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ISSG Negotiating Cessation of Hostilities, Saudi & British Troops Near Syrian Border

Next Cold War Roundup 2/12/16.

The Syrian war continues to become more complicated and escalates. The International Syria Support Group in Munich agreed to form a task force with dual goals of cessation of hostilities and humanitarian aid to besieged towns.  At the same time NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels making plans for “outposts” in Eastern Europe, naval deployments in Eastern Mediterranean to stop refugee trafficking, and participation in the anti-ISIS operations in Syria.  Armored columns of Saudi troops are moving toward the Syrian border in Jordan with British troops. The Turkish government continues to talk about invasion of Syria from the north. US airborne troops prepare to deploy in Iraq and may move into Syria from the east.  Russian prime minister Medvedev warns about world war.

 

Syrian War Dominates Munich Security Conference

_ Before the conference began (officially runs Feb 12-4) an anonymous Western official claimed Russia would propose a truce in three weeks.  “A series of multilateral and bilateral meetings are expected to take place on the sidelines of the conference.”  A Syrian official said the battle to retake the city of Aleppo would not be a long one. Aid workers said the water supply system is not functioning and two million people rely on it.

_ On Thursday the International Syria Support Group met. An RT journo staked out the 9+ hour meeting and did a quick periscope report. There are reports that Kerry in Munich made progress on reaching agreement on ceasefire and airdrop of supplies to 15 besieged towns plus humanitarian access by the UN.  “Participants said they had noted a new resolve in U.S. willingness to stand up to the Russians.” [Emphasis added]

Task Force to Work on Cessation of Hostilities

_ At the end of long talks, John Kerry, Sergey Lavrov and UN envoy Staffan de Mistura “fell short early Friday in organizing a truce” but announced they are working on a “cessation of hostilities“, a pause with an objective of reaching a long term ceasefire.  The plan was called “ambitious… with verifiable results within a week, revive the Geneva-3 peace talks, and immediately begin delivering humanitarian aid.”  AP’s Matt Lee emphasizes “#Munich talks on #Syria did NOT produce ceasefire or Cessation of Hostilities. Agreement to work out “modalities” of CoH not same as CoH.” He further clarified they “agreed to set up a task force to determine the terms.”

Aleppo

_ Swiss-based International Red Cross (ICRC) delivered food and water for about 10,000 people in northern Aleppo areas and said on Wednesday “More aid, including medicines, will be delivered in the coming days.” An estimated 50,000 people have fled Aleppo.

_ Syrian Kurds and the SDF recaptured a military base near “rebel-held town of Azaz in Aleppo province.

_ Turkey is still threatening a Syrian invasion with their PM talking about ‘historical debts to Turkey’s Aleppo brothers’.

_ CNN reported from inside Aleppo on Feb. 9, interviewed citizens, one of whom said because of the Syrian army they have survived hard times. Another said it would soon be over.  As cameraman strolls, you can see that the markets are full of produce and food.

 

UN Security Council Pressures Russia to Stop Airstrikes

UN Security Council. Dec., 2015 (by UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

UN Security Council. Dec., 2015 (by UUN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

_ At a UN Security Council meeting as members were pressuring Russia to stop bombing in Aleppo where they’re providing air support to a coalition fighting to retake Aleppo from jihadist groups, al Qaeda and ISIS, Russia’s UN ambassador was not happy about the humanitarian twist being put on an effort to save those “rebels”

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russian air strikes were being undertaken in a “transparent manner” and some Security Council members had “crossed the line” by politically exploiting humanitarian issues.

“They rather crudely use humanitarian matters in order to play, we believe, a destructive role as far as the political process is concerned,” said Churkin, adding that given the heightened interest in humanitarian issues, the council should also start regularly discussing Yemen and Libya.

_ Churkin reported that Russia would present some ideas for a truce at the International Syria Support Group meeting in Munich on Feb. 11. He said he has already discussed this with the US and has also talked with aid agencies and humanitarian organizations.

Russian Ministry of Defence & Anti-ISIL Coalition Spox Public Dispute

_ https://www.rt.com/news/332109-russian-jets-isis-warlords/

 

 “New Playbook” for NATO in Eastern Europe.

Secretary of Defense Carter speaks with reporters as he flies to Brussels to attend NATO meetings. Feb. 9, 2016 (by Dept of Defense)

Secretary of Defense Carter speaks with reporters as he flies to Brussels to attend NATO meetings. Feb. 9, 2016 (by Dept of Defense)

_ InFlight Presser: Sec. Defense Carter during a presser enroute to Brussels on Tuesday talks about the dual purpose of Brussels meeting:

  1. Administrative preparation for a summit this summer
  2. Ramping up of forces in Eastern Europe and the need to get more money from partner after US quadrupled support.

Carter: “NATO in its posture moving from reassurance, which is where we started two years ago, to a full deterrence posture in Europe of aggression, whether it be outright aggression or so-called hybrid warfare, and basically putting resources behind what I call NATO before — a new playbook for NATO.  It’s not going to look like it did back in Cold War days, but it will constitute in today’s terms a strong deterrent.” [Emphasis added]

NATO Ministers of Defence "Family Portrait" Feb. 10, 2016 in Brussels. (by NATO)

NATO Ministers of Defence “Family Portrait” Feb. 10, 2016 in Brussels. (by NATO)

_ At the NATO Ministers of Defence meeting in Brussels, NATO agreed to have a rapid reaction force of up to 40,000 air, naval and special operations unit forces and to build “a network of alliance outposts, forces on rotation, warehoused equipment and regular war games, all backed by a rapid-reaction force.”  Also planned is a “1,000-troop presence” in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.  An anonymous NATO official told AP that the proposal under consideration calls for “a brigade-sized force: roughly 3,000 soldiers.”

_ Forward Presence in Eastern Europe:”Enhanced forward presence“: NATO claims that these “outposts” are not like Cold War military bases.  Lithuanian Defence Minister Juozas Olekas told Reuters that the reason Russia is considered a threat is  “Moscow’s actions in Crimea, their support for separatists in Ukraine and their snap exercises that concern us”.  NATO’s secretary general says these are all defensive moves.  Russia disagrees, says they are not aggressive, and sees NATO’s continued advancement to their borders, now with military forces and “outposts” as a threat.  Poland is calling for permanent NATO bases.  Carter said he expects other NATO countries to “echo” the US quadrupling of funding.

E-3A Sentry AWACS. Spangdahlem AB. March, 2015. (by NATO)

E-3A Sentry AWACS. Spangdahlem AB. March, 2015. (by NATO)

_ Anti-ISIL CoalitionAnti-ISIL defense ministers from 27 countries also met in Brussels, including Iraq to discuss “accelerating ISIL’s defeat.” Stoltenberg said NATO would likely support U.S. request that “NATO Airborne Warning and Control System [AWACS] aircraft join the fight against the Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria.

_ NATO Assist on Refugee Crisis: NATO defense ministers are also “reviewing what the U.S.-led political and military alliance might do to help slow the influx of migrants into Europe by sea” which could mean even more ships deployed in the eastern Mediterranean. Germany’ defense minister said this is good and they are “aiming at stopping the business of the smugglers.”  Stoltenberg said Turkey and Germany wanted “assistance in the refugee crisis, possibly with sea patrols to thwart human traffickers in the Aegean Sea.”

_ Reaction: An op-ed in RT by Robert Bridge, titled “NATO mission creep in Eastern Europe fomenting Cold War II”, says “Using preposterous pretext of ‘Russian aggression’, NATO is putting in motion a dangerous dynamic in Eastern Europe that has every possibility of spiraling out of control.” Bridge says it won’t matter to Russia if the troops amassing on their borders are “permanent” or “rotational,” they will have a “constant presence” and “that is how NATO – not Russia – is aggravating tensions with Russia” and says that Pres. Obama has brought “US-Russia relations to their lowest point since Soviet times.” Russia’s envoy to NATO,Alexander Grushko, said Russia would respond to the buildup of NATO forces and that its borders “can’t be left without a military-technical answer.”

_ Reckless Escalation: Prof Stephen F.  Cohen considers the “new NATO playbook” to be a highly risky move that “recklessly escalates confrontation with Russia” and “risks turning the new Cold War into a hot one.” Cohen believes it will also undermine ongoing negotiations between Kerry and Lavrov on Ukraine and Syria.

_ Missile Defense: The new “forward presence” and bases on Russia’s borders aren’t the only way in which old safeguards against nuclear war between the US and Russia have been undermined. Plans to cooperate on missile defense were scuttled, nullifying a START treaty signed in 2010.

150K Multinational Sunni Arab Army Organized by the Saudis Doing Military Exercise in March

On Thursday, Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmad Asiri, a military adviser to the kingdom’s defense minster, said that the Saudis are willing to send — as part of an international coalition — ground troops into Syria to fight ISIS, the terror group that has captured swaths of territory in Syria during the war there.

And on Friday, two Saudi officials told CNN that the kingdom plans to run in March a multinational military training exercise — involving as many as 150,000 troops — to prepare for future anti-ISIS operations.

Most of the personnel will be Saudis; troops from Egypt, Sudan and Jordan have already arrived in the kingdom for the exercise, and troops from other countries — Morocco, Turkey, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar — are expected, the officials said.

Syrian Rebels Regrouping in Ankara

 Saudi and British Troops in Jordan Near Syrian Border

_ Reports are coming in of Saudi troops accompanied by British troops near the Syrian border.

“Long Saudis armored columns entered Jordan and moving towards the Syrian border, where the British and thearmies of several Arab countries will participate in maneuvers called ‘Thunder’, for which the London newspapers say they represent the exercise of opposing Russia.”

_ Has the “Race for Raqqa” begun earlier than expected?  This is potentially a huge development.

_ Russia’s prime minister Medvedev told German media that “sending foreign troops into Syria could unleash ‘yet another war on Earth.'”  This has been translated as “world war” by many news agencies and reported as such.  Medvedev was commenting on recent statements from Saudi Arabia about sending ground troops into Syria under US leadership.

“The Americans and our Arab partners must think well: do they want a permanent war? Do they think they can really quickly win it? It is impossible, especially in the Arab world. Everyone is fighting against everyone there,”

Saudi Defense Minister Attended NATO Meeting

_ “On the sidelines of the Brussels meeting, Carter also met with Saudi Defense Minister and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, whose country is also a member of the coalition.” Carter’s spokesman said the Saudis want to “expand their role in the US-led air campaign.” Saudis have also said they want to deploy special forces if the US deploys ground troops in Syria.

NATO May Join Anti-ISIS Coaltion in Syria as a Member

_ Sec. Defense Carter: “Thanks to the leadership of NATO Jens Stoltenberg we are exploring the possibility of NATO joining the coalition as a member itself,

War Crimes Investigator Says Russian Intervention Finally Attacking Terrorist Groups

_Carla Del Ponte, “currently probing rights abuses in Syria” told a Swiss public broadcasting station “Overall, I think the Russian intervention is a good thing, because finally someone is attacking these terrorist groups.”  She was referring mainly to al Nusra (al Qaeda) and ISIS. She also added that they “are not distinguishing enough between the terrorists and others, and that is not as good.”  Del Ponte is well known for war crimes investigation in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. She said that Assad should be included in the negotiations because negotiating with the government is necessary to get ceasefires and peace.

Wyden Asked Brennan for Apology for CIA Spying on Senate Intelligence Oversight Task Force.

_ Brennan reacted badly to the request for apology when the CIA spied o the oversight task force investigating it for torture.  Here’s a six minute clip of the exchange from C-SPAN.

Iraq

_ Iraqi Shia militias claim that US special operations forces just evacuated ISIS leaders out of Fallujah. They made a similar claim of Ramadi some weeks ago.

“BAGHDAD / NINA/ Sources in the popular defense force revealed that US aircraft landed in Fallujah to smuggle important leaders in the organization Daash out of the city.

A statement by the military media team of the popular defense forces said “special intelligence sources of the popular defense forces spotted US aircraft landed in Albu Araim orchard in Fallujah to smuggle important leaders of Daash,” pointing out that” another US plane was flying to protect the site where the plane landed. ” / End”

Analysis of Likely Scenarios if Turkey Invades Syria

 

SITREP

 

A portrait of Younous Abdurrahman Chekkouri in an orange prisoner's jumpsuit. After being imprisoned for 13 years without charges in Guantanamo Bay prison, Yunus was sent to Morocco last week, where he remains in custody. (Reprieve)
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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.