Even if we defeat the Islamic State, we’ll still lose the bigger war

 

 

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Residents of Syria’s Idlib province examine building damaged in air strikes on September 24. The United States and its Arab allies have opened a new front in the battle against Islamic State militants. (Ammar Abdullah/Reuters)

Andrew J. Bacevich, the George McGovern fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, is writing a history of U. S. military involvement in the Greater Middle East.

As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.

With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose. Defeating the Islamic State would only commit the United States more deeply to a decades-old enterprise that has proved costly and counterproductive.

Back in 1980, President Jimmy Carter touched things off when he announced that the United States would use force to prevent the Persian Gulf from falling into the wrong hands. In effect, with the post-Ottoman order created by European imperialists — chiefly the British — after World War I apparently at risk, the United States made a fateful decision: It shouldered responsibility for preventing that order from disintegrating further. Britain’s withdrawal from “east of Suez,” along with the revolution in Iran and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, prompted Washington to insert itself into a region in which it previously avoided serious military involvement.

At the time, oil — not freedom, democracy or human rights — defined the principal American interest, and stability was the goal. Military power offered the means by which the United States hoped to attain that goal. Armed might would keep a lid on things. The pot might simmer, but it wouldn’t boil over.

In practice, however, whether putting boots on the ground or relying on missiles from above, subsequent U.S. efforts to promote stability have tended to produce just the opposite. Part of the problem is that American policymakers have repeatedly given in to the temptation to unleash a bit of near-term chaos, betting that longer-term order will emerge on the other end.

Back in Vietnam, this was known as burning down the village to save it. In the Greater Middle East, it has meant dismantling a country with the aim of erecting something more preferable — “regime change” as a prelude to “nation building.” Unfortunately, the United States has proved considerably more adept at the former than the latter.

Mostly, coercive regime change has produced power vacuums. Iraq offers a glaring example. Although studiously ignored by Washington, post-Gaddafi Libya offers a second. And unless the gods are in an exceptionally generous mood, Afghanistan will probably become a third whenever U.S. and NATO combat troops finally depart.

In place of governing arrangements that Washington judged objectionable, the United States has found itself coping with the absence of any effective governments whatsoever. Instead of curbing bad behavior, spanking induced all sorts of pathologies.

By inadvertently sowing instability, the United States has played directly into the hands of anti-Western radical Islamists intent on supplanting the European-imposed post-Ottoman order with something more to their liking. This is the so-called caliphate that Osama bin Laden yearned to create and that now exists in embryonic form in the portions of Iraq and Syria that Islamic State radicals control.

Want to measure what America’s war for the Middle East has accomplished through its first 13 iterations? The Islamic State has to rank prominently on any list of achievements. If Iraq possessed minimally effective security forces, Islamic State militants wouldn’t have a chance. But the Iraqi army we created won’t fight, in considerable measure because the Iraqi government we created doesn’t govern.

Kurdish fighters defending Kobane warn of a likely massacre by Islamic State insurgents, while Turkey says it will do whatever it can to prevent the Syrian border town from falling. (Reuters)

President Obama did not initiate the long and varied sequence of military actions that has produced this situation. Yet he finds himself caught in a dilemma. To give the Islamic State a free hand is to allow proponents of the caliphate to exploit the instability that U.S. efforts, some involving Obama himself, have fostered. But to make Syria the latest free-fire zone in America’s never-ending Middle East misadventure will almost surely prolong and exacerbate the agonies that country is experiencing, with little ability to predict what consequences will ensue.

Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group, there is little reason to expect that the results for Syrians will be pretty — or that the prospects of regional harmony will improve. Suppress the symptoms, and the disease simply manifests itself in other ways. There is always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.

Obama’s bet — the same bet made by each of his predecessors, going back to Carter — is that the skillful application of U.S. military might can somehow provide a way out of this dilemma. They were wrong, and so is he.

We may be grateful that Obama has learned from his predecessor that invading and occupying countries in this region of the world just doesn’t work. The lesson he will bequeath to his successor is that drone strikes and commando raids don’t solve the problem, either.

We must hope for victory over the Islamic State. But even if achieved, that victory will not redeem but merely prolong a decades-long military undertaking that was flawed from the outset. When the 14th campaign runs its course, the 15th will no doubt be waiting, perhaps in Jordan or in a return visit to some unfinished battleground such as Libya or Somalia or Yemen.

Yet even as the United States persists in its determination to pacify the Greater Middle East, the final verdict is already in. U.S. military power has never offered an appropriate response to whatever ails the Islamic world. We’ve committed our troops to a fool’s errand.

And worse, the errand is also proving unnecessary. With abundant North American energy reserves now accessible — all that shale oil and fracked gas — we don’t need the Persian Gulf oil that ostensibly made our post-1980 military exertions imperative. For whatever reasons, Washington’s national security elites seem oblivious to the implications these resources have for policy in the Middle East.

No matter how long it lasts, America’s war for the Greater Middle East will end in failure. And when it does, Americans will discover that it was also superfluous.

Conflict Resolution in Syria Impossible Without Assad

 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Conflict Resolution in Syria Impossible Without Assad

Washington, Britain, France, Israel and rogue regional allies are part of the Syrian conflict resolution problem – Russia and Assad key solution partners.
 
Sergey Lavrov stresses Assad’s importance, saying “(a)ll the forecasts made by (rogue Western states) and some other parties that the people would rise up and oust him never came true.”
 
“This means one thing: Assad represents the interests of a significant part of Syrian society (the vast majority, Lavrov stopped short of explaining based on polling data and his overwhelming June 2014 reelection). So no peaceful solution can be found without his participation.”
 
On November 19, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Obama again demanded Assad must go. He lied calling his premeditated proxy aggression on Syria a “civil war,” saying he “do(es) not foresee a situation in which (it can be resolved) while (he) remains in power” – his latest assertion of rogue state arrogance, adding:
 
“Even if I said that was okay, I still don’t think it would actually work. You could not get the Syrian people, the majority of them, to agree to that kind of outcome.”
Fact: He wants Washington alone deciding who’ll lead Syria, not its citizens democratically.
 
Fact: He knows Assad remains overwhelmingly popular. Syrians want no one else leading them. Claiming he rules illegitimately is a bald-faced lie.
 
Fact: US-controlled puppet rule assures endless violence, instability and chaos – like in all nations where America intervenes. Peace and democratic governance defeat its imperial agenda.
Hopefully Lavrov is right saying growing numbers of world officials are coming around to Russia’s position on combating terrorism, and beginning to distance themselves from Washington’s destructive agenda.
“(L)evel-headed politicians are…realizing the need to concentrate on…stopping ISIS’ attempts to spread (its diabolical) influence globally,” said Lavrov. (It’s) trying to achieve its goal of creating (a) caliphate regardless of what happens in Syria and the attitude that anyone has towards Bashar Assad.”
Russia urges world unity in combating a common scourge. Resolving Syria’s conflict depends on it, impossible otherwise. “We are currently acting in Syria legally and are willing to cooperate in practice with (nations allied with Washington) that are prepared to respect Syria’s sovereignty and the goals of the Syrian government,” Lavrov stressed.
He urged passing a Security Council resolution, authorizing Chapter 7 military intervention to combat ISIS. Russia’s draft proposal seeks it, so far blocked by Washington and rogue partners Britain and France.
They oppose resolution language saying “anti-terrorist operations should be coordinated with the governments of the states, where such operations take place,” said Lavrov. 
“Unfortunately, we see the willingness to band together on an anti-terrorist platform only after tragedies” – often against wrong targets for lawless objectives. 
Lavrov urges mutual cooperation against ISIS and similar terrorist groups, the only effective way to defeat them – including stopping outside financial and military support from reaching them, the way it’s happening now, led by Washington, supported by its rogue partners including Israel, fueling the fire vital to extinguish.
A Final Comment
Russia’s Defense Ministry reported its aerial mission destroyed over 2,000 terrorist facilities in Syria since September 30. America’s 14-month bombing campaign eliminated NONE.
On November 19, Fars News reported top ISIS commanders and hundreds of fighters fleeing their Raqqa headquarters “after sustaining heavy casualties” from Russian airstrikes – according to intelligence assessments and “confirmed” eyewitness sources.
According to Arabic language al-Mayadeen television, ISIS elements are moving their families and remaining heavy weapons to Deir Ezzur. Syrian armed forces and Kurdish fighters continue making slow but steady gains against ISIS in northeastern Hasakah region. 
Russia’s main objective in Syria is neutralizing and containing ISIS enough for Syrian armed forces to continue regaining lost territory, as well as preventing the spread of this scourge elsewhere.
Author: Stephen Lendman
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.”
Posted by Ainhoa Aristizabal

A Clinton Story Fraught With Inaccuracies: How It Happened and What’s Next?

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Make no mistake. A Clinton presidency would be disastrous – the worst of all possible deplorable choices, none worthy of any public office, all aspirants beholden to wealth, power and privilege exclusively.

 

By Margaret Sullivan – Public Editor’s Journal

July 27, 2015 10:00 am

Updated: July 28, 2015 | The story certainly seemed like a blockbuster: A criminal investigation of Hillary Rodham Clinton by the Justice Department was being sought by two federal inspectors general over her email practices while secretary of state.

It’s hard to imagine a much more significant political story at this moment, given that she is the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.

The story a Times exclusive — appeared high on the home page and the mobile app late Thursday and on Friday and then was displayed with a three-column headline on the front page in Friday’s paper. The online headline read “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” very similar to the one in print.

But aspects of it began to unravel soon after it first went online. The first major change was this: It wasn’t really Mrs. Clinton directly who was the focus of the request for an investigation. It was more general: whether government information was handled improperly in connection with her use of a personal email account.

Much later, The Times backed off the startling characterization of a “criminal inquiry,” instead calling it something far tamer sounding: it was a “security” referral.

From Thursday night to Sunday morning – when a final correction appeared in print – the inaccuracies and changes in the story were handled as they came along, with little explanation to readers, other than routine corrections. The first change I mentioned above was written into the story for hours without a correction or any notice of the change, which was substantive.

And the evolving story, which began to include a new development, simply replaced the older version. That development was that several instances of classified information had been found in Mrs. Clinton’s personal email – although, in fairness, it’s doubtful whether the information was marked as classified when she sent or received those emails. Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way – in small notices on Page A2.

But you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle – they ripple through the entire news system.

So it was, to put it mildly, a mess. As a result, I’ve been spending the last couple of days asking how this could happen and how something similar can be prevented in the future. I’ve spoken to the executive editor, Dean Baquet; to a top-ranking editor involved with the story, Matt Purdy; and to the two reporters, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt.

Meanwhile, I heard from readers, like Maria Cranor who wanted clarification and explanation on The Times’s “recent, and mystifying, coverage of the HRC emails. It appears that your reporters relied on leaks from the Gowdy committee to suggest that Clinton was involved in some kind of criminal malfeasance around the emails. The subsequent walk backs have not been effective, or encouraging. Please help us retain our wavering confidence in the Times’ political coverage!” (Her reference is to the Republican congressman, Trey Gowdy.)

Another reader, Paul Kingsley, demanded a refund for his Friday paper. “We all deserve one,” he wrote to me. And, complaining about the lack of transparency and the errors, he added:

1) please repost the original reporting;
2) provide an explanation as to how it made it to press and what was wrong.
3) what are you going to do to prevent such inaccurate bias in the future?
4) are you going to minimize using unnamed sources?

The story developed quickly on Thursday afternoon and evening, after tips from various sources, including on Capitol Hill. The reporters had what Mr. Purdy described as “multiple, reliable, highly placed sources,” including some “in law enforcement.” I think we can safely read that as the Justice Department.

The sources said not only was there indeed a referral but also that it was directed at Mrs. Clinton herself, and that it was a criminal referral. And that’s how The Times wrote it initially.

“We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong,” Mr. Purdy told me. “That’s an explanation, not an excuse. We have an obligation to get facts right and we work very hard to do that.”

By Friday afternoon, the Justice Department issued a terse statement, saying that there had been a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information, stating clearly that it was not a criminal referral. Mr. Purdy says he remains puzzled about why the initial inaccurate information was confirmed so clearly. (Update: Other news outlets also got confirmation of the criminal referral as they followed The Times’s story. They did not report, as an earlier version of this post suggested, that she herself was the target of the referral.)

There are at least two major journalistic problems here, in my view. Competitive pressure and the desire for a scoop led to too much speed and not enough caution. Mr. Purdy told me that the reporters, whom he described as excellent and experienced, were “sent back again and again” to seek confirmation of the key elements; but while no one would discuss the specifics of who the sources were, my sense is that final confirmation came from the same person more than once.

The reporters and editors were not able to see the referral itself, Mr. Purdy said, and that’s the norm in such cases; anything else would be highly unusual, he said. So they were relying on their sources’ interpretation of it. All at The Times emphasized that the core of the initial story – the request for an investigation – is true, and that it was major news, as was the later development.

Hindsight’s easy, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway. Here’s my take:

First, consider the elements. When you add together the lack of accountability that comes with anonymous sources, along with no ability to examine the referral itself, and then mix in the ever-faster pace of competitive reporting for the web, you’ve got a mistake waiting to happen. Or, in this case, several mistakes.

Reporting a less sensational version of the story, with a headline that did not include the word “criminal,” and continuing to develop it the next day would have been a wise play. Better yet: Waiting until the next day to publish anything at all.

Losing the story to another news outlet would have been a far, far better outcome than publishing an unfair story and damaging The Times’s reputation for accuracy.

What’s more, when mistakes inevitably happen, The Times needs to be much more transparent with readers about what is going on. Just revising the story, and figuring out the corrections later, doesn’t cut it.

Mr. Baquet, who is a former Times Washington bureau chief, told me Sunday by phone that he faults himself on this score, and he would do it differently now.

“We should have explained to our readers right away what happened here, as soon as we knew it,” he said. That could have been in an editor’s note or in a story, or in some other form, he said.

“The readers of The New York Times got whipsawed,” by all the conflicting reports and criticism, he said.

He agreed, as Mr. Purdy did, that special care has to come with the use of anonymous sources, but he believes that the errors here “may have been unavoidable.” And Mr. Purdy said that he thought The Times probably took too long to append a correction in the first instance.

But, Mr. Baquet said, he does not fault the reporters or editors directly involved.

“You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral,” Mr. Baquet said. “I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”

None of this should be used to deny the importance of The Times’s reporting on the subject of Mrs. Clinton’s email practices at the State Department, a story Mr. Schmidt broke in March. Although her partisans want the focus shifted to these errors, the fact remains that her secret email system hamstrung possible inquiries into her conduct while secretary of state both by the news media and the public under the Freedom of Information Act and by Congress. And her awarding to herself the first cull of those emails will make suspicion about what they contained a permanent part of the current campaign.

Nevertheless, the most recent story is both a messy and a regrettable chapter. It brings up important issues that demand to be thought about and discussed internally with an eye to prevention in the future.

Mr. Baquet and Mr. Purdy said that would happen, especially on the issue of transparency to readers. In my view, that discussion must also include the rampant use of anonymous sources, and the need to slow down and employ what might seem an excess of caution before publishing a political blockbuster based on shadowy sources.

I’ll summarize my prescription in four words: Less speed. More transparency.

After all, readers come to The Times not for a scoop, though those can be great, but for fair, authoritative and accurate information. And when things do go wrong, readers deserve a thorough, immediate explanation from the top. None of that happened here.

(Update: An editors’ note, explaining the errors and stating that corrections should have been handled differently, was published late Monday, and appeared in Tuesday’s paper on page A2.)

On the Road in Syria, Struggle All Around

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Syrian families and fighters from a Kurdish militia attended a funeral last month in Qamishli, Syria, for fighters killed more than a year ago.

After Kurdish militias push out ISIS, people are eking out livings in a border area where state services have collapsed. Syrian families and fighters from a Kurdish militia attended a funeral last month in Qamishli, Syria, for fighters killed more than a year ago.

RMEILAN, Syria — After boiling crude oil from the ground near here all day in a metal tank to refine it into diesel, Ali Mohammed braved the fumes to bang the tank’s drain open with a shovel. He stepped back as the dregs oozed into the dirt and burst into flames.

As a column of putrid smoke rose into the sky, he pulled a cigarette from his oil-soaked shirt and explained how the Syrian civil war had turned him into a diesel bootlegger.

He had once worn clean scrubs as a nurse in a state-run hospital, but was fired after rebels took over his village, making all residents suspect, he said. Later, stretched by the war, the government had left the area, leaving its oil up for grabs.

“Before, we saw the wells but we never saw the oil,” Mr. Mohammed said. Now, although its fumes made them sick, the oil helped hundreds of families like his scrape by.

“My wife doesn’t complain about the smell as long as there’s money,” Mr. Mohammed said.

A Kurdish militia fighter rested last week on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River. Islamic State militants fire on Kurdish bases from across the river.
New U.S.-Backed Alliance to Counter ISIS in Syria Falters  NOV. 2, 2015

Displaced Syrians near an abandoned house in the province of Aleppo. Relief workers say they believe at least 50,000 people have been uprooted, mostly north of Homs and in areas around the city of Aleppo.

Violence in Syria Spurs a Huge Surge in Civilian Flight   – OCT. 26, 2015

How Syrians Are Dying  SEPT. 14, 2015

Untangling the Overlapping Conflicts in the Syrian War   OCT. 18, 2015

Such scenes dotted the map during a recent 10-day visit in northeastern Syria, along the Turkish border. Everyone here, it seems, has an angle to work, scrambling to fill the void left by the collapse of the Syrian state.

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South of al-Jawadiyah, crude oil is refined into diesel and other products. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, saw this crossroads as a prime place to expand its so-called caliphate. It was far from the major interests of the Syrian government in Damascus and along good river and road networks to allow the quick movement of fighters and contraband.

But as Kurdish fighters pushed the Islamic State jihadists out, they sought to stamp their vision of a better life onto northern Syria: an autonomous enclave built on the principles — part anarchist, part grass-roots socialist — of a Kurdish militant leader whose face now adorns arm bands and murals across the territory.

Others, like Mr. Mohammed, are just trying to get by: the farmers, herders and smugglers, or those just trying to piece their communities back together after months under the black flag and public punishments of the Islamic State.

The police are gone, and militias have flourished, snarling traffic with checkpoints and covering lampposts with pictures of dead fighters. Shuttered gas stations stand near shacks where fuel is sold in plastic jugs. And abandoned government offices house ad hoc administrations that struggle to keep the lights on.

Kurdish Utopia

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Nine months after coalition airstrikes and Kurdish fighters repelled an invasion by the Islamic State, residents of Kobani struggle with loss, failed services and widespread destruction. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

 

The Kurdish militia that grew to become the dominant power in this part of Syria over the past year — known as the People’s Protection Units — has managed to roll back the Islamic State in many areas, carving out a swath of relative security that the residents call Rojava.

The community leaders here are working to set up a new order based on the philosophies of the separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan, of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., who is serving a life sentence for treason in Turkey.

“Turn your land, your water and your energy into a commune to build a free and democratic life,” reads a common billboard featuring Mr. Ocalan’s mustachioed face. His supporters call him “president” or “uncle.”

Influenced by the American anarchist Murray Bookchin, Mr. Ocalan has called for autonomous rule by local committees unbound by national borders. The project’s proponents say they do not seek to break up Syria but are leading a long-term social revolution that will ensure gender and minority rights.

“The Syrian people can solve the Syrian crisis and find new ways to run the country,” said Hediya Yusif, a co-president of one of the area’s three self-declared cantons.

But much about the new administrations remains aspirational. No foreign power has recognized them, and Turkey looks on them with hostility, fearing that they want to declare an independent state along its border. Many of their workers are volunteers or functionaries still paid by the Syrian government.

The new order’s complexities are glaring in the strongly Kurdish town of Qamishli, where monuments to fallen militia fighters and billboards in red, green and yellow — the flag colors of the People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G. — dominate roundabouts.

“The homeland is belonging, loyalty and sacrifice,” read one sign, showing women farming and holding Kalashnikovs.

One morning, dozens of women waved militia flags on the town’s main road, waiting for the bodies of Kurdish fighters to arrive for burial in a sprawling martyrs’ cemetery.

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The new order’s complexities are glaring in the strongly Kurdish town of Qamishli, where monuments to fallen militia fighters and billboards in red, green and yellow — the flag colors of the People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G. — dominate roundabouts. “The homeland is belonging, loyalty and sacrifice,” read one sign, showing women farming and One morning, dozens of women waved militia flags on the town’s main road, waiting for the bodies of Kurdish fighters to arrive for burial in a sprawling martyrs’ cemetery.

 
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Relatives of Kurdish militia fighters killed more than a year ago in Kobani and being buried in their hometown, Qamishli. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

 

Renas Ghanem stood among them with a photograph of her sister, Silan, who had quit high school to join a Kurdish militia in Iraq and returned to fight the Islamic State in Syria, where she was killed.

Nearby, however, loomed a statue of the former strongman Hafez al-Assad, father of the current Syrian president, in an area of continued Syrian government control only a few blocks long, where the Syrian police, in white shirts and black caps, direct traffic.

Kurdish leaders do not hide their resentment of the Syrian government for its treatment of Kurds. But allowing the government to control the town’s airport keeps it open, they say, and its largely symbolic presence downtown has prevented the government airstrikes that have destroyed rebel areas elsewhere.

“The Y.P.G. could chase the regime out in one hour, but what would come after?” said Ahmed Moussa, a Kurdish journalist. “Barrel bombs and airstrikes.”

The territory’s main link to the outside is two rusty boats that ferry passengers across a river from Iraq and a pontoon bridge for cargo. Trucks leaving Syria on a recent day carried cows and sheep; those entering hauled soft drinks and potato chips.

Despite improved security in some places, unemployment and the threat of renewed fighting have sent many people from this area fleeing by boats to Europe.

“The situation in Rojava can’t keep people here,” said Shivan Ahmed, a butcher’s assistant in the town of Amuda who earns less than $3 a day.

His wife and 7-month-old son had recently left on a boat that sank near Turkey, he said. They were rescued, but 13 of their relatives, mostly women and children, were still missing.

Relatives of Kurdish militia fighters killed more than a year ago in Kobani and being buried in their hometown, Qamishli. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Renas Ghanem stood among them with a photograph of her sister, Silan, who had quit high school to join a Kurdish militia in Iraq and returned to fight the Islamic State in Syria, where she was killed.

Nearby, however, loomed a statue of the former strongman Hafez al-Assad, father of the current Syrian president, in an area of continued Syrian government control only a few blocks long, where the Syrian police, in white shirts and black caps, direct traffic.

Kurdish leaders do not hide their resentment of the Syrian government for its treatment of Kurds. But allowing the government to control the town’s airport keeps it open, they say, and its largely symbolic presence downtown has prevented the government airstrikes that have destroyed rebel areas elsewhere.

“The Y.P.G. could chase the regime out in one hour, but what would come after?” said Ahmed Moussa, a Kurdish journalist. “Barrel bombs and airstrikes.”

The territory’s main link to the outside is two rusty boats that ferry passengers across a river from Iraq and a pontoon bridge for cargo. Trucks leaving Syria on a recent day carried cows and sheep; those entering hauled soft drinks and potato chips.

Despite improved security in some places, unemployment and the threat of renewed fighting have sent many people from this area fleeing by boats to Europe.

“The situation in Rojava can’t keep people here,” said Shivan Ahmed, a butcher’s assistant in the town of Amuda who earns less than $3 a day.

His wife and 7-month-old son had recently left on a boat that sank near Turkey, he said. They were rescued, but 13 of their relatives, mostly women and children, were still missing.

Still, he said, his neighbors keep leaving.

 

BREAKING: Over 1,000 ISIS and Al Nusra Militants Surrender To Syrian Army In Last 24 Hours

 

 

The development came after President Bashar al-Assad in a televised address in July pardoned all soldiers who have fled the army, saying that his words served as a general decree to relevant officials.

Hundreds of gunmen have been laying down their weapons and turning themselves in to authorities in areas across the country.

This number seems to be on the rise as the army has been making steady gains in the battlefield against the terrorist groups, recapturing an increasing number of regions, including strategic sites, which helped cut off many of the militants’ supply routes and forced them to surrender or run away.

Also in the past 24 hours, the Syrian air raids destroyed concentration centers of the ISIL, al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups in Hama and Idlib.

The Syrian warplanes conducted airstrikes against positions of ISIL and the so-called Jeish al-Fath terrorists in the countryside of Hama and Idlib.

The airstrikes hit positions of the ISIL terrorists in al-Rahjan village, 50 km to the Northeast of Hama City, destroying a number of terrorists’ vehicles with all arms, ammunition and equipment on board.

The airstrikes also hit positions of al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups in Aqrab village in the Southwestern countryside of Hama, killing scores of terrorists.

A number of vehicles belonging to Jeish al-Fath terrorists were also destroyed in airstrikes in Abdin village in the countryside of Ma’aret al-Nu’aman in Idlib countryside.

Meantime, the Syrian fighter jets pounded hideouts of the Takfiri militants in the countryside of Homs.

The Syrian air raids destroyed Takfiri terrorists’ hideouts and vehicles in al-Qaryatain, al-Sa’an, and in the vicinity of al-Sha’er field in Homs countryside.

The Russian air group in Syria is using Kh-29L air-to-surface missiles to conduct airstrikes against the ISIL militants, the Russian military said Sunday.

“A Kh-29L surface-to-air missile is equipped with a semi-active laser guidance system. When the launch is conducted, a pilot illuminates a target with a laser sight. At the same time an aircraft can continue the flight,” Aerospace Forces Spokesman Colonel Igor Klimov said.

Also, the Syrian army conducted military operations against the foreign-backed Takfiri militants in Aleppo province, leaving hundreds of them killed and injured.

Hundreds of terrorists were killed or wounded in Aleppo City and its countryside in the past 24 hours, a military source said.

Elsewhere, at least 28 militant fighters of the ISIL terrorist group were killed during clashes with the Kurdish forces in the Northeastern Syrian province of Hasaka.

“The YPG forces besieged the ISIL militants near Mount Abdulaziz and killed dozens of terrorists and destroyed several vehicles,” a spokesman for the YPG Media Center told ARA News.

Also, gunmen from the Jeish al-Fath coalition of extremist groups are pulling out their forces from Idlib and other towns in Northwestern Syria.

The radical group started moving towards the Turkish border on Saturday after having experienced “the efficiency of the Russian aerospace forces’ strikes,” the As-Safir Arabic-language daily reported.

The coalition is led by al-Nusra terrorist group, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, which is sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. The group seized the Idlib province this spring.

The report said field commanders fear at any moment the attack of Syrian forces supported by Russian warplanes on the key town of Jisr al-Shugour, on the Lattakia-Aleppo highway.

The U.S. Is Destroying Europe

 

europe-usa-eu-flags-400x199In Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and other countries at the periphery or edges of Europe, U.S. President Barack Obama has been pursuing a policy of destabilization, and even of bombings and other military assistance, that drives millions of refugees out of those peripheral areas and into Europe, thereby adding fuel to the far-rightwing fires of anti-immigrant rejectionism, and of resultant political destabilization, throughout Europe, not only on its peripheries, but even as far away as in northern Europe.

Shamus Cooke at Off-Guardian headlines on 3 August 2015, “Obama’s ‘Safe Zone’ in Syria Intended to Turn It into New Libya,” and he reports that Obama has approved U.S. air support for Turkey’s previously unenfoceable no-fly zone over Syria. The U.S. will now shoot down all of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s planes that are targeting the extremist-Muslim groups, including ISIS, that have taken over huge swaths of Syrian territory.

Cooke reports:

Turkey has been demanding this no-fly zone from Obama since the Syrian war started. It’s been discussed throughout the conflict and even in recent months, though the intended goal was always the Syrian government. And suddenly the no-fly zone is happening — right where Turkey always wanted it — but it’s being labeled an ‘anti-ISIS’ safe zone, instead of its proper name: ‘Anti Kurdish and anti-Syrian government’ safe zone.

The New York Times reported on July 27th, that,

“the plan calls for relatively moderate Syrian insurgents to take the territory, with the help of American and possibly Turkish air support.”

However, the Times, stenographically reporting (as usual) from and for their U.S. Government sources (and so propagandizing for the U.S. Government), fails to define “relatively moderate,” but all of the “relatively moderate insurgent” groups in Syria cooperate with ISIS and help them to find and decapitate, or sometimes hold for ransoms, any non-Muslims there. Under Assad, Syria has been a non-clerical state, and has enjoyed freedom of religion, but all of the Syrian opposition to Assad’s rule is alien to that. The U.S. is now, even more clearly than before, anti-Assad, pro-Islamist.

Seymour Hersh reported in the London Review of Books on 17 April 2014, that the Obama Administration’s Libyan bombing campaign in 2011 was part of a broader program to bring sarin gas from Libya to the al-Nusra Front in Syria, in order to help produce a gas-attack upon civilians, which the U.S. Administration could then blame upon Assad, as being an excuse to bomb there just as Obama had already so successfully done in Libya. Both dictators, Gaddafi and Assad, were allied with Russia, and Assad especially has been important to Russia, as a transit-route for Russia’s gas supplies, and not for Qatar’s gas supplies — Qatar being the major potential threat to Russia’s status as the top supplier of gas into Europe.

Obama’s top goal in international relations, and throughout his military policies, has been to defeat Russia, to force a regime-change there that will make Russia part of the American empire, no longer the major nation that resists control from Washington.

Prior to the U.S. bombings of Libya in 2011, Libya was at peace and thriving. Per-capita GDP (income) in 2010 according to the IMF was $12,357.80, but it plunged to only $5,839.70 in 2011 — the year we bombed and destroyed the country. (Hillary Clinton famously bragged, “We came, we saw, he [Gaddafi] died!”) (And, unlike in U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, that per-capita GDP was remarkably evenly distributed, and both education and health care were socialized and available to everyone, even to the poor.)

More recently, on 15 February 2015, reporter Leila Fadel of NPR bannered “With Oil Fields Under Attack, Libya’s Economic Future Looks Bleak.” She announced: “The man in charge looks at production and knows the future is bleak. ‘We cannot produce. We are losing 80 percent of our production,’ says Mustapha Sanallah, the chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation.”

Under instructions from Washington, the IMF hasn’t been reliably reporting Libya’s GDP figures after 2011, but instead shows that things there were immediately restored to normal (even to better than normal: $13,580.55 per-capita GDP) in 2012, but everybody knows that it’s false; even NPR is, in effect, reporting that it’s not true. The CIA estimates that Libya’s per-capita GDP was a ridiculous $23,900 in 2012 (they give no figures for the years before that), and says Libya’s per-capita GDP has declined only slightly thereafter. None of the official estimates are at all trustworthy, though the Atlantic Council at least made an effort to explain things honestly, headlining in their latest systematic report about Libya’s economy, on 23 January 2014, “Libya: Facing Economic Collapse in 2014.”

Libya has become Europe’s big problem. Millions of Libyans are fleeing the chaos there. Some of them are fleeing across the Mediterranean and ending up in refugee camps in southern Italy; and some are escaping to elsewhere in Europe.

And Syria is now yet another nation that’s being destroyed in order to conquer Russia. Even the reliably propagandistic New York Times is acknowledging, in its ‘news’ reporting, that, “both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first priority.” So: U.S. bombers will be enforcing a no-fly-zone over parts of Syria in order to bring down Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad and replace his secular government by an Islamic government — and the ‘anti-ISIS’ thing is just for show; it’s PR, propaganda. The public cares far more about defeating ISIS than about defeating Russia; but that’s not the way America’s aristocracy views things. Their objective is extending America’s empire — extending their own empire.

Similarly, Obama overthrew the neutralist government of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine in February 2014, but that was under the fake cover of ‘democracy’ demonstrations, instead of under the fake cover of ‘opposing Islamic terrorism’ or whatever other phrases that the U.S. Government uses to fool suckers about America’s installation of, and support to, a rabidly anti-Russia, racist-fascist, or nazi, government next door to Russia, in Ukraine. Just as Libya had been at peace before the U.S. invaded and destroyed it, and just as Syria had been at peace before the U.S and Turkey invaded and destroyed it, Ukraine too was at peace before the U.S. perpetrated its coup there and installed nazis and an ethnic cleansing campaign there, and destroyed Ukraine too.

Like with Libya before the overthrow of Gaddafi there, or Syria before the current effort to overthrow Assad there, or the more recent successful overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, it’s all aimed to defeat Russia.

The fact that all of Europe is sharing in the devastation that Obama and other American conservatives — imperialists, even — impose, is of little if any concern to the powers-that-be in Washington DC, but, if it matters at all to them, then perhaps it’s another appealing aspect of this broader operation: By weakening European nations, and not only nations in the Middle East, Obama’s war against Russia is yet further establishing America to be “the last man standing,” at the end of the chaos and destruction that America causes.

Consequently, for example, in terms of U.S. international strategy, the fact that the economic sanctions against Russia are enormously harming the economies of European nations is good, not bad.

There are two ways to win, at any game: One is by improving one’s own performance. The other is by weakening the performances by all of one’s competitors. The United States is now relying almost entirely upon the latter type of strategy.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

EU Commission President Juncker: ‘I Don’t Understand Tsipras’ – Interview with SPIEGEL

Keep Juncker as far away from you as possible!

 

Greece is in the eye of the storm. Washington is involved with EU countries bullying its SYRIZA government to make endless odious debt payments – the exact opposite of sound policy. It’s about:

  • paying bankers first at the expense of its ordinary citizens; 
  • impoverishing them;
  • bankrupting the country; 
  • preventing an essential Grexit to repair its devastated economy; 
  • forcing it to keep selling off its crown jewels at fire sale prices; and 
  • ultimately regime change – replacing SYRIZA with right-wing governance beholden solely to monied interests instead of its current one going part way.

 

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker remains committed to preventing a Grexit. But he tells SPIEGEL that his patience is wearing thin: “I don’t believe the Greek government’s response has been sufficient.”

SPIEGEL: Mr. Juncker, we would like to speak with you about friendship.

Juncker: A vast topic. Go ahead.

SPIEGEL: It says in the dictionary that friendship is a relationship defined by mutual affection and trust. If you use that as a guide, would you describe Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a friend of yours?

Juncker: There are two types of friendship. The first is rooted in goodwill, of the kind I feel for Mr. Tsipras. The second — true friendship — is much rarer, because it must first overcome obstacles and grow.

SPIEGEL: You began referring to Tsipras as a friend soon after he took office. More recently, though, you have begun complaining that he is incorrectly depicting the offers you have made in Athens. Were your friendly overtures to him somewhat premature?

Juncker: No, my relationship to Mr. Tsipras is, for the time being, a friendship in accordance with the word’s first definition. Only later will it become clear if real friendship will grow out of that. I will, however, acknowledge that the trust I placed in him is not always returned in equal measure.

SPIEGEL: You have made concessions to Mr. Tsipras on several issues, but he is still accusing you and the other creditors of wanting to pillage Greece. Are you disappointed in him?

Juncker: One should never take personally the relationships between representatives and institutions. We are here to work for the people. On the other hand, politics cannot function without reliable personal relationships. With all due respect to the new Greek government, one has to point out that some of its representatives came into office without being adequately prepared for the tasks awaiting them.

SPIEGEL: The negotiations with the Greeks are making exceedingly slow progress, if any at all, despite the fact that the country’s bankruptcy is coming closer and closer. Is it still possible to prevent the country’s departure from the euro zone?

Juncker: We have to keep trying to do all we can to prevent a Grexit. You are right; we are running out of time. And some of the toxic rhetoric coming out of Athens doesn’t make it any easier to find a compromise. Mostly, though, I just ignore the rhetoric, because we have to make progress.

SPIEGEL: The Greeks seem to think they can get a better deal if they remain at the poker table.

Juncker: European politics is not a card game where there is a winner and a loser at the end. On the contrary: Either everyone wins, or everyone loses. That is why it is absolutely essential that the Greek government move as quickly as it can.

SPIEGEL: Many of your colleagues have accused you of essentially inviting the Greek government to shove its chips into the middle of the table. After all, at the very beginning of the negotiations, you categorically ruled out the possibility of a Grexit.

Juncker: Had I said at the beginning of the negotiations that a Grexit was an option, it would have unleashed a wave of speculation on the financial markets. Apparently, there are some in the Greek government who have misunderstood and believe that there is someone in Europe who can pull a rabbit out of the hat in the end. But that is not the case. I have warned Mr. Tsipras many times he shouldn’t depend on me being able to prevent a failure of the talks if that isn’t desired by the other side. We should do everything we can to prevent a Grexit, but to do so, both sides must exert themselves. In the end, I would prefer the rabbit to bear the Greek national colors.

SPIEGEL: Do you have the impression that Tsipras understands the stakes for his country?

Juncker: I have described for him in detail what an exit from the euro zone would mean for his country on the short-, medium- and long-term.

SPIEGEL: And that is?

Juncker: Greece has experienced deep cuts to its social safety net. The result has been an unacceptable humanitarian crisis. Every morning, many people in Athens or Thessaloniki are actually faced with the question as to how they are going to feed themselves that day. The problem, though, is that the crisis would only become worse in the case of a Grexit. On the other hand, there are people in Greece who are filthy rich. I have called upon Mr. Tsipras to raise taxes on wealth in his country. Shockingly, his response to my request was not as enthusiastic as I had expected.

SPIEGEL: For five years now, international creditors have been trying to stave off Greek insolvency with vast aid packages worth hundreds of billions of euros. But unemployment in the country remains at 25 percent and gross domestic product has plunged by a quarter. Don’t you have to admit that Europe’s attempts to save Greece have failed?

Juncker: You are failing to mention the successes we have achieved. Although Greece’s GDP has fallen dramatically, the government has presented a budget in which revenues are significantly higher than expenditures. I reject the idea that the Greeks are lying around doing nothing. Pensions have been slashed, salaries reduced and public spending reined in. Germans, in particular, have the impression that the Greeks have done nothing to free themselves from their plight. That impression is incorrect.

SPIEGEL: But the Greeks no longer want austerity. People hate the Troika and the government is cheered when it blasts the parameters laid down by the International Monetary Fund as “criminal.” How can the bailout project be continued on such a foundation?

Juncker: It bothers me that the Tsipras government acts as though we in the European Commission are austerity fanatics who are crushing the dignity of the Greek people underfoot. I am upset that the Greek government acts as though the Commission is seeking a higher sales tax on electricity, to mention one example. I have told Mr. Tsipras many times that I am open to other suggestions if they result in the same revenues. Instead of complaining about the Commission, Mr. Tsipras could one day tell Greeks that I have offered a €35 billion investment program for the years 2015 to 2020 to stimulate growth in his country. I haven’t heard anything about that.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation?

Juncker: I don’t see myself as being in a position to psychoanalyze another European government. I sometimes even find it difficult to analyze myself. But jokes aside: I don’t believe the Greek government’s response has been sufficient. If I were the Greek prime minister, I would sell that as an achievement and say: I pushed through the €35 billion package in Brussels. I don’t understand Tsipras. In one of the positive moments during our negotiations, I once told him during a coffee break: If I had campaigned on your platform, I would have won 80 percent of the vote. But he only got 36 percent.

SPIEGEL: If Tsipras continues to reject additional spending cuts, he would only be doing what he promised to do during the campaign. Do you fault him for that?

Juncker: I, too, am of the opinion that, following an election, a politician should do what he or she promised before the vote. For that reason, politicians have to think carefully, before the election, whether they will be able to fulfill their campaign promises. European countries make up a community of destiny — one which only works if the members can depend on each other. Unfortunately, prior to taking over the government, Mr. Tsipras adopted positions, which, in part, are in conflict with the rules governing this union. That is why his campaign promises cannot be 100 percent implemented. Mr. Tsipras should have known that.

SPIEGEL: Do you understand why another friend of yours, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, now believes that a Grexit is the better alternative?

Juncker: I am not aware of any sentence uttered by Wolfgang Schäuble that would lead you to draw such a conclusion. The German finance minister is a devoted European who, in his person, unites both the past and the future. As such, everyone — and the Greeks in particular — would be well advised to listen closely to this man.

SPIEGEL: Schäuble is concerned that the case of Greece could send the wrong message. If creditors are too lenient and the Greek gamble is successful, other euro-zone member states could seek to emulate Athens’ chutzpah.

Juncker: That is a danger I see as well. I know that many, particularly in Germany, see me as a naive proponent of Greece. But I am very clear that solidarity and solidity belong together. While I have understanding for a temporary inability to adhere to the rules, we cannot have a situation where the one who breaks the rules is rewarded. That is why the Greek government must make clear that it is prepared to adhere to the rules.

SPIEGEL: Tsipras enjoys widespread support among the Greek populace, but at the same time, a clear majority of Greeks would like to remain part of the euro zone. Would it not make sense to ask the country’s voters if they are prepared to continue down the path of austerity?

Juncker: It is erroneous to believe that one can change the reality in all of Europe with a referendum or new elections in a single country. I have explained that to Mr. Tsipras on several occasions. No matter what happens in Athens, the make-up of parliaments in other member states — and in the German Bundestag as well — will remain exactly as it is.

SPIEGEL: Let’s assume for a moment that international creditors are successful in finding a last-minute compromise with Athens: Do you think Chancellor Angela Merkel would be able to convince German parliamentarians to back such a deal?

Juncker: If we are able to reach an understanding that is sustainable, and if it is reached in cooperation with the German government, then it would be Angela Merkel’s task to convince the German Bundestag of its merits — and I am absolutely convinced that she would be successful.

SPIEGEL: With all due respect to your optimism, the mood is quite different among Merkel’s party allies. The parliamentarians have lost all desire to allow the Greek government to continue leading them around by the nose.

Juncker: I don’t believe that the Greeks would be able to lead German parliamentarians or the Commission president around by their noses.

SPIEGEL: The chancellor has said that, if Greek politicians would like to see who has the strongest nerves, they are welcome to do so.

Juncker: Ms. Merkel is right. But we aren’t just talking here about who has the better nerves. We are talking about the Greek people and particularly about those who find themselves in a very difficult situation.

SPIEGEL: Membership in the euro zone was long considered to be irreversible. Now, there is a distinct possibility that a country might leave the common currency area. What does that mean for Europe’s future?

Juncker: You are asking a theoretical question that I don’t want to consider. I want to prevent Greece’s exit. And we have come a long way. Think back to the year 2010, when the difficulties began. At the time, the danger was enormous that the contagion could spread to other countries. Had Greece left the euro then, it could very well have turned into a conflagration for the entire euro zone. Today, a Grexit would still have significant consequences, but the fear that it could cause the exit of additional member states has waned considerably. Nevertheless, the entire world would get the impression that the make-up of the euro zone can be changed. We have to avoid this impression.

SPIEGEL: Greece isn’t the only country that is making it difficult for you to keep the European community together. The British government would like to soon hold a referendum as to whether the country should remain a part of the EU or not. How great is the danger that Britain leaves the EU?

Juncker: We need a fair deal. The British know that Great Britain isn’t the only country with red lines, but that other member states have them too. Here in Brussels, we aren’t manic cheerleaders for Europe and the British are an intelligent people. We will find an agreement that is such that our friends in the United Kingdom will feel a desire to remain a lasting member of the European Union.

SPIEGEL: Yet the British prime minister would like to make some fundamental changes. He would like to remove the phrase “ever-closer union” from the preamble of the Lisbon Treaty, for example. What is your response?

Juncker: Why shouldn’t some in Europe go faster than the others? If the British don’t want to be part of this move, then we can make it possible for them, but in such a way that it doesn’t prevent others from going forward. That has long been the case with the currency union. Those who want to bind themselves closer together should be given the possibility to do so.

SPIEGEL: The presidents of Europe’s most important institutions have also been thinking of how the EU should develop. What are your suggestions?

Juncker: On the basis of the current treaties, the economic and monetary union is not yet complete. The entire world now wants to know from us how we intend to change this state of affairs. I, for example, believe that the euro zone could use a larger dose of parliamentary involvement, from both the European Parliament and from national parliaments. I work closely together with (European Parliament President) Martin Schulz. When it comes to smaller issues relating to party politics, we have different points of view. But when it comes to larger questions, we are partners and allies. We propose moving ahead in stages. Initially, the focus should be on what we can do within current rules to enhance our stability and to make improvements. Then we have to examine what we can achieve in the mid- and long-terms were we to make changes to European treaties. That, though, is not a pressing question.

SPIEGEL: Given the crisis in Greece, don’t you think such a step is necessary?

Juncker: Yes. Especially because of the crisis with Greece, we have to tell the world and ourselves where we are headed. The people of Europe are also becoming more skeptical and the gap between them and the European elite is widening. You would have to be blind not to see that. That is why Brussels cannot continue to focus on trivialities and burden people with regulations that can often be better handled on a local level. Europe has to show that it is able to take action on the larger, urgent problems: in foreign policy, with the immigration problems, with the economic challenges of the digital era. The European debate can no longer be limited to shower heads and olive-oil jugs.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Juncker, thank you for this interview!