Next Cold War Roundup 5/27/16
In a historic and ironic visit to Hiroshima, the Nobel Peace Prize winning president—who has been at war longer and reduced nuclear weapons less than any other president—called for mankind to seek peace and do away with nukes. Pres. Obama recently initiated a $1 trillion program to modernize America’s nuclear weapons, to make them more targeted and usable in war. Photos and video of US special operations forces with Kurds in Syria were widespread in media and social media on Thursday. German foreign minister said Russian sanctions may be relaxed because it’s too difficult to keep them in place for another six months. The Iraqi army took control of the Karma district outside Fallujah as part of the massive military operation against ISIS. ISIS took control of a large area and strategic parts of northern Aleppo province near the Turkish border.
_ Pres. Obama’s Hiroshima visit was “hugely momentous and bitterly ironic.” Obama claimed that the bombs were “not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
— Nikkei Asian Review (@NAR) May 27, 2016
_ Obama is in Hiroshima for a G7 Summit. The most iconic photo of the event is Obama hugging a survivor and it is spreading across the mainstream and social media. From the Guardian liveblog: “Shigeaki Mori, the 79 survivor who Obama embraced, spoke to reporters after the ceremony. He said: ‘The president gestured as if he was going to give me a hug, so we hugged.’”
_ As of May 6, the Nobel Peace Prize winning Pres. Obama has been at war longer than any other president. Early in his presidency, in Prague, he made a commitment “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” But data declassified “on the eve of the historic Hiroshima visit” shows that “Obama had made fewer reductions to the US nuclear weapons stockpile than any president since the end of the cold war.” Counter Punch calls it a “case study in hypocrisy,” and of course the nuclear “football” Obama brought with him to Japan contains the power of 22,000 Hiroshimas. The Nation suggests a better approach.
_ Peter Lee says in the Asia Times that the narrative on Hiroshima is being rewritten as the living history disappears.
“[…] as the 20th century narrative gets rewritten in the name of eternal US-Japan amity and anti-China unity: Hiroshima was not a profound crime inflicted by the United States on the people of Japan. It was just a bad day for Japanese air and civil defense.”
_ CBS published a poll today. 43% of Americans approve of the of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and 44% disapprove. There is a distinct demographic pattern. “Most white Americans, most men, and most Republicans approve of the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Japan in World War II, while more non-white Americans, most women, and most Democrats disapprove.”
German FM Calls For Relaxing Russian Sanctions
_ It looks like the rumors of a partial removal of sanctions might be true. German foreign minister Steinmeier told der Spiegel “If there is progress in implementing the Minsk agreement, we can also speak about relaxing the sanctions.” “An agreement on renewing sanctions against Russia when they run out on July 31 has become more difficult with growing opposition from some EU countries, Germany’s foreign minister said on Thursday.”
Interim Syrian Government
_ The “interim government” of Syria (elected by the Saudi-backed rebel umbrella group High Negotiating Committee) has relocated itself into Syria. This proposed transitional government wants to assume control of Syria in August and demands that Syrian president Assad step down. The Saudi foreign minister said again this week that Assad must step down, be removed via the Geneva talks or he will be removed by force. Jubeir blamed Assad for the refugees and human rights abuses and said removing him will solve that problem.
US Special Operations Forces in N. Raqqa
_ US special operations forces in northern Raqqa were apparently allowing photographs and video, wearing yellow Syrian Kurd YPG arm patches and traveling in armed pickup trucks with their Kurdish partners. In a previous video clip Iraq an SOF soldier said emphatically “No video! No video!” On Thursday there were multiple films and no apparent concern, and it did appear that at least some of the Kurds knew they were being filmed. The photos and video (1, 2) are being published by media outlets all over the world (including the New York Times and AFP) and by Kurdish “activists” on Thursday. When asked during a “Twitter Townhall” if the US military is worried about these images being published, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve says yes, “we’re very concerned.” When the leader of the Syrian Kurdish party PYD (YPG is its military wing) was asked if he thinks Erdogan will be mad about US soldiers wearing YPG patches, he said “Inshallah” which means “God willing” or “if Allah wills it.”
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) May 26, 2016
_ On Friday, AFP’s Armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the strangers pulled up in pick-up trucks. They stood out right away. Most didn’t look like they came from the region and they spoke English between them, with that distinctive Yankee drawl.” He puts the term “American ‘military advisers'” It reads like clever propaganda (including the part where US military is “concerned” about the photos being published) bringing everyone into the ‘wink wink, the president says it’s not a combat mission but we’re all in on the secret ha ha’ circle. Meanwhile the US technically still has no legal basis for waging war in Syria. It’s also useful to recall that there is a battle going on in the US military community right now about the size and nature of our future armed forces. Scott Horton has a very good discussion about this in his recent interview with Mark Perry. Perry’s Politico article is here.wrote about the encounter in an AFP “correspondent” blog with unredacted photos and videos. “
_ There are reports from the ground that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), after much media attention about their operations in Raqqa, are withdrawing forces “from battlefield towards after advance to & in northern Aleppo province.
_ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in breaking news says: “We are evacuating team & patients from our Al Salamah hospital in north after IS offensive in
_ The Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels and al Qaeda continue to shell the much larger government-held part of the city of Aleppo.
_ Al Masdar has footage of “Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) inside al-Kharma,” a district northeast of Fallujah now under the control of the “massive Iraqi Army presence” there. Masdar also reports bombing by the Iraqi air force and a “new military operation in the eastern Ramadi countryside on Thursday” by the Iraqi Army “backed by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)” where they are taking territory from ISIS in order to encircle Fallujah.
_ Operation Inherent Resolve spox Col. Warren reiterated that Shia militia involvement is outside Fallujah, not inside. “The Shia militia have said publicly and privately that they will remain outside Fallujah. We expect them to do so.” The Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq is a coalition of militias, mainly Shia but there are also Sunni, Christian and Yazidi militias.
Hezbollah Preparing for War With Israel
_ Al Rai’s war correspondent Elijah Magnier reports that Hezbollah is on high alert and is moving elite forces to southern Syria and the border with Israel because they believe Israel will provoke a war in the coming months.
_ Al Ahed News, a Lebanese news site, reported on part of a recent speech by Hezbollah’s leader: “Nasrallah: Obama’s administration gives the permission to a war. However, we rule out a war and the most important subject is the factor of adventure. Any war on Lebanon is a major adventure and its consequences may be unknown to the US.”
Media Reporting on Terror Attacks in Syria, “Stronghold” Headlines
_ The BBC walked back its headlines that made the victims of terrorist bombings in coastal Syria seem like militants or less sympathetic targets. Of course, corrections are generally seen by only fraction of people who saw the original headlines. The real test will be the future headlines.
_ Eleven people from the same family were killed by a Saudi coaliton airstrike, believed to be Emirati, when their house was bombed. “Only one child from the family survived the strike.”
_ Saudi coalition and the Houthis exchanged a large number of war prisoners.
_ Farea al-Muslimi, an academic in Yemen, says today “Yemen’s writers, poets and painters are putting down the tools of their creativity and instead picking up steel with which to fight” in an op-ed titled “Why I think we failed Yemen.”
_ Al Qaeda continues to reap the benefits of the war in Yemen including oil profits.
Blair Wants a “Proper War” Against ISIS
_ Tony Blair thinks western troops should fight “proper war” against ISIS.
_ CENTCOM chief Gen. Votel said of the US special operations forces in Syria: “It may not be the exact way we would do something in the American army or a Western military force, but the approach they take works for them. That’s what’s important.”
Kurds in Raqqa
_ Kurdish media Rudaw reports “Some 50,000 Syrian Kurdish and rebel forces begin assault on ISIS” in Raqqa.
_ Al Rai’s Magnier says, when asked if using Kurds to clear Arab lands will backfire: “USA is moving cautiously w/ Kurds south of their area of control 2avoid angering Turkey. Won’t liberate Raqqa any soon 4certain” and says this is mainly “to put more pressure on ISIS, to disperse forces between Iraq and Syria on multiple fronts. We r far from Raqqa.”
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) press office:
— QSD Press Office (@QsdPress) May 24, 2016
_ SyriaDirect reports that some Kurds are dodging mandatory military conscription because of the Raqqa operation, saying it’s not their fight. “’There are families selling everything they own just to send their sons abroad so they won’t be used for cannon fodder in the battle for A-Raqqa,’ said Hussein.” “‘The Kurds have no need for this battle,’ added Ziyor. ‘If our young men are thrown into this fight, the results will be disastrous.’”
Former NATO Official Predicts NATO vs. Russia War in 2017
_ On the weekly radio interview with John Batchelor and Stephen Cohen, Batchelor reports that retired British general Sir Richard David Shirreff published a book in May titled “War With Russia” in which he argues that “the events in Crimea have destroyed the post-cold-war settlement and set the stage for conflict, beginning next year.” Shirreff believes that “in order to escape what it believes to be encirclement by Nato, will seize territory in eastern Ukraine, open up a land corridor to Crimea and invade the Baltic states.”
_ Shirreff was NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander Europe from 2011 to 2014 and says that his predictions are in line with NATO war gaming outcomes. He even gives a specific month — in May of 2017 Russia will invade Latvia. The odd thing about this is that he predicts that Russia will react to NATO’s actions, so isn’t he really predicting a NATO aggression? He uses this scenario to sell the proposal for a large deployment of troops in the Baltics.
_ Shirreff has been blasting British foreign secretary Philip Hammond for cuts in defense spending. DailyMail published a dramatic article with photos of mushroom clouds by Shirreff: “In my book, I am afraid that I paint a very gloomy picture, in which our politicians, through complacency and a lack of backbone, fail to deter an expansionist and belligerent Russian president, and the Baltics end up being invaded.” He argues that the only way to avoid nuclear war and Armageddon with Russia is to deploy “tanks, planes, artillery, ships and boots on the ground.”