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U.S. Proxies Clash in Syria, Pentagon Expects to Increase Troops in Iraq

Next Cold War Roundup 3/28/16

When a story about different flavors of US proxy ground forces in Syria fighting each other is going viral, perhaps it is not the best time for the Pentagon to push for more troops in the Middle East. But that is what’s happening.  More details from a leaked Congressional briefing with Jordan’s King Abdullah are out.  Major news of Syrian forces retaking all of Palmyra is slowly being reported by western media and with mixed emotions. Suicide bombings in Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan. Libya’s new unity government will attempt to take over very soon if they can get into the country.

US is Backing Opposing Sides in the Syrian War

_ CIA-backed rebels are fighting with Pentagon-backed rebels in Syria.  An article by LA Times journos published in the Chicago Tribune says that this highlights “how little control U.S. intelligence officers and milityrary planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter 5-year-old civil war“. The CIA-backed “Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness”, affilated with the Free Syrian Army, was attacked by the Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, 80% Kurdish).

_ it’s interesting that this is being reported in the MSM.  It’s also interesting that they use the term “war-machine” in the lede.

Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border […]

_ Parts of the Chicago Tribune article read almost like a parody piece.  California congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence committee, said “It’s an enormous challenge […] It is part of the three-dimensional chess that is the Syrian battlefield.” A member of another CIA-backed rebel group said “The MOM knows we fight them,” referring to the CIA’s operation room just across the border in Turkey (MOM) knowing that the rebels are fighting SDF.

_ LA Times published the story in their Sunday edition the next day.  NY Times David Ignatius (intelligence community’s favorite conduit) tweeted about it.  Someone wants this story to go viral. And the timing is such that this is happening at the same time that the Pentagon is making public that they are pushing for more US troops to be deployed in anti-ISIS operation in Iraq and Syria.

More US Troops in Iraq

_ The Pentagon is preparing “ proposals for President Barack Obama on an expanded role for the United States in Iraq, after a deadly week in which members of the terrorist group killed more than 30 people in Belgium.” Gen. Dunford said he expects “more ground forces in Iraq […] the secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks.” Dunford didn’t say how big that increase would be.

_ “U.S. is stepping up its offensive in Iraq and Syria, including increased military operations, additional U.S. forces and targeted raids to wipe out the militant group’s top leadership.” The Pentagon said ISIS has lost 20% of it’s territory in Syria and 40% in Iraq, and an ex-State Dept. counterterrorism expert, Daniel Benjamin, says this will likely result in more attacks on Europe and the West.

More Details from Leaked Congressional Briefing With Jordan’s King Abdullah

_ Middle East Eye (MEE) is reporting more information from that briefing King Abdullah gave to high level members of US Congress in January.  MEE claims to have seen a “detailed account of the meeting. Two Jordanian special forces battalions were used in covert missions in Syria.

_ One Jordanian battalion is described as ” drawn from men from Syria’s southern tribes” and led by a Syrian commander and was “assessed by the British.”

_ At the January briefing, Abdullah said the second battalion was moving toward the al-Waleed border crossing (Syria-Iraq border crossing, 240km southeast of Palmyra).  In early March the crossing was reported to have been taken by “US-backed ‘New Syrian Army‘ rebels.” MEE sources said that “Jordanian forces helped the rebels retake the crossing” from ISIS.


Bilateral Meeting in Moscow — He Said, He Said

_A deputy foreign minister in Russia claims that the US has softened its position on Assad and the State Dept. claims they haven’t. State Dept. spokesman John Kirby: “Any suggestion that we have changed in any way our view of Assad’s future is false. Assad has lost his legitimacy to govern. We haven’t changed our view on that.”


Another No. 2 ISIS Leader Killed

_ On Friday the Pentagon reported that ISIS No. 2 leader, a finance minister, was killed after an attempt by US special operations forces to capture him “but at the last moment something happened that caused them to decide to fire on the vehicle instead.” Sec. Def. Carter said “We are systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet” and Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli  (aka Abu Ala al-Afri) was the second ISIS leader killed “successfully targeted this month.”

_ In May 2015, the Iraqi Defense Ministry reported al-Qaduli killed by an air strike but CENTCOM “debunked the claim.” Qaduli was a physics teacher from Mosul, trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 1998, and returned to Iraq to join al Qaeda in Iraq in 2004. Qaduli was released or escaped from prison in Iraq in 2012 and in 2015 became ISIS chief al-Baghdadi’s deputy.

Syrian Forces Retake All of Palmyra

Reactions to Retaking Palmyra from ISIS

Syrian Battlefield

_ “Rift grows between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS

Soccer Stadium Suicide Bombing in Iraq

_ Suicide bomber blew himself up in a soccer stadium in Iskanderiyah, south of Baghdad, killing at least 29 and injuring 60.  ISIS has been “waging a campaign of suicide bombings in and around the capital.” This attack will not receive even a small percentage of the amount of attention that European attacks had in the US.

Multiple Car Suicide Bombings in Yemen

_ Three vehicle suicide bombings at checkpoints on the outskirts of Aden were conducted on Friday, killing at least 22 people. The checkpoints were controlled by Yemeni loyalist forces. “Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are known to operate in the city. ”

Easter Bombing in Pakistan

_ The Pakistani government and military promise to launch a “paramilitary crackdown on Islamist militants in Punjab” after a suicide bombing in a public park in Lahore killed 70 people and injured at least 300.  “Pakistani Taliban’s Jamaat-ur-Ahrar faction, which once declared loyalty to Islamic State” claimed to have carried out the bombing and said it was targeting Christians though most of the people killed were Muslims.  At least 29 children were among the victims. Five raids were conducted and Pakistan’s PM “Nawaz Sharif said the nation’s resolve to deal with militants was growing.”

Libya’s UN Appointed Government Will Attempt to Take Control in “Coming Days”

_ Tripoli is on maximum state of emergency on Friday as the UN-appointed “unity government” “said its members would head to Tripoli to begin work, despite not being recognised by either of the country’s parliaments.” The unity government is in Tunisia and expects to try to install itself in Libya “within the coming days.”

_ On Wednesday the UN envoy Mark Kobler was “prevented from travelling to Tripoli to work on installing the power-sharing administration.” Kobler said he “had been forced to cancel a flight to Tripoli because he had not been granted landing rights by the self-declared government there.” The current prime minister in Tripoli, Khalifa Ghwell. said said Kobler and the UN “risked creating ‘chaos’“.

_ Kobler said ISIS “takes advantage of the political and security vacuum and is expanding to the west, east and to the south.”

_ In a CNN opinion piece, David Tafuri, a lawyer for the Libyan opposition and government from 2011 to 2014, wants the US to commit more military forces  in Libya.  He just returned from Libya and says there are up to four competing governments depending on how you count them and the  “situation is deteriorating” and “on the verge of implosion.” Tafuri details his view of the situation in various areas of Libya. Tafuri details the things the US must do to “to foster conditions inside Libya that will enable [the unity government] to be received.”

_ The Pentagon submitted a plan to the White House in early March for fighting ISIS in Libya where they would “cripple ISIS in Libya with an air barrage.” US special operations forces have been on the ground in Libya for months along with special forces from other western countries. The New York Times reports that the administration was “surprised” by the Pentagon plan and it “drew warnings from some State department officials”.

Revisionism About the 2011 Libyan War

The Big Lie About the Libyan War

Saudi Elections

Al Qaeda Allegedly Shot Down Emirati Fighter Jet With MANPADS From Weapons Store Supplied By US

_ The Independent is reporting that the Emirati jet, part of the Saudi-led coalition, that crashed into the side of a mountain near Aden on March 14 didn’t go down because of a “technical malfunction” but instead was shot down by al Qaeda with sophisticated surface-to-air missiles which came from a store of weapons supplied by the US to the army in Yemen. Locals reported seeing the jet and some Apache helicopters attacking AQAP forces west of Aden at the time that the jet went down. The Independent’s first source said the missile used was a Russian SA-7 or “Strella”, a shoulder-held heat-seeking missile. Their second source said AQAP got the missile from military stores where AQAP has gotten a “huge amount of weapons, ” and many of them were “supplied by the Americans to the Yemeni army during the presidency of Ali Abdullah Saleh.” Soldiers on both side of the fight are selling those weapos, allegedly. They also note that AQAP controls “the oil rich governorate of Hadhramaut together with the coastal city of Mukalla.”

Terrorism in Europe and Regime Change in the Middle East

_ The view of a Syrian citizen “Edward Dark” via his Twitter essay that begins here:

“Start 2012 it became apparent to the powers that wanted to change #Syria regime that local rebels wouldn’t suffice. A jihadi highway like one used against USSR in Afghanistan was set up. Financed by Gulf states, oversight by U.S & Saudi, Turkey intel, 1000s of jihadis streamed from European & Gulf airports 2 Turkish airports & across border into #Syria. Officials looked the other way. Jihadis initially linked up & allied with local rebel groups. Received massive financial, logistical & weapon aid. When #Syria regime still held out against the jihadi surge to 2013, frustrated jihadis went rogue. ISIS appeared ‘suddenly’ & swept to power across Iraq & Syria. Some jihadis remained loyal to main benefactors & fought the Isis. They were the ‘good’ Al Qaeda. All the while, this jihadi debacle was covered up by western politicians & media, misinforming public about nature of #Syria conflict. But what they had miscalculated, as ever, was the huge blowback from their jihadi proxies. Refugee crisis & terrorism are just the beginning. In #Syria they were called rebels & ‘freedom fighters’. Now that they’re in Europe to spread their brand of ‘freedom’ u call them terrorists.”


Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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