Next Cold War Roundup 6/17/16
Iraqi forces captured the government compound in the center of Fallujah, held by ISIS for two years. The shooter in the Orlando massacre, son of an Afghan refugee, said the attack was an attempt to get Americans to stop bombing his country—a statement that echoes those made by the Boston Marathon bombers. The NATO exercises and buildup on Russia’s border continues and Russia is responding with its own mobilization, including calling up reservists. Two US carrier strike groups are now in the Mediterranean and one amphibious ready group in the Persian Gulf has begun airstrikes against ISIS from the USS Boxer. The DNC accused Russian intelligence of hacking their servers to influence the US presidential election. A BBC report accuses Putin of influencing the “Leave” campaign on Brexit. NATO threatens conventional war response to cyberattacks on its members. A serious rift and possible shadow war between Saudi Arabia and the UAE has been exposed.
_ The CIA and the Afghan government secretly “foster Taliban splinter groups,” according to Afghan and US officials in a May article in the Wall Street Journal. An Afghan security official said: “Senior Afghan Special Forces members in western Afghanistan said the CIA supplied the Taliban splinter group with cash and equipment, through the Afghan spy agency.”
_ Omar Mateen said he carried out the attack in Orlando to get Americans to stop bombing his country, according to a witness. Washington Post‘s Adam Goldman says Mateen’s “comments echo those of Boston marathon bomber. ”
NATO Buildup on Russian Borders
_ In Tuesday’s radio show with Stephen Cohen and John Batchelor, Cohen talked about how there is strong pressure on Putin to do more and this week he mobilized Russia’s military reserves:
“Russia is countermobilizing and we now know more details about that. Russia is essentially shifting its domestic base to military power from central Russia to western Russia, to face these NATO elements that are mobilizing there. Yesterday, Putin called up the Russian reservists. They’re only called up in ermergencies. Now, it appears, just for practice, not on permanent duty. But nonetheless, we know, in any country, when a leader calls up the reservists, they take the threat very seriously.”
_ Cohen noted that the troop building in the Baltics, Romania and Poland is not the full extent of it as NATO is discussing arrangements for deploying troops in non-NATO countries like Sweden. Russia is mobilizing troops all along their borders.
_ Prof. Cohen cites an article by a former Russian American student, Vladimir Brovkin who has been closely observing the frequent debates on Russian TV about the NATO buildup. The equipment being deployed by NATO is within artillery range of St. Petersburg and Cohen believes that “no Russian leader can let this stand.” Batchelor refers to the situation as “the whole of Russian frontier under siege.”
_ John Batchelor notes that Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil, is attending the St. Petersburg Economic Forum this week, and doing a session with the sanctioned CEO of Russia’s Rosneft. Batchelor and Cohen see it as a significant event and one that sends a signal to other western corporations that it’s time to reengage with Russia, and pushback against the EU and US sanctions on Russia. Batchelor draws the parallel between the St. Petersburg economic forum and the NATO summits in Brussels as dueling forums, dealing with the same territories, where one promotes economic development and other other war fighting.
_ Batchelor reports that there are “dark voices in London” including on BBC, absurdly claiming that Putin is the “hidden hand” in Brexit, plotting the break up of Europe. Batchelor sees Cameron using the (now built up to cartoonish proportions by the West) Putin villain for his “Remain” campaign. Cohen said that London has become almost as Russophobic as Warsaw due to the abundance of Russian oligarchs who have settled there. Cohen levels what Russia really wants and needs is a prosperous European market to trade with and for this reason he doubts that Putin would even be in favor of Brexit. Former supreme commander of NATO, the infamous Gen. Breedlove, also says in public speeches that Putin’s goal is to fracture Europe. He always pairs that “and break up NATO” as if one cannot exist without the other. Breedlove’s latest public statements in this vein were at an Atlantic Council event in June on the future of NATO and in widely reported statements in March.
Canadian Intelligence Report to Influence Troop Deployment
_ Canada spins Russia as the aggressor to try to convince Canada’s new and supposedly more peace loving government and the Canadian public to send troops to new NATO bases on Russia’s border. Canadian intelligence portrays the situation as a response to the Russian military ‘mobilizing for war’ without mentioning that the reason Russia is mobilizing is the aggression of the NATO troop, equipment, ships, and missile buildup on their border. Canadian prime minister Trudeau is expected to show up at the NATO Warsaw summit with a troop commitment. The US, Britain and Germany committed troops for the NATO buildup on Tuesday.
NATO Threatens Article 5 Conventional Weapons Response to Cyberattacks
_ In an interview with German media, NATO Sec. Gen. Stoltenberg said:”A severe cyber attack may be classified as a case for the alliance. Then NATO can and must react.” NATO has recently designated cyber “as an official operational domain of warfare, along with air, sea, and land” which means a cyber attack on a NATO member could trigger an Article 5 response with conventional warfare.
_ In his analysis, a retired officer and seasoned military expert from Europe, who uses the pen name Moon of Alabama, wonders if recent dodgy claims of Russian intelligence hacking servers to influence US elections, or some other cyberattack, could be used to trigger a “Gulf of Tonkin” response and a war with Russia. “To even think of such conventional retribution for a cyber attack is lunatic. No cyber attack is ever attributable with any certainty.” He also notes that US intelligence cyberoperations could easily fake a “Russian cyber attack” and wonders if the comments by Stoltenberg were coordinated with the dodgy reports of a Russian hack on DNC servers. Both of these things coincide with the provocative NATO summits being held now and just weeks before the NATO Warsaw Summit and at the same time that the US navy, air force, marines and special operations forces are fighting in close proximity to the Russian army and air force in Syria.
Russian Ground Troops in Syria, Calls for Ceasefire in Aleppo
_ Al Rai’s war correspondent, Elijah Magnier, reports that Russia is gradually increasing their involvement in Syria and there are “at least 2 Russian brigades [very small brigades of several hundred each, possibly battalions not brigades] participating in ground combat against ISIS in Syria” and they are “mainly in South Aleppo and on other fronts.”
_ “Russia has called for a long-term ceasefire in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, hours after declaring a two-day pause in the fighting there.”
2 Carrier Strike Groups in Med and 1 Amphibious Ready Group in Persian Gulf
_ The USS Boxer amphibious assault ship is now launching AV-8B Harrier airstrikes as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq. The USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit are operating from the Persian Gulf and coordinating with the USS Harry S. Truman in the eastern Mediterranean. Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said: “Today, U.S. naval forces are striking ISIL simultaneously from both the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf.”
_ The USS Eisenhower entered the Mediterranean as part of yet another carrier strike group and it transited the Strait of Gibraltar on June 13. On June 17, the US Navy published video of numerous ships and a submarine, announcing that the Eisenhower “is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.” That’s a lot of naval and marine power in a relatively small area, along with the air force power operating from Incirlik air base in southern Turkey. “Two carrier strike groups will operate concurrently in the Mediterranean Sea for about two and a half weeks, marking the first simultaneous carrier operations in the region in several years.”
_ On June 16, the US Navy published video of the USS Boxer in the Gulf as it began airstrikes on ISIS.
_ The Russian navy is operating in the eastern Mediterranean and Russian air force is operating in Syria, in close proximity to the two US carrier strike groups and US air force, at the same time as tensions rise between NATO and Russia and NATO troops operating in eastern Europe are in close proximity to the Russian military being mobilized in response. This is not widely reported in US media and most Americans probably have no idea of how things are heating up or how close these forces are to each other.
51 State Department Mid-level Officials Call For Airstrikes and Crippling of Syrian Government
_ Someone in the State Dept. leaked a memo from 51 mid-level State Dept. officials urging that Pres. Obama carry out airstrikes against the Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad, using a “dissent” channel available to them. The memo itself was not published but many quotes from it were to much fanfare in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the New York Times (NYT). Many of the same arguments that have been made by extreme hawks, neocons, interventionists in the US and by extreme hawks in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the Israeli hard right (but not necessarily by Israeli military and intelligence) were made again by the protesting diplomats but this time an argument about a failed ceasefire were added, along with the assertion that bombing Assad would give us more bargaining power at the negotiating table. The dissenters play down the risks of an operation against Assad triggering a war with Russia and Iran. The extreme hawks continue to argue that Assad must be taken down before ISIS can be defeated, which is the opposite of what the Pentagon and military experts have explained for years, which is why the US military is focused on operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
_ The WSJ article suggests that this State Dept protest by career diplomats might not be only a protest against Pres. Obama’s policy but an attempt to influence the policy of the incoming president in 2017. Hillary Clinton would not take much convincing as she has already called for military intervention against Assad in short order. Pro-regime change allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia were never very enthusiastic about the ceasefire negotiations in Syria and prefer to drag the war out longer and wait for a more hawkish president in 2017.
_ “Described as the “dissent channel cable,” the document appears to mirror the CIA’s own narrative, which is that in attacking ISIS the US is fighting the wrong war in Syria, and instead demands that the US shift focus entirely to militarily imposing regime change on the Syrian government.”
_ This analysis adds detail and refutes some of the false claims in the State Dept dissent memo: “Know-Nothing “Diplomats” Prepare For Hillary’s War On Syria” and touches on the (especially at the moment) very dangerous broader war inside the United States about foreign policy and use of military and intervention. MoA also reports on some potentially very significant progress between Turkey and Russia, which could lead to shutting down the jihadist “rebels” in northern Syria.
Social Media Impact During Gaza Attack
Hour-by-hour study shows Israeli airstrikes decreased when Twitter support for Gaza people increased in 2012 war. https://t.co/e6YHhPJoNH
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) June 14, 2016
Yemen and Possible Breakup of Gulf Cooperation Council
_ On Tuesday, Yemeni Haykal Bafana: “Unbelievable : 3rd in 48 hours – # Apache helicopter downed late night in # by a guided surface to air missile. Ras Omran, W of Aden.” Bafana believes there is an undeclared shadow war between Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen.
But I note this : When Saudi missiles slam into and down 3 UAE helicopters in 2 days in Yemen, the GCC has already broken apart.
— Haykal Bafana (@BaFana3) June 15, 2016
_ AP reports the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Wednesday that the war is practically over for its troops in Yemen. The announcement was made by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince via his Twitter account. Iona Craig notes that the prince was quoting the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash who had given a speech: ““Our standpoint today is clear: war is over for our troops; we’re monitoring political arrangements, empowering Yemenis in liberated areas.” The Arabic wording means that the war is “practically over.” UAE has been one of the most active members of the Saudi coalition. UAE troops are still guarding the airport and presidential palace in Aden.
_ Iona Craig says there are multiple reports of “Saudi soldiers replacing UAE troops at presidential palace in Aden hours before planned anti-government protests there.”
Prince Reckless Snubbed by the White House, Ban Ki Moon Gives Saudis a “Black Eye”
_ Earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune reported that the young Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman, arrived in Washington but despite Saudi media having announced meetings with Pres. Obama, there was no invitation to the White House for him.
_ Boston Globe in an article titled “A blacklist, blackmail and Saudi Arabia’s black eye,” reported on an unusual move by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, who exposed the Saudi’s bullying tactics in his explanation to the outrage from numerous human rights groups after he removed Saudi Arabia from a blacklist under duress.
“Ban, who as a child of the Korean War was fed and educated thanks to UN agencies, said he stood by his report, and its content won’t change. But if Ban had refused to take the Saudi-led coalition off the blacklist in the report’s annex, he said, ‘children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and so many other places would fall further into despair.'”
_ “Remembering the U.S.S. Liberty: The power of the Israel Lobby” by former CIA and military intelligence officer, Phil Giraldi.
South China Sea
_ Biennial naval exercises in the Pacific:
— U.S. Pacific Command (@PacificCommand) June 16, 2016
_ Anonymous US officials told Reuters the US Navy to send more ships to confront China “with an eye toward further confrontation of China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.”
— Elijah J. Magnier (@EjmAlrai) June 14, 2016
— Elijah J. Magnier (@EjmAlrai) June 15, 2016
_ On Friday, Iraqi forces announced that it had entered the center of Fallujah and seized the government compound, another victory over ISIS. “Their tactics are to seize the center and then push out to clear the rest of the city. Seizure of the compound would indicate the operation is proceeding as planned.”
Analysis and Opinion
_ Retired CIA and military intelligence officer, Philip Giraldi op-ed on the “Decline of Terror in the West?” Giraldi says: “The Orlando shooting was a horrific crime. But larger trends suggest that the threat of mass attacks is receding.”
_ Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, freelance journalists who have covered the AfPak region since the early 1980s: “Brzezinski Vision to Lure Soviets into ‘Afghan Trap’ Is Orlando’s Nightmare.”
_ Adam Curtis’ documentary, “Bitter Lake“, is a good background for Fitzgerald and Gould’s op-ed. Curtis went through an archive of “almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan” while doing it, and it shows what “what really happened in Afghanistan.”