Saturday, September 20, 2014

Iraq / Syria Regional War Updates ( September 20 , 2014 ) -- ISIS Seizes 60 North Syria Villages in 48 Hours ........ Administration: No Timetable for US Strikes in Syria Attacks Will Come, Officials Assure ....... Kerry: Iran Can Help Defeat ISIS ....... Reported US-Syrian Accord on Air Strikes..... Army Chief signals more ground troops heading to Iraq , US House of Reps say no War Powers Authorization vote to fight ISIS until Mid Term Elections are over ......

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/20/saudi-connections-to-isis-nah-cant-be-true-after-911/



Saudi Connections To ISIS? Nah, Can’t Be True After 9/11…

Getting payback (or is it blowback?) in Iraq and Syria
Getting payback (or is it blowback?) in Iraq and Syria
Now that the U.S. is back at it in Iraq against a new foe, there’s suddenly renewed focus on evidence of Saudi involvement in 9/11.

More specifically, questions are now being asked about whether the U.S. government’s suppression of what it learned about Saudi Arabia during the 9/11 investigations contributed directly to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Former Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired the official 9/11 inquiry, 
told Counterpunch that “the failure to shine a full light on Saudi actions and particularly its involvement in 9/11 has contributed to the Saudi ability to continue to engage in actions that are damaging to the U.S.—and in particular their support for ISIS.”

Though it’s now well-known that there was some Saudi involvement in 9/11, WhoWhatWhy was the first news organization to uncover the fact that a Saudi in Florida, who hosted the hijackers, worked directly for the Saudi prince in charge of aviation. We also pointed out that there was no hurry to dig deeper into the story by the mainstream media.

The direct contacts we established are a crucial part of the story. So too is the FBI’s reluctant admission that it knew about—and covered up—“many connections” between a Saudi family and the hijackers. Then there’s also the information contained in 28 pages redacted from the congressional report on 9/11, a part of the puzzle getting a new look in the New Yorker thanks to the ISIS news peg.

***

What all this leads us to ask is this: Why is the U.S. once again plunging into a fight that is at least partially of its own making? (That’s to say nothing of the contribution of America’s failed policy in Iraq to the current fiasco.) ISIS is yet another example of a militant group that grew into a threat in large part due to the support of an ostensible ally.

In this latest case, said ally is going to be hosting training camps for moderate Syrian rebels, who are supposed to be some of the boots-on-the-ground against ISIS. This couldn’t possibly be a bad idea, could it?

That Saudi Arabia has a role, either tacit or implicit, in funneling money to Islamic militants is no secret to anyone, least of all the United States government. Hilary Clinton, when she was Secretary of State, was explicit in her request to put greater pressure on the Saudi government to knock off its loose approach to jihadi financing.

“Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources,” Clinton wrote in a Dec. 30, 2009 cable obtained by WikiLeaks.








http://en.ria.ru/world/20140920/193119248/Iraqi-Forces-Destroy-Warehouse-Storing-Seven-Missiles-Kill-18-IS.html

( Note chlorine gas ...... )


Iraqi Forces Destroy Warehouse Storing Seven Missiles, Kill 18 IS Terrorists: Reports

Topic: Violence Erupts as Islamic State Rises

Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle down a main road at the northern city of Mosul, Iraq.
14:39 20/09/2014
Tags: chlorineIslamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)Islamic StateIraq
Updated 3:10 p.m. Moscow Time
MOSCOW, September 20 (RIA Novosti) - Iraqi forces have destroyed a warehouse with seven missiles containing chlorine gas in the central Iraqi province of Diyala in addition to killing 18 Islamic State (IS) militants, reported Shafaq News on Saturday, citing provincial police chief General Jamil Shammari.
"Our security forces from the army, the police and the National crowd managed to kill 18 terrorists from ISIS and destroyed a warehouse that contained 7 missiles with chlorine gas and other explosive materials during the ongoing security operation north of Muqdadiyah area," Shammari was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
According to Shammari, the IS had planned to use the missiles against security forces and civilians in surrounding areas, the newspaper reported. The ongoing security operation which located and eliminated the warehouse is part of a process clearing the areas north of Muqdadiya and al-Sudour dam. Operations around the dam in Diyala include participation from the military, police, and locals.
The IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, it launched an offensive in Iraq and seized vast areas in both countries, proclaiming an Islamic caliphate on the territories under its control.




http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-09-19/tower-babel-comes-paris-folly-obamas-war-isis


The Tower Of Babel Comes To Paris: The Folly Of Obama's "War" On ISIS

Tyler Durden's picture




US imperialism was once a fearsome force - mainly for ill. Under the latter heading, Washington’s savage destruction of Vietnam four decades ago comes readily to mind. But now the American Imperium has become just a gong show on the Potomac - even as its weapons have gotten more lethal and its purposes more  spurious and convoluted.
There is no more conspicuous proof than Obama’s quixotic “war” on ISIS. The quote marks are necessary, of course, because the White House insists that this is merely a counter-terrorism project that is not really a war; that the campaign to “degrade, disrupt and destroy” the Islamic State will not deploy a single American soldier—at least not one with his or her boots on; and that the heavy lifting on the ground against the barbaric ISIS hordes will be conducted by a “broad coalition” of so far nameless nations.
In truth, the whole thing is a giant, pathetic farce. There will be no coalition, no strategy, no boots, no ISIS degradation, no gain in genuine safety and security for the American homeland. This is an utterly misbegotten war against an enemy that has more urgent targets than America, but a war which will nonetheless fire-up the already boiling cauldron of Middle Eastern tribal, religious and political conflict like never before. There is no name for what Obama is attempting except utter folly.
Even before Secretary Kerry brought his medicine show to Paris, it was evident there is no coalition of the willing—or even the bought. The best that the 26 odd signatories to his communique could muster was a vague endorsement of Iraq’s boundaries and a pledge to support its still only partially formed, three-week old government “by any means necessary“………except not by a single one of the “means” that are actually available.
Let’s start with the neighboring nations which should fear ISIS far more urgently than the citizens in distant places like Lincoln NE and Spokane WA. The short answer is not a single one of them want to help, can help or will be invited to help. Obama’s putative coalition consists of the invisible (Germany), the indisposed (Turkey), the indecisive (the UK), the ineligible (Iran), the unwelcome (Saudi Arabia), the insolvent (Egypt) and the incensed (Russia), among others.
Thus, the heartland of the newly emerged Islamic State is in the upper Euphrates valley of Syria centered at Raqqah. That is, the fearsome threat against which Washington wants to mobilize two dozen nations sits cheek-by-jowl along a 560 mile border with Turkey. And the latter possesses the largest and most potent air force and army in the region—-a force of some 600,000 including reserves or 25X the size of the CIA’s most recent, and undoubtedly exaggerated, count of ISIS fighters.
Moreover, against the several score of tanks and armored vehicles that the jihadists seized from the retreating Iraqi Army, the Turkish military possesses 3,500 tanks, 9,000 armored fighting vehicles, 700 multiple-launch rocket systems, 2,000 towed artillery pieces and 1,000 aircraft and helicopters—-much of this right out of the latest US military specs. Finally, by virtue of its membership in NATO, it also happens to host one of the largest US air bases in the world.
But Turkey didn’t even sign the communique; won’t deploy its military against ISIS - despite its adjacency and capability to demolish the ISIS capital in short order; and won’t even permit US bombers to operate against ISIS out of the Incirlik  air base - notwithstanding that 60 years ago it was that very facility which allowed Turkey to avoid Stalin’s clutches.
Instead, it seems that the Islamist Sunni regime in Ankara has more urgent fish to fry than the medievalist Sunni sect encamped on its border: Namely, its far higher priority is deposing the secularist Alawite branch of the Shiite tribe represented by the Assad regime in Damascus. Yes, ISIS has 50 Turkish hostages, but that only guarantees that in the immediate neighborhood of the purported greatest terrorist threat ever, according to the US Secretary of Defense, there will be no war of Sunni-on-Sunni.
That means, of course, that the nation with the next largest army in the region ought to step right up because Iran is, after all, the epicenter of the worldwide Shiite community. And it is exactly the 1300-year old “heresy” of that confession which is the real target of the ISIS butchers. To be sure, the latter now find the freedom of young people in distant Buffalo NY to hang around strip malls listening to rap music and drinking beer to be evil incarnate, but their sword is meant first and foremost for the age-old infidel in their immediate environs.
Yet there will be no Shiite boots to mop up behind Obama’s bombers, either. Owing to express malice of forethought in Washington, the Iranians weren’t even invited to Paris. Needless to say, that was no small disappointment to the new government of the very nation we are attempting to rescue.
We had insisted for Iran to be there and we regret their absence,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in Paris, adding that Tehran had provided his government with “significant support” in fighting Islamic State.
In fact, Iran is the indispensable ally if Washington really means to takes sides in this latest eruption of an age-old Sunni vs. Shiite religious war that has virtually nothing to do with America’s legitimate security interests. But two decades of neocon and Israeli propaganda have deposited a thick vapor of lies throughout the entire beltway—-spurious claims that Iran is an aggressive, terrorist nation hell-bent on getting nukes, and that, therefore, it cannot be consorted with under any circumstance.
Yes, the mullahs are doctrinaire theocrats who rally the masses with thundering denunciations of the far enemy in Washington and the near one in Tel Aviv. But Iran’s purported two decade long program to acquire nuclear weapons is entirely an invisible one - a phantom campaign that only Washington’s neocon sleuths have ever been able to detect and which involved only a few small experiments that even the CIA says were abandoned a decade ago.
And, of course, Iran has never invaded another country in modern times–unlike Washington. As for supporting “terrorism”, that consists of thoroughly open and plausible alliances based on political and religious affinities with the elected government of Syria and the dominate, elected party - Hezbollah–in Lebanon. Before Washington went hysterical about “terrorism” those sorts of relationships used to be called foreign policy.
So the irony of the neocon demonization of Iran is that the one real political and military barrier to the expansionist ambitions of the Islamic State - the so-called “Shiite Crescent” of Iran, the Assad regime in Syria and Hezbollah - is not even admitted onto the battlefield. Indeed, instead of facilitating the organizing and strengthening of the region’s indigenous opposition to ISIS, Washington continues to strangle the Iranian economy with brutal sanctions and attempts to overthrow the one regime with enough boots on the ground to actually halt the ISIS expansion.
Least there was any doubt that the Shiite Crescent is out of the ball game, Iran’s supreme leader, the ayatollah Khamenei quickly made it clear that it would not have gone to Paris even if invited. Thirty years of unrelenting enmity from Washington has its consequences, after all.
“I said we will not accompany America in this matter because they have got dirty intentions and hands,” Iran’s most powerful figure said in a televised address. “They see pretexts to interfere in Iraq and Syria, just as they did in Pakistan, where [the U.S.] can commit any crime it wants.”
On the other hand, Iran’s principle enemy on the Persian Gulf–the royal family of Saudi Arabia—does want to help. That is, they want to help as long as it only involves dropping bombs from high altitude fighters or hosting desert training camps populated by non-Saudi mercenaries.
But there are some real problems with that sort of “help”. In the first place, the Saudi’s have made it very clear that the only bombs they intend  to drop in Syria would be those meant for the incapacitation of Alawite soldiers in Damascus, not ISIS fighters in Raqqah.
Secondly, the Saudi’s are not even welcome to drop bombs on ISIS in Iraq because the newly installed government—actually the same old, same old Shiite gang—-won’t permit it. Indeed, the latter didn’t even need to speak up.  The Kurdish president of the country spoke out preemptively:
Iraq’s president insisted that Arab powers Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia do not need to join airstrikes against the Islamic State group. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, President Fouad Massoum said, it’s “not necessary”.
But that delimiting of outside help by the Iraqi government involves more than just the exclusion of Sunni Arab air power. The Shiite politicians and militia strongmen who dominate the south do not want to see the sight of any American boots on the ground— even should Obama relent.
In fact, the leaders of Iraqi Shiite militias allied with Iran such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”), Kata’b Hezbollah and the Madhi Army have warned that US soldiers would be targeted. In this regard, the nemesis of Washington’s first occupation of Iraq, firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, leaves nothing to the imagination:
Failing the threat of unrest keeping US troops off Iraqi soil, Sadr warned that they could find themselves once again a target of his allied militias, declaring “if you come back, we will be back too.

The Mahdi Army largely disbanded after the US pullout, but Sadr has kept ties with its leadership, threatening regularly to bring them out of retirement if the US tries to return to the country in a military role. With the ISIS war looking to do exactly that, they could quickly be another foe for the US in its ever-expanding conflict.
Mr. Sadr’s ingratitude might seem a trifle grating - after all among the infidel heads that ISIS would love to sever, his would surely rank high on the list. But actually his seemingly impudent remonstrations say it all - namely, that there is no longer an Iraqi nation or Iraqi army and no possibility that it can function as an ally on the ground in destroying ISIS.
What is left in the ancient land of Mesopotamia is only what was there before the last European empires still standing in 1916 drew lines on a map and declared it a nation - that is, sectarian enclaves and obstreperous militia that are more than able to defend their own territories, but do not want to be rescued by the Washington war machine.
And that’s why the chirping cherubs on the CNN War Channel get it so wrong night after night. They are pleased to report that Washington’s allies in Baghdad and Erbil have answered Obama’s call to arms, but have not figured out that this has nothing to do with degrading or defeating ISIS.
Stated differently, the Kurdish militias will doubtless effectively and ferociously defend Iraqi Kurdistan east and north of the Tigris river, but when it comes to the upper Euphrates valley where the Islamic State is actually embedded, there is a considerable problem. Namely, that Turkey considers most of the Kurdish militias which operate there - such as the PKK affiliated groups - to be terrorists and mortal enemies.
Likewise, the Shiite militias would be completely toxic in the Sunni lands where Obama’s bombers will need boots on the ground to accomplish anything except wanton destruction and hellacious blowback. In fact, it is not at all clear that they are any less barbaric than the ISIS fighters. As the New York Times noted, under a surely understated file called “Shiite Militias Post Challenge For US in Iraq”, militia justice is simple. As one fighter explained,
“We break into an area and kill the ones who are threatening people,” said one 18-year-old fighter with Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shiite militia that operates as a vigilante force around Baghdad.
In fact, the Shiite militias have been no less ruthless in Sunni neighborhoods than have the ISIS killers in the territories they occupy. As the NYT further noted,
At the end of July, a report from the research and advocacy group Human Rights Watch said it had documented the killings of 109 Sunni men - 48 in March and April, and 61 between June 1 and July 9 - in the villages and towns around Baghdad. Witnesses, medical personnel and government officials blamed Shiite militias for all of them, and “in many cases witnesses identified the militia as Asaib Ahl al-Haq,” the report said.
Well, that leaves Washington’s favorite delusion - the Free Syrian Army(FSA) - as the only available boots. At the end of the day there is no place else to go. Certainly, the peripheral Arab nations are not candidates.
Qatar, for instance, is aligned with the Muslim brotherhood and is therefore proscribed by Egypt and the Saudis. Besides, Qatar’s overwhelming objective is putting a natural gas pipeline though Syria - something that Assad has decisively rejected in deference to his Russian patrons, but which for a price the Islamic State would likely embrace in a heartbeat. So it is not even clear which side the Qataris are on.
Likewise, the UAE has no soldiers - just money - while Egypt has a lot of the former but none of the latter.
And, yes, there is a roadblock with the so-called moderate rebels and FSA, too. Notwithstanding that the House GOP has already approved $500 million of funding so long as each and every fighter first submits a fitness and suitability report card to the House Armed services committee, it turns out that like Leroy, the reluctant running back of football lore, FSA doesn’t even want the ball.
As widely covered in the middle eastern press but hardly mentioned in Washington, most of the rag-tag remnants of the moderate rebel alliance have announced a truce with ISIS on the grounds that their real enemy resides in Damascus, not Raqqah.
 The Free Syrian Army has announced that it will not sign up to the US-led coalition to destroy Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria. The group’s founder, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, stressed that toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is their priority, and that they will not join forces with US-led efforts without a guarantee that the US is committed to his overthrow...

The announcement comes a day after a ceasefire was signed between another rebel group, the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), and IS fighters in Damascus. The details of the truce agreement, published by Arabic news site Orient Net, showed that the two sides had agreed not to target each other. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that IS and the SRF had agreed that Assad’s government and the forces allied to it are the principal enemy.
If there appears to be a pattern here, there is. Washington is trapped in a strategic cul-de-sac. Without troops on the ground in the 40% of Syria occupied by the Islamic State, US drones, tomahawks and bunker busters will simply turn these Sunni villages and cities into Gaza-On-Euphrates - that is, a wasteland which will breed ISIS fighters prolifically rather than degrade and destroy the jihadist threat.
But fielding a moderate rebel fighting force in Syria depends on eliminating the Assad regime first - an obviously fraught undertaking. It would result in not simply a two front war - with the Shiite Crescent and ISIS at the same time–but for all practical purposes a three front war, including Russia.
Perhaps the amateur warriors running the show in the Obama White House have not noticed, but their foolish campaign against Russia over the Ukrainian civil war is a direct threat to the only thing that keeps the Russian economy alive - its gas and oil exports to Europe. At the same time, elimination of the Assad regime would almost surely compound that threat by opening up a new gusher of competition for the European energy market in the form of a pipeline through Syria and Turkey for transport of Qatar’s now stranded but massive deposits of natural gas.
So to the nameless coalition of the willing, add an existentially motivated champion - Russia - of the status quo in Damascus. Indeed, were Obama to actually recognize that the route to regime change in Raqqah is through Damascus first, the resulting thunderous confrontation at the UN Security Council would be one for the ages. Putin would be banging his shoe in behalf of the sanctity of sovereign borders in Syria, while the Obama Administration would be reduced to saying that the international rules allegedly at issue in the Ukrainian civil war apply always and everywhere... except when Washington finds them inconvenient.
At the end of the day, of course, the White House will flinch - there will be no overt campaign to militarily eliminate the Assad regime, and therefore no boots on the ground, either. The peace candidate from the school of Saul Alinsky will become the Curtis Lemay of the 21st century. He will attempt to bomb back to the stone age a freakishly retrograde regime that would prefer to be there anyway.
And that points to the final folly of Obama’s war on ISIS. A band of medievalist butchers has seized power in the Sunni uplands of the Euphrates river because for 20 years Washington has been on the wrong side of the Islamic religious divide. It has consistently opposed secularizing Arab regimes in Iraq and Syria while coddling the nursemaids and bursars of Sunni fanaticism—the octogenarian gluttons and Wahhabi tyrants who occupy the throne in Riyadh.
Indeed, the Islamic State’s astonishing military success is almost solely attributable to the vast deposits of advanced weaponry that Washington has dumped into Syria and Iraq in its befuddled campaigns to destroy the Baathist regimes of Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad. In a recent brilliant exposition in the socialist forum called Counterpunch, author Gary Leupp crystallized the giant strategic error:
George “Dubya” Bush gleefully destroyed the Iraqi state. He smashed a state in which Christians served in high posts, women attended college and felt free to leave their heads uncovered, rock n’ roll blared from radios, liquor stores operated legally, and there was even a gay scene. He replaced it with an occupation run by clueless cowboys literally marching around Baghdad in cowboy boots, issuing orders - most notably the orders of dissolution of the Baathist Party and the Iraqi Army... These were secular institutions, not tools for the propagation of any theology. Their dissolution was an attack, not on a religious belief system (about which the Occupation could have cared less), but on the Sunni community that had provided Saddam Hussein’s support base and dominated his regime.
In the hindsight of history it might well be asked what was Saddam’s offense - surely he was no more autocratic and barbarous than the regime in Saudi Arabia. During the last month alone the latter has accomplished 23 beheadings and, as a matter of general policy, it suppresses internal dissent with ruthless brutality and enforces barbaric medieval religious practices like stoning alleged adulteresses.
In truth, Saddam’s real offense was to pick a fight with the gluttonous emir of Kuwait - the proprietor of another artificial enclave drawn-up by Messrs. Sykes and Picot in deference to the interest of British Petroleum - that had no bearing on America’s security whatsoever. Indeed, 40 years on from the phony and failed oil embargo of 1973 it should be clear that it doesn’t matter which set of dictators and tyrannical rulers control the various hydrocarbon deposits along the Persian Gulf. Sooner or latter they produce and ship the oil because they need the revenue.
Likewise, international market prices have a proven, remarkable capacity to cause consumer economies to adjust to whatever price regime materializes from the rough and tumble of global political and economic developments. Just 15 years ago, the world oil price was under $20 per barrel and Chinese demand was only one-fourth of today’s level. In the interim, the price of oil has been to $150 per barrel and part-way back and there has been an explosion of new investment around the world in both conventional, deep off-shore and alternative energy forms - to say nothing of on-going material gains in energy efficiency across nearly all major economies.
So protecting the economic obscenity of the Gulf sheikdom’s has been an invalid excuse for intervention, but one that nevertheless suited the purposes of the neocons and Washington’s warfare state machinery. Yet what it did in the case of the destruction of the secular Baathist regime in Iraq was to open-up the gates to sectarian hell - a consequence that is played out nearly every day as Christian, Yazidi, Kurd, Sunni and Shiite villages take their turns at ethnic cleansing and retaliatory revenge.
So why is Washington promoting a repeat in Syria? After all, the Assads have been no more brutal and selfish than the House of Saud. It can’t be out of fear that they will use chemical weapons on their own citizens. By all accounts those are all gone. No, Washington’s entire campaign is predicated on Syria’s choice of foreign policy alignments - that is, its alliance with Tehran.
So having demonized the relatively enlightened theocrats of Qom and Tehran, Washington would now root-out another Baathist regime that would otherwise stand in the way of the Sharia fundamentalism of ISIS. To quote Gary Leupp again:
The Alawites of Syria have never been interested in establishing a religious state but rather have used the Baathist party to establish religious inclusiveness and prevent the emergence of a Sunni-dominated religious state. Bashar al-Assad’s father even attempted to change the constitution to remove the stipulation that the Syrian president be a Muslim. (This occasioned a massive Sunni uprising in Homs which he brutally crushed in 1982.)
So what we have now in the middle east is a replay of the bloody religious wars that once traumatized the West when Protestants accused Catholics of being idolatrous heretics and the latter returned the favor by putting Protestants to the stakes and the racks.  In the present instance, the real war being waged by ISIS is not against the liberties which pertain on the streets of New York City, but in Leupp’s words, “against the Shiites, Christians, Yezidis, secularists, and others it sees as unbelievers and as stooges of the west. But its primary target is the Shiites”.
Needless to say, since Washington has either destroyed, debilitated or marginalized the natural opposition to Sunni fundamentalism - that is, the Baathist regimes and the Iranian-Shiite alliance - the Islamic State has gained more territory and momentum than would have otherwise been remotely possible.
One way or another, however, 200 million Turks, Iranians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Syrians and Saudis, along with their leaders, will find ways to contain and ultimately eliminate a few thousand medievalist butchers. In the interim, America can remain vigilant at home - which is the only way to deal with the threat of terrorism anyway. Certainly, the confused disciple of Curtis LeMay currently occupying the Oval Office should put his bombs away at the very earliest opportunity.










Anti war....


ISIS Seizes 60 North Syria Villages in 48 Hours

Civilians Evacuated from About 100 Villages, Officials Say

by Jason Ditz, September 19, 2014
Yesterday’s loss of 21 Syrian Kurdish villages has been greatly compounded today, with monitors now saying 60 villages have been withdrawn from by Kurdish forces amid the latest ISIS push toward Ayn al-Arab.
Kurdish officials confirmed that ISIS is using US-made artillery and tanks in the new push, and has turned much of the Kurdish-held part of Aleppo into a warzone. Though they would not confirm number of villages lost, one Kurdish official did say about 100 villages have been evacuated of civilians because of the fighting.
ISIS has tried to capture the important city of Ayn al-Arab several times in the past. It is along the Syria-Turkish border and would expand their number of border crossings, though the Kurdish factions in Syria have put up a tough fight, courting Turkish Kurds to join the battles to defend the city.
Having successfully taken all of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor Provinces, ISIS is keen to expand into the neighboring areas, and is mostly pushing against the remaining Kurdish territory in the north right now, as the also try to expand territory in central Iraq.


Administration: No Timetable for US Strikes in Syria

Attacks Will Come, Officials Assure

by Jason Ditz, September 19, 2014
Addressing last week’s announcement by President Obama that the ISIS airstrikes are going to expand into Syria, the White House says there is still no timetable on when the attacks will actually begin.
It will be at a time and a place of our own choosing,” insisted national security adviser Susan Rice, while White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the strikes would be timed to “maximize the strategic advantage.”
The announcement of the US planning attacks inside Syria has led ISIS to shift troops out of Raqqa, the de facto capital, and has also given them a boost in recruitment inside Syria.
Though officially, the White House insists there will be no coordination with the Syrian government on the strikes,reports are emerging that a deal has been hashed out in secret, brokered with Russian help.
If the US isn’t planning to launch strikes against ISIS in Syria soon, the decision to announce their intentions early is bizarre, as it is adding to ISIS’ recruitment narrative.



House Bans War Powers Resolution Actions Until After Election

Congressmen Desperate to Avoid Pre-Election Vote on War

by Jason Ditz, September 19, 2014
It was not extremely widely covered, but the House of Representatives snuck an amendment into the jobs package which effectively freezes the War Powers Act for the next 60 days.
The bill kills all War Powers Act mechanisms between now and the mid-term elections, and prevent any member of Congress trying to force a vote on the new ISIS war.
The US has been launching airstrikes in Iraq since early August. Under the War Powers Act, military action without a Congressional authorization is forbidden beyond 60 days, a date which will be passed in October.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R – TX) accused opponents of the ban of “grandstanding,” saying it was necessary for the House to “protect its members” by not allowing any vote on the war until after the mid-term.
Many Congressmen are desperate to avoid such a vote, because the new war is hugely controversial and few want to have to defend their position to voters in November. Instead, the plan is to punt on the vote until after the election, and indeed potentially not bother to hold a vote at all then either.
The Obama Administration has claimed it doesn’t need any Congressional authorization for the war, though it has said it is open to the idea of a vote endorsing the conflict for the sake of “unity.”


Kerry: Iran Can Help Defeat ISIS

Officials: Obama 'Open' to Meeting with Iranian President in New York

by Jason Ditz, September 19, 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry continues to very publicly change his mind on his position vis-a-vis Iran in the war against ISIS, insisting today that Iran has a “role” to play in the destruction of ISIS.
Over the past two weeks, Kerry has several times ruled out including Iran in the anti-ISIS coalition, insisting it would be “inappropriate” to invite them to have any role in the conflict.
Iran, of course, was already in the conflict before the US war began, providing troops to Iraq to help fight off ISIS as far back June, and coordinating anti-ISIS operations with Syria long before that.
Now that the US has moved into the operation, they’ve decided to pick and choose who gets to be involved in the war, and most of the time, with an eye toward keeping the Saudis placated, that doesn’t include Iran.
At the same time, White House officials say that President Obama is “open” to meeting his Iranian counterpart in New York next week during the UN General Assembly, though no such meeting is presently scheduled.


Army Chief: More US Ground Troops Headed to Iraq

Odierno: 1,600 Troops 'a Good Start'

by Jason Ditz, September 19, 2014
Speaking today to reporters, Army Chief Gen. Ray Odierno termed the 1,600 US ground troops presently in Iraq a “good start,” but said that more will be heading to the country in the near future.
We are going to increase a little bit,” Odierno said, though he declined to offer any details on the date or size of the new deployments. The Army chief also said he wouldn’t rule out having US special forces fighters embedded in Iraqi ground forces during combat.
“I don’t rule anything out. I don’t ever rule anything out personally,” he added. Gen. Odierno had said earlier this week that the war was going to require the use of ground troops, though Pentagon officials later backtracked on the comment.
Odierno went on to warn that the air war was getting tougher and ISIS is more difficult to target because they are “hiding” in cities now instead of being out in the open and “clearly identifiable.”


Top Iraqi Shi’ite Cleric Warns of Western Interference

West Can't Use ISIS War as Pretext for Meddling

by Jason Ditz, September 19, 2014
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the top Shi’ite cleric in Iraq, today said he was open to the idea of a US-led military intervention against ISIS, but that any such operationrequired serious scrutiny from Iraqi officials.
“Even if Iraq is in need of help from its brothers and friends in fighting black terrorism, maintaining the sovereignty and independence of its decisions is of the highest importance,” insisted Sistani’s spokesman during a Friday sermon.
The sermon went on to caution that cooperation with the ISIS war must not be used as a “pretext to impose foreign decisions on events in Iraq, especially military events.”
Sistani’s comments are likely aimed at placating supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, another high profile cleric who has been an outspoken opponent of the return of US troops to the nation.











http://consortiumnews.com/2014/09/17/reported-us-syrian-accord-on-air-strikes/











Reported US-Syrian Accord on Air Strikes


Exclusive: A problem with President Obama’s plan to expand the war against ISIS into Syria was always the risk that Syrian air defenses might fire on U.S. warplanes, but now a source says Syria’s President Assad has quietly agreed to permit strikes in some parts of Syria, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
The Obama administration, working through the Russian government, has secured an agreement from the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to permit U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets in parts of Syria, according to a source briefed on the secret arrangements.
The reported agreement would clear away one of the chief obstacles to President Barack Obama’s plan to authorize U.S. warplanes to cross into Syria to attack Islamic State forces – the concern that entering Syrian territory might prompt anti-aircraft fire from the Syrian government’s missile batteries.
The usual protocol for the U.S. military – when operating in territory without a government’s permission – is to destroy the air defenses prior to conducting airstrikes so as to protect American pilots and aircraft, as was done with Libya in 2011. However, in other cases, U.S. intelligence agencies have arranged for secret permission from governments for such attacks, creating a public ambiguity usually for the benefit of the foreign leaders while gaining the necessary U.S. military assurances.
President Barack Obama in his weekly address on Sept. 13, 2014, vowing to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (White House Photo)
President Barack Obama in his weekly address on Sept. 13, 2014, vowing to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (White House Photo)
In essence, that appears to be what is happening behind the scenes in Syria despite the hostility between the Obama administration and the Assad government. Obama has called for the removal of Assad but the two leaders find themselves on the same side in the fight against the Islamic State terrorists who have battled Assad’s forces while also attacking the U.S.-supported Iraqi government and beheading two American journalists.
In a national address last week, Obama vowed to order U.S. air attacks across Syria’s border without any coordination with the Syrian government, a proposition that Damascus denounced as a violation of its sovereignty. So, in this case, Syria’s behind-the-scenes acquiescence also might provide some politically useful ambiguity for Obama as well as Assad.
Yet, this secret collaboration may go even further and include Syrian government assistance in the targeting of the U.S. attacks, according to the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. That is another feature of U.S. military protocol in conducting air strikes – to have some on-the-ground help in pinpointing the attacks.
As part of its public pronouncements about the future Syrian attacks, the Obama administration sought $500 million to train “vetted” Syrian rebels to handle the targeting tasks inside Syria as well as to carry out military ground attacks. But that approach – while popular on Capitol Hill – could delay any U.S. airstrikes into Syria for months and could possibly negate Assad’s quiet acceptance of the U.S. attacks, since the U.S.-backed rebels share one key goal of the Islamic State, the overthrow of Assad’s relatively secular regime.
Just last month, Obama himself termed the strategy of arming supposedly “moderate” Syrian rebels “a fantasy.” He told the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman: “This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”
Obama’s point would seem to apply at least as much to having the “moderate” rebels face down the ruthless Islamic State jihadists who engage in suicide bombings and slaughter their captives without mercy. But this “fantasy” of the “moderate” rebels has a big following in Congress and on the major U.S. op-ed pages, so Obama has included the $500 million in his war plan despite the risk it poses to Assad’s acquiescence to American air attacks.
Neocon Wish List
Without Assad’s consent, the U.S. airstrikes might require a much wider U.S. bombing campaign to first target Syrian government defenses, a development long sought by Official Washington’s influential neoconservatives who have kept “regime change” in Syria near the top of their international wish list.
For the past several years, the Israeli government also has sought the overthrow of Assad, even at the risk of Islamic extremists gaining power. The Israeli thinking had been that Assad, as an ally of Iran, represented a greater threat to Israel because his government was at the center of the so-called Shiite crescent reaching from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut and southern Lebanon, the base for Hezbollah.
The thinking was that if Assad’s government could be pulled down, Iran and Hezbollah – two of Israel’s principal “enemies” – would be badly damaged. A year ago, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren articulated this geopolitical position in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
More recently, however, with the al-Qaeda-connected Nusra Front having seized Syrian territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – forcing the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers – the balance of Israeli interests may be tipping in favor of preferring Assad to having Islamic extremists possibly penetrating directly into Israeli territory.
Direct attacks on Israel would be a temptation to al-Nusra Front, which is competing for the allegiance of young jihadists with the Islamic State. While the Islamic State, known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, has captured the imaginations of many youthful extremists by declaring the creation of a “caliphate” with the goal of driving Western interests from the Middle East, al-Nusra could trump that appeal by actually going on the offensive against one of the jihadists’ principal targets, Israel.
Yet, despite Israel’s apparent rethinking of its priorities, America’s neocons appear focused still on their long-held strategy of using violent “regime change” in the Middle East to eliminate governments that have been major supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, i.e. Syria and Iran.
One reason why Obama may have opted for a secretive overture to the Assad regime, using intelligence channels with the Russians as the middlemen, is that otherwise the U.S. neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies would have howled in protest.
The Russian Hand
Besides the tactical significance of U.S. intelligence agencies arranging Assad’s tacit acceptance of U.S. airstrikes over Syrian territory, the reported arrangement is also significant because of the role of Russian intelligence serving as the intermediary.
That suggests that despite the U.S.-Russian estrangement over the Ukraine crisis, the cooperation between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been extinguished; it has instead just gone further underground.
Last year, this subterranean collaboration between Obama and Putin represented a potential tectonic geopolitical shift in the Middle East. In the short term, their teamwork produced agreements that averted a U.S. military strike against Syria last September (by getting Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal) and struck a tentative deal with Iran to constrain but not eliminate its nuclear program.
In the longer term, by working together to create political solutions to various Mideast crises, the Obama-Putin cooperation threatened to destroy the neocons’ preferred strategy of escalating U.S. military involvement in the region. There was the prospect, too, that the U.S.-Russian tag team might strong-arm Israel into a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
So, starting last September – almost immediately after Putin helped avert a U.S. air war against Syria – key neocons began taking aim at Ukraine as a potential sore point for Putin. A leading neocon, Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed pages of the neocon Washington Post to identify Ukraine as “the biggest prize” and explaining how its targeting could undermine Putin’s political standing inside Russia.
“Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents,” Gershman wrote. “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” At the time, Gershman’s NED was funding scores of political and media projects inside Ukraine.
By early 2014, American neocons and their “liberal interventionist” pals were conspiring “to midwife” a coup to overthrow Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, according to a phrase used by U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in an intercepted phone conversation with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who was busy handpicking leaders to replace Yanukovych.
A neocon holdover from George W. Bush’s administration, Nuland had been a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and is married to prominent neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century which prepared the blueprint for the neocon strategy of “regime change” starting with the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The U.S.-backed coup ousted Yanukovych on Feb. 22 and sparked a bloody civil war, leaving thousands dead, mostly ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But the Gershman-Nuland strategy also drove a deep wedge between Obama and Putin, seeming to destroy the possibility that their peace-seeking collaboration would continue in the Middle East. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]
New Hope for ‘Regime Change’
The surprise success of Islamic State terrorists in striking deep inside Iraq during the summer revived neocon hopes that their “regime change” strategy in Syria might also be resurrected. By baiting Obama to react with military force not only in Iraq but across the border in Syria, neocons like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham put the ouster of Assad back in play.
In a New York Times op-ed on Aug. 29, McCain and Graham used vague language about resolving the Syrian civil war, but clearly implied that Assad must go. They wrote that thwarting ISIS “requires an end to the [civil] conflict in Syria, and a political transition there, because the regime of President Bashar al-Assad will never be a reliable partner against ISIS; in fact, it has abetted the rise of ISIS, just as it facilitated the terrorism of ISIS’ predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq.”
Though the McCain-Graham depiction of Assad’s relationship to ISIS and al-Qaeda was a distortion at best – in fact, Assad’s army has been the most effective force in pushing back against the Sunni terrorist groups that have come to dominate the Western-backed rebel movement – the op-ed’s underlying point is obvious: a necessary step in the U.S. military operation against ISIS must be “regime change” in Damascus.
That would get the neocons back on their original track of forcing “regime change” in countries seen as hostile to Israel. The first target was Iraq with Syria and Iran always meant to follow. The idea was to deprive Israel’s close-in enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, of crucial support. But the neocon vision got knocked off track when Bush’s Iraq War derailed and the American people balked at extending the conflict to Syria and Iran.
Still, the neocons retained their vision even after Bush and Cheney departed. They remained influential by holding onto key positions inside Official Washington – at think tanks, within major news outlets and even inside the Obama administration. They also built a crucial alliance with “liberal interventionists” who had Obama’s ear. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Dangerous Neocon-R2P Alliance.”]
The neocons’ new hope arrived with the public outrage over ISIS’s atrocities. Yet, while pushing to get this new war going, the neocons have downplayed their “regime change” agenda, getting Obama to agree only to extend his anti-ISIS bombing campaign from Iraq into Syria. But it was hard to envision expanding the war into Syria without ousting Assad.
Now, however, if the source’s account is correct regarding Assad’s quiet assent to U.S. airstrikes, Obama may have devised a way around the need to bomb Assad’s military, a maneuver that might again frustrate the neocons’ beloved goal of “regime change.”




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