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Monday, November 30

U.S. Embassy: credible intel of attack on Kabul within 48 hrs; target(s) unknown

U.S. Embassy warns of imminent attack in Kabul
Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:03pm EST
Reuters

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned on Monday of an imminent attack in the Afghan capital, saying it had received credible reports of a threat within the next two days, although it had no other details.

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters the threat was not made specifically against the U.S. Embassy, U.S citizens or any American interests in Kabul.

"U.S. Embassy Kabul has received credible reports of an imminent attack in Kabul city, Kabul province, Afghanistan within the next 48 hours," the embassy said in a post on its website.

"During this period of heightened threat, the U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution if moving around the city. There were no further details regarding the targets, timing, or method of the planned attack," it said.

(Reporting by Washington newsroom; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Peter Cooney)

[END REPORT]



BREAKING NEWS: Body of pilot Oleg Peshkov arrives in Russia from Turkey

Remains of Su-24 pilot killed in Syria arrive in Russia - Defense Ministry
RT 
30 Nov, 2015 - 15:48

Casket taken to plane Ankara airport by Turkish honor guard 

Photo: Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News (1 of 9 photos)


Photo: Ministry of National Defence of Turkey / Sputnik

The body of the pilot of the Su-24 bomber, shot down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet last week over Syria, has arrived in Russia.

The plane landed at the Chkalovsky military airfield outside Moscow on Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said. It flew in from Ankara.

The plane was greeted by Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu and Head of Russian Aerospace Forces Victor Bondarev. The silent drill team rendered the killed pilot with military honors.

“During the flight over Russian airspace the plane was accompanied by an escort of fighters," the ministry said in a statement.

The repatriation of the body was arranged after a military funeral service attended by the Russian ambassador and other military officials, Reuters reports.

The dead pilot Oleg Peshkov had a wife and two children. He will be buried in his home town Lipetsk, Russia's west.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said on Monday that it would be difficult to prevent airspace incidents “if we continue to have two coalitions fighting in Syria.”

The Turkish PM also said Ankara does not want to escalate further conflict with Moscow over the downed Russian warplane and expressed Turkey’s readiness for dialogue “on all levels.”

The body of the Russian pilot was treated in accordance with the Orthodox Christian tradition, PM Davutoglu told journalists in Ankara.


[END REPORT]

Oleg Peshkov with his wife and daughters



********

Islamic State starts relocating to Libya as RuAF and SAA rout them from Syria

I'll bet the ghosts of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi are having a good laugh about now.   

Picking up on a Wall Street Journal report yesterday (Some in Libyan City of Sirte Resisted Islamic State Takeover), a report today in Sputnik spells out the bad news a little more clearly than the Journal: Moving Closer to Europe: ISIL Sets Its Sights on Expansion in Libya. Before I turn over the floor to both publications, a couple points:

The Sputnik report specifically notes that Islamic State was able to exploit sectarian divisions in Libyan society. They were able to do the same in Iraq and Syria. But the divisions in Syria were greatly exacerbated by machinations of agents and dupes of the United States government and various of its allies. The Wikileaks publication of State Department cables relating to Syria make it explicit that the machinations started well before the Obama regime although it carried them forward.

The task of cleaning out the Augean Stables in Syria has been left largely to the Syrian military, Russian air force and Kurdish ground troops. Some measure of their success is that Islamic State is now directing new recruits to head for Libya rather than Syria. 

But do American and European regimes seriously expect Russians to clean up Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan for them? While all the time they do whatever they can to make life hard for Russians?    

From Sputnik's report:

“They want to take their fight to Rome.”

The Islamic State has increased its presence in the Mediterranean city of Sirte in Libya from 200 fighters at the start of the year to a force of 5,000 men, including administrators and financiers; the base is the first to be directly established by ISIL outside Syria and Iraq, and brings the terrorists closer to Europe.

The militant group has apparently found a new base where it can “generate oil revenue and plan terror attacks,” according to a Wall Street Journal report, based on estimates provided by Libyan intelligence officials, residents and activists in the area.

The group has apparently expanded its staff and activities in the Mediterranean city of Sirte since February 2015, when it first announced its presence in the area.

It now has roughly 5,000 men there, including administrators and financiers. The new stronghold is directly across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy.

Sirte is a gateway to several major oil fields and refineries farther east along the same coast and the Islamic State has targeted those installations in the past year, the newspaper says.

“They have made their intentions clear,” it quotes Ismail Shoukry, the head of military intelligence for the region that includes Sirte, as saying. “They want to take their fight to Rome.”

The group has already announced their plans to recruit foreign fighters, and is calling them to travel to Libya instead of Syria. According to residents and activists from Sirte and Libyan military officials, recent weeks have already seen a flood of foreign recruits and their families.

“Sirte will be no less than Raqqa,” is a mantra often repeated by Islamic State leaders in the Libyan city during sermons and radio broadcasts, the newspaper quotes several residents and an activist from the city as saying. Raqqa is the group’s self-declared capital in Syria.

About 85% of Libya’s crude oil production in 2014 went to Europe, with Italy being the largest recipient. About half of the natural gas it produces is exported to Italy.

“The control of Islamic State over this region will lead to economic breakdowns,” the leader of the Libyan operation said, “especially for Italy and the rest of the European states.”

The extremist group has already called for recruits who have the technical know-how to put nearby oil facilities into operation.

The militants, as it turns, were able to successfully exploit deep existing divisions in Libya, which has two rival governments, which are entangled in a violent, nationwide power struggle.

The internationally recognized government has been forced to operate from Tobruk on the eastern border with Egypt and its rival self-styled government in Tripoli, which is run by Libya Dawn, a dominant group of Islamists forces.

[END REPORT]

From the Wall Street Journal report

By TAMER EL-GHOBASHY and HASSAN MORAJEA

For three days, the band of resisters fought and believed they were inflicting losses on Islamic State, whose fighters came from Tunisia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

MISRATA, Libya—Islamic State’s black banner now flutters freely over the Libyan city of Sirte. But some residents of the hometown of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi put up fierce resistance to the takeover.

In early August, Islamic State gunmen stalked a young cleric named Khaled Ferjani who had been agitating against their growing hold on his city. Fed up with his influence in an area known as District 3, they killed him on the doorstep of his home shortly after the evening prayers he led at his mosque.
His assassination touched off a three-day uprising in Sirte by the imam’s supporters and residents of District 3, a revolt Islamic State rapidly crushed.
By doing so, the militant group gained control over a city that sits almost midway between the capital Tripoli and its second city, Benghazi and is a gateway to multiple oil fields and refineries. It has become the only city the group governs outside of Syria and Iraq.
Over the last six weeks, residents and activists say, many foreigners have arrived to settle in Sirte. But for months, District 3 had resisted Islamic State’s rule and became the site of one of the most visible uprisings—and bloodiest crackdowns. Mr. Ferjani, an adherent of Salafism, an ultraconservative form of Islam, had preached against the militants’ sweep through Sirte in February and his sizable flock resisted their influence.
Shortly before the imam’s killing, Omar, a 33-year-old resident who only wanted his first name used, had been bristling under the austere and often brutal Islamic State rules. A chain smoker, Omar had run afoul of the group’s smoking ban more than once, earning fines. On one day, he was again caught smoking in front of his house by two members of a morality police patrol. A Tunisian Islamic State patrolman lectured Omar, telling him he was going to prison or would be subjected to 80 lashes. His Libyan partner intervened, saying this would be Omar’s last warning.
“Imagine a foreigner sticking his finger in your face, telling you that you can’t do this or that,” Omar said in a recent interview.
Omar wasn’t a follower of the young imam. But once the cleric was killed, he joined a call to arms by the imam’s supporters at the mosque, bringing along an AK-47 rifle he said he bought for self-defense after Libya’s 2011 civil war but had never fired.
“I’m a civil engineer. I knew nothing about fighting,” said Omar, who speaks English with a slight British accent from three years of studying abroad in Scotland. He said he and dozens of neighbors began setting up roadblocks around District 3, while more hardened veterans of the battles in 2011 began taking shots at Islamic State positions in the area. For three days, the band of resisters fought and believed they were inflicting losses on Islamic State, whose fighters came from Tunisia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
But on the third day, Omar said, the militants brought in a column of reinforcements in armored vehicles and armed with heavy weapons and they shelled District 3 until the revolt was put down.
The militants began rounding up residents they accused of joining the resistance and marking homes in the district with one of three orders; You may return; Check with Islamic State police; or This is now property of Islamic State.
Omar fled to Misrata with his elderly parents, a sister and an aunt using back roads to avoid the multiple Islamic State checkpoints on the highway linking the two cities.
According to the United Nations, Omar and activists from Sirte, Islamic State later publicly executed five people accused of participating in the revolt, crucifying their bodies in public squares.
At Mr. Ferjani’s mosque, the group hung up a new black banner with their trademark white Arabic font, declaring that the house of worship would now be known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Mosque. It was named after the deceased Jordanian founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of Islamic State.
“People outside of Libya need to know what is happening in Sirte,” said an activist from the city. “They are terrorizing the city and will soon use it to terrorize the world.”
[END REPORT]


Sunday, November 29

Turk generals arrested for stopping weapon shipments from Turkey to Syria

I have read the report at Turkey's English-language Zaman Today but I am quoting Sputnik's discussion of it. The key point from the report is that the shipments were NOT headed to the Turkmen in Syria or to any 'Turkish' area in Syria. 

To put it mildly, this news is more indication that the Erdogan regime is completely out of control, as is the Obama regime if it's still shipping weapons to Syria, the Saudi regime, the Qatar regime, the French regime, the British regime, the -- [shaking her head]. Not just lunatics are in charge. Incredibly dangerous lunatics. 

I almost cried the other day when I caught part of the presser given by the Syrian and Russian foreign ministers. After listening for a time I pointed at the screen and said in a quavering voice, "I am actually seeing two adults. Two sane adults."
   
Turkey Arrests Generals for Stopping Syria-Bound Trucks 'Filled With Arms'
16:42 - 29.11.2015 (updated 19:46 29.11.2015)
SPUTNIK

Two Turkish generals and a colonel were detained on Saturday for intercepting Syria-bound trucks that belonged to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), the newspaper Today’s Zaman reported.

In January 2014, Ankara Gendarmerie Major-General Ibrahim Aydin, former Adana Gendarmerie Brigadier-General Hamza Celepoglu and former Gendarmerie Criminal Laboratory Head Colonel Burhanettin Cihangiroglu stopped Syrian-bound trucks in southern Turkey after they received information from an anonymous source that the trucks were illegally carrying weapons to militants in Syria.

When the information about the trucks became public, MIT officials and high-ranking Turkish politicians, including President Recep Teyyip Erdogan, who was Prime Minister back then, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then the country's foreign minister, were furious that the gendarmes stopped the trucks and said the Syria-bound trucks were carrying "humanitarian aid" to Turkmen living just south of Turkey, the newspaper said.

"Yes, I'm saying this without any hesitation. That aid was going to the Turkmens. There will be a war next door and we will watch our Turkmen, Arab and Turkish brothers being massacred," Davutoglu said, as cited by Today's Zaman.

[Pundita note: I assume he meant "will not watch" or stating the phrase as a question.]

However, members of opposition parties and some Turkish media said the trucks were indeed transporting weapons to Islamic extremists in Syria.

The gendarmes involved in the interception confirmed that the Syria-bound trucks weren't going to an area where the Turkmen lived, but to an area populated by radical groups, the Turkish newspaper said.

When an investigation into the MIT case was launched, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) called the probe as "treason and espionage" on the part of prosecutors.

New Twist in the Story

New developments on the issue took place recently. Last Tuesday, Erdogan answered claims previously made by critics, who said the trucks were filled with weapons, by sarcastically asking them: "What if the MIT trucks were filled with weapons?"

Then on Saturday, contrary to his earlier claims that the MIT trucks were carrying humanitarian aid to Turkmen, Erdogan said the trucks were actually heading on their way to help the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

"They [the gendarmes who revealed the transfer] also exposed those going to the FSA in that way," Erdogan said on Saturday while addressing his supporters in Balikesir, as cited by Today's Zaman.

Well, that's getting pretty confusing — were the trucks delivering "humanitarian aid" to the Turkmen or the FSA then? Just make up your mind, Mr. Erdogan. Where the trucks were heading and what were they carrying after all?

Meanwhile, some very high-ranking Turkish officials, including then-president Abdullah Gul, revealed that the Syria-bound trucks were a "state-secret," leading to more speculations that the trucks were indeed filled with weapons.

The recent developments are taking place in the wake of a major government crackdown on two Turkish journalists of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dunbar and Erdem Gul, who we arrested for covering a story and releasing pictures, claiming that Turkish trucks provided weapons to Syrian opposition rebels.

The reason why the Turkish government arrested the journalists is because Erdogan and his ruling party don't want reporters to write about certain things, such as the government's support of Syrian rebels, corruption and other important things that people should actually know about, human rights activist Arzu Geybulla said.

Following the arrest of the journalists, who covered Erdogan's "tender" topic, it looks like the Turkish President is trying to eliminate everyone who's willing to speak up or reveal the fact that the Turkish government was helping out Islamic extremists in Syria.

All of this comes amid the political scandal involving the downing of the Russian Su-24 by a Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet on Tuesday.

After the incident Russia said Turkey was one of the countries which cover the actions of Islamic terrorists in Syria.

[END REPORT]     

How long does it take to fly a casket from Turkey to Russia? UPDATE 10:50am ET Nov 30

UPDATE
From RT
Published time: 30 Nov, 2015 10:47 local time - Edited time: 30 Nov, 2015 11:36
The body of the pilot of the Russian Su-24 bomber, shot down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet last week, has been sent to Moscow from Ankara, the Turkish military said in a statement.
The repatriation of the body was arranged after a military funeral service attended by the Russian ambassador and other military officials, Reuters reports
[...]
RT has video of the plane departing the Ankara airport.
****
A report popped up on BBC around 6:00pm ET that Reuters had already published very early this morning, right after Sputnik broke the news. The Reuters report included a photo of the Russian pilot's remains being loaded with fanfare onto a Turkish jet at Hatay Airport just across the Syrian border. Then the casket was flown to an airport at Ankara.


Reuters photo, taken by an unnamed Reuters stringer



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



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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

[END REPORT]

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

I am not liking this.

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

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

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

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

Obama Places Single White Flower at Bataclan Memorial in Paris

Google News is hopeless.

********  
  

Syrian Army Pushes Extremists out of Key Areas Bordering Turkey

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

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

SPUTNIK

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

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

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

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

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



TURKEY TO GIVE BODY OF SU-24 PILOT TO RUSSIA - Breaking News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[END REPORT]

Saturday, November 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[END REPORT]

********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The moral?  If a country's tax base is not large enough to offset the influence bought by foreign money, liberal democracy is a luxury it can't afford.  
                             
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Friday, November 27

At least 9 targets of Mali attack were Chinese and Russian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why these men? And why now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes! What's the phone number to Centcom?                  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Tunnels -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- 'Little freedom' -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[END REPORT]

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

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

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

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

DETAILS TO FOLLOW
[END REPORT]

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

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

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


*********



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

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