Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Today's Links

1---Syrian opposition provided intel to target terrorists around besieged key airbase - Russia

2---Again, instead of brokering peace in the region, Washington decided to add some more fuel to the fire to escalate the crisis.
"Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi's arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers, a skill they acquired confronting Gaddafi's army," former CIA intelligence analyst Philip Giraldi reported in December 2011

US fighter jets have been deployed in Turkey to protect slower American warplanes from potential Russian or Syrian attacks, a Pentagon official says.
Six F-15C warplanes are tasked with providing cover for bomber, attack and cargo aircraft from threats posed by Syrian and Russian fighters, an unnamed US defense official told USA Today on Tuesday.

The US Air Force B-1 bombers, A-10 and AC-130 attack planes, which are reportedly used in US-led strikes on Daesh (ISIL) positions in Syria, all fly at slow speeds and are vulnerable to attacks from enemy pilots, the official added.

3--Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War

4--FSA: Fact or Fiction? Media Maskirovka: Russia and the Free Syrian Army  
by Aron Lund, editor of Syria in Crisis

We are ready to support from the air the patriotic opposition, including the so-called Free Syrian Army,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently told Russian state television. But, he said, Moscow is currently unable to do so, since it cannot figure out who leads the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the United States won’t help identify them. Lavrov’s comments were met with derision and scorn by Syrian rebels, including many self-declared FSA members, who complain that the Russian Air Force has been bombing them since September 30....

These reports come as Russian officials are trying to manage the political fallout of President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria

if you’re not a die-hard partisan of either Vladimir Putin or of the late and unlamented presidency of George W. Bush, you will by now have noticed that the Kremlin’s “anti-terrorist” discourse is essentially indistinguishable from the bullshit shoveled into the media by the American White House ten years ago, and equally self-serving, misleading, and destructive. And it, too, works beautifully

On November 3, we were told that the Russian military is now in touch with a large number of opposition groups, which have begun feeding the Russians battlefield coordinates to help them take out “terrorists.” Then, finally, on November 5, Sputnik News brought on one Mahmoud al-Effendi to announce that officials from the Russian foreign and defense ministries will meet with the FSA leaders in Abu Dhabi next week.
Is this the long-expected Syrian game changer? Is the Free Syrian Army, Syria’s much-vaunted moderate mainstream opposition, now defecting from its Western and Gulf allies to instead hook up with Russia and Bashar al-Assad?
No, not quite....

Reuters, for example:
Almost 80 percent of Russia’s declared targets in Syria have been in areas not held by Islamic State, a Reuters analysis of Russian Defence Ministry data shows, undermining Moscow’s assertions that its aim is to defeat the group

A Brief History of the Free Syrian Armies
The Syrian insurgent movement has always been composed of many different factions. Today, there is about ten or twenty larger organizations, but most of them remain regionally focused and they are continually fragmenting on the fringes, with additional hundreds of smaller rebel bands drifting and out of local alliances.

Many of these groups refer to themselves as part of the FSA, and when the United States and other Western governments provide support to the rebels, they also talk about aiding the FSA. Much of the media has thrown the FSA term around for years, only rarely trying to clarify what’s meant by it except to say that the FSA is a “moderate rebel group” or a “loosely aligned movement” or some such. The confusion stems from the fact that there is no straightforward definition and that many different people, groups, and countries use the word “FSA” to apply to many different things.
The concept of a “Free Syrian Army” first emerged in July 2011, when a “Supreme Command for the Free Syrian Army” was launched by Syrian military defectors in Turkey...

Yet, the FSA was wildly successful as a branding operation. ...

In December 2012, several countries pooled their efforts to set up something called the General Staff, which had an appended Supreme Military Council. This evolved into the “new FSA,” under the leadership of Brigadier General Salim Idriss. While Idriss’s FSA command would become far more successful than previous unification attempts, it remained a virtual army at best—a kind of political superstructure resting on top of a Gulf Arab-Western-Turkish funding stream for selected Syrian factions, which lacked any central control over them. After limping along for a year and a half, this version of the FSA finally imploded in 2014....

Behind the Scenes: MOM and MOC
The failure to produce an official FSA leadership does not mean that there are no material structures connecting these segments of the insurgency. Thousands of rebel fighters have by now been vetted, trained, and approved for material support via two Military Operations Centers, which feed the insurgency from across the Turkish and Jordanian borders. The one in Turkey is colloquially known as the MOM, for Müşterek Operasyon Merkezi, while its Jordanian counterpart is called the MOC, after its English initials.....

Apart from Turkey and Jordan, these centers gather representatives of the United States, Saudi Arabia, France, and a bunch of other governments. Their role is to coordinate and supervise the flow of arms and ammunition to a select number of rebel groups. Foreign intelligence services, chief among them the CIA, collaborate through these centers to pick which groups should be eligible for support. They will not receive a stamp of approval until their members have been vetted for suspicious contacts, declared that they will stay away from alliances with al-Qaeda, and showed some interest in a negotiated solution to the conflict. The groups involved enjoy different levels of trust and approval, but many also receive “unofficial” support on the side from, for example, Turkey, Qatar, or Saudi Arabia, or various private funders.

So far, this arrangement has been accepted by something like a hundred rebel factions all in all, although a head count is complicated by the fact that they are often folded into overlapping regional umbrellas. While each faction is typically quite small and few of them enjoy national name recognition, they collectively make up a fairly significant segment of the armed opposition. In southern Syria, MOC-funded groups seem to account for a majority of the insurgency. The northern MOM-backed factions enjoy less influence than their southern counterparts, but they are still a considerable force around Aleppo, and some have used U.S.-manufactured missiles to establish themselves in an important niche role as anti-tank units in the Idleb-Hama region.....

These groups are what the U.S. government typically refers to when it talks about “the FSA” and there is indeed a very considerable overlap between MOM/MOC-backed factions and factions that self-designate as “FSA.” This crude definition (MOM + MOC = FSA) is also increasingly used by the Syrian exile opposition, the rebels themselves, and others who follow this conflict....

Who Is Using Whom?
At this point, it should be obvious that someone is being conned, but I’m still not quite sure about who is is using whom. The deeper you dig into the connections between Russia and fringe figures in the Syrian diaspora, the more bizarre it gets; a world halfway between Joseph Conrad and Thomas Pynchon, only without the redeeming qualities of style and credible characters.
So what is actually going on here? I see two options...


Russia’s rivals cannot protest Moscow’s fraudulent claims without engaging in a debate about who actually should represent the FSA in talks with Assad, if it shouldn’t be Masri, Effendi, or the other candidates suggested by Moscow. Since there is no central FSA leadership and no consensus on which groups should be labeled “FSA,” that’s like trying to nail jelly to a wall.

It is a problem partly of the Americans’ own making. Indeed, one could say that the opposition’s backers are now falling victim to their own propaganda. For years, officials in the US, Europe, Turkey, and the Arab World have been promoting ”the moderate FSA” or even “the secular FSA” as Syria’s great hope for the future, without ever arriving at a better explanation of what that means than ”any damned armed group in Syria that we can work with.” It is undoubtedly a definition, of a kind, but how do you sell it to the general public? What do you do when journalists, voters, or even congressmen start to ask questions about who, exactly, is at the receiving end of all this taxpayers’ money?

The Russian government has now started to exploit this deliberately engineered ambiguity for its own purposes. By rebranding their own allies and all kinds of random exiles as “FSA representatives,” they are trying to wring a very useful fiction out of the hands of their enemies or, failing that, to destroy it by adding to the confusion.

As a poker-faced Bogdanov recently put it when discussing whether the FSA should be part of hypothetical future peace talks:
In general, we support their participation as a structure. We do not yet understand who will represent it. We are waiting for them to manifest more clearly or for our partners who maintain relations with the Free Syrian Army to tell us.
Some might call this diplomacy. I call it elite-level trolling

The location of the Kuweires Airbase provides a potential staging ground for regime forces to conduct further operations that challenge ISIS’s presence in the eastern part of the Aleppo province. to contest ISIS-held terrain on the eastern outskirts of Aleppo City as well as critical ISIS supply lines connecting ar-Raqqa City to the Turkish border.

 This success will definitely provide a powerful morale boost to the military forces loyal to the Syrian government. The operation constitutes a much-needed symbolic victory for the Syrian regime following major territorial losses in the first half of 2015.

5---Erdoğan offers 'friendly warning' against fueling conflict in Syria

The return of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to single-party government in an election this month gives Turkey the opportunity to take stronger steps on regional issues, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday.

In an apparent reference to Russia's involvement in neighbouring Syria, he also offered a "friendly warning" that those adding fuel to the conflict would find themselves in the same fire.
Speaking at a business meeting of the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) in Ankara, Erdoğan said the result of the Nov. 1 election, which saw the AK Party garner nearly 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 1, would bring an end to political uncertainty in the country.

Erdoğan's remarks came as Turkey once again floats the idea of a safe zone in Syria and amid talk of Turkish involvement in a ground operation in its southern neighbor. In remarks on Tuesday, Erdoğan said Turkey's allies in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are getting closer to the idea of forming a safe zone in Syria and that he saw positive developments on a no-fly zone and the carrying out of air operations.

Erdoğan also said in comments broadcast live by CNN Türk that Turkey would not tolerate Kurdish militants advancing to the west of the Euphrates, which Ankara fears will lead to the formation of a Kurdish corridor near its southern border.....

The Turkish military, however, gives two conditions for the intervention in Syria. According to a news report that appeared in the Hürriyet daily, the military is against any sort of intervention in Syria that does not have UN support or the participation of NATO, of which Turkey is a member. The Turkish military seeks a legitimate grounding for any operation and looks for international platforms to justify its possible action in the future.
The other scenario under consideration that may legitimize action, according to the military, is a direct attack from the Syrian side which would immediately lay grounds for retaliation and a possible intervention under the UN's relevant chapters regulating a member-state's right for self-defense. Only in that case, the military says, Turkey may intervene in Syria within the scope of self-defense

6--Syria: The Opposition

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has compiled a list of Syrian opposition leaders suitable to sit at the negotiating table opposite of Bashar al-Assad. The list includes both former and current leaders of the National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (NCORF), the leaders of the so-called National Coordination Committee (NCC), leaders of several movements and parties as well as ethnic and religious communities, (including the Muslim Brotherhood), north-eastern tribes, influential businessmen, and cultural figures....

The all-national assembly would continue the process which was begun in Geneva, Moscow, Cairo, and Astana and culminate with the formation of a national unity government which would include the most distinguished members of key opposition and loyalist factions. The transition government would be headed by an authoritative opposition figure whose candidacy would be acceptable to all the members of the assembly. The transition government would rule for two years, following which parliamentary and presidential elections would be held.

7--Hurriyet headline: Turkey: Land op possible but not alone

8--Erdogan pushes for no fly zone

“Let’s make the train equip [program]. Declare a terror free zone. Declare a no-fly zone and resolve this issue. Therefore, those from Syria will not travel to Europe or other places. We’ll place those [Syrian refugees] here in housing that will be set up in that region,” he stated.

He implied that the area would be cleared of both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara accuses of being a Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is involved in heavy fighting with Turkish security forces in Turkey’s southeast.

Turkey has repeatedly pressed for a safe zone inside Syria stretching down from Azaz and Jarablus in the north, which could house some of the 2.2 million Syrian refugees currently hosted by Turkey and act as a buffer to protect Turkish territory.

The idea has met with only a lukewarm response from world powers but there have been indications from Ankara in the last few days that the West is coming closer to its point of view.

9--We’re in the Early Stages of Largest Debt Default in US History

10--US fighter jets sent to help protect Turkish airspace: Pentagon

11--Turkey: Syria land operation possible but not alone
12---OECD cuts estimate for global growth

13---The UK military, Jeremy Corbyn and the threat of dictatorship

The “impartiality” of the armed forces that Corbyn insists must be preserved has always been a fiction. They are the “special bodies of armed men” identified by Friedrich Engels as the essential instrument for preserving the rule of capital—not only against external threats, but against the internal threat posed by any serious social and political opposition that emerges in the working class.
Under today’s conditions, this fiction can no longer be maintained.

For decades, all the major powers have waged an unending series of wars of colonial conquest—in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria. Beginning with the putsch organised by Washington in Ukraine, NATO has been placed on a collision course with Russia, while in the East the US is attempting to forge a military alliance including Japan and Australia against China.
This explosion of imperialist violence demands a frontal assault on democratic rights in the form of a raft of “anti-terror” legislation undermining civil liberties and the intense surveillance of virtually every man, woman and child in the world. In every major capitalist country, the power and political influence of the military grow by leaps and bounds.

These developments are driven by a systemic crisis of the profit system, which has only deepened since the crash of 2008, and the determination of a global financial oligarchy to utilise the crisis to further its self-enrichment. To this end, governments everywhere, whatever their formal designation, are charged by their paymasters with imposing ever more savage attacks on the jobs, living standards and social rights of the working class.

As social opposition grows, so do the preparations for dictatorial measures by military and intelligence figures, without any significant opposition from elected officials or the media.
The turn to austerity, militarism and war is incompatible with the preservation of democracy.

14---US escalates air and ground operations in Iraq and Syria

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday, Carter affirmed that the US is “absolutely” committed to new ground operations. Although technically deployed as “advisers,” US ground troops “may find themselves in combat,” he said.

One day prior to Carter’s speech in California, reports confirmed that the US had begun deploying F-15C dogfighting jets to the Turkish-Syrian border. The F-15s are designed for air-to-air combat and have never previously been deployed to the US war zones in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Under the present circumstances, their arrival is clearly intended as a threat against Moscow, whose MiG jet fighters the F-15 was designed to counter

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