1. Is The U.S. Preparing A “Color Revolution” In Russia? Tensions with US will Rise;
2. SAA advance on Turkey-Saudi-backed militants in Hama Province;
3. Syrian opposition groups agree to 2-week truce – Ceasefire is a Huge Victory for Russia;
4. What is America doing in the South China Sea? By Cynthia McKinney;
5. US will increase its military budget for eastern Europe by 400%;
6. Aleppo supply road was cleared from ISIS – Syria Daily Report 23/02/2016;
7. Lebanon’s 14th of March marches into oblivion by Ghassan Kadi.
1A. Is The U.S. Preparing A “Color Revolution” In Russia? http://www.moonofalabama.org/
27 February 2016 Posted by b at 10:55 AM
Via the former Indian ambassador M K Bhadrakumar we learn that the Russian government is preparing for a “color revolution” attempt during the parliament elections in September:
The annual meeting of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the successor organization to the Soviet-era KGB is an important occasion to take the temperature in the ‘East-West’ relations. (The Cold War cliche is becoming useful once again.) President Vladimir Putin’s customary address at the FSB meeting was the hallmark of the occasion on Friday in Moscow.
The sensational part of Putin’s speech is his disclosure that the FSB is in possession of definite information that plots are being hatched in the West to stir up political turmoil in Russia as the country heads for crucial parliamentary election in October. Putin avoided the use of the expression ‘color revolution’ but hinted at it.
The various U.S. services and the neocons in the State Department would certainly like to invite some revolt in Russia. But the chances for a successful putsch in Moscow are tiny. There is no competent opposition to the current government and a bit of economic trouble is not what incites Russians to take on the state. They would have hanged Yeltsin every other day if it were so.
It would be much easier if Washington would accept Russia as it is and make some room form it in global polices. But that never can be, right?
Altogether, a grim scenario has been projected here with regard to Russian-American relations through the remaining period of the presidency of Barack Obama. The core issue for Russia all along is that the US interferes in its internal politics with a view to create political disharmony and weaken the Kremlin, forcing it to adopt policies that are in harmony with American regional and global strategies.
The US cannot countenance Russia (or any country for that matter) in such nationalistic mode, presenting formidable headwind against its global strategies.
Trump or Sanders winning the U.S. presidency could result in more friendly relations with Moscow. But there are many in the various bureaucracies, especially in the Pentagon, who have their budget depending on a hostile relation with Russia (and China). Their voices will be hard to silent. This makes it more difficult to solve the ongoing crises in Syria and Ukraine:
Putin has forewarned that Moscow will defeat any US design to instigate political turmoil in Russia, no matter what it takes. Trust Putin here. However, the big question remains: How could regional conflicts such as Syria or Ukraine be possibly addressed when the two big powers are locked in an existential struggle?
Should the U.S. really attempt to create some kind of trouble around elections in Moscow we can expect an intensification of the conflicts in both theaters, Ukraine and Syria, during the summer. If only to intensify the “Putin is Evil” message the “western” media were told to spread in their populations.
1B. Putin can’t bend like Beckam, tensions with US will rise By M K Bhadrakumar, 27 Feb 2016
Unlike China, which can bend like Beckam, Russia is not willing to stoop to conquer. Its proud history simply doesn’t allow it to do that. (Incidentally, it remains to be seen whether Moscow will go along with the harsh terms of the US-China deal imposing a North Korea naval blockade.)
In the present context, the western sanctions against Russia are actually directed against the Kremlin. The US calculus pins hopes on the economic recession in Russia leading to social discontent, which would mar the ruling party’s chances in the election and in turn erupt as mass protests.
Putin has forewarned that Moscow will defeat any US design to instigate political turmoil in Russia, no matter what it takes. Trust Putin here. However, the big question remains: How could regional conflicts such as Syria or Ukraine be possibly addressed when the two big powers are locked in an existential struggle?
Ideally from the US perspective, the mayhem in Syria should rise to a crescendo by summer, putting the Russian intervention in that country in the crosshairs of Russian public opinion in the run-up to the election in autumn. Interestingly, Putin tasked the FSB to ensure 3 things: one, ensure “the safety of our pilots… in Syria and the anti-terrorist units working here inside Russia”; two, “ effectively seal off” Russian territories from infiltration by terrorists; and, three, “prevent the activities of underground groups” within Russia who could be planning terrorist strikes.
To be sure, compared with the enthusiasm that Putin initially voiced on Monday for the US-Russia deal on a ceasefire in Syria, he was noticeably guarded yesterday while addressing the FSB. Moscow would have sensed by now that the onus is being put squarely on the Kremlin by Washington to see that the ceasefire remains intact, while the US is either incapable or unwilling to rein in its militant regional allies such as Turkey.
2. SAA advance on Turkey-Saudi-backed militants in Eastern and Northern Hama Province
SAA advance in eastern Hama, against Turkey-Saudi-backed gangs of ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham and Jaysh al Islam – Syrian Army Wins Back More Key Villages in Hama Province
http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941208001227 – 27 February 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army and popular forces continued to advance in the Eastern parts of Hama province and seized back more strategic villages there.
The Syrian government forces took full control of al-Hasu, Koujan and Rasm Sifu villages in the South and Southeast of Al-Sa’an region in tough battles with the ISIL militants in Eastern Hama. Scores of militants were killed and wounded in fierce clashes with the Syrian army and popular forces.
Reports said earlier today that the Syrian army troops’ anti terrorism offensives in the Northern parts of Hama province have inflicted large casualties on the militants.
“The Syrian army soldiers stormed the militant groups’ defense lines and strongholds on the axis of Tal Hawir, Dhahrat Aliyeh, Tal al- Bazaq, Morek, Souran, Jeleen and Lataminah, which claimed the lives of many terrorists,” the army said. “The militant groups’ military hardware also sustained major damage in the attacks,” the army added.
3A. CEASE-FIRE Begins in Syria; 9 Hours so far, and things still very quiet!
https://www.superstation95.com/index.php/world/947 Russian military announces 24-hour pause to prevent ‘bombing mistakes’ as ceasefire takes effect despite reports of sporadic shelling and gunfire – See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syria-ceasefire-officially-effect-1766982169#sthash.2HOb95pB.XEBNbADQ.dpuf
An official CEASE-FRE began throughout Syria at Midnight local Syrian time Saturday, with a large majority of entities on both sides, REFRAINING from fighting. There have been sporadic flare-ups, but most of the various front lines are quiet.
Frontlines between pro-government forces and oppositions rebels in Syria were reported to be mostly quiet on Saturday after a UN-backed partial ceasefire came into effect.
The agreement, negotiated between the US and Russia earlier in the week, marks the first formal pause in fighting since Syria’s civil war began almost five years ago.
But doubts persist about how long the ceasefire will hold, or how widely it will be implemented, and fierce fighting was reported overnight between Islamic State (IS) group militants and YPG Kurdish fighters near the Turkish border, as well as sporadic shelling and gunfire allegedly perpetrated by both pro-government forces and rebels elsewhere.
The agreement excludes the Islamic State (IS) group and the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, which are both considered terrorist organisations by the United Nations.
The Syrian government and Russia have said they will not relent in their military campaign against “terrorists,” while the leader of the Nusra Front on Friday called on rebels to step up their efforts against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Reports from the eastern suburbs of Damascus and the devastated northern city of Aleppo, the focus of a sustained government offensive and Russian air strikes in recent weeks, suggested that areas of heavy fighting were mostly quiet.
In Damascus, Syria’s SANA state news agency said that rebels in eastern districts had shelled residential areas, although there were no reports of casualties.
In a statement, the Syrian army said it “called on the residents of these neighbourhoods to put pressure on this terrorist minority so they do not end efforts to bring security and stability”.
SANA also said that a rocket attack by IS in Deir Ezzor had killed three children, and that IS suicide bombers had killed six people in Hama.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said incidents of sporadic gunfire had been reported in western Syria but the ceasefire was mostly being respected.
“In Damascus and its countryside … for the first time in years, calm prevails,” said Rami Abdul Rahman, the Observatory’s director.
“In Latakia, calm, and at the Hmeimim air base there is no plane activity,” he said, referring an airbase used by Russia to mount air strikes against opposition forces.
UN pushes for peace talks
Russia’s millitary said on Saturday that it had halted all bombing activities over Syria for one day to prevent “bombing mistakes,” in accordance with the ceasefire agreement.
“On February 27, sorties of the Russian aviation in Syria including long-range aviation, are not [being] carried out,” Sergei Rudskoi, a senior representative of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, told reporters.
He said it was being done to rule out “any possible bombing mistakes” and in accordance with a UN Security Council resolution.
International efforts to end the war hinge on the ceasefire holding, with Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, telling reporters on Friday that peace talks would resume on 7 March if all sides stick to the agreement and allow aid to be delivered to civilians.
A UN task force was meeting behind closed doors in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday to discuss monitoring the ceasefire and dealing with violations.
Moscow and Washington, co-chairs of the task force, have set up rival offices to oversee the truce along with a UN operation centre and would be the first to deal with any infractions.
De Mistura said it was important that any incidents are “quickly brought under control” and a military response should be the “last resort”.
Fighting broke out overnight around the Kurdish-controlled northern city of Tal Abyad close to the Turkish border with two groups of IS fighters attacking the city and the nearby town of Silok, according to Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) media centre.
The YPG said in a statement that its fighters had been attacked by IS in about 15 locations late on Friday night and that clashes were continuing.
The Observatory said at least 45 IS fighters, 20 Kurdish fighters and two civilians had been killed, while the US had launched at least 10 air strikes in support of the Kurdish forces.
‘Maybe we can go home’
Elsewhere, residents and fighters in Aleppo and Damascus reported a rare night of calm.
“I can’t hide the fact that I’m happy the war has stopped, even for a few minutes,” Abdel Rahman Issa, a 24-year-old Syrian army soldier, told the AFP news agency from a battlefield on the eastern outskirts of Damascus.
“If it continues like this, maybe we can go home.”
“Honestly, I was surprised that the calm lasted through the night,” said Ammar al-Rai, a 22-year-old medical student in Damascus.
“I think this is the first time we’ve woken up without the sound of shelling.”
In the north, a rebel fighter near Aleppo told the Reuters news agency that pro-government forces had briefly shelled a village under the control of Free Syrian Army-aligned fighters.
He said the situation was now calmer but that many opposition fighters expected the government to break the ceasefire by claiming to attack the Nusra Front, which has fought alongside and collaborated with other rebel groups.
Fierce clashes elsewhere had continued right up to the start of the ceasefire, while Russian air strikes continued to pound rebel targets right through Friday.
At least 40 pro-government fighters and 18 rebels were reported killed in fighting and air strikes in Latakia province, and six people were killed in an air strike in western Aleppo province.
Air strikes were also reported in the Damascus suburb of Daraya and in Douma, northeast of the capital.
The intensified attacks prompted Turkey, a key supporter of opposition forces, to express worries over the viability of the ceasefire.
“We are seriously concerned over the future of the ceasefire because of the continuing Russian air raids and ground attacks by forces of Assad,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington had received assurances from Moscow that it would not bomb the “moderate opposition” after the truce.
Almost 100 rebel factions have pledged to respect the ceasefire agreement for two weeks, the High Negotiations Committee, an opposition umbrella group, said on Friday, with concurrence with the deal supposedly offering those groups protection from attack.
But analysts have cautioned whether the ceasefire can actually cease hostilites.
“We can’t really tell how long the agreement will hold or whether it might pave the way to a permanent solution,” A Kadir Yildirim, a research scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, told Middle East Eye on Tuesday.
“Ultimately, how long-lasting the agreement will prove depends on long-term negotiations on the ground,” he added.
3B. Syrian opposition groups agree to respect two-week truce
Published time: 26 Feb, 2016 https://www.rt.com/news/333706-syria-opposition-truce-assad/
Armed opposition groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad say they will respect a two-week truce which begins at midnight local time on Friday. They warned, however, that the government must not launch attacks in the name of fighting terrorism.
“The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) confirms the agreement of the Free Syrian Army factions and the armed opposition to a temporary truce from midnight Saturday,” an HNC statement said, as quoted by Reuters.
However, the HNC said the government and its allies must not use the “proposed text to continue the hostile operations against the opposition factions under the excuse of fighting terrorism.”
The HNC said that more than 100 armed groups have supported the truce agreement, and that it will circulate a list of those which have agreed later on Friday, Sputnik reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Friday that he had received information that all parties expected to take part in the ceasefire have said they are ready to do so, according to Russian media.
Speaking at a meeting of officials from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Putin said the peace process would be difficult, but stressed that there are no alternatives.
On Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that Moscow is not discussing alternative plans for a political settlement in Syria.
“We’re perplexed by our Western partners, the US included, mentioning the existence of some kind of ‘Plan B,’ Nothing is known on that one, we are considering no alternative plans,” Bognanov told the ‘Middle East: From Violence to Security’ conference in Moscow.
The US-Russia brokered ceasefire was announced on February 22 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama. It does not apply to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra, or “other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council,” according to a joint statement.
It will apply to the Syrian government,“moderate” opposition fighters, and Kurds, all of whom will be required to lay down their arms.
The truce will be monitored by a task force co-chaired by Moscow and Washington
Week twenty of the Russian military intervention in Syria:
3C. A Ceasefire and yet another Huge Victory for Russia – By The Saker, 24 Feb 2016
This article was written for the Unz Review:
The recent agreement between the USA and Russia really solves nothing, it does not even end the war, and both sides are expressing a great deal of caution about its future implementation. And yet, this is a huge victory for Russia. While it is too early to say that “the Russian won in Syria”, I think that it is now fair to say that the Russian position on Syria has won. Here is why:
First: nobody is suggesting anymore that Assad will be ousted or Damascus taken. That, in turn, means that everybody has now recognized that Syrian Arab Republic, backed by Russia, has successfully repelled the aggression of the huge coalition the AngloZionists built to overthrow Assad.
Second: Russia has forced the UNSC and the USA to admit that the vast majority of those who fight Assad today are terrorist. Of course, this is not how this was declared, but if you look at the organizations which the UNSC has already declared as ‘terrorists’ then you already have an absolute majority of the anti-Assad forces. This means that the moral and legal legitimacy of the anti-Assad forces lies in tatters.
Third: regardless of what Erdogan does actually try to do next, there are now clear signs that neither NATO, nor the EU nor even the Turkish high military command want a war with Russia. And that means that Erdogan’s gamble has not paid off and that his entire Syria policy is now comprehensively dead. Keep in mind that following the treacherous attack on the Russian Su-24 the Kremlin made it a policy goal to “Saakashvilize” Erdogan. This goal is now almost reached and Erdogan’s future looks very, very bleak: everybody ( except maybe the Saudis) is sick and tired of this maniac. The best thing which could happen to Turkey now would for the military to get rid of Erdogan and to replace him with somebody willing to repair all the damage he did.
Fourth: all the threats to impose a no-fly zone or to occupy Syria have now been invalidated by an agreement which basically declares that anybody not respecting the cease-fire is a legitimate target for engagement and destruction.
Fifth: the USA had to accept the humiliation of having to agree to all of the Russian terms for the current ceasefire. Yes, of course, the USA can, and probably will, try renege on part, or all, of this agreement, but the precedent has been set and it will be very hard, if not impossible, for the USA to openly return to the pre-2016 policies.
Sixth: does anybody still remember the rhetoric of Hillary Clinton about Syria and Russia? Her position was crystal clear: Assad must go and those who support him “punished”. Even after the Russian military offensive began, the US refused to tell the Russians where the “good terrorists” were and where the “bad terrorists” were. No exchange of information with Russians was acceptable. Now the Americans had to agree to work with the Russians on a map of Syria designating where the participants of the ceasefire and were those who were not included in the ceasefire were deployed. In other words, the US will now have to share with Russia all the info it previously refused to share and work with the Russians on a daily basis.
Seventh: Russia has basically co-opted the so-called “Free Syrian Army”. How? By basically forcing every single faction in Syria to chose between one of two possible statuses: being a ‘terrorist’ (and a fair target for destruction) or being a participant in a political process entirely designed by Russia. The Russians are now even opening a “Truce Center” at the Khmeimin airbase near Latakia which will now “render assistance” to all the parties to the ceasefire.
This, for the time being, is mainly a diplomatic victory, of course, but a Russian diplomatic victory made possible by a Russian military victory. A tiny Russian military contingent has basically completely neutralized the plans of an entire worldwide Empire. That, in itself, is an amazing achievement.
The other big winner here are, in my opinion, the Kurds who, according to British officials, appear to be coordinating their military operations with the Syrian army and the Russian Aerospace Forces and who now might well even achieve their dreams of joining the Iraqi and Syria regions of Kurdistan. Which is just about the worst nightmare for the Turks come true, hence the still remaining risk of a Turkish military operation ostensibly to create a ‘buffer zone’ but really to save face. That kind of intervention will remain a possibility for as long as the Turks can continue to hope to commit aggression against their neighbors under the protection of NATO and the USA. And that ain’t gonna change anytime in the future.
And then there are the Saudis. They are very, very angry. They are angry to the point of making not so subtle threats about using nuclear weapons to deal with their adversaries.
Actually, since Pakistan got The Bomb, I would not dismiss any Saudi claims of having a number of nuclear devices. But what does that really mean?
It is quite possible that the Saudis have the know how for a nuclear device. And it is quite possible that they even got their hands on enough nuclear materials for a few bombs. They might even have succeeded in purchasing a few nuclear devices from the Pakistanis or Israelis. But even if that is true, the reality is that the Saudis don’t even have the military capability to deal with the poorest Arab country on the planet (Yemen) and that they most definitely don’t have the military capability to engage their nuclear devices in a way which would allow them to achieve any kind of military advantage. After all, what are we talking about here? Using nuclear weapons against the Syrian military? Against Iran? Against Russia? This is absolutely ridiculous. The reality is that whatever nuclear capabilities the Saudis might or might not have, the fact that they would make nuclear threats is just a sign of weakness and fear, not a sign of strength. This is why nobody is impressed by these statement, least of all the intended targets of such threats.
While it is quite true that the latest agreement between the USA and Russia does not mark the end of the war in Syria, it is a turning point, a kind of a Minsk-2 Agreement which nobody really wants to comply with, but which seals the defeat of the AngloZionist plans in Syria as much as Minsk-2 meant the defeat of the Ukronazi dream.
Time is now on the Russian/Syrian side. With each passing day the Russian task force in Syria will become more powerful, as will the Syrian Armed Forces. That, by itself, will not be enough to defeat Daesh, and we can expect a stiff resistance from the Takfiri crazies, but the writing is on the wall for all to see: the more the Russians and the Americans become directly and jointly involved, the less Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be able to determine the outcome of the war. In other words, while this is far from being the end of Daesh, it is the beginning of the end for Daesh in Syria.
Yet again the nay-sayers and Putin-haters have been proven wrong. To be honest, so have I: I would never have guessed that the Russians could have achieved so much with so little and yet they did pull off this extremely dangerous gamble and they won. Only an extremely skilful combination of military, economic, diplomatic and political means could have yielded such a remarkable result but Putin, apparently, found this perfect mix. The path ahead remains extremely dangerous, for sure, but the outcome of the 20 week long Russian military intervention in Syria is nothing short of remarkable.
The various militia have until noon on Friday to declare their intentions. “It’s a case of saying to your interlocutor ‘I am in’ and explaining where you are, so you are not targeted”, according to one diplomat involved in the process.
With Islamic State, al-Nusra Front and two other terrorist organisations excluded from the truce under the terms agreed between the US and Moscow, the diplomat says the aim is to draw up a map “showing the co-ordinates of where the bad guys are”, so the agreed territory can be regarded as a legitimate target for Russia, the Syrian Army, Syrian Kurds and other forces to attack once the ceasefire is in place.
Indeed, some argue a byproduct of the terms of the ceasefire is to put pressure on rebel forces to detach themselves from al-Nusra.
3D. Syrian militia groups set to reveal intentions over ceasefire
In a logistical, military and political nightmare, Russian and American forces will be expected to agree the coordinates of legitimate targets
In the past few days, militia groups all over Syria have been ringing their American and Russian sponsors to reveal whether they will participate in a cessation of hostilities due to come into force at midnight local time (10pm GMT) on Friday 26 February.
The various militia have until noon on Friday to declare their intentions. “It’s a case of saying to your interlocutor ‘I am in’ and explaining where you are, so you are not targeted,” according to one diplomat involved in the process.
With Islamic State, al-Nusra Front and two other terrorist organisations excluded from the truce under the terms agreed between the US and Moscow, the diplomat says the aim is to draw up a map “showing the coordinates of where the bad guys are”, so the agreed territory can be regarded as a legitimate target for Russia, the Syrian Army, Syrian Kurds and other forces to attack once the ceasefire is in place.
It is expected, assuming the ceasefire comes into force, that the UN will on Friday afternoon name a new date for Syrian peace talks to recommence. A UN security council resolution supported by Russia and the Americas will also be passed.
The UN’s Syrian special envoy Staffan de Mistura is expected to announce the new date just after noon on Friday, around the deadline for the fighting forces to notify Russia and the US if they will comply with the ceasefire.
In a logistical, military and political nightmare, Russian and American forces are then expected to agree the coordinates of legitimate targets. Some Syrian opposition militia expected to join the ceasefire have been expressing a mix of anger and disquiet that al-Nusra Front, seen by the west as a Syrian franchise of al-Qaida, has been excluded from the ceasefire.
Diplomats acknowledge that al-Nusra, with a stronghold in Idlib in north-west Syria, is intermingled with forces willing to join the ceasefire. The danger is that the Russian air force, if it chooses to interpret the terms of the ceasefire inflexibly, could, under the pretext of hitting al-Nusra, attack militia that have joined the ceasefire, and so largely continue the war as at present.
Systems have been set in place for breaches of the ceasefire to be notified and redress sought. But it all presumes there is a tidy division between al-Nusra and other rebel forces that does not in reality exist. Indeed, some argue a byproduct of the terms of the ceasefire is to put pressure on rebel forces to detach themselves from al-Nusra.
There have been reports that some al-Nusra forces were evacuating towns in an attempt to prevent civilian areas being classified as a legitimate targets for the Russian air force.
But the whole enterprise rests on an inordinate amount of trust and good faith, commodities not widely available in Syria after five years of civil war.
The latest peace initiative was highly implausible only two weeks ago when it was assumed that Russia had decided to use a vicious bombing campaign to push the Syrian government army to victory in towns such as Aleppo, and further north to the town of Azaz, the gateway for Turkish supplies into Syria.
As many as 50,000 Syrians evacuated Aleppo heading to Turkey, believing the town was about to besieged or bombarded. The military balance of power seemed to have changed permanently. The Russians seemed close to securing their aim of setting up a binary choice between Isis and president Bashar al-Assad.
But partly due to the energy of the US secretary of state, John Kerry, Russia decided to take the lead in a further effort at starting peace talks, only two weeks after a previous initiative foundered largely due to the scale of Russian bombing of opposition forces.
This time Kerry, to the fury of many in the US, has acknowledged the de facto leadership role of Russia inside Syria by allowing Vladimir Putin to make the diplomatic running, leaving the Russian president in recent days to make many of the critical calls to other world leaders.
In a sign that Putin may be serious, it has been noted by western capitals that Russia has not used the days before the latest ceasefire to drive home military advantage with the degree of destructiveness shown before the last round of talks.
The planned cessation of hostilities stops short of a ceasefire, and allows the Syrian opposition to claim it has not been forced into a permanent end to the war.
Following consultations in Amman and Istanbul, Riad Hajib, the general coordinator of the opposition umbrella body High Negotiating Council, has agreed to a two-week ceasefire.
But in reality, diplomats acknowledge, it will be the decisions taken by military factions on the ground that will decide if the ceasefire holds. Many, locked in immediate strategic struggles for roads and towns, currently seem either reluctant to abandon al-Nusra, or have predicted they would be targeted. Al-Nusra, for its part, may prefer to lie low.
But either way the ceasefire is unlikely to mean the Syrian army and the rebels will cease attacking one another and turn their fire on Isis. In some areas such as Idlib, a stronghold of al-Nusra, the Russian attacks could increase. That in turn makes humanitarian relief
harder to deliver.
If the ceasefire starts to take hold in the regions deemed clear of al-Nusra and some sieges are lifted, there is a slim chance the peace talks might get under way. De Mistura was forced to abandon the first round of talks on 3 February after disputes over the composition of the delegations, the lifting of sieges and the agenda.
If the talks do start sometime next week, De Mistura will try proximity talks first, in which the two sides do not meet directly but UN diplomats shuttle from one side to the other. He favours a more informal structure to the talks than his predecessor, Lakhdar Brahimi.
But he will have to strike a balance between allowing a loose, informal structure that allows trust to grow organically and letting the process drift into a dialogue with no end point.
Kerry said this week it will be clear after three months or so if the talks are leading to a transitional government. He added that if it is clear no progress is being made, he will resort to a Plan B, or even settle reluctantly for permanent partition of the country.
But after five years of American failure in Syria, few – and certainly not members of the Senate foreign relations committee – believe Kerry or president Barack Obama have the remotest idea of what Plan B might actually contain.
4. What is America doing in the South China Sea? By Cynthia McKinney, 26 Feb 2016
Washington is playing a dangerous game of ‘chicken’ with the Chinese and Russians, who are attempting to defend themselves from the Washington Consensus, which reduces subject populations to that of serfs.
While the Russians, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, seemed willing to accept a sort of vassal statehood, it is increasingly today clear that such an assignation is intolerable. Thus, Vladimir Putin enjoys immense popularity as he stands up to the pro-Washington forces inside and outside of the US.
Meanwhile, the Chinese remember all too well the sting of British colonialism: opium addiction and the lasting effects of British presumptions of superiority. The Chinese place in the Washington Consensus has been staked out as, in the case of Russia, supplier of inputs to feed the hungry capitalism of the US and the Western European former colonial masters.
Directed by the United States, and backed up by its military, the real beneficiaries of the Washington Consensus were never intended to be the people of China, who were just viewed as a one billion plus, voracious, consumption-hungry machine for Western goods.
But the Chinese had another idea, and instead of becoming an engine of growth for Western economies, international political economists are now discussing the “China Model” or the “Beijing Consensus.” Chinese Communist Party scholars now tout China as an alternative development model for the former colonized world. This is not what Washington had in mind with its so-called “China Opening” in 1972.
Thus, the US has embarked upon a strategy of containing the rise of Russia and China, rolling back any gains made by states friendly with them and willing to go against the neoliberal grain, and doing this by alternative means without overt or “hot” war. The US military establishment calls this “asymmetric” warfare.
The Obama Administration, while pronouncing nostrums of civility and democracy, terms this multi-pronged attack on the right of self-determination of other countries, “Leading From Behind,” a term borrowed from Nelson Mandela. This is a strategy akin to having a war in which the leading belligerent is “in the closet,” out of view. Both the Russians and the Chinese know that Washington has declared war on them. So now, what does this mean for Asians’ engagement with each other and Washington’s engagement in Asia?
The particular line of contention now revolves around the geostrategically important sea lanes along which move oil from West Asia and North Africa to Japan and goods mostly produced in China yet consumed in every corner of the world. Because the Western media have touted the endangerment of global commerce caused by Chinese interference with these sea lanes, blogger Peter Lee decided to take a closer look. What he found is that even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly told the Diet (the Japanese Parliament) that“there are alternative routes” for the Strait of Malacca, “unlike Hormuz.”
He concluded that we who are forced to rely on Western media have been fed a bunch of propaganda and, in reality, the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca are not a critical sea lane for US allies Japan and South Korea and offers the real-time map of maritime activity to prove it. So, with the veneer of legitimacy completely torn away from US justifications for its actions in the region, what exactly are China and the US doing in the South China Sea?
Sea Power and The New Silk Road
China has proposed reviving The Silk Road that once connected Asians and Europeans. It calls this effort the New Silk Road and has the financial power to encourage countries along the route to participate in the regional opportunities brought about by extensive land and sea linkages.
The New Silk Road envisions a peaceful integration of the region fostering development of the Continent as a whole. A development that could be explained ‘of Asia by Asians for Asians.’ Yet because of its military presence in the form of bases from West Asia to the archipelago countries in the East, the US military is present, blocking any Asian-led effort at integration and already enforcing US policies ofcontainment, rollback, and “leading from behind.”
This US military presence can be found in Syria and Turkey in the West, the Philippines in the East, and Afghanistan and Pakistan in between. And one by one, the US is employing a direct military conquest strategy, as well as the old tried and true divide-and-rule strategy. Resistance to US hegemony in the Philippines had resulted in the US military being kicked out of the country, but now it is set to return. The US scored a “two-fer” when it was able to secure its return to the Philippines while hawking the dangers of Chinese Imperialism.
The Japanese people have consistently voted in favor of local candidates who promise to stand up to the US and demand removal of American bases there, only to be betrayed by the central government in Tokyo. At least fifteen US bases in South Korea allow the imperial intruder to keep an eye on China and China-friendly North Korea from a close distance. It appears that Malaysia may be a target of Washington’s asymmetric warfare: one of its commercial airliners was shot down over Ukraine; another just disappeared without a trace—to this day. Now, Malaysia is in the midst of extreme political turmoil after $671 million mysteriously appeared in Prime Minister Razak’s personal bank account and he was unable to convincingly explain to the public how it got there.
But Malaysia shares with Indonesia (site of the historic Bandung Conference) the Strait of Malacca which is the gateway to the Bay of Bengal (Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India) from the South China Sea. Curiously, Vietnam, still feeling the effects of the Vietnam War, just asked Washington for a greater role in countering China’s actions in the South China Sea. Of China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, that all have claims on some of the Spratley Islands, China is the only country that had not constructed an airfield or done reclamation work on its claimed islands, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Once China began its reclamation and construction work is when the “problems” in the South China Sea began.
The United States has sent a steady stream of warships into the area claiming its right to navigate on the high seas. In December 2015, the US claimed that China’s militarism in the area had eroded navigational safety in the South China Sea. In its rejoinder, China warned the US not to be “provocative.” Last month, the US began air and sea“patrols” in the South China Sea sending one of its warships within twelve nautical miles of one of China’s reclaimed islands. This month, the war of words escalated to limited kinetic action as flares were fired by a refueling US KC-130 Hercules while on air patrol. The US insists that it will continue its military patrols over the South China Sea as is consistent with international law.
The bottom line is that US actions indicate that the US gives not one whit about international law. It breaks international law everyday that it tortures, kills, bombs and maims the innocent. It threatens with asymmetric warfare any country that dares to challenge its ability to impose a neoliberal agenda on foreign citizens.
The case of Bolivarian Venezuela is a good example—both during Hugo Chavez’s tenure and today, with President Maduro. The list of countries being subjected to such treatment by the US is growing, something I previously thought was not possible. I wrote earlier that the US needs to forget its pivot to Asia and concentrate on improving the well being of its citizens, most of whom are suffering. While China focuses on lifting its citizens out of poverty, the US leadership seems bent on plunging more Americans into poverty as the military-industrial-national-security state plans to spend one trillion dollars on war and domestic policing. And no presidential candidates are willing to even talk about this travesty now that Senator Rand Paul has dropped out of the race. And you can count on the US media to keep the propaganda going. Sadly, somewhere in Washington, D.C. a tiny group of insiders is itching for a war with China and Russia. Let it be remembered that I voted against every war funding bill and the Pentagon budget while I was in Congress. Usually there were only a few, like Ron Paul, who joined me in those votes.
I still believe it is sinful for the US to spend so much on war, death, and destruction, especially while babies in the US go to bed hungry every night and people freeze in their homes for lack of heat or on the street for lack of shelter.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
5. US will increase its military budget for eastern Europe by 400%
Worrying news of an European arms race this week:
Russia completes reformation of 1st Guards Tank Army
The reactivation of the Tank Army is part of the “development of Russia’s quick reaction force”.
U.S. Fortifying Europe’s East to Deter Putin
Operation Barbarossa 2: American Occupation of Europe Intensifies
http://journal-neo.org/2016/02/17/operation-barbarossa-2-american-occupation-of-europe-intensifies/ By Christopher Black, 17 Feb 2016
There is no need to enter once again into the real history of events in Ukraine, Syria, Europe, Asia, Africa and all the places in the world where American and European meddling have wreaked havoc and loosed Chaos with the dogs of war. The history is well known by those who are interested. But there is a need to comprehend the meaning of what the United States is doing by announcing that it will increase its military budget for eastern Europe by 400%, from a current budget of $789 million to $3.4 billion in 2017. Since the Russians are not the threat in the region, but the United States and NATO are, the placement of military hardware to support a full armoured combat brigade in the region, and right on top of Russia’s borders can have only one other purpose, aggression.
Once can even argue that the pattern of moving equipment and forces continually nearer to Russia’s border, the continuous military exercises and their increasing control of the governments of the east European states in lockstep with this military build up, looks far too much like Nazi Germany’s build of forces prior to Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. History never repeats itself exactly, we have learned that much. But the overall pattern is very similar and the objectives and motivations remain the same.
The story also quoted American officials as stating that the equipment could be used in Syria, another threat to Russia. But the main threat is against Russia itself. Indeed the writers stated,
“Still, there is no doubt the primary target of the funding is Russia.”
The Times admits that the 1997 agreement known as the NATO-Russia Founding Act stipulates that neither side can place forces along their respective borders and admits that the deployment of American and NATO troops along Russia’s borders is a clear violation of the agreement. But, being the weasels that they are, they always state that wrong is right and so they simply deny they are in violation of the agreement or excuse it based on ”Russia’s incursion” into Crimea. This makes no sense of course since the United States took over Ukraine as its protectorate in the coup in 2014. Its forces have been there ever since and it has been in violation of the agreement from the day it was signed as NATO occupied, one by one, the countries formerly protected from NATO by the Soviet Union. The agreement means nothing to them. They just shrug their shoulders if it is mentioned and chew their gum.
Since the build-up of American forces in Europe is explicitly directed at Russia and since a few months ago an American general stated that they expected Russia to engage in “hybrid warfare” in the Baltic states and regard this as a “certainty” for which NATO has to prepare, an objective observer must ask whether the US itself intends to stage a series of provocations in the Baltic and blame them on Russia.
The Americans, British and Turks have created a series of provocations in the past weeks, accusing Russia of killing civilians in Syria, of violating Turkish, therefore NATO airspace, of murdering Russians abroad on the personal orders of President Putin, and as with other leaders they have attacked and murdered in the past, now accuse President Putin of corruption, a charge they levelled at President Milosevic when he was attacked and then finally arrested in Serbia.
This writer had the opportunity of meeting with Serbian officials who were in charge of the case against Milosevic at that time and I asked them if the corruption charges were true. They told me that they were completely false but that the Americans pushed them to charge Milosevic in order to undermine support for him in Serbia and as an excuse to hold him until they could kidnap him and take him in chains to their NATO tribunal in The Hague. They further told me that the Americans had threatened to bomb them again if they refused to cooperate.
The accusations made against President Putin are in line with this strategy of setting him up to be labelled in the west as a criminal with whom negotiations are impossible and therefore, setting the stage for sowing confusion amongst the Russian people about their own leaders, and undermining support for their government. But this is only one purpose and since the Russian people are very aware of how the game works, it is unlikely that this campaign of defamation against President Putin will have any success inside Russia. So, the primary objective is to demonise him in the eyes of the western public in order to justify further aggression against Russia and since these stories receive saturation coverage in the west, the NATO propagandists are succeeding.
It took nearly ten years for Operation Barbarossa to be set up and put into effect, from the time that Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany and began to discuss with the British and French his intentions of attacking the Soviet Union. The British and French were very content for the Nazis to do that and there is no doubt that the primary objective of Hitler was always the crushing of Russia. That the attack failed is one of the reasons the NATO leaders snubbed the Moscow Victory Parade last summer since they now identify themselves with the objectives of the defeated Nazi regime.
Some doubt that the NATO powers will actually attack Russia and risk a world war and point out that the forces being placed in eastern Europe are too weak to mount any attack. But they miss the point, which is that the build up is steady, and it is increasing, along with the propaganda and increased economic warfare. The Americans are really prepositioning resources, stores, equipment and headquarters and logistics bases that can be rapidly used to build up NATO forces at the right moment. The question is when that moment will be.
Unless the European powers can escape the American pressure and become independent states once again and unless a new regime dedicated to peace arises in the United States, neither of which look likely for the foreseeable future, it rests with us, the citizens of the world to get off our chairs and get on the streets and demand that these preparations for world war be stopped. For, unless that happens, the march to war by the Americans and their NATO lieutenants appears to be inexorable.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, he is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and he is known for a number of high-profile cases involving human rights and war crimes, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
6A. Aleppo supply road was cleared from ISIS, now mop-up and de-mining operation under way. ISIS lost a lot of elite soldiers, but so did SAA. Iranians and Hezbollah also participated in de-blocking of the vital road, one Iranian IRGC colonel died as well.
http://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/2636101.html (26 Feb 2016)
6B. Syria Daily Report 23/02/2016 (Published 25 Feb 2016)
B. SDF clash with IS forces in the vicinity of Tishrin Dam once more. Reports of 3 SDF casualties in addition to more casualties reported on both sides.
- Clashes break out between SAA and opposition forces in Sayf al-Dawla neighborhood, southwestern Aleppo.
- Khanaser – Aleppo SAA Supply Road: SAA and al-Quds Brigades vs IS and other opposition factions. IS manage to advance in the area and take control over Khanaser. Heavy RuAF airstrikes target IS forces in the area. 35 SAA and 16 IS and IS-allied forces casualties reported.
- Sheikh Maqsoud – Bani Zaid –Ashrafiyye – Bustan al-Pasha Neighborhoods: SDF vs opposition forces. 4 SDF and 2 opposition casualties reported.
- South of Aleppo – al-Eis – Khan Tuman – Zerbeh: SAA vs opposition forces.
ash-Shaddadi – Jabal Abd al-Aziz – Hasakah Governorate: SDF vs IS. IS launch homemade rockets on SDF position in Jabal Abd al-Aziz causing some SDF casualties. SDF advance in the vicinity of ash-Shaddadi. Casualties reported on both sides.
Jabal al-Akrad – Jabal Turkman – Latakia Governorate: SAA, IRGC, NDF, and Russian ground troops under Russian supervision vs the 1st and 2nd Coastal Divisions, Ahrar ash-Sham, Ansar ash-Sham, JAN, and Turkestan Islamic Party forces. Reports of SAA advances being made. Casualties reported on both sides.
Hirbnafsah – Hama Governorate: SAA vs opposition and JAN forces.
- al-Quaryatayn: SAA vs IS. Reports of casualties on both sides.
- West of Palmyra: SAA vs IS. Reports of casualties on both sides.
Deir ez-Zor Military Airport: SAA vs IS. Reports of one IS casualty.
- Darayya: SAA vs opposition forces. Reports of SAA advances in the area.
- Marj as-Sultan Vicinity: SAA vs opposition forces. Reports of SAA advances in the area.
- Wadi Barada Vicinity: JAN vs IS.
- Khan al-Sheh: SAA vs opposition forces.
Yesterday’s casualties according to www.syriahr.com: 137 casualties.
As I write this the Syrian army seems to be in the last stages of re-opening the road link between its territory in Aleppo province and its main territory in the east. The link had been cut off on Monday 22nd by an ISIS offensive from the east supported by attacks by Jund Al-Aqsa attacks from the west.
The fact that in the weeks before the Syrian army had been scoring very significant victories, and seems on track to restore the link within days beg the question how come this happened in the first place.
The first part of the answer is that this is a favored and well honed tactic of ISIS. Since the atrocious loses it suffered in the defeat at Kobani, the group rarely opts to commit massive number of troops to losing defensive battles. Instead it extricate’s its men from such battles leaving behind only booby traps and snipers to cover the retreat and inflict losses at a small price. No sooner than the retreat is done it then seeks to compensate for the loss of ground by striking at a different location and taking the enemy by surprise.
Indeed, just a day before the ISIS attack on the Hama-Aleppo highway it had been forced into retreat as the Syrian Army took significant new ground in eastern Aleppo province – so an attack like it should really have been anticipated.
The second part of the answer is the geography of Syria’s war. Most of the country consists of empty space – sparsely populated desert and semi-desert whose only value are the few roads that interject it. In terrain like that there are no real front lines. All there is are small outposts along the road – usually in the few villages that do exist.
While these roadside bases ensure a measure of control and security they’re relatively isolated and weak and can always be outflanked and overrun by a determined enemy that decides to mass and move across empty space – i.e. using a secondary road or even moving off road if the distance permits it.
It did not take much for ISIS to cut it off
The reason this does not take place far more often is that the force that wrestles control of a section of road like that is now equally exposed to counter-attack as the enemy they had taken it from had been. This is exactly what we’re seeing now with ISIS on the south Aleppo road, now apparently threatened with encirclement by the Syrian army.
Yet now ISIS is threatened with encirclement
It was a bold move by ISIS and perhaps a necessary one to boost its morale after setbacks in eastern Aleppo but won’t have strategic significance if it can’t hold onto it and will have been a costly military loss if it can’t extricate itself from its predicament and leaves behind trapped fighters.
7. Lebanon’s 14th of March marches into oblivion by Ghassan Kadi, 23 February 2016
Below is an extract, read the whole article at http://thesaker.is/lebanons-14th-of-march-marches-into-oblivion/
The new king (of Saudi Arabia) Salman and his son Mohamad Bin Salman represent the Sudiri faction of the Saudi royals, and they do not like the heritage of the previous royals and their friends; including Saad Hariri (of Lebanon).
As a matter of fact, Hariri’s major company (Saudi Oger) is in deep trouble and in debt to the tune of 7-8 billion dollars. Hariri was promised a bail out by the previous king Abdullah and a big contract that could get him out of trouble. The new king and his son do not seem to be interested at all in helping out Hariri. They are hanging him out to dry.
Furthermore, employees of the Lebanese Al-Mustakbal news agency which is owned by Hariri have not been paid for many months and most of them are expecting retrenchments without receiving long service payments let alone salary arrears.
Some argue that Hariri’s wealth has shrunk from a few billions to little over a few millions, and with this shrinkage, he is no longer able to master and muster those who were once subordinate to him.
As Lebanon lurks in presidential vacuum and remains without a president for twenty months, unable to agree on a nominee who can win enough votes, Hariri nominated Suleiman Franjieh, a close personal friend of Bashar Assad and a member of the pro-Hezbollah 8th of March Coalition. That was done in an attempt to eliminate the chances of the bigger political enemy; Michel Aoun.
In a sheer surprise to Hariri, his ally and former nominee Samir Geagea, the leader of the right-wing Christian militia Lebanese Forces, drops his nomination and jumps in bed with Aoun endorsing him. In effect, by doing so, Geagea has left the 14th of March Coalition.
A few days later, more fractures appear in that once mighty and all-inclusive coalition. Even small players like Tripoli’s MP Khaled Daher has revolted and left the coalition. Daher by the way is a Muslim Brotherhood man and was instrumental in smuggling arms and fighters into Syria from Northern Lebanon. This begs the question, who did Daher shift his loyalty to? To put it more bluntly, who has bought his loyalty? There can only be one bidder here; Daesh.
And just two days ago, the Lebanese minister of justice, the staunch Hariri man retired General Ashraf Rifi who was the chief of Lebanese Internal Security, who played a huge role arming the Sunni militants in Bab Al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli for nearly a whole decade, has also decided to resign from his position in the cabinet. His resignation is seen as the end of his honeymoon period with Hariri and the 14th of Match Coalition.
In hindsight, the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon was no only pushed for by the 214th of March Coalition, but Saudi Arabia played a major part. The then King Abdullah has personally asked President Assad to withdraw his forces in order to restore peace and unity in Lebanon. That was a major step in weakening Syria’s sphere of influence. Had Syrian troops stayed in Lebanon, Hariri and his cohorts would not had been able to use Lebanese soil to smuggle Jihadists and munitions into Syria.
As mentioned above, Daher and Rifi were both instrumental in supporting Sunni fighters against the Syrian Army and forces loyal to Hezbollah. The funds they spent were sponsored by Hariri and Saudi Arabia.
Hariri played big and played dirty, and now he is falling on his head…
Read the whole article at http://thesaker.is/lebanons-14th-of-march-marches-into-oblivion/