MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

How rock star Roger Waters was hung out to dry by Amnesty and Bellingcat for his views on Syrian ‘chemical attack’ — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on October 15, 2020

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/503461-roger-waters-douma-syria/

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist.

A leaked phone call reveals that outside pressure caused Amnesty to pull its promotion of a webinar featuring Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters – a vocal skeptic of the Douma ‘chemical attack’ that prompted Western powers to bomb Syria.

In August this year, environmental pressure group Amazon Watch broadcast an online panel discussion in support of Steven Donziger, a crusading attorney who dared try to hold US energy giant Chevron to account for widespread environmental destruction in the Amazon, and was left fighting for his life, livelihood and liberty as a result.

In February 2011, Chevron was found liable by an Ecuadorian court for contamination resulting from crude oil production in the region by its subsidiary Texaco between 1964 and 1992, in a legal action that was many years in the making and led by Donziger.

Chevron is yet to pay a penny of the settlement though, for the landmark ruling was overturned in March 2014 by a US Federal Court on highly dubious grounds – in reaching his decision, presiding Judge Lewis A. Kaplan relied heavily on the evidence of a former Ecuadorian justice who subsequently admitted to fabricating his testimony. Donziger has since been charged with contempt of court and sat under house arrest for over a year awaiting trial.

Donziger himself was present on the Amazon Watch webinar that August evening, and was joined by a number of prominent campaigners, including Simon Taylor, founder of NGO Global Witness, and Roger Waters, co-founder of rock institution Pink Floyd.

The talk was widely promoted in advance by a number of prominent human rights activists, and NGOs, perhaps most prominently Amnesty International.

However, the organization’s endorsement triggered a deluge of criticism on social media from a number of notorious advocates for regime change in Syria. This led to a post advertising the webinar published by Amnesty USA’s official Twitter account the day before broadcast to mysteriously disappear without explanation.

I would appeal to @amnestyusa not to promote this event given Roger Waters participation because slandered #WhiteHelmets repeating Russian propaganda putting their lives at risk when saved over 150,000 lives & cannot remain silent as know them well as a filmmaker @SyriaCivilDefhttps://t.co/8e311Xcj2S— Ronan L Tynan (@RonanLTynan) August 5, 2020

In response to one critic, Amnesty UK Campaigns Manager Kristyan Benedict said promoting the talk was “not good at all” and confirmed that the offending tweet had “been deleted.”

Yep – not good at all – it’s been deleted.— kristyan benedict (@KreaseChan) August 5, 2020

A leaked recording of a September 25 phone call between Waters and two senior staffers at Amnesty International USA – Matt Vogel, head of artist relations, and Tamara Draut, chief impact officer – sheds fascinating light on the episode.

At the start of the conversation, Waters recalls he was not only informed Amnesty would promote the panel discussion on Twitter in advance, but also personally retweeted the endorsement so it reached his circa 375,000 followers at the organization’s express request.

However, an associate informed him just before the webinar began that they couldn’t locate the post. When the talk was over, he went about getting to the bottom of the tweet’s absence.

After conducting “a bit of sleuthing,” he determined that the removal followed pressure being brought to bear by a number of individuals, in particular his “old adversary” Eliot Higgins, founder of controversial website Bellingcat, due to Waters’ views on the Syrian Civil Defense, aka White Helmets. Seeking answers, he attempted to reach out to Amnesty, but was repeatedly stonewalled before finally being put in touch with Vogel and Draut.

In response, Draut confirmed that the tweet’s removal was indeed prompted by a “difference of opinion” on the White Helmets. “We believe they’re really champions for human rights, and have fought for their protection and freedom. When the tweet went up on our end, it wasn’t fully vetted as it should’ve been, and immediately we heard from folks in the White Helmets, asking why we were promoting you, due to comments you’ve made about them. We also heard from other Syrian human rights activists, who were quite hurt by our support of you…” she began, before Waters interrupts, asking what relevance his views on the group has to “the plight of rainforest dwellers in northern Ecuador.”

“People interpreted our promotion of an event at which you were speaking as promoting your position on the White Helmets. I got involved in this process too late, I wouldn’t have taken down the tweet, that’s not the policy I like to follow, I would’ve much rather dealt with this openly and honestly…” Draut explains.

Waters made headlines the world over in April 2018, when he stopped mid-set during a concert in Barcelona to talk about a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, which had allegedly taken place six days earlier.

Branding the White Helmets a “fake organization” creating “propaganda for jihadists and terrorists,” he suggested that Western public opinion was being manipulated in order that “we would be encouraged to encourage our governments to go and start dropping bombs on people.” Mere hours later, his prediction came to pass, as France, the UK and US carried out a series of military strikes against multiple government sites in the country.

In May 2019, Waters was again the subject of intense criticism when he claimed on his official Facebook page that a leaked document had vindicated his position. The file in question was an engineering report produced by an Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding team that visited Douma in the days following the contested strike, which concluded there was a “higher probability” that cylinders found at two locations in Douma, alleged by the White Helmets to have been dropped from Syrian Air Force helicopters, were “manually placed… rather than being delivered from aircraft.”

Photos of the cylinders circulated widely in the Western media and on social networks in the wake of the claimed incident. Such images, along with footage of Douma residents being hosed down in hospitals, children seemingly foaming at the mouth, and piles of dead bodies in a housing complex – all produced and disseminated by the White Helmets – were all damning evidence offered in favor of the idea that the Syrian government had targeted civilians with chemical weapons, a notion which in turn provided Paris, London and Washington with a pretext for military intervention.

The OPCW team’s dissenting appraisal was, for reasons unclear, entirely unmentioned in the organization’s final report on Douma, published two months prior to Waters’ Facebook post.

Despite making few if any public comments about the White Helmets or the ongoing crisis in Syria since, Waters has nonetheless been subject to an unending deluge of online abuse from their Western supporters.

Back on the call, an indignant Waters cites a since-deleted tweet from Eliot Higgins, which stated that Amnesty International “needs to explain why Roger Waters is an appropriate person to talk about human rights.” Rather than responding constructively to the question, the organization opted to simply yield to critical pressure.

Read the rest here

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What U.S. Troops Are Really Doing In Syria | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on September 25, 2020

One of the greatest contradictions in Washington’s Syria policy is not the reason(s) that we’re there but the fact that we haven’t left. At least twice now, there has been an order to withdraw that has never been carried out.

U.S. policy toward Syria is defined by an absurdity that can’t be neatly untangled—a low-intensity regime change mission defined as anything other than its central mission. Every now and then, we’re offered a new explanation for why our troops are in Syria. At this point, the best response is to say, “enough is enough.”

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/what-us-troops-are-really-doing-syria-169410

by Michael Hall

James Mattis famously resigned from his secretary of defense post citing opposition to President Donald Trump’s order to remove U.S. troops from Syria. So it came as a mild surprise when it was recently confirmed that Mattis opposed a plan to assassinate Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria. This opposition was a prudent move as deposing Assad would not end Syria’s civil war but throw the country into deeper chaos. But this seeming incongruity of Mattis the hawk contra Mattis the dove is representative of the larger contradictions in Washington’s Syria policy.

 

These contradictions arise from the fact that U.S. policy in Syria has always been centered around opposition to Assad, rather than the defeat of ISIS, whose caliphate was destroyed long before Trump’s withdrawal order.

 

Perhaps this contradiction is most glaringly seen in the justifications Washington offers for the U.S. military presence in Syria. We are frequently told we’re there for one reason only to be given a new reason a few months later. It’s hard not to notice.

We were told the ISIS caliphate had to be defeated. But they lost their last scrap of territory in March 2019. Denied a physical base of operations, those going under the name of ISIS today are—as far as legitimate U.S. interests are concerned—indistinguishable from any other ragtag Sunni militias. But a defeated ISIS still wasn’t enough to convince Washington to withdraw.

 

ISIS’s caliphate was destroyed, completing the military mission that brought U.S. troops to the country. Why then are our soldiers still there? We’ve also been told they’re over there to counter Iran (which, by the way, had the same goal of destroying the ISIS caliphate).

 

Years ago, we were told that it’s important to be in Syria to counter Russia too. But today this mission—if it can be called that—amounts to the occasional road rage incident involving convoys representing the world’s only two nuclear superpowers pathetically struggling for space on a road or wheat field. It’s notable that this reason was recently revived to justify the decision to send more troops to Syria.

We’re also told that it’s important to support the Kurds and, though Washington has been quieter on this front lately, we were once told training and equipping anti-Assad militants was also vital. This latter notion resulted in an embarrassing situation where the CIA’s favored militants were fighting the Pentagon’s favored militants. These local groups have their own interests, but they shouldn’t be confused for America’s interests.

 

More recently, President Trump has touted a plan to “secure the oil” and his administration has paved the way for a U.S. company to manage some oil fields in the war-torn country. Trump has cited this as a reason for keeping the last few hundred U.S. troops in Syria. The thing is, ensuring American access to Syrian oil demands a certain level of security. More bluntly, it necessitates an endless occupation of Syria.

But, like any of the above reasons, it would be a mistake to accept that oil serves as the principal justification for the U.S. presence in Syria.

 

Trump has also defended the decision to keep a small contingent of troops in Syria by stating that Israel and Jordan asked him to keep our forces there. This justification was reaffirmed in a recent Trump rally where the president characteristically stated off-the-cuff, “The fact is, we don’t have to be in the Middle East, other than we want to protect Israel. We’ve been very good to Israel.”

What are we to make of this flurry of reasons for staying in Syria? It may be a little bit of each, but the overarching reason has always been to engage in a campaign of “regime change-lite,” tragically keeping Syria territorially divided in a simmering civil war and making Syrians bear the brunt of any—and there are many—negative consequences. This is why the United States originally armed anti-Assad rebels and why troops that were ostensibly sent to defeat ISIS have remained after the fall of the caliphate.

 

But viewing all these reasons together, it is dizzying to keep track of them. It is perhaps tempting to just take Trump at his word and assume that we’re actually there for the oil. While the amount of oil in Syria is a significant amount for Syrians, it’s nowhere near enough to be a vital concern for the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, the amount of oil in Syria is not even two percent of what Iran or Iraq boast, never mind America’s own status as the number one oil producer in the world.

In fact, this is what’s striking about all of the above reasons in this list—not one of the justifications is about something vital to the security of the United States. Instead of carefully deconstructing each reason, this bird’s eye view is all we need to make sense of this confusing list of inconsistent and constantly evolving justifications for staying in Syria.

 

One of the greatest contradictions in Washington’s Syria policy is not the reason(s) that we’re there but the fact that we haven’t left. At least twice now, there has been an order to withdraw that has never been carried out.

U.S. policy toward Syria is defined by an absurdity that can’t be neatly untangled—a low-intensity regime change mission defined as anything other than its central mission. Every now and then, we’re offered a new explanation for why our troops are in Syria. At this point, the best response is to say, “enough is enough.”

 

We don’t need to keep playing this game of roulette where Washington spins the wheel and tells us why our troops are there—it’s a racket and should be recognized as such. Syria’s problems aren’t our problems and the only sensible option that comports with U.S. interests is a full withdrawal of American forces.

Michael R. Hall is the communications manager of Defense Priorities and a geopolitical analyst. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelryhall.

Be seeing you

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Syria Boondoggle: Who’s Ready to Die in Vain? – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on September 22, 2020

Finally, take a breath and remember the trivial scale of what this latest reinforcement is actually immediately responding to. No shots were fired in a side-swiping road rage incident on Syria’s Mad Max-like roads. As a result, seven American troops – who shouldn’t have been in the damn country in the first place – were treated for concussion-like symptoms and have already returned to duty.

https://original.antiwar.com/?p=2012340985

Mark my words: an American soldier will soon die for next to nothing in Syria. Here’s a mission that takes all the absurdity of America’s post-9/11 wars of choice to their logical conclusion. As such, this muddled and aimless operation must stand forever tall in the pantheon of U.S. foreign policy folly – right up there with the three Seminole Wars (1817-18, 1835-42, 1855-58, 1,608 dead troops); Nicaraguan “Banana Wars” (1910, 1912-25, 1927-33, 159 dead); the Russian Civil War’s “Siberia” intervention (1918-20, 424 dead); “Desert One” botched Iran hostage rescue (1980, 8 dead); Beirut “peacekeeping” (1982-84, 265 dead); the Grenada invasion (1983, 19 dead); and Somalia (1992-94, 43 dead). So, in Trump’s defense – and that of the Washington crowd that’s repeatedly pressured him to stay the Syria course – his latest folly is in good company.

Of course, US service-members have already died in Syria – about ten so far. Not that many Americans much noticed. When the last soldier died in a “very unfortunate mishap,” General Kenneth P. Ekman, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (the ongoing mission in Iraq and Syria) assured reporters that there were “no indications that any Russian activity existed in the area” or that the patrol was “anything other than a normal patrol.” Have no fear though, since Ekman added that the deceased was “important to the mission.”

Well now, amidst a whole range of post-Russiagate alarmism, an Afghan “bounty” scandal that wasn’t, and in response to the (gasp!) Russian “ramming” of an American party three weeks ago, Washington is sending in reinforcements to buck up that US military non-mission in Syria. This ought to up the odds of another service-member dying for nothing, or, if we’re really lucky – kick off an unnecessary shooting war with the world’s only other nuclear superpower. Either way, we’ll largely have the Trump-obsessed Democrats and hawkish establishment Republicans to blame.

So what sort of cavalry is inbound to save the day and – per the New York Times headline – “counter the Russians” in Syria? You guessed it: just enough to get a handful of Americans killed and/or spark a foolish fight, but far too few to change the combat calculus on the ground. Wait for it now. The Pentagon just added about 100 troops – some mechanized infantry, Sentinel radar and an increased the frequency of fighter jet patrols – to the existent 500 or so soldiers in Syria. Striking!

Well, what will they do there exactly? Demonstrate “US resolve to defend Coalition forces in the [Eastern Syria Security Area], and to ensure that they are able to continue their Defeat-ISIS mission without interference,” according to the lifeless email language of US Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban. But wait – I thought this essential infusion of troops was meant to counter the nefarious Russians. No, no, Uncle Sam only sends its armed peacemakers 6,000 miles from home to defend themselves, God, country, and worldwide freedom, naturally. After all, Urban added, “The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation in Syria, but will defend Coalition forces if necessary.” That’s refreshing.

This much is increasingly, if disturbingly, clear: the folks reporting, advising, and crafting strategy for Syria, haven’t the faintest idea about what’s really going on there. Seriously, it’s no longer mandatory for pundits, politicians, or policymakers to know any things about Syria in order to tell us what to think, and decide what to do in our name.

The cycle of farce goes something like this: partisan self-styled “experts” gin up an ostensible interest in a far-flung land; then send in some troops, who enter a confusing complexity that looks nothing like they’d been briefed; a few get killed; their bodies are flown in the night to that ubiquitous Dover, Delaware airbase; then, either no one notices nor remembers why they’d been deployed in the first place, or chickenhawk pundits and politicians wave their flag-draped coffins to blame Russia, Iran, or whichever “enemy” favor-of-the-moment will win them partisan points. Rinse and repeat – devastated mothers and spouses from forgotten corners of America be damned!

So back to that inevitably future dead American soldier(s). Let us review just what he or she will die for exactly when his or her vehicle accidentally rolls over, aircraft crashes, patrol is bombed, or a futile firefight goes south. Well there’s always the ISIS-defeat sub-mission (disingenuously billed as Inherent Resolve’s inherent resolution raison d’être) – but the caliphate is kaput and the pervading presence of America’s infidel crusaders only justifies the jihadis lingering terror campaign. Then there’s the mission that speaks Trump’s language – protecting the corrupt and illegal concessions of Delta Crescent Energy. In other words staying on in Syria, “only for the oil” – according to the president. Of course, it’s not much oil – only an anemic 24,000 barrels per day – something like 1/500th the daily output of Saudi Arabia. So that by itself won’t do.

Enter the establishment favorite mission not-so-secretly proffered by foreign policy insiders in-the-know: “Stay in Syria to Counter Iran” (a Republican congressman in The Hill); for “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders” (former National-Security Adviser John Bolton); lest we “hand northern Syria to Turkey” as a “gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS” (per former Syria special envoy, Brett McGurk, in CNBC); otherwise, “Russia Is Pleased to Fill an American Void” (New York Times).

All of which amounts to what a rare astute Atlantic headline diagnosed as “America’s Indefinite Endgame in Syria.” And that’s just what this madness is – an indefinite, intractable intervention without any positive prospects or exit strategy to speak of. In other words, par for the strategically senseless post-9/11 American course.

You know, I remember all the right-wing (and alarmist, if not altogether inaccurate) pejorative pronouncements about a “feckless” President Barack Obama. Yet what if not feckless should we call a current commander-in-chief who’s repeatedly – and ironically – allowed himself to be bullied into maintaining multiple Mideast missions he’s persistently promised to end? I thought The Donald was supposed to be a tough guy, a truth-teller, a system-shaker, and altogether above the swamp-like establishment fray. That was all bunk – as oughta been obvious from Jump Street.

No, President Trump’s foreign policy is at best a vaguely transactional web of ignorance, insecurity and cognitive dissonance. Heck, this new deployment came on the same day the man declared that American troops “are out of Syria,” except to guard oil fields – “Other than that, we are out of Syria.” Plus, none of Trump’s meager troop and equipment infusions have a chance in hell of deranged Democrats made mad by the smell of impending electoral blood.

It’s too very late for all that. No, the opposition-in-waiting has already seized on the vehicle-ramming-episode to reemphasize Trump’s supposed failure to challenge Moscow’s meddling, over-hyped electoral interference, and unproven bounty program in Afghanistan (evidence for this “searched for” but as yet unseen, per, you know, Gen. Frank McKenzie, US military commander of the entire Middle East).

In fact, Trump’s current Syria reinforcement comes three full weeks after his November opponent Joe Biden rebuked him in a Pennsylvania speech for failing to publicly address the Russia-“altercation” in Syria: “Did you hear the president say a single word? Did he lift one finger?” Yet now that The Donald has acquiesced to lifting about 100 (sets of ten) extra troop fingers in the region, don’t expect any applause, retractions, or rebuke-relief from his opponents in both wings of the hawkish duopoly. And whatever you do, don’t expect anything approaching victory, meaningful improvement, or even marginal alteration of the facts on the Syrian ground as a result of a few additional armored vehicles, radars, and combat aircraft sorties. The mission remains a quixotic quagmire – as all asinine adventures must.

All the while, in reading the key mainstream media headlines and obligatory politician soundbites on this latest Syria reinforcement, I’ve yet to hear tell of one salient, if inconvenient, fact: the Russians, unlike Uncle Sam’s usurpers, were invited to Syria. Now, I don’t think for a second that the host, Assad, is a do-gooder, or that Putin patronized the party out of the kindness of his heart. Still, General McKenzie’s word choice for his Russia-blaming last week felt strangely obtuse, yet uncritically accepted by his New York Times interviewers. “They [Russian troops] were in an area they were not supposed to be,” he said. “They were not in an area that they had received permission to go to. And their actions were frankly reckless at the tactical level.” Says who? Permission from whom? – one might ask, in a country with a truly independent and oppositional free press.

Oh, and here’s another tidbit to ruminate over: the Assad regime’s Moscow/Tehran-assisted de facto victory in the Syrian Civil War is hardly a setback for “core US interests.” Rather, it amounts to little more than the pre-2011 status quo. Assad’s relationships with Russia and Iran are decades old, and the Washington never had much influence or interest in Damascus anyway. The original (purported) mission in Syria is now obsolete.

The Islamic State’s physical caliphate is history, and none of the players in Syria’s conflict cornucopia would countenance its reprise – not Assad, Putin, Khameini, nor the Kurds; heck, probably not even Turkey’s Erdogan. Postwar Syria is a broken mess, a less serviceable ally for Moscow or Tehran, and a Levantine land full of risks and without detectable reward. So, let’s keep our troops out of needless harm’s way, and let the “bad boys” have the place.

Finally, take a breath and remember the trivial scale of what this latest reinforcement is actually immediately responding to. No shots were fired in a side-swiping road rage incident on Syria’s Mad Max-like roads. As a result, seven American troops – who shouldn’t have been in the damn country in the first place – were treated for concussion-like symptoms and have already returned to duty.

Per McKenzie, again: “What saved the situation was the very good judgment of small unit US Army commanders on the ground…I’m just glad I got those kind of people out there making decisions.” Well, ole Kenneth now has 100 more good people of sound judgment to order around in this meaningless maelstrom.

Some are bound to get killed. Thanks Obama Donald!

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer, contributing editor at Antiwar.com, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy (CIP), and director of the soon-to-launch Eisenhower Media Network (EMN). His work has appeared in the NY Times, LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, The American Conservative, Mother Jones, ScheerPost and Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge and Patriotic Dissent: America in the Age of Endless War. Along with fellow vet Chris “Henri” Henriksen, he co-hosts the podcast “Fortress on a Hill.” Follow him on Twitter @SkepticalVet and on his website for media requests and past publications.

Be seeing you

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

How ignorant British policy inflamed the war in Syria  | Middle East Eye

Posted by M. C. on June 2, 2020

In the first years of his presidency, Assad was warmly welcomed in London and even met the Queen. The British Syrian Society brought dozens of MPs to Syria before the war, and beyond official British visits, a glance at the society’s events page shows a who’s who of the UK’s top business, political and social elite.  

When the war began, however, the government was not interested in talking or listening, as Cameron appeared to be driven by a Blair-esque desire for righteous wars. Yet, MPs historically defeated Cameron and the Foreign Office’s push in 2013 to launch attacks on Syria, seeing a lack of strategy in the endgame. 

https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/how-ignorant-british-policy-inflamed-war-syria

Kamal Alam

A 2017 BBC Panorama investigation showed how UK aid money was being diverted to terrorist funding in Syria without basic checks and balances. Jonathan Foreman’s book Aiding and Abetting previously argued that British aid in general has proved counterproductive because of a lack of proper research and application.

The recent MEE revelations about British propaganda efforts in Syria further undermine the UK’s rationale for its divisive policy, casting a grim light on its supposed neutrality in foreign conflicts.

Questioning UK policy

Several former British ambassadors to Syria were opposed to the UK’s foreign manoeuvring during the early days of the war, before all hell broke loose and Syria spiralled into a regional conflict. So what was the UK’s endgame? Was it to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, or just weaken him – or was it complete regime change?

The UK’s actions certainly have not contributed to stability. This is all the more alarming, as more than any other Western country, the UK had forged close ties with the Syrian government, with dozens of MPs visiting Syria before the war broke out. Many diplomats and military officials with knowledge, experience and insights into Syria have questioned the UK’s policy.

The UK has been obsessed with the ‘Assad must go’ notion, which has inhibited rational policy

Joshua Landis, a leading Syria expert in the US, wrote in 2011 that the Syrian government would likely survive, and that there would have to be a negotiated way out of the conflict.

Similarly, the late Patrick Seale, whose books on prewar Syria top the reading list on the Levant, argued that the opposition was not united and regime change would fail, citing the need for a negotiated path.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s adviser, Ed Husain, argued the same narrative in 2011. But these warnings were not heeded. Instead, the UK took an exceptionally hostile approach to Syria, without looking to the consequences.

Confused and hostile

The UK arguably led the US into going headstrong into Syria, even as Libya had begun to unravel. Former US President Barack Obama, in an Atlantic interview, launched an astonishing attack on former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, arguing that he took his eye off the ball without finishing the job in Libya, and then moved on to Syria, urging war there.

David Lesch, author of The New Lion of Damascus, has told me several times that after his meetings with both the UK and US leaderships in the early days of the war, it was the British who seemed confused and more hostile towards Damascus.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at a Syria donors’ conference in central London in 2016 (AFP)
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at a Syria donors’ conference in central London in 2016 (AFP)

In the first years of his presidency, Assad was warmly welcomed in London and even met the Queen. The British Syrian Society brought dozens of MPs to Syria before the war, and beyond official British visits, a glance at the society’s events page shows a who’s who of the UK’s top business, political and social elite.

When the war began, however, the government was not interested in talking or listening, as Cameron appeared to be driven by a Blair-esque desire for righteous wars. Yet, MPs historically defeated Cameron and the Foreign Office’s push in 2013 to launch attacks on Syria, seeing a lack of strategy in the endgame.

Then and since, the UK has been obsessed with the “Assad must go” notion, which has inhibited rational policy. Anyone who suggests the opposite is declared an “Assadist” or regime supporter. The then chairman of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, had written in The Telegraph that removing Assad was not the solution. The chairman of the Defence Committee, Julian Lewis, also argued similarly on the BBC and the Guardian.

They clearly did not see an overall policy or strategy in Syria. If the two most fundamental oversight committees in Parliament were not convinced that says a lot.

‘Politics by other means’

Military leaders studying Clausewitz are taught that “war is a continuation of politics by other means”. Once the war had peaked, the UK’s former defence chief told CNN that it would be better to let Assad win and negotiate.

REVEALED: The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria

Read More »

Other leading generals, including Sir Simon Mayall, a former UK top military adviser in the Middle East, have suggested that UK policy was hampered by “wishful thinking” and ignorance. Former army chief General Richard Dannatt said the solution lay in working with Assad to talk and end the war.

Two decorated former heads of British special forces, Jonathan Shaw and John Holmes, both told me previously how wrong the UK had been with regards to Syria. Former British ambassador Sir Roger Tomkys also told me that the UK was wrong in jumping the gun to oust Assad, and three former ambassadors have voiced publicly their opposition as well.

The UK’s support of clandestine groups that were terrorists, coupled with propaganda support to spread divisions and hatred, inflamed the war in Syria. There has never been a proper strategy; far from it.

Be seeing you

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Coronavirus Means America Is Really Broke. Trump Should Get the Hell Out of Syria. | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

The U.S. is broke. Before the coronavirus made its malign appearance, Washington was set to run trillion-dollar annual deficits this year and as far as we can see beyond. Now revenues will fall and expenses rise this year, at least, as a result of the sharply contracting economy. And Congress is preparing to pass a $1 trillion “stimulus” package on top. Why are we still in Syria?

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/coronavirus-means-america-really-broke-trump-should-get-hell-out-syria-135932

by Doug Bandow

The U.S. is broke. Before the coronavirus made its malign appearance, Washington was set to run trillion-dollar annual deficits this year and as far as we can see beyond. Now revenues will fall and expenses rise this year, at least, as a result of the sharply contracting economy. And Congress is preparing to pass a $1 trillion “stimulus” package on top.

Yet America’s endless wars continue in the Middle East. If the U.S. stopped tomorrow it would end up spending an estimated $6.4 trillion on conflicts which by and large ended disastrously: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Every day the Trump administration continues to pour good money after bad.

Why?

Washington’s promiscuous war-making is discretionary: the Mideast has lost its strategic significance. No one threatens to conquer the oil upon which the West depends. No one threatens the survival of Israel, a regional superpower. What justification is there for Americans to continue attempting to socially engineer one of the world’s most fractious, unstable regions?

It is not enough to say no to any new geopolitical crusades, such as war with Iran, which would be a regional catastrophe. The U.S. should pull out of existing conflicts. Ending support for Saudi Arabia’s depredations in Yemen should be easy. So should be exiting Iraq as anger grows against Washington for trading blows with pro-Iranian militias on Iraqi soil.

Most important is leaving Syria. American officials have spent nine years attempting to shape that conflict’s outcome, so far without success. The administration should withdraw U.S. forces, leaving the region’s powers to sort out that country’s future.

Washington’s involvement never made any sense. President Bashar al-Assad is an evil man who was no friend of America but never threatened the U.S. Nor had Damascus done much to endanger Israel in years. The Syrians did not even retaliate for an Israeli strike on a nuclear reactor being built with North Korean aid.

Syria’s collapse into civil war was a tragedy, though more complex than often portrayed. The Assad government was brutal, but not guilty of genocide: low-tech civil wars typically are bloody and many of the dead were regime supporters. Jihadist insurgents also killed prolifically and brutally, even using chemical weapons. It was the kind of conflict in which one could only wish all combatants ill.

Yet with the absence of a militarily effective, politically moderate movement—America’s attempt to find and aid such fighters was tragically ineffective, even incompetent—the best outcome for Washington was Assad’s survival. Turning a nation-state over to Islamist radicals was the sort of horrid specter typically presented as the reason the U.S. had to intervene in such conflicts. The Obama administration’s willingness to bring about that end, intentional or not, was perverse, even bizarre.

There is much bad to say about Trump’s foreign policy and decision-making process. However, apparently he alone in the administration—the result of his decision to surround himself with only members of the “endless war” crowd—understands the necessity of leaving Syria. When urged in 2017 to reinforce the U.S. military there, he reportedly responded: “I’m not sending any more forces into Syria. Arm the Kurds, take Raqqa, get ISIS out of there, and then get the hell out of Syria.”

Three years later the only proper bottom line remains the same: “Get the hell out of Syria.”

Yet the desire to play social engineer, ignoring religion, geography, history, ideology, interest, and culture, remains strong. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin recently penned an article on why Americans, as their country slid toward crisis over COVID-19, “should care about Syria.” In fact, the piece brilliantly makes the opposite case.

Rogin’s contentions:

1. “What happens in Syria doesn’t stay in Syria. A New wave of refugees will destabilize European democracies.” Sure, but those “European democracies” match the U.S. in economic strength and exceed America in population. Let the Europeans, finally, after years of cheap-riding, confront a military problem rather than assume it is Washington’s responsibility. After all, in case they have not noticed, Americans are rather busy with their own problems right now.

2. “The United States has interests all over the region that will be threatened by the rising chaos.” Uh, the Mideast has been a disastrous mess for years. Much of it caused by U.S. policies. Washington destroyed democracy in Iran, blew up Iraq, helped destroy Libya, and is continuing to help dissolve Yemen. Stating that interests are stake does not mean that they are important enough to warrant war, or that military action can save them. What have American policymakers done in the last two decades to suggest they are capable of fixing Syria?

3. “The Islamic State will seize the opportunity to revive itself. Eventually, when strong enough, its fighters will attack Americans wherever they can.” Actually, ISIS broke sharply from al-Qaeda in seeking to create a caliphate, or quasi-nation state, not attack the far enemy, namely the U.S. The only Americans killed by the Islamic State before Washington intervened were those who had traveled to Syria. Anyway, the movement is opposed by every government and a host of groups in the region—Syria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, the Gulf States, Israel, Kurds, Hezbollah—as well as outsiders Russia and Europe. Is the emerging ISIS juggernaut so great that only Washington can halt a revival?

4. If Assad retakes Idlib, “his next target is Syria’s northeast, where several hundred U.S. servicemembers are based, which will make that our problem.” Actually, that is not a problem. Those personnel could and should be withdrawn. They are illegally occupying another country, with neither congressional nor United Nations authority, and for no good strategic reason.

5. “It we remove those troops, we will lose all leverage to push for a political solution.” At one point Assad was on the military ropes while Washington was funding insurgents and a gaggle of other nations, most notably Turkey and the Gulf States, also were aiding his opponents. That “leverage” gained nothing. Today he has won the civil war and is attempting to reconquer the last area, Idlib, under insurgent control. Now Washington’s pressure is expected to force him from power?

6. “The Islamic State and Iran will fill the vacuum.” Actually, the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, is likely to fill the vacuum. One of the essential contradictions of U.S. policy was attempting to eliminate ISIS while overthrowing Assad, the group’s most important enemy. That effort failed as he left America to concentrate on the Islamic State while he targeted other insurgents. Allowed to occupy the rest of his country, Assad would battle any ISIS resurgence. As for Iran, it already is in Syria at the invitation of the government, its presence impelled by insurgencies backed by America. Freer access for Tehran to Syria’s north won’t matter to America, or even to Israel, which has demonstrated its ability to ensure its security.

7. “With just a few hundred soldiers and some help to our allies, the lives of millions can be spared from Assad’s cruel rule.” Having stood by for nine years as civil war ravaged Syria, it is a little late to imagine Washington doing much to protect civilians there. Anyway, exactly how this is to be accomplished is not clear. Surely not by direct U.S. military intervention. Supporting Turkey, which slaughtered Kurdish civilians in Turkey before illegally invading Syria to kill Kurds there, would be a strange step to take in the name of humanitarianism. (Never mind Ankara’s domestic slide toward authoritarianism and Islamism, intervention in Libya’s civil war, and dalliance with Russia.) Nor is leaving Idlib under the rule of a collection of Islamists, led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Hurras al-Din, both connected to al-Qaeda, and other equally dubious jihadist groups, a humanitarian solution. Nor is this in America’s interest. Finally, since Syria, backed by Iran and Russia, is unlikely to voluntarily yield sovereign territory, any U.S. intervention would have to be perpetual, for no discernible American advantage or interest.

8. Citing David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee, “The war in Syria will, dangerously, become a precedent for a new normal for brutal, divisive, contagious conflict.” The conflict has raged for nine years killing upwards of a half-million people. If a precedent might be set, it already has been set. However, the past is filled with equally horrendous conflicts that long raged, slaughtering and destroying indiscriminately: Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, Colombia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Yemen, Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo. Go back in history a little: Algeria, Angola, Cambodia/Kampuchea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria (Biafra). Alas, the bloody precedent has been very well established.

9. “If Americans are not convinced by the moral or strategic arguments, consider this: There are at least six U.S. citizens being held as prisoners by the Assad regime right now. … If we leave Syria and don’t insist on playing a role in its future, our chances of negotiating their release go way down.” If Washington’s demand to play a role in Syria’s future hasn’t won their release after eight years—Austin Tice went missing in 2012—it isn’t likely to do so in the future. But if U.S. officials gave up their determination to oust the Assad government, they would have a much better chance of winning the release of people who are, after all, just bargaining chips to Damascus…

There is an annoying page 2

Be seeing you

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Which target after Syria?, by Thierry Meyssan

Posted by M. C. on March 11, 2020

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Turkey has an actual army, has Russian missile systems that would be difficult to defeat and is home to US nukes.

Saudi Arabia it is?

An empire builders work is never done.

https://www.voltairenet.org/article209439.html

by Thierry Meyssan

Events in the “Broader Middle East” since 2001 have followed a relentless logic. The current question is whether the time has come for a new war in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. The answer depends in particular on the resumption of hostilities in Libya. It is in this context that the Additional Protocol negotiated by Presidents Erdoğan and Putin to resolve the Idleb crisis must be interpreted.

| Damascus (Syria)

+
JPEG - 27.4 kb
The initial map of the “reshaping of the Broader Middle East”, published by Colonel Ralph Peters.

19 years of “war without end”

President George W. Bush decided to radically transform the Pentagon’s missions, as Colonel Ralph Peters explained in the Army magazine Parameters on September 13, 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Admiral Arthur Cebrowski to train future officers. Cebrowski spent three years touring military universities so that today all general officers have taken his courses. His thoughts were popularized for the general public by his deputy, Thomas Barnett.

The areas affected by the US war will be given over to “chaos”. This concept is to be understood in the sense of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, i.e. as the absence of political structures capable of protecting citizens from their own violence (“Man is a wolf to man”). And not in the biblical sense of making a clean slate before the creation of a new order.

This war is an adaptation of the US Armed Forces to the era of globalization, to the transition from productive capitalism to financial capitalism. “War is a Racket,” as Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated general, used to say before World War II [1]. From now on, friends and enemies will no longer count; war will allow for the simple management of natural resources.

This form of war involves many crimes against humanity (including ethnic cleansing) that the US Armed Forces cannot commit. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld therefore hired private armies (including Blackwater) and developed terrorist organizations while pretending to fight them.

The Bush and Obama administrations followed this strategy: to destroy the state structures of entire regions of the world. The US war is no longer about winning, but about lasting (the “war without end”). President Donald Trump and his first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, have questioned this development without being able to change it. Today, the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski thinkers pursue their goals not so much through the Defence Secretariat as through NATO.

After President Bush launched the “never-ending war” in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), there was strong contestation among Washington’s political elites about the arguments that had justified the invasion of Iraq and the disorder there. This was the Baker-Hamilton Commission (2006). The war never stopped in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it took five years for President Obama to open new theatres of operation: Libya (2011), Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015).

Two external actors interfered with this plan.
- In 2010-11, the United Kingdom launched the “Arab Spring”, an operation modeled on the “Arab Revolt” of 1915, which allowed Lawrence of Arabia to put the Wahhabi in power on the Arabian Peninsula. This time it was a question of placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power with the help not of the Pentagon, but of the US State Department and NATO.
- In 2014, Russia intervened in Syria, whose state had not collapsed and which it helped to resist. Since then, the British – who had tried to change the regime there during the “Arab Spring” (2011-early 2012) – and then the Americans – who were seeking to overthrow not the regime, but the state (mid-2012 to the present) – have had to withdraw. Russia, pursuing the dream of Tsarina Catherine, is today fighting against chaos, for stability – that is to say, for the defence of state structures and respect for borders.

Colonel Ralph Peters, who in 2001 revealed the Pentagon’s new strategy, published Admiral Cebrowski’s map of objectives in 2006. It showed that only Israel and Jordan would not be affected. All other countries in the “Broader Middle East” (i.e., from Morocco to Pakistan) would gradually be stateless and all major countries (including Saudi Arabia and Turkey) would disappear.

Noting that its best ally, the United States, was planning to cut its territory in two in order to create a “free Kurdistan”, Turkey unsuccessfully tried to get closer to China, and then adopted the theory of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Zero problems with its neighbours”. It distanced itself from Israel and began to negotiate peace with Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Iraq etc. It also distanced itself from Israel. Despite the territorial dispute over Hatay, it created a common market with Syria. However, in 2011, when Libya was already isolated, France convinced Turkey that it could escape partition if it joined NATO’s ambitions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a political Islamist of the Millî Görüş, joined the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was not a member, hoping to recoup the fruits of the ’Arab Spring’ for his own benefit. Turkey turned against one of its main clients, Libya, and then against one of its main partners, Syria.

In 2013, the Pentagon adapted the “endless war” to the realities on the ground. Robin Wright published two corrective maps in the New York Times. The first dealt with the division of Libya, the second with the creation of a “Kurdistan” affecting only Syria and Iraq and sparing the eastern half of Turkey and Iran. It also announced the creation of a “Sunnistan” straddling Iraq and Syria, dividing Saudi Arabia into five and Yemen into two. This last operation began in 2015.

The Turkish General Staff was very happy with this correction and prepared for the events. It concluded agreements with Qatar (2017), Kuwait (2018) and Sudan (2017) to set up military bases and surround the Saudi kingdom. In 2019 it financed an international press campaign against the “Sultan” and a coup d’état in Sudan. At the same time, Turkey supported the new project of “Kurdistan” sparing its territory and participated in the creation of “Sunnistan” by Daesh under the name of “Caliphate”. However, the Russian intervention in Syria and the Iranian intervention in Iraq brought this project to a halt.

In 2017, regional president Massoud Barzani organised a referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Immediately, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran understood that the Pentagon, returning to its original plan, was preparing to create a “free Kurdistan” by cutting up their respective territories. They coalesced to defeat it. In 2019, the PKK/PYG announced that it was preparing for the independence of the Syrian ’Rojava’. Without waiting, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran once again joined forces. Turkey invaded the “Rojava”, chasing the PKK/YPG, without much reaction from the Syrian and Russian armies.

In 2019, the Turkish General Staff became convinced that the Pentagon, having temporarily renounced destroying Syria because of the Russian presence, was now preparing to destroy the Turkish state. In order to postpone the deadline, it tried to reactivate the “endless war” in Libya, then to threaten the members of NATO with the worst calamities: the European Union with migratory subversion and the United States with a war with Russia. To do this, it opened its border with Greece to migrants and attacked the Russian and Syrian armies in Idleb where they bombed the Al Qaeda and Daesh jihadists who had taken refuge there. This is the episode we are living through today.

JPEG - 49.3 kb
Robin Wright’s “Reshaping the Broader Middle East” map, published by Robin Wright.

The Moscow Additional Protocol

The Turkish army caused Russian and Syrian casualties in February 2020, while President Erdoğan made numerous phone calls to his Russian counterpart, Putin, to lower the tension he was causing with one hand.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to curb the Pentagon’s appetites if Turkey helped the Pentagon restart the “endless war” in Libya. This country is divided into a thousand tribes that clash around two main leaders, both CIA agents, the president of the Presidential Council, Fayez el-Sarraj, and the commander of the National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

Last week, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Professor Ghassan Salame, was asked to resign for “health reasons”. He complied, not without expressing his bad mood at a press conference. An axis has been set up to support al-Sarraj by the Muslim Brotherhood around Qatar and Turkey. A second coalition was born around Haftar with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but also Saudi Arabia and Syria.

It is the great return of the latter on the international scene. Syria is the culmination of nine years of victorious resistance to the Brotherhood and the United States. Two Libyan and Syrian embassies were opened with great pomp and circumstance on 4 March, in Damascus and Benghazi.

Moreover, the European Union, after having solemnly condemned the “Turkish blackmail of refugees”, sent the President of the Commission to observe the flow of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border and the President of the Council to survey President Erdoğan in Ankara. The latter confirmed that an arrangement was possible if the Union undertook to defend the ’territorial integrity’ of Turkey.

JPEG - 49.6 kb
With keen pleasure, the Kremlin has staged the surrender of Turkey: the Turkish delegation is standing, contrary to the habit where chairs are provided for guests; behind it, a statue of Empress Catherine the Great recalls that Russia was already present in Syria in the 18th century. Finally, Presidents Erdoğan and Putin are seated in front of a pendulum commemorating the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.

It was thus on this basis that President Vladimir Putin received President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Kremlin on March 5. A first, restricted, three-hour meeting was devoted to relations with the United States. Russia would have committed itself to protect Turkey from a possible partition on the condition that it signs and applies an Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area [2]. A second meeting, also of three hours duration but open to ministers and advisers, was devoted to the drafting of this text. It provides for the creation of a 12-kilometre-wide security corridor around the M4 motorway, jointly monitored by the two parties. To put it plainly: Turkey is backing away north of the reopened motorway and losing the town of Jisr-el-Chogour, a stronghold of the jihadists. Above all, it must at last apply the Sochi memorandum, which provides for support only for the Syrian armed opposition, which is supposed to be democratic and not Islamist, and for combating the jihadists. However, this “democratic armed opposition” is nothing more than a chimera imagined by British propaganda. In fact, Turkey will either have to kill the jihadists itself, or continue and complete their transfer from Idleb (Syria) to Djerba (Tunisia) and then Tripoli (Libya) as it began to do in January.

In addition, on March 7, President Putin contacted former President Nazerbayev to explore with him the possibility of deploying Kazakh “blue chapkas” in Syria under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This option had already been considered in 2012. Kazakh soldiers have the advantage of being Muslims and not orthodox.

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Missiles were fired this week against the royal palace in Riyadh. Prince Mohamed ben Salmane (known as “MBS”, 34 years old) had his uncle, Prince Ahmed (70 years old), and his former competitor and ex-heir prince, Prince Mohamed ben Nayef (60 years old), as well as various other princes and generals arrested. The Shia province of Qatif, where several cities have already been razed to the ground, has been isolated. Official explanations of succession disputes and coronavirus are not enough [4].

Translation
Roger Lagassé

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Which target after Syria?, by Thierry Meyssan

The Brutal Tragedy of Idlib: Why the U.S. Should Stay out of Syria and Dump NATO | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2020

But if hostilities explode Turkey likely will call on NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/brutal-tragedy-idlib-why-us-should-stay-out-syria-and-dump-nato-130247

by Doug Bandow

Washington should encourage the peaceful conclusion of conflicts such as Syria. But maintaining peace at home should remain America’s highest objective.

Syria is attempting to bring its civil war to a bloody end near the northwest city of Idlib. Syrian forces have clashed with Turkey, which invaded its neighbor and created a secure, jihadist-controlled enclave. Russia backed Damascus’ offensive, as Ankara urged NATO to deploy Patriot missiles. The Trump administration faces pressure from war-happy legislators such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is campaigning to impose a no-fly zone in an ongoing civil war.

The United States should stay out of the explosive confrontation. Instead of getting more involved in a civil war now in its tenth year, the Trump administration should bring home America’s troops now illegally occupying Syrian oil fields. And Washington should turn the transatlantic alliance over to the Europeans, ensuring that Americans stay out of any Turkish conflict with Syria and Russia—especially one created by Ankara’s aggression against its neighbor.

Syria dissolved into civil war nearly a decade ago. However, the Assad government has been gradually extending its control over once rebel-held lands. The process is not easy: the regime has been badly weakened by years of fighting and opposition has revived in some areas, such as Daraa, a trigger for the initial civil war. Nevertheless, Damascus recently launched an offensive to reclaim Idlib, a major city swollen with refugees who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria.

Idlib is an extraordinary tragedy, the last insurgent controlled region, in contrast to other areas under Kurdish, Turkish, and American control. With Turkish support the insurgents, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jibhat al-Nusra, and other radical Islamist groups, cut the major M5 highway. The al-Qaeda-linked al-Sham eventually gained control of the city and environs.

Turkey, committed to the overthrow of Syrian president Bashir al-Assad, supported the opposition and warned Damascus off from advancing on Idlib. As part of a cease-fire negotiated through Russia Turkey established a dozen military observation posts and later added additional deployments intended to act as tripwires to discourage Syrian military advance. However, the ceasefire ultimately failed and Damascus recently began large-scale operations against Idlib. Syrian armed action always seemed inevitable: after all, multiple governments in Ankara employed brutal military force against Kurdish separatists.

Damascus quickly made progress, recovering control of the M5. But the fighting displaced hundreds of thousands of Syrians, many of whom headed for Turkey. Most seriously, Syrian or Russian airstrikes (blamed on the first, more likely by the second) killed thirty-three Turkish soldiers. Moscow claimed that the latter were operating with “terrorists” and “terrorist fighting units,” meaning insurgents, which Ankara denied. However, wrote Joseph Trevithick of The Drive: “Turkey, together with its local partners, has been attacking regime ground and air forces for weeks now, including with armed drones, as it seeks to stem the offense in Idlib. The Turkish government has stepped up deliveries of heavier weaponry, including armored vehicles and howitzers, to various Syrian militant groups opposed to Assad, as well.”

Turkey launched retaliatory attacks on Syrian military positions and threatened broader military action to establish a “safe zone.” Ankara already has twice acted, utilizing allied insurgents, to drive Syrian Kurds from the border. Turkey even threatened to attack U.S. personnel operating with Kurdish militias against Islamic State forces.

With the potential for a full-scale armed confrontation and even war between Turkey and Syria backed by Russia, Ankara, a NATO member, called on its allies, including America, for consultations and support. Despite Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sustained campaign to tyrannize his people and separate his country from the West, the allies so far have lined up behind him.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced “full solidarity” with Ankara and said the allies were “constantly looking into what more they can do to provide further support for Turkey.” The alliance denounced “indiscriminate airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia.”

So far, NATO’s aid means enhancing NATO reconnaissance missions over the border area and considering deployment of Patriot air defense missiles. However, Greece blocked the issuance of a statement backing Ankara. But if hostilities explode Turkey likely will call on NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Of course, the alliance will act seriously only if Washington agrees. Thus far, the Trump administration has encouraged Ankara. For instance, the State Department declared: “We stand by our NATO ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia, and Iranian-backed forces. We are looking at options on how we can best support Turkey in this crisis.” Washington’s UN Ambassador Kelly Craft said “the United States’ commitment to our NATO ally, Turkey, will not waver. Turkey has our full support to respond in self-defense.”

So far few specifics have been offered. Pentagon spokesman Alyssa Farah explained: “We are exploring ways the United States can work together with Turkey and the international community.” Ideas include increased information sharing, logistical aid, and other forms of non-combat support, as well as maintaining equipment readiness. The special envoy on ISIS, James Jeffrey, recently opined that the president said his administration might provide ammunition.

Washington’s ivory tower warriors, who have pushed for U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war for a decade, have returned to their traditional panacea, a no-fly zone. Argued Graham, who rarely has found a war he did not want others to fight: “The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran, and the Russians. This is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in decades and the brutal aggression of Assad supported by Iran and Russia needs to come to an end.”

Of course, there is much in the world which “should” happen. But only rarely does that justify war. The United States has the strongest military on earth, leading many policymakers to assume that every problem is solvable by bombing, invading, and/or occupying other nations. Yet America’s experience over the last two decades with endless war, often conducted with a humanitarian gloss, has been a little short of disastrous.

Global social engineering, attempting to overcome history, culture, religion, ethnicity, geography, and more, has a wretched record. Conflicts most often turn out worse than predicted. The Iraq war triggered sectarian slaughter, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, spawned al-Qaeda-in-Iraq which became ISIS, and enhanced Iran’s influence.

Washington’s carte blanche to Saudi Arabia enabled the latter’s horrific aggression against Yemen, which has aided al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long the most virulent affiliate of the national organization which staged 9/11. And the Obama administration’s insistence that al-Assad be removed from office discouraged negotiation by both Damascus, which saw little reason to talk, and its critics, who expected U.S. support for its maximalist demands…

the rest here

Be seeing you

Is this whole situation giving you gas?

A Syrian man receives treatment at a hospital in the town of Afrin, February 16, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Russia Just Told the World, “No.”

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2020

All of this adds up to Russia holding the whip hand over the global market for oil. 

The ability to say, “No.”

And they will have it for years to come as U.S. production implodes.  Because they can and do produce the marginal barrel of oil.  

https://tomluongo.me/2020/03/06/russia-just-told-the-world-no/

There is real power in the word “No.”

In fact, I’d argue that it is the single most powerful word in any language.

In the midst of the worst market meltdown in a dozen years which has at its source problems within global dollar-funding markets, Russia found itself in the position to exercise the Power of No.

Multiple overlapping crises are happening worldwide right now and they all interlock into a fabric of chaos.

Between political instability in Europe, presidential primary shenanigans in the U.S., coronavirus creating mass hysteria and Turkey’s military adventurism in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean and Libya, markets are finally calling the bluff of central bankers who have been propping up asset prices for years.

But, at its core, the current crisis stems from the simple truth that those prices around the world are vastly overvalued.

Western government and central bank policies have used the power of the dollar to push the world to this state.

And that state is, at best, meta-stable.

But when this number of shits get this freaking real, well… meeting the fan was inevitable.

And all it took to push a correction into a full-scale panic was the Russians saying, “No.”

The reality has been evident in the commodity markets for months.  Copper and other industrial metals have all been in slumps while equity markets zoomed higher.

But it was oil that was the most confounding of all.

Most of 2019 we saw oil prices behaving oddly as events occurred with regularity to push prices higher but ultimately see them fall.

Since peaking after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani oil prices have been a one-way trade. Down.

Our inept leaders are trying to blame coronavirus as the proximate cause for all of the market’s jitters.

But that masks the truth. The problems have been there for months, pushed to the back burner by incessant Fed intervention in the dollar-funding markets.

The 2008 financial crisis was never dealt with, just papered over.

The repo crisis of last September never ended, it’s still there.

And it reappeared with ferocity this week as people sold dollars and bought U.S. treasuries pushing U.S. yields on the long end of the curve to absurd levels.

Credit markets are melting down. Stock markets are the tail, credit markets are the dog. And this dog was run over by a bus.

The Fed intervenes to keep short term interest rates from rising to preserve the fiction it is still in control.

The market wants higher rates for short-term access to dollars.

The Fed tried to help by cutting rates by 0.5% but all that did was tell people the Fed was as scared as they were.  The selling resumed and gold bounced back to it’s recent high near $1690, only to be swatted down on the New York open this morning.

That didn’t work either.

OOPS!

And into this mess OPEC tried to save itself by asking for a historic production cut.

OPEC needs this cut to remain relevant. The cartel is dying. It’s been dying for years, kept on life support by Russia’s willingness to trade favors to achieve other geostrategic goals.

I’ve said before that OPEC production cuts are not bullish for oil just like rate cuts are not inflationary during crisis periods.

But finally Russia said No. And they didn’t equivocate. They told everyone they are prepared for lower oil prices.

The panic was palpable in the reporting on the meeting.

“Regarding cuts in production, given today’s decision, from April 1, no one — neither OPEC countries nor OPEC+ countries — are obliged to lower production,” he told reporters after the meeting.

OPEC’s Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo said the meeting had been adjourned, although consultations would continue.

“At the end of the day, it was the general, painful decision of the joint conference to adjourn the meeting,” he told reporters.

Earlier, Oanda analyst Edward Moya had suggested that a failure to reach an agreement could spell the end of OPEC+.

“No-deal OPEC+ means the three-year experiment is over. OPEC+ is dead. The Saudis are all-in on stabling oil prices and they may need to do something extraordinary,” he said.

There comes a point where negotiating with your adversaries ends, where someone finally says, “Enough.” Russia has been attacked mercilessly by the West for the crime of being Russia.

And I’ve documented nearly every twist and turn of how they have skillfully buttressed their position waiting for the right moment to get maximum return to reverse the tables on their tormentors.

And, to me, this was that perfect moment for them to finally say “No,” to get maximum effect.

When dealing with a more-powerful enemy you have to target where they are most vulnerable to inflict the most damage.

For the West that place is in the financial markets.

Remember, the first basic fact of economics.  Prices are set at the margin. The only price that matters is the last one recorded.

That price sets the cost for the next unit of that good, in this case a barrel of oil, up for sale.

In a world of cartelized markets the world over, where prices are set by external actors, it is easy to forget that in the real economy (regardless of your political persuasion) the world is an auction and everything is up for bid.

High bid wins.

So, the most important geostrategic question is, “Who produces the marginal barrel of oil?”

For more than three years now, President Trump has supported his policy of Energy Dominance in a Quixotic quest for the U.S. to become that supplier.  Trillions of dollars have been spent on building up domestic production to their current, unsustainable levels.

This policy pre-dates Trump, certainly, but he has been its most ardent pursuer of it, sanctioning and embargoing everyone he can to keep them off the bid.

What he could never do, however, was push Russia off that bid.

The reason U.S. production rates are unsustainable is because their costs are higher per barrel than the marginal price especially when all other prices are deflating.  Simple, straightforward economics.

If they were, on balance, profitable then the industry as a whole would not have burned through a few hundred billion in free cash flow over the past decade.

That’s where the Russians’ power comes from.  Russia is one of the lowest cost producers in the world.  Even after paying their taxes to the government their costs are far lower, close to $20 per barrel break-even point, than anyone else in the world when one factors in external costs.

When you don’t owe anyone anything you are free to tell them, “No.”

Sure, the Saudis produce at similar cash costs to the Russians but once you factor in its budgetary needs, the numbers aren’t even close as they need something closer to $85 per barrel.

They can’t tell their people, “No,” you have to do without. Because the populace will revolt.

Russia can ride out, if not thrive, in this low price regime because :

  1. the ruble floats to absorb price shocks in dollars.
  2. A majority of their oil is now sold in non-dollar currencies – rubles, yuan, euros, etc. – to lessen their exposure to capital outflows
  3. the major oil firms have little dollar-denominated debt
  4. low extraction costs.
  5. its primary governmental budget ebbs and flows with oil prices.

All of this adds up to Russia holding the whip hand over the global market for oil.

The ability to say, “No.”

And they will have it for years to come as U.S. production implodes.  Because they can and do produce the marginal barrel of oil.

That is why oil prices plunged as much as 10% into today’s close on the news they would not cut production.

There is a cascade lurking beneath this market. There is a lot of bank and pension fund exposure in the U.S. to what is now soon-to-be non-performing fracking debt.

Liquidations will begin in earnest later this year.

But the market is handicapping this now.

I cannot overstate how important and far-reaching this move by Russia is.  If they don’t make a deal here they can break OPEC. If they do make a deal it will come with strings that ensure pressure is lifted in other areas of stress for them.

The knock-on effects of oil plunging from $70 per barrel to $45 over two months will be felt for months, if not years.

And it is no shock to me that Russia held their water here. If they didn’t, I would have been surprised.

This was Putin’s opportunity to finally strike back at Russia’s tormentors and inflict real pain for their unscrupulous behavior in places like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Venezuela and Afghanistan.

He is now in a position to extract maximum concessions from the U.S. and the OPEC nations who are supporting U.S. belligerence against Russia’s allies in China, Iran and Syria.

We saw the beginnings of this in his dealings with Turkish President Erdogan in Moscow, extracting a ceasefire agreement that was nothing short of a Turkish surrender.

Erdogan asked to be saved from his own stupidity and Russia said, “No.”

This condition of producing the marginal barrel of oil in a deflationary world places Russia in the driver’s seat to drive U.S. foreign policy behavior in an election year.

Talk about meddling in our elections!

The Achilles’ heel of the U.S. empire is the debt.  The dollar has been its greatest weapon and it is still king.  And it is a weapon with a great deal of power but wielded only against the U.S.’s allies, not Russia.

Markets will adjust and calm down in a few days. The panic will subside. But it will come back soon enough in a more virulent form. Today is a replay of 2007-08 but this time Russia is far better prepared to fight back.

And when that happens, I suspect it won’t be the Saudis or the Turks that come running to Russia to save them, but the U.S. and Europe.

At which point, I have to wonder if Putin will channel his inner Rorschach.


 

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Russia Just Told the World, “No.”

NATO: From Covert Sponsor to Artillery for Terrorists in Syria — Strategic Culture

Posted by M. C. on February 29, 2020

The top Russian diplomat said the US envoy had previously dropped similar hints about rehabilitating HTS, formerly known as Nusra Front, an offshoot of the al Qaeda terror cartel, related to Islamic State (or ISIS). As Lavrov points out, these chameleonic groups are internationally proscribed terror organizations. They are not exempt from targeting under past de-escalation deals between Russia and Turkey.

It seems astounding that the US – which declares itself to be in a war against terrorism – is flagrantly acting as a mediator to spare these same terrorists from definitive military defeat.

Syria and Russia have previously accused Ankara of covertly supplying the terrorists with arms and cross-border logistics.

Turkey is supplying jihadists in order to eliminate the Kurds who want a piece of Turkey for their homeland.

The US courts jihadists to eliminate Shiites that never attacked US in order to benefit Sunni’s that have attacked US.

Who is the one being played for a sucker?

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/02/28/nato-from-covert-sponsor-to-artillery-for-terrorists-in-syria/

Finian Cunningham

 


NATO member Turkey was recently caught out providing artillery support for terror groups in Syria’s Idlib province; now leader of the NATO alliance, the United States, is hinting at Russia and Syria holding dialogue with the terrorists to curb the upsurge in conflict.

As Syria’s endgame closes, the protagonists and their proxies are coming more clearly into focus. NATO’s covert shadowy connection with the jihadist insurgents it has sponsored for regime change is being flushed out as the Syrian army and its Russian ally home in on the last stand of the terror groups.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week ruled out any mediation with Tahrir Hayat al Sham (HTS), the main terrorist network holding out in Idlib in northwest Syria. Lavrov was referring to comments made earlier by US envoy James Jeffrey who suggested that HTS was “not a terrorist organization any more” and therefore might be included in negotiations for de-escalation.

The top Russian diplomat said the US envoy had previously dropped similar hints about rehabilitating HTS, formerly known as Nusra Front, an offshoot of the al Qaeda terror cartel, related to Islamic State (or ISIS). As Lavrov points out, these chameleonic groups are internationally proscribed terror organizations. They are not exempt from targeting under past de-escalation deals between Russia and Turkey.

It seems astounding that the US – which declares itself to be in a war against terrorism – is flagrantly acting as a mediator to spare these same terrorists from definitive military defeat.

The increasing violence in Syria over recent months is a result of jihadist militants continuing their attacks against civilians, as well as against the Syrian armed forces and their Russian allies in spite of several de-escalation attempts. The terrorists have used their areas of control in Idlib and Aleppo countryside to launch rocket attacks on government-controlled areas. Under the September 2018 deescalation agreement between Russia and Turkey, Ankara was obliged to facilitate a ceasefire by the jihadist groups which it is presumed to have influence over. But Turkey failed to implement its obligations.

Hence the Syrian government forces and their Russian ally were entitled to go after the culprits.

Turkey’s protests about the offensive serves to expose Ankara’s association with the terror groups. President Erdogan’s threats of deploying thousands of more troops in Syria’s north is in effect an admission of Turkey providing military support for the terrorists. It gives new meaning for the purpose of Turkish military observation posts along the border; more like command-and-assist posts.

Syria and Russia have previously accused Ankara of covertly supplying the terrorists with arms and cross-border logistics. What is quickly transpiring in the latest conflict phase is how Turkey’s state forces are openly participating with the illegally armed militants, as if the latter were a division of the Turkish army. Given Turkey’s NATO membership, the implication here is daunting: NATO, evidently, is in overt league with the terrorists waging war against Syria.

That collaboration was manifest last week on February 19 when Syrian army positions at Nayrab in Idlib came under attack from jihadist militants, believed to be HTS. The attack was supported by Turkish artillery and tank fire. Russian SU-24s were called in to repel the ground offensive. Two Turk troops were killed in the fighting.

Turkey’s Defense Minister HulusiAkar subsequently made an appeal to the US to supply Patriot air defense batteries. It is not clear if the US will actually take that step which would mark a dangerous escalation against Russian-backed Syrian forces.

The US and NATO envoys have, however, voiced renewed support for Turkey amid growing tensions with Syria and Russia.

It has long been suspected that the US and other NATO members have been arming the anti-government militants in Syria since the war erupted in 2011, including known terror groups, such as HTS and its myriad incarnations.

A recent auditing report by the Pentagon found that thousands of US weapons worth over $700 million have unaccountably gone missing from its military warehouses across the Middle East and in particular from arms depots in Kuwait and near the Jordanian-Syrian border. Militants in Syria have been documented as being armed with US-made shoulder-fired missiles (MANPADs) and anti-tank TOW rockets. The linkage to the Pentagon would therefore seem evident.

But what is emerging is the stark configuration of NATO troops alongside terror cadres on the battlefield.

The suggestion by US envoy James Jeffrey that Syria and Russia should talk terms with the terrorist HTS further demonstrates the allegiance between Washington, its NATO allies and the militants.

Syria, with the full support of Russia, has vowed to take back every inch of its territory from the foreign-backed insurgents who have done their utmost to destroy that state, committing unspeakable atrocities against the nation in the process.

International law mandates the Syrian government to take the battle to the end in order to crush and eradicate its enemies. No other state would tolerate anything less. We can only imagine the response by the US towards insurgents in its territory, and if Russia were to somehow call upon Washington to negotiate a truce.

Cornered in Idlib, the NATO powers are moving to salvage their terror proxies, by either giving them military cover or, as Washington is attempting to do, cut some slack through ceasefire negotiations.

 

Be seeing you

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

White Helmets are ‘preparing chemical attack false-flag’ in Syria’s Idlib, Russian military tipped off — RT World News

Posted by M. C. on February 4, 2020

True or not…we shall see.

About 15 ‘White Helmets’ were spotted in the town, alongside militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – an Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra – said two local residents, adding that two vehicles have delivered about 400 liters (100 gallons) of chemicals to the town.

https://www.rt.com/news/480004-syria-chemical-attack-warning/

Militants affiliated with al-Qaeda and ‘White Helmets’ are preparing to stage a chemical attack in Idlib province as Syrian army continues to advance, the Russian Reconciliation Center said citing a tip from local residents.

Members of the self-styled civil defense group, which operates solely in territories controlled by anti-government militants, were noticed arriving at the town of Ma’arat al-Artik, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) northwest of Aleppo. According to the call that came in on the reconciliation center’s hotline on Monday evening, they were preparing a “provocation with the use of poisonous agents.”

About 15 ‘White Helmets’ were spotted in the town, alongside militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – an Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra – said two local residents, adding that two vehicles have delivered about 400 liters (100 gallons) of chemicals to the town.

Some 200 people, including children – mostly family members of HTS militants, which had been evacuated to Idlib from elsewhere in Syria – could be involved in staging the false-flag chemical attacks, the tipsters said.

The Reconciliation Center named the militant commander involved in the plan as Mahi al-Din al-Am, saying it was the same man who helped stage and film the graphic aftermath of the alleged chemical attack at Khan Shaykhun in April 2017.

The center called on the militants to abandon their “criminal plan” and called on Turkey – which recently sent troops into militant-controlled Idlib – to exert “all possible pressure” to prevent a false flag.

 

A number of “chemical attacks” in Syria have been blamed on the government in Damascus over the course of the war, which began in 2011. They happen to take place every time the Syrian army is advancing against the militants, who have tried time and again to attract Western military intervention on their behalf.

Following the 2017 Khan Shaykhun incident, the US launched missiles against Syria; another air and missile attack was launched in April 2018, after an “attack” at Douma near Damascus. Though the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) eventually said the Douma attack may have happened, whistleblowers have recently made public that evidence in the case was doctored to reach that conclusion, while skeptical assessments of OPCW’s in-house experts were ignored.

Be seeing you

Were the Nice Attacks A False Flag Or A Lone Nut?

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »