ON SYRIA: THANK YOU RUSSIA!

Isis destruction of Syria antiquities

Russians Ride Fast. Russia’s Victory in Syria

The area around the Central Moscow tube stations looks like Aleppo after an air raid. Ruins, destroyed buildings, bulldozers gathering the shambles. No, Moscow was not hit by terrorists: this is a planned demolition of hundreds of small and not-too-small shacks erected (in defiance of planning law) in the vicinity of tube stations in the notorious Nineties, when the Law was vague and easily bought for ready money. The biggest of them, the Pyramid on top of Pushkinskaya Station, went down this week. The municipal workers promptly removed the vestiges of the collapsed constructions, while the erstwhile owners stared in disbelief.

They were surprised by the city hall offensive against illegally built shantytowns; some of them kept trading till the last moment. They received a warning and a demolition order a few months ago, but they did not believe the city would actually apply the order. They were sure the last moment it will be rescinded. It was not. Hundreds of buildings went down in one night.

This was a shocking reminder that Russian authorities can act, after so much ostensibly empty talk. The Russians take their time to saddle up, but they ride exceedingly fast, said the German Chancellor Bismarck quoting a Russian proverb (he served at the Russian court and knew a thing or two about Russians). So many rulers and rebels did not believe the Russian warnings, lulled by their long saddling up, and they usually lived to regret it.

The Muscovites were pleased by the demolitions: the uncouth structures looked ugly and were on the way for people rushing to and from the underground trains. What’s worse, they reminded everyone of Yeltsin’s lawless time, when the shacks were erected. Denuded of these vestiges stations built by the best architects of Stalin’s era in classical style looked so much better now!

Not many people gave a thought to an additional, non-advertised reason for the prompt removal. Moscow tube stations doubled as air raid shelters in wartime. The illegally built shacks would interfere with this purpose. After their demolition, hundreds of tube stations were readied to receive civilian population in case of an attack.

In the same time, the Russian army and Air Force carried out sudden manoeuvres in the south of the country. The TV news covered the army moves with relish. Though Russia still hopes peace will prevail, its leaders do not take chances. There is a risk of general conflagration started by the Syria proxy war.

Cessation of hostilities

The Russians accepted the US proposal to cease fire in Syria (or rather to end hostilities). They had made a similar proposal a few weeks ago, so this is in line with their thinking. Russians have made huge successes in Syria; they achieved an astonishing and unexpected victory with very few losses.

It was a reputational victory it was as well as a military one. Russia entered the Syrian war at a low point internationally. The EU and the US waged severe trade, finance and diplomatic war (“sanctions”) against the Bear; it was isolated from the West and the South. The ruble was crumbling, society was grim and dissatisfied with Putin’s prudent decision to keep away from Ukrainian turmoil (apart from very limited support of the Russian separatists) instead of forcefully interfering, as Russia had been anyway condemned as the aggressor.

Entry into the Syrian war has been met with disbelief and doubts. Will the Russian army succeed so far away from home? Will the Russian planes fly, will the tanks roll, or, devastated by post-Soviet negligence, will they collapse? Domestic and overseas Cassandras prophesied “quagmire”, “Vietnam”, “Afghanistan” for them, and plenty of coffins for their soldiers. But instead, there were roses all the way. The military performed splendidly. The planes, missiles and tanks proved their worth. The Bashar Assad regime was saved, the rebels are on the run. For the Russians, the end of hostilities would allow them to consolidate their victory.

In every war, as a ceasefire is negotiated, there are voices for “war till complete victory”. I remember myself, as a young Israeli soldier in 1973 war, when Kissinger brought the ceasefire, military observers were upset we weren’t allowed to destroy the entrapped Third Egyptian Army on the East Bank of Suez Canal. Who knew how many of us would die if such an attack were to take place?

The Syrian war is not an exception. The Syrian army stands at the door of resounding victory, bellicose military experts say; the rebels are surrounded at Aleppo, their lifeline to Turkey has been cut, now is the time to eliminate the threat and cleanse Syria from the jihadists. However, elimination of enemy pockets can be a very expensive operation in terms of human lives, especially as we speak of a fanatical and well-entrenched enemy. Terrible suicide bombings in Damascus and Homs proved the rebels are as murderous as their predecessors the Assassins. Only Genghis Khan’s Mongols could (and did) destroy such an enemy. Anyway, Russians preferred to negotiate and create a coalition government including some moderate rebels, thus enlarging the base for Assad.

The last few days before the cessation of hostilities will allow Assad’s army to gain some ground in Aleppo area and to switch to the Southern front. I’d expect them to take Palmyra in the course of next few days (consider it a tip).

However, the ceasefire turned out to be an elusive goal, at this stage.

The rebels hesitantly agreed to “cessation of hostilities” but with so many preconditions that it just made no sense. The government forces were not keen to stop the fighting as well, while the wind of success filled their sails. The Russians have no intention of stopping operations against the “terrorists”; the US agreed with them, but who are the ‘terrorists’ and who are the “moderates” has to be hammered out in the negotiations. The UN SC declared Daesh (ISIS) and al Nusra (the Syrian offshoot of al Qaeda, the Nusra Front) “terrorists”, so far, so good, but it is not so simple as it seems. There are hundreds of small organisations affiliated with them, from Abdullah Azzam Brigades to Jamaat Abu Banat (this last one “operates on the outskirts of Syrian cities Aleppo and Idlib, extorting funds from and carrying out kidnappings and public executions of local Syrians” says the UN terrorist list). Should they be protected under ceasefire terms?

The “moderate” (or Saudi-endorsed) rebels say yes. They want to include the Nusra affiliates in the ceasefire arrangements, for without al Nusra, they would be lost. This is not acceptable for the Syrian government and for its Russian allies. Reluctantly, the Americans attempted to include al Nusra in the scheme, at least in Aleppo. We shall see soon how this puzzle will be resolved, if at all.

The Moscow clearance of access to tube stations had more to do with a danger of war with Turkey. Turkey entered the war, albeit in a limited way, by shelling Syrian Kurds. The Russians braced themselves for an armed confrontation with Turkey, but only as a response in case of a full-scale Turkish invasion. This military preparedness (which included airlift of heavy weapons to the Russian air base in Armenia) and NATO statement (saying they will not fight if Turkey were to initiate belligerency) helped to undermine the Turkish resolve. The Russians went to the UN SC asking to censure the Turks; so they did, but in a statement, not by a resolution, as the Russians wanted. Still, this statement cooled off Turkish minds, and it seems their desire to invade and to take a stand at Aleppo evaporated. The Saudi troops did not materialise yet, as I expected (see my previous report).

So, the Syrian war is far from over, but there is a good chance that by March 1st some ceasefire arrangements will take place on the ground. If the rebels grasp the chance and enter serious negotiations for a coalition government, peace is possible. If they come to Geneva armed with the old mantra “Assad must go”, this opportunity will be wasted. Even if (and it’s extremely unlikely) Russia would agree to sacrifice Assad for the sake of peace, it has no means to deliver. Assad is a strong man and a powerful leader. Russians can’t possibly depose him. So Assad is a given, like it or not. In my view, he is a good leader for this time.

There are two notable changes on the scene: one, more realistic view of Syrian conflict had made its way into American mainstream media. Publication of two pieces by Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe called On Syria: Thank you, Russia! and The Media are misleading the Public on Syria was a revolutionary event of first magnitude. For the first time ever, the mainstream American reader learned that “For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it.” Kinzer came to a powerful conclusion: “We would have been more secure as a nation, and might have contributed to a more stable world, if we had followed Russia’s foreign policy lead in the past”, namely, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Indeed the world would look different. Perhaps we may connect these publications to a new American mood that manifested itself in primaries’ vote for Trump and Sanders.

The second notable change is the clear position of Israel against a ceasefire in Syria, against Assad and for Daesh and the Nusra. For long time this position had been obscured by Israeli observers and politicians. Israel has been pleased with Arabs killing each other. Now, as the end of war is seen on the horizon, Israel spoke up. Amos Harel, a leading Israeli military observer with high-grade access, made it clear:

“the war in Syria has largely served Israel’s interests. The ongoing fighting has worn down the Syrian army to a shadow of its former capabilities. And Hezbollah, Israel’s main adversary in the north, is losing dozens of fighters every month in battle. Israel has been quietly wishing success to both sides and would not have been against the bloodletting continuing for a few more years without a clear victor” Now, after successful Russian intervention, Israel states openly that “an Assad victory would be bad for Israel” and it calls upon the West “to send real military aid to the less extreme Sunni rebels”.

Thus, the will of Israel, and of Israel Lobby in the US, directly contradicts the will of people as it was lucidly expressed by Stephen Kinzer. You can follow the lead of your Israeli Lobby, or you can have peace and security, but you can’t have both, it is that simple.

Israel Shamir can be reached at israel.shamir@gmail.com

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US Spy Chief Irresponsibly Hypes a Major Terrorist Attack on US Soil Ahead – By Stephen Lendman

 

 

US Spy Chief Irresponsibly Hypes a Major Terrorist Attack on US Soil Ahead
by Stephen Lendman
9/11 and subsequent attacks on US soil were state-sponsored false flags. Any new ones ahead will be no different. Big Lies repeated ad nauseam claiming otherwise reflect willful deception.
Alleged FBI foiled attacks were phony – innocent victims wrongfully arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned on false charges, Muslims at home and abroad persecuted, vilified and slaughtered by US imperial viciousness.
America’s only enemies are ones it creates. Appearing on CBS’ 60 Minutes last Sunday, CIA director John Brennan lied to millions of viewers, predicting an “inevitabl(e)” ISIS terrorist attack on US soil.
He failed to explain ISIS is a US creation. Why would its fighters attack their paymaster? They owe their existence to US and other foreign support. Without it they’d fade to oblivion.
“I’m expecting (ISIS) to try and put in place the operatives, the materiel, whatever else they need to do, or to incite people, to carry out these attacks, clearly. So I believe their attempts are inevitable,” Brenna ranted, adding:
They’re “trying to provoke a clash between the West and the Muslim world.” Claims about US policy aiming to “take over” Middle East countries are “the furthest thing from the truth.”
It’s hard believing he could boldly lie with a straight face, harder believing anyone buys his deception, hardest not realizing longstanding US imperial policy threatens world peace – raping one independent country after another, stealing their resources, massacring their people.
It’s not at all hard understanding why CBS would air outrageous Big Lies, a longstanding US media scoundrel tradition, part of the corporate media lying machine, supporting what demands denunciation.
Reject official, media-supported, explanations of all reported attacks on US soil at all times with no exceptions – used to hype fear, crack down on fundamental freedoms, justify outlandish military spending to wage endless naked aggression for falsified reasons.
Virtually always, alleged attackers are convenient patsies – notably 9/11 ones, the framed Boston bombers and wrongfully accused San Bernadino husband and wife, in all cases Muslims, falsely blamed for crimes they didn’t commit – the public none the wiser, believing the media-hyped Big Lies they’re fed.
The next time media scoundrels headline an alleged terrorist attack on US soil, know you’re being duped again. 
Reject falsified claims. Don’t fall for government propaganda – Big Lies furthering Washington’s imperial agenda, waging war on humanity at home and abroad, the highest of high crimes.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Shaky Run-up to Syrian Peace Talks – By Stephen Lendman

 

 

Shaky Run-up to Syrian Peace Talks
by Stephen Lendman

 
 

Talks are scheduled to begin Friday at Geneva’s Palais des Nations. It’s still unclear precisely who’s coming – what parties and individuals got invitations, which ones accepted or rejected them.

 

From what’s known so far, US/UK/Saudi-backed terrorist groups were invited – a bloc known as the Higher Negotiating Committee, including ISIS-equivalent Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam).

 

It’s committed to Syria’s destruction, mass slaughter of Shiites and Alawites – former leader Zahran Alloush (killed by Syrian airstrikes) earlier saying “(o)ur nation has a great thirst for an Islamic state.”

 

He and his followers reject democracy, international law, and pluralistic governance. Not yet named similar terrorist groups were invited. Anti-Assad moderates don’t exist.

 

Media reports indicated Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem will attend, along with UN envoy Bashar al-Jafari as government moderator.

 

Syrian political defector Riyad Hijab heads the Saudi-backed Higher Negotiating Committee. Syrian army defector Asaad al-Zoubi heads other opposition groups – both men committed to Assad’s removal by any means.

 

Arab media indicated de Mistura invited 15 delegates from each side. Various other groups and individuals got invitations.

 

The PYD (Democratic Union Party) was excluded, Syria’s largest Kurdish group, despite the importance of its inclusion. Turkey demanded its exclusion, falsely calling it a terrorist organization, part of its longstanding war on Kurds, currently raging.

 

PYD fighters are some of the most effective in combating ISIS and other terrorist groups. Excluding the group denigrates its commitment against a common scourge.

 

Veteran Syrian opposition figure Haitham Manna said he’ll boycott talks without the PYD’s inclusion. The Swiss government invited its leader Saleh Muslim to serve as an advisor to the talks – meaningless if he’s excluded from proceedings.

 

Months of proximity talks are planned. Opposing sides won’t meet face-to-face. Anti-Assad, Western-controlled UN negotiators will mediate proceedings, biased before beginning.

 

On the eve of talks, bickering on who should or shouldn’t attend continues, some groups (including Saudi-backed ones) threatening to boycott proceedings if their conditions aren’t met.

 

Talks are supposed to take place with no pre-conditions, beyond what Security Council Res. 2254 stipulates:

 

  • initiating a political process toward establishing “inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months by Syrians alone, free from outside interference;

 

  • drafting a new constitution, likely largely replicating the current one, overwhelmingly approved by national referendum in February 2012; and

 

  • holding new elections in 18 months.

 

Assad is overwhelmingly popular, reelected in June 2014 with an 89% majority – a process independent international observers called open, free and fair.

 

He won’t be removed from office electorally, why Washington and rogue partners plan endless war. Expect Geneva III to fare no better than previous talks.

 

How can it with US-led opposition to Assad’s rule committed to ousting him militarily. The evidence speaks for itself.

 

ISIS, Al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra weren’t invited to Geneva. They’re US foot soldiers committed to conflict to achieve their objectives – with full support and encouragement from Washington, including Pentagon warplanes bombing infrastructure and government targets, as well as increasing numbers of US combat troops heading for northern Syria.

 

On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner lied, saying:

 

“We believe (opposition elements) should seize this opportunity to test the regime’s willingness and intentions and expose before the entire world which parties are serious about a potential peaceful political transition in Syria and which are not.” 

 

He failed to explain Washington intends endless war, attempting to oust Assad militarily, so far Russia’s aerial campaign defeating its imperial objectives.

 

On Wednesday, Sergey Lavrov warned about talks threatened by “irrelevant conditions,” ignoring the need for unity against terrorism.

 

He defended Russia’s aerial campaign, saying it’s “clear who is fighting the terrorists, who are acting as their accomplices, and who are trying to use them for their unilateral, selfish goals” – indicating Washington, Britain, France, Gulf States and complicit allies without naming them.

 

Lavrov fears unacceptable opposition-imposed conditions may doom talks, maybe before beginning.

 

It bears repeating. Expect Geneva III to fare no better than earlier talks. Washington’s imperial agenda likely dooms them.

 

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

 

 

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

 

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

 

posted by Stephen Lendman @ 3:57 AM

 

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