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ISIS Disappears From Mosul on Battle’s Eve; White Helmets Exposed

Next Cold War Roundup 10/4/16

Where’s ISIS? They have reportedly disappeared from the streets of Mosul. US has cut off talks with Russia on a ceasefire and solution for Syria. An exposé of the “White Helmets” in Syria has rattled the War Party establishment. The Syrian coalition forces escalated offensive on Aleppo continues. Pressure and propaganda for military intervention is exploding. US and Turkish-backed opposition forces move toward Dabiq.

ISIS Disappeared From Mosul on Eve of Major Battle

_ War correspondent Joe Lauria, currently in Erbil, Iraq, has been told that ISIS has disappeared from the streets of Mosul, just weeks before the anticipated offensive by the US cdoalition, Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga, rumored to scheduled for mid-October.

Lauria: “A source who speaks regularly to residents of Mosul told me that ISIS militants have virtually disappeared from the streets of the city.”

_ In an interview with Scott Horton on last week, Lauria notes that the war in Syria has changed drastically in the past week, and speculates that ISIS may have moved to Syria, through the almost non-existent Iraq-Syria border about 180 miles from Mosul, and ISIS may even shift to an anti-Assad regime change role. Horton mentions that according to recent neconservative chatter on Syria, they’re confident that Russia will back down once a US military regime change operation begins. Lauria said what the US really wants is to get Russia out of Syria, and that’s the reason for the prolific and extreme accusations of war crimes, etc.

Lauria: “If you introduce the Daesh from Iraq into Syria, it could play into a new push for regime change and to get Russia out of Syria.”

The White Helmets and The Syria Campaign

_ Investigative journalist, author and editor Max Blumenthal, published a blockbuster 2-part series on some of the groups and propagandists behind the Syrian war and the massive push for a US military “regime change” intervention.

_ Part 1: “How the White Helmets Became International Heroes While Pushing U.S. Military Intervention and Regime Change in Syria”

“Posing as a non-political solidarity organization, the Syria Campaign leverages local partners and media contacts to push the U.S. into toppling another Middle Eastern government.”

_ Part 2: “Inside the Shadowy PR Firm That’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria.”

“Created by Western governments and popularized by a top PR firm, the White Helmets are saving civilians while lobbying for airstrikes.”

_ For months, but especially in recent weeks as the pressure on the Obama administration intensifies and the propaganda to sway the American public with heartbreaking stories and images explodes, the White Helmets (aka Syrian Civil Defense) have been used as a source prolifically across western media. Even Netflix has contributed with a documentary (which is countered here). Their backers are powerful enough for a Nobel prize campaign marketing campaign facilitated by major media.

_ Many other lesser known writers and activists have exposed the true nature of the White Helmets, especially when the White Helmet member, Mahmoud Raslan, took a photo of a toddler in an ambulance, and the devastating photo went viral. Raslan was later identified as the photographer who posed “with known child-killers from another recent viral moment: the infamous filmed beheading of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy captured in Aleppo by the ‘Zenki’ militant group.”

_ Blumenthal, came under immediate attack from dedicated and well paid interventionists and their mouthpieces in the online and social media. The War Party establishment attempts to crush any  exposure of the White Helmets from journalists with a broad audience. A broader attack on “anti-imperialist Left” has also begun. The War Party interventionists and foreign policy establishment have dominated the narrative on Syria and felt little need to exert much effort on this until recently, as more facts and questioning have finally seeped into the mainstream.

US Cuts Off Geneva Talks With Russia

_ The State Dept. issued a nuanced statement as they cut off talks with Russia on Syria. Deconfliction will continue

“The United States is suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the Cessation of Hostilities.”

_ The State Dept. spokeswoman said only the bilateral talks with Russia are suspended. “We will continue to talk with members of the international community through multilateral fora.”

_ Last week the French foreign minister claimed to be working on a new UN Security Council resolution that would replace UN 2254, which underpins the Geneva talks and does not include al Nusra (al Qaeda) in the ceasefire. The French resolution would include a clause that says any country who doesn’t support the resolution is complicit in war crimes.

_ The White House spokesman gave a similar reason for the US pullout of the talks.  The blame falls entirely on Russia, according to the Obama administration’s story.

Leaked Tape: Kerry Tells Syrian Opposition He Lost the Intervention Argument

_ At a “sidelines” meeting during UN week, Sec. State John Kerry met with the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and had a 40-minute discussion with a small group of Syrians, wherein he repeatedly complained that “his diplomacy had not been backed by a serious threat of military force,” that Congress wouldn’t authorize it, and that there is no legal justification for attacking the Assad government. The New York Times reported on some audio that was leaked. Kerry said there are 3 or 4 people (including Kerry) in the Obama administration arguing for the use of force and he lost the argument. The group of Syrians were “representatives of four Syrian groups that provide education, rescue and medical services in rebel-held areas,” possibly the exile opposition groups like Friends of Syria. Kerry did say that there is a “new conversation” going on in the administration since the latest bombing in Aleppo began.

War Party Publishes More War Plans for Syria

_ Brookings fellow Michael O’Hanlon, signatory to letters from neoconservative think tank Project for a New American Century, puts forward a plan to balkanize Syria: “Deconstructing Syria: a confederal approach.” He says his strategy “might produce only a partial success” and it would “relax” the “vetting of opposition fighters wishing U.S. training, equipment, and battlefield assistance.” Extremists would be eligible. It would call for shooting down Syrian war planes that the coalition claims are hitting civilians and would avoid shooting down Russian planes, and this would be a pseudo no-fly zone. It would create “autonomous zones” run and financed by international agencies and NGOs, where opposition fighters, including extremists, could be trained. No elections. Assad  and his “inner circle” would not be allowed to live in any of these zones.

_ In O’Hanlon’s plan, “peace enforcement” troops would have to deployed to occupy all of the zones, authorized by the UN and run by NATO but with participation from some Muslim states. There would be a weak central government and the Syrian miltary would be abolished. It would require a long term commitment of the US military in another Middle East war and the US military would be required to take and occupy chunks of Syrian territory over decades,  and protect opposition forces, even extremist jihadists in those areas.  He says ISIS and al Nusra wouldn’t be allowed in, but the vetting would be relaxed, so ex-ISIS and ex-al Qaeda would be welcome.

_ Meanwhile, the Syrian war would continue in other parts of the country, and the US military would also fight the Syrian army if they choose to. Presumably some parts of Syria would cannibalized by its neighbors, also with support from the US. O’Hanlon says the approach “is not radical.” He compares it to Afghanistan, and says the American public doesn’t seem to mind that war. And in 20 years or so, maybe they could try to put “Humpty Dumpty” Syria back together again. Notably, Israeli hardliners use the “Humpty Dumpty” meme for Syria but O’Hanlon doesn’t mention Israel or the Golan even once in his executive summary, though he mentions other regional powers. He sells his plan as a solution to the suffering of the Syrian people, but never mentions that the balkanization of Syria was the goal all along, and the suffering of the people largely a result of that goal. [Emphasis added]

_ Also last week, Brookings Doha fellow Charles Lister proposed a new council that might be formed outside of the UN Security Council, and would include a stacked deck of members so that the US position would always prevail.  If Russia and Iran did not agree to the council’s ceasefire agreement, the US would form a “coaliton of the willing” for a military intervention “under the principle of humanitarian intervention.” Notably, this Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has no basis in international law. It would be an illegal use of force.

“Ideally, this would take the form of a multilateral structure that included at minimum both the United States and Russia as well as, beneath them, a body of four additional actors: the U.N. Special Envoy, the United Kingdom, France, and Iran. In the event that Washington and Moscow were to disagree on an alleged violation, these four actors would assume responsibility for secondary verification and assessment, by majority vote.”

“Were Russia to resolutely veto an ISSG-led enforcement mechanism, the United States and allied “Friends of Syria” governments would necessarily then consider forming a “coalition of the willing” to enforce the very same agreement — an enforced cessation of hostilities — under the principle of humanitarian intervention.”

Aleppo Offensive

_ The brutal Syrian coalition offensive on East Aleppo continues. The “Syrian army told the insurgents to leave their positions, offering safe passage and aid supplies.” The Syrian coalition forces “advanced south from the Handarat refugee camp north of the city, taking the Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area.”

_ Syrian state news media issued a statement:

“The army high command calls on all armed fighters in the eastern neighbourhood of Aleppo to leave these neighbourhoods and let civilian residents live their normal lives.”

Pentagon Drone Strike on Al Qaeda Leader in Idlib

_  A senior al Nusra leader was killed when a missile hit a car in Idlib province “in a village near Jisr al-Shogour.” Pentagon spokesman:

“U.S. forces conducted an airstrike today near Idlib, Syria, targeting Egyptian national Abu al-Farai al-Masri, aka Ahmad Salamah Mabruk, one of Al Qaida in Syria’s most senior leaders and a legacy al-Qaeda terrorist who previously had ties to Osama bin Laden […] The United States military will continue to target Al Qaida leaders to disrupt their operations and counter the threat posed by this terrorist group.”

_ Al Nusra (al Qaeda) “confirmed the death of Masri ‘in a Crusader raid.'” Jason Ditz notes that it is surprising that the Pentagon targeted a Nusra cleric given that they have been “condemning Russia for its own airstrikes against Nusra, claiming the Russian attacks are threatening any efforts for peace in Syria.”

_ Ditz also comments on the US “bizarre stance” toward Nusra “as they were publicly courting Russia for joint attacks for months, made a deal that a seven day ceasefire would lead to those joint strikes, reneged after the seventh day of the ceasefire, and then railed against Russia for unilateral attacks.”

_ Critics of US regime change policy in Syria believe that the drone strike on the al Nusra cleric is a result of widespread reporting and analysis on the US covert policy of indirectly arming al Qaeda in Syria and using them as a ground force, which has even seeped into western media in recent weeks. Several recent incidents called attention to the situation, such as a German journalists’ interview with a lower level Nusra commander who claimed that the US and Israel are supporting the al Qaeda group. The State Department called this claim “poppycock.”

Russian Foreign Ministry: US Using Al Qaeda for Regime Change

_ BBC aired an interview with Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Sep. 30, in which he said the US “pledged solemnly to take as a priority an obligation to separate the opposition from Nusra” but “in spite of many repeated promises and commitments… are not able or not willing to do this and we have more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare Nusra and to keep it just in case for Plan B or stage two when it would be time to change the regime.”

_ When asked about the BBC interview, as journalists pressured him, the State Dept. spokesman said he was shaking his head and didn’t know what Lavrov meant, and it was “absurd.” When asked why the US hasn’t targeted al Nusra, Toner said the US “did carry out strikes initially, back in 2014-2015” but now they are intermingled with the “moderate opposition” and it’s too risky to bomb them, but he believes the US did target them in March or “earlier this year.”

_ The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement on Oct. 3 accusing the US of sabotaging the ceasefire deal and making a “deal with the devil” by using al Qaeda to get the regime change they desire.

Russian Foreign Ministry: “We are becoming more convinced that in a pursuit of a much desired regime change in Damascus, Washington is ready to ‘make a deal with the devil […] forge an alliance with hardened terrorists, dreaming of turning back the course of history […] is not in a hurry to separate US-oriented anti-government forces from it […] covers it with the shield of opposition groups which formally confirmed their participation in the cessation of hostilities.”

_ During the Sep. 30 State Dept. briefing, several western journalists challenged spokesman, Mark Toner, about al Nusra (al Qaeda) in East Aleppo, about the US ability to fulfill their obligations in the US-Russia deal to separate “moderate” opposition from al Qaeda, and about the US intentions with respect to al Qaeda in Syria. Toner denied that the US is propping up al Qaeda, but acknowledged that the moderate opposition did not detach from them.

_ Al Nusra’s treatment of the Syrian minority Druze “is little better than the brutality ISIS has inflicted on Yezidis, Kurds, and other minorities unfortunate enough to find themselves within their reach,” according to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi at Foreign Affairs magazine, published by the Council on Foreign Relations.

New Russian Anti-Missile/Anti-Aircraft System in Syria Can Defend Against Cruise Missile Attack

_ A Russian SA-23 system reportedly arrived by ship over the weekend.  This type of missile defense system hasn’t been deployed outside of Russia before and can be used to defend against cruise missiles, aircraft, and ballistic missiles. Fox News’ Pentagon reporter speculates that the deployment of this system may be to defend against a “potential attack from the United States or its allies” and anonymous officials say it “could potentially counter any American cruise missile attack in Syria.” The 2013 Obama adminitration plan for a military regime change attack involved cruise missiles.

Operation Euphrates Shield, 300 US Special Forces With FSA

_ Several reports on social media, with photos, show that there are Turkish flags on public buildings in the northern Syrian town of Jarablus, which Turkey took from ISIS when they invaded Syria.  A town council meeting photo shows a Turkish flag and a picture of Attaturk on the wall. Syrian state media reported it and said it was in violation of international law and Syria’s sovereignty.

_ Syrian media reported that the US coalition warplanes bombed Dabiq on Monday, and “rebel fighters of the Euphrates Shield expelled ISIS from the eastern suburb of Maree town.” “American, Turkish and opposition forces” are advancing toward Dabiq and the US-backed opposition say they will be there within 2 days. The Telegraph article notes that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters are accompanied by 300 US special forces.

_ Presidential envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, Brett McGurk, said: “Coalition actively supporting Syrian opposition forces as they advance to within a few kilometers of  ISIL’s weakening stronghold Dabiq.” Jihadists believe that Dabiq is “the preordained site of the final apocalyptic battle between Muslims and Christians,” based on their interpretation of the Prophet Muhammad. The town has no other strategic importance, but ISIS has reportedly sent hundreds of fighters to defend it.

US Peace Council Fact-Finding Mission: Syrian War is an Invasion, Not a Civil War

_ A delegation from the US Peace Council traveled to Syria in July on a fact-finding mission and concluded that: “What we saw goes against everything we read in the United States.” They plan to organize events to share their findings.

US Peace Council: “The delegation was deeply impressed by the unity and determination of the Syrian people to defend their country and their sovereignty; their rejection of efforts to divide the population along sectarian lines; and their determined emphasis that what is going on in Syria is not a civil war but a foreign imposed invasion.”

Boris Johnson Dramatic Change in Attitude Toward Russia

_ The UK’s new foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, is continuing his dramatic change in attitude toward Russia, which began when, post-Brexit referendum, he removed himself from the running for prime minister and was appointed as the country’s top diplomat. Johnson had written multiple op-eds urging cooperation with Russia and giving Assad a “bravo” for saving the ancient ruins of Palmyra. His latest loud pronouncements came in a Murdoch tabloid interview where he made a series of accusations against Russian president Putin for slaughtering civilians and double-tap airstrikes against the White Helmets. Johnson says they have evidence and are documenting war crimes and that the US and UK are looking at “a range of options” to increase pressure on Russia. The Sun said it “understands” that all UK officials are considering boycotting the 2018 World Cup games, schedule to be hosted in Russia.


_ Leaked audio file from a Hillary Clinton fundraiser in February, in McLean, VA.

 Analysis and Opinion

_ Stephen Kinzer in Sunday’s Boston Globe: “The US is your know-it-all friend who should just keep his mouth shut.” The new buzz word in Washington is “primacy” but it’s not new. The “drive for global primacy” is a “pernicious doctrine” and it’s “what sunk us into Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all of our other overseas disasters.” It “has sapped American power and palpably weakened the United States,” and the operations that stem from it undermine our security, “turn entire regions against us,” and “degrade our national life” by sucking up resources needed at home” which would truly strengthen the country. Yet the “primacy” doctrine is widely accepted among the powers that be and countries who don’t accept it are enemies who must be subjugated or crushed. It “guarantees future failures,” Kinzer predicts.

_ Professor Michael Brenner describes a conference of the foreign policy elite, “Security in Transition: National Security Challenges Facing the Next President,” held on Sep. 22 in Austin, Texas. Brenner enumerates by priority what he says was clearly the real US policy in Syria. Top priority is to thwart Russia in Syria, get rid of Assad (carrying out the wishes of the Turks, Saudis, and Israelis), and to weaken Iran by breaking the Shia Crescent , according to Brenner. Following those objectives in priority are wearing down ISIS, establishing a permanent American presence in Iraq, partitioning Iraq and Syria, creating a Sunni “entity” from Anbar and pieces of Syria, and hoping Turkey can tame al Nusra.

_ Aaron Stein and Andrea Taylor from the Atlantic Council and Scott Cooper from Human Rights First (a group dedicated to “American ideals,” two of their donors are Soros Open Society and former Dulles firm Sullivan and Cromwell),  “Grounding Assad.” They recognize the risk of war with Russia but disregard it and bet on the Russians just allowing the US coalition to demolish the Syrian air force and defenses, with no response. They say that no-fly zones “are comparatively low-cost operations, and have not led to mission creep.” They predict that it would be hard to build a coalition, so the military burden would be on the US, again.

_ Academic Max Abrahms: “Russia’s Role in the Middle East.” Abrahms explains why Russia’s foreign policy realism with a twist, in that it’s a realism that does acknowledge the threat from terrorism, is perhaps a better approach than our own.  He advises teaming up with Russia to fight terrorism in Syria rather than attempting another failed regime change.

_ At the Intercept: “Obama Worries Future Presidents Will Wage Perpetual Covert Drone War.”

_ Former British and American diplomats, William Mallinson and Peter Ford, slammed the US “Kissingerian double-track diplomacy,” “highly unprofessional, hysterical, threatening, tactless and undiplomatic” rhetoric, election related auditioning for positions or promotions, “unacceptable” destabilizing actions, “frenzy, hysteria, and neuroticism” when it’s obvious they have ‘lost the plot.’ Ford said that it wasn’t until Russia intervened and began hitting oil tankers that the real fight against ISIS began then the “Western coalition came in on the back of that and claimed the credit. But in fact it was Russia that began this move.”

_ Moon of Alabama: “Special Interests Create The “Good”, The “Bad” And The “Compelling” Story – The Media Tell It.”

Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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