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Carter Botches Iraq-Turkey Mediation on Mosul, Russia Halts Aleppo Airstikes for 7th Day

Next Cold War Roundup 10/25/16

Iraqi coalition advancement on Mosul continues. Sec. Defense Carter intervened between Turkey and Iraq and made matters worse. ISIS militants flee Mosul to Syria. The Economist signals western factions want them to have a safe corridor. The Russian air force monitors and pledges to strike them. The Syrian coalition gained territory in Aleppo. Russian and Syrian air force maintain halt of airstrikes for a 7th day.

Turkey attacked Kurdish forces in northwest Syria and threatend to launch a ground offensive against Kurds in Iraq.

Mosul; Struggle Between Iraq and Turkey

_ Turkish columnist for the Daily Sabah, Yahya Bostan, wrote on Oct. 21 that the Syrian Kurds (YPG) must be kicked out of Afrin and Manbij before Mosul falls and Daesh (ISIS) leaves Mosul and goes to Raqqa and al-Bab.  The Free Syrian Army (FSA) “are compelled to kick the YPG out of Afrin and Manbij.” The Daily Sabah is considered a mouthpiece for the Erdogan administration and the AKP party.

_ On Friday, Sec. of Defense Ash Carter visited Turkey and upon leaving, said he had come to an agreement in principle, that Turkey should participate in the battle for Mosul after all. This is a reversal of earlier statements by US officials who sided with the Iraqi government who said that Turkey must not interfere in their military operations.

Carter: “That will have to obviously be something that the Iraqi government will need to agree to and I think there’s agreement there in principle.”

_ Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi rejected Carter’s proposal for Turkey’s involvement in the Mosul offensive. MENA analyst Kirk Sowell explains, via social media (thread begins here), why Sec. Defense Carter’s attempt to allow Turkey to participate in the Mosul battle was such a bad idea:

Sowell: “I must say what an ill-conceived idea it was for SecDef Carter to back Turkey Mosul role. Carter failed, since Abadi publicly rejected his request, & it was inevitable Carter would fail. He shouldn’t have tried. It would destroy Abadi politically if he agreed, & it will hurt America’s position in Iraq to even have raised the issue. Opposition to Turkey playing a role in Mosul includes: a) All Shia; b) Most Sunni Arab factions; c) Most Kurds outside the KDP. Shia opposition especially is organic and grassroots. It is not something just stirred up by Iran. And the reason for this is that is Turkey’s aim is not to fight IS, but create a new protectorate. ”
This by @tarangoNYT & @gordonnyt has more on Carter’s visit after the fact. Who advised Carter to talk like that? It will strengthen those who say the US aims to break up Iraq, or support terrorists there. Until now, US officials had respected Iraq’s sovereignty. But Carter’s move was a total blunder. Are those advising SecDef even aware that Abadi is surviving bc he attacks Turkey in every speech these days? Literally every one.”

_ Iran put in their 2 cents and urged Turkey not to violate Iraq’s sovereignty.

_ Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım “confirmed reports that Turkish troops based in the contested Bashiqa area outside Mosul were firing on Isis positions with artillery, tanks and howitzers.” Yildirim claims that the Peshmerga requested their assistance. The Iraqi military command denied any Turkish involvement in Nineveh province. Turkey’s foreign minister said that Turkey is creating a “refugee safe haven” in northern Iraq for Sunnis (and specifically not for PKK) and will not involve Turkish ground forces, only ” air, artillery and special forces support.” Turkey makes the same claim about the land along the Syrian border that they are in the process of occupying.

_ An Iraqi minister denied that Turkey can participate in the Mosul offensive. On Tuesday, the Turkish foreign minister threatened that the Turkish military would “launch a ground operation in Iraq if they perceive a threat to their national security” from the Kurds. Cavusoglu: “We aren’t saying this to Iraqis alone, but to the United States and all coalition nations, to the northern Iraqi government.” Turkey is allied with Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan but sees the PKK Kurds and Syrian YPG Kurds as a threat. Turkey has 2,000 troops in Bashiqa, near Mosul.

_ The UN says that ISIS is committing massacres in Mosul. The Russian Ministry of Defense said during the US airstrikes on Mosul 60 civilians have been killed and 200 injured.  Gen. Sergey Rudskoy: “There were numerous attacks of the US-led coalition targeting residential areas, schools, and other civilian objects both in Mosul and in other parts of the Iraqi Nineveh Governorate.”

_ A US Navy sailor, Jason Finan, was killed in the Mosul operation in Iraq last week. He “was attached to an elite SEAL team that was advising the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service.” Finan was an explosive ordnance disposal technician and was killed when his vehicle “rolled over an improvised explosive device [IED] as it was exiting a minefield.” He was the first US service member killed during the Mosul offensive. He had previously done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan during his 13-year military career.

Mosul: ISIS Flow to Syria

_ In our last roundup, we reported that the Syrian government and columnist Robert Fisk had accused the US-led anti-ISIS coalition of leaving corridors open for ISIS to flee from Mosul to the Syrian border, where they could be “directed against the Assad government and its allies – a scenario which might cause some satisfaction in Washington.” Fisk even suggested that the purpose of the “much-trumpeted US-planned ‘liberation’” of Mosul is to open “a way for Isis to escape towards eastern Syria,” and compared it to the Fallujah operation.

_ Now the Economist magazine has an editorial advising just this, perhaps validating the accusations:

“Though it might seem perverse, the wisest thing the would-be liberators could do would be to leave IS a safe way out of the city, eastward to Syria, to avoid a long fight to the death. The prize of taking Mosul as quickly and bloodlessly as possible is worth the cost of allowing an isolated Islamic Statelet to survive in eastern Syria a bit longer.”

_ The Economist also calls for a long term or permanent bases and US troops in Iraq: “Mr Obama and his successor must not declare victory for a second time, rush for the exit—and leave Iraq to tear itself apart.” reinforcing the much repeated neocon ruse that the reason ISIS rose up and Iraq is a mess is because Pres. Obama withdrew US troops in 2011, wrecking their goal of a permanent military presence in Iraq. In reality, the SOFA agreement to withdraw was negotiated under Pres. Bush, the Iraqis insisted that the Americans leave even though Pres. Obama tried to renegotiate it before withdrawing. Not to mention that a permanent presence of CIA and paramilitary was increased substantially in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq after the 2011 troop withdrawal.

_ In their social media promotion of the story on Twitter, the prestigious Economist made a bit of a geographical error: “The wisest strategy for retaking Mosul is to leave IS an exit, eastward to Syria, to avoid a situation like Ramadi.”

_ On Monday, CNN reported that ISIS militants were fleeing to Syria. “Sheikh Abdullah Alyawer, a tribal leader in the town of Rabia” told CNN that dozens of ISIS and their families are crossing the border at Ba’aaj, “an ISIS-controlled crossing point south of Sinjar” and the entire corridor they are using is under ISIS control.

_ On Tuesday, Sec. Defense Carter said the plans are laid for Raqqa and Russia is not part of the plan. 

Carter: “We have already begun laying the groundwork with our partners to commence the isolation of Raqqa […] There will be overlap [with Mosul operation]. That is part of our plan and we are prepared for that. […] “Russia is not a participant in our Raqqa plans.”

_ A Russian general said 300 ISIS militants have already arrived in Deir Ezzor and as they continue moving from Iraq to Syria, Russia is “monitoring the situation in the area of the Syrian-Iraqi border day and night” and “Russian planes are on patrol missions in the airspace and are ready to immediately deliver strikes.” Turkey aims to prevent the Kurds from establishing an autonomous Kurdistan and is also eyeing both Aleppo and Mosul, which have historic significance to Turkey, and “deep and powerful ties to Turkey.” Turkey also covets Mosul’s oil resources.

_ Bill Neely, on NBC News site, calls the war in Syria and Iraq a “world war in miniature,” and makes the bold claim that: “When ISIS destroyed the border between Syria and Iraq and declared the end of the British-French agreement that dismembered the Ottoman Empire, everything was up for grabs.”  The governments of Iraq and Syria, and their allies, disagree. [Emphasis added]

_ The Russian military says: “So far, we see no major success in the coalition’s operation to liberate [Mosul] from Islamic State terrorists.” Last week the Russian Chief of General Staff said that the battle for Mosul hasn’t really started, and they have only observed groupings on the outskirts of the city using artillery and airstrikes.

Turkey Fighting Kurds in Syria

_ As part of their Operation Euphrates Shield launched in August along the Syrian border, a Turkish-led coalition “took control of more territory as they push against both IS and Syrian Kurdish forces.” Turkey has “widened its border buffer zone to 1,280 sq km,” according to the Turkish military.

_ Last week, the Turkish air force “launched one of its biggest airstrikes in decades” against Syrian Kurds (YPG) in northern Aleppo province.

_ Military expert Moon of Alabama believes that Turkey is attempting to “keep its logistic lines of communications” to ISIS, and that the Turkish-backed forces may attack Aleppo from the northeast. He has long maintained that Erdogan has designs on Aleppo, Mosul, and everything between them, and a recent speech confirmed that.

_ War correspondent Elijah Magnier reports that the Syrian Kurds (YPG) area already reconsidering their alliances and “rejoining Damascus,” as Turkey’s long term plans become clear.

US-Turkey Relations; Incirlik

_ A task force led by 2 former ambassadors to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz and Eric Edelmen, produced a 37-page report report titled: “Turkey: An Increasingly Undependable Ally.” (Summary, Full Report PDF). The recommendations to for sending a message to Turkey ” that the United States will act in its strategic interests, with or without Turkish support or permission” are:

  1. “Seek a base in Kurdish Regional Government territory” in northern Iraq.
  2. “Organize more airdrops to Syrian Kurds.”
  3. Consider delisting the PKK as a terrorist organization.
  4. “Look to other regional players” such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Jordan.
  5. “Stress shared values” and don’t turn a “blind eye to developments in Turkey or remaining silent as Turkey’s democracy continues to unravel.”
  6. “Focus on electoral fairness.” US should urge Turkey to invite international observers for their upcoming important parliamentary elections.

_ The task force concluded that Turkey is at best “largely absent” or at worst “undermining US interests.” In a list of grievances, the task force mentions that Turkey refused to join the US and EU in imposing sanctions on Russia and instead has moved closer to Russia and is pursuing a missile defense deal with China. The missile defense system would be incompatible with NATO and purchased from a company currently under US sanctions.

_ The report cites Turkish president Erdogan’s goals “to achieve an Ottoman-tinged Islamist state,” the erosion of rights, and the Turkish government’s “accusations and conspiracy theories that the U.S. Congress is on the payroll of Erdoğan’s enemies” after the US Congress criticized their persecution of the free press. They also cite Turkey’s support and accommodation of ISIS and other jihadists.


_ The UN is blaming all parties for the failure of the evacuation and aid plan in Aleppo during the ceasefire by Syria and Russia last week. The US blames Russia alone. War correspondent Elijah Magnier said the jihadists in East Aleppo prevented civilians leaving because they need them as human shields and they rely on western media to cover this up by blaming Russia.

_ Russia announced on Tuesday another extension, now 7 days halting airstrikes on Aleppo.

_ Military expert Moon of Alabama reports that during the halt on airstrikes, the jihadis have, yet again, resupplied and prepared for new offensives in southwest Aleppo city and on Castillo Road:

“U.S. supported al-Qaeda aligned Jihadis have used the pause to prepare for another attack on the government held parts of Aleppo city with the aim of opening a passage into the besieged eastern areas. They received enormous amounts of new weapons and munitions from the U.S. and their other supporters.”

_ Russian FM Lavrov says the US must fulfill its obligation to separate the moderate opposition from al Nusra, Daesh “and the like” before they can resume negotiations toward a political solution.

_ The Syrian coalition forces are making gains in southwestern Aleppo.

Russian Warships Steaming to the Mediterranean

_ A battle group of 8 Russian warship, led by their only carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is approaching Gibraltar on a long-planned mission to deploy off the coast of Syria in the Mediterranean. NATO warships will escort the ships on their Mediterranean tour. The UK Royal Air Force scrambled Typhoon fighter jets off the coast of Scotland.

_ The Cold War era aircraft carrier was the subject of both ridicule and fearmongering as it passed the UK. The Saker thinks more attention should be paid to a different ship in the group, the “Heavy Nuclear Rocket Cruiser Peter the Great” and concludes that this “task force” of ships improves the air defense capabilities against a barrage of missiles from the US coalition that would overwhelm the Russian air defense systems alone, on the ground in Syria. He doesn’t think it can prevent an attack on Syria but believes it would make it “much harder and dramatically less effective.”

_ Spain, a NATO member, is “facing international anger” because it agreed to allow the ships to refuel and resupply in the Spanish port of Ceuta on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

_ A photo of the Russian carrier from Saturday, by Russian photojournalist  Александр Коц on Twitter, with a humorous caption (machine translated): “As the Russians drive to the Mediterranean Sea :)”

A New Marshall Plan to Defeat ISIS

_ John Allen. the retired Marine general who gave a thundering war speech at the Democratic convention in July and who therefore is a presumed favored brass for Hillary Clinton’s administration, told the BBC that a new Marshall Plan is needed to defeat ISIS and prevent an “interminable conflict.” Allen said the “Marshall Plan had been the knock out blow against the Soviet threat after World War Two and something similar was needed again.”

_ After an entrance with dozens of other retired officers and veterans, who took the stage to a military drum march, Allen bellowed about Hillary Clinton using “all instruments of power” to conquer tyranny and evil. On the convention floor, competing chants of “USA! USA!” and “No more war! No more war!” repeatedly interrupted his speech, with the former strategically drowning out the latter, which came from a smaller but significant and tenacious part of the audience.

_ A partial transcript of the BBC interview:

Allen: “The knockout blow came from something that wasn’t military. It was the Marshall Plan and we’re hearing, more and more, leaders around the world, recognizing that to really deal with an organization like ISIL [ISIS] and its related extremist mutations we have to deal with the underlying social, economic, and political circumstances that have festered for so long and have created such animosities within local populations that the radicalization is simply interminable. We’ve got to deal with that or we can never deal with extremist organizations, except in a military manner, and that’s not a winning proposition.”

BBC: “But the idea of a new Marshall Plan and everything that implies — countries of the West coming together, and Russia, of course — it’s simply too ambitious. It’s not realistic.”

Allen:” I don’t think so. I’m not proposing that all of the actions necessary have to occur simultaneously, nor do they have to occur tomorrow. But we can recognize that there are some states, right now, that need our help, and a consortia of nations can come together, just as we have created a coaliton to counter ISIL, can come together with the right kinds of resources that can help these nations create the security platform that’s necessary and begin to help them in the context of reform, with the right kinds of targeted assistance and targeted economic development that can fundamentally change some of these circumstances.”

“The trajectory we’re on is not promising. We’re going to have to think differently about how we’re going to solve these issues, otherwise we’re condemned to interminable conflict, and that should not be what we bequeath our children. And you said it’s going to be beyond the horizon of my life. I believe that this solution will be beyond the horizon of my life.”

_ Gen. Allen served as a commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was “on the short list for NATO’s top position of Supreme Allied Commander Europe” in late 2012 when the Petraeus/Paula Broadwell scandal broke and involved him.  Allen retired several months later, citing family reasons.

_ John Allen partnered with Charles Lister in an Washington Post op-ed that repeats the ‘Surge, Freeze, and Enforce’ war plan for Syria that Lister published several weeks ago at the War on the Rocks blog.  Lister calls it a plan for “winding down the Syrian civil war” but the WaPo op-ed characterizes it more accurately as an escalation.

_ William Astore asks: “Why is Petraeus an Expert on Mosul?’ Good question.

NATO Intelligence

_ NATO just appointed their first chief of intelligence for their new intelligence unit.  The new chief is the son of a World War II Nazi Germany commander who invaded Russia, and was involved in the Battle of Stalingrad.

The Washington Foreign Policy “Borg” Salivate for a Hillary Presidency

_ In the “Washington foreign policy establishment, President Obama’s departure from the White House — and the possible return of a more conventional and hawkish Hillary Clinton — is being met with quiet relief,” reports Greg Jaffe at the Washington Post. A “more assertive American foreign policy” is the understatement of the year, not to mention that American foreign policy is already pretty “assertive”. Jaffe notes that there is a “remarkable consensus” among the foreign policy elite (“the Blob”) in both parties that the US must wage more war and they are already “laying the groundwork” for new policies and ‘launching major studies’ to “correct the perceived mistakes” of the Obama administration, who, in their view, exercised too much constraint, especially in the Middle East.  They are also focused on how to “restore and renovate” the “American-led international order” which they believe is “under threat.” A Brookings report is due out in December, notably after the election. Stephen Hadley is one of the leaders of the efforts and he says we’ve been at it in the Middle East for 15 years and a lot of people think it is hopeless but “the Blob” has not.  The “Blob” realizes that they are out of step with the American public, but that is not stopping them.

_ The Center for American Progress (CAP) calls itself a “progressive public policy research and advocacy organization” but it is really a neoliberal think tank funded by corporations and oligarchs associated with the Democratic party. They published a paper on Oct. 19, “Leveraging U.S. Power in the Middle East,” a “Blueprint for Strengthening Regional Partnerships.” It calls for more military intervention in the new president’s first term, especially against Iran and it calls for a long term military commitment there and a strengthening of partnership with our closest Middle East allies. By 2025 it seeks to “resolve conflict and make progress toward the creation of new, inclusive, and stable political orders in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen” and a “two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Nevermind that there won’t be anything left of Palestine by 2025.

War and Elections

_ In a 2012 Obama-Biden campaign commercial, Madeline Albright and Michele Flournoy slam Mitt Romney for saying that Russia is our #1 geopolitical foe. They say he fails the Commander-in-Chief test, he’s out of touch, the Cold War has been over for 20 years, and he’s playing 20th century politics in the 21st century world. Today. both Albright and Flournoy are rolling out white papers plotting wars in Syria that involve Russia, and calling Russia the #1 threat to the US and an American-led international world order.

_ More quotes from the 2012 Obama-Biden campaign mocking Mitt Romney about his stance on Russia (video):

Pres. Obama: “After all, you don’t call Russia our #1 enemy unless you’re still stuck in Cold War mind warp […] The 1980’s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Vice Pres. Joe Biden: “Gov. Romney is mired in a Cold War mindset […] He acts like he thinks the Cold War is still on.”

Sec. State John Kerry: “He has even blurted out the preposterous notion that Russia is our #1 political geopolitical foe.”

Former Sec. State Hillary Clinton: “It’s somewhat dated to, ah, be looking backwards.”

_ From the Cairo Review: “Hillary Clinton’s Imperial Feminism,” by Zillah Eisenstein. Eisenstein asks: “Does the gender of a world leader matter? Having a female U.S. president might break a glass ceiling, but the policies of the woman holding the office could still leave women in the basement.” Imperial feminism has a history of using women’s rights to justify American wars and empire building, and leaves “most women out of the mix.” It “privileges inequality through gender bending that masquerades as gendered equality.”

“Clinton disguises militarism with a friendly white female face, read as feminist, as though this feminism were inclusive when it is not.”

_ Daniel Lazare at Consortium News: “Clinton’s Slog Deeper into the Big Muddy.” Lazare discusses Hillary Clinton’s pledge to escalate the war in the Middle East, specifically Syria.

_ Natylie Baldwin at Consortium News says that the “demonization of Russian President Putin and Russia, in general, has reached alarming levels in the West” and “a new ‘group think'” is taking hold “that ignores Russian realities and interests.” In order to have any rational understanding of the situation, Baldwin says it “requires cutting through the misinformation and distortion that saturates much of our mainstream news and political discourse” and then she proceeds to cut through many of the main items of misinformation.

_ US officials are signalling that if Hillary Clinton wins the election and Donald Trump supplies evidence of election fraud, it will be done with fake documents from the Russians. “According to Reuters, U.S. voting authorities are now warning that while the Russians may not actually hack the Presidential election, they may fake hacking the Presidential election.”

Analysis and Opinion

_ Mike Benitez and Mike Pietrucha at War on the Rocks: “Political Airpower, Part I: Say No to the No-Fly Zone.”

_ Harvard prof Linda Bilmes reports the new estimate of the cost for post-9/11 wars is 5 trillion dollars. Unlike past wars, there were no tax increases, budget cuts or war bonds. The wars were financed and in fact, taxes were cut and budgets increased. War budgets aren’t scrutinized, so Congress found ways to hang pet projects onto them, raising the cost (technically) per soldier from $1 million to nearly $5 million.  There were no drafts, so “less than 1 percent of the adult US population was deployed to the combat zones” and the ratio of contractors to troops in Afghanistan is 3 to 1. The wars have no effect on most Americans’ lives, so there is no debate and little discussion which makes it even easier for the next president to grow the wars by magnitudes. We don’t even set aside the money for disability benefits for veterans.  The corruption is astounding. This article is a must read.

_ Roland Oliphant at the Telegraph: “Russia and the West have ‘entered a new Cold War‘”.

_ Patrick Cockburn: “Compare the Coverage of Mosul and East Aleppo and It Reveals a Lot.”

_ Philip Giraldi: “A World Gone Mad.” Giraldi says that voters really need to “wake up to issues of war versus peace.”

_ MENA analyst, Kirk Sowell: “The Regional and Domestic Political Context of the Mosul Offensive.”

_ H. Akin Unvera at War on the Rocks: “Politics, Population, and Hydrocarbons: Preparing for Mosul’s Aftermath.”

_ Rudaw, Kurdish media: “Mosul: the city and province were once among Iraq’s crown jewels.” Mosul is rich in resources. “Economic analysts estimate the city’s natural resources to be abundant, rich in sulfur, cement factories, oil, gas and wheat,” and also in sulphur, “marble, ceramic and carbonate rocks.”

_ “US and Russia in the Trap of Delusion and Confrontation,” by Desi Tsoneva, translated by Southfront.


_ “Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East,” is a new book by Dr. Christopher Davidson, where he “where he investigates the crucial Arab Spring questions, including who supported and who crushed calls for democracy.” A review, titled “How global terror finance networks crushed the Arab Spring,” says that Davidson concluded that the event of 2011 were “replications of US and British foreign policies seen in the earlier parts of the 20th centuries,” policies which have continued since the British Empire “passed the torch” to America. Davidson describes “wealthy donors” and “powerful transnational networks” are funding extremist “hard-line religious groups” because western powers are not able to intervene directly in the Arab world after the disastrous 2003 Iraq invasion. Davidson’s Twitter feed has many interesting excerpts and statements about the US and Britain repeated attempts to create an Islamic State Caliphate in the past, and the use of ISIS as a tool now to engineer outcomes favorable to superpowers and their allies. Davidson did an interview with WORT radio in Wisconsin. (Podcast)


Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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