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US Marines Arrive in Northern Raqqa, Lavrov Says “Big Mistake”

Next Cold War Roundup 4/29/16

150 Marines arrived in Raqqa governate via Qamishli and 100 more are expected soon. The Russian envoy to the UN announced that the Syrian coalition is planning an offensive on Raqqa. The US blames Syria for the hospital bombing in Aleppo and the Russian ministry of defense blames the US coalition. VP Biden made a surprise visit to Iraq, which is in political turmoil and there are calls for partitioning. Angela Merkel is calling for the partition of Syria, where fighting is escalating and the ceasefire is in danger of full collapse.

“Some” Call for Partitioning Iraq

_ The New York Times had a substantial text and video report about the turmoil in Iraq and the call by “some” for partition, published in tandem with VP Joe Biden’s “surprise” visit to the country on Thursday. ISIS and the collapse of oil prices have intensified Iraq’s problems.  The article quotes Ali Khedery extensively, an Iraqi American heavily involved in the Iraq war and the aftermath, a veteran of Exxon-Mobil, the post-war provisional government, US State Dept, Defense Dept, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, now an American entrepreneur.

_ On Thursday, VP Joe Biden made a “a surprise visit aimed at helping Iraqi leaders resolve a political crisis,” which he says is hindering the fight against ISIS. The Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is calling for corruption reform and a government run by technocrats only. Biden’s office said he would also propose some things that would help Iraq’s “economic stability and further regional cooperation.”

Escalation in the Syrian War and More to Come

_ Al Rai’s correspondent reports that all belligerents are recruiting and preparing for a large escalation of the war in Syria.

_ Pres. Obama’s deployment of more American troops to Syria brings some protests at home and abroad, and an even more shaky legal ground. Russian Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that deploying troops in Syria without coordination with the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic is an affront to Damascus’ territorial sovereignty from the point of view of both Moscow and Damascus. Damascus called it a “direct attack” on Syria

_ The 150 U.S. Marines that reportedly entered the Syrian province of Al-Hasakah on Wednesday have successfully made it to their intended destination in northern Al-Raqqa. The marines went from the border city of Qamishli to the towns of “Tal Al-Abyad and ‘Ayn ‘Issa” in the Raqqa governate. An additional 100 marines are expected soon. The Russian foreign minister said deploying these forces in Syria is a “big mistake.”

_ The Syrian army “Tiger forces” are still fighting ISIS in the “east Homs countryside” east of Palmyra. An intensification of the fight is expected as they advance toward Deir Ezzour. Southfront reports that the Russian envoy to the UN announced a joint operation with Syria on the ISIS capital of Raqqa.

Major Focus on Aleppo by US and British Media

_ Airstrikes on a hospital in Aleppo killed at least 30 people with the number varying and rising in media reports. “Russia and the Syrian government denied responsibility for the incident.” The attack is being reported widely and in great detail in US and British media. John Kerry expressed outrage, “condemned the attack and pointed a finger of blame at the Syrian government.” Kerry accused the Syrian government of making a “deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime’s appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders.”

_ Major media outlets are doing stories with great detail that include video reports on the tragedy, with great focus on harrowing and heartbreaking individual stories, which usually means a very large propaganda effort is underway, the kind of effort that often precedes a call for military intervention, an attempt to pin blame on a figure who is the latest target of the US, or some other significant policy move. The specific public accusations by Kerry are reminiscent of the Ghouta chemical weapons attack and his public accusations then, which were backed by no evidence and were later refuted and numerous subsequent events (including Turkish whistleblowers) undermined Kerry’s claims.

_ Russian Ministry of Defense says the US-led coalition is responsible for the bombing of the hospital in Aleppo. “According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, an aircraft of the US-led coalition was performing tasks in the air space over Aleppo in the evening of April 27 .”

Massive Cost of F-35

_ Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims says “total cost of F-35 program, $1.45 trillion, could provide free college to every student in the U.S. for 20 years.” Or as USUncut frames it, this “shitty jet could provide 23 years of free college for everyone.” Tuition-free public higher education for every student in the US until 2039. Washington Post’s Adam Goldman, living in the economic boom mecca of war dollars himself notes that the money from one month of Obama’s Middle East war renaissance Operation Inherent Resolve “could pay for the repaving of every road in D.C. Don’t get me started on schools.”

“Safe Zone” in Northern Syria

_ The Wall Street Journal article about Pres Obama deploying 250 more ground troops in Syria says it is part of an operation to oversee the implementation of safe zone in northern Syria. However, when Obama announced this deployment in Germany he said (during the press conference) that he opposed a “safe zone” for refugees in Syria. Pentagon spokesman said the goal was to help expand Syrian Arab forces. (Reference links Al Masdar, MofA, WSJ)


_ France24 documentary on Rojava and the Syrian Democratic Forces (Syrian Kurds, Arabs, Christians and French, British and American special forces) in the fight to take Shaddadi from ISIS in February, 2016 — 37min propaganda film, but of high quality and informative.

“We’ve deployed 2,000 fighters to this front and 2,500 on the west side. Yellow dots represent us, the red ones Islamic State group positions. We’re going to capture these two villages and join up the two fronts. Then we’ll clear this entire zone. These tablets allow us to coordinate with the planes. We send our positions to the pilots so they don’t hit us by mistake.”


Angela’s Slice & Dice Proposal

_ Angela Merkel supports safe zones in Syria and “she believes these zones could be carved out without foreign military intervention, and the concept should be part of the peace negotiations in Geneva.” So the new spin is that carving up Syria was all Angela’s idea and it’s Angela putting it on the table, not the US, NATO Saudis, or Israel who have been proposing partitioning Syria for years or Turkey’s Erdogan who has been demanding a “safe zone” controlled by Turkey all along the border. Pres. Obama evoked an emotional analogy about how Angela once lived behind a wall and can relate to people trying to find a better life and that’s why she’s calling for the same partitioning that the parties trying to overthrow and slice up Syria have been caling for. Neither Merkel nor Obama mentioned the US and allies arming rebel jihadists (including foreign fighters) and al Qaeda in Syria and the effect that has on civilian lives.

_ The US proposal to slice Syria into “zones of influence” received different reactions from different Russian state officials. The chairman of the Russian Defense and Security Committee from the upper house of Russia’s parliament said zones of influence was a “negative experience” in post-war Germany. “At that time, all this turned into a problem not only for the German people, but also for entire Europe and the whole of mankind.” The head of the State Duma Defense Committee said it should be examined. He seems to be talking mostly about monitoring the truce.

The New York Times Editorial Board Concern Misdirects

_The New York Times (NYT) Editorial Board is very concerned about a “risky American expansion in Syria”. This prominent paper has been misinforming and misleading Americans for the full five years of the Syrian war and they continue on that mission by mentioning that Pres. Obama has no legal basis for waging war in Syria and Congress hasn’t much cared. During an election year, or any year for that matter when it comes to Middle Eastern wars, Congress won’t go on the record authorizing new wars. The NYT expresses concern that Russia is moving artillery near Aleppo but mentions nothing about the ceasefire period being used by the US and allies to help jihadists who are openly working with al Qaeda and integrated with al Qaeda to regroup and rearm. NYT mentions nothing about Saudi threats and CIA promises to flood the region with even more deadly weapons including MANPADS. And the mention no concern about John Kerry flying around the globe bellowing “Assad must go” and signaling to the US-backed rebels that if they ditch the ceasefire they’ll get even better weapons via a Plan B.


Shiite Militias in Iraq

_ New York Times article laments that especially in Anbar, the US and Iran “impede each other” while trying to fight ISIS. The article explains that Iran wants to “secure a land route” to Syria and Lebanon (its allies Assad and Hezbollah) and protect Baghdad and southern Iraq. The article claims that the “United States supports the Iraqi Army and some local tribal fighters” and that the Shiite militias are backed by Iran and preventing progress and worse, the Badr militia is keeping Fallujah under siege. News of the dire humanitarian situation in Iraq is now showing up in western media.

DNI Clapper: Syria is “awash in MANPADS”

_ Daily Beast’s Pentagon correspondents are reporting that US officials are worried that Syrian “rebels will “make a new push to acquire shoulder-fired missiles, which could then fall into the hands of ISIS and threaten U.S. and coalition aircraft.” MANPADS could make their way into other countries and be used to shoot down civilian aircraft. The Saudi foreign minister has been making public statements about how he wants Syrian “rebels” to get MANPADS for months. The anonymous CIA and defense official sources in the article express concern that if the Russians restart their air campaign against the rebels they will go get MANPADS. But it’s not an indirect threat from those anonymous US officials to Russia, it’s a concern. The officials also expressed concern that their “coalition partners in the Gulf” would give MANPADS to the rebels out of “frustration” that they can’t overthrow the neighboring country they want to crush and control.

“Knock on the Roof”

_ “The U.S. has adopted a unique Israeli battlefield tactic in its fight against ISIS: exploding a missile above a building to warn civilians inside that it’s about to be bombed.” Air Force Maj. Gen. Gersten describes how they ‘knocked on the roof’ of a house in Mosul and blew it up after a woman ran out, but she turned around and was killed anyway. Given bloody massacre of women and children in Gaza, it’s hard to understand how anyone in the world was impressed by this technique. It’s a bizarre story all the way around.

Obama Pushing for German Troops on Ukraine Border. German Intel Chief Fired.

_ Pres. Obama’s traveled to Germany on Sunday and called for Germany to contribute more money and troops to Iraq and to Ukraine. To date, Germany had played a mediating role in Ukraine, negotiating the Minsk agreement and working to prevent escalation of war in Ukraine and Europe. “Obama Pressures Germany to Commit More Troops for NATO Exercises on Ukraine Border

Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson: “Let me say that I’m more concerned with what the German press was reporting this morning about his, President Obama’s attempts to get Chancellor Merkel in particular, but robust German troop contributions to the, quote, exercises, unquote, that are happening, apparently, on the Ukraine border, which is an attempt to show Mr. Putin that NATO is ready and willing to take action in Ukraine of a more robust nature if it needs to. I think that this is a far more provocative and even dangerous move, perhaps, than plussing up by a few special operations forces [inaud.] Iraq the US troop presence.”

“[…] So, if you put major German forces on the border with Ukraine you’ve not only got a political commitment from Angela Merkel to the more or less taunting policy. You’ve got Germany committed to that policy, and in many respects that’s kind of worrisome. I’d rather see Germany playing a sort of mediating role in this rather than joining the train against Vladimir Putin.”

_ The expressions on the faces of German officials are interesting as Obama pushes deployment of German forces.


_ Andrew Bacevich: American Imperium: Untangling truth and fiction in an age of perpetual war

Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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