Next Cold War Roundup 10/18/16:
Iraqi, Kurdish and American forces are advancing on Mosul from various directions. There are more reports of ISIS fleeing to Syria. A Guardian journalist again reports most civilians left East Aleppo years ago. Syria and Russia halted airstrikes for a humanitarian pause. A Yemen ceasefire is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. US Navy isn’t sure whether more missiles were fired on it in Yemen. The Taliban ambushed Afghan forces in Helmand province. One of Libya’s governments overthrew the UN-appointed unity government.
US Army Chief sent a strong warning to America’s enemies. Russian Pres. Putin said hacking accusations against Russia were fabricated to distract from America’s problems at home and US-Russia relations are being sacrificed for a presidential campaign. Vice Pres. Biden repeated the threat of a cyberattack on Russia. The mulitlateral talks on Syria in Switzerland produced no results. Many Americans are finally waking up to the risk of World War 3.
Battle for Mosul Begins
_ On Sunday night (early Monday morning hours in Iraq) Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi gave the order for the battle of Mosul to start. Via war correspondent Elijah Magnier (with some minor editing) this is what Abadi said as the battle began:
Abadi: “ISIS has no place among us and in the entire Iraq. The operations of Mosul have begun. They (Turkey) made every effort to threaten us. The Iraqi Army and the Federal Police will enter Mosul. There was an attempt to delay us but we are ready to liberate you, citizens of Mosul. Collaborate with us. We are coming to free you and rebuild the city of Mosul. Collaborate with us citizens of Mosul for the return to normal life.”
_ Magnier mentioned that Asiatel and Korel are providing free and excellent quality internet and phone service in and around Mosul. There were earlier reports that there is a virtual army of media in the area reporting on the battle to retake Mosul. A special emergency number has been set up so that the inhabitants of Mosul can dial 195 to reach the security forces headquarters.
_ On Tuesday, AP reported that the Iraqi advance on Mosul slowed after a day of fighting. A Kurdish officer said they had achieved their objectives after capturing some villages east of Mosul and that the “Iraq army will now advance past our areas of control.” An Iraqi special forces commander said they were delayed by Kurdish forces who needed more time to finish their mission. More than 25,000 troops are involved in the Mosul offensive. Col. John Dorrian said troops were on the move from the various axes and some had reached their objectives early due to “light-to-moderate resistance.”
_ Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com notes that “‘No boots on the ground’ has evolved into over 6,000 US troops in Iraq” and the promise of no combat role in Iraq has grown into US troops deployed on the front lines of the battle for Mosul, mainly working as “forward air controllers” providing targeting information for the air force who are providing close air support for the battle. On Monday, the Pentagon press secretary said: “Americans are in harm’s way as part of this fight.” 100-200 “advisers” are with Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga units.
_ Russian FM Lavrov said there is a corridor open from Mosul to Syria and he hopes the US coalition will attend to it, and if not, Russia “will be evaluating the situation and take decisions of both political and military nature” if ISIS fighters from Mosul go to Syria.
_ Robert Fisk reports that Syria’s army and its allies are preparing for a huge influx of ISIS fighters driven out of Iraq and they suspect that the real purpose of the “much-trumpeted US-planned ‘liberation'” of Mosul “is to swamp Syria with the hordes of Isis fighters who will flee their Iraqi capital in favour of their ‘mini-capital’ of Raqqa inside Syria itself.”
_ On Tuesday the Syrian army accused the US coalition of a “malicious scheme” allowing ISIS to flee Mosul across the Syrian border. They referred to the “backers of international terrorism, mainly the US and Saudi Arabia” and said that any attempt at crossing the border is “an attack on the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic,” and would be dealt with.
— Elijah J. Magnier (@EjmAlrai) October 16, 2016
_ “Apocalypse Postponed.” Turkish-backed rebels with air support from the Turkish air force and artillery seized the symbolic town of Dabiq on Sunday. ISIS believed Dabiq would be the site of a showdown between Christian Crusaders and Muslims and would trigger the apocalypse, and was a symbol for the ISIS struggle against the West. ISIS is now calling it the “lesser Dabiq battle” and referring to a “greater Dabiq epic.”
_ The unity government in Libya (Government of National Accord or GNA), created by the UN, was under a coup attack on Friday Oct. 14, in Tripoli by former prime minister Khalifa Ghwell and militias loyal to him and to the parliament in Tripoli, the “national salvation government”. Ghwell is calling on the parliament in eastern Libya to join him in a new unity government. Libya has 3 or more rival governments. The UN’s unity government never had the support of the western and eastern parliaments and had much difficulty even traveling to and staying in Tripoli.
_ The Tripoli militias seized state buildings, a TV station, and the Rixos Hotel, which is in a complex of administrative buildings. The militias loyal to the unity government reportedly did not resist and the unity government prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj is rumored to be in Tunisia.
New Multilateral Talks on Syria
_ After the multilateral talks in Lausanne, John Kerry and Boris Johnson “each insisted all options were on the table. But their stark explanations about the danger of resorting to military force appeared to rule out such a move.” Boris Johnson said “there is, to put it mildly, a lack of political appetite in most European capitals and certainly in the West for that kind of [military] solution at present.”
_ The meeting in Lausanne lasted 4 1/2 hours. John Kerry said it was a “brainstorming” and a “very candid first-time discussion” during which “a number of ideas came from a number of different ministers.” At the table were the foreign ministers from the US, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt.
_ John Kerry headed to London after the talks in Lausanne to meet with the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany. He reportedly does not have a “detailed new peace plan” but does have “fresh ideas.”
_ In a press conference in London, John Kerry and Boris Johnson called for Syria, Russia and Iran to stop bombing Aleppo. Johanson said: “get that ceasefire going.” Kerry said Russia is not attacking ISIS or al Nusra, that 85-90% “has been focused against the moderate opposition […] No one is fooled by this.” Kerry then said that even if the Syrian coalition takes back all of Aleppo city, the opposition sponsors, which are US allies, will keep supplying them and ‘creating terrorists’ and Syria will suffer:
Kerry: “Even if Aleppo were to fall […] that will not change the fundamental equation of this war because other countries will continue to support opposition and they will continue to create more terrorists and Syria will be the victim in the end, as well as the region.”
US Army Chief Warns Enemies
_ On Oct. 4, Gen. Mark Milley warned America’s enemies: “We will stop you and we will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before.” He calls out “Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.” (Video: Clip, Full Speech) Milley also talked about how the army will adapt to near future wars and how World War 3 will be “extremely lethal and fast.”
Gen. Milley: “Other countries – Russia, China, Iran, North Korea – went to school on us. They closely watched how we fought in ’91 and ’03. They studied our doctrine, our tactics, our equipment, our organization and our training and our leadership and in turn they revised their own doctrines and they are rapidly modernizing their military today to avoid our strengths and hopes of defeating us at some point in the future.”
“I want to be clear to those around the world who want to destroy our way of life, and that of our allies and friends,” said Gen. Millay. “The United States military, despite all our challenges, despite our off-tempo, despite everything we have been doing, will stop you, and we will beat you harder than you’ve ever been beaten before. Make no mistake about that.”
Cyberattack Threats, Deteriorating US-Russian Relations
_ The Kremlin spokesman responded to VP Joe Biden’s confirmation that the US intends to conduct a cyberattack on Russia (video at 19:00) by saying that US aggression is dangerous to the whole world and Russia will defend themselves and mentions ‘hedging the risks’ which could refer to a counterattack but it was a vague answer. The CIA has openly threatened a “clandestine” (but not very clandestine now!) “wide ranging” cyberattack designed to “embarrass” Russia’s leaders. When asked if the American people would know when it happens, Biden said “I hope not.” There has been a lot of speculation on whether this threat is a bluff.
Dmitry Peskov: “The fact is, US unpredictability and aggression keep growing […] such unpredictability is dangerous for the whole world. […] Of course, given such an aggressive, unpredictable line, we have to take measures to protect our interests, somehow hedge the risks.”
_ Russian Pres. Putin continues his comments about the US this week which are significantly increased, more blunt and more angry. When asked about sanctions, he said the US doesn’t compromise, they only dictate and since they started doing this during the last 20 years they can’t stop. Sanctions aren’t really related to Ukraine or Syria, he said that “sanctions are aimed not at solving anything, but at suppressing Russia’s strengthening” and on the subject of Russia easing their countersanctions, Putin said: “No way, they can get lost.”
_ Channel 4 News in the UK did a video report in early October titled: “Inside Aleppo: Up Close With the Rebels,” during which they promoted the infamous Zenki group who beheaded a Palestinian child. Channel 4 labeled them as “moderate” rebels, former farmers and factory workers. They gave special coverage to the very men who did the beheading. Several days later they hid the video by making it private on YouTube. No explanation was given. Brad Hoff lays out the details, including a copy of the video: “Channel 4 News promoted known war criminals in Syria, and is now hiding its own report [VIDEO].”
_ Journalist Theo Padnos was held prisoner and tortured by Syrian rebels at an eye hospital that journalist Martin Chulov had reported was ‘commandeered’ by the rebels as a “headquarters”. Chulov was describing a 2012 visit to East Aleppo, which he notably said “even then, was largely deserted.” He also describes the arrival of “strangers – non-Syrians […] Dressed in dishdashas and head shawls, some with leather ammunition belts strapped across their chests […] the vanguard of the jihadists, who, since May 2012, had started to travel to Syria and assemble in the countryside.”
_ Chulov said that as the number of jihadist pouring across the Turkish border into East Aleppo grew, the number of “rebels” who had risen up against Assad lessened, “few remaining residents of east Aleppo.” In 2013, the jihadist took charge, “subverting the myriad opposition groups – and their cause – in the name of a global jihad.” ISIS emerged like a “trojan horse,” Islamic order was implemented, the streets were even more deserted and women were rarely seen.
_ In 2014, “rebel groups” evicted ISIS from east Aleppo. The outskirts of the city were deserted but the small, Old City was still functional. By the end of 2014, the last time Chulov visited, “finding residents in the east was difficult.” Chulov said it has been near impossible to visit east Aleppo since then.
_ Western media still regularly reports that there are 275,000 civilians in east Aleppo.
— Theo Padnos (@TheoPadnos) October 14, 2016
_ EHSANI22 on social media, who has sources in East Aleppo, said this week that there are 40,000-60,000 civilians there. Moon of Alabama notes that these numbers are consistent with the Syrian government’s estimates.
_ The Russian defense ministry announced a 48-hour halt to airstrikes in Aleppo on Tuesday, a humanitarian pause. They expect “nations with sway over miitant groups” to pressure them to allow civilians to leave. Corridors have been prepared.
_ The government-held side of the city, West Aleppo, is rarely reported on in western media. An RT crew filmed the aftermath of a rebel rocket attack on residential areas in West Aleppo. RT’s Murad Gazdiev has been reporting on the ground there. 29 people were killed in this attack and 3 civilians killed. The attacks over the weekend were “very vicious” and continuous.
Berlin Terror Suspect is Former Member of White Helmets
_ Zaman al Wasl news media reports that the Syrian man arrested for planning a terror attack in Berlin, Jaber al Bakr, joined the White Helmets group in Idlib province in Syria, according to Reuters. Jaber al Bakr committed suicide in jail after his arrest. His brother said he had gone back to Syria to volunteer with the White Helmets “but was probably radicalized by imams in Berlin.” He went to Turkey and then spent 2 months in Syria. He called his family and told them he was volunteering with the White Helmets in Idlib. When he returned to Germany, Syrian refugees detained him and turned him into the police after he had evaded a police raid.
_ Al Bakr reportedly spoke to an ISIS contact about targets on the day before his arrest. A German newspaper said that the US had provided the tip-off.
_ Another mysterious missile was ‘allegedly’ fired at the USS Mason from the coast of Yemen on Saturday, according to the US Naval Institute.
_ Pentagon: “Earlier today, a US Strike Group transiting international waters in the Red Sea detected possible inbound missile threats and deployed appropriate defensive countermeasures.”
_ On Sunday, in London, John Kerry and UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Yemen, led by the UN. Previous ceasefires have called for the Houthis to turn in their weapons, surrender, and leave the capital.
_ On Wednesday, a 72-hour ceasefire will begin.
Iranian Navy Near Yemen
_ Tehran is reportedly deploying 2 warships to the Red Sea. The Alvand (frigate) and the Bushehr (logistics/support ship) are officially going to the Bab al-Mandeb Strait to “deter piracy and defend trade.”
_ A top commander in the Donetsk People’s Republic rebel military was assassinated on Sunday with “an explosive device in the lift of his apartment block in Donetsk,” according to a British journalist in Ukraine Graham Phillips, who has done extensive reporting of the separatist groups. Arsen Pavlov, whose nom de guerre was “Motorola” was the commander of the Sparta battalion. Fort Russ reports that the Ukrainian special forces officially claimed to have carried out the assassnation via a remotely detonated IED. Motorola was targeted and reported as dead dozens of times before but this time reliable sources have confirmed it.
_ The Taliban releaed a video documenting the “deadly ambush near Lashkar Gah” in Helmand province last week, when they ambushed a large convoy of Afghan security forces. Afghan officials denied the high casualties but the Taliban reported 69 killed, 33 injured and 125 surrendered. The New York Times reported between 100 and 200 Afghan forces killed. The Taliban said the video shows “Mujahideen attacks on a hireling convoy heading towards capital Lashkargah for breaking the siege of the capital.”
War and Elections
_ Patrick Cockburn reported on one of the most important revelations from the Podesta Emails published by Wikileaks: “US Allies Are Funding ISIS — and Hillary Clinton Knew All Along.” Cockburn notes that this has gotten little media attention because of the “furore over the sexual antics of Donald Trump.”
_ Andrew Bacevich at Unz.com: “What We Talk About When We Don’t Want to Talk About Nuclear War.”
_ For the second time in as many weeks, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin said that relations between the US and Russia are being destroyed. At a BRICS conference (transcript, video), in response to US Vice Pres. Joe Biden’s comments on Meet the Press (video at 19:00) about a planned cyberattack on Russia, Putin said that Pres. Obama is destroying relations between the US and Russia on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and to distract from the problems in America.
Putin: “The only novelty is that for the first time, on the highest level, the United States has admitted involvement in these activities, and to some extent threatened [us] […] There are many problems [in the US], and in these circumstances, many choose to resort to the tried and tested system of diverting voters’ attention from their own problems. That’s what we are currently witnessing, I think […] “to unite the nation in the fight against this enemy.”
“Portraying Iran and the Iranian nuclear threat as an enemy didn’t work. [Portraying] Russia [as an enemy] seems more interesting. In my opinion, this particular card is now being actively played […] Too bad that based on the current [US] internal political problems, Russia-US relations are being sacrificed. This actually destroys international relations in general.”
“[…]harmful and counterproductive […] sacrifice US-Russian relations in the course of internal political events in America […] And then we have people whispering to us, ‘Oh, wait, wait, it’ll be over soon, things will go back to normal’ […] I hope that after the election period in the US, there will be a chance to restore relations between Moscow and Washington.” [Emphasis added]
Analysis and Opinion
_ Robert Bridge, an American journalist based in Moscow: “US anti-Russia rhetoric goes nuclear with threats of covert cyber-attacks.” Bridge: “The world seems to be sleepwalking its way into a geopolitical maelstrom.” On the Wikileaks dump of DNC and Clinton campaign emails:
Bridge: “So just like that, yet another case of Clinton campaign chicanery, worthy of a Watergate-style investigation, is swept under the carpet, while WikiLeaks and Russia are accused of working in tandem to stain the squeaky clean process. And now here we are, with the Obama administration suggesting some sort of cyber-attack on Russia over what really amounts to extreme misconduct at the highest levels of the Clinton campaign, with Russia being dragged in as scapegoat.”
_ Sam Gerrans, an English writer and activist, writes about the warmongering media frenzy in Britain: “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!”
_ Robert Parry at ConsortiumNews: “NYT’s Absurd New Anti-Russian Propaganda.”
_ The Saker: “By Way of Deception Thou Shalt Lose Your Empire.”
_ Gilbert Doctorow: “The Warnings of a New World War.” Doctorow and a relative few others (including the writers here at Next Cold War) have seen this world war coming for a few years now, but a lot of others who were asleep or calling others alarmists are suddenly waking up. But even so, Doctorow believes that the situation is “far more dangerous than is understood by mainstream U.S. analysts as Russia lays down clear warnings that are mostly being ignored.”