Next Cold War Roundup 2/10/16.
Kerry Rebukes Syrian Civil Society Activists at Cocktail Reception Hosted by Prince Charles During Syrian Donors Conference in London.
_ Over the weekend, Middle East Eye reported about a sideline conversation between John Kerry and some “aid workers” at a cocktail party reception hosted by Prince Charles at the Lancaster House in London during the Syria Donors Conference
“Kerry left the aid workers with the distinct impression that the US is abandoning efforts to support rebel fighters.” […] “He said that basically, it was the opposition that didn’t want to negotiate and didn’t want a ceasefire, and they walked away” […] “‘What do you want me to do? Go to war with Russia? Is that what you want?’” [… ] “Both aid workers said Kerry told them that he anticipated three months of bombing during which time ‘the opposition will be decimated’”. [Emphasis added]
_ The New York Times reported several days later about the same conversation, after it was discussed in a State Dept briefing where the State Dept. Spox Kirby did not deny that the conversation took place though he said he wasn’t privy to it. (State Dept. Briefing transcript). Another point of view is that Kerry’s frustration stems from the fact that the US is running out of influence as Syria and its allies are continuing to advance and therefore US wants to get negotiations done while it still has reasonable bargaining power.
Neoliberals Heavyweights “Responsibility to Protect” R2P Rant in Washington Post and New York Times
_ Washington Post published a very “loud” rant by Michael Ignatieff (former leader of Canada’s Liberal Party) and Leon Wieseltier (a former editor at The New Republic) that calls for US intervention in Syria, the imposition of a no-fly zone north of Aleppo, even if it causes a “great-power confrontation” because they believe that the risk of starting a war with Russia “is no excuse for doing nothing.” They base their demands on humanitarian reasons but also say things like this: “The Russians and the Syrians would immediately understand the consequences of U.S. and NATO action: They would learn, in the only language they seem to understand, that they cannot win the Syrian war on their repulsive terms.”
_ The New York Times, one day earlier, had published a similar column by Roger Cohen titled “America’s Syrian Shame” in which he references a white paper by Michael Ignatieff at the Harvard Kennedy School, ending by quoting Ignatieff: ““If we allow fear to dictate policy, terrorists win.”
Millions of Refugees Inside Syria
_ The Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, complained that while $14.5 billion was raised for neighboring countries, no money was raised to help the Syrian government with the 6.5 billion internally displaced refugees (IDPs). “The internal conflict, instability and humanitarian crisis in the country have forced millions of Syrians to flee their home, becoming either internally displaced or asylum seekers searching for refuge abroad.”
_ Within the past week, Washington Post has reported that the Syrian rebels are losing Aleppo and possibly the war and ISIS is “no longer formidable”. Turkey’s prime minister said there are as many as 70,000 people fleeing toward their border and an aid agency said this is a humanitarian nightmare.
_ Syrian army and their allies with Russian air support are encircling Aleppo. The eastern half of the city is held by a coalition of rebel groups and al Qaeda and an “estimated 320,000 people” still live there. Institute for the Study of War says if if Aleppo is fully surrounded it will be “shatter opposition morale, fundamentally challenge Turkish strategic ambitions, and deny the opposition its most valuable bargaining chip before the international community.” Rebel groups are looking to consolidate alliances with other groups.
_ Washington Post’s Liz Sly and Zakaria Zakaria signalled the importance of the recent advances on Aleppo by saying the rebels are losing Aleppo “and perhaps also the war.”
— Al-Masdar News (@TheArabSource) February 4, 2016
Refugees Flee Aleppo Area
_ Fighting and bombing in the area have caused tens of thousands to flee toward the Turkish border.
_ Russia signals that they are preparing the Syrian army to “repel any Turkish incursion.”
Turkey Tells US to Pick a Side
_ Obama’s envoy, Brent McGurk, visited Kobani. Erdogan says he should choose who is his ally, Erdogan or the Kurds. “How can we trust you? Is it me that is your partner or is it the terrorists in Kobani?”
_ On Monday, State Dept spokesman said Syria’s Kurds, PYD, are not a terrorist organization. Turkey summoned the US ambassador over it.
ISIS and Al Qaeda
_ U.S. intelligence and defense officials are concerned that “U.S. strikes against the self-proclaimed Islamic State have had an unintended beneficiary: al Qaeda.” “From Libya to Yemen to Afghanistan, al Qaeda has managed to dig in and survive, largely by insinuating itself into local populations and rebranding itself as the world’s more reasonable global Islamic jihadist movement.” Because al Qaeda has teamed up with local forces, “one-time Western foes are unwilling to attack them.” This is an intelligence official awkwardly trying to explain why the Saudis won’t attack al Qaeda in Yemen and surprisingly admits “U.S.-led coalition in Syria has been reticent to strike al Nusra, allowing the group to switch alliances as needed to survive the war there.” [Emphasis]
According to some chatter the plane may have been shot down. This is unconfirmed. #Libya
— Michael Horowitz (@michaelh992) February 8, 2016
Will Saudi Ground Troops Deploy in Syria?
_ After their proxies left the Geneva 3 peace talks, the Saudis are offering ground troops to fight with the anti-ISIS coalition. Syria reacted by saying if the Saudi military came to fight in Syria they’d go home in wooden boxes. The commander of Iran’s Republican Guard said he doubts they will come but if they do it would be suicide. Robert Fisk speculated on why the Saudis made this offer.
— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) February 9, 2016
_ Saudi surrogate says what the Saudis would like to do, if they can arrange with the U.S. to get their ground troops into Syria, is to threaten that if Assad doesn’t go, they’ll split Syria into East Syria and West Syria
_ Saudi foreign minister is in Washington. Met with Sec. State Kerry for an extended period of time.
_ German media DW published an op-ed saying that Saudi deploying troops to Syria “is a highly perilous proposition” and the Saudis have a “dangerous love of adventure.” Germany’s BILD reported that German intelligence is cooperating with Assad.
"I don't see taking Mosul for the next year," spy chiefs say at #SASC threat hearing
— Ali Watkins (@AliWatkins) February 9, 2016
Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Global Threats
_ DIA Lt Gen Stewart said, in Senate Armed Services committee hearing Tuesday, when Saudis offer ground troops for Syrian war as long as they fight under US leadership, they’re really calling for more US troops on the ground in Syria. “More skin in the game.” DNI Clapper said “Manpower shortages will continue to undermine Syrian regime’s ability to accomplish strategic battlefield objectives” and said that ‘Iran continues to be the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.” Clapper’s opening statement is here (PDF). DIA Director Marine Lt. Gen. Stewart submitted a statement for the record here (PDF).
DIA Director Stewart at HASC:
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) February 9, 2016
_ Shadowproof’s Dan Wright on the Scott Horton show discussing “why the US Congress lifted a ban on funding Ukraine’s neo-Nazis, and how their nonstop warmongering could start an apocalyptic nuclear war with Russia.”
_ Kiev government objected to a French documentary on the Maidan that did not follow their official narrative.