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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off



Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
By Mike Whitney

February 10, 2016 "
Information Clearing House" - "Counterpunch" -   Last week’s game-changing triumph in northern Syria has moved the Russian-led coalition to within striking distance of a decisive victory in Aleppo.  After breaking a 40 month-long siege on the cities of  Nubl and Zahra, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has encircled the country’s industrial hub and is gradually tightening the noose. 


Crucial supply-lines to the north have been cut leaving the Sunni extremists and anti-government militias stranded inside a vast, urban cauldron. It’s only a matter of time before these disparate renegades are either killed or forced to surrender. A victory in Aleppo will change the course of the war by restoring government control over the densely-populated western corridor. This is why the Obama administration is frantically searching for ways to either delay or derail the Russian-led juggernaut and avoid the impending collapse of US policy in Syria.

Recent peace talks in Geneva were convened with one goal in mind, to prevent Syrian President Bashar al Assad and loyalist forces from retaking Aleppo. The negotiations failed, however, when Washington’s mercurial allies, the so called “moderate” rebels, refused to participate. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Syrian opposition withdrew “under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the main backers of the rebels.”  The WSJ’s admission was later confirmed by Secretary of State John Kerry who according to a report in the Middle East Eye “blamed the Syrian opposition for leaving the talks and paving the way for a joint offensive by the Syrian government and Russia on Aleppo.”
“Don’t blame me,” Kerry said, “Blame the opposition. It was the opposition that didn’t want to negotiate and didn’t want a ceasefire, and they walked away.”

None of this will surprise readers who followed the talks closely. The meetings were surrounded by confusion from the very onset. The US delegation headed by Kerry was focused entirely on reaching an agreement that would involve a ceasefire and stop the government-led onslaught. The Saudis, Turks and opposition leaders, however, were on a different page altogether. They seemed oblivious to the dire situation on the ground where their jihadist foot soldiers were taking heavier losses by the day.  Kerry, the realist, was looking for a way to stand-down and save US-backed militants from certain annihilation. But the Saudis and Turks felt they had a strong-enough hand to make demands. The clash in viewpoints was bound to produce disappointing results, which it did. The meetings were cancelled before they even began. Nothing was settled. Here’s more from the WSJ:

“About a half-dozen cities and towns targeted in the new regime offensives have one thing in common: All were held by a mix of Islamist and moderate rebel groups funded and armed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Complicating the picture is that some, but not all, of these groups collaborate with the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. That gives the regime and its allies fodder for their claim that they are fighting terrorism.”
(“Saudi Arabia, Turkey Pushed Syrian Opposition to Leave Talks“, Wall Street Journal)



This should dispel any illusion that that the fighters that are trying to topple the government are merely disgruntled nationalists determined to remove an “evil dictator”. That is not the case at all. While there are a fair amount of indigenous insurgents, the bulk of fighters are Sunni extremists bent on removing Assad and creating an Islamic Caliphate. This is why Moscow refused to implement a ceasefire during the talks in Geneva. Russia adamantly opposes any remedy that allows internationally-recognized terrorists from escaping their eternal reward.

Kerry has deliberately misled the public on this matter. Just last week, he said, “Russia has indicated to me very directly they are prepared to do a ceasefire… The Iranians confirmed in London just a day and a half ago they will support a ceasefire now.”

This is false and Kerry knows it. Moscow has tried to be flexible about other so called “moderate” opposition forces, but when it comes to ISIS,  Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group), Jaysh Al-Mujahiddeen, Harakat Nouriddeen Al-Zinki, and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, Russian leaders have repeatedly said that that they will not relent until the jihadists are either killed or captured.   This is why Russia’s airstrikes continued during Geneva, because most of the fighters in Aleppo are dyed-in-the-wool terrorists.

It’s worth noting that the Russian-led military offensive clearly hews to UN resolution 2254 which states:
… for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, […] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, as set forth in the 14 November 2015 ISSG Statement.” (Thanks to Moon of Alabama)
In other words, Moscow is not going to comply with any ceasefire that spares homicidal jihadists or undermines UN resolution 2254. Russian military operations are going to continue until ISIS, al Nusra and the other terrorist militias are defeated.
Even so, Kerry has not abandoned the diplomatic track. In fact, Kerry plans to meet Russian Foreign Minsiter Sergei Lavrov in Munich on February 11 for a meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to discuss “all the aspects of the Syrian settlement in line with the UN Security Council resolution 2254.”
The emergency meeting underscores the Obama’s administration’s utter desperation in the face of the inexorable Russian-led military offensive. It’s clear now that Obama and his lieutenants see the handwriting on the wall and realize that their sinister plan to use proxy armies to remove Assad and splinter the country into three powerless regions is doomed to fail.  Here’s how the ISW summed it up on the Sic Semper Tyrannis website:
“Battlefield realities rather than great power politics will determine the ultimate terms of a settlement to end the Syrian Civil War. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies in Russia and Iran have internalized this basic principle even as Washington and other Western capitals pinned their hopes upon UN-sponsored Geneva Talks, which faltered only two days after they began on February 1, 2016. Russian airpower and Iranian manpower have brought President Assad within five miles of completing the encirclement of Aleppo City, the largest urban center in Syria and an opposition stronghold since 2012. …The full encirclement of Aleppo City would fuel a humanitarian catastrophe, shatter opposition morale, fundamentally challenge Turkish strategic ambitions, and deny the opposition its most valuable bargaining chip before the international community.”  (“ISW recognizes reality in western Syria“, Institute for the Study of War (ISW)
 


Last week’s fighting in northern Aleppo has transformed the battlespace and shifted the momentum in favor of the government, but it has not yet dampened support for the jihadists in places like Ankara or Riyadh. In fact, the Saudis have offered to deploy ground troops to Syria provided they are put under US command. As for Turkey, according to The Hill: “Moscow’s Defense Ministry (has) accused Turkey of planning a military invasion of Syria.” Here’s more from the same article:
“The Russian Defence Ministry registers a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish Armed Forces for active actions on the territory of Syria,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement….Russia claimed (to) have “reasonable grounds to suspect intensive preparation of Turkey for a military invasion” of Syria.” (The Hill)

Turkish officials have denied that they are preparing for an invasion, but at the same time, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has admitted that Turkey will not stay on the sidelines if it is asked to participate in a future campaign. This is from Bloomberg News:
“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country should not repeat in Syria the same mistake it made in Iraq when it turned down a U.S. request to be part of the coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein.
“We don’t want to fall into the same mistake in Syria as in Iraq,” the president said, recounting how Turkey’s parliament denied a U.S. request to use its territories for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. “It’s important to see the horizon. What’s going on in Syria can only go on for so long. At some point it has to change,” he told journalists on the return flight from a tour of Latin America, according to Hurriyet newspaper.” (“Erdogan Signals Turkey Won’t Stay Out of Syria If Asked to Join“, Bloomberg)

While it’s impossible to know whether Turkey, Saudi Arabia or the US will actually invade Syria, it’s clear by the panicky reaction to the encirclement of Aleppo, that all three countries feel their regional ambitions are more closely aligned with those of the jihadists than with the elected government in Damascus.  This tacit alliance between the militants and their sponsors speaks volumes about the credibility of Washington’s fake war on terror.
Finally, in less than five months, loyalist forces aided by heavy Russian air cover, have shifted the balance of power in Syria, forced thousands of terrorist insurgents to flee their strongholds in the west, cleared the way for the return of millions of refugees and displaced civilians, and sabotaged the malign plan to reshape the country so it better serves Washington’s geopolitical interests.

The war is far from over, but it’s beginning to look like Putin’s gamble is going to pay off after all.


US Empire is at war with the world and Russia is the main force holding the criminal organization at bay

Can we please just dispense with the nonsense and talk about how things really are. The US-led NATO military alliance is at war with the world. And Russia is the main force holding this criminal organization at bay.

Listening to various Western political leaders at the recent Munich Security Conference is both laughable and cringe-making. We heard from the likes of US top diplomat John Kerry and British foreign secretary Philip Hammond holding forth on issues of international law and peace, while NATO's Jens Stoltenberg and General Philip Breedlove assured that there was no Cold War.

The EU's foreign affairs chief Federica Morgherini also made the stupendous denial that the world was not witnessing a new Cold War towards Russia, as did German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Who do these people think we are? If they are stupid enough to live in denial that's up to them. But surely the rest of the thinking human race can see the world for what it is: a place where the United States and its various allies are running amok, making a mockery of international law, waging wars, covertly and overtly, against anyone who stands in their way.

This is exactly the sordid scenario that Russian president Vladimir Putin warned about back in 2007 when he addressed the Munich conference. Putin said it would end in tears, from lawlessness and state-sponsored terrorism, instigated and justified by Western leaders who hypocritically speak as if they are paragons of virtue.

It truly is sickening to be lectured by Western warmongers and their apologists. Russia's prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov were probably the only sane voices at the Munich conference this year. Both reiterated the danger to world peace from NATO's warmongering - and yet both were scoffed at by their Western counterparts for speaking the truth.

In Syria, let's cut to the chase. The alleged pro-democracy uprising that the Western media have been spinning for the last five years is this: it's a covert war of aggression on a sovereign country for regime change. NATO powers and their regional client regimes have weaponized the proxy assault forces who are comprised of myriad terrorist mercenaries.

That is standard operating procedure for the United States and its NATO allies, when outright conventional military attack on countries is politically unpalatable.

NATO member Turkey is now openly firing into Syrian territory. How's that for the organization that claims to maintain global security?

We should not even dignify Ankara's claims for its violation of international law. The fact is that it is attacking a neighboring country with artillery barrages. This is simply aggression, as the Syrian government has protested this week to the United Nations Security Council.

The irony of Turkey violating Syria's sovereignty at the very same time that NATO leaders were pontificating in Munich about "security" is too much for words.

The irony of the US and Britain lecturing Russia over its legal military intervention in Syria to defend a state from NATO-backed subversion using terrorists is sickening. Doubly sickening considering that Washington and London have been actively assisting in the Saudi bombing of Yemen for the past year during which every possible civilian center, including hospitals, schools, family homes and markets have been struck with horrendous death toll. 

 

 NATO member Turkey and the US-British client regime Saudi Arabia are threatening to send military ground forces into Syria. That threatened invasion - itself an act of aggression - is to salvage the Western-backed war for regime change in Syria, which Russia's five-month-old intervention is brilliantly thwarting.

Western media - the brainwashing system that it is - will of course tell lies and distort, reducing the bigger picture to the nonsensical fragment of daily events, which are, in turn, riven with fabrications and omissions. Like the US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren's claim last week that Russian warplanes bombed two hospitals in Syria's northern city of Aleppo. Russia clarified that claim by saying it had no warplanes in the city, and that it was in fact two US aircraft that carried out bombing raids.

Let's not even go there: the claim, counterclaim and endless minutiae.

That is only letting other people dictate the narrative to suit their ends.

The fact is Syria has been brought to near-destruction by a US-led covert war that was long in the making before the official eruption of violence in mid-March 2011. The war was prosecuted with terrorist proxies who are now being destroyed by Russian air power in combination with Syrian army and Iranian and Hezbollah ground forces.

None of this should be surprising. The US and Britain destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan with over a million dead. The US and its NATO allies destroyed Libya.

The US and its European partners tried to destroy Ukraine with a regime change operation that installed a Neo-Nazi coup in February 2014, which then proceeded to wage a war on the people of eastern Ukraine, simply because the latter refused to recognize the impostor-junta that the West orchestrated.

The historical consistency is that NATO was formed in 1949 to wage war on the Soviet Union - the real victor of the Second World War against fascism in Europe. The powers behind the rise of Nazi Germany and European fascism were the Americans and the British in an attempt to keep the world safe for capitalism. NATO just took up where Nazi Germany failed.

Why, after the Cold War officially ended 25 years ago, does this execrable NATO outfit still exist? Why is it relentlessly militarizing Europe and making hysterical warmongering claims against Russia?


Russian premier Medvedev is right. There is a Cold War afoot. Even though others at Munich pathetically deny the reality. The truth is that the Cold War never actually ended. It has just been extended.

NATO's covert war in Syria is now an open war with the organization's Turkey doing the shelling. Oh yeah, Washington may be telling Ankara to tone down the aggression, simply because it is a public relations fiasco. But don't let that deceive. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are just acting out the very same aggression that Washington and its British and French partners-in-crime have been doing for the past five years.

Let's just say it. NATO is a warmongering machine that promotes Western hegemony in the world. It has got nothing to do with security unless you mean security for US-led capitalism. It craves a unipolar world of dominance where all countries must prostrate themselves before the masters.NATO is merely the official club formed by the Western capitalist powers to give themselves a veneer of legality and morality.

Russia is the prime target in NATO's wider war to subjugate the planet. US planners said so in the early 1990s when they candidly urged that the US and its European vassals should not tolerate any opposition to capitalist world domination by the financial oligarchy based in Wall Street and its various European offshoots.

NATO's war against Russia - not quite fully-fledged yet in open warfare - is really this: NATO is at war with the rest of the world.