Monday, November 9, 2015

Today's Links

“Russia’s position is not for the retention of Assad and his regime in power at any cost, but that the people … would come to an agreement on how they would live in the future, how their safety and participation in ruling the state would be provided for, and then start changing the current state of affairs in accordance with these agreements, and not vice versa.” Putin

1---What was Qatar's role in the bombing of Russian Air A321?

There are reasons to believe that the Russian leadership is inclined to view the A321 incident as a direct declaration of war, similar to the 9/11 attacks on the United States. All terror organizations of a certain size are backed by this or that country or financial interest.

2--Syria's 'moderate jihadis' elated by Turkish election results

While the Free Syrian Army congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his party's success in the elections, the multifaction Army of Conquest issued a declaration noting Erdogan and the AKP government have never abandoned their support of the Syrian revolution, despite domestic and foreign pressure and have constantly followed an ethical policy....

Congratulation messages from some 15 opposition groups had two joint themes: They did not forget to emphasize Erdogan's role and they believe the AKP success bodes well for stability in the region....

Tok, who noted that Syrians appreciate the AKP for taking in refugees, thinks opposition groups now feel confident that the AKP's benevolence will continue. He also said that direct references to Erdogan and personal salutations to him indicate the Syrian opposition considers Erdogan the true winner of the elections...

Today, [many] of these groups are trying to sign nonhostility pacts with IS. For example, many groups such as Jund al-Aqsa say that for them to fight IS, first IS must attack them. Their anger and resentment of IS and Russia are not different.”
But at the end of the day, their anger toward Assad and Russia can outweigh their resentment of IS, even if they don’t subscribe to the IS mindset....

These groups have stepped up their expectations for more support from Turkey. Ankara can guide these groups to a more dedicated war against the Assad regime despite the risk of confrontation with Russia, encourage them to fight the PYD or, by focusing on a negotiation process, encourage these groups to integrate politically with other groups

3---Russia, Iran ‘sign S-300 delivery deal’

4--British SAS given free rein in the fight against Isis in Syria

Units of British SAS troopers are in Syria, backing up forces in the region targetting Islamic State (Isis).
The SAS and the SBS, its British Navy sister unit, are stepping up operations in Syria. The special forces units will work with MI6 – which has a large network of agents within the Islamist group – and will use intelligence from UK eavesdropping service GCHQ as to fight IS.
The SAS are now on standby to assist RAF jets which may be sent into the country following the massacre of 38 tourists, including 30 British nationals, in Tunisia on 26 June

5---If the Sinai Attack was Terrorism, the Timing was Perfect for Western Geopolitical Strategy

what is it that makes Cameron so sure that the terrorist group created by his Syria policy has the necessary training, equipment and wherewithal to carry out that attack? Did he look at the receipt?
After all, the lame ‘evidence’ we have actually been graced with by the US and British governments so far is no evidence whatsoever....

What is clear is that if the plane was brought down by a bomb, and that bomb was planted by ISIS, it marks a major development for the group. According to Raffaello Pantucci of the Royal United Services Institute, an attack of this kind by ISIS would “herald an unseen level of sophistication in their bomb-making, as well as the ability to smuggle a device on board.”  glazebrook

Forcing Russia out – and turning US and British airpower openly and decisively against the Syrian state – has thus become a key objective for Western planners. But how to do it? What would turn Russians against the intervention? The Times yesterday: “So far the war in Syria has been quite popular….[but] if it turns out that the war prompts terrorists to wreak vengeance on ordinary Russians by secreting explosives on planes, that gung-ho attitude could change” – or, at least, that is presumably what the Times is hoping.

And downing the plane on Egyptian soil just before Sisi’s first state visit to Britain? It couldn’t have served British strategy better if the bomb had been planted directly by MI6 themselves (which certainly shouldn’t be ruled out by the way, and certainly not simply on the racist grounds that ‘of course we don’t do that sort of thing’ – in other words, that only brown people are capable of an atrocity so hideous

In a world, then, where Western power is in steep decline, terrorism is fast becoming one of the last few viable options for extending its hegemony and undermining the rising power of the global South. If this attack was conducted by ISIS, then, how kind it was of them to take it upon themselves to act as the vanguard of Western imperial interests. And how obliging of the hundreds of Western agents in the organization not to do anything to stop them.

6--Nonsense from P Cockburn?

There are seldom any attacks on Isis when it is engaged in fighting the Syrian army because this might be interpreted as keeping Assad in power in Damascus. But this does not make much sense because American and British policy is meant to be to remove Assad, but keep the Syrian state in being. This would be unlike Iraq in 2003 when the US-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein, but destroyed the Iraqi state in the process and opened the door to a Sunni insurgency and the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq.....

Isis evidently does not have any doubts about the Russian air strikes being aimed at itself and cannot have done so since the raids started on 30 September, because an operation such as getting a bomb on to a plane at Sharm el Sheikh airport would take weeks to set up (Cockburn)

 a much less dramatic event may have greater long-term impact on the course of the civil war in Syria and Iraq. This is the victory of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the parliamentary elections on 1 November, a victory  welcomed with effusive messages by no fewer than 15 different non-Isis armed opposition groups in Syria. 

Prominent among those congratulating President Erdogan is the Army of Conquest, which captured much of Idlib province earlier in the year and 90 per cent of whose fighters reportedly come from al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. 

Metin Gurcan, writing in the online magazine al-Monitor, points out that the Army of Conquest says in a statement that Erdogan and the AKP government have never abandoned their support for the Syrian revolution, despite domestic and foreign pressure.
Mr Gurcan cites a well-informed Turkish authority saying many of these Syrian opposition “groups are trying to sign non-hostility pacts with Isis” – pacts that say they will not fight Isis unless attacked by them. Governments pretending to distinguish between “moderate opposition” and Isis in Syria should keep this in mind.

8---Russia & China are ‘challenging the world order’ – US Defense Sec

“We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot, war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake; the United States will defend our interests, our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords us all,” Carter said.

Terror elements like ISIL, of course, stand entirely opposed to our values. But other challenges are more complicated, and given their size and capabilities, potentially more damaging,” he said.
“Some actors appear intent on eroding these principles and undercutting the international order that helps enforce them… Of course, neither Russia nor China can overturn that order. But both present different challenges for it,” Carter said.

9---I would argue very strongly based on what we’ve seen in the last year that the US is not interested in defeating ISIS. The US is interested in perhaps controlling ISIS’ movements, so that it helps to create a geopolitical balance on the ground that will provide the US government and its allies with leverage at the negotiating table. So they don’t want ISIS to take over all of Syria [because] that poses threats to allies in the region. They don’t want ISIS and other terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and others, and the various coalitions they have formed to lose ground, because at the end of the day the only pressure there are going to be able to apply on the Syrian government and its allies is what is happening on the ground. And they need something; they need advantage on the ground that they can take with them to the negotiating table in Vienna

RT: How many countries in the coalition are actually contributing to its goals?
SN: That is a very interesting point, because even though there are 60 countries listed in the coalition, there are only 11 who have contributed in Syria. There are two groups: like I mentioned, the Arab states – I call them the Sunni states, because they provide some kind of Arab Sunni legitimacy for the Americans; the other states are the UK, the US and France – three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Canada and Australia.
What is interesting about this is – of those five Western countries it is only Canada that stepped in relatively early, when things kicked off last year. It was the US mainly with the Arab States, and the UK, France and Australia have only come in the last three months, as well as Turkey, who is a new entrant in this coalition of 11, not 60.

10--Mystified? Why does the NY Times try to dupe people into more war in Syria on the front page and then preach restraint on the editorial page? The Military Escalation in Iraq and Syria

Frustrated by the resilience of the Islamic State terrorist organization, the Obama administration is taking steps to expand a military campaign that remains untethered to any coherent strategy. Instead of challenging an escalation of American military forces in the Syrian war, several prominent members of Congress are irresponsibly demanding even more hawkish approaches.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, called the administration’s new strategy the “three R’s” plan. The first two R’s are Raqqa and Ramadi, cities in Syria and Iraq from which the United States hopes to dislodge the Islamic State. To do so, the administration is considering deploying American ground troops to support local forces that are expected to do the bulk of the fighting and call in airstrikes. The third R stands for “raids,” which will be used to capture and kill Islamic State leaders.

The Pentagon continues to call the military campaign in Syria and Iraq an “advise and assist” mission, a characterization that was misleading when the campaign began and is now absurd. By incrementally increasing its combat role in a vast, complicated battleground, the United States is being sucked into a new Middle East war. Each step in that direction can only breed the desire to do more. Commanders will want to build on battlefield successes when things go their way, and they will be driven to retaliate when they don’t.
There is no question that containing the threat posed by the Islamic State will take a strong international response. The group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, remains firmly in control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria and has found allies in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen.

But before contemplating a more forceful military plan, Congress and the administration must confront the fact that the current one, which includes airstrikes and support for select bands of rebels, lacks a legal framework and an attainable goal. The first problem could be fixed if the White House and congressional leaders were willing to work together to set clear limits on what the Pentagon is allowed to do. Preposterously, the military campaign that began more than a year ago, and has cost more than $4 billion, is still being waged under the authority of the congressional authorization passed to pursue the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks.

With a few exceptions, lawmakers seem completely unconcerned that they are allowing a president to go to war without formal authorization from Congress. Instead, many are calling on the administration to take even bolder steps that range from establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria to using American firepower to oust Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. At least on these two tactics, the White House appears rightly skeptical.
A no-fly, or “buffer” zone, to protect civilians would take significant resources, and troops, to enforce. “To keep it safe would require fighting,” Mr. Carter told senators on Tuesday. “You need to think in each case … who’s in, who is kept out and how the enforcement of it is done.”
Taking on Mr. Assad, a murderous leader who has lost all legitimacy, has obvious appeal in principle. But doing so would almost certainly be catastrophic because it would put the United States directly at war with Russia and Iran, which aid him militarily. Even if Washington were to prevail in forcing him from power, that could serve to embolden the Islamic State, which would only lead to more carnage.

11---West Not Waiting on Investigation Before Declaring Bomb Caused A321 Crash

12--US attacks on ISIS "a bluff"

"A year-and-a-half has now passed since the formation of the so-called international coalition among Western and Arab countries to combat Islamic State terrorism, the expert noted. "From the very beginning, Iran had its doubts on the reliability and effectiveness of the coalition in its fight against ISIL militants. Since then, it has become abundantly clear that the coalition's actions are only a bluff, and the evidence exists to prove it."

"In the first place," Shemshadi noted, "the forces of this coalition provided ISIL militants with various kinds of assistance, providing rations, weapons, and medical supplies. Every time, the coalition's commanders claimed that these were just mistakes, and that the cargo was actually meant for the Iraqi army or the moderate Syrian opposition. There is an obvious discrepancy here between their statements and their actions."

"There is also other evidence," the journalist explained. "Ahead of the battle for Kobani, the coalition's intelligence received information on the exact coordinates of the movements of ISIL tank columns. However, the airstrikes carried out against the terrorists never did end up taking this data into account. The diversionary bombing campaign ended up being carried out randomly and aimlessly in the desert. Then the coalition declared that it had struck ISIL positions."
Shemshadi told Sputnik that "further proof can be found in a recent report of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran. In this document, Ali Shamkhani, the former Air Force commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, reported that witness and military testimony had shown that the coalition had at its disposal complete visibility of the area, and could destroy a minimum of 120 ISIL military positions. However, only 12 bases were ultimately destroyed. The Iranian government even has reliable intelligence data showing that coalition aircraft flying over their targets have received orders not to hit ISIL positions

13-- recent study, conducted by the British polling organization ORB International, demonstrate that the majority of Syrians reject the Free Syrian Army, al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State. Furthermore, 82 percent of Syrian respondents believe that the notorious Islamic State is a "US and foreign made group."

14---US defense secretary threatens Russia and China

The subject of the forum was the restructuring of the military-intelligence apparatus to deal with the threats that strategists for US imperialism anticipate in the coming years. As Carter noted, “After 14 years of counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism–two skills we want to retain–we are in the middle of a strategic transition to respond to the security challenges that will define our future.”
Giving only brief mention of the ongoing US wars in Afghanistan and against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Carter said he wanted “to focus my remarks this afternoon on another kind of innovation for the future, which is how we’re responding to Russia, one source of today’s turbulence, and China’s rise, which is driving a transition in the Asia-Pacific.”...

Towards the end of his speech, Carter referred in passing to the “more than 450,000 men and women serving abroad, in every domain, in the air, ashore and afloat.” That figure exceeds the total number of troops deployed by all other countries in the world outside their own borders. By itself, that number demonstrates the basic reality of 21st century global politics: US imperialism considers itself the policeman of the world, entitled to intervene in any country, to bomb and kill at will, against any challenge to its domination.
According to Carter, “Russia appears intent to play spoiler by flouting these principles and the international community. Meanwhile, China is a rising power, and growing more ambitious in its objectives and capabilities.”

The visit to the aircraft carrier took place shortly after a US destroyer, the USS Lassen, made a provocative sally in Chinese waters around an islet in the South China Sea, not far from the carrier task force. The US deliberately challenged the 12-mile limit China has declared around its islets in that sea, on the grounds that the islets are either manmade or have been artificially expanded....

Carter is a lifelong Democrat, and his threats to Russia and China have the full backing of the liberal wing of the US ruling elite. His remarks were not impromptu or offhand comments, but part of a carefully prepared, deliberately bipartisan event, a forum on the “Force of the Future” sponsored by the Reagan Foundation, which operates the presidential library in Simi Valley, outside Los Angeles.

he Obama administration was represented by Carter, his deputy Robert Work and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and House Armed Forces Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry represented the congressional Republicans.
The permanent security apparatus, which calls the shots regardless of which party occupies the White House, was represented by no less than three of the five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This mess was created by the US. US seeking to destabilize Syria since 2006, by stoking sectarian tensions and aligning with Saudis and Islamist Sunnis.
A December 13, 2006 cable [1], “Influencing the SARG [Syrian government] in the End of 2006,” indicates that as far back as 2006 – five years before “Arab Spring” protests in Syria – destabilizing the Syrian government was a central motivation of U.S. policy.
The author of the cable was William Roebuck, at the time Charge d'Affaires – head of the embassy in the absence of an Ambassador - at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. The cable outlines strategies for destabilizing the Syrian government. In his summary of the cable, Roebuck wrote:

“We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as a the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.” [That is, the likelihood of such conflicts and threats arising.]

This cable suggests that the U.S. goal in December 2006 was to undermine the Syrian government by any available means, and that what mattered was whether U.S. action would help destabilize the government, not what other impacts the action might have. In public the U.S. was in favor of economic reform; but in private the U.S. saw conflict between economic reform and “entrenched, corrupt forces” as an “opportunity.” In public, the U.S. was opposed to “Islamist extremists” everywhere, but in private the U.S. saw the “potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists” as an “opportunity” which the U.S. should take action to try to increase...

The US is and has been with its allies actively backing jihadists.
The US knew in 2012 that the Syrian opposition was dominated by Al Qaeda, Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood and the West, Turkey and the Gulf States were supporting these powers. The likely result, an Islamic Caliphate, and this was supported by the West and their allies in order to overthrow Assad.
US Defense Intelligence Agency Report on Syria Summer 2012:
See p3 para B & C, P5 para 7B, and 8C.

16--Ash Carter Reagan Library address "Force of the Future"; Empire Forever
Remarks on “Strategic and Operational Innovation at a Time of Transition and Turbulence” at Reagan Defense Forum

the development of innovative strategies and operational concepts so we can change how we deter, and if necessary, respond to geostrategic challenges. We must ensure we, and our partners, are postured to defeat threats from high-end opponents in a complex set of environments.

After fourteen years of counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism – two skills we want to retain – we are in the middle of a strategic transition to respond to the security challenges that will define our future....

Despite that widespread appeal, some actors appear intent on eroding these principles and undercutting the international order that helps enforce them. Terror elements like ISIL, of course, stand entirely opposed to our values. But other challenges are more complicated, and given their size and capabilities, potentially more damaging.

Russia appears intent to play spoiler by flouting these principles and the international community. Meanwhile, China is a rising power, and growing more ambitious in its objectives and capabilities. Of course, neither Russia nor China can overturn that order, given its resilience and staying power. But both present different challenges for it.

The United States, and the men and women of the Defense Department, know that the good that a principled international order has done, and will do. But in the face of Russia’s provocations and China’s rise, we must embrace innovative approaches to protect the United States and strengthen that international order.

In Europe, Russia has been violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia and actively trying to intimidate the Baltic states. Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia is throwing gasoline on an already dangerous fire, prolonging a civil war that fuels the very extremism Russia claims to oppose.

At sea, in the air, in space, and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities. And, most disturbing, Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling raises questions about Russia’s leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons.

We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake; the United States will defend our interests, and our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords us all

We’re taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russia’s aggression, and to help reduce the vulnerability of allies and partners.

We are adapting our operational posture and contingency plans as we – on our own and with allies – work to deter Russia’s aggression, and to help reduce the vulnerability of allies and partners. The United States is accordingly making a number of moves in response, many but not all of which I can describe in this forum. We’re modernizing our nuclear arsenal, so America’s nuclear deterrent continues to be effective, safe, and secure, to deter nuclear attacks and reassure our allies.

We’re investing in the technologies that are most relevant to Russia’s provocations, such as new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber, and innovation in technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers, and new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones that I really can’t describe here. We’re updating and advancing our operational plans for deterrence and defense given Russia’s changed behavior.

Finally, we’re leveraging other U.S. government capabilities, to include information campaigns to ensure the truth gets through, and focused sanctions which have had an impact on Russia.

n Europe, NATO remains the cornerstone of a principled order and its Article V a bedrock commitment. But NATO needs a new playbook. The Cold War playbook – including large American forces stationed in Europe, oriented toward the Fulda Gap – worked in Reagan’s day, but it’s not suited for the 21st century, with its hybrid warfare, cyber-threats, and asymmetric tactics; and the vast enlargement of NATO territory, that is subject to Article V.

We’re accordingly transforming our posture in Europe to be more agile and sustainable. For example in Eastern NATO states, we’re prepositioning tanks, infantry-fighting vehicles, artillery, and the associated equipment needed to participate in exercises and also to respond to crises and provocation.

We’re helping strengthen NATO's Cyber Defense Center of Excellence so it can help those nations develop cyber strategies, critical infrastructure protection plans, and cyber defense posture assessments.

And we’re providing equipment and training to aid Ukraine’s military as it confronts Russian-supported insurgents in Eastern Ukraine....

...Today, as we meet, there are more than 450,000 men and women serving abroad, in every domain…in the air, ashore, and afloat. These men and women are not only defending the United States and its people, they are also defending the principled international order....

 It’s said that security is like oxygen; but when you have enough of it, you pay no attention to it. But when you don’t have enough, you can think of nothing else.

America’s service members – the finest fighting force the world has ever known – they provide that oxygen – the security that allows people, not just in America, but in so much of the world, to live in peace, to raise their children, to dream their dreams, to live lives that are full.

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