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US Mercenaries, Iraqi Highways and the Mystery of the Never-Ending ISIS Hordes

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 22.10.2017

While the US and European media provided little explanation as to how militants from the self-titled Islamic State (IS) managed to appear, expand and then fight for years against the combined military power of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia, it was abundantly clear to many analysts that the IS organization was not only receiving state sponsorship, but it was receiving reinforcements, weapons and supplies from far beyond Syria’s and Iraq’s borders.

Maps of the conflict stretching over the last several years show clear corridors used to reinforce IS positions, leading primarily from Turkey’s southern border and to a lesser extent, from Jordan’s borders.

However, another possible vector may be desert highways in Iraq’s western Anbar province where US military contractors are allegedly to “provide security” as well as build gas stations and rest areas. These highways contributed to the current conflict and still serve as a hotbed for state sponsored terrorism. Whether these US-controlled and improved highways pose a significant threat for a reorganized effort by the US and its regional allies to divide and destroy Iraq and Syria seems all but inevitable.

US Mercenaries “Guarding” Iraqi Highways 

Al Monitor in an April 2017 article titled, “How Iraq is planning to secure key border road,” would claim:

 Due to the imminent threats to the road, which is one of Iraq’s vital economic lines as it connects Basra in the south to Jordan in the west, Iraq commissioned an American company to secure and rebuild the road. The contract also included reconstructing bridges, 36 of which are destroyed.

The article would elaborate, stating:

A security source from the Iraqi intelligence service told Al-Monitor, “The American company will only secure the two roads reaching Terbil from Basra and Baghdad and will build gas stations and rest areas, in addition to building bridges and cordoning off the roads with barbed wires, as per distances that would be determined later.”

Al Monitor would claim that Iraq’s popular mobilization units found themselves unable to oppose the move made by the central government in Baghdad. It would also note that Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades claimed, in opposition to the plan, that:

The road connecting Iraq and Jordan is a strategic gateway allowing the US and forces seeking to control it to tighten their grip on Anbar and the potential Sunni region as per a US-Gulf plan.

One could imagine future potential scenarios including these rebuilt roads, complete with gas stations and rest areas, leading from Jordan and Saudi Arabia and providing an efficient route for future wars waged either directly or by proxy against Iraq. The infiltration of fighters and supplies, for example, would be greatly expedited should the US and its partners decide to shift their efforts along this new axis.

Beyond this more obvious threat comes the fact that US-Jordanian-Saudi influence would be greatly enhanced with stronger logistical lines leading into Iraq’s western regions.

How the US Might Use its New Highways  

The Islamic State’s de facto invasion of Syria and Iraq was a more massive and dramatic replay of an earlier surge of foreign militants into the region, following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

It would be America’s own Combating Terrorism Center at the West Point United States Military Academy in two reports published in 2007 and 2008 (.pdf) respectively that would describe in detail the networks some of Washington’s closest regional allies used to flood post-war Iraq with foreign fighters.

While these fighters indeed attacked US soldiers, what they also did was disrupt a relatively unified resistance movement before plunging Sunni and Shia’a militias into a deadly and costly “civil war.”

Fighters, weapons and cash infiltrated into Iraq from a network that fed fighters from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region first into Turkey, through Syria via the help of many of the senior leadership of anti-government militant groups now fighting  Damascus, and then into Iraq primarily where IS has been based and where the remnants of its militancy remains.

During the more recent conflict, these same networks were utilized successfully until Russia’s intervention in 2015 when these terrorist “ratlines” came under fire by Russian warplanes. The cause and effect of attacking these terrorist ratlines was visible on conflict maps, causing an almost immediate shrinking of IS-occupied territory and a corresponding atrophy of IS fighting capacity.

The Jordanian-Iraqi and Saudi-Iraqi border crossings and the highways running through them represent an alternative means to reorient Washington’s proxy conflict either now or in the near future.

US Already Planning to Weaponize the Project 

Raising further alarm bells should be the New York Times’ May 2017 article, “U.S. Sees a Vital Iraqi Toll Road, but Iran Sees a Threat,” which helps frame the very sort of conflict US policymakers are seeking with this move and the reaction it has already provoked among America’s primary targets in the region, particularly Iran.
The article would claim:

 As part of an American effort to promote economic development in Iraq and secure influence in the country after the fight against the Islamic State subsides, the American government has helped broker a deal between Iraq and Olive Group, a private security company, to establish and secure the country’s first toll highway.

This being Iraq, though, the project has quickly been caught up in geopolitics, sectarianism and tensions between the United States and Iran, which seems determined to sabotage the highway project as an unacceptable projection of American influence right on its doorstep.

The New York Times also helps prepare a narrative so that any attack on American contractors along the highway could easily be blamed on militias linked to Iran, or even on Iran itself. The article states:

Already, Iraqi militia leaders linked to Iran, whose statements are seen as reflective of the views of Tehran, have pledged to resume attacks against American forces if the Trump administration decides to leave troops behind to train the Iraqi military and mount counterterrorism missions, as appears likely. And the militia leaders have specifically singled out the highway project for criticism.

The New York Times ultimately admits that the US is attempting to control the highway specifically to continue its increasingly dangerous proxy war against Tehran. The article also admits that the highways will be entirely controlled by US contractors, including the collection of tolls of which only a portion would be handed over to the Iraqi government. The article also claims other highways, including one leading directly from Saudi Arabia, are being considered.

In essence, these would be terrorist ratlines directly controlled by the United States, leading directly out of the very epicenter of state sponsored terrorism in the region, Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf states and to a lesser but still significant extent, Jordan.

They would be terrorist ratlines difficult for Iraq’s central government or its allies to attack without providing a much welcomed pretext for Washington to directly retaliate against the faction of its choosing.

While the New York Times and US politicians and businessmen involved in the highway deal attempt to portray it as a means of providing peace, stability and economic prosperity for Iraq, a quick audit of US policy in the Middle East should ground those lofty promises in a much more frightening reality.

The scope of this project is nothing short of both a US occupation and a US-administered “safe zone” in which militant groups backed by the US and its regional partners can safely be harbored, and from which they can strike out against Iraq and its neighbors with the full protection of US military force.

Some US policymakers may feel that their failing proxy war against Syria involved a cart-before-the-horse policy in which the creation of US-administered and protected safe zones turned out to be more difficult to implement than initially anticipated, and that in the future, such zones should be created before another round of proxy-hostilities.

No matter what, the US presence and the more-than-certain intentions that underpin it will ensure not peace, stability or prosperity, but another decade of division and strife both in Iraq and beyond. Confounding this project, and those like it, and replacing them with actual projects to fulfill the promises of progress the US is merely hiding behind, will be key to truly moving Iraq and the region forward.

October 22, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Kirkuk bell also tolls for US strategy in Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | October 22, 2017

The rout of the Kurds in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk this week constitutes a major setback for the overall American strategies toward Iraq and Syria. The prospect of an unceremonious US retreat from Syria haunts the Trump administration in immediate terms, and it is all the more galling because Tehran is calibrating it.

Clearly, Iran has pushed the envelope, furious over US President Donald Trump’s provocative threats of sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Tehran had warned that US position in the entire Middle East will become increasingly untenable if Trump moved against the IRGC. The capture of Kirkuk by the Baghdad government was a de facto military operation by the Shi’ite militia known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, which was trained and equipped by the IRGC. The western reports suggest that the charismatic commander of the IRGC’s secretive Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani personally masterminded the military operation – and even prepared the political ground for it.

The US had tried to prevail upon the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi not to move against the Kurds who were its allies. Kirkuk is estimated to hold at least 8000 million barrels of subterranean oil. The oil revenue is critical for the survival of any independent Kurdish state. Evidently, Abadi didn’t listen due to the emergent threat posed by the Kurds’ recent independence referendum. Equally, Iran wanted to finish off the spectre of an independent Kurdistan in the region spearheaded by Massoud Barzani (who enjoys the backing of US and Israel.)

Indeed, the defeat in Kirkuk destroys the Iraqi Kurds’ dream of an independent state and derails the longstanding US-Israeli project to create a base with strategic location. Equally, the liberation of Kirkuk, which is populated by the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen by the Iran-supported Shi’te militia highlights the strategic convergence between Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara in preventing the creation of an independent Kurdistan in the region.

However, the defeat of Barzani in Kirkuk has far wider ramifications – for Iraq as well as the Syrian conflict, apart from the US’ influence in the Middle East as a whole. At its most obvious level, Iran is thwarting the US plans to balkanize Iraq. Iraq’s unity is no longer under serious threat. Control of the vast oil reserves in Kirkuk will also bolster the Iraqi economy. Baghdad can be expected to reassert its authority over the country. The federal government has taken over the border crossings with Turkey and Syria.

The US attempt in the coming period will be to woo Abadi and encourage him to whittle down Iran’s influence in Iraq. The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Riyadh on Saturday on a hastily arranged trip with the hope of getting Saudi King Salman to take a hand in persuading Abadi to keep Tehran’s influence on Iraq at bay and to mediate between Abadi and Barzani. The US and Saudi Arabia’s best hope lies in creating differences between Baghdad and Tehran by leveraging Abadi. But the chances of such a ploy working seem remote.

The fact that the US watched the defeat of the Kurds in Kirkuk passively tarnishes the overall American image, especially among Syrian Kurds. This casts shadows on the Syrian situation. The US has been routing the military supplies for Syrian Kurds in Raqqa via Erbil, Massoud’s stronghold (in the face of Turkey’s virulent opposition.) This supply route is no longer under Barzani’s control and the disruption will affect the US’ operations in Raqqa. The US-led Syrian Kurdish militia claims to have liberated Raqqa, but a real consolidation needs the decimation of the residual ISIS fighters present in the region and it may take months.

More importantly, a ‘trust deficit’ between Syrian Kurds and Washington at this juncture will be calamitous. Raqqa is Arab territory and the Kurdish militia’s supply lines are already overstretched. The disruption in American supplies means that it may now be a mater of time before Syrian Kurds seek some modus vivendi with the Syrian regime. If American military supplies dry up, Syrian Kurds will also come under pressure from Turkey in the swathe of northern Syria bordering Turkey, which form their traditional homelands. Turkey never liked a Kurdish entity taking shape across their border.

Interestingly, the commander of the Syrian Kurdish militia Sipan Hamo visited Moscow last weekend. The Russians indeed find themselves in an enviable position to drive a hard bargain over the Kurds’ sorrows. Russia is in a unique position to mediate between Syrian Kurds on one side and Ankara and Damascus on the other. But then, what is it that the Kurds can offer Russia in return? Last Thursday, Rosneft signed a big oil deal with Barzani’s government in northern Iraq. To be sure, the old Kurdish saying has some merit – ‘The Kurds have no friends but the mountains.’ (Guardian )

The main impact of last week’s dramatic events is that the US now has no conceivable reason to continue with a military intervention in eastern Syria. The likelihood is that Syrian Kurds will sooner or later hand over Raqqa also to the government forces. Clearly, the Syrian regime’s march to victory is from now onward relentless and irreversible. That is to say, the best-laid plans of the US and its regional allies to balkanize Syria have also gone awry.

Maybe, there will be a federal system in future Iraq and Syria. But last week’s events have ensured that the two countries’ territorial unity and integrity will no longer be under serious threat. Of course, that has also been at the core of the Iranian strategy.

October 22, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

US Admitting Syrian Militants Use Chemical Weapons ‘Welcome’ Overdue Corrective

Sputnik – October 21, 2017

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the US State Department issued a Syria Travel Warning, where it wrote that the Islamic State (commonly referred to as ISIL/ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, linked to Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group use “suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons” in Syria.

Earlier on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that it was the first time the United States admitted the use of chemical weapons by terrorists in Syria.

“The new Travel Advisory is a welcome corrective,” historian and Middle East analyst Helena Cobban, a leading expert on Syria told Sputnik.

The terms used in the advisory abandoned monolithic official US insistence for more than four years that all chemical attacks in Syria had to be blamed on the legitimate government of President Bashar Assad, Cobban pointed out.

The US insistence on scapegoating the Assad government for all uses of chemical attacks despite serious evidence suggesting otherwise had strongly conditioned the US public to approve continued military action against the Damascus government, Cobban recalled.

“This has become the deeply ingrained ‘conventional wisdom’ in the public discourse here in the US, although experts in telemetry and chemical warfare have challenged this view at many points,” she said.

Cobban also observed that the new Travel Advisory nowhere explicitly accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons but it did finally identify by name al-Sham and Daesh terrorist groups.

“It is notable that ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups’ are the only actors singled out in this Travel Advisory as using chemical weapons,” she said.

The US government was now officially obligated to report its knowledge and evidence for the use of chemical weapons by the Islamist groups to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is based in The Hague, capital of The Netherlands, Cobban added.

The Travel Advisory appeared to have been aimed overwhelmingly at US citizens who might seek to travel to the opposition-held part of Syria, Cobban remarked.

The advisory “makes no mention of the threats that residents of or visitors to government-held areas continue to face from Daesh and from the until-recently-US-backed opposition forces,” she said.

The US government still needed to acknowledge more loudly and clearly that Islamist rebels had been using these weapons and to identify them specifically and publicly by name, Cobban insisted.

US KNEW ALL ALONG

The US government was finally started to acknowledge that groups it had supported had employed chemical weapons in Syria where the Trump and Obama administrations had sought to blame the Damascus government for such attacks, University of Illinois Professor of Law Francis Boyle told Sputnik.

These policies were part of a wider US strategy to topple the Damascus government that was clearly illegal under international law, Boyle pointed out.

The United States had backed the Syrian terror groups “as part of an illegal attempt to overthrow the Syrian government in violation of the United Nations Charter and the rulings of the World Court in the Case of Nicaragua versus United States of America (1984-1986),” he said.

US policymakers could have had no doubt that the terror groups they were financing, helping to organize and arming had been using chemical weapons, Boyle observed.

“Of course the United States government knows full well that some of its surrogate terrorist organizations in Syria have used chemical weapons,” he said.

Over the past four years, successive US administrations had deliberately and cynically blamed Damascus for chemical attacks that they knew their own allies had carried out, Boyle stated.

“Both the Obama administration and now the Trump administration have maliciously exploited their surrogates’ uses of chemical weapons as pretexts and propaganda to justify direct US military intervention into Syria,” he said.

Boyle also warned that even after the admission buried deep in this week’s Travel Advisory, the US government could again in the future blame the Syrian government for chemical attacks that it knew had been carried out in reality by its own allies.

“It very well could happen again. Caveat emptor!” he said.

Al-Nusra Front controls Syria’s Idlib Governorate through the umbrella terrorist group al-Sham and is still thought to be a front for al-Qaeda.

SEE ALSO:

OPCW Says Found Evidence of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria’s Hama in March

October 21, 2017 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

US State Department admits Al-Nusra affiliate using chemical weapons in Syria

RT | October 20, 2017

The US Department of State admitted that militants linked to Al-Nusra Front are carrying out terrorist attacks using chemical weapons in Syria. Russia’s defense ministry says it’s the first admission of its kind.

The assertion was made in the latest Syria travel warning issued by the State Department on Wednesday. It also mentions Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL].

“Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham [dominated by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization], operate in Syria,” the travel warning reads.

“Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons,” it said.

Terror groups have targeted roadblocks, border crossings, government buildings and other public areas in major Syrian cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Daraa, Homs, Idlib, and Deir-ez-Zor, the State Department acknowledged.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said a precedent had been set by Washington acknowledging that Al-Nusra linked terrorists use chemical weapons in Syria.

“This is the first official recognition by the State Department not only of the presence, but the very use of chemical weapons by Al-Nusra terrorists to carry out terrorist attacks, which we repeatedly warned about,” General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the ministry, commented on Friday.

Previously, the US military reported chemical attacks in Syria. Last November, Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq, said it is “concerned about Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons.”

“[Islamic State] has used them in Iraq and Syria in the past, and we expect them to continue employing these types of weapons,” Dorrian said in an emailed statement to the New York Times.

The military official said the terrorist group’s ability to stage chemical attacks is “rudimentary,” adding that US, Iraqi and other coalition forces are capable of dealing with the impact of these attacks, namely “rockets, mortar shells or artillery shells filled with chemical agents.”

Earlier in April, the US launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian military’s airbase Shayrat in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib Province, where dozens of civilians including children died from suspected gas poisoning in the rebel-occupied territory. Washington was prompt to point the finger at the Syrian government for the incident.

Moscow said international efforts to investigate the alleged chemical attack did not help to establish hard facts.

“There is a Joint Investigative Mechanism [JIM], established in 2015 by the UN and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to find those behind [the use of chemical weapons in Syria],” Mikhail Ulyanov, director of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, told TASS.

He said the Joint Mechanism’s experts have visited Shayrat airfield on October 8 and 9, but did not collect ground samples at the site.

“The JIM are categorically refusing to carry out this important function,” the diplomat said, adding, “we can’t say this investigation is of any quality… this is an unprofessional approach that raises huge questions.”

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Is War with Iran Now Inevitable?

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • October 17, 2017

With his declaration Friday that the Iran nuclear deal is not in the national interest, President Donald Trump may have put us on the road to war with Iran.

Indeed, it is easier to see the collisions that are coming than to see how we get off this road before the shooting starts.

After “de-certifying” the nuclear agreement, signed by all five permanent members of the Security Council, Trump gave Congress 60 days to reimpose the sanctions that it lifted when Teheran signed.

If Congress does not reimpose those sanctions and kill the deal, Trump threatens to kill it himself.

Why? Did Iran violate the terms of the agreement? Almost no one argues that — not the UN nuclear inspectors, not our NATO allies, not even Trump’s national security team.

Iran shipped all its 20 percent enriched uranium out of the country, shut down most of its centrifuges, and allowed intrusive inspections of all nuclear facilities. Even before the deal, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies said they could find no evidence of an Iranian nuclear bomb program.

Indeed, if Iran wanted a bomb, Iran would have had a bomb.

She remains a non-nuclear-weapons state for a simple reason: Iran’s vital national interests dictate that she remain so.

As the largest Shiite nation with 80 million people, among the most advanced in the Mideast, Iran is predestined to become the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf. But on one condition: She avoid the great war with the United States that Saddam Hussein failed to avoid.

Iran shut down any bomb program it had because it does not want to share Iraq’s fate of being smashed and broken apart into Persians, Azeris, Arabs, Kurds and Baluch, as Iraq was broken apart by the Americans into Sunni, Shiite, Turkmen, Yazidis and Kurds.

Tehran does not want war with us. It is the War Party in Washington and its Middle East allies — Bibi Netanyahu and the Saudi royals — who hunger to have the United States come over and smash Iran.

Thus, the Congressional battle to kill, or not to kill, the Iran nuclear deal shapes up as decisive in the Trump presidency.

Yet, even earlier collisions with Iran may be at hand.

In Syria’s east, U.S.-backed and Kurd-led Syrian Democratic Forces are about to take Raqqa. But as we are annihilating ISIS in its capital, the Syrian army is driving to capture Deir Ezzor, capital of the province that sits astride the road from Baghdad to Damascus.

Its capture by Bashar Assad’s army would ensure that the road from Baghdad to Damascus to Hezbollah in Lebanon remains open.

If the U.S. intends to use the SDF to seize the border area, we could find ourselves in a battle with the Syrian army, Shiite militia, the Iranians, and perhaps even the Russians.

Are we up for that?

In Iraq, the national army is moving on oil-rich Kirkuk province and its capital city. The Kurds captured Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled from the ISIS invasion. Why is a U.S.-trained Iraqi army moving against a U.S.-trained Kurdish army?

The Kurdistan Regional Government voted last month to secede. This raised alarms in Turkey and Iran, as well as Baghdad. An independent Kurdistan could serve as a magnet to Kurds in both those countries.

Baghdad’s army is moving on Kirkuk to prevent its amputation from Iraq in any civil war of secession by the Kurds.

Where does Iran stand in all of this?

In the war against ISIS, they were de facto allies. For ISIS, like al-Qaida, is Sunni and hates Shiites as much as it hates Christians. But if the U.S. intends to use the SDF to capture the Iraqi-Syrian border, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia could all be aligned against us.

Are we ready for such a clash?

We Americans are coming face to face with some new realities.

The people who are going to decide the future of the Middle East are the people who live there. And among these people, the future will be determined by those most willing to fight, bleed and die for years and in considerable numbers to realize that future.

We Americans, however, are not going to send another army to occupy another country, as we did Kuwait in 1991, Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003.

Bashar Assad, his army and air force backed by Vladimir Putin’s air power, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, and Hezbollah won the Syrian civil war because they were more willing to fight and die to win it. And, truth be told, all had far larger stakes there than did we.

We do not live there. Few Americans are aware of what is going on there. Even fewer care.

Our erstwhile allies in the Middle East naturally want us to fight their 21st-century wars, as the Brits got us to help fight their 20th-century wars.

But Donald Trump was not elected to do that. Or so at least some of us thought.

Coyright 2017 Creators.com.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Syrian endgame is nigh as rival factions look to cut deals

Three cities – Deir ez-Zour, al-Raqqa, and Idlib – will define how the country shapes up post-ISIS, as key players edge towards under-the-table agreements

By Sami Moubayed | Asia Times | October 17, 2017

Over the weekend, Moscow hosted Sipan Hamo, commander of the powerful all-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the last standing US-backed militia on the Syrian battlefield. It was the most senior visit by a Kurdish military official to Moscow since the Russian Army joined the Syrian War in 2015.

Hamo met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Chief-of-Staff Valeria Gerasimov to discuss the future of Deir ez-Zour and al-Raqqa, two cities along the Euphrates River which – at time of writing – appear to be in their final hours of control by Islamic State (ISIS).

At the same time, Turkish troops crossed the border into Syria, with the blessing of Russia and Iran, deploying in the northwest city of Idlib, which remains, for now, in the hands of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization previously known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or Jabhat al-Nusra.

These three cities –Deir ez-Zour, al-Raqqa, and Idlib – will define what the Syrian endgame looks like. Invisible borders are being created around them, outlining each stakeholder’s share of the Syrian patchwork. Contrary to what many presume, very little fighting is now taking place on the streets of Syria, as under-the-table deals are being cut between traditional enemies who, until very recently, were at daggers drawn with each other.

Deir ez-Zour, the largest of these three contested cities, has been under brutal ISIS control since 2014. Government troops have been advancing on the oil-rich city, which lies east of the Euphrates, marching deep into territory once believed to be part of the country’s US/Kurdish fiefdom.

Opposition sources say government troops, with Russian air cover, will only be taking Deir ez-Zour City and not the entire province, arguing that everything around it, including farmland and oil wells, has been earmarked for the SDF. The exact parameters of these borders is what Hamo wanted to discuss in Moscow.

Reportedly, he pressed for a commitment from the Russians not to confront his troops in the Deir ez-Zour countryside, while promising to stop short of al-Sukhna, the last ISIS stronghold in the Homs Governorate, and leave the honors of its liberation to the Syrian and Russian Armies. On October 7, he and his men had stood by and watched government troops overrun ISIS strongholds in the city of al-Mayadeen, in the countryside of Deir ez-Zour — a job that until recently, would have been left to the SDF.

In exchange for such cooperation, the SDF is seeking Russian guarantees that the Turkish Army will not march on the Kurdish city of Afrin, west of the Euphrates River. Kurdish leaders are panicking after Turkish troops plunged into Idlib over the weekend, seemingly to implement part of the de-conflict zone agreement reached at the Astana ceasefire talks in May. Afrin lies within the Russian pocket of influence in Syria, and the Turks are trying to win control of the summit of Sheikh Mount Barakat, which overlooks it. A former radar post for the Syrian Army, it would give Erdogan’s forces a birds-eye view of Afrin. Moscow agreed to give Hamo the specific guarantee he asked for.

Meanwhile, the Turks are cutting their own deals in Idlib – with the militant jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Instead of bankrolling a new proxy army of Syrian recruits, or sending its own troops to battle, Ankara is trying to reach a political understanding with HTS, calling for its silent evacuation from Idlib and safe passage to the countryside of Deir ez-Zour.

On October 8, HTS militants escorted a Turkish reconnaissance unit into Idlib. This was followed by no fewer than three meetings between Turkish officials and HTS commanders, raising eyebrows among the Syrian Opposition. This is the very same group that the Turks have been mandated to crush, but which many believe they helped to create early in the Syrian conflict five years ago.

In exchange for safe exodus, Turkey wants HTS to withdraw quietly from Atme, north of Idlib and east of the Turkish border, through Darat Izzat (30 km northwest of Aleppo), all the way to Anadan, on the Aleppo-Gazientap International Highway. This would further secure the Turkish border from any Kurdish advancements, and create a new buffer zone in which to relocate Syrian refugees living in Turkey since 2011. It would also enlarge Turkey’s zone of influence in Syria, which already includes the two border cities of Jarablus and Azaz, and that of al-Bab, 40km northeast of Aleppo.

Similar secret deals are also being cut between the SDF and ISIS in al-Raqqa, where the jihadists have been on the defensive since the Kurdish campaign started last June.

The city has been subjected to a horrific aerial bombardment by the US-led Coalition, believed to be one of the worst in modern history. Within days, however, al-Raqqa will be liberated fully from ISIS control, bringing an end, once and for all, to the myth of the “capital” of the Islamic State.

Only 120 fighters are left in al-Raqqa, stranded in a pass of just 1.5 km, and all of them are foreign fighters. All local Syrian ISIS fighters were evacuated through secret agreement with the SDF on the night of October 6-7, disguised as ordinary civilians. The agreement with ISIS basically allows local Syrians to jump ship, distancing themselves from the terror group that captured their hearts and minds back in 2014. In exchange for handing back al-Raqqa, these Syrian fighters might even get a free pass to return to ordinary life, if they help eliminate what remains of foreign fighters inside still inside the city.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

The moment of truth is coming for Trump’s Iran strategy

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | October 16, 2017

Diplomacy is a juggling act, an endless struggle to keep all the balls in the air. There are times when dropping one ball to keep the others going may seem like the prudent thing to do – and at other times letting them all drop and starting over again makes more sense. The United States faces this predicament in the Middle East. Perhaps there are too many balls in the air, when the focus should be on the few that are really important.

While everyone was focused on what US President Donald Trump had to say on Friday regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (known as the Iran deal), what got overlooked is that he also unveiled a brave new Iran strategy for the post-Islamic State era.

In a rare gesture, King Salman called Trump on Saturday to express his delight over the latter’s resolute strategy and aggressive approach toward Iran. Salman welcomed Trump’s leadership role in the Middle East in recognizing the magnitude of the “challenges and threats” posed by Iran and stressed the need for “concerted efforts.”

Trump responded warmly, appreciating Salman’s support and expressing keenness to work together on issues relating to world peace and security and also enhancing the countries’ bilateral ties.

Trump’s Iran strategy is a dream project for Saudi Arabia and the UAE – and for Israel. It may seem like a relaunch of the old enterprise to contain Iran, built around an alliance system involving the US and its regional allies. But the circumstances today are different. The US and its allies stare at defeat in the Syrian conflict and are circling their wagons to stave off an ignominious rout with long-term consequences. Faced with Iran’s surge, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are willing to proclaim a convergence of interests with Israel.

Clearly, Moscow surmising that the US-Saudi strategic relationship has weakened is premature. The axis with Iran is the only show in town for Russia on the Middle Eastern chessboard – whether or not it is Moscow’s preferred choice. President Vladimir Putin is heading for Tehran on November 1.

The Iran deal will not be in jeopardy in the foreseeable future and, arguably, Tehran’s dependence on Moscow on that front is not critical. On the other hand, Britain, France and Germany have drawn together and mooted a proposal that their heads of government articulated in an extraordinary joint declaration on Friday to “constructively engage” with Iran to address their shared concerns over its regional policies.

Tehran will be open to a constructive engagement with Western powers to comprehensively address mutual security concerns, although how enthusiastic the Trump administration will be about such a process remains to be seen. If Europe’s engagement with Iran over issues of regional security and stability gains traction, the country’s integration will take a great leap forward, and that is something Tehran desires.

Enter Turkey. The Turkish deployment to Idlib province in northern Syria was seen as a move toward implementation of the Astana accord on setting up a “de-escalation” zone in that region with tacit Russian and Iranian backing. But Turkey’s number one priority appears to be to pre-empt a westward expansion by Syrian Kurds toward the coastal region of Latakia to establish a contiguous “homeland.”

Turkey hopes to outflank the Kurds and thereafter push back at their canton in Afrin. Turkey seems to be planning a prolonged military presence in northern Syria. This must be causing disquiet in Moscow. The exceptionally strong denunciation by Damascus on Saturday of the Turkish deployment to Idlib must have been made with Moscow’s approval.

However, what Moscow cannot take for granted is the deep chill in Turkish-American relations. Much depends on the new phase of the Syrian conflict beginning now, after the defeat of ISIS in its capital Raqqa and the capture by Syrian government forces (and allied militia with Russian airpower) of Mayadin on the Euphrates River (adjacent to the rich oil fields of al-Omar in Deir al-Zour province.)

The US faces a Hobson’s choice. It has the option of extricating itself from the Syrian conflict at this stage, claiming victory in the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa. But this would mean abandoning its Kurdish allies to their fate. Of course, if the US exercises this option, it paves the way for mending relations with Turkey.

But then, the flip side is that it also means a seamless expansion of Iranian influence in both Iraq and Syria and a possible Iranian presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. That, of course, would make a mockery of the tough strategy announced by Trump to counter Iran’s regional policies.

On the contrary, if the US intends to play a greater role in Syria following the capture of Raqqa (such as blocking Iran’s land route to Syria), it would require substantial, open-ended troop deployment to delay and harass the expansion of Iranian influence. Clearly, this is what the US’s regional allies – Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are hoping for and what Trump’s new Iran strategy promises to do.

However, a continued US military presence means ongoing dependence on the Kurdish militia. This could spell doom for US-Turkey relations and even prompt Ankara to build an alliance with Russia and Iran – a shared agenda to create conditions on the ground that force the US at some point to cut its losses and withdraw from Syria, as happened, for example, in Lebanon in 1983.

Trump’s Iran strategy infinitely complicates the geopolitical repositioning of the US in the post-ISIS era. He added one more ball at a juncture when his juggling act was already looking improbable.

October 16, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli TV Shows Footage Of ISIS Training Camp On Israel’s Border

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | October 13, 2017

Last November Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country “won’t allow Islamic State figures or other enemy actors, under the cover of the war in Syria, to set up next to our borders,” but it appears this has already happened, to the point that a sizable ISIS training camp has been set up just across the Golan Heights border with Israel. Though Syrian al-Qaeda has long been a mainstay in southern Syria along Israel’s border, this constitutes the first widespread public acknowledgement and confirmation of a significant ISIS base of operations in the Golan region.

Israeli media this week is reporting news of the base camp after Israel’s Channel 2 aired an extensive report with video and photographic evidence of what’s being described as a training and recruitment center which has already attracted hundreds of new terror recruits. Channel 2 is one of Israel’s most visible and established news broadcast channels and operates under “The Second Authority for Television and Radio” licensed by the Knesset and the Ministry of Communications. According to the Times of Israel :

Israel’s Channel 2 said the commanders have made their way to an Islamic State-controlled enclave “close to the border” with Israel. They have set up a training camp to which they have recruited 300 local youths, said the report, which showed footage apparently of the camp and training sessions.

Among the commanders is one of Islamic State’s most notorious recruiters, Abu Hamam Jazrawi, the TV report said.

The commanders are also now running Islamic State internet propaganda campaigns from their new base, in place of the former campaign headquarters in Raqqa, the extremists’ former de facto capital in northwest Syria where the fight to oust them has entered what appear to be its final stages.

Featured in Israel’s Channel 2 broadcast: Islamic State training camp (Channel 2 screenshot)

Channel 2 screenshot purporting to show the ISIS base camp just across Israel’s border.

The Channel 2 exposé further notes the presence of multiple senior Islamic State commanders at the camp, which suggests the terror group could be attempting to relocate its assets to Syria’s south as it appears to be crumbling with the onset of SDF, Syrian Army, and Russian forces in the eastern part of the country.

The Times of Israel acknowledges another shocking fact, which has itself become an open secret of sorts among Israeli defense and policy officials: what it calls the long lasting “live and let live” relationship with al-Qaeda in the region. The Times of Israel explains:

Both the IS-affiliated Khalid ibn al-Walid Army and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly the al-Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda, have been set up on Israel’s borders for years.

Despite a relatively long-lasting “live and let live” relationship with these groups, the IDF has warned of a potential — some say inevitable — conflict with them and has been preparing to respond to cross-border attacks.

Though the IDF has “warned” of some “potential” direct action against the most notorious terrorist groups in the world which seem to be comfortably ensconced within eyesight of Israeli border posts, it has never taken significant direct action against these groups, instead routinely targeting the Syrian army, Iranian-linked militias, and Hezbollah with airstrikes. This is a general reflection of the Israeli strategy of regime change in Syria, which has resulted in a well-documented history of assistance to al-Qaeda affiliated rebel groups.

A Wall Street Journal investigation found that this relationship involved weapons transfers, salary payments to anti-Assad fighters, and treatment of wounded jihadists in Israeli hospitals, the latter which was widely promoted in photo ops picturing Netanyahu himself greeting militants. As even former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell once directly told the Israeli public, Israel’s “dangerous game” in Syria consists in getting in bed with al-Qaeda in order to fight Shia Iran. 

Channel 2 News and the The Times of Israel also featured an image from a prior video of a lone ISIS militant holding an Islamic State flag with the Israeli side of the Golan border in clear view.


The Times of Israel featured the above image: “Threats from across the border in a video released by an Islamic State affiliate on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on September 3, 2016.”

In recent years, multiple current and former Israeli defense officials have gone so far as to say that ISIS is ultimately preferable to Iran and Assad. For example, former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren in 2014 surprised the audience at Colorado’s Aspen Ideas Festival when he said in comments related to ISIS that, “the lesser evil is the Sunnis over the Shias.” Oren, while articulating Israeli defense policy, fully acknowledged he thought ISIS was “the lesser evil.”

Likewise, for Netanyahu and other Israeli officials the chief concern was never the black clad death cult which filmed itself beheading Americans and burning people alive, but the possibility of, in the words of Henry Kissinger, “a Shia and pro-Iran territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut” and establishment of “an Iranian radical empire.”

With Israeli media now widely reporting the Islamic State’s presence along Israel’s border we wonder why such a clear and documented fact isn’t cause for bigger outrage. Though Israel’s Channel 2 bombshell report aired earlier this week, there’s been resounding silence in international press. ISIS is camping out along Israel’s border, yet all we hear about is the supposed “Iranian threat” to Israel’s existence.

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

Syria demands ‘immediate, unconditional’ pullout of Turkish troops from Idlib

Press TV – October 14, 2017

The Syrian government has strongly denounced an incursion of Turkish military forces into the country’s militant-held northwestern province of Idlib, demanding “immediate and unconditional” withdrawal of Turkish troops from the war-ravaged Arab country.

“The Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms the incursion of Turkish military units in[to] … Idlib province, which constitutes … blatant aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and flagrant violation of international law,” an unnamed official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates told Syria’s official news agency, SANA, on Saturday.

“The Syrian Arab Republic demands … immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Syrian territory,” the source added.

The source further described Ankara’s military incursion as an act of “aggression” which “the Turkish regime can’t justify in any way.”

He also dismissed Turkey’s attempts to link the move to the implementation of the Astana agreements with Iran and Russia on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria, terming it a “departure” from the deal.

Late on Thursday, Turkey deployed a convoy of around 30 military vehicles to Idlib province.

The Turkish forces entered Syria near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, and headed to Shaykh Barakat hilltop, which overlooks lands controlled by foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants as well as Afrin area held by US-backed militiamen from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Idlib and swaths of land in Syria’s northern and northwestern regions are largely controlled by members of Tahrir al-Sham militant group.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country’s military operations in Idlib are the follow-up of the Euphrates Shield operation in northern Syria, which Ankara launched in August last year without any authorization from Damascus.

Ankara said back then that the main objectives behind the operation were clearing Turkey’s southern border of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group and stopping the YPG from gaining more sway there.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 4 Comments

The proxy-war against Iran is under way in Iraq and has just entered a new phase

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | October 14, 20017

The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia have yet to demonstrate that they have the “courage” to attack Iran directly and it is still conventional wisdom among most observers that none of Iran’s self-defined adversaries will ever develop an appetite for a hot war on Iranian soil any time soon.

One of the reasons for this reticence to attack Iran directly, especially where more moderate members of the Pentagon are concerned, is that such an operation would be suicide from a military-strategic point of view. Ultimately, the US would likely lose any war on Iranian soil that was not a nuclear war. The latter option would of course be a cataclysmic disaster for the planet.

This is one of the reasons that the US continues to construct a totally nonfactual narrative about “Iranian terrorism”. Because no such thing exists (on the contrary Iran both fights and is a victim of Takrifi jihadism), the US along with Israel continues to peddle the narrative that the Lebanese party Hezbollah is an ‘Iranian terrorist group’, even though Hezbollah’s latest accomplishment has been destroying ISIS and al-Qaeda in Lebanon while continuing to help the secular Syrian government fight jihadists.

While many pundits highlight the fact that if a US politician articulates the name of any group with an Arabic or Farsi name, it is easy to pass off such a group as a terrorist organisation, this simplistic explanation for Washington’s continued attacks on Hezbollah as an “Iranian terrorist group”, in spite of the fact that Hezbollah is a Lebanese political party and security force, actually bears a far more sinister explanation.

Because many in the US and Israel are in fact afraid of taking on Iran directly, they are actively working to undermine Iran by attacking its smaller allies. The continual demonisation of Hezbollah is clearly defined by the US as an attempt to weaken the appeal of Hezbollah in Lebanon, in order to convince Lebanese Shi’a Muslims to withdraw electoral and moral support for the party, thus eliminating the power of an Iran friendly group in the heart of the Levant.

This is not speculation or conjecture, but a reference to an important US policy document, drafted as a ‘gift’ for Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996. The document known as “A Clean Break” was authored by the future Chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee in the Bush administration, Richard Perle. The document was meant to provide guidance for the future of US-Israeli policies in the Middle East.

At the time, it was reportedly dismissed by Neyanyahu as being too extreme, even by Israeli standards, but since 9/11, many of the proposals have either been executed or attempted, including regime change in Iraq and Syria, aggression against Shi’a factions in Lebanon and an increasingly militant approach to Palestine.

Perle’s proposals for Hezbollah make for a reading that is one part frightening and another part laughable. Perle suggests a full-scale campaign to weaken and demonise Hezbollah, something which has clearly failed as Hezbollah’s popularity, even among Christians and Sunnis has only risen since the 1990s, as many Lebanese see Hezbollah as an insurance policy against both Israeli aggression as well as against jihadist terrorism of the ISIS and al-Qaeda variety. The laughable part is when Perle suggests that the Sunni Hashemite Jordanian regime could somehow fill the void left by a would-be weakened Hezbollah, because of alleged latent sentimental attachments among Levantine Shi’as towards the Hashemite dynasty. Such an enlargement would have been far flung even in the 1920s and in 2017, the following segment from “A Clean Break” reads like a bad script to a would-be sequel to Lawrence of Arabia.

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria’s regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq. This has triggered a Jordanian-Syrian rivalry to which Asad has responded by stepping up efforts to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom, including using infiltrations. Syria recently signaled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam, if only to undermine and humiliate Jordan in its efforts to remove Saddam.

But Syria enters this conflict with potential weaknesses: Damascus is too preoccupied with dealing with the threatened new regional equation to permit distractions of the Lebanese flank. And Damascus fears that the ‘natural axis’ with Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan, in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula. For Syria, this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria’s territorial integrity.

Since Iraq’s future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq, including such measures as: visiting Jordan as the first official state visit, even before a visit to the United States, of the new Netanyahu government; supporting King Hussein by providing him with some tangible security measures to protect his regime against Syrian subversion; encouraging — through influence in the U.S. business community — investment in Jordan to structurally shift Jordan’s economy away from dependence on Iraq; and diverting Syria’s attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon.

Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.

King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah (sic), Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein”.

Of the many things an overzealous Richard Perle got wrong. The most staggering are as follows:

–Underestimating the non-sectarian popularity of the Ba’athist government in Syria

–Not accounting for the Shi’a majority in Iraq who would be politically unleashed in a post-Saddam society

–Overestimating the appeal of the hereditary Jordanian regime to Arabs living in republican states

–Overestimating Jordan’s desire to be anything more than a parking lot for western military hardware

Of course, failing to realise Turkey’s contemporary pivot away from NATO could not have reasonably been foreseen in 1996, but the statements on Turkey still make for perplexing reading with the benefit of  hindsight.

Fast forward to the present day when jihad has failed in Syria and Iraq, Hezbollah is more popular than ever in Lebanon (while its opponents are in many ways weaker than ever) and where Iraq has a Shi’a dominated government with openly warm relations with Iran.

Iraq’s present geo-political position is that of the only country in the world where the two most influential countries inside its borders are the United States and Iran. To put this in perspective, imagine a country where the two most influential powers, each with its own troops working with various factions of such a state’s army, were Japan and North Korea.

But this is the awkward reality of modern Iraq, a country whose armed forces coordinate airstrikes with the USA and where in other parts of the country, on the same day, members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, train Iraqi troops and Popular Mobilization Units  to fight terrorism. What’s more is that Iraq has recently approached Iran to sign a wide ranging military security pact. All the while, the US maintains multiple military bases in Iraq, in addition to an embassy in Baghdad that is better described as a military fortress.

If the US was intent on ‘containing’ Iran at all costs or even maintaining a power in the Middle East with a track record of not being afraid of Iran, the US could have simply continued to fund and arm Saddam Hussein. In rejecting Saddam and engaging in illegal regime change, the US severely underestimated the potential of a post-Ba’athist Iraq not to devolve into a battle ground of identity politics, one in which sheer mathematics would dictate more pro-Iranian factions than any other.

Now, the US is stuck in the rut that is contemporary Iraq. On the one hand, Iraq has been a major material investment for the US. This is one of the leading explanations for why the US condemned the recent Kurdish secession referendum in northern Iraq. Where Iraqi Kurds were once the go-to faction in Iraq for the US to undermine the old Ba’athist government and since 2003, a faction that the US exploited to promote a so-called ‘Iraqi success story’, today, the US wants to have its Kurdish cake and eat it too. In other words, while the US does not intend to publicly defame Iraqi Kurds, they also seek to preserve the unity of their investment called Iraq.

At least, this is what the US says in public, but privately, this may have already changed. Kurdish secessionists in Iraq decided to include the oil rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk on the map of a would-be Kurdish state, as part of the widely condemned secession referendum process. This has infuriated the Arab and Turkomen population of Kirkuk who see Kurds as attempting to annex a city which is not part of the existing autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

Over the last 24 hours reports from Kirkuk detailing intense fighting between the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia have been flowing in, albeit under the radar due to the media focusing more acutely on Donald Trump’s anti-Iran speech. While most Arab sources describe the battles as being fought between Iraqi Troops and Peshmerga, Kurdish outlets speak of clashes between a “foreign backed Iraqi army” along with Shi’a forces versus Peshmerga.

Thus one sees that generally pro-western and clearly pro-Israel Kurdish writers are proliferating a narrative where a foreign power, meaning Iran, is backing Shi’a Iraqis in a fight against Kurds.

The clear intention is to send the world a false message that the current fight in Kirkuk is an Iranian proxy battle against ‘wholesome Iraqi Kurds’. In reality, when reading between the lines, even in Kurdish propaganda outlets, one realises that the majority Shi’a Iraq army, the Sunni Arabs and Sunni Turkomen of Kirkuk, are all united behind the Iraqi flag against the Kurdish flag. In this sense, a battle which Kurds are trying to paint as a proxy sectarian war, is actually a rare example of Iraqi unity between Arabs and Turkomen, Shi’a and Sunni.

Thus, one sees the blueprint as well as the folly of the US and Israel’s real proxy war against Iran. Having failed in Syria and Lebanon, Iraq is the place where anti-Iranian forces will continue and likely ramp up their long-term anti-Tehran proxy war.

Whereas ISIS failed to destroy Iraq and also failed to limit Iranian influence on Iraq, the Kurds in Iraq will likely be the next proxy force used to attempt and draw Iran into a new conflict in Iraq. In the coming weeks and months, the headlines in fake news outlets warning of an ‘Iran/Hezbollah plot to take over Syria’, will likely be replaced with stories of ‘Iranian terrorists committing atrocities against Iraqi Kurds’. Of course, the more this strategy fails on the battle field, the more absurd the fake news stories will get, just as fake stories about Syrian chemical weapons tend to appear every time Damascus scores a substantial victory against al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The problem with the new plan for more proxy wars with Iran in Iraq, is that in the process, many Iraqi Arabs, as well as Iraqi Turkomen, may revive a pan-Iraqi identity in the process. Furthermore, if pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq begin fighting for the rights of Sunni Arabs and Turkomen against Kurds, it could actually help to reconcile Iraqi Sunnis with Iraqi Shi’as.

This is the real game-plan against Iran and while it is a dangerous one, it ultimately will not be an effective one. In many ways, it may even be less effective than the attempt to use ISIS and other Takfiri groups to draw Iran into a losing war in the Arab world. Here, the opposite has happened, Iran has worked with legal state partners to cooperate and ultimately secure victory against Takfiri jihadists.

When and if the conflicts in Iraq finally end, the only question remaining will be: What to do with the deeply unpopular US bases in Iraq? There are only two options:

1. Perpetual stalemate

2. A 1975 Vietnam style withdrawal

The United States plans to end Iranian power in Iraq, but it is becoming increasingly likely that Iraq will instead be the graveyard of US hegemony. In many ways, it already is.

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia ready to mediate talks between Saudi Arabia & Iran – deputy FM

RT | October 11, 2017

Russia is ready and willing to mediate in establishing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has stated.

“We tried several times and offered [to help Iran and Saudi Arabia sit down at the negotiating table], but we do not impose our intermediary role,” Bogdanov told reporters.

“But we have always told our partners in both Saudi Arabia and Iran that we are ready to provide both a platform for contacts and friendly services.”

Bogdanov added that Moscow has always highlighted the need to resolve the issues between the two countries.

“Many problems would have been much easier to resolve had there been mutual understanding and trust between Tehran and Riyadh,” Bogdanov said.

He added that the situation in the entire region, especially regarding antiterrorism efforts, depends on mutual understanding and cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Bogdanov stressed that Russia always tells Saudi Arabia and Iran that it is ready to report something from one side to another or to organize their bilateral contacts. “These proposals remain on the table both with our Saudi and Iranian partners,” he said.

In May, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman accused Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism and seeking confrontational policies in the region. He was responding to comments by the Saudi deputy crown prince, who earlier ruled out dialogue with Tehran. Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, the kingdom’s defense minister, said it was impossible to mend relations between his country and Iran due to Tehran’s “extremist ideology” and ambitions to “control the Islamic world.”

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, following the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister responded by accusing Iran of setting up “terrorist cells” inside the kingdom. Iran then issued a warning that “divine vengeance” would come to Saudi Arabia as a punishment for Nimr’s execution as well as for Riyadh’s bombings in Yemen and support for the Bahraini government.

In February of this year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, while on a visit to Saudi ally Kuwait, said that Tehran would like to restore relations and improve ties with all its Gulf Arab neighbors.

One area where Moscow and Riyadh disagree is Iran’s involvement in Syria.

Riyadh, a main backer of the Syrian opposition, is against the actions of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Hezbollah group in Syria. According to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir, these groups influence the situations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf countries, and Yemen, and have no place in Syria or any other part of the world. Riyadh’s primary objective has been to put an end to Iran’s involvement in the region.

Meanwhile, Russia has argued that Iran and Hezbollah are operating in Syria at the official request of President Bashar Assad.

“We don’t see Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. We believe that both of them [Iran and Hezbollah] – like Russia’s air forces – came to Syria following the request of the legitimate government,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed in April.

October 11, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 2 Comments

Trump is sinking in the quicksand of West Asia

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | October 10, 2017

An amazing week is unfolding in West Asian politics. It began with three dramatic developments on Monday – Turkish troops crossing the border into Syria’s Idlib province; announcement in Moscow on agreement to sell the S-400 missile defence system to Saudi Arabia; and, the freeze on visas by the US and Turkey for each other’s nationals. And the week promises to be climactic in the US-Iranian relations.

On Monday Iranian Foreign Ministry warned that any move by the Trump administration to impose sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps will be a “strategic mistake” and Tehran’s response will be “firm, decisive and crushing”. It echoed a warning by the head of the IRGC, General Mohammad Ali Jafari that if the US designated his organization as terrorist, Iran will regard the US forces anywhere as the allies of the Islamic State and target them. Indeed, the weekend is slated to witness the refusal by US President Donald Trump to meet the October 15 deadline for endorsing Washington’s participation in the Iran nuclear deal. The common thread that runs through all these developments is the US’ standing in West Asia vis-a-vis the three most important regional states — Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Syria: The Turkish military operation in Idlib is directed against the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front. The operation stems from the Astana process where Russia, Turkey and Iran have worked out the establishment of a ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib. The US is the odd man out looking in. The backdrop is provided by the upswing in Turkish-Russian relations and the recent Turkish-Iranian rapprochement. Turkey and Iran have common interest to counter the US-Israeli encouragement to Kurdish separatism. Clearly, the Turkish-Iranian rapprochement is having positive fallout on the Syrian situation.

Saudi-Russian ties: The announcement in Moscow on Monday regarding the sale of the S-400 missile defence system to Saudi Arabia signifies a tectonic shift in the Middle East politics. Saudi Arabia has been a ‘pivotal state’ in the US’ Middle East strategies since the mid-forties. It is now embarking on a ‘non-aligned’ foreign policy. The visit by King Salman to Russia last week, Aramco’s dealings with Rosneft and Gazprom, OPEC-Russia agreement to cut oil production – these suggest that the US-Saudi axis is steadily dissolving. Interestingly, Tehran is calmly viewing the Saudi-Russian rapprochement. These trends put a dagger at the heart of the entire US strategy in the Gulf, which had historically fostered a ‘bloc mentality’ among the Sunni states by fuelling their tensions vis-à-vis Iran.

Sensing that Saudi Arabia and Russia might clinch a deal over the S-400 missile defence system, Washington hurriedly announced last Friday that it proposed to accede to the pending request from Riyadh for purchase of the rival THAAD missile system. (Due to Israeli pressure Washington was dragging its feet on the $15 billion deal.) A keen tussle is developing and its outcome will be a litmus test of the US’ capacity to influence Saudi decision-making.

Turkish-American spat: Last week Turkish security nabbed a local employee of the US Consulate in Istanbul for alleged links with the Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen who is living in the US and whom the Turks suspect as having been involved in the US-backed coup attempt last July against Erdogan. Washington went ballistic. From all appearances, Turkish intelligence may have nabbed a key accomplice of the CIA who had acted as go-between during the failed coup attempt last year. The statement by the US ambassador in Ankara, here, betrays nervousness. Woven into this is Washington’s support of Kurdish separatist groups, which Erdogan sees as the ‘hidden agenda’ of Americans to destabilize Turkey. The Turkish-American relations are in serious difficulty.

Iran nuclear deal: Trump is about to announce this weekend that Iran is not in compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal. If that happens, US lawmakers have a 60-day window to decide whether to re-impose sanctions against Iran. The Israeli lobby is active on the Capitol Hill. To be sure, pressure will mount on Tehran to respond and retaliate somehow. There is an influential section of opinion within the Iranian establishment that never trusted the US intentions. Clearly, the door is closing on a gestation process over confidence-building that might have incrementally led to a US-Iranian normalization. (Read an insightful opinion piece in the New York Times by Wendy R. Sherman, a former Undersecretary of State for political affairs, who was the US’ lead negotiator for the Iran nuclear agreement – Trump Is Going to Make a Huge Mistake on the Iran Deal.)

All in all, the US is running out of friends and allies in West Asia – with the solitary exception of Israel. Its traditional Cold War-era NATO ally Turkey is turning unfriendly; Iran is preparing to confront the US; GCC is in turmoil but the US is watching helplessly; and, most important, Saudis are exploring the seamless potentials of a non-aligned foreign policy. Trump’s record in West Asia is proving dismal.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment