Next Cold War

US-Russia Deal on Syria, Clinton Markets Military Option, Breedlove: ‘POTUS Sees Us as a Threat’

Next Cold War Roundup 7/1/16

There is a flurry of reports about a deal the US offered Russia on the Syrian war where the two would cooperate militarily against al Qaeda and the Russian and Syrian air force would stand down against other rebels, and if the deal is taken, Plan B would be taken off the table for now. Hacked communications from NATO Gen. Breedlove show him saying he believed Pres. Obama saw him as a threat who would drag the US into war with Russia in Ukraine. Meanwhile the US and Russian navy have had at least two scuffles in the Mediterranean and both Iran and Russia have indicated a loss of trust in American officials.  The Iraqi army and coalition of forces including US and anti-ISIS coalition air forces recaptured Fallujah in a month-long battle which culminated in the destruction of ISIS convoys as the militants and their families made a last ditch effort to break out of Fallujah in two different directions. As the NATO summit in Warsaw approaches, a NATO military official says there is no intelligence about Russian aggression in the Baltics.

 

US Offers Big Loans to Iraq for Purchase of Military Equipment

_ The United States opened up a $2.7 billion credit line to the Iraqi government and “the deal gives Iraq a one-year grace period and eight and a half years total to pay for its purchases of ammunition and maintenance of its F-16s and M1A1 tanks.” Middle East expert Prof. Joshua Landis notes that Russia is doing the same kind of thing for Syria, most of these weapons will be used to kill “Sunni Arab rebels”  and wonders if the Shia Crescent is “aborning.”

Hacked Emails Show Breedlove Consulted With Powell to Spark War With Russia

_ Hacked emails published by hacktivists at DC Leaks show that Gen. Strangelove/Breedlove consulted with Colin Powell (who helped convince the UN Security Council and the public to support the Iraq war in 2003) to help him sell a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine in 2014 after the US-backed coup. Breedlove also rallied other retired military, academics, think tanks (like the Atlantic Council) to his cause, including Gen. Wesley Clark, who was trading messages with Victoria Nuland. Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani’s article at The Intercept has more details about the communications among the people who were working together to “leverage, cajole, convince or coerce” the US fight a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine.

_ Breedlove also said he believed Pres. Obama “sees us as a threat” and “Frankly I think we are a ‘worry,’ … ie a threat to get the nation drug into a conflict.” As Breedlove worked with colleagues to try to drag the US into a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, he realized and told his correspondents that Obama saw the war proponents as a threat.

NATO Official Says Russian Aggression is Fiction, German Public Doesn’t Want Warmongering

_ General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, said: “”It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing.” Pavel said the four battalions that NATO will deploy  would would “act as a political deterrent rather than a military one. No bigger force was needed at this point” and “deployment of substantial military force is not being considered.”  So the NATO general admitted that Russia is not a threat to the Baltic states or the region.

_ German foreign minister Steinmeier condemned NATO warmongering and saber rattling in eastern Europe and received harsh criticism from German media but a YouGov poll showed that the German public overwhelmingly agrees with him. The poll showed that only 16% disagree with Steinmeier, 64% agree with him, and only 9% want to send troops to the Baltics.

Deal Between US and Russia on Syria

_ A proposal to cooperate more on Syria has reportedly been made to Russia from the United States. The trust level between the two countries was at a very low point. The US was threatening a “Plan B” but reportedly decided not to risk war with Russia.  Russia was being pressured at home and by its allies in the region to escalate and finish things off in Aleppo.

_ It is not at all clear if the reports of a deal are true, if the deal is genuine, or if it will be made. Just this week there was another scuffle between US and Russian ships, during the last few weeks NATO had military exercises in Poland that simulated an invasion of Kaliningrad, and next week the NATO Summit in Warsaw begins. The Plan B threats were ramped up via a State Dept. “dissent” memo that was actually in agreement with the Sec. of State, details of a war plan were rolled out by a likely candidate for the next administration’s Sec. of Defense,  the US put two carrier strike groups in the Mediterranean, and the Russians reportedly moved more air force and troops into Syria. On the other hand, more close military cooperation between the US and Russia is something Russia has been urging for months and more loudly in recent weeks.

_ The Wall Street Journal reported on the deal but with slightly different terms.  They say the deal includes Russia forcing “the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to ground its air force.

_ One sign that “Plan B” may have been called off (at least for the Obama administration” is that Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the anti-ISIS coalition has turned down the offer of Saudi ground troops in Syria. McGurk: “I think our focus on empowering local actors to liberate their own territory is the most sustainable strategy for defeating ISIL, and will remain our fundamental approach.” If Hillary Clinton is elected, the situation could change completely and it’s not clear whether warnings about how under Clinton we should “prepare for a deeper American military involvement in Syria” are bluster or not.

Fallujah Back in Hands of Iraqis

_ Last week, the Iraqi army officially liberated Fallujah, and enough mines were cleared for a visit and photo op by the prime minister.

_ The victory in Fallujah raises hopes for Mosul. “A relatively quick victory over the Islamic State in Fallujah has raised hopes that Mosul, a much bigger prize in the fight against the Islamic State, will not be as udifficult for Iraqi forces to recapture as initially feared.

_ Reports of casualties during the month-long battle for Fallujah were high. 900 Iraqi soldiers dead and more than 3000 wounded were reported by various sources, and those numbers do not include the militias or residents.  The highest number of Iraqi casualties were among “federal police troops who fought without air cover in the northern region of Fallujah and also secured the city centre.” All of the numbers are expected to increase.

US Officials’ Statements About Iran As Partner

_ US Sec. State John Kerry admitted that Iran is helpful in Iraq and anti-ISIS special envoy Brent McGurk admitted that Iraqi militias are helpful too.  Kerry: “Look, we have challenges with Iran as everybody knows and we are working on those challenges. But I can tell you that Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL-Daesh, and so we have a common interest, actually.” On the same day, US special envoy Brent McGurk admitted that Iraqi militias are also helpful: “We think most of these popular mobilization forces do operate under the control of the Iraqi state, but about 15-20% of them actually do not, […] And those groups are a fundamental problem.”

_ By contrast, CIA director, John Brennan, ” tries very hard to avoid admitting Iran actually helps US fight terrorism” in his PBS News Hour interview.

Large ISIS Counterattack Repelled, Airstrikes on ISIS Convoys South and NW of Fallujah

_  A large counterattack by ISIS was “harshly defeated” in the Fallujah district, south of the city.  Al Rai war correspondent, Elijah Magnier, reported early, with photos that the Iraqi air force destroyed an ISIS convoy that escaped to the south “leaving all ISIS militants dead in their vehicles in Ameriyat al-Fallujah” and that the “destruction of the convoy & the killing of 100s of ISIS trying2 move toward the borders is the biggest achievement of Iraq, damage free.”

_ On Thursday, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman provided details about the coalition air strikes that destroyed 2 major ISIS convoys. One of the convoys was south of Fallujah, one was northwest of Fallujah.

_ There are various stories coming out about the attacks on ISIS convoys, where it’s pretty clear that civilians were killed along with ISIS militants. Very soon after the video footage from the Iraqi military was released, people on Twitter were protesting, saying this was a civilian massacre. Large-sized convoys are apparently unusual for ISIS.  People interviewed by the Washington Post suggest ISIS would not have taken this risk unless they had made a deal with someone to escape. Sunni tribesmen say they were contacted via radio and asked for free passage, ISIS claimed they did not intend to attack but wanted to pass through.

_ Others on social media say it would make sense if ISIS leader Baghdadi was in in the convoy, or the convoys might have been a distraction for a smaller group escaping via another route with Baghdadi and/or other leaders.

_ The reported numbers of vehicles vary (US reports 178, Iraq reports 798) and casualty reports vary because the US military spokesman from Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) anti-ISIS coalition reported numbers and the Iraqi military reported numbers, but they were both involved in the effort. US spokesman Col. Chris Garver said the OIR coalition avoided parts of the convoy where they thought there might be civilians. The number of vehicles destroyed was much larger for the convoy northwest of Fallujah than for the one south of Fallujah.

_ Iraqi “Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul said the convoy was nearly seven miles long and made up of vehicles containing Islamic State leaders and their families.”

_ The mayor of Fallujah said Sunni tribal fighters were the only forces that fought ISIS on the ground as they fled Fallujah, not the army, and said: “They wouldn’t take such a risk unless they had a deal with some side […] Why would they drive more than 500 cars in an exposed agricultural area?”

Demise of the New Syrian Army at Iraq-Syria Border

_ The Pentagon-backed New Syrian Army (NSA) “launched an offensive to capture the border-city of Abukamal in the Deir Ezzor Governorate from the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS).” On the Iraqi side of the border, Sunni tribes worked to “capture the Al-Qa’im border-crossing.” These tribes were part of the coalition that recaptured Fallujah. “If this U.S. military campaign is successful, ISIS will lose its most important border-crossing that links Iraq and Syria.”

_ On Wednesday there were reports of New Syrian Army (NSA) defeat in their efforts at albu Qamal. War correspondent Elijah Magnier reports that  NSA “pulls out from al-Hamadan airport leaving many dead & wounded” and that NSA had “entered Syria from Jordan to confront ISIS with limited warfare experience and slim chances to win any battle.” Magnier believes they will not continue on to Deir Ezzour now.

_ This analysis on the New Syrian Army (NSA) by military expert, “Moon of Alabama”, provides more detail and questions the real purpose of NSA and the demise of yet another Pentagon-backed Syrian rebel program. As a result of the ISIS defeat of the NSA, ISIS “seized 6 brand new U.S. supplied trucks with miniguns and another 6 trucks with ammunition as well as satellite telephones.”

_ In a New York Times article, the New Syrian Army (NSA) spokesman Mozahem al-Saloum said NSA’s “airborne fighters were dropped from coalition helicopters on Boukamal’s southern edge” and the UK-based Syrian Observatory confirmed it and said they were also dropped north of the air base. “The U.S. Central Command said coalition jets carried out several airstrikes on IS targets in the Boukamal area” but a US coalition spokesman, Col. Chris Garver, “denied that fighters had been brought in by helicopter.”

USS Eisenhower Carrier Group Started Airstrikes From Mediterranean

_ The USS Eisenhower carrier strike group began this week “launching strikes from the Mediterranean against the Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, the military said.”

More Scuffles Between US and Russian Navy in the Med

_ The video below shows how close ships have been, in scuffles between the US and Russian navy, at least twice in the past two weeks. The Russian frigate, Yaroslav Mudry, was involved with two different US warships. On June 17 (video below), US destroyer Gravely, made a “close-in, high-speed pass on a Russian ship.”  The US Navy account differs and they claimed that the Yaroslav Mudry “spent more than an hour June 17 maneuvering erratically and unsafely near a US aircraft carrier and destroyer.” On June 30, the Russian frigate, Yaroslav Mudry, “dangerously approached the US cruiser San Jacinto in the Mediterranean Sea” and then took “station in the San Jacinto’s wake about 3,000 yards astern of the cruiser” and  broadcasted “do not cross my bow.”

_ Russian media published the US Navy’s account of the latest incident but no contradicting account has been published as of Friday morning. Sputnik did publish another story on Thursday saying the Russian navy was not impressed by the USS Gravely’s show of force because their priority is to guard the supply ships that are part of the “Syria Express” from terrorist attacks. The Russian navy is modernizing but is much smaller and more outdated than the US Navy.

 

US and Russia Accuse Each Other of Harassing Diplomats, Strip Credentials

_ The State Dept. claims that American diplomats are being harassed in Moscow by “by Russian security agents and traffic police” and John Kerry complained to Putin about it in March. In January, “Washington stripped five of the six Russian honorary consuls of credentials in January to retaliate.”  The Russian foreign ministry accused the United States “provoking Russian diplomats in the United States and elsewhere.” During a radio show, Russian studies and Cold War expert, Stephen Cohen, says these things are typical of Cold War shennanigans and it’s just more confirmation that we are in a Cold War with Russia.

_ On Tuesday, during their weekly radio talk, John Batchelor and Stephen Cohen talked about Brexit, the death of the old order and the corrosion of democracy, the rebellion against the ruling elite, Russia/US relations, NATO, Turkey and Europe.

 Jihadists Stole Entire $500 million Power Plant From Syria

_ Al Nusra (al Qaeda) and Ahrar al-Sham jihadists used heavy equipment to dismantle an entire power plant in Idlib, Syria, and moved it across the border to Turkey. A Syrian engineer said: “There is no way for those militants to dismantle the Power Plant by themselves; it is too complicated for them, it takes specialized experts to do so. They must have brought some from somewhere.”

Implementation of Iran Deal, Escalation in Syria

_ Alastair Crooke says he has “heard directly from banks in Europe that they’ve been visited by U.S. Treasury officials and warned in clear terms that any substantive trade cooperation with Iran is closed off. Iran is not being integrated into the financial system.” Iranian leaders “feel cheated; some are livid. Others simply opine that the U.S. should never have been trusted in the first place.” Similar sentiments have been voiced by Russia about the Syrian ceasefire deal.  Trust between the US and Iran, the US and Russia is at a low point. Crooke believes all of this will lead to an escalation and a “hot summer” in Syria.

 

War Selling

_ One of the top American war seller journalists will be spending the summer at the Foundation of Democracies, a neoconservative think tank.  The New York Times’ Michael Gordon is infamous for his war selling in the run up to Iraq War 2.0 in 2003, with his “notoriously-bogus ‘aluminum tubes’ story that helped give American the Iraq war. ” Is this a perk, a reward, or pre-payment and preparation for selling the next Great Middle East War, which is on the horizon according to neocons and liberal interventionists who would come into power again with a Hillary Clinton White House?

Another Bombing Attack in Turkey at Major Turkish Airport; Erdogan Calls for International Cooperation Against Terrorism

_ Multiple suicide attack bombings at the international terminal of Atatürk Airport in Istanbul left at least 28 people dead and more than 100 injured.  The attacks resulted in the US grounding all Istanbul-bound flights on Friday and departing flights were canceled. The Telegraph reports that ISIS is believed to be behind the attacksAtatürk Airport is the third busiest airport in Europe and has a high level of security.

_ Police fired at the suicide attackers but they were able to detonate anyway and at least one bomber opened fire with a  Kalashnikov assault weapon before detonating himself. Reports about attack locations via social media from people on the scene vary — near a security checkpoint, at the taxi pick up area,

_ Early death tolls in suicide bombing attacks almost always increase because of the horrific injuries they cause to some survivors and Anadolu Agency reported at least 6 were heavily wounded. Turkish media has reported 28 killed while Russian media reports 50 killed and more than 100 injured, and British media reports 31 killed and 147 injured, as of Friday evening.  There were at least 2 suicide bombers, possibly 3. A witness said there were “two explosions, followed by more shooting, then a third explosion.”

_ Turkey’s president Erdogan said: “If states, as all humanity, fail to join forces and wage a joint fight against terrorist organisations, all the possibilities that we dread in our minds will come true one by one.” It is a curious statement because Erdogan’s Turkish intelligence has been a key player in the transport of arms, rebels and terrorists in the war in Syria and his family ran a black market oil smuggling operation that transported ISIS oil. One Turkish MP said that Erdogan uses ISIS to “advance his Middle East policy and suppress the Kurds.” Erdogan’s strong desire to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al-Assad may have been subdued after recent reconciliation with Russia, but the terms whatever agreements they may have reached are as yet unknown.

_ On the same day a car bomb attack occurred in the Kurdish area of Turkey, Diyarbakir, where 1 police officer was killed and 7 people wounded.

_ 14 terrorist attacks in Turkey in the year 2016 are documented in Wikipedia. The attacks occurred in Ankara (2), Bursa (1), Diyarbakır (2), Dürümlü (2), Gaziantep (1), Istanbul (4), Kilis (1), and Midyat (1).

_ Days after the attack, a New York Times article frames the attack as a retaliation for Turkey, who previously allowed ISIS free rein, tightening up its borders and “cracking down on some of the transit of foreign fighters.” By contrast, numerous other reports in the past couple of months have said Syrian rebels have been pouring over the border into northwest Syria to refresh and reinforce the rebel position during what was supposed to be a ceasefire.

_ Russian media reports on statements by the Russian ambassador to Syria, Alexander Kinshchak, about how Turkey might agree to close its borders if the rapprochement between the two countries is successful.  Kinshchak: “If we reach mutual understanding regarding counter-terrorism, if our potential Turkish partners understand that this threat is serious for them as well… if we have progress there, understanding and we will start working within one program to achieve common goals, then of course they will be closing the border.”

_ As of Friday, one week after the attacks, more information has been revealed about the attackers.  They stayed in a nearby safe house in a tourist neighborhood for a month where neighbors say people come and go, but not the attackers, who “were nationals of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, specifically the Dagestan region of the north Caucasus, according to officials” but wore European clothes.

Diplomatic Shift in Turkey

_ BBC diplomatic correspondent says Turkey is playing diplomatic chess in the Middle East. “In bilateral terms, Israel and Turkey’s strong economic relationship may now prosper – there is talk of potential pipeline deals for Mediterranean gas.” He says “It makes absolute sense for Israel and Turkey to renew a proper dialogue […] And both are courting Moscow too.”

_ Financial Times says that Turkey is undergoing a diplomatic shift motivated by economic and political issues.

_ With respect to the normaliztion of relations between Turkey and Israel:  “It seems that the deal with Israel is connected to the coming gas bonanza in the Eastern Mediterranean.”  Turkey is an economic catastrophe right now, so the deal was made as a result of Turkey’s weakness. But if the gas field is of the coast of Israel and Cyprus, surely some of it must be off the coast of Lebanon and Syria too, but they are not mentioned in the deal that is mentioned in reports.

Libya Unity Government

_ Four members of the UN-appointed Libyan unity government resigned. All of those cabinet ministers were from the eastern bloc.

Emiratis Advising Prince on How to Become King of Saudi Arabia

_ Sources told Middle East Eye that two princes from the United Arab Emirates have been advising the deputy crown prince in Saudi Arabia, “Prince Reckless”, on how to convince the United States that he should be the next king (rather than the current crown prince).  They told Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud that he should “end the rule of Wahhabism” and open a “strong channel of communication” with Israel. The 30-year old Saudi prince told another source that “he will complete the mission of becoming king before the end of the year”. Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud or “MBN”, the current crown prince, is a favorite among some powerful Americans, especially in the national security apparatus. “UAE-Israel ties have grown close in recent years,” though this has remained largely secret.

Ukrainian Aircraft Corporation

_ “In June 2016, Ukraine’s major state-owned arms manufacturerUkroboronprom announced the creation of the Ukrainian Aircraft Corporationwithin its structure, thereby combining all aircraft manufacturing enterprises, including the assets of Antonov State Company into a single cluster, according to Ukroboronprom’s press service.” (Wikipedia)

Analysis and Opinion

_ Robert Parry, “Trading Places: Neocons and Cockroaches,” on how neocon war policies have brought us to the brink of nuclear war and if surviving “cockroach historians” are able to analyze it they’ll find the root cause was “our failure to hold the neoconservatives accountable in the first two decades of the Twenty-first Century that led to our demise.”

_ Gareth Porter argues: “Since mid-2013, Kerry has been the leading figure in a political-bureaucratic coalition favouring a more aggressive military and covert action role in Syria” and there was no need for the 51 diplomats to use the “dissent” channel because their plea was in complete agreement with the management at the State Dept. Gareth also singles out some deceptive language in the memo: “None of us see or has seen merit in a large-scale US invasion of Syria.” As for the peace deal, it’s pretty hard to engage in real diplomacy when your top diplomats are beating the drum and really want war. Gareth believes that what is behind the “dissent” memo and the synchronized roll out of new war plans means the Hillary Clinton campaign has already begun to try to build public support for the military option in Syria.

President Barack Obama convenes a meeting in the Situation Room to discuss the latest on the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. Photo by the White House on Flickr.
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Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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