Next Cold War Roundup 10/7/16
Josh Rogin reports a “fever pitch” among hawks inside the Obama administration making US military intervention plans for Syria. George Soros, and a day later John Kerry, called for a war crimes investigation. The Russian military issued a warning about strikes on Syria. UN envoy offered to escort Nusra (aka al Qaeda, Fateh al-Sham) fighters from East Aleppo and they refused. Victoria Nuland went to Moscow. A Syrian public opinion poll shows a strong aversion to the Syrian opposition and to breaking up the country.
Escalation of Russian Forces in
_ War correspondent Elijah Magnier, on the ground in the region, relates what he has heard from “decision makers” in Damascus. Moscow is “ready to send several thousands of special forces & other various units officers this month to Syria” and intends to “defend its national interest in Syria at all cost” and would also defend the Syrian army against any attacker, even the US. Russia “would like to see its differences with USA solved but have little hope.”
_ It is clear from these reports that Syria (and/or Russia) want to send the signal to Washington that, whether it’s true or not, Russia will not back down in the face of a US military intervention for a regime change operation to weaken or eliminate the Syrian president, Assad. Some analysts on both sides of the war believe that Russia will stand down “because Putin, the realist, pragmatist, and cynic has an acute sense of limitations of Russian hard power & projection capabilities.”
_ Russia is considering reopening Cold War era bases in Cuba and Vietnam and elsewhere. This could be an indication of Russian hardliners gaining more political power in a Putin administration where there are both moderates and hardliners, and where Putin is said to maintain a balance between the two. The moderate faction, led by Medvedev and Lavrov, which is more friendly to the West, has been under increasing pressure from statist hawks, according to Prof. Stephen Cohen.
Rogin’s News of “Fevered Pitch” for US Military Intervention in Syria
_ Josh Rogin, mouthpiece for the War Party, reported in the Washington Post that the “U.S. military strikes against the Assad regime will be back on the table Wednesday at the White House” when the “Principals Committee” meets. The National Security Council (NSC) “could come as early as this weekend.” Rogin doesn’t specify what would trigger the NSC meeting. But Rogin believes “there’s little prospect President Obama will ultimately approve them.” The “national security agencies” have been frantically meeting for weeks trying to come up with a plan the president will go for.
_ Rogin goes on to spill some of the “classified” options, indicating this is an authorized leak from the intelligence agencies, perhaps John Brennan, since regime change in Syria is “his baby.”
_ On Oct. 4, in a radio interview (podcast), John Batchelor asked Josh Rogin for more information about the factions who support military intervention:
Batchelor: “Are there known factions, Josh?”
Rogin: “Yes, roughly… no agency is a monolith. There are people in all these departments that disagree with each other, but roughly we can say that the CIA is for more aggressive action against the Assad regime and preventing them from taking Aleppo, which would cause all sorts of horrendous effects for America’s counterterrorism efforts. The basic argument being made by many in the State Dept., many in the CIA, and increasing numbers in the Joint Staff is this: If the Assad regime takes Aleppo, that will increase radicalization and that will only make the takfirism problem worse in the long run.”
“Now, broadly, on the other side of that argument are officials in the National Security Council, officials in the White House, including Brett McGurk, who is the special envoy to the coalition to fight the Islamic State, who believes that putting pressure on Assad is exactly the wrong thing to do, and we just focus on killing the Islamic State and let the Syrian war just sit for awhile because displacing Assad would be worse for counterterrorism. They are the 2 mutually exclusive ideas.”
“Then somewhere in the middle you’ve got the guy named John Kerry. Now John Kerry wants to put pressure on the regime. He also wants to negotiate. He also wants to fight ISIL. He changes his mind from day to day. It’s really hard to pin him down and in the end it’s some sort of combination of all of these things that John Kerry wants to see.”
“But the only person that really matters is Pres. Obama and he’s firmly in the non-interventionist/focus on ISIL camp.”
_ In the same interview (Josh Rogin on the John Batchelor Show) Rogin elaborated:
Batchelor: “Mr. Rogin, what does ‘kinetic’ mean?”
Rogin: “Kinetic means using tools that blow stuff up, okay? It means using military force in a way that kills people. That’s a very serious thing to consider but it’s what is actually on the table now. It’s been on the table several times before. The president has supported limited support for the Syrian rebels but he’s never actually endorsed, except for a couple days in 2013, which is a whole ‘nohter story, the idea of using US military force to attack the Assad regime. “What I’m reporting today in the Washington Post is that there is now increased support, especially inside the military, for doing just that.”
“Now, again, if you’re coming from the view of the White House and you are ideologically opposed to attacking the Assad regime, based on your definition of international law or your fear of the risks of military escalation, then it’s very likely that none of these arguments will sway you and the president certainly doesn’t seem to be swayed, at least not at this point.”
“Nevertheless, what I’m reporting is a growing effort inside different parts of the Obama administration, which has been there the whole time but is now at a fever pitch due to the crisis in Aleppo, to do something to increase pressure on the regime, and using kinetic means to influence the Assad regime’s decision making is the ‘something’ that many people are advocating for.” [Emphasis added]
_ During the most recent WarNerd Podcast (Episode 53), during a discussion of the escalation and the comments from Gen. Dunford on no-fly zones meaning war with Syria and Russia, The WarNerd said: “There’s something that happens in the US recently that is pretty amazing: the generals are the peaceniks.” Wellll… perhaps it’s more of an indicator of how far around the bend the War Party has gone.
UN Envoy Offers to Personally Escort Nusra Fighters from East Aleppo
_ UN envoy Steffan de Mistura offered to personally escort al Nusra (aka al Qaeda, Fateh al-Sham) fighters, with their weapons, from East Aleppo.
“If you [Al-Nusra] did decide to leave, in dignity with your weapons, to Idlib or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally am ready, physically ready, to accompany you.”
_ Russian foreign minister Lavrov said Russia is ready to “urge the Syrian government to let Al-Nusra Front militants exit Aleppo with their weapons, as proposed by the UN envoy to Syria.” also suggested that the opposition fighters who do not leave with Nusra could clearly separate themselves and sign a commitment so that “government law enforcers and this armed opposition will be able to form some kind of joint law-and-order bodies to ensure normal life.”
_ The UN estimates there are 6-8,000 opposition fighters in East Aleppo and de Mistura said up to half of them are al Nusra.
_ Al Masdar News reports that al Nusra rejected UN envoy de Mistura’s offer of safe passage from East Aleppo.
Will Russia Stand Down in the Event of a US Military Intervention?
_ Recent intervention proposals from Brookings Institute indicate a desire to avoid the Russian military but also a belief that while they might not leave Syria, they would not prevent the US from attacking Syrian military forces and facilities. It’s also true that: 1) Both Brookings proposals play down the risks in order to sell intervention to an allergic administration, Congress and public; 2) Libya intervention proposals were grossly dishonest in their claims that regime change was not the objective.
_ On Thursday, Oct. 6, the Russian defense ministry warned the US coalition not to strike the Syrian army. General Igor Konashenkov said more air defense systems have been deployed and will strike incoming unidentified objects. There are Russian personnel in areas under the control of the Syrian military all across the country, working on arrangements with communities in Syria and delivering aid and any US airstrike in these areas “will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen.”
_ The Russian military warnings were a response to the CIA and Pentagon plans “leaks” reported by Josh Rogin in the Washington Post. Konashenkov warned Washington to make a”thorough calculation of the possible consequences of such plans.”
Syrian Public Opinion
_ A poll conducted in Syria in July by Opinion Research Business indicates that the country is split on whether Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has a positive or negative influence on the country, and they are split on whether they support or oppose international coalition airstrikes in Syria. Caveats about polling in a war torn country apply.
_ The poll showed a large majority think the Syrian opposition coalition, ISIS and the Free Syrian Army have a negative influence on the country.
_ Syrians don’t believe the “Humpty Dumpty” theory that Israeli hardliners are pushing. They believe the country can reunite and strongly do not want the country to be balkanized or “confederalized” as has been proposed by western war hawks, “65% also think it is highly or very likely that Syrians can put aside their differences and live together, and 70% oppose the division of the country.”
Kerry and Soros Call for War Crimes Investigation
_ On Oct. 7, Sec. State John Kerry called for a war crimes investigation of Syria and Russia: “Russia and the regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals, and medical facilities, and women and children […] beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes.” Kerry’s statement came 1 day after oligarch George Soros accused Russia of “heinous crimes against humanity.”
_ On Oct. 6, billionaire oligarch, George Soros said Russia’s president Putin is exploiting the 4 months between now and the inauguration of the next president and in a rare post on his web site, summoned the world to rise up against him: “I appeal to the people of Russia, Europe, and the rest of the world not to stand idly by, but to spread the word and voice their outrage. An outpouring of public opinion could induce President Putin to put an end to his heinous crimes against humanity.” Russia banned the Soros Open Society foundation last year, saying it posed a threat to state security and constitution.
Brezezinski Calls for Military Intervention
_ Zbig Brzezinski, who has influence with Pres. Obama, and who technically is the father of Afghan mujahideen and therefore their predecessors, the Taliban and al Qaeda, is calling for US military intervention.
To halt the relentless attacks on the innocent in Aleppo, available US power should assert its capabilities.
— Zbigniew Brzezinski (@zbig) October 4, 2016
_ U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland will join Sec. Kerry in Brussels on Oct. 4 and will then “travel to Moscow, Russia, to meet with senior Russian government officials to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine and next steps to implement the Minsk agreements in support of the Normandy countries and the Trilateral Contact Group.”
War and Elections
_ In the mother of all ironies, both major American presidential candidates are viewed more negatively than Russian president Vladimir Putin by American voters, a poll that should result in the sacking of many a propaganda team currently working overtime to demonize Putin and blame Russia for every ill.
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) May 25, 2016
_ Cohen on the John Batchelor show (10/4/16 podcast)
Analysis and Opinion
_ James Carden at The Nation: “War Hawks Are Sensing an Opening in Syria.” “Yet the horrific tragedy now unfolding is partially the result of the West’s support for the overthrow of Syria’s secular government by radical Sunni fundamentalists.”
_ Fabrice Balance: “Who Will Take al-Bab?“