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900 Afghan Forces Killed in July. Putin Talks About Deal With US.

Next Cold War Roundup 9/2/16

Russian President Vladimir Putin said there may be a deal with the US on Syria in the near future and a Russian official said the deal must be reached while President Barack Obama is in office. Putin also confirmed that Russia and Turkey are aligning their interests. Kurdish YPG captured Turkish-backed rebels near Jarablus. French president Hollande warned Turkey and Russia. The US Treasury slapped more sanctions on Russia.

More than 900 Afghan forces were killed in July. Last year 5,000 were killed and 15,000 injured. The US military mission in Libya has been extended by Pres. Obama. Amnesty International called out the “deadly hypocrisy” of the US and UK arms deals to Saudi Arabia.  Godfather of al Qaeda, Zbigniew Brzezinski has done an about face on empire.

The peace deal in Colombia may leave the cocaine trade wide open for international players to move in.

US-Russia “Breakthrough” Deal on Syria Before Obama Leaves Office

_ In a Bloomberg interview, Russian president Vladimir Putin said the US and Russia are close to a “breakthrough” deal on Syria. He said he believes that “gradually working toward structural change” in Syria is better than foreign actors removing the country’s leader from power.  He cited Iraq and Libya regime change operations leading to collapse of the states.

Putin: “We’re gradually, gradually heading in the right direction […] “I don’t rule out that we’ll be able to agree on something in the near future and present our agreements to the international community.”

“One of the key problems is that we insist, and our U.S. partners are not opposed to this, that the so-called healthy part of the opposition should be separated from the radical groups and terrorist organizations.” [Emphasis added]

_ Putin praised US Sec. State John Kerry, “whose ‘patience and determination‘ in pushing for an accord before President Barack Obama leaves office next year have made a deal possible.” An anonymous Russian official said “the window is closing for a deal that can be implemented,” referring to the end of Obama’s term approaching and presumably the unlikelihood of being able to close a similar deal with presumed future president Hillary Clinton.  It’s worth considering that the saber rattling, demands to take down Assad, and white paper war plans rolled out by Clinton’s surrogates is, at least in part, a deliberate maneuver to strengthen an otherwise weak hand at the negotiating table for the US.

_ Putin confirmed that Russia and Turkey are “aligning their interests in the conflict” and “have a mutual desire to come to an agreement about the region’s problems, including the Syrian one.” Moon of Alabama’s latest analysis on that deal, speculates that the US has largely been left out, and Turkey has moved forward on a “wide framework discussed between all relevant forces – Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Turkey and others.” Retired military intelligence officer, Col. Pat Lang, talks about the “new reality” of the Russian-Turkish alliance, though he believes Turkey is not entirely trustworthy.

_ We reported on the deals between Turkey, Russia and Iran in the Next Cold War roundup earlier this week.

ISIS Origins

_ An (allegedly) leaked “ISIS Backgrounder” document from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a Democratic party organization (DCCC or D Triple C), acknowledges that the 2003 Iraq invasion “created the atmosphere for a Jordanian to start a Muslim sectarian war which ultimately created ISIS.” The DCCC memo said that Zarqawi came to Iraq during the insurgency against the US, intending to fight a Sunni-Shia sectarian war with the goal of creating a Sunni state. The Iraqi government crackdown on and bias against Sunnis led to the creation of al Qaeda in Iraq and later ISIS.

Hollande’s Remarks on Syria

_ On Aug. 30, at diplomatic corps meeting in Paris, French President Hollande warned that “contradictory interventions” by Turkey and Russia could escalate the war in Syria.  What makes this comment so odd is that the most contradictory interventions in Syria are the US interventions, in which at least two of the various forces they back (US-backed “rebels”, Pentagon-backed Kurdish forces in the SDF, Turkey, New Syrian Army) are fighting each other.

_ Hollande said it was understandable that Turkey would defend its borders against ISIS but condemned actions against Kurds, which is the same message the that multiple US government and military officials have given Turkey this week.  Was Hollande speaking for himself or conveying a message? Is he speaking for the EU? His message aligns very much with the recent message from numerous US government and military officials.

_ Hollande warned Russia not to become a “protagonist” in the war, said they should be a player in negotiations, when Russia is already a main player in negotiations and France is not. Hollande plans to invite Russian President Putin to France in October.

_ Hollande called for an “immediate truce” in Aleppo where a rebel offensive resulted in a serious escalation during the past month.  Fighting has caused a “large-scale humanitarian catastrophe.”

Jarablus

_ One of the team of writers at Sic Semper Tyrannis said: “The head of the Jarabulus Military Council announced that US Special Forces are stationed between his forces and the Turks south of Jarabulus.”

Syrian Kurds

_ Turkey lashed out at the US for the numerous official statements telling Turkey to fight ISIS and not the Syrian Kurds (YPG).

_ Kurdish media reports that western volunteers fighting with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) say they signed up to fight ISIS and will not fight Turkey. The Turkish government said they consider western volunteers fighting alongside the Kurds to be terrorists too.

_ Kurdish forces (YPG) arrested “a number of Turkey-backed rebel fighters” near Jarablus. A YPG spokesman said: “The operation comes in response to the detention of four of our fighters who have been tortured and publicly humiliated by those mercenary groups.” Another YPG member said Turkey is cutting off Syrian Democratic Forces supply routes in northern Syria to stop them from fighting ISIS.

Qatar and Turkey

_ Qatar’s immediate support for Erdogan during the July coup attempt resulted in significantly strengthened ties between Turkey and Qatar. On “August 24, Doha and Ankara signed twinning agreements.” A Rice Univ. professor said their alliance “provides a counterweight to other regional powers, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iran.” Turkey has a military base in Qatar and according to a (UK) Durham Univ. professor, while the base is symbolic it is also “a clear signal to Washington, Riyadh, and Tehran, that Ankara is well placed to take over the US role in the future if the need arises.”

Casualties in Afghanistan

_ More than 900 Afghan security personnel (Afghan army and police) were killed in the month of July, according to Gen. John Nicholson, commander of NATO Resolute Support mission, the US-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan (formerly International Security Assistance Force – ISAF).

_ During “last year’s fighting,” 5,000 members of the Afghan forces were killed and 15,000 injured. USA Today reports that Taliban forces have been “gaining ground” and the NATO coalition “bolstering Afghan troops have scrambled in recent days to keep them from losing Helmand province” which is the largest province “and a longtime hub of poppy production.”

_ An American Army Green Beret soldier, SSG Matthew Thompson, was killed in Helmand province in Afghanistan on Aug. 23. “Six Afghan soldiers and an American were also wounded when their vehicle struck the roadside bomb while on patrol near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah,” according to the LA Times. This is the second American military combat death in Afghanistan in 2016.

_ Scott Horton interviewed Dutch journalist, Bette Dam, this week about Bette Dam, “how the US can spend 15 years in Afghanistan without making any progress on a military or political resolution; and the media’s overblown estimation of the Taliban’s strength and unity.”

_ The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board published a call for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan: “Out of Afghanistan: No need for U.S. troops and treasure in the mess,” charging that “Afghanistan is America’s own drug culture protectorate” and a 15-year “expensive, utterly fruitless policy in a country now of little or no interest to the United States.”

“Their leaders’ real priorities are to gain as much of the profits from the opium trade as possible. Helmand province is a center of production of opium, the raw material of heroin. Rivalries among Afghan leaders are usually rooted in seeking access to opium profits. Afghanistan remains the world leader in the production of opium, in spite of years of American admonitions and incentives to grow something other than the poppies from which it is harvested. Afghanistan is America’s own drug culture protectorate.”

_ Two hostages, an American woman and her Canadian husband, were seized by the Haqqani network, “a Taliban affiliate operating in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region,” 4 years ago, “while on a backpacking trip near the Pakistani border in 2012.” The Daily Beast reported having a video this week where the hostages, Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle (who have had 2 children while in captivity) have been threatened if the US does not intervene to change the Afghan government policy of executing Taliban prisoners. The US State Dept. is assessing the video.

“Deadly Hypocrisy” of Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia

_ Amnesty International: “Yemen’s horror exposes the deadly hypocrisy of arms exporters like the UK and the USA.”

_ Ben Norton: “Rights group blasts U.S. ‘hypocrisy’ in ‘vast flood of weapons’ to Saudi Arabia, despite war crimes.”

_ Retired military intelligence official, Col. Pat Lang, who served as a military attache in Yemen some decades ago, wonders whether Saudi Arabia will survive the war in Yemen in an updated post that he originally wrote in April, 2015. At that time, Lang said that the Saudi military forces were designed to “to maintain population and territorial control and in its more modern parts to overawe the Twelver Shia majority population of the Eastern Province (where the oil and gas is located)” and he always doubted that they had the “military capability to intervene successfully in Yemen.”

Libya Mission Extended, Record Number of Refugees Rescued

_ According to 2 defense officials, Pres. Obama has extended the mission in Libya (that he insisted would be limited) for another month. Two US Navy warships off the coast of Libya, the USS Wasp ( were scheduled to move to the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea, respectively, but will remain. The first ship is the USS Wasp, a “large amphibious assault ship loaded with over 1,000 Marines as well as Harrier jets and Cobra attack helicopters” and the second is the USS Carney, a guided missile destroyer.

_ CIA director John Brennan told the country in June that there were 5-8,000 ISIS fighters in Libya. According to FoxNews, US military officials recently said there “hundreds” in Sirte.

Peace in Colombia

_ The Real News produced an impressive short documentary with rare interviews from a FARC rebel camp in the jungles of Columbia: “FARC Members Ready for Peace, But Tensions Remain”

_ Jeremy McDermott, at InSight Crime, an organization that does investigative journalism and analysis on organized crime, has an analysis on what the peace deal means for the cocaine trade.  The article was republished at the War is Boring site and one conclusion is that the peace deal means the cocaine trade will now be “wide open” and “local, regional and international players could step in and get rich.”

Zbig on the Middle East Turmoil

_ As journalist David Mizner describes him, the “godfather of al Qaeda,” Zbigniew Brzezinski, has been mostly quiet on the turmoil in the Middle East, since his landmark, but largely ignored, paper in April, “Toward a Global Realignment,” has spoken up again on social media, twice in the same day.

_ “Strategic vision” has been Zbig’s thing for decades and destabilization via mujahideen was his specialty. His post-Soviet “Grand Chessboard” book and strategy for America as the sole superpower was, and still is for some, a staple of the foreign policy establishment.  But journalist Mike Whitney writes about Brzezinski’s recent paper as an “about-face” and a “dramatic revising” of his own imperial strategy: “The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire.”

_ Episode 20 (video, transcript) of “Cold War: Soldiers of God, 1975-1988,” a TV documentary series aired by CNN and BBC in 1998, features Zbig giving a pep-talk to his mujahideen proxies, the “Soldiers of God,” al Qaeda’s predecessors, and interview clips with Brzezinski and others. At 16:20, there is a clip of Brzezinski speaking to the mujahideen in Pakistan:

BRZEZINSKI: “We know of their deep belief in God, and we are confident that their struggle will succeed. That land over there is yours. You will go back to it one day, because your fight will prevail and you’ll have your homes and your mosques back again, because your cause is right and God is on your side.”

More US Sanctions on Russia, EU Sanctions May Be Extended

_ The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) increased sanctions on Russia, adding individuals and entities to the sanctions list which has been in place since 2014, for “meddling in Ukraine” as there is a reported buildup of troops in Russia and military exercises near the Ukraine border.

_ US state propaganda network, Radio Free Europe, reports that “European Union ambassadors appear set to prolong” EU sanctions on Russia. In recent months, there have been many reports that the EU is divided on the sanctions and likely to begin lifting them. Sanctions were also placed on companies involved in the construction of the new road/rail bridge to Crimea from the Russian mainland.

NATO on the Russian Border

_ NATO in Estonia: ‘Luftwaffe takes Baltic Air Policing over from Royal Air Force at Ämari AB, Cheerio & Herzlich Willkommen !’ (German air force flying patrols from an air base on the Russian border)

_ The German air force “deployed its mobile tactical air command system to Latvia.”

Ukraine

_ NATO on social media: “US Marines perform their first ever amphibious landing in Ukraine alongside their Ukrainian allies in the Black Sea.”

_ Dmitry Kovalevich: “In Ukraine: Independence From the People,” “An empty pathos: Impressions from Independence Day in Kyiv”

Lindsey Snell, Freelance Journalist or CIA Agent Detained in Turkey

_ The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for Turkey to release “freelance journalist Lindsey Snell.” We reported the story about an attempted rescue of Snell on Aug. 9, where US helicopters and drones attempted to rescue a wounded US intelligence agent inside Syria who had been imprisoned by al Qaeda and escaped across the border but was then detained by Turkey.

_ US State Dept. made a statement about Snell during the Aug. 31 briefing, saying she is a US citizen who was detained in Turkey on Aug. 7 and is “being held in a prison facility in Hatay Province” and the State Dept. is working on the case. The spokesman (John Kirby) said she was charged with “violating a military zone” and “I can’t speak to her reasons for being in Syria.” When asked about Snell’s journalism, Kirby said: “The question was was she doing the business of journalism, and I don’t know.”

_ There were previous reports that Snell was taken to Incirlik air base and that she was being held in Adana.

_ The BBC reports that Snell’s most recent Facebook post on August 5 says “she was held in a cave prison by militants even though she was given permission to film in their territory in Syria.” Snell, a Muslim, said “she had been staying with the family of one of the militant group’s recent martyrs when she was ‘arrested,'” and she used her phone to plan her escape.

_ Turkey’s pro-Erdogan media reported that Hatay’s governor said “we don’t know if she is a spy or not.”

Films, Podcasts

_ The Nation summarizes some of the conversation from the weekly Stephen Cohen – John Batchelor discussion on Aug. 23 (podcast): “Finland may become yet another front, the war party may have defeated Obama on Syria policy, and dangerous desperation in Kiev.”

War and Elections

_ On Aug. 31, Hillary Clinton gave a foreign policy speech (transcript) at the American Legion in Cincinnati, Ohio, in which she talked about the alleged Russian hacks of the Democratic party and signaled that she is ready to use military force to retaliate for cyberattacks: “As President, I will make it clear, that the United States will treat cyber attacks just like any other attack. We will be ready with serious political, economic and military responses.”

_ Zero Hedge has an op-ed by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. Whitehead says he’s not worried about alleged foreign hackers breaking into state election data bases because “the voting booths have already been hacked by a political elite comprised of Republicans and Democrats who are determined to retain power at all costs […] So, no, I’m not falling for the government’s scare tactics about Russian hackers.” Further, he said “the game is rigged” and “we the people keep getting dealt the same losing hand.” Whitehead cites his book, “Battlefield America: The War on the American People,”

_ In an interview (transcript) with Bloomberg International at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russian president Vladimir Putin said Russia didn’t hack the Democratic party’s servers. But he added fuel to the fire by saying: “Is it really important who broke into the data of Mrs. Clinton’s election headquarters? Is it really important? What’s important is the content that was presented to society.”

Analysis and Opinion

_ Anne Applebaum, a well known neocon interventionist, propagating the false narrative that the US has not done any significant intervention in Syria, when in fact, it has been intervening in multiple ways since the mid 2000’s, with the CIA running a weapons rat line from Libya to Syria since 2012, full support for jihadist rebels since 2013 (at least), with airstrikes since 2014 and with special operations forces on the ground since 2015 (at least): “The disastrous nonintervention in Syria.” Applebaum cites statistics on deaths, refugees and destruction, and pretends that these casualties are a result of nonintervention rather than intervention.

_ David Phillips of Columbia University: “Erdogan’s Waterloo: Turkey Invades and Occupies Syria.”

_ Jeffrey Sachs: “America’s True Role in Syria.” Sachs addresses the widespread and false perception that Obama has kept the US out of the Syrian war, hasn’t armed and assisted Syrian rebels, that there are no “boots on the ground,” etc.

"So here's the thing: How does disrespecting national songs that make people proud liberate anyone?" Photo by Miller Center 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.