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ISIS, Syrian rebels, and Stinger MANPAD Missiles

Next Cold War Roundup 1/6/16

ISIS, Syrian rebels and Stinger MANPAD Missiles

_ SkyNews claims to have received video from “Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters who took it from a captured Isis trainer in Turkey” shows ISIS modifying inoperable Stinger missiles from old Iraqi army stockpiles, replacing thermal batteries, a process that requires a high level of skill.  Stingers are US-made surface-to-air missiles that are highly portable (Man-Portable-Air-Defense-System MANPADS), heat seeking missiles that can be used to shoot down planes and helicopters. In Afghanistan, US-supplied Stinger missiles in the hands of the mujahideen were a devastating game changer against Soviet aircraft. This fact is still used today to ridicule and intimidate Russia and to try to scare them into abandoning their intervention in Syria.  One month ago, even Pres. Obama resorted to taunting Russia, referring to Afghanistan and the downing of passenger planes, which many analysts thought was an indirect reference to Stinger missiles:

“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 an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he’s looking for.”

_ Syrian “rebels” have been asking for Stinger missiles from the US.

As accusations that Russia is bombing “moderate” opposition in Syria instead of ISIS targets continue to mount, the Washington Post reportedon Oct. 2 that several rebel Syrian groups had asked the U.S. to supply them with air defense systems to counter Russian aircraft, which have been bombarding their positions.

_ The US foreign propaganda channel, Voice of America, using a photo of an “Afghan guerilla” holding a “US-made Stinger” warned (via anonymous US officials) in late October, that despite US refusal to provide “moderate Syrian rebels” with advanced weapons, they might fall into their hands anyway, via “US allies” or via Syrian exiles purchasing them on the black market.  Some MANPADS have been seen in use in Syria, but so far have not been widespread.

It may be just a matter of time before Russia’s continuing air assault on Syrian rebels persuades some of those backing rebel groups to even the fight by providing shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles.

_ From the same VOA article, an anonymous US intelligence official:

“Rumors of the impending provision of MANPADS to Syrian opposition forces reflect a desire to blunt the Russian actions by both opposition elements and some of their supporters,” according to a U.S. intelligence official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

“Such speculation further shows Putin’s actions are only making a bad situation worse,” the official added, calling an influx of MANPADs into an area with so many terrorist groups “beyond dangerous.”

_  This analysis of Baghdadi’s last speech shows him using , perhaps even manipulating the Quran to call on fighters to persevere and continue to follow him, wealthy donors to give generously, in a time of hardship by using the historical “battle of Tabuq” as a parallel and as a mandate to the fighters and donors.  Magnier believes this shows a weakened Baghdadi, compared to his 2014 self.

More Reactions to Saudi, Iranian Escalation

_ Kuwait recalled its ambassador from Iran, did not expel theirs as yet.

_ Washington Post editorial headline on Monday is quite shocking: “Saudi Arabia’s reckless regime

_ Saudis claim they’re not sabotaging the Syria peace process, that the tensions with Iran will have no effect on it. Both the US and UK establishment have publicly expressed grave concern about that.

_ “Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell said Sunday that Iran ‘acted responsibly’ in dealing with protesters who set the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran on fire this weekend.” So it seems that Morell is doing some damage control for Iran.  (Ret)Col. Pat Lang said “it was stupid in the extreme for the Iranians to not have guarded that building better. In fact, what better to remind the US of unpleasant common history with Iran? How dumb can one be?”

_ Anonymous Obama administration officials “expressed deep concern Sunday” about the effect on the peace process, the fight against ISIS and regional stability. An anonymous “U.S. official” said of the Saudis, “This is a dangerous game they are playing.”

_ Bahrain and Sudan severed diplomatic ties with Iran while UAE is “downgrading diplomatic ties” but not commerce, as many Iranian businesses are based in Dubai.  Meanwhile the Saudis are in the process of cutting some commercial ties, such as flights between KSA and Iran.  This is an interesting, perhaps telling, quote from Liz Sly’s Washington Post article (with emphasis added):

The rupture sets the region’s two biggest powerhouses on a collision course at a critical time for U.S.-led diplomacy in the Middle East, and it raised the specter of worsening violence in the countries where they back rival factions, such as Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

_ European Sympathies Lean Toward Iran in Conflict With Saudi Arabia. Even NATOman Carl Bildt is criticizing the Saudis, saying this “doesn’t bode well for the stability of the Kingdom.” A fellow from the German Marshall Fund said “The normalization of relations with Iran is almost going too well. So Saudi Arabia is now making a show of force.” There are many other statements from European elites in the article. And in the U.S.:

In an interview, Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and an authority on the Sunni-Shiite regional conflict, said that Western opinion in this case was weighted in Iran’s favor — in part because of the European Union’s desire for rapprochement with Iran.

_ Patrick Cockburn’s “Why stoking sectarian fires in the Middle East could be Saudi Arabia’s biggest mistake.”

Saudi rulers have faced serious challenges before, but they have never been faced with the degree of instability in states surrounding or close to the kingdom. There are wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, a guerrilla conflict in Sinai and street protests in Bahrain that could always become more serious. It should be much in Saudi Arabia’s interest to mitigate these crises but instead it stokes them but without any real plan on how to bring them to an end.

_ On Monday, Saudi foreign minister Al Jubeir paints Saudi Arabia as the victim, not the aggressor:

There is no escalation on the part of Saudi Arabia. Our moves are all reactive. It is the Iranians who went into Lebanon. It is the Iranians who sent their Qods Force and their Revolutionary Guards into Syria,” he said demanding Tehran “act like a normal country” before any talks of restoring the severed diplomatic relations.

_ Point of Interest: In May, the “White House rejected defense treaty proposal ahead of Gulf Summit

_ Point of Interest: From July: “Will the U.S. Fifth Fleet Relocate from Bahrain?

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel Axis

_ In late December, during Erdogan’s visit to the kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Turkey announced the intention to create a “strategic cooperation council” that “will deal with security, military, economic, trade, energy and investment between the two countries.” Last summer there was speculation that Turkey and Israel were rapprochement but Turkey had demands about allowing their goods to flow to Gaza though Hamas members feared Turkey would cave, to Hamas’ disadvantage. Pat Lang believes “there is a clear Saudi-Turkish-Israeli anti-Shia Iran axis emerging.”

_ Israelis, via a Jerusalem Post research poll, have chosen Vladimir Putin as their person of the year.

 Syria

_ I’m told that this is one of the reasons why the Saudis are freaking out — an Ahrar al Sham (Ahrar ash-Sham) leader was killed in Syria. He was a member of their Shura Council and just days ago had issued “a broad call for improved levels of unity among the armed opposition in #Syria.” He was shot while driving in Al-Farhaniya in northern Homs. (Point of Interest: Ahrar was the group who rescued NBC’s Richard Engel from his scam abduction in Syria. Prof As’ad AbuKhalil (aka Angry Arab) was skeptical about Engel’s story from the start as did Moon of Alabama. Engel’s abduction by alleged pro-govt forces was staged, as was the rescue by anti-govt rebels, Ahrar, though Engel probably didn’t know it at the time.)

 

Yemen

_ Two very credible analysts predict that while Iran wasn’t supporting the Houthis to any extent before, though they are regularly accused of it, they might do it now.

_ Speculation that Houthis may have shot down this Bahrain F-16 over Saudi Arabia as it was on a mission in the Yemen war

 

Ukraine

_ A new Gallup poll indicates that Ukraine’s “Life Ratings” are at a new low.  36% are suffering, 9% are thriving and 79% says economic conditions are poor. These are the ” worst ratings that Gallup has measured yet in that country” and “this depressed outlook permeates nearly every segment of Ukrainian society.”

_ I don’t know if this is significant or not

_ Ukraine claims that Christmas power outages were caused by a cyberattack with highly destructive malware, the first of its kind in a power grid.

_ Dmytro Yarosh, member of Ukraine parliament, Ukraine Defense Ministry aide, former leader of neo-Nazi extremist group Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor), open follower of WWII Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, was removed from Interpol wanted list on Jan. 2 without explanation.  He was placed on the list for publicly inciting terrorism after he called on a Chechen militant to do terror attacks in Russia. He had also threatened to destroy gas pipelines, etc. Yarosh was head of Pravyi Sektor until January, 2015 when he was wounded in battle at the Donetsk airport.

_ Right Sector is a political party and paramilitary group, which was later made part of the Ukraine armed forces despite its openly neo-fascist, neo-Nazi nature. Yarosh recently announced that he would rebrand Right Sector in 2016. Other neo-fascist groups in Ukraine have changed names and rebranded too after they gained international notoriety with torch light parades, Nazi and SS insignia, atrocities committed by shock troops in eastern Ukraine, accusations and evidence of sniper murders during Maidan coup, et al.

_ The fact that the media is noticing their extremist and neo-Nazi nature is relatively new. Western media, with few exceptionsvigorously tried to deny their neo-Nazi nature for two years when trying to gain support from the IMF, the EU and the international community for the post-coup government and their paramilitary groups and by the same token denied that many neo-fascists had made their way into high positions of the Ukraine government. For example, the commandant of Maidan security, Svoboda party Andriy Parubiy is a member of parliament and former appointed head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense even though there is evidence that his snipers were responsible for the Maidan massacre.  The situation reached the level of absurd long ago but more people are just starting to notice.

Libya

_ Will ISIS get some new smuggling going in Libya? Who will launder it?

_ Brad Hoff’s new article on the latest Hillary Clinton emails released: “New Hillary Emails Reveal Propaganda, Executions, Coveting Libyan Oil and Gold.” One email talks about the French motivation (emphasis added):

The email identifies French President Nicholas Sarkozy as leading the attack on Libya with five specific purposes in mind: to obtain Libyan oil, ensure French influence in the region, increase Sarkozy’s reputation domestically, assert French military power, and to prevent Gaddafi’s influence in what is considered “Francophone Africa.”

Most astounding is the lengthy section delineating the huge threat that Gaddafi’s gold and silver reserves, estimated at “143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver,” posed to the French franc (CFA) circulating as a prime African currency. In place of the noble sounding “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine fed to the public, there is this “confidential” explanation of what was really driving the war […]

Instead, the great fear reported is that Libya might lead North Africa into a high degree of economic independence with a new pan-African currency.

 

 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Libyan National Security Adviser Mutassim Gaddafi in 2009 (StateDept)
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Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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