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Monday, September 24

YIKES!! Moscow to deliver S-300 air defense systems to Syria within 2 weeks!

And that's not all!  

Russia to Jam Navigation, Radars of Planes Attacking Syria -- Measures to "Cool hotheads" 

Here we go. HERE we go.

Sputnik / Kirill Kallinikov

September 24, 2018 - 12:04 (updated 14:07)
Sputnik

The Russian Defense Ministry promised to take "adequate" measures to boost the security of Russian servicemen after the Israeli Air Force used the Russian Il-20 as a shield while attacking targets in Syria, which led to the downing of the aircraft by Syrian air defenses last week.
During a Monday briefing, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow will deliver the S-300 air defense systems to Syria within two weeks as an adequate response to Israel's role in the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane last week.
"The Syrian Armed Forces will be supplied with the advanced S-300 air defense missile system within two weeks. It is capable of intercepting air threats at a range of more than 250 kilometers and simultaneously hitting several aerial targets," Shoigu said, adding that the S-300 would significantly boost Syria's combat capabilities.
Furthermore, Shoigu emphasized that command posts of the Syrian air defense forces would be equipped with automatic equipment that would ensure the identification of Russian aircraft by Syrian air defenses.
"Command posts of the Syrian troops and military air defense units will be equipped with automatic control system, which have been supplied only to the Russian Armed Forces. This will ensure the centralized management of all Syrian air defense forces and facilities, monitoring of the situation in the airspace and prompt target designation. Most importantly, it will ensure identification of all Russian aircraft by the Syrian air defense forces," Shoigu said.

Russia to Jam Navigation, Radars of Planes Attacking Syria

The minister stated that Russia would jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communication systems of combat aviation over the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
"Russia will jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communication systems of combat aircraft, which attack targets in the Syrian territory, in the regions over the waters of the Mediterranean Sea bordering with Syria," Shoigu said.

Measures That Will Cool Hotheads

He proceeded to say that Moscow had halted the delivery of S-300s to Damascus back in 2013 at Israel's request, but the situation around the delivery has changed "through no fault of Russia."
According to the minister, an Israeli F-16 jet used the Russian Il-20 aircraft as a shield, which resulted in the downing of the plane by Syrian air defense systems.
"This forced us to take an adequate response aimed at improving the security of Russian troops performing tasks to combat international terrorism in Syria," he said at the briefing.
Shoigu further stressed that if measures taken by Russia following the Il-20 crash over the Mediterranean fail to cool "hotheads," "we will have to respond in line with the situation."
"We are convinced that the implementation of these measures will cool hotheads and prevent ill-considered actions threatening our servicemen. Otherwise we will have to respond in line with the current situation," Shoigu stated.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy in Russia has so far refused to comment on the statements made by Shoigu.
Addressing the possibility of high-level contacts between Russia and Israel following the announcement by the defense minister, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow would inform if there were any, adding that the decision was not directed at any third country.
Earlier this week, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the Israeli Air Force of providing misleading information about the area of the planned airstrikes on Syrian targets, thereby violating its agreement with Russia. Shortly after that, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that Tel Aviv would continue its military operation in Syria despite the Il-20 incident.
“We won’t let Syria be turned into a main Iranian military facility against the Israeli state. We continue to act… and we have all the necessary means and opportunities to this end,” he said.

Il-20 Downing

On September 17, the Russian Il-20 aircraft with 15 servicemen on board vanished from radar screens near Hmeymim Airbase in Syria. The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that the disappearance coincided with an attack by four Israeli F-16 military jets on Syrian targets in the province of Latakia.
The ministry stressed that the Israeli Air Force used the Russian reconnaissance plane as a cover, thus subjecting it to an attack by the Syrian air defenses, with a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile hitting the Russian Il-20 while trying to repel Israeli strikes. Israel, for its part, insisted that Syria was responsible for the downing and that by the time the plane was destroyed, the four F-16 were already on their way home.
[END REPORT EXCEPT FOR 6 Tweets from IDF Spox on September 18]
PLUS: "WATCH 3D Reconstruction of Il-20 Downing in Syria, Released by Russian MoD"

********

"US-Backed Militia Arrests 1,200 Civilians Under Forced Recruitment Plan in NE Syria"

"The SDF men are on alert as their measure has [further] enraged civilians in Northeastern Syria." 

FARS
September 23, 2018

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in an unprecedentedly large arrest operation in Hasaka and Raqqa provinces, on Sunday captured 1,200 young men under a forced recruitment plan.

A local source said that the SDF has detained 800 of the captured young men in Hassan Darwish base and sent 400 more to a base in Tal Abyadh.

The source went on to say that the SDF men are on alert as their measure has enraged civilians in Northeastern Syria.

On Saturday, the SDF opened fire at people in the village of al-Khalediyah near the town of Tal Abyadh in Northern Raqqa, killing a villager. The clashes in al-Khalediyah came after the SDF arrested young men under the forced recruitment plan.

In the meantime the SDF arrested several young men in the town of Tabaqa in Western Raqqa to force them to join the militias.

A number of people in al-Savameh square in Raqqa city were arrested by the SDF for an alleged attack on the militia's base.

Also, a gunmen of the SDF was killed in a bomb blast in the small town of al-Karamah in Eastern Raqqa, field sources said, adding that the body of an SDF militia member has also been discovered in Raqqa city amid intensified attacks by unknown raiders against the militia.  

[END REPORT]

***********

"Turkish Army's Elite Troops Arrive in Northern Syria"

FARS
September 23, 2018

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Turkish Army sent tens of its elite forces to the Northwestern province of Idlib on Sunday few days after the endorsement of the Sochi agreement between Ankara and Moscow.

A battalion of the Turkish commandos crossed the Tonkli province border with Northwestern Syria and entered Idlib province.

The elite forces' dispatch to Idlib is allegedly aimed at reinvigoration of truce-monitoring points in the Northwestern province.

In the meantime field sources in Northern Syria reported that a new convoy of the Turkish troops, including elite forces, personnel-carrier vehicles and canons have been dispatched to Rayhanli region in Hatay province near the border with Western Idlib.

On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke in favor of deploying additional troops to the Syrian city of Idlib after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to create a demilitarized zone along the contact line between the armed opposition and government troops in Idlib by October 15.

"We will have 12 observation points in Idlib. However, we need to send additional troops there," the foreign minister stated at a press conference in Ankara broadcasted by the NTV television channel.

Russia and Turkey will carry out coordinated patrols, with drones also taking part, Cavusoglu said.

"Terrorist groups will leave, heavy weapons will be withdrawn, civilians and moderate opposition with a small number of light weapons will remain. Turkey and Russia will jointly control this process. We will need to deploy additional military troops to Idlib," Cavusoglu added.

Before the talks, Ankara reportedly sent reinforcement troops to Idlib province, increasing its presence in the country.

Idlib is the last remaining stronghold of anti-government militants and al-Qaeda-linked terror groups in Syria.

[END REPORT]

********

Sunday, September 23

Gulf Oil Producers have a mind of their own. And after all we've done for them.

This week Trump labeled OPEC a “monopoly” on Twitter, accusing the organization of wanting to push oil prices “higher and higher.” He also took the opportunity to remind Middle East allies that they would “not be safe for very long” without US protection. 

U.S.-Saudi Special Relationship


RT, September 23:

OPEC snubs Trump’s demand to up production at meeting of major oil producers

A possible boost in oil production was not discussed at a recent meeting between OPEC and other major oil producing nations, following earlier demands by US President Donald Trump that oil output be increased to bring prices down.


Hosted in Algiers, Sunday’s meeting was a gathering of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) of members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producing countries, including Russia.

When asked if they discussed the further boost in production, Oman’s Oil and Gas Minister Mohammed Rumhi abruptly told reporters “No” after the meeting.

Instead, the meeting agreed to stick to the previously agreed output, with Kuwait’s Oil Minister Bakheet Rashidi saying the JMMC will fully conform with the Vienna deal, at least until the next meeting in November and December.

"We agreed to target 100 percent conformity for the next coming two months until we meet again at the next JMMC,” Rashidi said.

Agreed in June of this year, the Vienna deal saw major oil producers agree to boost crude oil output by one million barrels-per-day, as part of a compromise deal to ease oil prices and tackle supply issues caused by a fall in output from Iran and Venezuela.

Trump however, wants output increased by as much as two million barrels per day, as oil prices continue to rise in the US amid high consumer demand.

Iran is expected to lose some 1.4 million barrels-per-day of supply as US sanctions go into force November 5, while Venezuela and Libya also present supply risks, pushing up cost, according to market analytics firm S&P Global.

This week Trump labeled OPEC a “monopoly” on Twitter, accusing the organization of wanting to push oil prices “higher and higher.” He also took the opportunity to remind Middle East allies that they would “not be safe for very long” without US protection.

Rather than OPEC controlling prices, analysts have instead blamed Trump’s latest round of sanctions on OPEC-member Iran for driving up the price, as supply from Tehran decreased.

Ahead of Sunday’s meeting, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih maintained, while speaking to reporters, that the “markets are adequately supplied,” insisting that OPEC does not control oil prices.

Falih added that, to justify an increase of two million barrels-per-day, demand would need to increase by 1.5 million per day, something he didn’t think was likely.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that no immediate output increase was necessary but that Russian production could be increased by several hundred thousand barrels per day, if needed.

[END REPORT]

********

While MSM were watching Idlib, Syria's army was plodding along in Suwayda

As-Suwayda Governorate (province), which is spelled several different ways, including Sweida


All 14 Syrian Governorates; map from Reddit's 2016 updated and revamped list of "The 14 Governorates, 65 Districts, and 282 Subdistricts of Syria" (Bravo Reddit)


June 10, Syrian News:
Assad regime forces and their allied militias managed to advance against the Islamic State group in As-Suwayda desert, Enab Baladi News reported on Sunday. ... It is noteworthy that the Islamic State group is controlling nearly 50% of As-Suwayda desert, while the military offensives are launched from three axes ...
September 23, Sputnik:
Syrian government troops are on course to mopping up the last of the entrenched Daesh* [Islamic State] militants in Al-Suwayda Governorate, as they have encircled the northwestern Idlib Governorate, the last remaining stronghold of militant and terror groups in the country.
The terrorists are holed up on extinct volcanoes in the Tulul al-Safa area in southwestern Syria, and have been effectively cut off from their supplies of water as Syrian government forces continue their advance on the eastern part of Al-Suwayda Desert, a Sputnik correspondent reported.
Earlier, the army severed Daesh* terrorists supply lines, killing snipers guarding approaches to their hideouts and bombing out their main food and ammunition depots.
[VIDEO]
Just as President Assad’s forces tighten the noose around the besieged jihadists, the terrorists have lost access to the last remaining source of drinking water following days of intense fighting for water reservoirs near Qabar Sheikh Hussein, which are currently under the government forces’ control.
Meanwhile, rocky terrain and frozen lava prevent tanks and artillery from approaching the terrorists' positions.
The Syrian Air Force is conducting a series of massive airstrikes clearing the way for the advancing infantry on the ground.
Last month, the Russian General Staff reported that the Syrian government had successfully restored its control over the southern provinces of Al-Suwayda, Daara and Quneitra. International focus has since shifted from south Syria to Idlib province in the country's north.
Idlib is now the last major stronghold for anti-government forces, which is dominated by a motley collection of jihadist militants, including units from the Nusra Front*.
* terrorist groups banned in Russia
[END REPORT]
*********

Downing of IL-20: Last week Israel gave their side of the story. Today Russia gave theirs.

UPDATE 9:08 AM EDT
TASS has posted their report on the Russian MoD findings.
****
Odd; I can't find DEBKAfile's very detailed report last week on the Israeli findings presented to the Russians in Moscow. But here's a report on the findings from The Times of Israel, headlined Israel: Russia accepts our take on Syrian downing of plane, coordination goes on: "We proved Syrians' Reckless Anti-air Fire Was Direct Cause."

Actually, the Russians accepted the Israeli report, in the manner of accepting evidence, after making it clear they were still conducting a forensic investigation of the incident. The investigation included minute-by-minute review of radar data. Today the Russian Ministry of Defense released their findings at a press briefing (15 minute video with English subtitles and English transcript at Russian MoD website. The video is also posted to YouTube

Sputnik's report on the findings is headlined Russian MoD: Israel Violated Agreement With Russia to Prevent Incidents in SyriaLede:
The Israeli Air Force misled Russia by providing wrong information about the area of the planned air strikes in Syria on September 17, thus preventing the Russian Il-20 from moving to a safe zone, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday.
That accusation was just for starters. 

RT's headline for its report on the findings is blunter than Sputnik's: Criminal negligence’ or disregard to Russia-Israel ties: MoD details chronology of Il-20 downing.

TASS has not yet released their report on the findings. 

Moon of Alabama has posted its report on the findings.  

*********

"Have Suicide Belt, Will Travel": Job Posting at Global Terrorist Professional Association website*

Ahvaz, Iran yesterday 


My condolences to the people of Iran for yesterday's terrorist attack in Ahvaz, and I pray for the full recovery of the wounded. The attack killed by early estimates 29 and wounded 60.  On the same day the Times of India announced that for the second year in a row India is the third largest recipient of terrorist attacks after Iraq and Afghanistan. This according to data released by the U.S. Department of State. Maoists carried out 53 percent of the attacks. 

Yet there have been so many terrorist attacks in so many countries since 9/211 that I rarely mention specific ones anymore. Just this year in Afghanistan, in Kabul alone, there were at Wikipedia's last count 18 terrorist attacks.   

So it's for three specific reasons I've mentioned the one in Iran. First, because I kept seeing headlines that read, 'Attack on military parade.' Excuse me, does the wounded child in the photo look as if he'd been marching in a military parade?

It was an attack during a military parade. The four perps didn't care who they shot; they just fired in the direction of the marchers on the street, which was lined with civilian onlookers, and/or at a reviewing stand filled with officials watching the parade. 

Second, there's been so much inflamed rhetoric about Iran in recent months from my government that in the immediate wake of the attack, top Iranian officials fingered the U.S. as the prime suspect behind the attacks no matter who carried them out or why. 

The officials had a good reason to leap to conclusions. The attack happened the day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with direct retaliation if there were any more attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq. 

So this is the Red Line in Syria redux. In today's uh, charged geopolitical atmosphere, anyone who hopes to provoke an American attack on Iranian sites just has to stage an attack on a U.S. site in Iraq -- or anywhere else in the Middle East for that matter.

Third, because the attack in Ahvaz reminded me to point out that terrorism is now a profession, one that services a large number of players including governments and criminal cartels. Although the signs have been growing for more than a decade, an investigative report by Marcin Mamon, published in September 2016 by The Intercept, made it clear that the orthodox view of terrorism needed updating:
... Hakim and his colleagues are part of a new generation of fighters. They aren’t like the militia their fathers fought in during the first Chechen war, nor like the fighters from the Free Syrian Army in the first years of the civil war in Syria. Those men dressed in whatever clothing they had at hand, not Western sports brands. Their weapons were often outdated, heavily used surplus equipment discarded by a professional army. For those men, war was a temporary condition. They defended their families, homes, towns, and villages, hoping that when things died down, they would return to their former lives.
These young people, in their 20s and 30s, are already professionals. They’ve grown up with war and don’t have any other life to go back to, nor do they expect their lives will ever change. They are largely better equipped than their fathers. Most spend their savings on the best in wartime survival equipment, clothing, and weapons. They fight frequently on foreign soil.
 Many of these younger men are known as “freelancers,” waging jihad from time to time. They join different groups; internationally and locally. They set aside money for a good weapon and ammunition. When they feel tired after a few months of combat — or they get sick — they go back to families they may have left behind in Turkey. They come back and earn some money, for example, by buying and selling weapons, and then return to Syria to fight. ...
But the Syrian war revealed that many of these men are not only freelancers, they're mercenaries -- contractors. Ones who use terrorism simply as one of the tools of their trade. While that observation might not apply to Abdul Hakim -- he claims that he's in it for the jihad and doesn't attack "women, children, or the elderly" -- terrorism is now a profession. As such, the targets are as fungible as the employers and their motives.

Given that it's the employers who established the profession of terrorism, any chance of breaking it up rests with them. Would officially branding at least a quarter of the governments in the United Nations "State Sponsors of Terrorism" help in this regard?    

* There is no such professional association -- at least I hope not.   

*********

Saturday, September 22

Has NATO noticed the Muslim Brotherhood now has a seat at the table?

For that matter, has Israel's defense establishment noticed? I'd say no on both counts, else Netanyahu would have Assad on speed dial and seeing to it that a basket of Israeli fruit is delivered to Syria's presidential palace every morning. 

Nevermind, it'll all be clear in the end, although here's hoping NATO notices before then that Neo-Ottoman is Muslim Brotherhood spelled backward.

I don't think it's occurred to SouthFront either that the Brothers are now sitting in Brussels, but SF has used part of their their monthly shoestring budget to produce a helpful 35 minute video analysis, published yesterday and titled "Turkish Policy." The video is also available at SouthFront's YouTube channel until YouTube suspends SouthFront again for brushing their teeth the wrong way.  

The video transcript, only available at the SouthFront site, is subtitled "Turkish Strategy in Syria: Military Operations, Proxies and Idlib Issue." Usually I prefer to read transcripts if they're available but in this case I found the video visuals, in total, to be an aid to understanding that Erdogan isn't just blustering. He is after a big chunk of Syria. From there, pretend you're a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood and look at a map of the Middle East. 

*********

Tuesday, September 18

FEMA chief: :"The next 48-hours are extremely critical." NC governor: "There's too much going on."

"Preliminary statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed Florence had the fourth-highest rainfall total of any hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1950, with 35.94 inches (91.2 centimeters) at Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Harvey’s total of 60.58 inches (60.5 centimeters) last year in Texas is No. 1." -- from an Associated Press report.

The worst of the situation for North Carolina, at least, is the number of rivers in the state that just couldn't take any more rain. Flooding in the wake of Hurricane Florence has been catastrophic in the hardest-hit areas and will continue for the next few days. 

For details here are two reports, one from AP, "Emergency crews throw supply lifeline to isolated Wilmington" published today; no timestamp, and a CNN report published today at 3:42 PM EDT, "Fear near Cape Fear rises with the river, and the death toll from Florence keeps growing."

The AP sums it in the closing paragraphs of their report:
Flooding worries also increased in Virginia, where roads were closed and power outages were on the rise. In all, about 420,000 homes and businesses in three states were in the dark. Most of the outages were in North Carolina.
Florence, once a fearsome Category 4 hurricane, was still massive. Radar showed parts of the sprawling storm over six states.
Fears of what could be the worst flooding in North Carolina's history led officials to order tens of thousands to evacuate, though it was not clear how many had fled or even could.
Emergency officials had difficulty keeping up with the scope of the spreading disaster. In Lumberton, where the Lumber River inundated homes, Fire Chief John Paul Ivey couldn’t even count how many calls authorities had received about people needing to be rescued.
“We’ve been going so hard and fast we don’t have a number yet,” he said.
**********

CRISIS

You bet they're trying to provoke a war with Russia. 

"The attack on Latakia came just hours after Russia and Turkey negotiated a partial demilitarization of Idlib province" 

Breaking News banner at RT:

Al Qaeda goes to Hollywood

"An exclusive Grayzone investigative documentary film rips the cover off of the most sophisticated and expensive campaign of humanitarian interventionist propaganda in modern history."
The Syria Deception: Al-Qaeda Goes to Hollywood
By Dan Cohen
September 15, 2018
Grayzone Project

For decades, Western governments, corporate media and Hollywood have engaged in a project of mass deception to manufacture consent for military interventions. Waged in the name of lofty ideals like freedom, human rights and democracy, US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya wound up bringing death, destruction and even the return of slavery to the African continent. As the wounds from those catastrophes festered, Washington embarked on its most ambitious project yet, marketing another war of regime change, this time in Syria.

This investigative mini-doc exposes the cynical deceptions and faux humanitarianism behind the campaign to sell the dirty war on Syria. It will also demonstrate the lengths that the US and its allies have gone to develop new ploys to tug at Western heartstrings and convince even liberal minded skeptics of war that a US intervention was necessary — even if it meant empowering Al Qaeda’s largest franchise since 9/11 and its theocratic allies among the insurgency. Big lies and little children have formed the heart of what is perhaps the most expensive, sophisticated, and shameless propaganda blitz ever conducted. Welcome to the Syria Deception.

[24 minute documentary, also available at YouTube. YouTube carries a warning that the video contains disturbing material; it does in a few parts -- summary executions, etc. but nothing that anyone who's followed the news on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria would find shocking.]


[END REPORT]

********

Monday, September 17

Attack against US-backed SDF in Deir Ezzor, yet more clashes between SDF and Raqqa civilians

TEHRAN (FNA - September 17)- Heavy clashes are reported between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and civilians in the city of Raqqa again.

Media sources in Raqqa said that the SDF forces fired at the residents of the district of al-Mashlab in Raqqa city, and wounded several people.

Meantime, local sources disclosed that an SDF patrol was targeted by unknown assailants near Monir Habib school in Ramibeh district, killing one SDF fighter, who was also a former ISIL member, and injuring another one.

In a relevant development last month, civilians in the Southeastern Deir Ezzur raided the positions of the US-backed SDF, destroying their checkpoints.

The SDF opened fire at the people in the village of al-Sajar in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, injuring seven villagers.

The villagers later set fire[s] at the SDF-run al-Sijan oilfield near al-Sajar, destroying the terrorists' checkpoints.

In the meantime a field source pointed to intensified tensions in the SDF-held regions in Deir Ezzur, adding that two SDF militias were killed in a bomb blast near al-Tanak oilfield in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

[END REPORT]

********

Top 12 bluffs to justify bombing Syria's government out of existence. Plus Idlib.

Bravo Peter Ford, former U.K. Ambassador to Syria, for penning the Bluffer's Guide! To be more precise the British Bluffer's Guide. Before I turn to the guide, and for readers who're wondering whatever happened to the famous Idlib Offensive -- I have a guess but it's not for publication at this time.   

I will note that even before the Syrian government had lost control of most of Idilb in 2015, the E.U. powers to include the British with the U.S. Department of State tagging along got the idea to transform the province and especially Idlib City into a laboratory for democratic governance. This is an established fact

But I believe the rationale was to test the theory that the way to prevent Europe from being overrun by the most violent among the Islamic extremists was to teach them how to govern properly where they were already situated. Sort of like trying to graft wings onto poisonous snakes so nobody will be bitten on the foot.   

By the time Hayat Tahrir al Sham overthrew Ahrar al Sham in Idlib City it was obvious that the experiment was lunacy but this is E.U. governments under discussion. I believe they'll keep playing Dr Frankenstein as long as somebody else keeps writing the checks.

From that viewpoint holding Turkey responsible for any presumed delay in the Idlib Offensive is red herring.

The Bluffer's Guide to Bombing Syria 
By Peter Ford
September 17, 2018
Sic Semper Tyrannis



The Dirty Dozen: 12 lies they tell to anaesthetise you for the upcoming bombing of Syria

The propaganda mills of the British and American governments - spokespersons, media, think tanks - are working overtime churning out 'talking points' to justify the upcoming large scale bombing of Syria on the pretext that Syria's government is using prohibited weapons.

Here is a guide to the top dozen of these lies 
from a former insider: 

  1. There are more babies than jihadis in Idlib. As it happens this gem of moral blackmail is untrue. There are twice as many jihadis (about 100,000) as babies (0-1 year) (55,000). What is this factoid meant to say anyway? Don't try to free an area of jihadis because you might harm a lot of children? The Western coalition scarcely heeded that consideration in razing Mosul and Raqqa in order to crush ISIS. They are still pulling babies out of the rubble in Raqqa.
  2. The reports [of the imminent chemical weapons 'attack'] must be true because Asad has done it beforeFalse. Since 2013 when Asad gave up chemical weapons under supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the OPCW have not visited the sites of alleged attacks in jihadi-controlled areas but have accepted at face value 'reports' from pro-jihadi organisations like the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society, along with 'evidence' from hostile intelligence agencies. In the case of the one site the OPCW did visit, Douma, their report said they found no evidence of sarin, no untoward traces in any of the blood samples taken from 'alleged victims' (their term), no bodies and only ambiguous evidence of use of chlorine.
3.The OPCW report on Douma was flawed because the Russians and Syrians caused delay. False. As documented in the OPCW report delay was caused by UN bureaucracy and jihadi snipers. The inspectors do not say their findings were to any significant degree invalidated by the delay. 
  1. Asad uses chemical weapons because they frighten large numbers of people into fleeing. False. They don't. This desperate argument is trotted out to counter the fact that Asad would have to be stupid to use chemical weapons knowing what the result would be and that he would derive minimal military benefit. To date not one of the alleged chemical attacks has precipitated an exodus any greater than flight caused by the legendary 'barrel bombs'. The inhabitants of Douma by their own testimonies given to Western journalists were even unaware there might have been an attack until they heard about it in the media. 
  2. The OPCW won't be able to investigate because it won't be safe. A feeble excuse to preempt calls for establishing facts before bombing. The Turks escort Western journalists into Idlib. They have hundreds of troops there and the jihadis kowtow to them because they control all logistics. The Turks could escort OPCW. And wouldn't the jihadis be keener than anybody for the inspectors to visit if their claims were true?
  3. The upcoming strikes are not aimed at regime changeFalse. The plan is to decapitate the Syrian state with attacks on the presidency. Failing that the aim is to make Idlib a quagmire for the Russians. Anything to deprive Asad and Putin of victory, regardless of whether it prolongs the war. 
  4. It's all Russian disinformation. Yeah, like the arms inspectors before the Iraq war who said no WMD in Iraq. Reality: the Russians have got great intelligence on what Western powers with their jihadi clients are up to and are calling out the phoney moves.
  5. There won't be enough time for parliamentary debatePull the other leg. Reality: the government are terrified of a rerun of 2013 when Labour and 30 brave Tory MPs voted against bombing, causing Cameron and then Obama to back off. 
  6. MPs can't be told what is planned because it would jeopardise the safety of service personnelHow low can you stoop? Feigning concern for flyers when it's really just about keeping the people in ignorance of how big the strikes are going to be.
  7. There are going to be massacres/a bloodbath/genocideFalse. We heard all this hysteria before Aleppo, before Eastern Ghouta and before the campaign in the South. All vastly exaggerated. The Syrian Arab Army has not been responsible for a single massacre, while the jihadis have been responsible for many (source: quarterly reports of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria).
  8. People have nowhere to go. False. The Russians have opened safe corridors but the jihadis are not allowing people to leave. They can still leave for the northern border strip which Turkey controls, where there are camps, and many (including jihadi fighters) will be able to cross temporarily into Turkey.  [Pundita note: the SAA got at least 9,000 people out of Idlib via an evacuation corridor despite constant attacks from the 'jihadis' before they shut down the corridor. As to why they shut it, that's a matter of opinion for those outside the Syrian/Russian military commands.]
  9. We can't tell you which armed groups we support because it would make them targets for Asad. Really? You think he doesn't know? Isn't it because you are terrified it will come out that we have been supporting some real head-choppers?
**********

Sunday, September 16

Typhoon Mangkhut and Hurricane Florence. What a pair. UPDATED 7:40 AM EDT

UPDATE
Mangkhut has struck near Hong Kong, from this CNN report published at 6:04 AM EDT. Very serious storm; might be the worst Hong Kong has recorded since they started keeping records in the 1940s.
... At 4 p.m. local time, the storm was 110 kilometers (68 miles) west-southwest of Hong Kong, and heading for the surrounding Pearl River Delta, home to 120 million people, the HKO reported later Sunday. Mangkhut was expected to make landfall sometime Sunday evening in southern mainland China. ...
CNN also has an updated report as of 5:17 AM EDT on Florence; it's weakened to a tropical depression but the flash floods it's causing are "far" from over. 

END UPDATE

Holy Cow! Mangkhut's peak winds, just before landfall in the Philippines, clocked in at 180 mph. Florence, eat your heart out. But I'll bet Mangkhut has nothing on Florence's rain totals. Florence got so pokey it was able to dump unbelievable amounts of rain when it finally meandered onto land. Parts of eastern North Carolina got 2 feet of rain in some areas. As of last night Florence was moving at just 3 mph, so it's going to continue to dump epic amounts of water before it meanders off to somewhere. 

Well well this has been a very strange weekend weatherwise. Where to begin? We'll start with the typhoon. No let's start with the hurricane. What's the difference between the two? They're the same -- both are officially tropical cyclones. Just different names in different parts of the world. 

From ABC News, 9/15 - 7:03 PM EDT:
Florence's dangerous flooding "is only going to get worse," North Carolina's director of emergency management warned Saturday as massive amounts of rain devastate the state.
"We have never seen flash flooding like this in our state," state Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon added at a press conference Saturday afternoon.
Trogdon said flash flooding will last for several days and river and marine flooding could last up to a week.
"We just don't want people to think this thing is over, because it's not," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper added Saturday of Florence, which made landfall near Wrightsville Beach Friday morning as a hurricane and has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.
"We know the water is rising fast everywhere -- even in places that don't typically flood," Cooper said.
Catastrophic flooding has already wreaked havoc on parts of eastern North Carolina, which sustained 2 feet of rain in some areas, and up to 40 inches in other hard-hit spots.
Newport, North Carolina, reported 23.75 inches of rainfall by Saturday morning.
Hoffman, North Carolina, has seen 19.96 inches and Conway, South Carolina, has seen 8.68 inches -- with two days of rainfall to come.
[...]
First responders and volunteers are going door to door, by boat and air, navigating dangerous currents to get to those who are trapped.
"It's pretty dire right now," trapped resident Jackie Mallard told ABC News. "The streets are almost like you need gondolas."
[...]
Also from the ABC report:


> At least 13 people were reported dead in the storm, with three in South Carolina and the other 10 in North Carolina. [14 dead, from the Charlotte Observer]

> There were nearly 800,000 people without power in North and South Carolina combined Saturday evening.


Now to the typhoon.

From ABC News, 9/15 - 4:41 PM EDT, Morgan Windsor reporting:

The strongest storm on Earth in 2018 barreled through the northern Philippines before dawn on Saturday, bringing with it ferocious winds and torrential rain.

Typhoon Mangkhut, known locally as Ompong, made landfall in Cagayan province on northeast Luzon island at 1:40 a.m. local time, according to the country's weather agency, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. It's estimated that the tropical cyclone put at least five million people at risk.

Mangkhut, considered the strongest storm on the planet so far this year, was the 15th [typhoon? tropical storm?] to hit the Philippines. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center U.S. Navy-U.S. Air Force command, located in Hawaii, had downgraded Mangkhut from a "super typhoon," when it had peak wind speeds of 180 mph, prior to landfall on the country's largest and most populous island.

Mangkhut weakened slightly as it reached Luzon's mountainous coastline early Saturday morning; however, it was still packing winds equivalent to a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. 


[The highest level on the scale is Cat 5 -- storms with sustained winds exceeding 156 mph.]

Its tropical storm-force winds extended 550 miles across, according to the country's weather agency, making it nearly double the size of Florence, the hurricane turned tropical storm that made landfall over the southeastern United States on Friday.

Mangkhut's high winds churned rough seas as it moved across Luzon, producing waves nearly 30 feet high, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The heavy rain triggered landslides that reportedly claimed the lives of several people in the area. [The CNN report puts the death toll so far at 40 people.]

Francis Tolentino, an adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said at least 12 people died, mostly due to landslides, according to The Associated Press.

Global nonprofit Oxfam said it deployed teams of responders to the area to assess the damage and provide disaster relief.

"The situation is very bad," Oxfam's April Abello-Bulanadi said in a statement from Tuguegarao City. "The winds are howling and we can feel the destructive force of Ompong. The roof of the hotel where the response team convened has been blown away. We are on the third floor. The walls and ceiling are shaking. It has been raining nonstop."

Mangkhut has been tracked northwestward at about 16 mph over the past six hours, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

The cyclone is forecast to make another landfall over southeastern China, just west of Hong Kong on Sunday, and will ultimately dissipate over the rugged terrain.

ABC News' Brittany Borer contributed to this report.


[END REPORT]

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Humanitarianism as a tactic of war and Netherlands decision to stop funding White Helmets

The Netherlands decision is good news. Now if only the U.K., U.S., Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and Japan would follow suit.(1) However, from my reading of Moon of Alabama's report (below) on the decision, it was made without questioning the veracity of the White Helmets videos, and skirted the issue of the group's collaboration with al Qaeda and other terrorist combatants in Syria. The reasons given for withdrawing funding are confined to issues with oversight and funds-transfer enforcement mechanisms.

I don't fault the government for the tack; it might have been the most legally defensible -- and diplomatically judicious, given the allied nations that fund the White Helmets. But while the Netherlands is the first Western government to publicly state that it found serious problems with the funding of the White Helmets, the reasons given for suspending the funding leave the door wide open for governments that want to continue funding the group.

It should be remembered that the group's official name is "Syria Civil Defense" despite the fact that it clearly operates in regions controlled by armed groups that have made war on a great many unarmed civilian members of Syrian civil society and that it serves those groups, which include terrorist ones.    

I think the White Helmets, as well as entities that use them for propaganda, are taking advantage of complex ethical issues related to medical treatment and other humanitarian aid for non-state enemy combatants. These are the issues the Netherlands and all other civilized nations need to tackle in coordinated fashion. Without such groundwork vaunted humanitarian relief groups such as the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the entities that fund them can keep skating past any evidence that they're outright aiding and abetting terrorism.

The civilized nations long ago worked out the ethics of medical treatment for enemy state combatants. They have avoided nailing down the ethics of treatment for non-state combatants that routinely use terrorism as a tactic of war and their families and other civilians as human shields. This has placed the civilized nations in the impossible position of half-heartedly endorsing savagery. 

The terrorists and their facilitators have greatly benefited from the dilemma by turning humanitarianism against the very governments that most value it. This has led to tactics that could be termed humanitarian-fare, as in 'lawfare' -- the tactics of using a nation's laws against it. 

While I'd consider SAMS the more dangerous of the two groups, the White Helmets by very publicly promoting themselves are a highly visible illustration of humanitarian-fare. Yet without governments tackling the issues that lead to the use of humanitarianism as a tactic of war, the White Helmets, if disbanded, would be replaced by a similar group -- one just more clever at observing donor rules of oversight and funds-transfer mechanisms.

The Dike Breaks - Netherlands Ends Support For "White Helmets" Terrorist Propaganda
September 15, 2018 - 3:30 PM
Moon of Alabama

The Netherlands just announced that it is ending its support for al-Qaeda's propaganda gang, the "White Helmets". It also ends its support for the so called Free Syrian Police. Last week the Netherlands shut down its "non lethal" support for the Free Syrian Army after Dutch news organizations found that members of these groups were accused of terrorism by their General Prosecutor.

According to the Volkskrant daily (in Dutch), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ended the support for the White Helmets after its Directorate for International Research and Policy Evaluation issued a critical report about them. For the White Helmets, which had received €12.5 million from the Dutch government, it lists the following issues:
  • According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the supervision of the behavior of the rescue workers is 'inadequate'. The organization that supervises, Mayday, based in the Netherlands, is closely intertwined with the White Helmets itself. In practice, donors do not understand the difference between the two organizations.
  • Mayday wants to spend a maximum of 0.9% of its budget on supervision of the work of the White Helmets. 'That is why there is a lack of independent supervision of the activities and results of the project.'
  • The money for the White Helmets is transferred to the Syrian border in cash or enters the country via the hawala system. It is 'problematic' that Mayday does not know how much money is paid via which route. That is why there is a danger that money has fallen into the hands of armed groups. The cash flow can also indirectly be used for illegal trade. Systematic control of the money flow is missing.
  • The White Helmets are active in areas where armed groups are in power that are considered 'unacceptable' for the Netherlands. Contact between the White Helmets and local administrators who work together with extremist organizations is inevitable.
The seemingly intentional lack of transparency practically guarantees that much of the more than $150 million the White Helmets received from various governments will have flown into the private pockets of the people who organize the scam.

This blog has published several pieces about the White Helmets, mostly pointing out their obviously faked media productions; e.g.:
For background information on the White Helmets the earlier pieces by Vanessa Beeley's at 21st Century Wire are still the best: Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I and Part II – Syria’s White Helmets: ‘Moderate Executioners’.

Vanessa Beeley, Eva Barlett (vid) and others have tried for years to point out the nefarious scheme behind the propaganda scam "White Helmets". Roger Waters rightly calls them (vid) a "fake propaganda construct for terrorists". But 'western' media loved the dramatic fake photos and videos the White Helmets produced, partly because they could put them into print and on screen free of any charge. Whoever criticized them and questioned their narratives was publicly smeared and derided.

The Volkkrant notes:

It is the first time that a Western government states that there are problems with the project.
It will not be the last time. More people will take note, look into the issue and pressure their governments to end their support. As the Dutch know well, once the dikes break it is impossible to stop the flood. The relentless work of a few engaged writers put pressure onto the dike and finally broke it. The White Helmet scam will soon come under a flood of public scrutiny and will be swept away into some dark corner of history.

Just a month ago Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, also known as a "well-styled NATO call boy", met the White Helmets front man Raed al-Saleh, who was denied entry into the U.S., and promised him more money. 

Maas also lauded the recent 'evacuation of White Helmets' from the Quneitra and Daraa area to Israel, which was just another scam. Israel used the White Helmet cover to evacuated a number of terrorists commanders it had paid and equipped for years in its war on Syria.

Maas and his NATO colleagues in other countries will soon be asked about the Dutch example. Can they refute the analysis the Foreign Ministry of their NATO ally Netherland made? Can Maas explain what happened with the €17 million Germany gave them? In whose pocket did the money end up?

[END REPORT]

1) From Wikipedia's article on the White Helmets, Partnerships and Funding section:

The White Helmets receives charitable funding from the United States, the United Kingdom, and other western governments.[63] Initially the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office was the largest single source of funding through Mayday Rescue Foundation.[64]

As of 2016, SCD state they are also partly funded through Chemonics, a U.S. based private international development company.[63] Funders now include the Canadian government Peace and Stabilization Operations Program,[61] the Danish government,[65][66] the German government,[67] the Japan International Cooperation Agency,[20][68] the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[69][70] the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs,[71] the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)[46] and the United Kingdom Conflict, Stability and Security Fund(CSSF).[72]

USAID have contributed at least $23 million from 2013 to March 2016.[73][74] The British government had provided £15 million of funding between 2012 and November 2015,[75] increased to £32 million by October 2016.[76]

As of 31 March 2018, the British government had provided £38.4m in aid to the White Helmets.[77] The SCD has also received individual donations online to their Hero Fund, which provides treatment for wounded volunteers and supports their families.[78] In March 2017, the organization was reported to be operating on a budget of about $26 million.[9]

In April 2018 the Trump administration suspended the funding of the White Helmets as part of a wider suspension of the funding of stabilization projects in Syria while the U.S. reassesses its role in Syria. The U.S. had provided more than $33 million to support the group since 2013.[79][34]

On 14 June 2018, the Trump administration authorised USAID and the United States Department of State to release approximately $6.6 million in aid to be shared between the group and the UN's International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Syria.[80].


[END SECTION]
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