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Saturday, June 23

Who does Joshua Landis think he is? Daniel Webster?

Illustration from the short story The Devil and Daniel Webster: Attorney and orator Daniel Webster defends a client who sells his soul to the Devil then tries to get out of the deal while the Devil whispers in the judge's ear. Webster won the case.   


Now here we have one Joshua Landis
who obviously thinks he can out-talk the Devil 


Granted, Mr Landis was raised in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon and is fluent in Arabic and French with some Turkish, Italian and Ottoman thrown in. So right there we can see how an American academic specializing in the Middle East might get it into his head that he can repeat ole Dan'l Webster's courtroom feat. But the glass is always half empty in Punditaland. 

Oh all right, we'll give him a hearing:

From Joshua Landis' Twitter page, June 18:

1. The presumption undergirding the "Syria debate" - that Iranian influence is "malignant" & bad for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon - is misguided. By trying to roll back Iran, the US does more harm than good. US occupation of N. Syria & renewed sanctions are bad alternative.

Thread:

2. Most important: what was the alternative to Iranian influence in the Levant? We must & can only presume the alternative would have been a victory of the Syrian opp, backed by KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia]/Qatar. How would this possibly be better for the people of the region, the US, or even Israel?

3. What would a Saudi/Qatari victory look like? The alternative in 2015 was a Nusra [al Qaeda]/ISIS [Islamic State] victory. This is why Russia intervened on Assad's side. It wanted to preclude such an eventuality: ISIS taking Damascus. Listen to John Kerry explain why RU intervened. 
[YouTube 2 minute mark]. '"I lost the argument for use of force in Syria ..."   

4. Iran is a more developed nation than the KSA. It has a broad & varied middle class that is by all accounts quite pro-American, skilled and has a lot to offer the region, probably more than does the Gulf.

5. This is the 1st time in mod history that the entire north tier of Mid East countries share good relations. Potential for development is immense. Gas & oil pipelines stretching from Iran to the Med: pilgrims, roads, tourists, commerce criss-crossing a region that was at war.

6. Iran is indispensable for the restoration of the region’s economy. Only Iran is capable of supporting the level of rebuilding needed after these years of war.

7. With redoubled US and EU sanctions, region is now crippled economically. West straining to stop reconstruction of any kind. US blocking highways from Damascus to Amman or to Baghdad. Stopping commerce with Lebanon.

8. By reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran, the only beneficiaries will be the hardliners in government and the corrupt elite. Ordinary Iranians, who have so much to offer the region, will seek to emigrate.

9.  What is the US likely to offer the region? Not much, it must be argued. Raqqa and Mosul are the poster children of US engagement in reconstruction activities. It is not promising:

10. The Kurds are beginning to despair the US can or will protect them in the long run or pay 4 reconstruction. They have reached out to Syr gov. US should facilitate the reunification of Syria, rather than seek to turn it into a quagmire for Iran.

11. All the countries of the region are suffering b/c the US has cut off trade and sanctioned Iran & Syria. Lebanon is cut off from its natural hinterland in Syria. Jordan has exploded in demonstrations b/c of economic hopelessness. Both need trade w/ Syria. So does Iraq.

12. Those who argue that Iran is a "malignant" force and dooms the future of the region must explain what the alternative is. Today, the US & the KSA do not offer a good alternative. They propose only sanctions and continued war by other means.

13. Many Iranian, Iraqi & Syrians pray for better governments, less corruption & greater freedoms. But the change that is being planned in Washington is unlikely to bring prosperity or reform. Only economic growth will lead to internal change & greater liberalism in the long run.


14. Israel can look after itself in Syria. Its military is far superior to Iran's. Few believe it cannot draw red lines to contain Iran in Syria. Better for US to provide Israel w/ help to limit Iran activity close to Golan, than have US troops sucked into Syria occupation.

15. Using the presence of the fairly inconsequential Liwa Al Baqir militia in Syria that is Iran backed & has verbally threatened US troops to justify a much larger and deleterious US policy in the region does not see the forest for the trees.

16. Washington should allow the governments of the region to rebuild. It should allow a new regional balance of power to emerge between Iran, KSA, Turkey & Israel without a heavy US military presence. The US should not seek to turn Syria into a quagmire for Iran and Russia.

17. The US can do much humanitarian good in the region by its example, by helping refugees, & by guiding a new balance of power that limits war & preserves region peace, reconciliation, & recovery.

[To] Those who will criticize this argument: We all know that the Syrian, Iraqi, & Iranian regimes are not "good" & have done bad things in war. The argument is that the US alternative of sanctions & continued occupation in order to roll back Iran is worse than allowing govs to rebuild.

You need to explain how the US strategy in the region will help the people of the region & improve US long-term interests.

[End of thread]

*********

Friday, June 22

Moon of Alabama's Glass Half Full post

"Syria - Damascus And Its Allies Prepare To Remove U.S. Forces From Al-Tanf"

Well, as I said, it's a cliffhanger.  

All right; a watched pot never boils. I'm going to try to get some sleep.   

********     

Southern Offensive cliffhanger as SAA proceeds in spite of U.S. threat

Headlines this hour are from Al Masdar News; all dates except as noted are 6/22, all times shown are Syria time. Taken together the headlines outline the nature of the cliffhanger. 

This might be my last post for the day. Check in with Al Masdar News, SouthFront, and FARS for breaking news on the situation. The English-language version of of Syria's state news agency, SANA, tends to be a slowpoke about battlefield reports. Right now the big headline there is about stolen antiquities.    

US [again] warns Syrian gov’t, Russians about escalating southwest Syria operations (6/21)

Breaking: Syrian Army cuts northern supply lines to jihadist rebels in northeast Daraa; 12:15 AM

Breaking: US Coalition bombs Syrian Army troops in southern Syria; 1:00 AM 

Developing: Jordanian Army sends large convoy to Syrian border (photos); 3:00 AM

Syrian Army launches major assault on rebel stronghold in northeast Daraa; 9:00 AM


Related headlines at AMN:



(Pundita note: the rumor continues that the airstrike was done by the U.S., as the SAA initially claimed. As to whether there's any credence to the rumor  -- when last I heard most of the 55 fighters killed in the strike were Iraqis in an Iraqi militia under the command of the SAA. Speculation is that the US (via an "unnamed American official") pinned blame for the strike on Israel to avoid the Iraqi government's anger. The IDF has remained mum about the accusation. 

The truth of the matter will probably remain hidden in the fog of war but from the last part in this 6/21 RT report (US-led airstrike ‘kills 8 people’ in Syria’s Deir Ezzor – state mediait seems the SAA is sticking to its claim that the strike was done by the U.S.)

See also 


TEHRAN (FNA)- A prominent Russian military analyst revealed that the US is training terrorists in 19 military bases in Syria in pursuit of its military and political objectives in the country.
Vladimir Kozin, a military expert at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, was quoted by the Arabic website of RT as saying that the US has 19 bases in Syria to train the terrorists.

He added that the weapons, ammunition, fuel and foodstuff needed in these centers are provided by 22 US military bases outside Syria.

Kozin said that the American forces train the terrorists at al-Tanf base in Syria's Badiyeh region in the South, adding that the US army has closed the airspace of this region in a radius of 50km without any agreement with the Damascus government.

He described Washington's military and technical support for terrorist groups as a violation of the UN Charter and agreements to decrease tensions in Syria, and said the US supports the terrorists to maintain its influence on the political and military situation of the country.

Media sources reported last Saturday that the US occupying forces are attempting to open different ways to transfer terrorists between al-Tanf, Deir Ezzur and Homs by contacting the tribes in Eastern Syria for cooperation.
[Rest of report repeats parts of earlier ones I quoted in other posts]
[END REPORT]

********

Thursday, June 21

Hair-raising story of Germany's complicity in a plot to take control of Syria

"The CIA under Alan Dulles placed Nazi ex-leaders as supervisors of almost all the secret services of the allied states on all five continents. This system was dismantled [only] in the 1970’s, after the revelations of the [U.S.] Church and Pike Congressional committees."

The following writing throws much light on many topics, including the present German regime's strange relationship with Turkey's President Erdogan and 'Washington's' relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood going back to the 1950s.   

At this moment I am quite overwhelmed by all the revelations and can only manage one comment: It seems the U.S. deNazification project after World War II was not an unqualified success.

On a less sarcastic note, we now speak of the Cold War as not really ending with the dissolution of the USSR; I'm beginning to wonder if World War Two ever really ended.  

All right; fasten your seatbelt. 

Germany and Syria
by Thierry Meyssan

Voltaire Network
June 20, 2018

Relations between Germany and Syria, which used to be excellent under Emperor Wilhelm II, are today abysmal. This is because since the Cold War Berlin has become the backyard for the Muslim Brotherhood in their attempt to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic. Since 2012, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the federal think-tank SWP have been working directly on behalf of the US deep state for the destruction of the country.


In Berlin, in January 2015, a march for tolerance united political and Muslim leaders in reaction to the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Madame Merkel marched arm in arm with Aiman Mazyek, general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. Although he pretends to have broken with the Muslim Brotherhood, and maintains an open dialogue, Mr. Mazyek offers protection within his organisation to the Milli Gorus (the supremacist organisation of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) and the Muslim Brotherhood (the matrix of jihadist organisations, under the international presidency of Mahmoud Ezzat, ex-right hand of Sayyid Qutb).

Historically, Germany maintained excellent relations with the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was fascinated by Islam, pursued archeological excavations, notably in Baalbeck, and participated in the construction of the first railways, including the Damascus -Medina line. The Reich and the Sublime Porte stood together against the British when they organised the « Great Arab Revolt » of 1915. Then they lost the First World War, and as a result, were excluded from the region (Sykes-Picot-Sazovov agreements).


In 1953, President Eisenhower received a delegation of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Saïd Ramadan. From then on, the United States supported political Islam overseas.

During the Cold War, the CIA recuperated some of the best Nazi officers in order to continue its struggle against the USSR. Among them were Gerhard von Mende, who had recruited Soviet Muslims against Moscow [1]. In 1953, this senior civil servant installed the chief of the Muslim Brotherhood outside of Egypt, Saïd Ramadan, in Munich [2].

In the same period, the CIA secretly sent Nazi officers all over the world to fight the pro-Soviets. For example, Otto Skorzeny went to Egypt, Fazlollah Zahedi went to Iran, and Alois Brunner [3] to Syria. They all organised the local secret services on the model of the Gestapo. Brunner was only to be ousted much later, in 2000, by President Bachar [Bashar] el-Assad.



Alois Brunner, considered to be responsible for the deportation of 130,000 Jews, was installed by the CIA in Damascus in 1954, in order to prevent the régime of President Choukri al-Kouatli from concluding an alliance with the Soviets.

In the period between the Khomeinist revolution of 1979 and the attacks of 9/11, West Germany remained prudent in their dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood. However, at the demand of the CIA, and while Syria recognised East Germany, it accepted to offer political asylum to the putschists who attempted the coup d’etat of 1982 against President Hafez el-Assad, including the ex-Supreme Guide Issam al-Attar (brother of Syrian Vice-President Najah el-Attar). In the 1990’s, the Brotherhood reorganised itself in Germany with the assistance of two businessmen, the Syrian Ali Ghaleb Himmat and the Egyptian Youssef Nada, who was later to be accused by Washington of financing Oussma Ben Laden.


For many years, German academic Volker Perthes participated alongside the CIA in the preparation of the war against Syria. He directed the most powerful European think-tank, the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), and took part, in the name of the UNO, in the Geneva negotiations .


When the United States began the « never-ending war » in the « Greater Middle East », the CIA encouraged reunified Germany to launch a « Dialogue with the Muslim world ». In Berlin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs based his work for that purpose mostly on the new local chief of the Brotherhood, Ibrahim el-Zayat, and on an expert, Volker Perthes, who would become the director of the main federal think-tank, the Foundation for Science and Politics (SWP).

In 2005, Germany participated in the assassination of Rafic Hariri by supplying the weapon which was used to kill him - (it was obviously not a classic explosive, contrary to the propaganda of the special « Tribunal ») [4]. Thereafter, Germany supplied the head of the UNO Enquiry, ex-prosecutor Detlev Mehlis [5], and his assistant, ex-police commissioner Gerhard Lehmann, who was implicated in the affair of secret CIA prisons.


In the name of the UNO, Detlev Mehlis accused the Lebanese and Syrian Presidents, Emile Lahoud and Bachar el-Assad, of having assassinated Rafic Hariri. His work was based on false witness reports which, when revealed, forced him to resign.

In 2008, while the CIA was preparing the Syrian « civil war », Volker Perthes was invited by NATO to the annual reunion of the Bilderberg Group. He worked with a Syrian civil servant of the CIA, Bassma Kodmani. Together, they explained to all participants the profit that could be made by the West by overthrowing the Syrian Arab Republic and placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power. 

Having adopted the double language of the Brotherhood, in 2001 he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times mocking President Assad who believed he had unearthed a « conspiracy » against his country [6]. In October of the same year, he participated in a meeting of Turkish business leaders organised by the private US intelligence agency, Stratfor. He told his listeners of the oil and gas resources that they could steal from Syria [7].


Clemens von Goetze (director of the 3rd department of the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs ) and Anwar Mohammad Gargash (Emirati Minister for Foreign Affairs), during the meeting in Abou Dhabi of the work group on the carving up of the Syrian economy.

Expanding this work, Germany organised in Abou Dhabi a meeting of the Friends of Syria under the presidency of one of its diplomats, Clemens von Goetze, who shared among those present the future concessions for exploitation which would be awarded to the winners once NATO overthrew the Syrian Arab Republic [8].

In mid-2012, Volker Perthes was tasked by the US Department of Defense with preparing « The Day After » (in other words the government which would be imposed on Syria). He organised meetings at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs with the participation of 45 Syrian personalities, including his friend Bassma Kodmani and Muslim Brother Radwan Ziadeh, who had come especially from Washington [9]. Finally, Perthes became one of Jeffrey Feltman’s assistants at the UNO. With that title, he participated in all the Geneva negotiations.

The positions of the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs were adopted word for word by the European External Action Service (EEAS) of Federica Mogherini. This administration, directed by a French senior civil servant, drew up confidential notes on Syria for the heads of state and government of the Union.

In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had become the world protector of the Muslim Brotherhood, organised the transfer of more than a million people to Germany [10], thus conforming to the demand by German industrial business leaders. A number of these migrants are Syrians, including those the AKP no longer wants, and which Germany does not want to return home.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Beirut and Amman this week to talk about Syria.
Thierry Meyssan

Translation
Pete Kimberley


[1] The CIA under Alan Dulles placed Nazi ex-leaders as supervisors of almost all the secret services of the allied states on all five continents. This system was dismantled in the 1970’s, after the revelations of the Church and Pike Congressional committees. All the Nazi leaders were chased out by President Carter and Admiral Stanfield Turner at the end of the 1970’s. The Europeans wrongly believed that the CIA used the Nazis exclusively in Latin America (for example, Klaus Barbie in Bolivia). But the system was in fact generalised, including in Europe (operation Gladio). In all probability, the placing of these Nazi « experts » was coordinated from Germany by Reinhard Gehlen, whom the CIA nominated as the first head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).
[2A Mosque in Munich, Ian 
Johnson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
[3] Alois Brunner is believed to be responsible for the deportation and assassination of 130,000 people, in Austria, Greece, France, Germany and Slovakia. In 2001, he was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in France for his responsibility in the death of the children of Izieu.
[4] “Revelations on Rafik Hariri’s assassination”, by Thierry Meyssan, Оdnako (Russia) , Voltaire Network, 29 November 2010.
[5] “The disgrace of the Mehlis Commission”, by Talaat Ramih, Voltaire Network, 12 January 2006.
[6] “Is Assad Capable of Reform ?”, Volker Perthes, The New York Times, March 30, 2011.
[7] « Küresel Enerji Stratejileri Simülasyonu : Türkiye’nin Gelecek 10 Yılı », Tusaid, 6 Ekim 2011.
[8] “The “Friends of Syria” divvy up Syrian economy before conquest”, by German Foreign Policy, Voltaire Network, 30 June 2012.
[9The Day After Project, August 2012. The Day After. Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria, United States Institute of Peace & Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, August 2012.
[10] Turkey took over from Saudi Arabia after it had dropped the Brotherhood, following the speech by Donald Trump in Riyadh, 21 May 2017.

[END REPORT]

The articles on Voltaire Network may be freely reproduced provided the source is cited, their integrity is respected and they are not used for commercial purposes (license CC BY-NC-ND).

********


"Rebel groups in southern Syria unite to fight back Syrian Army"

Report is at Al Masdar News6/21

See also Syrian Army Steps Up Offensive in Southwest - Reports; Sputnik, 6/21

*********

Allegation that US, SDF have been helping Islamic State in Syria again

"Military analysts stress that the ISIL could never cross the Euphrates River from the East to the Western Bank to attack the army without the assistance of the US military and the SDF."

There have been several published allegations, going back years, that the U.S. and/or its proxies and allies have been helping Islamic State, both in direct and indirect ways, in Syria. The same allegations have been made about the U.S. and other terrorist groups in Syria, including al Qaeda ones. And certainly the U.S. has been caught time and again helping terrorist or terrorist-linked groups in Syria that the U.S. command claims are 'moderate rebels' -- until a claim collapses from the weight of evidence. 

But I find this most recent allegation particularly disturbing because it rests simply on straightforward logic; i.e., IS couldn't have forded the river at a certain point without the help. Can we be certain that's the case? Not without one of those situation maps at SouthFront that only military geeks can understand. But given the history of U.S. attempts to stymie Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor I'm inclined to believe this allegation has teeth.  

US Troops, Allied Militias Cooperating with ISIL to Attack Syrian Army in Deir Ezzur
June 20, 2019
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US forces and their allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been transferring ISIL terrorists to the Western Bank of the Euphrates River to launch attacks on the Syrian Army in the region, a media outlet said on Wednesday.

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily [Syria] quoted militant-affiliated sources as disclosing that the US forces and the SDF have halted clashes on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River in Eastern Deir Ezzur to concentrate on a vital region bordering Southern Hasaka and Northern Deir Ezzur.

The daily further said that ISIL terrorists are currently penetrating into the Western bank of the Euphrates River from the East to launch attacks on the Syrian Army positions along a region stretching between the border with Iraq and Deir Ezzur city.

Military analysts stress that the ISIL could never cross the Euphrates River from the East to the Western Bank to attack the army without the assistance of the US military and the SDF.

Field reports had previously revealed that the US military had embarked on transferring ISIL terrorists to Albu Kamal strategic region to attack the army positions on the Western bank of the Euphrates River near the border with Iraq.

The Arabic website of Sputnik news agency quoted tribal sources in Eastern Syria as saying on Saturday that the US forces transfer the ISIL terrorists from the desert region bordering Iraq to al-Tanf through al-Sukhnah in Homs.

Meantime, one of the prominent tribal leaders in Eastern Syria revealed that Mohannad al-Tala, a US proxy and commander of the so-called New Syrian Forces group in the US base in al-Tanf, has contacted the Syrian tribes, calling on them to open a passage for the terrorists to leave al-Tanf for Deir Ezzur to reach al-Omar oil field.


[Pundita note: The next paragraph is so poorly translated that I gave up trying to patch it. From other reports I've seen, I think the gist is that the U.S. command has been reaching out to tribes in certain Arab regions in Syria where Kurdish forces are located; this in the attempt to help the Kurdish SDF (U.S. proxy force) recruit. But the outreach effort has not been successful. 

See Joshua Landis' 6/19 discussion about Kurdish-Arab tensions in the region ("What happens now in Syria?")  and "Tens of Civilians Arrested in Northeastern Syria after Intensified Tensions with US-Backed Militias"; 6/20, FARS

He added that the US forces fear uprisings by the people in Eastern Syria, noting that one of their goals to approach the tribes is to keep deployment in the region as Washington attempts to win the cooperation of the tribes in Manbij, Hasaka and Deir Ezzur have all failed.

Meantime, the SDF freed its militant inmates and sent them to the battlefield to attack al-Tanf-Sukhnah road in Homs and open a passageway and the Jordan road to al-Tanf.

The US forces had in the past 10 days been busy with transferring the ISIL terrorists with at least 10 armored trucks and heavy artillery to attack Albu Kamal from Abu Hameseh in Hasaka.

[END REPORT]

********

Southern Offensive: SAA moving very methodically

See also 6/20 report at FARS: Syrian Army Keeps Rolling over Terrorists' Centers in Dara'a Province 

"SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JUNE 20, 2018: SYRIAN ARMY ATTACKS MILITANTS IN DARAA PROVINCE"; SouthFront

[visit SouthFront for the video version of their sitrep; emphasis in the transcript is mine]

On June 19, units of government forces attacked positions of militant groups near the village of Buser al-Harir northeast of the southern Syrian city of Daraa. Sporadic clashes in the area continued on June 20 but no major advance was carried out by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies.

Pro-government sources described this development as a trial balloon ahead of possible advance in the area.

If the SAA establishes control of Duweiri al-Harran and Melihit al-Atash, it will encircle a number of militant held villages south of these two points creating a “cauldron”, which would be cut off from the rest of the militant-held area.

Meanwhile, military equipment, including artillery and battle tanks, of the Syrian military continued to enter the province of Daraa.

An Israeli reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle, Skylark, crashed in the province of Quneitra, east of the occupied Golan Heights, on June 19. The Israeli military has likely expanded its reconnaissance operations in the area ahead of the SAA’s expected advance in southern Syria.

On the same day, Russian Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said that there are still a notable number of ISIS and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra [al Qaeda]) militants in southern Syria. The announcement, which came following a meeting among representatives of Turkey, Iran and Russia on the de-escalation zones agreement, is another indication that the Russian-Iranian-Syrian block is not going to tolerate the presence of these groups in the war-torn country.

Units of the SAA and other pro-government factions have cleared the areas of Tayyara, al-Bawdah, Wadi al-Luwayziyah and nearby points at the border with Iraq from ISIS cells. This advance was a part of the wider effort to combat the terrorist group’s presence in the area.

The SAA also met with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) at the Syrian-Iraqi border, southeast of the village of Humaimah.

Following the June 18 strike by the US-Israeli-led bloc on pro-Damascus forces southeast of al-Bukamal, the PMU announced that it is set to secure the border area despite the opposition from any side. So, the PMU’s presence on the border will only grow.

In eastern al-Suwayda, the SAA liberated Khirbat Al-Umbashi and advanced on the settlement of Al-Qara where clashes between government troops and ISIS members are now ongoing.

[END REPORT]

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"Libya has served as a laboratory for new [US] drone warfare tactics"

"The U.S. has conducted 550 drone strikes in Libya since 2011 -- more than in Somalia, Yemen, or Pakistan"

Quotes are from Secret War by Nick Turse, Henrik Moltke, Alice SperiJune 20, 2018, The Intercept

What would we do without reporters such as Nick Turse? 

Speaking of great investigative reporting, an Associated Press investigation published last June, Inside Yemen's secret prisons, which pointed to U.S. complicity with the UAE regime's policy of torturing of Yemeni prisoners, is back in the news

*********

Does Trump realize U.S. troops in Syria are illegal immigrants?

American illegal immigrants settled into Syria


June 20, USA Today:
President Donald Trump, bowing to a deepening humanitarian crisis along the southwest border, signed an executive order Wednesday that promises to halt family separation while insisting that the administration's "zero tolerance" policy to prosecute all illegal immigrants would continue.
Now just see! Presidents Trump and Assad do have something in common. Assad also has a zero tolerance policy for illegal immigrants! 

But Syria's government has no capacity to prosecute illegal immigrants who can call in airstrikes on Syrian troops and cities. 

Such a country the United States of America turned out to be. Might as well have stayed a British colony. This way we wouldn't have had to make excuses for our machinations abroad.

********

Wednesday, June 20

Um, is Baghdad Bob reporting from Yemen on the war?

I recalled the legendary Baghdad Bob while reading the 6/19 report at FARS : "Yemeni Army Spokesman Sharaf Luqman rejected the Saudi-led coalition's claims of victories in Yemen's Western coasts, describing them as illusions."  

Below is another report on the Yemen war that reveals a vast difference between the opposing sides' version of military action.   

But I thought Baghdad Bob had died. Then again, the claim of his demise could be the ultimate Baghdad Bob report. 

Breaking News: Pro-Houthi media release video tour from Hodeideh Airport to deny reports of capture
By Leith Aboufadel
June 20, 2018
AMN 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:40 P.M.) – The pro-Houthi Masirah TV released footage on late Wednesday night alleging that the Hodeideh Airport is still under the control of the Houthi forces.

The two minute long video shows Houthi fighters still inside the Hodeideh Airport amid the destruction from the battle and heavy airstrikes from the Saudi-led Coalition.

The two minute long video shows Houthi fighters still inside the Hodeideh Airport amid the destruction from the battle and heavy airstrikes from the Saudi-led Coalition.

Opponents of the Houthi forces have denied the authenticity of the video, claiming that the footage is likely old.

However, despite the attacks on the validity of the Masirah TV video, the UAE-backed forces have not released any concrete evidence that they control the airport either.


The announcement of the Hodeideh Airport’s capture was released by Sky News Arabia on Tuesday evening; their footage showed a Yemeni military commander announcing its capture. [See AMN site for video of the announcement][END REPORT]


ROFL: "UAE Likely to Improve Ties With Syria, Play Role in Reconstruction – Diplomat"

I knew this would happen. I knew it. By the time this is over, everyone will kissing each other on both cheeks and pretending none of them had any part in the war -- except for the U.S. of course. We're going to be left holding the back again. The entire war will be remembered in the Middle East as American blundering.

19:04 19.06.2018
Sputnik

Early on in the Syria crisis, the UAE adopted a somewhat neutral stance, calling for an end to the violence but opting not to actively throw its support behind either side.
Speaking to Sputnik reporter Suliman Mulhem on Tuesday, Emirati Second Secretary Khalid Al Ali suggested that the UAE is likely improve relations with Damascus as the Syrian Army continues to advance and recover territory from the coalition of militant groups.  
“The Syrian crisis is progressing year after year, and if the Syrian government will have a better chance of success, the role of the United Arab Emirates will be towards greater political and economic stability and cooperation to consolidate these principles,” the senior diplomat of the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said, stressing they would improve diplomatic and trade ties in the interest of stabilizing the war-torn country.
Earlier this year, Syria’s flagship airliner resumed flights to an airport in emirate of Sharjah in a move that potentially indicated improving trade relations between the two states.
The UAE’s second secretary went on to say that he thinks the UAE will play an “active role” in Syria’s post-war reconstruction effort, in line with their philanthropic and international development goals.
The UAE has an important role to play in the reconstruction of many countries. I think the UAE will play an active role in the reconstruction of Syria from the devastation of war. It is one of the priorities of the UAE to contribute to the development of other countries, the advancement of their people, and prosperity of the region,” he added.
When asked for his thoughts on the prospect of the UAE serving in a mediatory role between opposing sides in Syria and their foreign backers, the diplomat said it was unlikely as a concerted international effort is needed to achieve peace, especially from states with power on the ground.
He also said that all the allied powers representing the various warring parties – including Russia, which has strong ties with Damascus and is widely considered to be pivotal to reaching a longstanding political settlement in Syria – can end the crisis if they work together.  
The views and opinions expressed by Khalid Al Ali are his own and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.
[END REPORT]
********

And now a few words about the status of the Yemen War


TEHRAN (FNA - FARS 6/19)- Yemeni Army Spokesman Sharaf Luqman rejected the Saudi-led coalition's claims of victories in Yemen's Western coasts, describing them as illusions.

"The Yemeni army and Ansarullah deployed in Yemen's western coasts, first could prevent the militias' infiltration and then surrounded them," Luqman said in an interview with the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news channel on Monday. [Pundita question Well are they surrounded or aren't they? Translator! Translator!]

He added that the Saudi-led coalition has merely advanced in non-residential areas on the Western coasts of Yemen, adding that al-Hudayah port is safe and there are no clashes in the city.

"The media affiliated to the Saudi-led coalition permanently speak of illusionary victories of militias in Western Yemen and the coalition commanders lie about their advances in al-Hudaydah," Luqman said.

He also said that Yemen cannot trust the UN plans to settle the crisis in the country, adding that the bodies which are after a solution should be impartial.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia's attempts to capture al-Hudaydah airport failed as Ansarullah forces have dug ditched [ditches?] at the entrance of the city to prevent their advance.

The Arabic-language al-Masireh news website reported on Monday that on the fifth day of the Saudi and UAE operations to capture of al-Hudaydah, Ansarullah forces could block the roads used by the aggressors to send aid to their comrades. [Have they blocked the roads or haven't they]

The Saudi and UAE mercenaries have failed to win control of al-Hudaydah airport despite receiving the Saudi air support.

Local sources in Hudaydah said that Ansarullah has closed all roads leading to the Southern direction of the airport and dug a number of ditches to prevent invaders' advance.

The Saudi-led forces have started the Hudaydah operation since Wednesday, while the UN has warned the attack could cause up to 250,000 deaths.

Prior to the start of the coalition’s siege, the UN stressed that an assault on the densely populated port city may cost up to 250,000 civilian lives, warning that the operation could leave millions of Yemenis without the “food and basic supplies needed to prevent famine and a recurrence of a cholera epidemic”.


[END REPORT]

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The Southern Offensive gets underway

"No relief for rebels tonight as Syrian troops hammer southwest Syria ahead of offensive" - 6/20, 12:45 AM Syria time - AMN

"Breaking: Syrian Army launches small offensive in northeast Daraa" - 6/20, 1:30 AM Syria time - AMN
"Tonight’s attack by the Syrian Army is a small offensive that is likely being conducted for reconnaissance purposes."

"The Battle of Daraa is happening: Al-Ridwan, Hezbollah's special forces, is participating" - 6/19, Elijah J. Magnier

 "Syria - Ready To Start The Daraa Campaign" - 6/19, Moon of Alabama

"Will the south be Syria’s next battlefield?" - 6/19, Middle East Eye
Included this one because the analyst is with Chatham House.

The last word goes to Colonel Lang (6/19, Syria and Turkey Notes):
... Heather Nauert and Pompeo el-Magnifico have now warned Syria and Russia against an offensive in the SW of SYRIA.  They cite the de-escalation agreement that the Russians negotiated as though it was a cease-fire protecting the jihadis and FSA rebels who the Israelis treasure so much as a buffer to the east of the forts on the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights (Hauran).  The threats posed by Nauert and Pompeus Maximus are clear.  They are saying that if the SAA attacks to recover its territory the US will attack them in defense of Israel. ...
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Assad's quaint notion of national sovereignty

What year does Assad think this is? 1648? The Westphalian System of sovereign states, to the extent it was honored, is deader than a doornail. Of course it's not dead for me because I'm an American. But for everyone else the idea of a sovereign nation belongs in the dustbin of history. 

Those thoughts occurred to me while I read Derek Davison's conversation with Joshua Landis for Lobe Log ("What happens now in Syria?" - 6/19). There was a completely amoral tone to the discussion. This is nothing against Davison or Landis, who was replying to Davison's very specific questions; it's the situation they're studying that's amoral. But I felt queasy after I finished reading. Landis might as well have been talking about packs of jackals squabbling over a kill.  

As illustration, here are snippets from the interview, which I think is worthwhile reading in its entirety. Emphasis throughout is mine:  

[...]

JL: The U.S. has closed off all of the major highways out of Syria to the east. International trade for Syria has been blocked off and sanctions tightened. The U.S. is dead set against international organizations playing any role in Syrian redevelopment so the U.S. can continue to strangle Syria and keep it extremely poor. You might argue that this is bad from a counterterrorism perspective because it will create more instability, but I think the U.S. is willing to pay that price because it won’t hurt the U.S. directly.

[...]

The U.S. now holds about 30 percent of Syria through its proxies, the group that is called the Syrian Democratic Forces but is really led by the Kurds, with some Arab assistance. That’s a big mess too, because the region is majority Kurdish but has a large Arab minority, and the Arabs and Kurds do not like each other. They have diametrically opposed political and national ambitions. The Kurds want a state, Rojava, and they’re on their way to becoming like the Kurds in northern Iraq. The Arabs feel like they’re going to be displaced. They’ve been long-time rivals.


[...]

The U.S. has gotten itself sunk into a real trouble spot. It’s the most underdeveloped and ignored region of Syria, yet it has great riches—it has oil, it has a good agricultural foundation, and it has water. All of those things give it some potential, but the United States doesn’t know what it wants to do with the region. On the one hand, it says it wants to stay there for the long haul, meaning make a state out of it—and they’re building an army to undergird that. On the other hand, President Trump says he wants to get out of there soon, and he’s refusing to spend money to rebuild the place. So Raqqa lies in ruins, there are many unhappy people because their homes have been destroyed and nobody is going to reconstruct them. There is no legal basis for a separate state, so it can’t bring in foreign investment.  [Pundita note: What legal basis is needed? There's no more international law to the extent it existed; there's the law of the jungle. If the United States says it's okay to invest in a state carved out of Syria, so be it.]

[...]

So the Kurds have a place in Syria—in theory. The problem is that nobody trusts the Assad government, and nobody trusts that any deal it hammers out will be respected. Assad is a centralizer. He sees any form of federalism as an externally organized plot against the Syrian nation—and to a certain degree he’s correct, because there are a lot of people in Washington who want to use federalism as the sharp end of a spear that will ultimately dislodge the Assad government.

[...]

The big question is whether Turkey can impose its vision on Idlib, which would be to turn much of the province into a satrap and ultimately Turkify it. They’ve done this previously, with Turkey’s Hatay province, which used to be the Syrian province of Alexandretta under the post-World War I French Mandate but was ceded to Turkey in 1938. ...

[...]

And some people are arguing, on that basis, that perhaps the best future for Idlib province is to become part of Turkey—though of course that would create a lot of new difficulties, and Assad is determined not to see it happen.

This creates problems for the United States, because the Salafist groups that survive in Idlib will continue to have a life. They’ll be able to plot against the West if that’s what they want to do—there’s plenty of indication that some of them do want to do that—and to continue to preach an extremely anti-Western ideology. HTS and some other groups glorify Osama bin Laden and promote a Salafi-jihadist ideology that is very threatening to the West.

The question is the degree to which Turkey is willing to clamp down on those groups and arrest the leadership. That could be negotiated between Turkey and the United States, though the United States doesn’t trust Turkey very much these days to do that kind of thing. The alternative is to have Assad’s military sweep through the province after bombing the living daylights out of it, as it’s done in other regions, and create a massive refugee flow into Turkey—which the West doesn’t want, because some percentage of those refugees will end up in Europe. So, the Europeans may go along with allowing Turkey to rule this region even though it violates international law.

[...]

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