Syrian Links

Drop any links that you think may be useful for getting to grips with ‘Syrian issues’ in this thread.

Here is a sample .




246 Responses to “Syrian Links”

  1. 1 patrickm

    P1 here is something I missed at the time
    ‘During a state visit to Russia, President el-Sisi said that he had agreed with his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin to establish a Russian industrial zone as part of the new project.[33]’

  2. 2 admin
  3. 3 patrickm

    P2 Asked about his meeting with Putin, Erdogan said they discussed Syria briefly. “To be frank, I still don’t see any clarity in Russia’s stance on Syria,” he said. His remarks appeared to fly in the face of recent statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in which he clearly repeated Moscow’s well-known position on the topic.

    “But we decided to at least start a new initiative on the matter. We have the UN General Assembly up ahead. We agreed that the US, Russian and Turkish foreign ministers should engage in a triple initiative during the General Assembly,” Erdogan said without going into details.

    “According to the results we obtain from this, and provided they accept this process, we want to include Saudi Arabia and Iran in it. We can carry it forward later with the inclusion of the European Union, and countries such as Jordan and Qatar.”

    Read more:

  4. 4 David

    Iraq in Pieces: Breaking Up to Stay Together
    By Ali Khedery
    Foreign Affairs September 22, 2015

    If you have a subscription:


  5. 5 Arthur

    Thanks! I hope to add some tomorrow eve as I close windows.

    Please number all links from each provider so we can reference them by provider initials and link number. Continue same series of numbers arcross comments from same provider in this thread.

    Likewise for both numbered posts and comments in other threads.

    ie So far I have see P para 1-22 in T1 (Ending Baathism in Syria 2) and links:

    P1-2 so next from patrickm will be explictly numbered 3 for P3
    a1-4 so next from admin will be explictly numbered 5 for a5.
    D1-3 so next from David will be explictly numbered 4 for D4

    D1 was in Thread 1:


    My first link is:

    1 continuous news feed – often dupes – be selective

    That is A1 when mentioned again so next from Arthur will be explictly numbered 2 for A2.

  6. 6 David
  7. 7 byork

    BY1 How Assad is strategically using his attacks on Daesh with a view to defeat the revolutionary democrats who are fighting both. “Sarcastically, (Syrian) activists started wondering if the US Air Force didn’t strike ISIS because Assad had crowded up the sky striking rebel groups. Maybe sarcasm is the only way that many Syrians, and to some extent non-Syrians, are able to understand US policy towards fighting ISIS”.

  8. 8 byork

    BY2 I am a facebook friend with Radio Free Syria and find them very worthwhile for an anti-fascist perspective from the ground. Also, they have started refering to the pseudo-left rather than ‘the left’ when drawing attention to how the pseudo’s and the overt far-Right in UK and Europe are now indistinguishable when it comes to Putin/Assad.

  9. 9 byork

    BY3 ‘Listen to the refugees!’ isn’t a bad slogan, as they have the experience on the ground and certainly want Assad overthrown and some form of democracy established. This letter from a Syrian refugee says that he would go home when that happens. On reading this letter, I was reminded of the point made by Jose Ramos Horta, the East Timorese leader, at the time of the Iraq War, when he came out in support of the Coalition of the Willing, and pointed out that a people can be overwhelmed by the superior military force of the oppressive state and they become desperately in need of external superior military force against the oppressor.

  10. 10 Arthur

    2 just out important neocon analysis. bizarrely treats as military problem for US rather than for Europe giving up hope of US.

  11. 11 Arthur

    3) Hezbollah given tanks to form own tank brigade. Fascinating straw in the wind. As far as I know Hezbollah has light infantry skills – no tank crews. If regime is running out of tank crews would make more sense to add Hezbollah trainees to existing units. Suggests “somebody” needs a tank force more politically reliable than the regulars in case of some regime division. Presumably Hezbollah and Iran do know what Russia is up to. Also would be inviting Israeli show off attack if Netanyahu not briefed recently by Putin for “deconflicting”.

    Points more towards regime change than retreat from Damascus?

  12. 12 Arthur

    a3 and a4 links broken. Cannot guess a4 but:


    Won’t be able to read anything before tomorrow eve. Going to bed now, still befuddled. My current best fully uneducated guess is some sort of coup supported by Russia, Hezbollah and Iran about to happen in Damascus. If so both sides must know by now so within hours rather than days.

    I cannot imagine Russia wanting to try and keep an enclave going in the Mediterranean, nor do Iran and Hezbollah have any such capability. Perhaps Assad himself doesn’t want to live in one either. Could be some sort of split over abandoning Damascus. “Transitional Government” with Assad could not include anyone that matters from the opposition so would have to be a regime change within the regime getting rid of those who won’t face reality of defeat. German troops as UN peacekeepers could be flown in quickly by Americans to protect Alawi population from massacre during subsequent real transition in Damascus.

    Then again all the “leaders” giving such a convincing display of idiocy could be about to reveal themselves as lizards from another planet.

  13. 13 Arthur

    I guess a4 is now D2

  14. 14 Arthur

    4) Another straw in the wind suggesting conflict within the regime and Russians acting against certain regime armed forces:

  15. 15 Arthur

    5) This suggests even a coastal enclave around Latakia isn’t really viable:

    BTW as well as explaining lack of Anglo-French-Turkish hysterics the coup theory could explain the air to air combat fighters have a different purpose than delaying European No Fly Zone by escorting in Condor’s with advanced SAMs.

    Daesh and opposition don’t have an air force, but regime does and coup may need defence against elements of it.

  16. 16 admin

    a5. Not George Sabra. There might be some useful information/ideas to be mined here.

    a6. an updated account re Alawi in Syria

    a7. Syria needs analysis SNAP – a mine here as well. Documents to April 2015

  17. 17 byork

    BY4 Unfortunately, the link to the original source no longer works. The report was published in August 2014. I don’t know enough to comment on it but found it useful analysis.

  18. 18 patrickm
  19. 19 byork

    BY5 Any thoughts on this: Vladimir Putin’s effort to include Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s future, formalises what the Obama administration tacitly accepted long ago.

  20. 20 Arthur


    “From their [Russia’s] point of view, they are cast as aggressors and expansionist, rebuilding the Soviet empire.” Ian McCredie, CEO of Forbes Research Group, a company specializing in political risk in Washington DC, told VICE News. “But in reality they are hemmed into borders that are the most narrow since 1917 and are on the defensive using asymmetric methods to hold on to what they have.”

  21. 21 Arthur


    Russia establishes seaborne lifeline for Syrian allies
    Source: Reuters – Tue, 29 Sep 2015 09:38 GMT

    Fascinating details on ship charters by Russian government for freight to Syria. Includes a passenger ferry that delivered trucks. A passenger ferry could be relevant to evacuation of large numbers. Odd choice for freight, Russia not short of shipping?

    This accurately describes Turkey’s position. Reports of Erdogan veering towards the imbeciles screamed that the whole chorus was some sort of deception. Deception far more credible with Turkey (and France) not stretching the limits of credulity by joining in the chorus.

    9) France pushing for No Fly Zone NOW. Discussing with its “partners” (no reference to US but see 10 below)

    10) July report on US equivocations/preparations for (narrow) NFZ – implies agreement between Rojava kurds and Turkey.

    11) SNC spokesperson in Turkey says today:
    ““A no-fly zone will increase the potential for the managed political transition that was agreed upon in the Geneva Communiqué,”

    12) Details of EU summit on refugees and clear demands by Turkey:

    “Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Turkish prime minister, wrote to the EU leaders on Wednesday demanding bold concessions from the Europeans as the price for Turkey’s possible cooperation. He proposed EU and US support for a buffer and no-fly zone in northern Syria by the Turkish border, measuring 80km by 40km.”

    Merkel standing firm forcing EU to accept reality that German policy won’t shift and they will have to adapt to it. Also more or less explicitly supporting Turkey’s demands.

  22. 22 Arthur


    Merkel warns of risks of “safe zone” in northern Syria
    Source: Reuters – Tue, 29 Sep 2015 17:34 GMT

    “BERLIN, Sept 29 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Tuesday that creating a “safe zone” for refugees in northern Syria could put them at risk of being massacred, starkly distancing her country from a Turkish proposal.”

    Headline and lede reflect reporter incomprehension and directly contradict other reports. Actual quote in same article:

    “France said on Monday it would discuss with its partners in the coming days the suggestion by Turkey and members of the Syrian opposition that a “no-fly zone” could be created in northern Syria.

    Speaking to lawmakers from her party in Berlin, Merkel expressed concern about the dangers of trying to create such a buffer zone.

    “If we were not able to guarantee security, then a situation would arise that would be even worse than Srebrenica,” Merkel said, according to a number of people present in the meeting, referring to the slaughter of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995.

    There was concern that Islamic State could overrun such a security zone.”

    Clear implication that security must be guaranteed, hence not just a NFZ but full NATO commitment with combat troops on the ground. Northern zone would be primarily protection from Daesh on the ground (already largely protected from air attacks by regime by Turkish rules of engagement that threaten downing of regime aircraft approaching Turkish airspace, not just entering it – there is no “deconflicting” to accommodate Russians or Israelis and there are Patriot batteries backing it up allowing local Kurdish and opposition forces to operate near Turkish border largely free of regime attacks.

    Southern zone will be more clearly aimed at protection from regime as well as Daesh. French discussions re what to call it suggest UN Security Council resolution could be worded covering both that Russia might not veto . This would be politically important in both Europe and USA and might well be part of some quid pro quo with Russia and Iran as well as implying German protection troops available to join turkey immediately.

    In general a lot of the reporting is incoherent and there seems to be a trend towards less imbecile stances from Obama and Cameron. I am beginning to wonder whether my alarm at lack of European hysteria reflected initial reporting of badly worded far more nuanced reactions to the Russian moves (which went with absurd “analysis” of powerful rather than absurdly surreal impact of Russia posturing as a mediterranean power when it simply isn’t).

    Still just trying to keep abreast with breaking news and then catch up before reaching a definate view on WTF is really going on, let alone a publishable analysis.

    But nuanced version of “Assad could have a role” less imbecilic if taken as (or twisted to) meaning go ahead with 3 stage process while loudly shouting that you are there to side with Assad:

    Stage 1) Internal change removing die hard regime elements who would prevent stage 2. Use Assad presiding as some sort of real or apparant figurehead for this most difficult stage which could also need Russian and Hezbollah coup suppoort as the die hards actually run the war and command the troops and security agencies, not the London opthomolagist married to a Sunni who unexpectedly was named as figurehead of the regime when his elder brother designated and groomed as successor to lead the Assad clan after Hafez died.

    Stage 2) The newly consolidated regime protected by Russians as well as Hezbollah negotiates seriously with opposition for joint defeat of Daesh together with more fundamentalist Sunni forces doing most of the fighting against Daesh and integration of the opposition civilian administrations funded by the West with a de-baathified Syrian state administration that liberates Damascus while protecting Alawi and other minorities from vengeance.

    Stage 3) Transition to a government capable of eventually holding free elections after defeat of Daesh and/or fighting a civil war with Saudi funded Salafi elements rejecting that.

    I don’t know whether that is what is going on, whether its realistic or whether it is desirable. But something like that could explain the bizarre US persistance in not going to war with Assad and claiming to be still working for a Geneva negotiated transition (while actually still taking steps that could only end in being at war with the regime and simultaneously opposing such steps).

    Anyway it is not as imbecilic as what they have been putting out as declaratory policy for including Assad’s ally Russia in a coalition fighting Daesh (and which seems to be fading from current news reports while still in the op-eds from imbeciles).

  23. 23 David


    Five Reasons Why The Inclusion of Assad in a Political Transition in Syria is Destined to Fail

    Newsweek 30 September

  24. 24 patrickm

    This is probably what David meant to link to.


    Five Reasons Why The Inclusion of Assad in a Political Transition in Syria is Destined to Fail

    Newsweek 30 September

  25. 25 Arthur

    Thanks patrick but I won’t be giving newsweek an email address for “free subscription” so hope david continues his practice of putting up accessible copies of items that need registration and replaces that duplicate link with the one he intended.

    Am becoming less convinced of cause for urgent alarm and likelihood of much impact from publishing article. Will resume catchup of breaking news then early nite. Busy on other priorities tomorrow and may try to just rush off a hasty draft tonite. If and when I do I will say if I think its ready to publish and will txt barry “ready” and assume you two will get automatic email without other notice. Would want any suggestions for minor changes to be immediate so it could get out quickly (and further such changes could be made after initial version out by both sites editing it).

  26. 26 David

    Sorry for stuff up. D4 again

    Five Reasons Why The Inclusion of Assad in a Political Transition in Syria is Destined to Fail

    Newsweek 30 September

  27. 27 Arthur

    Thanks David.

    I agree with D4 that the idea is simply absurd. What worried me before was that Putin might be establishing an air bridge that could start supplying advanced SAM’s to Assad regime that would deter France and Britain from promptly establishing NFZ if Obama really was going along with the absurdity as he initially pretended. They seemed to be not reacting quickly enough to close the mediterranean as would be necessary.

    I’m no longer worried about any of that.

    Now think key to puzzle is that as D5 says:

    “…it is not clear what ‘managed transition’ actually means…”

    Since it would be absurd for it mean what a lot of people thought it meant I now conclude that it doesn’t.

    Most likely means something like the Russians helping with stage 1 of 3 stage process I described after link A14. I’m still unclear what exactly is going on but no longer worried that I could not come up with anything more satisfactory as an explanation than the bankrupt “they are all irrational imbeciles”. So I don’t have same sense of urgency.

    Going to bed without a draft. Thinking a response to Tom Switzer’s article in today’s Australian would be a suitable target for responding to imbeciles without needing to get clarity.

    I only have hard copy. Could somebody please post a link to it.

    Also interested in links to other similar targets in future as that one may be out of date before I can do a draft.

  28. 28 Arthur
  29. 29 byork

    BY6 Arthur, is this the Switzer article? (I couldn’t find anyhting from yesterday’s edition but if you give me the title I can google it – unless the following is the one you have in mind by Switzer):

    THE other day, a friend and Liberal Party statesman told me I was “to the left of Tanya Plibersek”. He meant it tongue-in-cheek, but his reference to my public criticisms of the new US-led mission to destroy the so-called Islamic State nonetheless reflects the concerns of several conservative mates.

    Meanwhile, Malcolm Fraser, Mark Latham and Phillip Adams have personally praised me for warning about the unintended consequences of airstrikes in Iraq’s Sunni heartland.

    Imagine my surprise! I am known as a culture warrior who once edited this newspaper’s opinion page and contested preselection for a safe Liberal seat. A Texan-born Dallas Cowboys fan who has a congenital weakness for American culture. I watch Fox News, read The Wall Street Journal editorial page, wear Richard Nixon ties and am persona non grata whenever I appear on Q&A.

    Add to this my strong support for our government’s tough anti-terror laws against the very real threat of Australian Islamic jihadists, and it is clear that I am hardly the reincarnation of Jim Cairns. And yet my support for America and what passes for the conservative movement in Australia has been questioned during the debate over Iraq.

    Mind you, I have long believed that in the absence of the Cold War’s defining conditions even ideas as basic to modern politics as Left and Right have not made much sense in foreign affairs.

    In the US, it’s Republican presidential candidates Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul who’ve picked up anti-Vietnam War Democrat ­George McGovern’s plea: “Come home, America.” And although right-wing partisans supported the Iraq war a decade ago, conservative intellectuals and columnists were among George W. Bush’s persistent critics.

    The confusion and ferment are real enough. What distinguishes me from Christine Milne — another critic of the third Iraq war in as many decades — is not just that I am a strong supporter of Australia’s alliance with what Bob Menzies called “our great and powerful friend”. I also worry that although America remains, in a real sense, the last, best hope for mankind, there is a danger that the US will damage its national interest by getting bogged down (again) in the mess-in-potamia.

    We are told that the Islamic State represents a real and present danger around the world. If so, why the reluctance to commit ground troops?

    Besides, US intelligence agencies have reached a different conclusion. According to The New York Times, some US officials and terror experts believe “the actual danger has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians”.

    We are talking about a group with fewer than a US army division of 20,000 troops (with no air force or navy) that can’t match a decent military with resolve. It can’t topple Assad by itself, or Jordan, or the Shia regime in Baghdad (whose forces, together with its Iran backer, outnumber Islamic State by 100 to one).

    Writing in The Washington Post, Middle-East expert Ramzy Mardini points out that the Islamic State’s “fundamentals are weak”, that its “extreme ideology, spirit of subjugation and acts of barbarism prevent it from becoming a political venue for the masses” and it’s “completely isolated, encircled by enemies”. Yes, the group is a bunch of ­brutal thugs — beheadings are ­especially grisly — but we should not allow its choice of execution methods to drive Western strategy.

    Moreover, there has been little substantive public debate in the US and elsewhere about the unintended consequences of escalating our military campaign in Iraq and Syria. A bombing campaign might go some way towards degrading the Islamic State, but it would probably make the US even less popular in the Sunni heartland and maybe aid the jihadists’ recruiting. Why play into their hands?

    We are told the Islamic State is on the rampage. But while it’s true the locals in Sunni towns such as Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah did not resist jihadist intervention during the northern summer, the reason is not as clear-cut as the hawks suggest. Iraq’s Sunnis, broadly speaking, fear the sectarian Shia-led regime in Baghdad more than they do the Sunni militia groups.

    Moreover, the Islamic State has suffered four straight defeats: Kurdistan, Mosul Dam, Mount Sinjar and Amerli. No doubt the US airstrikes in the humanitarian mission helped, but it was the Shia militia, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iranian military officers that were among the local forces helping inflict defeats on the jihadists.

    Which brings me to the central point: it’s the regional actors that are ultimately going to contain or defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The more we intervene, however, the less incentive the locals have to improve their conventional forces and work together.

    Remember the US spent more than a decade using military power to try to org­anise the politics of this ethnically and tribally divided medieval society. But the costs in blood, treasure and credibility were not commensurate with the investment. The idea that airstrikes, backed with some special forces, can eliminate Sunni terrorism is fanciful.

    Finally, the successful raids against Australian Islamist extremists in Sydney and Brisbane show that the best response to this threat lies primarily in intelligence, counter-terrorism measures and homeland security. But don’t expect my new friends Milne and Adams to agree.

  30. 30 Arthur

    Thanks Barry. No that’s the same author and shows where he is coming from. The article I am thinking of reply to was THE AUSTRALIAN, Wednesday 2015-09-30 p11 (“INQUIRER”), “RUSSIA BACK ON THE FRONT LINE: Vladimir Putin can help defeat Islamic State” by Tom Switzer.

  31. 31 David

    How Obama Could Salvage His Hapless ISIS Strategy
    WSJ updated 30 September

    Sunni Arabs, trained by the U.S. in the Kurdish region of Iraq, could form an effective fighting force.


  32. 32 David
  33. 33 byork

    Arthur, here is the text of the ‘Russia back on front line’ article by Tom Switzer:

    BY7 Russia back on the frontline
    Save for later
    A war-damaged building serves as a balcony for a family in the Syrian city of Aleppo.A war-damaged building serves as a balcony for a family in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Source: Reuters
    Since Russia’s incursion into Ukraine 18 months ago, the West has indulged in the rhetoric of moral indignation, punished Moscow with economic sanctions and treated Vladimir Putin as a pariah in world affairs. “Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters,” President Barack Obama declared in January. “That’s how America leads — not with bluster but with persistent, steady resolve.”

    Somebody forgot to tell the Russian President. Putin’s address to the UN General Assembly this week, following his lightning military deployment to Syria, marks Russia’s resurgence on the global stage. The Russians, far from being marginalised in international relations, are playing a weak hand rather skilfully and are being allowed to do so because of considerable ineptitude and vacillation on the part of the Obama administration.

    The upshot is that Washington will have to take the Kremlin far more seriously in the future.

    This is not just because Putin’s support for the embattled Assad regime will help degrade and destroy Islamic State jihadists in a four-year civil war that has claimed nearly 250,000 lives and displaced more than nine million people. Rather, Russia’s intervention in Syria shows how rational Moscow’s concerns over Western policy in the Middle East are, and that the Obama administration had better start treating it like the great power it still is.

    After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Moscow voluntarily jettisoned the Warsaw Pact and acquiesced in the expansion of NATO and the EU on to the frontiers of the former Soviet Union. But the limits of Russia’s post-Cold War retreat have been evident since the Western-backed coup against a pro-Russian ally in Kiev in February last year. Putin has played hardball to protect what Russia has deemed as its sphere of influence in the Baltics long before Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin appeared on the scene. And in the Middle East it is determined to protect what it perceives as its vital interests.

    Putin fears that if Bashar al-Assad’s regime falls, Russia’s presence in western Syria and its strategic military bases on the Mediterranean will be gone. That is why he has sent tanks, warships, fighter jets and troops to bolster the regime, which has faced a troop shortage and loss of towns as it seeks to maintain Alawite rule over an overwhelming Sunni ­majority.

    And by reaching an understanding with Syria as well as Iraq and Iran to share intelligence about Islamic State, Putin is positioning Russia again as a key player in the Middle East, and one that is more willing than the West to defeat Sunni jihadists. In the process, he has exposed the shortcomings of the White House’s policy towards Syria.

    Until recently, the prevailing wisdom held that the Assad regime — the nemesis of Sunni militants — was on the verge of collapse, an outcome that Washington, London and Canberra had enthusiastically encouraged for much of the past four years. And although Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop now recognise that Assad must be part of any negotiated political solution, the Obama administration continues to insist that any resolution of the conflict must lead to the exit of the dictator.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry warns Russia’s continued support for Assad “risks exacerbating and extending the conflict” and will undermine “our shared goal of fighting extremism”. British Chancellor George Osborne goes so far as to say the West’s aim should to be to defeat both Assad and Islamic State. But given Washington’s futile attempts to destroy the Sunni jihadist network during the past year, most seasoned observers of the Syrian crisis are entitled to think that such strategies are manifest madness.

    The consequences of removing Assad would be dire. The regime would collapse and its Alawite army would crumble. Sunni jihadists such as Islamic State and al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as al-Nusra Front, would exploit the security vacuum and dominate all of Syria. The ethnic minorities — the Alawites, Shi’ites and Syrian Christians — would be massacred. And there would be the flight of millions more refugees into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

    If we are to avoid these horrific outcomes, Russia will have to play a central and positive role. It has had significant influence in Damascus during the past half century; indeed, many Syrian military officers have received training in Moscow. Russia’s navy and advanced anti-aircraft missile systems are based along the Mediterranean. It’s likely to deploy ground troops to the eastern coast. And Moscow has recognised that notwithstanding As­sad’s brutal conduct, his regime is fighting the jihadists that Western leaders repeatedly say pose a grave and present danger to the world.

    Obama says the US would work with any nation to end the fighting in Syria. But to engage Russia, the West needs to change its policy approach substantially. Alas, the prevailing Russophobia in Washington and Brussels remains a serious obstacle in the path of reaching accommodation with Moscow.

    The problem in Ukraine is not related to a revival of the Soviet empire, as some hyperventilating politicians and pundits argue. The problem is the widespread Western failure to recognise an old truth of geopolitics: that a great power fights tooth and nail to protect vital security interests in its near abroad. Take Ukraine: it is a conduit for Russian exports to Europe and covers a huge terrain that the French and Germans crossed to attack Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most Crimeans are glad to be part of the country they called home from Catherine’s rule to that of Nikita Khrushchev.

    From Moscow’s standpoint, the expansion of NATO and the EU into Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, taken together with efforts to promote democracy, is akin to Moscow expanding military alliances into Central America. Some may respond by saying that Ukraine, however ethnically and politically divided it remains, has every right to join the West. But did communist Cuba have a right to seek political and military ties with the Soviet Union in 1962? Not from Washington’s perspective. Does Taiwan have a right to seek nationhood? Not from Beijing’s perspective.

    This is a shame, but it is the way the world works, and always has. Not only does Putin know it, he calculates that a weak, inept and cautious Obama administration won’t push the issue despite the dire threats and warnings from congress and the Pentagon.

    And so it was inevitable that the Russians would push back in the Baltics, first to secure the Crimean peninsula, the traditional home of the Russian Black Sea fleet (which Russian intelligence feared would become a NATO base), then to destabilise Ukraine with the aim of persuading Kiev’s anti-Russian regime to protect the minority rights of ethnic Russians and maintain its status as a buffer state.

    As for Syria, the problem here is not the Russians — or even Iran’s Shia crescent of Damascus, Baghdad, Hezbollah and the Yemeni rebels. After all, they’re committed to fighting Sunni jihadists. The problem is that US-British aligned Sunni states — Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabs — have aided and abetted the Sunni rebellion that has morphed into Sunni jihadism. Yet these reactionary regimes still have the temerity to call for Assad’s ouster. Following regime change, we’re told, a US-led coalition of Arabs and Turks can create a peaceful and prosperous Syria.

    Leave aside the fact Assad’s support stems not just from Moscow and Tehran but also from Syria’s military, political and business elites, including many urban Sunnis. Assad is a brutal tyrant. He has used chemical weapons against his own people. And he has launched relentless barrel bombs in rebel areas. But he is more popular than ever in the one-third of Syria his regime still controls (which happens to be the major cities and the coastland). That is largely because many know his demise would lead to widespread ethnic cleansing.

    The idea that Assad’s fall would lead to something approaching a peaceful transition of power is as delusional as the neo-conservative views about Iraq and Libya in 2003 and 2011 respectively. The downfall of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, it was confidently asserted, would lead to viable democratic states. If anything, both post-Saddam Iraq and post-Gaddafi Libya are failed states that have attracted terrorists like flies to a dying animal.

    As in the case of Iraq, Syria is an artificial state and an ethnically divided society created out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. In both nations the invasion and civil war, respectively, have unleashed centrifugal forces that are eroding political structures and borders that have prevailed since the end of World War I.

    In Iraq, the 2003 invasion ended the nation’s sectarian imbalance between the minority Sunni and majority Shia communities. Ever since, the Shia have been more interested in seeking revenge against their former Sunni tormentors than in building a nation. The result: a Sunni insurgency that has morphed into a plethora of jihadist groups, including Islamic State.

    In Syria, the Arab Spring in 2011 encouraged the Sunni majority to challenge and destroy the minority Alawite regime. The result: centrifugal forces that threaten the viability of Syria as we have known it for nearly a century.

    As unfashionable as it is to acknowledge, partition is the likely outcome of the civil war. According to Joshua Landis, a veteran Syria observer and director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, many Syrians, and Alawites in particular, privately acknowledge that the prospect of outright military victory against the Sunni militants is highly unlikely and that it would be impossible to coexist with Sunni fanatics.

    For Syria, partition would most likely mean an Alawite Shia state in the regime’s western heartland and a Sunni state to the southeast. Notwithstanding statements to the contrary, this is the emerging reality on the ground.

    As long as the regime endures, it at least prevents Sunni jihadists from consolidating their hold over the whole nation and creating a strategic sanctuary along Syria’s coasts.

    The moral and political problems posed by Syria’s civil war during the past four years have been real and extremely difficult ones. Assad heads a brutal regime that, according to The Washington Post, has killed about seven times as many people as Islamic State in the first six months of this year.

    But the cold, hard reality is that if the US and its allies are serious about defeating the Sunni jihadists, and not merely determined to feel virtuous and moralistic, we will need to tone down our anti-Russian bombast, restore a dialogue with Putin and recognise the madness of regime change in Damascus. And if that means accommodating Putin’s power play in the Middle East, so be it.

  34. 34 Arthur

    Thanks Barry, yes, BY7 is the Switzer article I currently plan to take as an “easy target” for an article. Could not read anything today and going for a walk and buy papers now (midnite) so by the time I can write I will be looking for a similar easy target that has accessible links and isn’t out of date. I’m sure there will be lots available. I will be reading less obviously stupid rubbish but hope others post links to similar so I can pick one when I do start writing.

  35. 35 Arthur

    Have just read Thursday’s papers (syria only) but not looked online.

    16) Age p18 2015-10-01 “Obama cowed as Putin lets slip the dogs of war” by Timothy Lynch

    Another example of the sort of article I could target, but not as “easy” as Switzer.

    There’s quite a few articles now appearing in mainstream media explaining reasonably adequately how bankrupt the idea of allying with Assad is and that his regime is in fact the main problem. I believe that flow will continue and the interested public will become aware of this basic fact and also of the related fact that Obama’s policies have been disasterous so far. There is now an interested public, at least in Europe.

    I don’t think its necessary to join in that except for the purpose of having an easy target.

    I’m more interested in the fact that there is also starting to appear material in which “US officials publicly proposed a plan that would enlist Russia and Iran in easing Assad out of power, while allowing him to remain for an agreed on period. Under the US plan, officials left open the possibility that Assad could take part in talks on a transition, while Russia and Iran protected his minority Alawite sect”.

    17) Jay Solomon Carol E. Lee, Wall Street Journal (from The Australian p8)

    I’ll be looking for more on that online as soon as I have got some sleep (3am now and must go to bed, will probably wake in 4 hours).

    My guess is that is accurate reporting of more US disinformation which is getting very close to the truth.

    But Assad has never been in power, he is a London opthamologist married to a Sunni who was anointed when his elder brother who was expected to become leader of the clan died. Others actually run the war. My suspicion is that the actual US “plan” is rather similar, but more likely to involve Russia and Iran providing the muscle for some sort of coup that keeps Assad as the same sort of figurehead he always has been while removing the current lot who have led them into a situation where they either get rid of them or they all know they will end up dead and take a rather large number of the Alawi population at large with them. I don’t know whether that “plan” is realistic but I am far more willing to believe that Iran, Hezbollah and Russia might very well be thinking along those lines than I am to believe that any persians or russians in power believe they can win a war for an Alawi enclave in Sunni Syria (let alone one that includes Damascus). I also have a lot of respect for Hezbollah’s political and military astuteness and cannot believe they would be interested in forming their own armoured brigade with 75 tanks even if they were willing to contribute the most competent light infantry fighting on the regime’s side (but for their own interests, not the regime’s) to getting trained as tank crew in regime units that have tank officers to train them when Hezbollah simply doesn’t and when all it would do is provide targets for the Israelis to show off with. They could however supply reliable forces for tanks involved in a coup that aren’t up against fighters with anti-tank weapons and Netanyahu was very quick to arrange “deconflicting” with Putin ahead of the Americans doing so.

    If “US officials” are starting to give hints this clear about what is actually going on I would guess they believe it is already imminent and that people on both sides in the regime already know.

  36. 36 Arthur

    Anway, if it turns out to be right, I got it BEFORE it happened AND I can prove that 😉


  37. 37 byork

    BY8 National Syrian Coalition says Syrian revolution now a national liberation movement.

    Secretary of the political committee Anas al-Abdah stated that the Russian military aggression and the Iranian occupation of Syria have turned Syrian Revolution form a struggle against an authoritarian regime to a national liberation movement.

    He said that forces of the Syrian revolution will now reconsider the rules of dealing with the direct Russian aggression, pointing out that the political committee will meet today with representative of rebel factions to put together joint steps in order to address the current developments.

    Abdah stresses that the Russia’s direct military intervention in Syria and its bombardment of civilian targets in Homs and Hama in direct coordination with the Assad regime is doing exactly what the Assad regime has been doing for over four years. He said that Russia’s targeting of purely civilian targets belies its claims about intervening to counter ISIS.

    He points out that the Russian aggression undermines chances of reaching a political solution in Syria and bring it back to square one, noting that the UN Security Council must assume its responsibilities and intervene to stop the Russian aggression on Syria and return to the track of political solution. (Source: Syrian Coalition)

  38. 38 patrickm

    ’14 per cent of Russians agree that Moscow should provide “direct military support” to the Syrian government. ‘

    good start for an anti-war movement!

  39. 39 David

    D7 Ian Dudgeon is a Presidential Associate of the AIIA and currently in Iran.

    Published October 2, 2015

  40. 40 David

    Foreign Affairs 1 October 2015
    What Chekhov Tells Us About Putin’s Syria Airstrikes

  41. 41 Arthur


    If Carter Center got it right these maps are strong confirmation that initial Russian air strikes are mainly directed at anti-Daesh opposition that fights both Assad and Daesh.

    I would not yet draw conclusions as:

    1. Other reports indicate Damascus in imminant danger from non-Daesh opposition that also includes Takfiris and is mainly other Salafis who would not risk their own lives on preventing massive Takfiri slaughter of Alawis. Could be consistent with need to fight them before anything else can be done.

    2. Initial strikes only have intelligence from regime and arrangements for deconfiction with coalition hitting Daesh only being established now so hard to enter coalition airspace and attack Daesh.

    3. Carter center would be relying on reports from opposition who would have every reason to be doing anything they can to highlight the dangers of the widely publicized advocacy to accommodate the Assad regime and the Russians as “allies” against Daesh. (ie just like Kurds do need to take precautions based on their reasonable suspicions about Turks others need to also run media disinformation campaigns against what APPEARS to be happening now while they try to figure it out).

    4. Also could be consistent with Russians reassuring die-hard regime elements who ought to be at least VERY worried about what Russians, Hezbollah, Iran (and perhaps Bashir Assad) are up to by now if they are not already fully convinced they are in immediate danger.

    5. There are no “front lines” as marked on maps. More like zones of dominant influence. Fluid situation with different forces fighting each other well inside those lines. Would need full access to all intel and lots of analysts to accurately classificy what was the actual target of each strike. Takes them more than two days to do so and what they tell anybody after doing so is still a matter of “declaratory policy” (ie disinformation). We should not be under any illusion that we CAN follow in detail from ANY media report. Hence my focus on the strategic necessities rather than the details.

    Nevertheless I certainly agree it appears to be strong EVIDENCE of full Russian alliance with regime rather than claimed efforts just against Daesh (as opposed to DEFINATE PROOF yet).

  42. 42 Arthur
  43. 43 Bill Kerr

    BK 1)

    “Mr Sarkis Naoum, a leading Lebanese commentator on Syria, said if Russia decided to launch a wide-scale operation in the north, it would lead to a “war on an international scale”.

    If, on the other hand, Iran confined its military role to shoring up and fortifying an Assad-held north-western coastal enclave and the capital, Damascus, and avoided mainstream rebel-held territory close to the Jordanian and Turkish borders, the conflict would probably not escalate much more widely. “This step (attacking rebels in the north) opens the door to an open-ended war in the region and a declared (Sunni-Shi’ite) sectarian war which could, in the long term, transform into a second Afghanistan for the Russians, and they won’t be able to win it,” Mr Naoum said.

    Moscow’s critics and non-ISIS rebels say the Russian and Iranian interventions will draw more Sunni foreign fighters and jihadis into Syria. “What will Mr Putin do then?” asked Mr Naoum. “If this battle takes place, then Mr Putin would drag himself and the world into a predicament where the beginning is known, but the end is not.” “

  44. 44 Bill Kerr

    BK 2)

    “While the Syrian army could probably take back areas close to its stronghold in the coastal city of Latakia, Yevseyev said, a more ambitious offensive to seize large swaths of territory, in particular from the Islamic State, could take months to prepare.

    But Russia probably isn’t seeking such long-term goals and instead will probably try to broker a peace deal, he said.

    “Russia cannot take back the whole Syrian land,” Yevseyev said. “Russia wants to take out some of these radicals and then move on to peaceful and organized talks in Geneva.”

    Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, told a French radio station on Friday that Russian strikes were expected to last only for a few months. “In Moscow, we are talking about an operation of three to four months,” he said.”

  45. 45 Bill Kerr

    BK 3)

    “On Tuesday, the Levada Center, an independent polling firm based in Moscow, released a survey that said only 14 percent of Russians strongly or somewhat supported direct military intervention in Syria, while 69 percent opposed or strongly opposed military intervention.

    By comparison, in June 2014, 40 percent of Russians said they strongly or somewhat supported direct military intervention in Ukraine.”

  46. 46 byork

    BY9 The whole point of Russian intervention is to maintain Assad in power. Putin has no interest in fighting the Islamic State. Indeed, the second round of Russian air attacks was on rival insurgents opposed to the Islamic State. The Islamic State is nothing but a pretense for Russian intervention. And Obama fell for it.

  47. 47 David

    Has everyone read D7? It does not suggest a strong commitment by Russia or Iran to the present regime.

    My impression is that Russia’s primary concern is Daesh and similar types. They see them as a source of increased support for jihadism within Russia.

  48. 48 byork

    David, I thought the article was saying that Russia is backing Assad, on the basis of ‘mutual interest’ against IS. The writer’s account of the Iranian position is very interesting, as he says the Iranians support eventual national democratic elections with international supervision. If Putin doesn’t want trouble within Russia from IS-types, then how is that avoided by keeping Assad in power? Wouldn’t that make them pissed off? (I’m not claiming to have a grip on the situation but, like others here, trying to figure it out better).

  49. 49 David

    If Daesh is Russia’s priority and if supporting the regime is as obviously counter-productive as we think it is, it makes sense to wonder what’s going on here. The ifs may be wrong of course.

  50. 50 patrickm

    No doubt people are aware of this but it is an issue that demonstrates that everything comes at a price. You just can’t please everyone.

    I wonder how Obama will deal with Egypt.

  51. 51 Bill Kerr

    BK 4)

    Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said he is ready to step aside if his “departure is the solution”. Assad was speaking in an interview with Iran’s Khabar TV.

  52. 52 Bill Kerr

    BK 5) Kurds support Russian intervention

    “We will fight alongside whoever fights Daesh,” Salih Muslim, co-president of the Democratic Union Party, the Kurdish political party whose militia, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, have closely coordinated its operations with the United States, told the online magazine Al Monitor in an interview …

    “We want Russia to provide us air support as well as weapons in our fight against the ISIL militants,” a YPG commander, Sipan Hemo, was quoted as telling the Russian Sputnik news portal. “We can organize an effective cooperation with Russia on the issue.”

    The United States and the YPG have been close allies for the past year after their coordination broke an Islamic State siege of the Kurdish city of Kobani, and U.S. airstrikes are credited with helping the YPG seize an estimated 6,800 square miles of northern Syria from the Islamists in recent months. U.S. officials in recent weeks have pointed to the YPG as the most effective anti-Islamic State group in Syria

    But the YPG recently has slowed its offensive after Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally and bitter rival of the Kurds, objected to its success, and U.S. bombing missions over northern Syria have dropped precipitously.

    Some analysts speculated that the YPG was interested in Russian support because Moscow was unlikely to respond to Turkey’s worries that the Kurds’ success would fuel a push for independence among its own Kurdish minority.

  53. 53 byork

    BY10 A Saudi-led Arab coalition of the willing to provide air support for Syrian rebels on the ground?

  54. 54 Bill Kerr

    re BY 10 also says:

    There are two options for a settlement in Syria. One option is a political process where there would be a transitional council. The other option is a military option, which also would end with the removal of Bashar Al-Assad from power.”

  55. 55 Bill Kerr

    BK 6) Iranian ground forces arrive
    (behind a fire wall)

    Lebanese sources suggested the Iranian soldiers, who include members of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, would fight alongside Hezbollah guerillas and Assad’s forces. “The vanguard of Iranian ground forces began arriving in Syria: soldiers and officers specifically to participate in this battle,” a source told Reuters. “They are not advisers … we mean hundreds with equipment and weapons. They will be followed by more.”

  56. 56 Steve Owens

    SO1. Bill its not only the YPG that have hailed Russian intervention but also the Kurdish leadership in Iraq

  57. 57 Steve Owens
  58. 58 Arthur

    re BK5, I was struck by this quote from Obama:

    “This is not some, you know, superpower chess board contest, and anybody who frames it in that way isn’t paying very close attention to what’s been happening on the chess board,”


    re BY10. Also has a lengthy account of the air forces available to assist in immediate fall of Damascus. Strikes me as fantasizing at the moment (they haven’t even beaten the Houthis so far!). But certainly if what pretty well everybody currently says is happening was in fact happening the long term result would be a major regional war with Iran on one side and Saudi led coalition on the other that would be even more catastrophic than the present situation.

    That clearly would affect vital European and Turkish interests and I’m now reasonably certain that their lack of panic is due to them having a better idea of “what’s been happening on the chess board”. In particular I can’t see a few hundred Iranian troops helping to hold Damascus as opposed to being involved in guarding a regime change.

    Not reading BK6 as behind a paywall.

    Cannot study Syria till late tomorrow. Meanwhile the only
    refinement I would add to what I have said and hinted is that there may already be sufficient forces in place from Hezbollah, Russia and Iran to avoid a particularly visible “coup” or “defeat of a coup” with conceivably just a more gradual and less highly visible regime shift as first part of a transition.

    I still haven’t seen more on either the “plan” mentioned by “US officials to WSJ (A17) or the (long range, advanced) SA-15 SAMs mentioned by NATO General Breedlove. Haven’t had time to look.

  59. 59 David
  60. 60 Steve Owens
  61. 61 Arthur


    “A few weeks ago, the President himself more than hinted that Russia is seriously willing to engage in a political process that will end in Assad’s departure. General John Allen, the President’s Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, said three weeks ago that the Russians have told Secretary Kerry that they are ‘tired’ of Assad and are willing to move beyond him, that they may be able to lean on Iran to show some flexibility”

    From a comment saying recent events refute above following:

    I’d be interested in original quotes. Should in official transcripts at

  62. 62 Arthur


    Juan Cole as usual, well informed that Russians thinking of a ceremonial role for Bashir, misinformed that Iran imagines he currently holds power and should keep it and commenting along with the crowd that Russia getting into a quagmire.

  63. 63 Bill Kerr

    BK 7)

    14 Putin “experts” try to figure out what his plan is. With great difficulty I will resist making further comment.

  64. 64 Arthur

    Unable to restrain myself from remarking that it would be discombobulating if any “Putinologist” had ever even thought much about Syria. Curiously one of them did actually notice that:

    “Moscow simply cannot deploy the kind of forces to Syria that could meaningfully change the arithmetic of the war and save the regime.”

    But then proceeded much like the others in the world of idealism and metaphysics, not even attempting a concrete analysis of concrete conditions that could gain some vague clue by starting from this rather obvious fact.

    Do “Putinologists” even know where Syria is? (hint, on the Mediterranean, completely inaccessible to any Russian forces relevant to doing more than assisting one side in an internal regime change provided the other side are as completely mesmerized by by their hopes and fears in a life and death situation as the “experts” and “opinion leaders” of our media are in their fantasy worlds).

  65. 65 byork
  66. 66 Arthur


    Just found this possible route towards the “plan” I haven’t found mentioned in A17:

    “Behind the scenes, Obama administration officials have been telling the Russians and the Iranians for over a year that the US would not object to an expanded security role for them inside Syria, multiple officials told me. The US was willing to accept that in exchange for Russian and Iranian helping to move Assad out of power.

    “The idea was that Assad would step aside and the Russians and Iranians would play a greater role, and the US would say that’s inside the framework of the Geneva communiqué,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “But they grabbed what we were offering and didn’t give us what we wanted, and then we were surprised.”

    Since the Russian buildup began last month, the U.S. has been signaling that it is ready to accept Russian and Iranian security control inside Syria without any promise by them to push Assad out any time soon. Kerry has said publicly the US is flexible as to the timing of Assad’s departure. Other voices close to the White House have gone even further…”

    Following up on Andrew Tabler now.

  67. 67 patrickm


    No doubt people are ALSO watching this oportunistic carry on.

    I wonder how Obama will deal with Netanyahu!

    They just just can’t help themselves.

  68. 68 Arthur

    24) I think a report about this got me going to do the first two sets of notes (about 30 minutes each) dated 20 September:

    “General Lloyd J. Austin III, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 16, admitted that he and his Pentagon colleagues were “completely flummoxed” by the reasons behind Russian moves into Syria. I take the man at his word, but wonder whatever could have persuaded him that saying as much publicly was a good idea.”

    Haven’t been able to locate it in a transcript and that CENTCOM commander does seem to be an imbecile, but I still feel some empathy for his candid admission of being “completely flummoxed” and also take him at his word. This bizarre phenomena of a Russian base suddenly turning up in Syria really did make no obvious sense and I can sort of visualize the CENTCOM intel people wondering what on earth or wherever they think they are, the Russians might possibly imagine they are doing there.

    Others of course are not perplexed at all, with both advocates and opponents of allying with the Assad regime against Daesh proceeding to have at it in much the same manner as the supporters and opponents of an invasion of Iraq that they all imagined was all about “WMDs” (or in some more pathological cases “oil”). Presumably they would not have been perplexed by the sudden appearance of a combined force of arctic polar bears and antartic penguins fully equipped with ray guns and water pistols. Even odder was the initial US and other responses to it. Hence my notes.

    The tone of the article at that link, like many others does not find it odd at all. The situation is clear, it is fully explained by Obama’s well known floundering imbecility. Delightfully expressed by this quote about his UN speech:

    “For those of you who missed it, here is a summary of Obama’s U.N. remarks: “Good morning. Cupcakes. Unicorns. Rainbows. Putin is mean. Thank you very much.”

    At the same time the article hints, both at the start and the end that the incoherence might actually be more realistic.

    Its great prose, sounder than most of the pundits but still both awful politics and a completely unsatisfying analysis of what is actually going on.

    I still cannot find any links with which to document coherently what I now suspect is going on. Meanwhile I’ll add another couple that show how it can seem to sort of make sense to both “Obama” (ie hypothetical US policy makers who surely must in some sense exist, despite all appearances) and also to others, rather than just leaving them “completely flummoxed”.


    This one includes a link to the original (Bloomberg) source of the Andrew Tabler (WINEP, Israel lobby) quote. Then having demolished Obama’s imbecility it somehow twists around to:

    “The only way Putin can get down from that tree is with our help in forging a political solution in Syria. And that only happens if the Russians and the Iranians force Assad — after a transition — to step down and leave the country, in return for the opposition agreeing to protect the basic safety and interests of Assad’s Alawite community, and both sides welcoming an international force on the ground to guarantee the deal…

    I think Putin’s rash rush into Syria may in the end make him more in need of a deal, or at least a lasting cease-fire, that stops the refugee flows. If we can do that, for now, we will have done a lot.”

    So the nauseating stuff about accepting Assad as a transitional leader gets turned around into a more satisfactory outcome that some how the Russians and Iranians have maneuvered themselves into removing the Assad regime while avoiding a bloodbath.

    The article ends up with:

    “There is no realistic path to a just peace in Syria. There is only a need for peace. For order. For an end to the killing.

    If our moral scruples and democratic commitments prevent us from propping up the dictator in Damascus, maybe we should be grateful that Putin is willing to do the dirty work for us.

    That’s not a humiliation. It’s a favor.”

    The last sentence is a link to:


    That article is from the more or less directly opposite classic liberal democrat/pseudoleft “realist” perspective. It describes their view of the neocon worldview and concludes in praise of Obama and Putin for finally enabling an alliance with Assad to restore order instead of all that terrible neocon “democracy” stuff.

    Ok I am too unfamiliar with American political blogging and reading too quickly to be sure of the nuances. But somehow I get the impression that both supporters and opponents of the US Obama administration AND supporters of Putin could all end up each thinking that the best feasible outcome had been cleverly achieved because of/despite whoever they support or oppose.

    Suppose we lived in an alternative universe quite different from the one we read about from opinion leaders.


    1. World politics did not revolve around a clash between two superpowers.

    2. Russia was not a Mediterranean Great Power at all and “Moscow simply cannot deploy the kind of forces to Syria that could meaningfully change the arithmetic of the war and save the regime.”

    3. Putin is not an imbecile and knows that.

    4. Obama (ie hypothetical US policy makers who are supposed to actually exist in this alternate universe) is also not an imbecile.

    5. There are people within the Assad regime who believe they cannot win and face death if they don’t end the war.

    6. The Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah and the US, not being imbeciles also think that the Assad regime cannot win.

    7. There is some sort of agreement among them that the war should be brought to an end without a sudden collapse of Damascus and mass slaughter of Alawi and other minorities by Takfiri elements who other Sunni fighters are not willing to risk their lives fighting in order to save the people whose regime has been slaughtering them.

    8. Bashir Assad is not the awesome dictator of Syria he is portrayed as by both supporters and opponents, but just a London opthamologist married to a Sunni who was appointed figurehead by the Assad clan when his older brother died. Suppose he would also rather live than die fighting for an Alawi enclave.

    9. Suppose that Hezbollah, the Russians and Iran could more easily remove the die-hards actually running the clan and the war while retaining Bashir as a figurehead President during the first stage than by removing him along with them.

    10. Then why couldn’t a second stage follow an initial regime change with some sort of Geneva style negotiations for an orderly transition to a transitional regime that excludes both Bashir and the Takfiris without chaos and slaughter in Damascus?

    11. Third and later stages would remain matters for the future and therefore hard to predict. But wouldn’t that strike everyone other than the die-hards of the Assad clan and the Takfiris as a better outcome than they currently expect?

    12. Wouldn’t Putin and the Ayatollahs come out looking like winners to their supporters despite having been responsible for supporting a totally failed catastrophic policy?

    13. Wouldn’t Obama come out looking successful to his suporters, having avoided more US blood and treasure in middle east wars, despite his policies having in fact made the whole stuation catastrophically worse than it needed to be?

    14. The only thing that remains completely flummoxing about such a hypothetical alternate universe is how it could possibly be the case that none of these policy makers are actually complete imbeciles despite the efforts they have gone to in convincing everybody that they are, and how it could be that all the pundits turned out to be completely clueless.

    15. But although I expect the details will be much more complicated I do feel less flummoxed assuming that kind of situation than with any other explanation for the recent brief outbreak of “Assad could stay at the start of a transition” from national leaders who clearly did know better than the imbeciles that really believed in allying with that regime.

  69. 69 admin

    a8 Summary
    Russian President Vladimir Putin is using his regional allies to create “Alawistan,” an enclave isolated from the rest of Syria.

    Read more:

  70. 70 Arthur


    “Think tanks are on fire”. Start of article lists several British reports that should be read to understand the thinking or absence of it being conducted openly between British and other policy makers and British “opinion leaders”. This and similar in US and elsewhere is generally more informative than what one can glean from what “opinion leaders” then attempt to convey to the wider “political class” while maintaining the illusion that any of them have much say in policy matters and sometimes gives hints about what is being discussed less openly if one can read between the lines.

    28) One of the think links from above – Chatham House, 2 October.

    This may be a “better target” for some more off the cuff notes from me so I won’t add quotes and comments in this thread. I like how Switzer’s was handled helping me to write, with original appearing as comments to a separate thread for discussion with informal comments added to it with less delay than writing an article by me and then republished at C21stLeft in opposite order.

    Please do put in a separate thread as before. (No hurry, lots more to read).

  71. 71 patrickm

    P7 Here is Putin’s red line drawn by others!

  72. 72 byork

    BY12 “In July, it was the turn of General Dhu al-Himma Shalish, the decades-long head of the Presidential Guard and a close relative of Assad’s. Syrian state media reported that corruption was the reason for his abrupt demotion. It is a rather curious claim, given that Shalish was not just corrupt. He was the epitome of corruption, involved in real estate, drugs and weapons. Furthermore, he was the key figure in the enormous illegal trade regime which saw hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons and technology being smuggled via Syria to Baghdad in violation of the embargo then in place. The illegal trade was partly discovered by the US in 2003, and brought the Assad regime closer to collapse from external pressure than at any time in the previous 30 years”.

  73. 73 Bill Kerr

    BK 8)
    (behind a fire wall, David could you do your thing please since this one is worth reading in full, I’ll figure out how you do it later)

    “In exchange for Putin getting most of what he wanted in Syria, burnishing his international credentials and demonstrating Russia’s re-emergence as a power player, Russia would assist the international community in a political transition that removed Assad and his inner circle and installed power-sharing arrangements with several cabinet posts given to Sunni and Kurdish opposition groups in a transitional Syrian government”

  74. 74 David

    BK8 outside firewall

    Backing Assad is not the way forward for Syria

    Oz October 8

  75. 75 Arthur

    Just getting up to go and read the papers. Opened latest A1 links but haven’t looked. Hope to start catching up with breaking events and think tank reports today, but will probably be out of time again before a substantive article.

    Delighted to see this link thread becoming more useful as first thing to look at.

    BY12 especially helpful. Probably close enough that there is no further point being obscure about coup for mainstream version. Will study more closely further but am still more inclined to assume Russians and Iranians actually collaborating on this and will both keep Bashir as a figurehead in a transitional regime (not just a Russian or puppet Iranian regime but an Alawi regime not run by the die-hards who want to negotiate an end). Suspect the BY12 version is Russian disinformation to help ease the way. But even as is it is entirely more believable than the fantasies in most articles that assume either of these countries believe they could put forces in that would affect the long term outcome in a Mediterranean country as opposed to forces that could assist in stabilization/coup for one faction or another of the current regime and thus assist with transition to a negotiated outcome that ends the Assad regime and allows the majority of Syrians to run Syria with not much further role for them (and no more basis to expect “gratitude” than the Americans had for helping get rid of an even worse regime in Iraq).

    Thanks also for BK8 online. Only skimmed as about to read hardcopy. My impression is that Julie Bishop was actually merely echoing what Kerry, Obama and many others were saying earlier that was just too bizarre to be believable and they quickly dropped. Could be hallucinating. Links confirming they were all sounding like Julie just before I wrote the 20 September notes would be nice to reassure me.

    P7 also interesting. No idea what “Putin’s red line as drawn by others” means. Long range cruise missiles are an incredibly expensive way to do anything, even for showing off. If it was Daesh targets it would add credibility to both that being just for show and to them still not having IFF codes that would enable easy access to coalition airspace being used to attack Daesh. Am more inclined to think the early pattern of targetting urgent needs for protecting regime will continue until regime change actually completed and and for some time after as that is necessary for transition and air strikes on Daesh have generally been almost as irrelevant to achieving anything to end the problem as cruise missile strikes on Daesh are wheras regime change in Damascus is fundamental and so is not having Damascus overun by Takfiris.

  76. 76 Arthur

    28) I didn’t see this before. This is why I was amazed that Turkey, Britain and France had not already closed the Meditarranean weeks ago.

    The Moskva, with 64 S-300 advanced long range (150km) ship to air missiles should never have been let in to the Mediterranean.

    If willing to shoot down British and French aircraft it could indeed prevent them independently establishing a No Fly Zone (or at least the more important one for the south as already advocated by ICG).

    Of course that is a long way from actually deploying the latest surface to air versions to Assad regime forces who WOULD as opposed to COULD use them, which would also take quite a while for handover and training. But it was criminal negligence not to prevent their arrival.

    …Unless of course they are absolutely certain something else is going on…

    PS1 All FT articles are behind a paywall. But this can be bypassed by googling the title and following special Google links eg “Moscow scuppers US coalition plans for no-fly zone in Syria”

    PS2 Earlier mention of Breedlove’s SA-15s as “long range” was a misreading of specs. Actually point defence.

  77. 77 byork

    BY13 Free Syrian Army factions not interested in negotiating with Russians.

  78. 78 David

    Short piece by a Putinologist


    Dr Robert Horvath is an ARC Future Fellow at La Trobe University and the author of Putin’s Preventive Counter-Revolution (Routledge, 2013).

  79. 79 patrickm

    I think the link just posted by David drives with the power of a D9.

    ‘The idea that Putin, the strategic genius, has succeeded where the West failed has been echoed by many Western commentators. In The Australian, Greg Sheridan favourably compared Putin’s ‘focused intent’ to Obama’s inertia. In his UN address, Obama had exceeded his allotted time, but done nothing. By contrast, Putin ‘spoke for 20 minutes and transformed the strategic environment in the Middle East.’

    In fact, Putin’s intervention in Syria exemplifies the reckless improvisation and disregard for Russia’s long-term interests that have lent a peculiar unpredictability to the foreign policy of his third presidential term. This unpredictability is inextricably linked to the shock of the ‘Bolotnaya’ movement, the mass protests in 2011-2012 against election fraud and Putin’s return to the Kremlin. At the height of those protests, Putin faced plummeting approval ratings, fractures in the elite and a pro-democracy movement that seemed unstoppable. Ultimately, order was restored in a coordinated crackdown, but it was only Putin’s assault on Ukraine that enabled him to regain his ascendancy in the polls.

    This political recuperation was achieved at a terrible cost. On a humanitarian level, 8,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed; many more were left maimed or traumatised. On a geopolitical level, Putin has created a legacy that will burden his successors for generations. In a few months, he guaranteed Ukraine’s Western destiny, shook the confidence of allies like Kazakhstan, ensured a real NATO presence in the Baltic states, provoked economically damaging sanctions and weakened Russia’s bargaining position with China.’

  80. 80 David


    Assad Seen Trying to Force the West to Choose Between his Regime, Islamic State
    Russia’s intervention aims at opposition rebels

    Wall Street Journal
    Updated Oct. 9, 2015 12:28 a.m. ET


    Obama’s Wishful-Thinking Syria Policy Updated Oct 9th, 2015

    D12 Book review
    Russia’s Snarling Stuntman
    WSJ Oct 5

  81. 81 Arthur

    29) Curioser and curioser:

    This is beginning to look like a more serious effort at a deception operation.

    A Syrian regime Baathist die-hard would have to be as oblivious to reality and obsessed with their own hopes and fears as their Iraqi equivalents to remain reassured as to what is going on with the efforts put in to deception so far (“cruise missiles fired from the Caspian – I mean really, that is NOT reassuring and even the Iraqis understood they were being invaded – though they ALSO believed the American deception that they would not remain in power under a different Sunni general and WERE as surprised by Bremer’s Order Nuber 1 and 2 disbanding them as the entire American foreign policy establishment and mass media opinion leaders and US armed forces leadership in all its glory!).

    But an aircraft carrier with frigates and their Russian allies making sure the UN Security Council resolution doesn’t carry chapter 7 wording that could be deliberately twisted as with Libya, now that COULD be reassuring that at least NATO is not utterly convinced the Russians are there to do something other than just help them.

    Although it is theoretically possible to use aircraft carriers as helicopter landing pads in search and rescue etc this makes no sense given Italy has more suitable amphibious landing ships with flight decks and lots of coastal patrol boats. An aircraft carrier accompanied by frigates is just not credible as what the media claims it to be. If the media wanted to slant it the other way they would describe it as a NATO carrier task force accompanied by half the naval forces of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

    That one slovenian patrol boat (ie half the naval forces of the Austro-Hungarian empire) actually makes far more sense for the stated purpose. I would be inclined to throw in the entire Swiss lakes motor-boat flotilla (flown in by US Military Airlift Command) for the dual purpose of making it look more convincing to the media as what it claims to be since the motorboats would be even more useful for picking up refugees than the half the Slovenian naval forces (ie the one patrol boat that was actually included) and giving some US MAC giant freighters practice at picking up oddly shaped cargoes from unlikely places all around Europe and rapidly moving them near Syria would impress the Baathists as NATO being more seriously worried about the Russians as they would hope).

    Anyway I’ve now got an excuse for still not trying to write anything more public and less obscure since they might actually still be deceiving somebody in Syria who should remain confused.

    Also I’ve now got an idea for a way round that problem. Could write advocating more such measures to confront the Russians, with obscure bits referring to what is actually going on. But not for a few days while I watch it all getting curiouser and curioser (and try to remain enrolled in two MOOCs).

    BTW its also curious that google for “operation sophie” results have this stuff only after a page of higher ranking news about people called sophie having medical operations. Suggests not many paying attention yet.

  82. 82 Arthur

    Sorry about typos and incoherence above.
    Have now taken sleeping pill so this may well be worse.

    Re D9. I also liked its critique of the usual suspects like Greg Sheridan, who just notice Obama’s imbecility without noticing Putin’s AS WELL as the rather similar pro-Putin propagandists.

    But it still suffers the same problem as Switzer (and inverse patrickm).

    1. Having perceptions of interests and distinctions between personal interests as a politician and national interests that results in short sighted policies with long term negatives is perfectly normal, not imbecilic.

    2. Horvath’s perceptions and conclusions about Ukraine’s short and long term consequences might be more accurate than Putin’s but they also might not.

    3. It is far from obvious to me that ” In a few months, he guaranteed Ukraine’s Western destiny, shook the confidence of allies like Kazakhstan, ensured a real NATO presence in the Baltic states, provoked economically damaging sanctions and weakened Russia’s bargaining position with China.”

    I haven’t really followed it much because it is really obvious to me that there was nothing anybody could do about it, AND that the west knew that. But my impression is that ANY Russian government would regard Ukraine has having been irretrievably lost to the west when the previously friendly government was overthrown precisely on the basis that people wanted to go with the EU rather than Russia and he didn’t. This was BEFORE he grabbed the crimea and I think ANY Russian government would have done so. I would prefer if it had been democratic with a referendum but if they had lost they would have had to take it anyway so it is is not THAT unreasonable for them to “avoid complications” by just doing it.

    Causing further trouble in the Ukraine seems much more problematic. But as with Georgia it WAS in fact the Ukraianian government that started it by expressing hostility to a very large Russian national minority in a very important region of the Ukraine and directly provoking them by abolishing Russian as an official language of the Ukraine. I am more inclined to the view that one minor aspect of the militaristic triumphalism in Syria is that it draws attention away from the fact that the same “new Russia” fervour whipped up over maltreatment of Russians in the Ukrainian appears to have resulted in much the same reasonable outcome of full respect for their autonomy within the Ukraine that could have been achieved by friendly negotiations instead of being used for populist war mongering.

    4. It is completely obvious to me that even if Horvath view of Putin’s blunders in the Ukraine was completely correct (and my impressions completely wrong) he just doesn’t get the fact that Syria is ENTIRELY different. What Putin claims and the usual media idiots claim Russia is be doing in Syria is “simply not possible”. Pretty well everybody understands that the “coalition” air war against Daesh is not going to defeat it as you need troops on the ground. What on earth makes them take so seriousy the Putin providing a laughably small addition to the Syrian regime’s air force with NO combat troops could be intended to affect the outcome?

    D10,11,12 thanks for posting accessible versions of the WSJ links. I’ve been frustrated as they have some of the most useful mass media coverage behind a paywall. However I just checked that the same trick I was told about for FT also works for WSJ so it is sufficient to just provide the original link for both and it is easy enough to google the article title which gives full access to the whole article.

    D10 interesting to see quotes from Alawi officers worried about the Russians and Iranians. I’d like to see any others such reports.

    D11 dreadful. About half Americans already support combat troops to fight Daesh and would support them fighting Assad if they understood that was necessary to fight Daesh (as they soon will since there is now a steady stream explaining it – including even from Obama). As well as not making the mistake of actually allying with Assad regime despite not fighting it he has not made the mistake of wanting to allow a separate Alawi enclave (that would in fact result in ongoing war between Sunni Syria with Damascus as its capital and an Alawi fascist regime that also wants Damascus). That is precisely the idiocy his VP Joe Biden advocated for Iraq and that Horvath advocates for Syria.

    D12 Its true that Russia even more than America has an odd political setup where the personality of the head of government matters a lot more than under the parliamentary (especially “Westminster” system). Nevertheless I intensely dislike this fascination with psychological analysis of the “leader” instead of just using “Putin”, like “the kremlin” or “Obama” and “the white house” as a convenient shorthand for “government policy makers” (among who in these two cases the head of government may be more important than usual, but not so central as to make actual interests, history and politics in a much wider sense irrelevant).

  83. 83 Arthur


    “With pressure on EU governments to work for an end to the war heightened by the arrival in Europe of large numbers of Syrian refugees over the past few months, France is keen to see Assad go as soon as possible, while Germany would prefer to have him involved in the transitional phase before he quits.

    Under discussion is also what should happen to the Syrian president after he leaves, with hardliners preferring him to be referred to the International Criminal Court, while a softer option would be a voluntary exile in Russia.

    The issue is so divisive that EU foreign ministers for many months have refrained from adopting common conclusions on Syria and its rulers, despite the worsening situation in the field.

    “We are talking about flexible transition arrangements,” a second EU diplomat said. “Transition is key now. You won’t see ‘Assad must go’ in the EU’s position,” the diplomat added.

    This would be a significant turnaround from past positions when the Assad administration was considered not even fit to fight Islamic State due to its “brutal” actions.

    Other diplomats are more cautious and point out that the key issue is stopping violence against Syrian people.

    Even if a compromise is reached on a transitional phase for the Assad rule, EU states appear divided also on its duration, with some countries insisting on a “clearly defined transition” and others making clear that “it’s not up to us to define how long it should last”.

    Earlier this week, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Reuters the key to peace was a managed transition, even if that left Assad nominally in place for a time: “If … we have to accept that Assad will remain as titular head of state for a period of time, do I really care if that’s three days, three weeks, three months or even longer?” he said.

    EU diplomats will meet again on Saturday to finalize a common text to submit to foreign ministers, and may need to meet again on Sunday.

    In less controversial parts of the conclusions, ministers will underline that Assad’s administration should immediately stop using barrel bombs against its own people, diplomats say.

    On the military role of Russia in Syria, EU countries are set to urge Moscow to focus its attacks exclusively on Islamic State targets. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent warplanes and tanks to support Assad.”

    I think its pretty clear now that the initial confusion about a role for Assad being taken up enthusiastically by imbeciles who want alliance with Assad regime against Daesh is now giving way to proper briefings about what is actually going on.

    Interesting that I still haven’t seen any media spelling it out with even the power of a D11 let alone the sort of heavy machinery that eats dozer’s for breakfast:

  84. 84 David


    Last two paragraphs

    “The Assad regime is extremely concerned by the opposition’s progress in Idlib, which has put them at the doorstep of the regime’s stronghold on the Syrian coast. In addition, the opposition, represented by Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), launched an attack on the outskirts of Damascus Sept. 9 and took control of the strategic Tel Kurdi area and the Homs-Damascus highway.

    “The Kremlin asserted on Oct. 1 that the Russian strikes are to help regime forces at their weak points. Most of the strikes so far have been concentrated in the countryside of Homs, Hama, Latakia and Idlib, near the Syrian coast where Russian military bases are located. Despite its claims of confronting IS, Moscow is securing the Syrian coast from attack by opposition forces, which are almost there.”

  85. 85 byork


    “Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not need Russian cruise missiles crashing inside the Islamic Republic to understand that Russia’s new gambit in the Syrian civil war may spin beyond Iran’s control. As I warned earlier, bringing Russia in to help save Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus could risk Iran’s strategic command of the situation in Syria.
    “Tehran’s commitment to maintaining an allied state in the Levant is firm. Iran cannot afford to lose the vital deterrence (and ideological bona fides) against Israel that its military proxy Lebanese Hezbollah provides. And without at least a semi-functioning nation state next door in Syria, Iran cannot hope to effectively supply and support the group. Syria remains an existential problem for Iran.”

  86. 86 Arthur


    This made another penny drop.

    Continued Russian claims they are defending the world from Daesh because the West has failed to do so are aimed at domestic audience.

    Later assisting in transition from Assad regime can smoothly fit that narrative as necessary for defeating Daesh as well as consistent with their long standing insistance on negotiated solution (both of which are actually true).


    Related point. Iran now stressing “humanitarian” nature of their intervention and aim for negotiated political solution and reconciliation. Again, when they switch to assisting in transition from Assad regime that would “become true” and do so seamlessly for their own clueless “opinion leaders” just as the Russian, and emerging American and European narratives would for theirs.

    “* Military forays into foreign states are never productive – unless the chief reason is humanitarian, as it has been for the alliance of Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah. The new alliance can’t stand by and let foreign mercenaries and thugs turn their sectarian hatred into genocide and endless combats in Syria and Iraq.

    * Any solely military solution to terrorism is doomed to fail. Along with fighting terrorism, the alliance of Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq are seeking a political solution to the crisis. Unlike the “Assad must go” gang, they haven’t set any preconditions for national reconciliation talks… “

  87. 87 Arthur


    This confirms, from a far better informed source, my vague impression that the strikes appeared to not be directed at the “southern front” who are the forces I (and the West) would prefer to see in Damascus but at others well to the north and west that may well include revolutionaries but where they are forced by circumstances to cooperate much more closely with takfiri groups including Al Qaeda as well as other anti-democratic Salafi forces (against both Assad regime and Daesh).

    If correct this is evidence consistent with my view of agreement on Russians facilitating a transition.

    33) International Crisis Group latest full report on Syria (42pp). Although just before the Russian intervention (and European refugree crisis) this is quite recent and essential background reading. Includes explanation of above reference to “southern front” as well as LOTS more. I’ll leave it to others to provide the direct URL for pdf after googling above.

  88. 88 Arthur

    re A32 I meant north and east (not west of southern front). Was referring to this quote:

    “The targets are largely the coalition of groups under al-Nusra Front, to the north by Idlib and Aleppo, along with various rebel groups supported by members of the US coalition near Homs and Hama, to the east of Syrian government positions.

    “These are the primary threats to Assad, and the areas where Syrian ground counter-offensives are likely to take place,” Kofman says. “The campaign is therefore a softening of these groups and elimination of their weapon caches.””

  89. 89 Arthur


    Bizarre official “transcript” of Putin recently.

    Claims of Turkish and US liaison have been denied.

    This bit is more interesting:

    “At the same time, we realise that conflicts of this kind must end in a political settlement. I discussed this matter just this morning with the Russian Foreign Minister. During my recent visit to Paris, the President of France, Mr Hollande, voiced an interesting idea that he thought is worth a try, namely, to have President Assad’s government troops join forces with the Free Syrian Army. True, we do not know yet where this army is and who heads it, but if we take the view that these people are part of the healthy opposition, if it were possible to have them join in the fight against terrorist organisations such as ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and others, this would help pave the way to a future political settlement in Syria.

    The Foreign Ministry will continue these efforts, given that we are in contact with practically all of the opposition forces, but I ask you too to support the Foreign Ministry’s efforts through your partnership channels. That is my first point.”

    I assume thawri forces like “southern front” would be better off fiercely denouncing such ideas and expressing complete solidarity with all other forces fighting both Daesh and regime, including Al Qaeda (they will soon enough be accused of collaboration anyway).

    But I would guess they should also be preserving their forces for an eventual collapse of the southern defence of Damascus while its northern and eastern defences still hold, and guarding against possible attacks by Takfiris from behind their own lines.

    The “diplomats” of etilaf SNC might well be in a different tactical position from actual thawri fighting forces and it could be necessary for them to do things that thawri would have to also denounce them for without actually becoming too hostile to each other.

  90. 90 David

    33) International Crisis Group

    New Approach in Southern Syria

    Summary and link to report

  91. 91 byork
  92. 92 byork
  93. 93 byork

    BY17 Former advisor to Obama on political transition in Syria:

    “Both sides of this debased criminal-terrorist coin need to be addressed urgently. Assad’s barrel bombing of Deraa in the south—where peaceful protests against regime brutality first attracted international notice in March 2011—along with his bombing of Aleppo and Idlib in the north must be stopped cold. These horrific devices kill the innocent and recruit for the Islamic State: precisely as they are intended to do. Means exist far short of invasion and occupation to make it difficult for Assad regime helicopters to deliver their deadly cargoes. What is required is a clear statement of intent by Obama, one communicated to the Department of Defense, so that options can be produced for presidential decision and execution.
    With regard to ISIL, a professional ground combat component provided by regional powers is desperately needed to work with coalition aircraft to sweep this abomination from Syria and permit a governmental alternative to the Assad regime to take root inside Syria. With central and eastern Syria free of both the regime and ISIL, an all-Syrian national stabilization force can be built. Western desires for a negotiated end to the Syrian crisis would be based, under these circumstances, on more than a wish and a hope”.

    Read more:

  94. 94 admin
  95. 95 Arthur

    35) Sorry am still catching up after having to do other stuff for a couple of days. Saw this in today’s Australian from WSJ.

    I think it could be good target for next draft or at least of a series of comments that would help move towards a draft.

    Please put full text up in new thread here with both links to open discussion. Can later copy actual draft or incomplete discussion followed by full text to C21stLeft. Will still take me a while to cach up and write but could start now as soon as thread created.

  96. 96 Arthur

    Thanks for putting the article up.

    The scrappy notes I added are all I am going to be able to do for a few days so may as well run them now at 21stCenturyLeft and draw them to the attention of any interested Syrians.

  97. 97 Arthur

    36) Still no time (and am now reasonably satisfied what is happening is clear enough).

    Note the contrast between kremlin and official Syrian (english) reports of Assad visit:

    My guess (only) is that change in government has already occurred and Bashir Assad is now already some other government’s figurehead, though not yet announced. So partition with retreat from Damascus to Latakia is no longer a serious option but will continue to be bloviated about along with pontifications in favor of keeping the old regime as the only alternative to Daesh and fulminations about the imaginary Russian mediterranean superpower.

    Transition will be to an eventual representative Syrian government in Damascus dominated by revolutionaries after initial transition to “peacemakers” but without elements from old Assad regime and at war with Daesh. Important thing will be the international forces required for smooth transition without chaos and massacres. Presumbably initial Russian and Iranian handing over to UN helmeted Germans guarding (and temporarily governing) Alawi with Turks and others elsewhere. Could still be long and messy but no longer getting worse or heading towards regional war.

    Meanwhile EU will have to rapidly crank up supply chains for winter housing of refugees and other migrants. Winter housing cannot be built quickly and neither can gas heating be installed quickly. Electric blankets and hot water bottles in tents only stop overnight freezing but daytime electric radiators in tents are substantial increase in electricity demand that could again destabilize the European grid given the lead-time for recommissioning German nuclear reactors that were abruptly shut down causing previous destabilization.

    They would be much better off immediately starting to recruit Syrian refugees for an expeditionary force (plus other local Arab citizens as translators etc). Needed militarily in Syria as well as not leaving refugees in limbo like Australia does.

  98. 98 admin

    Arthur, I know you will not be surprised that I am saying I agree with Patrick that the Putin plan does not include an imminent coup. I am no parrot. I have been puzzling about it and silent like most at present, but I am now convinced that the argument against this aspect of your position is that the parameters of a new Syria are as yet undecided and it will be some time until it is redefined, and until then Putin won’t want to create a vacuum he is in no position to adequately fill, even temporarily. Assad remains the living dead that he has been these last 4 years of slaughter but that is obvious to all – for what is a ruler without a land? – merely a commander of murderous militia in this case.

  99. 99 Arthur

    Bashir Assad was never commander of anything. His father Hafez was leader of the Assad clan and dictator of Syria and his elder brother was groomed to succeed to that command. Bashir was a London opthamologist anointed as figurehead when his elder brother died. He was portrayed both internally and externally as the fearsome leader of the clan and dictator of Syria but he never was. Others are or were in command.

    I don’t know whether there will be a visible “coup” as such. The same figurehead President is starting to more than hint at a political settlement and exit. So I assume a different government is now in command even though unannounced. Those who were in command have either been quietly removed or have resigned themselves to the change as there is nothing they can do about it given complete military and other dependence on Russia, Hezbollah and Iran, having already lost the war. There was no possibility of the previous government being allowed to participate in any share of government in any part of Syria for the same reason that Charles I had his head chopped off – they waged war on their people. Bashir, with assistance from the Russians, Hezbollah and Iranian “advisors” is now figurehead for a government that knows it has lost the war and will somehow or other transfer power in Damascus without unleashing a massive slaughter by Takfiris. My best guess is that elements of the “patriotic” opposition that were used as window dressing will start reappearing while the Assad clan leaders and their cronies disappear.

    Putin is there to avoid the vacuum in the chaotic collapse of Damascus (by internal strife within the regime or military defeat) being filled by Takfiris. My guess is it will end up filled by German peacekeepers. But I’m not making more than guesses about future details.

    My starting point is NOT the personalities of Bashir Assad, Obama or Putin or the Ayatollahs but concrete analysis of the concrete facts that the regime is losing the war that neither Russia, Hezbollah or Iran are mediterranean powers capable of influencing the outcome for long and that the short term outcome could be even worse chaos given the fractured opposition and Western indifference.

    The key paramaters that HAVE been decided are that:

    1) Syria won’t be fractured into an Alawite enclave based at Latakia (after ethnically cleansing the Sunni majority there) fighting an ongoing war with a Sunni regime dominated or strongly infuenced by Takfiris in Damascus.

    2) Ending the Assad regime will enable the revolutionary opposition to also end Daesh and most of the other Takfiris.

  100. 100 patrickm

    Concretely, Bashar Assad was around the centre of power all his life as his rotten father ran the joint for 30 yrs prior to Bashar’s now 15 yrs in the job! He was groomed and trained for exactly this job from 1994 by his experienced father etc., until he took over in 2000. That is 21 years! His earlier years were close quarter observation of the Lebanese civil war. That is a solid background even for a dolt or an Opthamologist, but there is no indication that he is a dolt. Concretely, he is not now and was never a figurehead. He has been very much in some level of command.
    Calling him a figurehead is the sort of junk that people write about GWBush. It flatly contradicts the evidence and shows an unhealthy interest in personalities. He hasn’t left the country for all these years of civil war and he goes back and forth to Uncle Vlad because he can now fly to Moscow via Russian transports over Iraq and Iran!

    No ‘different government is now in command even though unannounced.’ Everyone is covering their own backsides as around Syria it’s pretty easy to end up dead if you don’t watch out. The Syrian army and deep state is currently pulling in the one direction because they have some rebels to go kill with Uncle Vlad’s boys, and they are doing just that. Because the utterly ruthless Syrian state is dependent on Russia, Hezbollah, Iran and significant Iraqi Shiite militias after having already over these years of ruthless slaughter and population shifting lost the war but without that direct help. They could not possibly break ranks now.

    Now with that Russian help they are in far better shape and so as team Assad kill more ‘terrorists’ and cause many more to run to Turkey, the entire Assad nightmare COW is redrawing who is in control of what. In a couple of months time (we are only 3 weeks into this intervention) Assad’s side will begin to negotiate with the ‘legitimate opposition’ that they end up finding. We will then see concessions to any groups that just want any kind of peace.

    No doubt autonomy will be offered to areas that stop fighting and arming for attacking Assad’s region. Provided some smaller Bantustan type areas stop allowing others to wage their Jihad they will strike political deals in the shiny new Federation. Assad’s troops will stay out of these lightly armed regions and let them have peace like the more heavily armed Kurds have while Assad’s region stays as the powerful force backed by Russia. Similar to Israel backed up by the U.S. when it was starting out.

    That type of thinking is the basic plot. These guys are not throwing up their hands and surrendering to the FSA.

    The Lebanon civil war is much more the model for what is unfolding in Syria and because ‘There was no possibility of the previous government being allowed to participate in any share of government’ there will not be one. There will be a ‘Federal’ arrangement.

    Is Putin assisting in the establishment of the new Sunni dominated Syria that will be established sans Assad and Co having first smashed up a lot of rebel territory and killed a lot of people they both call terrorists because the population of Syria was mostly Sunni – and is this being achieved with the use of all these Shiite forces? No.

    People not concerned with personalities of leaders have often been wrong footed when despite clear national interest decisions have been taken by single decision makers that make no national sense and the disasters have unfolded.

    It is standard that empires and bits of older ones, even if they call themselves countries, get smashed and not put together again so this regime is losing the war and that is what happens with wars but why must Syria hold together? No reason that I can see at all.

    I think that there is a bad Putin led COW that having now formed constitutes in the current (concrete) context a Mediterranean power prepared to fight about issues and test the matters over a long time. I intend to keep reading and watching the news items and being prepared for yet more struggle and protracted war.

    Syria is fractured into a Kurdish region, an Alawite PLUS region – not based at Latakia – that is fighting an ongoing war with several weak and divided Sunni regions. Who knows how long that can go on. The entire civilised world is being forced into war against the worst monsters from the Saudi dominated swamp. So Putin has an anvil.

    Ending the war on one front against the Assad regime in a settlement that was victory would definitely enable the revolutionary opposition to fight more on the other front but the revolutionary opposition are currently being killed and driven out of the country by the very powerful Russian led offensive.

    It would seem clear that the broad Shia COW is after being confronted with the reality of Sunni terror sorting out the maps and will in that process naturally push the Assad regime to the side, but not just now.

  101. 101 admin

    Genocide in Syria. Distraught in Adelaide. The FSA and their supporters die their safe areas no longer safe. The soldiers die the babies die and the women and children die.

  102. 102 Arthur

    37) “Assad’s Downfall is Imminent”

    (Instead of a reply to above – note that nearly all the comments disagree but have no analysis)

    Let’s keep this thread for links and brief comments. Sorry I contributed to trend towards longer comments but it would get out of hand if I responded here. Please put longer comments in separate threads for discussion there (or not – I probably won’t respond but that doesn’t mean longer comments should go here). Feel free to move or copy my own longer comments to separate threads for that purpose (but leave the links themselves in the link thread).

    Can easily add links here to draw attention to longer comments in new threads.

  103. 103 byork

    BY18 More than 20 rebel factions form Revolutionary Army of the South

  104. 104 byork


    Seumas Milne, are you serious?

    Ashraf / October 21, 2015

    Dear Seumas Milne,


    Some may be happy, but we as non-violent Syrians struggling for democracy and freedom are, frankly, devastated.

    One of the biggest enemies of our struggle has been those on the far left of the political spectrum who choose to view the world as a battle between good and evil superpowers. In their view, the US and its allies are the bad states and others who stand up to their imperialism are the anti-imperialists.

    The problem with this worldview is that it misses people like us. Those of us who struggle against Western imperialism and our dictatorships closer to home are ignored in your privileged analysis of how the world works. You can write from your cosy home in the UK about the rise of Isis and about how it was born in the US occupation of Iraq and yet ignore the fact that it only grew into the monster it is today because nobody stopped the violence in Syria.

    In your world view – Orientalism 2.0 – all Arabs are the same. Libyans, Iraqis, Syrians, (maybe throw in Afghans) they’re all just victims of the rampant Western imperialism that you and your friends are supposedly battling.

    When you say in your Isis article (shared a quarter of a million times) that “only the people of the region can cure this disease”, did you ever think to listen to any of them?

    As Syria’s Stop The War movement, we asked to participate on a panel you were on about intervention in Syria. But no, that’s not acceptable. It’s not ok for Syrians to contribute to a debate about our country. That’s because it’s not really about Syria for you. It’s about the West. It’s about Blair’s illegal war in Iraq. It’s about all the miserable ways the UK and others have messed up other countries. The common thread? It’s all about yourself.

    Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have needlessly died because of this self obsession and it has to stop.

    That is why we welcome Jo Cox’s proposal for Syria that puts protection of civilians at its heart. Crucially, it includes enforcing a no-bombing zone that would protect lives and make peace more likely.

    We do not hold our breath for you to support it Mr Milne, since of course those who it would protect seem invisible to you, but we as always are prepared to meet and tell you the truth about what Syria’s peacemakers want.

    Please surprise us.

  105. 105 Arthur

    38) Mere fact of meeting at foreign minister’s level between US, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia suggests things are moving fast.

    This US account may be exagerating the extent of agreement and hints of Iran joining by Friday may be premature.

    But SOMETHING is happening and the Russian account is not substantially different from the US:


    Also Putin’s analysis that partitition of (Arab) Syria would be worse possible outcome is identical to others and the stated reason is entirely correct and completely obvious:

    40) “Dividing Syria would lead to a permanent conflict in the region, Putin stressed.

    “Dividing Syria is the worst option, it is unacceptable. It will not end the conflict and only create conditions for its escalation and continuation,” he said.

    “If Syria is divided into separate territories, they will fight with each other endlessly and nothing good will come out of it.”

    Read more:

  106. 106 Arthur

    Iran, Egypt (and I assume also Britain and France) now expected at meeting (with US, Russia, Turkey and Saudis) this Friday.

    Expect news to be dominated by diplomacy for a while.

    Also increased hints that US will openly admit troops now in combat.

    Not bothering with links as should be in all media tomorrow.

  107. 107 Arthur

    Also Germany, Iraq, Qatar, Lebanon, the European Union.

  108. 108 patrickm

    Last week when I saw the photo of Lavrov up against Turkey’s and KSA FM’s and Kerry I commented to Anita that that will mean the next meeting will have to include Egypt and Iran, so this is not any surprise.

    Have you worked out there is no urgent coup yet?

  109. 109 Bill Kerr

    Background information: I lost a 20c bet to arthur that Obama would not commit troops to Syria. Well, at least I have paid up a 5 cents installment in view of 50 special forces being publicly announced.

    BK 9)
    U.S. to send special forces to Syria, truce sought after peace talks

    “The United States said it would deploy fewer than 50 troops to northern Syria beginning in the coming weeks in an open-ended mission”

    I then searched for “opinion polls 2015 usa boots on the ground in syria”

    BK 10)
    16 times Obama said there would be no boots on the ground in Syria

    Obama’s comments about ground troops become more equivocal as we approach the present.

    Sept. 7, 2014: in terms of controlling territory, we’re going to have to develop a moderate Sunni opposition that can control territory and that we can work with. The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground, I think would be a profound mistake. And I want to be very clear and very explicit about that

    July 6, 2015: in every one of the conversations that we’ve had, the strong consensus is that in order for us to succeed long-term in this fight against ISIL, we have to develop local security forces that can sustain progress. It is not enough for us to simply send in American troops to temporarily set back organizations like ISIL, but to then, as soon as we leave, see that void filled once again with extremists

    I didn’t find anything very recent but the following indicates that in the American democracy candidates are not going to be electorally disadvantaged by supporting some boots on the ground in Syria. That was my grounds for making the bet in the first place.

    May 2015
    BK 11)

    In an April CNN-ORC poll, more than two-thirds of Americans — 68% — described ISIS as a very serious threat. But opinion was neatly divided on engagement, with 47% of respondents saying they supported the use of U.S. ground troops against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and 50% saying they were opposed.

    Sixty percent of Republicans polled said they were in favor of the use of ground troops, with 37% opposed.

    Perhaps the most striking shift in public opinion has been among 18- to 29-year-olds who are becoming increasingly hawkish on the question of U.S. involvement. A Harvard University Institute of Politics survey released in late April showed that 57% of that group favored sending ground troops to participate in a military campaign against ISIS.

    That’s a dramatic shift from eight years ago when 60% of that age cohort said most or all troops should be withdrawn from Iraq.

    Even a year ago in September 2014
    BK 12)

    A plurality of voters would favor sending U.S. ground troops to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) if military commanders determined it was the best course of action, according to a new poll.

    Forty-five percent would support U.S. ground troops in the region, while 37 percent would oppose them, according to the poll released Monday by The Wall Street Journal/NBC News and The Annenberg Public Policy Center.

    Another 16 percent of voters do not have an opinion either way.

    The poll differs from a CNN poll released Monday and highlights how a question’s wording can sway the outcome.

    The CNN poll, which does not mention the opinion of military commanders, finds that 60 percent opposes sending ground troops to Syria or Iraq, while 38 percent supports the idea. Another 2 percent has no opinion.

  110. 110 patrickm

    The timing – especially after the death of a soldier in Iraq last week in the (great) rescue raid – is no surprise to me. Sent to the Kurdish regions they are vital to make assessments and preparations for what is IMV inevitably on the way just so that something effective can come out of those Kurdish regions -heading east towards Aleppo and heading west towards Aleppo- going through Daesh if they want. But the Kurds are not going to be used by the US led COW and they have their own interests. The other COW might want them to go south against other Daesh areas! Nice to be wanted by both and bombed by neither! The Turks aren’t even permitted to beat up on them, how good is that.

    From any POV ground forces must be on the way in some form with any COW that eventually deals with Daesh and if that COW is to be led by the US they have to have some boots. But note how the MSM effort from the DoD includes reminding everybody that some A10’s have been deployed and that is a reasonably clear message to me at any rate. It would thus be a fair bet for another contingent of Russians to be displayed as they arrive most probably with vehicles in the next few weeks probably before the next scheduled FM’s talks. If the Russians are to turn up I would be surprised if some Iranians did not also show up and I can’t guess what the Egyptians might do about their ‘observers’.

    The Obama admin ‘micro managing’ continues the dithering! The military leadership in the region must by this stage be ropeable at this level of humiliation.

    Last week the Russians told everyone they would be coming south
    and now they have (as promised) started to do so

    Incidentally I think the hospital issue as shown in the photo above is again no co-incident ‘accident’. I think that attacking hospitals is policy. I think that this is clearly true in the case of the KSA in Yemen and it is true for the Russians as they make refugee causing war in Syria currently. I do not think that it was or is policy with the US and so I am still unsatisfied as to the earlier attack that was ‘called in’ and was so discrediting to the US at such a vital moment. I will return to this.

    Also Australia has special forces suitable for use out of Jordan similar to their use in the previous advances but I suspect that the current Turnbull Government would not be as courageous in involving these troops as was Howard after he had had the direct experience of 9/11 and understood the US were really committed to war. Obama can’t generate the confidence that the US are fully committed because he is not. He lost Canada out of the COW as his world builds up for a Paris climate talkfest ‘led’ by Prince Charles types. Oh well 446 days to go.

  111. 111 Arthur


    Plausible background for the announcement of specific deployment of 50 special forces troops that was previously done without fanfare until the recent first officially acknowledged combat death.

    Another aspect is resolving conflicts among Kurdish and Arab forces being directly supplied by American air drops with recent claims of diversion of munitions intended for Arabs by the Kurdish forces who were presumably the ones the Americans had liaison arrangements with for collection. Now there will be Americans directly handling deliveries and less tensions.

    Whole triangle with Kurds, Arabs and Turks is extremely complex but not central enough to justify time needed for a good handle on it.

    Still unclear how much it is domestic response to how far behind US public opinion the Obama administration has got and how much it is preparing their Democrat base for much greater involvement by the standard thin edge of the wedge.

    My guess is that the degree of fanfare and the sheer necessities of the situation point towards fairly rapid increase in involvement from now on.

    My guess (only) is that America will be able to persist with its stance of only being at war with Daesh and not with Assad regime but will start doing more about it, while the Russians, Hezbollah and Iran take care of a “negotiated” transfer of power from the Assad regime in Damascus presumably to something that involves UN peacekeepers (including major EU contribution eg from Germany).

    What remains utterly clear is that 50 US troops is no more capable of affecting the outcome of anything than a squadron of Russian aircraft and the real significance of these developments lies elsewhere. (With an important difference being that the Russians have no capability as well as no political will to put significant forces into a war in the Mediterranean whereas others do have the capability).

    Also seems reasonably clear that despite Bashir Assad being a major war criminal as well as a figurehead there is general agreement among the outside powers that a smoother end to the war can be achieved with him playing a role in a less bloody occupation of Damascus than would have been achieved in the occupation of Japan if it had not been Emperor Hirohito ordering the forces led by the fascist militarist clique to cooperate. Equally clear general acceptance among outside powers that unlike Hirohito there can be no long term role for him.

  112. 112 Arthur

    Please continue to number links for reference. Following 3 are from patrickm’s comment above, with my numbers for reference.

    (Bill’s above should also have been numbered but I’m not planning to reference them).


    A10s not mentioned in text. Have not watched videos. Assume still refers to Iraq. If Syria then points to rapid esclation of combat involvement. Does not imply any Russian capability or intention to do likewise.


    “Last week the Russians told everyone they would be coming south…”

    Actually strong confirmation that Russians are directly coordinating with the Jordanian-US Military Operations Center that runs the Southern Front and therefore actually working in tandem with the US. See 33) with actual link from David for IGC details. I have seen little public reference to lack of Russian strikes in that area which suggests it is intentionally not being drawn attention to as both that fact and this open announcement of direct coordination are highly significant.


    “…and now they have (as promised) started to do so”

    If the headline and slant of the article was accurate this would be evidence the other way. But it appears to just be beat up. Have not chased details but do not appear inconsistent with Russian claims to be striking Al Qaeda rather than Southern Front (with civilians also getting hit). This would be a highly desirable consequence of coordination with the Jordanian American Military Operations Center. If headline is accurate it would be important and in a lot of news pretty soon.

  113. 113 Arthur


    Full text of Vienna communique (including list of participants) worth studying. Difference from previous platitudes is not the content but the circumstances in which they are being reiterated. ALL relevant outside powers DO in fact now agree on urgency of ending the civil war while maintaining unified Syrian state and protection of minorities with political transition from current Assad regime to freely elections under international supervision.

    Implementation may still be messy with long delays. But those are realistic terms of agreement. NOBODY will support ongoing war for a fascist enclave or tolerate continued existance of Daesh.

    New circumstances are Europe actually paying attention due to refugees so there is now an interested public opinion becoming aware that Assad regime is central to the problem and ending it essential for solution and that this will require outside forces not just pious declarations AND that this needs to start now, not after another few million refugees have arrived in Europe.

  114. 114 Arthur
  115. 115 Arthur
  116. 116 Arthur

    I haven’t been able to keep up with current events and cannot for a while (haven’t even read about Paris yet).

    But what I have seen confirms my comment of October 28:

    “Expect news to be dominated by diplomacy for a while.”

    Things moving very fast on that front:



    Unanimous agreement on ceasefire and negotiations by January 1 and transition to a credible non-sectarian government within 6 months followed by new constitution and elections administered by UN in 18 months with refugees entitled to vote. Jordan to coordinate intelligence agencies designation of which anti-regime forces (in addition to Daesh and Al Qaeda) are excluded as terrorist.

    Still no concrete implementation with peacemakers or even peacekeepers but only agreement for Security Council “monitors”.

    But the level of political agreement including Russia and Iran makes hallucinations based on the propaganda of these imaginary Mediterranean powers about their military feats in Syria quite surreal.

  117. 117 Arthur


    Polish Foreign Minister apparently intended proposal to arm and train refugees to liberate Syria as a slur helping express and mobilize opinion against giving them refuge.

    But it is also what should be done to get an army capable of occupying Syria and holding free elections within the target of 18 months. Best of all the anti-immigrant right will find it hard to oppose as it is coming from their side and opposition from the pseudo-left will only help consolidate support.

    Poland does not have the capability. But Britain and France do have residual armed forces capable of expansion for expeditionary operations – including large numbers of Arab speaking citizens who can provide the essential transition services for liaison between Syrian NCOs and junior officers liaizing and their European counterparts and European forces with the heavy weaponry and logistics.

    Plenty of refugees have military experience so the longest lead time for the “apprenticeship” of NCOs only possible with experience isn’t such a problem. Many will be keen to fight with proper leadership, training, backup with heavy weapons and air support from comrades fighting alongside rather than bootless “advising” from a safe distance and a sane goal that includes rather than prohibits removing the Assad regime and establishing democracy.

    I think this should be the main theme for blogging and media articles. Elections in 18 months won’t happen without an army in place.

    The democratic revolutionary forces in Syria are weaker military than their Takfiri and other Salafi anti-democratic opponents who will soon be their main enemy. There’s still no certainty of adequate US commitment and no reason to assume Germany can offer more than “peacekeepers” whereas elections require “occupiers” who can actually kill people and blow things up to secure free elections by suppressing the significant and well armed forces trying to prevent them (with external finance and logistics from Gulf monarchies). Turkey also problematic because not neutral among the competing Syrian factions and especially Kurds.

    This army could take a year to recruit and train. It needs to start right now.

  118. 118 byork

    BY20 Looks like Assad won’t stand in any future genuine elections. “President Bashar al-Assad will not run for office following Syria’s post-conflict transition, Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu said Monday”.

  119. 119 Steve Owens
  120. 120 Steve Owens
  121. 121 byork

    Seems like ten warnings was not enough. Check out the Russian warplane’s path on this radar image via ABC… The conspiracy theories will be ‘interesting’.

  122. 122 David

    Guest blog by army officer at Catallaxy

    Shows how to militarily defeat Daesh, with maps

  123. 123 Arthur


    Thanks Dave (but please resume numbering to avoid repetition like this).

    I’d like to engage with somebody having military experience but am doubtful of feasability among catallaxy noise.

    Some problems:

    1) Assumes goal “Destroy Daesh” but not the still unrecognized:


    That should come first which then identifies enemies, allies, main and secondary forces, exploitation of divisions among enemies etc with consequences for force generation and logistics. Clearly a limited army officer perspective not a strategic one.

    2) Consequently no identifiable forces or logistics to carry out. Presumably assumes an Obama brain transplant or a coup that would also have to wipe out Biden and the House Speaker.

    3) No reference whatever to long term occupation that would in fact be required.

    4) Absurdly ignorant references to borders – especally Iraq and Syria.

    Am still recovering from op and won’t take time to post there along these lines. But would be very interested in serious elaboration with Riccardo Bosi if he is interested. Feel free to quote above and enquire.

    BTW I went on record on ABC with a more precise estimate of the Kuwait war than his private one to taxi driver:

    “The war will be short, it will be brutal and we will win”

    Mine was:
    “Over in a couple of weeks”. (At which point ABC folded up their cameras and lost interest). Negligible coalition casualties.

    (ie agreed on short and winner but it wasn’t “brutal”).

    Actually my casualties guess was out by an order of magnitude.
    Only about 35 in the end if I recall correctly, mostly self-inflicted “friendly fire”).

  124. 124 Arthur
  125. 125 Arthur

    This strikes me as shedding a lot of light. Lots more at that site. Will have to find out more about them.

  126. 126 byork

    BY21 Forthcoming conference in Riyadh to produce unified Syrian opposition document. Worth following in light of Vienna schedule.

  127. 127 patrickm

    P8 Much more detail on the conference

    P9 also found this interesting as the division in Iran is important in long run

  128. 128 Steve Owens
  129. 129 Arthur


    Closing Dardanelles now starting to be discussed more widely. Curiously first mention I saw was in Sputnik recently.

    Seems utterly clear that hasn’t been closed because they don’t want the Russians to quit, not any fear of war.

    No excuse for not starting to exert pressure to end barrel bombings etc and prepare public opinion for the necessity of western occupation forces (made far easier by agreement through negotiations but without which it is hard to see how any ceasefire could last).

    BTW I saw hints suggesting Ahrar Al Sham, now has to choose sides and will choose not to go down with Al Qaeda. They are the largest fighting group which is Saudi sponsored Salafi with some Takfiri tendencies and maintains neutrality between Al Qaeda and more democratic opposition (does fight Daesh but up to now will not confront Jabhat Al Nusra although will also not fight democrats). Haven’t found link confirming, but its fairly clear the terrorist list Jordan is drawing up will simply be those joining the agreed process vs those rejecting it and classified with Daesh and Al Nusra).

  130. 130 Steve Owens
  131. 131 byork

    BY22 Syrian Coalition stresses need for civilian protection following UK vote for air strikes. Falls short, though, of caling for troop support on the ground.

  132. 132 Steve Owens

    Barry lots of people call for large numbers of troops on the ground. Tellingly all these people live on another continent. I cant think of anyone who lives in the affected area calling for the US to introduce large numbers of ground troops. Obama suggested 200 into Iraq and I haven’t heard of anyone in Iraq supporting this. Anti Americanism in the middle east is very strong, beats me what these people have to complain about.

  133. 133 Steve Owens
  134. 134 byork

    Steve, who mentioned US troops? A coalition of the willing may not involve US ground forces. But when Syrian revolutionaries call for protection, as they have done for a few years now, and as they did in the link at BY22, if it is not effectively fulfilled by air strikes, then you can be sure they will still want it in other ways, including forces on the ground. So far, it seems likely to be British and European forces. And let’s not forget that among those in the refugee camps are many men who served in the Syrian army as conscripts and know how to handle weapons. They will help liberate Syria from the dual fascisms of Assad and Daesh, if given the chance.

  135. 135 Steve Owens

    “Steve, who mentioned US troops?” Sorry Barry but Senior Republican Politicians are mentioning US ground troops

  136. 136 Steve Owens

    Barry apparently Americans are in favor of sending in ground troops. US troops I would presume.
    I guess if you don’t know who is talking about sending in US ground troops then I must accept that you don’t know who is talking about sending in US ground troops but it seems that people who were and are Presidential candidates or aspirants are talking about sending in US ground troops. Heck even do nothing Obama is talking about sending in US ground troops but as I said if you don’t know well you just don’t know.

  137. 137 byork

    You missed my point. I am aware that some non-Syrian supporters of Syria’s democratic revolution in the US and elsewhere want US troops on the ground. Re-read our exchange. I was responding to your assumption that troops on the ground would be American. It may be, or maybe not, but there will be ground forces of some kind by a coalition force. And, of course, the revolutionaries will welcome this, as it will secure greater protection for them; somehting they have cried out for. They know, too, that protection can’t be provided indefinitely by non-Syrian military support and that Assad must go.

    Remember how the Iraqis united into a National Liberation Movement in support of Sadddam Hussein when the US led a coalition to support his overthrow in 2003? Remember one of our regulars at Lastsuperpower talking of the developing INLM? It never happened and it won’t happen in Syria but the usual suspects will imagine it anyway.

    We can expect the Pilgers, Tariq Alis, Stop the War Coalitions, Golden Dawns, British National Front MPs, et al to continue to oppose effective military support to overthrow Assad, be it through an invasion of airspace or on the ground, but, Steve, the decisions of the Vienna talks will not go away and I think we can expect ground forces to assist in ensuring their implementation.

  138. 138 Steve Owens

    Barry I can’t see why anyone would put faith in Vienna. The parallels with Munich seem too great.
    You nominate some people who will “…continue to oppose effective Military support to overthrow Assad,…”
    Barry the only effective military threat to Assad has come from IS that’s what brought Russia to the forefront of this conflict.
    The US has been redirecting it’s on the ground allies away from fighting Assad to fighting IS.
    But really talking with Putin in Vienna will lead to effective military support to overthrow Assad? Really?
    and heres me thinking that the spirit of Neville Chamberlain was dead

  139. 139 Steve Owens

    SO9 I think that Syria wont be as easy as Iraq was

  140. 140 byork

    Steve, your parallel with Munich and the “spirit of Chamberlain” make no sense. I wonder whether you have looked at the text of the statement agreed by the 16 governments (including UN and Arab League) from the most recent Vienna talks. Chamberlain was not on about a political transition in Germany under international supervision, nor about formal negotiations by a due date between the German government and its revolutionary opponents (with the latter chosen by a UN special envoy who is sympathetic to the rebels). Oh yes, Chamberlain didn’t seek a new Constitution for Germany to be followed by free and fair elections within a set timeframe under intenrational supervision. The ‘Chamberlain spirit’ was one of appeasement of fascism. We’ll see who has that spirit when the time comes for an actual enforcement of the above outcomes from the Vienna talks. I can’t see how it can be done without lots of boots on the ground, plus air support as required.

  141. 141 Steve Owens

    Sorry Barry if I have jumped the gun and my comparison may be farely superficial but the parallel is this
    Munich and Vienna two european cities
    Munich and Vienna two conferences where no one from Czechoslovakia or Syria attended
    Munich and Vienna two conferences where the pricipals were objectionable people ie Hitler and Putin
    The players who will decide the outcome of Vienna are Putin the Iranians the Saudis and Assad. Wow what a bunch of gangsters.
    The people that decided the Munich outcome was just Hiler.
    No matter what the Vienna proposals are they will have to get the consensus from a bunch of out and out gangsters. Who will stand up to them Obama? Ban ki Moon?
    Good luck

  142. 142 patrickm

    Barry said ‘…the decisions of the Vienna talks will not go away and I think we can expect ground forces to assist in ensuring their implementation.’ Do people think there will be more of the current Hezbollah, Russian, Iranian or Iraqi shia militia troops that are along with 50 U.S. special forces the only outside troops currently in Syria? I think there will be more of them including U.S..

    Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are all broken and as soon as you start to think this through you will see the mirage of Syria just evaporates. Any country that has a big free Kurdish region is not getting it back other than in some ‘formal’ Iraqi style federal formula and Syria has such a region. Even Arthur has conceded that the Kurds are not being brought back into any ‘Syria’,that Free Kurdish region is something the Turks did not want but it’s happening and when these Kurds have what they want they will not have themselves be used to attack Assad nor anyone else to their south. There are Kurdish people to the north and they are slipping back into a war with Turks who have oppressed them for let’s just say quite a while. IMV Kurds are now and will be in the short term future quite reasonably looking out for their own interests.

    The indisputable current fact is that Assad the root cause of this terrible war now has full air cover over his troops. No one is permitted to attack the root cause of this war without facing Russian air, naval and artillery assets and the Russian troops that use them. BUT the NATO backed rebels are being attacked at will by the Russian COW.

    Just recall this line from 12 years ago 1 May 03 ‘The next logical step for the new policy is to establish a viable Palestinian state. Bush has put himself in a position where he can and must take that step. Naturally, he will not admit to the enormous strategic and policy retreat that such a step implies, so he has preceded it with enough triumphalist rhetoric to make even the Fox News team look queasy.’

    Now I have never doubted the absolute requirement to end the war for Greater Israel that is so profoundly harming U.S. and western interests BUT STILL this viable Palestinian State is not delivered. Nothing has altered the direction and it is mind numbingly still not done but consider what has been done. Gaza evacuated of settlers and then the whole joint turned to rubble. The sheer depravity just goes on.

    Barry you might have looked at the text of the Minsk agreement that the Russians are flouting as flagrantly as they are killing every day of every week Assad enemies formed up as the FSA types and as they actually protect Assad with a total air cover that is not going home any time soon. The parallel with Munich is the whole peace in our time twaddle while Putin calls black white.

    For Christ’s sakes didn’t you listen to the Russians last year over Ukraine? Agreements are what Putin makes and breaks at will. He freezes and unfreezes conflicts that he fights, with the end result control of territory determined by Russian armed forces. You can drive a truck through this paper junk from Vlad the honest. If it was a genuine attempt to move Assad aside and launch democracy in Syria then there would be zero requirement for the tension/conflict with Turkey. That is now what the Russians are building up on as will be the fact that the US COW will now want included groups of the opposition that last year they themselves bombed as terrorists and the Russians will laugh their head off over that negotiation while they continue to bomb US/Turkey backed FSA types every day.

    You know full well the root cause of this war is Assad and Putin has backed him as he has gone along every step of the way.

    There are sides and Putin is on some! There will be no one Syria while Russia and Iran are involved in sorting out who to bomb and shoot.

    You say ‘I can’t see how it can be done without lots of boots on the ground, plus air support as required.’ Good now take a step back to the notion of negotiating in good faith. What evidence do you have that the Russian Iran COW intend to do such a thing?

    Just as Arthur’s urgent coup evaporated and became a secret coup with Assad now as figurehead for another government so will that dopey formula evaporate.

    Only after the Paris killings a vote in the British parliament goes 397 v 223. How would the vote have gone if they were putting in the required soldiers? There won’t be British nor Australian troops. No such problems in Iran and Russia.

    ‘The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the conflict in Syria, said Levant Front was supported in the fighting by the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist group and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

    Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said the rebels had received “new support, which is coming in continuously” from Turkey, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State.
    “Turkish groups against U.S. groups — it’s odd,” he said.’

    There is plenty that is odd in the swamp.

    With half the former Syrian population engaged in a refugee manner internally and externally the forces fighting across the country can’t bring the war to an end and start peaceful development. There was no genuine peaceful development in the past when there was development and the people sought revolution with the Arab spring. The majority of Syrians were fought by Assad in a manner that Putin has approved of and assisted.

    So now Syria is divided into 5 types of regions. Daesh type, Kurd type, FSA type, Assad type and Contested

    When this thread started in September Turnbull had just become PM. I thought the west was led badly but since then – well – out of the frying pan Point being the bloke that would like to shirt front Putin is out and the guy that pragmatically accepts Assad staying is in. The sensible proposal to send Australian special forces was later made by Abbott and his defence minister and rejected by Turnbull and his defence minister.

    Putin would have had second thought if McCain were POTUS. Individuals also matter.

  143. 143 byork

    Steve, you said “No matter what the Vienna proposals are they will have to get the consensus from a bunch of out and out gangsters”. The statement from the Vienna talks, that I referred to above, represents the consensus of the following participants (gangsters such as Putin’s rep included among them):

    United States

    Arab League




    European Union











    Saudi Arabia


    United Arab Emirates

    United Nations

    What they have agreed to so far is here:

    Please read it.

    This bit is important, I think, as far as Russia is concerned:

    “The five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council pledged to support a UNSC resolution to empower a UN-endorsed ceasefire monitoring mission in those parts of the country where monitors would not come under threat of attacks from terrorists, and to support a political transition process in accordance with the Geneva Communique”.

    There will be another round of talks in a week or so. We should follow and discuss what happens.

    Whether we are seeing the process of the end of Assad will be tested over the coming month and year. Will there be a basic ceasefire brokered by the UN? Will a process for drafting a new Constitution be underway (within six months)? Will free and fair elections eventually take place (within 18 months)?

    How can governments that have committed to supporting this, go against their commitment? Isn’t the timetable somehting to be supported, while pointing out that it will need troops on the ground to thwart and defeat anyone who tries to stop its implementation?

  144. 144 Steve Owens

    Thanks Barry I have read the document.
    My position rests on 3 points
    1 Putin is a liar
    2 Putin is a liar
    3 Putin is a liar
    Implementation of the document would be in accord with the interests of the Syrian people. I’m sure that it is designed to give that impression. This week Assad has continued to mass murder Syrians, Russia has been bombing Turk-men and Turkey has shot down a Russian plane. 2 groups financed by the US have been attacking each other and IS has been teaching children to murder.
    Vienna didn’t allow for any Syrians to participate a situation that if Stop the War Coalition had done the same we would be rightfully angry.
    Progress would be if we could hear from some Syrians in Vienna. Progress would be if Putin would stop attacking people just because they are anti the mass murderer Assad.
    There is so much to say but for the sake of brevity I just leave you with the thought that what ever Putin agrees to in public he will do the opposite in private. You know he’s lying because you can see his lips move.

  145. 145 byork

    Steve, now that you’ve read the document you will know that the government representatives and the UN are committed to quite a short timetable – January 1st – as the target date for convening under UN auspices negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition (read: revolutionaries – Daesh and Nusra are excluded). The meeting of opposition groups about to be held in Riyadh will presumably work out a common opposition voice.

    Stop the War Coalition is a disgrace because it is on the wrong side and, no doubt, will be similarly dismissive of the Vienna talks. After all, the agreements coming out of the talks point in the direction of the necessity for ground forces and air support, and they spell the end of the Assad regime, even if he is allowed to hang around for a bit longer than most would like.

    Putin may be a liar but he is a liar who has committed to a process that will probably result in a ceasefire. It may be a shakey peacefire, but if it stops the barrel bombs we should all be pleased.

    The timetable is practicable and so the opposing points of view represented by Steve and Patrick and myself will be able to be tested over the coming months.

  146. 146 byork


    “Member of the Syrian Coalition George Sabra said that the Riyadh conference, which will begin tomorrow in the Saudi capital, is a step in the right direction…

    “The conference provides the Syrian opposition with a chance to lay out a unified vision of the solution, especially in light of the Iranian occupation and the Russian aggression against Syria.”

    Sabra called on participants to adhere to the Geneva I Communique “so that we can formulate a real political solution that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people and ensures the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his ruling elite.”

  147. 147 Steve Owens

    Barry if the Vienna peace proposals work then that will be great and I will gladly say ‘boy did I get that wrong’

  148. 148 Steve Owens

    SO10 I missed the bit in the Vienna statement where Russia would go ballistic.

  149. 149 Steve Owens
  150. 150 Steve Owens

    SO12 Kurdish groups excluded from meeting in Riyadh

  151. 151 Bill Kerr


    Video 6.5 minutes.
    Nicolas Henin (French journalist who was held hostage by Isis for 10 months).
    Core issues: (1) Assad repressed the democratic revolution. (2) International response was passivity.

    Chemical weapons still being used by Assad. Assad’s barrel bombs the current main cause of death for Syrian civilians. Syrian regime kills 7-10 times more civilians than ISIS. Western policies are driving recruits to ISIS. Air strikes just focused on ISIS are counterproductive. Refugees, insofar as they were welcomed to Europe was a blow for ISIS since it undermined their mythology that the West hates Muslims. Paris attack was aimed to reverse European good will to refugees. “Close our borders, more importantly close our minds”. Ultimately to win a war is not decided by weaponry but by who wins the minds of the people. Once the people can see a political solution then the Islamic State will collapse. At the end he calls for a no fly zone which excludes everyone, not very logical since there has to be someone to enforce the no fly zone, but his overall message is strong.

  152. 152 Steve Owens

    SO13 UN brokered deal returns Homs to government control

  153. 153 Steve Owens
  154. 154 Steve Owens

    SO15 Well Dur
    Turkey PM accuses Russia of wanting ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Syria

  155. 155 Arthur


    Unconfirmed but I am assuming this is more or less accurate as well as very much in accordance with my expectations.

    Seems clear there will be negotiations as scheduled, with opposition united on complete exclusion of Assad regime from transitional government.

    Can’t disagree with Ahrar Al Sham’s point that including the NCB at the conference is radically inconsistent with this. But everything to do with diplomacy is always inconsistent and it seems clear the strongest Salafi armed opposition is in fact on board for fighting Al Qaeda as well as Assad (already fighting Daesh).

  156. 156 Steve Owens
  157. 157 Steve Owens

    SO17 Out Of all this middle eastern mess one smart guy has emerged and his name is David Kilcullen. Im always in favour of looking at his views

  158. 158 Arthur


    ““ There would be no ISIS if we hadn’t invaded Iraq in the first place. There would also be no ISIS if Maliki hadn’t applied incredibly sectarian, Shia authoritarian policies after we spent many lives and much treasure to stabilize the country for him. There also would not be an ISIS if we hadn’t withdrawn from Iraq and just left the environment to hang for a few years. So I think you can blame President Obama, you can blame President Bush; you can certainly blame Prime Minister Maliki.”

    Or of course one could blame advisors like Kilcullen who were called in when the Bush administration retreated under the backlash and who imagined that a good way to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq was by arming the Baathists and promising them a return to power which the US had no capacity to deliver. Naturally he can certainly blame Maliki who opposed that idiocy. But why only Maliki? Does ANYONE in the Iraqi government take his advice these days?

  159. 159 Steve Owens

    Kilcullen “From 2005 to 2006, he was Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department.[3] Kilcullen was a senior counter-insurgency advisor to General David Petraeus in 2007 and 2008, where he helped design and monitor the Iraq War troop surge.[4] He was then a special advisor for counter-insurgency to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice”
    But you know better what would Kilcullen know?
    Your second paragraph is just fantasy. He wasn’t called in when Bush retreated He was called in when the US was loosing in Iraq. He helped design and monitor the surge.
    Clearly Arthur should….. no fuck it Im DONE

  160. 160 patrickm

    Why would Kilcullen without any indication of the coming Russian intervention be so worthy of a guernsey in Steve’s links? Here is the 10 July condensed version

    here is his post Russian take.

    But watch 2009 5 May he didn’t think that Obama was a looming disaster.

    Curious to drag him out when Putin and the Iranians are making war.

  161. 161 patrickm

    First just some news re Nepal for those interested

    Here are some links I’ve been coming across. Usually their title is enough so that people have no real need to follow them. It’s the overall direction that is more my point. Just to indicate the all round but expected menacing moves etc.

    Events have shown that without a doubt no deception agreement between Putin and Erdogan was ever involved!
    P14 the push and shove is very real.

    Putin is upping the actions towards Turkey and being an all round friend of the Kurds,
    P 15

    Russians are bullying everywhere

    and even waving the big stick

    and more trouble emerges in a long frozen conflict

    then Russia says no we didn’t come out from another frozen gangster enclave.
    But ‘Russian Mi-8 combat helicopter had crossed into Georgia’s airspace over an area adjacent to the rebel Georgian region of South Ossetia. “It violated the airspace controlled by the central government and flew over a local municipality and police buildings,” the ministry said.

    We can expect more bad faith in all directions amidst the not so subtle threats.

    Turkey and the oil issue is a good example.
    “The irony of the Russians raising this concern is that there’s plenty of evidence to indicate that the largest consumer of ISIL oil is actually Bashar al-Assad and his regime, a regime that only remains in place because it is being propped up by the Russians,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Will the US 63 plus 2 COW now bomb the entire oil industry of Syria including the vital Assad assets that are supposedly protected from attack? That could force Assad to import from the mediterranean via direct Russian-Iranian COW support.

    There is a bigger picture for the Russian elite.
    Up north of Turkey, Moldova is an interesting example of the Russian swamp.

    and some time back

    A little bit of British democratic ‘know how’.
    ‘The Good Governance Fund is a multi-year programme to provide expert advice, training and assistance to the governments of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, and Bosnia Herzegovina.’

    So Russians want to piss the Brits off and only having hammers wave them about..

    In this the 1st paragraph points to how divisive even silly Cameron is. Perhaps a new British Labour leader in the making see last paragraph, they need one.

    Exactly the type of issues develop that one would expect as this gets deeper

    The Hezbollah, Iran, Russia, Iraq shia, Syrian (HIRIS) COW is not such a strange beast after all. It’s happy to share the old Syria with Kurds + some other acceptable opposition (now being gathered together like those left in Homs for example) and Putin now says elements of the FSA are being protected and even armed by Russia (later ‘corrected’ by a spokesman to not armed just protected). No doubt Assad took note.

    HIRIS seems focused on driving off Turkey the only force that was able and semi willing to do the big lift of removing the Assad regime IF only Obama had ‘fully’ backed them at the red line time. But that time came and went.

    My view is that Ahrar al-Sham will most probably be the first big demonstration of bad faith negotiating as they are what counts on the ground and the US -65- COW hold their nose and want them included; so they could be bombed at will for some time by the Russian COW that protects Assad.

    Nice to see leaders looked after and protected for life…

    Midst all the war making there are the very ODD No Bomb Zone proposals. NFZ’s and safe zones and humanitarian corridors are a little bit hard to get from Vlad but HIRIS is making it’s own.

    And like a slow train it nevertheless comes on relentlessly.

    IMV this is more the style of how and when Assad will be cut out of the ongoing governing of parts of Syria P31

    Not sure where people think the half theory stands at the moment. The expected coup is NOT any quick affair and any deception involved clearly does NOT include ANY western governments whatever.

    HIRIS has far greater current war fighting capacity deployed than what was dismissed as just a few russian aircraft that can’t alter the direction of this war. What is more, much of this keeps unfolding in very much old style Russia against Turkey style; while it’s clearly harming the economic interests of everybody in the process.

    The currently unknown Russian strategy is fully linked to the big regional locals. Iran that has some form of twisted democracy -internally conflicted with a revolution lurking just below the surface of it’s guided voting- is on board with Russia and will have a big say on just when Assad is ‘transitioned’.

    Russia is trying to link at least obliquely to Egypt where the coup leader has identified the KSA influenced religious backwardness as his biggest problem so he can’t afford real voting.

    Russia is linked to big players in Iraq militias that constitute an uncontrollable element that the Iraqi government also Shia dominated just can’t fight even if they wanted to.

    Russia is friendly with the all important Kurdish wild card right in the middle of Turkeys resumption of its own internal and external war and there is also the minor groups now emerging like the Armenians that have as a people their own memories of Turkish historical inclusiveness.

    There are a dozen other minor groupings that Daesh, Nusra-Al Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham types largely present a great danger to like the Yazidis, Druze, Turkmen etc so as often as not are not fully committed to war against the Assad regime

    That big line-up is mostly a fighting front against Russia’s historical enemy the remains of the Ottoman empire AND Russia’s current enemy the other oil giant and centre of Islamic terror the KSA.

    So this seems to me to be the start of a deeper involvement rather than Nixonian style bombing on the way out of Syria.

    Nevertheless given that EVERYONE agrees that Assad will be cut loose at some stage and that acceptable opposition forces WILL be found to form some new arrangement of government – determined by the Syrians (democratically no less) – enclaves seems reasonable for the next year of war making to get to frozen conflict status.

    Given what has happened to half the Syrian peoples as displaced and refugees I think we are now looking at the plan for a 3 or 4 or more state solution.

    What is about to be done to the Daesh areas is bound to drag on for longer than Obama’s 402 days.

    In other words another frozen conflict where something will turn up is more to be expected so we could expect Assad to outlast Obama. But he may not if the Iranians and Russians tell him times up, or if a bomber gets lucky.
    On another front it’s good to see the Libyan war being rejoined with western support. But it’s because DAESH and Al Qaeda sorts are there and coming out to play in Paris etc and so are now seen as a problem otherwise the Obama doctrine of let the ragheads kill each other has been followed for these last 4 years.

    The message NOW to the groups in Libya is sign up to this democratic deal or be attacked by those who have signed up backed up by the US – NATO and look both ways Egypt. This deal even has mother Russia’s blessing, as if they could make trouble anyway so may as well get brownie points.

    The Russians have clearly demonstrated how to set up tripwire deployments so NATO now has a first rate disaster to deal with and I am beginning to think it may have to wait for the Iranian-Turkish-Kurdish-Egyptian revolution to even begin to patch this up.

    It might take decades to expel Russia from club Med where I agree it ought have no place being!

    The half theory posited Russia as playing a useful role in rapidly ending the Assad government – now to a complete time table established at Vienna and thus bringing peace to Syria with a transfer to what could only be some peacekeepers (German etc) followed by power sharing constitutional government. I still think this is more than doubtful. so I think sect type control of ‘not quite sect’ regions is more probable.

    Stability in a Lebanese type peace after a civil war is a model that makes sense to me.

    But slow descent into a full blown regional war is also still possible.

    People might want to show a long term upside of any of this from a Russian perspective because I am unable to identify where it lies. Putin has not managed a smart downsizing but tried to reverse history IMV.

    The world has ruled out any chance of a truce with al nusra front-al Qaeda, Daesh etc and they with the world.

    ‘Joulani ruled out any chances of a truce or political settlement with the Assad government, adding Syrian forces only control about 20 percent of the country’s territory.

    “As far as we are concerned, the regime is all but finished … and in fact it has become more factions than a regime, controlled by this colonel or that general,” said Joulani.

    After launching military action in September, Russia has so far failed to make any significant advances and will fail in propping up the Syrian government, said Joulani.’

    The half theory is similarly premised but I think it is Joulani that is in greater danger of being finished FIRST now that the world has been refocussed. Assad was being defeated and will be defeated but so will Joulani etc so when and how Assad is to be ‘transitioned’ and what HIRIS will be left with is still some time away IMV.

  162. 162 Arthur

    T1420 I just wasted 20 minutes on quickly skimming P14-P33 in the hope that they might shed some light on Patrick’s answer to Bill’s question in the End Baath thread about what he expects in the next six months.

    My conclusion is that these 20 links were basically spam. I will not be wasting time to open future such links. The majority had nothing to do with Syria at all but merely confirmed my assertion that Patrick is not studying Syria at all but merely ranting about Russia. The minority that were related to Syria shed no light on anything in particular (unless one can get excited about the Russian equivalent of the daily India-Pakistan war dances in “response” to Turkey shooting down a Russian jet):


    Perhaps one link was of more interest, P33 shows that Al Qaeda understands that the revolution is uniting to destroy them as well as Daesh and their hopes of taking advantage of the defeat of the regime are being “betrayed”.

    The West is still not fighting a war for democracy but only forced to act by the disasters that have followed from inaction and all “opinion leaders” are still blathering about Islamists, Islamic State and a “war on terror” (or trying to find somewhere other than Europe for the millions of refugees resulting from their stupidity to end up).

    But the hard reality is they need the civil war to end and that means the regime has to go. Obviously the regime cannot survive if it stops waging war on the Syrian people. Nor can it survive transition to “loyal opposition” for six months or longer, since nothing but the regime itself can prevent the opposition taking power.

    It still looks like Salafis will be a major part of what emerges from the fight against the Takfiris that will follow the eventual ceasefire following agreement on a transitional regime. They will want an outcome like Saudi Arabia. But they will have to join the fight against Al Qaeda as well as Daesh and although they are strong militarily, they too will have to adapt to the reality that Syria won’t have peace without democracy.

    I still think that will require substantial western occupation forces. But I still see no confirmation of that and in particular a lack of visible preparations. They seem to still hope it will be done by others. Others are already moderating their language to feed those hopes:


  163. 163 Arthur


    Sorry I meant to include A61 for modified language since May when it became clear regime collapse was imminent and therefore war with Al Qaeda as well as Daesh was imminent before earlier language in A60.

  164. 164 Steve Owens

    Patrick you find my ‘dragging’ Kilcullen out as ‘curious’.
    Well Kilcullen is a public intellectual writing about IS and how to defeat them.
    He has a particular set of experiences that are unmatched by any other public intellectual.
    As an army officer he was engaged to train Indonesian commandos.
    He developed an interest in Islamic insurgencies and he wrote a doctoral thesis on Islamic insurgents some of whom became JI
    Paul Wolfowitz read his thesis and was so impressed that he asked for Kilcullen to be seconded to the US. The Australian military said ‘wouldn’t you rather have a General rather than a L.Colonel’ but Wolfowitz said no he would rather have David.
    Killcullen went on to work with all the White House leadership team and was then sent to work with Petraeus on the surge. Since then he returned to the White House to work for Condi Rice. He has visited Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia. He has written an award winning essay on IS. Currently he has a strategy to beat IS and he has a view about what the Russians are up to but modestly he doesn’t claim any special insights into IR as he is just a COIN guy.
    I am saying that he is someone with an enormous amount of first hand experience and a level of theory that is very high coupled with an ability to present material very clearly.
    In response to me mentioning that Kilcullen as someone to pay attention to Arthur replies
    “Or of course one could blame advisors like Kilcullen who were called in when the Bush administration retreated under the backlash and who imagined that a good way to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq was by arming the Baathists and promising them a return to power which the US had no capacity to deliver. Naturally he can certainly blame Maliki who opposed that idiocy. But why only Maliki? Does ANYONE in the Iraqi government take his advice these days?”
    Arthur’s “contribution” his description of the surge, not only simplistic but so wrong in fact that I found it not worthy of comment.
    And then you weigh in with your ‘curious’ comment. Well I find it curious that you would ignore Arthur’s palpable nonsense about the surge to insinuate that there’s something ‘curious’ that I should recommend a writer of such experience and talent.
    Let s get over Kilcullen’s opposition to the invasion which he described in an interview as “fucking stupid” If you can’t learn from people who hold a different position then you can’t learn.

  165. 165 Steve Owens
  166. 166 Steve Owens
  167. 167 Steve Owens

    “Steve, now that you’ve read the document you will know that the government representatives and the UN are committed to quite a short timetable – January 1st – as the target date for convening under UN auspices negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition”
    Well that’s a missed target

  168. 168 Byork

    Steve, it was a target date which now looks set for 25th January.

  169. 169 patrickm

    Arthur said less than a month back December 3, 2015 at 6:13 am ‘Haven’t found link confirming, but its fairly clear the terrorist list Jordan is drawing up will simply be those joining the agreed process vs those rejecting it and classified with Daesh and Al Nusra).’

    That is NOT what the Russians think. P34
    ‘The Russian side so far believes it is unnecessary to make public its proposals for the list of terrorist groups…’

    That is what I thought they would do and when I thought they would do it. That is how this delay process works.

    Ethnic cleansing is what I have expected and what is being asserted by the Turks. P35

    and Assad victories are also what I have expected and
    is in the exact mold of what that expectation was, as now some ‘acceptable opposition’ emerge in this manner and the unacceptable get bussed to another killing ground or flee the country in the case of some of these refugees. This area is now safe from barrel bombing air attacks and provided there are no attacks out of it on the Assad government troops all is now good and those who remain are all some who can sing with the choir.

  170. 170 Steve Owens

    If people were interested in peace then people would declare an immediate cease fire with anyone willing and then set a date for talks.
    What we are seeing is Putin bombing Assad into a position of strength at which time he will be happy to declare a cease fire and talk seriously. This has been clear for some time it baffles me that people following events cant see it.

  171. 171 Steve Owens
  172. 172 Steve Owens
  173. 173 Bill Kerr

    Success in the majority of circumstances depends on knowing how long it takes to succeed
    – Montesquieu (1689-1755)

  174. 174 Steve Owens

    What the fuck does that mean?
    – Owens (1956- )

  175. 175 Steve Owens

    Barry, here’s the peace process going down the toilet, brought to us by those wonderful people who run Saudi Arabia

  176. 176 Byork

    Steve, you are all over the place. The UN envoy is aiming for the 25th of this month. It may not happen on that date. But happen, it will. And it is a significant step in the direction of the end of Assad and towards victory for the pro-democracy forces. It can be tested and there is good reason to believe a ceasefire will be achieved (but expect the isolated fanatics to try to disrupt it, with the anti-war people continuing to proclaim how hopeless the situation is).

  177. 177 patrickm

    Barry that is a bit misleading if not self delusionary. Pro liberation people like me are saying this war is being fought in a manner that is different to what you think. But there is not much detail to what you think other than that Vienna has settled the matter and now the process will more or less unfold to the agreed plan. I think that is rubbish and ‘But happen, it will.’ is to say nothing at all about what will be the next ten years of struggle.

    There is nothing isolated about the KSA fanatics killing a notable Shia cleric and some other fanatics from Al Qaeda and whatever and big wars spread from smaller events like assassinations in Sarajevo.

    The HIRIS COW is using diplomacy as expected as one track and fighting as the other and this is done all the time. I saw no ‘good reason to believe a ceasefire will be achieved’ when Vienna announced the formation of the choir nor the date’s and I have so far NOT been surprised by the increased killing of the FSA types that I predicted would be what the HIRIS COW would be up to and the missed dates that I also predicted.

    Barry I’ve thought for some time that a regional war is essentially underway and I think we can at least agree that the actions of the KSA in murdering Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr do not indicate that the choir is ready to sing the same song so that an end to the Assad regime is now planned out.

    The Syrian people’s struggle to rid themselves of their police state tyranny re-emerged in 2011 as part of what drain the swamp theory predicted as a region wide upsurge. The Syrian struggle had lay dormant for decades after the current rulers father slaughtered the people into submission and re-established total control. There is nothing currently left of the old and failed proposals to get rid of the Assad regime from the Turks, US and the British etc.

  178. 178 patrickm

    For nine years all manner of Iraq’s worst elements – Baathists officers and Sunni supremacists – as well as other Al Qaeda types had been sheltering in Syria and conducting war from there back into Iraq against a US COW essentially unwilling to retaliate and escalate and then against the new Iraqi democratic government that was necessarily dominated by the hated Shia. These bastards were backed by a rotten KSA or that government turned a blind eye to the Saudi extremists that were backing the bombers. The west and every European government ought to have gone mental then but instead people tut tutted about the US having started this by freeing the Iraqi people from the Baathist tyranny. Then the US went wobbly and drifted!

    Then came the Arab spring and it spread to Syria 2011. Assad repression starting out as substantially a civil war BUT it is now 2016 and the Assad regime is not disbanding or disintegrating though it was clear that this regime (the known root cause of that Syrian civil war) was in 2015 slowly losing a war that had dragged on for all these years. That has changed as has Yemen and Turkey and the situation of the Kurds and so on all the way back to Ukraine.

    That Syrian war had changed from civil to a regional war in the fighting. The Sunni and Shia power blocks got involved and europe stayed out and a ‘proxy’ style conflict had emerged that sees moderate islamist Turkey hold its nose and work more closely with the KSA filth. I don’t think Erdogan would have killed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and the US didn’t want it but could not stop the rats of the KSA government from doing this. But Turkey has slipped back into it’s own civil war. Kurds and Armenians [Putin’s best pals now did you know that Lavrov was ½ Armenian] are restive and people are again dying right across the breadth of Turkey and right through the old soviet sphere. This has been spreading.

    Assad losing – as he was – eventually leads to disbanding or disintegrating and has now after the dramatic Russian led HIRIS COW intervention been reversed. How long this new direction will last is dependent on how willing is that coalition of the willing. I think they are more willing than Arthur thinks they are.

    For the last 3 months there is extra effort and troops and 2 quite distinct COW’s that have region wide issues with no reason for either to back down yet and Syria that had been shattered in a systematic way became more shattered to a big plan. Almost half it’s population has been displaced and a policy of destroying everything from homes to hospitals has been implemented for years. The result is that areas of control have been established and the Assad areas are not rubble. They have a no fly zone protective air cover over them and the other areas that fight against the regime do not. The Assad zones have become the safe place to live if you don’t engage in politics and just do as you have always done in this police state.

    Since the war started people have fled in both directions, and even those that would have liked to have seen an end to the tyranny know that there are now other monsters loose. The Assad regime still has a mass base that is in relatively good shape.

    The assertion is ‘There is now a process in train [Vienna] to bring together the forces willing to tolerate and work with other forces to form a post-Assad government.’

    Dave said as recently as Dec20 ‘The Assad regime is on the verge of collapse and Russia and Iran are presently staging holding operations aimed mainly at keeping Daesh and similar groups at bay.’

    I think Assad has established a HIRIS barrier to Turkey and protected his zones from air attack. We are seeing exactly the same events and I say people do not disband or disintegrate when slaughter is before them. They retreat in as orderly manner as they can manage. Disunity is death.

    Once a counter revolutionary great power Coalition enters the fight with a Coalition Of Willing partners, years of slaughter for the revolutionary people is almost bound to unfold. Russia with Iran and Iraqi Shia, Hezbollah and Syrians is such a counter revolutionary COW.

  179. 179 Arthur

    Still don’t have time to keep up with Syria.

    Main result of all the confusion (here as well as generally)
    is avoiding the issue that ceasefire will eventually require Western troops in both peacekeeper and peacemaker (ie combat) roles.

    They should be mobilizing expeditionary forces now, and recruiting Syrian refugees to them.

    But so far the only actual preparations that have been visible to me is the German battalion for “reconnaisance” and there are far more indications that the politicians and their diplomats are still under delusions about local (Syrian and regional) forces somehow sorting it all out in a ceasefire without blood and treasure from the West.

    Any ceasefire will be difficult and partial. It only makes it easier and cheaper for the Western forces that should have intervened long ago to avoid things getting so bad, by agreements on what can be agreed among those who don’t want things to continue getting worse. But any plausible ceasefire agreement will still need outside enforcers.

    Its good that Salafi anti-democrats that are the strongest anti-Assad fighters are lining up to fight Al Qaeda as well Daesh. That is vital given how well embedded Jabhat Al Nusra has become with much of the mainstream opposition because it genuinely does fight both Assad and Daesh.

    But it doesn’t change the fact that “friction” between the democratic forces fighting the regime and both pro-regime forces and anti-democratic gangsters and Salafis opposed to the regime and the various kurdish factions will become “combat” despite any ceasefire unless there are strong external forces available to both police the “friction” as peacekeepers and rapidly suppress and punish combat as peacemakers.

    Hopefully Patrick will stop proclaiming that everything is unfolding exactly as he expected when actual negotiations supported by all Security Council members start with both Jaish Al Fateh and Ahrar Al Sham in the opposition delegations with of course the Russians having made it clear that this was not what they wanted, as anyone sensible in their position would and as TASS just did.

    But any such recognition still won’t change the fact that Western governments appear to be at least waiting for the necessity to become obvious before making necessary military preparations including preparing public opinion for them.

    Imagining that the war is going well for the regime and that the Russians are its saviours only hinders any preparation of public opinion. But abandoning that fantasy won’t change anything either.

    There is still no prospect of being able to contribute to a non-existant public debate so when I do have more time I will be returning to studying economics in preparation for possible public debate in a future crisis rather than trying to write on Syria.

  180. 180 Byork

    Patrick, I think it will be a step in the right direction rather than a settlement of its own volition. I can’t think of any ceasefires that have not required the exercise of military force for their implementation. But the complexity of the situation in Syria, which I still am trying to comprehend, indicates that the ceasefire will not end 100% of the violence. I think its eventual implementation, based on a superior intervening military force, will stop the barrel bombs, though, and allow for the election of a government.

  181. 181 Steve Owens

    “Steve, you are all over the place.” by this I read that my raising the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr is outside the scope of a discussion about Syria.
    Well Barry I think that the Syrian civil war is part of a region wide conflict.
    What a cynical and calculated move it is by Saudi officials to take the head off a significant Shia personality only days before they were going to sit down with Shia Iran to discuss Syria.
    If we only look at Syria then we miss half the picture, a picture that includes the torching of the Saudi embassy in Terhan the breaking of diplomoatic relations, the wide spread comments among Shia leaders that the House of Saud needs to fall.
    All the while that war rages on in Syria, Iraq and Yemen
    Yes maybe I am all over the place, after all it was only one head off one person in a land far far away.

  182. 182 Steve Owens
  183. 183 byork

    BY24 Hardly suggestive that Putin wants Assad to remain in power. I particularly like Putin’s remark about the need for elections: Assad would only need protection in Russia if he didn’t win a democratic election in Syria. Which means: bye bye Assad.

  184. 184 Steve Owens

    Hi Barry my eyes glaze when ever Putin mentions democracy because democrat is a title that he claims for himself as do the leaders of Iran. They always confuse democracy with elections which is easily done if your are a murderous gangster who also participates in elections.
    I found this an interesting read SO24

  185. 185 Steve Owens

    SO25 The question is will Putin have degraded Assads enemies enough by Jan 25 for talks to go ahead or will he need another delay

  186. 186 patrickm

    For anyone not familiar with him, this young Dutchman is doing great work

    Two weeks from song selection negotiations – and this is useful for numbers in particular P37

    I noticed Failaq al-Sham just pulled out of its coalition with Nusra and retreated to Aleppo so they will try their best to be acceptable but I doubt that they will be. The KSA will naturally accept them and so will the U.S. so they will be OK for supplies – but I guess HIRIS will not accept them till Failaq call a ceasefire and accept some negotiated territorial limits. Who is to control what territory is the key. BUT Nusra is truly ‘embedded’ across a big chunk of rebel territory that is currently under HIRIS attack as they expand and solidify on all fronts. But terrorists are able to be attacked anytime with Daesh and Nusra specified as only the base constant by everyone! Daesh is mostly isolated and east and Nusra is mostly embedded and west.

    Nusra as a reformed and developing Al Qaeda is smarter and going to be harder to defeat regardless of the Russian intervention than Daesh. They are a more long term problem.

    This might help people get a handle on what some of the Syrian fighting groups are

    There are going to be a lot of ‘acceptable’ groups for HIRIS to negotiate with as they are starting to negotiate now, and as these talks produce ceasefire agreements to freeze the various fronts.
    But HIRIS is a fundamentally anti KSA COW and whatever it’s games it is going to stay that way. It is a Shia-plus all manner of others including liberal Sunnis and Russia COW, and is attempting to deal with Sunni groups as well as the real problem – any Syrian masses that seek to live in relatively democratic dignity. Nusra and the more stupid Daesh are only the first defined Sunni terror groups, there will be more. The anti- terror-anti Assad fighting masses and hapless peoples’ who are still left in rubble-stan in non Daesh areas will often be able to be attacked even with the current formula because of the good job done by Nusra of becoming widespread and embedded.

    People who are Assad ‘supporters’ had better choose armed separation because if they don’t then they will face demographic domination by day and death squads by night! That is how it has unfolded in Iraq and Lebanon before that. That is how the world of gangster rule works. Ethnic cleansing has been going on for years and has made a new reality. Assad has played games, as have the Russians and the Iranians and now their interests are all tangled up together for this coming year. Assad will last out the remaining 372 days of Obama because it is in HIRIS interests that he does.

    The recent history of Bahrain demonstrates that the KSA is THE big swamp blockage (that is up against very stiff competition) and that if you are unarmed then an armed minority will just deny you – any rights at all – backed by the power of the KSA! The KSA just told a big chunk of it’s own population that anyone who even talks about having rights will be killed in Daesh fashion. The Shia right across the region have to face that reality after years of Sunni idiocy from the likes of Saddam all the way through to the Al Qaeda / Daesh market place bombers. They have to face the cultural backwardness of the KSA that personifies a worse than ‘Shah’ that the shia toppled. Both the progressive and the more reactionary in Iran know that the KSA is a massive problem that must be confronted on the ground in Syria. They have had to confront it in Iraq for years!

    Failaq al-Sham have stepped away from the already declared terrorists while clearly still talking about the fight against the Shia and Iran etc P39

    This BBC ‘roadmap’ discussion from Dec 19 showed that a song is a long way from settled. P40 It also showed – what is agreed on – and that is that Assad is not central to the Russians. But that he has ‘hi-jacked’ a seat at the table, that really belongs to those that can’t get rid of him just at the moment. Talk of democratic elections in this part of the swamp to be held in 18 months is from my POV a Putin style joke. The Government of Bahrain is a bit like that I suppose but then they were propped up with overwhelming KSA force. KSA soldiers putting the hated Shia in their effectively slave status! The KSA is a big part of what the democratic revolution has to sort out in the swamp. Failaq al-Sham will keep KSA backing, but they will also keep being bombed and shot at by HIRIS because they ‘can’t be trusted’ or rather like everyone else in the swamp they can be trusted to oppress the hated other.

    The following is the exact type of issue that was always on the – too difficult to talk about list P41 just like people drowning! Devil take the hindmost types sloshing about now in their millions is bound to backfire on leftists. Developing respectful conversations as part of investigations about the full spectrum of refugee issues is essential for any viable left. Actually any respectful conversation and inquiry is essential and those that can’t manage it place themselves in another category altogether.

    For four months it has been clear that …’the Russians are not attacking Daesh but are in fact attacking the Salafi forces the Saudis are arming and financing.’ So the notion that Putin’s intervention is on balance a good thing because ‘The regime has needed somebody it could surrender to rather than simply be massacred by for quite some time.’ is for my money a start of a longer argument. Such an argument – that accounts for the Russian etc., bombing where 80% of those bombs are targeted at the people who are actually better to surrender too – is not as clear to me as the bombing. Upsetting those people would only seem best practice IF another grand COW had turned up and could be relied on to smash that 2nd enemy anyway and people intend to stay armed in the manner of Hezbollah and all the others of Lebanon . This western backed fight against Daesh can be relied on and that is what has the KSA so furious. KSA fury demonstrates to all the world why Iran is bound to stick in HIRIS and why no one wants to end up as a Bahraini or a Palestinian!

    Turns out that the U.S. COW is now fighting pretty well and has the Kurds and the Iraqi forces rolling back Daesh. They will not stop and at some point people who have declared Assad as their target as some Kurdish ground forces in the north have will have finished with their Daesh work and have that HIRIS problem to face. Enter the Russians from the south P42

    At that point they might feel protected enough by the US COW but more probably they will be looking at what is happening to their Kurdish people further north. The Iraqi forces that are rolling back Daesh include the Iranian backed Shia militias that have also sent contingents into Syria. The very heavy lifting in Iraq is being done by the Iraqi government forces and they are steadily making progress as they work without very many COW boots on the ground. There are many Iranians in Iraq these days! There is also reports of their aircraft now being deployed as one would expect from all POV’s P43

    ‘Running low on Syrian manpower, Assad’s war effort is increasingly managed by Iran, another power pushing for partition. In recent negotiations over the besieged town of Zabadani, Iran demanded a Sunni-Shia population exchange. It seems Assad and the Iranians aim to retrench in an area stretching from the coast through Homs along the Lebanese border to Damascus – their version of what the French occupiers called ‘la Syrie utile’. The cleansing of strategic zones – currently Zabadani and the Damascus suburbs – is part of this plan.’

    Four months on from this article P44 Daesh have lost territory to the Kurds but so has various ‘acceptable’ rebel types and HIRIS territory has expanded. Areas that were being barrel bombed have had even more people killed and refugees made and Daesh still mostly left alone. But that is no worry to HIRIS because the French and British and even the Germans (the whole west really even Canada in it’s own way) have been provoked into action against Daesh. That suggests to me that the border regions of unlivable rubblestan are expanding and the safe Assad areas are also expanding in a systematic way. A full theory would have to account for areas that are surrendering to HIRIS.

    The half theory would have to establish why this style of war making right now? If Putin intends to end the HIRIS war by splitting his COW and ending the regime (and this is all now spelt out and just waiting for the delayed meetings apparently) why kill more of those that are acceptable to hand over to! Why not kill lots of Daesh and where you can single them out Nusra and start the negotiations with the acceptable on time?

    Has this Putin led challenge to the west on who is and is not going to sort out Syria endeared Russia to all grateful western governments? Not one bit!

    What is so unthinkable now – after four months of intense HIRIS intervention – of a Lebanese style ‘end’ and a result that leaves the KSA upset? After all the KSA is upset and the Iranians are confronted by Bahrain style bastardry from them as usual.

    ‘It turns out there was an alternative and we are now seeing it. It will take longer and be bloodier than if the West had intervened but it will end the catastrophe.’ sounds like a theory that the Iranians are about to back down to Sunni forces that they have just been complicit in systematically ethnically cleansed with barrel bombing over several years. HIIS were losing and if the Iranians had stepped up the war making then either Turkey and the US would have stepped in or the KSA would have BUT enter R and HIRIS is a horse of a different colour. HIRIS is not loosing now. Shielded as they now are Iran CAN step in all it wants and I think it wants.

    All sides having agreed to elections -with a democratic constitution including minority rights – the acceptable new government will arrive after a vote of the entire Syrian people. So Sunni demographic domination will result just as Shia has resulted in Iraq. Then Syria will wriggle out of the HIRI sphere! Keeping Russian bases and staying in that embrace is not what those now being barrel and cluster bombed will want. The new government run by acceptable opposition will be backed by the unreformed KSA. This is to emerge after ceasefire (not inclusive) after some 18 months of something essentially already agreed. That acceptable new government will settle down and take the country in the KSA direction?!? I doubt that HIRI will go along with that.

    Now the half theory is a bit quiet on when Russia is to go home in this already agreed plan. Nixon knew the U.S. WERE going home. So the Russians will not keep their bases on the Mediterranean and presumably understand that they won’t be able to stop the new direction that democratic Syria either drifts or lurches towards. The majority of Syria is Sunni and KSA backed and the majority in Bahrain is Shia and Iranian backed but nothing like democracy is resolved in that case nor has democracy anything to do with the KSA. In Iran the democratic struggle is now intense but the conservatives still have the upper hand on this external matter.

    Even ‘Obama will be able to boast success’ having left office while Assad was still barrel bombing those that don’t accept the HIRIS conditions for a ceasefire. I don’t think so.

    ‘and the EU will be able to boast success.’ despite the fact that perhaps a hundred thousand peacekeeping troops will be required from a Europe NOT yet prepared to supply them!

    The reason ‘Public opinion will remain as bewildered as Patrick.’ is presumably because the fabulously insightful articles can’t be put in the MSM because they are all too tedious to be written. We will just have to wait like the starving that are currently under siege!

    I would think every year down the track the Syrian people will recall who backed Assad for many many decades. They could also recall a U.S. led west that left them to their fate, a west that had earlier brought calamity on the Palestinians and left them under Netanyahu bombing.

    How does the half theory cope with the notion that all have agreed that Assad is not central to H,I,R,I or S and what is planned on being retained is the Syrian deep state because democracy can’t be unleashed or Syria will slowly expel all those that have been complicit in what has just been done over these years of bombing and ethnic cleansing.

    The ½ theory has not solved any of these issues. Cutting up Syria in a frozen conflict is not unthinkable. Putin works as the protective Don in a COW of gangsters up against some other gangsters and the various peoples revolutions are caught in the middle. Assad will outlast Obama (unless some bomber gets lucky). Putin would probably like that bomber to get lucky as would Iran etc., as they could properly assist in the re-arrange the chairs process then. But they can’t kill him themselves (and get away with it)! They can’t grab him and move him to Russia with some Hezbollah manned palace coup that was predicted by the busy half theorist! Assad is still a player and not yet so utterly dependent on HIRI as to be a figurehead only as has been wrongly asserted – yet HIRIS will go on after Assad.

    The war making goes on to a real plan that has not been fully explained because Vienna has settled the issues. This has been deliberately turned into a sectarian conflict where democracy is proclaimed by day and death squads stalk by night. So I think people will keep their guns and hold their enclaves as best they can.

    I have already said what I expect after six months and that time is 1 month on. The thing is I would love to be wrong. No problem yet – said the man as he fell from the 6 story building.

    Obama has 372 days remaining and a worldwide capitalist crisis is again (at least not unrealistically) in the offing, with all the 1% V 99% implications, spreading gangsterism and so forth.

    I think Hezbollah, Iran, Putin’s Russia and Iraqi Shia Militias and Assad himself have an interest in humiliating Obama and the U.S. COW -(like Netanyahu and Clinton wants to get a crack at him from month 1) and so as this would be humiliating I am backing that horse called self interest. I have been open to thinking about this HIRIS COW since the dramatic intervention brought it into a war making reality despite the assertions that the Russians are not doing enough to have an impact. There have been no coups, no replacement of the actual Syrian gangster regime personnel and no disunity because that would really be death. What there has been is war making Russian style in a COW and the KSA is fuming and killing ‘reasonable’ Shia clerics. Getting matters to the point of freezing this war seems a big enough task for HIRIS. I recall there was going to be a ceasefire and meeting a fortnight ago. It didn’t happen. Now we have to wait 12 more days to see what song the next meeting produces. Both the Iranians and KSA say their issues won’t disrupt the great progress to be unfolded in Syria; well we will see. Barry do you think Assad will outlast Obama?

  187. 187 byork

    Steve, elections are vital to democracy but only if they are free and fair. They are vital because they allow the people to be sovereign and to change those who govern them. Free and fair elections in Syria is the stated aim of the 17 nation International Syrian Support Group, backed by the UN Security Council’s unanimous resolution in December. If all goes to plan, the free and fair, UN supervised, elections will be held in 18 months.

    Patrick, all my politically active life I’ve been overly optimistic but, assuming enough countries are willing to commit troops on the ground to enforce the ceasefire, then it is unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will still be President 18 months (or however long it takes for the elections to be held – might be 24 months, might be less, who knows?) from now.

    Steve, your SO24 establishes that US air power is necessary for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to succeed on the ground against Daesh in Iraq. Air support will be needed in Syria, too, to support peace-keepers and peace-enforcers there. As I’ve said previously, without them, how can a ceasefire work?

  188. 188 Arthur

    Barry and Dave,

    Could you please arrange for a functional “Syria Links” thread to be established at some other web site.

    This thread has become unusable. A fresh links thread is needed anyway as this one is now too long.

    But if it is established here I do not believe Patrick will ever comply with just posting links to his rants in other threads or web sites as he either is not aware of where he is posting when he feels the urge, or else believes he is entitled to inflict his ranting anywhere rather than linking to it so as to prevent people exchanging information without wading through whatever is passing through his mind.

    PS Please use a discussion facility that does not require users to register with anyone (eg just use the provided poster’s email address to flag which posts need to be checked for spam before appearing as they are not from a known regular with a consistent, although possibly fake, email address).

    This method, which is in use here, avoids requiring people to disclose real email addresses, while also enabling screening of the spam that bombards any web site.

  189. 189 Steve Owens

    Barry try this, list all the national leaderships that have an interest in the outcome of the Syrian civil war in order of most to least interest.
    My list is
    Saudi Arabia
    Gulf States
    My point is that you have to go pretty deep into the list before you find anyone whose interests line up with a democratic outcome. Every one says they want democracy just like everyone at Munich said they wanted peace.

  190. 190 Steve Owens

    Free Syrian Army and 33 other groups threaten to boycott Jan 25 talks

  191. 191 Steve Owens

    Barry if free and fair elections were held in Syria I imagine that something like the Muslim Brotherhood would be elected only that because theres been a civil war I would expect it to look more like Hamas. Can you imagine the regional response to a Hamas lead Syria.

  192. 192 byork

    Steve, the FSA and the other opposition groups acted intelligently in seeking to use the forthcoming talks to exert pressure for the implementation of the UN Security Council’s humanitarian aid clauses in Security Council resolution 2254. The SNC spokesman makes sense: “I think it’s good for them to use such a statement to put some pressure on the Russian or Iranians to push Assad to start implementing confidence building measures”.

    If free and fair elections in Syria result in “something like the Muslim Brotherhood” being elected, then that is what the Syrian people want. Secularism does not have a good name there. Assuming a negative response from some parties in the region is not a reason for not supporting regime change and democracy.

    Re-your list of countries and your invitation to put them in order according to democratic interests in Syria, do you really believe that the UN brokered moves for a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement involving elections are just a ploy? That’s a lot of co-ordinated effort just to make things difficult for the pseudo-left.

    UN Secretary-General has just used “war crime” in relation to the tactic of starvation. Assad is a liability to just about everyone but may be made comfortable in Russia eventually.

  193. 193 Steve Owens

    Barry you seem to be mixing my argument up with something else. My argument is that there is a considerable gap between what people are prepared to say and what is in their interests to do.
    Example everyone especially Russia ans Assad make loud noises about their support for the humanitarian clauses in resolution 2254 just visit the SANA web page its full of Russian and Syrian army lorries running food to poor starving people the same people that they have been starving to death. Its similar to Assad’s support for not using chemical weapons only to find that chlorine bombs are not covered by the chemical weapons ban and Assad is free to drop this and barrel bombs on civilians. Check out SANA again Russia and Assad deplore the idea that innocent civilians are harmed.
    I would welcome free and fare elections and if Syrians vote in Hamas I would respect that decision just as I did when Iraqis voted in Maliki.
    Putin’s strategy is clear Its Putin’s strategy that I’m against while you seem oblivious to the reality on the ground.
    Just answer this if people at Vienna were interested in an outcome that respected the wishes of the Syrian people why didn’t they declare an immediate cease fire and then proceed to talks and the answer is obvious Putin hadn’t killed enough FSA types.

  194. 194 Steve Owens

    How can you read this stuff and not laugh, look we take food to people that we have been starving to death is there no end to our humanitarianism?

  195. 195 Steve Owens

    Come on guys we have all been pretty low of late so here’s something that will cheer everyone up

  196. 196 Steve Owens
  197. 197 byork

    BY25 Looks like in November, Putin made it clear that he wants Assad to step down. This was a few weeks after Assad’s visit to Putin in Moscow, when one of Putin’s men went to Damascus. Reinforces my view that the current moves for talks and a ceasfire are what they seem – regardless of whether they commence exactly on time on 25th January or a few days or weeks later.

    Will the UN and the west step up and provide ground forces necessary to ensure that any negotiated settlement is enforced? The German Bundestag has approved 1,200 troops for Syria.

    The UN has a peacekeeping force of 100,000 world wide and last year 50 countries pledged to add another 30,000. It can be done.

  198. 198 Vladimir Putin

    That damn Assad! Yes of course I want to be rid of that bastard but will he go? No, he just sits there with that dumb look and says “What else you going to do Vlad?” Like he knows that I have no other option.
    Anyhow Barry whats this I hear you talk about UN peacekeepers? Yes they do have 100,000 but they are fully occupied in 16 current operations its not like they are just sitting around looking for deployment and between you and me I wouldn’t let some of these guys loose near children if you get what I mean
    “Reporters witnessed a rapid increase in prostitution in Cambodia and Mozambique after UN peacekeeping forces moved in. In the 1996 U.N. study The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, former first lady of Mozambique Graça Machel documented: “In 6 out of 12 country studies on sexual exploitation of children in situations of armed conflict prepared for the present report, the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution.”[17]”
    I love that Wikipedia don’t you?
    Anyhow have you seen the basic principles that UN peacekeepers operate under
    1: consent of the parties (you know those guys that have yet to give consent to meet each other)
    2: impartiality (well clearly me and Assad are impartial but I don’t trust those others, dubious looking bunch if ever Ive seen)
    3: (and this is the best) NON USE OF FORCE let me shout that again NON USE OF FORCE except for self defense and defense of the mandate.
    Anyway must go and study map of which bits of Syria Assad has recently liberated.

  199. 199 Steve Owens

    SO30 UN fails to invite main Kurdish political party to peace talks

  200. 200 Steve Owens

    So let me get this straight the peace talks are going to be held in 2 seperate rooms because the participants cant stand to be in the same room and the UN envoy will move between rooms to tell one room what the other room is saying but the Kurds arnt allowed to be in either room. Well why not just add another room and have the UN envoy walk from room to room to room.
    Heres me thinking that the Russians were the obsticle to serious talks.

  201. 201 patrickm

    Steve; from 23rd September over the next 113 days to 13 January I wrote 84 pages of various notes on one thread – collected here
    and 20 pages on the links thread including some long notes – collected here

    That is less than a page a day of blogging in the face of such dramatic events and in the context of such a flat out dispute as to what events ARE really before us. So I don’t think I have been as excessive as all that. But I have developed my views on the region wide conflict and what the HIRIS coalition is up to as events have unfolded and I hope people have no doubt on what I think.

    Others made some comments collected here and also in this links collection.

    Now another 15 days have slipped by while we have ALL watched the war being waged and the diplomatic carry on proceeding alongside and there are now less than 358 days remaining of the Obama Administration will Assad last that long? Well it’s NOT unrealistic like the ½ theory.

    The Biden visit to Turkey, when this is the type of situation unfolding is more than ‘show’ ‘At the moment, 19 Kurdish-majority cities are under curfew and many are fighting against the Turkish military.’

    ‘ The SDF coalition was announced on Oct. 11, 2015, hours before a major U.S. airdrop delivered 50 tons of ammunition to the Kurdish-controlled area in northern Syria. This indicated a clear shift in U.S. policy toward the rebel groups fighting on the ground, and the Syrian Democratic Forces seems to have been designed not to alienate Turkey.’

    The Turks said they were not prepared to see the Kurds control territory west of the Euphrates! So though the latest map shows another yellow expansion of the Tishrin Dam salient, this territory therefore has to be SDF controlled!! The latest credible map shows that the Iraqi government’s advance is blocking (as expected) easy KSA access to the Sunni peoples of both Iraq and Syria. We might expect a subsequent advance to show a link up of Assad and Iraqi control colours whatever the actual solid reality is. The ‘democratic’ salient begins to call the Turkish bluff. Everyone is a democrat!!

    So there is another page of open honest thinking for you! I think Putin has the brains of a WW2 Japanese militarist!

  202. 202 Vladimir Putin
  203. 203 Steve Owens

    What do you recon is the real problem here?

  204. 204 patrickm

    Steve it is very hard for me (for example) to say. So why not give us your view on what YOU think the real problem is?

  205. 205 Steve Owens

    Finally some real progress
    and I think that the real problem with Mosul must be the Iraqi army all that trainning and all that time and no sign of an offensive this year. It’s mind boggling.

  206. 206 patrickm

    Must is a pretty big word. I think that statement could just as well be deception but as the US under Obama is not going to put in the level of ground troops required to do the work on either side of the border you are probably correct! Plus the Iraqi Shia do not seem to want to fight the same war as the US and the west generally would want them to fight. But to be clear nothing is obvious to me on this front right now except that the KSA is going to be kept from supplying their favoured elements in either Iraq or Syria. I called this a region wide war getting underway some time back so that is the way I look at events.

    I note that the Kurds (as the SDF) ARE moving from the west-east and fighting against anyone in their way with Russian support and have captured an old airbase and also crossed the Euphrates and are heading west, so the die is cast as far as I can see and they intend to link up north of Aleppo right across. The Turks are fuming at the US as they fight the PKK north of the border. The Kurds have just set up a mission in Moscow as well. So the plan continues as I said it would.

    Now the HIRIS COW is requiring a slight pause to regroup they anounced a willingness to do just that!

  207. 207 patrickm

    Moving through the fifth month of this current Russian led war making and I think it’s fair to say that the Vienna agreement schedule of meetings ended in a humiliating fiasco in Geneva. The Russians were not surprised and outplayed by Assad who caused this but rather – and obviously so – the war is being waged in a full team effort with Iran and all the others included led by ‘captain blood’ Vlad.

    The HIRIS agreed plan scuttled the process with massive war making particularly around Aleppo causing tens of thousands of refugees and NOW Russia is making it clear in a rapid further escalation via massive military exercises that there is more war making on the way to either Georgia, Ukraine or Syria as the leader sees fit.

    This from NATO could well be seen as a bit little and very late and will be responded to by the Russians

    IMV an action response is coming and more and substantial forces will be sent to Syria but there may very well be more than one push! Whatever is the big news all three areas of blatant Russian aggression will see more Russian troops deployed – not less. Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge is as good a next move as Ukraine or Syria. All that is required is the ‘plausible’ excuse created or responded to.

    Like everyone else I have no idea what the ‘superman’ will do next but it will not be any positive contribution by removing Assad and bringing the Syrian war to an end.

    The Russian led attacks (that clearly and dramatically escalated and thus smashed the UN meetings and sent the Saudi’s and Turks into open talk of troop deployments) were directed against the FSA types and my guess is that a reasonable estimate of 250,000 people have been made refugees and have been ethnically cleansed from the country and as many again internally displaced. The effort has in my view been affecting 3,000 plus people each and every day! This has required a strong pushback and instead we got the latest Kerry humiliation and this time in Munich no less.

    Currently I would have thought there is much to talk through. The Turks and the Saudi’s ARE pushing back and wanting much more from the US, the Europeans and all other anti Assad western and regional forces and the HIRIS COW is making its response plain. Further Russian deployments ought to be expected.

    What do people say is happening now?

  208. 208 patrickm

    The conflict between the FSA supported by people commenting on this thread and the Kurds supported by the same people presents an interesting problem for us. The Kurds are heading east taking full advantage of the Russian led Assad offensive and going right through the FSA in order so they say to fight Daesh but also as predicted towards a link up with the other Kurds formed up as the SDF heading West. Those heading east are being shelled by the Turks who have said they will not tolerate a Kurdish state on their border! So my guess is that events might start to move even faster. Complexity heaped upon more complexity as the HIRIS and (perhaps the US) backs the Kurds and the Turks and Saudi led group ‘supported’ by the US prepare to bomb them. HIRIS won’t stand for that so what can we expect?

    We can expect no halt to hostilities and more reports of escalation from the side that appears to have some kind of plan including not tolerating a Saudi/Turkey ground effort against anyone in Syria! story on 8th and on Mosul

    There now seems to be an inevitability in what is building up in the last year of the Obama presidency.

  209. 209 byork


    I’ve been trying to understand what’s happening with the Kurds in Syria, where they fit in terms of the overall objective of the overthrow of Assad and democracy. The statement from the Kurdish National Council helps clarify the situation regarding the PYD which, from what I can tell, is regarded by the regime as an ally.

  210. 210 byork

    There have been mass protests in the streets in parts of Aleppo, Daraa, Homs and Damascus. The (partial) ceasefire has opened up opportunity for the people to step up their struggle against the Assad regime. It’s still early but the death toll since the ceasefire was imposed last week has dropped greatly due to much less frequent bombings by the regime. Most of the violations are conducted by the regime, which is further isolating itself through such action.

    Anyone have any thoughts on the above, and where this is heading? It still looks hopeful to me, though things will only speed up with greater outside commitment in the form of provision of air defence systems and armed peace-keepers once the peace talks resume and ‘get real’.

  211. 211 byork


    “With the threat of bombing raids subsiding, activists across Syria have taken to the streets in a new wave of anti-Assad and anti-ISIS protests. An international ceasefire went into effect days ago.

    “At least 104 separate protests were counted across the country on Friday through a local messaging app, activists told Fusion.

    “In one of the more symbolic scenes, protesters overtook the ancient Ayyubid Fort in Daraa, where ISIS was beheading people only a few months ago.”

  212. 212 Arthur

    barry: “Anyone have any thoughts on the above, and where this is heading?”

    yes, but still waiting for a suitable place to express them as requested in my last post on this thread (Jan 13)

  213. 213 Vasily Chuikov

    Hands up all those who thought Russian military withdrawal meant Russian military withdrawal. Its all part of Putin’s well established policy of tell people what they want to hear then do whatever Putin wants to do.
    In WW2 Soviet commanders faced with Zhukov taking personal risks that no strategic commander should take looked at each other shrugged their shoulders and exclaimed that ‘Zhukov was Zhukov’
    When Putin says something and then does the opposite we should borrow the saying shrug and say Putin is Putin

  214. 214 Steve Owens
  215. 215 patrickm
    While that truce holds the new color ought to spread rapidly west because that is controled by Daesh and as a buffer is required it may as well be established ASAP whatever is going to be done about Manbij etc. Those were great images of liberation when the SDF freed the city, but this reaction from Turkey was fully to be expected and yet I can’t see how it gets them very far. If the truce breaks down and they push on with the conflict then Kurdish areas in Turkey will go back to full scale civil war. Perhaps the Turks already think these regions are so they have nothing to lose in that regard. I think things could get much worse but I hope they don’t and the West/US can do some fancy deals to patch this together.

    Re current developments (that the Russian UN rep says they did not give the green light to Turkey about) things are moving along rapidly now but see my 3 posts above from Feb and last in Jan about what problems are now unfolding for the Kurds etc

    Note that the US is air assisting the Kurds / SDF right now pushback Daesh coming east towards a link up with the SDF and currently abutting SAA territory nth of Aleppo and they are helping the SDF fight heading south right now west of the river! This could indicate buffer only is being conceded.

    They have got the ceasefire with the clear deal to pull the YPG troops east of the river in a week or so. But it’s not clear what role the SDF now has.

    These issues are worth thinking about AND they were worth it back in February! Silence from communists that had a different view on what the Russian intervention heralded has NOT been productive.

    In my January 28, 2016 at 7:33 pm comment I pointed out that the link territory had to be SDF controlled. Well it’s still not clear if the Turks will accept that even with a FSA buffer zone. The minimum is that they will put that buffer zone in place and the US has accepted this, and that the YPG troops MUST redeploy east of the river. But there is more liberating work to do and Turkey is lashing out as expected with the Kurds. So either they do it or the SDF do it. A NFZ above is what Merkel warned about. It is a fact now that Turks are now under where Russians and SAA think they can fly at will and bomb as they see fit. What could possibly go wrong?

  216. 216 patrickm

    The 1st link in this thread was this
    September 26, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    P1 here is something I missed at the time
    ‘During a state visit to Russia, President el-Sisi said that he had agreed with his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin to establish a Russian industrial zone as part of the new project.[33]’

    Here is the latest on that
    Egypt under a Putin sort is sticking with Putin and the rest of the HIRIS gang by the looks! The Saudis will be pissed let alone the US and Europe.

    I wish I had the time to get my head around this whole Egypt issue and hope others have some insights.

    An interesting collection of notes altogether

    I guess the Egyptian thug regime understands it is already going the way of Syria and thus Putin led HIRIS and China is their only hope against a NATO policy of backing democracy.

  217. 217 patrickm–and-dod-to-develop-a
    [what this is about is safe zones for Syria and it is not hidden but right out in the open and bringing on a response from the Russians below. I see that Arthur is now timidly returning to the topic of Syria over at 21stC but still starts with thinking that this stuff is being hidden. Nothing hidden about it as Arthur discovered a day later, noticing the Reuters report. The big issue has been the huge Turkish footprint ‘safe zone’ that has been on the ground for months. Not only that, but the U.S. safe zone that is established east of the Euphrates already. Trump is not going to hold back the U.S. military that had been so humiliated under Obama. Daesh is being defeated and the ground is not going to be handed over to anyone who does not do the work. So up in the Nth west HIRISE is now foot-printing right up to the Turks and we are about to see what the agreements are all the way across to the Euphrates. Obviously the Kurd/SDF area west of the river remains problematic for the Turks and a sticking point for the U.S. Turk relationship. The Turks are not being over confrontational IMV but are insisting that this Arab/ Turk region return to FSA type control rather than remain dominated by the Kurds even in the SDF format. The deal that is being stumbled towards in the Astana round of negotiations is between Russia/Iran – Turkey but the U.S military and the KSA and gulf states are still lurking about and nothing will be settled without both a Sunni/Shia separation and Kurdish autonomy element. HIRISE interests indicate a Lebanon style freeze is sort. 1/2 theorist thinking is still muddled and not dealing with the mistakes that are on the record from September 2015. That is 16 months and counting.]

    Good first step from Trump I wonder what it will actually mean? He’s going to be a mixed bag for sure!

    Importantly the various rebel groups in Idlib are turning on Nusra in a big way. Also deliberate slow effort at Al Bab

    BTW Trump will be a disaster on Egypt unless he changes his mind!

  218. 218 patrickm

    Just a reminder. I said Assad would most probably outlast Obama at least 420 days out. That happened. HIRISE stuck together and bombed who I said they would bomb. They created the large numbers of refugees that I said they were going to create and there is currently zero prospect IMV for that COW going home with or without Assad being thrown under any sort of bus. So…

    Arthur October 5, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    But certainly if what pretty well everybody currently says is happening was in fact happening the long term result would be a major regional war with Iran on one side and Saudi led coalition on the other that would be even more catastrophic than the present situation.

    That clearly would affect vital European and Turkish interests…’

    So now that we are the best part of a year and a half since the Russians started to turn up and the first several months of speculation have had over a year to play out and people are starting to talk about Syria again, I say there ought to be a bit of clarity and further points to talk about.

    Putin has dug a deeper hole than others thought he would.

  219. 219 patrickm

    While people collect their thoughts on what 2017 is delivering from a Trump led U.S (because Turkish and U.S. protection zones are now on the ground and expanding Trump, or no Trump – so big issues ARE going to unfold that much is clear) it’s a good time to review what was hindering the development of any useful public thinking from some Australian Marxists, since the Russians bombers turned up at Latakia from the beginning of September 2015.

    This IMV is a conclusion that was being ignored because “I can’t imagine…’ just a failure of imagination, because the ruling elites could not be that stupid! Oh yes they could, and it has just got even more clear that they could.

    My own contributions began when I noticed the Russians were turning up and I thought they were going to follow Putin’s usual practices.

    The 1/2 theory developed as a second thought (after the first rushed thinking -notes- at least identified how bad this intervention was but failed to realistically grasp what the western ruling elites would do in response) It developed BEFORE the bombing started and remained the quite blatantly biased thinking till silence. YET it was essentially undeveloped thinking except by reconfirmation via Russian led diplomacy!! They produced the paper and people waved it about!

    The 1/2 theory remained so in the face of constant challenges to develop the thinking – that simply did not hold water when viewed against the history of Vlad, nor the actually unfolding deadly events that were faced by Syrian democrats – FSA types that were under the bombs.

    When the bombing started (U.S. bombing of Vietnam was latched onto despite a proper discussion revealing that there was no comparison and that the opposite type of bombing was required if a surrender was to unfold).

    Arthur October 3, 2015 at 3:30 pm Edit


    If Carter Center got it right these maps are strong confirmation that initial Russian air strikes are mainly directed at anti-Daesh opposition that fights both Assad and Daesh.

    I would not yet draw conclusions as:

    …[5 points to go on with]

    Nevertheless I certainly agree it appears to be strong EVIDENCE of full Russian alliance with regime rather than claimed efforts just against Daesh (as opposed to DEFINITE PROOF yet).’

    No debate was entered into. Just one 1/2 theory slightly modified as expected events didn’t unfold and diplomacy presented itself like a Lavrov life preserver to grasp onto.

    Arthur September 28, 2015 at 8:32 pm
    … ‘My current best fully uneducated guess is some sort of coup supported by Russia, Hezbollah and Iran about to happen in Damascus. If so both sides must know by now so within hours rather than days.

    I cannot imagine Russia wanting to try and keep an enclave going in the Mediterranean, nor do Iran and Hezbollah have any such capability. Perhaps Assad himself doesn’t want to live in one either. Could be some sort of split over abandoning Damascus. “Transitional Government” with Assad could not include anyone that matters from the opposition so would have to be a regime change within the regime getting rid of those who won’t face reality of defeat. German troops as UN peacekeepers could be flown in quickly by Americans to protect Alawi population from massacre during subsequent real transition in Damascus.

    Then again all the “leaders” giving such a convincing display of idiocy could be about to reveal themselves as lizards from another planet.’

    This lack of imagination thinking made Lavrov’s work easy. The ‘sophisticated’ Kerry with all his advisor’s and intelligence gathering was taken in just as were Australian Marxists Arthur, Dave and Barry.

    Those who would not debate the fools ended up sucked in by the HIRISE.

    This conduct is just like Chomsky who would not properly debate and failed to spot that he was already thrashing about in the water.

  220. 220 patrickm

    Well what do you know the Russians would like to talk about safe zones with the U.S.! I don’t think there is that much to talk about until the Daesh gaps start to close as is happening up north near the Turk protected lines around al Bab. The Turks are continuing to send reinforcements and Russian sappers are now spearheading the SAA push north/east.
    The reports of a breakdown in the ceasefire are mounting ttps:// and the break with Al-Qaeda deepening–under-sh-abu-jabirs and that’s long overdue.

    While the western media is flapping about over Trump’s border control orders, the big picture, is as ever it seems being avoided, and Lavrov for one would like to get back to centre stage. I don’t think trump will want to rush this.

  221. 221 patrickm

    Trump giving more support!

    That is BOTH FSA types and SDF are getting more help to fight back against Nusra/Al Qaeda in the west Daesh east of the Euphrates and inevitably HIRISE elements so that is good news! So far the open Lizard several months since the November election settled his big picture direction is doing far better than Obama.

    The big picture is that the U.S. is not going to take the refugees that Putin and Co have been making and intends to resolve the wars to keep the masses in their own countries. That has got the pseudoleft and all manner of plastic polly very upset!

  222. 222 patrickm

    This is not very credible – US Defence Department explains that providing armoured vehicles to the SDF was a decision of the former administration (Obama not Trump) – Turkish A TV. – The timing is more the opposite as Trump did not stop it!

    A lot is happening on all fronts but the HIRISE push for a Lebanon style ‘solution’ is far from being a long term settlement for this little matter even if it gets a run (and that is very probable from Trump the ‘deal maker’). For one thing the KSA has just started to crank up their effort.

  223. 223 patrickm

    This is the first I have heard of what I expected as above –
    and this after yesterday

    The HIRISE push east has ramped up as has the US/SDF pincer on Raqqah and that is a good thing.

    The silence continues and the weeks roll on.

  224. 224 patrickm

    Just a place card to some crap conduct from barry
    where I say.

    ‘It might be better to continue here. After all, your views are right at the top and this thread at your personal blog that had been going for some years was in direct response to Arthur’s refusal to post his thoughts at ST. You will recall my substantive effort at Jan 13 4:52 and you made your comment at 5:55 then Arthur asked ‘Barry and David would you…’ set something like this thread up because patrick as demonstrated above is insufferable. Neither of you did but Arthur would no longer play. Then you posted a few more comments Jan 16 and 23 and Feb 26 at ST and we then get to March 5 7.06 and 8.23 where Arthur say explicitly that ‘Yes’ he has thoughts but still waiting for a suitable place to comment!! Ah yes. After that there was nothing more from you on the old ST thread but this post you thoughtfully provided and Arthur could play again.

    BUT the line as you spell it out here was being day by day bombed of the face of planet earth. So even you could not pretend to keep your end of this debate going even in your own play pen and this is where the 1/2 theory died! The last comment from Arthur just mentions Iraq! You all knew by then that his thinking that you backed as above was utter crap.

    You now pretend you did not think any of this!

    Well you never thought to continue this glorious thread and we can all see why. Because what you thought was and would happen did not. What I thought was happening did happen!

    I have not stopped posting notes about events in Syria over this period. You, Arthur and David stopped because of the HIRISE bombing. Now the US tell us that perhaps 80% of the effective strength of the ‘Assad’ forces are in fact Iranian. Well that is not strictly true but it is what I was pointing out from day 1.

    You never stopped posting because I convinced you of anything that is quite clear and I never bothered you here. You could point to something (if it were there) but like the dog that did not bark it isn’t here. None of you had the good sense to turn around and walk back from where you took this issue. By the time you posted this the 1/2 theory and conduct that went with it was 6 months old and this is not what I was buying or going to bother with. Now all this time later you are posting excerpts from Yassin and pretending that you never thought anything! Well you are half right. I wonder whatever happened to the people that used to post their thoughts at ST???’

    His post from April 9 2016 on his thread was.

    ‘Nothing much happening at Strange Times so I’m hoping to kick-start some new links to information and analysis – and discussion – about Syria.

    Hoping to set this up as a separate page soon. But for now… contributions welcome.

    Just to start things off:

    The ceasefire, which some people regarded as doomed to failure before it had even started, has been working, in the main, for nearly six weeks now. It has provided breathing space, with parts of Syria under rebel control able to commence reorganisation of their localities. For the first time in years, Syrians have been able to take to the streets again demanding the regime’s overthrow. Some humanitarian aid is getting through where needed, but this is still a problem area in places where the regime is obstructing aid delivery – and further isolating itself (and strengthening the case for miltiary intervention on the side of the pro-democratic forces).

    Assad is increasingly isolated, with Putin looking for a way out and supporting the UN transitional plan; a plan that means the end of Assad’s rule.

    The more Assad rejects the transitional plan, the more he isolates himself. Alawites – his base of support – are distancing themselves from him.

    The next round of talks might happen within a week. The co-ordinator for the Higher Negotiation Committee has said that there is no international will, especially from the US, which means that the rebels continue to want greater international involvement and support, especially from the US.

    As the talks progress and the regime remains more intransigent and isolated, the need for some form of military ‘boots on the ground’ will become more acceptable as a way of resolving the situation and allowing the transition’s timetable to be followed in an effective way. A ‘coalition of the willing’ will be required to ensure that the terms of the transition are enforced, and that the Syrian people will be able to assert their sovereignty in free and fair democratic elections as aimed for in the timetable.

    5 clear points of dispute and what he thought was going on at the time.
    So to now pretend not to have bought the 1/2 theory sprouted as early as Sep 2015 by Arthur is perhaps some sort of buyers remorse?! Arthur sold it and Barry and Dave bought it. They are not back here demanding a refund!

  225. 225 patrickm

    8 minutes ago
    A day before his meeting with Putin, Pres Trump also called on Russia to end its support for “hostile governments, including Syria and Iran.” and as that is not a prospect…

    This is of a different level of tension than all the Kerry stuff.
    back a few more hrs Trump Admin Authorizes Strikes on Iranian-Backed Forces, as White House Plots Action Against IRGC 21hrs back Russia Tu-95MS carried out strikes in ISIS targets in Syria using X-101 cruise missile. New FSA faction “knights of the East” formed for a possible Abu Kamal offensive
    15 hrs back Turkish President Erdoğan says it is impossible to believe U.S will take back weapons provided to YPG after the Raqqa operation

    Astana: Source close to rebel delegation says sponsors “prepared 7 documents to help implement ceasefire in Syria and deploy ground forces”.

    This G20 might be as important as the Astana meetings. But any ‘done deal’ is still to come and there is room for open disagreements on what is happening.

    I wonder what others are thinking?

  226. 226 Steve Owens

    Well Do nothing Donald has done something if something means ending training of anti Assad rebels Jesus this guy has his head so far up Putin’s arse.

  227. 227 Steve Owens

    So Trump ends a program of aid to Syrian rebels started by Obama so the take away message is that Trump is worse than Obama. Thats a difficult thing. Trump is worse than Obama. Lets get this straight with a GOP President a GOP House majority and a GOP Senate majority the Republicans can not only fail to repeal Obamacare but they can’t even hold the Obama line in Syria. Well done Trump supporters

  228. 228 patrickm

    They are saying
    ‘US Special Ops chief General Raymond Thomas confirms that the CIA ended support for Syrian rebels and says the U.S. decision to halt the CIA program equipping and training certain rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not done as a concession to Assad’s ally Russia.’

    I don’t know what to make of current developments.

    The US are putting in more hardware and still coming down the river so a dispute on who is going to run that part of Syria is still to unfold IMV and the US would be humiliated if HIRISE grab it. It still looks unresolved to me.

    After another few months the new FSA types out of the river lands are going to be wanting a crack at Assad and his ‘Iranians’ that is when it will be particularly interesting.

  229. 229 patrickm

    Just today
    “We’re not going to be satisfied until we see a solid and stable Syria and that is not with Assad in place” per @nikkihaley ‘

    “Accountability has broken down in places such as Venezuela and Syria” per McMaster ‘

    Russia’s Lavrov and U.S. Tillerson discuss Syria: Russia ‘

    Erdoğan: Turkey and Russia are planning to cooperate on bringing peace to Syria’s Idlib. ‘

    Erdoğan: Those who don’t sell arms to Turkey, even though we pay, gave 3,000 truckloads of arms to the PYD for free.’
    U.S.-backed SDF fighters say will not let Syrian government forces cross Euphrates’
    and the lies keep flowing
    ‘Russian MFA spox Maria Zakharova said that SAA have crossed the Euphrates river’
    and the threats…
    ‘Buthaina Shaaban, political and media adviser to the President of Syria, announced that the government would fight the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and regain the areas they control’

    Whatever the 1/2 theorists think this series of issues called Syria is not settled yet.

    The US are still backing the Kurds and HIRISE troops will not be permitted north of the river so that will eventually bring on another punch up.

    It is now 2 yrs since the Russians turned up and almost imediately Arthur worked it all out and then after a few months of threats to produce an article fit for the MSM instead departed for fantasy land where he is still wandering along claiming to have sort of got it worked out!

    I do have a better grasp of what options the Egyptian tyranny had (once Condi Rice told them they were all going to be cut loose) and then they had gone through round 1 with the revolution. I should have got a better grasp on what the Saudi issues were and are that make them no match for HIRISE machinations as well but there is not enough hrs.

    2 years on from the start of the Russian led HIRISE refugee making enclave building and the western world is still almost sidelined and fumbling around trying to deal with the more dificult issue of Al Qaeda that is embedded within the FSA type rebels in Idlib etc.

    Daesh territory is almost all divided between the remaining colours so the Syrians who are refugees now with no bomb zones in their own country will start to soon find opportunities to shoot at tyranny supporting forces. There can’t be elections because the masses will back the SDF and FSA types more that they do any HIRISE approved candidates. Even if we can assume that the Assad elite get moved along I see no prospect for digging out the Russian led HIRISE cow.

    Still have not heard of any site where the big picture of the MENA swamp draining is being well thought through.

    On the Trump issue he has a very hard row to hoe to get re-elected, but still to far out to call. With all these issues in play anything is well and truly possible.

  230. 230 Steve Owens

    Stick a fork in it Syria is done. Daesh on last legs talks going nowhere, rebels unable to defeat Assad. KSA unable to do anything that will alter course of civil war, USA uninterested. Turks might give Kurds a Wac and nobody will assist the Kurds. More interesting is Kurdish vote on independence. I am pleased to support vote but Im not expecting a Kurdish state anytime soon.(Kurdish state will be here before people who thought that Geneva would come good and that by now we would be seeing UN or NATO troops sorting out the mess will admit being wrong)
    On a personal note happy birthday for last Wednesday and my spy tells me that Anita had a fall hope she gets back on feet soon.

  231. 231 Steve Owens
  232. 232 Steve Owens

    So Patrick what is your position on the Kurdish independence vote?

  233. 233 patrickm

    Turkey has not spun out of control, so that’s a good thing and Erdogan is the one that’s holding it all together in my view. The vote is a bit provocative but not unreasonable. They are formally going to have their own country at some point, whatever the Turks, Iranians and Arabs think. The Iraqi Kurd leadership are not as democratically minded as we would like but they are free election winners!

    As for the SDF-YPG in Syria that is a lot of territory not going back to HIRISE. Putin and Erdogan have their hands full at the moment so not expecting Kurdish territory to be attacked much any time soon except the usual occasional Turkish artillery in the nth west (US SOF are all over most of yellow map so that makes a big no bomb zone). Everyone is digging in, including the US. But the people want revolution and HIRISE is up against that! This now regional revolution is not going away. The Kurds have shown that.

  234. 234 Steve Owens

    Patrick I know that you want Syria to be part of a wider transformation of the middle east but Trump has cut off the resistance to Assad he hasn’t even cleared the low bar that Obama set.
    The defunding by America of resistance groups was just not materiel but also highly symbolic. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the King of Saudi Arabia and Putin paling around real soon oops I’ve already been overtaken by events

  235. 235 patrickm

    Hi Steve, not sure you’re paying close attention to what is now even more complex than it was. Turkey is at long last starting the occupation of Idlib and have declared they are going to cut off the Kurds and connect to the other enclave they have occupied. HIRISE has now given up on the Kurds as they are fully in the U.S. camp. So, you have to ask yourself; will this massive Turkish intervention and long term occupation of yet another enclave put a stop to the Russians that are ‘providing air cover’? The Turks will be doing what on the ground? They won’t hand anything back to Assad! They have some form of deal with Syrians on most of the ground that they are driving into right now! They all talk about the preservation of Syria but first they ARE going to occupy various sectors and when that happened to Germany it took a new era to resolve.

    Al Qaeda must be hunted over the long term, and the ‘FSA’ types placed in the totally dominant position, but under the moderate Islamist – but democrat – Erdogan! The Russians are not giving up overflight rights! Sooner or later, and it will probably be later, the Syrian people will want to go back to their homes that they have been rubblised from and forced into Turkey, but this time they will be heavily armed and well trained.

    I said above ‘Putin and Erdogan have their hands full at the moment so not expecting Kurdish territory to be attacked much any time soon except the usual occasional Turkish artillery in the nth west’ but I ought to have expected this Turkish link proposal. Now let’s see how it works out. The U.S. have stepped back from this western zone but they will not do so from east of the Euphrates.

    ‘The future is bright the road is tortuous’.

    As for the KSA, they are not on board with the HIRISE. Lots more to say no time right now. Nice to hear from you! More later.

  236. 236 Steve Owens

    “the Syrian people will want to go back to their homes that they have been rubblised from and forced into Turkey, but this time they will be heavily armed and well trained.”
    There are 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Who will heavily arm them? Who will train them? This site has already seen plenty of imaginary armies are you inventing more?

  237. 237 Steve Owens
  238. 238 patrickm

    You’re not thinking this through. Are you glad that ISIS was smashed in the north and that the territory was made a no go zone for Russian terror bombing? The occupation has 2 sides to it. The Turks under Erdogan are obviously trying to prevent a new Kurdish state along their entire border with Syria. OK so they are going to keep the north west separated from the PKK / SDF territory that they want to come no further west than the Euphrates river? That territory is not Kurdish but we can understand why the Kurds want to control it as the ‘SDF’. Manbij is a very big provocation.

    Are you glad that Al Qaeda sorts are going to be under Turkish occupation in Idlib? Are we going to pretend that this long term Kurdish issue would be resolved if not for Erdogan, when under his leadership progress was being made and this has now all gone pear shaped as a result of the Syrian disaster.

    If the U.S. and the Turks had it to do all over again they would have gone in early. My view remains better late than never and I am glad the HIRISE is NOT able to play a Kurdish card! The Shia are now trying to occupy Sunni peoples’ so this war is not about to end any time soon.

  239. 239 patrickm

    Steve, if you have been following this since the latest Turkish occupation forces have crossed into Idlib then you would have noted how Erdogan has swung the message to the occupation being about protecting the people of ‘Aleppo from Assad terror regime! I think that is another good thing that he is doing.

    At the same time Assad is demanding the Turks withdraw as if that is going to happen. The rest of HIRISE most notably Vlad are not saying much.

    Syria is typical of much of Vlad’s blundering about in countries that he takes an interest in. How is all this working out for long term Russian interests? Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova all have their own exclusive Russian ‘holiday resorts’. Now his upgraded Club Med is 2 years into operation and Vlads boys keep bullshitting about the US not really fighting ISIS and how good HIRISE efforts have been by contrast! All a bit stomach churning I know. But the thing is your “do nothing Donald’ is at least correctly saying .@POTUS: In Syria, the Iranian government has supported the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad’s government and condoned Assad’s use of chemical weapons.’ and he is not saying anything good about Russia.

    The US is not now holding all those stupid Kerry/Lavrov farcical ‘negotiations’. Instead Lavrov is reduced to a phone call to complain about flags. ‘But Russia’s foreign ministry said Lavrov stressed to Tillerson that “the lawlessness continued by U.S. officials runs counter to declarations made at the highest level in Washington about intentions to normalize the bilateral relations, which have hit an all-time low.”

    Now rather than focus on the mind numbing complexity of what is continuing in Syria. I propose we focus on what will remain of the big issues after this round of enclave map making.

    Assad looks like making it into 2018! Daesh territory won’t.

    The ‘anti-war’ types were silenced over what had to be A US/western/Turkish/’local’ reply to Daesh. That reply is now almost in our rear view mirror. So what is in the various peoples interests in the colours that are now on the new map?

    1/ Turkish/FSA (light Blue)

    2/ (Pink)
    Iraqi Shia militia (and government)
    Syrians who still at least nominally support Assad

    3/ Kurdish/PKK-SDF/Arab/US (Yellow)

    4/ ‘Democratic’ Syrians not under US or Turkish protection still in revolt against HIRISE forces. (light Green)

    5/ Al Qaeda/Jihadist types who remain active in areas not under HIRISE (Dark Green)

    6/ Southern ‘FSA’ type regions. (Light Green)

    I am ‘backing’ 3 of those colours but the most strategically important is currently that area of Light Blue.

    The Kurds have played their hand well but their territory is actually in Turkey not Manbij and Raqqa etc south. They can’t liberate Kurds that live north and ignore a political process. That process WAS under way and making real progress till scuttled by this Syrian revolution and counter-revolution. Genuine negotiations with the Erdogan government ought to be returned to ASAP.

    Erdogan is still a broom in Turkey however imperfect and Assad is still the dust making machine that the Kurds have only now totally broken from now that they have thrown in their lot with the US.

    Trump won’t ‘do nothing’. He won’t warm up to Vlad and the rest of the HIRISE. He will in my view follow the logic of where US interests really are here.

  240. 240 patrickm

    This latest news item is good news and goes to my points;
    ‘US envoy @brett_mcgurk vows Assad will never have a foothold in Raqqa or anywhere in north of Syria’

    Assad is not liberating Deir Ezzor etc he and the HIRISE are occupying these Sunni regions! The SDF is however involved in a liberating process! I think US protection will remain.

    What do you think the Turks are going to hand over to Assad? Do you agree they will hand over nothing to the HIRISE?

    So what will happen to the millions of refugees? What will happen in a few years with Aleppo? What is about to happen in the south?

    Vlad has been pretty predictable, as have the other gangster elements, have they not? Western interests require resisting the tyrant propping up HIRISE policies, do they not?

    Draining the swamp is very slow and messy but the only policy direction that can solve the issues – that will only re-emerge after any short term HIRISE victories.

  241. 241 Steve Owens

    Patrick I don’t think that there is anything about Syria that I wish to discuss. I think that Syria is dead, revolutionaries did threaten to overthrow the dictator but Putin came in and saved him. I argued at the beginning that people with small arms can’t defeat people with tanks but then the revolutionaries were supplied with effective anti tank weapons and as I said Assad was saved by Putin’s planes. Some people argued that Geneva would settle the matter in a pro people fashion but I think like me, you think that negotiations follow on the ground events, negotiations don’t lead events. I was always in support of defeating Daesh by any means necessary and this has been done in Syria. Yeah there are lots of refugees but there are plenty of examples of lots of refugees never going home they make new homes or live out their lives in camps. Some non politicals will return as soon as the barrel bombing stops and it will stop. I don’t think that Erdogan has territorial ambitions beyond enclaves that will house refugees, protect Turkmen and disrupt the Kurds. The US is uninterested in anything beyond defeating Daesh and the Kurds will have to accept whatever Iraq and Turkey and Iran allow them as they lack the fire power or a powerful ally.

  242. 242 patrickm

    Daesh is almost in the rear view mirror as far as solid control of territory goes and the looming contest with HIRISE is stark.

    Today ‘Unconfirmed reports that a mission is underway to capture ISIS ‘Khalief’ Abu Bakr al Baghdadi inside Al Bukamal. Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese Hezbollah and Russian Special Forces are meeting heavy resistance from a section within Al Bukamal believed to be the hideout of al Baghdadi.’ Only failed to mention Iranian troops like these 2 killed nearby ‘Eastern Syria: IS killed two commanders of IRGC Fatemiyoun Brigade east of T-2 Station.’ and Egyptian ‘observers’.

    and this is cute
    ‘Draft law approved yesterday by people’s assembly in Syria makes changes to military service law; no longer are exempt for mandatory conscription are over 42 year olds without paying $8,000, allowing for the confiscation of their property if not paid: Meaning that some refugees’ homes unless they pay $8,000 for failing to submit to forced conscription can be seized.’

    next door;
    ‘Nasrallah: In Syria; Saudi emirs in Jordan led the fight in side Syria and left it in destruction’

    ‘Nasrallah: In Syria they had hopes to change it in their favour. We know who brought the militants to Iraq, wanted downfall of Gov ‘

    Well there is more than a little truth in that! Sunni supremacists from the KSA were up to their neck in the killing inflicted on the Iraqi Shia and pseudoleftists blamed the US!!

    Now change is so total that it is easy to find leftist minded people that want the KSA dealt with!

    So the liberation and democratisation of Iraq has spread to Syria and has dragged in the Kurds and Turkey the KSA, Yemen and Lebanon the gulf states and even eastern reaction as well as decadent western democracies and lets not forget Egypt is in play as is Libya. War goes on in Afghanistan and Islamists struggle against Islamofascists in Iran etc

    The swamp is ‘rapidly’ draining 16yrs after 9/11. There is no going back to the era of total power for the tyrants. What people start they can’t finish. That is why we have children!

    I wonder if the Egyptians are about to deploy their 2 Mistrals and if where.

  243. 243 Steve Owens
  244. 244 patrickm

    ‘Turkish FM says U.S should stop working with YPG, U.S does not understand the realities of Syria, they did not learn their lesson from what happened in Iraq’ That sounds a bit familiar.

    Steve; last October you said this ‘The US is uninterested in anything beyond defeating Daesh and the Kurds will have to accept whatever Iraq and Turkey and Iran allow them as they lack the fire power or a powerful ally.’

    ‘19 hours ago Iran house speaker Ali Larijani warns against setting up of US bases in northern Raqqa, calling on countries, particularly Assad’s Syria to remain vigilant as the Americans are pursuing adventurism.’

    You may want to rethink US interests and you might also consider western interests more generally. Naturally a further question arises as to whether Trump and or any of the current leaders properly grasp those interests but we have to at least work out what we think those interests are to have any starting point at all.

    The Turks are not happy. There are current reports that the Russian observers have just pulled out of Afrin and many other reports indicating that a Turkish attack is now, despite the pleading of the US not to, iminent (whatever that exactly means). It may not be but this level of threat only produces warfare or some other 11th hour result as an alternative. So I can but hope that a deal can still be done. I just doubt it and there is still the Manbij pocket that is unresolved!

  245. 245 Steve Owens

    The war against ISIS has ended the forces regroup to answer the new questions that arise. The Turks have a question. Are they going to tolerate PKK militia (under another name) occuping the border region. The answer is no and they have started the attack. On the surface its a no brainer the Turks have heavy weapons and the Kurds dont. Because the Kurds have maintained close relations with the US they wont be assisted by any of the other players be they Assad, Putin, Iran, Hezbollah or the Shia militias from Iraq.
    The Kurds do have the US but if the Kurds know kurdish history and they obviously do then they will place little faith in that.
    I hope that the Kurds will prevail but I cant see why the US would put their interests ahead of promoting the interests of their NATO ally.
    Even when there was the Northern Iraqi no fly zone Turkey was allowed free access to bomb Kurdish positions within this zone I cant see what has changed since then.

  246. 246 Steve Owens
    Is Assad still there? I thought that he was done for, run over by a Geneva tank. I must have got that wrong.

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