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East Aleppo Evacuated; Western Intelligence Officers Captured? Media Confessions

Turkey and Russia brokered an evacuation deal for East Aleppo. Western media confessions began. The Syrian UN ambassador revealed that foreign intelligence officers, who were bunkered in East Aleppo, would be captured, and UN monitors’ real mission was to free them. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot and killed in Ankara, and more in our round-up of war and peace news.

Syria: US Coalition Military and Intelligence Officers Captured in East Aleppo

_ On Monday, Dec. 19, the Syrian UN ambassador Bashar Ja’afari (Jaafari) announced at a UN presser that the “last terrorists are in some districts of East Aleppo are evacuating their strongholds and Aleppo, this evening, will be clean.” (video) Jaafari also said that foreign military and intelligence officers are bunkered in East Aleppo and trying to leave with the fighters. He clamed that the UN Security Council resolution is a smoke screen for getting their officers out, and the Western media and officials’ “hysteria” and concern for civilians was used to mask their efforts to get their officers out.

_ Jaafari,at 32:00:

“Many foreign military and intelligence officers who are in the eastern part of Aleppo with the terrorist groups are trying to exit their strongholds in the eastern part of Aleppo. I will say, before you, their names and their nationalities. [Jaafari lists names & nationalities] These Syrian moderate opposition individuals who have foreign citizenship and nationalities are trying to escape from the eastern part of Aleppo with the terrorists and this is why you saw this hysterical move in the [UN Security] Council for the last 3 days. Because the main purpose is how to rescue these terrorist foreigners (intelligence officers, from the same countries who pushed for the adoption of the resolution) from Aleppo.”

_ Southfront (and others) reported that at least 14 military and intelligence advisers from US coalition countries had actually been captured by Syrian special forces on the previous Friday.  A UN Security Council closed-door session on Friday was called to address the situation.

_ Southfront later reported that their sources had told them there was a much larger number of military and intelligence officers from more countries and they would be allowed to East Aleppo in the last evacuation with other rebel fighters on Monday night.

_ A member of the Syrian parliament, Fares Shehabi, leaked a list of names on Facebook that included advisers from the US, Israel, Turkey. Qatar and Saudi Arabia. A Syrian journalist claimed to have seen a list of names and countries, including UK, France and Germany. No names from UK, France or Germany were revealed by the Syrian ambassador on Monday.

_ As of Monday night, 12 hours after Jaafari’s statement, there were no Western media headlines and no reporting on English language Russian channels about Jaafari’s blockbuster statement at the UN. The Russian defense ministry had reported that the government had full control of East Aleppo on Friday.

Turkey: Russian Ambassador Shot and Killed in Ankara

_ On Dec. 19, Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was shot while giving a speech at an art exhibit and at least 3 others were injured. The shooter, Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, was a current or former Turkish national police officer. He presented ID as he entered the exhibition, was wearing a lapel pin, and it appears that he was able to blend in to the security detail at the event.

_ The shooter was “Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş (22), resident of Söke town from western province Aydin.” He joined Ankara police in 2014 and  is reportedly associated with al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria.) Last summer, Turkish president Erdogan argued that al Nusra is not a terrorist organization because they fight ISIS.

_ One photo shows the shooter, wearing a suit and tie, standing behind the ambassador during the speech, after which he shot multiple rounds into the ambassador’s back.

_ A video shows the shooter shouting, in Arabic and Turkish: “Allahu Akbar! We are those who pledged jihad to Mohamed. Allahu Akbar! Do not forget Aleppo. Do not forget Syria …” as he stood over the body. A series of photos show him aiming the gun at the crowd, and shouting with his index finger and arm raised in the air, a gesture common among jihadi fighters.

_ Tomorrow, ministers from Turkey, Syria, and Iran plan to travel to Moscow to begin negotiations and planning for a solution to the Syrian war. Turkey and Russia recently negotiated a deal to evacuate civilians and fighters from East Aleppo, as the Syrian coalition retakes control of all of Aleppo City.

_ RT’s war correspondent in Syria, Murad Gazdiev, said that Karlov “was central to securing rebels a safe passage out Aleppo, saving thousands.” The shooting happened around the same time that the Syrian ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, made his comments to the press in New York after the UN Security Council vote on UN monitoring of the same evacuations that Karlov had arranged. Ja’afari said that the last batch of fighters would be evacuated that night and the evacuation would be completed. In the same statement, Ja’afari announced that US coalition military and intelligence officers were in a bunker in East Aleppo, and would be captured.

Syria: East Aleppo Evacuation – the Original Deal

_ As of last week, about 2% of East Aleppo was still under the control of an estimated 4000 jihadi and rebel fighters and al Qaeda and a disputed number of civilians (possibly 11,000) stayed or were trapped or held there. Rebels (hundreds) and civilians (thousands) continued to flee to government-held territory.

_ On Dec. 13, Turkish intelligence and the Russian military announced a surprise agreement to evacuate all willing civilians and willing fighters to Idlib where they would be free to relocate if they chose to do so.

_ Spokesmen for jihadi groups Ahrar al-Sham and al Zenki groups confirmed that the deal was made and they are included in the deal. Some contradictory information about the inclusion of ISIS and al Nusra (al Qaeda) was also announced by Russian foreign minister Lavrov, saying they were not part of the deal and combat against them would continue.

_ The deal called for a brief ceasefire and an evacuation at dawn the next day.  The ceasefire began at 6 p.m on Tuesday. The civilians and wounded would be evacuated first; the fighters, with weapons, some hours later.

Syria: First Aleppo Evacuation Deal Fails

_ “About 20 green government buses were gathered at the edges of the divided Salaheddin district.” Some of the buses went inside the rebel-held district but then reportedly returned to their depot. The deal had collapsed or at least stalled. Turkey’s president Erdogan said the “situation on the ground is very fragile and complicated.”  All parties began to blame each other for the failure. Diplomats  and leaders continued to work to save it.

Liz Sly from the Washington Post (WaPo), reporting from Beirut, said Syria and Iran weren’t happy with the evacuation terms negotiated by Russia. An anonymous US official expressed skepticism that “Russia and the regime” would deliver. War correspondent Elijah Magnier reported that “Damascus and allies” had requests that the Russians were not aware of. In exchange for the evacuation of besieged fighters in Aleppo they want a reciprocating evacuation of their allied fighters in besieged Fuaa and Kafraya.

_ A jihadi group (Zenki) leader and a UN representatives told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the Iranians changed the deal by insisting on the simultaneous evacuation of wounded from Fuaa and Kafraya Moscow said the rebels broke the ceasefire. AFP said their source close to the Syrian government said the rebels changed the number of evacuees from 2,000 to 10,000.  Turkey blamed “Assad’s regime and its supporters.”

_ The fighting began again. Pro-rebel director of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Rami Abdulrahman, told WaPo’s Loveluck that: “The clashes are violent, and bombardment is very heavy.” Syrian state television reported more civilian deaths from rebel shelling of West Aleppo. Fateh al-Sham Front, the al Qaeda-affiliated group reported carrying out a car bomb attack on Syrian coalition forces in southern Aleppo.

_ Magnier provided more detail on why the deal stalled. The rebel reported number of civilians and fighters kept growing while implementation of the evacuations were arranged and when names of civilians were provided, most were not really civilians.  Al Nusra evacuation was brought into the deal. “Damascus and allies” demanded something more in return.  Demands were issued. The deal was getting very complicated. _ There was serious disagreement between the rebel groups and al Nusra fighters.

_ The US and France insisted on international observers and humanitarian organizations to monitor the evacuation.

Syria: East Aleppo Evacuation – The Modified Deal, Staged Evacuations, Fuah and Kefraya

_ Off again, on again. Late Wednesday night, the NY Times, Reuters, and others reported that the evacuation deal was on again.

_ Kurdish media, Rudaw, reported that an evacuation bus filled with civilians “became a target of gunfire,” according to reports from “activists.” “Activist” reports from East Aleppo have been extremely unreliable and require some verification. Rudaw then reported that Russian president Putin had ordered “Russian troops to escort transportation of buses filled with Aleppo civilians to Idlib.”

_ On Thursday morning, Elijah Magnier reported that all opposition fighters (jihadists and rebels, including al Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham) plus their families and civilians were to be evacuated from East Aleppo by bus to Khan Tuman, a rural area in northwestern Aleppo province, near the Turkish border. At the same time, civilians and wounded Syrian coalition fighters in Fuaa and Kafraya (towns under siege by rebel forces) will be evacuated by bus, to Latakia (later changed to Aleppo).

_ Magnier later commented that Turkish buses “took some rebels to Atareb.” The BBC said they were transferred to Idlib. So a complicated deal was renegotiated and implementation began within a 1 day period. The evacuations on both sides of the deal are happening in batches. Reuters recorded drone footage of evacuation buses, and compiled a video report.

_ On Friday, the partially implemented deal was “off again.” The implementation has been happening in stages with separate convoys of buses, Red Cross SUVs and other vehicles. A convoy that left East Aleppo on Friday morning was turned back after a “breakdown in trust.”  Several reasons have been mentioned for the breakdown. The last convoy is moving the most extreme jihadi fighters who reportedly took hostages with them.

_ The reciprocating evacuations from Fuah and Kefraya (majority Shiite towns that have been under a long siege by al Qaeda-affiliated groups) began. Al Qaeda-affiliated groups sabotaged the deal by burning 7 buses (later reported at 25 buses). The corresponding buses set to leave East Aleppo were halted.

_ The Saraya al-Tawheed group (affiliated with al Qaeda) who burned the buses filmed their conquest, reportedly shouting “sectarian insults against Shia.” They believe they have religious right to kill any Shia civilians.

_ The Free Syrian Army and Ahrar al-Sham rebels are in favor of the evacuation deals. Al Qaeda-affiliated groups oppose it and work to impose their will on the other rebels. Elijah Magnier said that al Nusra leaders in East Aleppo were evacuated in earlier convoys and are now “careless about” lower level fighters still inside East Aleppo.

_ On again, off again continued over the weekend. Batches of civilians and fighters were evacuated.  On Monday, a Syrian ambassador announced that the last fighters would leave E. Aleppo Monday night.

Syria: Lavrov Accuses US of Protecting al Qaeda

Lavrov: “As for Jabhat al-Nusra, the US is not only not touching it, but also tried to negotiate our agreements in a way which let al-Nusra remain unpunished.”

_ Lavrov said on Dec. 14 that the US tries to protect al Nusra (al Qaeda) in every way, that ceasefires are designed to “give the terrorists a break” and “get new weapons and armaments.” Talks with the US are “fruitless gatherings” and “every time we agree on something, the US side backtracks from the agreements that have already been reached.”

Syria: US State Department Reaction to Evacuation

_ FM Lavrov asked Sec. Kerry “to pressure rebel groups to leave,” though the US had been sidelined on the latest deal.

_ In the Dec. 13 State Dept. briefing, State Dept. spokesman John Kirby said the US had not been aware of the Russia-Turkey ceasefire negotiations before it was announced.  In the Dec. 14 briefing, Kirby blamed Syria, Russia and when asked about the US failure to negotiate a solution over the past year. Kirby said the opposition will continue to fight in Syria, and the US will continue to seek “a meaningful transition in Syria.” Kirby said the US “has been and remains very much in the lead in the international community” on this.

_ When asked if he was aware that some who fled East Aleppo were relieved and celebrating, Kirby said:

Kirby: “So I can’t rule out the fact that there might be some people in Aleppo who are relieved to see some calm, even if it is under the jackboot of the regime. […] But by and large, all we have seen is brutality, violence, and bloodshed, and a lot of destroyed and wrecked lives and families. […] the network news and what’s on cable and online right now […] I mean, it’s pretty gut-wrenching to look at.”

_ Kirby was then challenged about the veracity of the sources of reports of atrocities in East Aleppo by the “regime” and allied forces. Kirby said that much of the information comes from “reputable aid agencies that are either on the ground or have associates on the ground” or from “intelligence sources.” Kirby then said he doesn’t have to tell anybody who their sources are and recommended turning on CNN to see the “imagery.”

Syria: Propaganda, New Confessions by Western Media, the Truth About the “Rebels”

_ Now that the curtain is being pulled back on East Aleppo, some, a few, confessions about the Syrian war have begun in the Western media even though most of the reporting still follows the official western narrative.

_ Peter Hitchens called it out in Sunday’s Daily Mail: “Amid the bombs of Aleppo, all you can hear are the lies.” Hitchens confesses that “not one single staff reporter for any Western news organisation” was in East Aleppo last week, as far as he knows, and they’re mostly in Beirut and use “so called ‘activists'” as sources for their “colorful” stories about massacres. Hitchens admits East Aleppo was “ruled without mercy by heavily armed Osama Bin Laden sympathisers,” some of whom beheaded a 12-year old boy and ate the heart of “fallen enemy” and if they were anywhere else in the world they would be called “extremists, jihadis, terrorists and fanatics.” Hitchens compared the BBC and Western media to old Soviet Union propaganda.

_ A reverend from the Church of England visiting Aleppo was at the reception centers interviewing people as they arrived, having evacuated East Aleppo. He wondered why the other international media organizations hadn’t set up there, where evacuees were “keen to talk” and were greatly relieved to escape the so called rebels. He posted the comment on Facebook along with photos. He made a long comment relaying information about the evacuees.

_ Robert Fisk, at the Independent, said “Western politicians, “experts” and journalists are going to have to reboot their stories over the next few days” on East Aleppo, on the 250,000 civilians count and why civilians couldn’t leave of their own free will. Fisk said we’ll learn more about how “the US, Britain and our head-chopping mates in the Gulf – have been supporting” al Qaeda.

_ Fisk said a “dishonest tale” was spun and while he acknowledges the brutality of Bashar al-Assad, he thinks it’s time to tell the truth about the Syrian war and the so called rebels. Fisk noted that the human rights organization are only now acknowledging the atrocities that the rebels committed against civilians because they are “sniffing defeat for the rebels.”

_ Edward Dark, a Syrian in Aleppo, who was one of the initial protesters during the Arab Spring but now loathes the people who hijacked their protests and revolution, said via on social media:

Aleppo, my ancient city 1000s of years old has triumphed over the hordes of jihadis & their masters, & stands today wounded but proud #Syria.”

The jihadi terrorists left Aleppo, but its people will never forget or forgive those who backed them, then lied & covered up their crimes.”

& 1 more thing, French hypocrites who actively support the jihadi groups in my country can take their Eiffel tower & shove it up their ass.” [In response to the Eiffel Tower “going dark” when East Aleppo was retaken by the government]

Oh & also, prepare to find out now how your media lied to you about there being 100 thousand people left in east Aleppo. surprised much?”

The amount of outright bullshit, propaganda & drivel being peddled now about Aleppo is truly staggering. Will be studied for years to come.”

_ A Norwegian state media reporter in East Aleppo said: “Most residents I’ve spoken to want rebels gone.” (Translated by Lina Arabi)

_ On Dec. 15, Liz Sly and Louisa Loveluck, who served up propaganda on the Syrian war for years, admitted in a Washington Post (WaPo) article, that the rebels of East Aleppo were mainly jihadi fighters. Not the “moderate opposition,” but extremists:

“A sizable number embraced the extremist visions of Islam that so alarmed the United States and its Western allies […].” They also reported that tens of thousands of civilians “sought refuge” in the government-held West Aleppo, “streaming across the front line clutching bags and blankets.”

_ On Dec. 15, the US intelligence community’s mouthpiece, the venerated David Ignatius, went even further, and admitted, in his WaPo column, that the CIA shielded al Qaeda in Syria. CIA “deserves a special, dark chapter” in the “annals of covert warfare,” says Ignatius, as he also confesses that the “vetted” moderate rebels are pretenders who are “fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra,” (aka al Qaeda, aka Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) and are dominated by al Qaeda. Ignatius reports that “few of the groups were willing or able” to separate from al Qaeda, and their leaders “were often corrupt and proto-jihadists.” Sec. Kerry knew this but he kept pretending to negotiate with the Russians for many months. “The United States couldn’t undo the anti-Assad alliance it had fostered.” There’s really no evidence that the US is even trying to undo it. Ignatius makes some other questionable claims in the column, presumably in an effort to do damage control [Emphasis added]

_ The UN’s Commission of Inquiry for Syria said, on Dec. 14, that it had “reports opposition fighters were blocking civilians from fleeing Aleppo and using them as human shields.” This has been widely reported in pro-government media and rarely reported in pro-rebel Western media. Despite reports to the contrary, Reuters said the Red Cross had confirmed that it was asked to particpate and assist with the evacuation.

_ Reuters documented the evidence (with a video segment) of rebels hoarding food and supplies at their headquarters. Civilians come and take the food and give interviews about how they were treated, food was withheld or sold at exorbitant prices.

_ A photographer, Issa Touma, created an extraordinary 13 minute compilation of narrated video filmed from his apartment windows in a “mixed neighborhood” in East Aleppo as the Free Syrian Army rebels took over in August, 2012. Most of his neighbors left. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) built a checkpoint in front of his building, which seemed to be a front line where they fought the government force. He noted that the FSA fighters were young, clean cut, amateur fighters in civilian clothes. On Day 6, he reported that they were was gone. The shops opened again. On Day 9, new, heavily armed, bearded fighters entered his street. He said they were Liwa al-Tawhid. “It’s a lie that the revolution started peacefully everywhere.” In his street “it started with guns.” State media called them terrorists and international press called them freedom fighters. He refused to take sides. At that point he realized that it was a war and it would last a long time and he didn’t want to film it. The credits show that others helped him turn the footage into the short documentary, “9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo,” which “was made possible with the support of the Dutch Cultural Media Fund.

_ Interview with “Bana” after evacuation from Aleppo. Questions about Bana’s authenticity were recently questioned but this seems to prove that she and her family were in Aleppo.

_ A CENTCOM officer told Politico’s Mark Perry: “All of this talk about how the CIA has put moderate Syrians in the field is a crock […]The CIA program is a flat-out failure. The units we’ve trained are fighting in Mosul, while the units the CIA has trained are nowhere to be found. It’s an embarrassment.”

_ Patrick Cockburn at the Independent: “There’s more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week.” Cockburn clarifies this by saying: “There was a period in 2011 and 2012 when there were genuinely independent opposition activists operating inside Syria, but as the jihadis took over these brave people were forced to flee abroad, fell silent or were dead.”

Syria: Aleppo Atrocities Reporting

_ After the Turkey-Russia brokered evacuation deal was announced last week, unverified reports began flooding the US media. During and after a dramatic UN Security Council session. Samantha Power likened the situation in Aleppo to the genocides of Rwanda and Srebrenica.

_ Atrocity reports from East Aleppo were spread widely by pro-rebel western media outlets and advocates who acknowledged that they had no one on the ground to verify the reports, some of which were coming from the rebels themselves. Individuals in East Aleppo posted videos with goodbye messages and videos of themselves with the sounds of explosives.

_ Pro-government media and advocates debunked some of the reports, cautioned about previous dishonest and fabricated reports, and posted reports and videos of civilians who fled to government-held territory testifying about the atrocities of the rebels and their fair treatment upon arrival in West Aleppo.

_ In Brussels last week, EU leaders debated war crime charges against Russia.

Syria: Fighting in Other Parts of Syria, Preparation for a Ground Operation

_ Late on Tuesday, Dec. 13, Leith Abu Fadel reported that ISIS was on the verge of capturing the T-4 airbase near Palymyra in central Syria, and the situation was very bad.

_ The speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said they are not discussing any deployment of Russian troops in a ground operation in Syria, and “we said this from the start.” Al Masdar interpreted the statement to mean that Russia has no plans to send troops to take part in upcoming ground operations in Syria.


_ Iran’s president Rouhani said that Iran is not seeking to create or maintain a “Shiite crescent,” in an attempt to reassure Sunni Muslims.  Rouhani blames America and colonizing powers for the sectarian divide and terrorism.

Iraq: Mosul

_ ISIS had established a “sprawling and highly organised” arms manufacturing industry in Mosul, including “factories churning out tens of thousands of munitions and an entire street turned into a conveyor belt for car bombs,” according to the AFP.

_ They turned factories and workshops for furniture, car repair, cement and other products into improvised factories that produced IEDs, VBIEDs, mortars and rockets. Most of the bulk chemicals for “explosives and propellants” were bought on the open market in Turkey.

_ James Bevan, director of Conflict Armament Research, said:

Bevan: “In terms of scale, planning, centralised command and control and the precision to which they are manufacturing, this is something else […] I can’t name another armed group that manufactures on such a scale and with such a degree of coordination.”

_ The Iraqi army is winning the battle to retake Mosul from ISIS, says Mark Perry at Politico Magazine, with 10,000 American-trained Iraqi special operations soldiers in the 1st Special Operations Brigade, aka the “Golden Division” in the lead. They also led the battles for Beiji, Ramadi, Fallujah and Bartella.

_ Golden Division has taken an unsustainable level of casualties, nearly 50%, in the urban battle, which is why commanders have slowed things down and use more artillery, tanks, and bombs, which means more civilian casualties and reduces the city to rubble.

_ A US CENTCOM officer said the battle has been “tougher than anyone thought” and the worst of it is still ahead. CENTCOM is worried that it won’t be strong enough to keep the peace “when Iraq’s sectarian divisions, temporarily dampened by having to fight a common enemy, reemerge.” CENTCOM commander, Gen. Votel, believes “the country is heading inexorably toward a civil war.” Military intelligence reports weapons shipments flooding in from Saudi Arabia to the Sunni tribes in Anbar, “in apparent preparation for the inevitable face-off against the Iranian-supported Shia PMUs.”

_ Votel has told Washington that post-Mosul, the Iraqi army’s Golden Division won’t be able to intervene effectively to stop the sectarian civil war, and America’s best option is to “get out of the line of fire.”

Libya: UN-Appointed Government Has Failed

_ The Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), mainly funded by the state of Denmark, published a paper concluding that one year after the UN-appointed and internationally recognized GNA “unity” government was installed, it is “at a loss” and “A Viable Libyan Government Must Be Built From the Bottom Up. [PDF]” The GNA “failed to re-establish central authority in the country.” “Stakeholders both within and outside Libya must acknowledge that power resides in the peripheries of Libya, not at the center.”  (PDF document)

_ DIIS recommends working with regional “power brokers” instead of trying to install weak political figures who have not exercised influence of the real power brokers, nor have they been providing for the “basic needs of the population.”  They urge “international stakeholders” to pressure “regional actors” to stop ” pursuing narrow national security policies in Libya via proxies.”

_ The NATO intervention did more than just “protect civilians from a potential onslaught” from Gaddafi’s military, according to DIIS. There was “considerable mission creep” which ended up transforming Libya into a “an arena with which other aspiring and established Middle Eastern and European great powers could engage.”

_ Gaddafi’s Libya, “in spite of  decades of crippling sanctions and its pariah status in international politics outside the African continent,” had been able to defend its borders and even project power into other arenas via support of rebel organizations and revolutions. Gaddafi had also provided “massive funding of development infrastructure in the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa.” The NATO intervention “abruptly reversed this” and “regional powers like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and France, as well as neighbouring countries like Egypt and Algeria” moved in to “boost their leverage” with local Libyan power brokers, creating proxies, which undermined any political authority’s ability to negotiate ceasefires, agreements, or build a central government.

_ Two “actors” will be crucial in any attempt to start over, according to DIIS. The Libyan National Army (LNA), loyal to the eastern government in Tobruk, and the Misrata militias, loyal to the “local military and municipal councils” and to some extent the GNA. It will be difficult to disarm local and regional militias. Surprisingly, the DIIS paper doesn’t mention oil or other Libyan assets, plans to share them or make contracts and agreements with international corporations.

Podcasts, Videos, Books, Films

_ The inaugural podcast of a new series, “Around the Empire,” by Shadowproof’s Dan Wright and Joanne Leon, premiered on Monday, Dec. 19. Listen to it here.

_ Ken Roth and Stephen Cohen on DemocracyNow! “Liberation or Slaughter: A Debate on Russia’s Role in the Syrian War and the Fall of Aleppo.”

_ A France24 programme, “The Debate” (Part 1, Part 2) from Monday, Dec. 12, had former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria Peter Ford, Guardian journalist reporting from Beirut Martin Chulov, and Emma Suleiman, a communications consultant for Syrian Advocacy Groups, as guests with different points of view on the situation in Aleppo. Chulov said that 500-700 military-aged men from East Aleppo have been taken at checkpoints but by and large, civilians have been able to evacuate to West Aleppo. Suleiman provided some nuance on the relationship between the Syrian secular government and the Iranian government, an alliance based on existential need.

_ Scott Horton interviewed Craig Murray, whistleblower, Wikileaks consultant, and former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, on the source of the DNC and Podesta email leaks being American and not Russian. Justin Raimondo also wrote about this at, though Murray’s revelations have, interestingly, not been picked up by western media with a few exceptions.

Analysis & Opinion

_ “The Syrian War Condensed: A more Rigorous Way to Look at the Conflict,” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a Lebanese-American scholar, statistician, risk analyst, and author of “The Black Swan.”  One of the best analyses on Syria that I’ve ever seen. It’s quick, condensed, with numbers & concise facts.

_ “Flynn’s Wacky Worldview.” Jim Lobe, studies incoming national security advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, based on a recent book he wrote with Michael Ledeen, who appears to have written most of the book. Ledeen is a well known neoconservative, a strong advocate of the 2003 Iraq invasion and has an alleged involvement with the Yellow Cake forgeries.  Ledeen believes that Iran is the root of all evil in the War on Terror and should be the first priority target, but he believes in a “political revolution” or a “non-violent democratization of Iran.” Lobe analyzes some excerpts of the book and argues that some key points are not historically factual.

_ “Flynn deputy raises more doubts about Trump team.” Michael Crowley, at Politico, dishes on K.T. (Kathleen Troia) McFarland, soon to be Flynn’s deputy national security adviser, a position currently held by Avril Haines. McFarland was a Pentagon public affairs official in the Reagan administration and a Fox News national security analyst. She also worked for Henry Kissinger in a clerical job as a college student. She is anti-establishment, anti-globalism, anti-interventionism and supported Brexit.

_ Robert Parry at Consortium News: “Making Russia the Enemy.” Parry explains why Russia has been deliberately turned into the next big enemy, for political, financial, and power reasons. He also shows that the Democratic party, with their dominant neoconservatives and neoliberals, has become an extremist party, as they ramp up a war with Russia and team up with the CIA (an old hand at election meddling and coups) to try to overthrow the 2016 presidential election.

Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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