Next Cold War Roundup 12-7-15
M/W/F 10ish Eastern
Crisis in Mosul Region. Reports of US Coalition Bombing Syrian Army Camp Near Raqqa.
_ Turkish troops moved into northern Iraq. Turkish trainers accompanied by Turkish security forces entered Iraq heading to a training camp near Mosul. Initially there were numerous conflicting stories about it but over the weekend it became clear that Iraq’s central government in Baghdad were alarmed and members of Iraqi parliament were calling for PM Abadi to issue an ultimatum, which he did on Sunday, giving Turkey 48 hours to remove troops from Iraq. Abadi said he will take the issue to the UN Security Council. Perhaps coincidentally, commercial air traffic in nearby Erbil airport was halted, also for 48 hours, because the Russian air force was in the area doing strikes. Or perhaps not coincidentally.
_ On Sunday, an alleged US-coalition air strike on a Syrian army camp in Deir ez Zor province killed and injured Syrian soldiers who were fighting ISIS on the ground and destroyed equipment and an ammunition depot. The Syrian government condemned it as an act of aggression and contacted the UN. US coalition spokesman denied it, saying their strikes were 55km away from the camp. “The Syrian foreign ministry said four coalition warplanes fired nine missiles at the camp in Deir al-Zour province on Sunday evening, killing three soldiers and wounding 13 others.” The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said US-coalition airstrikes did bomb the Syrian army Saeqa camp in Deir ez Zor. President Obama’s anti-ISIS coalition envoy used Twitter to deny it.
UK’s Sunday Times Journo Interviews Assad
_ Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to the Sunday Times, “‘Britain’s airstrikes are doomed to fail'” (paywall – read interview in full here) in which he said “Britain’s ‘illegal actions would serve only to spread the ‘cancer’ of terrorism”. European Union security agencies agree that Britain is likely to be the next ISIS target as recruits are being told to “return home and carry out attacks”.
_ Third round of talks on Syria crisis settlement will be held in New York, later in December. After these talks, the goal is to set up talks between Syrian govt and opposition in January and a nationwide ceasefire.
_ US establishing a military base in northeast Syria, according to Lebanese media and local Kurds
_ This article comes highly recommended as expert commentary from people who know Syrian institutions from the inside: “The Survival of Bashar alAssad: Geopolitics and the Resilience of the Syrian Army”
_ Kerry seems to be back on the “Assad must go” train. Now he is saying that in order to defeat ISIS, Assad must be removed from power. The goals of defeating ISIS and regime change in Syria are clearly conflicting goals. Most other countries have understood this and said ISIS must take first priority and once that is done and the country is not riddled by war, the issue of future leadership in Syria can be resolved via peaceful means. But the US, presumably because of their belligerent allies (mainly Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey), even after agreeing in Vienna to anti-terrorist priority, keeps returning to the “Assad must go” conditions on everything even though this is the condition that has complicated and dragged out the Syria war for years.
_ So much for having regional allies as the “face” for the war in Syria. “The international alliance to carry out air strikes against Isis in Syria has, in effect, become a purely Western enterprise with regional partners slipping away as more European states join the mission.” Biden’s assertion that this can’t be another western invasion of a Muslim country is not holding up very well.
_ A Saudi and senior al Qaeda (al Nusra) commander, al-Mheisny, was wounded by Russian airstrikes in “Turkmen” held area of northwest Syria. This is the area that western media has characterized as being held by “Turkmen militias”.
_ More on the agreement between Israel, Russia (Syria & Hezbollah via Russia).
_ Talk, not bombs, says a former ISIS hostage
Nicolas Hénin, previously held hostage by Mohammed Emwazi, implored the international community to seek a political solution. Engaging with Syrians, not bombing them, was the surest way to bring about the collapse of Isis, he said.
In a five-minute video said to have been recorded in the past few days in Paris and posted on YouTube by the Syria Campaign, Hénin said: “Strikes on Isis are a trap. The winner of this war will not be the parties that have the newest, most expensive, most sophisticated weaponry, but the party that manages to have the people on its side.”
_ Brookings Project “ISIS expert” says they’ve already collapsed
_ Progress in northern Iraq. Mitch Prothero on NPR talking about Iraqi troops fighting to retake Ramadi from ISIS.
Balkanization of Syria
_ We’ve seen numerous calls from the neocon camp for a slice & dice balkanization of Syria as the solution to the region’s problems. This op-ed pushes back against that idea, citing US RAND corporation experts who say “the only way to diminish Daesh’s expanding global influence is to cut off the financial sources fuelling the infamous terror organization and to disrupt its flow of foreign fighters.” They also ask the same question on everyone’s mind lately — why did the US not do this in the past year of fighting ISIS?
_ We’ve seen recent reports of Houthis advancing in southern Saudi Arabia. Saudis have now deployed their air force to try to stop the advance of the Yeminis: “Saudi Warplanes Drop Cluster Bombs on Own Soil to Prevent ‘Yemeni Forces’ Advances”
_ Italy’s prime minister says no to joining US coalition in Syria, says there is no strategic vision and it is likely to lead to more chaos. “The one thing we cannot allow ourselves is a repeat of Libya.” He said they did answer the call of France’s Sarkozy in 2011 and it was “not a happy decision” and it led to “more than four years of civil strife”.
_ On Saturday, a stabber in the London tubes case is being handled as terror attack because the attacker said “This is for Syria.” A citizen photographer captured part of of it on camera and his words have become the money quote for the incident.
Russia & Turkey Escalates
_ Turkish Stream pipeline project has been canceled. Big loss for Russia, Turkey and Greece. Others are likely to celebrate it (Ukraine, Israel, Qatar, NATO countries who coerced Balkan countries to block the Southstream pipeline)
_ Russian Ministry of Defense released another video of ISIS oil tankers at a border crossing near Reyhanli
The Russian Ministry of Defence released footage on Saturday showing a convoy of oil tankers believed to belong to the so-called Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL) passing through a Syrian-Turkish border gate near the city of Reyhanli.
The tankers are also shown passing through a compound, where one building is adorned with a Turkish flag.
_ President Obama had some harsh words for President Putin during a press conference in France last week in which he said their intervention in Syria has not been successful, mentioned two Russian planes shot down and taunted about Afghanistan, which could be viewed as Russia’s Vietnam. Soon afterward, Secretary of State Kerry said that Russia could be an “extremely constructive player” in Syria if “they’re focused on Daesh” and “genuine in wanting to be part of implementing the Geneva (accords)”. It was not clear what Kerry was referring to in this statement made after he attended NATO talks in Brussels.
President Obama: “The Russians now have been there for several weeks, over a month, and I think fair-minded reporters who looked at the situation would say that the situation hasn’t changed significantly. In the interim, Russia has lost a commercial passenger jet. You’ve seen another jet shot down. There have been losses in terms of Russian personnel. And I think Mr. Putin understands that, with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him to simply get bogged down in a inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he’s looking for.”
_ When first discussed White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the new deployment of troops is “not a change in strategy because U.S. forces have been conducting unilateral operations for some time.” The term “troops” or “boots on the ground” has morphed to “specialized expeditionary targeting force”. When asked what will happen to the targets if they are captured, the questions “were dodged and overall did not seem credible.” But later, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter addressed this issue, saying they were ‘eyeing a full range of options for ISIS detainees “including transferring the prisoners to U.S. law enforcement authorities.”
In the Navy
_ There’s a naval build up in the Eastern Mediterranean. In addition to Russian and Turkish ships, ten other countries have warships in the area. I haven’t see a full accounting of the NATO fleet but there are two aircraft carriers: USS Roosevelt and France’s Charles de Gaulle. Other NATO warships include “Portugal’s F-334 NRP Francisco de Almeida, Spain’s F-105 ESPS Blaz de Lezo, and Canada’s FFG-338 HMCS Winnipeg.”
_ Plus “three NATO warships also dropped anchor off Istanbul’s Sarayburnu coast on Dec. 6.” That’s in the Bosphorous.
_ Russia and Turkey have been detaining each other’s ships in the Black Sea for safety violations and the like. Most recently Turkey held four Russian ships at the port of Samsun.
_ Escobar describes whats going on between Turkey and Russia this way: “Now the CIA is on a mission from God” to save the “rat lines” on the Syria-Turkey border. He says they are scrambling to open up a new corridor through Afrin before the Syrian army and Russian air support get there.
Ukraine & Crimea
_ Government in Kiev continues to escalate the war in eastern Ukraine. If NATO continues to provoke a war with Russia, it will now be likely to happen on at least two fronts, Syria and Ukraine or possibly three if there is a provocation in Crimea. It remains to be seen how well Russia’s relatively small military could manage multiple fronts, though Ukraine being literally in Russia’s backyard would be a big factor.
The Ukrainian armed forces over the past week have redeployed to the contact line in the southeast of the country 277 tanks and heavy artillery pieces, spokesman for the Defense Ministry of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Eduard Basurin, reported today.
_ The first phase of energy bridges from Russia to Crimea was completed and 200MW is being delivered. Another 200MW will be delivered by a second cable by December 20, and 400MW more by May, 2016. To satisfy Crimea’s needs, 500MW are needed so the amount delivered by the end of this year will not be quite enough. The sabotaged power lines from Ukraine have not yet been repaired so while almost all the power needs will be met in the coming weeks, there will still be a shortage until lines are repaired or until the third phase of the supply from Russia is completed.
Op-eds on Coalition with Russia
_ “Coalition or Cold War with Russia?” by Stephen F. Cohen and Katrina vanden Heuvel who say that great leaders build great coalitions.
_ “Allying with Putin against the Islamic State would be a devil’s bargain” — by ultra nationalist Ukraine’s secretary of national security and defense council who, in his first sentence, invokes Stalin and even more ironically, Hitler and Nazi Germany and whose op-ed reads like something from Upside-Down World.
Other War and Peace News and Analysis
_ In other regime change wars, “Venezuelans will vote today in fair and transparent elections. But you wouldn’t know it from the US govt and media”
Israeli Defense Minister at Weekend Forum in US
_ Israeli Minister of Defense, Moshe Yaalon at #Saban15 (The 12th Annual Saban Forum):