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Syria’s Chessboard

Syria’s Chessboard

Photo Source Freedom House | CC BY 2.0

The Syrian civil war has always been devilishly complex, with multiple actors following different scripts, but in the past few months it appeared to be winding down. The Damascus government now controls 60 percent of the country and the major population centers, the Islamic State has been routed, and the rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are largely cornered in Idilb Province in the country’s northwest. But suddenly the Americans moved the goal posts—maybe—the Russians have fallen out with the Israelis, the Iranians are digging in their heels, and the Turks are trying to multi-task with a home front in disarray.

So the devil is still very much at work in a war that has lasted more than seven years, claimed up to 500,000 lives, displaced millions of people, destabilized an already fragile Middle East, and is far from over.

There are at least three theaters in the Syrian war, each with its own complexities: Idilb in the north, the territory east of the Euphrates River, and the region that abuts the southern section of the Golan Heights. Just sorting out the antagonists is daunting. Turks, Iranians, Americans and Kurds are the key actors in the east. Russians, Turks, Kurds and Assad are in a temporary standoff in the north. And Iran, Assad and Israel are in a faceoff near Golan, a conflict that has suddenly drawn in Moscow.

 Assad’s goals are straightforward: reunite the country under the rule of Damascus and begin re-building Syria’s shattered cities. The major roadblock to this is Idilb, the last large concentration of anti-Assad groups, Jihadists linked with al-Qaeda, and a modest Turkish occupation force representing Operation Olive Branch. The province, which borders Turkey in the north, is mountainous and re-taking it promises to be difficult.

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Netanyahu Hopes To Bring U.S. Attention Back On Iran, Threatens “Action” In Syria

With the Jamal Khashoggi affair shaking up Saudi-Washington relations, and with multiple Gulf countries predictably coming out in support of Riyadh’s denials that it was behind the journalist’s disappearance and apparent murder, it will be interesting to see Israel’s stance on the issue.

We fully expect Israel to do all that it can to lobby Washington toward keeping its bulls-eye ever steadfast on Iran. Indeed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears already cognizant of Iran receding into the background of priorities for the West as the alleged gruesome death and dismemberment of Khashoggi at the hands of a Saudi hit team ordered by MbS takes center stage.

On Monday Netanyahu opened a parliamentary session at the Knesset by addressing his familiar theme of “Iranian expansion” in Syria, except that the timing is now more interesting given some of the public heat and attention has now been taken off Tehran for a time: “We must act against the Iranian regime in Syria,” Netanyahu said.

But crucially, he added a new theme — important in light of the past two weeks: “Because of the Iranian threat, Israel and other Arab countries are closer than they ever were before,” the prime minister said. This acknowledgement comes after years of Saudi Arabia joining in a covert partnership to topple the Syrian government — a project which has clearly failed.

And not only has it utterly failed, but Israel’s repeat air strikes on Syria (acknowledged recently by Israel’s military to be over 200 strikes in the past year alone), culminated in last month’s accidental downing of a Russian Ilyushin-20 reconnaissance plane with 15 crew members on board, resulting in the now accomplished transfer of the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft defense system to the Syrian government.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US Officials Say Russia To “Seize” Syria’s Oilfields As Moscow Presses Europe On Reconstruction

Russia is attempting to woo European countries like Germany into a program of reconstruction cooperation in Syria, where broad swathes of the country have been destroyed through seven years of grinding proxy war; however, Pentagon officials have charged Russia with wanting to “seize” Syria’s oil and gas resources.

This comes as the United States has resolved to keep its over 2,000 troops in the east of Syria while vowing zero reconstruction aid so long as Iranian troops and advisers are present in the country. This week a top US military official even went so far as to accuse Russia of seeking “to take advantage in any way they could” and that a “great power competition” for Syria will continue to shape its post-war future.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Leah Lauderback, who served as director of intelligence for Operation Inherent Resolve until June, told an Army conference that “Great power competition was an objective by Russia,” and that specifically they are looking to “seize” oilfields in Syria. But a Russian official has slammed the US and Europe as living in a “fantasy land” if they still have removal of Assad on the table as “radicals will take over that will slit people’s throats’’ should regime change happen.

Al Omar Oil Field in Deir ez-Zor, Syria

Gen. Lauderback said of Russia in the context of discussing US anti-ISIS operations at an Army conference in D.C. this week: “Economically, they wanted to seize oilfields, they wanted bids and contracts to develop Syria for infrastructure in order to stabilize Syria over the long term,” she said according to Al-Monitor news.

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Wikileaks: To Weaken Iran, US Undermined Democratic Elements of Syrian Opposition to Empower Radical Groups

Wikileaks: To Weaken Iran, US Undermined Democratic Elements of Syrian Opposition to Empower Radical Groups

While seven years have come and gone since the leaked document was written by USMC intelligence, little has changed when it comes to the U.S.’ long-standing goals in Syria and its callous disregard for the will of the Syrian people and Syrian democracy.

US Switching to Ukraine as Location to Start World War III Against Russia

US Switching to Ukraine as Location to Start World War III Against Russia

US Switching to Ukraine as Location to Start World War III Against Russia

The United States Government is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member, and on September 27th donated to Ukraine two warships for use against Russia. This is the latest indication that the US is switching to Ukraine as the locale to start World War III, and from which the nuclear war is to be sparked against Russia, which borders Ukraine.

Here is why Syria is no longer the US alliance’s preferred choice as a place to start WW III:

On September 4th, US President Donald Trump publicly threatened Syria, Iran and Russia that if they exterminated the jihadists in Syria’s only remaining jihadist-controlled province, Idlib, then the US might launch a full-scale invasion against Syria, Iran and Russia in Syria. Either the US or Russia would then quickly escalate to nuclear war so as not to lose in Syria — that would be the conventional-war start to World War III.

The leaders of Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria (Putin, Rouhani, Erdogan, and Assad), agreed in two meetings, one on September 7th and the other on September 17th, to (as I had recommended on September 10th) transfer control of Syria’s only remaining jihadist-controlled province, Idlib, to NATO-member Turkey. This action effectively prevents the US alliance from going to war against Russia if Russia’s alliance (which includes Syria) obliterates all the jihadist groups in the Al-Qaeda-led Syrian province Idlib. For the US to war against Russia there would also be war against fellow-NATO-member Turkey — out of the question.

The US has been using Al Qaeda in Syria to train and lead the jihadist groups which have been trying to overthrow Syria’s Government and to replace it with a government that has been selected by the Saud family who own Saudi Arabia.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Moscow On US Idea To Block Russian Trade: Naval Blockade Would Mean WAR

Moscow On US Idea To Block Russian Trade: Naval Blockade Would Mean WAR

In a new report, United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke suggested the US could use the Navy to block Russian energy from hitting Middle East markets. But the head of the Russian Senate’s Information Policy Committee, Aleksey Pushkov, said that act would mean “war” with the US.

Zinke appeared to be concerned that the real reason behind Russia’s involvement in Syria is trade expansion. Pushokov said that that is “absolute nonsense,” according to Russia Today. The idea that Russia could potentially supply energy to the Middle East, which is literally “oozing with oil,” is absolutely detached from reality, Pushkov said.  Russia does not supply any energy to the region, which is itself a major oil exporter and has never announced any plans to do so.

The Russian senator added that Zinke’s statement is “on par” with Sarah Palin’s claim that she was qualified to talk about Russia since “they’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia here from Alaska.” The former Alaska governor made the statement in an interview when she was the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 US election. -RT

Attempts to exert further pressure on Russia “are not going to end in anything good, a member of the Russian Senate’s Defense and Security Committee, Franz Klintsevich, told journalists, according to RT. Klintsevich added that these attempts would lead “to a major scandal” at the very least, and Washington “should clearly understand it.”

The Trump administration has been seeking to replace Russia as Europe’s gas supplier by boosting exports of its liquefied natural gas, even though Russian gas is a cheaper option for Europe. The Trump Administration is also going to have a tough time convincing countries to do more business with them in light of an economically disastrous trade war and ever-increasing tariffs on imported goods. 

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Fragility of Middle East alliances becomes ever more apparent

Fragility of Middle East alliances becomes ever more apparent

Three recent developments lay bare the fragility of Middle Eastern alliances and a rebalancing of their priorities: the Russian-Turkish compromise on an assault on the rebel-held Syrian region of Idlib, the fate of troubled Abu Dhabi airline Ettihad, and battles over reconstruction of Syria.

These developments highlight the fact that competition among Middle Eastern rivals and ultimate power within the region’s various alliances is increasingly as much economic and commercial as it is military and geopolitical. Battles are fought as much on geopolitical fronts as they are on economic and cultural battlefields such as soccer.

As a result, the fault lines of various alliances across the greater Middle East, a region that stretches from North Africa to north-western China, are coming to the fore.

The cracks may be most apparent in the Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance but lurk in the background of Gulf cooperation with Israel in confronting Iran as well as the unified front put forward by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Russia, prevented, at least for now, a rupture with Turkey, by delaying an all-out attack on Idlib despite Iranian advocacy of an offensive. Turkey, already home to three million Syrians, feared that a Syrian-Russian assault, would push hundreds of thousands, if not millions more across its border.

If Iran was the weakest link in the debate about Idlib, it stands stronger in its coming competition with Russia for the spoils of reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria.

Similarly, Russia appears to be ambivalent towards a continued Iranian military presence in post-war Syria, a potential flashpoint given Israel’s opposition and Israeli attacks that led earlier this month to the downing of a Russian aircraft.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Battle for Our Minds

The Battle for Our Minds

There are battlefields in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and elsewhere, but given the state of corporate media, perhaps the most consequential battle now being fought is for our minds, says Patrick Lawrence.


After reading The New York Times piece “The Plot to Subvert an Election” I put the paper down with a single question.

Why, after two years of allegations, indictments, and claims to proof of this, that, and the other did the newspaper of record—well, once the newspaper of record—see any need to publish such a piece? My answer is simple: The orthodox account of Russia-gate has not taken hold: It has failed in its effort to establish a consensus of certainty among Americans. My conclusion matches this observation: The orthodox narrative is never going to achieve this objective. There are too many holes in it.

“The information age is actually a media age,” John Pilger, the noted British–Australian journalist, remarked during a symposium four years ago, when the Ukraine crisis was at its peak. “We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media—a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.” Pilger revisited the theme in a piece last week on Consortium News, arguing that once-tolerated, dissenting opinion has in recent years “regressed into a metaphoric underground.”

There are battlefields in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and elsewhere, but perhaps the most consequential battle now being fought is for our minds.

Those who dispense with honest intellectual inquiry, healthy skepticism of all media, and an insistence that assertions require supporting evidence should not win this war. The Times piece by Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti—two of the paper’s top-tier reporters—is a case in point: If the Russia-gate narrative were so widely accepted as their report purports, there would have been no need to publish such a piece at this late date.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Leaked Photos Show Russian Military Likely Delivered Advanced S-300 To Syria Already

On Tuesday a series of leaked photos were posted online showing that the S-300 missile defense system may have already been delivered to Syria despite the Russian Ministry of Defense previously suggesting a roughly two week timeline.

As Al Masdar News reports, at least three photos were posted by Uralinform.Ru, showing the arrival of the Krasukha 4 electronic suppression of navigation and communication systems, touching down via Russian transport aircraft inside Syria on Monday night.

According to the author of the Russia-based publication, the Russian military has already delivered the S-300 hardware to Syria via a Russian-made aircraft from Mozdok Airport in the North Ossetian region. Likely the “leaked” photos are intentionally meant as public signalling to Israel that advanced S-300 deterrence is already fast being established.

On Tuesday the Russian outlet Uralinform.Ru published the “leaked” photos. 

This comes after Russia early this week effectively declared a no-fly-zone over Latakia Province which is the location of Russia’s Hmeymim airbase and the general area of last Tuesday’s large scale Israeli attack which resulted in a “friendly fire” downing of a Russian plane by Syrian missiles amidst the confusion.

On Monday Russian Senator and former Air Force commander Viktor Bondarev stated that Russia has established a no-fly-zone over Latakia after last week’s Israeli attack. “The establishment of a no-fly zone over the Russian military base in Latakia will prevent a repeat of the IL-20 aircraft tragedy,” Bondarev told the Russian Federation’s Council. He further declared that “it is necessary to announce that any unauthorized objects in the sky over Hmeimim Airport will definitely be eliminated.”

The Krasukha 4 electronic suppression equipment, shown in the below photos being unloaded at the Hmeymim Military Airport in Latakia province, is a key part of Russia’s “response” to Israel and its allies which was announced early on Monday.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US military document reveals how the West opposed a democratic Syria

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Bashar al-Assad propaganda.

US military documents from 2011 and 2016 reveal that although officials wanted a Syrian regime change in theory, they thought it was highly unlikely to actually happen — and hoped that if President Bashar al-Assad was overthrown, he would not be replaced by an opposition-led Syrian democracy but, rather, the same Alawite-Baathist ruling structure would continue. The end result was to be the decimation of the democratic opposition, the consolidation of Islamist forces and regime preservation.

‘The US has given up on the overthrow of Assad in Syria’, wroteRobert Fisk this summer. Indeed, as the Russian-backed Syrian army prepared to execute its final offensive on Idlib, western governments appeared to signal their acceptance of a bloody victory for Assad, despite the ritual denunciations.

But at the last minute, Russia and Turkey agreed a truce to ward off a Russian-led attack for at least a month, and establish a buffer zone to protect 3 million civilians. The deal will involve hashing out how to remove extremist rebels from the buffer zone, and Turkey has announced it will send more troops into Idlib.

As the Idlib offensive loomed, the West, curiously, did little of substance in any particular direction. According to two newly uncovered US military documents, western reticence might be because that the US was never really committed to overthrowing Assad, due to a self-serving strategy that has been wildly misunderstood.

The documents suggest that both early on and toward the later phase of the conflict, senior US military officials had not given any credence to the democratic aspirations of Syrian protestors, but had merely sought to use them as a tool to sideline expanding Iranian influence. Toppling the regime was dismissed as a highly improbable scenario, with officials indicating they believed the survival of an authoritarian Baathist governing structure — with or without Assad — was inevitable.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tensions Grow as China, Russia and Iran Lead the Way Towards a New Multipolar World Order

Tensions Grow as China, Russia and Iran Lead the Way Towards a New Multipolar World Order

Tensions Grow as China, Russia and Iran Lead the Way Towards a New Multipolar World Order

Military and economic tensions are increasing due to the ramped up warlike stance of the US establishment. The impossibility of halting the shifting world order in favour of prolonging the unipolar moment has left the US deep state reaching for any available weapon at hand, taking no heed of the dangers and consequences of such a reckless foreign policy.

With the province of Idlib ever closer to being liberated from terrorists by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the tensions between the US and Syria (and Syria’s allies) are rising. Every significant military campaign by the SAA seems to be accompanied by the usual alarms and false reports emanating from the Western media and governments warning of an imminent (staged) use of chemical weapons by the SAA. Tensions are rising as several American voices, including that of the President, have expressed the desire to strike Syria over any alleged use of chemical weapons, without even waiting for any independent verification. Threats by the US, the UK and France to bomb Russian troops in Syria are voiced everyday on Western media. The insanity is reaching disturbing levels.

These developments in Syria appear to be accompanied by the persistent attempts of Ukraine and the United States to sabotage the Minsk agreements, re-igniting the conflict in order to blame it on Russia. The assassination of Aleksandr Zakharchenko, charismatic leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), killed a few days ago in a terrorist attack, should be seen in this light.

More false accusations against Moscow, this time of having poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the UK, follow on from allegations of Moscow interfering in the US presidential election. Added to this situation of rising tensions between great powers are the constant threats, together with economic and financial warfare, directed at Iran by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

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Russia Will Supply S-300 System To Syria Within Weeks After Israeli Raid

It appears Israel has paid a huge price for last week’s attack on Syria which led to the accidental “friendly” fire downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane with 15 personnel on board as the door could now be forever shut on striking targets in Syria with impunity. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has announced plans to deliver to its advanced S-300 air defense system to Damascus within two weeks.

Prior plans to deliver the system, which is considered vastly more effective and can strike at a greater range than Syria’s current S-200 and others, were nixed after Israeli threats that delivery would constitute a “red line” for which Israel must act.

The Russian MoD acknowledged this and said the situation has “changed” upon announcing its intent to follow through on what Syria has already purchased: “In 2013 on a request from the Israeli side we suspended the delivery to Syria of the S-300 system, which was ready to be sent with its Syrian crews trained to use it,” the MoD statement said.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said early Monday, “A modern S-300 air defense missile system will be supplied to the Syrian Armed Forces within two weeks. It is capable of intercepting air assault weapons at a distance of more than 250 kilometers and hit simultaneously several air targets.”

Significantly, Syria’s systems will be integrated with Russian systems via the S-300, in order to prevent instances of “blind” firing (or failure to have friend or foe identification capabilities).

Russia had in previous statements blamed Israel for the last Tuesday incident in which a Russian Ilyushin-20 reconnaissance plane was accidentally brought down by an aging Syrian S-200 defense system after Russia had scrambled its jets to respond to an attack by four Israeli F-16s on Syrian government targets.

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Before pointing the finger at Russia and Syria, the U.S. should answer for its own record

Before pointing the finger at Russia and Syria, the U.S. should answer for its own record

The world is once again witnessing the height of U.S. hypocrisy as members of the U.S. State Department ratchet up anti-Russian and anti-Syrian rhetoric surrounding the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the UK. Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned Syria, Iran and Russia that they will be held accountable for their pre-determined use of chemical weapons in Idlib on innocent civilians. No evidence was provided to support her threats. The United States carried out cruise missile strikes on two previous occasions, and each time provided no evidence to prove their assertion that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in attacking civilians, nor was any rational reason given for such an obviously irrational decision on the part of the Syrian state. No evidence has ever been provided to justify the clear international crime of aggression committed by the United States on these two earlier occasions. Now, the UK and the U.S. are both attempting to accuse the Russian government of using chemical weapons in an alleged attempted assassination of a Russian national on UK soil. Once again, no real evidence has been presented, only assertions and hearsay.

On Thursday September 13th, Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh declared before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that the United States would level the most severe of sanctions against Russia, including breaking all diplomatic ties, if Russia refused to admit its guilt in perpetrating the Skripal assassination fiasco and refused to submit to International inspections by the OPCW of its alleged chemical weapons and biological weapons programs. She stated that Russia would have to meet this requirement by an arbitrary November 4th deadline, set by the United States in accordance with a U.S. law, not an international law. H.R. 1724 – Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 specifies in part:

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How the U.N. Joined America’s War Against Syria

How the U.N. Joined America’s War Against Syria

America has been at war to transfer control of Syria over to the Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia; and America has been trying to do this ever since the first of the CIA’s coups against Syria failed in 1949. But only during the U.S. Presidency of Barack Obama did the United Nations become a tool in this American enterprise. Obama entered the White House in 2009 secretly hoping to be able to overthrow Syria’s Government; and when the CIA-assisted “Arab Spring” uprisings in the Arab world started flowering in 2011, the U.S. Government had the important U.N. operatives fully on-board assisting the U.S. Government to assist this overthrow — to hand Syria to the Sauds (the Sauds being America’s most important international ally, and the world’s richest family) to control.

By the time of June 2011, the Obama State Department, under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was already deep into planning the overthrow not only of Syria’s Government (planning the international recruitment of jihadists to do that), but of Ukraine’s Government (planning international recruitment of nazis to do that).

Although the common view is that America’s main allies are European, that viewpoint is no longer true. Today’s America is allied mainly with the Sauds, and with Israel, which latter is the Sauds’ chief lobbying arm both in North America and in Europe, because Christian-majority populations are far more sympathetic to Jews than to Moslems. For a politician to be publicly sympathetic to Jews is much better for a politician than for him/her to be publicly sympathetic to Muslims. So, Israel carries the Sauds’ lobbying water, not only their own.

On 3 December 2011 (near the end of the year when the “Arab Spring” started), the independent investigative journalist Sibel Edmonds headlined “US Media: Distorters of Reality & Gravediggers of Truth”, and she reported:

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Decoding Putin’s Response to Attack in Syria

Decoding Putin’s Response to Attack in Syria

The fog of war and geopolitics makes initial responses to the attack on Russian and Syrian forces recently difficult to assess.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response seemed timid and was at odds with statements from his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and more recent statements from Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Putin backed off on explicitly blaming Israel for the downing of the IL-20 ELINT aircraft which killed 15 Russian servicemen, but made it clear he holds them responsible for the attack as a whole.

My thoughts on what the goals of the attack were are the focus of my latest article at Strategic Culture Foundation.  

It was obvious to me that this attack was designed as a provocation to start World War III in Syria and blame the Russians for attacking a NATO member without proper cause, since the Syrian air defense forces were the ones responsible for shooting down the plane.

Lying us into war is a time-honored American political tradition, whether we’re talking Fort Sumter, Pearl Harbor or the Gulf of Tonkin.  All of these incidents were avoidable by Presidents intent on getting into a conflict while simultaneously playing the victim card by getting the other side to shoot first.

I’m sorry if that is a controversial statement but the historical record on them is very, very clear.

From Strategic Culture:

The setup is pretty clear. Israel and France coordinated an attack on multiple targets within Syria without US involvement but with absolute US knowledge of the operation to provoke Russia into going off half-cocked by attacking the inconsequential French frigate which assisted Israel’s air attack.

Any denunciation of sinister intent by Israeli Defense Forces is hollow because if they had not intended to provoke a wider conflict they would have given Russia more than one minute to clear their planes from the area.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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