Next Cold War Roundup 5/31/16
880 migrants and refugees were lost when boats carrying them from Libya to Italy capsized or wrecked, as the Italian navy attempted rescues. UK Prime Minister David Cameron says Libya is a “threat to us all.” Libya’s new appointed government won’t allow EU ships close to coast. The Russian Foreign Minister says NATO operation that led to the murder of Gaddafi and the killing itself was a war crime. Situation in northern Aleppo is dynamic and dangerous to civilians as rebels, al Qaeda groups, ISIS, Kurds, Syrian coalition, Turkey and the Russian air force fight or prepare to escalate the fight there. Both Syrian coalition and US/Kurds coalition advance toward Raqqa. Iraqi forces continue operations around Fallujah and prepare a major operation to retake Fallujah where 50,000 civilians in dire need of food and have no safe way out before heavy fighting begins in their neighborhoods. Patrick Cockburn reports 12,000 US troops and contractors in Iraq, some near the front lines in the Mosul operation.
880 Dead at Sea on Route from Libya to Italy
_ 880 refugees died trying to get to Italy from Libya by boat during the past week. These numbers come from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and are based on information from survivors. Of all the routes traveled by refugees from different countries via the Mediterranean, the “North Africa-Italy route is dramatically more dangerous: 2,119 of the deaths reported to far this year have been among people making this journey, making for odds of dying as high as one in 23.” Among the people fleeing the Libyan shores, the “principal nationalities on the Libya to Italy route so far this year have been Nigerians and Gambians, although among countries more commonly associated with refugee movements 9 per cent have been Somalis and 8 per cent Eritreans.” The Italian navy, Marina Militare, has published photos and videos of a crowded boat capsizing and an Italian navy ship attempting to bring survivors aboard. It is not clear how many people are fleeing the new war in Libya and how many are transiting the country to get to the sea.
_ The migrant and refugee crisis has rescued the Italian navy, both their funding and reputation, says Elisabeth Braw of Foreign Policy. “’Italian public opinion is usually opposed to acquisitions of military equipment deemed to be offensive, but Italians like humanitarian operations,’ said [political science professor] Coticchia.” Italy’s former ambassador to NATO reminds the country of the dangers too. “To protect ourselves against those threats, we need to control the Mediterranean, and that means a strong Navy.”
_ According to an Atlantic Council non-resident fellow, Mohomed Eljarh, the Libyan GNA government has “issued a decree forming a new Operations Room that covers the area between Sirte and Ejdabyia” in Libya and “new banknotes (20 & 50) printed by CBL Bayda in will be circulated tomorrow. GNA rejected, but then accepted the banknotes.”
_ “Libyans lose possessions post-Gadhafi.” Libyans, who were labeled as pro-Gaddafi, even if they leaned toward supporting the rebels, had their homes, possessions, and cars seized by pro-revolution forces as they rewarded themselves and now there is no effective law enforcement structure to help them recover anything.
_ European Union ships within sight of the Libyan coast “would not help Libyan stability” according to Libya’s new UN-appointed government, Government of National Accord (GNA). The GNA is still trying to “assert its authority” and “does not control the entire country, including much of the coastline.” The EU has deployed ships but have not been invited into territorial waters. UK prime minister Cameron says the country in its current state is “a threat to us all” and Britain must help its new government.
_ On Tuesday, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said the murder of Gaddafi was a war crime. “It was a mistake not because they violated the [UN] Security Council mandate that proposed to close the [Libyan] airspace, not allowing aviation to fly. They [NATO] simply bombed [Libya] flying in that airspace and in the end Gadaffi was violently killed. Whichever way you look at this, this is also a war crime.”
Another Airstrike in Syria Accused and Denied
_ A pattern has emerged in recent months of accusations of airstrikes by the London-based NGO, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, run by one man, a Syrian who is not in Syria, and denials or corrections by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Another incident like this happened over the weekend. All across western media there are reports of airstrikes in Idlib city, one of them “near a local hospital” with 23 killed. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said “No combat missions, let alone delivering airstrikes, have been performed by the Russian Air Force in Idlib province [...] We urge people to remain critical of any scare stories spread by the ‘British tandem’ of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Reuters news agency.”
_ Russian embassy debunks photos used by media. Says they were first published by Al Jazeera six months ago. Nevertheless, US media is running with the story across all media outlets.
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) May 31, 2016
Deadline for Syrian Rebels to Detach From Al Qaeda
_ Russian foreign minister Lavrov gave one last warning to Syrian rebels who are still attached to al Nusra (al Qaeda) groups. The deadline before the Russian air force begins air strikes expires this week.
Conditions in Fallujah As Iraqi Forces Approach
_ BBC reports “Details are emerging of the horrifying conditions faced by civilians trapped inside the Iraqi city of Falluja and the extreme risks they are taking to escape.” Sacks of flour cost $850, people are grazing for food, and there are no safe routes for now 50,000 people to get out as Iraqi forces coalition prepares to move in and recapture the city.
_ Reuters has a slideshow of photos from the military operations at Fallujah.
— Elijah J. Magnier (@EjmAlrai) May 31, 2016
_ Russian airstrikes were used to destroy a bridge on a rebel supply road to Aleppo.
_ Syrian “Tiger forces” arrived in northern Aleppo and will be the “main government force behind the upcoming northern Aleppo offensive in the ‘Anadan Plains.”
_ Turkey was “shelling north of the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday in retaliation for the latest attacks against a Turkish border town” reportedly by ISIS.
_ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) “said it evacuated patients and staff from a hospital in the area as the fighting got closer, and that tens of thousands of people were trapped between the frontlines and the Turkish border” in northern Aleppo, in the Azaz area near the Turkish border.
Race for Raqqa
_ “According to an Al-Masdar field correspondent in Damascus, over 1,500 soldiers, mostly from the Desert Hawks and Syrian Marines, departed for the Hama-Raqqa countryside this weekend after the Syrian Arab Army’s High Command and their Russian military advisers issued orders to liberate Raqqa City.”
_ The US-backed coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is “widening an offensive against Islamic State near its de facto capital of Raqqa, targeting an area where the group controls a disused air base.” The Tabqa air base is held by ISIS, across the Euphrates river.
_ Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko called US Vice President Joe Biden, thanked him for America’s part in getting Nadiya Savchenko released from prison in Russia, and “praised the G7 decision to continue sanctions against Russia.” Poroshenko also asked for more Russian sanctions.
US Special Operations Forces Wearing Kurdish Arm Patches Angers Turkey
_ In our roundup last week, we reported on the photos and videos of US SOF forces wearing Kurdish emblems on their arm patches and speculated about Turkey’s reaction. Well, they’re not happy. And the commandos have now been ordered to remove the “inappropriate” patches. There were two different Kurdish patches, a yellow and a green version.
— Andrew Tilghman (@andrewtilghman) May 27, 2016
Mosul, 12,000 US Troops and Contractors in Iraq, Sunnis Might Not Return
— Al-Masdar News (@TheArabSource) May 29, 2016
_ Patrick Cockburn in northern Iraq reports on 5,500 Peshmerga Kurdish forces backed by US airstrikes as they advance on Mosul.
“Western troops, who may have been from the US or Canada, were identified by reporters close to the front line.” Cockburn reports that there are 5,000 US troops and 7,000 contractors working for the US. The “Peshmerga are entirely dependent on close air support to identify and destroy Isis fighters in fixed positions.”
The goal of the current operation is to advance within 10 miles of Mosul and “drive Isis from the Nineveh Plain,” an area that Christians fled when ISIS came in 2014. Cockburn says ISIS is under pressure in the two strongholds it has left in Iraq (Mosul and Fallujah) and “does not appear to have an answer to specialized ground troops calling accurate airstrikes” and he notes that the current strategy is “displacing much of the Sunni Arab population of Iraq from their homes with a strong possibility they will be unable to return.”
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) May 28, 2016
Israel, Hezbollah and Lebanon
_ Latest from Al Rai’s war correspondent, Elijah Magnier: “The Drums of War are Beating: Hezbollah versus Israel.” Israel launched an “emergency week” to boost war readiness.
Analysis and Opinion
_ A New-Old Plan to Save the World … That Has No Hope of Saving the World is Stephen Walt’s response to The Center for a New American Security’s new report, Extending American Power. The report is a large policy paper intended to guide the next American president, but Walt says it’s the same old “liberal hegemony” policy that has failed for the past 20 years.
_ How Russia is Preparing for WWIII, by The Saker
_ Retired colonel, professor emeritus, and historian Andrew Bacevich: America’s Sinkhole Wars