Next Cold War Roundup 5/10/16
The fighting in Syria continues. The US and Russia continue to work on cessation of hostilities. Al Qaeda leaders call for unity jihad and the formation of an emirate in western Syria. Syrian coalition alliance members are weakened by differences and reduced involvement by the Russian air force. The US puts boots on the ground in Yemen.
Al Qaeda Leaders Call for an Islamic State in Syria, Unity in Jihad
_ The leader of the main branch of al Qaeda, Zawahiri, “gave his backing to a plan for Jabhat al-Nusra to create al-Qaeda’s first sovereign state.” There have also been reports that he has sent “his senior lieutenants into north-west Syria to take advantage of the chaos induced by five years of civil war.” Al Nusra ( al Qaeda in Syria) led by Baghdadi, split from Zawahiri in 2013.
_ Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden called for jihadis to unite in Syria and “focus on jihad in al-Sham (Syria) … and unite the ranks of mujahideen there.” He said it’s a matter of life and death, unite or be “eaten one by one.” Bin Laden said, in the undated audio file, that Syria is the best battlefield to Jerusalem and liberating Palestine.
Shaky Ceasefire in Aleppo
_ The ceasefire in Aleppo was extended by 48 hours beginning at 1 a.m. local time on Tuesday. “A number of short-term local truces have been in place since April 29, first around Damascus and northern Latakia and then in Aleppo, but there has still been fighting between rebels and government forces.” Rebels captured the town of “Khan Touman last week, inflicting a rare setback on government forces and allied Iranian troops who suffered heavy losses.” The Americans and Russians continue to publicly work on cessation of hostilities.
Russia Reducing Involvement in Syrian War
_ In his latest dispatch (no translation available yet), Al Rai’s correspondent, Elijah Magnier says Russia is equivocating in Syria , Iran is confused and al-Qaeda is retaking the initiative. Magnier says that Russia doesn’t have the right reasons to re-open a large front in Syria. Hezbollah and Iran consider this to be the Russian Air Force abandoning “forces in a wide spread geographic area in Syria” and they think Russia has “fallen into a political-diplomatic ambush in Syria.” As a result, the Syrian coalition allies “will reduce their presences in many areas” and focus more on urban areas, less on rural, where air support is crucial.
Russian Military Base Near Palmyra
Russian military base in Palmyra filmed by Andrey Borodulin/AFP. First sighting of Pantsir AA system at Palmyra pic.twitter.com/EwDgUomXcy
— BM-21 GRAD (@bm21_grad) May 7, 2016
Some more pictures from the Russian base in Palmyra by Vasily Maximov/AFP pic.twitter.com/0AXfCbXLZd
— BM-21 GRAD (@bm21_grad) May 7, 2016
US Forces Back in Yemen
_ “The Pentagon said Friday that it sent a small number of U.S. special operations forces back to Yemen.” Defense officials said “a dozen or so special operations forces” have been in Yemen helping an Arab coalition to recapture the Mukalla, a sea port and capital city of the Hadhramaut coastal region in Yemen, on the Gulf of Aden. “The U.S. is also providing some maritime interdiction services” and has been backing the Saudis in their Yemen campaign in numerous other ways.
_ Bruce Riedel of Brookings said the “bottom line here is that it means the U.S. is getting in deeper and deeper in Yemen.”
_ The “amphibious assault ship Boxer […] is staged off the coast of Yemen with about 4,500 Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was using Mukalla as “safe haven to plan future attacks against the United States and its interests.”
French Intelligence Chief – France Ignored Its Own Intelligence on Ukraine and Syria
_ Allain Juillet, former deputy director of intelligence at France’s General Directorate for External Security, said France was manipulated into following “Washington’s lead” and supporting “people, supposedly rebels, who are in fact Al-Qaeda affiliates backed by the Gulf countries.” He said French intelligence had maintained a good relationship with “Syrian services” but now those bridges are cut.” Juillet said the “advice of the intelligence services is ignored […] a serious mistake.” He believes France is wrong on Syria and Ukraine and that this is hurting French citizens, agriculture, and industry. The embargo on Russia has been “‘fabricated’ by American neoconservatives,” according to Juillet.
Pew Poll on Defense Spending, American Global Involvement
_ According to a Pew poll conducted in April, 57% of Americans want the US to “deal with its own problems, while letting other countries get along as best they can.”
_ 41% say the US has done too much in “solving world problems.” 27% say “too little”, 28% the “right amount.”
_ 49% say “U.S. involvement in the global economy is a bad thing because it lowers wages and costs jobs.” 44% say ” it provides the U.S. with new markets and opportunities for growth.”
_ 35% think we “increase spending on national defense.” 24% think it should be cut and 40% say it should remain unchanged.
OIR Spox Did a Reddit AMA
_ Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-ISIS operation, did an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) on Reddit last week.
Questions About Syrian Refugee Camp Attack Reports
_ Last week an attack on a refugee camp in Sarmada, rebel-held territory in Syria very close to the Turkish border, was widely reported in US and British media and condemned by US and UN officials as a war crime by the Syrian government. But the evidence of the cause of the damage and the details of the attack itself have generated some serious questions, like the ones in this post by Moon of Alabama. Charles Shoebridge, a former UK army officer and security analyst provides extensive analysis and information as well. Both US and Russian defense officials say there was no air force activity in the area at the time. Al Nusra was operating in the area and Russian defense ministry says the evidence is consistent with a the kind of rocket launchers al Nusra has recently shown via video.
Open Letter to MSF (Doctors Without Borders)
Norway Will Train and Equip Syrian Rebels Fighting Daesh
_ Norway will deploy special operations forces in Jordan to train unnamed Syrian Sunni groups to fight ISIS in Syria. Russian media reports that Norway will cease their aid to the rebel groups if they attack the Syrian government coalition. “According to Major Vegard Finberg, spokesman for Chief of Defense Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, the rebels supported are to undergo a rigorous and systematic approval and clearance process in order to ensure that the operation’s final aim is none other than Daesh within the framework of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve.”
_ Two weeks ago the UN envoy to Libya said ISIS attacks were “a serious threat to Libya’s oil installations.” Today the reported threat is that the two rival governments are fighting over the oil and the government in the east said they won’t allow tankers to leave Hariga port without their approval.
_ The new UN-appointed GNA government in Libya announced on Facebook that it will create a “Presidential Guard” which will be responsible for “presidential complexes… and public buildings.” It will also provide “close protection for members of the government” and “notable guests.”
_ Al Monitor has “the story behind the general who will likely shape Libya’s future,” Gen. Khalifa Hifter (Haftar), whose “star appears to be rising once again in Libya.” Hifter is the chief of staff of the Libyan army “under the [elected and] internationally recognized government in Tobruk.” He served under Gaddafi and then tried to overthrow him. The US made a deal that released him from prison after which he became an American citizen and spent two decades living in Virginia “where he was ostensibly trained by the CIA in Langley.” From abroad “he maintained ties with Libyan opposition groups in exile and organized military opposition to Gadhafi” and returned to Libya in 2011 for the regime change operation. Al Monitor gives a detailed timeline as Hifter appeared and disappeared over the past five years as he claimed to be fighting a war on terror in Libya and organizing former Libyan officers and politicians who are exiled.
_ Prime minister’s resignation “has created chaos in Ankara” and experts agree that if Erdogan gets the presidential system that he wants Turkey will be transformed into a “‘one man’ regime.”
Ukraine's SBU (former KGB)— communist posters are terrorism https://t.co/4PKooc5jcN
— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) May 7, 2016
US Ambassador’s Hardline Message to Hungary