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The massive terrorist attack in Brussels came as a Not So Fast answer to Vladimir Putin’s Mission Accomplished. It appears the world needs more of Russian intervention in the Middle East if the black killers from the desert are to be stopped. Luckily, Russia is not in a rush to leave completely. From what I hear in Syria, the promised withdrawal is rather a figure of speech. Some Russians are leaving, others are staying.

Yes, I am aware that many of our colleagues, gentlemen of the free press, already explained and justified Putin’s sudden declaration. They wrote that Putin had said in September the campaign would last till spring, so being a man of his word he had to live up to his promise. They wrote the Russians had done as much as they could or should, that their mission is indeed accomplished. (This is odd, for the dreadful Daesh and his awful sister al Nusra are alive and kicking). Others said the Russians are clever to go while going is good, that is before the looming joint Turkish and Saudi invasion of Syria. The hostile (to Russia) pens explained Putin’s decision by stiff resistance of the jihadis on the ground (by Nusra at Aleppo, by Daesh at Raqqa), while the most adventurous minds of high conspiracy adepts knew of an ultimatum presented by Mr Kerry and President Erdogan to Putin, saying “Leave right away or we shall seal the Bosporus straits against your ships”.

However, a week passed, and now we know and understand more than we did a week ago. It seems the withdrawal is limited; it is more of a signal than the real thing. Some fighter jets and some soldiers went back to Russia, for they were needed for the big celebrations of the Crimea reunification anniversary on March 17. They were awarded their medals; a link between Crimea episode and Syrian campaign was established in the minds. The declaration had sent a useful signal to Syrians and other Arabs that Russia does not intend to colonise them. Otherwise, the Russians are still in Syria and will remain there for a considerable time, though they will keep a lower profile.

The strategic aviation TU-22M3 has anyway carried out its sorties from its bases in Russia, and now, they say, there is a shortage of targets worthy of wasting a smart bomb a one million dollars’ price tag on. The smuggled oil convoy bombing is over, as well. There is still a lot of oil being illegally carried from Iraqi Kurdistan and from Daesh oil wells, but some sizeable part of this oil traffic is being used by the Syrians to produce electricity and draw water. Bombing it was fun (perhaps), but the Syrians asked to desist.

Why was the declaration of withdrawal made? It was a pointed reminder to President Assad that he has not got all the time in the world at his disposal to make peace with his adversaries. Russians became frustrated by his generals’ delaying tactics. It appears that Syrian top brass had made a totally wrong conclusion, namely, that the Russians will keep fighting for the Syrians until Bashar Assad regains full control over the whole country. This is not so: the Russians are eager to see real progress in negotiations.

“Bashar Assad is flexible, but his generals are not. They think there are just two possible outcomes: victory or defeat. This is not realistic. The generals will get the message as we withdraw” – I was told by a Russian officer stationed in Latakia.

The declaration of withdrawal had been pointedly made in the first day of a new round of Geneva negotiations. It was a tangible proof that Russia did not seek a military victory, but relied upon diplomatic means. The declaration sends more signals to all parties. Turkey would think twice before invading Syria while Russians are supposedly leaving. The Europeans will not accuse that Russia’s bombs are sending new waves of refugees to its shores. The withdrawal is a signal to Iran, too, as this country withdrew the bulk of its forces in Syria and did not agree to the Russian proposal to cut oil production.

Russians do not want to carry the brunt of war on their shoulders. This is what they say to Iranians, and even more so – to Bashar Assad and his people. At private events, the Syrian generals were congratulating each other how smartly they tricked the Russians into fighting for them. The Syrian army shirks the battle, say the Russian officers in Syria, they wait for the Russians to pull the hot potatoes for them. Syrian officers do not heed Russian advisers’ instructions, they do not want to charge into the heat of battle. Sometimes they run away at the slightest enemy threat. Russian advisers were forced to engage the Daesh fighters personally, instead of doing their job, that is to operate advanced military hardware.

The Russians are upset that the Syrians did not pull their weight when it comes to negotiations with the armed opposition groups. The negotiations go in two tracks: one, remote and internationalised, in Geneva, where the Syrian government talks with the groups of emigres through the medium of Staffan de Mistura. Both sides are stalling; and anyway it is not clear how much influence on the ground these emigres have. The second, and more promising track is local. These are negotiations with local armed groups, and there are hundreds of them. More and more of them enter the ceasefire, but each arrangement calls for a compromise, for special conditions and some give-and-take. Until the withdrawal declaration, the Syrian officials weren’t keen on doing this hard work. Why should we bother, when we can defeat them all with Russian help, they said. Now, perhaps, they will put more effort into local negotiations.

The Russians say the Syrian government should do some soul-searching regarding the causes of the civil war. Sure, Saudis and Turks and the US are guilty to a great extent, but there were local contributing factors: clannishness, a heavy-handed security apparatus, the sore lack of elementary democratic arrangements. This has to be changed, and as soon as possible. Syria will never go back to its pre-civil-war form of one family rule, and Assad people should internalise this message as soon as possible. Russian withdrawal declaration should keep them focused.

ORDER IT NOW

This does not mean that Russia is likely to agree with the opposition demand of getting rid of Assad. Nothing of this sort. Stiff-necked he surely is, but more pliable man would not survive five years of war. Russian – Syrian cooperation continues unabated, Russians heavily bombed the Palmyra area, and Syrian troops advanced into its old quarries. Conquest (or liberation?) of Palmyra will be a visible achievement for the Syrian army and a gift for Syrian Christians for the coming Easter, as this oldest Christian community in the world had lost over half a million of its members in dead, wounded and destitute refugees.

The situation has been complicated by pro-American Kurds in Syria who had declared their ‘autonomy’. Russians did not like it as it does not agree with the Russian vision of united Syria. For the Turks, creation of autonomous or independent Kurdistan in Syria is a casus belli, a good reason for war. This is likely to provoke Turkish intervention, when things are complicated enough. Turkey went through a bout of a civil war of its own, on its own territory, versus the Kurds. Some sources say as many as 20,000 persons were killed in the war. Independent Syrian Kurdistan will inflame Turkish Kurds, say the Turks.

Russia does not support the Kurdish rising, despite its long historic ties with some Kurd movements. Apparently Russians should be able to make peace with Turkey, and the Turks are willing: they were first to send their condolences at Russian Vorkuta coal mine disaster. Turks are going through reassessment of their Syrian policies, and Turkish newspapers and politicians have been calling for U-turn: for recognition of Syrian territorial integrity and for reconciliation with Russia. I called for reconciliation with Turkey in the Russian media (here it is in English translation), but the responses were muted. The Russian policy-makers weren’t rushing forward. Russia’s strong Armenian lobby pushed for rejection of Turkish overtures for reconciliation, and traditional Russian sentiments from the Tsar days were also rather hostile to Ankara. However, some changes appeared in the rejection wall, and one can hope the bridges between Russia and its great neighbour will soon be mended.

Iranians did not wait for it, but began their peace offensive versus Turkey. They proposed to sort their differences out and to return to the good relations they had before the Syrian misadventure. At the same time, the Iranians withdrew the bulk of their troops from Syria, as they suffered a lot of casualties in the fighting. They continued to finance Syria and arm Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia, a small but able military force.

The enemies of a Syrian settlement are still active. The Saudis had spent over 90 billion dollars on the Syrian civil war and regime change. This is a considerable sum even for the super-rich kingdom. But they are still throwing good money after bad. Encouraged by the Russian declaration, they began to transfer money and equipment to the armed opposition.

The US also keeps trying to turn the tables in its favour, but it seems that the White House is less hostile to Russia than it was half a year ago. European politicians and statesmen in power are mainly pro-American and anti-Russian; even the horrible terror attack in Brussels caused the Latvian Foreign Minister to call for sending more NATO troops to its Russian border (?!). Still, one can notice small signs for change, as Russian economy improves, its rouble is going up versus the dollar and euro, and the Europeans suffer from the loss of Russian orders.

Israel is another enemy-friend, or a “partner”, in Putin’s words. Israel hopes to split Syria into a few mini-states, or at least to ‘federalise’ it, like the Americans. Israel has a good working relations with the radical Islamists of Syria; not a single Israeli or Jewish asset has been targeted by Daesh or Nusra groups who are stationed right by Israeli border, protected by Israeli cannons. At the same time, Israel has good relations with Russia. President Putin is quite soft towards Israel; admittedly not on the level of US presidential candidates, but then, Russia has no AIPAC of its own. (The official Russian Jewish community is an empty shell of Chabad emissaries who amass their fortunes and extol Putin.)

Israeli president Rivlin has visited Moscow last week, after the declaration of withdrawal. He told Putin that Israel regrets Russians are leaving for they were a stabilising factor in Syria. Putin smiled and said they are not going far. Rivlin was worried Russian departure will create a vacuum allowing Hezbollah (he had enough tact to avoid mentioning Bashar Assad) to take positions at Israeli border. – Hezbollah will leave for Lebanon when Syria is at peace, Putin comforted him.

ORDER IT NOW

This is a small comfort for Israel, as right now the Jewish state loudly discusses launching a “pre-emptive” strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon. The best friend of the Jews in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies declared Hezbollah “a terrorist group”, and withdrew four billion dollars of aid they previously promised to Lebanon. Having Saudi support on their side and Lebanese displeasure at losing money on the background, Israelis plan an attack on the indomitable Shia warriors.

They did it in 2006 and were beaten off; the Jewish dream of revenge matured into obsessive hatred in these ten years. Israeli army received and spent many billions of dollars just for this purpose (they called it “learning the lessons of 2006”). Now they have learned that Hezbollah had lost 1300 fighters in Syria: a huge number for a small fighting force, and their desire to kill the rest off became irresistible.

Last week, the leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah warned the Israelis they will pay a horrible price if they dare to attack. His missiles, he said, will pour on Israeli doomsday factories, on its stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as well as on their oil and gas installations in Haifa Bay. Such an attack can kill millions, he said, so better don’t you start the war.

This is a sensible proposition given by a sensible man adhering to the hedgehog strategy: do not touch him and he will not bother you. But Israelis have a different mentality. The Jewish State is quite similar to the Islamic State. They trust only weakness and defeat, and aren’t satisfied until their enemy submitted to their mercy, and probably not even then, as the fate of Palestinians proves. It would be good if Syrian crisis is settled soon: now Lebanon is full of the Syrian refugees to the brim, and in case of Israeli attack on Lebanon, they all will have to run somewhere, preferably to Syria.

One can only hope the Russian presence will have a cooling effect, not only on Islamic jihadis, but on the Jewish ones, as well. And Russians had learned something from the Jews who used to say: an Englishman leaves without saying farewell, a Jew says his farewells but does not leave. Now it is the Russian turn: they bid farewell, but remain in Syria.

Update

In my previous piece Russians Ride Fast, I predicted: “I’d expect them to take Palmyra in the course of next few days (consider it a tip).” So it came to pass! Another successful prediction for our readers )) It appears the Russian bet worked, after all. Putin’s declaration to withdraw his troops and jets out of Syria has been intended to signal Assad and his generals that Russians do not intend to be ridden by their Syrian and/or Iranian allies. The Russians do not plan to fight for and instead of the Syrians. This signal has been received and understood. For five weeks the Syrian units stood at Palmyra, failing to give it a push. Now, after Russian “withdrawal”, they pushed forward and re-took Palmyra. It was reported that one Russian officer died at Palmyra, but his name or rank has not been given yet. Still, it proves that coordination and collaboration of Syrians and Russians hadn’t visibly suffered after Putin’s declaration. Russian bombardment of the area (“target softening”) was very heavy, but the decisive impact has been that of Syrian troops who understood they have to fight, not wait.

Israel Shamir can be reached at adam@israelshamir.net

This article first appeared in The Unz Review.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: ISIS, Russia, Syria, Terrorism 

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  1. [The Russians say the Syrian government should do some soul-searching regarding the causes of the civil war. Sure, Saudis and Turks and the US are guilty to a great extent, but there were local contributing factors: clannishness, a heavy-handed security apparatus, the sore lack of elementary democratic arrangements. This has to be changed, and as soon as possible. Syria will never go back to its pre-civil-war form of one family rule, and Assad people should internalise this message as soon as possible.]

    If those were problems which had to and could be fixed to stop terrorism, the Russians would have had to and would have been able to fix them in Chechnya.

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  2. […] This article first appeared in The Unz Review. […]

  3. The Jewish State is quite similar to the Islamic State. They trust only weakness and defeat, and aren’t satisfied until their enemy submitted to their mercy, and probably not even then, as the fate of Palestinians proves.

    I keep repeating what the Russians are saying – we cannot be more Syrian than the Syrians. If you are not willing to fight for your own country neither will we. This is the simplest and the most relevant explanation of the “withdrawal”.

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  4. says:
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    This analysis makes valid and also a few not so valid points. Israel Shamir is one of the writers who likes to bend the facts in order to compose a really nice sounding story.


    Characterizing the Syrian troops as cowards is unfair, as they for five years held out against a constant invasion of well funded and equipped criminal gangs via Turkey, Jordan, and to a lesser extent Israel, suffering 140,000 deaths (SAA + NDF).


    Which other army would still be able to fight after such a relentless war of attrition and a terrible bloodletting ?

    
The authors accusations against the Syrian government (“clannishness, a heavy-handed security apparatus, the sore lack of elementary democratic arrangements”) repeats the usual myth’s of Western media without further substantiation. A lie is a lie even if it is repeated a million times!


    Same goes for the characterization of Dr. Bashar al-Assad (“Stiff-necked he surely is”).


    How get the author the impression, that Turkey is willing to reconcile with Russia? The Erdogan regime becomes more autocratic by the day, waging a bloody war against its Kurdish population, imprisoning any dissenters, and constantly violating Iraqi sovereignty with bombing raids and an illegal stationing of 1,000 Turkish soldiers with heavy armor on Iraqi soil.

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  5. Characterizing the Syrian troops as cowards is unfair

    - absolutely, and I never did. They are tired, and – after surviving 5 years – they hope to remain alive. This is human.
    As for faults of Syrian regime: I have good second-hand knowledge of Syria, and many friends who love Syria. Still it was a very tough regime before Bashar; Bashar allowed some fat cats to eat a lot of public wealth, but otherwise the regime did not become soft.
    As for the Turks: see the link in the text.

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  6. The Russians fixed Chechnya; there are no terrorists and life is bearable.

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  7. That’s exactly my point; what you give as the Russian wish-list for Syria is neither necessary nor, probably, possible.

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  8. Yes, I didn’t understand the passage about Turkey either. Does the author really wish for and think possible a Russo-Turkish reconciliation without Erdogan meeting the conditions laid down?

  9. “Luckily, Russia is not in a rush to leave completely. From what I hear in Syria, the promised withdrawal is rather a figure of speech. Some Russians are leaving, others are staying.”

    Good call, Mr. Shamir. I too am mystified whether the Russians are going or staying. They say they are leaving, but the facts on the ground say otherwise. Today, the NY Times has a report about the Syrian army’s attack on Palmyra and states:

    “BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian government troops and allied militias, backed by intensive Russian airstrikes, pushed on Thursday into parts of Palmyra, the desert city they are seeking to retake from the Islamic State militant group along with its majestic ancient ruins, Syrian state news media and residents said.

    The battle, raging for weeks, carries deep symbolic significance, after Islamic State militants blew up some of Palmyra’s most important ancient structures, causing irrevocable damage to the Unesco World Heritage site.

    Palmyra also occupies a strategic crossroads between the Islamic State’s territory in the east and the more populated coastal areas. Since the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, took over in May, residents have endured harsh rule and summary killings. They have also faced heavy bombing and the shelling of civilian areas by government and allied forces.

    Syrian officials have said they could retake the city within hours or days. State television said government troops had entered the city, and a monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said they had reached the entrance to the ancient site, an area with several hotels, and were working to remove booby-trapped bombs before advancing further.

    Yet the situation remained fluid amid conflicting reports about exactly how far the Syrian forces had advanced.

    State television has broadcast images showing that pro-government forces had reached the approach to the city near the ancient site. Residents reported on Thursday that Islamic State fighters were urging civilians, over loudspeakers, to leave the city, and that they had planted explosive devices in the palm groves and in archaeological areas on the outskirts.

    The battle for Palmyra has been the main thrust of Russia’s military activities in Syria since President Vladimir V. Putin announced last week that he was scaling back airstrikes as a new round of peace talks began in Geneva.

    And on Thursday evening, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that a Russian special forces officer had been killed near Palmyra while directing airstrikes. . . .”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/middleeast/syria-palmyra-isis.html?ref=world

    Hmmm. Proclaiming the mission is over and continuing to fight. Where could the Russians have come up with such a wacky idea? Oh, that’s right. The Americans have done the very same thing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, the Americans (at least President Obama) declared war on ISIS in August 2014 and then sat back while ISIS moved troops and materiel up a lone road leading to Palmyra and allowed those barbarians to take over a precious archeological site, which they proceeded to destroy. I am reminded of SOD Rumsfeld’s reaction when looting of archeological treasures was occurring in Baghdad and American soldiers were doing nothing to stop it: “Shit happens.”

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  10. If you are not willing to fight for your own country neither will we.

    Interestingly enough, I believe that this is one of the lessons that the Russians learned in Afghanistan. I read how that they found that when they sent in their army to give the local forces a respite, that the local forces basically dissipated (sound familiar?).

    The thing about the Russians is that they actually learn from their mistakes. We in the U.S., on the other hand, get even more stubborn. After destroying the govts in three different countries and leaving behind chaos we were incensed that the Russians tried to salvage the nation of Syria. General after General and politician after politician appeared on FOX talking about how we should be keeping the Russians out of the M.E. just because we are the big kid on the block. This was one of Jeb Bush’s main slogans and it was echoed by at least 10 other candidates. Sigh.

    We are as entitled as anyone else to make mistakes but I just wish we had the mentality to learn from them.

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  11. I believe Chechnya is largely monoethnic and required a completely different approach to fixing it vs. what may theoretically work for Syria.

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  12. NOT FOR PUBLICATION

    “The Syrian army shirks the battle, say the Russian officers in Syria, they wait for the Russians to pull the hot potatoes for them.”

    Mr. Shamir, this is for your eyes only, not for publication. I don’t think that expression, “to pull the hot potatoes for them,” is correct. It sounds like an expression that might be common in another language (Hebrew perhaps?) that has been literally translated into English. It’s not an English idiom or English expression I have ever heard. I have often heard and used a somewhat similar expression: “to pull someone’s chestnuts out of the fire.” See http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/pull-chestnuts-out-of-the-fire.1338754/ (see especially comment #11). That seems to convey the idea you want to get across. I am not trying to embarrass you, which is why I don’t want this message posted. I merely want to correct your English since I realize English is not your native language. Take my comment for what it’s worth.

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  13. “… talking about how we should be keeping the Russians out of the M.E…”

    YOU SAID IT !!!!

    WOW: State Dept Rep – Syria’s army should not liberate Palmyra from ISIS?

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  14. Monoethnicity, to the extent that it applied, would imply more scope for democracy, not less.

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  15. Oops! Published. Bummer. I think you set that out very nicely actually. Sincerely. That said, I got what he meant anyway and it rather allows for his individual style to come out.

  16. The scope and nature of the approach depends on the type and character of said ethnicity. You’d have to familiarize yourself with those qualities of the Chechen nation to understand what’s applicable.

  17. I look forward to reading Israel Shamir’s articles. What a refreshing change from the western MSM. I do tend to trust his ideas. He called Palmyra, remember? He also gives us a realistic insight into the Jewish psyche, which is both incomprehensible and menacing to Europeans.

    I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Col. Hassan of SAA Tiger Forces. During last year’s across-the-board SAA retreats, he managed to stall the Ahrar Sham Idlib-Offensive long enough for the besieged Jisr hospital survivors to make a run for their lives. The whole operation was a fiasco and many died, but at least he gave it a try.
    Since the Russians retooled and retrained his unit, he has been very successful on a number of fronts: Kuweires, Alleppo Thermal Plant; Ithryia highway and now Palmyra. Obviously he owes a lot to Russian and Hezbollah support, but at least he is getting things done.
    Much of the SAA top brass seem old men, used to the corrupt ways under Assad’s father, when there was not much fighting except against the Muslim Brotherhood. I can imagine that the authoritarian Assad Syria was very corrupt. I think it’s time to remove those old geezers and make place for battle hardened guys like Hassan who have proven their mettle.

  18. I really liked your comment about Afghanistan. Only I would not say that the US is not capable of learning, it is that the vested interests in the US (deep state etc) are for the US not to learn. Therefore, the non-learning is by design, it is the well-known Upon Sinclair’s: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” where “understand” is replaced with “learn” and “salary” is replaced with “profit”. Voila – the US state-of-nation.

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  19. Tbraton, you are waging a lost war. The English language has become an International (English) Language and this entails it getting phrases and styles from other languages. Besides, English language is the richest language on the planet exactly because the Anglo-Imperialists were collecting words and expressions from many occupied imperial lands (I wrote this before). Those are two strong reasons to stop being an English language purist and let the language transform and advance. As your opponent says – we all got the meaning and it adds a bit of personal color into Israel’s writing.

    BTW, in my mother tongue (remotely related to Russian) we also say “it is a hot potato that you do not want in your hands”. Therefore, it is likely that “to pull the hot potatoes for them” is a merger between the hot Russian potatoes and an action of pulling the English chestnuts out of fire. Is this not a wonderful new combination?

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  20. Hello Robin, what is truly shocking to me is that the US in incapable of finding and putting a better liar in front of international journalists. Cannot they find someone of Obama quality grade to BS to the World? This character is a total amateur, he is like a deer in the headlights, he is even worse than the female comedian Psaki or the crazy-eyes mofo Kirby. The decline of the US best shows in the PR staff level. Only his mother can love and appreciate what this character says.

  21. Yes, Kiza. And put alongside this the people who ask, “Why doesn’t the U.S. have a more intelligent mid-east policy?” Well, if your objective is chaos, things are going just brilliant. (A tiny bit less so since Russia stepped in.)

  22. The withdrawal is a signal to Iran, too, as this country withdrew the bulk of its forces in Syria …

    That’s the real mystery to me: what the hell is Iran up to? Syria is even more important to them than it is to the Russians. Before Putin’s intervention, I was baffled as to why the Iranians would not give the Syrians any much-needed air support. The poor Syrians were reduced to dropping barrel-bombs from helicopters.

    On a related note, I hope there’s no bad-blood developing between Iran and Russia again–they have a long history of that, and it’d be just what Washington and Tel Aviv would want. But now I’m hearing stories that the Iranians have pulled the IRGC out of Syria, and that the Russians–once again!–are holding up the delivery of the S-300 to Tehran, even though all sanctions have now been lifted.

    I think it may be time for a summit between Putin and Khamenei. This apparent rift can’t be allowed to get any worse.

    The Syrian army shirks the battle, say the Russian officers in Syria, they wait for the Russians to pull the hot potatoes for them.

    Like some of the other commenters here, I think you’re being a little unfair to the SAA, which has been fighting a brutal, exhausting war with–until last September–only minimal foreign help. Syria, which is not a big country, has lost nearly a quarter-million people since 2011 and the SAA, consequently, is suffering from a severe manpower shortage. If they demand that the Russian Air Force pound a target to smithereens before the Syrians send in the infantry, that’s just sensible and necessary force-protection in my view–not cowardly ‘shirking’.

  23. To me Serbian seems related closely to Russian. Closer than my Romanian to French. And Romanians think themselves as francophone.

  24. At private events, the Syrian generals were congratulating each other how smartly they tricked the Russians into fighting for them. The Syrian army shirks the battle, say the Russian officers in Syria, they wait for the Russians to pull the hot potatoes for them. Syrian officers do not heed Russian advisers’ instructions, they do not want to charge into the heat of battle. Sometimes they run away at the slightest enemy threat. Russian advisers were forced to engage the Daesh fighters personally, instead of doing their job, that is to operate advanced military hardware.

    Regrettable but eminently predictable from what we know of the Arab mentality on war, characterized by incompetence, cowardice, and singular lack of esprit de corps.

    Sure, Saudis and Turks and the US are guilty to a great extent, but there were local contributing factors: clannishness, a heavy-handed security apparatus, the sore lack of elementary democratic arrangements.

    The problems with clannishness have nothing to do with Assad’s regime but with the history and culture of the native inhabitants, especially the Sunni ones in the east: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/banging-cousins-to-islamic-state/

    @mato48,

    Characterizing the Syrian troops as cowards is unfair, as they for five years held out against a constant invasion of well funded and equipped criminal gangs via Turkey, Jordan, and to a lesser extent Israel, suffering 140,000 deaths (SAA + NDF).


    Which other army would still be able to fight after such a relentless war of attrition and a terrible bloodletting ?

    That’s around 1.4% of the population of the areas under government control, maybe a bit less.

    The answer – plenty of armies. Virtually any single on in Europe, going by what happened in the World Wars. France and Germany lost 3%+ military dead as percentage of the totla population in WW1. Germany and the USSR lost ~5% in WW2.

  25. Thank you! You are right, apparently I confused the expressions )

  26. I’m so grateful for the Unz report for giving the closest thing to the real truth that I’ve been able to find on line. Thanks for the great work!

  27. […] Version originale publiée par The Unz Review. […]

  28. The Syrians have recaptured Palmyra. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/28/world/middleeast/syria-palmyra.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news:

    “BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian government forces recaptured the desert oasis city of Palmyra on Sunday, state media and a monitoring group reported, after driving out Islamic State fighters who had imposed a brutal occupation for the better part of a year, summarily executing residents and dynamiting the city’s ancient ruins. . .

    But the majority of the Islamic State contingent in Palmyra had withdrawn or been routed, with hundreds of its fighters killed, the Observatory said, highlighting the extremist group’s broader struggles to retain territory in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, the advance by Mr. Assad’s troops handed him a strategically important military victory that added weight to contention that his government is a crucial bulwark against the jihadists of the Islamic State.

    The battle also provided the latest evidence of how significantly Russia’s intervention on behalf of Mr. Assad had transformed his fortunes. The Islamic State fighters had easily taken Palmyra last May from Syrian government troops that had hardly mounted a fight. The recapture of the city on Sunday came after Russia carried out intensive airstrikes in support of the government coalition attacking Palmyra. . . .”

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  29. From Fox News:

    “The advance of Syrian forces marks the latest setback suffered by ISIS, which has come under mounting pressure on several fronts in Iraq and Syria.

    Syrian president Bashar Assad described the offensive as a “significant achievement.”

    In comments reported by Syrian state TV Saturday, he said that the overthrow of ISIS in the historic town offered “new evidence of the effectiveness of the strategy espoused by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism.”

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed ISIS lost the town, saying there were around 400 extremists killed, according to Sky News. Activists added that some fighters withdrew from Palmyra toward the town of Sukhna and other areas in the Homs province.

    “That’s the heaviest losses that ISIS has sustained in a single battle since its creation,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told Sky News. “It is a symbolic defeat for ISIS comparable with that in Kobani.”

    On Saturday, Russia’s defense minister said Russian jets carried out 40 air sorties near Palmyra, hitting 158 targets and killing over 100 militants.

    Russia’s airstrikes have given government forces a boost on a number of fronts in recent months.” http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/03/27/syrian-government-forces-recapture-palmyra-from-isis-activists-say.html?intcmp=hpbt1

  30. An interesting and well -written post.

    But still.. why no mention of the Syrian government’s deliberate creation of a population explosion? THAT is what has caused all this mischief. Too many people, too little to go around… always a recipe for instability. Always.

    http://globuspallidusxi.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-real-story-on-syria-forced.html

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  31. This is delusional drivel Israel. The Russians have acted according to their stated intentions and you forget the withdrawal of some forces was taken in complete consultation with Iran and Syria. The only ones surprised were those numerous forces opposed to Syrian autonomy and their elected President. That would include you. As one of the brighter members of your tribe, you’ve made a better effort than most to twist things to your preferred plot line but it isn’t going to fly Issy, the fact is that Russia and the SAA have rolled up the bulk of Daesh and Palmyra was just liberated, not only by the SAA and allies but with Russian air support all the way.

    Russia is not leaving Syria, Syrians did not trick Russia nor seek to do, the fact is Mr Shamir that all these players are above board and doing only what their love of life, families and country leeds them to do. Whatever is needed for the task will be available I have no doubt and neither Turkey, Syria nor even your vile little pretend state can do anything to change that, try as you might. It is true that Daesh is alive and well, if battered, bleeding and bruised but so long as they are supported by Saudis, Turks, Yanks and YOUR lot, that will remain the case but they will not be plaguing Syria nor Iraq for much longer even if they now become a problem for those who sent them as the pigeons all come home to roost. Face it Israel, your end is written into the plot, and that’s why you want to change it. However this isn’t Hollywood and you don’t own the script.

  32. Another thing Mr Shamir. I’m sorry mate but I don’t see even much intellectual honesty here. Nothing in your essay rings true and least of all the assertion the Syrian troops or their leadership have lacked commitment on the battle field.

    Witness the way in which the campaign against Daesh progressed from the outset and successfully advanced continually ever since until today when only the last stronghold and mopping up operations remain compared to when the Russians first entered the fray. At all stages it has been reported that operations against Daesh and other terrorists was being carried out with joint Russian and Syrian air forces and Syrian, as well as Hezbollah and Iranians as ground troops. The method was used successfully which means either the ground forces stayed home and the Russians did it all or else the historically fast results achieved were achieved by full cooperation and involvement of all parties as said.

    It astonishes me to see the old liars still trotting out their lies as if nothing has changed. You are known for your lies, all Zionists soft or hard and you are confronted by real, solid unmistakable facts on the ground. Desist in trying to paint reality another color and deal with the truth. You are the ones behind Daesh, it is no secret. Your IDF are among them, both assisting from without and as we have seen serving as field commanders in some cases no less. Everyone else involved does so in an unholy alliance with and some say as puppets of, your state. Like your not so secret Saudi bedfellows you have opened your own private Pandora’s boxes and only time can write the script from now on. However seen from a certain distance and with no desire for anything than truth, it doesn’t look too good at this point and methinks Israel cannot duck low enough to avoid being hit with what they’ve unleashed in the region this time. By the way, do read the Hildebeast’s emails regarding why Syria’s Assad must fall and Syria be broken up. The gig is truly up if I am any judge at all and not only can the US military machine with all its tentacles dislodge Bashar Assad or the might of true Muslim armies or their righteous allies, but the good folks of the host nation are about to take up the pitchforks and look for scapegoats.

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  33. Meant to say “not only could they not dislodge” but got distracted before the edit time was up.

  34. […] Version originale publiée par The Unz Review. […]

  35. […] “Russia Bids Farewell” by Israel Shamir.  Plausible analysis throughout, in line with the complexity and skill of Russian diplomacy. […]

  36. […] This article first appeared in The Unz Review. […]

  37. After the Normandy landings in June 1944, the British high command expected great things of the 7th Armoured Division (known as the “Desert Rats” for their exploits in North Africa). However the main effect of their experience was to make them wary and cautious. Journalists love to write about “battle-hardened veterans”, but battle does not make veterans recklessly bold. Instead, it teaches them to keep their heads down and avoid unnecessary risks.

  38. You really ramble on. Your stream of consciousness barely intersects with reality and is rife with delusional paranoia. You should reflect on my criticism as such thinking rarely limits itself to the political and is awful for your general life outlook. Anyway, IS took Palmyra less than a year ago. Concluding from the fact that Assad has taken it back, all that you did try to conclude, is just nonsense. Israel Shamir wrote a serious and considered piece. I don’t know if it is true but I do know that he has a pretty good record and that it makes as much as sense as anything else I have read on this subject.

  39. Yes, Putin is staying. Russia will never leave the middle east now. The hook has been put into his jaw, to use the words of Ezekial chapters 38 & 39.

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  40. Syrian attitude towards Russian involvement is very understandable. They did not trust Russians and they did not want to spend too much of their force knowing very well that Russia will betray them w/o warning. They knew that Russian engagement in Syria will last only as long as Israel’s good mood towards Putin or when there is a crack in anti-Putin policy of the US. They were right. Russia announced withdrawal leaving Syria to their own devices. Before that Russia pushed on the peace talks with terrorists freedom fighters. Iranian attitude towards Russia is very similar. They actually curtailed their engagement when Russia moved in. They are tired of Russia’s double dealing with them. They are still waiting for the promised and paid S-300 systems. Just promises and promises but when Netanyahu says nyet Putin listens.

  41. Between Shamir, Karlin and the Saker, this site has become the best and most balanced single source for analysis of Russia, Russian strategy, and Russian politics.

    Fascinating to contrast the insight and nuance here with the dross and endless conventional wisdom at the establishment foreign/strategic affairs sites.

    • Agree: Seamus Padraig
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  42. From today’s NY Times re the Syrian army’s recapture of Palmyra:

    “After a three-week push by the Syrian Army and its allies, including Russia, the majority of the Islamic State contingent in Palmyra had withdrawn or been driven out, with hundreds of its fighters killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/28/world/middleeast/syria-palmyra.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    Now, let’s see. The operation to retake Palmyra had been underway for at least 3 weeks. Just last week, Putin suddenly announced that he was terminating Russia’s role in Syria. As Mr. Shamir correctly pointed out, Putin’s words did not match the facts on the ground, as the Russians continued their air operations against ISIS in Palmyra, contributing to its eventual recapture. In fact, a Russian military man who was on the ground directing those air attacks was killed by ISIS forces.

    Elsewhere I have surmised one possible explanation for the disparity between Putin’s words and his actions in Syria: that he wanted to get Russia out of the headlines and allow Assad and the Syrians to gain full credit for the Palmyra operation. If that indeed was the reason for last week’s surprise announcement, it appears to be working, judging from today’s Times’ article:

    ” BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian Army said Sunday that it had fully captured Palmyra, routing Islamic State fighters who had occupied the city with its ancient ruins for almost a year, and handing President Bashar al-Assad a strategic prize. It also gave Mr. Assad something more rare: a measure of international praise.

    The head of Unesco, the United Nations agency that had designated Palmyra’s ruins a World Heritage site, hailed the “liberation” of the city from the militants in a statement issued last week as Syrian troops were advancing. On Sunday, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, called the retaking of the ancient city “fortunate” and said the Syrian government could now protect and restore the sites, wire services reported.
    * * *
    The capture of Palmyra, days after the deadly Belgium bombings for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility, added weight to Mr. Assad’s contention that his government is a bulwark against the transnational extremist group. It served as an argument, too, for his own relevance even as his foes and some allies argue that he must leave power as part of a political settlement to end the war in Syria. . . .”

    Buried deep in the article was this observation:

    “The city sits at a crossroads of highways that lead to the populated areas of Damascus and Homs, and to territories farther east that the Islamic State controls. It was recaptured with significant help from Russia’s military, which carried out dozens of airstrikes — highlighting the central role of President Vladimir V. Putin in solidifying Mr. Assad’s hold on power since Russia intervened in the war in September.”

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  43. Russia will never leave the middle east now. The hook has been put into his jaw, to use the words of Ezekial chapters 38 & 39.

    Thank you, oh prophet!

  44. Here’s another site you might like as well: http://russia-insider.com/en

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  45. Another insightful and informative article by Mr. Shamir. As we’ve come to expect.

    Israel is another enemy-friend, or a “partner”, in Putin’s words. Israel hopes to split Syria into a few mini-states, or at least to ‘federalise’ it, like the Americans. Israel has a good working relations with the radical Islamists of Syria; not a single Israeli or Jewish asset has been targeted by Daesh or Nusra groups who are stationed right by Israeli border, protected by Israeli cannons. At the same time, Israel has good relations with Russia.

    I find it entertaining the way Putin and Bibi make nice while moving the chess pieces around on the board. It’s seems clear to me that these are the two players here, and they’re definitely playing against each other, while congratulating each other on their moves.

    Putin pushes a rook (Iran) down the board, all the while keeping the king protected (Assad regime- as a symbol of the existing world order of sovereign states and the rule of law). Bibi uses his queen (USA) strategically to offset Putin’s move, while positioning a pawn (Ergdogan) as a sacrifice for the big win (Golan Heights).

    But the rules are changing on this particular board game. It’s an election year in the US. Obama hates Bibi’s guts and has no skin in the ME game. If he can make it look like he’s serving his master (‘what’s good for the Jews’), while thwarting the hated Bibi, then all the better.

    Putin has to read all these tea leaves, and measure the willingness of his chess pieces to work to the best advantage. Bibi is doing the same. It’s all rather comical in a way. (the terrible tragedy of so many people’s lives’ lost notwithstanding)

    Bibi and co. (Erdogan’s Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and assorted megalomaniacal toadies) would like to be able to remake the world order completely to suit their respective agendas. The world’s only super power is like a hydra with several self-serving heads, and it’s difficult to control them all to one purpose, especially during an election cycle. And Putin is trying to be the adult in this room- as winning the chess game for him means the world doesn’t descend into all out war and strife and slaughter with Bibi’s boot on everyone’s neck. Putin wants stability and peace and trade and prosperity. Bibi wants to see the goyim slaughter each other in an all out blood fest al la WWII. So his tribe can rise from the smoking ruins to rein $upreme over the survivors.

    Thank God we have Obama in the White House and not some Republican boot licker. Thank God Obama hates that arrogant overseer white man’s guts who barks at him like he’s lower than a stable boy. Thank God that vicious hag is no longer the Secretary of State today.

    There’s a lot of things that are aligned ‘just so’, right now, that is preserving some semblance of sanity in the world.

    That’s my take anyways.

    more here:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3512132/Syrian-troops-play-football-streets-Palmyra-freeing-Ancient-City-ISIS-discover-80-historic-ruins-intact-five-years-restore.html

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  46. edNels [AKA "geoshmoe"]
    says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    Shamir is a good writer, balanced thinking and thought provoking.

    Let me reflect on Rurik’s comments.

    Bibi and co. (Erdogan’s Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and assorted megalomaniacal toadies)

    Taking the establishment personages of state into view, When it comes to any so called personal animosities that exist in the players, I don’t think they would allow them to surface in anyway, other than as completely useful to the purposes, strategy, or propaganda of the moment. At least insofar as these idiots have been vetted and passed the test to exist, they must demonstrate a certain degree of aloof from such baseness, as to yield to actual emotional states.

    Now if called for, they can shed a tear like any accomplished thespian. But not for nothing. They, or He… Obama may have real antagonisms but we wouldn’t know it from his cool veneer under pressure, (maybe about little things like pissed off at bad press, etc. [so called ''tin ear'' of a jack rabbit… reputedly…]

    ANd really, who Likes Bibi? his main job one is to be obnoxious! Another consummate performer on the stage. He Even comes to lecture the Penquin suited ones, think of the effrontery.

    Remembering the way OB went to Japan, and bowed so low to the potentates, too low, do anybody think he loves them racists? Bowed so low… it was a sight, he was still taller than them two, bent over with his boney hind end in the air! That’s good acting!

    When it comes to the animosities and so on, it’s like ”Good Cop/Bad Cop” fundamentally.

    Now as to Central Casting of characters, what do you do with an Assad? He doesn’t have the bones to look like a Dicktator, looks more like… Lee Harvey O, bit parts only.

    Who ever heard of a Dentist becoming Dictator, only in the movies. (what kind of a dentist is an Opthamologist anyhow?

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  47. From my observation the center 4 squares of the chess board is Ukraine, which Putin has kept control of by bypassing the USA and working out a ceasefire with France and Germany. Seeing an opportunity to pick off an exposed US piece (bishop, knight, rook) in Syria with his queen, Putin took it and is now withdrawing his queen before losing it. But, while keeping control of the center 4 squares and picking off a major neoCON piece, Putin has degraded the neoCON game. Hopefully the neoCON war mongers WITHDRAW from the game before the USA is destroyed.

  48. Now as to Central Casting of characters, what do you do with an Assad?

    It isn’t really about the British trained eye doctor geoshmoe. Never has been. Rather it’s about the sovereign integrity of the nation of Syria. It’s about international law and the world order.

    Ever since Bubba stomped on Serbia in order to impose the UZA’s will on that part of the world, they’ve been pushing the envelope, experimenting with projecting their neo-power around the globe. That’s what the Bush doctrine is all about. It’s what the CFR and PNAC and all the other acronyms of Satan are all about. Power, and using their big stupid golem to smash functioning countries into rubble for Israel. This is fun for them. You have these corpulent, menopausal old men who’ve never so much as been in a fist fight- let alone been a mile from any physical harm more dangerous than a paper cut, and they’re sitting around deciding where the next Hellfire missile is going to strike or some special ops are going to foment a false flag. Real tough guys, who’d piss themselves empty at the sight of a physical confrontation of the kind boys of 10 years old deal with every day in Detroit or Philly.

    So no, it’s not about Assad. I suspect Putin can’t stand the man. He is after all a loathsome character who played footise with the CIA and allowed them to torture “terrorists” in his country and under his auspices. But regardless, he’s the legal head of the legitimate government of Syria, and that’s why Putin is saving his arse. It all has to do with preventing the psychopathic UZA from running roughshod over any and all notions of sovereignty and the rule of law.

    That’s what this is all about.

    And yes, I suspect that it does actually matter how the potus feels about other heads of state. That’s what all those insults are about like the way Bibi steals some more of Jerusalem on the day John Kerry arrives in Israel. Or the way Obama boycotts Bibi’s address to the abased and prostrate congress.

    Just think what that must have been like for Debbie Wassermann Schultz! She’s Obama’s personally hand picked right hand man, and she has to dis the world’s messianic Negro in order to show her eternal fealty to the king of the Jews. Wow, that must have been tough. The humanity!

    So, anyways yea, I think the personalities do matter. That’s why they’re so apoplectic over Trump. He’s his own man, and that mortifies them to their lizard core.

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  49. Thanks. I visit it regularly. The Saker is often republished there from his site, as he is here. But Shamir and Karlin are unique, it seems, to this site.

  50. Hot off the press:

    HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL: OVERTHROW ASSAD, DESTROY SYRIA FOR ISRAEL

    A newly-released email, forwarded by Hilary Clinton, published by Wikileaks has confirmed that the Obama Administration helped ignite the civil war in Syria as “the best way to help Israel.”

    The document was one of many declassified by the U.S. Department of State following the uproar caused by Clinton’s highly controversial private email server, which she used while serving as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. It was published by the famous website Wikileaks as Department of State case number F-2014-20439, document number C05794498.

    It should be noted that the Wikileaks transcript of the email is incorrectly dated to December 31, 2000, which is an obvious error due to references in the text to the Syrian Civil War, which began in March 2011, as well as references to the May 2012 negotiations in Istanbul between Iran and the west over its nuclear program. Most likely the actual date of the email is December 31, 2012. At the time, Clinton was Secretary of State for President Barack Obama:

    “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.”

    The email also says that the best course of action is to “use force” to overthrow the Syrian government, specifically because it is in Israel’s interest and that the author believes this will undermine the “regional alliance” between Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran and will help halt Iran’s growing nuclear capability.

    The email sheds light on United States policy towards the Middle East and makes it clear that the policy of the U.S. has been to encourage and provoke a civil conflict in Syria to further its geopolitical interests and those of Israel from the very beginning. These words are especially alarming coming from a senior federal official in charge of American foreign policy.

    The email specifically mentions Iran’s nuclear program as threatening Israel’s atomic monopoly in the Middle East, and that other “adversaries” in the region could be encouraged to go nuclear as well and threaten the interests of the U.S. and Israel. In true realpolitik Machiavellian logic, this means that Syria must be destroyed:

    “Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war may seem unconnected, but they are. For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. What Israeli military leaders really worry about — but cannot talk about — is losing their nuclear monopoly.”

    It goes on to detail the relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria through Iran’s alleged proxies and proposes toppling Assad will solve this problem:

    “It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security — not through a direct attack, which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests.”

    Chillingly, it also mentions that bringing down the Syrian government by force may open the doors to military action against Iran:

    “Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted. Right now, it is the combination of Iran’s strategic alliance with Syria and the steady progress in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program that has led Israeli leaders to contemplate a surprise attack — if necessary over the objections of Washington.”

    And prophetically, it calls for the United States to use its allies in the regions to fund, arm, and train the Syrian opposition and inflame the civil war in the country, which would end up happening:

    “Washington should start by expressing its willingness to work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train and arm Syrian rebel forces.”

    This disturbing email found on Clinton’s private server is more proof that the United States foreign policy has done little to combat terrorism in the Middle East. The Syrian rebels, far from being secular or “moderate” rebels, have been proven to be overwhelmingly made up of Islamic extremists and jihadis who oppose the secular Syrian state, as the Telegraph reports.

    The Syrian Civil War and the chaos in Iraq, which are both the result of U.S. military intervention, were instrumental to the rise of ISIS. The leaked email also sheds new light on the origins of the refugee crisis that has been the source of much debate in Europe and the United States as millions of Syrians are displaced by the violence which the author of this email thought would be a positive development in 2012.

    http://www.inquisitr.com/2922838/hillary-clinton-email-overthrow-assad-destroy-syria-for-israel-2/

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  51. According to the link: “These words are especially alarming coming from a senior federal official in charge of American foreign policy.” Elsewhere there is a reference to the email being forwarded by SOS Clinton. Is one to assume that the email was sent by the unnamed federal official to Clinton and that she forwarded it to someone else? Why the mystery about the sender and recipient of the forwarded email? This email lays it all out just as many here on unz.com have been saying all along. It lays it all out plain as day and spells out the links between many developments in that area. Good thing this explosive material was safeguarded on Clinton’s private email server in the basement of her Chappaqua residence. I am sure the Russians probably could figure out what was going on by developments on the ground, but can you imagine what they would have thought had they hacked into Clinton’s unsecured email server and found this blueprint for action? They might have decided to send some planes to Syria to protect Assad.

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  52. Says an entirely unclassified email from a random source…

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  53. “You have these corpulent, menopausal old men who’ve never so much as been in a fist fight- let alone been a mile from any physical harm more dangerous than a paper cut, and they’re sitting around deciding where the next Hellfire missile is going to strike or some special ops are going to foment a false flag.” True. The US have been “managed” by cowards. There is a universal horror is coming upon both the cowards and innocents as a response to the “exceptional nation” decisions: http://news.yahoo.com/un-atomic-chief-warns-nuclear-terrorism-134919666.html http://www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/digital/pdf/Spring16/Boyd.pdf

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  54. “Who ever heard of a Dentist becoming Dictator, only in the movies. (what kind of a dentist is an Ophthalmologist anyhow?”
    What were these exceptional prerequisites that had allowed Mr. Bush the Lesser to become a Commander in Chief and President of the mighty USA? Coming from a very wealthy and powerful family, Mr. Bush failed to become a scholar, or businessman, or professional warrior, or any kind of professionally trained specialist. He was barely able to express himself in his native American English (never mind foreign languages), and yet he made a decision to initiate the ongoing bloodbath in the Middle East.
    Mr. Bush was of course helped to make that decision by the adherents to the Yinon Plan, which incidentally, were very successful in weeding out the specialists in the Middle East, including the arabists: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/05/12/selective-intelligence
    Let’s be on point: the situation in Syria is about the state sovereignty. There have been the converging interests of the oil-profiteers and land-grabbers, which led to the destruction of the formerly functioning state of Syria, including the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the avalanche of the despaired refugees to Europe. https://consortiumnews.com/2016/03/25/deadly-blowback-from-neo-imperial-wars/

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  55. the Syrian government’s deliberate creation of a population explosion?

    No, population grew normally, but there was a heavy drought, and unsuccessful reforms of young Bashar…

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  56. http://thesaker.is/the-commander-of-the-russian-military-grouping-in-syria-gives-first-interview/

    Aleksandr Dvornikov: “…a volunteer movement was born in the Syrian society, volunteer brigades and battalions were formed. Today in Syria several thousand people already fight in their ranks against the militants.
    Journalist: “So you are saying that all sections of the population of Syria joined the fight?”
    Aleksandr Dvornikov: “Just so. The war against terrorism in Syria has acquired a truly national character. And the situation at the front has changed dramatically. Moreover, the volunteer units played a significant role in the offensive operations.”

  57. From a Russian geopolitical standpoint, doesn’t it come down to protecting Tartus? If the Syrians won’t fight for their country, that`s all well and good, but I believe there’s no limit to what Russia will do to protect their Mediterranean naval base.

  58. The US have been “managed” by cowards.

    especially the war pigs

    http://stopmebeforeivoteagain.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/kagan.jpg

    http://static.skynetblogs.be/media/122735/1102903943.jpg

    http://www.unitedliberty.org/files/images/LindseyGraham.jpg

    maggots

    (with apologies to real maggots who’re infinity less offensive than these human maggots who give those fly larvae an unfair bad reputation)

  59. edNels [AKA "geoshmoe"]
    says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    He was barely able to express himself in his native American English (never mind foreign languages), and yet he made a decision to initiate the ongoing bloodbath in the Middle East.

    I know, but, just the idea of apearing to be a superior type of person who goes into medical studies, not to get rich, but as a public service, who is already filthy rich and in a ruling family, not mere ”middle class”, but ”upper class”.

    I think the Bush clan is ”middle class”, American NuevoRiche, not too well suited for being a dynasty, in the ways of old, but that doesn’t mean that the puppets in the countries all around the world today, in are any better either!

    So, I must go and study up on the Assad Family backgrounds to figure out if they aren’t some NuevoRiche too! But it does seem to be a contrast between one rich prince who goes to study something useful and the other who is mostly known for being a typical ”Frat Brat” who coasted on his connections, played Monopoly games, with real money! Then got a slot in the ANG air corps and actual flight credentials, (really coveted), through a sign off by some lackey senator, and don’t quote me, for CSakes, Dan Rather got the boot for talking about that shit!

    Oh, and W, was trying so hard to be just one of the crowd with the deep Texas twang, too bad he didn’t take up Country Western music! He spent most of his childhood hearing the Up East Blue blood english, hardly any traces of it, maybe when he speaks to kiss’n cousin Prince Philip… ?
    And like I say, Idon’t know the skinny on Bashar, just kind of an unusual nebbish for a head of state.

    Let’s be on point: the situation in Syria is about the state sovereignty.

    The situation of Syia is about the state of soverienty, and the state of Sovereignty is in the .. Doghouse! and the state of Deplomacy… is… what’s that jack sayin’? they got some plan B to cut up countries, well, that was how them countries got there in the first place, too.

    Mad Hatter’s Tea Party really.

    Thanks ya’..ll,
    PS: I’m getting a good history/geography and current events regimen here from real scholars.

  60. With all due respect, I think Shamir’s article is generally terrible, highly inaccurate and disingenuous.
    For now, just briefly as I’m running late, let me quickly address his ‘update’:

    First of all, the reason why the Syrian army did not take Palmyra before is that it was pretty busy elsewhere and had other priorities, namely other more pressing fronts, Latakia, Aleppo, Hama, etc. The Russian command obviously knows this as it was working closely with Syria and its allies in the victorious campaigns fought in those provinces. That Shamir does not seem to know or understand this but writes on the subject is pretty bizarre.

    The premature ceasefire, which limited further gains in Aleppo and froze the cauldron battle against Nusra and its various jihadi allies in Idlib, nevertheless had the effect of allowing Syria to redirect many units, including elite units busy in other fronts, to be massed at Palmyra, for this successful campaign.

    Limited to few possible targets by the cessation of hostilities agreement, the SAA and its allies on the ground, with Russian and Syrian CAS, marched on Palmyra.

    The notion that the Syrians and Iranians(!?) were ‘using” and ‘tricking’ the Russians into fighting the war for them is utterly ridiculous and has no basis in reality.

    Shamir’s description of the syrian military, and this aint the first time i read this kind of nonsense from him, as a bunch of cowardly know-nothings who do not even want to fight, is totally FALSE.
    Shamir is basically trying to shamelessly steal all of the SAA merits for Russia.

    Veteran Brit war correspondent and limited hangout, Robert Fisk, who has been on the frontlines with the Syrian army many times since the summer of 2012, and is no friend of Syria, has described how even senior syrian officers often lead from the front and that many have been killed or wounded in action.
    The 2 most well known Syrian officers, Colonel Suheil al-Hassan, ‘the tiger’, and Major General Issam Zahreddine, commander of the 104th brigade of the republican guard division, have both been wounded in combat, and can be seen in many vids leading their men into action
    .

    Fisk recently wrote:

    “As ruthless as ever, its soldiers(Syrian Army) fought to survive – I suspect they even began to like fighting – and many of their frontline generals, when I met them, turned out to be Sunni Muslims as well as Alawites. In other words, the real backbone of the one institution which could save the Syrian state – was not an Alawite-Christian alliance but a Sunni-Alawite-Christian military force – out-gunned and out-manned after 60,000 dead, to be sure, but still capable of holding the line if it was reinforced with new armour and air power.”

    The reason the russians have taken very few casualties in syria is bc they r for the most part operating only from the air.
    Maybe Shamir should look into how many thousands of casualties Russia had to endure in the 2 chechen wars, when they actually had to fight the ground ops.
    ps: obviously there r RUSSIAN special ops, forward air controllers, art.spotters,eetc, but the hard fighting on the ground is not being done by russian but by syrians, irgc, hezb, iraqi militias.

    Well informed Mid-East jornalist, Elijah J. Magnier, has written about the battle of Palmyra;
    Forces who defeated #ISIS in #Palmyra, in this order:
    #SAA Main force
    #IRGC Special Forces
    #Hezbollah Special Forces
    #Russia Special Forces

    • Agree: Seamus Padraig
    • Replies:
  61. No mystery, just _____ journalism.

    Aaron Leitner said,
    The article incorrectly attributes authorship of the document to Hillary. The document was an attachment in an email sent to Hillary by James P. Rubin and appears to be a rough draft of an article he published in 2012 titled “The Real Reason To Intervene in Syria”.

    Why don’t you check out the original emails at wikileaks (link from the Inquisitr) and give us the real dope? :)

  62. A song about Erdogan:

    Rather sad, considering that Sultan was able to reach the top on merits. He had a potential to become a great man.

  63. “Shamir’s article is generally terrible, highly inaccurate and disingenuous” – the question is why? Is Shamir part of propaganda to make it easier for us to swallow the fact that Putin sold out Assad and Syria?

    • Replies:
  64. “No, population grew normally, but there was a heavy drought, and unsuccessful reforms of young Bashar…”

    Here is an excerpt from a comment I made on TAC about three years ago:

    “tbraton says:
    May 30, 2013 at 10:53 am
    I don’t want to sound cold-hearted, but let’s put the 70,000, soon to be 100,000, dead in Syria in context. Syria’s population was only 2.4 million in 1937, only 14.2 million in 1995 (less than 20 years ago) and an estimated 26 million today. The U.S. population in 1900 was 76 million. Had U.S. population increased more than ten-fold, as Syria’s population has grown since 1937, we would now have more than 760 million people living in the U.S. There is no great shortage of Syrians in the world. The death toll in Syria pales in comparison to the civil wars being fought in the Congo.” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/syrian-opposition-leader-calls-on-the-u-s-to-bomb-lebanon/comment-page-1/#comment-2040599 (the rest of my comment is also worth reading but not germane to this message).

    It is generally acknowledged that large increases in population lead to wars and instability. That’s why I have consistently pointed out the large increases in population over time in areas where “civil wars” break out. Steve Sailer apparently is of the same view and has consistently pointed out for many years (long before I started reading him on unz.com) that Africa’s total population is projected by specialists to increase dramatically by the end of this century. That will not only increase internal pressures in the continent least equipped to handle the problems but lead to massive emigration that will inundate Europe and the U.S.

    While the drought in Syria may have lead to unrest, it seems beyond dispute that the “civil war” was drummed up by the U.S. with the intention of overthrowing the legitimate government of Assad, as the email posted yesterday by geokat clearly lays out.

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  65. ” He was barely able to express himself in his native American English (never mind foreign languages), and yet he made a decision to initiate the ongoing bloodbath in the Middle East.”

    annamarina, it became obvious to me watching the debates in 2000 that George W. was not the sharpest blade in the drawer, but I voted for him anyway since I held his father (whom I voted for twice) in high regard. I figured that GWB would have the same character as his father even id he lacked the smarts. I was also swayed by his explicit statements during the 2000 campaign that he favored a “humble foreign policy” and that he was opposed to “nation building,” two statements that indicated he would be following a noninterventionist foreign policy. We soon discovered that those two statements were lies. GWB’s first Sec. of Treasury Paul O’Neil revealed in his memoir issued after he was fired that GWB had raised at the first National Security Council meeting the issue of “how are we going to get rid of Saddam Hussein?” Several years after he assumed the Presidency, GWB revealed in an interview that he disagreed with two decisions that his father made as President: withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1989 following the Soviet withdrawal and failing to go to Baghdad in 1991 during the Gulf War. Had the MSM bothered to ask GWB that question before the 2000 election and had he answered the same way, I would not have voted for him, since his later statements rendered his earlier campaign promises complete nullities. I think GHWB made the correct move pulling out of Afghanistan (I wonder why we are still there, in the longest war in U.S. history) and he made the correct move in stopping after expelling Saddam from Kuwait. I even predicted that GWB would lose in 2004, but I guess the American public was not quite as smart as I assumed and required a few more years to absorb the fact that the Iraq War was a total blunder.

  66. “Had the MSM bothered to ask GWB that question before the 2000 election” – Before election GWB was saying he was the against nation building that sounded kind of isolationist. So either he wanted to go to Iraq or he was against the nation building. You cannot do both.

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  67. “Before election GWB was saying he was the against nation building that sounded kind of isolationist. So either he wanted to go to Iraq or he was against the nation building. You cannot do both.”

    I believe that was the point of my message. Had he been asked that question during the 2000 campaign and had he answered the same way, we would have known that his campaign promises were lies. I don’t know why GWB, who was a B- student at Yale and a failure at business (except for the Texas Rangers, where the Bush family used its political leverage to get him included in the purchasing group and then they used tax dollars to build a new stadium, which made the investment highly profitable), thought he was smarter than his father, who graduated from Yale Phi Beta Kappa and had served as head of the CIA. GWB was both incompetent and arrogant. Whereas GHWB surrounded himself with competent advisers (Baker and Scowcroft) who generally gave him good advice, GWB surrounded himself with neoconservative advisers, who took him for a ride. Too dumb to realize his own limitations.

  68. ” GWB surrounded himself with neoconservative advisers, who took him for a ride” – It was not GWB who picked his adviser. The neocons (advisers) picked GWB. “Fact finding missions” to Austin, Texas were conducted by many neocons when GWB name was floated as a possible candidate. Richard Perle, the Prince of Darkness, went there and concluded that GWB was an empty vessel on foreign politics which was good because the vessel would be filled up by his handlers. So, GWB was selected because of his ignorance not despite of it. When, who and how planted in him the idea that his father was wrong on Iraq we do not know. At the same time GWB supposedly wanted to avenge his father’s loss; for not winning the 2nd term. Did he even understand why his father was slated for the loss? His father knew it and took several dives. It was not the economy. The economy issue was invented by Safire and Friedman in NYT following GHWB’s spat with Yitzhak Shamir. His father had 90% support (highest ever) following the Desert Storm but he lost the support of elites 6 month later when he decided to set conditions on money for Israel. This started a conflict with Yitzhak Shamir and AIPAC. GHWB backed off and did not go with this issue to the people. AIPAC and neocons could not tolerate it. GWHB had to be brought down. Did GWB know about? Probably not because he would not get into the same boat with the neocons. He was just stupid. I feel sorry for him and do not hold him entirely responsible for all the mess and evil his 8 years created.

  69. [Africa’s total population is projected by specialists to increase dramatically by the end of this century. That will not only increase internal pressures in the continent least equipped to handle the problems but lead to massive emigration that will inundate Europe and the U.S.]

    Which is why I remain circumspect of rich, smart chaps [typically Americans, Bill Gates....] sitting around conference tables trying to do ‘good’.

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  70. “Which is why I remain circumspect of rich, smart chaps [typically Americans, Bill Gates....] sitting around conference tables trying to do ‘good’.”

    As well you should. What bothers me more than a little is that Gates appears to use his fortune, made for the most part off Americans, largely to “do good” in Africa and other third-world areas. I contrast his charitable activities to one of America’s “Robber Barons” of the late 19th century, Andrew Carnegie, an immigrant from Scotland who compiled an immense fortune in steel. After he retired, he spent a large part of that fortune to establish libraries throughout the United States. When I was growing up in Washington, D.C. in the 50′s, the central library, housed at the time in a lovely Beaux Arts structure set in the middle of a large square known as Mt. Vernon Square, was known, alternatively, as the “Carnegie library.” (Sometime in the 60′s, I believe, the central library was moved a few blocks away to a modern structure designed by Mies van der Rohe, one of his lesser designs.) Carnegie’s charity was directed for the most part to improving the lives of his fellow citizens of his adopted country where he accumulated his fortune.

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  71. Gates did not have that much choice. He was forced to “start sharing his wealth”. Microsoft was threatened with anti-Trust action towards the end of Clinton 2nd term. Bush administration dropped the idea as Gates started his foundation. The very rich to be left alone must share and pay hefty bakshis to the “deep state”. Somebody has to support various think tanks and other organizations that provide nice and safe sinecures for politically connected and their families and parking spaces for the ones temporarily out of power and favor. In case of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we may suppose that the pharmaceutical industry and its biological warfare divisions are very pleased with it.

  72. Too early to tell, Utu.

    We have to wait. We, the unwashed masses, never really know what is going on behind the curtains… but I doubt it.

    Watch this excellent vid by SyrianGirlPartisan, discussing this issue, well worth your time( as a bonus, SyrianGirl is great to look at, :-) )
    Later in the vid, she interviews a very smart Syrian soldier and veteran, really great.

  73. edNels [AKA "geoshmoe"]
    says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    Yeap… How do you know when them guys are thinking Evil thoughts or planning Evil too? Just look at their Beedy little eyes, and MonaLisaish smiley faces. All this ”philanthropy” now, you say…

  74. Shamir:

    …The hostile (to Russia) pens explained Putin’s decision by stiff resistance of the jihadis on the ground (by Nusra at Aleppo, by Daesh at Raqqa), …

    The syrian forces and its allies have not even reached Raqqa yet. They did, however, face daesh extensively in East Aleppo… and won.

    Shamir:

    The withdrawal is a signal to Iran, too, as this country withdrew the bulk of its forces in Syria and did not agree to the Russian proposal to cut oil production.

    Iran has not withdrawn its forces at all. They fought at Palmyra.

    Shamir:

    The negotiations go in two tracks: one, remote and internationalised, in Geneva, where the Syrian government talks with the groups of emigres through the medium of Staffan de Mistura. Both sides are stalling; and anyway it is not clear how much influence on the ground these emigres have. The second, and more promising track is local. These are negotiations with local armed groups, and there are hundreds of them. More and more of them enter the ceasefire, but each arrangement calls for a compromise, for special conditions and some give-and-take. Until the withdrawal declaration, the Syrian officials weren’t keen on doing this hard work. Why should we bother, when we can defeat them all with Russian help, they said. Now, perhaps, they will put more effort into local negotiations.

    Shamir seems to think that the Syrian government should negotiate with Saudi, Zamerican and Turkish agents, the emigres, who, btw, have ZERO influence on the ground, i.e, the various armed gangs reject them. And to hell with Syrian sovereingty eh? Would Shamir accept the same if the affected country were Russia? Exactly what ‘give and take’ Shamir? Yours is a recipe for Syria to at least become a failed state at best.
    As for the armed gangs on the ground, which are the real factor; In its article titled, “Islamist Rebels Create Dilemma on Syria Policy,” which came out in 2013, the New York Times admitted:

    “Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government.
    Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of. ”
    So much for the so called moderate terrorists.

    Shamir:

    The Russians say the Syrian government should do some soul-searching regarding the causes of the civil war. Sure, Saudis and Turks and the US are guilty to a great extent, but there were local contributing factors: clannishness, a heavy-handed security apparatus, the sore lack of elementary democratic arrangements. This has to be changed, and as soon as possible. Syria will never go back to its pre-civil-war form of one family rule, and Assad people should internalise this message as soon as possible. Russian withdrawal declaration should keep them focused.

    Really? I could then easily apply your “reasoning” to the Ukraine situation as well, instead of saying that it was basically a zusa neocon engineered crisis(which it was). Why a war in Syria, Ukraine, libya but not in Saudi Arabia, aka, kingdom of apes, Qatar, UAE, or, for that matter, Zusa itself? Discontent with government is present almost everywhere and yet we only ever see wars – and color revolutions – in the countries which are on the US/Israeli hitlist. Syria has been on the hitlist for a very long time, and wiki cables and other data reveal that regime change was planned at least as far back as 2006, right after the israeli defeat in Lebanon.
    Syria was stable and this war would have never taken place without Zusas led coalition recruiting, training and arming mercenaries and religious nuts.

    Shamir:

    Iranians did not wait for it, but began their peace offensive versus Turkey. They proposed to sort their differences out and to return to the good relations they had before the Syrian misadventure. At the same time, the Iranians withdrew the bulk of their troops from Syria, as they suffered a lot of casualties in the fighting. They continued to finance Syria and arm Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia, a small but able military force.

    Iran and Turkey appear to be indeed negotiating but as i said before, Iran has NOT withdrawn their forces from Syria. At any rate, Iran never sent huge numbers of actual iranian troops into Syria, rather they have been building up auxiliary forces that are trained and armed, and sometimes led, by IRGC(of course there are some iranian IRGC troops as well). This is the case with the tough iraqi shia militias deployed in Syria, they are still there, the mostly Hazara Afghan Fatemyoun Brigade, which took part in the battle of Palmyra. Elijah Magnier’s iranian sources stated that Iran is in fact ready to send in more troops if need be, to fill any void left by Russia.

  75. edNels [AKA "geoshmoe"]
    says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    “Robber Barons” of the late 19th century, Andrew Carnegie, an immigrant from Scotland who compiled an immense fortune in steel. After he retired, he spent a large part of that fortune to establish libraries throughout the United States.

    Amen to that, he put his name in lights with that move, a great Legacy. Monuments to his name in most cities across the country. Fundamental good. The promotion of reading to the pueblo.
    And to bring in a related topic, Ron Unz’s proposal to restore the emphasis on English in school chariculer in Calif. Basic good.

    Where would I be wifout them Libaries? Seriously.
    Oh, Van Der Rohe, wow! there is an architect to hate! “From Bauhaus to Our House”. Pretty gd.

  76. I decided to do a little Googling to find out what’s going on in Syria following the recapture of Palmyra, and I came across this interesting article from ABNA (Ahlul Bayt New Agency), which I assume is a Turkish news source:

    “With Major General Suheil al-Hassan (he often goes under his alias “The Tiger”) leading the Tiger Forces along the M7-Highway, the next big battle is likely to take place at the village of Arak which is surrounded by the most rich oil region in all of Syria.

    If the SAA is able to capture Arak and its oil fields, the economy of the Islamic State will be dealt an almost intolerable blow. This would also have government troops slice directly through the very heart of the caliphate, effectively splitting its regions across Syria in two.” http://en.abna24.com/service/middle-east-west-asia/archive/2016/03/29/743832/story.html

    To set the geography, Palmyra is on the M7-Highway which leads ultimately to Dayr Az Zawr, 140 km to the east on the Euphrates River, roughly midway between Raqqah to the NW and Abu Kamal to the SE. Before the Syrian Army reaches Dayr Az Zawr. however, there is Arak, 28 km away from Palmyra on the M7-Highway, a village of 111 people and “the most rich oil region in all of Syria.” Beyond Arak lies Al-Suknah, a town of 16-20,000 people about 50 miles from Palmyra on the M7-Highway. So, it looks like there is not much standing in the way of the Syrian army until they reach Dayr az-Zawr (sp), a city of roughly 200,000. But the city apparently has a core of 100,000 which has been besieged for the past two years and resupplied by Syrian and Russian planes, something that is difficult to ascertain from American MSM.

    It also appears from the article cited above that the Russians are continuing to play a robust role in the scheme to rollback ISIS, just as Mr. Shamir pointed out in his main blog:

    “Nevertheless, during the early morning hours, Russia announced it had sent up-to-date military hardware as to clear these mines with as few casualties as possible.

    Also ISIS fighters have set up a new strong defensive line on the outskirts of the town of As Sukhnah – however, this area is currently being heavily bombed by Russian war planes as to prevent fortifications from being built.”

    The article goes on to note that:

    “With an estimated 100.000 civilians currently living inside the besieged government-held districts of Deir Ezzor, the Syrian military has put in charge another well-known Major General, Issam Zahreddine, in an attempt to contain ISIS from capturing the city entirely.

    Issam Zahreddine is the commander-in-chief of the Republican Guard, the SAA’s strongest force in terms of defensive warfare. Thereby, his deployment suggests the utmost priority to maintaining control of the city.

    Nevertheless, the Tiger Forces must push through some 140 kilometers of ISIS-held lands before it can reach the besieged city of Deir Ezzor.

    However, this territory is almost exclusively made up of desert sand and as such, the terrain itself does not seem to pose a significant obstacle to the Syrian Arab Army’s efforts.”

    I remember a commentator making the convincing argument (at least to me) on another blog (possibly The Saker’s) about 4 or 5 months back, after the Russians had entered the fray, that ISIS in Syria could be rolled up rather easily, once their resupplies of men and material from Turkey was cut off. It appears that he was right on the money. I wish I could remember his name so I could give him full credit for his good call.

    Obviously, the provision of air power by the Russians to the Syrians was very important, but it seems to me that the Russians must have provided some essential training and reorientation to the Syurian troops to make them a better fighting force.

    Of course, the interesting thing is what happens after the Syrians take Dayr az-Zawr and turn their attention to Raqqah, where I believe the Syrian Kurdish forces are also headed from the opposite direction.

  77. “… the declassified Defense Intelligence Agency’s report of 2012 that presaged the imminent rise of a Salafist principality in north-eastern Syria was not overlooked it was deliberately suppressed, not just the report but that view in general that a civil war in Syria will give birth to radical Islamists, was forcefully stifled in the Western policy making circles under pressure from the Zionist lobbies. The Western powers were fully aware of the consequences of their actions in Syria but they kept pursuing the policy of financing, training, arming and internationally legitimizing the so-called “Syrian opposition” to weaken the Syrian regime and to neutralize the threat that its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, had posed to Israel’s regional security… The Western interest in the Syrian civil war is primarily about ensuring Israel’s regional security.”

    http://thesaker.is/why-islamic-state-carried-out-paris-and-brussels-attacks/

  78. http://thesaker.is/why-islamic-state-carried-out-paris-and-brussels-attacks/

    Apologies for the copy-paste exercise (below), but the flowing presentation of the “sausage-making” for the bottomless “war on terra” is so good that deserves to be reposted “as is:”

    “…we also know that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists these days has been directly inspired by the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is never sufficient to succeed in the battle. Looking at the Islamic State’s spectacular gains in Syria and Iraq in the last couple of years, one wonders that where does its recruits get all the training and sophisticated weapons that are imperative not only for the hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding vast swathes of territory? …
    Apart from the training and arms that are provided to the Islamic jihadists in the training camps located on the Turkish and Jordanian border regions adjacent to Syria by the CIA in collaboration with the Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies, another factor that has contributed to the spectacular success of Islamic State is that its top cadres are comprised of the former Baathist military and intelligence officers of the Saddam regime. According to a highly informative August 2015 Associated Press report by Dawn, hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top-tier command structure of Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy…
    The corporate media’s spin-doctors conveniently forget that the formation of Islamic State and myriads of other Sunni Arab jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has as much to do with the unilateral invasion of Iraq back in 2003 under the previous Bush Administration as it has to do with the present policy of Obama Administration in Syria of funding, arming, training and internationally legitimizing the Sunni militants against the Syrian regime since 2011-onward in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region, in fact, the proximate cause behind the rise of Islamic State, al Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and numerous other Sunni jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has been Obama Administration’s policy of intervention through proxies in Syria.”

  79. interesting addition re “top cadres” associated with Islamic jihadis:
    “Surprise Syrian showdown: ‘Pentagon-backed rebels fighting CIA-backed rebels’ https://www.rt.com/op-edge/337646-syrian-showdown-pentagon-rebels/

  80. annamarina, as surprising as it sounds, that article appeared in American MSM a few days ago. The LA Times posted the following:

    http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-cia-pentagon-isis-20160327-story.html

    Since I don’t follow the LA Times on a regular basis, I’m sure I found the link to the article on RCP.

    More puzzling to me is what took so long for the MSM to report the recapture of Palmyra. Yesterday, on Anatoly Karlin’s blog, I found a message with a link to an article in the National Interest, posted last Friday (March 25), announcing the recapture of Palmyra the previous day (Thursday, March 24). The first I heard of that important development was Easter Sunday morning at 9 am on “Meet the Press.” I quickly searched the NY Times website and found an announcement that morning of Palmyra’s recapture. There was no article in that day’s paper edition, which I have delivered daily. Three days to get out the news of an important development in Syria’s war seems way too long for a newspaper which likes to refer to itself as “the newspaper of record.”

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  81. It appears that the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria that was announced by Putin a couple of weeks ago is taking longer than expected. Here is some news you won’t find in the NY Times:

    https://www.rt.com/news/337919-russian-advisers-syria-palmyra/:

    “Russian military advisers played an “active” role in planning the operation to free the ancient city of Palmyra from jihadists, while over 2,000 airstrikes conducted to support Syrian ground troops did not damage a single historic structure, Moscow says.

    The entire operation to liberate the UNESCO World Heritage Site from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISISL/ISIS) militants took 22 days, starting on March 6 and ending on March 27, Lt. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, head of operations at the Russian General Staff, reported on Thursday.”

    The article in RT goes on to state:

    “Between March 7 and March 27 the Russian Air Force supported Syrian government units near Palmyra, conducted around 500 sorties and delivered over 2,000 airstrikes against ISIL,” he reported.

    He stressed that “no structure of historic value in Palmyra was damaged by the Russian Air Force.”

    Russian military advisers “took a direct and active role in planning the operation,” Rudskoy said.

    Russian warplanes helped Syrian artillery and air forces suppress the defenses of the city, which IS had turned into a fortress since capturing it in May 2015. The militants had considerable strength and prepared an elaborate system of fortifications, the general said.

    “By the beginning of March the militants had over 4,000 fighters, at least 25 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, over 20 artillery pieces and rocket launchers, over 50 mortars, some 100 guided anti-tank missile launchers, over 50 off-road cars with heavy weapons mounted on them. The terrorists also had more than 10 trucks rigged with explosives and manned by suicide bombers and a number of drones,” he said.

    Russian airstrikes helped destroy main artillery positions and fortified bunkers on the hills surrounding the city, Rudskoy said. They were also involved in preventing any reinforcements from arriving in Palmyra or any terrorist forces leaving it.

    “Russian warplanes destroyed militant convoys trying to storm through towards Palmyra from Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor every day,” he said. “When scattered gangs of ISIL managed to get out through the encirclement, Russian warplanes destroyed them before they could flee to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.”

    The capture of Palmyra, a strategically and symbolically important city in central Syria, was a major achievement for Damascus. The city’s control over a number of important roads connecting northern and southern parts of the country means that IS will now have trouble transporting weapons and fighters across Syria. It was also an important source of income for the terrorists, who will now have fewer resources to buy new weapons and pay their fighters, the general said.”

    A couple of observations. I have stated several times that the U.S. sat by while ISIS used the only road leading to Palmyra to move men and materiel preparatory to launching the attacks which succeeded in capturing Palmyra last year. This happened after Obama declared war on ISIS in August 2014 and pledged to “degrade, defeat and destroy ISIS.” The inaction by the U.S. in attacking ISIS supply lines on the only road crossing desert speaks volumes about the cynicism of the U.S. since they failed to stop a conquest of a World Heritage Site by a barbaric group, which proceeded to destroy some valuable (at least to World civilization) archeological remains. The inaction of the U.S. in this instance is comparable to its failure to stop the oil tanker trucks carrying stolen Syrian oil to Turkey until the Russians intervened and showed how simple such a step was.

    I find it interesting that the Russians not only stopped the efforts of ISIS to resupply and reinforce their troops in Palmyra but also attacked ISIS forces attempting to flee Palmyra for ISIS controlled cities to the east. That indicates that the Syrian army offensive to retake those cities will continue, apparently with intensive Russian support.

    Finally, the article appears to have cleared up one thing that mystified me. It states that Palmyra was recaptured on Sunday, March 27, just as reported by the NY Times, and not on March 24, as reported in National Interest. I wonder if the symbolism of recapturing Palmyra on “Easter Sunday” (at least in the eyes of Catholics and Protestants; Orthodox Christians don’t celebrate Easter until a month from now on May 1) played a role in announcing the official day of recapture. Symbolism appears to play a big role in the Syrian conflict. The U.S. declares “war” on ISIS and then does nothing to stop its spread in Syria or cut off the main supply of revenue from the sale of oil or the resupply of men and materiel from Turkey. Then the Russians turn around and announce withdrawal of their forces while continuing to wage intensive war on ISIS.

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  82. More puzzling to me is what took so long for the MSM to report the recapture of Palmyra.

    Probably because they were still hoping for a come-from-behind ISIS victory! :-D

  83. For anybody interested, here is an article from National Geographic giving a history of Palmyra plus some excellent photos of the ruins at Palmyra (including some before and after showing some of the destruction wrought by ISIS). http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/160328-Palmyra-Syria-Islamic-State-ISIS-archaeology-Rome/

  84. excellent analysis tbraton

  85. “The inaction by the U.S. in attacking ISIS supply lines on the only road crossing desert speaks volumes about the cynicism of the U.S. since they failed to stop a conquest of a World Heritage Site by a barbaric group, which proceeded to destroy some valuable (at least to World civilization) archeological remains.”
    So much on point. The current US deciders (whatever their ethnicity and education) have shown criminal disregard to the cradle of civilization Iraq, to the social achievements in Libya, and, of course, towards the Syrian historic landmarks.
    It is interesting that the leading American think tanks have been issuing not just vapid but intellectually stunted reports, as if the unnatural selection among the opportunists has finally caught upthe (see, for instance, the sorry quality of analyses published by the AEI). Of certain academic interest is the picture of the “elites” incessant activities towards creating an unlivable world for their progeny. Not just selling their mother but selling the future of their children….

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  86. annamarina, I have been doing a lot of Googling lately trying to get the real story of what’s going on in Syria (a job our newspapers used to do for us before they went into full propaganda mode). I came across this piece in Tass: “Moscow calls international community’s reaction to liberation of Palmyra strange”:

    “MOSCOW, March 31. /TASS/. The international community has shown a belated and not always proper reaction to liberation of Palmyra from terrorists, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday.
    “The reaction of the entire international community to the liberation of Palmyra was belated. There is an impression that it was a surprise for everyone. And of course it seemed to us not always appropriate,” the diplomat said.
    “There was an attempt to belittle the role of antiterrorism efforts of Damascus and Moscow,” she said.
    In her words, the West has no interest in liberating Syria from terrorists.” More: http://tass.ru/en/politics/866379

    That got me thinking of two pieces I had read recently in Business Insider and Yahoo News re the developments in Syria post-Palmyra. According to the Business Insider (and repeated by Yahoo News), in a piece headlined ” ‘Al Qaeda has sealed its future’: Syria’s jihadists may be the biggest winners of Assad’s ‘victory’ at Palmyra”:

    “But analysts say that the victory, while significant, serves the dual purpose of buying time and legitimacy for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad as his country enters its fifth year of civil war.

    That, in turn, constitutes a significant blow to Syria’s revolution — and a boon for the jihadists who thrive off Syrians’ discontent with the regime.

    “The capture of Palmyra is an invaluable opportunity for the Assad regime and Russia to now proclaim themselves as capable and willing partners in the fight against ISIS,” Syria expert Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute, wrote on Monday in a daily briefing.

    He added, however, that a “sustainable long-term battle against terrorism in Syria will only be possible” with Assad gone.

    “ISIS continues to benefit from the widespread disenchantment Syrians feel to their political system and leadership,” Lister wrote.

    And the same goes for Al Qaeda. [remember them? the ones supposedly responsible for the 9/11 attacks but were put on the back burner after the emergence of ISIS, which was supposed to be "Al Qaeda on steroids.") " http://www.businessinsider.com/assad-palmyra-isis-syria-al-qaeda-2016-3

    I believe the Business Insider account reflects the new (old?) propaganda line of the U.S. government, which continues to regard the real threat in Syria not to be ISIS or Al Qaeda but the President of Syria, Assad. So the real threat comes not from terrorist organizations which launch attacks against U.S. and European civilians but the man who has not launched any attacks against the U.S. or Europe, Mr. Assad. What peculiar thinking. First, Al Qaeda existed long before any "civil war" broke out in Syria. There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before the U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein in the Iraq War. How can anybody blame the Assad regime for the creation of Al Qaeda in the first place? Secondly, the U.S. line that Al Qaeda, like any parasite, feeds off the host Assad assumes that somehow Al Qaeda will disappear once Assad is gone. ( I assume that the American officials in charge of our Middle East policy would choose to kill a pet cat or dog if the animal got fleas, rather than treating the fleas themselves.) But there is no guarantee that "moderate jihadis" will take over in Syria once Assad is gone. A more likely possibility is that an extreme group like Al Qaeda or its offshoot ISIS will take over.
    Finally, the U.S., after fighting a phony war against ISIS for the past year and a half, which saw an expansion of ISIS controlled territory in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere, cannot acknowledge the success of the Russians and the Syrians in a very short period of time of dealing damaging blows against ISIS, which foretell ultimate defeat of ISIS in Syria.

    FWIW here is my amateur speculation about Putin and the Russian forces. It is readily apparent by now that, despite Putin's surprise announcement of "mission accomplished" about two weeks ago, Russian forces continue to play an active role in Syria's recapture of Palmyra and points east. I believe Putin will continue to assist the Syrian forces at least until ISIS is defeated. One possible motivation may be to remove ISIS as an excuse for America to intervene in Syria. The presence of ISIS in Syria underlay all the proposals made by the various Republican candidates during the debates (and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side) to impose "no fly zones" in Syria. Even Donald Trump made the astounding proposal to put 20 to 30,000 troops on the ground in Syria to defeat ISIS before walking back his comment. Once ISIS is out of the picture in Syria, there would not be any justification for U.S. involvement in Syria. The American public made it very clear a few years ago that it overwhelmingly opposed military involvement in Syria when Obama's "red line" was ostensibly crossed by Assad. With their open barbarity, ISIS is the only group which appears to have aroused justifiable repulsion among the American public so as to justify American military involvement in Syria. Putin's motivation for announcing the end of the Russian mission, in my view, was to remove Russia from the headlines and as a provocation to any American response ("punch Russia in the nose," Mr. Kasich) now that we are in Cold War II territory. His motivation for continuing the fight against ISIS is to remove ISIS as a possible provocation to American intervention in Syria. Just my speculation.

    Here is an article I found which lays out a forecast of future Syrian operations east of Palmyra that I speculated about a few days ago. https://southfront.org/from-palmyra-to-deir-ezzor-the-upcoming-campaign-in-eastern-syria/

    BTW, Reuters is carrying a report this morning concerning Syrian capture of another ISIS-held town 60 miles WEST of Palmyra, al-Qaryatain, a town of approximately 14,000, predominantly Christian. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-town-idUSKCN0X00BL: "Syrian forces seize Islamic State-held town near Palmyra":

    "Syrian and allied forces, backed by Russian air strikes, drove Islamic State militants out of the town of al-Qaryatain on Sunday after gradually encircling it over the past few days, state media said.

    Surrounded by hills, al-Qaryatain is 100 km (60 miles) west of the ancient city of Palmyra, which government forces recaptured from Islamic State last Sunday.

    Al-Qaryatain had been held by the militant group since late August. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been trying to retake al-Qaryatain and other pockets of Islamic State control to reduce the jihadist group's ability to project military power into the heavily populated western region of Syria, where Damascus and other main cities are located.

    Syrian state television said the army and its allies "fully restored security and stability to al-Qaryatain after killing the last remaining groups of Daesh terrorists" in the town, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

    Government forces entered the town from a number of directions, Syrian media said. A Syrian military source told SANA state news agency the army had cleared areas northwest of the town of explosives planted by Islamic State.

    Islamic State militants retreating from Palmyra laid thousands of mines which the Syrian army is now clearing before civilians can return.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces had taken over half the town and that fierce fighting continued between Assad's troops and Islamic State to the north and southeast of al-Qaryatain.

    The Britain-based Observatory, which monitors the five-year-old Syrian conflict through a network of sources on the ground, said more than 40 air strikes by Russian and Syrian planes hit areas near the town on Sunday.

    Islamic State still has complete control over the city of Raqqa, its de facto capital, and it controls most of Deir al-Zor province in eastern Syria, which borders Iraq."

    The importance of al-Qaryatain is summed up in this paragraph from Wikipedia:
    "For much of the Syrian Civil War, which began in March 2011, al-Qaryatayn remained relatively neutral in the conflict. Town elders made agreements with both government forces and the rebels to stay out of the fighting. However, its location is strategic as it lies at a crossroads between the northern and southern parts of the country. Al-Qaryatayn has served as conduit for both sides. Rebels smuggle arms from the north to rebel fighters in Damascus, while the government uses the town to reinforce and resupply their forces in the north and west.[21] It has also been used as a corridor for defectors from the Syrian Army from across the country as highways from the northern, southern, eastern and western directions run through al-Qaryatayn.”

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  87. Finally, the U.S., after fighting a phony war against ISIS for the past year and a half, which saw an expansion of ISIS controlled territory in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere…

    In a recent interview on Sputnik, Charles Shoebridge, a security expert, had this to say:

    You’ve got areas now that are ungoverned space… these have become safe haven for groups such as al-Qaeda and al-Nusra in Syria or IS. And as a result of that… it’s a bizarre situation. For example, for three years the parts of Syria that IS and al-Nusra control… these were the only place in the world where actually you could go and be safe from American drones… So, actually, the West was backing the creation of these safe havens… and surprise, surprise this has served as an incubator for these groups.

    Episode 117

    https://www.rt.com/shows/sputnik/337303-europe-security-terrorism-isis/

  88. This is rich. It looks like Washington wants to take all the credit for Russia’s and Assad’s efforts in degrading ISIS. An article today in the Washington Post claims that “U.S.-led strikes putting a financial squeeze on the Islamic State.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-led-strikes-putting-a-financial-squeeze-on-the-islamic-state/2016/04/02/e739a7be-f848-11e5-a3ce-f06b5ba21f33_story.html

    According to the Post article:

    “The Islamic State is facing an unprecedented cash crunch in its home territory, U.S. counter­terrorism officials say, as months of strikes on oil facilities and ­financial institutions take a deepening toll on the group’s ability to pay its fighters or carry out operations.

    For the first time, U.S. officials are seeing clear evidence of the financial strain on the group’s leadership, as reports surface of clashes among senior commanders over allegations of corruption, mismanagement and theft.

    Cash shortages already have forced the group to put many of its Iraqi and Syrian recruits on half-pay, and accounts from recent defectors suggest that some units haven’t received salaries in months. Civilians and businesses in the Islamic State’s self-
    proclaimed homeland complain of being subjected to ever-higher taxes and fees to make up the shortfall.

    U.S. officials attribute the economic upheaval to a months-long campaign to destroy the group’s financial underpinnings, including weeks of punishing strikes on oil facilities as well as on banks and other repositories of hard currency.

    The strikes against oil fields, refineries and tankers have cut oil production by about a third, according to several counterterrorism officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence from the region. Meanwhile, overall revenue from the Islamic State’s oil business has plummeted by as much as 50 percent because of falling oil prices and a diminished capability to make and sell refined products such as gasoline, the officials said.

    “For the first time, there’s an optimistic tone,” Daniel Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the Treasury Department, said of the financial war against the Islamic State. “I really do think we’re having a significant impact.”

    But, he added, “they still make a lot of money, and we still have a long way to go.”

    U.S. military operations, meanwhile, have killed a number of high-ranking financial officials, including the group’s finance minister, Haji Imam, whose death in an airstrike was announced a week ago.”

    The article goes on to say the following about ISIS’s control and sale of Syrian oil:

    “The losses in oil revenue have been at least as great. In 2014, when its fighters were sweeping across eastern Syria and western Iraq, the terrorists seized control of oil wells and refineries, which were soon employed in producing oil and gas for the black market. As recently as a year ago, the group was generating a half-billion dollars annually by selling petroleum products to buyers in Turkey and Syria.

    Obama administration officials initially expressed reluctance about targeting oil facilities that could some day aid the rebuilding of Iraq and Syria. But since the November terrorist attacks in Paris, a U.S.-led military offensive dubbed Operation Tidal Wave 2 has carried out more than 200 strikes against oil wells, refineries, pipelines and trucks.

    Since the start of the campaign, the Islamic State’s oil production has plummeted, and it has lost both refining capacity and easy access to its black-market dealers in Syria and southern Turkey, U.S. officials say.”

    There is absolutely no mention in the article about the Russian success in beating back ISIS and other terrorists. Let’s put the claims in the article in context. In August 2014, Obama declared “war” on ISIS and pledged to “degrade, defeat and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Despite those brave words, ISIS continued to expand in Iraq and Syria. A little over a year later, the Daily Beast ran an article entitled “Obama: Forget About ‘Destroying’ ISIS, We Just Need to ‘Contain’ Them” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/13/obama-forget-about-destroying-isis-we-just-need-to-contain-them.html That article said in part:
    “A year ago, President Barack Obama talked a big talk when it came to the so-called Islamic State, declaring that the United States and its allies would “degrade and ultimately destroy” the group that had seized large territories in Iraq and Syria.
    But this week, . . . Obama struck a very different tone.
    Gone were the buzzwords “defeat” and “destroy.” Instead, Obama said the U.S. strategy had always been to “contain” the group, a subtle shift in language, and another indication that progress against the group has been far more difficult to achieve than originally envisioned.”

    A little more than 6 months ago, Putin surprised the world by introducing some combat planes into Syria in order to attack Assad’s enemies and shore up the regime. Around the same time, the Russians started attacking the oil tankers carrying stolen Syrian oil from areas that ISIS had conquered to Turkey, something the Americans had refrained from doing ostensibly because they were concerned about “environmental damage” from the spilled oil. Once the Russians showed how it could be done, the Americans started attacking those oil tankers as well.

    I think there may be a connection between the new grandiose claims about how ISIS has been diminished and yesterday’s article in the Daily Beast about discontented analysts for the Defense Department complaining how their intelligence was being distorted by higher-ups: “Intel Analysts: We Were Forced Out for Telling the Truth About Obama’s ISIS War” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/03/intel-analysts-we-were-punished-for-telling-the-truth-about-obama-s-isis-war.html:
    “Two senior intelligence analysts at U.S. Central Command say the military has forced them out of their jobs because of their skeptical reporting on U.S.-backed rebel groups in Syria, three sources with knowledge of their claim told The Daily Beast. It’s the first known instance of possible reprisals against CENTCOM personnel after analysts accused their bosses of manipulating intelligence reports about the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in order to paint a rosier picture of progress in the war. . .Earlier allegations from CENTCOM, the military command responsible for overseeing the Middle East, had focused on leaders there fudging intelligence reports about U.S. efforts to attack ISIS and undermine its financing operations. . . .”

    My reading of this latest propaganda is that ISIS (at least in Syria) might be closer to collapse than most people think and the Obama Administration wants to put in its claim for credit before that happens, lest the Russians and Assad get all of it themselves. Just my amateur speculation.

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  89. Says an entirely unclassified email from a random source…

    The provenance of this email has since been confirmed:

    Correction: A previous version of this story falsely attributed the authorship of the paper to then-Secretary Clinton, because the email was an attachment sent by her to a State Department employee. The original author, however, appears to be James Rubin, and Clinton was forwarding the attachment…. [a] policy paper sent to Hillary Clinton, available on WikiLeaks, [that] lays out the Democratic front-runner’s strategy as an architect of US intervention in Syria…

    http://news.antiwar.com/2016/03/21/clinton-email-shows-us-sought-syria-regime-change-for-israels-sake/

  90. “My reading of this latest propaganda is that ISIS (at least in Syria) might be closer to collapse than most people think and the Obama Administration wants to put in its claim for credit before that happens, lest the Russians and Assad get all of it themselves. Just my amateur speculation.”

    I don’t know whether to be flattered or suspicious, but it appears that the Israeli military agrees with my assessment of ISIS, that it might not be long for the world, at least in Syria. From Haaretz yesterday:

    “There is cautious optimism in Israel over one issue – the chances of overcoming ISIS, at least in Syria. The defeat the group suffered at the end of March, when it was forced to withdraw from Palmyra in the eastern part of the country, was no coincidence. ISIS is having difficulty holding the large territory upon which it declared its Islamic caliphate, especially in Syria.

    It has found itself having to fight off too many attackers at once – the U.S., Russia, the EU states, Turkey, the Assad regime and numerous Arab states and rebel groups, including Kurdish factions. The various coalitions attacking ISIS have complete aerial superiority over the organization and the terror attacks it has committed or inspired in Paris, Brussels, California and Sinai have only intensified the hostility toward it. ISIS has also suffered a serious economic blow from the damage to its oil fields and its financial system.

    A senior Israeli defense source told Haaretz that “the defeat of ISIS in Syria is a matter of time.”

    “It will mainly bring about an improvement in coordination between world powers and rebel groups fighting against it (ISIS), both the Sunni moderates and the Kurds,” the source said. 
    Israel’s impression is that the organization cannot cope with so many fronts and that it’s expected to retreat under pressure from further territory in eastern Syria. The military campaign against it in Iraq, expected to focus in the coming months on an attempt to seize Mosul, will probably be involve more difficulties. Nobody in Israel’s intelligence community, and the same goes for Western intelligence communities, has any doubt that ISIS intends to operate more terrorist cells in Europe and perhaps  beyond, continuing with the attacks it has initiated in recent months.”
    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.712974

    BTW I had earlier raised questions of where the principal Syrian oil and gas fields were. Apparently, I got an answer about the oil from the Turkish site (ABNA) I linked to about a week ago on this thread, which referred to the area around Arak, 28 km east of Palmyra on the M7-Highway, a village of 111 people and “the most rich oil region in all of Syria.” I have now found something written a year ago about the gas fields, when they were being taken over by ISIS:

    “While the fields east of Palmyra yielded about 40 million cubic feet of gas per day, the ones to the west are much more important – they may be producing between 250 million and 300 million cubic feet per day, enough to generate 1,500 megawatts of power. Without gas, the power plants around Homs and Damascus will have to either shut down or run on expensive fuel oil – another financial burden on the Assad regime and its Iranian backers.” http://www.thenational.ae/business/energy/isil-is-dismantling-syrias-economy-oilfield-by-oilfield

    I seem to recall reading news accounts prior to the recapture of Palmyra that the Syrians had already recaptured the oil and gas fields west of Palmyra. I am a little surprised that we haven’t yet heard an update about the recapture of Arak, which does not appear to be a particularly imposing obstacle. Maybe it has been recaptured already, but the Syrians and Russians are sitting on the news.

  91. [Using all-caps in comments is shouting. Stop shouting or all your future comments will be summarily trashed.]

  92. Update on the Syrian situation: News has been sparse since the recapture of Palmyra on March 27 and the subsequent recapture of al-Qaryatayn, 60 miles west of Palmyra about a week later. Since then, we have heard no news of further advances by the Syrian forces, but now it appears that Syria and Russia plan a double attack on Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. It should be kept in mind that, after Palmyra was recaptured on March 27, it was learned that the operation had been underway for five weeks. I would have thought that Deir ez-Zor would be the next target, but I guess the threat that U.S. backed Kurdish forces might take Raqqa first led to a change of plans. According to RT:

    “The Syrian Army plans to launch an attack on Islamic State’s de facto capital Raqqa and its other stronghold of Deir ez-Zor with the help of Russian air support. The announcement was made Russia’s envoy to the UN Office in Geneva Aleksey Borodavkin.

    Borodavkin, who is also the permanent representative to other international organizations in Geneva, said it is imperative that the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist groups, such as Al-Nusra Front continues.

    “This is what the Syrian Army is doing with support from the Russian Air Force. As a result of these actions, Palmyra has been recaptured and now they are planning to launch an operation towards Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa. Fighting is taking place against groups like Al-Nusra Front in Aleppo and a few other places,” Borodavkin said, as cited by RIA.

    Deir ee-Zor is located in the north east of Syria and has been under IS control for months. It is an important location for the terrorist organization, due to the number of oil fields in its vicinity.

    https://www.rt.com/news/341320-syria-army-raqqa-offensive/

    Raqqa is about 100 miles to the NNE of Palmyra, while Deir ez-Zar is about 120 miles to the NW of Palmyra, both situated on the Euphrates River. I was somewhat surprised to read an article about a week or so ago in which they stated that the Syrian government controlled portion of Deir ez-Zor contained 200,000 people, twice the 100,000 people I recall reading in earlier articles.

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