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US Attacks Syrian Government Forces - It Now Has To Make Its Choice

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The Syrian army is on the way to liberate the ISIS besieged city of some 100,000 and garrison of Deir Ezzor in the east of the country. The U.S. has trained a few thousand "New Syrian Army" insurgents in Jordan and is reportedly prepared to march these and its own forces from Jordan through the east-Syrian desert all the way up to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. About a year ago it occupied the al-Tanf (al-Tanaf) border station which consists of only a few buildings in the mid of the desert. The station between Syria and Iraq near the Jordan border triangle was previously held by a small ISIS group.

A U.S. move from the south up towards the Euphrates would cut off the Syrian government from the whole south-east of the country and from its people in Deir Ezzor. While that area is sparsely populated it also has medium size oil and gas fields and is the land connection to the Syrian allies in Iraq.

With the western part of the country relatively quiet, the Syrian government and its allies decided to finally retake the south-eastern provinces from ISIS. They want to lift the ISIS siege on Deir Ezzor and close the border between Syria and Iraq with its own forces. The move will also block any potential U.S. invasion from the south by retaking the road to al-Tanf and the Syrian-Iraqi border (red arrows). The sovereign Syrian state will not give up half of the country to an illegal occupation by ISIS or the U.S. At the same time as the eastern operations are running consolidation and clearing operations against ISIS in the middle and west of the countries will take place (green arrows).

Yesterday a small battalion size force (~2-300 men) of the regular Syrian army, Syrian National Defense Organization volunteers and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF/PMU of the Kata'ib al-Imam Ali) marched on the road from the west towards al-Tanf.
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Is There A New US Syria Policy? Is There One At All?

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What does the US administration want with regards to Syria?

The elements were clear just a few days ago. The US would split off the east and set up a Kurdish enclave which it would then occupy with the help of proxy forces. It would use the leverage to push for political regime change in western Syria. Israel would occupy another piece of the Golan.

While that looked somewhat favorable for the US in the short term it was bad long term strategy. US forces in the east would be surrounded by hostiles, cut off from the sea and under permanent guerilla attack from various opposing forces. But it looked at least like a viable short term way forward.

The new strategy, which may not be one at all, and the new US commitment is all over the place:
As various officials have described it, the United States will intervene only when chemical weapons are used — or any time innocents are killed. It will push for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — or pursue that only after defeating the Islamic State. America’s national interest in Syria is to fight terrorism. Or to ease the humanitarian crisis there. Or to restore stability.
I don't get it. The cacophony of the last days does not make any sense. There is no viable endgame I see here that would be advantageous for Trump or general US borg policy - neither internationally nor domestically - neither short term nor long term. Trump is now losing the "America First" followers he will need to win another election.
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Syria: New US Air Support On Request Scheme For Al-Qaeda

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On this day one hundred years ago the US joined World War I. Last night the US attacked a Syrian government airport in an openly hostile and intentional manner. The strike established a mechanism by which al-Qaeda can "request" US airstrikes on Syrian government targets. It severely damaged the main support base for Syria's fight against the Islamic State in eastern Syria. The event will possibly lead to a much larger war.

On April 4 Syrian airplanes hit an al-Qaeda headquarter in Khan Sheikoun, Idleb governate. Idleb governate is under al-Qaeda control. After the air strike some chemical agent was released. The symptoms shown in videos from local aid stations point to a nerve-agent. The release probably killed between 50 and 90 people. It is unknown how the release happened.

It is unlikely that the Syrian government did this:

In 2013 the Syrian government had given up all its chemical weapons. UN inspectors verified this.

The target was militarily and strategically insignificant.

There was no immediate pressure on the Syrian military.

The international political atmosphere had recently turned positive for Syria.

Even if Syria had stashed away some last-resort weapon this would have been the totally wrong moment and totally wrong target for using it. Over the last six year of war the Syrian government army had followed a political and militarily logical path. It acted consistently. It did not act irrational. It is highly unlikely that it would have now take such an illogical step.
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Fool Me Once: Crowdstrike Claimed Two Cases Of 'Russian Hacking.' One Has Been Proven Wrong.

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The cyber-security company Crowdstrike claimed that the "Russia" hacked the Democratic National Committee. It also claimed that "Russia" hacked artillery units of the Ukrainian army. The second claim has now be found to be completely baseless. That same is probably the case with its claims related to the DNC.

Sometime around May 2016 the Democratic National Committee lost control over its email archives. It claimed that its servers had been "hacked" by someone related to Russian interests. DNC emails were published by Wikileaks and provided that the DNC had worked during the primaries against its statutes and in favor of one presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. The DNC chair was forced to resign over the case.

The DNC had called in Crowdstrike, a company led by a one Dimitry Alperovich, a Senior Fellow of the NATO aligned "think tank" Atlantic Council. After a short investigation Crowdstrike claimed to found intruding software on the DNC servers that, it says, has been exclusively used by Russian intelligence services. From there followed claims that "Russia hacked the U.S. elections."

When the DNC went public with the Crowdstrike claims the FBI never requested access to the servers to determine if a crime had been committed and to detect the culprit. Access to the servers had been informally denied by the DNC. The FBI simply followed (pdf), without any own forensic investigation of its own, the conclusions Crowdstrike had made.
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Obama Ordered Abuse Of Intelligence To Sabotage Trump Policies

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In its last months the Obama administration ordered the intelligence agencies to collect and distribute information of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. This to prevent any change by the Trump administration of the hostile policy towards Russia that the Obama administration instituted. The intent was also gives the intelligence services blackmail material to prevent any changes in their undue, freewheeling independence.

The above is reported in a rather short New York Times piece published yesterday. The reporting angle captured in the headline is biased to set the Obama efforts into a positive light. But the Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.

But make no mistake. Not single shred of evidence has been provided that "Russia hacked the election" or had anything to do with various leaks of Clinton related emails. A lot of fluff and chaff was thrown around but not even one tiny bit of evidence.

The effort was clearly to sabotage the announced policy of the incoming administration of seeking better relations with Russia. Obama intended to undermine the will of the voters by abusing instruments of the state.

Excerpts from the piece:
In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
It is completely normal for any campaign, and especially an incoming administration, to have contacts with foreign government officials.
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The 'Blind Sheik' And The CIA - Media Bury US Support For Radical Islamism

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Two days ago the Takfiri Islamist leader Omar Abdul-Rahman , the so called "Blind Sheik", died in a US prison. He had been found guilty of involvement in the 1993 attempt to bring down the World Trade Center in New York and of other crimes.

The obituaries of Omar Abdul-Rahman in US media are an example of white washing of the US exploitation of radical Islamism for its imperial purposes. While extensively documented in earlier media and official reports the CIA's facilitation and involvement with Abdul-Rahman is seemingly stricken from history.

Since the 1970s Omar Abdul-Rahman was involved in the growth of radical Sunni Islamism:
Founded in 1976, Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt (FIBE) is part of the banking empire built by Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Faisal. Several of the founding members are leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.
Financed by Saudi sources Abdul-Rahman created various groups of radicals in Egypt and gets deeply involved with Al-Qaeda, recruiting fighters for Afghanistan in cooperation with the CIA and the Pakistani secret services. He was the ideological leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Islamic radical organization in Egypt responsible for several terrorist attacks.
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Ukraine - Coup Government Tries To Sabotage US-Russia Rapprochement

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Fighting in east Ukraine has restarted. This is an attempt by "deep state" forces to prevent any rapprochement between the US and Russia under the new Trump administration.

The west-Ukrainian forces under command of the coup government of President Poroshenko started a large attack against the Russian supported Ukrainian self-defense forces in Donetsk and Lugansk governate.

A ceasefire arranged after the Minsk II agreement provided for demilitarized zones along a line of separation. The Ukrainian government has so far avoided to fulfill the Minsk II agreement that would allow a reuniting of the country. An OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), which includes officers from NATO countries as well as Russia, is supervising the ceasefire and issues daily reports.
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The End Of Mingling - 'Moderate Rebels' Join Al-Qaeda In Syria

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Lots of confusion about the infighting in the "rebel" held Idleb governate in Syria, the situation is now clearing up. After other tricks, like renaming the group, did not work to deceive al-Qaeda finally pulled back the veil. It is no longer hiding between the "moderate rebels" but is now (again) a clearly identifiable groups. Groups near to al-Qaeda integrated with it, other groups split with significant parts joining the al-Qaeda organization.
Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiq
N. #Syria: Tahrir Al-Sham Corps is born. Zinki, #JFS, Jaish Al-Sunna, Ansar Al-Din & Liwa Al-Haq merged under unified leadership (Abu Jaber)
The Zinki (Zengi) group had CIA support and received anti-tank weapons from the US and its Gulf proxies. JFS is the short form of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda group in Syria. It is the strongest "rebel" group on the ground. Abu Jabar is a former Ahrar al-Sham leader who had long argued for integrating both groups. The Turkish and US supported Ahrar al Sham has now officially split. The probably larger part under Abu Jabar is now joining al-Qaeda.

The "new" Tahrir Al-Sham is not a coalition of the various groups but THE new al-Qaeda group on the ground with a unified command and ideological structure. The operative military leader is Abu Jabar while the founder of al-Qaeda in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, will stay in the background as the overall emir of the group. Tahrir Al-Sham has a military alliance in Idleb with the smaller local ISIS group Jund al-Aqsa. Joining with them is not (yet) convenient.
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Syria - Peace Talk Rumors And Parameters

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Since February 2016 Russia had negotiated with the US about a peace deal on Syria. The main agreed upon point was to fight together against the Takfiris, mainly ISIS and al-Qaeda. The US in turn promised to separate the "moderate rebels" it supported from their close al-Qaeda ally. But that promise was never fulfilled. The US delayed and delayed and enabled new attacks by al-Qaeda and US proxy forces on Aleppo and elsewhere. It also instigated Kurdish YPG forces to attack the Syrian government in Hasakah. This was the strategic overreach that doomed the Kurds to a minor role in any upcoming solution.

Russia finally had enough and pulled the plug on further negotiations with the US The Syrian forces and their allies besieged Aleppo and liberated it. At the same time Turkey was allowed to invade Syria in the north eastern Aleppo governate to prevent a connection of Kurdish areas in the north-east and north-west of Syria. The probably US instigated putsch attempt against the Turkish government contributed to this change of alliances. Turkey decided to work with Russia and Iran to end the Syrian crisis (and to get as much out of it as possible.)
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Syria - The US Propaganda Shams Now Openly Fail

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The Obama administration, and especially the CIA and the State Department, seem to be in trouble. They shout everything they can against Russia and allege that the cleansing of east-Aleppo of al-Qaeda terrorist is genocidal. Meanwhile no mention is ever made of the famine of the Houthis in Yemen which the US and Saudi bombing and their blockade directly causes.

But more and more major news accounts support the Russian allegation that the "moderate rebels" the US is coddling in Syria are actually in cahoots with al-Qaeda if not al-Qaeda itself.

Reuters reports (though only at the end of a longer story):
In Aleppo, rebels in the Free Syrian Army are sharing operational planning with Jaish al-Fatah, an alliance of Islamist groups that includes the former Syrian wing of al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, in nearby Hama province, FSA groups armed with US-made anti-tank missiles are taking part in a major offensive with the al Qaeda-inspired Jund al-Aqsa group.

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