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Author Topic: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR  (Read 115668 times)
DougMacG
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« Reply #800 on: March 21, 2016, 01:13:36 PM »

Related to other posts here, what is Putin up to in Syria?

It's nice having others fight wars instead of us, except that they have far different objectives and we have no control or even knowledge over what is happening and decisions that are made along the way.

Interesting fact, analysis and speculation here:

https://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2016/03/17/whats-putin-up-to-in-syria/

(Excerpt)  ... offer from Iran: if the Russians joined Iran on a big scale, Tehran would cover the Kremlin’s Middle Eastern expenses up to $5 billion per year, starting April 1. Details would be managed, as always, by Ali Bagheri, Iran’s point man on everything Russian.

Putin was certainly impressed; the question is whether he wants that sort of relationship with the ayatollahs. He’s got problems with radical Islamists on his borders, long supported by Tehran, and Khamenei’s help would be welcome in the ‘stans. On the other hand, what’s an Iran deal worth? The economy is a mess, even with Obama’s gifts. The banks are pretty much rupt, the pension funds have been looted, industry is gasping along at roughly one-quarter of capacity, unemployment is about 8 million, and the government owes a cool $21 billion to infrastructure companies.

No wonder the Iranians are the second biggest group of foreign émigrés in Germany.

What kind of ally is that? Shaky, at best. And he knows they’re not great fighters. That’s what got the Russian soldiers and warplanes into Syria in the first place.

Then it turns out the Iranians aren’t content with the Russian S-300 antiaircraft missiles. They want the 400s. And they want cooperation on operations against Israel, which Putin surely doesn’t. Indeed, there are so many rumors about Russian/Israeli/Egyptian/GCC/Saudi joint ventures that I can’t keep track of them all. And next month the Iraqi Kurds will be discussing arms deals in Moscow.

So Putin is hedging his Iranian bet. He says he can send bombers any old time, and he’s keeping his ground and sea bases, so it’s clear that Khamenei did not have advance warning from the Kremlin, and you can be sure he’s cursing out the Russian president as the New Year approaches.

Final point: like Khamenei, Putin knows time is running out on The Wonderful Thing That Happened in Washington (aka the Obama administration). So whatever he wants to get, now is the time. Maybe he’s got plans for those bombers …

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #801 on: March 26, 2016, 11:48:59 AM »

BEIRUT, Lebanon — One admirer of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria compared him to Charles de Gaulle, the French leader stubborn and confident enough to defy a more powerful ally, the United States, even after its decisive help against Nazi Germany.

His critics offer another analogy: the fable of the scorpion that persuades a frog to carry it across the river, then stings it, drowning both. Russia, having rescued Mr. Assad with its air force, is the frog. Now it is swimming for a political settlement to the Syrian war, hoping to cement its renewed status as a global power — but given Mr. Assad’s history, he may very well sink the negotiations and explain, as several diplomats put it, that making deals is not in his nature.

Ever since President Vladimir V. Putin’s surprise announcement last week that Russia was scaling back its aerial bombing campaign in Syria, speculation has swirled about whether Mr. Putin’s next move is to force Mr. Assad to make a substantive political compromise to end the war.

But while Mr. Assad’s dependence on Russia’s military, money and political influence has only grown during Mr. Putin’s six-month aerial assault in Syria, the campaign has also bolstered Mr. Assad’s confidence and ambitions as it has shored up Syrian government forces.

“Putin apparently thinks Syria needs Russia more than the other way around,” said David W. Lesch, an Assad biographer and professor at Trinity University in San Antonio. “But Assad and his inner circle probably arrogantly think it is quite the reverse.”

Mr. Assad inherited the presidency in 2000 from his father, who governed for 30 years. He relies on a small, cohesive ruling coterie, mostly members of his family and security officials. While Mr. Putin’s withdrawal appeared to take Syrian officials briefly by surprise, they quickly told diplomats that Russian support was undiminished and dismissed any notion that they were under pressure.

Bushra Khalil, a Lebanese lawyer who has longstanding contacts with Syrian government insiders and has met several times in recent weeks with senior officials, including the interior minister and a powerful intelligence chief, Ali Mamlouk, described their mood as buoyant.  Mr. Assad’s advisers believe not only that he has passed “the risky period” and will remain the president of Syria, she said in a recent interview, but also that his ability to “stand up to the whole world” will make him more prominent than ever as “a leader in the region.”

They insist that Russia is steadfast, she added, but they also hold an insurance card: their even closer relationship with Iran and their ability to juggle two very different allies.

“They are like a man with two wives,” said Ms. Khalil, best known for defending Saddam Hussein in his war crimes trial in Iraq. “There is something you like in each one.”

Ms. Khalil, who compared Mr. Assad to de Gaulle, is a longtime supporter of his, with a flair for flamboyant statements, and her meetings with officials were not about the war but about a court case involving a son of Muammar el-Qaddafi, the deposed Libyan dictator.

But her description of the inner circle’s mood and modus operandi was echoed by many others, both supporters and detractors, who have met with Mr. Assad or his advisers and allies in recent months. They include scholars, humanitarian officials, Syrian associates, diplomats and officials with the pro-government alliance that includes Iran, Russia and Hezbollah. Most of them spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to preserve their access to government officials or to avoid reprisals.

Over and over again in separate interviews, these people described a leadership that is expert in playing allies off one another; often refuses compromise, even when the chips appear to be down; and, if forced to make deals, delays and complicates them, playing for time until Mr. Assad’s situation improves.

Mr. Putin seems bent on capping a triumphant return to the world stage by presiding over a political solution for Syria, hand in hand with the United States. Several diplomats said that Russia defined victory as a negotiated solution that would leave Mr. Assad in power — showing that Western aspirations for regime change had failed — but that Mr. Putin might back a deal that would ease the Syrian leader out later or diminish his power.

While Iran appears more attached to keeping Mr. Assad in power, it is becoming clear that without Russian air power, Iranian support is not enough to help Syrian government forces advance, despite thousands of ground troops from Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias.

So Mr. Assad most likely realizes that he has to engage in some kind of political process, at least to satisfy Mr. Putin, said Mr. Lesch, the biographer, who regularly visited Mr. Assad from 2004 to 2009 and has met with high-level Syrian government officials and opposition members since the civil war started in 2011.

But the Syrian government could drag out and complicate the process, Mr. Lesch said, and “say ‘no’ 49 times until saying ‘yes’ on the 50th.” He added that Mr. Assad “probably figures he can game the system in a way that preserves the existing core in power.”

Another problem, analysts say, is that Mr. Assad and his father before him deliberately created a system dependent on a single leader, without strong institutions or deputies. Some believe it is so brittle that even the slightest compromise is likely to bring it down — the assessment that led Mr. Assad to crack down on protesters rather than accede to political changes in the first place.

Mr. Assad has proved to be the ultimate survivor. He has held on through five years of upheaval, beginning with political protests that seemed to have the momentum of a widespread Arab revolt and American support, and devolving into a proxy war that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half of Syria’s population.

His opponents, domestic and international, have time and again underestimated not just Mr. Assad’s readiness to use violence to preserve his authority, but also the staying power of his inner circle and core loyalist forces.

Mohammad al-Shaar, the interior minister, sleeps in a paper-stacked office, still working long hours despite three attempts on his life — a poisoning and two bombs, one of which damaged his right hand — said Ms. Khalil, a longtime friend.

Mr. Assad’s brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, died in a bombing in 2012 along with three other top security officials; Mr. Assad’s brother Maher was maimed but remained a powerful general. Yet Mr. Assad still holds meetings in his ceremonial palace overlooking Damascus with only minimal visible security, leading several recent visitors to joke that they could have walked in with a gun.

Opponents also miscalculated the willingness of a critical mass of ordinary Syrians, including many who dislike Mr. Assad, to remain quiescent for fear of uncertain alternatives.

Mr. Assad excels at running the clock. His officials show up at peace talks but essentially refuse to negotiate. They broadly promise humanitarian aid access while denying the vast majority of specific requests. Mr. Assad agreed in 2013, under threat of United States military action, to destroy Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons, yet conventional attacks on civilian areas, and accusations of chlorine gas use, remain routine.

As time passes, the rise of the Islamic State and the refugee crisis spilling into Europe have shifted Western priorities away from Mr. Assad’s ouster. Washington no longer insists he step down at the beginning of a transition.

Mr. Assad and his allies believe that the West has concluded it needs him to control Syria’s borders to fight the Islamic State and stem the flow of refugees, said an official with the pro-government alliance.

Those who support Mr. Assad are counting, in part, on the fractured nature of the conflict, saying they do not believe Russia will be able to find a set of opposition figures who are both willing to share power with Mr. Assad and are acceptable to all parties.

At the same time, Mr. Assad and his circle often test the patience of badly needed allies, according to a Syrian who, while deeply critical of the president, supports the government over the opposition. This Syrian, who speaks often with officials, said the government had tangled with Iran over bills, with Hezbollah over turf and with Russia over military performance.

That is nothing new. A diplomat with long experience in the region recounted that in the 1980s, a British diplomat asked the Soviet ambassador about the superpower’s relationship with Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez.

“They take everything from us,” the Soviet said, “except advice.”

Many Syrian officials, steeped in Arab nationalism and often educated in Moscow, feel comfortable with a secular Russia and its emphasis on preserving state institutions. But many also value a theocratic Iran for its commitment to a long fight in Syria and its confrontational policy toward Israel.

Several prominent pro-Assad insiders have also sought to woo the United States. But a Western scholar and former official who met Mr. Assad and his advisers last spring said the Syrians demonstrated unrealistic hopes and had failed to grasp how brutal they appeared to Washington.

But Western officials who hoped for a split inside the inner circle were also unrealistic, this scholar said. Russia’s aid has now most likely squelched any fears for their personal fate that could have tempted Mr. Assad’s closest confidants to leave.

Mr. Lesch, the biographer, said that some advisers believed some decentralization of authority was needed, but that it remained to be seen “if they can form a critical mass to convince Assad to negotiate seriously.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, and an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #802 on: March 27, 2016, 12:53:37 PM »

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-syria-militias-us-cia-islamic-state-20160326-story.html
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G M
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« Reply #803 on: March 27, 2016, 03:05:07 PM »


This is the awesomeness of Obama's Smart Power!
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #804 on: March 28, 2016, 05:31:01 AM »

11/2015

http://www.aei.org/publication/brennan-admits-isis-was-decimated-under-bush-but-has-grown-under-obama-by-as-much-as-4400-percent/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #805 on: March 28, 2016, 08:32:15 PM »

Note my previous comments about the Sykes-Picot line and the idea that we should get ahead of the curve in abandoning them.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/28/the-eagles-of-the-whirlwind/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=*Editors%20Picks
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #806 on: March 29, 2016, 05:46:56 PM »

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/29/qatar-wants-to-buy-dozens-of-u-s-warplanes-why-wont-washington-sell-them/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=*Editors%20Picks
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #807 on: March 29, 2016, 05:49:06 PM »

second post

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/29/the-syrian-revolution-against-al-qaeda-jabhat-al-nusra-fsa/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=*Editors%20Picks
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #808 on: March 30, 2016, 08:57:14 AM »

Russia appears to be shipping more equipment to Syria after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial withdrawal from the conflict earlier this month, according to a new analysis by Reuters. The wire service tracked Russian naval traffic by pouring over shipping databases and examining photographs of Russian vessels as they transited to and from Syria past the Bosphorus. Pictures of the ships heading back and forth between Russia and Syria show the vessels sitting low on the way to Syria and with higher load lines heading back to Russia. While Russia appears to have removed about half of its estimated 36 aircraft from Hmeymim air base in Syria, it now has about 12 warships in the Mediterranean, likely to protect its supply route back and forth to Syria.

Russia is opening up a bit about the role its special operations troops are playing in Syria now that the focus of its fighting has shifted from taking on rebel groups opposed to the Assad regime to fighting the Islamic State, the Washington Post reports. A number of different Russian special operations units are now active in the country, including Spetsnaz, Zaslon, and KSO, and experts say they've played an important role in guiding Russian airstrikes and holding together Syria's remaining ground forces by acting as advisors. They've also been participating more directly in frontline combat, with Russian officials citing their role in the recapture of Palmyra from the Islamic State.

Iraq

The early days of Iraqi forces' much-hyped push on Mosul has hit some major snags in the face of low morale and bad weather, according to USA Today. Last week, Iraqi troops advanced along the Tigris on a handful of villages held by the Islamic State south of Mosul, but heavy rains slowed their progress and inhibited U.S. air support, as stiff resistance from Islamic State fighters led to some desertions. In sum, Iraqi forces' campaign towards Mosul has gotten off to an inauspicious start, but U.S. officials say that they’re in no particular hurry to move on the city, which ISIS has held for almost two years.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #809 on: March 30, 2016, 01:47:24 PM »

second post

http://www.meforum.org/5929/war-madness
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #810 on: March 30, 2016, 08:26:46 PM »

http://yezidipost.com/2016/03/23/kurds-leave-islam-to-become-zoroastrians-again/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #811 on: April 04, 2016, 02:23:03 PM »

Stratfor
How Middle Eastern States Consolidate Power
Global Affairs
April 2, 2016 | 12:56 GMT Print

Selim III, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1789-1807, holds court in front of the Gate of Felicity at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. (Wikimedia Commons)

Editor's Note: The Global Affairs column is written by Stratfor's editorial board, a diverse group of extraordinary thinkers whose expertise inspires rigorous and innovative thought in our analysis. Though their opinions are their own, they inform and sometimes even challenge our beliefs. We welcome that challenge, and we hope our readers do too.

By Kristin Fabbe

Commentators speculating on the chaos engulfing the Middle East almost inevitably point to the Sykes-Picot Agreement as its underlying cause. The artificial borders laid down by the colonial-era deal, the argument goes, primed the region for ethnic and sectarian conflict. At some point the borders would have to be redrawn, and when they were, the process was bound to be painful. We need only look at Syria's drawn-out conflict and growing calls for its partition to see that.

But artificial borders are only part of the Middle East's problem. Equally important, though far less understood, is the legacy of the Ottoman Empire and the lasting mark it made on how Middle Eastern states consolidate power. The Ottoman Empire served as the precursor to the modern nation-state for much of the region. At its peak, it spanned from North Africa to the Persian Gulf's periphery. However, Ottoman rule was radically different than that of its early European counterparts or the modern governments that followed it, in part because of one of its defining features: the millet system.

What is Global Affairs?

In what was essentially a loose and informal federation of theocracies, the millet system created a network of legal courts that allowed non-Muslim minority groups to rule themselves with little interference from their Ottoman rulers. It emerged, in some ways organically and in others by design, as a means of managing the complexities that came with governing the empire's many and varied religious groups. Christians, Muslims and Jews alike were given a large degree of religious and cultural autonomy, and many religious elites held high economic and administrative posts in the empire.

As centuries passed, the millet system molded local societies and governments around religious identity. The traditions of religious authorities became institutionalized in many places, and people widely began to defer to them. Meanwhile, religious elites enjoyed a fairly high level of autonomy and became deeply embedded in the institutions that today fall under the purview of the nation-state, including legal, administrative, educational and social welfare structures.

At first, the millet system proved helpful in governing the Ottoman Empire's diverse subjects. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, the empire's military prowess began to slip relative to its neighbors, and its rulers were put on the defensive. Gradually, it became clear that if the Ottoman Empire were to survive at all, it would have to adopt some of the strategies used by its Western rivals to organize its military and society.

The resulting reforms, known as Tanzimat, aimed to fundamentally reshape the Ottoman state's relationship with its subjects. Previously, the empire's citizens had never been granted rights beyond those guaranteed to Muslims by Islamic law and those that came with the protective status of the millet communities. But in 1839, Sultan Abdulmecid declared that all of his empire's subjects — both Muslims and non-Muslims — also had secular rights that transcended any religious, ethnic or linguistic affiliation. In addition to this borrowed model of secular citizenship, the Tanzimat more clearly defined the millet system and formalized the distinct religious communities. The paradoxical result was that the reforms, originally intended to bridge religious divides, actually reinforced existing fissures within society.

Religion and State: Partners or Competitors?

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1923, the distinct religious identities and rifts solidified by the millet system and Tanzimat reforms did not dissolve with it. Instead, they were handed down to the states that emerged in the empire's wake, creating serious obstacles to state-building and modernization efforts. Religious elites could be either potential competitors or powerful allies, or both, to governing officials trying to assert their authority.

In general, the region's new states tended to follow one of three paths as they consolidated power. The first usually occurred in states that European powers failed to occupy and that had a single dominant religion. In these circumstances, states usually just co-opted the religious majority's institutions and leaders in an effort to centralize their authority. In doing so, piety and nationalism were fused into an "official religion," thus weakening religious institutions, domesticating religious rhetoric, binding religious authorities to the state and facilitating the state's growth. In Turkey, for instance, even as Islam was pushed out of politics, banners advocating Ataturk's reforms hung between mosques' minarets. Secularizing reforms were more about asserting the state's control than a genuine attempt to separate religion and state. In the long run, these states were more stable, but they bred exclusionary policies and forced migrations that were largely based on religion. For the religious minorities left behind, inequalities became entrenched. The states, now more homogenous and constantly skeptical of outsiders, often relapsed into authoritarianism.

Alternatively, some states — usually those with colonial occupiers and a solid religious majority — took a hands-off approach to religion instead. Such states tried to sidestep religious institutions as they consolidated power, often accommodating religious minorities (at least initially) in the process. Because this meant religion was not weakened by early cooptation, governments later found it difficult to nationalize the institutions of the biggest religions. Leaders of the dominant religions often positioned themselves in opposition to the state, fueling radicalization and undermining any attempt to create an official Islam friendly to the government.

The final path Middle Eastern states followed was to rely heavily on alliances with religious minorities while quashing other religious rivals. This outcome usually occurred in places ruled by colonial powers and riven by religious factionalism. European colonizers would often resort to indirect rule, designed to prevent nationalist uprisings and maintain minimal authority by forming strategic partnerships with privileged minority groups, such as certain Christian sects in the French-held Lebanon. More often than not, this gave rise to repressive minority regimes, which in turn led to sectarian strife, militia politics and attempts by third parties to meddle in domestic affairs. All impeded efforts to create strong national identities and establish state sovereignty, while at the same time empowering non-state actors with religious agendas.
Unstable States Make for an Unstable Region

Given these historical patterns, it is no wonder that Middle Eastern states today seem helplessly stuck between two extremes: religious radicalization and state-sponsored discrimination. Nor is it a surprise that the consequences of their internal governance have not remained confined within their borders.

In all three types of states, instability within generates instability without. For one, political leaders rarely have a secure hold on power, and when they feel particularly threatened, they often turn to ethnic, religious or national identities to bolster their legitimacy and improve their chances of survival. This tactic works not only within a single state but also among many. Indeed, politicized identities lie at the heart of three current Middle Eastern conflicts: the dispute between Israel and the Arab world, the competition between Shiite Iran and its Sunni rivals, and the thorny Kurdish question spanning Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Even the region's comparatively "stable" states, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have exploited religious and ethnic discord outside their borders to gain influence at home and abroad. We need only look at the ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria, or at Hezbollah's activities on the Israel-Lebanon border, to see evidence of regional powers becoming entangled in their neighbors' strife.

Thanks to the lasting imprint of the Ottoman millet system and the colonial-era practices that followed it, political development and regional stability in the Middle East have become chained to the vagaries of identity politics. But identity politics are a double-edged sword, both a crutch by which states govern and a wedge by which they are driven apart, and they are more likely to prevent stability than create it.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #812 on: April 14, 2016, 05:57:14 PM »

ISIS Camp a Few Miles from Texas, Mexican Authorities Confirm

http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2015/04/isis-camp-a-few-miles-from-texas-mexican-authorities-confirm/

But what happens in the Middle East doesn't affect us.  We can't be the world's policeman.  I guess we won't need to fight wars outside our borders; they're coming to us.
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G M
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« Reply #813 on: April 14, 2016, 10:42:44 PM »

ISIS Camp a Few Miles from Texas, Mexican Authorities Confirm

http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2015/04/isis-camp-a-few-miles-from-texas-mexican-authorities-confirm/

But what happens in the Middle East doesn't affect us.  We can't be the world's policeman.  I guess we won't need to fight wars outside our borders; they're coming to us.

Remember how the lefties laughed when it was explained that we fight them over there, so we don't fight them over here. Investment advice, go long on prosthetic limb companies.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #814 on: April 19, 2016, 11:43:38 AM »

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/israel-al-sisi-egypt-saudi-arabia-islands-transfer-alliance.html#
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #815 on: April 19, 2016, 12:50:37 PM »

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/14/putin-just-sent-armenia-mig-29-fighters-and-military-aid-here-are-the-3-key-reasons-why/

http://www.glennbeck.com/2016/04/15/iraqi-christians-rise-up-and-form-100000-man-christian-army-to-fight-isis-hordes/?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=contentcopy_link&utm_campaign=homepage%3Futm_source%3Dglennbeck
« Last Edit: April 19, 2016, 12:54:41 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
ccp
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« Reply #816 on: April 26, 2016, 03:31:01 PM »

Does not mess with Israel which surprises me:

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Concern-in-the-North-ISIS-cells-in-the-Golan-could-use-chemical-weapons-452425
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #817 on: May 04, 2016, 10:15:25 PM »

FSA-linked Commander Threatens Kurdish Civilians
by John Rossomando  •  May 4, 2016 at 4:19 pm
http://www.investigativeproject.org/5341/fsa-linked-commander-threatens-kurdish-civilians

 
A radio transmission between the commander of an Islamist brigade with ties to the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and a Kurdish man contained a chilling message threatening to slaughter Kurdish civilians in Syria.

"My fighters are just like lions, and you know the people of Homs and that they always meet their words with action. We will crackdown on their mothers, sisters, fathers. We will target women before men. Do not talk to me anymore, and you can keep our martyrs with you," the commander said in Arabic.
"We will deal with you in our own way, and we will find the Kurds wherever they go, in Aleppo or anywhere else."

The exchange came in the retaliation for a video showing Kurdish forces parading the bodies of hundreds of FSA fighters killed after attacking the Kurds on the back of a trailer truck through a Kurdish town north of Aleppo. Representatives of the Kurdish factions condemned the incident as did the U.S. State Department.

A pro-Kurdish Twitter account @FuriousKurd published the exchange threatening the lives of Kurdish civilians on Saturday. The exchange originally was released by a pro al-Qaida account on Telegram.

Jaysh Al-Sunna, the commander's faction, also is part of the Army of the Conquest (Jaish al-Fateh), a coalition of Islamist and other rebel factions supported by that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar that includes Al-Qaida's affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. News reports show that CIA-backed groups have cooperated with Jaish al-Fateh. The FSA also has received CIA support.

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