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Sunday, November 29

How long does it take to fly a casket from Turkey to Russia?

A report popped up on BBC around 6:00pm ET that Reuters had already published very early this morning, right after Sputnik broke the news. The Reuters report included a photo of the Russian pilot's remains being loaded with fanfare onto a Turkish jet at Hatay Airport just across the Syrian border. Then the casket was flown to an airport at Ankara.

Reuters photo, taken by an unnamed Reuters stringer

The Beeb photo, credited to AP, was taken around the same time.

And the Beeb has a second photo showing a Turkish honor guard hoofing to the tarmac:

Photo credit "EPA." (I have no idea.)

Checking back right now, I see the timestamp on the Reuters report is 1:56pm ET but that must reflect an update.  In any case, I saw the report at Sputnik while it was still breaking news.
So what is the delay in getting the casket to Moscow?

To return to the Sputnik report:  "The date and time of the pilot’s body delivery to Russia is being clarified," embassy spokesman Igor Mityakov told RIA Novosti.

Turkey Vows to Hand Over Body of Killed Su-24 Pilot to Russia - PM
11:46 local time - 29.11.2015 (updated 12:23)
[emphasis throughout mine]

According to Turkish media reports, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Sunday that the body of a killed Russian Su-24 pilot had been brought to Turkey late Saturday and would later be handed over to Russia.

The pilot of the Su-24 bomber, Oleg Peshkov, was killed [on November 24] by ground fire while parachuting to safety after the warplane had been downed by an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish F-16 jet over Syria on Tuesday.
"The body of the deceased Russian pilot was delivered to us last night at 1:45 across the border. In accordance with their [Russian] religious tradition, funeral arrangements were carried out by Orthodox priests in the Hatay Province [in Turkey's south]," Davutoglu was quoted as saying by local media Beyaz Gazete.

The Russian Embassy in Turkey has confirmed that the body of the Russian pilot would be brought to Ankara on Sunday and later sent to Russia.

"Today the body of Hero of Russia Oleg Peshkov will be delivered to Ankara. The military attache of the embassy is accompanying it during the flight, and the ambassador and the embassy staff will meet it at the airfield in Ankara. The date and time of the pilot’s body delivery to Russia is being clarified," embassy spokesman Igor Mityakov told RIA Novosti.  

Syrian Turkmen rebels claimed earlier that they had fired at the crew of the Russian warplane as they were descending to the ground. [They] also claimed that both were killed, although this allegation was later disproved as one of them survived.

The Su-24 bomber co-pilot survived and was taken to a Russian base in Syria after a successful 12-hour search and rescue operation, which ended on Wednesday.

A source familiar with the operation told RIA Novosti earlier that several Syrian special forces units were providing cover for the Russian search and rescue team.


How long is the flight from Ankara to Moscow? [tap tap tap] 3 hours 5 minutes. What's the weather in Ankara? [tap tap] Oh, right; it's already tomorrow there but nothing strange; overcast and a little rainy, mid-40s F. But the photos show it was sunny weather for the gathering on the tarmac.

I am not liking this.

I saw a headline the other day, I think at RT, that the family was refusing to believe the pilot was dead. I didn't take time to read the report; such a belief is common when the body isn't found.

So let me see. Four days after the pilot was allegedly killed, the Turkish government gets hold of it, without saying how. But that means they had three or four days to fool around with the body, or a body. Pundita, don't be cold-blooded.

Well all I can say is God help Erdogan if the family insisted on flying to Ankara to view the body before it was shipped home, and one of them started screaming that's not the body.

[muttering to herself] I need one of those wall clocks with 10 different times. Maybe by tomorrow morning Eastern time this will be resolved nicely. Erdogan had reportedly wanted to meet with Putin on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit. Let me check the headlines one more time before posting this....

Obama Places Single White Flower at Bataclan Memorial in Paris

Google News is hopeless.


Syrian Army Pushes Extremists out of Key Areas Bordering Turkey

By the way, about 80 percent of the Syrian Army is Sunni -- something the propaganda media keep forgetting to mention.  

Syrian Army Pushes Extremists out of Key Areas Bordering Turkey
09:57 local time - 29.11.2015 (updated 12:45)


The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) assisted by Russian forces and Hezbollah fighters is on a roll in northern Latakia, pushing extremists out of strategic areas close to the Syrian border with Turkey, where the Russian Su-24 bomber was shot down earlier this week.

"The Syrian forces' operations in the northern parts of Latakia, near the border with Turkey, have gained much success in recent days and the [Sunni] militant groups are retreating from most of their position," the Fars news agency reported.

Damascus-led forces freed al-Rahmalia and al-Khidr hills, as well as Tal Sifah and Tal al-Malouha, killing an undisclosed number of extremist fighters and destroying militant infrastructure.

Following days of intense fighting, the SAA has reportedly taken al-Markashileh and Jab al-Ahmar regions under control. On Friday, Damascus-led forces managed to push militant fighters from Tal Sifah and Tal al-Malouha in northern Latakia.

Earlier this week, the Syrian Army reportedly killed three senior commanders of the Free Syrian Army in the province of Latakia. One of them, Rasheed Bikdash, who the media outlet described as one of the "Mujahidin Army" leaders, is said to be "the highest-ranking defector" from the SAA.


Turkey Vows to Hand Over Body of Killed Su-24 Pilot to Russia - PM
11:46 local time - 29.11.2015 (updated 12:23)

According to Turkish media reports, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Sunday that the body of a killed Russian Su-24 pilot had been brought to Turkey late Saturday and would later be handed over to Russia.

The pilot of the Su-24 bomber, Oleg Peshkov, was killed by ground fire while parachuting to safety after the warplane had been downed by an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish F-16 jet over Syria on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin described the incident as a "stab in the back, carried out against us by accomplices of terrorists."

"The body of the deceased Russian pilot was delivered to us last night at 1:45 across the border. In accordance with their [Russian] religious tradition, funeral arrangements were carried out by Orthodox priests in the Hatay Province [in Turkey's south]," Davutoglu was quoted as saying by local media Beyaz Gazete.

The Russian Embassy in Turkey has confirmed that the body of the Russian pilot would be brought to Ankara on Sunday and later sent to Russia.

"Today the body of Hero of Russia Oleg Peshkov will be delivered to Ankara. The military attache of the embassy is accompanying it during the flight, and the ambassador and the embassy staff will meet it at the airfield in Ankara. The date and time of the pilot’s body delivery to Russia is being clarified," embassy spokesman Igor Mityakov told RIA Novosti.

Syrian Turkmen rebels claimed earlier that they had fired at the crew of the Russian warplane as they were descending to the ground. [They] also claimed that both were killed, although this allegation was later disproved as one of them survived.

The Su-24 bomber co-pilot survived and was taken to a Russian base in Syria after a successful 12-hour search and rescue operation, which ended on Wednesday.

A source familiar with the operation told RIA Novosti earlier that several Syrian special forces units were providing cover for the Russian search and rescue team.


Saturday, November 28

"Turkey and the Turkmen could not agree on what to do with the pilot."

From a Sputnik report today, it almost seems Soleimani was there in person. If that's the case he might have made history. There are no real generals anywhere, in any military today. A real general leads his troops -- from the front of course, which is where one leads from, not from a tent or room removed from the front line.

Well it doesn't actually say he led the troops -- okay, I'll let Sputnik tell the story. And note the luck the rescuers had, but there's one correction to the report, which refers to the navigator as the "pilot."  

The pilot was shot to death by the Turkmen or Turkish snipers as he parachuted from the stricken Su-24. The gunfire missed the navigator, who was also parachuting. The next part, which isn't discussed in the following report, is still a little unclear to me. But from his account to reporters after he was returned to a base, it seems the navigator's chute drifted him into a heavily wooded area at some distance from the snipers, and so he was able to hide. Although it could be that he was captured. Anyhow, what is clear is that he was able to activate his radio beacon. That's when the adventure began....

Iranian General Soleimani Supervised Operation to Save Russian Su-24 Pilot
The pilot of the downed Russian Su-24 bomber was saved in a joint rescue operation supervised by the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, Major General Qasem Soleimani.

Iranian journalist and political analyst Emad Abshenas talked to a friend of his, a Syrian officer, who is currently in Latakia, and has all the details on the ground team that extracted Konstantin Murahtin.

Soleimani, according to the [officer], assembled a rescue team made up of 18 Syrian special operation forces and six Hezbollah fighters with firsthand knowledge of the terrain. They were tasked with saving the pilot, while Russian forces provided air and intelligence support.

As soon as they reached the front line, Russian aircraft launched airstrikes against rebels forcing them to flee. The team could then advance further into enemy territory.

The joint team was receiving extremely detailed intelligence information on everything surrounding them, even the movement of ants located hundreds of meters away, Emad Abshenas noted, citing the Syrian officer. In addition to saving Konstantin Murahtin, they also eliminated all terrorists in the area.

The timing of the operation was perfect but luck played a certain part in its success.

The Syrian officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that Turkey and the Turkmen could not agree on what to do with the pilot. The former wanted to take him as prisoner and later use him as a bargaining chip in talks with Russia. The rebels insisted that he should be treated like the Jordanian pilot captured by ISIL in late 2014 and burned to death several days later.

This bickering gave the team enough time to save the Russian pilot.

All 24 fighters who took part in the operation safely reached the base.

The Kremlin, according to the analyst, received all the latest updates on the rescue operation as the events unfolded. Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to have been closely following the action via satellite transmission.

On Tuesday, a Turkish F-16 shot down the Su-24, claiming that the aircraft had violated its airspace. Russian officials and the Su-24 pilot, who survived the crash, insist that the plane did not cross into Turkey. The crew, according to the pilot, did not receive any warning prior to the attack.

The Su-24 downing as well as the missile attack on Russian journalists in Latakia appear to confirm what many have assumed -- moderate opposition groups are simply nonexistent in Syria, Emad Abshenas noted.



Turk regime helped Nusra Front capture U.S.- trained and equipped Syrian fighters

Unfortunately McClatchy will be closing all its foreign bureaus by the end of this year. One of the few American news outlets that was a truly independent voice in international reportage.  The lights are going out, one by one. At least we can benefit from a review of the newspaper's investigative report on the tale of the Obama regime's captured Syrian 'assets.'  

“And there’s no ideological difference between [Islamic State] and the Nusra Front, just a political fight for control. All of the top Nusra commanders were once in the Islamic State.”

August 24, 2015
McClatchy DC  
Syrian rebels: Turkey tipped al Qaida group to U.S.-trained fighters
By MITCHELL PROTHERO, McClatchy Special Correspondent
JAMES ROSEN in WASHINGTON and McClatchy Special Correspondents DUYGU GEVENC in ANKARA, TURKEY, and ZAKARIA ZAKARIA in SANLIURFA, TURKEY, contributed to this report

GAZIANTEP, TURKEY - The kidnapping of a group of U.S.-trained moderate Syrians moments after they entered Syria last month to confront the Islamic State was orchestrated by Turkish intelligence, multiple rebel sources have told McClatchy.

The rebels say that the tipoff to al Qaida’s Nusra Front enabled Nusra to snatch many of the 54 graduates of the $500 million program on July 29 as soon as they entered Syria, dealing a humiliating blow to the Obama administration’s plans for confronting the Islamic State.
Rebels familiar with the events said they believe the arrival plans were leaked because Turkish officials were worried that while the group’s intended target was the Islamic State, the U.S.-trained Syrians would form a vanguard for attacking Islamist fighters that Turkey is close to, including Nusra and another major Islamist force, Ahrar al Sham.
A senior official at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, declined to respond to questions about the incident, saying any discussion of Turkey’s relationship with Nusra was off limits.
Other Turkish officials acknowledged the likely accuracy of the claims, though none was willing to discuss the topic for attribution. One official from southern Turkey said the arrival plans for the graduates of the so-called train-and-equip program were leaked to Nusra in hopes the rapid disintegration of the program would push the Americans into expanding the training and arming of rebel groups focused on toppling the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the U.S. military, which oversees the program, had seen “no indications that Turkish officials alerted the Nusra Front to the movements” of the U.S.-trained forces.
“Turkey is a NATO ally, close friend of the United States and an important partner in the international coalition” against the Islamic State, he said in an email.
The United States and Turkey have clashed for years over what U.S. officials characterize as Turkey’s willingness to work with Nusra, which the U.S. declared a foreign terrorist organization nearly three years ago. Turkey also has openly criticized the train-and-equip program for its insistence that participants agree to focus their efforts on defeating the Islamic State, not on battling Assad.
The abductions opened the program to ridicule in the United States, where supporters of arming Syrian rebels quickly used it to make their case that Obama administration policy toward the Syrian conflict is inept.
“Only the Americans and the Turks knew” about the plans for the train-and-equip fighters to enter Syria, said an officer of Division 30, the rebel group with which the newly trained Syrians were to work. “We have sources who tell us the Turks warned Nusra that they would be targeted by this group.”
The Division 30 officer asked not to be identified for his own safety and because Nusra still holds 22 of his comrades in Azzaz, a Syrian town just south of the Turkish border.
“Right now the only thing keeping our men alive is that Turkey does not want them executed – al Qaida always executes Arabs who work for the CIA,” he said. He suggested that Turkey was trying “to leverage the incident into an expanded role in the north for the Islamists in Nusra and Ahrar” and to persuade the United States to “speed up the training of rebels.”
Division 30 spokesman Capt. Ammar al Wawi stopped short of saying Turkey had betrayed the operation, though he agreed that the only people aware of the trainees’ plans to enter Syria were Turkish and American staffers at a joint command center in Gaziantep. He grew visibly uncomfortable when pressed on the subject.
“I have to live here in Turkey and have been targeted for kidnapping or assassination twice in the last month,” he said. “But we know someone aligned with Nusra informed them of our presence. They were taken within 10 minutes.”
Among those abducted was the Division 30 commander, Col. Nadim Hassan. “We would have never allowed him to go inside if we had known that Nusra would target them,” al Wawi said.
Another rebel commander, interviewed in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa, about 30 miles north of the Syrian border, said he was not surprised Nusra would target the U.S.-trained fighters. In the end, he said, the ideologies of Nusra and Ahrar al Sham are not all that different from that of the Islamic State, which he referred to as "Daash" [Da'esh],  its Arabic acronym.
“Nusra are al Qaida by their own admission,” said the commander, who asked not to be named because his unit received some weapons and support from Turkey. “And there’s no ideological difference between Daash and the Nusra Front, just a political fight for control. All of the top Nusra commanders were once in the Islamic State.”
He said Nusra hostility toward U.S.-trained rebels would be understandable. “Remember,” he said, “America has targeted Nusra with some airstrikes.”
He said that while some Syrian rebels have been willing to coordinate with Nusra and Ahrar al Sham in offensives against Syrian government positions, that cooperation is likely to end at some point and Turkey was aware of that.
“They don’t want anything bad to happen to their allies – Nusra and Ahrar al Sham – along the border and they know that both the Americans and the Syrian people will eventually recognize that there’s no difference between groups like Nusra, Ahrar and Daash,” he said.
Mustafa Abdi, a spokesman for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG by their Kurdish initials, said he, too, has been told Turkey leaked the arrival of the U.S.-trained fighters. He suggested the effort was part of a Turkish effort to persuade the United States to cooperate more with the groups Turkey views as its allies in Syria.
“They want the Americans to train and equip rebels but only on their terms and to confront both the regime and the Islamic State,” he said. “This incident not only embarrassed the Americans and made the Free Syrian Army programs look weak compared to Nusra, but also makes working with Turkey on their terms even more important.”
Turkish officials have been openly critical of the United States for coordinating its bombing campaign in northern Syria with the YPG, which has proved to be the most successful group battling the Islamic State in Syria.
Turkey sees the YPG as aligned with its longtime nemesis, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has fought a three-decade-long insurgency for greater autonomy for Turkey’s large Kurdish population. But in coordination with U.S. airstrikes, the YPG has driven Islamic State fighters from at least a dozen Syrian towns, including Tal Abyad, a major crossing point on the Turkish border.
The Turkey-U.S. conflict over how to confront the Islamic Statehas been a key point of friction between the two NATO alliessince the U.S. began its bombing campaign against the group a year ago. Only last month did Turkey agree to allow manned American aircraft to launch missions from Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. The first mission took off Aug. 12.
But the disagreement on strategy dates to much earlier in the Syrian conflict, when American officials declared Nusra to be just another name for al Qaida in Iraq, the Islamic State’s predecessor organization. Turkey said the designation overlooked the fact that it was by far the most effective force fighting the Syrian government, and Turkish officials resisted U.S. efforts to persuade them to stop working with Nusra, even though Turkey also declared the group a terrorist organization.
Aymenn al Tamimi, an expert on Syrian and Iraqi jihadist groups for the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, said Turkish support for what he called “the Salafi-Jihadi-Islamist coalition in the north” is clear.
He said that support is likely both ideological and tactical. Noting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party also espouses Islamist goals, Tamimi suggested “Erdogan and his allies would ideologically be sympathetic to Islamist groups.” 
Tactically, the success Nusra and Ahrar al Sham have had against the Assad government would also be attractive. “There’s a case to be made they are the most effective forces in the north,” he said.
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/middle-east/article32206167.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/middle-east/article32206167.html#storylink=cpy

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On the 11th anniversary of Pundita blog I look at where humanity is 11 years on

For once I'm going to quote from DEBKAfile because as of this moment every other media outlet is still trying to figure out how to break the news, and it seems Moscow has told the Russian press to keep quiet for now. 

The news is that Russia is bombing every single Turkish entity in Syria. Everything.   

My first thought was, 'If only American and British combat troops in Afghanistan had had a friend in their governments the way Russian troops in Syria have friend in theirs!'           

But the American (and British) regime chose to be friends with Pakistan and support the wishes of the richest members in the NATO-ISAF coalition, who wanted to overlook Pakistan's actions in Afghanistan. 

The result was chaos and carnage in Afghanistan and entrenching of Taliban and al Qaeda in the country, and a lot of dead and permanently maimed American and British soldiers.  

Woe betide the government that asks today's America for help! The USA is the Mother Hubbard of nations; we have so many coalitions and trade interests we don't know what to do. 

Reminds me of the T-shirt message, "Oh no, I'm becoming my mother!" 

That is what happened to the USA. We became like the British Empire, which after it collapsed ended up in hock to the Saudi Empire. Which ended up spreading terrorism far and wide, and here we are today.

This should serve as a warning to the Russians. Don't be so eager to form so many coalitions working at so many cross-purposes that you end up hurting yourselves and all those you try to help.

It also serves as a warning to Pakistanis. The more money they prised out of the USA, UK, EU and KSA, the bigger the domestic terrorism and violent crime rate and the greater the chaos in their country. No surprise there. The USA and UK wanted the regime to at least put on a show of supporting liberal democracy, and the Saudis wanted to stuff as many Islamist mosques, schools, and charitable organizations into Pakistan as they could.

Finally the situation got so out of control that Pakistan's generals took a page from Xi Jinping and said to heck with putting on a show. This is resulting in a large number of Pakistani crime lords and Islamist terrorist kingpins being killed while resisting arrest

In response to this horrid affront to the rule of law the vast majority of Pakistanis, minus human rights and democracy activists funded by the West and Saudi-funded activists, are heaving a sigh of relief. 

There is a tragic moral to emerge from this very strange era. At the same time Western nations were promoting liberal democracy and human rights around the world, they were also supporting the Saudi regime, which was supporting the international monetary regime and the OPEC cartel. 

This meant every move to promote democracy was countered by vast sums of petro-money used to promote anti-democratic Islamism.

Which is to say the peace dividend, which Americans invested so much blood and treasure in upholding, turned out to be a mirage. As the mirage dissolves in terrorism and crime-fueled chaos, democracy is dissolving along with it. 

The moral?  If a country's tax base is not large enough to offset the influence bought by foreign money, liberal democracy is a luxury it can't afford.  

Friday, November 27

At least 9 targets of Mali attack were Chinese and Russian

An eyebrow raiser is that the Chinese and Russians were murdered first in the hit. This is looking to Eric Draitser as if could have been assassinations, with random murders as cover. Draitser does run with a dark speculation about motive -- Near Eastern Outlook is an outright anti-U.S., anti-Western site. But even if it was an assassination, it could've been locals trying to drive out foreign competitors. The Chinese have raised hackles in several African countries. 

In any case this is a reminder that what passes for a terrorist operation isn't necessarily so. Indeed, the more I learn about Islamic State's oil trade, the more I hear myself muttering, "Why does this remind me of the UN Oil For Food Program?"

Guess who knew everything to know about how that incredibly corrupt program, which involved scores of governments, worked? The very men who set up Islamic State. 

So the more I learn, the more I'm wondering whether IS is just a Get Rich Quick scheme in caliphate drag. We'll soon find out, if Russian and Syrian forces manage to seal the Syrian border with Turkey.
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Eric Draitser - NEO via Land Destroyer
November 27, 2015

Too many coincidences to ignore, including silence from the Western media 

Coming on the heels of the terrorist attack in Paris, the mass shooting and siege at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, the capital of the African nation of Mali, is still further evidence of the escalation of terrorism throughout the world. While there has already been much written about the incident in both western and non-western media, one critical angle on this story has been entirely ignored: the motive.

For although it is true that most people think of terrorism as entirely ideologically driven, with motives being religious or cultural, it is equally true that much of what gets defined as “terrorism” is in fact politically motivated violence that is intended to send a message to the targeted group or nation. So it seems that the attack in Mali could very well have been just such an action as news of the victims has raised very serious questions about just what the motive for this heinous crime might have been.

International media have now confirmed that at least nine of the 27 killed in the attack were Chinese and Russian. While this alone would indeed be curious, it is the identities and positions of those killed that is particularly striking. The three Chinese victims were important figures in China’s China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), while the Russians were employees of Russian airline Volga-Dnepr. That it was these individuals who were killed at the very outset of the attack suggests that they were the likely targets of what could perhaps rightly be called a terrorist assassination operation.

But why these men? And why now?

To answer these questions, one must have an understanding of the roles of both these companies in Mali and, at the larger level, the activities of China and Russia in Mali. Moreover, the targeted killing should be seen in light of the growing assertiveness of both countries against terrorism in Syria and internationally. Considering the strategic partnership between the two countries – a partnership that is expanding seemingly every day – it seems that the fight against terrorism has become yet another point of convergence between Moscow and Beijing.

In addition, it must be recalled that both countries have had their share of terror attacks in recent years, with each having made counter-terrorism a central element in their national security strategies, as well as their foreign policy.

And so, given these basic facts, it becomes clear that the attack in Mali was no random act of terrorism, but a carefully planned and executed operation designed to send a clear message to Russia and China. ...

[Well, it's clear to Eric. He then lays out a detailed discussion of Russian/Chinese relations with Mali's government that should be of interest to wonks.]



Air raid sirens night and day in Raqqa. Now pipe in Alvin and the Chipmunks

A standard defense tactic for the terror outfits is to settle into civilian sites that are off limits to bombing and shelling. From the following AFP report on the situation in Raqqa, the counter-tactic is basically what the U.S. did to Noriega: drive them crazy -- no sleep at night, no peace in the daytime, only they're doing it with constant bombing raids. 

But I'd suggest lifting a tactic directly from the campaign to oust Noriega. Find a a way to blast heavy metal rock 'n roll into Raqqa 24/7. Make it so loud nobody can hear themselves talk, let alone think. 

Wait a minute; I've just gotten an even better idea. Alvin and the Chipmunks singing The Christmas Song. That could do it! The same recording over and over 24/7.  Just listening even once has been known to drive some people crazy.     

Yes! What's the phone number to Centcom?                  

Sure that'd also be tough on civilians but it's better than carpet bombing. It could also light a fire under Raqqa civilians who've managed to make themselves somewhat comfy living under the devil's rule.      

And because the Russians, at least, bomb from a high altitude, the air raid sirens in Raqqa only go off a few seconds before a bomb crashes into the target. The upshot is that Islamic State is frantically digging tunnels and fleeing in large numbers to Iraq -- if they're brave enough to make a run for it with bombs crashing around them, which doesn't seem the case for the ones left in the city. 
Feyadeen these people aren't. 

The suicide bombers they use are greenhorn foreign recruits who are so screwed up they'd agree to strap on a suicide vest. But the people who run Islamic State in Raqqa have no intention of giving up kinky sex and Viagra for the glory of dying for lslam.

Sirens ring out as air strikes hit IS Syria stronghold  
By Layal Abou Rahal
November 26, 2015

Beirut (AFP) - In the Islamic State group's Syrian stronghold of Raqa, sirens ring out whenever a warplane approaches as jihadists flee their posts and vehicles to hide, activists say.

US-led coalition and Russia have stepped up air strikes on the jihadists' de facto Syrian capital since IS claimed to have downed a Russian passenger plane over Egypt's Sinai in October and the deadly jihadist attacks in Paris two weeks later.

"The sirens are on the roofs of high buildings, in the squares and in the streets," Taym Ramadan, a city resident and anti-IS activist, told AFP.

"When a warplane enters Raqa's air space, the sirens ring out to warn (IS) members," said the activist from the "Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" campaign group.

"As soon as they hear the sirens, they immediately leave their posts," he said. "Some of them have been seen to leave their vehicles in the middle of the road" to hide.

A fellow activist who calls himself Abu Sham al-Raqa added: "Whenever the jets fly over they set off the sirens to warn the fighters and the residents, and the problem is that the bombing is going on night and day."

Raqa has been under IS control since January 2014 after heavy fighting between the jihadists and opposition fighters, who had seized it from regime control in March 2013.

"Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" has secretly documented IS abuses in the city since April 2014 when it became off-limits for journalists after several were taken hostage and killed.

- Tunnels -

With more airstrikes, IS has taken further measures to protect its members.

"The group has resorted to tunnels -- some previously used and others now being dug out inside the city," Ramadan said.

According to Abu Sham, "The group has moved all its control posts that used to be on the city outskirts to heavily populated residential areas" after some of these were targeted.

On November 15, French fighter jets targeted weapon caches and a training camp on the southern and western outskirts of the city, according to the French army.

Researcher and writer Hisham al-Hashimi said that the group's latest measures included "moving its stores to residential areas and abandoning its training camps", as well as "depending on tunnels to hold its meetings".

IS "holds its general meetings in hospitals and mosques" as it knows that the coalition and Russia do not target them to avoid killing civilians, he said.

The jihadist group's leaders communicate using "verbal communication in code", he said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, said a large number of IS fighters had been moved from Syria to Iraq.

According to Hashimi, IS has stopped transporting its oil products in 36,000-litre tankers and started using smaller, 4,000-litre vehicles after coalition and Russian airstrikes targeted hundreds of fuel trucks in Raqa and Deir Ezzor, where it controls most oil fields.

An investigation by British newspaper The Financial Times last month estimated the jihadists reap some $1.5 million a day from oil, based on the price of $45 a barrel.

Both Moscow and Washington announced this month their determination to increase air strikes on oil infrastructure in IS-controlled areas of Syria.

- 'Little freedom' -

IS has recently upped surveillance of Raqa residents, increasing checkpoints in the city where its members check people's IDs.

According to Abu Sham, its members also carry out night raids on Internet cafes.

IS "has sent out spies to find out who uses the Internet" in these cafes, said Hashimi.

According to the Observatory, IS closed at least 10 Internet cafes last week, but allowed others to open on Wednesday on the condition that they be on a main road, be guarded by two IS members from the area and observe segregation between the sexes.

Internet has been cut from homes and shops for months, with connection limited to the cafes.

Activists say that IS asks all cafe owners to keep them informed with details of their customers.

IS also forbids anyone leaving Raqa to areas not under its control without a "previous permission", Hashimi said.

Since taking Raqa, the jihadist group has spread fear among inhabitants with its brutal executions and punishment of anyone who opposes it and its rulings.

But Hashimi said some trials and executions have been postponed with the increase of air strikes.

Activists agreed that "the religious police has lessened their activity", which has allowed residents to enjoy "time-out" to breathe a little.

"Civilians -- especially women -- make the best of their absence to enjoy a little freedom, with a young woman for example now able to open a window or go out onto the balcony without a face veil," Ramadan said.


"Turkey tracked Su-24 for 34 minutes before shooting it down"

That's the "breaking news" headline from Sputnik but the report itself says only at this point:

Turkish Jets Ambushed Russian Su-24 - Russian Air Force Commander
16:34 - 27.11.2015 (updated 16:41 27.11.2015)

Turkish warplanes made an ambush for the Russian Su-24M bomber, otherwise they would not have had enough time to take off from an airbase and reach the area, Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said Friday.


The news *might* have been announced during a joint press conference given by the Syrian and Russian foreign ministers, which is still going on. I'm listening via Sputnik, so I'm getting Russian in one ear and Arabic in the other with the translator speaking in English over this [crossed eyes].  But it's worth it; a lot of the discussion I've caught so far is about headline-making situations; e.g., Turkey's machinations in Syria, etc.

Sputnik is trying to keep up; see the report at the video link.  One tidbit to emerge from the presser:

The Syrian minister claimed that Turkish Air Force jets had downed a Su-24 bomber because Russian Aerospace Forces had destroyed over 1,000 fuel tankers carrying illegal ISIL oil.
He's not the only person to have made this claim.   


Russians had given US the flight path of Russian bomber Turks shot down

I didn't occur to me at the time but of course they would've told the flight path in order to comply with the deconfliction agreement between the US and Russia. It's just that I'm not willing at this point to assume as much as Putin has about the fact, although many inside Russia and outside will. And his assumption is headline news at the U.K. Daily Mail:
"They knew the exact time and the exact place." Putin accuses US of leaking flight path of doomed jet to Turkey, as his forces in Syria deploy missiles that can blow planes apart from 250 miles away
Russian president Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. of being complicit in the destruction of its military jet two days ago - suggesting the Americans knew exactly when and where it was travelling.
In a press conference at the Kremlin tonight he said the Russians had given prior information to the U.S. of the flight path of the doomed plane - but the U.S. had 'leaked' the information to Turkey. In other developments tonight, Putin's dreaded S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems - mobilized in the wake of the jet's destruction - were photographed being unloaded from military transports in Syria.

What genius at Centcom thought ISIS was hiding in water pumping stations near Aleppo?

27 November, 2015:
Aleppo, SANA – The US-led international coalition, allegedly fighting ISIS, targeted Thursday water pumping stations in al-Khafseh area, east of Aleppo, causing them to go out of service.
A source at Aleppo Governorate told SANA reporter that Aleppo Water Establishment will immediately start the necessary maintenance measures to fix the damaged pumping stations so as to operate them again as quickly as possible.
On October 10th, two F16 aircrafts belonging to the US-led coalition violated the Syrian airspace, targeting infrastructure and destroying two power plants in al-Rudwaniya area to the east of Aleppo city.
Now that the Syrian Army with Russian air cover is routing Islamic State and the rest of the terrorist alphabet soup from Aleppo, the U.S. military in its beneficence has decided to help by knocking out the water supply for Syrians courageous enough to have toughed it out in Aleppo all these hellish years. 

I don't want to hear, 'We didn't do it.' The Syrian Army has the aircraft IDs. Even if it wasn't the U.S., the Syrians know which country in the U.S.-led coalition dropped the bombs.

Now Centcom had better read the riot act to every government in that bloody coalition. And stop violating Syrian airspace. You have no right to be there, and don't lie any more than you already have in the attempt to justify your invasion.

You have business, much unfinished business, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Focus. If you don't know what the word means look it up in a dictionary. 

And no, I'm in no mood to hear, 'Obama did this to us.'  Where are the resignations in protest of what he did? He knows that would not happen. He has your number.  


The United States, promoting stability in the Middle East

16 Nov 2015: US approves $1.29 bn sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia
"The proposed sale augments Saudi Arabia's capability to meet current and future threats from potential adversaries during combat operations," the DCSA [US Department of Defense, Defense Security Cooperation Agency] said.
"Providing these defense articles supports Saudi Arabian defense missions and promotes stability in the region."
21 Oct 2015: US Approves $11.25 Billion Military Sale to Saudi Arabia


Syrian Army stoically presses on while NATO and Gulfies dither, grandstand, obstruct

Palmyra or bust 

   AP Photo/ Alexander Kots

November 27
Syrian Army Advances, Beats Back Terrorist Counterattack Near Palmyra
The Syrian armed forces are advancing on the enemy south and east of Homs and have inflicted heavy losses on terrorists who tried and failed to counterattack north of the city of Attamsi, and southeast of Yul-Sahri near Palmyra. Many ISIL terrorists were killed and a number of their machine gun trucks were destroyed,” Brigadier General Ali Mayhoub said at a news briefing in Latakia.
November 27:
Block by City Block

The army establishes control over blocks in Daraa city
Provinces, SANA – The army advanced in areas in Daraa city on Friday and continued operations elsewhere in the country, inflicting more losses and casualties upon the terrorists with its units are targeting their hideouts and vehicles.
An army unit established control over 8 building blocks in Daraa al-Mahatta neighborhood in Daraa city, a military source said.
November 26:
It's good to see some troops have helmets 

Update-The army eliminates Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS terrorists in several areas across the country

Provinces, SANA- Units of the army and armed forces, backed by the Syrian army air force, eliminated on Thursday numbers of Jabhat al-Nusra and (ISIS) terrorist organizations’ members across the country during military operations against their hideouts and dens.


The Syrian army air force launched Wednesday night intensive airstrikes on the headquarters of ISIS terrorist organization in al-Qaryatain city in the southeastern countryside of Homs province, a military source told SANA on Thursday.

The strikes followed an accurate information and follow up opeartions for ISIS terrorists’ movements in al-Qaryatain city, to the north and the west of it, and on the sides of the Syria Badiya, 85 km southeast of Homs city.

A number of the terrorist organization’s gatherings, positions and vehicles were destroyed and many of their members were killed in the strikes.

On Wednesday, army units, in cooperation with popular defense groups, established control over Tlol Um Kadom, Dahrat al-Said, Jabal al-Ramila, Tolol al-Sood in the southeast countryside of Homs.

Idleb, Hama

Field sources affirmed that 40 terrorists of the so-called Jaish al-Fatah were killed in army’s operations against their dens in Idleb and Hama countryside.


The Syrian army air force targeted headquarters and gatherings for ISIS terrorist organization in Rasm al- Abd, Hmeimeh and Tal Ahmar in the countryside of Aleppo province.

The army strikes destroyed ISIS terrorist organization’s arms, ammunition and machine guns – equipped vehicles and killed a number of their members.

Meanwhile, the terrorist organizations admitted on their media WebPages that they suffered heavy losses in personnel and equipment and number of their members were killed including Ibrahim Adel Kouraj and Mohammad Nji al-Umar.


Army units targeted gatherings and movements’ axes for ISIS terrorist organization in al-Saqiyeh town, west of Banat Baeir hill in the northeastern countryside of Sweida province.

ISIS terrorists suffered heavy losses in personnel and equipment in the town and hill, and a machinegun- equipped vehicle was destroyed.

In Sweida western countryside, near the administrative boarders with Daraa province, an army unit destroyed a gathering for Jabhat al- Nusra and terrorist organizations in al –Aslaha village.


Another army unit destroyed last night a number of hideouts for the terrorist organizations, south of Zanobia School and police dwellings in Daraa al-Mahatta neighborhood.

November 26:
Baghdad Bob he ain't 

Military spokesman of Army: Air force destroys 673 targets for terrorists in different areas

Damascus, SANA-Military Spokesman of the Syrian Arab army said on Thursday that the air force carried out 179 sorties during the last 5 days against 673 targets for terrorist organizations in the countryside of Damascus, Homs, Hama, Idleb, Aleppo, dir Ezzor and Lattakia.

“The sorties ended up with destruction of 3 command-centers in Palmyra, al-Ameriya and Sawanah in addition to two convoys of vehicles in the surrounding of Jazal oil field, east and south of al-Bayarat in Homs countryside,” the army spokesperson said.

He added the sorties inflicted heavy losses upon Jabhat al-Nusra organization to the north of Ma’an, Kfar Zeita, Latmen, Atshan, Morek and Skeik in Hama countryside, destroying dens for terrorists in Tal Mardekh, Urom al-Jouz, East of Ariha and west of Tamana’a in Idleb countryside.

“The army’s air force raids on terrorists in Aleppo countryside led to the destruction of communication centers and vehicles in Kfar Hamra, Hayan, Tal Ahmar, Rasm al-Abd, dir Hafir, Tal Ayoub, Daret Ezzah and al-Mifelsah,” the military spokesman said.

He added that tens of vehicles were eliminated and large numbers of terrorists killed in al-Hweikah, al-Jbeileh and Jneineh in nDir Ezzor, and in al-Maranah, Jabal Zweitan and Rwesat Yacooub in Lattakia countryside.

Meanwhile, the army advanced in Harasta farms in Damascus countryside, establishing control on new building blocks and destroying a tunnel that was used by terrorists in their criminal acts, according to the spokesman.

In the southern city of Daraa, the spokesman affirmed that army units killed members of a terrorist organization to the south of Khazan al-Kark, striking gatherings of terrorists in al-Abassiya, south of court, al-Abarah and al-Naziheen camp in Daraa al-Mahata.

He added that the army also eliminated terrorists to the south-east side of Electricity Company, destroying their gatherings in al-Arbae’en, south of Syriatel in Daraa al-Balad and destroying a number of vehicles to the north of al-Bitar and al-Ghuzlan farms in Ataman and Tafas in Daraa countryside.

“In the central region, the army went ahead in its operations along Homs south-eastern said, establishing control on mountains of Mahin, Tloul Um Kadoum, Zaher al-Dukan, Jabal al-Ramiya, Mahin and Hawarin villages after killing large numbers of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists,” the spokesman said.

He added that army units advanced in the surrounding of the Air force academy, destroying a depot to the west of al-Nayrab airport, fortified dens and centers of terrorists in Aziza, Sheikh Said, al-Amriya, al-Ramouseh, al-Shawaya hill, Khan Touman and al-Ma’adi in Aleppo.

In Lattakia northern countryside, the Spokesman affirmed that units of the army continued their successful operations on many roads, establishing control on heights 1154 and 1281 and the 5th and 6th hills to the north-west of Jub al-Ahmar, Sheikh Mohammed hill, Bor Abdullah, al-Malouha and al-Rashwan.

The military spokesman concluded by confirming the fleeing of tens of terrorists, the majority of them non-Syrians, towards the Turkish borders.


Thursday, November 26

Well, Mr Obama, you know what the Natives did to the Pilgrims when they figured out Pilgrims were there to grab their lands

President Obama Compares Syrian Refugees to Mayflower Pilgrims, Administration Says States Can't Block Them

You might also recall what the foreign land grabbers then did to the Natives. 

Always helpful to think through our analogies before we utter them in front of a microphone.  


Maybe Daily Mail should rethink their headline wording?

Obama Thanksgiving dinner put on lockdown as man draped in the American flag jumps the White House fence while the first family celebrate

President Obama and his family were tucking into their turkey dinner when they were put on lockdown after Joseph Caputo hopped the fence of the White House (pictured). The intruder - who was wearing a baseball shirt, gloves and the flag as a cape - also appeared to holding a binder in between his teeth (center) as he climbed the metal railings. He then threw his hands up in the air in celebration (right) after making it over and began walking towards the White House before he was brought down by Secret Service agents and taken into custody. 
A witness claims she heard Caputo take a deep breath and tell himself  "Alright, let's do this" before jumping over the fence.

They're all dead

If a few escaped the shelling and bombing raids, special forces and Hezbollah units in the area would have hunted them down by this hour. The surviving "Syrian Turkmen" had better make up their minds fast about whether they're Syrian or Turk. The Syrian Army is very forgiving if a Syrian opposition group decides to help them drive out the foreign instigators. If not, the army can't afford to be merciful.
Terrorists in Su-24 search operation area killed - Russian Defense Ministry  [emphasis throughout mine]
Published time: 26 Nov, 2015 16:38 - edited time: 19:58

Russian and Syrian military have killed terrorists in the search area of the downed Russian Su-24 jet, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“The moment our pilot was in safety the area was heavily bombed by the Russian Air Force and shelled by Syrian government forces artillery,” ministry spokesman General-Major Igor Konashenkov told a media briefing.

He stressed that terrorists and other “mysterious groups” were killed in the assault.

Konashenkov also added that the Turkish General Staff had denied Russia access to any materials related to the downing of the Russian Su-24 jet by a Turkish F-16 on Tuesday, adding that they did not release any recording of the radio communications between the pilots.
“In this case this is just more proof that the audio recording of communication between the Turkish pilots and our crew published by several media outlets is a regular fake.”
The Defense Ministry has said that all channels of military cooperation with Turkey were suspended on Thursday, including a hotline set up to share information about Russian air strikes in Syria. Moscow has also recalled its military representative from Turkey.
The Russian Air Force base in Latakia has been reinforced with an S-400 SAM system, which was deployed on Thursday.
Now we are going to ensure the safety of our planes fighting against ISIS militants and other terror groups by taking more reliable measures,” Konashenkov said.
The Russian Air Force has conducted 134 sorties in the past three days hitting 449 targets in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, according to the spokesman.
All planes have safely returned to base.
As a result of multiple air strikes conducted by Russian forces against terrorists, Syrian governmental forces took control of the mountainous regions in the north of Latakia province, thus fully blocking the cross-border arms and ammunition shipments to terrorists in the area, Konashenkov said during the briefing.
He also stressed that in other regions in northern Syria, Russian air forces have been keeping all Islamic State weapons, ammo and equipment supply routes in check.
Konashenkov said that that reports distributed by foreign media about Russian air forces allegedly hitting a Turkish ‘humanitarian convoy' near the Bab al-Salam border crossing in northern Syria were "misinformation."
Russian aviation is continuing to carry out air strikes against oil-refining infrastructure controlled by Islamic State militants. On November 24, Russian SU-34 bombers hit Islamic State convoys of oil trucks as well as oil refineries and oil storage facilities in the eastern Syrian provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

Wednesday, November 25

Turkey's PM trips himself with his tongue: I gave order to shoot down Russia's jet

Turkish Prime Minister: I Gave Order to Shoot Down Russia's Plane Myself
22:12 - 25.11.2015 (updated 23:38)

As details continue to emerge about the downing of a Russian bomber along the Turkey-Syria border on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has admitted to personally giving the order to fire on the aircraft, Canadian news outlet ThinkPol reported.

Hours after the incident which destroyed a Russian Su-24 bomber and left one pilot dead, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went on the defensive, blaming an alleged incursion of Turkish airspace.

"We did not want this situation to happen, but everybody has to respect Turkey’s right to defend its borders," he told reporters, adding that the military’s actions were "fully in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement."

Many of the Turkish claims have already been called into question, raising doubts that the incident was a mere in-the-moment misunderstanding. Adding to that doubt are comments made by Davutoglu on Wednesday, in which he took direct responsibility for the crash.

"Despite all the warnings, we had to destroy the aircraft," he said during a meeting with his party, according to Canadian news site ThinkPol. "The Turkish Armed Forces carried out orders given by me personally."  

[Pundita note: The surviving Russian navigator asserts that the Turks gave no warning whatsover.]

Given the speed with which the incident occurred, it’s hard to know what to make of Davutoglu’s claim. According to the Turkish government’s own letter of explanation written to the United Nations Security Council, the military gave the Russian jet a series of warnings during a five-minute stretch, warning the pilots to move away from the border.

While the Russian Ministry of Defense has provided video evidence proving that the bomber never entered Turkish airspace, Ankara’s claim alleges that the incursion occurred for only 17 seconds.

It’s hard to imagine military personnel getting through to such a high-ranking government official, explaining the situation, and still having time to fire in a 17-second time frame.

Davutoglu’s statements seem to back up comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier on Wednesday, suggesting that the incident had been premeditated.

"We have serious doubts that it was unintentional, it looks like a planned provocation," he said. "We are not planning to wage a war against Turkey, our attitude towards the Turkish people has not changed. We have questions only to the Turkish leadership."

In response, Turkey’s Western allies in NATO have urged for calm.



Turks gave us no warning: Surviving Russian pilot

From unfolding events it is increasingly clear that the Erdogan regime didn't expect a survivor -- and as it went down, it was still a close call.  It took combined Russian and Syrian special forces in an hours-long battle with Turkey's operatives (the "Turkmen rebel militia") to get the surviving pilot to safety. A battle that cost the life of a Russian marine.

‘Turkish jets gave us no warning before shooting’ – rescued pilot of downed Russian Su-24
Published time: 25 Nov, 2015 14:33
Edited time: 25 Nov, 2015 17:41

[See RT website for videos]

It’s impossible that we violated their airspace even for a second,” Konstantin Murakhtin told RT and other Russian media. “We were flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters in completely clear weather, and I had total control of our flight path throughout.”

As well as denying Ankara’s assertions that the plane was in Turkey’s airspace, Murakhtin, who says he knows the mission area "like the back of my hand," also refuted Turkish officials’ claims that the pilots were warned repeatedly.
In actual fact, there were no warnings at all. Neither through the radio, nor visually, so we did not at any point adjust our course. You need to understand the difference in speed between a tactical bomber like a Su-24, and that of the F16. If they wanted to warn us, they could have sat on our wing,” said Murakhtin, who is currently recuperating at Russia’s airbase in Latakia, northern Syria.
As it was, the missile hit the back of our plane out of nowhere. We didn’t even have time to make an evasive maneuver.”
READ MORE: Leaked Ankara UN letter claims Su-24's ‘air space violation’ lasted 17 seconds
As the plane was hit and went down in Syria, the two pilots ejected. Captain Sergey Rumyantsev was killed, with a rebel Turkmen brigade claiming they shot him to death while he was still parachuting.
Murakhtin was extracted in a 12-hour joint operation by Russian and Syrian special forces, in which a Russian marine died.
The 39-year-old airman, who won the Top Navigator award at Russia’s biggest military flying competition last year, says he will ask to return to front-line service as soon as he is declared fit.
I must ‘pay back’ the debt for my captain,” said Murakhtin.
The incident has led to Russia accusing NATO member Turkey of a “planned provocation,” as military co-operation has been suspended between the two states. Both sides, however, have vowed to avoid further escalation, with a meeting planned between foreign ministers.
Turkey has been supporting anti-government forces in Syria since a rebellion broke out against Bashar Assad in 2011. Russia has staunchly backed Assad, and has been conducting an airstrike campaign at his request since September.
Both Russia and Turkey have condemned Islamic State, but have also accused each other of enabling its progress, with Vladimir Putin calling the downing of the Russian jet “a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorism.”

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