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Mosul Battle Imminent; ISIS Safe Passage to Syria; US-Russia Brink or No Brink?

Next Cold War Roundup 10/14/16

US warships fired missiles at Houthi targets in Yemen. A test drop of mock nuclear weapons was done in Nevada in early October. There are reports of a US/Saudi arrangement for ISIS safe passage from Mosul to Syria. Multilateral talks on Syria will begin this weekend. Obama’s national security council will meet today to discuss military options. And more.

ISIS Leaving Mosul, Heading to Syria

_ Kurdish media reports the arrival of ISIS fighters and families in Raqqa. An activist from the Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently group reported “10 Buses and 35 SUV Chevrolet With Iraqi Plates arrived Raqqa full with ISIS fighters and their families.” It hasn’t been confirmed that they came from Mosul.

_ Iraq’s defense minister said ISIS leaders and fighter have been leaving Mosul for some months with some going to Syria, others defecting and going to Turkey.

_ Moon of Alabama (MoA) and a Syrian historian in London speculate that, like Jarablus, ISIS was paid or directed to leave Mosul. The historian reports his sources told him that the US and Saudi Arabia arranged for safe passage for ISIS from Mosul to Syria.

_ MoA believes, citing the 2012 US Defense Intelligence Agency memo, that they will go to Deir Ezzor and “an obedient mercenary statelet in the center of the Middle East” will be created there. The “Salafist principality” facilitated by the West that the memo references.

_ On Wednesday, there was some further confirmation via the Russian military via al Masdar News:

“More than 9,000 Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) militants will be redeployed from Mosul to the eastern regions of Syria to carry out a major offensive operation, which involves capturing Deir ez-Zor and Palmyra.”

Turkey and Iraq Squabble Over Mosul

_ Iraqi PM Abadi tweeted to Turkish Pres. Erdogan, as part of their conflict over Turkey’s troops being in northern Iraq on the eve of the battle for Mosul:  “we are not your enemy and we will liberate our land through the determination of our men and not by video calls.”

_ State Dept. spokesman John Kirby announced that the “Turkish contingent deployed in Iraq was not there as a part of the anti-IS Coalition” and Turkey needs to respect Iraq’s sovereignty.

_ Turkey’s Erdogan has boasted that he and his troops will do what they want and doesn’t take orders from the Iraqi PM that he should know his place. He said they’ll participate in Mosul like it did in Jarablus.

Battle For Mosul

_ Reuters reports that ISIS crushed a rebellion plot, led by an aide to ISIS leader Baghdadi, as the Iraqi coalition moves toward Mosul. Sources inside Mosul claim that 58 fighters were drowned and buried in a mass grave. Reuters also reports that “Islamic State fighters are dug in to defend the city” despite other reports that ISIS fighters have deserted Mosul and arrangements have been made for 9,000 fighters to have safe passage to Syria.

_ The final preparations are being made for the battle for Mosul which may happen this weekend. Iraqi forces “moved into their final positions on Friday, joining Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers.” “Also on the ground are US, British and French special forces.” The Guardian reports an anticipated 6,000 ISIS fighters embedded in a civilian population of 600,000. The “civilians are not the enemy” from Baghdad’s perspective and they have established a hotline for civilians wanting to join the Iraqi coalition against ISIS.

_ War correspondent Elijah Magnier says that all forces are participating around Mosul but only selected security forces will go in: ‘anti-terror units, Mosul & Nineveh tribes, and army.’ The Kurdish Peshmerga will not enter the city.

_ Turkish forces are reportedly not moving “from Zlikaqn-Ba’shiqa camp, 60km from Mosul.” So despite the bluster, it looks like Erdogan will stay out of it, as requested.

_ Everyone is waiting for Iraqi PM Abadi to start the battle. There is an army of media reporters there on the ground.

Russia May Supply Air Defense Systems to Turkey

_ CNN reports that Russian president Putin and Turkish president Erdogan discussed having Russia supply Turkey with air defense systems.

Jihadists in Aleppo Attacked Humanitarian Convoy

_ In the VTB Investment Forum on Oct. 12, Russian president Vladimir Putin said Russia is being demonized and “unfoundedly accused of all mortal sins, all crimes.” He cited the attack on the humanitarian convoy near Aleppo last month, and said (video transcript):

Putin: “But we know who hit this humanitarian convoy, it was one of the terrorist organisations. And we know that the Americans know this. But they prefer to take a different position, and accuse Russia. This does not help the case, I have already said this. This way of acting in the international arena is called pressure and blackmail, but with Russia it has never worked and never will.”

Gorbachev Warns World Has Reached Dangerous Point

_ On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said:

Gorbachev: “I think the world has reached a dangerous point […] I don’t want to give any concrete prescriptions but I do want to say that this needs to stop. We need to renew dialogue. Stopping it was the biggest mistake […] “It is necessary to return to the main priorities. These are nuclear disarmament, the fight against terrorism, the prevention of an environmental disaster. […] Compared to these challenges, all the rest slips into the background.”

_ Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst during who prepared presidential daily briefings in the era of Reagan and Gorbachev, believes that warning signs of escalation with Russia are being ignored.

Stepping Back From the Brink; New Syria Talks

_ Russian FM Sergey Lavrov told CNN that the US and Russia are not on the brink of war, and new multilateral talks will begin this weekend in Lausanne, Switzerland, “involving initially Russia, the US, Iran, Turkey and possibly Qatar.” Lavrov indicated that Russia wants “to have a meeting of the countries that have direct influence on what is going on on the ground in Syria, either by being there … or through financing and supplying arms to the opposition.”

_ The talks are resuming even after Sec. State John Kerry very loudly and publicly cut off talks with Russia. But the statement from the State Dept. was nuanced and different from the way it was reported in the media. It said that “bilateral” talks were cut off and the State Dept. spokesman always said the US would continue multilateral talks. The bluster in the media made it sound like the US was saying “we’re done with you, Russia,” but that was never the case. The fact that Sergey Lavrov was given the opportunity to speak directly to the American public via a CNN interview just confirms even more that even though the two countries realize they have to keep some kind of negotiations going. The new talks include the countries who have been backing the extremist rebels in Syria, most of whom rejected the US-Russia deal and were one of the main reasons why the ceasefire failed.

_ Russian Pres. Putin spoke about Aleppo in detail (in a very animated way) on French TF1 TV. The road he is referring to is Castillo Road, north of Aleppo City:

Putin: “What we say is: let’s remove the militants from one side [of the road for humanitarian convoys] and the Syrian Army from the other and open a safe passage along this road. Everyone agrees. Moreover, they even wrote it down in a certain document. Then nothing happens, not one of our partners does a thing. Either they do not want to or they cannot remove fighters. And then comes an exotic offer. I will surprise you now and your viewers. It was suggested to us that our armed forces, the military of the Russian Army, should stand on this road and provide security. Our military people are courageous, determined, they came to me and said they were ready. I said no. We will do it, but only together with the Americans. So, we suggested that to them. They immediately refused. They do not want to stand on it, do not want to remove the combat units of the opposition, the terrorists, what’s then? We need to increase the level of trust for each other. And understand that these threats are common ones and that only by working together can they be stopped and eliminated.”

_ During a large Oct. 12 investment forum titled “Russia Calling!” Putin answered a question about the breakdown of relations with the US, in a very animated discussion (video with transcript):

Putin: “We are also concerned about the deterioration of Russian-US relations, but this is not our choice, we have never aimed at this. On the contrary, we want to have friendly relations with such a great country as the United States, the leading economy of the world, as the US economy is.”

“But this is not a dialogue, this is some kind of dictate, and it is like this on almost every issue. Russia is ready for a dialogue, but dialogue is the reaching of compromise. And now I will answer that important [question]. What should be done to normalise the situation? We should act like partners and take each other’s interests into account. We are ready for that.”

_ Former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, said the last agreement was “scuttled by the Pentagon” and the Pentagon can always do this so it remains to be see if Pres. Obama “intends to act as true Commander-in-Chief and make his writ stick, or whether he will not.” McGovern said he thinks it’s a good sign that Obama has “reined Kerry in and hopefully he’s told Ash Carter of [Dept. of] Defense, ‘Look, cool it man, and tell those generals to cool down their rhetoric.'” It would be uncharacteristic for Obama to “put his foot down” but given the risk of wider war with Russia he may have “gotten religion,” McGovern speculated. (Video)

Or Not Stepping Back From the Brink?

_ Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay report that Obama and his National Security Council will meet today “to consider their military and other options in Syria.” An anonymous official tells them the same things that have been reported before by Josh Rogin.  They describe planes that they say the president is unlikely to adopt, such as taking out Syrian military targets. They also mention giving more sophisticated weapons to “rebels”. The new spin is that military action will keep the mythical moderate rebels from joining al Qaeda.

“The ultimate aim of any new action could be to bolster the battered moderate rebels […] This, in turn, might deter them from migrating to Islamist groups such as the Nusra Front, which the United States regards as Syria’s al Qaeda branch.”

_ Josh Rogin, who reported a “fever pitch” for military intervention against Assad in some corners of the Obama administration, then quietly walked back some of the reporting, again advertises that military options are being considered.

_ In a recent interview, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said there are no moderate rebels in Aleppo, and all the militants there “work with Al-Nusra in the area that’s controlled by Al-Nusra.”

National Endowment For Democracy Calls for Regime Change in Russia

_ The NGO that was the lead actor in engineering a coup in Ukraine is now openly calling for regime change in Russia. Carl Gershman, a neoconservative who has been the president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) since its inception in 1984, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post on Oct. 6. Gershman refers to Putin’s presidency as a “danger” and says: “The United States has the power to contain and defeat this danger. The issue is whether we can summon the will to do so.”

_ Robert Parry at Consortium News describes NED as a “neocon-driven vehicle that seeks to create the political circumstances for ‘regime change.’” NED was created in 1983 to take over the “CIA’s role of influencing electoral outcomes and destabilizing governments that got in the way of U.S. interests” and is an NGO funded, in part, by US taxpayer money. Parry cites earlier articles that show that Gershman saw the regime change in Ukraine as a step toward the “bigger prize” of regime change in Russia. Parry finds Gershman’s proposal to destabilize a nuclear-armed Russia “the nuttiest and most reckless neocon scheme of all” and possibly ” their last – and the last for all humanity.”

Gulen Schools Provided Cover For CIA; Gulen Involvement in Turkish Coup

_ The New Yorker: “Turkey’s Thirty-Year Coup: Did an exiled cleric try to overthrow Erdogan’s government?

The New Yorker: In 2010, Osman Nuri Gündeş, a former senior intelligence official, wrote in a memoir that Gülen’s schools in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan had sheltered as many as a hundred and thirty C.I.A. agents, posing as English teachers. Ismail Pekin, a former head of Turkish military intelligence, told me that the agency maintained a similar arrangement with workers at schools in Africa. “They might not have been C.I.A. employees, but they were engaged in intelligence gathering and mobilization,” he said. Pekin had raised concerns about Gülen to American officials, he said, but they were routinely dismissed: “We always brought it up at nato meetings, every time. Every time, the subject of Gülen was pushed aside as ‘Turkey’s domestic problem.’ ”

US Fires Missiles Into Yemen One Week After Saudi Bombing Massacre

_ Pictures of bomb fragments found at the scene of the civilian massacre at a funeral hall in Sana’a were displayed on the Facebook page of a prominent Yemeni lawyer, and the Intercept reported on it. They can be clearly identified as American made MK-82 guided bombs. An ITV correspondent on the scene published the picture of another fragment, also believed to be from an American MK-82 bomb. “I4Yemen” published a video. The Intercept studied the serial number and found that it was manufactured by Raytheon. They also cite a CIA veteran saying that if the US and UK told the Saudis to stop bombing Yemen, they would have no other choice but to stop, since they can’t carry out these missions without the Americans and British support.

_ In 2015, UN envoy had brokered a power sharing and peace deal in Yemen. The Saudis didn’t like the deal. The new government would have included Houthis (45% of the population) and women, two groups who the Saudis will not allow to have any real power. They forced the UN envoy out and began a bombing campaign. There is a constant claim that that Houthis are Iranian proxies, but this is a falsehood, and any support they might receive from Iran is exaggerated. This Wall Street Journal article from April, 2015, tells the story.

_ On Wednesday, the US ships parked off the blockaded coast of Yemen fired missiles allegedly at 3 radar stations in Houthi territory, allegedly in self defense after being fired upon again from the fighters onshore. This makes the US now a direct belligerent in the Saudi coalition war in Yemen instead of just a vitally significant support role. This comes less than a week after the Saudi massacre after they bombed a funeral hall in Sana’a. The missiles were fired by the USS Nitze, a guided missile destroyer. It’s a mystery why the Saudis, who have been bombing Yemen for 18 months, couldn’t have hit those 3 radar sites themselves. A lot of things about this story don’t add up.

_ The Pentagon:

“Early this morning local time, the U.S. military struck three radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen’s Red Sea coast.[…] authorized by President Obama at the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford — targeted radar sites involved in the recent missile launches threatening USS Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb. These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway. […]”

_ Hisham Al-Omeisy, an analyst in Yemen, said those radar sites were bombed by the Saudis: “Wait, what radar sites? Saudi bombed those long time ago along with civilian structures. Weird.”

_ British journalist Peter Oborne asks why the UK won’t support an independent probe into Saudi atrocities in Yemen.  “It’s not just misplaced loyalty,” it’s also “self-interest.”  In a column in the Middle East Eye, Oborne also says that the war in Yemen has “subverted international order” in that major powers now act as proxies for their client states, instead of the other way around, which was the post-WWII norm. “In Yemen, Britain and the United States are dancing to the Saudi tune.” The US and UK provide arms, support and diplomatic protection in the UN Security Council, even in the face of atrocities like the recent funeral bombing massacre. Oborne calls out the British military who are working with the Saudis in their operations rooms, and British MPs who are misleading Parliament.  In terms of criminal liability, Oborne notes that Britain has even more legal jeopardy than the US, whose officials have already warned the Obama administration.  Britain is a signatory to the Rome statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Officials could be held individually liable for war crimes.

_ Oborne looks for incentives that might be enticing the British accomplices. Saudi Arabia is in the process of privatizing their massive oil company, Aramco, which is expected to be the largest IPO in history. He concludes that, in at least one case with a British politician, it’s more likely to be ” tragically misplaced sense of British patriotism which leads him to believe that it is in our national interest to stand by and support a close ally as it massacres civilians in a neighbouring country.”

_ The funeral bombing massacre by the Saudis last week caused an international uproar which gained traction even in the US, a place where hardly any news can break through the pandemonium of the 2016 presidential election train wreck. But an escalation seems more likely than a withdrawal.  Via Moon of Alabama:

“A significant number of Senators are pressing for an end to the support of the Saudi campaign. Moveon has started a petitions against the U.S. support and the Obama administration itself feared legal consequences.”


_ During the “Russia Calling!” economic forum on Oct. 12, Greg Walsh, a former US Congressman, asked Russian president Putin about Ukraine. Putin said he can’t implement the constitutional changes in Ukraine that are needed to implement the Minsk agreements, and recalled that the rebels in eastern Ukraine did a unilateral ceasefire but nothing is happening and the authorities in Kiev have made no contact with “representatives of Donbass”. Putin said that Russia is not the one sabotaging the Minsk agreement.

US Dropped 2 Mock Nuclear Bombs in Nevada Desert

_ From the US Dept. of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration: “In collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, NNSA conducted successful surveillance flight tests using joint test assemblies (JTA) of the B61-7 and B61-11 last month.” In other words, two mock nuclear weapons were dropped in a Nevada desert in early October as a test exercise.

_ Marcus Weisgerberger at Defense One wonders “why now?” He speculates: “Perhaps it has to do with tensions with Russia,” but also notes the proposals for a new long-range strategic bomber, the B-21 Raider. The Navy is “preparing to buy 12 new Columbia-Class submarines that will replace the Ohio-Class, which can launch nuclear missiles.” And the Air Force “put out a notice in August that it is soliciting bids from companies to build new ICBMs and a nuclear cruise missiles.” Over the next 20 years these programs would cost $350 – $450 billion, before the cost overruns.


_ The deputy head of Helmand provincial council, Abdul Majeed Akhonzada, and lawmaker Sheer Muhammad Akhon reported that more than 200 Afghan security forces were killed fighting the Taliban as they try to capture the capital, Lashkargah.

War and Elections

_ Brad Hoff at The Canary: “New Clinton email reveals direct support for ISIS from two powerful Western allies.” One section of a leaked email from Hillary Clinton to John Podesta reveals that ISIS is directly supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, US allies:

“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region… The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure.”

_ Gen. Mike Flynn: “Why Hillary’s record on Libya is even worse than you think.”

Analysis and Opinion

_ Steve Topple’s analysis at The Canary shows cui bono, who benefits from the horrific war in Syria: “There’s only one big winner in Syria, and it’s not the Syrian people.”

_ Former head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror: “Tip of the Iceberg: Russian Use of Power in Syria.” Summary: ” The Russians are determined to reacquire some of the status once enjoyed by the Soviet Union of yore. They believe Western carelessness is to blame for the rise of Islamic State, and are using the Syrian theater to demonstrate their strategic capability.”

_ Who will take Al Bab?

_ Jonathan Marcus, diplomatic correspondent at the BBC: “Russia’s missile deployment in Kaliningrad ups the stakes for NATO.”

_ Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept: “U.S. and U.K. Continue to Actively Participate in Saudi War Crimes, Targeting Yemeni Civilians.” Greenwald quotes the Guardian: “The Obama administration ‘has offered to sell $115 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over its eight years in office, more than any previous U.S. administration.’” The arms deals and direct assistance in the bombings continues even though Pres. Obama has been warned by his own administration that these were war crimes and the US could probably be held accountable as a collaborator. Greenwald notes that it will be hard for Obama to condemn double-tap strikes since he has used that tactic himself and criticizes the US and UK for cynically exploiting human rights concerns to attack their adversaries.



Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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