Bashar al-Assad and other Bastards.

Written By: - Date published: 1:39 pm, October 3rd, 2015 - 130 comments
Categories: articles, International, journalism, Syria, war - Tags: , , ,

Patrick Cockburn has an informative piece (part one of two apparently) in the UK’s ‘The Independent’ newspaper. It could be worth reading in conjunction with Blips post of yesterday and, of course, contrasting it with the the general ‘black hat/white hat – thems guys is bad guys’ guff coming from ‘our’ media – stuff like this (by way of representative example).

I’m only supplying three pointed passages from the piece. Read the whole thing and join the damned (damning) dots.

As long ago as August 2012 the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, said in a report first disclosed earlier this year that the “Salafists [Islamic fundamentalists], the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq, later Isis] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

It noted that the opposition was supported by the West, Gulf countries and Turkey and forecast that Isis “could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria”.

—-

From an early stage in the Syrian crisis, intelligence reports discounted or derided claims that moderate or secular forces were leading the opposition. In a moment of frankness in 2014, Vice President Joe Biden gave a succinct account of what the administration really thought about what was happening in Syria. He said that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE “were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war”. They financed and armed anybody who would fight against Assad, “except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements coming from other parts of the world”.

—-

Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington wrote that the time had come to stop pretending “that Syrian ‘moderates’ are strong enough to either affect the security situation or negotiate for Syria’s real fighters”.

But as news spread this week that the Russians had started bombing in Syria, the FSA and the “moderates” were disinterred in order to suggest that it was they and not Isis who were the targets of Russian air strikes.

For further reading and , perhaps, a better understanding of what the hell is going on in Syria, this archive containing a selection Cockburn’s analyses would look like a reasonable place to start.

130 comments on “Bashar al-Assad and other Bastards.”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Worth noting that only Russia asked for, and received permission from the Syrian Government to launch airstrikes on Syrian soil. France, UK, USA, are in contrast, doing whatever they like in the Middle East, as it pleases them, damn international law.

    Let’s remember that the “Moderates” the West refers to in Syria include Al Qaeda associates that rejected ISIS as being too extreme.

    Also with a single Russian bombing run, Putin has forced the west into (re-)acknowledging that the CIA is backing a whole lot of anti-Assad forces on the ground in Syria, illegally destabilising the Syrian Government which gives ISIS a clear run to take down Damascus.

    No surprise why with the last 12 months of US “airstrikes” against ISIS, they have still been taking ground in Syria. The US wasn’t even trying.

    https://www.emptywheel.net/2015/10/01/with-one-bombing-run-russia-gets-the-us-to-identify-cias-covert-forces/

    • McFlock 1.1

      Of course they did.

      Assad’s regime is the one that gives them access to their only port in the Mediterranean. That’s why the Russians have been propping him up since the beginning.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        Isn’t that the same argument that was made about Russia taking over Crimea?

        Is it only the US that’s allowed military bases in other countries so that they can project power?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.1

          “Allowed”.

          The USA has a boss? Yeah nah: they do it because they can.

          • McFlock 1.1.1.1.1

            Yep.
            Same with Russia. And China.

            Personally, I suspect that Russia’s polite request came after secret pleading from Assad, whose military has taken massive losses over the last three or four years and so have the Hezbollah fighters who came to repay old favours.

            Not that most of his enemies would be any improvement to anyone.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1.2

            I was pointing out that the US has bases in other countries but very few people, especially those in the West and the MSM, get all upset about and go out of their way to declaim it.

            • Pascals bookie 1.1.1.1.2.1

              McFlock wasn’t particularly ‘getting upset about it’ as far as I can tell. He merely pointed out that Russia has longstanding interests in Syria and that protecting those assets is a factor in Putin’s defence of the Assad regime.

              Pretty non-controversial.

              • Colonial Viper

                Assad’s regime is the one that gives them access to their only port in the Mediterranean. That’s why the Russians have been propping him up since the beginning.

                That’s only one reason. There are many others. Assad doesn’t sell out his friends for American corporate dollars or pipelines, for instance.

                • Pascals bookie

                  Yeah, he was very loyal to Shell Oil.

                • McFlock

                  Military and intelligence infrastructure aren’t the only aspects of hegemony.

                  Great powers have many reasons to protect their pawns/clients.

                  Hell, that’s why the US keeps throwing good hardware after bad, only to have it handed over to ISIL or JaN in relatively good condition, only dropped once.

        • McFlock 1.1.1.2

          🙄

          Re: the US line: that’s not what I said. Also: cf: comment 5.

          And no, it’s not the same line about the Russian invasion of Crimea. That line was about access to the Black Sea and med, This line is about having somewhere handy to tow their aircraft carrier when it breaks down, and other logistical issues.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.2.1

            And no, it’s not the same line about the Russian invasion of Crimea. That line was about access to the Black Sea and med, This line is about having somewhere handy to tow their aircraft carrier when it breaks down, and other logistical issues.

            /facepalm

            The two issues you mention are the same.

            • McFlock 1.1.1.2.1.1

              Nope.
              Right of access from my garage to the street is not the same as ensuring that there is a petrol station down the road.

              Not that Tartus can fit their aircraft carrier, but never mind.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Both of ports have access to the Mediterranean and can provide assistance to ships. And considering the lengths that Russia is willing to go to support their friends/allies I suspect Tartus probably would be able to fit and support aircraft carriers in short order.

                You’re making some really weird analogies to try to support a position that is unsupportable.

                • McFlock

                  lol whatever dude.

                  My position was that the only reason the Russians asked Assad’s permission was because Assad was already their client, in the same way the US keeps signing security agreements with the Iraqi government.

                  If you reckon Tartus can handle an aircraft carrier, good for you. If you can’t tell the difference between a leased supply point and a home port (especially when a narrow channel controlled by opposing forces is between your home ports and the area of operations), I might throw an analogy your way to try to explain it in a way you might comprehend, but I’m not overly worried about it.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Insult to our intelligence: New information war against Russia

    By tilting the balance against the serial regime changers, who have wreaked so much havoc around the world in recent years, there is an increased chance that Syria’s secular government will be able to recapture chunks of its territory and that the country will retain its independence. That will please genuine anti-imperialists and anti-fascists, who believe that the Syrian people alone should decide who governs them and not the US, Britain or France, but anger those who have been hell-bent on bringing Syria to heel for its defiance – however much death and destruction such a neo-con inspired policy has caused.

    We’re being told lies over Syria and those lies all seem to be coming from the Western governments.

  3. tinfoilhat 3

    More propaganda from Putin and RT just as bad as the US.

    To suggest that Assad has had any intention to let the Syrian people decide who governs them is absurdity in the extreme.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      There’s something that we in the West forget – we’ve spent centuries building up our democratic institutions and culture. Sure, National and other conservative groups do their best to destroy them whenever they’re in power but they do exist.

      The ME and many other places in the world don’t have that history and so it needs to built up and that is going to take centuries – just as it did for us. It cannot simply be imposed.

      • Stuart Munro 3.1.1

        I think part of the Syrian exodus is a vote of confidence in European political institutions over the destabilised local variety. Syrians might be quite receptive to an imposed democracy – but Putin, alas, will not be imposing anything more democratic than what he has at home – a one party state with a totalitarian leader.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1

          I think part of the Syrian exodus is a vote of confidence in European political institutions over the destabilised local variety.

          Considering who’s actually bombing them and are responsible for the destabilisation in the first place I’d say that that confidence is sorely misplaced.

          Syrians might be quite receptive to an imposed democracy

          I’d say that the average Syrian probably is in favour of discussing and implementing their own form of democracy rather than having a Western form forced upon them. But that can’t happen under the warlike conditions that the West have sparked up.

        • Foreign waka 3.1.1.2

          Oh yes, because its Putin is must be bad, in fact this is soooo much worse than ISIS being there and beheading civilians, killing women, children and elderly with impunity. Showing the world what the worst depths of humanity can be.
          Millions flee to Europe and what are the politicians and wanna be is come up with? Who can we blame, who is better (beating chest, I Tarzan etc). So civilized are the US and the Anglo Saxon that they still cohort with Saudi Arabia, being the absolute worst in human rights and the cradle of all of this with their fundamentalist religion. What the west is forgetting is that, whilst they have given up faith in anything other then the dollar, the east has only harden they resolve in defending theirs and being used by the dollar worshipers to draw their lines of a commercial future.

      • Macro 3.1.2

        The cradle of civilization Draco was the Middle East, 5000 years ago. Babylonia, Egypt, Israel, Greece. They haven’t spend centuries building up the civilizations they have today, they have spent millennia.
        When we attempt to impose our imperfect system upon theirs the result can only be chaos.

    • Tracey 3.2

      No winners in this, just lose-lose, mostly for the ordinary folks of Syria.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1

        +1

      • Macro 3.2.2

        I’m sure the people remaining in Syria will be ever so thankful to the rest of the world bombing them to “freedom”.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2.2.1

          Airstrikes helped the Kurds drive the daesh out of Kobane. They’ve also been used by Turkey against the Kurds. I expect they’re more thankful for the former than the latter.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2.2.1.1.1

              If I have to go to war with anybody I want it to be over as soon as possible and result in peace between the parties.

              In any modern conflict, commanding the air will be part of that equation.

              Do you think democratic revolutions should just roll over when the right wing nut jobs start bombing them?

              • Macro

                Having completed RNZAF Staff College I’m well aware of the need for airpower.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  So you can imagine that the civilian population of Kobane might think the US airstrikes were better than being enslaved by daesh, even if that might mean choosing to be bombed by a bunch of right wing nut jobs?

                  • Macro

                    Airpower on its own can never bring about a complete resolution of a conflict. The examples you quote are also backed by ground forces or provide temporary “relief” of a tactical situation.
                    When advocating discriminant or indiscriminate, bombing of civilian targets one should always remember the maxim to wish upon oneself what one wishes upon others.
                    No I don’t think the bombing either by Russia, or by USA and its cohorts in crime, are helping anyone, or bringing about any conclusion to a mess that is now so far inflamed (initially by CIA and other western “interests”) that there is no end in sight now, or in the forseeable future. The best that can be done is for all foreign powers to pull out, attempt to embargo the flow of illicit arms and ammunition (at least 1/4 of ISIL weaponry is of US origin) into the area, pour massive amounts of aid (medical and food) (where possible) into safe havens and pray for peace.
                    Instead of cluster bombs they might drop medical supplies and food.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      If people could do our “best” with any degree of consistency we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

                    • Macro

                      Agreed – we live in an imperfect world. Sometimes however we attempt to do things in an effort to “help” – when it would perhaps be more helpful to not do anything at all. Remember this current crises started with USA et al attempting to “help” by meddling in affairs from which they should have kept their sticky noses out.

                • dukeofurl

                  Best thing NZ did in military policy, was to get rid of fast jets in RNZAF.

                  Expensive and operationally useless

                  • Macro

                    Tell that to the RNZAF. I served in the RNZN.

                    Actually the shyhawks weren’t as operationally useless as you imply. Sitting on a frigate with two skyhawks coming at you from either side and only only one turret made one well aware of ones vulnerability . The RN needed its Harriers in the Falklands too.
                    NZ’s defence will always involve defence from an offshore attack. This is not solely the role of the RNZN

  4. Tracey 4

    It has the look of the USA foreign policy of old… if they don’t like someone, arm anyone who opposes and don’t think about the consequences beyond your immediate goal.

    I’ve always thought that those who have to keep telling you how good they are, how they are great leaders, are usually inadequate when the light is shone.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Exactly. The US is the aggressor here.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.1

        How, exactly, are they the aggressor?

        The OP links to citations of Pentagon advice which has apparently been ignored*, not to mention:

        Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE “were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war”.

        *indicating the possibility that the problem isn’t so much the USA as criminally incompetent right wing politicians (for example).

        • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1

          How, exactly, are they the aggressor?

          It’s the US that’s been pushing regime change in the area. Started back in the 1950s with the overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran and the imposition of the Shah and his brutal regime. Then there was the support of Iraq in the Iraq/Iran war after the Iranian Revolution. Then their invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

          Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE are all supported and protected by the US.

          When it comes right down to it, you can pretty much blame all the disaster in the ME at the feet of the US and its proxies.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.1.1.1

            Um, not when you consider the previous influence of the Axis right wing nut jobs, and latterly, China and Russia’s right wing nut jobs.

            Then there are the various ways right wing nut jobs from other alleged democracies have behaved.

            Not to mention their fellow travellers.

            Not to mention Climatology and witch-doctors.

            • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Plenty of CIA backed, Congressional money funded, anti-Syrian government militia forces on the ground.

              That’s imperialist, colonial, behaviour against the UN charter and against international law.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Oh, so I’m correct in pointing out the influence of US rwnjs then. Thanks for your wizened endorsement.

                • Colonial Viper

                  US exceptionalism and imperialism is not the sole property or result of American right wingers

  5. McFlock 5

    Thing about geopolitics is that there are never any white-hats, just varying shades of dark grey.

    • Bill 5.1

      They all be dark grey bastards. But when all we get from the TV screens and the printed media is about “they” is bad and ”we” is good, then people wind up ‘choosing sides’.

      For me, it’s a simple case of assuming that what I’m being told about ”my” side is sugar coated and that what I’m being told about ”the other” side is shit coated.

      The parenthesis above is because neither of these supposed sides are on my side. Pfft. Can I be poetic for a sec and say we’re all stuck in the grey and some of us are just looking for a little light?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.1

        A good thing people in our positions can do is share useful philosophies (I know you already know this) and creeds, and hope for improvement.

        Pinker and Rosling, to name but two, lend support to the notion that we’re not just pissing in the wind.

  6. The Chairman 6

    Seems Key is going against Russia and China.

    http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/thenation/interview-prime-minister-john-key-2015100310#axzz3nRUQwwik

    Chinese military personnel were expected to join Russian marines backing Assad in Syria.

    https://www.rt.com/news/316705-china-syria-isis-fight/

    Thoughts?

    • Tracey 6.1

      John Key and McCully (IMO) were NEVER slamming the USA or the UK in their speeches about the Security Council. He was slamming China and Russia. Only the media are pretending they have stood up against ALL members of the Security Council.

      • The Chairman 6.1.1

        Wonder what China’s thoughts are on Key’s speech? And how will that impact on NZ going forward?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1.1

          It can’t possibly have a bigger impact than China’s lacking the rule of law.

          • The Chairman 6.1.1.1.1

            China’s lacking of the rule of law has little direct impact on NZ.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1.1.1.1

              It has more impact on our trade and foreign policies than anything that bag of air says.

              • The Chairman

                Our trade with China is protected against their rule of law with the provision of ISDS (investor state dispute settlement) in place in our FTA

                Can you give me an example of how our foreign policy is impacted by China’s lacking of the rule of law and how you think that will have a larger impact on NZ?

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Correct me if I’m wrong but ISDS is not a part of the FTA with China. Appeals go through the WTO, and are between states.

                  I hope I have that right 🙂

                  • The Chairman

                    That’s incorrect.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      So it is. I still think the lack of the rule of law is a bigger problem: it’s likely to throw up costly disputes with greater frequency.

                    • The Chairman

                      Yet, since the signing (in 2008) no disputes have arisen to date.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      No disputes have gone to arbitration. You might recall certain issues with meat and dairy exports though.

                    • The Chairman

                      The botulism scare? And confusion over a name change of the NZ ministry?

                      You can’t really blame that on China’s rule of law, but it seems you’re trying too.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Does it seem that way to you? What I’m actually pointing out is the way problems can be exacerbated when (for example) there are bribes to be paid.

                      I note you didn’t mention melamine or Milkmaid Collins.

                    • The Chairman

                      Yes, I’m aware of what you were attempting to highlight. However, the examples you used were not due to China’s rule of law. Thus, failed to strengthen your argument.

          • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1.2

            It can’t possibly have a bigger impact than China’s lacking the rule of law.

            LOL, what a stupid. Precious NZ who prosecuted the company directors who killed dozens of mine workers setting the example.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1.1.2.1

              What the blithering drivel are you talking about, drip?

              How is it relevant to the comparison between Key’s posturing and the rule of law in China?

              • Colonial Viper

                The rule of law in western countries was at a higher standard but is failing fast into cronyism and expediency. While the rule of law in China remains the same as it has always been: that which is required to hold a huge country together.

        • Tracey 6.1.1.2

          I’m sure they are happy to be getting what they need to further their own ends from NZ

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.2

        +1

        National will never say anything bad about the US/UK. If he does it’s probably been made clear behind closed doors that they’re really not but that they have to appear unbiased.

    • Pascals bookie 6.2

      “Thoughts?”

      Chinese naval analysts are thinking “bullshit”

      http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news/content?id=20150929000084&cid=1101

      The yarn seems to be being pushed mainly on less reputable sites, and DEBKA, who are so far below reputable that you can almost take it as false if they report it.

      • The Chairman 6.2.1

        You could be right re bullshit.

        However, how reputable is a senior researchers opinion?

        • Pascals bookie 6.2.1.1

          Weigh it up I guess. Here’s I go about that sort of judgement, you can do what you like.

          The original story is sourced to ‘a Syrian army official’ speaking to the Al-Masdar news in Lebanon.

          Here’s that outlets twitter feed:

          You can scroll down that and get a fairly clear indication of where they sit in the scheme of things. They seem pro-Assad, anti-Hamas, Anti-IS. To me that indicates they sit in the pro-Hezbollah sphere in Lebanon.

          I did a google news search on the story, looking for terms ‘china syria navy troops canal’. From that it looks like the story has been reported skeptically (using terms like ‘a news outlet claims’ etc) in afew mainstream news orgs, and less skeptically in places like Brietbart, American Thinker, RT, and DEBKA.

          On the other hand, the PLA naval analyst says it’s not true, would be a massive shift from Chinese standard policy, and could be a confusion based on ship movements that are indeed happening.

          I lean strongly toward the Chinese analysts take: The initial story has no supporting detail, no pics of the aircraft carrier going through the straight, no real comment from anyone other than an army official who is engaged in a war in which they are struggling. Saying ‘help is on the way’ isn’t uncommon propaganda in that situation.

          • The Chairman 6.2.1.1.1

            Did you happen to come across this (below) in your search?

            Russian Senator Igor Morozov (member of the Russian Federation Committee on International Affairs) confirmed rumours that China was set to enter the Syrian conflict.

            http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-09-27/us-ropes-china-join-russian-military-syria-while-iraq-strikes-intel-deal-moscow-tehr

            Perhaps this may change your leaning?

            • One Anonymous Bloke 6.2.1.1.1.1

              Zero Hedge, having predicted 200 of the last 2 stock market crashes, can totes be considered a credible source. Uh huh.

              • The Chairman

                Zero Hedge is merely one of a number that have reported it.

                The source was Russian Senator Igor Morozov.

                How credible is he? I wouldn’t have a clue.

                We’ll just have to wait and see.

                • Pascals bookie

                  He seems to be repeating the claim made in Al-Masdar, so I’d say that is where it ‘became known’ to him.

                  It’s been about a week since those claims, if it were true, the ships would be either in Syria already or pretty damn close, and would have been noted by most governments. It would have mentioned at the UN.

                  It looks like bullshit to me.

                  • The Chairman

                    Repeating or confirming?

                    As I said above, you may be right.

                    However, you wanted more evidence to the contrary, I provided it.

            • Wayne 6.2.1.1.1.2

              China won’t go in. Not in their interests. Neither does it fit with their approach to international affairs.

              Russia of course has decided to back the Assad regime to the point of bombing anyone who looks to threaten it. Hence there choice of targets. Right at the moment ISIS is not the main threat to Assad. Now for some commenters on this blog that appears to be fine, presumably because it is Russia and not the US.

              Where does this lead? Russia has decided to keep Assad in power no matter what. The fitful attacks against ISIS by the US coalition seem to have had limited effect. They perhaps stop advances by ISIS but they do not lead to any roll back of territory, since there appears to be no local forces who will actually take on ISIS, the Kurds excepted. But the Kurds for perfectly good reasons are only interested in Kurdish areas, and they have these already.

              There are some relatively weak western supported insurgents (Free Syrian Army and others) who are mostly in the north west of Syria.

              The Russian bombing may well allow the Syrian Army to take back this territory.

              Will the Obama let Putin get away with this?

              Well no previous US President has so obviously buckled to such a direct threat from Russia. And maybe Obama won’t either. In the ultimate it would actually require the US to bomb any advances by the Syrian Army.

              More likely a deal around a stalemate. The Syrian Army and the FLA hold place, with some form of ceasefire. The western coalition continues their fitful attacks against ISIS but to no great effect.

              Frankly in my view there needs to be boots on the ground to defeat ISIS. A western led coalition would make short work of ISIS. And in my view it is too dangerous to leave ISIS in place – unless of course you cut a deal with them the that they act reasonably. Not shoot all prisoners, have some level of regards for human rights.

              The removal of ISIS means the Iraq government gets to control that part of Iraq that it currently does not.

              But in Syria who? The Free Syrian Army? Assad’s Army? The Kurds?
              Well they are all Syrian, so yes this would happen. You would need to have the arrangements in place before undertaking such a venture.

              Will this happen? Probably not.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                A western led coalition would make short work of ISIS.

                They certainly made short work of the Iraqi Army, and what a dazzling success that was.

                the Iraq government gets to control…

                Have you in fact been asleep for the past decade or so?

                • Wayne

                  One Anonymous Bloke,

                  What is your alternative? Leave northern Iraq with ISIS?

                  In my view the Iraqi govt will eventually get its territory back. But a western led force will do it a lot sooner. Such a force need not be enormous. Probably 30,000 to 50,000 western forces coupled with 100,000 from Iraq and some from Saudi and the Gulf states would be enough.

                  In any event such a combined force has to be big enough for a reasonably quick war, which will minimize casualties, not just for the West, but actually also for the northern Iraqis who have joined ISIS.

                  As David Shearer stated in his various publications the best thing in civil wars is for one side to win. And for most people that should not be ISIS.

                  Once ISIS is defeated the Iraq govt would be governing. Presumably they will have learnt something from their previous failure to govern northern Iraq reasonably.

                  But of course therein lies the rub. Will the Iraq govt be good enough?

                  • dukeofurl

                    Sorry , but its a Sunny-Shia conflict that isnt going away.

                    There are Shia governments in Baghdad and Alawaite ( offshoot of Shia) with Assad in Damascus.

                    The Sunni militants who live in those countries wont accept that anymore. Add to that the Kurds ( who are Sunni but want separation from Sunni and Shia).

                    Turkey with their allies in Saudi and Gulf and will continue to fund an insurgency and probably will prevent any western forces openly on ground against ISIS.

                  • Pascals bookie

                    ” Probably 30,000 to 50,000 western forces coupled with 100,000 from Iraq and some from Saudi and the Gulf states would be enough.”

                    Did you mean to write ‘Iran’ there, or are just not following Iraqi politics at all since you quit politics?

                    there is no way in hell Baghdad will allow Saudi troops on the ground. It would be a recipe for a Shia insurgency to match the Sunni one they are trying to put down. You also may have noticed that Iraq really doesn’t want western ground troops in any great numbers, for the same reason.

                    The plan has to start with recognition of the actual political realities on the ground.

                    • Wayne

                      Pascals bookie,

                      Fair point. You are right in that it would be the Iranians who would be most interested (rather than the GSC) given the current political/religious divide.

                      If Iraq does not western troops to help, they will take a long time to defeat ISIS. They will eventually succeed, but at huge cost for everyone. And if it proves hard enough assistance from western troops will become more appealing.

                    • dukeofurl

                      Iraq all ready has Iranian troops in Iraq. Americans dont like it.

                      Its best put like this:

                      Between Afghanistan and the Med ( outside Turkey) there are 100 million Shia and 30 mill Sunni.
                      Alawites in Syria ( Assads group) are an offshoot of Shia)

                      If the Shia predominate from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran , and parts of Afghanistan, then there is not much prospect for the Sunni. ( And a large part of those are Kurdish who dont identify with Arab Sunni).
                      There are numerous other smaller groups who arent Sunni, such as Christians, Druze and others, they dont see their prospects under Sunni rule as very bright.

                  • Pascals bookie

                    And you might, while we are at it, take a long hard look at the battles for Fallujah during during the US led phase of the war.

                    The insurgents were way less well equipped there than ISIS is in Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah now. Hitting those cities with 150k troops to drive out ISIS will not be quick or pretty, so downplaying it as the casualty-light option is pretty sick.

                    • Wayne

                      It really depends if the battles are fought in the cities or not. Isolating ISIS into particular cities so they cannot get support may help the ISIS fighters consider their alternatives. Many of then will surrender rather than fight to the death.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Wayne, my “alternative” is to scorn false premises. Sorry if that interferes with your narrative.

              • The Chairman

                @ Wayne

                As has been reported, if Beijing is indeed set to enter the fray, it would be consistent with China’s position on Syria and their voting with Russia at the UN.

                It also aligns with the PLA’s desire to take a more assertive role in international affairs.

                In December (2014) it was reported China had offered to assist Iraq fight Islamic State militants with airstrikes.

                Additionally, in May, Russian and Chinese ships took part in their first joint military exercises in the Mediterranean.

                The only evidence refuting China’s involvement thus far is the opinion of a researcher, based on China’s approach on international affairs. Which, also seems to be your basis.

                As for their interests, China has it’s own terrorist problem. It was reported that since 2012 Chinese Uyghurs have fled to Syria to fight against the Assad regime and have later joined ISIS.

                An Xinjiang party chief officially stated that China had become an ISIS target.

                And it is now thought China may pursue those who had fled to Syria to prevent them returning and staging attacks in China.

                Along with targeting ISIS, Russian jets bombed Jaish al-Fatah. A grouping made up of hardline groups that include Jabhat al-Nusra that is aligned to al-Qaeda.

                Therefore, they are formally designated by the West and the United Nations as terrorists.

                Assad was overwhelmingly elected by the Syrian people, therefore we need to respect that.

                Russia was asked to assist, unlike the west. Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised that threats to the sovereign state will be targeted.

                A number of commentators here merely accept Syria’s right to ask for assistance and defend itself.

                Its up to the Syrian people to decide when Assad should go. Not Obama or Key.

                It’s assumed the US is more interested in overthrowing Assad than attacking ISIS, which would explain their ineffectiveness. The US require to maintain the ISIS threat to justify their attacks in the region.

                It has also been reported Iranian troops have arrived in Syria to join a major ground offensive in support of Assad. With Russia assisting with airstrikes.

                Obama has no right to say what should take place in Syria. It’s not his country.

                If Obama fails to accept Russia’s right to intervene and decides to further act, it will be him that is the aggressor.

                A western led coalition failed to take out Al-Qaeda and has largely led to the problems we face today.

                • Wayne

                  The Chairman,

                  Hence the reason why I said;

                  More likely a deal around a stalemate with the Syrian Army and the FSA in a ceasefire and holding in place.

                  But if the Syrian army retakes ground as a result of Russian air support, I don’t believe the US will stand idly by. Neither will the US be influenced by your view of the legitimacy of Assad. If he was so democratically legitimate we would not be seeing the tide of refugees that we are.

                  So a direct Russian intervention that sees Assad undertaking a major ground offensive is unlikely to go unanswered by the US. Failure by the US will have far reaching consequences, especially in NATO.

                  However, maybe Obama will not act, and let Putin win the short term battle in Syria. In that case the US would go for more economic and other sanctions against Russia as being much more effective in the long run.

                  Some would say Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be very anxious, not that I think they need to worry. Putin supporting an Assad offensive is rather different to destabilizing the Baltics. But the rebels in Eastern Ukraine would feel especially emboldened, and expect a lot more Russian support.

                  So while the US and Russia will avoid taking each other on directly, I think it is quite possible that the enemies of their “side” will be attacked by either US or Russian air power. Apparently already being done by Russia. This could easily become a full blown proxy war with direct air support, but quite possibly with the Syrian Army in a much better position to benefit.

                  It would feel like the Cold War had been fully resurrected. Not a legacy that Obama will want. Hence the sanctions route. Pretty much complete economic isolation of Russia.

                  In such a case ISIS would then become a side issue.

                  • The Chairman

                    The tide of refugees is largely due to people escaping the fighting.

                    The thing is Wayne, it’s not only my view.

                    There were international electoral observers from more than 30 countries. They issued a statement saying the election was “free, fair and transparent” Assad won the election with an overwhelming 88.7% support.

                    Therefore, a number of nations hold a similar view, namely Russia and China.

                    Now that Russia has entered the fray, any aggressive move towards Assad from the US will also be a move against Russia.

                    The US wouldn’t find it short work taking on Russia, thus massively risk exacerbating the conflict.

                    Of late, US failure and conflict seems to go hand in hand.

                    The US have no legal authority or UN backing. Whereas, Russia has been asked by the sovereign state to assist. Therefore, the US has no grounds to push for sanctions. Russia are acting within international law.

                    With the US wanting to overthrow Assad, some believe they have been partaking in a proxy war for sometime now.

                    However, I concur, this could now easily become a full blown proxy war between Russia and the US.

  7. So, if I understand this correctly, air strikes against civilian-populated areas are actually a good thing after all, as long as they’re being carried out by an authoritarian nationalist dictatorship at the behest of another authoritarian nationalist dictatorship. That really is an interesting position to take, not to mention a reprehensible one.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1

      From a judgemental point of view the correct terms are “bad” and “worse”. “Good” doesn’t come into it.

      I suppose there might be some right wing nut job who longs to bomb civilians, and their most likely character-arc is that they get murdered by their peers.

    • The Chairman 7.2

      @ Psycho Milt

      Civilians were not the intended target. War is ugly, mistakes can happen, thus sometimes results in collateral damage.

      As Key said: every country has the sovereign right to make their own rules and their own law (in reference to Australia).

      Yet, in the same interview (linked below) he doesn’t seem to apply that philosophy to Syria

      http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/thenation/interview-prime-minister-john-key-2015100310#axzz3nRUQwwik

      • “Collateral damage” is weasel words for “The entirely foreseeable civilian deaths that occur as a result of using such an inaccurate weapon as aircraft against civilian-populated areas.”

        As to Key’s lack of respect for Syria’s “legitimate” government, it was as legitimate as any other dictatorship that owes its continued existence entirely to a vigorously-maintained programme of torture and murder of any and all opposition – ie, it was not in any sense legitimate. Like other dictatorships, it was recognised by western governments not as a “legitimate” government but as a matter of physical and political reality – and when a murderous dictatorship’s control of the country ceases to be a physical and political reality, which it certainly has in Mr Assad’s case, there is no “legitimacy” to call on. He’s now just a murderer who happens to control a small portion of Syrian territory, and even that he owes solely to Putin. The relentless air attacks on civilians in rebel-held areas over the last four years are effectively all Russian ones, regardless of what’s painted on the plane.

        • The Chairman 7.2.1.1

          Collateral damage from air strikes is to be expected from time to time regardless the aggressor. It’s not the most precise form of attack.

          Assad was overwhelmingly elected by the Syrian people.

          Nevertheless, regardless of his legitimacy, Key clearly stated every country has the sovereign right to make their own rules and their own laws. Yet, in the same interview he doesn’t seem to apply that philosophy to Syria. No surprise really, hypocrisy from Key is to be expected.

          • tinfoilhat 7.2.1.1.1

            I’m bemused by your dismissal of the house of Assad’s behaviour and dismissal of the civilian deaths in Syria.

            America has been rightly denounced for its indiscriminate bombings and the resultant civilians killed but some of those on the left seem unwilling to apply the same level of disgust at the actions of Assad and Russia, the hypocrisy is astounding.

            • The Chairman 7.2.1.1.1.1

              I’m not dismissing Assad’s bad behaviour, just accepting he was the peoples choice.

              Just as I accept Key is our PM, doesn’t mean I support him or condone his policies. Thus, the hypocrisy you envision is merely in your head.

              • tinfoilhat

                You don’t seriously expect that the elections were free and fair.

                And before you start parroting the same line again I’m sure you’re aware the ‘independent observers’ were hardly independent and were there on the invite of the dictatorship.

                The Syrian people have been poorly used and abused by their own government and by the USA and Russian leadership.

                • The Chairman

                  The argument from those that question the legitimacy (largely coming from those that oppose Assad) is weak.

                  Coupled with such a high voter turnout and overwhelming win, I lean towards the opinion of the international observers.

                  No one had a gun to their head in the polling booth.

                  • tinfoilhat

                    Wow..shilling for a murderous dictator……words fail me.

                    • The Chairman

                      Hardly. Just telling it how I see it.

                      Don’t tell me you believe that warmongering John Kerry?

                    • tinfoilhat

                      @the chairman – seeing Assad and Syria for what it is does not equate with believing John Kerry.

                      Your appear to be a partisan hypocrite.

                    • The Chairman

                      It all depends on how you see it.

                      “You appear to be a partisan hypocrite”

                      Why?

                      On a side note, you do realise I’m not the topic of discussion, but it seems you want to play the man and not the ball.

          • Psycho Milt 7.2.1.1.2

            Assad was overwhelmingly elected by the Syrian people.

            Assad was overwhelmingly elected by people who know that opposing him gets you tortured and eventually killed if you’re lucky? No shit. I’d definitely vote National if I they had a solid history of identifying opponents of their rule and torturing them to death – they’ve really lost an opportunity there.

            Funny though that a large proportion of this overwhelmingly supportive citizenship was willing to engage in armed insurrection when the opportunity came up – it’s almost like Assad wasn’t genuinely popular at all…

            • The Chairman 7.2.1.1.2.1

              If voters didn’t support him and feared Government retaliation, they wouldn’t have turned out to vote.

              The thing is though, the majority aren’t engaging in armed insurrection against him.

              • If you think about it real hard, you might notice a credibility gap between, on the one hand, a claim of overwhelming electoral endorsement, and on the other, having to fall back on it not being an actual majority who are in armed insurrection against this “overwhelmingly” popular government.

                Also: the majority haven’t engaged in armed insurrection in every successful revolution ever.

                • The Chairman

                  There is no credibility gap.

                  Yes, he had an overwhelming electoral endorsement, thus the majority supported him at the polls.

                  And no, the majority haven’t engaged in armed insurrection.

                  I wasn’t claiming a insurrection requires majority support, merely highlighting this one doesn’t have majority support.

                  Moreover, the protest which morphed into unrest began long before the vote.

  8. The Chairman 8

    Can anybody tell me what’s Labour’s position on Assad?

  9. RedLogix 9

    Personally I suspect the Western world in particular is grossly underestimating ISIS.

    Try this source:

    http://juergentodenhoefer.de/seven-impressions-of-a-difficult-journey/?lang=en

    • infused 9.1

      Of course they are. It’s ww3 in the making. Keep tapping that russian bee hive. with all the conflicts now going on, the proxy wars and russia being backed in to a corner…

      this was all evident a few years ago. I don’t suspect anything will happen for sometime though.

      isis ain’t going anywhere.

    • Ad 9.2

      I would like to see ISIS turn on Saudi Arabia in order to reduce their monarchy to sand.

      Then the rest of the world would have to figure out alternatives to a civilization based on petroleum.

    • Mike the Savage One 9.3

      Quote from Mr Todenhofer: “I firmly believe that ISIS currently is the largest threat to world peace since the Cold War. We are now paying the price for George W. Bush’s act of near-unparalleled folly; the invasion of Iraq. To date, the West remains clueless as to how this threat is to be addressed.”

      Yes, I have read some of his reports before, and it is both interesting as it is frightening. What we have with the I.S. or Al-Dawla .. Islamiyah is a new ideology that takes advantage of religion, turning it into something of a fire-brand that is not really based on religion as such.

      It is like a highly attractive ideology and vehicle for disillusioned, disowned, isolated and purpose seeking people preferring firm, simply answers and solutions. And there is no shortage of millions of unemployed, yet often reasonably educated Arabs in many countries, who never see any future of a career or so in their home countries, no future of decent income, a home or affordable relationship and having a family. There is also no shortage of youth from minority groups of migrants in many European countries, who are second or third class, also often facing social marginalisation, with no real future, who may be happy to connect with something totally new and “exciting”.

      “The west” has no answers, and while the US, France and a few other nations have historical baggage, and part of the blame for what is going wrong in the Middle East, the problem for the many developed nations in Europe is one not easy to solve.

      Based on societies with mostly white, well educated, professional and reasonably well off people, who are used to liberal, secure and social conditions not found in most parts of the globe, the population is not at all inclined to “fight” for anything much. So they simply leave it to their bureaucratic, technocrat governments, and administrations, who have little “coal face” experience, to spend a bit of extra money here and there, on refugee matters, on aid to the UN or Mid-East countries not well off, and perhaps fund some military here and there, all hoping that this may solve issues.

      But it won’t solve this challenge, as ISIS has many fighters, who apparently have little to lose and only to gain, who do not fear death as much, and will fight to the bitter end, even engage in suicide attacks. This cannot be resolved with conventional strategies and means, it is the greatest challenge to peace there has been for decades.

      I think it is also naive to simply make “good” and “bad” comparisons, and to either blindly think the Russians can be trusted more, or on the other hand the US and allies can be trusted more. And the Saudis, Qataris and Iran and various other governments, they all have varying agendas also. We have very complex situations, there is no black and white answer.

      • RedLogix 9.3.1

        A good analysis Mike.

        As most capable military people will tell you – a motivated enemy that is convinced of their moral rightness is almost invincible. They will sustain almost any loss, suffer one battlefield slaughter after another, operate always at a tactical disadvantage – and they will bounce back over and again until they win the war.

        Well history does give us some counterexamples; when the Romans finally driven to extremis by the rebellions of the Jews in AD66 – they undertook the equivalent for the era of ‘going nuclear’. The Imperial troops killed some millions of Jews and demolished their Temple. When the Jews repeated the rebellion in AD170 the Roman response was even more final – when it was over there were almost no Jews left in Palestine. And few returned for some 1900 years.

        Does the modern Western world have the will to enact such a terrible strategy? I do not think so. Therefore logically you have to think that ISIS has the potential to eventually win and turn the globe into the Caliphate they proclaim.

  10. The Chairman 10

    Trump accusing his Republican rivals of wanting to incite World War III using Syria as a trigger

    Criticizing GOP candidates for their enthusiasm to go to war, Trump told the audience, “This is what they say. They want to start World War III over Syria. Give me a break.”

    He went on to say, “You know, Russia wants to get ISIL, right? We want to get ISIL. Russia is in Syria – maybe we should let them do it?”

    http://www.valuewalk.com/2015/09/donald-trump-says-rivals-want-world-war-3/

    Thoughts?

    • Grindlebottom 10.1

      I don’t like Trump, and his rivals don’t want to incite WW3 – that’s a typical Trump over the top outrageous claim, but there’s no maybe about his. Putin is going to do what he wants. He’s going to attack both ISIS and the US-backed opposition groups. And the US and allies have no idea what to do about it at the moment. There is every chance Putin will achieve what he wants which is to ensure Assad has a future major role in running Syria (or at least a part of it).

      • RedLogix 10.1.1

        And of course eventually Assad will come to the end of his awful run.

        • Grindlebottom 10.1.1.1

          Yeah I guess. He’s as much of a tyrant as his father, despite misplaced hopes that he’d be a liberal reformer.

          The problem is going to be who replaces him. There’s something like 20 or 30 (maybe even more) opposition groups and factions all fighting for dominance there now, including ISIL. Loyalties all over the place, and changing all the time. Then there are the groups and factions loyal to Assad.

          I’ve seen some of the executions on the web. They’re sickening. The level of barbarity among various opposing fighters is horrendous so it will take a long time for the worst factions to forgive and forget – if they ever do.

          How anyone will manage to form any kind of stable unitary government if/when Assad is removed I can’t imagine. Look at the mess Iraq is in and how unstable the government there is. Syria looks a much bigger mess.

          I’m thinking in the end Syria might end up being split up. Though even if that happens and ISIL is crushed, I think the remaining Islamists are going to continue fighting to establish a single Islamic state of Syria that’s not part of a Caliphate.

          • Pascals bookie 10.1.1.1.1

            Spot on I think.

            the west has simply been floundering in Syria. they oppose Assad, but have no answer to the question of who should replace him. If Assad fell this month, ISIS would be the most likely benefactor.

            Whatever happened, the immediate aftermath of Assad falling would be the continuation of the war as the rival survivors sought power. The Allawites who didn’t retreat to the hills to fight on would likely flee the country or be exterminated.

            It’s no accident that the US has been demanding that any rebels it support muts promise not to fight Assad, only ISIS. The whole western policy is completely and utterly bonkers.

  11. greywarshark 11

    The hospital in Afghanistan and the dead and injured there are collateral damage a spokesperson for the NATO and/or USA partners say. A lot of people say that the damage to the credibility of the western warmongers is collateral damage also.

    Medecins sans frontieres website – http://www.msf.org.au/?gclid=COWYtNLCqMgCFRcJvAoduV0JtA
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/world/286012/afghan-hospital-attack-possibly-criminal-un
    edited

    • Grindlebottom 11.1

      I just cannot understand the US military and Western media continuing to use that phrase “collateral damage”.

      It’s a term universally understood throughout the middle east and elsewhere to mean innocent civilians murdered because the US military considers them so unimportant it simply doesn’t really matter if they’re in the line of fire. They are dead because of completely inadequate target identification PLUS assessment of risk to innocent civilians. They are an inconvenience to be explained away if necessary.

      The investigations into these “terrible accidents” never result in anyone being held accountable. They are often war crimes. The perpetrators should be tried in an independent Court.

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