Sunday 27 September 2015

Russian involvement in Syria and Western media muddyiing the waters

This seems to be the latest news - confirmation of something we have known about for some time.

US-trained Syria rebels gave weapons to al-Nusra Islamists, Pentagon confirms

The U.S. military has revealed that American -trained Syrian rebels surrendered equipment to an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in exchange for safe passage. 

They handed over pick-up trucks and ammunition. A spokesman for the military described the move as "very concerning".

From the BBC: 

Syria crisis: US-trained rebels give equipment to al-Qaeda affiliate

Although the western media is trying to muddy the waters it is clear that western policy is in disaray and that the Russians (or even a coalition of Russia, China and Iran) have desided to take matters into their own hands.

Once again Vladimir Putin is offering a lifeline to Obama but I would see it as somewhat unlikely that the West will take it.

This video gives much clarification to the situation.

CrossTalk: Saving Syria

Again the Russians have thrown Washington a lifeline to rescue Obama from his administration’s catastrophic policies in Syria. After years of demanding forced regime change and watching the rise of the Islamic State, can the official groupthink in Washington finally accept defeat and embrace Putin’s offer? CrossTalking with Sami Ramadani, Abdel Bari Atwan, and Daniel McAdams.

This also is major news and indicatation of a broader anti-ISIS coalition

Russia, Iran, Iraq & Syria setting up ‘joint information center’ to coordinate anti-ISIS operations

© Stringer

27 September, 2015

Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria have agreed to establish a joint information center in Baghdad to coordinate their operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS) militants, according to sources.

The main goal of the center will be gathering, processing and analyzing current information about the situation in the Middle East – primarily for fighting IS,” a military-diplomatic source told Russian news agencies on Saturday.

The information center in the Iraqi capital will be headed by an officer of one of the founding countries on a rotating basis. Rotation will take place every three months. According to the source, Iraq will run the center for the next three months.

Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria may also use the information center to coordinate anti-IS combat plans, the source said, adding that the agreement is a milestone for uniting the region’s countries in the war on terrorism – primarily on Islamic State militants.

On Friday, the US TV-Channel Fox News reported the four countries were establishing a “coordination cell” in Baghdad, but Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Vladimir Putin, denied this. “We have already said there are many reports which are not true,” he told news agencies.

Recent media reports indicate Russia is boosting its cooperation with Syria and other Middle East countries in the fight against terrorism.

Western media say Russia is sending warplanes and tanks to Syria and building a military base in Latakia, but Russian officials deny this, saying Moscow is continuing to supply Syria with weapons in accordance with bilateral contracts.
Russian military advisers work in Syria, longtime military cooperation ‘no secret’ - Moscow
RT (@RT_com) September 9, 2015

Russia has never made a secret of military-technical cooperation with Syria. Our country has long been supplying weapons and military equipment to Syria under the existing bilateral contracts," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on September 9.

Syria hopes that Russia’s counter-terror policy will be more effective than the US-led anti-IS coalition.

Moscow is acting within the framework of international law, respecting the sovereignty of our country and in coordination with Syria,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told RT. “We do not hide anything under the table. We regard Russia as our friend and strategic ally which is honest in its actions.”
US airstrikes ineffective, genuinely committed anti-terrorist coalition required – Syrian FM
RT America (@RT_America) September 21, 2015

Russia has long insisted on the creation of an international anti-terrorist coalition, to coordinate the efforts with the Syrian Army in combating the jihadists on the ground.

This is the Fox News version.

Russians, Syrians and Iranians setting up military coordination cell in Baghdad

I think we have to keep an eye on western propaganda which is clearly trying to muddy the waters and paint Putin's actions as ones that will help ISIS (sic) while Kerry is 'hopeful' that Russia will join the anti-ISIS coalition of all the countries that are financing and supporting ISIS (Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states).

In the meantime Australia is hinting at a policy shift. What's that supposed to mean. One thing is certain is there there won't be any seperation from what their imperial masters say.

Australia hints at major Syria policy shift

Australia is considering softening its opposition to Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria.

26 September, 2015

Its foreign minister, Julie Bishop, says a political solution needs to be found to solve the country's deadly four-year conflict.

Smoke rises after rebel fighters reportedly fired mortar shells against Syrian regime forces on the outskirts of Damascus (16 May 2015).Smoke rises after rebel fighters reportedly fired mortars against Syrian regime forces on the outskirts of Damascus in May.    Photo: AFP

Ms Bishop hinted at the major policy shift while at the United Nations in New York.

"The fear that a number of countries have is that if the Assad regime were either removed or collapsed, it would create a vacuum, and one might find that it was filled by an even more diabolical presence than the Assad regime," she said.

She said she was not shying away from comments Australia has made in the past about the illegitimacy of the regime.

"President Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his own people, and the death and destruction in Syria is appalling and at unprecedented levels.

"The humanitarian crisis is creating an issue throughout the Middle East and Europe, the likes of which we've not seen before."

However, Ms Bishop said, realistically, a political solution was needed, because a military solution would not be the only answer.

A SANA photo shows President Bashar al-Assad speaking to Russian media on 15 September 2015Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, right, speaks to Russian media in Damascus.
Photo: AFP / HO / SANA

Russia's increased military involvement in the Syrian crisis appears to be a potential catalyst for reinvigorating the search for a political solution.
Ms Bishop said she had been discussing the issue with her counterparts in the United States for some time.

"Russia's involvement [in negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program] has been said to be very positive by all of those negotiating that agreement," she said.
"If we use that as an example of Russia's preparedness to be part of a solution rather than part of the problem, then we can have some optimism that Russia's involvement is positive.

"I would not like to think that Russia's involvement was purely for its own self-interest."

Opposition: Australia should not pick winners

Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten expressed reservations about any softening of the government's stance against the regime in Syria.

"Labor has no time for the administration or the government of Assad, it has been a terrible government and it's done terrible things to its population," Mr Shorten said.

"I do not believe Australia should be picking sides in Syria, as far as I can tell, between [Islamic State] and Assad, there's not a great deal to separate them."

Mr Shorten said the conflict had multiple "dreadful" participants, including Islamic State and other terrorist groups, who he described as "genocidal, ethno-fascists".
He said the country should wait for further intelligence from its European and American allies before engaging in further discussion of this kind.

Millions of people have fled since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, prompting a global refugee crisis and heated debate over how best to deal with it.
The civil war between the Assad regime and rebel groups has been further complicated by the rise of jihadist militants, including Islamic State.

An estimated 11 million people have been forced from their homes during the conflict and at least 250,000 have been killed.

Can anyone in their right mind imagine that Russia might change tack and join the 'anti-ISIS coalition of countries supporting the Islami State?

Syrian civil war: John Kerry cites chance for international cooperation at UN

New US approach could bring Russia, which supports Bashar al-Assad, together with countries supporting opposition groups

26 September, 2015

Secretary of state John Kerry said on Saturday he saw an opportunity for progress this week in ending Syria’s four-year civil war, before meeting Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly.

Western officials said Kerry wanted to launch a new initiative to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict, which has taken on a new urgency in light of Russia’s military buildup in support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and a refugee crisis that has spilled over into Europe.

The new US approach, which officials stressed was in its infancy, could bringRussia, a major ally of Assad, together with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, which support Syrian opposition groups against Assad.

I view this week as a major opportunity for any number of countries to play an important role in trying to resolve some of the very difficult issues [of] the Middle East,” Kerry told reporters as he and Zarif posed for photographs.

We need to achieve peace and a way forward in Syria, in Yemen … in the region,” he said. “I think there are opportunities this week, through these discussions, to make some progress.“

Zarif said his priority for the meeting was to discuss the implementation of the 14 July agreement under which Iran agreed to take steps to curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.

We hope that by its full implementation, its good-faith implementation, we can [end] some of the mistrust that has existed over the past many decades,” Zarif told reporters.

The Guardian has been consistently leading in calls for war and bullshit stories meant to confuse people like the following

Russian troops in Syria could end up helping Isis, report claims
Analysts say involvement ‘underlines contradictions of Kremlin’ as troops are in areas where they are likely to fight groups opposed to Isis

25 September, 2015

The deployment of Russian troops in Syria could end up helping Islamic State as they have been sent to areas where they are most likely to fight other groups opposed to Isis, according to a new report.

The Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) report comes ahead of a US-Russian summit meeting at the UN on Monday, when Barack Obama will question Vladimir Putin on the intention behind Russia’s deepening military involvement in Syria, according to US officials.

The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani – also in New York for the UN general assembly meeting – rejected suggestions that his country was operating in concert with Russia against Isis. “I do not see a coalition between Iran and Russia
on fighting terrorism in Syria,” Rouhani said.

The Rusi report, titled Inherently Unresolved, assesses the global effort to counter the spread of Isis, and warns that Iraq and Syria may not survive as unitary states. It includes a section on Russian aims, particularly those underpinning Putin’s despatch this month of warplanes and troops to Tartus and Latakia in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian strategic analyst, said there was an air regiment at Latakia with 28 planes, a battalion of motorised infantry and military engineers as well as a marine battalion at the naval base in Tartus.

The deployment, Sutyagin said, “underlines the contradictions of the Kremlin’s policy”, because the troops were in areas where Isis is not present. 

In this way, Russian troops are backing Assad in the fight against groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, which are themselves opposed to Isis. If Russian troops do eventually join combat, therefore, they would also – technically – be assisting Isis,” Sutyagin argued.

The report says the Russian deployment should not therefore be seen as a change of policy towards fighting Isis directly, but a largely political move designed to save Assad and consolidate Russia’s hold over its naval base at Tartus and its newly built air base in Latakia, while currying favour with the west and the Gulf Arab states who are themselves reluctant to fight Isis on the ground.

Indeed, the Kremlin may well be hoping that the west will show its appreciation by lifting the sanctions imposed in response to the situation in Ukraine,” Sutyagin said.

The tensions hanging over the Obama-Putin meeting on Monday were highlighted by discord between Washington and Moscow in describing the summit. US officials said it had been requested by Putin. A Russian spokesman insisted it was Obama who asked to meet. The White House said the meeting would address both the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. The Kremlin said Ukraine would only be raised “if there was time”.

Celeste Wallander, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for Russia, said that Obama would press Putin on his objectives in Syria.

There’s a lot of talk, and now it’s time for clarity and for Russia to come clear – come clean and come clear on just exactly how it proposes to be a constructive contributor to what is already an ongoing multi-nation coalition,” Wallander told journalists

Putin meanwhile told CBS News: “There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism. But at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform.”

The White House argues that the Russian strategy of entrenching Assad will only serve to deepen the roots of extremism in Syria. Ben Rhodes, a White House spokesman, said that at the UN meeting “the president will have the opportunity to make clear to President Putin that we share the determination to counter Isil [Isis], that we welcome constructive contributions to counter Isil. But at the same time, we believe that one of the principal motivating factors for people who are fighting with Isil is the Assad regime.”

The Rusi report said that it would be “perfectly feasible” to defeat Isis if Turkey and Iran were also engaged in the search for a regional solution. It advised US policymakers to “not give up on the possibility of maintaining the unity of Iraq and Syria, but not be beholden or obsessed with this idea either”. 

If the US could ‘father’ two brand-new states in the Balkans during the 1990s, there is no reason why Washington should not tolerate at least the informal emergence of new states in the Middle East,” the report argued.

And the following - 

U.S.: Russia may be seeking proxy in case Syria's Assad falls
Analysts say involvement ‘underlines contradictions of Kremlin’ as troops are in areas where they are likely to fight groups opposed to Isis

25 September, 2015

Washington (CNN)The U.S. intelligence community now thinks Russia may have embarked on its military buildup in Syria because Moscow believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may not be able to hang onto power and it wants to position itself to back a proxy if the regime were to collapse. It is a view shared by the Pentagon, Defense officials told CNN.

This is one theory, but there is not a firm conclusion within the Obama administration about why Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending aircraft, tanks and missiles into the wartorn country, several senior U.S. officials told CNN.
On Monday on the sidelines of the United Nations, President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Putin for the first time in nearly a year to discuss the latter's plans in Syria.
If the Russians assure the United States that they are planning only to fight ISIS and not prop up ally al-Assad, that could lead to a new round of bilateral discussions on how to avoid military mishaps as both countries have forces operating there.
The Russians have not been clear about whether they will join the U.S.-led fight against ISIS or prop up al-Assad -- which the United States objects to, as America has declared the Syrian leader must go.
The meeting comes as the United States is watching initial intelligence indicators that the Russians also may be setting up some type of operation in Baghdad to coordinate their efforts with Iraqi, Iranian and even Syrian elements.
Iraq has denied any such operation, but several U.S. officials told CNN they believe a coordination effort is being assembled, though its mission and status remain unclear. Fox News first reported the development.

Pentagon waiting on White House

Military and defense officials told CNN that after the Obama-Putin meeting, they are hoping the Obama administration will quickly make some decisions about U.S. cooperation with rebels in northern Syria, because they see a rare opportunity that could easily be missed.
"We have the ability to do serious damage," the official said, adding that key U.S. commanders are anxious to see the White House make decisions about the way ahead. Another senior U.S. military official expressed frustration that those decisions have not already been made.
Among them are whether to supply Syrian rebels with ammunition and how to adjust the train-and-equip program of Syrian rebels, which is now largely deemed a failure.

He still sees al-Assad's collapse as likely to be several months away, though he has been considerably weakened over this year after losing of significant territory and directing an army that is increasingly demoralized.

The United States is trying to assess whether figures in Syria still exist who might be able to step in should al-Assad fall, a senior U.S. official told CNN, but for now doesn't see a clear leader or dissident who could garner enough support inside Syria to take power.
The United States is concerned about the preservation of basic social structures and services that still exist in Damascus should al-Assad fall, since the regime's implosion could open the door to a humanitarian disaster if ISIS or al Qaeda-affiliated militias were to move in.
Preserving Damascus is seen as so critical to the potential rebuilding of Syria that the United States wants to ensure the Russian military does not destroy key infrastructure in any future bombing campaign.
U.S. officials said that for now no Russian combat flights have begun, but that that could change at any time.

Military sees opening in northern Syria

In the meantime, the United States sees possibilities for making progress in the fight against ISIS in the north and wants White House backing to move ahead.
A defense official explained, "The conflict has morphed into a position where an opportunity presents itself to our advantage to defeat ISIS in northern Syria. There are options developed to leverage those opportunities."
One key option needing White House approval is whether to provide ammunition for the so-called Syrian Arab Coalition -- a loosely affiliated group of fighters and militias in the region -- along with Syrian Kurds, who have had recent success in pushing back ISIS, especially from the Turkish border, which it uses to bring in foreign fighters.
Another decision to be made is exactly how the U.S. military will now train and equip moderate Syrian rebels as part of the broad Pentagon program.
The current proposal is to get White House approval to pull back from training those rebels in Turkey and Jordan as a combat force and focus instead on having them trained to help provide intelligence and communications.
The goal is to continue to stop the flow of foreign fighters and also cut off ISIS resupply lines from Syria into northern Iraq. But cutting off those lines will be difficult.
Col. Patrick Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told reporters Friday that ISIS still retains some "freedom of movement" in eastern and southern Syria. Those are key areas for those supply routes.
Two officials told CNN there was a brief discussion inside the Pentagon about whether there was any benefit to sending a small number of U.S. troops into northern Syria to help with these efforts, but it was quickly rejected as unnecessary because of the success of other forces there. Officials insisted the idea is not considered to be a serious option.
Despite the opportunities presenting themselves in Syria and successful strikes against leadership there, whether progress can be made inside Iraq remains an open question. Ryder noted that Iraqi forces have not made any real forward progress in retaking Ramadi nearly four months after it fell and are being urged to do so by the United States.

Meanwhile the question could be,are the Americans trying to lure Russia into a conflict in Syria while they continue to foment trouble in its back yard?

US ‘preparing’ for hybrid warfare with Russia in Baltics – report

Soldiers take part in an exercise of the U.S. Army's Global Response Force in Hohenfels near Regensburg © Michael Dalder

US has been getting ready for a possible war involving Russia in Europe’s Baltic States, German media reports. The report says all the NATO war games organized in the region by Washington have been intended to prepare various military response scenarios.

The Pentagon has shifted its military thinking when it comes to Moscow, selecting Russia’s direct neighbors in the Baltic region as the battleground, Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (DWN) writes. 

What the US sees playing out is hybrid warfare, which employs irregular troops and focuses on destabilizing the region via mass rallies as well as cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure, according to the newspaper.

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