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Negotiations On Syria Continue Today In New York

Next Cold War Roundup 12/18/15

M/W/F 10ish AM Eastern.

Some significant events have occurred over the past few days related to the war in Syria and Iraq and the relations between the US and Russia.

_ John Kerry met with Russian FM Lavrov and Pres. Putin and the outcome was that while ther are differences, the US and Russia plan to keep working together on a solution for Syria and an Assad regime change is not a pre-condition. Russia agreed to go ahead with talks today at the Palace Hotel in New York (in the Vienna format) which will include some Syrian opposition under the moderation of the UN.

_ Finance ministers from major UN Security Council countries met and emphasized the implementation of resolutions which restrict sources of financial income for ISIS, signalling a more serious effort

_ VP Biden called Turkey’s Pres. Erdogan and told him to pull any unaurthorized troops from Iraq

_ US pulled 12 fighter jets from the Turkish air base in Incirlik. There have been speculation about the reason for that withdrawal (but some errors in that analysis since the air defense cited in that article does not belong to the Russians).

_ (More information on these events below)

Negotiations on Syria Continue Today at the New York Palace Hotel

_ After some issues were worked out, negotiations talks will continue today at the New York Palace Hotel.


ISIS Source of Income

_ China’s resolution to restrict ISIS financing passed unanimously in February but has not been very effective.  UN Security Council held a meeting of finance ministers for the same purpose but hopefully with more teeth and implementation.  “The 15-member council unanimously adopted a U.S. and Russian-drafted resolution that ties together existing measures targeting Islamic State’s finances and offers guidance on implementation in a bid to push more countries to act.”

_ At a press stakeout, a Syrian representative said there is a “global framework” which pulls together other previously passed counterterrorism UN resolutions and that a new resolution was not really needed — what was needed was real implementation of the old ones.  He also mentioned that some Western countries had gotten in the way of that.


_ John McCain is furious with John Kerry and Pres. Obama after Kerry’s visit to Moscow.  Based on the reactions and reporting, it looks like the outcome might be different than that of the Sochi meeting in May when Kerry’s agreements were reversed within days by Victoria Nuland backed by Pres. Obama.

“The pandering to Vladimir Putin is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in any president,” he said of President Obama.

“You’d have to go all the way back to Neville Chamberlain in Munich to see this kind of pandering towards Vladimir Putin,” he said, comparing Obama to British prime minister who gave concessions to Adolf Hitler.


Now we don’t have to get rid of [Syrian leader] Bashar al-Assad, everything’s fine with the Russians, we are going to get along with Vladimir Putin.”

[Emphasis added]

_ USS Harry Truman “and its accompanying carrier strike group will join the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle in the Gulf“. The USS Roosevelt left the region in October. They passed through the Suez Canal on Tuesday.  Spox said “we plan, particularly with regards to Syria, to thicken the air campaign”.  On Wednesday, the US announced that F15 fighters at the Incirlik air base in Turkey will be leaving Turkey and returning to the UK. while “U.S. Air Force A-10s, remotely piloted aircraft and other Coalition aircraft will remain at İncirlik”. However, recent reports about the French carrier Charles de Gaulle said it was in the eastern Mediterranean, off the Syrian coast.

_ The R4+1 coalition continues to make progress in northwest Syria, in the Latakia region, taking control of Jabal al-Nawba, which overlooks Salma.

_ Kuweires, an important air base in the Aleppo region was recovered (seige lifted) by the R4+1 coalition and NDF local defense forces in November and continued securing areas around the base to make it safe for operations.. These mid-December reports show fighter jets and helos now operating from the air base.


List of Terrorist Groups

_ Jordan is tasked in designating which “rebel” groups are actually terrorist groups, disqualified from negotiating and participating in a future broader government in Syria:


_ Earlier this week, Turkish soldiers and Sunni fighters were killed and injured in a camp near Mosul by reported ISIS rocket fire.


_ Ukraine owes Russia $3 billion, with payment coming due within days. Ukraine has argued that this is not a state-to-state debt but a private debt that should be subject to “haircuts” like the ones negotiated with private creditors in order to avoid a technical default. The IMF finally made the obvious ruling that it is a sovereign debt. Interestingly, at almost the same time, a decision was announced that the IMF chief, Christine Lagarde would face a trial in France for an unrelated matter from her days as finance minister there.  IMF rules require sovereign debts to be paid before bailout payments can continue, but they’ve bent the rules for the most recent bailout payment.  Russia offered to spread out the payments but refuses to take a “haircut” on the amount owed. Ukraine’s official response on Thursday was that it “cannot pay the bond debt without violating its deal with other international creditors.”  This has been a political battle for a long time, with heavy influence by the US, Ukraine’s American finance minister and American commercial creditors.

_ Ukraine Interior Minister Avakov and Odessa Governor Saakashvili almost came to fisticuffs this week. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, rumored to in danger of being ousted and replaced by Saakashvili (a McCain protege), is an ally of Avakov.  Poroshenko took Saakashvili’s side, according to Stephen Cohen (discussion of the incident at 15:00 here).  For some of the transcript of what they were arguing about, see here and here)

_ Wes Clark is still pushing for the US to arm Ukraine, as noted in this column by a member of the extremely hawkish Atlantic Council, bent on full out war with Russia and regime change.

Russia and US

_ Katrina vanden Heuvel has a must read article in the Washington Post on the increasing threat of nuclear confrontation or accident between the US and Russia, and on how we got here.  Former secretary of defense, William Perry, admits that we started down this dangerous path on his watch, when NATO kept moving East toward the Russian border, despite agreements not to do so when the reunification of Germany was negotiated. Today, NATO and therefore the confrontation between Russia and the US is right on the Russian border in several places, but most importantly in Ukraine.

_ Clinton’s secretary of defense, Perry, says the NATO expansion in 1996, Bosnia, was a mistake and it began the slippery slope of the destruction of relations with Russia.  He also said shutting down military-to-military relations during political squabbles is “stupid” and “that’s the time when you need you’re military to military relations most of all.”

_ Podcast of this week’s radio talk with John Batchelor and Stephen F. Cohen on Russia, US, NATO, Ukraine, Syria. Cohen talks about John Kerry’s visit to Moscow and says he believes that Kerry is transmitting his point of view on Russia and the Middle East war, but he’s not sure if Kerry’s view is aligned with Obama’s, mainly because of what happened in May after Kerry’s talk with Putin and Lavrov in Sochi, after which he was contradicted by Victoria Nuland, backed by President Obama.

Western Media at the Russian Air Base in Syria

_ Neocon hawks cannot be happy as they watch CNN reports from Hmeymim, the Russian air base in Latakia.  In the same week, Russia also invited journalists to view their much touted air defense “shield”, which includes S-300 systems on board the guided missile cruiser Moskva that patrols the coast of Syria in the Latakia region, and the S-400 system deployed at the Hmeymim base also in Latakia.

Coalition of the Surprised

_ “‘Members’ surprised by Saudi anti-terror coalition plan“. This comes from the BBC which puts in doubt support from the West for this mysterious coalition.

 The Mysterious Free Syrian Army

_ Both the Americans and Russians claim to be working with the mysterious Free Syrian Army.  The Russians just named four groups they are working with: Ganim (Ghaneem), “Desert Lions”, Kalamun (Qalamoun), and “the Democratic Forces.” FortRuss says this about the FSA groups named by the Russians: “These units are almost certainly the ones Russia assembled, consisting of Spec Ops.


_ Naval “microaggressions” between Turkey and Russia continue




Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

Joanne is a blogger with focus on issues of war and peace, a mom, engineer, software developer and amateur photographer.