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Saturday, October 10

Associated Press finds Saudis greatly under-reported death toll from Hajj stampede

This story is only getting larger despite attempts by the Saudi government to tamp it down. Anger at Al Saud is sweeping through Muslim societies worldwide. Muslims are speaking up in a way they've never done before about Saudi custodianship of Islam's two holy cities and the Hajj.  

AP Exclusive: Tally shows Saudi hajj crush deadliest tragedy to ever strike annual pilgrimage
Oct. 9, 2015 - 9:54 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — One survivor of last month's crush and stampede at the hajj in Saudi Arabia recalled seeing so many bodies that he couldn't tell how many there were.

The Associated Press sought to answer that question, arriving at a death toll of at least 1,470. That made the Sept. 24 disaster the deadliest accident ever at the annual pilgrimage. And hundreds remain missing.

The AP count is 701 higher than Saudi Arabia's official tally of 769 killed and 934 injured in the Sept. 24 disaster in Mina, a few miles from the holy city of Mecca.

Saudi officials, who could not be immediately reached for comment Friday, previously have said their tally remains accurate, although an investigation into the causes of the tragedy is ongoing. Authorities have not updated their casualty toll since Sept. 26.

The hesitancy to acknowledge a higher toll may reflect the leadership's reflex to clamp down on information as it struggles with multiple pressures. The kingdom is dealing with a war in Yemen, Russia's entry into the Syrian conflict and low oil prices that are straining the budget — and the hajj tragedy is already opening it up to sharp criticism from opponents, particularly Iran.

The previous deadliest-ever incident at the annual hajj happened in 1990, when a stampede killed 1,426 people. Stampedes and crushes are a major danger at the hajj since it attracts more than 2 million pilgrims a year, all moving simultaneously in close quarters through a number of rituals over the course of five days.

The AP figure comes from statements and officials' comments from 19 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the five-day annual pilgrimage.

Authorities have said the crush and stampede occurred when two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, causing hundreds of people to suffocate or be trampled to death.

Mohammed Awad of Sudan told the AP at the time that he and his 56-year-old father were separated in the pushing and shoving. The 36-year-old pilgrim later found him alive under at least 10 bodies.

"You can't count how many bodies there were. They were stacked high," Awad said.

Iran says it had 465 pilgrims killed, while Egypt lost 165 and Indonesia 120.

Others include India with 101, Nigeria with 99, Pakistan with 93, Mali with 70, Bangladesh with 63, Senegal with 54, Benin with 51, Cameroon with 42, Ethiopia with 31, Sudan with 30, Morocco with 27, Algeria with 25, Ghana with 12, Chad with 11, Kenya with eight and Turkey with three. Hundreds remain missing, according to these countries.

Any disaster at the five-day hajj, a pillar of Islamic faith, could be seen as a blow to the kingdom's cherished stewardship of Islam's holiest sites. This season saw two tragedies — the stamped and the Sept. 11 collapse of a crane at Mecca's Grand Mosque that killed 111 people.

Shiite-led Iran, the kingdom's top rival in the region, has blamed the disaster on the kingdom's "mismanagement" of the pilgrimage. The Islamic Republic also has called for an independent body to take over the hajj.

Experts say there's no way that will happen. Patronage of Mecca and Medina is one cornerstone of the Al Saud family's legitimacy. Among King Salman's titles — as it was for his predecessors — is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, referring to sites in the two cities.

"The Saudis are not for a nanosecond going to entertain any proposals to share management of the hajj with other states," said Hani Sabra, the head of the Middle East practice at the Eurasia Group. Still, he said, the hajj deaths "reinforces a view that at this moment, Saudi Arabia looks weak."

The delay in announcing new figures may come from not wanting to fuel more criticism from Iran, or because of the kingdom's traditional top-down governance.

Despite Iran's sharp rhetoric over the deaths, other countries have been far more muted. That is likely due to Saudi Arabia's powerful influence, including years of patronage using its oil wealth, and because the kingdom can set the quota of pilgrims each country can send to the hajj.

"This is really unfortunate that in an event where people are dead, the families don't have any kind of transparency," said Madawi al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science's Middle East Center.

"Unfortunately for these Muslim countries, they are at a weaker position," she said, "and a lot of them worry about future pilgrimages, where they might not get the full quota allocated to them."

That kind of hesitancy about criticism has been seen in Pakistan. Earlier this week, Pakistan's Electronic Media Regulatory Authority sent text messages to executives at independent television networks, warning them that criticism of Saudi Arabia could be viewed as illegal under the country's constitutional prohibitions on affecting relations with "friendly countries."

But Saudi Arabia will maintain its "monopoly" over the hajj, even though it will likely face larger and larger crowds as time goes on, said Jon B. Alterman, a senior vice president at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The challenge is not so much that it happened but how do you respond?" Alterman said. "Saudi Arabia has a consistent problem developing a managerial culture. Decisions are kept very, very high in the system and people aren't always held accountable for their failures. There have been a lot of signs over the last 20 to 30 years of trying to change that culture, but it's very hard."


Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Mohamed Osman in Khartoum, Sudan, Aya Batrawy in Dubai and Maram Mazen in Cairo contributed to this report.


There could be reasons other than AP cited, or additional reasons, why the Saudis have delayed announcing an updated death toll. One reason could be all those missing people, and having to explain why they're still missing.


Friday, October 9

Hey, Europe, how does it feel to get done to you what you've done to Israelis?

The human smugglers are deploying against the Europeans a famous battle tactic used by insurgents: provoke the government forces until they overreact, then scream, 'Look at the atrocities inflicted on us.'  So then more people join the insurgency.  

Very powerful tactic, one that is hard for a government to deal with effectively, especially in the fishbowl era of communications. The counter-tactic usually works out to the government turning the other cheek and trying to paper over the insurgents with tons of money, which can backfire -- generally when the insurgency is supported by a foreign government(s) with deep pockets.

I've just told the story of Israel's life.  

Will the Europeans rethink their position on the "Palestinian" issue now that they're walking a mile in Israel's moccasins?  Oh, they'll rethink, but they'll need to take a lot more punishment before they change their behavior. 

More punishment is on the way. However, I note that the BBC has dropped "refugee" from this headline today:

Migrant arrivals in Greece 'surge' to 7,000 daily - IOM.

The Europeans are also set to learn the hard way how Israel's hardliners got so much political power.  


Every time it comes out US is aiding a terror group, they change the group's name

Nusra Front is Out. Syrian Arab Coalition is In.  From the following NYT report:
In a letter to the State Department, the Pentagon and the C.I.A. last week, four senators —  three Democrats and a Republican  —  criticized the program. “The Syria Train and Equip Program goes beyond simply being an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars,” the senators wrote. “As many of us initially warned, it is now aiding the very forces we aim to defeat.”
The senators — Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut; Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia; Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico; and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah — were referring to the latest debacle of the program.
Some of the American-trained Syrian fighters gave at least a quarter of their United States-provided equipment to the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, the United States Central Command acknowledged in late September
What do the senators mean by "now" aiding?  It was from the beginning, which is how the world got Nusra Front.  Don't say you're al Qaeda.   

Obama Administration Halts Program to Train Syrians to Combat ISIS 

OCT. 9, 2015
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — After struggling for years to identify groups in Syriathat it can confidently support, the Obama administration on Friday abandoned its effort to build a rebel force inside Syria to combat the Islamic State. It acknowledged the failure of its $500 million campaign to train thousands of fighters and said whatever money remained would be used to provide lethal aid for groups already engaged in the battle.

Senior officials at the White House and the Pentagon said the strategy to pull fighters out of Syria, teach them advanced skills and return them to face the Islamic State had failed, in part because many of the rebel groups were more focused on fighting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

But officials said they were trying to adapt their strategy by seeking to identify the leaders of “capable, indigenous forces” in Syria who — after what the officials described as a vigorous vetting process — will be the first time the Pentagon has given military equipment to rebel leaders to distribute to their forces engaged in fighting on the ground. The C.I.A. has for some time been covertly training and arming groups fighting Mr. Assad.

“We need to be flexible. We need to be adaptive,” said Brett McGurk, a top adviser to Mr. Obama on the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. “Is it best to take those guys out and put them through training, or to keep them on the line fighting and give them equipment and support?”

The shift in strategy comes amid a huge deployment of force by Russia in support of Mr. Assad, who has clung to power since the civil war began in 2011. Russian warplanes have conducted scores of airstrikes, and Moscow has fired a barrage of cruise missiles at targets in Syria.

Mr. Assad and his allies, Russia and Iran, say he is a bulwark against all manner of terroists, including the Islamic State. The United States has long insisted that Mr. Assad is the problem and has to go, though possibly as part of a negotiated transition.

Pentagon officials announced what they called an “operational pause” in the training program on Friday, as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter left London after meetings with his British counterpart, Michael Fallon, about the continuing wars in Syria and Iraq. Officials said they held out the possibility that some training might resume.

In Washington, White House and Defense Department officials said the equipment to be provided to the rebel groups would be “basic” in nature and would not include antitank rockets or other high-end equipment that could eventually fall into the hands of groups that commit acts of terrorism against the United States or its allies.

“We are very careful to provide support to groups who are not involved in that type of activity,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser.

But officials spoke only in general terms about their methods to monitor equipment. They said some of the groups that would receive equipment were familiar to American commanders.

In some cases, “we have been working with these groups for months,” said Christine E. Wormuth, the under secretary of defense for policy. “We have pretty high confidence in them already.”

The closing of the program comes as the administration’s attention is shifting to northeastern Syria, where it hopes to assemble a group of Sunni tribes in a “Syrian Arab Coalition” to fight alongside Syrian Kurdish forces against the Islamic State.

“Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is now directing the Department of Defense to provide equipment packages and weapons to a select group of vetted leaders and their units so that over time they can make a concerted push into territory still controlled by ISIL,” a Pentagon statement said of the new effort. The statement said the Pentagon would monitor the progress of these groups “and provide them with air support as they take the fight to ISIL.

A senior defense official said that the remaining training “will be much more minimal” than the previous program. The Central Intelligence Agency runs a separate program to train and arm selected groups, many of which are now battling Syrian army units backed by Russian air power.

The new program, the official said, will begin in the next few days, though it may well run into many of the same problems of conflicting loyalties and ancient animosities that helped sink the first effort.

Anti-Assad insurgents said they have never heard of a group called the Syrian Arab Coalition, but that it seems to be the Pentagon’s name for an expansion of Burqan al-Furat, or Euphrates Volcano, the operations room that coordinates several Arab insurgent groups and the Kurdish militias. Whatever it is called, they welcomed the prospect of increased support.

“We have received large promises surrounding future military aid, and we really did begin to receive equipment,” a spokesman for Thuwwar al-Raqqa, a Sunni group that has worked with the Kurds, told the website Syria Direct.

But many Arabs, especially in northeastern Syria where there are large Kurdish populations, are wary of the Kurds’ project to carve out semiautonomous areas for their people, and have accused Kurdish militias of carrying out ethnic cleansing in the mixed area.

Ahmad Abu Bakr, an activist from Raqqa who was reached in Idlib, said that he, too, had not heard of the Syrian Arab Coalition, but said he was against any movement to cooperate with the Kurds. “For us, they are an enemy, not a friend.”

Even some Arabs who defected from the Syrian army have refused to join the grouping, he said. Kurds were part of the campaign only “because the Americans will be sending powerful weapons only if the Kurds are part of it. The U.S. doesn’t trust anyone except the Kurds.”

Officials said the equipment, which will be supplied to leaders of Syrian opposition groups, would include weapons, ammunition and communication equipment.

A senior Defense Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that there would no longer be any more recruiting of so-called moderate Syrian rebels to go through training programs in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Instead, a much smaller training center would be set up in Turkey, where a small group of “enablers” — mostly leaders of opposition groups — would be taught operational maneuvers like how to call in airstrikes.

While many details of the new approach still need to be worked out, President Obama endorsed the shift in strategy at two high-level meetings with his national security and foreign policy advisers last week, several American officials said.

The change makes official what those in the Pentagon and elsewhere in the administration have been saying for several weeks was likely to happen, particularly in the wake of revelations that the program at one point last month had only “four or five” trainees in the fight in Syria — a far cry from the plan formally started in December to prepare as many as 5,400 fighters this year and 15,000 over the next three years.

In a letter to the State Department, the Pentagon and the C.I.A. last week, four senators — three Democrats and a Republican — criticized the program. “The Syria Train and Equip Program goes beyond simply being an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars,” the senators wrote. “As many of us initially warned, it is now aiding the very forces we aim to defeat.”

The senators — Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut; Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia; Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico; and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah — were referring to the latest debacle of the program.

Some of the American-trained Syrian fighters gave at least a quarter of their United States-provided equipment to the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, the United States Central Command acknowledged in late September.

In a statement correcting earlier assertions that reports of the turnover were a “lie” and a militant propaganda ploy, the Central Command said it had subsequently been notified that the Syrian rebels had “surrendered” some of their equipment — including six pickup trucks and a portion of their ammunition — to the Nusra Front. Those rebels, unlike any who would be part of the new program, were trained and equipped outside Syria.

More broadly, the program has suffered from a shortage of recruits willing to fight the Islamic State instead of the army of Mr. Assad, a problem Mr. Obama mentioned at a news conference last Friday.

The administration was expected to provide classified briefings to lawmakers and their senior aides on Capitol Hill on Friday to explain the impending changes to the train and equip program.

“The opposition and their regional backers wanted the program, they just couldn’t accept ISIS as the priority and U.S. ambiguity on taking out Assad,” said Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Like in the Iraq war, you can’t expect people to fight on your behalf unless you give them what they want. We got the politics wrong yet again.”

The shift in strategy comes as Mr. Obama has approved two important steps to set in motion an offensive against the Islamic State in northeastern Syria in the coming weeks.

Mr. Obama ordered the Pentagon, for the first time, to directly provide ammunition and perhaps some weapons to Syrian opposition forces on the ground. He also endorsed an idea for an increased air campaign from an air base in Turkey, although important details of that plan still need to be worked out.

Together, these measures are intended to empower 3,000 to 5,000 Arab fighters, a conglomeration of 10 to 15 groups, who would join more than 20,000 Kurdish combatants in an offensive backed by dozens of coalition warplanes to pressure the Islamic State in Raqqa, the militant group’s main stronghold in Syria.

American military officials have screened the leaders of the Arab groups to ensure that they meet standards set by Congress when it approved $500 million last year for the Defense Department to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

Under the shift in strategy that emerged on Friday, the administration would now focus more of its efforts on equipping these Arab fighters and inserting some of the trained Syrian rebels within their ranks.

FEATURED COMMENT at Times Comment Section:

David Polakoff - New York, New York

"Can someone name a case, in U.S. history, where we've armed and trained the rebels and were successful?"


Obama and Al Saud go berserk against Russia. EC says 'Enough.'

October 9:
Europe must treat Russia with more decency, improve the relationship, and not let EU policies be dictated by Washington, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a surprise speech in Germany. ...
Truly, even the worm may turn even though it isn't quite prepared to scold the Saudis. I guess the European Commission realized Obama and the 'Get Russia' crowd are prepared to do anything to save face, but a third world war would be the EC's limit. 

It's the incident of Obama forcing down Evo Morales's plane all over again. This time the rampage is over Russia's actions in Syria, but it's the rampage part that the rest of the world is seeing.     

Of course -- of course -- the rest of the world is not saying "Obama."  They're saying it's "Americans" who are out of control.  

So thanks a lot President Obama, and thanks to Vice President Biden, Senator McCain, and the rest of the Americans in the Get Russia crowd. You sure know how to screw things up for the USA.

What now?  The Obama regime has decided to abandon its training program for "moderate" opponents of Syria's government and just give weapons to every "rebel" group in sight.  

Will the firepower include manpads?  I think Obama will supply the manpads to Al Saud to supply the rebels with. This way the Pentagon can say we didn't do it.


Fareed Zakaria lets rip against Pakistan. It's too late.

"Pakistan has mastered the art of pretending to help the United States while actually supporting its most deadly foes."

Fareed Zakaria still hasn't confronted the fact that a country does not aid a rogue state without itself becoming a rogue state. This has been masked by the guiding philosophy of Worldbankia Civilization. We're not aiding rogue states, we're helping them develop so they won't be rogues anymore. 

So while his remarks are correct as far as they go, that plus 50 cents. Look, a few months ago a guy who works for CSIS was told by a Pakistani that Washington shouldn't even bother with giving Pakistan a few hundred million bucks. They want the U.S. to build multi-billion dollar projects in Pakistan, the way the Chinese are doing. 

So Nawaz Sharif isn't coming to Washington with the begging bowl; he's towing the begging platter. 

No matter how much money is piled on the platter, that's not going to stop Pakistan from invading Afghanistan through proxy armies.

That's the way things are and they won't change because Washington can't change until its checkbook is taken away.  So the only way out for Afghans is to get big help from countries that aren't hog-tied by America and Saudi Arabia.       
The key to solving the puzzle of Afghanistan is Pakistan
By Fareed Zakaria 
October 8 at 8:19 PM
The Washington Post

Recent setbacks in Afghanistan — from the fall of Kunduz to the errant U.S. bombing of a hospital in that city — again raise a question. Why, after 14 years of American military efforts, is Afghanistan still so fragile? The country has a democratically elected government widely viewed as legitimate. Poll after poll suggests that the Taliban are unpopular. The Afghan army fights fiercely and loyally. And yet, the Taliban always come back.
The answer to this puzzle can be found in a profile of the Taliban’s new leader, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. It turns out that Mansour lives part time in Quetta, the New York Times reports, “in an enclave where he and some other Taliban leaders . . . have built homes.” His predecessor, Mohammad Omar, we now know, died a while ago in Karachi. And of course, we remember that Osama bin Laden lived for many years in a compound in Abbottabad. All three of these cities are in Pakistan.
 We cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan without recognizing that the insurgency against that government is shaped, aided and armed from across the border by one of the world’s most powerful armies. Periodically, someone inside or outside the U.S. government points this out. Yet no one knows quite what to do, so it is swept under the carpet and policy stays the same. But this is not an incidental fact. It is fundamental, and unless it is confronted, the Taliban will never be defeated. It is an old adage that no counterinsurgency has ever succeeded when the rebels have had a haven. In this case, the rebels have a nuclear-armed sponsor.
Pakistan has mastered the art of pretending to help the United States while actually supporting its most deadly foes. Take the many efforts that U.S. officials have recently made to start talks with the Taliban. It turns out that we were talking to ghosts. Omar has been dead for two years, while Pakistani officials have been facilitating “contacts” and “talks” with him. This is part of a pattern. Pakistani officials, from former president Pervez Musharraf down, categorically denied that bin Laden or Omar was living in Pakistan — despite the fact that former Afghan president Hamid Karzai repeatedly pointed this out publicly. “I do not believe Omar has ever been to Pakistan,” Musharraf said in 2007.
The Pakistani army has been described as the “godfather” of the Taliban. That might understate its influence. Pakistan was the base for the U.S.-supported mujahideen as they battled the Soviet Union in the 1980s. After the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan in 1989, the United States withdrew almost as quickly, and Pakistan entered that strategic void. It pushed forward the Taliban, a group of young Pashtun jihadis schooled in radical Islam at Pakistani madrasas. (“Talib” means student.) Now history is repeating itself. As the United States draws down its forces, Pakistan again seeks to expand its influence through its long-standing proxy.
Why does Pakistan support the Taliban? Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, whose book “Magnificent Delusions” is an essential guide, says that “Pakistan has always worried that the natural order of things would be for Afghanistan to come under the sway of India, the giant of the subcontinent. The Pakistani army came to believe that it could only gain leverage in Afghanistan through religious zealots. Afghanistan’s secular groups and ethnic nationalists are all suspicious of Pakistan, so the only path in is through those who see a common, religious ideology.” 
This strategy is not new, Haqqani points out, noting that funding for such groups began in the mid-1970s, before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
What should the United States do? First, says Haqqani, it needs to see reality for what it is: “When you are lied to and you don’t respond, you are encouraging more lies.” 
He argues that Washington has to get much tougher with the Pakistani military and make clear that its double-dealing must stop. To do this would be good for Afghanistan and stability in that part of the world, but it would also be good for Pakistan.

Thursday, October 8

Who the hell do you think you are, America? The frickin emperor of Syria?

This is the limit.  What are you talking about?  "Your goals in Syria."  Who elected you?  Who invited you to define goals for Syrians?  

Don't give me that baloney about the Responsibility to Protect. Go protect the North Koreans. You've been pussyfooting around in Syria for four years and making a bad situation worse. 

Just stop training, equipping, and funding terrorists. And give the Syrian government or Russians intel about Islamic State and other terror outfits in Syria. That's all you have to do. That's all you should do.  

All right Pundita, calm down. Just chill.   

RT, October 8: ‘Which side are you fighting for?’ Russia blasts US for refusing to share intel on ISIS

Washington’s failure to share data with Russian intelligence about terrorist positions in Syria makes one question the goals that Americans have in their anti-ISIS campaign in Syria and Iraq, a senior Russian diplomat has said.

The refusal to share intelligence on terrorists “just confirms once more what we knew from the very start, that the US goals in Syria have little to do with creating the conditions for a political process and national reconciliation,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Thursday.

“I would risk saying that by doing this the US and the countries that joined the US-led coalition are putting themselves in a politically dubious position. The question is: which side are you fighting for in this war?”

Earlier, the Russian military said they would welcome American intelligence on the forces of terrorist group Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) to help with Russia’s bombing operation in Syria. But the US State Department said it would not be possible because Russia and the US do not share the same goals in Syria.

“I don’t know how you can share intelligence when you don’t share a basic, common objective inside Syria. We’re not at that – we’re nowhere near that point. There’s no shared, common objective here about going after ISIL,” said John Kirby, a State Department spokesman.

The US has accused Russia of failing to target ISIS and instead bombing moderate rebel forces, which Washington wants to replace the government of President Bashar Assad. Russia denies the allegations.

Ryabkov said that without US intelligence Russia would remain quite effective in the Syrian operation, considering that it has plenty of other sources.

“There are our own means of reconnaissance. We get intelligence from a number of other countries and coordinate its flow through the Baghdad information-sharing center,” the Russian diplomat said, referring to a facility in the Iraqi capital that is used by Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia to coordinate their efforts in fighting ISIS.

The US-led coalition has been bombing ISIS targets for over a year and provided supplies and assistance to forces such as Iraqi and Kurdish militias, which are fighting the terrorists on the ground. But it has refused to deal with either Damascus or its key regional ally Tehran, saying that the downfall of the government of President Assad is part of the solution to the crisis. Despite the coalition’s efforts, ISIS has enlarged the territory under its control over the last year.

Senior Syrian and Iranian officials questioned America’s determination to defeat ISIS, saying that the coalition airstrikes are more of a show and are not intended to actually harm the terrorists. Instead Washington is trying to get ISIS topple the Assad government, hoping to deal with them later.

Russia voiced similar concerns on Wednesday, after reporting that its week-long effort had done serious harm to the jihadists in Syria.

“The US Air Force and other parties has been conduction airstrikes for a year. We have reasons to believe that they don’t often hit terrorist targets, or rather do so very rarely,” said Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.

Meanwhile Russia’s effort seems to have paid off, as on Tuesday the Syrian Army announced a major offensive against various terrorist groups. Commenting on what role Russia’s support played in turning the tables on the jihadists, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said that Russia “has produced significant results in several days that greatly surpass those achieved by the [US-led anti-ISIS] coalition in over a year.”



New Syrian Army ground offensive wrests back territory from Nusra Front

From Syrian armed forces launch large-scale offensive against ISIS - Syrian General Staff, Oct 8, RT: 
[L]ocal media reported that government forces were deployed in several Syrian provinces with the biggest operation taking place in Hama, 200 kilometers north of the capital, Damascus. Lebanese TV channel Al-Manar said the Syrian army group in Hama advanced some 50 kilometers on Wednesday, taking several towns and strategically important mountain strongholds from militants of the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, and other terrorist groups operating in the area.
Syrian government forces also went on the offensive in the Idlib province.

US-Qaeda-Muslim Brotherhood caper in Syria is Iran-Contra scandal all over again

Boy oh boy. What a bunch of sneaks. It's getting to the point that I'm beginning to doubt many accusations made against Bashar al-Assad, or rather I don't know whom to believe anymore. I know I don't believe a word the U.S. Department of State says. Not since Benghazi. But Benghazi was just the final straw.  

That's sad. After all, it's my own government. Or is it?  Parts of my government seem to have been shanghaied. By whom?  Don't know, but it's not the Usual Suspects anymore. Might simply be the highest bidders. However, I can put in a good word for the FBI, and Treasury. The latter have gotten very suspicious about the large number of new Toyotas ending up in Islamic State hands. Good for Treasury.  

Anyhow, for the benefit of the Guardian and CNN and all other media outlets that have been passing along information provided by the Free Syrian Observatory, it looks as if the director, as the Guardian terms him, is also the sole employee -- although who pays the salary is unclear. The director is not very forthcoming with details about his organization because people are trying to kill him, you see. He's based in London, although he makes side trips -- no no, not to Syria; he hasn't been there for 15 years. Kazakhstan, I guess that being a good place to observe the doings of Syrian rebels.
Since the start of its anti-terror campaign in Syria, Russia has [been featured] in SOHR reports, which were quickly picked up by major Western media outlets. One of the latest wires from the Observatory, alleging that "Russian warplanes killed 30 civilians in Homs including women and children,” made headlines worldwide on October 1.
Interestingly enough, the same wire published on the Arabic version of the SOHR website on the same date did not mention any Russian warplanes. It said: "27 civilians dead in airstrikes by Assad regime air forces."
As you can see if you click on the two links in this post, I've been having fun browsing RT. That Russian newspaper is all that's stood between me and a serious case of depression this past week. I am very upset about the security situation in Afghanistan. Reading from the Russian point of view about Russia's air campaign in Syria and the related issues has been my fuel. The Russian government is really trying hard. They actually want to win against the terror armies. How, how -- old fashioned.  

Great advice from Adm. Sir Alan West and Dr Stephen Cohen, but coming too late

The Guardian, October 3:
The Russians are the heroes of the hour. People greet the few foreigners who visit with a cheerful Russian “Dobry den!” and shout out their enthusiasm for President Putin, who they believe will deliver them from terrorism. Many think the west is supporting Isis, which they call by its Arabic acronym, Daesh.
“We can see that the Russians are determined to defeat Daesh and the terrorists, whereas by contrast the Americans and their coalition don’t seem to have the same determination,” said Safwan al-Saada, the governor of Tartus. “In the last year they said they were fighting terrorism, but Daesh grew stronger, not weaker, so we can say their coalition is not serious.”
"I think the most important thing is that we’ve got to defeat and destroy [Islamic State] – they are the most dangerous thing to all of the nations in the world. I describe them as ‘the wolf closest to the shed’. We must destroy them and then think about getting security and peace to Syria." 
-- Admiral Sir Alan West, former U.K. First Sea Lord 


‘We need all-pervasive strategy against ISIS involving everyone’ – Admiral Alan West
October 7, 2015
Published time: 7 Oct, 2015 16:34
Edited time: 7 Oct, 2015 18:04

The first priority is to destroy ISIS, which is the top danger to all nations in the world, says former UK First Sea Lord, Admiral Lord West. And we can only do that if the whole coalition is involved with Russia, Iran and Assad forces, he adds.

Russian Navy warships have joined the anti-terror operation by firing missiles from the Caspian Sea at ISIS positions in Syria.

RT: Warships have now entered the fold. How will they help Russian counter-terrorist operation?
Admiral Lord West: I think using all arms is very valuable and clearly there’ve been … the targets that have spotted by people on the ground and using ship-based missiles is a very good way of doing that. We do it, of course, using TacToms and things like that, so, it is their equivalent of that, that’s useful. But I think the most important thing is that we’ve got to defeat and destroy ISIL – they are the most dangerous thing to all of the nations in the world. I describe them as ‘the wolf closest to the shed’. We must destroy them and then think about getting security and peace to Syria. 
But the first thing is to destroy ISIL. And we can only do that, I believe, if the whole coalition is involved with Russia and also Iran, and, I am afraid, also with Assad. No matter how much some of us in the West don’t like Assad, it has got to be all those people involved because we’ve got to destroy ISIL - that is the first priority.
RT: It’s been a huge game changer this week with Russia getting involved because frankly the situation was going backwards before, wasn’t it?  
AW: I won’t say it was going backwards but I’ve been saying for a long time – we need a comprehensive, agreed strategic plan for how we move forward. And it is no good just doing airstrikes, you have to have boots on the ground somehow, they have to be there. And also one needs to actually go to the heartland of ISIL which is within Syria. I am sure in time they will be pushed out to Iraq, I am sure they will. But that still leaves Syria. So, we’ve got to resolve that problem and it is highly complex and very difficult.
RT: Russia has maintained so far that there will be no foot on the ground. Why is Russia saying that won’t happen? Could it practically help this ongoing fight or is this something that should be avoided at all cost?
AW: I think the involvement of either Russian or American, British or French ground troops in Syria will be an error at the moment. But at some stage there will have to be boots on the ground. And, perhaps, we will look at something like Egyptian or Jordanian - their non-sectarian type troops and forces - to go into certain areas what would have to be done in conjunction with an agreement from Assad because he has boots on the ground there. And then what Russia, America and ourselves [UK] and other countries can provide is the air capability, reconnaissance capability. We never talk about special forces, but I am sure they will be involved. 
And it needs to be a very comprehensive strategy; we need to absolutely take on ISIL in the propaganda sphere which we haven’t done as well as we should have done. We need to absolutely strangle all their money supplies, which we haven’t done properly yet. And it needs to be an all-pervasive strategy and it has to include everyone. Iran has to be involved; they have Hezbollah fighters actually on the ground there. So, it has to involve all these people. And it is no good being sort of ‘namby pamby’ about it saying: “I don’t like them.” At the end of the day ISIL want to kill our people…
The Get Russia Crowd isn't going to listen to Sir Alan, any more than they're listening to American top Russia expert Dr Stephen F. Cohen, who's pointed out that cooperation between the U.S. and Russia over dealing with Islamic State would be the last chance to de-escalate America's rush to a new cold war. That crowd isn't interested in de-escalation.  

That's the way things are, and the only thing that will change the status quo is when the U.S. government can no longer kite checks to keep itself afloat in a sea of red ink. Only then will Americans stop shrugging off lunatic defense policies out of Washington.

But it's a respite from the lunacy to hear on occasion voices of reason shout above the mob. The question is whether Syrians would accept the kind of coalition that Sir Alan is proposing. Many are now firmly in the anti-American and anti-Western camps.  

Well, here is the podcast for Stephen Cohen's Tuesday night briefing for John Batchelor's audience on the status of the Ukraine crisis and, in the second part of the discussion, the U.S. reaction to Russia's entry into the Syrian War.

He also mentions his involvement with the nonprofit American Committee for East-West Accord, which is striving to get the U.S. government to see reason about its current Russia policy. However, the committee doesn't have big bucks to throw around Washington, London, and Brussels, whereas the Get Russia Crowd does.    


Wednesday, October 7

AP finds flaws in FBI attempts to halt black market sales of nuke material

Wiretapped conversations repeatedly exposed plots targeting the United States, the Moldovan officials said. At one point the middleman told an informant posing as a buyer that it was essential that the smuggled uranium go to Arabs.

"He said to the informant on a wire: 'I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans.'"

Bravo, Associated Press!  And applause for FBI attempts to bail the ocean with a sieve.  Now that AP's investigative report has been published (today), maybe Congress will throw the FBI more money for work on this crucial aspect of national security.  

The report also highlights that the breakdown in relations between Russia and the "West" (read "NATO") is hampering the FBI investigation. 

NATO had better reshuffle its priorities fast. Stop fooling around in Ukraine. GET ISLAMIC STATE AND QAEDA, INC.  For this, cooperate with Russia instead of trying to scare up yet another excuse to make war on the country.  

Oh but that's right I forgot: the East European branch of the Get Russia Crowd couldn't care less whether the USA is hit with a dirty bomb. They just want America to pound Russia into the ground.         

AP INVESTIGATION: Nuclear black market seeks IS extremists
October 7, 2015 - 3:08 PM EDT
Associated Press

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — In the backwaters of Eastern Europe, authorities working with the FBI have interrupted four attempts in the past five years by gangs with suspected Russian connections that sought to sell radioactive material to Middle Eastern extremists, The Associated Press has learned. The latest known case came in February this year, when a smuggler offered a huge cache of deadly cesium — enough to contaminate several city blocks — and specifically sought a buyer from the Islamic State group.

Criminal organizations, some with ties to the Russian KGB's successor agency, are driving a thriving black market in nuclear materials in the tiny and impoverished Eastern European country of Moldova, investigators say. 

The successful busts, however, were undercut by striking shortcomings: Kingpins got away, and those arrested evaded long prison sentences, sometimes quickly returning to nuclear smuggling, AP found.

Moldovan police and judicial authorities shared investigative case files with the AP in an effort to spotlight how dangerous the nuclear black market has become. They say the breakdown in cooperation between Russia and the West means that it has become much harder to know whether smugglers are finding ways to move parts of Russia's vast store of radioactive materials — an unknown quantity of which has leached into the black market.

See related images [and video] of nuclear smuggling in Russia: [website]

We can expect more of these cases," said Constantin Malic, a Moldovan police officer who investigated all four cases. "As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it."

In wiretaps, videotaped arrests, photographs of bomb-grade material, documents and interviews, AP found a troubling vulnerability in the anti-smuggling strategy. From the first known Moldovan case in 2010 to the most recent one in February, a pattern has emerged: Authorities pounce on suspects in the early stages of a deal, giving the ringleaders a chance to escape with their nuclear contraband — an indication that the threat from the nuclear black market in the Balkans is far from under control.

Moldovan investigators can't be sure that the suspects who fled didn't hold on to the bulk of the nuclear materials. Nor do they know whether the groups, which are pursuing buyers who are enemies of the West, may have succeeded in selling deadly nuclear material to extremists at a time when the Islamic State has made clear its ambition to use weapons of mass destruction.

The cases involve secret meetings in a high-end nightclub; blueprints for dirty bombs; and a nerve-shattered undercover investigator who slammed vodka shots before heading into meetings with smugglers. Informants and a police officer posing as a connected gangster — complete with a Mercedes Benz provided by the FBI — penetrated the smuggling gangs. The police used a combination of old-fashioned undercover tactics and high-tech gear, from radiation detectors to clothing threaded with recording devices.

The Moldovan operations were built on a partnership between the FBI and a small team of Moldovan investigators — including Malic, who over five years went from near total ignorance of the frightening black market in his backyard to wrapping up four sting operations.

"In the age of the Islamic State, it's especially terrifying to have real smugglers of nuclear bomb material apparently making connections with real buyers," says Matthew Bunn, a Harvard professor who led a secret study for the Clinton administration on the security of Russia's nuclear arsenal.

The FBI declined to comment. The White House and the U.S. State Department would not comment on the specifics of the cases.

"The United States government is committed to counter the threat of nuclear smuggling, and ensuring that terrorist groups who may seek to acquire these materials are never able to do so," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "Seizures of nuclear and radioactive materials in Moldova demonstrate the Moldovan government's commitment to countering these tactics."

The Moldovan investigators were well aware of the lethal consequences of just one slip-up. Posing as a representative's buyer, Malic was so terrified before meetings that he gulped shots of vodka to steel his nerves. Other cases contained elements of farce: In the cesium deal, an informant held a high-stakes meeting with a seller at an elite dance club filled with young people nibbling on sushi.

In the case of the cesium, investigators said the one vial they ultimately recovered was a less radioactive form of cesium than the smugglers originally had advertised, and not suitable for making a dirty bomb.

The most serious case began in the spring of 2011, with the investigation of a group led by a shadowy Russian named Alexandr Agheenco, "the colonel" to his cohorts, whom Moldovan authorities believe to be an officer with the Russian FSB, previously known as the KGB. A middle man working for the colonel was recorded arranging the sale of bomb-grade uranium, U-235, and blueprints for a dirty bomb to a man from Sudan, according to several officials. The blueprints were discovered in a raid of the middleman's home, according to police and court documents.

Wiretapped conversations repeatedly exposed plots targeting the United States, the Moldovan officials said. At one point the middleman told an informant posing as a buyer that it was essential that the smuggled uranium go to Arabs.

"He said to the informant on a wire: 'I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans,'" said Malic, the investigator.

As in the other cases, investigators arrested mostly mid-level players after an early exchange of cash and samples of radioactive goods.

The ringleader, the colonel, got away. Police cannot determine whether he had more nuclear material. His partner, who wanted to "annihilate America," is out of prison.



Besieged Afghan government asks Russia for help in stopping Taliban, IS

Gee, they're all lining up now. Iraq is planning to ask Russia for help with air strikes. It's about time, although I see the US-led coalition is waking from its beauty sleep in Iraq.  From a RFE/RL report today (the headline reads that it was "Dostum" asking for the help; President Ashraf Ghani, who exists in his office at the pleasure of the U.S. government, wouldn't dare put the request directly): 
With the Taliban threatening to overrun large parts of Afghanistan, First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is seeking help from an old ally -- Russia.
A graduate of the Soviet Military Academy and a general in the Soviet-backed Afghan army, Dostum is hoping his old links to Moscow will help him secure crucial military support for Afghanistan's besieged security forces.
A trip to Russia took him to Moscow and Chechnya, where he met with Ramzan Kadyrov on the Kremlin-backed regional strongman's birthday on October 5.
Dostum, who led an ethnic Uzbek militia during the civil war of the 1990s, landed in Moscow last week. He has held talks with top Russian security officials, pleading for heavy weapons and helicopter gunships for the 350,000-strong Afghan National Security Forces.
"The Russian side is committed to support and help Afghanistan in terms of helping its air and military forces," Dostum's spokesman, Sultan Faizy, told RFE/RL by telephone.
"We're lacking air support, weapons, ammunition. We need a lot of backing and support to fight against terrorism."
But Faizy said that would not mean direct military intervention by Russia, which is still mindful of the 1979-89 war that killed some 15,000 Soviet soldiers and has repeatedly said it would not send troops to Afghanistan.
Faizy said that Moscow had promised to evaluate the situation in Afghanistan and "see what they can help with."
Russia has also pledged to pressure the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, three of which border Afghanistan, to boost support for the country, Faizy said.
While in Russia, Dostum paid a visit to the North Caucasus region of Chechnya -- and posted a photo with his "friend" Kadyrov on Facebook on October 5. Kadyrov posted the same snapshot on Instagram.
Dostum said the two discussed "the fight against terrorism, especially against Daesh," using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS.
"Dostum noted that ISIS is trying to make Afghanistan into a bridgehead," Kadyrov wrote on Instagram on October 5. "In order to prevent this threat, Kabul needs Russia's support, as in Syria."
Kadyrov added that he was confident that Moscow would make a "positive decision in response to this request."

Local Chechen media quoted Dostum as praising Kadyrov's own experience in battling terrorism. "Both Ramzan Kadyrov and I have been waging the struggle with international terrorism," Dostum was quoted as saying by Grozny-inform.ru.

Vladimir Putin spends his 63rd birthday playing ice hockey with NHL stars

He scored 7 goals.


Putin: We'll be glad to coordinate actions with Free Syrian Army if we can find it

RT, October 7:

French President Francois Hollande has proposed uniting the forces of the so-called Free Syrian Army and President Assad’s army to battle ISIS terrorists, President Putin revealed. It could create the ground for political settlement in Syria, he added.

"During [my] recent visit to Paris, French President Francois Hollande expressed an interesting idea, saying it is worth trying to unite the efforts of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's army and the so-called Free Syrian Army,” Putin said during a meeting with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

He said, however, that Russia does not know where exactly the FSA is or who heads it.

“If we assume that this [FSA] is the military wing of the so-called healthy part of the opposition, then uniting their forces [with Assad’s army] against the common enemy – ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations – could create good ground for the political settlement in Syria,” Putin added.

According to the Russian president, a political solution should end conflicts like the one in Syria.

“Such conflicts should end through solving political issues,” he said.

READ MORE: RT EXCLUSIVE: Mi-24 gunships guarding Russia's hub of anti-ISIS ops in Syria

Putin praised the preliminary results of the Russian Air Force operation in Syria against Islamic State militants.

"We know how complicated these anti-terrorist operations are. It is too early to review the results, but what has been done deserves high positive assessment."

READ MORE: ISIS in Syria using mosques as shelters, civilians as shields – Russian Defense Ministry

Russia will give support to the Syrian Army’s fight on the ground against Islamic State, Putin said.

“As for further work, we hope that it will be synchronized with the actions of the Syrian Army on the ground and military-space forces will effectively support the offensive operation of the Syrian Army [against terrorists].”

Putin ordered the Russian military to continue cooperation with the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq and Iran on Syria.

“We should continue working with our foreign partners. Because without their participation, without the participation of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, US, Iraq, Iran and neighboring countries, it will be hard to organize such work in a proper way,” Putin said.

Moscow launched its military operation against Islamic State terrorists at the request of the Syrian government on September 30. Since the start of the operation, the Russian military have destroyed at least 112 objects belonging to jihadists.

Among them are 19 commanding points, 12 ammunition depots, 71 armored vehicles and six factories that produced explosive devices, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Wednesday.



Washington Post calls mailroom at Russian Defense Ministry for statement on latest Russian strikes against Islamic State

WaPoOctober 7
In Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said four Russian warships carried out 26 missile strikes against 11 targets, but gave no other details.
RT, October 7
Four Russian Navy warships have fired a total of 26 missiles at the position of the terrorist group Islamic State in Syria, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced.
TRANSLATION:  NATO having hysterics over Iran and Iraq cooperating with Russia and Syria to carry out the missile strikes, which were fired from the Caspian Sea. 


One night in 2012 the Devil came calling in Syria. Islamic State's mastermind designed it to be a police state, not an Islamic one.

When the men later learned who they had killed, they searched the house, gathering up computers, passports, mobile phone SIM cards, a GPS device and, most importantly, papers. They didn't find a Koran anywhere.
Haji Bakr's state continued to work even without its creator. Just how precisely his plans were implemented -- point by point -- is confirmed by the discovery of another file. When IS was forced to rapidly abandon its headquarters in Aleppo in January 2014, they tried to burn their archive, but they ran into a problem similar to that confronted by the East German secret police 25 years earlier: They had too many files.

On February 24, 2015 The Atlantic, an American magazine that had been in existence for more than 150 years, published in its March issue an investigative report by a man named Graeme Wood on the 'real' Islamic State. His investigation was based on conversations with IS members. The report was titled What ISIS really wants: "The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse."

The report created a sensation and immediately became the subject of scholarly debates in the USA and around the world about Islam; trouble was, it was nonsense, although Wood and the Atlantic editors had no way of knowing this until April 18. 

That was when the German news magazine SPIEGEL, having finished lengthy and probably very expensive negotiations to obtain a cache of papers that showed how Islamic State was conceived, set up, and administered, published Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State. Beautifully written by Christoph Reuter in almost novelistic fashion, the report tells a campfire tale for our era.  

The cache reveals how it's theoretically possible to subjugate all of humanity using low-tech tactics that are the basis of every police state. Yet if the papers had been obtained by say, an American or British publication, it's unlikely the editors would have been able to tell the story the way it needed to be told -- from the viewpoint of people with memories of what life under a totalitarian police state is really like.
True to Haji Bakr's plan, the phase of infiltration was followed by the elimination of every person who might have been a potential leader or opponent. The first person hit was the head of the city council, who was kidnapped in mid-May 2013 by masked men.
The next person to disappear was the brother of a prominent novelist. Two days later, the man who had led the group that painted a revolutionary flag on the city walls vanished.
"We had an idea who kidnapped him," one of his friends explains, "but no one dared any longer to do anything." The system of fear began to take hold. Starting in July, first dozens and then hundreds of people disappeared.

Sometimes their bodies were found, but they usually disappeared without a trace. In August, the IS military leadership dispatched several cars driven by suicide bombers to the headquarters of the FSA brigade, the "Grandsons of the Prophet," killing dozens of fighters and leading the rest to flee. The other rebels merely looked on.

IS leadership had spun a web of secret deals with the brigades so that each thought it was only the others who might be the targets of IS attacks.

Reuter doesn't specify whether Haji Bakr first arrived in Syria in the daytime or at night, but I figure someone also known as "The Lord of the Shadows" would have arrived by night.


Tuesday, October 6

3,000 terrorists flee Syria for Jordan; 20 Islamic State tanks near Palmyra destroyed

The Russians also took out about 10 other military vehicles and 3 rocket launchers in the air strike near the ancient city of Palmyra. Meanwhile, the Syrian army destroyed two IS convoys near Palmyra.

Two reports from RT:

3,000 terrorists leave Syria following Russian airstrikes – military source
Published time: 5 Oct, 2015 22:13

Edited time: 6 Oct, 2015 09:31

An estimated 3,000 Islamic State fighters as well as militants from other extremist groups have fled Syria for Jordan fearing a renewed offensive by the Syrian army in addition to Russian airstrikes, a military official has told RIA news agency.

“At least 3,000 militants from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), al-Nusra and Jaish al-Yarmouk have fled to Jordan. They are afraid of the Syrian army having stepped up activities on all fronts and of Russian airstrikes,” the RIA source said.

The official added that on Sunday the Syrian army had carried out a number of attacks on Islamic State and al-Nusra fighters on the outskirts of Damascus as well as in the provinces of Deir ez-Zor and Homs.

In Deir ez-Zor, 160 militants were killed in an army assault that aimed at driving extremists away from several settlements.

In the province of Homs, the army destroyed two IS convoys near the city of Palmyra and 17 terrorists were reported killed in an artillery barrage.

Syrian artillery also attacked several extremist groups, including al-Nusra, in the province of Homs where, according to the military source, a conflict between Syrian and foreign fighters erupted. Syrian militants insisted on retreating from a number of settlements fearing a large-scale offensive by the Syrian army and Russian airstrikes, while the foreigners refused to withdraw.


Russian Air Force destroys 20 ISIS tanks near Palmyra – Defense Ministry (VIDEOS)
Published time: 5 Oct, 2015 21:23
Edited time: 6 Oct, 2015 09:26

Russia’s Sukhoi jets flew 15 sorties over Syria on Monday striking 10 Islamic State targets in various regions, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. 20 tanks and 3 rocket launchers in Homs province near embattled Palmyra were destroyed,

“During the day, Sukhoi-34, Sukhoi-24M and Sukhoi-25 warplanes flew a total of 15 sorties from the Khmeimim airbase. Air strikes were delivered at ten targets of the Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] group in Syria,” Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement on Monday.

A pair of Su-25Ms (NATO reporting name: Frogfoot) together with an Su-24 (NATO reporting name: Fencer) carried out strikes on two IS targets in the eastern part of Homs province near the city of Tadmur, he said.

“About 20 units of medium T-55 tanks, which were earlier seized by the militants from the Syrian army, have been destroyed [in the strikes],” as well as three multiple rocket launchers, he noted.

A video released by the ministry also showed a strike against an IS ammunition depot in Homs. The ministry explained: “Bright flashes confirm detonation of munitions caused by direct hits of air bombs. Thick smoke provides evidence of fire in the depot.”

The city Tadmur is located in an oasis in the middle of the Syrian Desert and stands about half a kilometer northeast of the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra. The UNESCO protected cultural site was captured by IS in May. They have been gradually destroying archeological artifacts and structures since seizing the ancient city. On Sunday they blew up the Arch of Triumph, a centerpiece of the ancient ruins.

READ MORE: ISIS terrorists blow up iconic 2,000yo Arch of Triumph in Palmyra

US Central Command reported on Monday that the US-led coalition had conducted airstrikes near Palmyra with “inconclusive results.”

Russian Su-34 bombers destroyed IS headquarters and a command post in the Aleppo province, Konashenkov said on Monday, adding that there had been “direct hits” on structures housing field commanders in Dayr Hafir and al-Bab.

Some 30 IS military vehicles including tanks were destroyed in the forested area near the city of Idlib in northwest Syria, according to the ministry.

“We have irrefutable intelligence, including [intercepted] communications between the militants in the area, [proving] the destruction and damage of the terrorists’ armored vehicles,” Konashenkov said.


Two more RT reports:

RT fact checks 4 media fails on Russia’s anti-ISIS op in Syria

Turkey says ‘no tension’ after Russian airspace violation mistake, NATO cries foul


Iraq paramilitary chief: Baghdad asked for Russian help because US coalition not serious about fighting Islamic State

The chief's remarks were met with a sharp retort from an American spokesman, who cited the amount of money the US had spent to train and arm Iraq forces to fight Islamic State during the past year. This ignored the chief's key argument. From the AFP report that cited the remarks:
They [IS - Daesh] are currently recruiting fighters from 108 countries in the world and all of them are going through Turkey, with the [US] coalition's knowledge.  
We told America, "If you are serious about fighting Daesh, you have to stop those arrivals, which are wreaking carnage and destruction on Syria and Iraq."
Yes. What use is it to spend billions to train and equip fighters when one of your allies leaves the door wide open for the enemy?  This is expecting the Iraqis to empty the ocean with a sieve.

It's as nutty as the U.S. asking Russian help to fight Islamic State in Iraq but telling them not to fight Islamic State in Syria.

The problem for the United States: people in that part of the world don't interpret the contradictory actions as nuts. They peg them as a deliberate strategy to destroy their countries and give victory to Islamic State mercenaries and their backers -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. Who just so happen to be part of the very ill-defined U.S. coalition to fight Islamic State.

To give an analogy for the American readers at Yahoo News, which carried the AFP report: imagine waves of troops from the Axis Powers in World War II constantly coming across the U.S. southern border -- troops endlessly equipped through a rat line that ran from say, Brazil up to Texas.

It's only a rough analogy because the USA wasn't a weak state facing very powerful states when it went into the second world war. But in essence that's what Syria is going through. That's what Iraq is going through. That's also what Afghanistan is going through.   

And it's all being done through proxy -- the hiring and equipping of mercenary armies -- so the predatory states don't have to answer to the United Nations or anyone else about staging invasions to conquer countries.    

In the face of this kind of onslaught, "train and equip" doesn't work out to a viable defense.

Also, for the benefit of those Americans whose reaction to the chief's criticism was to call Iraqi troops cowards for running from Islamic State:  the chief, Hadi al-Ameri, is one of the top leaders of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation paramilitary organization.
Ameri is a key MP in the Badr movement, a Tehran-backed Shiite party which also has a powerful military wing.
So they're not part of the Iraqi military, and I doubt they run from Islamic State or anyone else.

For readers who are just learning that both Baghdad's government and the American one asked Russia for help in fighting Islamic State in Iraq, much information about the Syria-Iraqi conflicts with Islamic State has been suppressed for many months -- even years, in the case of Russia's assistance to Syria. But during the past couple weeks, some people have become downright chatterboxes.

Just yesterday the White House leaked that it had been using the CIA to support various "moderate rebel" groups to fight in Syria. While this had been an open secret for many months, it was the first time the U.S. acknowledged the covert CIA help and named specific groups it was supporting.

And Yossef Bodansky's exhaustively detailed September 25 report, Memo to the West: Moscow’s increasing role in Syria and against the jihadist threat since 2012, reveals the true history of Russia's involvement in Syria's war against the terror armies and in related situations. Usually his analyses are behind a paywall but he shared the report with the public.   

Much in the history would be a complete surprise to the vast majority of Americans. For example, Seffy mentioned almost in passing that Russia intervention, which the Obama Administration requested, helped prevent the fall of Baghdad to Islamic State.

(I would bet that by now everybody who is anybody in the global 'intelligence community' has read the report from this highly respected intelligence analyst.)

So it's 9/11 all over again: Americans are again having to learn the hard way what's actually going on in the world that's of life-or-death importance to them. And it's going to keep being 9/11 all over again, until our government changes its ways and its choice of allies.

I will close with more grim observations from al-Ameri:
"There are some who try to contain Daesh but not really eliminate them and prevent those fighters from returning to Europe, which is where they came from. This lack of seriousness of the international coalition made us change tack. Russia is moving in a very serious way against Daesh."

... Ameri said IS's ability to recruit internationally was unprecedented in the history of terrorism
That, from a man who looks battle-hardened to me. 

Hadi al-Ameri

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