Next Cold War Roundup 8/19/16
On the fifth anniversary of the US government declaring that Assad must go, the battle for Aleppo rages and major political and military realignments are in the works. Syria bombed Kurdish security forces (Ayaysh), with US commandos nearby. The US scrambled fighter jets, warned Syria, and now patrol that airspace. Russia has increased airstrikes and is using an air base in Iran.
Russia is also deploying a combat ship to the Gulf of Aden. There are unconfirmed reports of US nuclear weapons moving from Turkey to Romania.
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Pivot
_ Turkey plans to join Russia and Iran in a “peace project” according to Iran’s deputy foreign minister. Turkish president Erdogan will visit Tehran next week “to discuss a Russia-Turkey-Iran coalition to fight terrorism in Syria.” Earlier this week Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim “said it is time for Ankara to normalize ties with Damascus.”
_ The “improvement of Turkey’s relations with Iran after the coup, has gone largely unreported if not totally unnoticed.” Turkey now realizes that ISIS should be its “primary concern in Syria.” Gareth Porter calls it a “stunning diplomatic surprise” and the “first significant diplomatic break in a five-year international conflict on Syria.”
_ Turkish prime minister Cavusoglu said: “It seems to us that NATO members behave in an evasive fashion on issues such as the exchange of technology and joint investments. Turkey intends to develop its own defense industry and strengthen its defense system. In this sense, if Russia were to treat with – this with interest, we are ready to consider the possibility of cooperation in this sector.” When asked about this, State Dept. spokesman John Kirby said the US has no concerns about this kind of bilateral agreement between Turkey and Russia, and Turkey remains an important part of NATO.
_ An op-ed in Kurdish media asks: “Does the Turkey-Russia-Iran deal mean the Kurds are back to square one?”
_ Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told Russian media that ” the need for dialogue with Russia was apparent at the last NATO summit.” Turkey does not want the Black Sea to become “a center of tension.”
_ War correspondent Elijah Magnier says that Turkey, Iran and Russia each have a different approach toward Syrian president Assad.
_ Robert Fisk at the Independent says that because of Russia, “the Shias are winning.” Fisk says the rebranded al Qaeda group (al Nusra aka Fatah al-Sham) are “far eclipsing the black-costumed lads of Raqqa whose gruesome head-chopping videos have awed the West” and we “are not paying nearly enough attention to Nusrah. But the Russians are.” Fisk says ISIS is fairly easy to defeat but Nusra is “a more powerful enemy” that is a “Sunni Syrian outfit” and funded by Qatar. Turkey, says Fisk, is now “squeezed between giants” and can see its fate as the arms smuggling nation, and Germany’s latest accusations provide some indications. A German intelligence report was leaked where Turkey was named as having a “distorted mindset” and being a “platform” for Islamist terror groups
Nukes Moving From Turkey to Romania
_ There are reports that US nuclear weapons stored at Incirlik air base in Turkey are in the process of being moved to Deveslu, Romania. The Romanian Foreign Ministry denied it and the US Air Force refused to comment. “The redeployment of the weapons to Romania is said to have ‘enraged Russia,’ in as much as it is bringing those arms closer to the Russian frontier.”
Russian Air Base in Iran
_ A Russian defense analyst said that the deployment of Russian bombers to Hamedan air base came after Iran and Hezbollah complained about the air support in Syria. Vladimir Sazhin said the base is a “stopover airfield” and Russian serviceman are not deployed there, but it is a “clear sign of a military-political breakthrough in relations between Moscow and Tehran.” Iran had not been satisfied with the level of air support for their troops and Russia was not satisfied with Iranian troops ability to carry out their tasks. But the tactical goals of both countries are the same.
_ Strategically, Iran’s and Russia’s goals have differed on Syria. “Both countries wish the state system in Syria to remain unchanged” but Iran insists Assad must stay in place while Russia does not. “There are many problems – historical and contemporary – that hinder onward development of bilateral relations,” and trade level is low, but recent relations between politicians, diplomats and the military indicates significant improvement.
Battle of Aleppo
_ Russia agreed to 48-hour ceasefires in Aleppo, on a weekly basis after UN envoy Staffan de Mistura “cut short a meeting Thursday of the ad hoc committee — chaired by Russia and the United States.”
_ There is heavy fighting in the (green) “corridor” area in southern Aleppo as the Syrian coalition tries to reestablish encirclement of the rebel-held (green) part of the city. The Russian air force increased bombing significantly, with a reported 200 airstrikes since Thursday, Aug. 18.
Omran, Injured Child from Rebel-Held Aleppo
_ A now viral photo of a toddler boy allegedly rescued from a building hit by a Russian airstrike has been “widely shared on social media” and has generated headlines and dominated all Aleppo stories for the Aug. 18 news cycle from virtually every western media organization and international media as well.
_ The perspective of a pro-government civilian from Aleppo: “U arm & finance jihadi groups to destroy the Syria state, they invade towns & take human shields, u then use the victims for ur propaganda.” He cites another child, badly injured by “rebel” shelling on the other side of Aleppo (government-held side), who does not make global headlines: “One of them made global headlines, while the other was ignored. Guess why […] your media only covers only one side of what’s going on in Syria.”
Syrian Government & Syrian Kurds Fighting in Hasakah, US Troops Nearly Hit
_ US-backed YPG claim that the Syrian air force has been bombing Kurdish-held areas for the first time, in Hasakah province in northeast Syria. Syrian Kurds “YPG spokesman tweets that the ‘Baathist regime will perish’ after another night of heavy clashes in Hasakah.”
_ The YPG command issued a statement in English, stating that there had been “heavier clashes between Asayish [security forces and intelligence] and regime forces inside Hasakah” where the Syrian forces used artillery and then airstrikes against them and in residential areas.
_ Pro-Syrian government media claims that the fighting started the previous night (Aug. 17) when the Kurdish security forces (Asayish) attacked a National Defense Forces (NDF, pro-government militias) checkpoint.
_ Southfront reports this as an “all-out battle for control of Hasakah City.” Kurdish ARA News reports that Syrian Kurds believe this attack is a result of recent success in Manbij and speculate that there is now cooperation between the Syrian government and Turkey.
_ Washington Post reports today that the Syrian air force “bombed near U.S. and coalition Special Operations forces in Syria […] forcing U.S. aircraft to scramble in response.” Pentagon spokesman Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said “U.S. aircraft would defend coalition forces on the ground and that Syrian forces ‘would be well advised not to interfere’ with operations in the area.” The US launched a combat air patrol and continues to guard the area. The US contacted Russia before scrambling the jets and Russia told them that their planes were not in the area.
_ Paul McCleary of Foreign Policy framed it this way: “The U.S. scrambled aircraft to protect the elite forces, raising the prospect that Washington and Damascus could have been in direct combat for the first time.” [Emphasis added]
_ A disputed number of US marines arrived in Hasakah province and then traveled to northern Raqqa. Al Masdar reported that 150 marines arrived and 100 more are expected. On social media, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman refuted a report that 45 US marines were on a demining mission in Syria: “we do not have 45 US Marines demining IEDs in Syria, but CJTFOIR advisors are providing advice/assistance to SAC & MMC in Syria.”
Intervention in Yemen
_ A “Russian frigate from the Baltic fleet, the combat ship Yaroslav Mudry, is now on an “anti-piracy mission” in the Gulf of Aden. This ship was involved in an incident with the USS Gravely in the Mediterranean on June 17.
_ War correspondent Elijah Magnier said, on Aug. 18: “I believe we shall see an overt Russian role in Yemen this year.”
_ Sec. State John Kerry will travel to Saudi Arabia next week to meet with the Saudis, Gulf Council, the UK, and the UN special envoy for Yemen.
_ On Aug. 18, South Korea’s army “conducted its largest-ever artillery drills near the tense border with North Korea.” Dozens of military units fired 300 artillery systems along the demilitarized zone, “firing shells simultaneously in multiple directions.” The drills were held on the 40-year anniversary of the axe murder of 2 US soldiers during a border clash, and the 1-year anniversary of 2 South Korean soldiers being injured by land mines. On the day before the drills, a North Korean diplomat based in London defected to South Korea, which is “expected to infuriate North Korea.” There was no immediate response from North Korea to the defection or the drills.
Assad Must Go, Five Years Ago
_ Five years ago this week, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama declared that Assad must go:
- On Aug. 16, 2011, Sec. State Hillary Clinton publicly stated that the US should build “international support against Assad, especially from Turkey and Arab countries.”
- On Aug. 18, 2011, Pres. Obama issued a statement: “The future of Syria must be determined by its people but [Assad] is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. … For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”
- On Aug. 18, 2011, Sec. State Clinton made a statement from the podium: “We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes. At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspirations for a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive. And we will stand up for their universal rights and dignity by pressuring the regime and Assad personally to get out of the way of this transition.”
War and Elections
_ Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report says: “Yes, Obama and Clinton Created ISIS — Too Bad Trump Can’t Explain How it Happened.” Trump can’t articulate or grasp the truth of his statement because he’d have to indict “U.S. imperial policy in the Muslim world since the last days of 1979, when Zbigniew Brzezinski convinced President Jimmy Carter to set the jihadist dogs loose in Afghanistan.” But Ford asserts that “a solid case can be made that Obama and Clinton were, indeed, the ‘most valuable players’ in spawning ISIS. Moreover, it is an historical fact that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia created the international jihadist network from which al Qaida and ISIS sprang, almost four decades ago.”
_ Ford explains that in 2011, with “Washington’s unfinished agenda” in the Middle East and in the wake of the Iraq war disaster, Obama could not deploy US troops and instead “launched the Mother of All Proxy Wars” by “mobilizing the totality of the international jihadist network” that had been birthed 30 years before.
_ Phil Giraldi: “Team Hillary to End Evil Worldwide.”
Analysis and Opinion
_ Micah Zenko from Council on Foreign Relations: “Checking the Math on the Pentagon’s ISIS Body Counts.”