Author Topic: Middle East Wars  (Read 3374 times)

Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #75 on: February 13, 2018, 02:12:46 PM »
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    Some time ago I posted that Benjamin Netanyahu, long time Israeli PM, would be charged with criminal behavior. That time has come. He may or may not have to resign as PM. He denies the charges, so the case will create interesting permutations in Israeli politics as the case plays out.

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    Israeli media say police will announce there is enough evidence to indict Mr Netanyahu for bribery and breach of trust in two separate cases.

    One case centres on an allegation that Mr Netanyahu asked the publisher of a Israeli newspaper for positive coverage in exchange for help in reining in a rival publication.

    The second centres on a claim that Mr Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister since 2009, received more than $100,000 (£72,000) in gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and other supporters.

    Israel PM Netanyahu 'should be charged with corruption'
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43051249
    On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
    ...H. L. Mencken

    Solon

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    Re: Middle East Wars
    « Reply #76 on: February 13, 2018, 02:46:43 PM »
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  • It's beginning to leak out that dozens of Russians were probably killed in a U.S.-backed attack last week. The US sent air strikes against Syrian forces in retaliation for an assault near Deir al-Zour. It was the first attempt of Syrian forces to take territory occupied by the SDF.

    The Russian government is maintaining that it has no knowledge of any Russians killed in the raid. The facts remain unclear. Relatives of the men have said they were employed by the private military contractor “Wagner.”

    US officials were in contact with Russian officials to avoid any conflicts over the use of air space. The Russians claim they were unaware of either the Syrian attack on Deir al-Zour or the Iranian drone launched into Israel.

    Russia has assumed the predominant position in Syria after its intervention in the civil war, but it clearly does not control its allies. This makes the growing conflict between powerful outside military forces beyond anyone's control.

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    Four Russian nationals, and perhaps dozens more, were killed in fighting between pro-government forces in eastern Syria and members of the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, according to Russian and Syrian officials.

    A Syrian military officer said that about 100 Syrian soldiers had been killed in the fighting on Feb. 7 and 8, but news about Russian casualties has dribbled out only slowly, through Russian news organizations and social media.
    Four Russian nationals, and perhaps dozens more, were killed in fighting between pro-government forces in eastern Syria and members of the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, according to Russian and Syrian officials.

    A Syrian military officer said that about 100 Syrian soldiers had been killed in the fighting on Feb. 7 and 8, but news about Russian casualties has dribbled out only slowly, through Russian news organizations and social media.

    Dozens of Russians Are Believed Killed in U.S.-Backed Syria Attack
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/13/world/europe/russia-syria-dead.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

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    Asked about the Russian mercenaries who reportedly died in a recent U.S.-led coalition strike against armed supporters of the Assad regime in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Tuesday that the Kremlin only has information about Russian soldiers and doesn’t know anything about other Russian citizens who might be on the ground in Syria.

    “Let’s be clear: there are a good many of our compatriots in many countries around the world,” Peskov said, referring journalists to the Defense Ministry and saying that media reports need to be verified. The Defense Ministry has denied that any Russian citizens died in the airstrikes.

    On February 7, the international coalition in Syria bombed pro-government armed forces in Syria. According to sources in the Pentagon, the airstrikes killed an estimated 100 people, including multiple Russians, according to the individuals’ mourning friends and families. The Russian citizens who allegedly died in the attack were reportedly working for the private military company “Wagner.”

    The Kremlin says it knows nothing about any dead Russian mercenaries in Syria
    https://meduza.io/en/news/2018/02/13/the-kremlin-says-it-knows-nothing-about-any-dead-russian-mercenaries-in-syria
    On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
    ...H. L. Mencken

    Solon

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    Re: Middle East Wars
    « Reply #77 on: February 14, 2018, 08:19:11 AM »
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  • Tom Friedman has long been one of the most respected and perceptive foreign policy analysts. When he says the Syrian front is even more dangerous than the confrontation in Korea, we need to pay attention.

    That puts in perspective why I have been posting so frequently about this growing conflict between "the great powers." 

    The irony that a revisionist power like Russia would downplay, even deny, the deaths of Russian soldiers in a war that it is desperately trying to bring to a close now that it has assured the survival of its patron Bashar al Assad, demonstrates how convoluted and disorienting the situation has become. That its allies, Assad himself, the Iranians and Iranian-backed Hizbulla, are prepared to defy Russia's wishes and pursue their own agendas renders the enterprise totally out of control.

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    Two weeks ago, standing on the Syria-Israel border in the Golan Heights, I wrote a column positing that this frontier was the “second most dangerous” war zone in the world today — after the Korean Peninsula. Your honor, I’d like to revise and amend that column.

    Having watched the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, where North and South Korean athletes marched last week into the stadium together in a love fest; and having also watched Israel shoot down an Iranian drone from Syria, bomb an Iranian base in Syria and lose one of its own F-16s to a Syrian missile; and after U.S. jets killed a bunch of Russian “contractors” who got too close to our forces in Syria, I now think the Syria-Israel-Lebanon front is the most dangerous corner in the world.

    Where else can you find Syrian, Russian, American, Iranian and Turkish troops or advisers squaring off on the ground and in the air — along with pro-Iranian Shiite mercenaries from Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan; pro-U.S. Kurdish fighters from northern Syria; ISIS remnants; various pro-Saudi and pro-Jordanian anti-Syrian regime Sunni rebels and — I am not making this up — pro-Syrian regime Russian Orthodox Cossack “contractors” who went to Syria to defend Mother Russia from “crazy barbarians” — all rubbing against one another?

    As The Washington Post pointed out, “In the space of a single week last week, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel lost aircraft to hostile fire” in Syria.

    The term “powder keg” was invented for this place. And the term “3-D battlefield” doesn’t even begin to capture its complexity. It is a multidimensional battlefield that requires a quantum computer to sort out the myriad number of actors, shifting alliances and lines of conflict.

    ...The bad news and the good news about the war in Syria is that all the parties involved are guided by one iron rule: You don’t want to “own” this war. This is the ultimate rent-a-war. Each party wants to maximize its interests and minimize the influence of its rivals by putting as few of its own soldiers at risk and instead fighting for its goals through air power, mercenaries and local rebels.

    They’ve all learned — Russia from Afghanistan, Iran from the Iran-Iraq war, Israel from south Lebanon, and the U.S. from Iraq and Afghanistan — that their publics will not tolerate large numbers of body bags fighting any ground war in the Middle East.

    ...The “good news,” sort of, is that because everyone is so “loss averse” in Syria, it’s less likely that any party will get too reckless.

    ...Maybe, eventually, the players will get tired and forge a power-sharing accord in Syria, as the Lebanese eventually did in 1989 to end their civil war. Alas, though, it took the Lebanese 14 years to come to their senses. So get ready for a lot more news from Syria.


    Syria: You Own It, You Fix It, So Just Rent It
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/13/opinion/syria-israel-most-dangerous.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region
    « Last Edit: February 14, 2018, 08:55:19 AM by Solon »
    On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
    ...H. L. Mencken

    Solon

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    Re: Middle East Wars
    « Reply #78 on: February 15, 2018, 07:17:18 PM »
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  • Reuters reports that 300 Russians were killed or wounded in the action around Deir al-Zour. All of them were mercenaries. The US is not the only country that hires military contractors to fight its wars. The US and Russia have made sure, so far, that military forces of the two countries have not faced off. Most of the concern has involved air space over Syria. The deaths of approximately 100 Russian mercenaries and the wounding of around 200 more raises the question by whom were they employed? Were the Russians trying to pull a fast one and seize a strategic area or were the mercenaries paid for by the Syrian government and acting, as I claimed in an earlier post, against the wishes of the Russian officials? Either way, somebody got a really nasty surprise. But, regardless, US command needs to know the answer so they are fully informed about the challenges ahead.

    It is worth noting that I have never read anything anywhere about the Russians bringing contracted mercenaries to fight in Syria...until this incident.   

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    About 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked Russian private military firm were either killed or injured in Syria last week, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

    A Russian military doctor said around 100 had been killed, and a source who knows several of the fighters said the death toll was in excess of 80 men.

    The timing of the casualties coincided with a battle on Feb. 7 near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor where, according to U.S. officials and associates of the fighters involved, U.S.-led coalition forces attacked forces aligned with Moscow’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Russian officials said five citizens may have been killed but they had no relation to Russia’s armed forces.

    The clashes show Moscow is more deeply involved in Syria militarily than it has said, and risks being drawn into direct confrontation with the United States in Syria.

    The casualties are the highest that Russia has suffered in a single battle since fierce clashes in Ukraine in 2014 claimed more than 100 fighters’ lives. Moscow denies sending soldiers and volunteers to Ukraine and has never confirmed that figure.

    ...Russian officials deny they deploy private military contractors in Syria, saying Moscow’s only military presence is a campaign of air strikes, a naval base, military instructors training Syrian forces, and limited numbers of special forces troops.

    But according to people familiar with the deployment, Russia is using large numbers of the contractors in Syria because that allows Moscow to put more boots on the ground without risking regular soldiers whose deaths have to be accounted for.

    The contractors, mostly ex-military, carry out missions assigned to them by the Russian military, the people familiar with the deployment said. Most are Russian citizens, though some have Ukrainian and Serbian passports.

    ...The source with ties to Wagner said they told him the force struck by the U.S.-led coalition was made up mainly of Russian contractors, with a few Syrians and Iranians in support roles.

    He said that on Feb. 7 the force had advanced toward the settlement of Khusham, in Deir al-Zor province, into a zone designated as neutral under a deal between the Russian military and the U.S.-led coalition.

    The aim was to test if the U.S.-led coalition would react. The force advanced to within less than 5 km (3 miles) of the SDF and American positions, he said.

    He said that the U.S.-led forces, in line with procedure agreed with the Russians, warned Russian regular forces that they were preparing to strike. He does not know if the warning was passed on to the contractors.

    “The warning was 20 minutes beforehand, in that time it was not feasible to turn the column around,” said the source.

    He said once the strikes began, the contractors did not return fire because they believed that would provoke even more strikes from the U.S.-led coalition.


    Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded: sources
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-russia-casualtie/russian-toll-in-syria-battle-was-300-killed-and-wounded-sources-idUSKCN1FZ2DZ?utm_source=34553&utm_medium=partner
    « Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 07:21:18 PM by Solon »
    On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
    ...H. L. Mencken

    Solon

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    Re: Middle East Wars
    « Reply #79 on: February 16, 2018, 08:54:39 AM »
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  • Rex Tillerson is in Turkey to attempt the impossible. He has, nontheless, put on a good show of unity with the Turkish government. He stated that he and Mr Cavusoglu (the Turkish Foreign Minister) agreed that their countries' objectives for Syria were "precisely the same - there is no daylight between [them]". That is true in so far as both want to see Bashar al Assad deposed and exiled to Moscow or wherever. The devil is in the details, however, and there is no resolution of those where the Kurds are involved. The meetings between diplomats have put the confrontation in Manbij on hold, but for how long and to what end. Erdogan and the Turks view the conflict with the Kurds as an existential struggle so there is no give in their position. Erdogan deliberately blew up the Kurdish peace process for internal political reasons a few years ago as I have previously addressed, so he has no fallback position. The US has no tenable presence in Syria without the full backing of the Kurds. If we intend to have any voice in the fate of Syria and with it the disposition of forces across the Middle East, we must maintain our current arrangements. Adding to the mess is the US reliance on a major military air base in Turkey at Incirlik. The Turks could demand our departure as a last act of defiance. That would surely mark the end of Turkey's presence in NATO. The Turks have not said a word about it, so that is apparently still a bridge too far.

    How the US and Turkey manage to paper over this intractable situation, assuming they can, will be an interesting lesson in diplomacy.

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    The Nato allies said joint teams would meet shortly to work through their diplomatic differences, including a dispute over the city of Manbij.

    ...Speaking at a joint news conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said working teams would tackle disputes which have led to heightened tensions between the two powers.

    "Manbij is going to be given priority in our joint working effort," Mr Tillerson said.

    The BBC's Mark Lowen in Istanbul says there was, it seems, no breakthrough in these talks but an inching forward from what Mr Tillerson called a "crisis point" in US-Turkey relations.

    ...Mr Cavusoglu said the mechanisms they had agreed upon were aimed at "finding real outcomes - we are not wasting each other's times".

    On a note of discord, the foreign minister said the US had dishonoured a previous pledge to make sure Kurdish forces pulled back east across the Euphrates river.

    He warned that "if the YPG takes hold of these areas [west of the river], stability will never enter this area. We will work towards making sure this will never happen."


    Syria conflict: US and Turkey agree to avert Manbij clash
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43084963
    On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
    ...H. L. Mencken

    Solon

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    Re: Middle East Wars
    « Reply #80 on: Today at 10:09:56 AM »
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  • The Syrian government appears to have followed through on its promise to send forces to aid the Kurds in Afrin. Militia forces have arrived in the besieged enclave in defiance of Turkey's demand that the Syrian government stay out of the fight. How many and where they will be deployed remains unclear.  The Kurds asked for aid from the government before the incursion a month ago. This adds another contradiction to the already complex mix of forces. The US-Kurdish alliance was aimed at ISIL, but the US has called for Assad to step down, hence the US is sympathetic and has aided forces that are fighting the Assad government. Now the primary ally of the US is working with the Assad government to defend the Afrin area. This is typical of the cross purpose alliances that make up the Syrian conflict. They only make sense in the context of a small geographic area and the forces arrayed against each other in that specific location.

    The Russian government has admitted to "dozens of casualties" by Russian volunteers who are being treated in Russian hospitals. They can no longer hide the fact that Russian mercenaries in large numbers are fighting in Syria.

    Pro-Syria forces 'enter Kurd-held enclave'
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43131600

    Russia admits dozens of Russian casualties in Syria battle
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43125506
    On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
    ...H. L. Mencken