Next Cold War Roundup 9/30/16
War of Words Continues to Escalate, Kerry Threatens to Cut All Ties With Russia
_ In response to Samantha Power’s “barbarism” accusation, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova said the US is trying to distract from their attack on Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor, and then Zakharova said:
“Historically speaking… a barbarian is someone not belonging to an empire, and we have only one of those today. As for the imagery… the world has seen nothing more barbaric in modern history than Iraq and Libya done the Washington way.”
_ On Weds. Sep. 28, Sec. of State John Kerry threatened to “cut off all contacts with Russia” unless the Syrian and Russian and Syrian air force stopped bombing Aleppo in their offensive to take the territory back from al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliated rebel groups.
_ State Dept. spokesman John Kirby said the cutting off contacts with Russia mainly would mean ending the meetings in Geneva and Kerry is not speaking for the DoD or the deconfliction coordination between the US and Russian air force and military, which he believes will continue. He did, however, say that the Joint Implementation Center (JIC) and full US/Russian military coordination in targeting al Nusra as part of the US-Russia deal, was in jeopardy.
_ Kirby also said that the “interagency” are still “discussing other options and alternatives that might be available to us” and by that he means non-diplomacy options. When asked what will be the consequences for Russia if the agreement falls through. Kirby gave a controversial answer that was widely reported and provoked very angry responses from Russia.
Kirby: “The consequences are that the civil war will continue in Syria, that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft. The stability that they claim they seek in Syria will be ever more elusive, and it’s hard to imagine how a continued war – not just a civil war now, but increasingly more violent extremist activity in Syria [..] So that’s what’s in it for them.” [Emphasis added]
_ Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, clearly took Kirby’s comments as a direct threat:
Konashenkov: “Once again we declare that we are fully prepared to continue the dialogue with the American side and carry on with the joint actions to combat terrorists in Syria. “However, even the slightest hints of a threat to our soldiers and Russian citizens must be excluded from this dialogue. The matter of safety of Russian citizens, wherever they may be, is not up for bargaining. It is our main and unconditional priority.” [Emphasis added]
_ Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, responded via social media:
Zakharova: “Don’t you think that such ventriloquism about ‘body bags,’ ‘terrorist attacks in Russian cities’ and ‘loss of aircraft,’ sounds more like a ‘get ’em’ command, rather than a diplomatic comment?”
_ On Sep. 29, Kerry spoke at an Atlantic Live event and said: “I think we’re on the verge of suspending the discussion … So it’s one of those moments where we’re going to have to pursue other alternatives for a period of time.” [Emphasis added]
_ ” The Pentagon did its best to jawbone the accord into oblivion, which was its intent from the first.” Patrick Lawrence, at The Nation. Lawrence also cites a letter published at The Nation by 157 “prominent Syrian intellectuals,” all of them secular democrats, who say US strategy is undermining their cause. ” The last thing Washington wants in the Arab world is democracy, as any history book can make plain.”
_ Syrian ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari: “The Syrian government is not bombing civilians. These people are our own people. We don’t bomb civilians, we don’t kill civilians. We don’t bomb humanitarian convoys. We don’t do that. Those who did it are the terrorists.”
_ On the one year anniversary of their intervention, Russia sent more war planes to Syria.
_ US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel continued the “barbarism” theme by saying the bombing of Aleppo was “barbarous”.
_ US officials are considering a Plan B for Syria.
_ Lavrov, in an interview with the BBC, said the US refuses to separate the opposition rebels from al Nusra but still are not willing or able to do that, and the Russians increasingly have reason to believe they are not willing, because they are keeping the al Qaeda group for a Plan B regime change operation. So the Russians believe that the US and allies are holding al Qaeda in reserve to overthrow Assad. (Video)
New York Times Editorial Board and Others Beat War Drums; Western Media War Propaganda Explodes
_ Charles Lister, from the Qatar branch of Brookings Institution, and a strong proponent who claims to work closely with the Syrian rebel groups, has laid out an entire plan for taking over the Syrian war from the Russians: “A Plan for Winding Down the Syrian Civil War: Surge, Freeze, and Enforce.” The plan including creating a lopsided council in which the US would always win the majority vote, who can override Russia if they don’t do things our way. An override would lead to cruise missiles taking out selected Syrian military targets. Before blowing Assad’s bases and defenses to bits, advance notice would be given to the Russians. And after that, it would become a frozen conflict with “soft partitions” and “de facto safe zones” and delineations. The ceasefires include protection for al Nusra (al Qaeda). The Kurds and Turkey would play a role and have their own zones but not be included on the lopsided council. Amazing. Lister completely ignores the fundamental facts that military intervention means a high risk of war with Russia, a nuclear power even though no amount of detailed planning or sophisticated rhetoric can change that. Instead of addressing the risk, Lister says the price will be worth it and in the last paragraph he uses the classic: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Given that David Ignatius promoted it on Twitter, a more accurate title might have been: “The CIA Plan for World War III, Via Charles Lister.”
_ NYT editorial board: “Vladimir Putin’s Outlaw State.” Journalist, war analyst and expert on Russia Mark Ames observes: “The language in this NYT editorial on Putin recalls old edits on Milosevic & Saddam. They’re preparing us for war.” Prof. Stephen Cohen has warned about not just Cold War but actual war with Russia since the Maidan coup in Ukraine.
_ Frederic Hof, Altantic Council fellow: “Syria: The High Cost of Taking Russia at its Word.” Hof says that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Dunford, “administered the coup de grace by sharing with a Senate committee his strong reservations about military collaboration with Russia on any level” and insists that, regardless of the presence of and risk of war with Russia, Pres. Obama must “demand of his defense secretary options for exacting a price of a murderous, cowardly regime” and ” the Assad regime free ride for mass murder is brought to a screeching halt—and soon.” Earlier in the same paragraph, he says: “No, no one is calling for invasion, occupation, or violent regime change,” which seems to be yet another example of frustrated war hawks seeking to avoid words that would accurately signal their intentions.
_ The “moderate rebel” al Nusra jihadists in Aleppo rebranded to are joining al Qaeda because they feel abandoned by the West. Lebanese-American professor, As’ad AbuKhalil, aka “AngryArab” posts on his blog: “So according to the Economist, the Jihadis of Al-Qa`idah who swore allegiance to Bin Laden, don’t really have a Jihadist agenda. But the second part of the passage is classic: so secular and democratic and feminist rebels, simply join Jihadi terrorist organizations because they feel abandoned by the West. So if the correspondent of the Economist in the Middle East feels abandoned by the West, will she also join Al-Qa`idah alas?”
_ The New York Times David Sanger: “It’s No Cold War, but Vladimir Putin Relishes His Role as Disrupter.” Sanger claims Russian president Putin is doing everything: cyberattacks, disrupting US elections, hacking voter rolls in Arizona and Illinois, escalating airstrikes in Syria, and shooting down civilian airliners. Putin wants “low-grade conflict” for a “world in disarray”. He operates in “gray zones” and Robert Kagan wants to know if we need to operate in “gray zones” too.
_ One interesting aspect to the tsunami of war propaganda is that more western media outlets are rejecting the “moderate rebels” ruse and are recognizing that the “rebels” in East Aleppo are al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates. Moon of Alabama sees this as a sign that the massive US propaganda campaign is failing, and wonders if they will accept that failure or will “throw another Hail Mary and do something crazy?”
Operation Euphrates Shield: US Troops, FSA and Turkish Airstrikes, in Vicinity of Aleppo City
_ Lebanese media reports that US troops have ‘entered areas near Aleppo City’ in Marea and Azaz. US troops are embedded with Free Syrian Army (FSA), which are often jihadist groups branded as “moderate rebels”.
_ Turkish media reports Turkish airstrikes on ISIS-held villages in northern Aleppo province, using HGK bombs. Hurriyet reports the advance of “Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters” to the south. Turkish artillery “deployed on the border” also hit ISIS targets. This is considered to be part of Operation Euphrates Shield with a mission that Hurriyet describes as: “aims at bolstering border security, supporting U.S.-led coalition forces and eliminating the threat posed by terror elements in the region, especially ISIL.”
— Syria Today (@todayinsyria) September 27, 2016
— Syria Today (@todayinsyria) September 28, 2016
_ Al Masdar reports that US-backed rebels in northern Aleppo now, for the first time, have advanced rocket launchers. They attacked the Syrian army “with barrages of BM-21 missiles (Grad) using rocket launchers.” A Twitter account for the FSA published a video on Sep. 27 of FSA fighters unloading and firing the missiles. A rebel commander told Reuters that the Grad launchers have a range of 22-40 km.
MANPADS Policy Change in Syria
_ The US has reportedly reversed policy on the provision of MANPADs to Syrian rebel groups — shoulder-held, anti-aircraft missiles, reminiscent of the Stinger missiles supplied to the mujahideen in Afghanistan, used to take down Soviet helicopters. Reuters reported on Sep. 26 that anonymous US officials said that Gulf allies or “wealthy individuals” might ignore the US call for restraint and, out of frustration, supply MANPADS to rebels “to defend themselves against Syrian and Russian warplanes.” On Sep. 28, a Middle East Eye source went further, saying that there had been a US policy decision change:
“The US confirmed the green light to begin sending them to rebels through supply routes still open through Jordan and Turkey […] Rebels are being told only to target Syrian helicopters, not Russian – but it’s not clear they will abide by this. The US won’t let Aleppo fall. We can expect to see Syrian helicopters falling from the sky within weeks.” [Emphasis added]
_ The same Middle East Eye source said if MANPADS are supplied to Syrian rebels, there could be blowback in other areas, like Yemen, suggesting that Iran “shipping similar missiles to Houthi rebels fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.”
_ MANPADS in the wrong hands are a risk to more than just the Syrian and Russian air force. The coalition air force is also flying in Syria and they are a risk to passenger aircraft in the entire region.
_ State Dept. spokesman Mark Toner was asked on Sep. 27 about reports of Gulf allies providing additional arms to the Syrian opposition, including MANPADS.
Toner: “I wouldn’t presume to speak on their behalf and I’d have to refer you to them to talk about what they may or may not do. I think speaking broadly we have said that there are scenarios out there where, if this collapses altogether, if it descends further into conflict, that there is that possibility. But I can’t speak to – on behalf of these governments.”
_ Retired military intelligence officer, Pat Lang:
“It appears that US +NATO frustration with Russian unwillingness to surrender Syria to the jihadis will express itself in US + NATO sponsored Gulf Arab purchase of MANPADS for the jihadis in Syria. […] A major disincentive for provision of these weapons in the past was the threat these weapons pose to airliners near destination airports. […] They would be a particular threat to Israeli airliners. “
UN Security Council Proposal by France
_ French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said he is working on a UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire in Aleppo, “and that any country that opposed it would be deemed complicit in war crimes.” Ayrault said: “We will not let Aleppo become the Guernica of the 21st century,” referring to the Spanish Civil War. The British ambassador to the UN said they’re trying to move the resolution as quickly as possible and an anonymous “senior council diplomat” said: “We’re trying to embarrass Russia into doing the right thing on the ground.” Reuters refers to it as ‘forcing Russia’s hand.”
Todenhofer Interview With Al Nusra in Aleppo Causes Denials and Stir
_ Brad Hoff followed up on the Jurgen Todenhofer interview with the Nusra commander in Aleppo, adding more context and examples of the latest denials and doubts, none of which have been very convincing so far. His article at The Canary: “Syrian al-Qaeda commander reveals explosive link with the US.”
Russian Defense Ministry Warns of Planned False Flag Chemical Weapon Attack, Claims Evidence Rebels Attacked Aid Convoy in Aleppo
_ Syrian rebel groups, Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Jund Al-Aqsa used chemical weapons (chlorine gas) against the Syrian Army during battles in in northern Hama on Sep. 28. (Source: Al Masdar News)
_ The Russian Defense Ministry announced that they have intelligence about a planned false flag chemical weapons attack by the Syrian rebels on their own territory in East Aleppo.
_ The Russian Defense Ministry claims to have information about the involvement of Nusra-affiliated rebel groups in the attacks on the humanitarian aid convoy near Urum al-Kubra, Aleppo.
More Bombing in Deir Ezzor
_ The Syrian government condemned the US coalition “bombing and destroying a pair of bridges in the eastern Deir Ezzor” and the UK-based Syrian Observatory confirmed the attacks were done by US coalition planes. The Observatory also warned that the destruction of the bridges drastically impede delivery of humanitarian aid and the ability of civilians to flee ISIS and combat areas.
Iraq Escalation: More US Troops and Major Expansion of “Camp Cupcake” Near Syrian Border
_ Defense secretary Ash Carter announced the deployment of another 615 US troops (not counting covert, loophole temporary assignments or contractors) to Iraq and an expansion of Al Asad airfield in Anbar province, which “was a major hub for U.S. Marines throughout the Iraq war,” when it was nicknamed “Camp Cupcake” because of its amenities, like fitness centers and “high quality dining.” it Al Asad airfield is also close to the Syrian border.
_ Shane Ryan in Paste Magazine: “The U.S. is Sending More Troops to Iraq…What Could Go Wrong?”
Ukraine: MH-17 Investigation
_ US State Dept. isssued a statement saying that the findings from the interim report of the Joint Investigation Team on the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 “corroborate Secretary Kerry’s statement in the days following the tragedy that MH17 was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile fired from Russian-backed, separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.” The report says the BUK launcher arrived in Ukraine from Russia the day before the incident and returned to Russia after it was used.
_ In a presentation in Moscow, Russian missile manufacturer and the Russian military presented raw radar data that “allegedly disproves Ukrainian claims that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile launched from militia controlled territory, and specifically from the town of Snizhnoe from where the Ukrainians claim the BUK missile was launched.” The Dutch led investigative team is scheduled to publish their report this week.
_ Wall Street Journal: “Russia and China are spending lavishly on new weapons that could challenge that superiority, spurring a new arms race.” The article has an interactive graphic on comparing the world’s fighter jets.
_ Dan Grazier & Mandy Smithberger from POGO: “F-35 May Never Be Ready for Combat.” Grazier discussed the subject on the Scott Horton Show (podcast). A week after the air force certified the F-35 as ready for limited combat, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester, Michael Gilmore, wrote: “In fact the program is actually not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver” the full capabilities. It’s not really ready for combat and some of the complex software is just now being added.
Saudis Running Out of Money?
_ Saudi Arabia issued a cabinet statement and royal decree on Monday, announcing pay cuts and cuts to financial perks for ministers and government employees, who make up about 2/3 of the Saudi working population. Reuters calls it “one of the most drastic measures yet.” Saudi Arabia had a record budget deficit of almost $100 billion last year and they have introduced a reform plan called “Vision 2030” to diversify and privatize their economy.
_ Stephen Cohen summarizing his 9/21 discussion with John Batchelor on the radio (podcast) : “Who Is Making American Foreign Policy—the President or the War Party?” Cohen believes that question was voiced by Russia’s ambassador to the UN, but came directly from Putin.
_ Stephen Cohen summarizing his 9/27 discussion with John Batchelor on the radio (podcast): “More Squandered Opportunities to Deal With the New Cold War.” “The enemies of détente with Russia sabotaged Obama’s proposed alliance with Russia in Syria while the American presidential debate ignored all the perilous issues inherent in the Cold War.”
_ “Retired colonel says US political leaders abuse public trust in the military to wage war,” an interview with Andrew Bacevich on PRI.
_ Podcast: “Biden Threatens Kurds. Kurds Ignore Biden.” John Batchelor interviews Michael Rubin, a neoconservative resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Rubin was the “country director” for Iran and Iraq in Donald Rumsfeld’s Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2002-4, after which he was a Coalition Provisional Authority officer in Iraq, under Paul Bremer. Rubin authored a white paper at AEI titled “Kurdistan Rising.” In the podcast, Rubin claimed that nobody in the region is listening to the Obama administration and they’re just waiting for the next president. Biden told the Kurds to stand down and they are ignoring him. He also said the Kurds are likely to say “bring it on” if Turkey challenges them, and the Kurds have a good chance of defeating Turkey, since Kurds have now spread all over the country from the Kurdish dominated southeastern Turkey, after Erdogan stopped negotiations with the Kurds and cracked down on the Kurdish region.
War and Elections
_ Former head of the NSA and CIA, retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who still makes a living off in the military-industrial complex, assures MSNBC’s Morning Joe audience that, unlike Pres. Obama, Hillary Clinton go all-in with a military intervention in Syria.
Hayden: “She will be more forward leaning in this,” said Hayden. “She was more forward leaning in the administration. She’s mentioned safe zones [and] she’s mentioned no-fly zones, both of which are much harder to do now.”
Analysis and Opinion
_ Former British diplomat and intelligence officer, Alastair Crooke at ConsortiumNews: “New Cold War Spins Out of Control.” Crooke calls out the New York Times editorial board for their nonchalant speculation on whether the Pentagon would “comply” with the US-Russia deal the president had clearly endorsed. which would amount to a constitutional crisis and civilian control of the military and intelligence agencies.
_ Neoconservative hawk journalist Eli Lake interviewed a Salafist Syrian rebel, Mohammed Alloush, of Jaysh al-Islam, who claims that the only enemy is Assad. Lake claims that many groups like Jaysh al-Islam do not seek war with Israel because the Syrian war is changing the calculus in the Middle East and because Israel has built goodwill with jihadists by giving them support in Syria and by enhancing diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. Lake quotes Charles Lister and Michael Weiss in the article.