Sunday 25 October 2015

Syria update - 10/24/2015

Russia Takes Over The Mid-East: Moscow Gets Green Light For Strikes In Iraq, Sets Up Alliance With Jordan

24 OCtober, 2015

Once it became clear that Moscow and Tehran had jointly planned the incursion in Syria with Russia promising full air support and Iran pledging ground troops from Hezbollah, its various Shiite militias, and the IRGC, we immediately suggested that Iraq was next on the agenda after the Assad regime is restored. 

For those unfamiliar with the situation on the ground, we encourage you to read “Who Really Controls Iraq? Inside Iran's Powerful Proxy Armies,” in which we outline the extent to which Tehran effectively controls both the Iraqi military and the politicians in Baghdad.

The US allows this because i) there’s really not much Washington can do about it, and ii) even if there was, it would mean first trying to root out Iranian influence on the political process and second attempting to separate the Shiite militias from the Iraqi regulars, which would only serve to weaken the country’s ability to resist Sunni extremists like ISIS. The other important thing to understand about Iran’s proxy armies in Iraq is that they are the very same militias fighting alongside the Russians in Syria (we mean “very same” in the most literal sense possible as they were called over the border by Quds commander Qassem Soleimani himself). 

This means they are Washington’s allies in Iraq but as soon as they cross the border into Syria, they become the targets of US-supported and supplied rebels battling at Aleppo. Obviously, that makes absolutely no sense and is emblematic of just how schizophrenic Washington’s Mid-East strategy has become. It’s also worth noting that these are the same Shiite militias who, with Tehran’s blessing, attacked US troops in Iraq after George Bush destroyed the US-Iran post-9/11 alliance by putting the country in his infamous “Axis Of Evil" (see here for more). 
Here's a picture that should give you an idea about why Iran's proxy armies have proven particularly effective at bullying the ISIS bully, so to speak:

Meanwhile, flying missions over Iraq is the logical next step for The Kremlin in Russia’s bid to supplant the US as Mid-East superpower puppet master. One would be hard pressed to come up with a more humiliating scenario for Washington than for the US to be effectively kicked out of the country it “liberated” over a decade ago by Vladimir Putin on the excuse that try as they may (or may “not”, depending on how prone you are to conspiracy theories), the Americans are apparently not very good at fighting terror. 

Just like in Syria, Russian airstrikes would be supported by Iran-backed fighters on the ground, and thanks to the IRGC’s grip over Iraqi politics, Moscow would find Baghdad very receptive to Russia’s presence in the country. 

The US knows all of this of course and in an effort to get out ahead of the situation, Washington sent Gen. Joseph Dunford (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) to Iraq this week to issue what can only be described as a petulant, childish ultimatum to PM Haider al-Abadi. “It’s either us, or the Russians,”Abadi was told, although not specifically in those terms. Here’s what Dunford actually said: 

"I said it would make it very difficult for us to be able to provide the kind of support you need if the Russians were here conducting operations as well. We can't conduct operations if the Russians were operating in Iraq right now."

(Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi)

Although the PM purportedly pledged not to request Russian assistance, anyone who’s followed the story knows Dunford’s trip was far too little, far too late.
ISIS has been running amok in Iraq for more than a year and the US appears powerless to stop them. As we noted, there are several theories as to why Washington is so intent on keeping Moscow out. The common sense theory that requires no conspiratorial ruminations says that the US is desperate to avoid ceding Baghdad to Russia and the Pentagon knows that with Iran already effectively in control of the army and the government, Russia would find a very receptive military and political environment. For those inclined to think that in addition to any initial support (i.e. funding and training prior to the official formation of ISIS), the US is still supporting Islamic State, well then the worry for Washington is that Russia simply wipes them out.

Whatever the case, Iraq has apparently had just about enough of it and indeed, one of the reasons Dunford made the trip was that last week, Abadi said he would “welcome Russian airstrikes.” Throw in the brand new intelligence sharing center in Baghdad jointly staffed by Russia, Iran, and Syria and it’s pretty clear that despite what Abadi might have told Dunford to reassure the Pentagon, the "red" coats (if you will) are indeed coming. 

Sure enough, according to Turkey’s state run Anadolu Agency, Russia has now received permission from Iraq to target ISIS convoys coming from Syria. Here’s more

The Iraqi government authorized Russia to target Daesh convoys coming from Syria, a senior Iraqi official said.
The authorization for Russia to target Daesh inside Iraq comes amid security coordination between Iraq, Russia, Iran and Syria.
Hakem al-Zamli, chief of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that the measure contributed to weakening Daesh by cutting off its supply routes.

That will be just the beginning. We assume the whole “convoys from Syria” language is an effort on Baghdad’s part to make it sound like this isn’t a green light for Russia to take over the skies above Iraq but one certainly wonders how Washington intends to respond given that Abadi just told Dunford Iraq wouldn’t allow this to happen. 

And that’s not all. 

Russia has now created yet another intelligence sharing cell in the Mid-East, this time in Jordan as Moscow and Amman are set to work together to rout ISIS. 

Here’s RT:

Russia and Jordan agreed to create a coordination center in Amman, which will be used by the two countries to share information on the counter-terrorism operations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
Russia is already in touch with Iran, Iraq and Syria through a Baghdad-based center used for the same purpose. 
Lavrov said Jordan would play a positive part in finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict through negotiations between Damascus and opposition forces, an outcome that Russia itself is pursuing. 
Under an agreement between His Majesty King Abdullah II and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the militaries of the two countries have agreed to coordinate their actions, including military aircraft missions over the Syrian territory,”Lavrov said. His Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh said the center would serve as an efficient communication tool for the militaries of the two nations.

As you might recall, Jordan's King Abdullah wasn't exactly pleased after ISIS released a video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive. Here's the visual message he sent to the group after the video surfaced:

Once again, it's important to understand that this is all made possible by the fact that the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey decided to use extremist groups as their weapon of choice to destabilize Assad. That gives Moscow all the political and PR cover it needs to not only make a pure power play in Syria, but to establish closer diplomatic and political ties in Iraq and now Jordan. Thanks to the fact that the Western media has held up ISIS as the devil incarnate, The Kremlin has a foolproof cover story for what is quite clearly becoming a sweeping attempt to establish Russian influence across the region. 

Finally, don't forget that with each move Russia makes towards replacing the US as Mid-East superpower puppet master, Iran gets that much closer to supplanting Saudi Arabia as regional power broker. The Kremlin's alliance with Jordan plays right into that dynamic as the Moscow-Tehran nexus is literally encircling Riyadh, Doha, and the UAE...

Al-Qaeda leader in Syria is killed after being shot in the head during Aleppo gun battle with Assad forces in a 'devastating blow' to terror group

  •   Senior commander of al-Nusra killed fighting south of the city of Aleppo
  • Images of his lifeless body, containing a bloody head wound, shared online
  • Death is considered a serious blow to organisation's operations
  • Abu Sulaiman al-Masri had previously fought in Gaza and had been sentenced to death in his native Egypt

The al-Nusra Front, the Sunni Islamic jihadist militia fighting against Syrian Government forces in the civil war, confirmed Sheikh Abu Sulaiman Al Masri's death this morning

One of al Qaeda's senior commanders in Syria has been killed in a gun battle with Syrian Arab Army forces in Aleppo.

The al-Nusra Front, the Sunni Islamic jihadist militia fighting against Syrian Government forces in the civil war, confirmed Sheikh Abu Sulaiman al-Masri's death this morning.

Images of his body, containing a bloody head wound, have been shared online with early reports suggesting he died fighting Assad forces.

al-Masri's real name is believed to be Mahmud Maghwari, an Egyptian national, who had previously been sentenced to death in his homeland for fighting with Hamas in Gaza.

He was killed while commanding troops in Aleppo during a battle against Kurdish forces.

The experienced jihadi had previously had to have his thumb and several fingers amputated after they were badly damaged during in a battle.

Hundreds of migrants have cycled into Norway from Russia after finding a new route into Europe that avoids the deadly Mediterranean crossing. They are not allowed to cross the Arctic border on foot, so a lucrative trade in bicycles has opened up, with migrants buying bikes and pedalling the final few metres.

The senior commander's death is considered a serious blow to the terror group's operations in the war torn Middle Eastern country.

The Russian Aerospace Forces' precise airstrikes on the Islamic State (ISIL) positions in Syria are conducted simultaneously in various regions in order to contain terrorists, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Maj. Igor Konashenkov told RT TV channel Saturday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On September 30, Russia began launching precision airstrikes against ISIL militant group positions in Syria at the request of President Bashar Assad.

Since the beginning of the aerial campaign, Russian Aerospace Forces have carried out some 934 strikes, killing 819 militants and destroying 363 of command centers and depots used by the terrorists.

The main task is to hold down the actions of terrorist groups in Syria. Therefore strikes are usually carried out simultaneously in various parts of the Syrian territory,” Konashenkov said.

According to Konashenkov, terrorist command posts, underground bunkers, ammunition and fuel depots are top priority for elimination.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman also stressed that strikes are aimed only at confirmed Islamic State's infrastructure positions.

According to the Russian General Staff, militants have begun a retreat due to Russian aviation airstrikes, having lost much of their weaponry and equipment on the contact line with the Syrian troops. Russian intelligence drones have increased sorties to track events.

ISIS nets $50mn per month from smuggled oil - reports

Islamic State militants are gaining at least $50 million per month from illegally selling crude oil from occupied oil fields in Iraq and Syria, Iraqi and US officials say. The jihadists are selling the ‘black gold’ at extremely low prices.

The extremists are reportedly selling crude oil at $35 per barrel, sometimes as little as $10 per barrel, four Iraqi intelligence officials told AP.

According to, the price of Brent Crude oil is currently $48.08 as of Friday. 

The militants are transporting oil in small tankers for fear of airstrikes, the officials dded.

According to a member of Iraq's parliamentary energy committee and a former oil minister, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) is extracting about 30,000 barrels per day from Syrian oil fields and around 10,000-20,000 barrels per day from Iraqis.

Overall, the extremists are making about $40-$50 million a month from oil sales, Iraqi officials said. AP secretly saw the report of IS's Diwan al-Rakaaez (the equivalent of Finance Ministry) which showed that this April the group earned about $46.7 million. The organization is controlling 253 oil wells in Syria, 161 of them are operational. Also 275 engineers and 1,107 workers are involved in wells maintenance.

IS oil revenues reached about $500 million a year, Daniel Glaser, a US Treasury official said, adding that the group collects hundreds of millions of dollars a year from "taxes" on commercial activities.

In fact the group has several small, rudimentary refineries located in trailers and employs senior officials from Iraq oil companies, officials said. They also identified the man in charge of the group's oil operations as Haji Diaa, but didn’t provide further information about him.


In the meantime, the terrorist group has managed to get the necessary equipment and technical experts to maintain oil industry on the occupied territories.

IS management of its oil fields is "increasingly sophisticated," and this fact probably helped the organization slow down the degradation of the industry and infrastructure, US official told AP on condition of anonymity.

BBC Newsnight - Syria Oksana Boyko and some nutjob Neo-Con from America

BBC Newsnight with it's usual rude & dismissive attitude to Russia. Thankfully the Beebs Kirsty has more than met her Match with RT's Oksana Boyko. Oh and there's also an American Neo-Con who Kirsty fawns all over

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