Archive for the ‘Obama and Syria’ category

Obama set for Mosul battle, leaves Aleppo to Putin

October 8, 2016

Obama set for Mosul battle, leaves Aleppo to Putin, DEBKAfile, October 8, 2016

(Please see also, The Obama administration is pushing Iraq into further chaos. — DM)

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Obama is brooking no distractions from his main objective, He hopes the Mosul operation will be over and done with by mid-December, so that when he exits the White House in January, he will have chalked up a major victory against the Islamic State as part of his legacy.

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The warlike rhetoric heard from Washington over the plight of the stricken Syrian town of Aleppo does not represent any current Obama administration plan for military intervention to halt the ever-mounting carnage.

President Barack Obama’s mind is elsewhere.

This was discovered by his national security adviser Susan Rice every time she tried to arrange for Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford to be received by the president. After the collapse of diplomacy with Moscow for a cessation of hostilities, they had drawn up a plan for limited US military intervention in Syria that would enable essential humanitarian aid to reach the population.

Obama refused to hear what the trio had to say and the plan was shelved.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that, for now, the US president’s mind is fixed exclusively on the preparations for the Oct. 19 offensive for the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS occupation. US, Iraqi, Iraqi and Kurdish forces are aligned for the battle.

Obama is brooking no distractions from his main objective, He hopes the Mosul operation will be over and done with by mid-December, so that when he exits the White House in January, he will have chalked up a major victory against the Islamic State as part of his legacy.

In the process, the Democratic president intends to debunk the Republican candidate Donald Trump’s criticism of his administration as showing weakness in the face of ISIS.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is exploiting Obama’s preoccupation with the Mosul offensive to snatch a free hand for pushing the Aleppo battle to its barbaric limit. He is letting Bashar Assad and his allies conduct a scorched earth policy – even if this means reducing Syria’s second town to ruins.

Russian and Syrian jets are bombing the city, building by building, leaving the 8,000 rebels still fighting there with little hope of survival, since food, water, medicine or ammunition and anti-air missiles are out of their reach. The only form of resistance remaining to them is marksmen sniping from the rubble in an attempt to slow the advance of Syria, Iranian and Hizballah foot soldiers.

Obama, Putin and Assad are not alone in sentencing Aleppo to its doom: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, after grabbing 5,000 sq. km of northern Syria, is letting his army stand by idly as every attempt to bring life-saving assistance from Turkey to the beleaguered population is thrown back.

The Turkish leader is shielding himself with his secret deal with Putin, whereby his army is given a free hand in northern Syria without Russian interference, while the Aleppo arena becomes a Russian-Syrian precinct that is off-limits to Turkey.

This secret deal has also neutralized the US special operations forces deployed in northern Syria as well as the small Syrian rebel militias they trained and sponsor. Washington has therefore lost any leverage for swaying events in that part of the country. Since they are hemmed in on all sides, Obama refuses to hear of any military intervention in an area under Russian-Turkish control.

As he sees the larger picture, the northern Syrian devolution as a sphere of Turkish-Russian influence is balanced by US-Iraqi-Kurdish domination of northern Iraq

On paper, the US plans and preparations afoot for the liberation of Mosul are impressive.

Elite US troops are being pumped into the Mosul region – 600 just this week. Altogether an estimated 12,500 US servicemen are assigned for the offensive, which is due to be launched in 11 days, on Oct. 19.

This is the largest American military force to fight in Iraq since the battles against Al Qaeda during 2006-2007.

US military engineers are working overtime on the construction of bases around Mosul for the intake of US and Iraqi army units. The Kurdish Republic’s Peshmerga army is in position to the north.

Two new US facilities have just been completed. One is near the Mosul Dam, which regulates the flow of the Tigris River bisecting the targeted city. A second is located in the Bashiqa Mountains north of Mosul.

The two bases plus Kurdish army posts are designed as jumping-off points on the city from the south, east and Uninvited military forces are hovering nearby hoping to pick up a piece of the action. Among them are Turkish military units, local Iraqi militias, such as Turkmen, which the Turkish army is training for combat, and pro-Iranian Iraqi militias, such as the Badr Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Forces.

US commanders are intent on keeping these hangers-on out of the action, because their participation in the Mosul offensive would deepen the discord dividing Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities, and throw the city into chaos after the jihadists are driven out. US officers failed to check the sectarian violence that erupted in another Sunni-dominated town, Fallujah, in the wake of the battles for its recovery from ISIS in May and June.

US, Russia on brink of military showdown in Syria

September 30, 2016

US, Russia on brink of military showdown in Syria, DEBKAfile, September 30, 2016

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The fact that President Obama instituted a secret inquiry to discover which link in the American chain of command ordered the attack pointed to his suspicion that a high-up in the Pentagon or possibly the CIA, had ordered the air strike, in order to sabotage the US-Russian military cooperation deal in Syria, which Secretary Kerry obtained after long and arduous toil.

The concessions he made to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in those negotiations, especially his consent for extensive sharing of intelligence, were found totally unacceptable in the US Defense Department, its military and intelligence community.

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There is a sense in Washington and Moscow alike that a military showdown between the US and Russia is inevitable – direct this time, not through proxies, like the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets last year. When the big powers are in direct confrontation, minor players step aside and run for cover.

When President Barack Obama Friday, Sept. 30 attended the funeral in Jerusalem of the Israeli leader Shimon Peres, he must have realized he was only 514km as the crow flies from Aleppo, the raging crux of the escalating big-power conflict.

The moment after the ceremonies ended the president and his party, including Secretary of State John Kerry and his security adviser Susan Rice, made haste to head back to Washington to navigate the crisis.

The first step toward a direct showdown was taken by the United States.

By now, it is no secret in Moscow, or indeed in any Middle East capital, that the American A-10 air strike of Sept. 17 against a Syrian military position at Jebel Tudar in the Deir ez-Zour region of eastern Syria was intentional, not accidental, as originally claimed. Scores of Syrian soldiers died in the attack.

The fact that President Obama instituted a secret inquiry to discover which link in the American chain of command ordered the attack pointed to his suspicion that a high-up in the Pentagon or possibly the CIA, had ordered the air strike, in order to sabotage the US-Russian military cooperation deal in Syria, which Secretary Kerry obtained after long and arduous toil.

The concessions he made to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in those negotiations, especially his consent for extensive sharing of intelligence, were found totally unacceptable in the US Defense Department, its military and intelligence community.

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The Russian-Syrian reprisal came two days after the A-10 strike. On Sept. 19, an emergency aid convoy was obliterated on its way to the desperate population of Aleppo. Moscow and Damascus denied responsibility for the deadly bombardment, but no other air force was present in the sky over the embattled city.

On the ground, meanwhile, an unbridled onslaught on rebel-held eastern Aleppo was launched Wednesday by the Russians, Syria, Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militias under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.

The fall of Aleppo, Syria’s second city after Damascus, would give Bashar Assad his most resounding victory in the nearly six-year civil war against his regime.

On Sept. 29, Kerry threatened Moscow that “the United States would suspend plans to coordinate anti-Islamic State counter-terrorism efforts if Moscow does not stop attacking Aleppo.”

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov answered with a sneering: “Once again there was a certain emotional breakdown yesterday against the backdrop of the Obama administration’s unwillingness to fulfill its part of the agreements.”

This was a strong hint of the knowledge in the Kremlin that someone in the US administration was holding out against the implementation in full of the cooperation deal agreed upon and was therefore responsible for its breakdown.

The United States is left with two options:

Either stand idly by in the face of the Russian-Syrian-Iranian onslaught on Aleppo, or shelve the coordination arrangements for US and Russian air operations in Syria, with the inevitable risk of a clash in the air space of Syria or over the eastern Mediterranean.

U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Allies With Terror Group That State Dept. Designated LAST WEEK

September 29, 2016

U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Allies With Terror Group That State Dept. Designated LAST WEEK, PJ MediaPatrick Poole, September 29, 2016

(Please see also, White House: We can’t tell you our Syria strategy and Column One: The New Middle East. — DM)

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U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups are coordinating with al-Qaeda fronts in defending Aleppo, and other FSA groups — armed with CIA-provided TOW anti-tank missiles — are working together with a terror group designated by the State Department just last week.

That’s from a report filed today by Reuters about the rapidly changing situation in Syria:

In Aleppo, rebels in the Free Syrian Army are sharing operational planning with Jaish al-Fatah, an alliance of Islamist groups that includes the former Syrian wing of al-Qaeda.Meanwhile, in nearby Hama province, FSA groups armed with U.S.-made anti-tank missiles are taking part in a major offensive with the al-Qaeda-inspired Jund al-Aqsa group.

The FSA rebels have deep ideological differences with the jihadists, and have even fought them at times, but say survival is the main consideration.

“At a time when we are dying, it is not logical to first check if a group is classified as terrorist or not before cooperating with it,” said a senior official in one of the Aleppo-based rebel factions. “The only option you have is to go in this direction.”

A top jihadist leader killed in an airstrike on a Jaish al-Fatah meeting earlier this month was Abu Omar Saraqib, who played an active role in al-Qaeda in Iraq’s campaign against the U.S. in Iraq. Presumably, U.S.-backed FSA leaders were also present at the Jaish al-Fatah meeting.

The alliance between the FSA and Jund al-Aqsa in Hama is particularly noteworthy, since the State Department designated Jund al-Aqsa a terrorist organization just last week.

In its September 20 designation, the State Department identified Jund al-Aqsa as a direct threat to U.S. national security:

The Department of State has designated Jund al-Aqsa (JAA) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which imposes sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.As a result of this designation, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which JAA has any interest is blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with JAA.Jund al-Aqsa is a terrorist group in Northern Syria that primarily operates in Idlib and Hama provinces. Formed in 2012 as a subunit of al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusrah Front (ANF) – a State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group – JAA has since split and now carries out operations independently. However, despite the split it is still openly aligned with ANF. In March 2015, JAA launched two suicide bombings at checkpoints on the outskirts of Idlib. JAA also carried out the February 2014 massacre in the village of Maan in central Hama province, killing 40 civilians.

Two weeks ago I reported here at PJ Media about FSA units threatening to kill U.S. Special Forces operating in northern Syria, eventually chasing them out of the town of Al-Rai near Aleppo.

Interestingly, President Obama said — at least sixteen times — that there would be no U.S. boots on the ground in Syria.

What exactly is the point of supporting “vetted moderates” if they have no problem working with al-Qaeda — or even, in some cases, the Islamic State — whenever they feel its in their interest to do so?

We provide these “vetted moderate” FSA groups with U.S. heavy weaponry when FSA units themselves are threatening to use those weapons against American troops.

Now there is a very real possibility of those weapons being shared with designated terror groups.

For more than two years I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media on the escalating catastrophe of the Obama administration’s Syria policy:

July 7, 2014: U.S. ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic StateSept. 3, 2014: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Operating Openly with ISIS, Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra

Sept. 9, 2014: Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda

Sept. 10, 2014: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Commander Admits Alliance with ISIS, Confirms PJ Media Reporting

Sept. 13, 2014: Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS

Sept. 24, 2014: U.S.-Backed Syrian Group Harakat al-Hazm Condemns U.S. Strikes on ISIS as ‘Attack on the Revolution’

Nov. 2, 2014: U.S.-Armed ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Groups Surrender, Defect to Al-Qaeda

Nov. 3, 2014: How Obama Walked Boehner and GOP Leadership Off the Syrian Rebel Cliff

Nov. 24, 2014: More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS

Dec. 2, 2014: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North

Dec. 14, 2014: Report: Al-Qaeda Using CIA-Supplied TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Northern Syria

Dec. 28, 2014: NY Times Admits: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Under Effective al-Qaeda Control

March 3, 2015: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Collapses, U.S.-Supplied Weapons End Up in Al-Qaeda Hands

March 24, 2015: Video Shows Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Using U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Syria

April 16, 2015: U.S. Analyst Admits ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Have Been Working with Al-Qaeda All Along

May 8, 2015: CIA-Backed, “Vetted Moderate” Rebels Now Working Openly With Al-Qaeda

June 27, 2015: ISIS Using U.S. TOW Antitank Missiles In Latest Syrian Offensive

July 9, 2015: Report: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Fighting Alongside Al-Qaeda, Islamic State Against Assad Regime

July 23, 2015: U.S.-Funded Free Syrian Army Unit Shows Off Its Kidnapping Skills in New Training Video

July 27, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels: Obama’s 50-Man ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Army Vanishes After Training in Turkey

July 29, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels Part 2: Al-Qaeda Arrests 18 U.S.-Trained Rebels On Their First Day in Syria

July 30, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels: Despite Pentagon Denial, Reports Confirm That U.S.-Trained Syrian Rebels Were Kidnapped By Al-Qaeda Almost Immediately

July 31, 2015: Report: Al-Qaeda Kills Five Members of Obama’s 54-Man Syrian Rebel Army

July 31, 2015: Chechen Terrorists In Syria Have Obtained U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles

Sept. 22, 2015: Report: U.S.-Trained, ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Leader Defects to Al-Qaeda, Turns Weapons Over to Terror Group

Oct. 27, 2016: New Video Shows Al-Qaeda Using Weapons U.S. Gave to ‘Vetted Moderates’

Nov. 24, 2015: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Destroy Russian Helicopter with CIA-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missile

July 20, 2016: CIA-Vetted, “Moderate” Syrian Rebels Behead Child Soldier

Sept. 3, 2016: British Journo: Syrian Kidnapper Who Shot Me Twice is Now a CIA-vetted ‘Moderate’

Sept. 6, 2016: New ISIS Commander Was Trained by State Department as Recently as 2014

Sept. 16, 2016: SHOCK VIDEO: U.S.-Backed, “Moderate” Free Syrian Army Threatens to Kill U.S. Special Forces

The ability to affect any positive change in Syria is compromised by the fact that we have no reliable partner in the country — notwithstanding the so-called “vetted moderates” — and a growing likelihood that American troops may be killed without any national strategic purpose.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, Syrian American, and AIFD Express Deep Disappointment in White House Move to Obstruct Sanctions Efforts Against Assad Regime

September 26, 2016

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, Syrian American, and AIFD Express Deep Disappointment in White House Move to Obstruct Sanctions Efforts Against Assad Regime, September 25, 2016

(Please see also, Obama’s Syria Policy Explained. — DM)

Phoenix, AZ, (September 25, 2016) – Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, the son of Syrian immigrants who fled Baathist tyranny, today condemned the disturbing move by the White House to block a bipartisan bill aimed at imposing sanctions against the genocidal Assad regime. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, a bill authored primarily by Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), would impose new sanctions on the Assad regime and its supporters, initiate investigations into war crimes carried out by the regime, foster negotiation to end the crisis in Syria, and force the U.S. to take action against those who do business with or finance the Syrian government or its military, intelligence, airline, telecommunications and energy services.

Dr. Jasser and AIFD learned over the weekend that White House officials sadly had staffers call leaders in both parties, pushing for them to quietly shelve the bill, despite the fact that it its supporters are mostly Democrats.

In response to the news, Dr. Jasser said: “I am stunned that a president who claimed to hold a ‘red line’ standard in the use of chemical weapons would repeatedly hand civilians over to a murderous dictator – even when there is an option on the table – sanctions – which would at least make a small dent in the regime’s finances, which it uses to murder civilians, including with chemical weapons.

It is deplorable and criminal that we have not taken these measures already. How could we refrain from punishing those who finance the murder, torture and rape the bill’s namesake presented to us with undeniable evidence? It is beyond reason or comprehension. It seems our government – at its highest level – has completely forgotten our national commitment to ‘never again’ allow the genocide of a people. I encourage the bill’s bipartisan supporters to remain steadfast, and dissent with the Obama administration at once.”

Obama’s Syria Policy Explained

September 26, 2016

Obama’s Syria Policy Explained, Power Line, Paul Mirengoff, September 26, 2016

It seems likely that Obama welcomed Russia’s direct intervention since (1) it served Iran’s interests and (2) made it much easier for Obama to defend not taking military action. Indeed, Obama sees Russia as a partner in Syria.

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In writing about the pathetic efforts of John Kerry to arrange a cease fire in Syria, I’ve referred to the Secretary of State as the village idiot. But what about President Obama?

Though his intellect may be overrated, he’s anything but an idiot. Obama is, instead, a clever operator who often thinks several moves ahead of his domestic, though not his foreign, adversaries.

Why, then, has U.S. policy paved the way for Assad’s revival, Iranian and Russian success in Syria, and the massacre of up to half a million Syrians?

I’ve come to believe that the answer lies in the Iran nuclear deal. I base this view in part on the great reporting of Jay Solomon for the Wall Street Journal.

For example, Solomon revealed that in 2013, Iran told Obama that if he were to strike the regime of Bashar Assad following the latter’s chemical-weapons attack, the Iranians would end the talks over their nuclear program. Obama duly canceled the strike and later reassured Iran that the United States would not touch Assad.

In my view, Obama’s priority from Day One has been to negotiate a nuclear deal with the mullahs and use the deal as a springboard to a kind of alliance with the their regime under which Iran would “stabilize” the region and the U.S. would basically exit. This desire best explains why Obama’s Syria policy serves Iran’s interests.

My view finds powerful support in a piece in Tablet by Tony Badran of the Federation for Defense of Democracies. Having read Badrad’s piece, it seems to me that the pro-Iran tilt manifested in Obama’s Syria policy is even more pronounced than I had suspected.

Badran states his thesis this way:

America’s settled policy of standing by while half a million Syrians have been killed, millions have become refugees, and large swaths of their country have been reduced to rubble is not a simple “mistake,” as critics like Nicholas D. Kristof and Roger Cohen have lately claimed. Nor is it the product of any deeper-seated American impotence or of Vladimir Putin’s more recent aggressions.

Rather, it is a byproduct of America’s overriding desire to clinch a nuclear deal with Iran, which was meant to allow America to permanently remove itself from a war footing with that country and to shed its old allies and entanglements in the Middle East, which might also draw us into war. By allowing Iran and its allies to kill Syrians with impunity, America could demonstrate the corresponding firmness of its resolve to let Iran protect what President Barack Obama called its “equities” in Syria, which are every bit as important to Iran as pallets of cash.

Obama’s intentions should have been evident from the beginning. After all, as Badran points out, “if Obama purposefully took the Iranian regime’s side during the 2009 protests so as not to upset the prospect of rapprochement, he similarly wasn’t about to commit the United States against Iran’s longest-standing strategic ally, Assad.”

But Obama did a great job of masking his pro-Assad tilt and confusing none-too-bright media. Badran writes:

[B]y 2012, criticism of the administration’s policy had grown more vocal, and calls rose to give military support to the Syrian opposition, a proposition the president was always opposed to. As this was a fixed position for Obama, the task before the White House was, therefore, one of public relations—to quiet the calls for supporting the opposition, outside and also within the administration, without doing anything that would actually upset Assad and his patrons in Iran.

Messaging, as always, was of paramount importance to the White House. As the Wall Street Journal reported in early 2013, “White House national security meetings on Syria [in 2012] focused on what participants called ‘strategic messaging,’ how administration policy should be presented to the public.” To that end, the administration started putting out targeted talking points. The administration laid down its now-infamous mantra: There is no military solution in Syria.

Unfortunately, Assad, Iran, and Russia did not share this view — as Obama knew. Thanks to U.S. policy, Assad, Iran, and Russia appear to be right.

Not content with the “no military solution” mantra, Obama added argument that he wanted to avoid “further militarization” of the situation in Syria. Thus Jay Carney stated:

We do not believe that militarization, further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action. We believe that it would lead to greater chaos, greater carnage.

In light of subsequent developments, this statement is obscene, but it was always ridiculous. A no-fly zone would have prevented much of the carnage — and presumably virtually all of carnage rained down from the air — that has occurred since Carney spoke this rubbish several years ago.

But a no-fly zone would have thwarted Iran’s ambitions. Thus, argues Bedran, it was always a non-starter for Obama.

Russia’s presence in the air over Syria provided Obama with an excuse for rejecting a no-fly zone. But, as Bedran says, the administration had firmly rejected such action for years before the Russians were anywhere near Syria.

It seems likely that Obama welcomed Russia’s direct intervention since (1) it served Iran’s interests and (2) made it much easier for Obama to defend not taking military action. Indeed, Obama sees Russia as a partner in Syria. According to Bedran, “partnership with Russia is what the White House has sought after since late 2015 and throughout 2016 —with [Robert] Malley as the point man, negotiating directly with the Kremlin’s special envoy. Malley, by the way, is virulently anti-Israel.

The cynicism of Obama’s pronouncements on Syria — his “strip tease” as Bedran calls it — is encapsulated by what he and his team have said about Russian intervention in Syria. Initially, the administration’s line was that Russia had made a tragic mistake by becoming involved in a quagmire (never mind that, as we pointed out at the time, its military involvement was limited almost entirely to air strikes). Now, Team Obama argues that Russia holds all the cards in Syria and that our only option is to work with the Kremlim.

Russia and Iran hold all the cards because Obama allowed them to. Bedran makes a strong case that Obama allowed them to because because he wants Iran to prevail.

One might admire the elegance of Obama’s “strip tease,” if not for the demise of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and the triumph of our arch-enemy in Tehran.

Rockets on Golan, Pentagon flouts Obama, no truce

September 18, 2016

Rockets on Golan, Pentagon flouts Obama, no truce, DEBKAfile, September 17, 2016

 

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The Pentagon and US army are not following the orders of their Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama in the execution of the military cooperation accord in Syria concluded by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Sept. 12.

Five days after the truce they agreed would go into effect Monday, fighting was still raging Saturday, Sept. 17.

DEBKAfile was the only Western publication to foresee this eventuality in an article published on July 18.

It was already evident then that any military cooperation agreement between the two powers would be contingent on America exposing its intelligence-gathering methods to Russia – not just in Syria but worldwide.

As our military sources predicted, this new intelligence sharing arrangement would necessarily extend to the Syrian Air Force as a third partner.

In advance of the deal, Moscow deployed its aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kutzenov, post haste to Syrian waters, to make sure that the Joint Implementation Center set up by the Kerry-Lavrov deal for intelligence-sharing would also apply to the warplanes and cruise missiles on the carrier’s decks and its escort of missile cruisers.

This deal was perceived in Moscow as an opportunity to study the combat methods and tactics practiced by the US Navy and Air force in real battlefield conditions.

But this eventuality was far from the intentions of US security and intelligence chiefs at a time of deepening adversity between Washington and Moscow.

The remarks of State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Thursday, Sept. 5 hinted at these conflicting perceptions: “I don’t think anyone in the US government is necessarily taking at face value Russia’s – or certainly not the Syrian regime’s – commitment to this arrangement.” He went on to say: “What really matters here is that the president of the United States supports this agreement, and our system of government works in such a way that everyone follows what the president says.”

Is that really so?

The fact that Kerry’s spokesman found it necessary to emphasize that “everyone follows what the president says,” strongly indicated that not everyone in Washington was in fact obeying the president.

Such disobedience is almost unheard of and would never be admitted publicly. In this case, it is being kept carefully under wraps.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford will never on any account admit that, in the execution of military collaboration with Russia in the Syrian conflict, they are not exactly carrying out the president’s precise instructions.

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But Washington sources report that Defense Secretary Carter maintains that he can’t act against a law enacted by Congress. He was referring to the law that prohibits all military-to-military relations with Russia as a result of Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, they are simply dragging their feet in ground operations. This is driving Vladimir Putin and his generals into fits of rage.

Friday, Sept 16, Lavrov accused the US of “stalling on its promise to separate moderate rebel groups in Syria from terrorists,” adding, “US progress in delivering on the promise is slow.”

Saturday, Putin himself burst out that the rebels were “regrouping under the ceasefire.” He put the blame on those “rebels” for the failure of the agreed truce to take effect after five days.

Our military and intelligence sources see a connection between Putin’s angry outburst and the rising tensions on the Syrian-Israeli border in the past week, culminating in the two Syrian rockets that were shot down Saturday over the Golan by Israel’s Iron Dome batteries.

For some time, the Russians and Syrians have made no bones about their objection to Israel’s policy of supporting a motley assortment of Syrian rebel groups in southern Syria close to its border. Among these groups is Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm Jabhat Al-Nusra (the Nusra Front) that has renamed itself Jahat Fath Al-Sham.

Whatever Assad, Iran or Hizballah may accept or reject, President Putin utterly refuses to tolerate Israel allowing the Nusra Front to control parts of this border sector.

Therefore, the rockets and missiles apparently “straying” across the border onto the Golan may well multiply in the coming days.

Yet another complication raised its head over the weekend when the US-backed rebel militia, the Free Syrian Army, vented its fury over the Kerry-Lavrov truce deal by driving away American Special Operations troops helping them in the battle for Al-Rai and abusing them as “infidels.”

The US blames the Russian leader for failing to force Bashar Assad to hold his fire and to let emergency supplies reach the beleaguered population in Aleppo, thereby undermining their ceasefire accord.

But it is becoming evident that the brutal standoff in Syria will be sustained until Putin is satisfied that the US is cooperating with Russian forces in Syria and the Mediterranean region in all spheres.

Before he decides to lean hard on Assad to cease hostilities, he will want to see the White House twisting the arms of the Pentagon and US forces to play ball in the most sensitive spheres.

Russia: Dissolve US-Arab-Israeli Syria war room

September 12, 2016

Russia: Dissolve US-Arab-Israeli Syria war room, DEBKAfile, September 12, 2016

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In another move to grab control of the Syrian arena, the Kremlin marked the start of the US-Russian brokered ceasefire in Syria on Sept 12 with a push for the United States to dissolve the war room that has been running anti-Assad operations from a venue north of the Jordanian capital Amman. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the demand was handed down from the Russian presidential office and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The US Central Command Forward Command in Jordan has for three years run the command and communications functions of select rebel ground operations against Bashar Assad, especially insofar as US special operations units and air force were involved.

Jordanian, Saudi, Israeli, Qatari and United Arab Emirates officers serve alongside American commanders.

This forward command has evolved, according to our sources, into the nerve center of the military campaigns waged by this coalition against the Syrian army and its allies in southern Syria and also against the Islamic State in southeastern Syria and parts of western Iraq.

In January 2016, President Vladimir Putin had the Saudis talk King Abdullah into establishing a Russian-Jordanian forward command outside Amman alongside the American war room. His pretext was the necessity to avert accidental collisions between the Russian and Jordanian warplanes operating in Syrian air space.

But over the past months, the Russian-led command center has gradually nudged the US war room into an inferior role in the control of ongoing operations.

Last week, in the course of the marathon talks on a Syrian truce held by US Secretary of State John Kelly and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, the American delegation was suddenly confronted with a demand to shut down the Centcom forward command in Jordan and reassign the US officers staffing it to the Russian-Jordanian command center.

Although taken aback, the US delegation in Geneva did not immediately reject the demand, but agreed to give it due consideration provided that the 10-day truce in Syria holds up and can be extended.

If President Barack Obama submits to Moscow’s demand, our sources point out, it would mean curtains for Israeli, Saudi, Qatar and Emirate officers participation in the Amman command. They would be sent home and their governments would find themselves out in the cold in relation to coordinated Russia-US and Jordanian operations in Syria.

According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, Israel and Gulf Arab military chiefs have concluded that Moscow’s move has the opposite goal of a ceasefire, and is in fact designed to clear the way for a major Russian-Syrian operation to seize Daraa, the main town of southern Syria, and drive all anti–Assad forces out of this region.

Since most of the rebel groups in control of the South are backed by Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Emirates, their expulsion would eliminate those nations’ influence and involvement in that part of Syria and sever their operational links with the United States.

This theory gained substance from the Syria ruler’s declaration Monday at the Daraya mosque:

“The Syrian state is determined to recover every area from the terrorists,” Assad said in an interview broadcast by state media. He made no mention of the ceasefire agreement going into effect that day, but said the army would continue its work “without hesitation, regardless of any internal or external circumstances”.

Who killed Al-Adnani? US, Russia or maybe ISIS?

September 1, 2016

Who killed Al-Adnani? US, Russia or maybe ISIS? DEBKAfile, September 1, 2016

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While the US has frequently claimed to have liquidated an Islamic terrorist leader, Russia put in its first claim on Aug. 31, when the defense ministry in Moscow announced for the first time that the day before, an SU-34 bomber had killed ISIS senior terrorist mastermind Mohammed Al-Adnani during a high-profile gathering at Maaratat-Umm Khaush near Aleppo.

The claim was worded so as to indicate that Russian intelligence had pulled off a major feat by a hit that took out 40 high-profile operatives.

This claim came 24 hours after a US official said that a Predator drone rocket had hit a car believed to be carrying Adnani near Al-Bab, and that the results were “being assessed” – even though ISIS itself reported that the terrorist leader, tagged as senior spokesman, “was martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo.”

The Pentagon sources called the Russian version “lies” and “a joke.”

The distance between al-Bab and Maaratat-Umm Khaush is only 28km, but the gap between the American and Russian claims is less immeasurable.

Fighting has escalated around the city in recent weeks, with rebels breaking a siege by government forces and Syrian and Russian warplanes bombing rebel-held areas.

The competing Russian and American claims of a successful aerial-cum-intelligence action against a high-profile ISIS founder-member break new ground in the war on Islamic terror.

Al-Adnani, who was born in 1977 in the northern Syrian town of Banash, was responsible in the past two years for orchestrating terrorist atrocities in Tunisia, Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Nice, Sinai Peninsula and Istanbul, as well as suicide bombings in Baghdad.

Far from being a joke, the cold war dividing Moscow and Washington appears to have spread to the war on Islamist terror and infected the Syrian arena.

The early collaboration between the two powers in the Syrian conflict has broken down. This was admitted on Aug. 26 in Geneva, after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed to agree on further military and intelligence cooperation.

Ironically, it is noted by DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources, that both powers’ clandestine services received intelligence on their target’s movements from the same source.

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That is another first; never before has any Islamic terrorist organization fed the same piece of intelligence to the US and Russia. If that is what happened, it could mean only one thing: that someone in ISIS had decided it was time for Al-Adani to go.

This would be par for the course in the harsh world of jihadist terror organizations, such as Al Qaeda from which ISIS sprung.

When Osama bin Laden, whom US special forces killed in 2011, felt the need to cull the Al-Qaeda leadership of high-profile operatives who had outlived their usefulness or were suffering from fatigue, he would get rid of them by arranging for US intelligence to be tipped off about their whereabouts.

In one notable instance of this purge, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, senior planner of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, was turned in to the CIA in 2003.

If this is what happened to Al-Adani, DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources link it to the recent reappearance on the Islamist terrorist scene in Syria three weeks ago of the veteran Al-Qaeda master-terrorist Saif al-Adel with a group of followers.

Al-Adel is rated one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, with long experience of planning and executing mass-casualty operations stretching back to the 1980s. He is “credited” with the large-scale assaults on the East African US embassies in 1998 and a string of murderous strikes in Saudi Arabia in 2003, some of which hit US targets.

It is not yet known how Al-Adel and his gang reached Syria and for what purpose. They are only known to have crossed the border from Iraq. It is presumed by intelligence watchers of terrorist insider politics that, after deciding that Al-Adnan was a spent asset, ISIS leaders found his replacement.

Obama Demands UN Do Something Over Syria’s Violation of His Red Line

August 25, 2016

Obama Demands UN Do Something Over Syria’s Violation of His Red Line, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, August 25, 2016

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I could call on the fairies. Or the UN.

Both are equally likely to do anything. Obama knows that. This is why his theatrical outrage is such a ridiculous joke.

The US has urged “strong and swift action” after a UN investigation concluded that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people.

The year-long inquiry found the government used chlorine gas in attacks in Idlib province in 2014 and 2015.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the use of chemical weapons was “barbaric” and called for “all states to support strong and swift action”.

Yes, please do something since we made it clear that we don’t want to. But wait, it’s all part of a brilliant collective plan.

These leaks and statements are part of an administration effort to put pressure on President Bashar Assad and his Russian backers before an August 30 meeting by the UN Security Council to look at the issue of chemical weapons in Syria, a U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast.

Why now? According to this official, the answer goes back to 2014, when the Assad regime was accused of repeated chlorine attacks, and the world shrugged its shoulders.

“We weren’t getting enough political oomph when the chlorine attacks first came to light. So we figured the best option was to work through the slow UN process, get the Russians to a place where they’re cornered diplomatically,” the intelligence official said.

Plus, the official added, finger pointing by the United States alone wouldn’t be nearly as effective as collective action.

Yes, because you guys are really good at cornering Russia diplomatically. This way we pass it to the UN. The UN does nothing. Obama shrugs. Mission accomplished.

US, Russia trade blows in Syria on Kurds’ backs

August 20, 2016

US, Russia trade blows in Syria on Kurds’ backs, DEBKAfile, August 20, 2016

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The near-clash between US and Syrian warplanes over Kurdish Hassaka in northern Syrian Friday Aug. 19 sprung out of the Obama administration’s decision the day before to try and draw the line on the growing Russian-Iranian-Turkish-Syrian collaboration in the conjoined Syrian-Iraqi arenas, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.

It occurred when US jets flew in protective formation over the Kurdish positions, the day after they were attacked by Syrian (some Middle East sources say, Russian) jets.

The US jets came within a mile of the two Syrian Su-24 fighter jets approaching the Kurdish enclave of Hassaka, and warned them off. Without responding the Syrian planes turned tail.

The US Defense Department reported that when the incident began, “coalition forces on the ground” tried reaching the Syrian jets on a “common radio frequency” but received not response. The spokesman did not specify which “coalition forces” he was referring to.

According to some Middle East sources, the Su-24s which attacked Hassaka Thursday were Russian – not Syrian.

Friday, US officials activated the US command center in Jordan for a complaint and warning to the Russian command center nearby, but they too were greeted with silence.

It may be assumed that the Russian tracking and reconnaissance systems spread across Syria and the eastern Mediterranean picked up the American communications and, had they wanted to, could have passed the US warnings on to Bashar Assad.

But the appearance Friday of another pair of Syrian jets over the Kurdish town indicated that the Russians had decided to pretend ignorance.

After the attack on Hassaka, a number of US special operations forces were pulled out of their northern Syrian positions. They were there as instructors and advisers to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with tens of US officers attached to every Kurdish platoon and SDF battalion.

It is now up to Washington to decide what happens next.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has obviously embarked on a new anti-American game based on the far-reaching deal he struck with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg on Aug. 9. Part of that deal was a pledge by Moscow to help Turkey block all avenues for the Kurdish minority to attain full independence in Syria or Iraq, where it enjoy semi-autonomy, and allow a Kurdish state to rise from Irbil to the Mediterranean.

Iran and Syria’s Assad fully support the Turkish goal in their own interests.

The air strike against the Kurds of Hassaka therefore set a kind of foundation stone for the new Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance in the region, whose establishmentDEBKAfile was first to uncover exclusively on Aug. 9, after the Putin-Erdogan summit.

This emerging pact has already generated strategic military dividends for Russia in the Middle East for Russia unmatched at any time since the Cold War of the mid-20thcentury.

Revolutionary Iran has made Russia the first foreign recipient of an air base on its soil near Hamedan in the west.

Erdogan’s Turkey has hustled the US into evacuating its nuclear arsenal from the southern Incirlik air base, the first time NATO was forced to give up a nuclear stockpile near the Russian frontier. And before the removal was completed, calls were raised in Moscow and Ankara to let Moscow install its warplanes at the strategic Turkish base.

It is hard to see how by sending US warplanes to shield Syrian Kurdish positions against attack, the Obama administration can put the brakes on the Russian-led tactical alignment speeding forward with Iran, Turkey and the Assad regime. To make a difference, the US president would have to interrupt his Martha’s Vineyard holiday and reach a decision he has avoided for the last six years, which is to put substantial American boots on the ground in Syria.

This step is not really on the cards three months before the presidential election and five months before he leaves the Oval Office for good.

In the near future, we are therefore likely to see the Russians and Syrians pressing ahead with their campaign against the Kurds, whereas Obama may opt to confront Putin outside the Syrian quagmire, possibly over Ukraine. Mindful of this likely scenario, Putin flew to Crimea Friday after staging war games there.