang himself suggested as much.
    That this does not come to pass indicates first, that Assad still has significant backing in the populace and, two, sponsors of the opposition cannot be certain it could beat that support base. Of course, one could also consider the distinct lack of any leading figure said “opposition” in the country could rally around, and observe that the “opposition” mostly meant by that term, that is the Syrian National Coalition/SNC and now HNC, for all intents and purposes only exists and acts outside the country, which doesn’t help with their popularity either.
    As for the “rebels”, who aren’t the same thing as that exile opposition, whose acts you, too, fully acknowledge, I’d like to point out that back in the day IRA expressing its demands through bombings and assassinations weren’t yielded to either by authorities. The “rebels” in Syria have meanwhile committed a far greater amount of atrocities of that kind, so why should that be yielded to rather than them renounce those ways the way practically all IRA-factions eventually did?

  99. Avatar charly says:

    In 82 there were no massive foreign support/fighters. Now there are

  100. Avatar turcopolier says:

    barish
    “Col, I am used to the incessant Russian trolling but your Borgist accusation cuts deeply.” You are accusing me? I am not “bth.” pl

  101. Avatar aleksandar says:

    You are not optimist, just a neocon.
    Only the syrian people has the rigth to decide.
    It’s called “democracy ”

  102. Avatar aleksandar says:

    ” the hungry Bear only eats Ukrainians ”
    Welcome to the Propaganda Staffel

  103. Avatar Charles Michael says:

    Good , then you have two scenarii:
    – perpetual cahos up to the moment some new found moral fortitude (or financial collapse) change the US interventionism policy. The surprise of Trump and Sanders indicate a strong change in US citizen appreciation of the purpose of politics.
    The more this cahos last the more EU will unravel
    – Merkel Reich and USA achieve their merger, all old partners in nazi Barbarosa invasion are already lined to the exception of Hungria, and let’s start the WW III ? or maybe not ?

  104. Avatar aleksandar says:

    Well…. Babak, Kaliningrad is already a russian enclave.
    I totally agree, in Europe, nobody will die for Tallinn or Vilnius

  105. Avatar aleksandar says:

    Trolls must sleep sometimes……….

  106. Avatar turcopolier says:

    aleksander
    You are calling me a troll? pl

  107. Avatar Brunswick says:

    There is not much “Russia” can do.
    The “tensions” are not there because of Russian actions, they are there because of the Borgist actions, and Russia’s responses to what are “real” red lines for Russian National Security.
    Russia’s choices are pretty simple, either stand up to and try to defeat the Borgist Agenda with a minimal amount of military power, careful diplomacy and out manuvering the Borgists,
    Or roll over, disarm, break up into tiny enclaves and hand the wealth and resources of Russia over to the Borgist’s.

  108. Avatar Brunswick says:

    How is it a gross miscalculation?
    He got to keep Crimea, the Donbass is breaking the Ukraine and the West is stuck with the bills propping the festering mass of corruption and Nazism barely afloat.

  109. Avatar SmoothieX12 says:

    Don’t even bother with responses. He is here not for a discussion.

  110. Avatar Bill Herschel says:

    b ≠ bth IMHO b is good

  111. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think US Intervention policies are supported lock, stock, and barrel by EU. That some of the consequences have come to hurt EU interests in the short term has not caused any re-evaluation or soul-searching in US or in EU among the foreign policy elites and decision makers.
    In the Near East, in the world of Islam, I think US & EU position is devoid of any believable positive view of the future.
    I understand what you state about “chaos” – but I think excepting perhaps Somalia, the chaos is more apparent than real.
    India is a far more “chaotic” place and yet it functions – but not at the level of Madrid or even Vilnius.

  112. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thanks.
    In regards to Kaliningrad, I was trying to allude to NATO’s current ability to choke it and also choke Saint Petersburg through its naval and air assets.
    It would be a one-shot thing, before the war really starts.
    EU is a nice place, I wonder if her leaders have a death-wish at times.

  113. Avatar bth says:

    Barish the DIA referenced report you linked to was was excellent. The map in the report on 1982 is strikingly similar to the current Syrian battleline.

  114. Avatar Thomas says:

    Sir,
    That was bth’s response to your June 8th 3:29 pm comment, his followed below on June 9th 10:08.
    Final paragraph from bth:
    So you don’t like the answer? Don’t ask the question. Then you let nearly a dozen St. Pete factory trollers ‘fill the space’ which is what the technique is called by the EU disinformation committee. Col, I am used to the incessant Russian trolling but your Borgist accusation cuts deeply.”
    I am “guilty” of this sin if speaking the truth about world as it is identifies one as a Russian.

  115. Avatar Ghost ship says:

    Be wart of attaching any importance to claims of sectarian behaviour by Iraqi militias and the Iraqi Army that originate in GCC-controlled media. The sectarianism in the Middle East originates from the Wahhabi camp rather than the Iranian camp.
    There has been much made of the cruel treatment handed out to Sunnis in Fallujah but the New York Times reports differently:
    Shiite militias have played a prominent role in the offensive to retake Falluja after nearly three years of Islamic State rule. But because of that, the battle is playing out amid persistent worries that the campaign could intensify the sectarian tensions that are tearing the country apart.
    The Sunni extremist fighters for the Islamic State have warned civilians that the Shiite militias would slaughter them in revenge attacks whenever possible. The news media in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries have framed the battle in crass sectarian terms, warning that Iran’s militias were intent on killing Sunnis.
    But for the most part, civilians who have fled the areas around Falluja have said they had tired of the grim life under the Islamic State and had been treated well by the militias and Iraqi soldiers.
    “We were surprised that they treated us so well,” said a man at a camp who was in his 50s and gave his name as Abu Muhammad, standing on Sunday outside his tent. “Daesh had told us the Shiites wanted revenge and would kill us.”
    Instead, he said, he was given cookies and orange juice.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/07/world/middleeast/iraqis-who-flee-falluja-find-hardship-and-hunger.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
    Most of the problems affecting the refugees seem to be down to a lack of care and resources – perhaps the people so responsible for this problem could contribute to its resolution. Tony Blair (£27M) and Dick Cheney($30M-$100M) come to mind. Either that or they should STFU.
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/08/tony-blair-accuses-jeremy-corbyn-of-standing-by-as-syria-is-bombed

  116. Avatar bth says:

    Bill it is false statement that the US is supporting ISIS. Why do you persist with that theme? Admittedly US approach to IS hasn’t always been effective but it is getting better gradually.
    There are literally thousands of Americans fighting IS in at least three countries.
    The best current book I’ve found on ISIS is “A History of ISIS” by Fawaz A. Gerges which was just published 2016

  117. Avatar bth says:

    Barish, I never said I agreed with the “Assad must go” stipulation. It was laid out in diplomatic discussions. I said it exists. Turks and Saudis and some Europeans have been adamant about it. Short of astonishing battlefield victories by the Syrian government, these other players will have a veto on certain outcomes.

  118. Avatar bth says:

    Babak Makkinejad, As was discussed earlier in the week, there would be three milestones required to maintain Syria as a unified territory – defeat of JAN, defeat of ISIS, and a negotiated arrangement with the Kurds and remaining Sunni Arab groups and the regime compromise sufficiently to suite Syria’s neighbors to allow a peace and common government for at least a few years. Those three requirements had probabilities that increase with ‘the all in’ Russian involvement later this summer and drop to near impossible without it. This is because the Syrian army has proven unable to make and hold great territory and the Syrian government is effectively bankrupt.
    I would like to say that Kerry and Lavrov have worked out some master deal to ease off tensions in eastern Europe and collaborate as western civilization in the destruction of IS and al-Qaeda. This is probably necessary. But with each passing day, the odds of a positive outcome to such diplomatic efforts fade. If it isn’t accomplished in the next few months, it will not happen until at least a year into the next US administration. I do not now see the political will necessary to compromise/collaborate between Russia and NATO for the common good even if Kerry/Lavrov have the outline of a path. That is my opinion. I was much more optimistic in April.

  119. Avatar bth says:

    Your point about terrain along the river bottom SW of Lake Assad is well taken. But I counted only 6 bridges for many miles and only one paved one I could see (M4?). Anyway Col. Lang suggested that instead of destruction of the bridges from the air as I had proposed that disruption supply routes might also be accomplished in that zone with firebases and buried mines. This seems like a better I to me though it should be noted IS will destroy bridges when they lose their usefulness in any event.
    I’ve just been watching trucking routes for awhile now on the theory that IS needs to trade heavy commodities like diesel and agricultural products for cash and those trucks require bridges to get to Turkey, JAN type rebels or even the Syrian regime. Advances last week by Kurds/US on the northern side of Lake Assad mean that this southern route is key for IS to link to Turkey. It is a landmark they will have to fight for if those bridges are made impassable.

  120. Avatar bth says:

    There is no force structure of men or machines or political will in the US or NATO to attack Russia and hasn’t been for at least a decade or more. It is whipped up hysteria. Substantial, even overwhelming, common interest between Russia and US/NATO in the ME are overshadowed by posturing and adventurism in eastern Europe from all main parties. Diplomats can only do so much in this political environment.

  121. Avatar Audrieau says:

    Like your general prognosis, but why should Assad step down? He has a very high popularity rating with Syrians. Surely it is their call who governs them.

  122. Avatar FB Ali says:

    An excellent analysis of the situation in the ME, and the US involvement in it, is provided by Amb Chas Freeman at:
    http://tinyurl.com/gtz82su

  123. Avatar Barish says:

    You are certainly not wrong about “astonishing battlefield victories” being a key argument to, eventually, more or less gracefully drop that demand.
    These developments here towards Tabqa:
    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/airstrikes-pound-isis-tabqa-airbase-ahead-planned-syrian-army-offensive/
    as well as, at the same time, further progress towards a link with Deir ez-Zor:
    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-enters-oil-rich-region-east-homs/
    may just build up toward such victories in the field. One favorite argument among MSM-pundits is that Assad “only controls 30% of the country’s territory”. Meaningless upon closer scrutiny as that line may be, once the routes in the eastern Syrian desert are secured and thus, effectively, government control restored there, that argument will be disproven.

  124. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your comments.
    I believe only war and guns will decide the fate of Syria and those would be those of SAR, Iran, Russia.
    I think the United States and EU are Johnny-come-latelies – for an entire year they were playing the phony war against ISIS – and their participation is not going to be decisive in determining the fate of Syria.
    That is the issue, isn’t it, “the absence of political will in DC” to end the War of Containment of Iran and the Struggle to Contain Russia?
    You cannot protect people from the negative consequences of their own actions

  125. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think that Saudi Arabia has been very successful in frightening Sunni Arabs everywhere that the Shia are out to get them. In Algeria, the popular notion, propagated by Saudis and other Gulfies, is that Iranians specifically is out to force them into the Shia religion and take away their religion from them.

  126. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    Tony Blair is the enemy of Shia.

  127. F.B. Ali,
    Thanks for the link. I have much admired Ambassador Freeman, and what he had to say in these remarks about how we got into the morass in which we find ourselves seemed to me extremely cogent and illuminating.
    Then however, in his discussion of how we might scramble out of the quagmire – as it were – I came across remarks about the role the Saudis might play that seemed to me, frankly, pie in the sky.
    ‘It will require the Saudis and their allies to back away from the policies based on Salafi sectarianism they have followed for the better part of this decade and reembrace the tolerance that is at the heart of Islam.’
    As you know better than I – and as Alastair Crooke has pointed out repeatedly – the British ‘devil’s pact’ with the Saudi Wahhabists, which the United States took over, is hardly a recent development, but goes back a very long way.
    A significant part of the history of events since the turn of the century seems to have to do with this ‘devil’s pact’ blowing up in our faces – and also those of the Saudi Royals.
    The hope that, somehow, this means that those Royals can be expected to ‘change their spots’ has quite palpably been central to much ‘mainstream’ thinking in Britain – and continues to be so.
    To more and more of us, however, the notion that they are likely to do so has come to seem about as credible as the parallel suggestion that the Israelis are going to get serious about the ‘two-state solution’.
    In this connection, a piece just published by Patrick Cockburn, under the title ‘What Tony Blair Revealed During His Criticism of Corbyn Is Interesting’, may be relevant.
    (http://www.unz.com/pcockburn/what-tony-blair-revealed-during-his-criticism-of-corbyn-is-interesting/ .)
    The central point he makes is that although in the wake of the invasion of Iraq, Blair himself is almost universally reviled here, his successors have continued to pursue Middle Eastern policies based on precisely the same thinking that was responsible for that catastrophe.
    ‘Blair is often criticised for his close commercial and political relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies but what he does is no different, even if it is more blatant, than other Western politicians. The struggle to defeat Isis is taking so long because the US, Britain, France and others are trying to overcome the extreme Islamists without damaging their strategic alliance with the autocracies of the Middle East.’
    However, I think these ‘Western politicians’ simply to not understand the revolutionary effects on non-neglible strands of opinion in their own countries of the impression they have created that they are not really serious about fighting the ‘Islamic State’.
    They really are risking the appearance of a new narrative, which borders upon being one about treason.

  128. Babak Makkinejad,
    He is also the most hated man in Britain, by a very long way. So, in terms of British public opinion, interventions of this kind by him are rather good news for the Shia.

  129. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think this is fine as far as it discusses the mistakes of the NATO states in the world of Islam.
    But, I think, the author’s remedies are fantasies. To wit:
    The author suggests that the Gulfies reclaim Iraq from the Iranian sphere by exploiting the differences between Najaf and Qum. This is like the Pope trying to exploit the differences between the Baptists and the Methodists to make the Baptists (re-)join the Catholic Church.
    Or better yet, like Russia trying to exploit the differences between Italy and France to get Italy to join her in an alliance against the rest of EU.
    The other fantasies are US leaning on either Israel or the Gulfies to mend their ways and they actually conform to that diktat.
    I am surprised that he is unwilling to even discuss the proposal of Ali Shamkhani regarding American and Iranian spheres – he is an experienced diplomat and he is familiar with the Peace of Yalta which was based on exactly that in Europe.

  130. Avatar FB Ali says:

    David, I quite agree with you that Freeman’s remarks re the Saudis are, frankly, poppycock (and not just the one you quote). His recommendations for what they should do in future are sensible, but are totally theoretical – there is no chance of the Saudis and their Salafi allies following them.
    I ascribe this departure from the essential realism of the rest of his talk to the venue in which it took place. The Centre for the National Interest (it was previously known as the Nixon Centre) is probably the beneficiary of Saudi largesse (they are being very generous with donations these days), and it would have been awkward for him to be too blunt about their patron. He may also still have some connections to them.

  131. Avatar Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree, good diagnosis of the disease, weak on cure.

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