Obama and Putin Agreed To Screw Erdogan?

!cid_image006_jpg@01D103C7Moon of Alabama, Oct. 13, 2015: h/t @pulpark

It’s official! The New York Times finally admits that the “CIA rebels” in Syria who received tons of TOW anti-tank missiles are working under the field command of al-Qaeda/Jabhat al Nusra:

Rebel commanders scoffed when asked about reports of the delivery of 500 TOWs from Saudi Arabia, saying it was an insignificant number compared with what is available. Saudi Arabia in 2013 ordered more than 13,000 of them. Given that American weapons contracts require disclosure of the “end user,” insurgents said they were being delivered with Washington’s approval.

But, be assured, because these “CIA rebels” feel bad about it, they are still “moderate” or somewhat “relative moderate”.

Advancing alongside the Islamist groups, and sometimes aiding them, have been several of the relatively secular groups, like the Free Syrian Army, which have gained new prominence and status because of their access to the TOWs.

It is a tactical alliance that Free Syrian Army commanders describe as an uncomfortable marriage of necessity, because they cannot operate without the consent of the larger and stronger Nusra Front. But Mr. Assad and his allies cite the arrangement as proof that there is little difference between insurgent groups, calling them all terrorists that are legitimate targets.

That these “relative secular” al-Qaeda auxiliaries are threatening suicide attacks against Russians only confirms their secularism. Judging from the reader comments to that NYT piece the U.S. people are pretty aghast about this now openly admitted cooperation. They, and a realist op-ed in the NYT, call for cooperation with Russia and the Syrian government.

There may already be more cooperation between Russia and the U.S. than we can see. At least that is what the Turkish President Erdogan perceives.

Yesterday the U.S. dropped 50 tons of small weapons and munition to Kurdish fighters in north east Syria. According the U.S. justification for this those Kurds along with some Arab Syrian tribals are supposed to attack the Islamic State in Raqqa. (Those Arab tribals are by the way just a bunch of worthless thieves. This according to the Voice of America(!).) But the Kurds do not seem to know about those Raqqa plans anyway. They have different aims:

U.S. officials hope the YPG will now turn its attention to Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the defacto capital of the Islamic State, which lies just 60 miles south of Tal Abyad, a border town the YPG seized from the Islamic State in June, with U.S. help.

But PYD spokesman Can said the Kurdish group’s first priority is to link the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, northwest of the Syrian city of Aleppo, with Kobani, the Kurdish enclave northeast of Aleppo. That would mean clearing the Islamic State from villages along 60 miles of the Turkey-Syria border, in particular the border town of Jarablus.“Our prime and most important goal is to liberate Jarablus and to connect Kobani with Afrin,” Can told McClatchy. Capturing Raqqa, a mostly Arab city, is “not really” a PYD objective, he said. “Not for now,” he said.

That is just as I suspected the Kurds to react. But why did the U.S. officials claim that these Kurds and the collection of thieves would attack Raqqa? Did they not coordinate with them or was that Raqqa story a ruse?

The Turks seem to assume such and they accuse the U.S. as well as Russia of coordinating with the Kurds to seal the border with Turkey: Turkey warns U.S., Russia against backing Kurdish militia in Syria

Turkey has warned the United States and Russia it will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains by Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in north-western Syria, two senior officials said.”This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it,” one official said of the possibility of Syrian Kurdish militia crossing the Euphrates to extend control along Turkish borders from Iraq’s Kurdistan region towards the Mediterranean coast.

The PYD has been getting closer with both the United States and Russia of late. We view the PYD as a terrorist group and we want all countries to consider the consequences of their cooperation,” one of the Turkish officials said.

Turkey suspects Russia, which launched air strikes in Syria two weeks ago, has also been lending support to the YPG and PYD.

“With support from Russia, the PYD is trying to capture land between Jarablus and Azaz, going west of the Euphrates. We will never accept this,” the official said.

Is there now really coordination between Russia and the U.S. to seal the Syrian-Turkish border witch would cut off the Islamic State but also the al-Qaeda “CIA rebels” from their supplies? This would destroy all Turkish plans for Syria: a “safe zone” in Syria under Turkman control, a Sunni ruled pipeline corridor from Qatar to Europe, the Turkish-Ottoman annexation of Aleppo. Turkey would be pushed back into a secondary role.

Do Russia and the U.S. now really make common cause and decided to screw Erdogan? This would make sense if the destruction of the Islamic State and all other terrorists in Syria is the common aim. That would be a change in the Obama administration’s policy. Up to now it only helped the “salafist principality” to grow and never seriously attacked it.

And if there is such cooperation why does the U.S still deliver thousands of TOWs to al-Qaeda which only kill more Syrians and prolong the fighting?

Also see:

Turkey is the Next Failed State in the Middle East

From left to right: A Marxist terrorist holds hostage Turkish prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz (who died in the ensuing shootout) in March 2015; crowds protesting the government's failure to stop ISIS terror attacks are tear-gassed in October 2015; the June 8-14, 2013 cover of the Economist.

From left to right: A Marxist terrorist holds hostage Turkish prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz (who died in the ensuing shootout) in March 2015; crowds protesting the government’s failure to stop ISIS terror attacks are tear-gassed in October 2015; the June 8-14, 2013 cover of the Economist.

ME Forum, by David P. Goldman
Asia Times Online
October 10, 2015

We do not know just who detonated the two bombs that killed 95 Kurdish and allied activists in Ankara Saturday, but the least likely conjecture is that President Erdogan’s government is guiltless in the matter. As Turkish member of parliament Lutfu Turkkan tweeted after the bombing, the attack “was either a failure by the intelligence service, or it was done by the intelligence service.”

Betrayed by both the United States and Russia, and faced with the emergence of a Kurdish state on its borders and the rise of Kurdish parties in the parliamentary opposition, Erdogan is cornered. At risk in the short-term is the ability of his AKP party to govern after the upcoming November elections. At risk in the medium term is the cohesion of the Turkish state itself.

In public, Western leaders have hailed Turkey as “a great Islamic democracy,” as President Obama characterized it in a 2010 interview. That was the view of the George W. Bush administration before Obama, which invited Erdogan to the White House before his selection as prime minister in 2003.

Erdogan’s ability to govern, and cohesion of the Turkish state itself, is at risk.

A minority of military and intelligence analysts, though, has warned that Turkey may not be viable within its present borders in the medium term. The trouble is that its Kurdish minority, now at 20% of the overall population, has twice as many children as ethnic Turks, so many that half of Turkey’s military-age population will speak Kurdish as a first language in fewer than twenty years.

An existential crisis for Turkey has been in the making for years, as I reported in my 2011 book, How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too). During the past week, a perfect storm has overtaken Turkish policy, and threatens to provoke deep political instability. Turkey may become the region’s next failed state.

Erdogan has suffered public humiliation by both Washington and Moscow.

There has to be a fall guy in the Middle East’s film noir, and that unenviable role has fallen to Turkey. Prior to the bombings, the worst terrorist incident in modern Turkish history, Erdogan suffered public humiliation by Washington as well as Moscow. As Laura Rozen reported October 9 in Al-Monitor, Washington announced a 180-degree turn in its Syrian intervention, abandoning the Sunni opposition in favor of Syrian Kurds.

The United States will supply arms, equipment and air support to Syrian Arab and Kurdish groups already fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS) on the ground in Syria, the White House and Pentagon announced Oct. 9.

The decision to refocus the beleaguered, $500 million Pentagon program from training and equipping a new force to fight IS in Syria to “equip and enable” rebel groups already fighting on the ground came after an interagency review of the train and equip program, US officials said.

“A key part of our strategy is to try to work with capable, indigenous forces on the ground … to provide them with equipment to make them more effective, in combination with our air strikes,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth told journalists on a call on the new strategy Oct. 9.

Until last Friday, America and Turkey both supported the Sunni opposition to the Assad government with a view to eliminating Assad and installing a Sunni regime. That policy has been in shambles for months, but it allowed the Turks leeway to provide covert support to ISIS, the one Sunni force that shows effectiveness in the field. Russian intervention exposed the fecklessness of America’s attempts to find a “moderate” Syrian opposition to back. As the veteran strategist Edward Luttwak wrote last week in Tablet magazine:

Putin must certainly be innocent of the accusation that his air force has bombed the U.S.-trained “pro-democracy” freedom fighters, because the trainers themselves have admitted that the first lot on which one-tenth of the budget has been spent, i.e., $50 million, are exactly five in number, the rest having deserted after receiving their big family-support signing bonus and first paycheck, or after they were first issued with weapons (which they sold), or after first entering Syria in groups, when they promptly joined the anti-American Jabhat an-Nuṣrah, whose Sunni Islam they understand, unlike talk of democracy.

The Russians forced Washington to find something credible on the ground to support, and Washington turned to the Kurds, the only effective fighting force not linked to ISIS or al-Qaeda. That was precisely the result Turkey had wanted to avoid; the Kurdish military zone in northern Syria links up with Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Iraq, and the two zones form the core of a prospective Kurdish state.

Russia humiliated Turkey, meanwhile, by challenging Turkish fighters inside Turkish airspace, leaving NATO to protest loudly. Nonetheless the US and Germany have deactivated Patriot missile batteries–the only weapon system that represents a threat to Russian fighters–despite urgent Turkish requests to leave them in place. Russian fighters over Syria prevent the Turks from providing air cover for ISIS and other Islamist groups in Syria, as I noted Oct. 6 in our Chatham House Rules blog. M.K. Bhadrakumar observed in Asia Times Oct. 9, “Turkey’s scope for maneuvering vis-à-vis Russia is actually very limited and it has no option but to reach an understanding with Russia over Syria.”

Less obvious but no less ominous is the deterioration of Sino-Turkish relations due to Ankara’s covert support for the East Turkestan Independence Movement, a terrorist organization active among the Uyghurs of Western China. Despite official assurances, Turkey continues to provide safe passage to Turkey to thousands of Chinese Uyghurs via Southeast Asia, some of whom are fighting with ISIS in Syria. Thailand claims that Uyghur militants carried out the Aug. 17 bombing at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine after Thailand sent 109 Chinese Uyghurs back to China.

Erdogan has suffered not merely a collapse of his foreign policy, but a public humiliation by countries that backed his regime in the interests of regional stability–and this just before November’s parliamentary elections. After the Kurdish-backed HDP party took 13% of the national vote in last June’s elections and removed Erdogan’s majority in parliament, Erdogan called new elections rather than accept a coalition government. Erdogan also revived military operations against Turkish Kurds in order to elicit support from Turkish nationalists, a transparent maneuver widely reported in the major media.

As the New York Times reported August 5,

Having already delayed the formation of a coalition government, analysts say, Mr. Erdogan is now buttressing his party’s chances of winning new elections by appealing to Turkish nationalists opposed to self-determination for the Kurdish minority. Parallel to the military operations against the Kurds has been an effort to undermine the political side of the Kurdish movement by associating it with the violence of the P.K.K., which has also seemed eager to return to fighting.

Instead of responding to Erdogan’s provocation, the Kurds have shelved military operations in order to concentrate on winning votes in the November elections. After the Saturday bomb attacks, Thomas Seibert noted in the Daily Beast:

Observers agreed that the Ankara blast was probably linked to a decision by the PKK rebels to suspend hostilities with Ankara. The PKK had hinted in recent days that it would declare a new ceasefire in order to boost the HDP’s election chances. The people behind the attack wanted to “prevent the ceasefire” from coming into effect, respected journalist Kadri Gursel tweeted. The PKK’s ceasefire announcement became public shortly after the attack, but the decision by the rebels had probably been taken before.

In short, Erdogan now contemplates American heavy weapons in the hands of Syrian Kurds; the end of Turkey’s ability to provide air support for Sunni rebels in Syria; a Russian campaign to roll up the Sunni opposition, including Turkey’s assets in the field; and a collapse of his parliamentary majority due to an expanding Kurdish vote at home.

Whether the AKP government itself ordered the Ankara bombing, or simply looked the other way while ISIS conducted the bombing, both Turkey and global opinion will assume that the ghastly events in Ankara on Saturday reflect the desperation of the Erdogan regime. Regimes that resort to this sort of atrocity do not last very long.

The best thing that Turkey could do under the circumstances would be to ask the United Nations to supervise a plebiscite to allow Kurdish-majority areas to secede if they so chose. The mountains of southeastern Turkey with the highest concentration of Kurds are a drain on the national budget and of no strategic importance. Neither Erdogan nor his nationalist opposition, though, will consider such action; that would undermine both Erdogan’s neo-Ottomanism as well as the old secular nationalism. The pressures under the tectonic plates will only get worse. Saturday’s bombing may have demarcated the end of the Turkish state that arose out of the First World War.

David P. Goldman is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the Wax Family Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

How America can counter Putin’s moves in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/AP)

Washington Post, by Condoleezza Rice and  October 8, 2015:

Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state from 2005 to 2009. Robert M. Gates was defense secretary from 2006 to 2011.

One can hear the disbelief in capitals from Washington to London to Berlin to Ankara and beyond. How can Vladimir Putin, with a sinking economy and a second-rate military, continually dictate the course of geopolitical events? Whether it’s in Ukraine or Syria, the Russian president seems always to have the upper hand.

Sometimes the reaction is derision: This is a sign of weakness. Or smugness: He will regret the decision to intervene. Russia cannot possibly succeed. Or alarm: This will make an already bad situation worse. And, finally, resignation: Perhaps the Russians can be brought along to help stabilize the situation, and we could use help fighting the Islamic State.

The fact is that Putin is playing a weak hand extraordinarily well because he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is not stabilizing the situation according to our definition of stability. He is defending Russia’s interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This is not about the Islamic State. Any insurgent group that opposes Russian interests is a terrorist organization to Moscow. We saw this behavior in Ukraine, and now we’re seeing it even more aggressively — with bombing runs and cruise missile strikes — in Syria.

Putin is not a sentimental man, and if Assad becomes a liability, Putin will gladly move on to a substitute acceptable to Moscow. But for now, the Russians believe that they (and the Iranians) can save Assad. President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry say that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. That is true, but Moscow understands that diplomacy follows the facts on the ground, not the other way around. Russia and Iran are creating favorable facts. Once this military intervention has run its course, expect a peace proposal from Moscow that reflects its interests, including securing the Russian military base at Tartus.

We should not forget that Moscow’s definition of success is not the same as ours. The Russians have shown a willingness to accept and even encourage the creation of so-called failed states and frozen conflicts from Georgia to Moldova to Ukraine. Why should Syria be any different? If Moscow’s “people” can govern only a part of the state but make it impossible for anyone else to govern the rest of it — so be it.

And the well-being of the population is not the issue either. The Russian definition of success contains no element of concern for the dismal situation of the Syrian people. Refugees — that’s Europe’s problem. Greater sectarianism — well, it’s the Middle East! Populations attacked with barrel bombs and Assad’s chemicals, supposedly banned in the deal that Moscow itself negotiated — too bad!

Putin’s move into Syria is old-fashioned great-power politics. (Yes, people do that in the 21st century.) There is a domestic benefit to him, but he is not externalizing his problems at home. Russian domestic and international policies have always been inextricably linked. Russia feels strong at home when it is strong abroad — this is Putin’s plea to his propagandized population — and the Russian people buy it, at least for now. Russia is a great power and derives its self-worth from that. What else is there? When is the last time you bought a Russian product that wasn’t petroleum? Moscow matters again in international politics, and Russian armed forces are on the move.

Let us also realize that hectoring Putin about the bad choice he has made sounds weak. The last time the Russians regretted a foreign adventure was Afghanistan. But that didn’t happen until Ronald Reagan armed the Afghan mujahideen with Stinger missiles that started blowing Russian warplanes and helicopters out of the sky. Only then did an exhausted Soviet Union led by Mikhail Gorbachev, anxious to make accommodation with the West, decide that the Afghan adventure wasn’t worth it.

So what can we do?

First, we must reject the argument that Putin is simply reacting to world disorder. Putin, this argument would suggest, is just trying to hold together the Middle East state system in response to the chaos engendered by U.S. overreach in Iraq, Libya and beyond.

Putin is indeed reacting to circumstances in the Middle East. He sees a vacuum created by our hesitancy to fully engage in places such as Libya and to stay the course in Iraq. But Putin as the defender of international stability? Don’t go there.

Second, we have to create our own facts on the ground. No-fly zones and safe harbors for populations are not “half-baked” ideas. They worked before (protecting the Kurds for 12 years under Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror) and warrant serious consideration. We will continue to have refugees until people are safe. Moreover, providing robust support for Kurdish forces, Sunni tribes and what’s left of the Iraqi special forces is not “mumbo-jumbo.” It might just salvage our current, failing strategy. A serious commitment to these steps would also solidify our relationship with Turkey, which is reeling from the implications of Moscow’s intervention. In short, we must create a better military balance of power on the ground if we are to seek a political solution acceptable to us and to our allies.

Third, we must “de-conflict” our military activities with those of the Russians. This is distasteful, and we should never have gotten to a place where the Russians are warning us to stay out of their way. But we must do all that we can to prevent an incident between us. Presumably, even Putin shares this concern.

Finally, we need to see Putin for who he is. Stop saying that we want to better understand Russian motives. The Russians know their objective very well: Secure their interests in the Middle East by any means necessary. What’s not clear about that?


Also see:

How America Should Respond to Russia’s Syria Venture: A Guide

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Breitbart, by  ADMIRAL JAMES A. “ACE” LYONS, Oct. 8, 2015:

To respond to Russia’s military campaign in Syria, first, we have to be realistic about the facts on the ground. Iraq and Syria, for all practical purposes, are failed states.

There is no chance that either Iraq or Syria will ever be reconstituted as mandated by theSykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, which basically divided up control or influence over the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire between France and England.

Since the combined remaining military forces of Hezbollah, the Iranian Quds Force and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad have not been sufficient to assure Assad’s survival, Russia’s deployment of its air and marine ground forces to an airbase at Latakia, Syria should have come as no surprise. The preparations for this deployment clearly have gone on for some time. Our intelligence community certainly must have detected these preparations as well as the pre-deployment of surface-to-air missile batteries to the Latakia airbase about two months ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objectives are very clear. Notwithstanding his statements that his main objective is to defeat the Islamic State, he intends to support the retention of Syrian President Assad in power at all costs. In that sense, he will confront all the Sunni militias, including Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, as well as ISIS, which threaten the Assad regime. The announcement by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that Iraq intends to share intelligence with Syria and Russia, plus his statement that he would welcome Russian air strikes against ISIS in Iraq, clearly adds a new dimension to Russia’s involvement. Should Putin expand Russian involvement into Iraq, it would certainly provide some balance to the theory of an emerging Damascus-Baghdad-Beirut-Tehran-Moscow axis. Another complicating factor is the deployment of the Russian cruiser, Moskva, armed with 64 advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles. This is one of Russia’s most advanced air defense systems and may indicate that Russia is taking over air defense responsibilities for Syria.

The survival of both the Syrian and Iraqi regimes are key elements in the “unwritten plan” for Iranian regional hegemony.  However, President Obama’s apparent complicity with the Russian deployment of military forces and suggestion that they could be even a stabilizing factor fits right in with his “leading from behind” strategy. Our enemies clearly view this strategy as weakness and will continue to exploit the power vacuum created by our lack of leadership. It will provide further substance to a Tehran-Baghdad-Beirut-Damascus-Moscow axis for Iranian regional dominance.

Such a strategy certainly will not be welcomed by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, UAE, Jordan, or for that matter, our ally Israel.  Clearly, Sunni opposition to Shiite domination will ensure that a chaotic situation will remain for the foreseeable future. Other complicating factors will be how long Israel decides to wait before launching a strike to destroy Iran’s key nuclear infrastructure, and how long it will be before Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies obtain their own nuclear weapons capability.

In the current complicated and dangerous situation, what is the most sensible course for the U.S. to follow to protect our interests and regional allies, given our lack of leadership, which is clearly evident? We have nothing to gain by further involving U.S. forces in what should be recognized as failed states – Syria and Iraq. In this sense, our principal objectives remain the prevention of Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability and the removal of the corrupt jihadist Iranian theocracy. Let’s not forget, the removal of Bashar al-Assad from Syria is a principal objective pushed by the Muslim Brotherhood and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Leaders in the Middle East will follow the “strong horse.” With President Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy, Putin has become the strong horse!

There have been recent calls for the establishment of a “no-fly zone” over so-called moderate rebel areas. The window for such action was closed once Russia completed its military force deployment and commenced air strikes. It makes no sense to create a situation that elevates this classic Sunni-Shiite conflict into a potential direct U.S.-Russian conflict. With our current weak and inept leadership, the current chaotic situation needs to be kept at the lowest possible conflict level. Therefore, steps that the United Stated could take that would require no further commitment of U.S forces, but would complicate Russia’s and Iran’s ability to achieve their objectives, would be the following:

  1. To counter recent Russian and Chinese naval deployments off Syria, we should deploy a Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean. This would send a very positive signal to our NATO allies as well as to Egypt and Israel.
  2. We should establish a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Kurdistan by redistribution of in-theater air resources to include F-16’s, A-10’s, C-130 gunships and AH-1 attack helicopters.
  3. Provide direct military equipment to Kurdistan’s Peshmerga military forces.  With Baghdad clearly aligned with Tehran, Damascus and Moscow, it makes no sense to continue sending military equipment for the Peshmerga through Baghdad, from which it is never passed on.
  4. Support the establishment of a sovereign Kurdistan. They have been a loyal, reliable ally along with Israel. Such action would clearly complicate the situation for Iran, but also for Turkey, which should be manageable.
  5. We should be providing direct defensive military equipment to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. We should also provide more direct support in terms of NATO forces to the Baltic States to preempt potential Russian aggressive moves.

The above actions are what we should be doing to protect our interests in the region, as well as those of our allies. Such action would complicate and make it more costly for Russia and Iran to achieve their objectives and possibly prevent a nuclear arms race in this most unstable region.

James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired Admiral, has served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior
U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

Russia’s endgame in Syria: Follow the Money

3300795117Center for Security Policy, by John Cordero, Oct. 6, 2015:

As Vladimir Putin orders airstrikes against rebels of all stripes fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, there are important strategic economic goals behind Russia’s actions in Syria.  The short term goal is easy to discern: prevent Assad’s collapse as no alternative suitable to Russian interests exists, preserve Russia’s only naval base in the Middle East at Tartus, and promote Russia both at home and abroad as a world power that counterbalances American hegemony.

Much of the media has focused on Putin as a personal driver of Russian behavior.  While forays into Georgia and Ukraine have accomplished the tactical goals of preventing increased European Union presence in Russia’s sphere of influence, these have come at a high cost both politically and economically in the form of isolation and sanctions. Putin seems to have concluded that intervening in Syria in the name of fighting terrorism can only help repair Russia’s battered image.

It is important to at least try to understand Putin’s motivation without delving too much into psychoanalysis.  He is on record as lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”  In power since 2000, the former KGB officer is an ardent Russian nationalist, a promoter of a personality cult concerned with his country’s standing and perception in the world.  With his career spent in the service of the state, he is not one to take a background role in world affairs. Putin has effectively used Russia’s alliance with Iran as an effective tool to undermine the US, both regionally in the Gulf and globally with the nuclear deal.

The current buildup at Tartus and Latakia is nothing new: since Hafez al-Assad’s rise to power in 1970, the Former Soviet Union and then Russia was and is a stalwart ally, long attempting to position Syria as a counterbalance to American and Israeli military superiority in the Middle East.

Russia’s actions are also a message to the world: unlike the US, which abandoned long-time ally Hosni Mubarak during his time of need in Egypt, Russia is prepared to intervene, militarily if necessary, to preserve a friendly regime in danger.  Therefore, it pays for autocrats to court Moscow, especially if they possess valuable resources or are in prime strategic locations.

While Vladimir Putin ostensibly espouses the acceptable goal of a global alliance against IS, the strategic context is that he has entered into a sectarian alliance with Shia Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the proxy army Hezbollah (The P4+1) against the American-backed Sunni alliance of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the UAE, all of whom insist that Assad has no future in Syria.

Through its airstrikes, Russia continues to advance the prior Syrian strategy of focusing efforts against pro-Western rebels, with the recognition that, while dangerous, the Islamic State is the one party in the conflict the West will never support.

The Islamic State will take advantage of both the respite, and the propaganda value of being the recognized number one enemy of the infidel coalition, which it uses to rally supporters simply by pointing out that its enemies are gathering to destroy the renewed Caliphate.

The one strategic motivation for Russia that has been widely ignored is the economic one.  Qatar, the richest country in the world per capita and also owner of the world’s largest natural gas field, proposed in 2009 to jointly construct a gas pipeline running through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and into Europe.  Assad, not wanting to provoke Moscow, refused to sign on.  Instead, he floated an alternative: an Iran-Iraq-Syria and possibly Lebanon pipeline, to then follow under the Mediterranean to Europe. The Qatar-Turkey pipeline would run through majority Sunni countries with the exception of Syria’s Alawite regime. Assad’s counter proposal follows the Shia crescent.

Russia, not wanting to lose its primary market in Europe, is adamantly opposed to a prospective Qatari project.  A military presence in Syria will guarantee that even if Assad is removed from power, the pipeline will not be built.  It will look on favorably to the Iranian proposal, provided Gazprom and other state-owned companies get their share of the pie.

Pipeline politics in the region have a long and varied history of Russian involvement.  TheBaku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was built only after Moscow’s demand for an alternative pipeline for Azeri oil to Russia was met.  During the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, US intelligence officials determined that an explosion on the pipeline near the Turkish-Georgian border was carried out via Russian government cyber warfare.  Days after the explosion, Russian fighter jets bombed positions in Georgia close to the pipeline. Although the BTC pipeline was built precisely to avoid Russian interference, the Kremlin has never let that stop them.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have also begun construction on a joint natural gas pipeline, theTANAP. This project’s stated goal is to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas, a prospect that cannot please Moscow.   Both the BTC and TANAP bypass Armenia, a Russian ally and wary of its neighbors in the Caucasus.

As the endpoint for the Qatari project, Turkey is adamant in calling for Assad to step down or be removed, which dovetails with the proposed Sunni pipeline.  By clearing the way through Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia can receive a handsome return on their investment in backing jihadis fighting Assad.  On the other hand, Iran will not sit idly by and leave potential billions of dollars in the hands of its ideological and regional enemies.

Russian intervention in Syria is just beginning. There is every possibility that it will expand as more targets are found, perhaps those that are in the way of the proposed Iranian pipeline, directly threatening Damascus and by extension, the Russian monopoly of gas exports to Europe.  For the time being, Putin has the world’s attention.


EXCLUSIVE: Russian jets ‘intercept’ US predator drones over Syria, officials say

Also see:

Obama, Putin and Syria: A bullet point update

20151003_obamaputinsyriaFamily Security Matters, by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD, Oct. 3, 2015:

  • Vladimir Putin’s overall strategy is to prop up Russia’s long-time regional ally, Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
  • Russia has bombed targets in northwestern Syria, an area mainly held by non-ISIS rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army and an Islamist coalition, Jaysh al-Fatah.
  • The aim is to eliminate non-ISIS groups first. Then the Syrian, Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah alliance can turn its attention to ISIS and, thereby, force the United States to support or, at least, do nothing to hinder their operations.
  • Controlling northwest Syria also safeguards Assad’s Shia-Alawite home region and his base of support, as well as securing the strategically critical coastal area containing the Latakia airbase used by Russian forces and the important port of Tartus.
  • With Russia filling the power vacuum left by Obama’s feckless foreign policy, the big losers in the region are the United States, Turkey and, to some extent, the nations that have supported the Sunni rebels, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Sunni Islamist, an opponent of Syria’s Assad and a fervent supporter of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Like Erdogan, Obama also demonstrated ardent support for the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt.
  • Some have argued that the Muslim Brotherhood exerts undue influence on the Obama Administration.
  • Together with another strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar, which acted as an intermediary, Erdogan and Obama were likely shipping arms from Libya through Turkey to the Syrian rebels, which led, at least in part, to the death of Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
  • Obama, having outsourced the Syrian rebel supply effort to Turkey and Qatar, not unexpectedly, lost control of the funding, the weapons distribution and any significant influence in the region with Turkey and Qatar pursuing their own interests.
  • Russia and the Shia-axis of Assad, Iran and Hezbollah are now positioned to drive events in the region, all of which will only to be strengthened by Obama’s incompetent lead-from-behind foreign policy and his perilous Iran nuclear deal.

New information about the Russian disinformation campaign added October 4, 2015 from the Institute for the Study of War website – Russian airstrikes continue to primarily target Syrian opposition groups in areas far from ISIS’s core terrain. These strikes are concentrated in northwestern Syria, particularly in rebel-held areas of Idlib Province and the northern countryside of Hama Province. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed only three airstrikes targeting positions in known ISIS-held terrain between October 1 and October 3. However, local reporting only confirmed two of these strikes. The Russian air campaign in Syria appears to be largely focused on supporting the Syrian regime and its fight against the Syrian opposition, rather than combating ISIS.


Russian countermoves in Syria taking shape (centerforsecuritypolicy.org)

With Russian TV forecasting today’s weather as ‘sunny with a chance of airstrikes,’ the Kremlin is clearly unapologetic regarding its aggressive strategy of anti-Assad forces in Syria.  Parliament Defense Committee chairman Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov said that the Russian Navy is studying the possibility of initiating a blockade on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, in order to shorten its logistical supply times from Crimea, as well as carrying out artillery strikes on rebel positions.  He also raised the possibility of Russian volunteers from Ukraine heading to Syria to fight the Islamic State, with Russia reusing the “Little Green Men” strategy of deniable volunteers it used in the invasion of Ukraine.

The US has announced that strikes against IS targets will continue, raising the possibility of a proxy war reminiscent of Afghanistan in the 80’s.  In the event of a full-blown conflict, the Pentagon is revising its contingency war plans, which have not been updated since the collapse of the Soviet Union.


5 Top Victories for Putin in Syria (pjmedia.com)


John  Batchelor interviews Claudia Rosett:


Also see:

What now? How to deal with the utter collapse of Obama’s Syria-Iraq strategy


Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, Oct 1, 2015:

A year ago, in response to the growing strength of ISIS and outrage over internet videos of ISIS beheadings, President Obama announced a strategy on Sept. 10, 2014 to “degrade and destroy” ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The president’s four-step plan included: a systemic campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria; increased support to forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria, including training and arming moderate Syrian rebels; expanded counterterrorism efforts to weaken ISIS and cut off its resources; and continued support to humanitarian assistance to civilians displaced by ISIS.

Twelve months later this strategy is in ruins. Russia has sent troops into Syria and began bombing ISIS targets Wednesday.  [Author’s note: There are some reports that Russia actually bombed non-ISIS Syrian rebels, including some rebels backed by the U.S.]

Also on Wednesday, the Russian government told the United States to stay out of Syrian airspace and remove American warplanes.

Iran has increased its presence in Iraq; Moscow has strengthened its relationship with the Iraqi government.

On Sept. 27, Russian officials announced a new anti-ISIS pact between Russia, Iraq, Iran and Syrian that will include intelligence sharing.

President Obama’s Iraq-Syria strategy collapsed so quickly because, as I wrote here for Fox News Opinion last May, it was really a non-strategy to do as little as possible about this crisis for the rest of his presidency so he can hand this mess to a future president.

Pinprick airstrikes in Syria under Obama’s policy did not stop ISIS from making gains on the ground.

In Iraq, ISIS took the city of Ramadi last May despite being outnumbered 10-1 by the Iraqi army.  Iraqi officials said they would retake the city “in days.”

Four months later, there is little prospect of this or an assault to retake Mosul which was supposed to occur last spring. This is due to the weakness of Iraq’s army and President Obama’s refusal to allow U.S. military advisers or special forces leave their bases and accompany Iraqi forces into the field.

The Obama administration recently admitted its $500 million plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels has been a disaster.  The program spent $42 million to train its first group of 54 recruits who entered Syria from Turkey last July.  The recruits were quickly attacked by the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria) and forced to surrender trucks and ammunition to this terrorist group.  Most of these rebels returned to Turkey; a U.S. general told Congress only “four or five” are still fighting in Syria despite a goal of training 5,400 per year.

The fighting in Syria has caused a huge flood of refugees to seek refuge in Europe.  At the same time, more than 7,000 foreign fighters – including 250 Americans – joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq over the last year according to a new bipartisan congressional report.

Obama officials responded to the rapid collapse of its Syria-Iraq strategy with spin to exaggerate the effectiveness of the president’s policy and dismissing ISIS gains.  50 Department of Defense intelligence analysts recently filed complaints with the Pentagon IG that their work was doctored to support the Obama administration’s claim that its anti-ISIS strategy is succeeding.

The failure of President Obama’s Iraq-Syria policy is now so obvious that his advisers can no longer spin it away.

Mr. Obama’s policy created a power vacuum in the Middle East that Russian President Vladimir Putin has filled.  By seizing the initiative in the fight against IS, Putin is trying to create a new Russian-led regional axis that will counter American influence and portray Russia as a more reliable partner.  This gambit could have major benefits for Putin, including possibly by convincing Europe to drop its sanctions against Russia due to its intervention in Ukraine by promising to stop the flow of refugees to Europe from Syria.

The Obama administration is scrambling to respond to these developments.  Obama chided Putin’s Syria moves in his speech to the UN General Assembly this week, called for the removal of Syrian President Assad but also expressed willingness to work with Putin in the battle against ISIS.  Putin dismissed Obama’s demands by blaming the United States for the civil war in Syria, called for working with the Assad regime and criticized America’s efforts to train and equip Syrian rebels.

The president’s Iraq-Syria policy continues to be incoherent and dangerous.  There’s no chance of removing Syrian president Assad due to Russia’s increased support.  In his UN General Assembly speech, President Obama expressed his willingness to work with Iran to fight ISIS and end the civil war in Syria even though increasing Iran’s role in Iraq and Syria will expand Iranian influence and exacerbate Sunni-Shia tensions in Iraq.

Given that this situation is the result of seven years of incompetent policy by this administration and the president’s continuing refusal to take decisive action in Iraq or Syria, it is hard to see what the Obama administration can do to reverse it.  But there are several guidelines Mr. Obama should consider employing to dig out of the hole his policy has created:

  • Recognize that Russia and Iran are the problem, not the solution.  The United States needs to maintain dialogue with Russia but stop talking about working with Russia and Iran to fight ISIS since their goals are counter to American interests and regional security. Mr Obama needs to realize that an expanded and entrenched Russian/Iranian presence in the Middle East will have dire long term consequences for America and the region.
  • Work with our European and regional states to form a better military alliance to combat ISIS and to counter Russian and Iranian influence.  This should include creating a safe haven protected zone in northern Syria and intensified air strikes against ISIS targets.  The refugee crisis probably has made Europe more willing to participate in such an alliance.  France conducted its firs airstrikes in Syria last week.
  • End the limitations on fighting ISIS in Iraq.  Let U.S. troops leave their bases so they can operate behind the lines in Iraq and support Iraqi security forces.  Provide better weapons to the Iraqi Kurds or let our allies arm them.  Incredibly, the Obama administration blocked Gulf states from sending heavy weapons to the Iraqi Kurds in July.
  • President Obama must stop making demands he has no intention of enforcing.  The world correctly sees Mr Obama’s demands that Assad leave office and Russia stop its military aid to the Assad government as idle threats.  Every time the president makes such demands, he further undermines American credibility and emboldens U.S. enemies and adversaries.  The word of the leader of the world’s superpower must be enough to change international events and not viewed as chatter that can be safely ignored.

Given his record to date, I doubt President Obama will adopt any of these guidelines.  I expect his administration will continue its non-policy policy to leave this crisis for the next administration to solve.  As a result, American interests and regional security are likely to suffer for the rest of this presidency as Russia and Iran increase their influence.

The presidential candidates need to watch this situation closely since the Middle East disaster they will inherit from Mr. Obama likely will be much worse than the current crisis


Also see:

‘Muslims are fleeing in droves’: ISIS suddenly has a caliphate problem


A militant Islamist fighter filming his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province in 2014.

A militant Islamist fighter filming his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province in 2014.

Business Insider, by Pamela Engel, Sep. 22, 2015:

The Islamic State militant group has recently released a barrage of propaganda videos targeting refugees and telling them to come join the “caliphate” instead of fleeing to “xenophobic” Europe.

The videos seek to reinforce the image of the caliphate — the territory ISIS controls in Iraq and Syria — as an Islamic utopia and capitalize on the dangers refugees face as they flee to European countries.

And these videos aren’t the first propaganda messages ISIS has released about the refugee crisis — earlier this month, in its English-language magazine Dabiq, the extremist group published an article warning against leaving the caliphate for Western countries.

The articles said leaving for Western nations was “a dangerous major sin” that was “a gate towards one’s children and grandchildren abandoning Islam for Christianity, atheism, or liberalism.”

This propaganda effort could be a sign of panic in the ranks of ISIS leadership as Iraqis and Syrians flee their home countries in large numbers.

“They claim to create this Islamic utopia, and Muslims are fleeing in droves,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider.

“A legitimate caliphate … is supposed to be able to provide services to its citizens.”

ISIS relies on residents in the territory it controls for revenue — it makes most of its money from taxation — and for services that give ISIS-held territories the appearance of being ruled by a functioning government.

“Taxation certainly would [be] an issue with people fleeing,” Gartenstein-Ross said. “Another significant problem is brain drain … The people who have highly desirable skill sets like doctors are fleeing.”

A map from August showing oil wells under ISIS control.

A map from August showing oil wells under ISIS control.

Oil is another major source of funding for ISIS, which brought in an estimated $100 million in 2014 from selling crude on the black market.

“The oil industry … is another area where they haven’t preserved the level of talent that they need,” Gartenstein-Ross added.

Aside from a possible brain drain and loss of revenue if there are fewer people to tax as ISIS continues its attempt to seize territory across Iraq and Syria, the refugee exodus from the Middle East could call ISIS’ legitimacy into question, Gartenstein-Ross said.

And ISIS has a strategy to keep people from leaving the caliphate. The International Institute for Strategic Studies reported recently: “It is in ISIS’s interest to prevent a mass exodus by residents living in territory it controls, because this would undermine its image of a cohesive state-building project. The group has accordingly placed IEDs around entrances to cities it controls, such as Fallujah and Ramadi, to prevent escape, which simultaneously serve the larger purpose of preventing the [Iraqi Security Forces] from advancing.”

The strategic security firm The Soufan Group noted last week that “more people are visibly fleeing [ISIS] and the areas it controls than are flocking to join it.”

“In an attempt to change the minds of people who would rather risk drowning than live in the Islamic State, the group has ramped up its propaganda efforts,” The Soufan Group said. “The scatter-shot nature of the Islamic State’s recent messages — at times angry and denouncing refugees, at other times proclaiming the wisdom of staying in what the group sees as an Earthly paradise — shows the desperation of a group that resembles a pyramid scheme more than a government.”

Some experts, however, disagree with the characterization of ISIS’ media blitz as a sign of desperation or panic.

“I wouldn’t see it as a desperate call for the refugees … because they need people [in their caliphate] but more as a sophisticated move by the Islamic State to take advantage of the huge debate on the refugee movement in Europe,” Pieter Nanninga, an assistant professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, told Business Insider.

His research focuses on jihadist violence and media use, and he viewed the new videos ISIS posted about the refugee crisis.

Read more

Also see:


GettyImages-490448488-11-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sep. 30, 2015:

Fox News is exclusively reporting that Russia has demanded American warplanes exit Syrian airspace immediately, as Russia begins its bombing campaign on behalf of Bashar Assad.

The news came from a senior U.S. official, who said there was “nothing to indicate” the U.S. was complying with Russia’s demand.

Another defense official said, “We have had every indication in recent weeks that (the Russians) were going to do something given the build-up.”  That’s an interesting claim, because just a few days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry was saying Russia’s long-term intentions were unclear, and he thought their buildup of air power in Syria was merely for “force protection.”

The inventory of aircraft and weapons Russia moved into Syria includes advanced air supremacy fighters and surface-to-air missiles, which would have no conceivable use against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, or any other Syrian rebel group, as none of them have an air force.  The planes were slipped into Syria using clever subterfuge designed to defeat satellite surveillance, which is something else no element of the Syrian rebellion has.

“The Russian demand also mirrors one made by Turkey this past July, when Ankara asked U.S. planes to fly only in airspace south of Mosul, Iraq. In that case, 24 Turkish jets bombed Kurdish positions, catching the U.S. off guard,” Fox News writes.

Also on Wednesday, the Russian parliament unanimously voted to give President Vladimir Putin war-fighting authority in Syria.  Putin’s chief of staff, Sergey Ivanov, said only a “time-limited” air campaign is envisioned.

Russian bombs are already falling on Syria according to some sources, and the first targets reported include a rebel group vetted and supplied by the United States:

green lemon tweet

Update, 10:30 AM EST: According to CNN, the Russians sent an official to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to announce the Russian strikes, and “request” the removal of American planes from Syrian airspace, with only an hour or two of warning before the Russian strikes began.

The CNN report also notes that the Russians have given “no geographical information” about where they planned to strike.  That’s a remarkable gesture of contempt, an incredibly reckless and dangerous approach, and possibly an indication that the Russians are planning to blow up some people they think the United States would have warned.

Update, 11:00 AM EST: Further testimony that Russia isn’t primarily interested in bombing ISIS positions, and has caused significant civilian casualties with its first wave of bombings:

conflict news tweet


Russians Conduct Airstrikes in Syrian City of Homs, Where Anti-Assad Forces Are Concentrated

New Cold War

Click the image above for audio
The Gorka Briefing, SEBASTIAN GORKA, PHD on 28 September 2015:

US-Trained Syrian Rebels Allegedly Hand Weapons to Al Qaeda Affiliate

Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated to al-Qaeda, took the technicals, guns and ammunition from the US-trained Division 30 in northern Aleppo Photo: Reuters

Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated to al-Qaeda, took the technicals, guns and ammunition from the US-trained Division 30 in northern Aleppo Photo: Reuters

Washington Free Beacon, by Morgan Chalfant, Sep/ 22, 2015:

U.S.-trained rebels that reentered Syria over the weekend after completing the Pentagon program allegedly gave their weapons to the al Qaeda affiliate in the region, al Nusra.

The Telegraph reported that rebels fighting with Division 30, the rebel group with whom the U.S.-trained Syrian fighters are partnering to combat the Islamic State, surrendered and handed over weapons and ammunition to members of al Nusra, according to members of the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Abu Fahd al-Tunisi, who identifies himself as a member of al Nusra, wrote on Twitter, “A strong slap [in the face] for America … the new group from Division 30 that entered yesterday hands over all of its weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra after being granted safe passage.”

“They also handed over a very large amount of ammunition and medium weaponry and a number of pick-ups,” al-Tunisi added.

Another alleged al Nusra member, Abu Khattab al-Maqdisi, claimed on Twitter that the commander of Division 30 Anas Ibrahim Obaid said he tricked the U.S.-led coalition in order to obtain weapons.

“He promised to issue a statement … repudiating Division 30, the coalition, and those who trained him,” al-Maqdisi wrote.

U.S. Central Command said Monday that approximately 70 U.S.-trained Syrian rebels had reentered Syria after undergoing training in Turkey.

If confirmed, the U.S.-trained rebels relinquishing their weapons would represent another setback for the $500 million Pentagon program. In July, al Nusra kidnapped a number of U.S.-trained Syrian rebels when they entered Syria after becoming the first class to complete the training program. The al Qaeda affiliate was allegedly tipped off by Turkey. Currently, only four or five rebels from the first class of the training program are still fighting the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) in the Middle East

The Pentagon plans to overhaul its effort to train rebels to fight the Islamic State.


Also see:

Russia in the Middle East, Greek Airspace, Iran Naval Surveillance

Iranian warship / AP

Iranian warship / AP

Russia expands its role in Syria, Greece (NATO member) considers US request to deny airspace

As the effects of the Syrian civil war spill over into Europe and Latin America, Vladimir Putin has publically confirmed that the Russian military is active on the side of Bashar al-Assad against the rebels and IS.  Making strange bedfellows with the US and Iran, Russian air strikes have been confirmed as taking place in IS-controlled territory in eastern Syria.  Meanwhile, France is preparing to launch air strikes against IS at the same time that Greece is considering the US request to deny Russia airspace and landing rights to launch air strikes from its territory.

Secretary of State John Kerry is warning Russia that its increased involvement risks obstructing the anti-
IS coalition efforts, due to the fact that Russia is conducting its operations without coordination with other forces.  However, observers in Moscow speculate that Putin may be trying to curry favor by launching strikes against IS, seeking a reprieve of sanctions that have crippled the Russian economy.  For its part, Russia defends its involvement in Syria as one in the same in the fight against terrorism.

Developments on the field may have forced Russia’s hand: reports state that IS and Syrian Army forces are engaged in a battle for control of the Jazal oil field, which is the last remaining facility under Assad’s control.  While both sides have claimed victory, the pattern of attacks by IS on Assad strongholds points to a greater boldness on the part of IS to gain momentum as they inch closer to Damascus.

Iran deal after effects continue

As the nuclear deal continues to work its way through Congress, the Iranian leadership is now active in offering peace negotiations with the US and other powers over the Syrian war.  While remaining a steadfast supporter of Assad along with Russia, the remarks were offered during a press conference with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, who is currently visiting Tehran in an apparent bid to line up business and trade deals as the sanctions on Iran are lifted in the wake of the nuclear deal.

As previously noted, Russia is now actively involved in the war, while Iran continues its support of Assad behind the scenes and through its Hezbollah proxy.  This apparent about-face may be a tactic to divert attention as IS continues its advance and plots to break through to Damascus.

Must read: Iranian Warships Confront U.S. Navy On ‘Daily Basis’

Routinely photographed by Iranians for intelligence purposes

“U.S. naval forces operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping lane, are “routinely approached by Iranian warships and aircraft” on a “nearly daily basis,” according to a Pentagon official familiar with operations in the region.”

Also see:

Petraeus Is Wrong: You Can’t “Peel” Jihadists Away From Jihad


Town Hall, by Kyle Shideler, Sep 03, 2015:

The report earlier this week was that Former CIA Director and CENTCOM Commander General  was proposing to peel off “reconcilables” among Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, seeking to appeal to Al Nusra fighters who joined Al Qaeda, in the same way that Sunni tribes were convinced to join the “awakening” and oppose Al Qaeda. There’s no evidence to support the idea that Syrian rebels have flocked to Al-Nusra only because it represents the “strong horse” and not because they support Nusra and Al-Qaeda’s jihadist brand.

Al Nusra has been the lead element in numerous Syrian rebel alliances, including the Jaish-Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest), which seized control of the provincial capital of Idlib in March, and Ansar Al Sharia, a coalition of Syrian Islamist forces in Aleppo. Their allies have had little if anything to say about Jabhat Al Nusra’s repeated attacks against any U.S.-supported Syrian rebel force. Not just recently against Division 30, the unit of the sixty or so vetted Syrian rebels on which the U.S. has spent almost $500 million, but against other U.S-backed groups including the Hazm Movement and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front.

Indeed, among the Syrian rebel opposition groups as a whole, the vast majority have repeatedly shown that they prefer jihad in the name of establishing an Islamic state in Syria over any alliance with the United States. In 2012, large swathes of the Syrian opposition vowed “we are all Jabhat Al Nusra,” following the U.S. decision to designate the terror group for its ties to Al Qaeda.

Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin also reaches the conclusion that the U.S. cannot peel off Al Nusra fighters, but for the wrong reasons. He blames a lack of U.S. credibility, derived from a failure to assist “moderate” rebels in fighting the Assad regime. In his column, Rogin cites Mouaz Mustafa, from the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), who blames the U.S. lack of support for Syrian rebels leading to a credibility gap that causes them to prefer Al Qaeda to the U.S.

The reality is that SETF’s preferred rebels are the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda-linked militias who made up the Islamic Front. In 2013, the Islamic Front, led by Al Qaeda-linked Ahrar Al Sham, was approached by the Obama administration about working together to overthrow Assad, the group refused. The deal breaker? The Islamic Front would not stop working with Al Nusra. Most will not recall that it was the Islamic Front’s seizure of warehouses stocked with aid intended for U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, and not American stinginess, that led to the cut in U.S. and other Western allies aid to Northern Syria.

If the U.S. can’t convince the so-called “moderate” Islamists to break from Al Qaeda, how is it supposed to convince Al Nusra’s members to do so?

Al Nusra and the Islamist militias that make up the majority of the Syrian opposition are allies, not merely of convenience but of ideological conviction. And while they have faced setbacks in their repeated efforts to establish joint Sharia courts in rebel-occupied territory, that goal unifies them in a manner that no amount of U.S. money or influence can reverse.

The history of intervention efforts in Syria suggests instead of there being “reconcilables” inside Jabhat Al Nusra for the U.S. to co-opt, the reality is that there are not enough “reconcilables” outside of Al Nusra to co-opt either. The “Petraeus proposal” for Syria is yet another rehashing of the same tired proposal offered by elements of the U.S. foreign policy establishment who have sought to align U.S. interests with the so-called “moderate” Islamist factions in Syria, even if it means buddying up to Al Qaeda.


Secure Freedom Radio with KYLE SHIDELER, Director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy:

  • Saudi Arabia’s role in supporting the global jihad
  • Iran’s assistance to the 9/11 hijackers
  • Petraeus’ proposal to use al Qaeda to fight ISIS
  • Existence of “No-Go Zones” in France

U.S. Immigration Experts: Europe’s Progressives to Blame for Huge Migrant Death Toll

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Breitbart, by Neil Munro, Sep. 3, 2015:

Europe’s post-national progressive governing elite is competing to display its supposed horror over the rapidly rising number of migrants’ corpses now being washed up on Mediterranean beaches.

But those self-regarding progressives deserve much of the blame for the multi-thousand toll of migrants suffering egregious conditions trying to enter Europe, say U.S. immigration experts.

This, they argue, is because the progressives want to ignore the lessons of other migration crises — including the now-ended 2013 Pacific rush into Australia — and want to use the picture of dead migrants to break open their continent’s backdoor to huge migrations from the developing world. So far, they have opened the door wide enough to attract millions of people to make the risky migration around the safe-but-closed legal entrance to Europe’s placid and very civil society.

“The migrants are mainly responsible for making these decisions, and the smugglers are criminals, but the [European] governments share the responsibility,” for casualties along the risky route, said Mark Krikorian, director of the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies. “By not enforcing [immigration] rules, they are thereby communicating to potential migrants that [the dangerous trip] is worth the risk.” Many of the migrants are getting through the back door into Europe, so their trail of dead is a rational price for entry into Europe, Krikorian said.

“Unless [European governments] are going to allow hundreds of millions of people to come over legally into Europe, there’s no [smaller] number they could chose that would ensure more people won’t come” via the risky sea passage, said Roy Beck, the founder of NumbersUSA.

“There’s no way to create [narrow] legal channels that stop the dying,” he said, adding the only feasible fix is to create “well-funded, well-run international refugees camps, as close to the home countries are you can, so it is easy for the migrants to to go home.” His group advocates to reduce the annual legal inflow of roughly 1.5 million people into the United States. In comparison, 4 million Americans are born each year.

The risky migration is also a safer option for many Syrian migrants, who would otherwise have to fight the Islamic State’s expanding jihadi army. It is also means that Europe’s progressive governments can eliminate the possibility of recruiting eligible migrants into a Syrian army that can defeat ISIS.

The progressive hand-wringing about the migration has reached a new peak following the garish display of a picture showing a small drowned child, face-down on a Mediterranean beach.

The dead child, along with his two dead siblings and mother, was trying to reach Greece but sank into the sea. Two accompanying smugglers grabbed the only two lifejackets and floated back to shore.

Some progressives are using this photo as an argument to further open the door to more migrants. The New York Times and the Washington Post, for example, posted similar images on their websites Sept. 3. The dead child was used to fill the entire Sept. 2 frontpage of London’s leading progressive daily, The Independent.


“The Independent has taken the decision to publish these images because, among the often glib words about the ‘ongoing migrant crisis,’ it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees,” the editors intoned. “The pictures, and the tragedy they convey, are hard to ignore, and now senior politicians are calling on [Prime Minister David] Cameron to do more to tackle the crisis,” they claimed.

Most progressive European leaders want more migration and want the resulting chaotic diversity that would be managed by big governments.

Read more


Also see:

Petraeus: Use Al Qaeda Fighters to Beat ISIS

The Daily Beast, by Shane Harris and Jason Reed,  Sep. 1, 2015:
To take down the so-called Islamic State in Syria, the influential former head of the CIA wants to co-opt jihadists from America’s arch foe.
Members of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria have a surprising advocate in the corridors of American power: retired Army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus.The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the U.S. persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military.

The tactic worked, at least temporarily. But al Qaeda in Iraq was later reborn as ISIS, and has become the sworn enemy of its parent organization. Now, Petraeus is returning to his old play, advocating a strategy of co-opting rank-and-file members of al Nusra, particularly those who don’t necessarily share all of core al Qaeda’s Islamist philosophy.

However, Petraeus’s play, if executed, could be enormously controversial. The American war on terror began with an al Qaeda attack on 9/11, of course. The idea that the U.S. would, 14 years later, work with elements of al Qaeda’s Syrian branch was an irony too tough to stomach for most U.S. officials interviewed by The Daily Beast. They found Petraeus’s notion politically toxic, near-impossible to execute, and strategically risky.

It would also face enormous legal and security obstacles. In 2012, the Obama administration designated al Nusra a foreign terrorist organization. And last year, the president ordered airstrikes on al Nusra positions housing members of the Khorasan Group, an al Qaeda cadre that was trying to recruit jihadists with Western passports to smuggle bombs onto civilian airliners.

Yet Petraeus and his plan cannot be written off. He still wields considerable influence with current officials, U.S. lawmakers, and foreign leaders. The fact that he feels comfortable recruiting defectors from an organization that has declared war on the United States underscores the tenuous nature of the Obama administration’s strategy to fight ISIS, which numerous observers have said is floundering in search of a viable ground force.

According to those familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, he advocates trying to cleave off less extreme al Nusra fighters, who are battling ISIS in Syria, but who joined with al Nusra because of their shared goal of overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Petraeus was the CIA director in early 2011 when the Syrian civil war erupted. At the time, he along with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly urged the Obama administration to work with moderate opposition forces. The U.S. didn’t, and many of those groups have since steered toward jihadist groups like the Nusra Front, which are better equipped and have had more success on the battlefield.

How precisely the U.S. would separate moderate fighters from core members and leaders of al Nusra is unclear, and Petraeus has yet to fully detail any recommendations he might have.

Petraeus declined a request to comment on his views from The Daily Beast.

“This is an acknowledgment that U.S. stated goal to degrade and destroy ISIS is not working. If it were, we would not be talking to these not quite foreign terrorist groups,” Christopher Harmer, a senior naval analyst with the Middle East Security Project at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Daily Beast. “Strategically, it is desperate.”

Privately, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that any direct links with al Nusra are off the table. But working with other factions, while difficult, might not be impossible.

Still, the very forces that Petraeus envisions enlisting, and who may have once been deemed potential allies when they were fighting Assad, now may be too far gone. Moreover, there is no sign, thus far, of a group on the ground capable of countering ISIS, at least without U.S. assistance.

“As prospects for Assad dim, opposition groups not already aligned with the U.S. or our partners will face a choice,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “Groups that try to cater to both hardliners and the West could find themselves without any friends, having distanced themselves from groups like al Qaeda but still viewed as extremists by the moderate opposition and their supporters.”

Read more

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