AuthorTopic: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball  (Read 27692 times)

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #210 on: June 27, 2017, 03:41:28 PM »
Photos #1, 3, 4, 5 all look like they have been "texturised" to make them seem more grainy.  The entire colour has been tinted from grey to blue. #3 has black figures added.  #4 was taken under ideal conditions so there is no reason for it other than to make the others seem more "real".

Yesterday's warning that another chemical attack is imminent, has been responded to ominously by Russia, so if Hersch's story is true, they will likely attack the Tomahawks with S-400, or maybe leak the recordings of the warnings given before - "Dmitri, I'm sorry that we are going to be attacking you, we KNOW you didn't really do it, but the President doesn't want to hear the evidence and wants to go the gorilla option. Just roll with the punch. Good luck. Out."

"The State is a body of armed men."

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #211 on: June 28, 2017, 08:04:57 PM »
No surprises  in this, but well laid out for the record.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-06-27/how-america-armed-terrorists-syria
How America Armed Terrorists In Syria
Gareth Porter via TheAmericanConservative.com
Jun 28, 2017

Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a U.S. policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups—meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.

That policy, ostensibly aimed at helping replace the Assad regime with a more democratic alternative, has actually helped build up al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise al Nusra Front into the dominant threat to Assad.

The supporters of this arms-supply policy believe it is necessary as pushback against Iranian influence in Syria. But that argument skirts the real issue raised by the policy’s history.  The Obama administration’s Syria policy effectively sold out the U.S. interest that was supposed to be the touchstone of the “Global War on Terrorism”—the eradication of al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates. The United States has instead subordinated that U.S. interest in counter-terrorism to the interests of its Sunni allies. In doing so it has helped create a new terrorist threat in the heart of the Middle East. 

The policy of arming military groups committed to overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in September 2011, when President Barack Obama was pressed by his Sunni allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—to supply heavy weapons to a military opposition to Assad they were determined to establish. Turkey and the Gulf regimes wanted the United States to provide anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels, according to a former Obama Administration official involved in Middle East issues.

Obama refused to provide arms to the opposition, but he agreed to provide covert U.S. logistical help in carrying out a campaign of military assistance to arm opposition groups. CIA involvement in the arming of anti-Assad forces began with arranging for the shipment of weapons from the stocks of the Gaddafi regime that had been stored in Benghazi. CIA-controlled firms shipped the weapons from the military port of Benghazi to two small ports in Syria using former U.S. military personnel to manage the logistics, as investigative reporter Sy Hersh detailed in 2014. The funding for the program came mainly from the Saudis.

A declassified October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report revealed that the shipment in late August 2012 had included 500 sniper rifles, 100 RPG (rocket propelled grenade launchers) along with 300 RPG rounds and 400 howitzers. Each arms shipment encompassed as many as ten shipping containers, it reported, each of which held about 48,000 pounds of cargo. That suggests a total payload of up to 250 tons of weapons per shipment. Even if the CIA had organized only one shipment per month, the arms shipments would have totaled 2,750 tons of arms bound ultimately for Syria from October 2011 through August 2012. More likely it was a multiple of that figure. 

The CIA’s covert arms shipments from Libya came to an abrupt halt in September 2012 when Libyan militants attacked and burned the embassy annex in Benghazi that had been used to support the operation. By then, however, a much larger channel for arming anti-government forces was opening up. The CIA put the Saudis in touch with a senior Croatian official who had offered to sell large quantities of arms left over from the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. And the CIA helped them shop for weapons from arms dealers and governments in several other former Soviet bloc countries.

Flush with weapons acquired from both the CIA Libya program and from the Croatians, the Saudis and Qataris dramatically increased the number of flights by military cargo planes to Turkey in December 2012 and continued that intensive pace for the next two and a half months. The New York Times reported a total 160 such flights through mid-March 2013. The most common cargo plane in use in the Gulf, the Ilyushin IL-76, can carry roughly 50 tons of cargo on a flight, which would indicate that as much as 8,000 tons of weapons poured across the Turkish border into Syria just in late 2012 and in 2013.

One U.S. official called the new level of arms deliveries to Syrian rebels a “cataract of weaponry.” And a year-long investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed that the Saudis were intent on building up a powerful conventional army in Syria. The “end-use certificate” for weapons purchased from an arms company in Belgrade, Serbia, in May 2013 includes 500 Soviet-designed PG-7VR rocket launchers that can penetrate even heavily-armored tanks, along with two million rounds; 50 Konkurs anti-tank missile launchers and 500 missiles, 50 anti-aircraft guns mounted on armored vehicles, 10,000 fragmentation rounds for OG-7 rocket launchers capable of piercing heavy body armor; four truck-mounted BM-21 GRAD multiple rocket launchers, each of which fires 40 rockets at a time with a range of 12 to 19 miles, along with 20,000 GRAD rockets.

The end user document for another Saudi order from the same Serbian company listed 300 tanks, 2,000 RPG launchers, and 16,500 other rocket launchers, one million rounds for ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, and 315 million cartridges for various other guns.

Those two purchases were only a fraction of the totality of the arms obtained by the Saudis over the next few years from eight Balkan nations. Investigators found that the Saudis made their biggest arms deals with former Soviet bloc states in 2015, and that the weapons included many that had just come off factory production lines. Nearly 40 percent of the arms the Saudis purchased from those countries, moreover, still had not been delivered by early 2017. So the Saudis had already contracted for enough weaponry to keep a large-scale conventional war in Syria going for several more years.

By far the most consequential single Saudi arms purchase was not from the Balkans, however, but from the United States. It was the December 2013 U.S. sale of 15,000 TOW anti-tank missiles to the Saudis at a cost of about $1 billion—the result of Obama’s decision earlier that year to reverse his ban on lethal assistance to anti-Assad armed groups. The Saudis had agreed, moreover, that those anti-tank missiles would be doled out to Syrian groups only at U.S. discretion. The TOW missiles began to arrive in Syria in 2014 and soon had a major impact on the military balance.

This flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters into the country—primarily through Turkey—largely defined the nature of the conflict. These armaments helped make al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra Front (now renamed Tahrir al-Sham or Levant Liberation Organization) and its close allies by far the most powerful anti-Assad forces in Syria—and gave rise to the Islamic State.

By late 2012, it became clear to U.S. officials that the largest share of the arms that began flowing into Syria early in the year were going to the rapidly growing al Qaeda presence in the country. In October 2012, U.S. officials acknowledged off the record for the first time to the New York Times that  “most” of the arms that had been shipped to armed opposition groups in Syria with U.S. logistical assistance during the previous year had gone to “hardline Islamic jihadists”— obviously meaning al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra.

Al Nusra Front and its allies became the main recipients of the weapons because the Saudis, Turks, and Qataris wanted the arms to go to the military units that were most successful in attacking government targets. And by the summer of 2012, al Nusra Front, buttressed by the thousands of foreign jihadists pouring into the country across the Turkish border, was already taking the lead in attacks on the Syrian government in coordination with “Free Syrian Army” brigades.

In November and December 2012, al Nusra Front began establishing formal “joint operations rooms” with those calling themselves “Free Syrian Army” on several battlefronts, as Charles Lister chronicles in his book The Syrian Jihad. One such commander favored by Washington was Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi, a former Syrian army officer who headed something called the Aleppo Revolutionary Military Council. Ambassador Robert Ford, who continued to hold that position even after he had been withdrawn from Syria, publicly visited Oqaidi in May 2013 to express U.S. support for him and the FSA. 

But Oqaidi and his troops were junior partners in a coalition in Aleppo in which al Nusra was by far the strongest element. That reality is clearly reflected in a video in which Oqaidi describes his good relations with officials of the “Islamic State” and is shown joining the main jihadist commander in the Aleppo region celebrating the capture of the Syrian government’s Menagh Air Base in September 2013.

By early 2013, in fact, the “Free Syrian Army,” which had never actually been a military organization with any troops, had ceased to have any real significance in the Syria conflict. New anti-Assad armed groups had stopped using the name even as a “brand” to identify themselves, as a leading specialist on the conflict observed.

So, when weapons from Turkey arrived at the various battlefronts, it was understood by all the non-jihadist groups that they would be shared with al Nusra Front and its close allies. A report by McClatchy in early 2013, on a town in north central Syria, showed how the military arrangements between al Nusra and those brigades calling themselves “Free Syrian Army” governed the distribution of weapons. One of those units, the Victory Brigade, had participated in a “joint operations room” with al Qaeda’s most important military ally, Ahrar al Sham, in a successful attack on a strategic town a few weeks earlier. A visiting reporter watched that brigade and Ahrar al Sham show off new sophisticated weapons that included Russian-made RPG27 shoulder-fired rocket-propelled anti-tank grenades and RG6 grenade launchers.

When asked if the Victory Brigade had shared its new weapons with Ahrar al Sham, the latter’s spokesman responded, “Of course they share their weapons with us. We fight together.” 

Turkey and Qatar consciously chose al Qaeda and its closest ally, Ahrar al Sham, as the recipients of weapons systems. In late 2013 and early 2014, several truckloads of arms bound for the province of Hatay, just south of the Turkish border, were intercepted by Turkish police. They had Turkish intelligence personnel on board, according to later Turkish police court testimony. The province was controlled by Ahrar al Sham. In fact Turkey soon began to treat Ahrar al Sham as its primary client in Syria, according to Faysal Itani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

A Qatari intelligence operative who had been involved in shipping arms to extremist groups in Libya was a key figure in directing the flow of arms from Turkey into Syria. An Arab intelligence source familiar with the discussions among the external suppliers near the Syrian border in Turkey during those years told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius that when one of the participants warned that the outside powers were building up the jihadists while the non-Islamist groups were withering away, the Qatari operative responded, “I will send weapons to al Qaeda if it will help.”

The Qataris did funnel arms to both al Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham, according to a Middle Eastern diplomatic source. The Obama administration’s National Security Council staff proposed in 2013 that the United States signal U.S. displeasure with Qatar over its arming of extremists in both Syria and Libya by withdrawing a squadron of fighter planes from the U.S. airbase at al-Udeid, Qatar. The Pentagon vetoed that mild form of pressure, however, to protect its access to its base in Qatar.

President Obama himself confronted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his government’s support for the jihadists at a private White House dinner in May 2013, as recounted by Hersh. “We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria,” he quotes Obama as saying to Erdogan.

The administration addressed Turkey’s cooperation with the al Nusra publicly, however, only fleetingly in late 2014. Shortly after leaving Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2011 through mid-2014, told The Daily Telegraph  of London that Turkey had “worked with groups, frankly, for a period, including al Nusra.”

The closest Washington came to a public reprimand of its allies over the arming of terrorists in Syria was when Vice President Joe Biden criticized their role in October 2014. In impromptu remarks at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Biden complained that “our biggest problem is our allies.”  The forces they had supplied with arms, he said, were “al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” 

Biden quickly apologized for the remarks, explaining that he didn’t mean that U.S. allies had deliberately helped the jihadists. But Ambassador Ford confirmed his complaint, telling BBC, “What Biden said about the allies aggravating the problem of extremism is true.”

In June 2013 Obama approved the first direct U.S. lethal military aid to rebel brigades that had been vetted by the CIA. By spring 2014, the U.S.-made BGM-71E anti-tank missiles from the 15,000 transferred to the Saudis began to appear in the hands of selected anti-Assad groups. But the CIA imposed the condition that the group receiving them would not cooperate with the al Nusra Front or its allies.

That condition implied that Washington was supplying military groups that were strong enough to maintain their independence from al Nusra Front. But the groups on the CIA’s list of vetted “relatively moderate” armed groups were all highly vulnerable to takeover by the al Qaeda affiliate. In November 2014, al Nusra Front troops struck the two strongest CIA-supported armed groups, Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front on successive days and seized their heavy weapons, including both TOW anti-tank missiles and GRAD rockets. 

In early March 2015, the Harakat Hazm Aleppo branch dissolved itself, and al Nusra Front promptly showed off photos of the TOW missiles and other equipment they had captured from it. And in March 2016, al Nusra Front troops attacked the headquarters of the 13th Division in northwestern Idlib province and seized all of its TOW missiles.  Later that month, al Nusra Front released a video of its troops using the TOW missiles it had captured.

But that wasn’t the only way for al Nusra Front to benefit from the CIA’s largesse. Along with its close ally Ahrar al Sham, the terrorist organization began planning for a campaign to take complete control of Idlib province in the winter of 2014-15. Abandoning any pretense of distance from al Qaeda, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar worked with al Nusra on the creation of a new military formation for Idlib called the “Army of Conquest,” consisting of the al Qaeda affiliate and its closest allies. Saudi Arabia and Qatar provided more weapons for the campaign, while Turkey facilitated their passage. On March 28, just four days after launching the campaign, the Army of Conquest successfully gained control of Idlib City.

The non-jihadist armed groups getting advanced weapons from the CIA assistance were not part of the initial assault on Idlib City. After the capture of Idlib the U.S.-led operations room for Syria in southern Turkey signaled to the CIA-supported groups in Idlib that they could now participate in the campaign to consolidate control over the rest of the province. According to Lister, the British researcher on jihadists in Syria who maintains contacts with both jihadist and other armed groups, recipients of CIA weapons, such as the Fursan al haq brigade and Division 13, did join the Idlib campaign alongside al Nusra Front without any move by the CIA to cut them off.

As the Idlib offensive began, the CIA-supported groups were getting TOW missiles in larger numbers, and they now used them with great effectiveness against the Syrian army tanks. That was the beginning of a new phase of the war, in which U.S. policy was to support an alliance between “relatively moderate” groups and the al Nusra Front.

The new alliance was carried over to Aleppo, where jihadist groups close to Nusra Front formed a new command called Fateh Halab (“Aleppo Conquest”) with nine armed groups in Aleppo province which were getting CIA assistance. The CIA-supported groups could claim that they weren’t cooperating with al Nusra Front because the al Qaeda franchise was not officially on the list of participants in the command. But as the report on the new command clearly implied, this was merely a way of allowing the CIA to continue providing weapons to its clients, despite their de facto alliance with al Qaeda.

The significance of all this is clear: by helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapons that were bound to fall into al Nusra hands or strengthen their overall military position, U.S. policy has been largely responsible for having extended al Qaeda’s power across a significant part of Syrian territory. The CIA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to tolerate such a betrayal of America’s stated counter-terrorism mission. Unless either Congress or the White House confronts that betrayal explicitly, as Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation would force them to do, U.S. policy will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by al Qaeda in Syria, even if the Islamic State is defeated there.
"The State is a body of armed men."

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #212 on: June 28, 2017, 10:15:06 PM »
http://thesaker.is/using-plausible-deniability-against-a-systematically-lying-adversary/
Using plausible deniability against a systematically lying adversary
June 28, 2017

The Internet has been buzzing with reactions to the latest Stratfor report about how a military confrontation between Russia and the United States would play out. I did not find the full text, I suppose it is behind a Stratfor paywall or for subscribers only (and, frankly, I have better use for my time and money than to subscribe to that rubbish), but since the same excerpts are quoted everywhere, I might as well list them here and assume that they form the highlights of the article. Here we go (taken from the Business Insider quoting and paraphrasing the original article):

    While Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US (…) Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.” “Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers. If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back. Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft. Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

So is the author, Omar Lamrani, right in his assessment? Yes and no. Yes, that is exactly what would happen if the Russians decided to engage their small number of air superiority aircraft to try to prevail over the entire CENCOM and NATO air force for the control of the Syrian skies. And no, simply because the Russians would never do that.

The author of the article, a civilian with no military experience, makes a basic mistake, he assumes that the Russians will act like idiots and fight the kind of war the US would want to impose upon them. That is kind of assumptions most newbies make and which make for excellent propaganda articles. The problem is, of course, that there is absolutely no reason at all why the Russians should collaborate with such a ridiculous scenario. So, let’s get back to basics here.

Question 1: are the Russians in a position of weakness in Syria?

Yes, absolutely. And they know that too. First, the Russians are operating only 2 facilities (Tartus and Khmeimim), far away from home, and the size of their task force in Syria is tiny compared to the huge amount of firepower available to the AngloZionists and their allies. Second, the USA have poured billions of dollars into this region to make sure that the Soviet Union could never successfully invade Iran and not only do they have an immense numerical superiority over the Russians, they also have a world-class network of bases where even more forces can be brought in. Syria is squeezed between CENTCOM to the south and east and NATO to the north and west while the closets Russian forces are in Crimea. The truth is that not only could the US and NATO take control of the Syrian skies, even Israel alone could probably do it. So, assuming the Russians are not suicidal imbeciles, what do you think they should do? If you were Russian, how would you play your cards?

Question 2: do the Russians have advantages of their own?

Absolutely. In fact, they have many advantages over the Americans. Here they are in no particular order:

    All the boots on the ground that matter are either Russian allies or at least on good terms with Russia: the Syrians, the Iranians, Hezbollah and even Turkey are all much closer to Russia than to the AngloZionists. The only AngloZionist boots on the ground that matter are Daesh & Co.
    Internal public opinion: in Russia, the Russian military intervention is understood and backed by a overwhelming majority of Russians. In the USA the public is clueless and profoundly skeptical of this latest US war of choice. Not only that, but Putin personally has an immense credibility with the Russian people, while Trump is barely avoiding being impeached.
    External public opinion: while in the USA the Ziomedia is engaged in a truly heroic effort to avoid even mentioning the fact that even the US presence in, and nevermind the actual aggression against, Syria is completely illegal in terms of international law, most of the planet is quite aware of that. This only further erodes the US standing worldwide.
    The Russians have fewer lucrative targets to offer the AngloZionists than the Americans. Simply put, the Russians have Tartus and Khmeimim. The Americans have an long list of bases and facilities in the region which all could become potential targets.
    The willpower, courage and determination of the Russian solider is stronger than his US counterparts by many orders of magnitude. There are many reasons for this, historical as well as political, but I don’t think that anybody doubts the fact that while Americans love to kill for their country, they are much less enthusiastic about dying for it, especially when the “for it” part is extremely dubious and when the frontline solider feels that he is being used in some complex political game which he does not understand but where he is definitely used as cannon fodder.
    There is Russian personnel and military hardware interspersed within the Syrian forces. We know that Russian technical specialists, military advisors and special forces are operating on the ground in Syria. This means that the Russian can probably use a Syrian S-300 to shoot down a US aircraft without necessarily giving the US proof of their involvement. To use and old CIA term, the Russian can have “plausible deniability”.
    We know that Russia has a vastly superior intelligence capability in Syria as reflected in the kind of damage Russian air and missile strike inflict on their targets especially when compared to the painfully obvious lack of US understanding of what’s really going on on the ground.

So what does all this add up to?

1) Plausible deniability in the air

First, it is pretty darn clear that the Russians have no incentive to begin a large scale air battle in the skies of Syria with their US counterparts. However, the fact that such a battle would not be in their interest does not mean that they would necessarily avoid it either. For the time being, the Russians seem to have chose a strategy of deliberate uncertainty and harassment of the US aircraft, but they could decide to engage US aircraft using their ground based S-300/S-400 batteries. Here is how they could do it.

First, the Russians are the only ones in Syria with S-400s. So let’s set them aside for a minute and keep them for serious emergency purposes. Next, let’s look at the Syrian inventory of air defenses found on Wikipedia. Notice especially this one: the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22). According to Wikipedia, there are 50 SA-22 in Syria. Have you ever heard of the Panstsir-S1? Probably not.

Forget the S-300/S-400, think Pantsir

The Pantsir-S1 (aka “SA-22” in US/NATO classification) is an absolutely awe-inspiring air defense system, yet nobody in the general public or Ziomedia ever mentions it. Let’s take a look at it:



The Pantsir-S1 is mobile short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system which uses phased array radars for both target acquisition and tracking. Detection range: 32-45km (20-28mi). Tracking range: 24-28km (15-17mi). It can track up to 20 targets, engage up to 3 with 4 missiles at the same time. It has a secondary Autonomous Optoelectronic System with a 25km (15mi) engagement rage against a small F-16 size aircraft. The Pantsir’s missiles are solid-fuel rockets with a range of 20km (12mi), a ceiling of 15km (9mi) and a speed of Mach 2.3-2.8. The Pantsir also has two dual 30mm autocannons shooting up to 700 rounds of high explosive at a rate of 2’500 rounds per minute at a distance up to 4km (2.5mi). Now here is the really neat thing about it: both the Russian and the Syrian operate these mobile systems. In other words, not only might these Pantsirs be anywhere, but they might be operated by anybody. Heck, even the Iranians have them!

Though the Pantsirs look the part (they look like something out of a Terminator movie to me), they are even more dangerous than they appear because while they are capable of fully autonomous operations, they are also designed to be plugged-in into a global network via a digitally encrypted datalink which makes it possible for them to receive their engagement data from other land-based and airborne platforms. Finally, keep in mind that nobody really knows how many Pantsirs the Russians have brought with them to Syria, how many the Syrians currently operate, how many “Syrian” Pantsirs are operated by Russians and plugged in into the Russian digital air-defense network or, for that matter, how many Syrian and Iranian Pantsirs might be out there.

So what do we have? A system which is extremely mobile (being mounted on a heavy high mobility truck), easy to conceal (being small), which can engage any airborne target at altitudes ranging form 0m to 15’000m as far as 20’000m away. To do so, they can used their passive electronically scanned array (PESA), their Autonomous Optoelectronic System (AOS) or even data received from other radars including Russian S-300/S-400, Su-35 or AWACS.

Initially and officially, the Russian Pantsirs are solely tasked with defending the longer ranged S-300/S-400 systems and the Russian installations in Khmeimim and Tartus. But in reality they could be rapidly deployed anywhere and used to shoot down US aircraft with no evidence whatsoever that the Russians did it! Of course, the Russian would have to be very careful as to what source they would use to track the US aircraft and provide the Pantsir’s missile an engagement solution. As far as I know, the Pantsir’s missiles do not have an active or even semi-active radar system, but their AOS allows for completely silent/passive engagements. Depending on what intelligence assets the Americans do or do not have available at the time of attack, their might be no way of proving who shot down the US aircraft.

The bottom line is this: while the world is focused on the bigger S-300/S-400 capabilities, the Russians already have in place a far more flexible short-medium range air-defense system which would be impossible to destroy with Tomahawks (being mobile) and very hard to destroy with airstrikes. That system could be deployed anywhere in Syria and it could be used while providing the Russian with a plausible deniability. Of course, the US could try to fly outside the Pantsir’s flight envelope, but that would make use of any airpower very difficult. Another option for the Americans would be to rely solely on their low-RCS aircraft (B-1, B-2 for strikes, and F-22s to protect them), but that would dramatically decrease the overall capabilities of CENTOM/NATO over Syria.

I will conclude this section by reminding everybody that neither the US nor any other NATO country has ever had to operate in an environment as dangerous as the Syrian skies. The poor Serbs had only ancient air defenses and yet even against them NATO failed miserably. In Syria the Russian air defenses could give the Americans a run for their money without ever using any of their (admittedly few) air superiority aircraft.

2) Plausible deniability on the ground

Has anybody ever considered that the Russians might decide to attack US forces deployed on the ground in Syria (or Iraq for that matter?)? Apparently not, if only because most people would assume that the Russian force in Syria is tiny and therefore cannot attack a much larger and stronger US force. But, just as with the air warfare, this is a mistaken assumption based on the idea that the US would know who is attacking. In reality, the Russians could attack the US using their special forces (either those already deployed or specially brought in) to attack US targets and retain plausible deniability.

How?

This is what we already know:

Russian operators are already deployed and active in Syria:

First the famous Spetsnaz ( Spetsnaz GRU Gsh). These are special units drawn either from the Southern Military District or, possibly, subordinated directly to the Military Intelligence (GRU) HQ in Moscow. Unlike the Spetsnaz GRU forces of the GRU brigades of the Military Districts, these small groups (8-12 men) are staffed by career officers only.

Next, the Russian Special Forces (SSO), a relatively new creation not to be confused with the Spetsnaz GRU even if they are similar in many ways, are also more or less officially in Syria (Russian TV channels have made reports and interviews with them). They are subordinated to General Staff of the Armed Forces. Here is a photo of them taken by a Russian journalist in Syria:

Finally, there аre reports of some unnamed but very secret Russian unit working in Syria (for example here) but neither Vympel nor Zaslon fit the bill (the former is now subordinated to the FSB, i.e. deal with internal security issues, while the latter is more of a protective service for officials, their residences and Russian civilians abroad). I have found no info on who they are, but my guess is that they are what Vympel used to be: special forces of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) working in close collaboration with the SVR agent networks in Syria.

Whatever may be the case, the Russians already have more then enough special forces in Syria to start attacking US targets in Syria or even elsewhere in the region. For example, during the battle for Aleppo there have been numerous reports of Russian snipers killing Daesh leader one after the other almost decapitating their entire leadership. That could happen to top US officers on the ground in Syria. Special forces could also arrange for “unexplicable” missile strikes hitting US forces. But the most important aspect here is that these forces could be used in complete secrecy with nothing identifying them as Russians. They would look like Arabs, speaks like Arabs and have Arabic IDs with them. The Soviets did use exactly this technique in Afghanistan to overthrow Afghan President Hafizullah Amin. Likewise, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has openly admitted that Chechen operators have been infiltrated into the Daesh command structure.. Finally, even if “Russians” are caught and somehow identified, there are about 5’000 Russian citizens of all sorts of ethnic groups (including Slavs) fighting in the ranks of Daesh and it will be impossible to prove that fighter X or fighter Z are agents of a Russian intelligence service.

Bottom line is this: Russia also has the option of ground attacks against US forces with plausible deniability.

So think of it – Russians SAMS shooting at US aircraft in the air, and Russian special forces killing US officers on the ground. And all this with complete plausible deniability.

Not convinced yet?


One the many uses of plausible deniability, especially against a systematically lying enemy

You might wonder how useful plausible deniability is against a country which makes up all sorts of ridiculous stories about Russian hackers stealing elections or invisible Russian armies in the eastern Ukraine. And I agree, a country which has 16 intelligence agencies and a long and shameful history of making up intelligence – yes, sure, they could say that “the Russkies did it” and have the Ziomedia repeat it all over and over again without any evidence.

But there is another side to this story: since the US propaganda machine has made up so many stories about genocidal Serbs, Viagra-enhanced raping Libyans, baby-tossing Iraqis, wannabe-nuclear Iranians, barrel-bombing Syrians and God knows who else – how credible will they be when they accuse the Russian of “this vicious and dastardly act” (whatever the act is, really)? Even as I write this, there are reports that the White House is already setting the stage for yet another false flag attack in Syria. Let’s be honest here and agree that Uncle Sam lies every time he moves his lips and while the brain-dead Ziomedia pretends to take each lie very seriously, the rest of the planet, including much of the American public, is under no illusions.

Now imagine a Russian operated Pantsir-S1 crew in Syria shooting down US aircraft or Russian operators blowing up a tent with the HQ of the US forces in Syria. Not only will there be no proof that the Russians did it, but even if there was, nobody would trust the Americans anyway. Furthermore, this also begs the following question: would it really be in the USA’s best interest to point the finger at the Russians? I would argue that it would not. It would make far more sense to blame the Syrians, then bomb some kind of Syrian government building (say the probably empty military intelligence building in downtown Damascus) and declare that “a message has been sent” then to take the military and political risk of attacking Russian forces in Syria.

Could the Americans retaliate in kind?


Probably not. Remember, they don’t have the boots on the ground, the intelligence capabilities or the political support (internal and external) to get away with that. Not only that, but US special forces have a long history of screwing up even relatively simple operations and I don’t see them trying to get away with a direct attack on Russian forces in Khmeimim or elsewhere. At most, they will do what they almost always do – subcontract the mission to some locals, which works great against defenseless civilians and ends up on disaster against a real “hard” target.

The many paradoxes of warfare

First, we should always keep in mind that any military action is just a means towards a political goal, the “continuation of politics by other means”. Because of that highly political nature, there are circumstances where being the weaker side can yield advantages. The key to the defensive strategy of the weaker side is not to let the stronger side impose the kind of warfare which maximizes the stronger side’s advantages. In the case of Syria, trying to defeat the entire air force of CENTCOM with just a few fighters would be plain stupid. And since the US does have an immense advantage in the number of cruise missiles it can launch – do what the Serbs did in Kosovo and Hezbollah did in 2006 against Israel: don’t give them a target. In the Syrian context this means: use only mobile air defense systems. Last but not least, hit the Americans were it hurts most – their morale. Remember how crazy they got when they could not find out who was attacking them in Vietnam?

An elephant in a porcelain store is a scary sight for sure. But once you get over your initial fear, you soon will realize that being a big bad elephant makes it very difficult to make a smart move. That is exactly the USA’s problem, especially the US armed forces: they are so big and confident that almost every move they make lacks to sophisticated caution imposed by life on a much weaker actor. This is why the almost always end up breaking the store and looking stupid. Add to this a quasi-total focus on the short-term quickfix, and you get a recipe for disaster.

The two options for a Russian counter-attack under the cover of plausible deniability are just the two that came to my mind. In reality there are many more, including many even much less “visible” than those I have suggested. My main goal was to illustrate that there is absolutely no reason for the Russians to behave like Omar Lamrani suggested in his frankly silly article. The truth is that I have absolutely no idea how the Russians might respond, and that is exactly how it should be. All I am sure of is that they won’t respond how Lamrani thinks they will, that’s all.

The wiser folks in the Pentagon and, apparently, on the ground are trying hard to avoid getting tangled up with the Russians not because they fear some specific Russian response, but because they are aware that they are dealing with an unpredictable and sophisticated actor. The good news is that the Russians are also trying hard to avoid getting tangled up with the Americans, especially so far away from home and smack in the middle of a thoroughly CENTCOM/NATO-controlled part of the world.

In conclusion, I want to mention just a small sampling of what I did not mention but which US commanders will have to consider before deciding on a direct attack on Russian forces: various naval scenarios, especially those involving diesel attack submarines, Russian options to deploy into Iran, Russian retaliatory options in other theaters such as Iraq, Pakistan and, especially, Afghanistan. Here is a good one: *real* Russian cracking (“hacking” is the wrong word) of crucial US computer networks, including the release of possibly very embarrassing information (think of it as “Wikileaks on steroids”). Finally, if cornered, one possibly option for Russia would be to draw US forces, resources and energy away from Syria to some other region truly critical to the USA. DPRK anybody?

The options are endless and the stakes very high. In the dreamworld of Mr Lamrani it’s all simple and easy. Which only goes to prove, yet again, that war is far to serious a matter to entrusted to civilians.
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #213 on: July 19, 2017, 07:59:53 PM »
This would be Syria's fate if Assad were to fall - one jihadist group fighting the others.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/video-bloodbath-ensues-massive-inter-jihadist-violence-sweeps-idlib-hama/
Bloodbath ensues as massive inter-jihadist violence sweeps Idlib, Hama
Andrew Illingworth
19/07/2017

Full-scale war has broken out between a number of major Idlib-based militant factions. Opposition media is indicating that the forces involved are seizing entire townships from each other throughout Idlib and Hama, even going so far as to use heavy weapons (i.e. tanks) to do so.

According to preliminary reports, the main belligerents appear to be the Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist coalition and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The latter two groups have united against the former.

Earlier today, HTS attacked an Ahrar al-Sham base in the Armanaz area of northern Idlib with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). The blast from the car bomb is said to have resulted in the death of three Ahrar al-Sham fighters and two civilians; furthermore, another 15 people were injured of which at least five were Ahrar al-Sham militants.

Bomb attacks aside, the warring factions have also engaged in seizing towns and villages from one another.

Reports say that Ahrar al-Sham took over the town of Qalat al-Madiq in the al-Ghab Plain region after forcing all HTS fighters to withdraw or face certain death. Moreover, Ahrar al-Sham also kicked HTS out of several towns and villages in the Shahshabo Mountain area of northern Hama.

Ahrar Al-Sham is currently storming HTS bases at the town of Harem in northern Idlib. The two groups are also exchanging fire in the town of Salqin where both have bases. The engagement has thus far left 16 people dead, most of which are Ahrar al-Sham fighters.

HTS has for its part also delivered some heavy blows to Ahrar al-Sham.

So far today, the jihadist group has killed the security chief of the Al-Abbas Brigade (part of Ahrar al-Sham) along with 3 other troops in the town of Al-Magharan.

Opposition media is now reporting that Ahrar al-Sham will allow Turkey-led Euphrates Shield forces to enter Idlib from the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing to aid them in fighting HTS although this also comes amid seemingly contradictory reports that, in response to all this violence, Turkey has sealed off its borders with Idlib.

Updates to follow.
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #214 on: July 21, 2017, 09:55:32 PM »
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-21/turkey-poised-invade-syrias-idlib-province-inter-jihadist-violence-rages
Turkey Poised To Invade Syria's Idlib Province As Inter-Jihadist Violence Rages
Tyler Durden
Jul 21, 2017

Two Salafi-jihadi factions in Syria's Idlib province have been engaged in a brutal inter-"rebel" (or rather inter-jihadist) war this week, prompting Turkey to prepare a potential invasion to protect its favored factions on the ground. On Thursday, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS/Al-Qaeda) continued to capture towns in Idlib's countryside from rival Ahrar al-Sham and Turkish backed FSA groups after an uneasy truce between the rebel factions quickly collapsed days prior, causing the weaker Ahrar al-Sham to call in Turkish support.

Multiple reports coming out of the region indicate that Turkey has been transferring hundreds of jihadists from its former Euphrates Shield forces in northern Aleppo province (the Turkish occupied "Jarabulus pocket") to Turkey's Hatay border region, where they began entering Idlib through the Ahrar controlled Bab al-Hawa crossing. However, in the early morning hours of Friday HTS reportedly captured part of the Bab al-Hawa crossing in a significant blow that could trigger a bigger Turkish response. A larger force may be awaiting word from Ankara for a full scale invasion involving Turkish Army troops which might come at any moment.

What is certain is that things are about to get even bloodier, and either Turkey will occupy yet more Syrian land, or the Syrian Army will eventually move in to mop up Idlib once the warring groups have depleted and utterly exhausted each other. The latter scenario is a likely possibility given increased Russian leverage over Turkish actions: Turkey would have to seek a nod from Moscow before occupying Idlib overtly. So far, Turkey's proxy forces are being swallowed up by the more formidable HTS.

Dozens of militants from both factions have been killed across the rebel controlled Idlib province in a week that's seen dramatic shifts in the geopolitical landscape over Syria, including sudden news of the White House's ending the CIA weapons program, as well as Turkey's leaking of US forward operating base locations in northern Syria through its state-run news channel, further escalating tensions between Turkey and the US.

On Wednesday Al-Masdar News reported the extent of initial fighting, which even involved tanks and other major weapons systems:

Full-scale war has broken out between a number of major Idlib-based militant factions. Opposition media is indicating that the forces involved are seizing entire townships from each other throughout Idlib and Hama, even going so far as to use heavy weapons (i.e. tanks) to do so.

 ...Ahrar Al-Sham is currently storming HTS bases at the town of Harem in northern Idlib. The two groups are also exchanging fire in the town of Salqin where both have bases. The engagement has thus far left 16 people dead, most of which are Ahrar al-Sham fighters.

Idlib's in-fighting can be seen as a mini civil war for leadership and land among terrorist factions. Some reports link the cause of this week's major escalation to a dispute over the presence of FSA and more "nationalist" flags being flown by Ahrar-aligned groups. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which opposes FSA leaning groups, is essentially the current iteration of al-Nusra Front (now calling itself Fateh Al Sham), which is a coalition led by al-Qaeda's main off-shoot in Syria. While ISIS has been the focus of international headlines over the past years, Nusra has been no less barbaric in unleashing terrorism on civilians, and like ISIS it seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Nusra's ideology is indistinguishable from that of ISIS, and the two were the same organization as they fought as one in Northern and Eastern Syria throughout much of 2013. More recently Nusra has made multiple attempts to rebrand itself in the hopes of attracting more external support. But rival Ahrar al-Sham has had more success in this area as it's been a favored so-called "moderate" opposition group of choice among prominent think tanks such as The Brookings Institution (which has a location in Qatar) - this in spite of being more accurately called the "Syrian Taliban" by some prominent experts for its brutal sharia style rule.

Shockingly, the group landed an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2015, and made a direct appeal to the American public, defending itself as "moderate" and not "extremist". Even now, Syrian opposition media and friendly political and media allies in the West are championing the cause of Ahrar al-Sham, continuing to claim it represents the true spirit of the "revolution".


Map source: Andrew Illingworth, Oz Analysis

But Ahrar al-Sham also has organizational roots in al-Qaeda, though external patrons - especially Qatar and Turkey - have long seen the group as a viable partner on the ground. Even the US has at times entered into a de facto relationship with both groups now vying for control of Idlib: in 2015 both Nusra and Ahrar were key leading factions of the umbrella organization "Army of Conquest" which captured Idlib City from the Syrian government in March 2015. As was widely reported at the time, US intelligence officers assisted the al-Qaeda stacked Army of Conquest from a US-Turkish led "operations room" in southern Turkey.

This week it was revealed that Trump made the decision earlier this month to shut down the years-long CIA covert program to aid rebel groups in Syria, while the Pentagon continues to support the Kurdish-led SDF as it fights in Raqqa and elsewhere. Various media pundits have immediately begun blaming the renewed Idlib chaos on Trump's closure of the CIA program. The Daily Beast's Roy Gutman (who actually believes Assad created ISIS) laments:

    As moderate rebel groups in Syria tried to digest the news that the U.S. will soon cease all covert support for them—a sudden revelation they learned from press reports—northern Syria descended into further chaos.

     

    ...Now the very existence of moderate local forces backed by the U.S. hangs in the balance.

And more absurdly the usual neocons are using this as an opportunity to call for revived CIA intervention a mere two days after the covert program's termination was announced: David Ignatius, quickly out with a teary-eyed post mortem on the CIA's Syria campaign (which he gleefully boasts in its heyday "may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies"), writes:

    Contrast the sad demise of the CIA’s anti-Assad program in western Syria with the rampaging campaign against the Islamic State in the east. What’s the difference? In the east, motivated, well-organized Syrian fighters are backed by U.S. warriors on the ground and planes in the sky. In this game, halfway is not the place to be.

Take your pick: Syrian al-Qaeda (HTS) or Syrian Taliban (Ahrar al-Sham)? As the jihadists of Idlib continue kill each other off the weeping and gnashing of teeth in Washington is sure to intensify.
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #215 on: July 23, 2017, 10:01:20 PM »
Shot down for bombing US allies the SDF.

https://www.rt.com/news/392941-us-led-coalition-downed-syrian-plane/
US-led coalition downs Syrian army plane in southern Raqqa
18 Jun, 2017

The US-led coalition has downed a government warplane in southern Syria, the Syrian army and coalition have announced in separate statements. The Syrian military added that the plane’s pilot is now missing.

According to the Syrian statement, the plane was carrying out operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the countryside around Raqqa when it was targeted, leading to a crash and the loss of the pilot, who is currently missing.

“This attack comes at a time when the Syrian Arab army and its allies are advancing in the fight against ISIS terrorists who are being defeated in the Syrian desert in more ways than one,” the statement read.

The statement added that although such attacks seek to undermine the Syrian armed forces’ struggle against terrorism, they will not be deterred in fighting for stability and security in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The downing of the Syrian warplane, an Su-22, was confirmed by an official press statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led international task force against IS, which accused the Syrian government of targeting fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia.

“At 6:43pm, a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” the statement read.

The statement added that its mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria and that the Coalition does not seek to “fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

This is not the first time that the US-led intervention in Syria has led to standoffs and violence against pro-government forces. In September 2016, a coalition airstrike on Deir ez-Zor killed over 60 Syrian soldiers while in April 2017, US President Donald Trump ordered a Tomahawk missile strike on the Shayrat airbase, ostensibly in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by the Syria government, though no concrete evidence of this has emerged.

Earlier in June, the US deployed several High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) in southern Syria, close to the border with Jordan. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the presence of the rocket launchers cannot be justified by a need to fight Islamic State terrorists, as IS forces are not active in the area. Instead, their presence threatens the cooperation between the Syrian government and their partners in Iraq.
‘US trying to draw red lines for Syria’

Syria-based journalist Alaa Ebrahim told RT he believes that, by downing the Syrian jet, Washington is aiming to redraw “red lines” in the Syrian conflict and show that it won’t tolerate the involvement of the Syrian government’s armed forces in the liberation of Raqqa.

“The Americans don’t want the Syrian army to advance towards Deir ez-Zor, they don’t want the Syrian army to actually be present as part of the operation to retake Raqqa or to take any part of the Raqqa province,” Ebrahim said.

“The US is trying to draw boundaries in the Syrian conflict and red lines for the Syrian army not to cross them,” he added.

The journalist believes that the Syrian Army might go to great lengths to challenge the US strategy in Raqqa, as there are considerable concerns as to the outcome of the battle should the city eventually fall into the hands of the US-backed Kurdish-led SDF forces.

Ebrahim speculated that when IS is pushed out of Raqqa, the terrorists will be allowed “a safe way out and those fighters will have only one choice, to go to Deir ez-Zor and to try to take the city from the hands [of the Syrian Army].”

Such a relocation would put an additional strain on the Syrian armed forces trying to break the siege of the city that has been ongoing for over two years, he said, adding that Sunday’s downing of the plane is “part of the ongoing escalation” that has been on the rise in Syria for the past several months “since the US carried its first airstrike against pro-government forces.”
Address : <https://www.rt.com/news/392941-us-led-coalition-downed-syrian-plane/>
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #216 on: February 28, 2018, 05:57:19 PM »
https://thesaker.is/escalation-in-syria-how-far-can-the-russians-be-pushed-2/
Escalation In Syria – How Far Can The Russians Be Pushed?
The Saker
February 28, 2018

Events in Syria have recently clearly taken a turn for the worse and there is an increasing amount of evidence that the Russian task force in Syria is being targeted by a systematic campaign of “harassing attacks”.

The recent incident, like drone and mortar attack on the Russian Aerospace Forces base in Khmeimin, the shooting down of a Russian SU-25, so-called Russian casualties in US airstrikes in Deir Ezzor, likely indicate on starting of implementation of a new US strategy in Syria: to punish the Russians as much as possible short of an overt US attack on Russian forces. This hypothesis is based on the following reasons:

First, the USA and Israel are still reeling in humiliation and impotent rage over their defeat in Syria: Assad is still in power, ISIS is more or less defeated, the Russians were successful not only their military operations against ISIS but also in their campaign to bring as many “good terrorists” to the negotiating table as possible. With the completion of a successful conference on Syria in Russia and the general agreement of all parties to begin working on a new constitution, there was a real danger of peace breaking out, something the US and Israeli-led block is absolutely determined to oppose.

Second, both Trump and Netanyahu have promised to bring in lots of “victories” to prove how manly and strong they are. Starting an overt war against Russian would definitely be a “proof of manhood”, but a much too dangerous one. Killing Russians “on the margins”, so to speak, either with plausible deniability or, alternatively, killing Russians private contractors is much safer and thus far more tempting option.

Third, there are presidential elections coming up in Russia and the US Americans are still desperately holding on to their sophomoric notion that if they create trouble for Putin they can somehow negatively impact his popularity in Russia.

Last but not least, since the US and Israeli-led block has long lost the ability to actually getting anything done, their logical fall-back position is not let anybody else succeed either. This is the main purpose of the entire US deployment in northern Syria: to create trouble for Turkey, Iran, Syria and, of course, Russia.

The bottom line is this: since the US Americans have declared that they will (illegally) stay in Syria until the situation “stabilizes” they now must do everything their power to destabilize Syria. Yes, there is a kind of a perverse logic to all that…

Step one: encouraging the Turks

There is a counter-intuitive but in many ways an ideal solution for Russia to counter the US invasion of Syria: involve the Turks. And do it not by attacking the US forces directly, but by attacking the Kurdish militias the US Americans are currently “hiding” behind. While the US and Israel will have no second thoughts whatsoever before striking Syrian or Iranian forces, actually striking Turkish forces would carry an immense political risk: following the US-backed coup attempt against Erdogan and, just to add insult to injury, the US backing for the creation of a “mini-Kurdistsan” both in Iraq and in Syria, US-Turkish relations are at an all-time low and it would not take much to push the Turks over the edge with potentially cataclysmic consequences for the US, EU, NATO, CENTCOM and Israel interests in the region. Truly, there is no overstating the strategic importance of Turkey for Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle-East, and the US Americans know that. From this flows a very real if little understood consequence: the Turkish armed forces in Syria basically enjoy what one would call a “political immunity” from any US attacks, that is to say that no matter what the Turks do, the US would never consider actually openly using force against them simply because the consequence of, say, a USAF strike on a Turkish army column would be too serious to contemplate.

In fact, the US-Turkish relationship is so bad and so one-sided that one would see a Turkish attack on a Kurdish column/position with embedded US Special Forces far more likely than a US attack on a Turkish army column. This might sound counter-intuitive, but let’s say the Turks did attack a Kurdish column/position with US personnel and that US servicemen would die as the result. What could the US do? Not only is the notion of the US attacking a fellow NATO country member is quite unthinkable, it would most likely be followed by a Turkish demand that the US/NATO completely withdraw from Turkey’s territory and airspace. In theory, the US could ask the Israelis to do their dirty job for them, but the Israelis are not stupid and they won’t have much interest in starting a shooting war with Turkey over what is a US-created problem in a “mini-Kurdistan”.

No, if the Turks actually killed US servicemen there would be protests and a flurry of “consultations” and other symbolic actions, but beyond that, the US would take the losses and do nothing about it. As for Erdogan, his popularity at home would only soar even higher. What all this means in practical terms is that if there is one actor which can seriously disrupt the US operations in northern Syria, or even force the US to withdraw, it is Turkey. That kind of capability also gives Turkey a lot of bargaining power with Russia and Iran which Erdogan will carefully use to his own benefit. So far Erdogan has only threatened to deliver an “Ottoman slap” to the USA and Secretary of State Tillerson is traveling to Ankara to try to avert a disaster, but the Turkish instance that the USA chose either the Turkish or the Kurdish side in the conflict very severely limits the chances of any real breakthrough. One should never say never, but it would take something of a miracle at this point to really salvage the US-Turkish relationship. Russia can try to capitalize on this dynamic.

The main weakness of this entire concept is, of course, that the USA is still powerful enough, including inside Turkey, and it would be very dangerous for Erdogan to try to openly confront and defy Uncle Sam. So far, Erdogan has been acting boldly and in overt defiance of the USA, but he also understands the risks of going too far and for him to even consider taking such risks there have to be prospects of major benefits from him. Here the Russians have two basic options: either to promise the Turks something very inciting or to somehow further deteriorate the current relationship between the US and Turkey.

The other obvious risk is that any anti-Kurdish operation can turn into yet another partition of Syria, this time by the Turks. However, the reality is that the Turks can’t really stay for too long in Syria, especially not if Russia and Iran oppose this. There is also the issue of international law which is much easier for the USA to ignore than for the Turks.

For all these reasons using the Turks to put pressure on the USA has its limitations. Still, if the Turks continue to insist that the USA stop supporting the Kurds, or if they continue putting military pressure on the Kurdish militias, then the entire US concept of a US-backed “mini-Kurdistan” collapses and, with it, the entire US partition plan for Syria.

So far, the Iraqis have quickly dealt with the US-sponsored “mini-Kurdistan” in Iraq and the Turks are now taking the necessary steps to deal with the US-sponsored “mini-Kurdistan” in Syria at which point *their* problem will be solved. The Turks are not interested in helping Assad or, for that matter, Putin and they don’t care what happens to Syria as long as *their* Kurdish problem is under control. This means that the Syrians, Russians, and Iranians should not place too much hope on the Turks turning against the USA unless, of course, the correct circumstances are created. Only the future will tell whether the Russians and the Iranians will be able to help to create such circumstances.

Step two: saturating Syria with mobile modern short/middle range air defenses

Right now nobody knows what kind of air-defense systems the Russians have been delivering to the Syrians over the past couple of years, but that is clearly the way to go for the Russians: delivering as many modern and mobile air defense systems to the Syrians. While this would be expensive, the best solution here would be to deliver as many Pantsir-S1 mobile Gun/SAM systems and 9K333 Verba MANPADs as possible to the Syrians and the Iranians. The combination of these two systems would immensely complicate any kind of air operations for the US Americans and Israelis, especially since there would be no practical way of reliably predicting the location from which they could operate. And since both the USA and Israel are operating in the Syrian skies in total violation of international law while the Syrian armed forces would be protecting their own sovereign airspace, such a delivery of air-defense systems by Russia to Syria would be impeccably legal. Best of all, it would be absolutely impossible for the US and Israeli-led block to know who actually shot at them since these weapon systems are mobile and easy to conceal. Just like in Korea, Vietnam or Lebanon, Russian crews could even be sent to operate the Syrian air defense systems and there would be no way for anybody to prove that “the Russians did it” when US and Israeli aircraft would start falling out of the skies. The Russians would enjoy what the CIA calls “plausible deniability”.

The other option for the Russians would be to offer upgrades (software and missile) to the existing Syrian air defense systems, especially their road-mobile 2K12 Kub and 9K37 Buk systems. Such upgrades, especially if combined with enough deployed Pantsirs and Verbas would be a nightmare for both the US Americans and the Israelis. The Turks would not care much since they are already basically flying with the full approval of the Russians anyway, and neither would the Iranians.

One objection to this plan would be that two can play this game and that there is nothing preventing the USA from sending even more advanced MANPADs to their “good terrorist” allies, but that argument entirely misses the point: if both sides do the same thing, the side which is most dependent on air operations (the USA) stands to lose much more than the side which has the advantage on the ground (the Russians). Furthermore, by sending MANPADs to Syria, the USA is alienating a putative ally, Turkey, whereas if Russia sends MANPADs and other SAMs to Syria the only one who will be complaining will be the Israelis. When that happens, the Russians will have a simple and truthful reply: we did not start this game, your US allies did, you can go and thank them for this mess.

The main problem in Syria is the fact that the US and the Israelis are currently operating in the Syrian skies with total impunity. If this changes, this will be a slow and gradual process. First, there would be a few isolated losses (like the Israeli F-16 recently), then we would see that the location of US and/or Israeli airstrikes would gradually shift from urban centers and central command posts to smaller, more isolated targets. This would indicate an awareness that the most lucrative targets are already too well defended. Eventually, the number of air sorties would be gradually replaced by cruise and ballistic missiles strikes. Underlying it all would be a shift from offensive air operations to force protection which, in turn, would give the Syrians, Iranians, and Hezbollah a much easier environment to operate in. But the necessary first step for any of that to happen would be to dramatically increase the capability of Syrian air defenses.

Hezbollah has, for decades, very successfully operated under a total Israelis air supremacy and their experience of this kind of operations would be invaluable to the Syrians until they sufficiently built up their air defense capabilities.

Conclusion: is counter-escalation really the only option?

Some starting to believe that the Empire has decided to attempt upon a partial “reconquista” of Syria, even Macron is making some noises about striking the Syrians to “punish” them for their use of (non-existing) chemical weapons. At the very least, the USA wants to make the Russians pay as high a price as possible for their role in Syria. Further US goals in Syria include:
  • The imposition of a de-facto partition of Syria by taking under control the Syrian territory east of the Euphrates river
  • The theft of the gas fields located in northeastern Syria
  • The creation of a US-controlled staging area from which Kurdish, good terrorist and bad terrorist operations can be planned and executed
  • The sabotaging of any Russian-backed peace negotiations
  • The support for Israeli operations against Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and Syria
  • Engaging in regular attacks against Syrian forces attempting to liberate their country from foreign invaders
  • Presenting the invasion and occupation of Syria as one of the “victories” promised by Trump to the MIC and the Israel lobby

So far the Russian response to this developing strategy has been a rather a passive one and the current escalation strongly suggests that a new approach might be needed. The shooting down of the Israeli F-16 is a good first step, but much more needs to be done to dramatically increase the costs the Empire will have to pay for is policies towards Syria. The increase in the number of Russian commentators and analysts demanding a stronger reaction to the current provocations might be a sign that something is in the making.
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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #217 on: February 28, 2018, 06:25:01 PM »
https://thesaker.is/escalation-in-syria-how-far-can-the-russians-be-pushed-2/
Escalation In Syria – How Far Can The Russians Be Pushed?

"Plausible Deniability" is the Name of the Game here, for both sides.  As far as the Options go, I favor upgrading the missile capability and shooting down more aircraft.  The Turks are too undependable for either side to rely on.

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #218 on: March 03, 2018, 12:32:50 AM »
This is the sort of thing Saker is best at.  I don't think he puts enough emphasis on how important it is to see what the enemies do radar-wise the very first time a new plane appears in a busy war theatre. It is the only time you get to see them without them knowing what they are looking at.  So that explains the shortness of the stay, given the lack of protective hangars in Syria.  Coming in the same week as Putin's announcement of latest missile technology, it was obviously part of the same sabre-rattling exercise.

https://thesaker.is/making-sense-of-the-russian-5th-generation-fighters-in-syria/
Making sense of the Russian 5th generation fighters in Syria
The Saker
March 02, 2018

When I got an email from a friend telling me that a pair of Su-57s was seen landing at the Russian Aerospace Forces base in Kheimim, Syria, I immediately dismissed it as a fake. The list of reasons why this could not be true would run for pages. I knew that, so I simply replied: “that’s a fake” and forgot about it. Over the next couple of days, however, this story was picked up by various websites and bloggers, but it still made no sense. Still, what kept me feeling really puzzled was that the Russian official sources did not dismiss the story, but chose to remain silent. Then another two Su-57s were reported. And then, suddenly, the Russian media was flooded with stories about how the Su-57s were sent to Syria as an act of “revenge” for the killing of Russian PMCs by the US; that the Su-57s had basically flattened eastern Ghouta while killing about “2000 Americans“. This was truly some crazy nonsense so I decided to find out what really happened and, so far, here is what I found out.

First, amazingly enough, the reports of the Su-57 in Syria are true. Some say 2 aircraft, some say 4 (out of a current total of 13). It doesn’t really matter, what matters is that the deployment of a few Su-57s in Syria is a fact and that this represents a dramatic departure from normal Russian (and Soviet) practice.

Introducing the Sukhoi 57 5th generation multi-role fighter

The Su-57 (aka “PAK-FA” aka “T-50”) is the first real 5th generation multi-role aircraft produced by Russia. All the other Russian multi-role and air superiority aircraft previously deployed in Syria (such as the Su-30SM and the Su-35S) are 4++ aircraft, not true 5th generation. One might be forgiven for thinking that 4++ is awfully close to 5, but it really is not. 4++ generation aircraft are really 4th generation aircraft upgraded with a number of systems and capabilities typically associated with a 5th generation, but they all lack several key components of a true 5th generation aircraft such as:

    a low radar cross-section (“stealth”),
    the capability to fly at supersonic speeds without using afterburners,
    the ability to carry weapons inside a special weapons bay (as opposed to outside, under its wings or body)
    an advanced “situational awareness” (network-centric) capability (sensor and external data fusion).

To make a long story short, the difference between 4th and 5th generation aircraft is really huge and requires not one, but several very complex “technological jumps” especially in the integrations of numerous complex systems.

The only country which currently has a deployed real 5th generation fighter is the USA with its F-22. In theory, the USA also has another 5th generation fighter, the F-35, but the latter is such a terrible design and has such immense problems that for our purposes we can pretty much dismiss it. As for now, the F-22 is the only “real deal”: thoroughly tested and fully deployed in substantial numbers. The Russian Su-57 is still years away from being able to make such a claim as it has not been thoroughly tested or deployed in substantial numbers. That is not to say that the Russians are not catching up really fast, they are, but as of right now, the Su-57 has only completed the first phase of testing. The normal Soviet/Russian procedure should have been at this time to send a few aircraft to the Russian Aerospace Forces (RAF) base in Lipetsk to familiarize the military crews with the aircraft and continue the testing while getting the feedback, not from test pilots but from actual air combat instructors. This second phase of testing could easily last 6 months or more and reveal a very large number of “minor” problems many of which could actually have very severe consequences in an actual combat deployment. In other words, the Su-57 is still very “raw” and probably needs a lot of tuning before it can be deployed in combat. How “raw”? Just one example: as of today, only one of the currently existing Su-57 flies with the new supercruise-capable engines, all the others use a 4th generation type engine. This is no big deal, but it goes to show that a lot of work still needs to be done on this aircraft before it becomes fully operational.

The notion that the Russians sent the Su-57 to Syria to somehow compete with the F-22s or otherwise participate in actual combat is ludicrous. While, on paper, the Su-57 is even more advanced and capable than the F-22, in reality, the Su-57 presents no credible threat to the US forces in Syria (if the Russians really wanted to freak out the Americans, they could have, for example, decided to keep a pair of MiG-31BMs on 24/7 combat air patrol over Syria). The Russian reports about these aircraft flattening Ghouta or killing thousands of Americans are nothing more than cheap and inflammatory propaganda from ignorant Russian nationalists who don’t seem to realize that flattening urban centers is not even the theoretical mission of the Su-57. In fact, as soon as these crazy reports surfaced, Russians analysts immediately dismissed them as nonsense.

Utter nonsense is hardly the monopoly of Russian nationalists, however. The folks at the National Interest reposted an article (initially posted on the blog The War is Boring) which basically dismissed the Su-57 as a failed and dead project and its deployment in Syria as a “farce” (I should tip my hat off to the commentators at the National Interest who immediately saw through the total ridiculous nature of this article and wondered if Lockheed had paid for it). On the other hand, in the western insanity spectrum, we have the UK’s Daily Express which wrote about Vladimir Putin sending his “fearsome new state-of-the-art Su-57” into the Syrian war zone. Just like with the Kuznetsov, the Ziomedia can’t decide if the Russian hardware is an antiquated, useless pile of scrap metal or a terrifying threat which ought to keep the entire world up at night. Maybe both at the same time? With paranoid narcissists, you can’t tell. Finally, the notion that Putin (personally?) sent these 4 aircraft to Syria to help him in his re-election campaign (peddled by the Russophobes at Ha’aretz) is also devoid of all truth and makes me wonder if those who write that kind of crap are even aware of Putin’s popularity numbers.

So what is really going on?

Well, frankly, that is hard to say, and Russian officials are being tight-lipped about it. Still, various well informed Russian analysts have offered some educated guesses as to what is taking place. The short version is this: the Su-57s were only sent to Syria to test their avionics in a rich combat-like electromagnetic environment. The more detailed version would be something like this:

The Su-57 features an extremely complex and fully integrated avionics suite which will include three X band active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar (one main, two side-looking), another two L band active electronically scanned array radars in the wing’s leading edge extensions, plus an integrated electro-optical system location system (working in infra-red, visible and ultra-violet frequencies). All these sensors are fused (5 radars, 2 bands, plus passive optics) and they are then combined with the data received by the Su-57’s advanced electronic warfare suite and a high-speed encrypted datalink, connecting the aircraft to other airborne, space, as well as ground-based sensors. This is not unlike what the USA is trying to achieve with the F-35, but on an even more complex level (even in theory, the F-35 is a comparatively simpler, and much less capable, aircraft). One could see how it would be interesting to test all this gear in a radiation-rich environment like the Syrian skies where the Russians have advanced systems (S-400, A-50U, etc.) and where the USA and Israel also provide a lot of very interesting signals (including US and Israeli AWACS, F-22s and F-35s, etc.). To re-create such a radiation-rich environment in Russia would be very hard and maybe even impossible. The question whether this is worth the risk?

The risks of this deployment in Syria are very real and very serious. As far as I know, there are still no bombproof shelters built (yet) and Russia recently lost a number of aircraft (some not totally, some totally) when the “good terrorists” used mortars against the Khmeimim base. So now we have FOUR Su-57s (out of how many total, maybe 12 or 13?!), each worth 50-100 million dollars under an open sky in a war zone?! What about operational security? What about base security?

There is also a political risk. It is well known that the USA has been putting an immense political pressure on India to withdraw from the joint development between Russia and India of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) or Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF) program. To make things worse, India currently has too many parallel aircraft programs and there are, reportedly, disagreements between the Russians and the Indians on design features. With the apparently never-ending disaster of the F-35, the very last thing the USA needs is a successful Russian 5th generation competitor showing up anywhere on the planet (especially one which has the clear potential to far outclass both the successful F-22 and the disastrous F-35). One can easily imagine what the AngloZionist propaganda machine will do should even a minor problem happen to the Su-57 while in Syria (just read the National Interest article quoted above to see what the mindset is in the West)!

The Su-57 also has formidable competitors inside Russia: the 4++ generation aircraft mentioned above, especially the Su-35S. Here we have a similar dynamic as with the F-22: while on paper the Su-57 is clearly superior to the Su-35S, in the real world the Su-35S is a well tested and deployed system which, unlike the F-22, also happens to be much cheaper than the Su-57 (the F-22 being at least twice as expensive than the Su-57). This issue is especially relevant for the internal, Russian market. So the real question for the RAF is simple: does Russia really need the Su-57 and, if yes, in what numbers?

This is a very complex question, both technically and politically and to even attempt to answer it, a lot of very debatable assumptions have to be made about what kind of threats the RAF will face in the future and what kind of missions it will be given. The biggest problem for the Russians is that they already have an array of extremely successful combat aircraft, especially the Su-35S and the formidable Su-34. Should Russia deploy more of these or should she place huge resources into a new very complex and advanced aircraft? Most Russian analysts would probably agree that Russia needs to be able to deploy some minimal number of real 5th generation combat aircraft, but they would probably disagree on what exactly that minimal number ought to be. The current 4++ generation aircraft are very successful and more than a match for their western counterparts, with the possible exception of the F-22. But how likely is it that Russians and US Americans will really start a shooting war?

Furthermore, the real outcome from a theoretical Su-35S vs F-22 (which so many bloggers love to speculate about) would most likely depend much more on tactics and engagement scenarios than on the actual capabilities of these aircraft. Besides, should the Su-35s and F-22s even be used in anger against each other, a lot would also depend on what else is actually happening around them and where exactly this engagement would take place. Furthermore, to even look at this issue theoretically, we would need to compare not only the actual aircraft but also their weapons. I submit that the outcome of any Su-35S vs F-22 engagement would be impossible to predict (unless you are a flag-waving patriot, in which case you will, of course, be absolutely certain that “your” side will win). If I am correct, then this means that there is no compelling case to be made that Russia needs to deploy Su-57s in large numbers and that the Su-30SM+Su-35S air superiority combo is more than enough to deter the Americans.

    [Sidebar: this is a recurrent problem for Russian weapons and weapon systems: being so good that there is little incentive to produce something new. The best example of that is the famous AK-47 Kalashnikov which was modernized a few times, such as the AKM-74, but which has yet to be replaced with a fundamentally new and truly different assault rifle. There are plenty of good candidates out there, but each time one has to wonder if the difference in price is worth the effort. The original Su-27 (introduced in 1985) was such an immense success that it served as a basis for a long series of immensely successful variants including the ones we now see in Syria, the Su-30SM, the Su-35S and even the amazing Su-34 (which still has no equivalent anywhere in the world). Sometimes a weapon, or weapon system, can be even “too successful” and create a problem for future modernization efforts.]

Whatever may be the case, the future of the Su-57 is far from being secured and this might also, in part, explain the decision to send a few of them to Syria: not only to test its avionics suite, but also to score a PR success by raising the visibility and, especially, the symbolical role of the aircraft. Russian officials admitted that the deployment to Syria was scheduled to coincide with the celebration of the “Defender of the Fatherland” day. This kind of move breaks with normal Soviet/Russian procedures and I have to admit that I am most uncomfortable with this development and while I would not go as far as to call it a “farce” (like the article in the National Interest did), it does look like a PR stunt to me. And I wonder: if the Russians are taking such a risk, what is it that drives such a sense of urgency? I don’t believe that anybody in Russia seriously thinks that the US will be deterred, or even be impressed by this, frankly, hasty deployment. So I suspect that this development is linked to the uncertainty of the future of the Su-57 procurement program. Hopefully, the risks will pay-off and the Su-57 will get all the avionics testing it requires and all the funding and export contracts it needs.

Addendum:

Just as I was writing these words, the Russians have announced (see here and here) that the Israeli satellite images were fakes, that the the Su-57 stayed only two days in Syria and that they have been flown back to Russia. Two days? Frankly, I don’t buy it. What this looks like to me is that what looks like a PR stunt has now backfired, including in the Russian social media, and that Russia decided to bring these aircraft back home. Now *that* sounds like a good idea to me.
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #219 on: March 06, 2018, 12:13:27 AM »
“The nature of our mission in Syria has not changed”, (except it has).

https://www.rt.com/news/420557-pentagon-syria-operational-pause/
‘Operational pause’: Turkish offensive in Syria’s Afrin forces US to halt anti-ISIS battle
6 Mar, 2018

On January 20, Turkey, with the help of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), launched Operation Olive Branch, a massive cross-border operation to clear Kurdish militias and remnants of jihadist fighters from Afrin, Syria. For over a month, the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the backbone of which is formed by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have split their efforts between battling the Turkish incursion and supporting the US agenda in northern Syria.

On Monday, the Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning acknowledged that the Turkish offensive had affected the US-led fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists on the ground, effectively leading to an “operational pause.”
Read more
© Ozan Kose What the US and Turkey really want in Northern Syria

Ground operations against Islamic State in the Euphrates River Valley have been temporarily suspended, Manning told reporters, stressing, however, that US airstrikes in the area are continuing.

“It is an extraordinary situation because you have US proxy army in Syria, i.e. the Kurds, have departed the battlefield that the US has them on to go fight a US ally, a NATO ally Turkey,” Daniel McAdams, the executive director of the Ron Paul Institute, told RT.

“Some fighters operating within the SDF have decided to leave operations in the middle Euphrates river valley to fight elsewhere, possibly in Afrin,” Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, another Pentagon spokesman, admitted on Monday. “They’re not fighting ISIS anymore, and that basically meant that they’re not taking territory back from ISIS as quickly as they had been in the past.”

The Turkish operation in Afrin has strained relations between the US and its major NATO ally. Ankara considers the Kurdish militias to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been outlawed in Turkey as a terrorist organization. Turkey has long been anxious about the autonomy ambitions of the Kurds, who seized control of vast territories in northern Syria with the help of the Pentagon. Tensions have continued to rise since the US announced the plan to sponsor the creation of a 30,000-strong border security force, half of which would be recruited from Kurdish-led forces.

Despite Ankara’s objections, Washington remains committed to using the SDF to secure their objectives in Syria. “The nature of our mission in Syria has not changed,” Manning said on Monday, reaffirming that SDF remains a “major partner” on the ground in Syria.

The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned the Turkish operation as yet another violation of the country’s sovereignty, following years of “aggression” against the Syrian people by the US-led coalition. Further complicating the situation in the area, pro-Damascus militias were also been deployed to Afrin late last month after an appeal from the Kurds to reinforce locals in their resistance against the Turks.

“What is the US doing in Eastern Syria if it is not fighting ISIS?” McAdams asked, questioning Washington’s stated goals. “Does the US hope that the Syrian government gets further drawn into the fight with the Kurds against Turks? Then the US can swing back around and help its Turkish ally in fighting the Syrian government and Kurds as well?”
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #220 on: March 06, 2018, 07:53:17 PM »
https://www.rt.com/op-ed/420521-syria-eastern-ghouta-aleppo-media/
Syria War: What the mainstream media isn’t telling you about Eastern Ghouta
Rania Khalek
5 Mar, 2018

As Syrian government forces battle Jaysh al-Islam to retake Eastern Ghouta, Western media outlets have totally ignored the atrocities of the insurgents, preferring to blame all the violence on the "regime."

They're at it again, howling about a town in Syria that’s being retaken by the government. This time it’s Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus and one of the last remaining strongholds of the Islamist insurgency that has torn the country apart over the last seven years.

Before Eastern Ghouta it was Aleppo and before Aleppo it was Madaya and before Madaya it was Homs, and so on. All of these places were framed as though there were no armed insurgents present, and the Syrian authorities were just mercilessly massacring civilians out of cartoonishly villainous bloodlust. If the insurgents were mentioned, they were usually (and still are) presented by the western press as moderate rebels and freedom fighters.

So if your only understanding of Eastern Ghouta comes from the mainstream media, then you’re left with the impression that there’s a one-sided conflict taking place between the Syrian government and its civilians. But this war isn’t so simple.
Jihadist leaders

The "rebels" in charge of Eastern Ghouta are a collection of jihadist groups, the strongest of which is Jaysh al-Islam, or the Army of Islam, a Salafi-Jihadist group backed by Saudi Arabia that seeks to replace the Syrian government with an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). Jaysh al-Islam is extremely sectarian and just as nasty in its rhetoric, tactics and goals as IS. It engages in public executions and has publicly bragged about parading caged civilians from the minority Alawite sect in the streets as human shields. The group’s founder, the late Zahran Alloush, openly called for the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities from Damascus.

The second largest group is Faylaq al-Rahman, which is allied with Hayet Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, the latest name for Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate. HTS also has a small presence in Eastern Ghouta as well as Ahar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki, former recipients of US weapons whose fighters videotaped themselves beheading a teenage boy.
Read more
The eastern Ghouta region, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, Syria © Hamza Al-Ajweh ‘US accusations against Russia over E. Ghouta are escalation of information war’

Most recently, civilians fleeing Eastern Ghouta have described being fired on by militants seeking to prevent them from escaping to the safety of government-controlled territory, another fact that Western media outlets refuse to report. Reports that insurgents were withholding food and humanitarian aid from civilians have similarly been ignored by the mainstream.
Information war

Syria is perhaps the most heavily propagandized civil war in history. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent by Western governments and their regional allies building a media apparatus that sanitizes the insurgency, blames all of the violence on the government and agitates for more forceful Western military intervention against Syrian president Bashar Assad. And Western media outlets have come to rely on these propaganda sources for information about the conflict.

The most famous is the White Helmets, a rescue group heavily funded by the US and UK governments. Marketed by a top PR firm, the White Helmets openly advocate for regime change while working alongside Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in opposition areas. Some of its members have participated in atrocities on video, a fact almost entirely ignored by Western media, which is enamored with the group.

The other go-to source for Western media outlets is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring organization that is run by one man working from his house in Britain who is openly biased towards the opposition. 

Western media also frequently relies on self-described “media activists” in areas of Syria controlled by militant groups. But these groups don’t tolerate activism or journalism. In fact, they are known to jail, torture and summarily execute activists, lawyers, humanitarian workers, journalists and minorities. That’s why Western journalists can’t travel to insurgent-held areas of Syria: because they’ll likely be kidnapped, ransomed or killed.

This should raise serious questions about anyone purporting to be an independent source of information from inside insurgent-held Syria because it’s impossible for people to put out information without the permission of the jihadist authorities who have an interest in promoting a narrative that provokes outrage and spurs intervention. This is especially true in Eastern Ghouta, where insurgents are currently losing ground. The only thing that can save Jaysh al-Islam from defeat is outside intervention.               

Of course, information coming from government areas should also be treated with skepticism. Because, after all, governments also lie. But in the case of Syria, the western press already treats media reports out of Syrian government areas as if they’re all made-up, while unquestioningly regurgitating whatever the insurgents say as fact. Meanwhile, the media totally ignores victims in government areas.
Read more
© Ozan Kose What the US and Turkey really want in Northern Syria

For years, insurgents in Eastern Ghouta have terrorized and killed thousands of civilians living in Damascus, which you almost never hear about in the West. Instead, mainstream outlets are busy crying out for the west to do something.
Al-Qaeda death squads

And that brings us to one of the Western media’s most pernicious lies, how Western inaction allowed the bloodshed in Syria to continue with impunity. But the west has intervened in Syria and by doing so it prolonged the slaughter and empowered Al-Qaeda.

Despite being warned as early as November 2011 that the armed opposition was dominated by violent sectarian extremists, the Obama administration spent $1 billion a year training and funneling weapons to an insurgency they knew was linked to Al-Qaeda in order to overthrow the Syrian government. Al-Qaeda has built its largest affiliate in history as a direct result of this reckless US regime change policy.

In other words, the US government outsourced its war on Syria to Al-Qaeda death squads and Americans have no idea because Western media continue to promote lies about the West’s so-called inaction.

This is not about glorifying the Syrian government, which is indeed authoritarian and extremely flawed. It’s about what would have replaced the government had it collapsed. The alternative was unacceptable to most Syrians. That is why the vast majority of Syrians – at least 75 percent as of 2016, a number that is certainly higher today as the government has recaptured vast swathes of territory from insurgents – live in government-controlled areas. In fact, millions fled to the safety of government controlled cities after insurgents violently captured their areas to escape the criminal behavior of the armed insurgents. Others fled because they feared the government bombing that the extremist groups invited when they entered.
Read more
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert © Mandel Ngan The great US disinformation double standard

To really understand the severity of what the US did in Syria, let’s put it in the American context. It would be the equivalent of America’s adversaries funding and arming the KKK to invade and occupy cities in the US and the media then describing the KKK militias as “moderate rebels” and “freedom fighters” as they kill minorities and shell civilians in Washington, New York and Los Angeles. Imagine how Washington might react in such a scenario. Well actually you don’t have to imagine. Look no further than their global killing spree after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which ironically enough created the Al-Qaeda threat in the Middle East to begin with.
Double standards

And then there’s the massive double standard at play.

After IS captured large swathes of territory in Iraq, the Iraqi government, with American air support, launched a series of operations to retake cities like Mosul and Fallujah and Tikrit, which the Western press almost always celebrated as liberation.

Meanwhile in Syria, the Syrian government, with Russian air support, has used many of the same military tactics to retake cities like Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta from groups no different than IS, yet the media has framed those operations as heinous acts that amount to genocide.

The conflict in Syria might be a confusing and complicated mess. But as the howls from the mainstream press for the West to do something grow louder, it’s important to stay mindful of the fact that there is an agenda behind their one-sided version of reality.
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👁️ Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #221 on: March 07, 2018, 12:34:20 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/7armq343Sqs" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/7armq343Sqs</a>
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https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/deadly-new-syrian-russian-assault-kills-hundreds-in-eastern-ghouta

News Desk
“It’s Raining Rockets”: Deadly New Syrian-Russian Assault Kills Hundreds in Eastern Ghouta


By Rozina Ali

6:04 P.M.

On February 19th, the Syrian government’s heavy bombing of the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged eastern Ghouta region, outside of Damascus, killed dozens of civilians.
Photograph by Abdulmonam Essa / AFP / Getty

Two weeks ago, Mouaz Khaboutily, a Syrian photographer who works with an anti-government group, called me from the rebel-controlled Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta. Khaboutily had sheltered in a bunker as Syrian and Russian forces launched an offensive to retake the enclave of nearly four hundred thousand people. During what he hoped was a pause in the fighting, he risked a trip to the street in order to find Internet access and see if the U.N. Security Council had brokered a ceasefire. “I’d be a liar if I said this is not dangerous,” the twenty-eight-year-old told me over WhatsApp. As he stood on the street, warplanes began flying overhead. After two minutes, we agreed that he should hang up and find shelter. The warplanes had dropped bombs four times while he was on the phone—one, he estimated, was just two hundred yards away.

In the last two weeks, one thousand and forty-two people, including about a hundred and fifty-six children, have been killed in eastern Ghouta, in what human-rights groups fear is a final, all-out offensive to retake one of the few remaining rebel-held enclaves in the country. Bombings by Syrian and Russian planes have been indiscriminate, killing civilians, levelling homes, and destroying medical facilities. Bashar al-Assad’s regime—with the full support of Vladimir Putin and the Russian military—have flouted calls for a complete ceasefire.

More than thirty medical facilities in eastern Ghouta and other parts of the country have been struck by Syrian and Russian air strikes since mid-February, and many of them are no longer functioning, according to Violations Documentation Center, a human-rights organization founded by opposition activists in Syria. “They’re using weapons that are guided, unlike barrel bombs,” Mona Zeineddine, a London-based spokeswoman for the group, told me. “If a town or village loses its hospital, and given how hard it is to commute between towns, it’s devastating to the people.”

A thirty-eight-year-old school teacher, who asked to be called Sarah, said that, in the initial days of the bombardments, she and ten members of her family, including five children, lived in one room in their house. At first, they prepared to live in the basement of their building, filling it with clothes, papers, shoes, and food. On February 24th, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that called for a thirty-day ceasefire. At 11 A.M. the next day, Sarah heard the sound of a plane. “It was obvious that ceasefire is a big lie,” she later wrote to me, in an e-mail. “The planes hit a village . . . . We knew they would return to hit other cities in Ghouta.”

When night fell, Sarah and her family decided to flee to a nearby basement that they hoped would be safer. To ensure the survival of some family members, they divided into three teams taking separate routes. When one missile fell, and then another, and another, they took shelter. “A missile hit the roof of the building where we were hiding, and the children cried more and more,” she wrote. “We decided to run: whatever happens, never stop . . . . We ran, missiles came again, a child fell down. I carried her and kept running.”

They finally made it to the basement, but it reminded her of one of “the regime’s prisons.” “There were about a hundred persons in a 150-square meter basement,” Sarah wrote. “No lighting, no water, no food, even no place to have a nap.”

One day, a local organization came to offer food to the people inside. They brought cooked rice—a total of one and a half kilos. “I looked at the man in charge of distribution and said there are a hundred people inside,” she wrote. The man told her to distribute the rice to the fifty children. Sarah gave each of them three small spoonfuls of rice. “They were waiting for food, and when they discovered the real amount, they couldn’t help their tears.”

Seven years ago, the towns of Douma, Kafr Batna, Saqba, and Harasta, in eastern Ghouta, were the sites of some of the first mass protests against Assad. The regime gradually lost control of the area in 2012, and civilians created local councils that provided municipal services. The following year, the Syrian regime began blocking the flow of food, medicine, and aid to the region. Hundreds died from lack of medical care or malnutrition, and those that survived paid exorbitant prices for rice, wheat, and other necessities. In August, 2013, in one of the most brutal acts of the war, the government attacked the suburb with sarin gas, killing an estimated fifteen hundred people. Popular support for the insurgent groups operating inside the area grew. Jaish al-Islam, an Islamist group, and Failaq al-Rahman, an offshoot of the Free Syrian Army, eventually emerged as the two most powerful opposition factions, and now rule most of eastern Ghouta.

Bayan Rehan, a member of a local council in the besieged city of Douma, told me in a recent phone interview that she had not eaten for sixteen hours. “Life has stopped,” she said. “Nobody dares walks on the street. It’s raining rockets.” Venturing onto the streets to find food, she said, was “a suicide mission.” That day, no wheat was available in the local market. Aid groups say the cost of a kilo of flour in eastern Ghouta is two thousand per cent higher than in government-controlled Damascus.

On February 25th, Rehan and other opposition officials rushed to Douma’s local-council office after a suspected chlorine attack. A man had brought the body of his young son, who had died from suffocation. “I was shocked when I saw the dead body covered with a silk blanket,” she wrote. “The shrouds have run out in a city where we bury lots of people every day.” Rehan asked the father to give testimony about what happened, but he refused. He was in the office only to get help finding other members of his family, who were in a shelter. He wanted the boy’s mother to be able to say goodbye to her son before he was buried.

On Monday, Syrian officials allowed an aid convoy to enter eastern Ghouta for the first time since the offensive began. At a checkpoint along the way, government officials confiscated medical supplies, insulin, and surgical equipment from the trucks. After the convoy arrived, U.N. officials were given only a few hours to unload the forty-six trucks, before being ordered to leave. Nine of the trucks returned full. During and after the delivery, the bombing of opposition areas continued, according to Rehan, who accompanied the U.N. convoy in Douma. “The shelling in the cities was more intense than ever,” she said. By the end of the day, attacks by Syrian and Russian forces had killed nearly a hundred people.

The regime recently retook nearly half of the area, and called for rebel fighters to surrender. “We will continue fighting terrorism,” Assad told journalists in Damascus this weekend. “And the Ghouta operation is a continuation of fighting terrorism.”

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council repeated its call for a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta. President Trump, who last year declared that “no child of God” should die in a gas attack, and who launched a cruise-missile strike in Syria, has remained largely silent during the new Syrian-Russian offensive. Obama, too, had declared, in 2012, that chemical attacks would be a “red line” in the Syrian conflict, but he did little after Assad launched the sarin-gas attack in Ghouta the following year. Seven years of empty threats from the U.S. to Syria appear to have emboldened Assad and Putin. An aid convoy that was meant to enter Ghouta on Thursday postponed delivery after learning about reports of chemical attacks in two towns and heavy bombardment.

After five years of siege and shelling, the government’s strategy appears to be bombing people into surrender or bombing them to death. Civilians and opposition members say they fear revenge from Assad loyalists if they surrender. “They want us to leave Ghouta,” Sarah wrote. “We don’t want that. This is our country, our home. We want to stay here, even in the basement. It is better than a tent in a camp or a cell in Assad’s prisons. It’s not fair to be punished only because we are against the Assad regime.”

Additional reporting by Hussein Akoush.

    Rozina Ali is a member of The New Yorker’s editorial staff.Read more »
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #223 on: March 08, 2018, 06:09:44 PM »
What a biased lot of crap.  They are not trying to kill or punish non-combatants at all, only fighters (who are actually al-Nusra jihadists), who are launching rockets into Damascus.  If they had allowed in medical supplies, it would have been confiscated by the fighters and wouldn't have got to the people anyway.  Who is not letting the civilians flee?
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Re: Syria - superpowers eye-ball to eyeball
« Reply #224 on: March 11, 2018, 03:25:28 PM »
The usual long and detailed overview of the Syrian situation.

https://gowans.wordpress.com/2018/03/11/the-largely-unrecognized-us-occupation-of-syria/
The (Largely Unrecognized) US Occupation of Syria
Stephen Gowans
March 11, 2018

The United States has invaded Syria with a significant military force, is occupying nearly one-third of its territory, has announced plans for an indefinite occupation, and is plundering the country’s petroleum resources. Washington has no authorization under international or even US law to invade and occupy Syria, much less attack Syrian forces, which it has done repeatedly. Nor has it a legal warrant to create new administrative and governance structures in the country to replace the Syrian government, a project it is undertaking through a parallel invasion of US diplomatic personnel. These actions—criminal, plunderous, and an assault on democracy at an international level—amount to a retrograde project of recolonization by an empire bent on extending its supremacy to all the Arab and Muslim worlds, including the few remaining outposts of resistance to foreign tyranny. Moreover, US actions represent an escalation of Washington’s long war on Syria, previously carried out through proxies, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, into a full-scale conventional war with direct US military involvement. Yet, despite the enormity of the project, and the escalation of the war, the US occupation of Syria has largely flown under the radar of public awareness.

March 11, 2018

By Stephen Gowans

Atop multiple indignities and affronts to liberty and democracy visited upon the Arab world by the West, including the plunder of Palestine by European settlers and the political oppression of Arabs by a retinue of military dictators, monarchs, emirs and sultans who rule largely at the pleasure of Washington and on its behalf, now arrives the latest US transgression on the ideals of sovereignty, independence, and the equality of nations: marauders in Washington have pilfered part of the territory of one of the last bastions of Arab independence—Syria. Indeed, Washington now controls “about one-third of the country including most of its oil wealth”, [1] has no intention of returning it to its rightful owners, has planned for an indefinite military occupation of eastern Syria, and is creating a new Israel, which is to say, an new imperialist outpost in the middle of the Arab world, to be governed by Kurdish proxies backed by US firepower. [2] The crime has been carried out openly, and yet has hardly been noticed or remarked upon.

Here are the facts:

In January, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that US “troops will remain in Syria” indefinitely “to ensure that neither Iran nor President Bashar al-Assad of Syria will take over areas” [3] the United States captured from ISIS, even though these areas belong to the Syrian Arab Republic, by law and right, and not to Washington, or to Washington’s Kurdish proxy, the SDF. The SDF, or Syrian Democratic Force, is a US-constructed outfit which, in journalist Robert Fisk’s words, is neither Syrian (it’s dominated by Kurds, including those of Turkish origin) nor democratic (since it imposes Kurdish rule over traditionally Arab areas and dances to a tune called by a foreign master.) Moreover, it’s not much of a force, since, without US airpower, artillery, and Special Operations support, it is militarily inconsequential. [4] “US President Donald Trump’s rollout of an updated Syria policy,” reports Aaron Stein, writing in the unofficial journal of the US State Department, Foreign Affairs, “commits US forces to maintaining a presence” in northeast Syria in order to “hedge against” any attempt by Damascus to assert sovereignty over its own territory. [5]

The Pentagon officially admits to having 2,000 troops in Syria [6] but a top US general put the number higher, 4,000, in an October press briefing. [7] But even this figure is an “artificial construct,” as the Pentagon described a previous low-ball figure. On top of the infantry, artillery, and forward air controllers the Pentagon counts as deployed to Syria, there is an additional number of uncounted Special Operations personnel, as well as untallied troops assigned to classified missions and “an unspecified number of contractors” i.e., mercenaries. Additionally, combat aircrews are not counted, even though US airpower is critical to the occupation. [8] There are, therefore, many more times the officially acknowledged number of US troops in Syria, operating out of 10 bases in the country, including “a sprawling facility with a long runway, hangars, barracks and fuel depots.” [9]

In addition to US military advisers, Army Rangers, artillery, Special Operations forces, satellite-guided rockets and Apache attack helicopters [10], the United States has deployed US diplomats to Syria to create government and administrative structures to supersede the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic. [11] Plus, the United States “is now working to transform Kurdish fighters into a local security force” to handle policing [12] while US diplomats on the ground work to establish local governments to run the occupied territory’s affairs. [13]

“The idea in US policy circles” is to create “a soft partition” of Syria between the United States and Russia along the Euphrates, “as it was among the Elbe [in Germany] at the end of the Second World War.” [14] On top of the 28 percent of Syria the United States occupies, it controls “half of Syria’s energy resources, the Euphrates Dam at Tabqa, as well as much of Syria’s best agricultural land.” [15]

During the war against ISIS, US military planning called for the Kurds to push south along the Euphrates River to seize Syria’s oil-and gas-rich territory. [16] While the Syrian Arab Army and its allies focussed mostly on liberating cities from Islamic State, the Kurds, under US direction, went “after the strategic oil and gas fields”, [17] “robbing Islamic State of key territory,” as The Wall Street Journal put it. The US newspaper correctly designated the seizure of key territory as a robbery, but failed to acknowledge the victim, not Islamic State, which itself robbed the territory, but the Syrian Arab Republic. But this skein of equivocation needs to be further disentangled. It was not the Kurds who robbed ISIS which earlier robbed the Syrians, but the United States which robbed ISIS which robbed Syria. The Kurds, without the backing of the US armed forces, are a military cipher incapable, by their own efforts, of robbing the Arab republic. The Americans are the robbers, the Syrians the victims.

The United States has robbed Syria of “two of the largest oil and gas fields in Deir Ezzour”, including the al-Omar oil field, Syria’s largest. [18] Last September, the United States plundered Syria of “a gas field and plant known in Syria as the Conoco gas plant” (though its affiliation with Conoco is historical; the plant was acquired by the Syrian Gas Company in 2005.) [19] Russia observed that “the real aim” of the US forces’ (incontestably denominated) “illegal” presence in Syria has been “the seizure and retention of economic assets that only belong to the Syrian Arab Republic.” [20] The point is beyond dispute: the United States has stolen resources vital to the republic’s reconstruction (this from a country which proclaims property rights to be humanity’s highest value.)

Joshua Landis, a University of Oklahoma professor who specializes in Syria, has argued that by “controlling half of Syria’s energy resources…the US will be able to keep Syria poor and under-resourced.” [21] Bereft of its petroleum resources, and deprived of its best farmland, Syria will be hard-pressed to recover from the Islamist insurgency—an operation precipitated by Washington as part of its long war on nationalist influence in the Arab world—a war that has left Syria in ruins. The conclusion that "Assad has won" and that the war is over except for mopping up operations is unduly optimistic, even Pollyannaish. There is a long road ahead.

Needless to say, Damascus aspires to recover its lost territory, and “on February 7 sent a battalion-sized column to [recuperate] a critical gas plant near Deir Ezzour.” [22] This legitimate exercise of sovereignty was repulsed by an airstrike by US invaders, which left an estimated 100 Syrian Arab Army troops and their allies dead. [23] The significance of this event has been under-appreciated, and perhaps because press coverage of what transpired disguised its enormity. An emblematic Wall Street Journal report, for example, asserted that the US airstrike was a defensive response to an unprovoked attack by Syrian forces, as if the Syrians, on their own soil, were aggressors, and the invading Americans, victims. [24] We might inquire into the soundness of describing an aggression by invaders on a domestic military force operating within its own territory as a defensive response to an unprovoked attack. Likewise, we can inquire into the cogency of Washington’s insistence that it does not intend to wage war on the Syrian Arab Army. That this statement can be accepted as reasonable suggests the operation of what Charles Mills calls an epistemology of ignorance—a resistance to understanding the obvious. It should be evident—indeed, it’s axiomatic—that the unprovoked invasion and occupation of a country constitutes an aggression, but apparently this is not the case in the specially constructed reality of the Western media. Could Russia invade the United States west of the Colorado River, control the territory’s airspace, plunder its resources, establish new government and administrative structures to supplant local, state, and federal authority, and then credibly declare that it does not seek war with the United States and its armed services? Invasion and occupation are aggressive acts, a statement that shouldn’t need to be made.

Washington’s February 7 attack on Syrian forces was not the first. “American troops carried out strikes against forces loyal to President Bashar Assad of Syria several times in 2017,” reported the New York Times. [25] In other words, the United States has invaded Syria, is occupying nearly a third of its territory, and has carried out attacks on the Syrian military, and this aggression is supposed to be understood as a defensive response to Syrian provocations.

It is incontestable that US control of the airspace of eastern Syria, the invasion of the country by untold thousands of US military and diplomatic personnel, the plunder of the Levantine nation’s resources, and attacks on its military forces, are flagrant violations of international law. No country has more contempt for the rule of law than the United States, yet, in emetic fashion, its government incessantly invokes the very rule of law it spurns to justify its outrages against it. But what of US law? If, to Washington, international law is merely an impediment to be overcome on its way to expanding its empire, are the US invasion and occupation of Syria, and attacks on Syrian forces, in harmony with the laws of the United States? If you ask the White House and Pentagon the answer is yes, but that is tantamount to asking a thief to rule on his or her theft. The question is, does the US executive’s claim that its actions in Syria comport with US law stand up to scrutiny? Not only does it not, the claim is risible. “Under both Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump,” explains the New York Times’ Charlie Savage, “the executive branch has argued that the war against Islamic State is covered by a 2001 law authorizing the use of military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks [my emphasis] and a 2002 law authorizing the invasion of Iraq.” However, while “ISIS grew out an offshoot of Al Qaeda, the two groups by 2014 had split and became warring rivals,” and ISIS did not perpetrate the 9/11 attacks. What’s more, before the rise of ISIS, the Obama administration had deemed the Iraq war over. [26]

Washington’s argument has other problems, as well. While the 2001 law does not authorize the use of military force against ISIS, is does authorize military action against Al Qaeda. Yet from 2011 to today, the United States has not only failed to use force against the Syrian-based Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s largest branch, it has trained and equipped Islamist fighters who are intermingled with, cooperate on the battle field with, share weapons with, and operate under licence to, the group, as I showed in my book Washington’s Long War on Syria, citing the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post, which have extensively reported on the interconnections between US trained and armed fighters and the organization founded by Osama bin Laden. [27]

Finally, by implication, since the law does not authorize the use of force against ISIS, it does not authorize the presence of US aircrews in Syrian airspace or US military and diplomatic personnel on Syrian soil. In addition, it certainly does not authorize the use of force against a Syrian military operating within its own borders.

Let’s look again at Washington’s stated reasons for its planned indefinite occupation of Syria: to prevent the return of ISIS; to stop the Syrian Arab Republic from exercising sovereignty over all of its territory; and to eclipse Iranian influence in Syria. For only one of these reasons, the first, does Washington offer any sort of legal justification. The latter two objectives are so totally devoid of legal warrant that Washington has not even tried to mount a legal defense of them. Yet, these are the authentic reasons for the US invasion and occupation of Syria. As to the first reason, if Washington were seriously motivated to use military force to crush Al Qaeda, it would not have armed, trained and directed the group’s auxiliaries in its war against Arab nationalist power in Damascus.

Regarding Washington’s stated aim of eclipsing Iranian influence in Syria, we may remind ourselves of the contents of a leaked 2012 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report. That report revealed that the insurgency in Syria was sectarian and led by the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of Islamic State. The report also disclosed that the United States, Arab Gulf oil monarchies and Turkey supported the insurgents. The analysis correctly predicted the establishment of a “Salafist principality,” an Islamic state, in eastern Syria, noting that this was desired by the insurgency’s foreign backers, which wanted to see the secular Arab nationalists isolated and cut-off from Iran. [28] The United States has since decided to take on the role that it had once planned for a Salafist principality. A planned Saudi-style state dividing Damascus from Tehran has become an indefinite US occupation, from whose womb US planners hope to midwife the birth of a Kurd mini-state as a new Israel.

The reality that the US operation in Syria is illegal may account for why, with Washington’s misdirection and the press’s collusion, it has largely flown under the radar of public awareness. Misdirection is accomplished by disguising the US occupation of eastern Syria as a Kurd-, or SDF-effort, which the United States is merely assisting, rather than directing. The misdirection appears to be successful, because the narrative has been widely mentally imbibed, including by otherwise critical people. There are parallels. The United States is prosecuting a war of aggression in Yemen, against a movement that threatens US hegemony in the Middle East, as the Syrian Arab Republic, Iran and Hezbollah do. The aggression against Yemen is as lacking in legal warrant as is the US war on Syria. It flagrantly violates international law; the Houthis did not attack Saudi Arabia, let alone the United States, and therefore there is no justification for military action on international legal grounds against them. What’s more, the Pentagon can’t even point to authorization for the use of force against Yemen’s rebels under US domestic law since they are not Al Qaeda and have no connection to the 9/11 attacks. To side step the difficulty of deploying military force without a legal warrant, the war, then, is presented as “Saudi-led”, with the involvement of the United States relegated in the hermeneutics to the periphery. Yet Washington is directing the war. The United States flies its own drones and reconnaissance aircraft over Yemen to gather intelligence to select targets for Saudi pilots. [29] It refuels Saudi bombers in flight. Its warships enforce a naval blockade. And significantly, it runs an operations center to coordinate the bombing campaign among the US satellites who participate in it. In the language of the military, the United States has command and control of the aggression against Yemen. The only US absence is in the provision of pilots to drop the bombs, this role having been farmed out to Arab allies. [30] And that is the key to the misdirection. Because Saudi pilots handle one visible aspect of the multi-dimensional war, (whose various other dimensions are run by the Americans), it can be passed off to the public as a Saudi affair, while those who find the Saudi monarchy abhorrent (which it is) can vent their spleen on a scapegoat. We do the same to the Kurds, hurling rhetorical thunderbolts at them, when they are merely pawns of the US government pursuing a project of empire-building. Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party leader, has seen through the misdirection, declaring that it is the West, not the Saudis, who are ‘directing the war’ in Yemen. [31]

It would profit us to heed the words of Ibrahim Al-Amin, who, on the occasion of the White House recognizing Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel, asked Arabs whether it wasn’t time to realize that the United States is the origin of all that plagues them. Let us leave ‘Israel’ aside, he counseled. “Whatever is said about its power, superiority and preparation, it is but an America-British colony that cannot live a day without the protection, care and blind support of the West.” [32] The same can be said of the Saudi monarchy and the SDF.

I leave the last word to the Syrian government, whose voice is hardly ever heard above the din of Western war propaganda. The invasion and occupation of eastern Syria is “a blatant interference, a flagrant violation of [the] UN Charter’s principles…an unjustified aggression on the sovereignty and independence of Syria.” [33] None of this is controversial. For his part, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has pointed out incontestably that foreign troops in Syria “without our invitation or consultation or permission…are invaders.” It is time the US invasion and occupation of Syria—illegal, anti-democratic, plunderous, and a project of recolonization—was recognized, opposed, and ended. There is far more to Washington’s long war on Syria than Al Qaeda, the White Helmets and the Kurds. As significant as these forces are, the threat they pose to the Syrian center of opposition to foreign tyranny has been surpassed by a more formidable challenge—the war’s escalation into a US military and diplomatic occupation accompanied by direct US military confrontation with the Syrian Arab Army and its allies.

1. Neil MacFarquhar, ‘Russia’s greatest problem in Syria: It’s ally president Assad,’ The New York Times, March 8, 2018.
2. Anne Barnard, “US-backed force could cement a Kurdish enclave in Syria,” The New York Times, January 16, 2018; Domenico Losurdo, “Crisis in the Imperialist World Order,” Revista Opera, March 2, 2018.
3. Gardiner Harris, “Tillerson says US troops to stay in Syria beyond battle with ISIS, The New York Times, January 17, 2018.
4. Robert Fisk, “The next Kurdish war is on the horizon—Turkey and Syria will never allow it to create a mini-state,” The Independent, January 18, 2018.
5. Aaron Stein, “Turkey’s Afrin offensive and America’s future in Syria: Why Washington should be eying the exit,” Foreign Affairs, January 23, 2018.
6. Nancy A. Yousef, “US to remain in Syria indefinitely, Pentagon officials say, The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2017.
7. Andrew deGrandpre, “A top US general just said 4,000 American troops are in Syria. The Pentagon says there are only 500,” the Washington Post, October 31, 2017.
8. John Ismay, “US says 2,000 troops are in Syria, a fourfold increase,” The New York Times, December 6, 2017; Nancy A. Yousef, “US to remain in Syria indefinitely, Pentagon officials say,” The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2017).
9. Dion Nissenbaum, “Map said to show locations of US forces in Syria published in Turkey,” The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2017.
10. Michael R. Gordon, “In a desperate Syrian city, a test of Trump’s policies,” The New York Times, July 1, 2017.
11. Nancy A. Yousef, “US to send more diplomats and personnel to Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2017.
12. Dion Nissenbaum, “US moves to halt Turkey’s drift toward Iran and Russia,” the Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2018.
13. Nancy A. Yousef, “Some US-backed Syrian fighters leave ISIS battle to counter Turkey,” The Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2018.
14. Yaroslav Trofimov, “In Syria, new conflict looms as ISIS loses ground,” The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2017.
15. Gregory Shupak, “Media erase US role in Syria’s misery, call for US to inflict more misery,” FAIR.org, March 7, 2018.
16. Trofimov, September 7, 2017.
17. Raj Abdulrahim and Ghassan Adnan, “Syria and Iraq rob Islamic State of key territory,” The Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2018.
18. Raj Abdulrahim and Ghassan Adnan, “Syria and Iraq rob Islamic State of key territory,” The Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2018.
19. Abdulrahim and Adnan, November 3, 2018.
20. Raja Abdulrahim and Thomas Grove, “Syria condemns US airstrike as tension rise,” the Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2018.
21. Joshua Landis, “US policy toward the Levant, Kurds and Turkey,” Syria Comment, January 15, 2018.
22. Yaroslav Trofimov, “As alliances shift, Syria’s tangle of war grows more dangerous,” The Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2018.
23. Raja Abdulralhim and Thomas Grove, “Syria condemns US airstrike as tensions rise,” The Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2018; Nancy A. Yousef and Thomas Grove, “Russians among those killed in US airstrike is eastern Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2018.
24. Yousef and Grove, February 13, 2018.
25. Charlie Savage, “US says troops can stay in Syria without new authorization,” The New York Times, February 22, 2018.
26. Savage, February 22, 2018.
27. Stephen Gowans. Washington’s Long War on Syria. Baraka Books. 20017. Pp. 149-150.
28. DIA document leaked to Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.
http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf
29. Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, “Quiet support for Saudis entangles U.S. in Yemen,” The New York Times, March 13, 2016.
30. Stephen Gowans, “The US-Led War on Yemen, what’s left, November 6, 2017.
31. William James, “May defends Saudi ties as Crown Prince gets royal welcome in London,” Reuters, March 7, 2018.
32. Ibrahim Al-Amin, “Either America or Al-Quds,” Alahednews, December 8, 2017.
33. Syria condemns presence of French and German special forces in Ain al-Arab and Manbij as overt unjustified aggression on Syria’s sovereignty and independence, SANA, June 15, 2016.
"The State is a body of armed men."

 

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