"Syrian government forces recaptured a Mamluk-era citadel in Palmyra from the extremist Islamic State group on Friday, Syrian state media and monitoring groups said, as the fierce battle for control of the historic town entered its third day.
Syrian and Russian warplanes struck at least 56 targets inside IS-held areas of the city and pro-government militias supported the army’s advance, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.
Palmyra has been controlled by the extremist group since May. The militants have destroyed some of its best known Roman-era archaeological relics.
Government forces Friday cut the road between Palmyra and another IS bastion, the town of Qaryatayn, weakening the group’s hold over its two central Syrian outposts, according to the pro-government Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV." Washpost
I searched about in the US media today looking for coverage of the fight now raging in eastern Syria for the towns of Palmyra (Tadmur) and Deir az-Zor and all I could find is this AP article in the Washington Post. In that fight Russian air power and the weapons and advice that Russia provides continues to play a major and probably decisive role.
Earlier today I listened to Colonel (Ret.) Jack Jacobs MOH tell the world on MSNBC that the Russian intervention in Syria had been altogether useless, solely designed to "prop up" the Syrian government, had done nothing against IS and that the provision of Russian support against the rebels and IS had ended with no result. Well, pilgrims, Jacobs is a good soldier. He knows war. His statements must be based on a reliance on government provided information, a reliance that his MSNBC employers must accept and sanction. A couple of days ago the following exchange took place between Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, and a reporter concerning the US government's preference for an outcome in the present battle for Palmyra.
"No, I mean, look, I mean, broadly speaking, it’s not a great choice, an either/or, but – which is worse, Daesh or the regime – but we think Daesh is probably the greater evil in this case'. (See https://www.rt.com/usa/337119-us-fails-palmyra-isis/ "
It is noticeable that TV network news is studiously averting its eyes from the obvious evidence of the efficacy of Russian assistance in the fight against the Nusra Front (al-Qa'ida) and the Islamic State (Da'esh). The Russians and Syrian government are also receiving the defections of many CIA supported "seculars" in western Syria and putting them back into the fight as village guards after training at Tartous on the coast.
To fill the time, the 24/7 news obsesses over the idiocies of the US presidential primary elections and moment by moment coverage of Europe's jihadi melt-down. And then, last week there was the marvel of Obama's pilgrimage to Cuba, his apologies for past American misdeeds (largely notional) and his ineptitude as a tango dancer. All these are or were grand distractions from the important events of today's world scene.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote that the USSR was a "muffled zone" in which the truth could not be known because the system would not allow it to be known. The Borgist collective's American branch is obviously happy to have achieved the same result. In the American nomenklatura the narrative imposed by Obama and friends in their search for hegemony (they would call it American :leadership") has destroyed the information base that Americans would need to understand the world, but, that was the idea, was it not? pl
I promised Pat I would do another ramble on Andrew Jackson. I think that the best book on Jackson was written by Arthur Schlesinger. “The Age of Jackson.” I recommend it to anyone as the most thorough analysis of Jackson, his personality, political trends of his time, the bank war, and Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet, etc.
Jackson’s election is usually described as an expansion of democracy, but it is more accurate to say it was an expansion of opportunities for the small capitalist. The bulk of these felt that the door or avenues of advancement had been blocked or compromised.
America was still a nation of small towns and farms. Only one out of fifteen Americans lived in a city. Factories had sprung up but only in small numbers. The bulk of small capitalists believed that the door to economic fulfillment should be nudged open. The growth of the railroads opened up vast tracts to anyone who wanted to make money. The small capitalists were hardworking and ambitious and obtaining economic success was a bedrock belief of theirs. This class included workers, shopkeepers, craftsmen, and small business men.
James J. Grund, an immigrant who had come to America in 1836, wrote: "Business is the very soul of the American…business is the source of all human facility. It was as if all America was one gigantic workshop over the entrance of which was the blazing inscription, No admission Here, Except on Business.” This inclination was, in many cases, corrupt. Many American of the day were more interested in the speculative value of the land rather than their agricultural yield. Many of their ventures were financed by wild cat banks that used their money recklessly and stiffed their debtors.
In the East, there were sound, safe state banks that bitterly resented the U.S. National Bank of Nicolas Biddle who wielded his power in Philadelphia.
President Franklin Roosevelt had called GOP capitalists of his day, “economic royalists,” and he wanted to restore opportunities that had been snuffed out by their corrupt preponderance. This meant creating a government that would be an equivalent in force and power them.
To Jackson’s age, it was felt that business opportunities had been stifled by the National Bank which blocked the way to success for many humbler Americans. They turned to the states to obtain charters for newer banks better able to meet their needs, but the banking charters issued by state legislature ended up little monopolies themselves. Individual parties whose capital was deemed too small were denied entrance to strategic avenues of advancement offered by banks, ferries, turnpikes, bridges and railroads.
The Bank of the United States was the largest of thee privileged monopolies. One of the major forces propelling Jackson was the belief that the bank had denied many genuine opportunity and the ability to compete. As a man, Jackson loathed unfair privilege. To his mind, one of the worst defects of Biddle’s bank was that it was immune from government control. He intensely disliked the fact that a quarter of the bank’s shares were held by foreigners.
Jackson harbored a real feeling for the underdog. He had an obsession with fairness, in my view. In one of his speeches, he denounced any political structure that acted to make the powerful more powerful; he was aware, he said, that the gifts of nature, talent, wealth, etc were unevenly distributed. He didn’t want to try to abolish such uneven gifts of nature. What he wanted above all, was equality before the law because that would enable the humbler members of society a fair chance at success in life.
""The Syrian army regained control of the historic town of Tadmur (Palmyra) with small weapons," a Syrian brigadier-general told Sputnik. Thus, he emphasized that the town was taken without air assistance." Sputnik
Read more: http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160323/1036821734/syria-palmyra-regain-control.html#ixzz43kO0CsOK
As ISIS has itself pressured on several front in Syria, the Iraqi Army is preparing an offensive to finally recapture the 2nd largest city in Iraq, Mosul. Mosul is home to some 3 million residents and such, the city represents ISIS’ most important base in all of Iraq. The video below covers all you need to know about the last few days of battles across Syria and Iraq, including the Islamic State’s skirmishes with the Syrian Arab Army, the Iraqi Army and Kurdish militants. Our partners from www.SouthFront.org have the story covered:
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/southfront-iraqi-army-prepares-liberation-mosul-isis-seems-occupied-war-syria/ | Al-Masdar News
The video embedded in the Al-Masdar piece is quite worthwhile. It is a general briefing on present events across North Arabia.
IMO it is now clear that rather than concentrate forces for a concentric battle to clear Idlib Province and the remaining rebel held parts of Aleppo City, the R+6 allies are embarked on a far more adventurous and risky scheme.
With the continuing support of Russian and Syrian air the main effort at present seems to be to re-capture Palmyra and then to link up with the long embattled Syrian forces encircled at Deir az-Zor on the Euphrates. If that can be accomplished then an advance on Raqqa seems likely. Possible lines of advance would be NW from the Deir az-Zor area and from Palmyra going east and then turning north at Sukhna. An additional axis of advance from the west on Tabqa might complete the effort. IMO the possibilities in such an campaign are somewhat limited by the length of the LOCs across the desert and the fairly small number of ground combat units available. The long lines of supply would have to be protected to keep supply moving and pushed well forward behind the spearheads. With regard to the limited number of ground fighters, it should be noted that it was necessary to transfer the SAA Tiger Forces brigade to the Palmyra axis of advance and to bring to the same axis the Syrian Marine Regiment from northern Lattakia where it was well employed. IMO these movements would not have been necessary if ground forces assets were not quite thin on the ground.
At the same time the Iraqi Army and its Shia militia allies are making sounds that declare a willingness to advance to Mosul. Since the Iranians are involved at various levels with both the Syrian and Iraqi forces it seems likely that they may be coordinating these plans. pl
I am generally in favor of the policy of an opening to Cuba, but ...
For those of you who are not acquainted with the universally accepted standards of diplomatic and government to government courtesy, a visiting official should be met at the point of debarkation by his/her counterpart. To do less than that is understood to be a gesture of disrespect.
The president of the United States is both Head of State and Head of Government. It would have been appropriate and respectful for the president of Cuba to meet him at the airport. The Foreign Minister of Cuba is in no way the protocol equivalent of the president of the United States. In my opinion Obama should have told the foreign minister that he would wait aboard Air Force One for an hour for Raul Castro's arrival planeside. Failing that arrival, a return to the US would have been appropriate for our delegation.
And then there was the moment in which Raul Castro attempted to hold Obama's arm up as though he were a prizefighter or some other ridiculous thing.
Does the Cuban government really want détente with the US? If so they had better clean up their act. pl
"Any presidential candidate speaking to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, during an election year is going to bow to the hawkish elements of the Israel lobby. Hillary Clinton’s keynote speech at AIPAC’s annual meeting Monday, however, was more debased than it needed to be, promising that under her administration, Israel will be spared even the mild rebukes it has suffered under President Obama. A symphony of pandering, it attempted to outflank Donald Trump on the right and will end up outraging a large chunk of the left." Slate
"Trump proved that he knows exactly how to press the right Jewish buttons, much as he has shown his expertise in manipulating the fears and resentments of middle class, white Americans. He told the AIPAC delegates exactly what they wanted and what they’re used to hearing — and they loved it. He mocked other candidates for pandering and proceeded to pander as if there’s no tomorrow.
Trump delivered a speech that could easily have been written in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem or AIPAC headquarters in Washington, and for all we know, possibly was. He vowed to “dismantle” the nuclear deal with Iran as well as Tehran’s terrorist infrastructure, condemned Palestinian incitement and praised Israeli moderation. He said that Obama was the worst-ever President for Israel and the crowd burst out in loud applause, as if the assertion was some kind of “open sesame” that removes any roadblocks standing in Trump’s way." Haaretz
"Ted Cruz opened his speech by saying "God bless AIPAC, I am thrilled to be here today. Palestine has not existed since 1948." "
There was also groveling by Paul Ryan, John Kasich, and assorted junior bears. Trump's pander was so extreme that one ponders the possibility that he was mocking the audience. The thing about Ivanka's impending "Jewish baby" was so far over the top as to bring to mind passages from "Gulliver's Travels." Perhaps that travelogue should have included another island called the "Land of the Pander Bears."
Hillary? Does she really have to shout that much? Oh, sorry, old men are doomed to sexism. pl
By Patrick BAHZAD
Early this morning, Brussels was rocked by a string of explosions which hit both the main airport terminal and the city's subway network, close to the headquarters of the EU. Based on what is known so far about the attacks, it looks like the death toll will be quite high and law enforcement will have their hands full going after the perpetrators of these cowardly attacks. However tragic the events unfolding before our eyes, it should be noted however that there were ominous signs regarding a paradigm shift within the Belgian Jihadi for some time already. Over a year ago, SST published a piece about the very same topic after a raid that was launched by Belgian police against a terrorist cell which had been planning attacks from the Eastern Belgian city of Verviers. It is no coincidence that some of the names mentioned in this piece rose to dubious fame since, in relation to the Paris attacks.
First published on January 16th 2015
Last night's raids by Belgian police (i.e. the raid of January 2015), and the ensuing shootout in the city of Verviers, bear the hallmarks of a gradual shift in the nature of the Belgian jihadi and radical Islamic scene. While authorities are denying any connections with the Paris attacks, there's enough circumstancial evidence to suggest a more complex picture.
Anyone who has ever been to Brussels could easily be fooled by the apparent tranquillity of the Belgian capital. If you had to ask Rummy, a.k.a. Donald Rumsfeld, he would tell you that this is deep "chocolate making country". But looks can be deceiving and Belgium has actually played a major role over the years in the spread of radical Islam and its most violent proponents, as evidenced by last night's events. Belgian Federal Police stormed a building in the small town of Verviers, 70 miles east of Brussels. Just like the previous week in Paris, the suspects came out all guns blazing, before being cut down by Belgian SWAT after a 10 minutes firefight. Two of the men were killed, a third one seriously wounded.
Wiretaps helped foil the planned attacks
Details are slowly emerging about the nature of the plot that was foiled by thursday's police operation. The two men killed had returned from Syria about a week ago. Wiretaps show they had been in contact with a third man, likely to be the leader of this "cell", whom Belgian police believe to be Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Just like the two men killed in the assault, Abaaoud is originally from the area of Molenbeek, and had left for Syria to join ISIS. He's no longer fighting there however and is supposedly staying either in Turkey or Greece, from where he was coordinating the plans for the coming attacks. Finally, the man who was wounded and arrested in the Verviers raid, 25 year old Marouane El Bali, is another resident of the Molenbeek suburb of Brussels. His mother and cousin, who had initially also been taken into custody, have now been released.
According to several sources, the group had sent threatening letters to stores selling the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine and was planning for the bombing of Brussels' main court and attacks on police officers or police stations. This last piece of information in particular has raised concerns within Brussels' police to an even higher degree, given that several members of this police department had been under investigation for a number of months, on suspicion of having infiltrated the police on behalf of radical islamic groups.
My wife and watched the film, “The Big Short” recently. I did not think the screen play too incoherent, too hasty, and too hurried nor did it make clear where the subprime mortgage scandal began.
I am now reading, The Big Short, by Michael Lewis, and it makes for blood-curdling reading.
The whole scam had its source in income inequality. Its am was to defraud the middle class and the poor. Income distribution was skewed and was becoming more skewed in favor of the rich. That’s what started to whole subprime mortgage crisis. The pitch for subprime mortgage bonds was that you were helping consumers get free of high interest rate credit card debt and putting him into lower interest rate mortgage debt.
The subprime mortgage industry was at first seen as a useful addition to the U.S. economy. It soon turned into a doomsday machine.
The concept was based on turning home mortgages into bonds. One man’s liability was another man’s asset, but now liabilities would be turned into little bits of paper that anyone could sell to anyone. The small market in mortgage bonds was funded by all sorts of strange stuff: credit card receivables, aircraft leases, auto loans, health club dues. The most obvious untapped asset in America was the American home. People with first mortgages held vast amounts of equity in their homes. There was a stigma in going to own a second mortgage borrower, but the reasoning was that if we mass market the bonds, the cost of borrowing will go down. The lower middle class would replace high interest rate credit card debt with lower interest rate mortgage debt. Of course the target of the bonds was the “less credit worthy Americans.” The mortgage bond wasn’t a single giant loan for an explicit fixed term; instead, a mortgage bond was a claim on the cash flows of thousands of individual home mortgages.
The bond sellers took giant pools of home loans and carved them up to pay debts made to homeowners into pieces called tranches. Such loans carried government guarantees. The holders of such bonds could resell them to other investors. It was a fast buck business.
During the 1990s, the subprime business was only a small fraction of US credit markets. A few tens of billions. As income inequality grew, so did the subprime mortgage market. The accounting for subprime mortgages was increasingly arcane. Moody’s did an account that made clear that underlying the bonds were pools of underlying the individual mortgage bonds - how many were floating rate and how many of the houses borrowed against the owner occupier. The most important question was how many were delinquent? Wall St Firms were not disclosing the delinquency rate of the home loans they were making. The operator sold all the loans to people who packed them into mortgage bonds. “How do you make poor people feel wealthy when wages are stagnant? You give them cheap loans.
To maintain the fiction that they were profitable enterprises, the sellers needed more and more capital to create more and more subprime loans. Sellers manipulated interest rate buyers who were told they were paying 7 percent on there loans when were actually paying 12.5 percent. They were tricking their customers. It was usual practice to make sure that the middle lower income people received the most protection. This system gave them the least protection against such schemes. Eisman said the goal of the mortgage subprime market was “fuck the poor.”
Credit Default Swaps
A credit default swap (CDS) is a financial swap agreement that the seller of the CDS will compensate the buyer (usually the creditor of the reference loan) in the event of a loan default (by the debtor) or other credit event. This is to say that the seller of the CDS insures the buyer against some reference loan defaulting. The buyer of the CDS makes a series of payments (the CDS "fee" or "spread") to the seller and, in exchange, receives a payoff if the loan defaults. It was invented by Blythe Masters from JP Morgan in 1994.
In the event of default the buyer of the CDS receives compensation (usually the face value of the loan), and the seller of the CDS takes possession of the defaulted loan. However, anyone can purchase a CDS, even buyers who do not hold the loan instrument and who have no direct insurable interest in the loan (these are called "naked" CDSs). If there are more CDS contracts outstanding than bonds in existence, a protocol exists to hold a credit event auction; the payment received is usually substantially less than the face value of the loan.
Credit default swaps have existed since 1994, and increased in use after 2003. By the end of 2007, the outstanding CDS amount was $62.2 trillion, falling to $26.3 trillion by mid-year 2010 and reportedly $25.5 trillion in early 2012. CDSs are not traded on an exchange and there is no required reporting of transactions to a government agency. During the 2007-2010 financial crisis the lack of transparency in this large market became a concern to regulators as it could pose a systemic risk. In March 2010, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (see Sources of Market Data) announced it would give regulators greater access to its credit default swaps database.
CDS data can be used by financial professionals, regulators, and the media to monitor how the market views credit risk of any entity on which a CDS is available, which can be compared to that provided by the Credit Rating Agencies. U.S. Courts may soon be following suit.
Mike Burry, a genius who was the first to detect the upcoming crash of the subprime mortgage market fraud, said that his strategy was not to get the best loans, but the worst loans and then bet that they would fail. The price of a loan was rated by bond rating agencies who usually gave a triple A rating on loans. Burry he had collected a lot of triple B-rated loans. They were risky, and the riskier they were, the greater the chance that they would default. Soon, he owned $750 million in credit default swaps in subprime mortgage bonds. These were bonds he had handpicked to explode. He said that the beauty of credit fault swaps was that they enabled him to make a fortune if only a tiny fraction of the dubious pools of mortgages went bad.
A final word on Burry from Wikipedia
In 2005, Burry started to focus on the subprime market. Through his analysis of mortgage lending practices in 2003 and 2004, he correctly forecasted the real estate bubble would collapse as early as 2007. Burry's research on the values of residential real estate convinced him that subprime mortgages, especially those with "teaser" rates, and the bonds based on these mortgages would begin losing value when the original rates reset, often in as little as two years after initiation. This conclusion led Burry to short the market by persuading Goldman Sachs to sell him credit default swaps against subprime deals he saw as vulnerable. This analysis proved correct, and Burry profited accordingly. Burry has since said, "I don't go out looking for good shorts. I'm spending my time looking for good longs. I shorted mortgages because I had to. Every bit of logic I had led me to this trade and I had to do it".
Though he suffered an investor revolt before his predictions came true, Burry earned a personal profit of $100 million and a profit for his remaining investors of more than $700 million
No one ever went to jail for this fraud that almost destroyed the U.S. economy.
"... a city of sharply contrasting halves, and one side clearly appears to have the upper hand.
In a park on the government-held side, families picnic while children line up to buy balloons and popcorn. A few miles away, on a sprawling university campus, thousands of students attend class. Downtown, the city’s cinema plays the latest Hollywood films. In the evenings, the restaurants fill.
War brings death and discomfort, but life continues here with a surprising degree of normality.
It’s a far cry from the images of Aleppo the world has seen during Syria’s war: the rubble-filled streets, the carcasses of buildings, lifeless bodies being dragged out of piles of detritus after airstrikes. But that is the rebel-held side.
There, the mishmash of armed groups in control are almost entirely encircled and were brutally bombarded before a recent cease-fire brought some relief. Sitting right on the battle lines, the old city of Aleppo is in tatters. The 13th-century citadel that rises above its now scorched markets with their famed vaulted ceilings is a Syrian army base." Washpost
The Borgist (foreign policy establishment) media description of the situation and living conditions in Aleppo city has been mendacious (lying). With the exception of Frederick Pleitgen, TV journalists (most especially from CNN) have consistently traveled to Aleppo with Syrian government cooperation and protection, have stayed in hotels in the government held part (most) of the City and then ventured into the rebel held pocket with its small population of Sunni fanatics, jihadi fighters and FSA unicorns for the purpose of misrepresenting the situation as being one in which "hundreds of thousands" of Alleppans (halabiyeen) are living in Leningrad siege conditions under frightful government and Russian bombardment while starving to death in the hope of achieving basic human rights. What a crock! This is the worst kind of memetic manipulation of images. In the latest such effort that has come to my attention the Anglo-American CNN "flavor of the month," Clarissa Ward traveled to Aleppo (once again over the government held road LOC) to "report" from the rebel pocket in Aleppo City. There, dressed like a salafi nun from hell, she went to moan about how tough things are for those who "fight for their religion." I guess that Pleitgen was just too even handed for the powers that be at CNN. He has now been "exiled" to Europe.
In contrast we have this unaccountably wonderful story in today's Washington Post about real life in Aleppo. Read it. Notice the women students wearing the hijab at Aleppo University in government held Aleppo.
It continues to be my opinion that reduction of the rebel Aleppo and Idlib pockets should be a very high priority for the Syrian government. Getting the electricity back on soon in government held Aleppo should be matter of great concern now that the SAA has recaptured the main power plants. That alone should trigger a wave of defections from among "the pure" in the rebel pocket. pl
"Today the New York Times printed a full-page ad telling Hillary Clinton she has to reject her adviser Sidney Blumenthal and his allegedly anti-semitic son Max, because of Max Blumenthal’s tremendous book on Israel’s militant rightwing political culture, Goliath. The ad on page A7 was paid for by Shmuley Boteach, who has gotten tons of money from Sheldon Adelson. It concludes that Clinton is asking friends of Israel to count on her support for the always-vulnerable Jewish State. If she won’t dissociate herself from her discredited advisor Sid Blumenthal and his rabid, Israel-hating son Max how can we?" Mondoweiss
Here you have a perfect example of the efforts of Revisionist Zionist Jabotinskyites to suppress dissent from their extremist views and control the narrative of the larger world's discussion of Israeli policies and politics.
In the interest of full disclosure - I wrote a jacket blurb for "Goliath." It is a fine book. I recommend it highly.
Tell me, pilgrims, how is it that Sidney Blumenthal has been "discredited?" He is discredited for having given his friend HC advice? Was he responsible for the way she and her staff chose to disseminate that advice? He did not work at the State Department. They did. pl
" ... if the DoJ declines to prosecute after the Bureau recommends doing so, a leak-fest of a kind not seen in Washington, D.C., since Watergate should be anticipated. The FBI would be angry that its exhaustive investigation was thwarted by dirty deals between Democrats. In that case, a great deal of Clintonian dirty laundry could wind up in the hands of the press, habitual mainstream media covering for the Clintons notwithstanding, perhaps having a major impact on the presidential race this year.
The FBI isn’t the only powerful federal agency that Hillary Clinton needs to worry about as she plots her path to the White House between scandals and leaks. For years, she has been on the bad side of the National Security Agency, America’s most important intelligence agency, as revealed by just-released State Department documents obtained by Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents, though redacted, detail a bureaucratic showdown between Ms. Clinton and NSA at the outset of her tenure at Foggy Bottom. The new secretary of state, who had gotten “hooked” on her Blackberry during her failed 2008 presidential bid, according to a top State Department security official, wanted to use that Blackberry anywhere she went.
That, however, was impossible, since Secretary Clinton’s main office space at Foggy Bottom was actually a Secure Compartment Information Facility, called a SCIF (pronounced “skiff”) by insiders. A SCIF is required for handling any Top Secret-plus information. In most Washington, D.C., offices with a SCIF, which has to be certified as fully secure from human or technical penetration, that’s where you check Top-Secret email, read intelligence reports and conduct classified meetings that must be held inside such protected spaces." Observer.com
So, basically the problem arose because she likes her Blackberry (so do I) and she did not want to climb into the traveling SCIF that was hauled around on her world-wide tourism.
Evidently a lot of the stuff that she and her minions sent around the world on an easily intercepted E-mail system had (irony alert) been originally intercepted by US SIGINT overseas. Naughty! Naughty! NSA has very little sense of humor about such things.
IMO the president can suppress DoJ action on an NSA complaint against her just as he can with regard to an FBI suggestion of an indictment of her and her personal staff. Both the FBI and NSA are Executive Branch institutions and if he orders them to shut up, they will have no choice but to do so.
BUT, as the author states, there will then be a firestorm of leaks to the media from both these groups that will be beyond belief. Even the media will eventually understand the import of what they are told. pl
"Cruz has given audiences a preview of just how extreme his administration would be. When speaking to an Iowa audience before the caucus, he got turned to the topic of military action against ISIS. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark. But we’re sure going to find out.” – referring to possible usage of nuclear or indiscriminate carpet bombing. Evoking images of sand, was clearly a ploy at riling up his base at fighting what they consider an existential war against desert peoples.
On the subject of Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, Cruz co-sponsored the Senate resolution justifying Operation Protective Edge, which eventually killed over 2,000 Palestinians. Even though he has no power to do so, he continually states that he would “declare Jerusalem the eternal capitol of Israel” on his first day in office. This is clearly aimed at resonating with a base that relishes the dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims, as evidenced by this posting by a purported Cruz supporter.
Oddly, I know all these men. Where did I go wrong? Ah, too much time inside the Beltway! What kind of man says he would be willing to destroy whole populations with nuclear weapons?
These four men collectively summon up images from the history channel, and they are not good images. pl
"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (from a Winston Churchill House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)
I was asked by one of our SST readers why I thought the Borg (the foreign policy establishment) was not identical with the US political system. I quote below from my response.
"Many people yearn for a simple explanation lodged in a massive world wide conspiracy that seeks to control all aspects of life, something like S.P.E.C.T.R.E. or the Protocols of..., or maybe the Illuminati. Well, it is not that simple. There is NOT one giant conspiracy and the foreign policy establishment has many parts none of which is altogether dominant. It is really a giant consensus among those who can punish or reward in terms of media exposure, degree awards, fellowships, jobs in the government, ridicule or praise, hostility or friendliness, etc. American politics contains some of the same people that are in the Borg (i.e., the foreign policy establishment) but although the two circles overlap they are not the same. The US government was created on the basis of the idea that power should be limited and divided to prevent easy domination of the system by individuals and factions. It was never intended that the system should be efficient. It was built to be inefficient. Today there has emerged a political consultant class that exists to subvert the built in limitations of the US governmental system. They make a fine living by renting themselves to people who want to beat the system and achieve more power than was ever intended by the founders and framers in their constitutional experiment. To do this the consultants describe the political system as merely another form of "marketing" as in the business world where; market share, PR and "branding" are all and content is a very secondary matter. If you listen carefully you will hear unending talk on TV of political and individual "brands" and "media markets.". The "juice" to make this system work is massive contributor money donations, especially from the rich. Contributor money buys access and favors. This totally corrupts the system in favor of the selfish and fanatical. Trump and Sanders do not play by the present rule. they have or raise their own money and appeal directly to the citizenry who believe correctly that the political class abandoned them in the search for personal advancement. Because of that they threaten the existence of the present electoral "industry," and for that they are seen correctly as a threat to political life as an occupation." pl
The Atlantic has just published a long essay, The Obama Doctrine, by their Washington national correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg. Based in most part on wide-ranging reflective interviews with President Barack Obama, the article makes extensive use of direct quotes from that interview. Considerable space is devoted to the various American engagements in the Middle East along with Obama’s views on prospects for the region. It is a remarkable journalistic event insofar as it represents a preemptive attempt by a sitting President to shape the discourse about his record and his legacy. What he says is revealing - less as analysis and interpretation of actions taken, though, than as an ‘exhibit' of all that is peculiar about Obama’s policy-making style - and what the implications for American diplomacy have been.
Obama's overall stance is one of dissociation from his own administration and its conduct. Throughout, he appears to be referring to himself in the 3rd person. This can be seen as the soon to be memoir writer's attempt to cast himself as detached statesman while distancing himself from errors made. However, this degree of dissociation by a still incumbent President is odd. It suggests that he has been playing the role of participant-observer while in the Oval Office. Moreover, it conveys his sense that somehow the words he utters are equivalent to actions. Indeed, a feature of his Presidency has been a frequent mismatch of words and deeds which never get reconciled. Nor do they in this seemingly candid interview. That raises a cardinal question: is this honest reflection or a characteristic flight from accountability?
Two, this strange attitude is most pronounced in his remarks about the Middle East. For example, he inveighs against allowing the United States to be placed in a position of picking sides in Islam's Sunni-Shi'ite civil war. He is especially adamant about the dangers of American power being used as a tool of the Saudis to advance their cause. Yet, this is exactly what he has been doing in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Bahrain. Moreover, he never has confronted the KSA leaders about the promotion of wahabbism or their concrete support for ISIl and al-Qaeda (in Syria and Yemen - where they fight side-by-side with Saudi troops) - either in private or in public.
Let’s step back and reflect on this. Barack Obama, President of the United States, in telling a journalist that his most important ‘ally’ in the Middle East has been aiding and abetting America’s mortal enemies – and that they should stop. Yet, three years after those hostile actions began he has yet to voice his displeasure directly in numerous meetings. Instead, he gets an interview published in a magazine that the Saudi leaders might pick up in the waiting room at the Mayo Clinic on their next medical visit. If there is any sense or logic to this, it must conform to a mental process never before encountered.
When the announcement of a partial withdrawal was made I was as surprised as anyone. I thought: Daesh is not been defeated, the threat of Ankara doing something extraordinary has not disappeared, the Syrian Army still needs air support to liberate other parts of the country, I can't believe that Putin trusts either Washington's promises or its ability to fulfil them. I then went on the Presidential website and found this: "In this context, Mr Putin said that Russia’s Armed Forces have fulfilled their main mission in Syria and a timetable for the withdrawal of the Aerospace Forces’ main air grouping has been agreed." A timetable is not the same as withdrawal, I thought. But then it transpired that aircraft were in fact leaving and the formal meeting of Putin, Shoygu and Lavrov was published. So, think again: the schedule was for the present and not the future.
I think we now know three things. 1) Not all the Russian aircraft are leaving, in fact large-scale strikes against Daesh positions near Palmyra occurred yesterday. 2) Strikes are possible from outside Syria. We have seen the use of long-range aviation from Russia and cruise missiles from the Caspian and Mediterranean. 3) Russian aircraft can be moved back in under 24 hours if needed.
I think Pat’s choice of the times of Andrew Jackson as mirroring our own age of discontent was brilliant. I would like to add a few comments.
The rise of Andrew Jackson marked a new development in American political institutions. From 1812 to 1828, historians tell us that the two-party system had disappeared, replaced by personal, local, sectional conflicts that had come to predominate over broad policy discussions at the national level. The power of the presidency had declined, and the propertyless masses had begun to infiltrate politics.
The world of Thomas Jefferson had begun to expire even before he retired as U.S. President. The Federalist Party was destroyed by the 1812 War. The 1820’s were a time of huge discontent, financial panics, threats of rebellion, and outbursts of violence. Much of the mood was due to the fact that thriving and vigorous classes felt that the central government was either hostile or indifferent to their needs and interests. Jefferson’s promise of equal rights for all had been betrayed, replaced a single class who kept most of the benefits to itself. The class responsible for their bondage was indifferent to its effects on the wider populace.
For example, the new Western states felt their development was being thwarted or sidelined by the economic policies of the East. The impact of the new industrialism of the Northern and Middle states, especially the capitalist reorganization of what had been journeymen industries, spurred discontent to a fever pitch fed by several financial panics. The broadening of suffrage resulted in even more discontent, because the masses believed they were being denied the same advantages enjoyed by the East. Western famers or Eastern workingmen felt themselves suffocated by the existing order and were eager for change. They threw their effort at passing reforms that would vindicate their social status. They wanted security, but even more, they wanted respect. The depression of 1828-9 proved a tipping point.
" ... the SAA and its allies supported by a significant number of Russian warplanes which remain in Syria are continuing active actions against terrorists excluded from the ceasefire agreements. SouthFront also received information that Putin’s decision of the partial withdrawal from Syria concided in time with a regular rotation of the aircraft involved in the Russian operation in Syria. The Russian Aerospace Forces rotate aircraft at the Hmeymim airbase regularly because of a high number of combat sorties conducted by them. By this decision, Russia is also holding an initiative at the diplomatic field. This fact is confirmed by US Secretary of State John Kerry’s decision to visit Russia next week to discuss the Syria crisis." AMN/Southfront
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/southfront-military-situation-overview-syria-march-16-2016/ | Al-Masdar News
Hezbollah has mobilized more soldiers to help liberate the strategic desert city of Palmyra (Tadmur) after originally sending a small contingent to aid the government forces during the preliminary assault on the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS) defenses. Hezbollah’s fighting prowess in this rugged mountainous/desert terrain gives them a strategic advantage over several other units participating in this offensive. Once Palmyra is liberated from ISIS, Hezbollah will likely turn their attention to the eastern slopes of the Qalamoun Mountains, where several terrorist groups have entrenched themselves near the town of Qarah on the Lebanese border.
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/hezbollah-mobilizes-liberate-palmyra/ | Al-Masdar News
Once again, it is my opinion that IS is collapsing in Syria and Iraq. They are starving to death as the money runs out, lost to R+6 and US air action against oil exports through Turkey. At the same time equipment and men are not coming down the reciprocal transport route from Turkey.
Hizbullah's willingness to invest more men in the struggle to take Palmyra is indicative of the continuing ambitions of the anti-jihadi alliance. A similarly aggressive effort is being made by the Syrian garrison of Deir az-Zor. IS seems incapable of halting that and a link-up with Syrian government forces to the west can be expected soon.
We await the advance of the 4th Syrian Corps into the Idlib cauldron battle. pl
"Jackson's quick temper was notorious. Brands says, "His audacity on behalf of the people earned him enemies who slandered him and defamed even his wife, Rachel. He dueled in her defense and his own, suffering grievous wounds that left him with bullet fragments lodged about his body." However, Remini is of the opinion that Jackson was often in control of his rage, and used it (and his fearsome reputation) as a tool to get what he wanted in his public and private affairs.
Brands also notes that his opponents were terrified of his temper:
On the last day of the presidency, Jackson admitted that he had but two regrets, that he "had been unable to shoot Henry Clay or to hang John C. Calhoun. " Wiki on Jackson's Temperament
Some themes remain vital in human affairs for a very long time. A long standing one in the history of the English speaking peoples (Churchill's phrase) is the issue of whether or not government and its control over people's lives should be highly centralized in the service of the interest of metropolitan elites or widely dispersed among the people. This difference of opinion developed after Magna Carta and by the 17th Century had become a split in English life between the Country Party and the Court Party. That distinction was imported to North America and has remained an enduring feature of US political life to the present day.
In 1828, the main issues in the US presidential election were related to this old disagreement concerning governance. The incumbent president, John Quincy Adams, was in many ways an archetypical establishment figure. The son of the second president, he spent his entire life in the federal government, advocated positions that would be popular today in the Borg; emancipation, centralization of financial services and debt in the Second National Bank, etc. He so loved the federal government that, deprived of the White House in 1828, he ran for the House of Representatives where he then served for many years as a figure of the emerging Northern nationalist faction along with Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.
Opposing Adams was Andrew Jackson, the man he had defeated four years before when what was called a "corrupt bargain" was struck in the House of Representatives. Neither man had enough votes in the electoral college to be elected. Jackson was anything but an establishment creature. He was altogether a self made man who had clawed his way up from the bottom of the social order to become rich, powerful and a national military hero. He was rough and crude and he told the ordinary people that he would level the playing field for white men in the USA. He did not hesitate to encourage harsh and violent behavior and had himself personally supervised the removal to the trans-Mississippi of the highly Europeanized tribal Indians of the Southeastern US. Why? The Indians were in the way of the establishment of large scale agribusiness and the settlement of the region by whites and their black slaves. He was quite un-apologetic about all this. When Jackson was inaugurated he threw open the doors of the White House for a reception to which one and all were invited. The crowd famously tracked mud all over the rooms and carpets, stood on the needle point embroidered chairs and got gloriously drunk while they sang bawdy songs. He was re-elected for a second term and to this day is thought of by the Democratic Party as one of their two founding figures. The other being Thomas Jefferson, a somewhat different man, an aristocrat who chose to side with his beloved yeomen farmers.
Now we have Donald Trump, the grandson of a German immigrant from a little country town. The name was originally "Drumpf." Donald Trump's father and his son after him strove mightily and became rich in the dog eat dog world of New York City business where sharp elbows and an abrasive, abusive, bullying manner are requirements for success unless you have that magic commodity, "old money." If you have that, then you can be gracious. Donald trump's daughter, Ivanka, now has old money and is reported to me to be gracious. Donald Trump tells the mainly white spiritual descendants of Jackson's supporters that he will make them whole again both in their self image and in their pocketbooks. That is a powerful message in the face of left wing insistence that white voters are a wasting asset in America.
Opposing him we have the John Quincy Adams figures of the "modern" age; Hillary Clinton, who openly advocates minority interests in what Trump's supporters see as a zero-sum game of political and economic warfare, Bernie Sanders who seems a gentle, well mannered man but who nevertheless is openly in favor of the same kind of re-distributionist policies that most Trump supporters see as an effort to deprive them of control over their own destiny. And then in the background are the politicians, media flunkies, and political consultants for whom Trump threatens a re-definition of politics and parties. pl
"President Vladimir Putin said on Monday "the main part" of Russian armed forces in Syria would start to withdraw, and instructed his diplomats to step up the push for peace as U.N.-mediated talks resumed in Geneva on ending the five-year war.
Syria announced President Bashar al-Assad had agreed on the "reduction" of Russian forces in a telephone call with Putin. Western diplomats urged caution and the anti-Assad opposition expressed bafflement, with a spokesman saying "nobody knows what is in Putin's mind".
Russia's military intervention in Syria in September helped to turn the tide of war in Assad's favor after months of gains in western Syria by rebel fighters, who were aided by foreign military supplies including U.S.-made anti-tank missiles." Reuters
At first glance this seems like a valiant effort to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory," but, maybe not. Bibi's pal, Biden in his recent presser in Israel said something like "even Russia has heard the Lord about Syria." That led Bibi to caution him on the spot to consider whether or not he wanted to use these words. Biden may have been in Israel to shop for a retirement villa on the beach, but among his tasks may also have been the job of informing Natanyahu of a bargain with Russia over Syria and Ukraine. IMO "bth" is probably right that we will soon see remarkable "progress" in a settlement of some kind over Ukraine and a reduction or removal of sanctions on Russia. US "officials" have been quoted today as this having "dropped from the sky." Well, pilgrims, "officials" often don't know what their betters are up to.
Syria? Perhaps the judgment in Moscow is that the process of strengthening the R+6 local forces has progressed far enough that as someone wrote here "they can take off the training wheels." Well, they are on the ground and not I, but I remain concerned about the relatively small forces at the disposal of the Syrian government. Is partition in the future? I suppose we will have to wait to know.
None of this can be good news for Bibi.
I will welcome analytic posts on this development by member of the committee. pl
"So what would happen if we learned that there is microbial life on Mars, or that it has existed there in the past? Well it would only challenge everything we know. We would have to come to grips with not having a unique status in the universe and will have to work out how to include extraterrestrial "life" in our existential or religious beliefs – to name a few.
On a scientific level, there's a lot at stake. Of course, it would also lead to major new efforts to find life on planets beyond Mars and even beyond our own solar system.
The first challenge if life is ever detected will be to prove that we didn't bring it there from Earth – a difficult task to achieve. Careful cataloguing of the "bioburden" load on the spacecraft and from the cleanrooms it was assembled in can provide a check on what organisms might have been present on the spacecraft when it left the Earth. Fundamentally though, life that arose beyond the Earth would likely result from subtly different chemical processes, so to find out for sure, a detailed in situ biochemical analysis would be required." phys.org
The political farce in the US and the never ending spectacle of the Borg's failures in the ME are boring. Now, here is something interesting. pl
"The Russian Air Force has caught the so called “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham” (ISIS) off-guard in east Hama, striking their main supply route from the Al-Raqqa Governorate to the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) on a number of occasions today. However, the latest airstrike by the Russian Air Force has proven to be the most lethal, destroying an entire ISIS convoy of reinforcements that were tasked to back-up their exhausted fighters at the Palmyra front in the eastern countryside of Homs. According to a military source, the Russian Air Force caught the ISIS convoy attempting to make their way from the large village of ‘Aqayrbat in east Homs to the city of Palmyra." AMN
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/russian-air-force-picks-off-isis-reinforcement-convoy-east-hama/ | Al-Masdar News
Well, this piece speaks of repeated Russian strikes against IS efforts to reinforce in the Tadmur (Palmyra) area against the Syrian Army's advance spearheaded by the Tiger Forces brigade.
Once again, IMO the wheels are coming off the IS wagon in Syria and Iraq. The question does not seem to be whether Raqqa will be lost by IS but rather when and to whom. pl
"U.S. and Iraqi officials said U.S. special forces captured the head of the ISIS unit trying to develop chemical weapons in a raid last month in northern Iraq.
The U.S.-led coalition said the chemicals ISIS has so far used include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard which is not very potent. "It's a legitimate threat. It's not a high threat. We're not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it," U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters Friday.
The coalition began targeting ISIS' chemical weapons infrastructure with airstrikes and special operations raids two months ago, Iraqi intelligence officials and a Western security official in Baghdad told the AP.
Airstrikes are targeting laboratories and equipment, and further special forces raids targeting chemical weapons experts are planned, the officials said. "
So.... IS has and is using chlorine and mustard gas in Iraq. Well ... pilgrims, if you can make those chemical agents, you can make Sarin nerve gas like the weapon used by someone at Ghouta in the east Damascus suburbs in 2013. At the time one of the arguments voiced for assignment of guilt in the Ghouta attack was that the insurgents could not possibly have such weapons because they lacked the ability to manufacture them. As I wrote at the time it is not very difficult to make such chemical weapons. The industrial processes are simple and the ingredients are widely available on the international markets for the making of such things as insecticides. IS is not Nusra or some of the other jihadi groups who were at Damascus in 2013 but the implication for what may have happened at Ghouta should be clear. pl
I have looked at what sources I could find with regard to the Syrian Army's "Tiger Forces."
this organization is described in the wiki as a division. This can mean anything in the Middle East. The fanciful description of various formations as divisions does not give you any real idea of the size of a group. It is described as directly subordinated to the Syrian Army chief of staff as you would expect with regard to an outfit that is used as national level "fire brigade" maneuver reserve.
MG Hassan, the commander of this "division" was an air force intelligence officer for most of his career and became a ground forces commander when asked in 2013 to create this unit. Remarkable. He declined promotion from colonel to brigadier general a year or so ago in order to remain with his men. It is a common practice in armies to promote an officer and then transfer him to a larger job. The Syrian government's response to his refusal was to promote him to major general and allow him to stay with the force he had created. This too is remarkable.
The Tiger Forces have as organic assets something called the Cheetah Forces (Team 3 and Team 6) and associated militia forces that work with the division on a regular basis. All of this seems armor heavy.
This is a unit in the process of becoming a legend in its own time.
I would like to make up an Order of Battle for the Tiger Forces. Any ideas? pl
"RAMOS: And that you won't deport immigrants who don't have a criminal record?
RAMOS: ... and those who don't have a criminal record.
CLINTON: Of the people, the undocumented people living in our country, I do not want to see them deported. I want to see them on a path to citizenship. That is exactly what I will do.
"RAMOS: And can you promise not to deport immigrants who don't have a criminal record?
SANDERS: I can make that promise."
Transcript of Debate on 9 March 2016
I decided that we would not have partisan arguments on SST but it seems to me that Clinton's and Sander's remarks concerning adult aliens in the US who do not have a criminal record (other than the illegal residence itself) would apply to all who are presently in the US or who will come in the future.
This is a matter of national import in terms of the ability to control immigration.
Surely the announcement of such a policy would trigger a mass effort to enter the US by any means possible. pl
Earlier today, [7 Mar 2016] Major General Suheil al-Hassan, commander-in-chief of the Tiger Forces, was officially deployed to the Palmyra frontline after carrying out two succesful offensives against ISIS at Kuweiris Airbase and along the Ithriya-Khanasser supply route to Aleppo city. According to intel delivered to al-Masdar exclusively, General Suheil Al-Hassan brought with him the ‘shock troops’ of the Tiger Forces and the Suqur al-Sahara Brigade (Desert Falcons).
Both these units are specialized in offensive warfare and outflanking ambushes; thus, their redeployment hints at the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) intentions to recapture the strategic city of Palmyra. This desert city holds several historical monuments which are listed at UNESCO’s World Heritage; however, Palmyra (often referred to as Tadmur) was captured by ISIS in March of last year and has remained under the group’s control ever since. (Al Masdar News)
Liberating Palmyra, the beating heart of Syria, will be an important psychological victory for Assad and the Syrian people. It will also be an important step in lifting the siege of Deir ez Zor. This R+6 offensive demonstrates who has the initiative. IS will now have to concentrate their forces to address this new threat, thus relieving pressure on other fronts.
To the east of Deir ez Zor, YPG/SDF forces are consolidating their hold on the countryside around Shaddadi. They will undoubtedly soon resume their offensive towards Deir ez Zor. If these two offensives are able to meet at Deir ez Zor, IS will truly have their nuts in a vice.
There is so much going on in the world that I want state my opinions during these interesting days. I don't claim that this is reportage, only my opinion:
ISW produced this map. SST thanks them.
Now that the government life-line road to Aleppo City is firmly re-established the time has come to pull the drawstring shut an complete the encirclement of the city itself.
The Gap between the Kurdish held area in the mouth of the Aleppo Gap and the government held area in Sheikh Najjar Industrial City appears to be about 2 miles across relatively easy ground. Given the way the R+6 forces and the Russian/Syrian air have been fighting this should be a very doable thing.
The Syrian government has no incentive to starve or bombard the Syrian civilians in the rebel held part of the city. The amnesty offer and Russian brokering mechanisms in place for post encirclement surrenders of non jihadi fighters (unicorns) have worked well in other parts of the country. Jihadis can be escorted out of the encirclement and into IS held country near Al Bab or into the mixed lot of rebels in Idlib Province where they can await their fate and final spiritual "victory."
The peace negotiations will be re-started soon at Geneva. The R+6 should get this done before that occurs. pl
I began this piece with these words.
We are responsible for the rise of Trump. Every time we have not made the extra effort, every time we leave something undone that has moral or spiritual and intellectual value, every time we don’t do something honest or good or worthy, we provide the soil for a man like Trump to rise and flourish.
We have allowed ourselves to become slaves to the poking of gadgets or TV news or reality shows --every time we let apathy overcome the force of effort and let us evades the effort required to read and study in order to understanding how the world works and our place in it we have created Trump. He is the mammoth created by our own laziness, ignorance and irresponsibility. Every time we tried to be just like everybody else we provided ground for the rise of Trump.
Our country was formed by aristocrats, men of learning and man of breeding. They knew that society is by nature aristocratic. They said so. The Founders were men of the world: they were lawyers, farmers, planter-business men, speculators, investors. They feared popular uprisings (Is not the rise of Trump a kind of popular uprising?) They were suspicious of democracy because they thought individual self-interest “the most dangerous and unbrookable quality of man,” and it was their aim to control it. They gloried in the feeling that they were doing something new that benefit the bulk of the people. They did not think that the superior person is a petulant individual who thinks he is superior to the rest. In their lives, they made great demands on themselves, piling up duties and displaying the stamina to conquer difficult obstacles; they were driven by their own idea of perfection and warned against excessive self-interest and greed and self-aggrandizement. People who had no ideal of perfection were chaff, and they were the wheat. No society was possible without moral and intellectual standards. It was the effort to develop them that infused pride to people’s efforts.
“There is a degree of animal spirits and showy accomplishment which enables its possessors to get a start in the majestic world, says Hazlitt. He goes on in another essay, to describe people who “strut and swagger and bluff and jostle his way through life, and have the upper hand of those who are his betters in everything but health and strength.”
The Founders, bewildered and speechless, would gaze helplessly at today’s political world.
"Final results from Iran’s February 26 elections to Parliament and the clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, show that the moderates have clinched a resounding political victory. In the 290-seat Parliament, the reformist allies of President Hassan Rouhani won at least 85 seats, while the moderate conservatives secured 73 seats. Together they will control the House. The hardliners, who were steadfastly opposed to Mr. Rouhani’s reform agenda, won only 68 seats. In the 88-member Assembly of Experts, the clerics backed by reformists and centrists claimed 52 seats. This is not the first time Iranian voters have spoken their mind against the hardliners. For the last many years they have consistently pushed reformist or less conservative candidates through Iran’s rigid electoral process. Still, last week’s twin elections were highly significant for Iran’s polity in general and Mr. Rouhani in particular for a number of reasons. This was the first election after Mr. Rouhani secured the historic nuclear deal with world powers last year, ending the country’s isolation in return for giving up its nuclear programme. The hardliners were opposed to the nuclear deal. Even the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had warned the political leadership several times against any rapprochement with the West. The hardliners had also opposed Mr. Rouhani’s plans to open up the country’s economy and reach business deals with overseas companies, including those from the West. " The Hindu
The MSM of the West seem uninterested in the results of the Iranian election. I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the political dance underway among moderates, hardliners and reformers. I look forward to a collection of knowledgeable comments on this subject. pl
Ratty is definitely on to something. To be on the water in any kind of craft can be therapeutic. IMHO the sound of the surf can only be equalled by the sound of the wind in the pines. Both together… heaven. You can’t buy that kind of therapy with a million dollars. One of the saddest things I often saw on the streets of D.C. was the herds of young, ambitious suits with ear buds in their ears, eyes and thumbs glued to their smartphones, totally oblivious to their surroundings. Borg aspirants, no? It is no wonder so much self serving and destructive idiocy is produced in Washington. As I have said for the last four years, I think we deserve a break... or at least a little vicarious diversion from the madness that surrounds us.
Once again, I invite the SST Committee of Correspondence to follow the running of the Everglades Challenge which begins this Saturday morning. The event is organized by a colorful group of adventurers who call themselves the Water Tribe. The Everglades Challenge is an unsupported, expedition style adventure race for kayaks, canoes, and small sailboats. It starts at Fort DeSoto in Saint Petersburg, Florida and ends at Key Largo. The distance is roughly 300 nautical miles depending on one's course selection. Updates on the progress and tribulations of the participants will be posted on the Water Tribe forums. The boats are tracked by SPOT satellite. Their progress can be seen on this tracking map.
To truly get a feel for this event, I recommend you set aside an hour and a half to view this video about 2013 running of the Everglades Challenge. There’s some excellent banjo and fiddle work as well. For a sense of the history of the area, here’s an interesting article about Chokoloskee in the Oxford American.
This year 98 boats will be taking up the challenge. Some will not make it to Key Largo. Some may not even make it to Fort DeSoto. It’s been said that half the challenge is getting to the start. I believe it. The winners usually make the voyage in two days or so. The allowed time limit for successfully finishing the race is eight days. I would take the full eight days. Why rush to shorten such a grand experience?
I discovered this event several years ago. It’s still on my bucket list, along with building the boat. As I approach 63, I’m not worried about running out of time. One Water Triber named Jarhead (a former Marine officer) is doing the Florida Coastal Challenge of about 1,600 miles. He set sail a week ago from the Alabama border, making his way along the Florida panhandle in his 21 foot Sea Pearl. By Wednesday evening he was approaching Fort DeSoto. This is the latest Water Tribe forum update on his progress as of 1700 hours, 2 March:
Just heard from Jarhead. He said he is not going to come into Ft. DeSoto tonight. He is going to head inside Anclote Key, drink a beer and smoke a cigar. He sounded great and said, "I love sailing again."
This old coot is 71 years old. BTW, before anyone takes offense, I look forward to being referred to as an old coot.
Yes, I still plan on doing this some day. In addition to building the boat, I have to obtain a release from SWMBO to undertake such a crazy-assed and dangerous adventure. She has stood by me through thick and thin and, quite frankly, has had her fill of my risking life and limb. She would be happy to have us live out the remainder of our lives quietly, happily and contentedly as hobbits in the shire. This sounds wonderful… but the ring still calls out for me.
"Over a hundred rebel unit commanders agreed to the ceasefire and signed a corresponding agreement. Over 1,000 militants laid down their arms in the Damascus province and have since been relocated from the battlefields.
Field commanders of Mujahideen Khora and El-Furqan formations which operated south of Damascus in the Kafar-Shams district likewise signed ceasefire documents, as did Maamum Shukru al-Habbusa, the leader of Burkan Khoran. This meant 600 more militants laid down their arms.
Two major formations in Deraa province, Armiya al-Ababil and Jaysh al-Yarmuk, agreed to the ceasefire and their leaders signed the declaration forms. This action took 2500 militants off the battlefield." Southfront
Wall to wall, the R+6 are progressing in the task of running a marvelously successful ANTICOIN campaign. The Syrian government has declared an amnesty for non-jihadi rebels. As you can read above that seems to be doing well. It is better to work on re-integrating them than to kill them all which is the alternative policy choice.
Across the country the war goes on against the jihadis. ground is being regained everywhere, ground that will be useful in the final battles needed to make Syria jihadi free. The attritional battle is also going well.
Turkey appears to be stymied by the threat of Russian arms and the War Party hawks in the Borgist US government is "turning and burning" in frustration. The post-Dempsey US Defense Department and JCS is now completely in the hands of the Borgist war party who obviously lust for a confrontation with Russia. It would be tempting to attribute this "bloody mindedness" to male hormonal excesses but, unfortunately the worst of the worst are women.
IMO the war in western Syria will be largely ended in the next couple of months. After that, the R+6 will make their contribution to the destruction of IS (the enemies of God).
The Iraqis? We will see... pl
PS Don't let Southfront starve to death. They are hard up. pl
Especially as the shattering scale of destruction becomes apparent – Poroshenko says that Ukraine lost two-thirds of its military equipment (just one video of dozens) – Westerners who have been misled by the propagandist character of their media outlets are ready to believe that Russia must have been supplying the rebels with weapons and ammunition. While it is likely that some stuff crossed the border, there is another source that few Westerners are aware of.
What most Western commentators do not understand is that the USSR was preparing to fight World War II all over again with huge armies fleshed out with millions of conscripts and reservists. Millions of soldiers need immense quantities of weapons and ammunition and they need them to be ready and waiting for them as they are mobilized Consequently there were arms dumps all over the western USSR. Most of these sites were named as the headquarters of a division which had a skeleton staff in peacetime but would receive a flood of reservists who would find everything they needed to go to war with waiting for them.
The Soviets divided their formations into 3 categories. As far as I can remember after thirty years, Cat I were fully manned, equipped and ready to go; Cat II were partly manned but fully equipped and Cat III were at much lower levels. The idea being that Cat I formations were ready to go immediately (when the Wall came down I remember learning that the units in East Germany were on 48 hours notice to move. A stance, by the way, that indicated they were not intending to attack; and since NATO wasn’t either, that’s probably why we’re all still here). The Cat II formations would be ready to go in a week or so, while the CAT III formations would take a few months.
The whole Soviet system was based on waves of attackers (echelons) attacking, one after another, seeking out the weak spots; reinforcing success. So the Cat I formations in, say, the DDR and Polish PR assumed support from Cat II formations in their rear, in the Belarussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR and so on; behind that were the reserves of Cat III divs in the RSFSR etc.
When the whole thing stopped, this system was torn apart. Russia assumed responsibility for the stuff in the Warsaw Pact countries and Ukraine, for example, nationalized what was in its territory. As to the forward-based Cat I formations, Russia wound up responsible for the equipment and moving it to Russia, as to the personnel, the conscripts went home and the various nationalities went to their own countries. In short, almost overnight a tank division all ready to go would be turned unto an understaffed pile of equipment waiting to be quickly moved into Russia. I don't think there were any Cat I formations in the Belarussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR; I think I remember that they were all Cat II there. These movements were accomplished quite quickly and the whole carefully constructed arrangement was destroyed. I used to explain what had happened with the analogy that Russia had got the spear head and Ukraine and Belarus had got the spear shaft; neither being much use without the other. But the enormous supply dumps necessary to bring Cat II divisions up to Cat I would have remained in Ukraine (and Belarus).
For some years Russia pretended that sites on its territory were actual divisions (I was in regular contact with our CFE and Vienna Document inspectors through this time) but the only things inspectors would ever find when they went to inspect the location of an so-called motorized rifle or tank division in the 1990s were fields of poorly maintained AFVs, officers and no troops. (We used to speculate that the secret that the Russians were guarding was that they had no soldiers – oh, they’re all out on a training exercise; oh yeah, with no officers and no equipment? But, as the CFE Treaty only covered equipment and the Russians were completely open about that, there was no problem.) Incidentally, training was impossible: I remember a Russian woman telling me that her brother was a company commander – he had two soldiers in his company! “Empty formations” was the expression used.
Then, suddenly one summer (I can’t remember the year: some time between the two wars in Chechnya), we received a blizzard of notifications (as required under the CFE Treaty) each saying something like “remove the xth MR Div from the list; enter the zth Storage Base at the same location”. When all this was completed, there was a much smaller number of divisions (which were gradually being transformed into independent brigade groups) and many storage bases. After thinking about it, we decided that the storage base idea was an attempt to provide employment in lieu of pensions for surplus officers. (In meetings at this time, the Russian military were always telling us that they simply could not afford the pension and housing obligations for the hundreds of thousands of unnecessary officers. Other ranks were easy to reduce, of course: as they’re conscripts, they can just be sent home early). These changes also recognized the reality that the old Soviet formations had gone forever.
Things began to change after this. I well remember one of the inspectors returning from an inspection of a brigade at Buynaksk in 1998 or 1999 quite excited: here, at last, was a complete formation with all the necessary equipment and men and (very significantly) a commander who commanded the whole thing. No more pretending that a handful of listless officers and field full of equipment would some day magically fill up with conscripts and become a real division. This process seems to have started in the North Caucasus and is one of the several reasons for the much improved Russian performance in the second Chechnya war.
So at the end of this process the Russian Army 1. had the beginnings of a rational structure (brigade groups) 2. had abandoned the fantasy that it was a huge multi-division army with a temporary manpower problem 3. pseudo-divisions with insecure storage of weapons manned by dispirited officers were transformed into something more secure and purposeful and the process of disposing of obsolete and insecure weaponry could begin. With money and a stable government since 2000, other improvements have been made as well.
Nothing like this happened in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. So one can expect the territory of Ukraine to be littered with piles of poorly guarded weaponry and “empty formations”. A Russian official recently confirmed this when he said: “When the USSR collapsed, the Ukrainian territory was replete with millions of guns, mines, artillery systems and other weapons. The area where the combat activities are held today, where Kiev leads its punitive operation, is no exception — there were weaponry warehouses which the militia seized.” Slavyansk, in particular, is said to have a particularly large dump in an old mine.
In short, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are in the sorry state the Russian Armed Forces were in the 1990s but with another decade and a half of neglect. Much of this decayed equipment doesn’t work any more, but, if you cannibalize 100 tanks and get 10 runners, that’s a lot better than nothing. And, it should be remembered, the Donbass is full of mechanics, technicians, artificers and so forth. To say nothing of plenty of people who through conscription and the Afghan war, know how to operate them. Most of the weapons used in east Ukraine are from Afghan war vintage; the BM-21 Grad, arguably the most important weapon in the rebels’ arsenal and responsible for fearsome destruction, for example, has been around since the 60s. And finally, a characteristic of a lot of Soviet equipment was that it was easy to operate and very very rugged. (Remember that these guys actually got a T-34 that had spent the last 50 years sitting on a concrete slab in the rain and snow up and running: all the points illustrated at once!)
The other thing I recall that we learned when it was all over, was that, in contrast to the Western style of having dumps in floodlit spaces surrounded by fences, barbed wire, armed patrols and so on, making the site very noticeable but strongly protected, the Soviet style was to have something much more discreet in an out-of-the-way place and rely more on silence to secure it (an old mine, of which there are many in the Donbass, would be ideal). Given that the USSR military headquarters was in Moscow, it is quite possible that the Kiev government doesn’t even know where many of these dumps are. One service that Moscow could be providing is to tell the rebels where to look.
So, I have no difficulty seeing the rebels coming across (or being directed to) a dump and getting weaponry and ammunition; they have people who can get it working again and plenty of ex-Soviet Army veterans to make them work. On top of that is the equipment captured when Ukrainian conscripts abandon positions (quite a lot – this site attempts to make a photographic record) and a few things bought or bribed. So far all they would have needed from Moscow is maybe some command and control equipment and target acquisition services.
So Ukraine's military problem today is that it has the two-decades decayed remnants of what was originally planned to be a first line of support for the best and most ready elements; never to be a stand alone force. And during this time Kiev has starved this remnant and sold off the best stuff abroad (Georgia got a lot from Ukraine). So, the rebels and the Kiev forces are much more evenly matched than would be the normal case in a rebellion against the center They are both learning on the job, but the rebels have much more motivation while Kiev has a larger stock of weaponry on which to draw.
Thus the rebels are doing better faster than would normally be expected and have a good stock of weapons and ammunition. This is one of the reasons why so many in the West believe that Russia must be helping them.
A two-part series in the New York Times (Feb. 28-29) gives details, some new, some not, on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's role in the 2011 decision to join France and England in attacking Libya. Ostensibly to protect civilians threatened by Qadafi, the joint venture under a UN resolution, ended in the death of Qaddafi, the failure of an interim government, the emergence of militia fighting, the entrance of ISIS, and today--chaos. That is the first installment.
The second installment goes on to describe the after-life of this failure: efforts to pull Libya back together, the increasing inattention by all parties, except the Libyans, to the growing disorder, failed efforts to rein in the militias, and the long-term consequences for the ME and Africa of the dispersal of Qaddafi's armory to Islamic forces.
What may be of particular interest here are the sources for the story, the influence (or lack thereof) by other Obama Administration officials, the role that Clinton and her deputies played in the decision, and the somewhat surprising, at least to me, claim that there was little official intelligence about Libya available as decisions were being made. Much of the "information" is said to have come from news stories.
I realize that many here are not Clinton fans. Be that as it may, what interests me is how the story lays out the decision and its aftermath.
" ... that state of affairs does not satisfy the SAA which ordered the Republican Guard’s 102nd Brigade and 416th Regiment to fully liberate Eastern Guta from the Islamists. SAA is supported by National Defense Force (NDF) militias and Palestinian Liberation Army units.
It appears that the attack will be focused on the Tel Ferzat heights and the agricultural college campus. These are the militants’ last strongholds in eastern Damascus.
Commandos of the 103rd Republican Guard Brigade are performing beyond reproach in Latakia’s north-east, where they are operating with naval infantry and volunteer formation support. Nearly whole region is now clear of the militants.
Syrian commandos forced Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham off two key heights and approached the border with Turkey which is now only 2km distant. A few more heights remain to be cleared of the Islamists.
Earlier reports that the main supply road to Aleppo was cleared proved premature. Tiger Forces did indeed clear most of the towns along the “road of life”, however it still remains under militant fire.
Tiger Forces with Hezbollah support finally threw ISIS out of Al-Hamam. The commandos entered the village last evening and then forced the militants to abandon it. Militant counter-attack had failed, with the loss of 30 of their comrades. Additional 40 were wounded.
Stubborn fighting against ISIS is ongoing along the Sheikh Hilal–Ithriyah road, which is a secondary supply route into Aleppo. SAA forces received significant air support which struck militant reinforcement columns coming from Hama. It is expected the opening of both routes is only a matter of hours, and then the path to Aleppo will be once again clear." South Front
I am beginning to appreciate this "cease-fire." In essence the R+6 war against jihadis will continue as will the US coalition struggle with IS. At the same time TTG's favorite Kurds (with the help of our GB brothers) will press forward with efforts as fine as the recent victory at Shaddadi. Politically, the Russian coordination center at Lattakia has hung out the welcome banner for more or less non-jihadi resistance groups. this is splitting off those groups from the jihadis whom, we should remember, are still legitimate targets and objectives for air and ground action. At the same time, a somewhat reduced operational tempo provides an opportunity to rest and refit troops/militias committed too long to continuous combat. pl
"Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iraqi army and police posts on the western outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 12 security forces and seizing positions in a grain silo and a cemetery, officials said.
The largest assault near the capital in months was still raging, said security officials who blamed Islamic State. A news agency that supports Islamic State said the group had launched a "wide attack" in Abu Ghraib.
Suicide bombers in vehicles and on foot attacked government positions 25 km (15 miles) from the centre of Baghdad and next to the international airport, government officials said.
Dozens of militants driving Humvees and pickup trucks fixed with machine guns attacked from the nearby Islamic State-controlled areas of Garma and Falluja, army and police sources added." Reuters
Well, so much for Iraqi government domination of the western approaches to Baghdad. The notion is laughable. IS in Northern Arabia may collapse from defeat in Syria and at the hands of the YPG Kurds. In that event the Iraqi "army" may re-occupy Mosul but that would be problematic in itself since IMO the Shia government in Baghdad will continue to oppress any and all Sunnis available for oppression. Like a leopard they cannot change their essential spots. pl
" ... the Saudis may be applying pressure to secure the release of a member of the royal family held in Lebanon since October on drug charges. Abdul-Mohsen al-Waleed Al Saud was detained in Beirut after authorities seized two tons of amphetamine Captagon pills before they were loaded onto his private plane.
On Wednesday, a Lebanese prosecutor indicted Al Saud of dealing and using drugs. Other analysts suggest Saudi Arabia may be seeking to compensate for its declining hold over Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia’s influence has been dwindling in Lebanon since early 2011 when Sa’ad Hariri was ousted. For the past two years, the Saudi-backed March 14 coalition has failed to see one of their leaders elected president. Now they are nominating legislator Suleiman Franjieh, a close ally of Hezbollah, for the country’s top job.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is boosted by recent victories in Syria. The resistance movement is fighting alongside the Syrian army against Takfiri militants supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies. “Saudi Arabia is feeling for a good reason that its influence in Lebanon is on the decline,” said Ayham Kamel, a Middle East expert with the political risk and consulting firm, Eurasia Group. “The Saudi message is don’t think you can translate victories in Syria and control the system in Lebanon. We have plenty of leverage through our economic muscles,” Kamel told the Associated Press." South Front
The Saudis should stick to their usual practice of the widespread distribution of money in Lebanon for the purpose of buying influence. This is their customary form of action and Lebanese of all confessions and classes are more than willing to participate. At the same time, most Christians, Sunni Muslims, Hizbullah and all the other associated Shia forces in Lebanon are determined to remain free of Saudi political control. This determination will not, of course, prevent the acceptance of Saudi money delivered through various "laundries." pl
Submit suggestions and I will judge the net of that. It will become a post on SST. It will stand forever triumphant against the machinations of the neocon/R2P hordes, maybe. pl
"While carcass candidates dance around life-and-death issues, the familiar flock of war vultures circle coolly overhead. Campaign promises notwithstanding, those who whisper in the ears of America’s front-runners are overwhelmingly united in further destabilizing and exploiting the Middle East.
Nation-states seeking sovereignty, independence, and equitable relationships with their neighbors may need to look to themselves for the leadership, strategy, and means to effectively resist a militaristic global tyranny. When looking to the US, it is prudent to consider what an unidentified Irishman purportedly observed decades ago: “…You can depend on Americans to do the right thing when they have exhausted every other possibility.” South Front
As I suspected, indeed knew in some cases, the neocons have once again succeeded in infiltrating major US institutions in pursuit of their goal of control through universal presence in the ante-rooms of power. In this case the institutions are the campaign staffs of ALL the remaining candidates. (Sanders maybe not?)
I would be curious as to whether Rand Paul's staff was similarly controlled. Perhaps it was not...
My guestimate just now, subject to future judgment as events roll out, is that Clinton's campaign will implode at some point and that Trump is likely to be the 45th president of the United States.
Will he prove biddable once in office? Only time will tell. pl
"The expanded interventions of Russia and Iran into the Syrian Civil War have shifted the trajectory of the conflict in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, granting him the strongest position on the battlefield as of February 24, 2016. Regime forces bolstered by Iranian ground troops and Russian air support have achieved major gains against both the Syrian armed opposition and ISIS in Northern Syria since September 2015, marking a fundamental shift in battlefield momentum following a compounding series of regime losses in the first half of 2015. President Assad now sits within reach of several of his military objectives, including the encirclement and isolation of Aleppo City and the establishment of a secure defensive perimeter along the Syrian Coast. The regime and its allies will likely retain their battlefield gains if there is no intervention by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or the UAE. Russian campaign designers have clearly planned the ongoing operations in northern Syria, introducing to the Syrian battlefield signature Russian doctrinal concepts such as frontal aviation, cauldron battles, and multiple simultaneous and successive operations. These have made the joint Syrian-Russian-Iranian military operations more effective for a longer duration than previous operations. The offensive operations conducted by the regime and its allies may nevertheless culminate over the 90-day timeframe, as pro-regime forces attempt to advance deeper into core opposition-held terrain and take high casualties. Regular reinforcement of ground capabilities by Iran and Russia will therefore remain necessary over the next three months in order to maintain this level of momentum in the face of continued manpower shortages, attrition, and opposition military actions designed to slow and divert the campaign." ISW
This is good work! I have a few quibbles but not many. I would argue that "signature Russian doctrinal concepts" displayed are really just military common sense applying the principles of war in a modern context without distraction by the COIN delusion. I would agree that military force presently available to R+6 for the post cease-fire war is marginal in numbers of units and the number of fighters. I continue to believe that ISW is correct in asserting that reinforcement of these numbers by Iran and Russia will be necessary for the re-consolidation of Syrian government control in some sort of political arrangement that will involve a substantial devolution of powers to regional alignments. pl
Friends & Colleagues
Writing critical commentaries in bold language has consequences. One of them is being placed on assorted “No Invite” lists. That shunning does have its compensations, though. It adds to the time available to indulge pastimes. Mine include viewing European detective film series.
They are instructive.
If I am not on more "no invite" lists than DR. Brenner, I wish to make a formal complaint to the Blacklist Section at AIPAC and its subordinate branch at the WH. BTW, we too, watch a lot of Euro crime. "Engrenage" would be my favorite. pl
THROUGH THE DETECTIVE'S LENS
Detective stories have been making a splash on European screens for the past decade. Some attract top-notch directors, actors and script writers. They are far superior to anything that appears over here – whether on TV or from Hollywood. Part of the impetus has come from the remarkable Italian series Montelbano, the name of a Sicilian commissario in Ragusa (Vigata) who was first featured in the skillfully crafted novellas of Andrea Camilleri.
Italians remain in the forefront of the genre as Montelbano was followed by similar high class productions set in Bologna, Ferrara, Turino, Milano, Palermo and Roma. A few are placed in evocative historical context. The French follow close behind with a rich variety of series ranging from a revived Maigret circa 2004(Bruno Cremer) and Frank Riva (Alain Delon) to the gritty Blood On The Docks (Le Havre) and the refined dramatizations of other Simenon tales. Others have jumped in: Austria, Germany (several) and all the Scandinavians. The former, Anatomy of Evil, offers us a dark yet riveting set of mysteries featuring a taciturn middle-aged police psychiatrist. Germany’s gem, Homicide Unit – Istanbul, has a cast of talented Turkish Germans who speak German in a vividly portrayed contemporary Istanbul. Shows from the last mentioned region tend to be dreary and the characters uni-dimensional, so will receive short shrift in these comments.
"If you watch this in its entirety (using subtitles which you have to turn on at the bottom of the video), you come away with the idea that the entire "treaty", or whatever, which the U.S. said from the very beginning that Russia would not adhere to and was not serious about, is, in fact, being implemented by Russia and ignore and undermined by the U.S. In other words, the entire purpose of the "treaty" was to be able to say that Russia was not adhering to it, when in fact it is the U.S. who is ignoring it while Russia is attempting to implement it. A gigantic, damnable deception intended to influence American public opinion against Vladimir Putin and nothing else. Thus, we can expect going forward nothing but lies and deceit on the part of the U.S. with regard to Syria, the goal always being regime change in Moscow. That's it. Very, very simple. That's our government at work. Unless of course, the Russian MOD presentation is just totally dishonest propaganda, and the U.S. is bending over backwards to implement the cease fire while Russia is sabotaging it. The U.S. and its allies, Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel. Do we have any more information about the article in the Jerusalem Post about dozens of Russian Generals being killed by a car bomb in Syria? " Bill Herschel
News Flash! - The Soviet Union is long dead and gone. We won that one but seem unable to move on to a world in which Russia is not necessarily an enemy of the US.
Senator Corker, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Senate, Joe Scarborough ("when I ran fer the House..."), General Breedlove (or some kind of ...love), SACEUR, Secretary Ashton Carter, SECDEF, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Lindsey Graham (TLOLFSC), etc. are all apparently committed to the notion that world affairs are like a primary schoolyard contest for domination and that the only thing that matters is to rule the playground. Lying and deception are clearly considered to be fair tactics in this global game of dodge ball.
How 19th Century! pl
Courtesy of ISW we have this depiction of the state of play in NW Syria as of 25 January, 2016. IS, Nusra and other jihadi groups have attacked the desert road from Ithriya east and then north through Khanassar north to Aleppo. This is presently the lifeline to all government held forces in the Aleppo area as well as the civilian population of the government held portion of Aleppo City.
The Syria civil war is not going well for rebel forces including the jihadi IS and Nusra. The war is going so badly for the allies of Obama, the Saudis and Erdogan that a diplomatic ploy is now underway to try to wrest victory from the jaws of defeat in the "cease-fire."
Apparently the preparations are nearly complete for a great kesselschlacht in Idlib Governorate. The R+6 forces stand on the heights above Jisr as-Shugur on the west in Lattakia Governorate. R+6 forces stand ready in the countryside west of Aleppo City. R+6 forces are ready to the south in the Homs Governorate. Russian and Syria air have complete air supremacy.
The desert road is merely a distraction at this point. The rebels should be crushed in Idlib and the M5 highway to the south opened to commercial traffic.
To do otherwise is to accept the BS being peddled on the diplomatic scene and a Syria that will eventually be a jihadi state. pl