From Fort Russ
December 8, 2016
President Barack Obama has ordered a waiver of restrictions on military aid for foreign forces and others in Syria, deeming it “essential to the national security interests” of the US to allow exceptions from provisions in the four-decades-old Arms Export Control Act.
A White House press release Thursday announced that foreign fighters in Syria supporting US special operations “to combat terrorism in Syria”would be excused from restrictions on military assistance.
“I hereby determine that the transaction, encompassing the provision of defense articles and services to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing U.S. military operations to counter terrorism in Syria, is essential to the national security interests of the United States,” President Obama affirmed in the presidential determination and waiver.
The order delegates responsibility to the US secretary of state to work with and report to Congress on weapons export proposals, requiring 15 days of notice before they are authorized.
Obama announced a similar waiver of the Arms Export Control Act in September 2013, following the Ghouta chemical attack in August of that year. That order facilitated the transfer of US military weaponry to “select vetted members” of opposition forces battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Thursday’s order appears less narrow in scope.
Last year, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016, which allocated nearly $500 million to arm and train “moderate rebels” in Syria, despite a failed Pentagon program abandoned earlier in 2015.
The challenge of differentiating between terrorist forces, such as Al-Nusra, and more moderate forces in Syria has been acknowledged by press secretaries in recent State Department briefings.
The “counterterrorism” pretext is just a “convenient misappropriation of language,” aimed at arming various militants to battle the Syrian Army and its allies, believes geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen.
“Putting this under the banner of fighting terrorism … follows on [from] a sort of fantasy concept that’s been pushed out as a talking point for the last year and a half, that if we train and equip the ‘moderate opposition’ they will fight [Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL)],” Henningsen told RT.
“They want to open the floodgates basically for trafficking weapons to religious extremists and militants and terrorist groups, internationally recognized terrorist groups … it’s all being done still under this kind of false pretense of the fight against ISIS, that somehow ‘moderate’ rebels, if they even exist, will turn their weapons and fight against ISIS. And we know from the facts on the ground, from the beginning, that [this] simply has not been the case. This is to arm the opposition to fight the Syrian government and to fight Russian forces. This is a desperate move on the part of the lame duck president.”
President Obama’s decision could lead to an almost immediate escalation of the conflict and basically put the US in a situation of “waging a proxy war against the Russians and Syrians,” a former Pentagon official, Michael Maloof, told RT.
“The rebels, whom we cannot identify, are going to be getting some very sophisticated weapons. Potentially, I should say, man-portable air defense systems, which can knock down Russian and Syrian aircraft,” Maloof said. “And the fact too, that we have stocks already in Europe, that can easily be transferred with this waiver. Under the waiver, it’s supposed to be a 15-day notification to Congress, but Congress, as of tonight, Washington time, is going to be out of session until January. So these arms can go within hours.”
Just a few links …
The White House and State Department are miffed that Syria and Russia are cleaning up their Jihadis in Aleppo city.
There is a false claims evolving in western “news” that the current Aleppo operation led to the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement. Two points on this:
1. The ceasefire did not “break down”. It expired after a previously agreed period. Both sides did not agree to a prolongation.
2. The most important ceasefire point was the physical separation of al-Qaida and other U.S. proxy rebels. The U.S. was unable (or unwilling) to fulfill that point.
The main priority in Syria, according to the document, is the demarcation of territory controlled by Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups and territories controlled by Syrian rebels.
After the end of the ceasefire the U.S. and its subaltern allies are flooding Syria with new weapons:
- US-backed rebels now equipped with advanced rocket launchers The BM-21 truck mounted Grad multiple rocket launcher have a range of up to 40 kilometers. At least three new ones have been photographed over the last two days.
- ‘Aleppo must not fall’: US allies to flood [Aleppo] with anti-aircraft missiles
“The US confirmed the green light to begin sending them to rebels through supply routes still open through Jordan and Turkey,” the source said. “Rebels are being told only to target Syrian helicopters, not Russian – but it’s not clear they will abide by this.”
Both rockets and MANPADs are part of a “Plan-B” the CIA had already developed in May 2015 but which was held back until now. There are likely additional military elements to this plan. On the diplomatic side the U.S. (and its stooges) -obviously unable to act rationally- now imitate defiant children. “If we can’t get exactly what we want we will never again talk to you.”
- US Threatens to Suspend Engagement With Russia in Syria Over Aleppo Situation
- Unrelated EU Sanctions linked to Ukraine now suddenly get linked to Russia’s stipulated official support for the Syrian government: Syria Attacks May Complicate EU Decision on Russia Sanctions
A very major issue for Syria (and one reason why many Syrians flee the country) are U.S. and EU sanctions. Their consequences were so far hardly ever reported. Here is the first major piece in U.S. media about them: U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals
In a 40-page internal assessment commissioned to analyze the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, the U.N. describes the U.S. and EU measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Detailing a complex system of “unpredictable and time-consuming” financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”
An internal U.N. email obtained by The Intercept also faults U.S. and EU sanctions for contributing to food shortages and deteriorations in health care.
The email went on to cite sanctions as a “principal factor” in the erosion of Syria’s health care system.
The piece also explains that the Syrian and Russian behavior towards insurgent occupied cities is in no way more severe than the usual U.S. procedures:
Meanwhile, in cities controlled by ISIS, the U.S. has employed some of the same tactics it condemns. For example, U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. replicated this strategy to drive ISIS out of Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods. In Fallujah, residents resorted to eating soup made from grass and 140 people reportedly died from lack of food and medicine during the siege.
To help with the sanctions and other issues China had recently agreed with Syria to provide medical support. But just like Russia, China is now considered a U.S. enemy and the CIA and Pentagon are eager to fight it.
With war hawks in US/Turkey/Qatar/Saudi arming and funding anti-Chinese militants in Syria that are planning more attacks on Chinese embassies and interests abroad, coupled with US gunboat diplomacy in the South China Sea, this dangerous “deterring the dragon” combination risks turning into a “provoking the dragon” scenario, and may escalate into a military conflict between two nuclear powers.
(The piece also includes this vignette about the anti-Chinese TIP Uighurs in Syria:
Later videos emerged of US/UK-funded White Helmet members with two captured young Syrian soldiers in Kahn Touman, and taunting “Assad, Russia, Iran and China, are they stronger than god?” The two soldiers were later executed by TIP militants.)
THAAD is a long range missile defense system. Putting it into South Korea makes no sense if one wants to counter shorter ranged North Korean missiles. The target here is obviously China. This will have consequences.
A lot of hype is made today about two hospitals in east-Aleppo that were allegedly bombed:
- Two hospitals bombed in eastern Aleppo, Syria
- Two hospitals bombed in rebel-held Aleppo amid government assault
The second piece, in the Washington Post, originally included this sentence:
Neither hospital was seriously damaged and both are expected soon to function again, …
I pointed that out several times today to “bombing” hypers including to Washington Post writers. Soon after that the piece was “updated” and the sentence changed to:
Both hospitals are expected to be repaired, but they are badly damaged.
Still, according to the piece, only two people were killed in the relevant strikes and three injured. Had the attacks actually targeted the crowded hospitals both would have been destroyed and many more people would be dead. Instead the hospitals seem to have received only collateral damage from strikes on nearby military targets. But pointing that out does not fit the U.S. propaganda line.
Meanwhile the U.S. and its allies continue their daily business of killing people in Syria and elsewhere.
- Afghan official: 13 civilians killed in airstrike on house
- Erdogan’s forces kill nine Syrian civilians near borders in Hasaka countryside
- Suspected US airstrikes hit Somali army base near Galkacyo town,killing at least 10 soldiers according to officials and local media.
I somewhat agree with this election take by Peter Hitchens:
After Monday’s TV show with Clinton and Trump CNN had published a poll claiming that Clinton was the winner of the debate by a wide margin. CNN later released (pdf) the poll data. It turns out (page 9) that only white people and only those above 50 years of age responded to the question. The poll was also heavily skewed towards democratic voters. In other words: it was completely fictional and useless besides giving Clinton additional (false) media momentum.