Tag: Syria

Well, This Is a Fine F%$# You to Erdoğan

The US has decidedly to supply arms directly to Kurdish fighters in Syria:

President Trump has approved a plan to directly arm Kurdish forces fighting in Syria, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, inflaming already strained ties with Turkey and putting the U.S. military a step closer to seizing a remaining Islamic State stronghold.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said the president made the decision Monday, describing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a diverse group dominated by Kurdish fighters, as “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.” For more than a year, the U.S. military has been advancing plans to capture Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the Islamic State’s de facto capital, as the final major step in its nearly three-year effort to defeat the militant group.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” White said in a statement. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”


Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by both Turkey and the United States.

Since Turkey is perhaps the 2nd worst external actor in Syria, after the House of Saud, so the fact that their agenda is going pear shaped is a good thing.

It’s fairly clear that Erdoğan is using the conflict with ISIS to reinforce his authoritarian rule, and it appears highly likely that he is intent on creating some sort of Turkish zone of influence akin to the Ottoman empire.

That reality is disabusing Erdoğan of his delusions is a good thing.

This Is a Bright Line That Has Been Crossed

You can argue about whether or not the special forces inserted into Syria have a combat role or not.

Personally, I think that the whole “they are just training forces” dodge is a canard.

That being said, when you move in artillery units with their guns, you are involved in the ground war, period, full stop:

The Pentagon has deployed several hundred Marines to northern Syria, the Washington Post and CNN reported this week. Their mission: firing long-range artillery to help recapture Raqqa, ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital city.

The Marines are equipped with M777 howitzers, which can fire GPS-guided explosives up to 25 miles.

That’s a big change from the “train, advise, and assist” role U.S. forces have been playing so far — although as with many previous troop deployments to Iraq and Syria, it was not debated, let alone authorized, by Congress.

But the White House press secretary brushed off a question about the move, saying that sending “several hundred advisers” did not amount to “hostile action.”

Right-wing radio host John Fredericks asked Sean Spicer on Thursday whether Trump was committed to seeking congressional authorization for new deployments.

“I think there’s a big difference between an authorization of war than [sic] sending a few hundred advisers,” Spicer replied. “And I think most in Congress would probably agree with that as well. I think that’s a big difference between a hostile action and going in to address some certain concerns, whether it’s certain countries in the Middle East or elsewhere.”

Spicer referred the question to the Department of Defense. But when reached by The Intercept, a Pentagon spokesperson disputed Spicer’s characterization.

“This is fire support,” said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps, explaining that the new deployment would fire long-range artillery in an assault on Raqqa. “They will be providing partner support for the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

This is unequivocally a combat role.  This is boots on the ground.

This if f%$#ing artillery, aka the “King of the Battlefield.”

We are in for a world of hurt here.

Welcome to Operation Unbelievable Clusterf%$#

It looks like we are sending ground troops into Syria, specifically Marines artillery and armored vehicles, which is a significant escalation from the special forces previously in Syria:

The United States, feeling confident enough about its war on the totalitarian Islamic State, has upped the stakes by deploying a detachment of Marine artillery into Syria.

To be sure, U.S. troops are certainly in combat in Syria, although the deployment of artillery is a step further than Special Operations Forces working with local U.S. allies in the country. Commandos often travel in smaller numbers, can move faster and do not need as much security as artillery units.


Pentagon officials stated that the deployment of the troops and their 155-millimeter M-777 howitzers, summoned from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has “been in the works for sometime,” according to The Washington Post.


Meanwhile, in a highly visible — and deliberately visible — move, U.S. soldiers riding in Stryker armored vehicles flying American flags drove into the Syrian city of Manbij to prevent a clash between the SDF and the Turkish-backed FSA brigades.

This will not end well.

This Should Surprise No One

Russia has just completed an agreement with Syria expanding their access to the Syrian port of Tartus:

Russia and Syria have signed an agreement this week to expand Russia’s sole foreign base – a naval repair facility in Syria – into a larger naval base capable of permanently hosting 11 ships, according to the agreement issued by the Russian government.

The agreement — signed on Wednesday – would allow the Tartus installation to expand to berth larger surface combatants and submarines, according to Russian state-controlled press reports.

“The deal stipulates that 11 Russian vessels can be present in the harbor of Tartus at once, including the ships equipped with nuclear marine propulsion, provided that nuclear and environmental safety guidelines are respected,” read a report in the Kremlin-controlled Sputnik wire.

“Russia promises to send to Syria, at its request, specialists to help restore Syrian warships and will help organize the defense of the harbor of Tartus and help mount search and rescue operations in Syrian waters.”

This is not surprising.

There was always going to be a quid pro quo for Russia’s support of the Assad regime.

A Lot is Going on in Syria

First, as I am sure most of you are aware, the evacuation of Aleppo is complete, and the Assad Regime has full control of the city:

The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held part of Aleppo concluded on Thursday after long delays because of frigid weather, putting all of Syria’s industrial capital back in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for the first time since 2012.

The last buses carrying residents from eastern Aleppo left the city late Thursday night, according to the Syrian state news agency.

Tens of thousands of people have been removed from eastern Aleppo since Dec. 15. Before the last buses left on Thursday, the Red Cross said that 34,000 people had left the city, including 4,000 fighters who had left in their own vehicles the previous night.

A separate convoy was waiting to carry residents out of two pro-government villages in neighboring Idlib Province that have been surrounded by rebels for years. It was unclear late Thursday whether the convoy had completed its trip.

The seizure of all of Aleppo by Mr. Assad and his allies signals a turning point in the nearly six-year conflict.

Rather unsurprisingly, despite representation in western media, upon entering East Aleppo, evidence of mass torture and mass executions were found:

Russian military forces have discovered mass graves in eastern parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo, with many of the bodies reportedly showing signs of torture.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesperson for the Russian defense ministry, announced the horrifying discovery on Monday. “Many of the corpses were found with missing body parts, and most had gunshot wounds to the head,” he said, according to RT, a Russian state-owned news network.

Until recently, the eastern portion of Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and industrial and financial center, was under the control of so-called “moderate” rebels, many of whom have received both intelligence and material support from the United States and its allies in the Middle East.

Last week, Russian and Syrian military forces oversaw the evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo. Prior to that, the rebel-held portion of the city had been controlled by two main factions, Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group with ties to al-Qaida also known as the Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham, another extremist group that receives U.S. support despite being designated a terrorist organization.


Russian forces also found massive stockpiles of weaponry abandoned by fleeing rebel groups. “In one small area, three tanks, two cannons, two multiple rocket launchers and numerous homemade mortars were found,” reported RT.

In related news, a Syrian refugee was charged with war crimes in Sweden for his role in executing captured Syrian government soldiers:

A former Syrian opposition fighter has been charged with breaching international law over the execution in 2012 of seven soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, the Swedish prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.

The 46-year-old man, who was arrested in March, appears in a video showing the killings, the prosecutor’s office said.

The man, who was not named, denies any crime.

“The soldiers were captured and defenseless when this happened,” prosecutor Kristina Lindhoff Carleson said in a statement.

While this was going on, Russia, Iran and Turkey met for cease fire negotiations.  Notably, the US, NATO, and the UN were not included, which is rather unsurprising, considering that those three entities have remained committed to replacing Assad.

What’s more, it appears that these negotiations have born fruit, with cease fire coming into effect across Syria, though it it’s success is still not certain:

A cease-fire announced by the Syrian government went into ­effect across the country early Friday as part of a broader deal that includes a return to peace talks to end more than five years of war.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reestablished control over the northern city of Aleppo earlier this month, forcing rebels to flee what was once their largest stronghold and handing the government a victory that appeared to bring the war’s endgame into view.

The Assad government, backed by Russia and Iran, is now in its strongest position since the start of the war, while rebel groups are mostly boxed into the northwestern province of Idlib and hold no strategically significant urban areas.

The Syrian military declared in a statement issued Thursday that the “comprehensive” cessation of hostilities follows “victories and advances” by the armed forces.

Russia and Turkey, which brokered the deal, said they could guarantee compliance from the government and its armed opposition, respectively, after weeks of negotiations.


The Syrian army said the cease-fire excluded “terrorist organizations,” notably the Islamic State but also the country’s al-Qaeda affiliate, an influential component of what remains of Syria’s armed opposition. The caveat suggested that the fighting could continue in Idlib, now the rebels’ final bastion.

ISIS and al Qaeda (al Nusra/al-Sham) aren’t just an “influential component” of Syrian opposition. They are the bulk of viable rebel military forces.

As I have stated before, there is no moderate opposition. They are all salafist Sunni extremists, sponsored by Turkey, the House of Saud, and the Persian Gulf Potentiates.

Turkish President Erdogan is claiming that he has evidence to prove that the US is supporting terrorist organizations, including al Nusra, Daesh, and the YPG:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said “it’s very clear” that the US-led coalition is supporting terrorist groups in Syria, Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) among them.

“They give support to terrorist groups including Daesh (Arabic for IS),” Erdogan said.

Saying that the US have accused Turkey of supporting IS, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday the Turkish leader blamed the US-led coalition for assisting terrorists themselves.

Apart from IS, he also mentioned Kurdish People’s Protection Units in northern Syria (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD) as groups supported by the coalition.

“We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos,” he added.

Best evidence is that he is right on two of those three counts, our military haxs supported Kurdish fighters, and the CIA has been supporting (at least indirectly through its completely incompent grooming of “moderates”) al Nusra.

Our policy, which largely consists of incompetent CIA operations running at cross purposes to military and diplomatic efforts that are in large part intended to slavishly follow the dictates of the House of Saud.

Tru Dat

Juan Cole notes that much of the reason for the imminent defeat of the insurgents in Aleppo is because they are largely a foreign presence who is doing the bidding of there Sunni extremists supports, which runs counter to the cosmopolitan and non-sectarian nature of Syrian society:

Syria was in a better position to attain peace last spring, when a ceasefire had unexpected success. It would have been better if the rebels had been able to keep East Aleppo and the rest of their territory, and the regime had been forced to dicker with them in order to put the country back together again. Someday it might even have been possible for East Aleppo to elect representatives to the Syrian parliament who represented their point of view.

The fall of the East Aleppo pocket dooms such a negotiated outcome of the civil war. The regime of Bashar al-Assad will be emboldened, as it has pledged, to try to take back over all the territory militarily, and to re-institute its seedy one-party state replete with intensive domestic spying, arbitrary arrest and torture.

That said, the rebel forces in East Aleppo do bear some of the blame for their defeat. It seems a harsh thing to say at a time of heart-wrenching scenes of noncombatants waiting in the cold for an evacuation that only seems to come in fits and starts. But it is necessary for us to understand what is happening and not only to feel it. Because al-Assad is understandably hated in democratic societies, there is a tendency to see the reassertion of the regime there as purely an act of brutal force.


But this brutality cannot explain what happened. Revolutions and civil wars don’t work that way, however. You can think of lots of movements that couldn’t be quelled by massive brute force, including that of the Viet Cong in the 1960s and 1970s. If we want to understand why Russian aerial bombardment was so effective, we have to take politics into account.

Syria is a very diverse society. Here are some guesstimates for its ethnic and sectarian make-up.

  • Alawite Shiites: 14%
  • Christians: 7%
  • Druze: 3%
  • Ismailis: 1%
  • Twelver Shiites: 0.5% [The most common form of Shia]
  • Kurds: 10%
  • Secular Sunni Arabs: 30%
  • Religious Sunni Arabs: 34.5%

The Syrian youth revolution of 2011 appealed to virtually all these groups except maybe the Alawite Shiites, who depend on the al-Assad regime for their prominent position and prosperity in Syrian society. The early Syrian revolutionaries talked about a democratic society in which all these groups would have representation. I met with Syrian revolutionaries in Istanbul in 2012 and they were praising all of these religious and ethnic groups for having members standing up to the regime, even Alawite villagers and movie stars.


Many of the fighters in the rebel opposition were Muslim Brotherhood, a relatively moderate fundamentalist group in Syria which nevertheless does want to impose a medieval version of Islamic law on the whole country. But the best fighters and the best-funded fighters were Salafi Jihadis like Jaysh al-Islam, the Freemen of Syria, the Nusra Front, and Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

It was the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front that in 2013 nearly succeeded in using Homs and Qusayr to cut off the southern capital of Damascus from re-supply via the northwestern Mediterranean port of Latakia. This plan by Salafi Jihadis was forestalled by the intervention of the Twelver Shiite Lebanese party-militia, Hizbullah on behalf of the regime.

It was a Nusra Front-led coalition that in spring of 2015 managed to take the city of Idlib and all of that province, and to begin an advance on Latakia to the west, with the same strategic goal in mind. Latakia is a heavily Alawite Shiite region, so for hard line Sunni fundamentalists to take it would have entailed massive massacres and ethnic cleansing. This plan by the Salafi Jihadis was forestalled by Russian intervention.

It is true that Russia has subjected the Sunni Arab rebels, many of them just Muslim Brotherhood, to intense aerial bombardment. But it has especially gone after al-Qaeda (the Nusra Front, now styling itself the Levantine Conquest Front).

Under the conditions of 2011, the other rebels would have rushed to the aid of a besieged anti-al-Assad group.

That did not happen during the past 3 years, for a simple reason. Most people in Syria don’t trust the Muslim Brotherhood and they really, really dislike the Salafi Jihadis.


And the fact is that the fundamentalist rebels have repeatedly denounced and threatened the leftist Kurds. (It is these fundamentalists that Western politicians often call “moderates.”)

The supposedly moderate Freemen of Syria put al-Qaeda in charge of the Druze villages of Idlib in 2015. Druze are an offshoot of Ismaili Shiism and are deeply hated by al-Qaeda. They were forcibly converted to Sunni Islam and nevertheless some of them were killed or their property confiscated by the Nusra Front.

So as the Syrian opposition ratcheted farther and farther to the Sunni religious right, and as the most effective fighters came to be drawn from that sector, they lost the good will and support of most Syrians.


So you get 70% of the people in the country who, having been given the unpalatable choice between the Baath regime of al-Assad and being ruled by Salafi Jihadis, reluctantly chose al-Assad.

That is why the Aleppo pocket fell. There had been 250,000 Sunni Arabs of a more religious mindset and from a working class background living there under rebel control since 2012. But next door in West Aleppo, which our television stations won’t talk about, were 800,000 to a million people who much preferred to be under the rule of the regime. This numerous and relatively well off population took occasional mortar fire from the slums of East Aleppo. They weren’t in the least interested in saving the rebels from the Russians or the Iraqi Shiite militias or from the regime itself.

The Kurdish forces likewise didn’t rush to the defense of the Sunni Arab fighters in the East Aleppo pocket.

By militarizing the revolution and by moving ideologically to the religious far right, the rebel fighters deprived themselves of support among most Syrians.


But they sometimes formed battlefield alliances of convenience with al-Qaeda or with Salafi jihadis, and as time went on they showed less and less no interest in human and civil rights for women and minorities.

Syria is much more diverse a country than it might seem from cold social statistics. Hard line Salafis never had any chance of attracting enough support to take over the whole country, and even just very conservative Sunnis did not, either. The strategic thinkers in Ankara and Riyadh completely misread the situation.

That is why the East Aleppo pocket is falling to the regime. Not because aerial bombardment or brute force work magic in and of themselves. But because the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood were unable to cumulate resources from other groups and attract broad support.

We are on the wrong side:  The House of Saud and its ilk are a path to instability, sectarianism, and more terrorism.

The depressing thing about Syria is that there really is no frght side.

So Not a Surprise………

Those “accidental” airstrikes on Syrian troops that sabotaged the cease fire negotiated between Russia and the United states in Syria was no mistake:

The summary report on an investigation into US and allied air strikes on Syrian government troops has revealed irregularities in decision-making consistent with a deliberate targeting of Syrian forces.

The report, released by US Central Command on 29 November, shows that senior US Air Force officers at the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar, who were responsible for the decision to carry out the September airstrike at Deir Ezzor:

  • misled the Russians about where the US intended to strike so Russia could not warn that it was targeting Syrian troops
  • ignored information and intelligence analysis warning that the positions to be struck were Syrian government rather than Islamic State
  • shifted abruptly from a deliberate targeting process to an immediate strike in violation of normal Air Force procedures

Last week Brig. Gen. Richard Coe, the lead US official on the investigating team, told reporters that US air strikes in Deir Ezzor on 17 September, which killed at least 62 – and possibly more than 100 – Syrian army troops, was the unintentional result of “human error”.

The report itself says that the investigators found “no evidence of misconduct” – but it is highly critical of the decision process and does not offer any explanations for that series of irregularities.

How the strikes killed off ceasefire deal

The strikes against two Syrian army positions were the pivotal event in the breakdown of the Syrian ceasefire agreement reached between the United States and Russia in September. Both Moscow and Damascus denounced the strikes as a deliberate move by the Obama administration to support the Islamic State group and cited the attacks as the reason for declaring an end to the ceasefire on 19 September.

I think that this shows very little doubt that the US military establishment, up to at least the commander in the theater, and probably up to the office of the Secretary of Defense, were actively sabotaging a decision of the President.

Heads should roll, but they won’t.

Madeline Allbright, How About a Nice Warm Cup of Shut the F%$# Up?

Madeline Albright, the poster child for “liberal interventionism” has justheaded a task force that is calling for an occupation of Syria with US forces, because they find failed regime change such a good idea:

The United States should prepare to use greater military power and covert action in Syria to help forge a political settlement to end the country’s civil war, according to a bipartisan report to be released on Wednesday.

Produced by a task force led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a Democrat, and former U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, a Republican, the report amounts to a bipartisan rejection of President Barack Obama’s decision to limit U.S. military engagement in the nearly six-year civil war.

Largely drafted before Republican Donald Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election, the paper, which has not been presented to Trump, makes a case for deeper U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

“Isolationism is a dangerous illusion,” said the report, which was obtained by Reuters on Tuesday. It calls for outside nations to help wind down conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Yemen and back home-grown reform throughout the region.

Its key recommendation for Syria may be moot when Trump takes office on Jan. 20 if government forces seize eastern Aleppo, the opposition’s most important urban stronghold. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been dramatically strengthened by Russian military support over the past 14 months.

“The United States should be prepared to employ air power, stand-off weapons, covert measures and enhanced support for opposition forces to break the current siege of Aleppo and frustrate Assad’s attempts to consolidate control over western Syria’s population centers,” the report said.

Let me get this straight: They want to deploy US troops in support of al Qaeda, (there is no moderate opposition) because they are fixated on regime change.

These people are supposed to be foreign policy experts, but I wouldn’t hire them as pastry chef.

Mistake, My Ass

The US military has now admitted to bombing Syrian government forces in September, but claims that it was an unfortunate accident.

This happened days after a cooperation deal was cut between the Russians and the US, and it had the effect of torpedoing the deal.

I do not believe that it was a mistake.  I believe that someone in the US chain of command did this deliberately to queer the deal.

Of course, you will never find out who, but you can fire those in the chain of command for incompetence, and that should have been done at the time.

We’ve Just Seen a Real World Consequence of Trump’s Policy Shift

The day after Putin and Trump have a conversation about, “Regulating conflict,” the Russians and the Syrians began a major new offensive in Syria:

Pro-Assad forces have intensified attacks on Syrian rebels, launching a fierce aerial bombardment of besieged eastern Aleppo and missile strikes from a Russian aircraft carrier stationed off the coast, the day after Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone.

The US president-elect and Russian president discussed “regulating the conflict in Syria” and the need to combat “international terrorism and extremism”, Putin’s office said in a statement.

This is a message from both Trump and Putin that the attempts to Persian Gulf potentiates and tje US state security apparatus to engineer regime change that this Great Game sh%$ needs to end.

I am sick to death of hair brained regime change schemes.

I don’t know why this is happening, whether it’s some sort of man-crush of Trump on Putin, or if it’s that he has looked at Syria and decided that it is a losing proposition, but in either case,  this is a positive development for everyone but the foreign Jihadists in Syria.

Well, That Only Took 4 Years

It appears that Barack Obama has finally decided that overthrowing the Assad regime is not at the forefront of US interests, if I were a cynic, and I am, I would suggest that the timing of the decision to make al Qaeda in Syria a primary target, even though they are the most effective anti-Assad force, was only made because there is no longer a domestic political cost to the decision:

President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to find and kill the leaders of an al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria that the administration had largely ignored until now and that has been at the vanguard of the fight against the Syrian government, U.S. officials said.

The decision to deploy more drones and intelligence assets against the militant group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra reflects Obama’s concern that it is turning parts of Syria into a new base of operations for al-Qaeda on Europe’s southern doorstep, the officials said.

The move underlines the extent to which Obama has come to prioritize the counter­terrorism mission in Syria over efforts to pressure President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, as al-Nusra is among the most effective forces­­ battling the Syrian government.

That shift is likely to accelerate once President-elect Donald Trump [Gaah!!!!] takes office. Trump has said he will be even more aggressive in going after militants than Obama, a stance that could lead to the expansion of the campaign against al-Nusra, possibly in direct cooperation with Moscow. The group now calls itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham — or Front for the Conquest of Syria — and says it has broken with al-Qaeda, an assertion discounted by U.S. officials.


Obama’s new order gives the U.S. military’s Joint Special ­Operations Command, or JSOC, wider authority and additional intelligence-collection re­sources to go after al-Nusra’s broader leadership, not just al-Qaeda veterans or those directly involved in external plotting.

But aides say Obama grew frustrated that more wasn’t being done by the Pentagon and the intelligence community to kill al-Nusra leaders given the warnings he had received from top counter­terrorism officials about the gathering threat they posed.

In the president’s Daily Brief, the most highly classified intelligence report produced by U.S. spy agencies, Obama was repeatedly told over the summer that the group was allowing al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan to create in northwest Syria the largest haven for the network since it was scattered after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Officials also warned Obama that al-Nusra could try to fill the void as its rival, the Islamic State, lost ground.

Lisa Monaco, Obama’s White House homeland security and counter­terrorism adviser, said Obama’s decision “prioritized our fight against al-Qaeda in Syria, including through targeting their leaders and operatives, some of whom are legacy al-Qaeda members.”

“We have made clear to all parties in Syria that we will not allow al-Qaeda to grow its capacity to attack the U.S., our allies, and our interests,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to take action to deny these terrorists any safe haven in Syria.”


A growing number of White House and State Department officials, however, have privately voiced doubts about the wisdom of applying U.S. military power, even covertly, to pressure Assad to step aside, particularly since Russia’s military intervention in Syria last year.

U.S. intelligence officials say they aren’t sure what Trump’s approach to U.S.-backed rebel units will be once he gets briefed on the extent of the covert CIA program. Trump has voiced strong skepticism about arming Syrian rebels in the past, suggesting that U.S. intelligence agencies don’t have enough knowledge about rebel intentions to pick reliable allies.

Needless to say, the Russians are pleased about the decision, though they are hoping for some independent confirmation of the shift in policy.

This is a major move in the direction of the Russian position, which is that fighting the Salafist jihadists in Syria is the first priority, and that regime changes under the current condition is likely to benefit no one,

More Evidence of Our Clusterf%$# in Syria

The US remains focused largely on its credibility in the Syrian conflict.

There are no meaningful goals, it promulgates fictions and allies itself with a state sponsor of terrorism (the House of Saud) as well as al Qaeda affiliate al Nusra (now Fateh al-Sham) in an increasingly incoherent quest by parts of the US state security apparatus (Dod &CIA) to overthrow the Assad regime while other elements are making half hearted efforts at damage mitigation.

It has created a situation where Bashir al Assad is the best alternative available for the US, the EU, and anyone not interested in the thousand year old great game between Shia and Sunni Muslims, which is a pretty good indication of just how thoroughly this pooch has been screwed.

And now we have some more repercussions of our failure to have any policy beyond mindless dick swinging, as Russia and Turkey have signed a gas pipeline deal, a part of a significant rapprochement between the two regimes:

The Russian and Turkish leaders have agreed to intensify military and intelligence contacts after a meeting in Istanbul.

President Vladimir Putin also said he and Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed on the need for aid to get to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

The two countries have signed a deal to construct two pipelines to send Russian gas under the Black Sea to Turkey.

Ties were strained after Turkey downed a Russian military jet last year.

But speaking at a joint news conference with Mr Putin, Mr Erdogan said he was confident that the normalisation of relations would take place rapidly.

Unlike Russia, Turkey is a member of Nato, but both countries currently have uneasy relations with the West and are also facing economic challenges.


This is a developing alliance defined as much by what Turkey and Russia oppose as by what unites them.

Both feel isolated. Both have taken a decidedly authoritarian turn in their politics. Both have significant tensions with Washington. And both have strategic stakes in Syria with Moscow and Ankara well aware of the need to deal with the other if these interests are to be protected.

It’s something of a rapid reversal though. Less than a year ago Turkey shot down a Russian warplane and relations went into the freezer. But self-interest, notably Turkey’s “post-coup attempt” resentment at Washington and the shifting balance of military advantage in Syria, gives this unlikely pairing a certain logic.


One pipeline will be for Turkish domestic consumption, the other will supply southeastern Europe, bypassing Ukraine.

(emphasis mine)

This is a lose-lose for the United States.

In addition to Syria going pear shaped, it means that the situation in the Ukraine has moved against the US agenda.

Russia, at far smaller cost, has been far more successful in both Syria and the Ukraine, and they have done so because they have realistically defined their essential interests, and only taken those actions that directly benefit those interests.

By contrast, US efforts have been a toxic mix of hubris and incompetence.

We Are So Completely Doomed

Great, now we have the US Military and CIA arguing for strikes against the Syrian government, and the Russians have responded by noting that any strike against government troops would imperil Russian advisors, and so their air defense units would take action to any attempted airstrike:

Russia’s Defense Ministry has cautioned the US-led coalition of carrying out airstrikes on Syrian army positions, adding in Syria there are numerous S-300 and S-400 air defense systems up and running.

Russia currently has S-400 and S-300 air-defense systems deployed to protect its troops stationed at the Tartus naval supply base and the Khmeimim airbase. The radius of the weapons reach may be “a surprise” to all unidentified flying objects, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson General Igor Konashenkov said.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, any airstrike or missile hitting targets in territory controlled by the Syrian government would put Russian personnel in danger.

The defense official said that members of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria are working “on the ground” delivering aid and communicating with a large number of communities in Syria.

“Therefore, any missile or air strikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen.”

Russian air defense system crews are unlikely to have time to determine in a ‘straight line’ the exact flight paths of missiles and then who the warheads belong to. And all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality,”  Konashenkov added.

He also noted that Syria itself has S-200 as well as BUK systems, and their technical capabilities have been updated over the past year.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s statement came in response to what it called “leaks” in the Western media alleging that Washington is considering launching airstrikes against Syrian government forces.

And the person likely to be the next President of the United States is likely to be even more bellicose than Obama, who has apparently decided not to humor the wannabee General Jack Rippers in the DoD and CIA.

We are going to be sacrificed to their need for “Purity of Essence.”

Grownups in the Room, My Ass!

It appears that our state security apparatus has been thoroughly captured by the House of Saud:

Russia has now managed twice to shame the U.S. into action against Jihadis by publicly demonstrating that the U.S. is not really committed to its promises.

During 2014 and 2015 the U.S. did very little to attack the Islamic State. U.S. strikes hit irrelevant targets like an “ISIS excavator” or some lone truck. Meanwhile ISIS was making millions per day from pumping oil out of the Syrian desert and selling it to Turkish contacts. Hundreds of Turkish tanker trucks assembled near the oil wells in south-east Syria waiting to load. No airstrike would hit them.

The Russians saw this and were appalled. The loudmouth U.S. spoke about its big coalition and attacking ISIS but did essentially nothing. The Russian President Putin then decided to shame the U.S. and Obama personally. On November 15 2015 at the G20 meeting in Turkey he walked around the table and showed satellite pictures to his international colleagues. Hundreds of trucks waiting in the Syrian desert for loading without fear that anyone would harm them:

“I’ve demonstrated the pictures from space to our colleagues, which clearly show the true size of the illegal trade of oil and petroleum products market. Car convoys stretching for dozens of kilometers, going beyond the horizon when seen from a height of four-five thousand meters,” Putin told reporters after the G20 summit.

The very next day on November 16 U.S. airplanes, for the first time, hit truck assemblies near ISIS oil wells in south-east Syria:


Something similar happened Friday and today. First the Russian Foreign Minister accused the U.S. of complicity with al-Qaeda:

The Russian foreign minister said Russia has “more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare Al-Nusra and to keep it just in case for Plan B or stage two, when it would be time to change the regime.”

At the daily State Department press briefing on Friday, State spokesman Toner was grilled by multiple reporters over Lavrov’s accusations and the lack of U.S. attacks on al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Jabhat Fateh al-Sham):


State spoks Mark Toner admits that no U.S. strike had hit Nusra since March this year. His excuses are paltry and in the end he punts to the Pentagon. He really got his balls squeezed.

But that pressure, initiated by the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, created results. The U.S. was shamed into action and today killed some Nusra number 2: Pentagon: US targets ‘core al-Qaida’ member in Syria strike.

Al-Qaeda confirmed the strike:

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, former Nusra Front, says Egyptian alQaeda cleric Abu al-Faraj al-Masri killed in #US led coalition strike in #Idlib

— LBCI News English (@LBCI_News_EN) October 3, 2016

This is the very first strike on al-Qaeda in Syria, a UN designated terrorist organization which the U.S. vowed to fight, since March 2016. It comes a weekend after Lavrov accused the U.S. of not striking Nusra and a grilling at the State Department briefing.

The Russian shaming has again worked.

And in the context of all this, now there are reports  that U.S. has abandoned even the pretense of working with the Russians to fix the situation:

U.S.-Russia relations fell to a new post-Cold War low Monday as the Obama administration abandoned efforts to cooperate with Russia on ending the Syrian civil war and forming a common front against terrorists there, and Moscow suspended a landmark nuclear agreement.

The latter move, scuttling a deal the two countries signed in 2000 to dispose of their stocks of weapons-grade plutonium, was largely symbolic. But it provided the Kremlin with an opportunity to cite a series of what it called “unfriendly actions” toward Russia — from Ukraine-related and human rights sanctions to the deployment of NATO forces in the Baltics.

The United States, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, has “done all it could to destroy the atmosphere encouraging cooperation.”

Of far more immediate concern, the end of the Syria deal left the administration with no apparent diplomatic options remaining to stop the carnage in Aleppo and beyond after the collapse of a short-lived cease-fire deal negotiated last month.

The State Department announced that it was withdrawing U.S. personnel who have been meeting in Geneva over the past several weeks with Russian counterparts to plan coordinated airstrikes against al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists in Syria. The coordination was to start as soon as a cease-fire, begun Sept. 12, took hold and humanitarian aid began to flow to besieged communities where civilians have borne the brunt of Russian-backed President Bashar al-Assad’s response to a five-year effort to oust him.

The House of Saud wants Assad gone, so the US wants Assad gone, even though it it’s clear that this would be a complete disaster for the US, NATO, and the Syrian people.

You know that a situation has been well and truly f%$#ed when Bashar al-Assad is the best alternative available.

At every single stage of this catastrophe,  the Obama administration has made the worst possible choices.

This is why there is no good alternative.

This is Unconscionable

“Nobody believes in it. You’re like, ‘F%$# this,’” a former Green Beret says of America’s covert and clandestine programs to train and arm Syrian militias. “Everyone on the ground knows they are jihadis. No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort, and they know they are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘F%$# it, who cares?’”

“I don’t want to be responsible for Nusra guys saying they were trained by Americans,” the Green Beret added. A second Special Forces soldier commented that one Syrian militia they had trained recently crossed the border from Jordan on what had been pitched as a large-scale shaping operation that would change the course of the war. Watching the battle on a monitor while a drone flew overhead, “We literally watched them, with 30 guys in their force, run away from three or four ISIS guys.”

The term for this is, “Going The Good Soldier Švejk.”

Expanding on this, Jack Murphy notes that the CIA continues to be uninterested in fighting ISIS, instead focusing on overthrowing the Assad regime, while different CIA task forces are fighting each other:

One of the major points of this article is that the CIA doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq. By the end of 2014 there were only twenty CIA targeting officers and analysts were dedicated to IS. By early 2016, it was not much better. Instead, the CIA neurotically focused on removing Assad from power by any means possible. This laser focus was established by Brennan. I surmise this focus is shared by most in the Obama Administration

In spite of this focus, the CIA’s efforts in Syria is plagued by bureaucratic infighting. The CIA has three elements jockeying for power. The Syria Task Force is similar to the Iraqi Task Force and Iranian Operations Group that preceded it. It is Brennan’s baby. Damascus X is the Syrian CIA station now operating in Amman. And then there is the CTC/SI (Counterterrorist Center/Syria-Iraq), which is tragically focused on the Assad government rather than the terrorists. I have seen this kind of food fight for resources and prestige in the CIA and even in the DIA during the fat money days of the GWOT. I’m sure this cat fight is even more intense in today’s leaner fiscal environment.

The buck on this stops at Barack Obama’s desk.

It is clear that he has been passive, and allowed the US state security apparatus to set their own, frequently conflicting priorities, and Obama’s passivity with regard to this is the main cause.

It doesn’t help that current DCIA, John Brennan, was a former station chief in Saudi Arabia, and has relentlessly supported Saudi policy goals ever since.

This is not as much of a clusterf%$# as the invasion of Iraq, yet, but it really is a level of incompetence simply buggers the mind.

The Term for This Is “Desperately Flailing around for an Exit Strategy”

Barack Obama is clearly concerned that the campaign against ISIS will be a prominent stain on his legacy, as well it should be, and now he is throwing any sh%$ he can at Syria to see what sticks.

Case in point, they are now looking at openly arming the Kurdish militia:

The Obama administration is weighing a military plan to directly arm Syrian Kurdish fighters combating the Islamic State, a major policy shift that could speed up the offensive against the terrorist group but also sharply escalate tensions between Turkey and the United States.

The plan has been under discussion by the National Security Council staff at a moment when President Obama has directed aides to examine all proposals that could accelerate the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Obama has told aides that he wants an offensive well underway before he leaves office that is aimed at routing the Islamic State from Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in northern Syria.

Deciding whether to arm the Syrian Kurds is a difficult decision for Mr. Obama, who is caught in the middle trying to balance the territorial and political ambitions of Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, two warring American allies that Washington needs to combat the Islamic insurgency.

Directly providing weapons for the first time to the Syrian Kurds, whom American commanders view as their most effective ground partner against the Islamic State, would help build momentum for the assault on Raqqa. But arming them would also aggravate Mr. Obama’s already tense relations with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States and Turkey sharply disagree over Syria’s Kurdish militias, which Turkey sees as its main enemy in Syria.


American commanders view the plan to arm the Syrian Kurds, whose population straddles the border with Turkey, as an incentive to keep them on board for the fight against the Islamic State. Asked if the recent volatile military and political situation around the Syrian-Turkish border had slowed the pace for taking Raqqa, Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of Central Command, said last week that it might have.

In desperation, our Syria policy is becoming even more incoherent.

And Syria Becomes Even More of a Clusterf%$3

As you may be aware, Russia and Syria have hammered out a deal for a cease fire.

Russia wanted security council approval this, but the US refused because they do not want to reveal the content of the documents:

UN Security Council members had been due to meet in New York on Friday afternoon for a hastily called meeting on the fragile Syrian ceasefire, billed as the “last chance” to end the five-year war.

But Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said the meeting was canceled at the last minute as the US was unwilling to disclose exactly what was in the documents outlining the deal hammered out last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“This briefing is not going to happen and mostly likely we’re not going to have a resolution of the Security Council because the US does not want to share those documents with the members of the Security Council and we believe that we cannot ask them to support a document which they haven’t seen,” Churkin said.

In Washington, a US official said the session was canceled because the Russians were trying to force the US to make the ceasefire deal public.

“The United States will not compromise operational security,” the official said.

Call me a cynic, but my guess that neither State nor the Pentagon want these agreements to be public so that they can violate the terms with impunity.

The last time the US got a security council ruling, they used civilian protection as a cloak for regime change. (Libya)

When you consider the fact that US special operations forces are supporting the Turkish invasion of Syria, and that the US just bombed Syrian troops, allegedly by accident, it makes one even more suspicious:

U.S.-led coalition forces bombed Syrian troops near Deir al-Zor airport on Saturday, the Syrian army said, allowing Islamic State fighters to briefly overrun their position and putting new strains on a ceasefire in effect elsewhere in the country.

The United States military said it had ceased air strikes against what it had believed to be Islamic State positions after Russia informed it that Syrian military personnel and vehicles may have been hit.

The ceasefire, which took effect on Monday, is the most significant peacemaking effort in Syria for months but has been undermined by repeated accusations of violations on both sides and by a failure to bring humanitarian aid to besieged areas.


U.S.-led coalition forces bombed Syrian troops near Deir al-Zor airport on Saturday, the Syrian army said, allowing Islamic State fighters to briefly overrun their position and putting new strains on a ceasefire in effect elsewhere in the country.


Saturday’s air strikes were reported by Russia and a war monitor to have killed dozens of Syrian soldiers, and were said by Moscow to be evidence of what it called Washington’s “stubborn refusal” to coordinate strikes with Damascus.

Islamic State said via its Amaq news channel it had taken complete control of Jebel Tharda, where the bombed position was located, which would have allowed it to overlook government-held areas of Deir al-Zor.

As a result of this, the UN Security Council will be meeting to handle this development:

The United Nations security council has called an emergency meeting to discuss air strikes by the US-led coalition in Syria, diplomats said, after Russia said coalition warplanes had bombed and killed Syrian government forces.

The 15-member council was due to meet behind closed doors on Saturday evening in New York, diplomats told Reuters.

The US envoy to the United nations, Samantha Power, said she regretted loss of life in the Syria airstrike, but said the Russian call for the security council meeting was “a stunt”.

Earlier on Saturday Russia’s ministry of defense said coalition planes had killed 62 Syrian soldiers, wounded 100 more and allowed Islamic State militants to gain an advantage through the strike.

The Pentagon did not outright admit that coalition planes had hit Syrian forces, but said that pilots had “believed they were striking a Daesh [Isis] fighting position” and may have struck Syrian government forces instead.


In a statement, the ministry echoed questions from President Vladimir Putin about US commitment to a shaky ceasefire deal brokered by the two countries, and said the airstrikes could be evidence that American officials had not consulted with their counterparts in Moscow.

“If this airstrike was the result of a targeting error,” Russian major general Igor Konashenkov said in a statement, “it is a direct consequence of the US side’s stubborn unwillingness to coordinate its action against terrorist groups on Syrian territory with Russia.”

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, was subsequently quoted by Ria Novosti saying the Kremlin would demand an explanation at the UN.

“We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world,” she said, according to the state-owned news agency. “The White House is defending Islamic State. Now there can be no doubts about that.

“We demand a full and detailed explanation from Washington. That explanation must be given at the UN Security Council.”

I find the assertion of it being an accident, at least one not involving deliberate recklessness, not particularly credible.

Both the State Department and the the military still have a large number of senior officials (including SecDef Ashton Carter) who want regime change in Syria, so I think that any consideration of potentially hitting Syrian troops by US forces is (at best) perfunctory.

There is no meaningful moderate opposition to the Assad regime, what isn’t led by ISIS is led by al Nusra, which (despite its recent rebranding) is still a local chapter of al Qaeda, and our continued support for the desires of the Turks and the Gulf tyrants to overthrow him is going to crate negative backlash for decades.

Repeat after Me: There Are No Moderate Rebels in Syria

In the latest episode of stupid sh%$ that Obama has done, we discover so called moderate rebels, who had been vetted by the CIA, just kicked US special forces out of the Syrian town of Al Ra’i:


The deployment of some 40 U.S. special forces to Al Ra’i did not go well. The Turkish “Free Syrian Army” proxies threatened to kill the U.S. forces. They called them “unbelievers” and “crusader pigs” and the U.S. forces had to retreat under Turkish cover (video). Some FSA spokesperson later claimed that the dispute was over U.S. support for the Kurdish dominated SDF, which at times had fought against the FSA. Unconfirmed reports now say that the special forces are back in Al Ra’i after certain FSA groups were ordered out of the area. There are also reports claiming the U.S., after the special forces were chased out of town, “accidentally” bombed some FSA group in Al Ra’i. Ooops.

However, the hostile FSA forces will be around and U.S. Special Forces are obviously seen as their enemy. If the U.S. forces proceed together with the other FSA groups they will certainly have to watch their back at any and all times.

The Turkish supported sectarian “moderate” FSA groups are the very same groups the CIA has “vetted” and provided with TOW missiles and other weapons. But nobody should be astonished that such groups, driven by religious zeal, eventually turn on their sponsors. They have done so in each historic parallel one can think of.

The current ceasefire in Syria is already breaking down. U.S. media claim that Russia and Syria are blocking UN aid to the al-Qaeda ruled areas in east-Aleppo but other media say that the “rebels” are the ones threatening the convoys. In east-Aleppo al-Qaeda demonstrators held a rally (vid) against UN aid.

Obama’s liberal interventionism is every bit as much as a clusterf%$# as Dick Cheney’s 1% doctrine.