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Late summer musings

September 9, 2012

It’s been a quiet week here in my little home town in the middle of Europe, and I’m again reminded of the astonishing similarities between the stories from Lake Wobegon and the stories that are happening here, similarities that I was thrilled to discover many years ago when I still listened to Garrison Keillor’s show.

My home town is smaller than Lake Wobegon, it could be as well called a bigger village. Life is much quieter and easier than in urban areas but the downsides of modern computerized and mechanized life are nevertheless noticeable.

Hunters, which are an occasional annoyance, are at present not driving by in their SUVs, they are probably on safari in Africa to mow down the remaining elephants and rhinos. Don’t say this is acerbic or sardonic, even King Juan Carlos of Spain recently was allowed to hunt elephants in Botswana, though he evidently has a dismal record as a marksman, starting his career by shooting and killing his younger brother Alfonso with a revolver.

The neighboring farmers are also not active right now, they are taking a break before the harvesting campaign begins in earnest.

The teenage hooligans, who regularly annoy the villagers with their noisy and fume-spewing motor scooters are still active, they preferably drive around after midnight between two and four AM.

They are mostly uneducated and unemployable boys who live with their parents. People like that are a worldwide problem and the societies in various regions deal with them in different ways. Some countries put them into sports clubs or enlist them in the military, other countries train them in religious schools (madrassas) or in (buddhist) monasteries. If these options are not available the youngsters usually join either a street gang, a protest movement, a local militia, a drug cartel, the regional mafia, or a terror organization.

If the mentioned teenage hooligans in my place would have access to Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and explosives they would gladly use them to terrorize the villagers. I’ve already seen the unemployed boy of a near neighbor proudly parade with an airlift gun.

Fortunately items like Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and explosives are hard to come by in my country, so for now the motor scooters have to suffice.

The mentioned annoyance by uneducated, useless, bored young men leads me to the bloody conflict, which still rages unabated in Syria and has until now cost between 20 and 24 thousand lives. As some readers may consider it too far of a stretch to link the local hooligans of a rural European town with the Syrian conflict, I feel obliged to explain my rationale and the ideas that lead to this association:

All Arab countries have a pool of unemployed and untrained young men, who know not much more than the 114 Qur’an Surahs they learned in the madrassas (Islamic seminaries). They are unable to contribute anything positive to the economies of their homelands and are unable to find work. This pool of frustrated young men can be easily tapped by radical islamist groups and the forces behind them.

The young men may be unable to fix the plumbing or rewire a fusebox or mend appliances, but they will be able to pull the trigger of an AK47, or behead an infidel, or put on a suicide belt.

That the radical Islamists despise Western culture, that they abhor Christians and want to install a caliphate and impose Sharia law across the world, is no hinderance for using them in US war projects.

This scheme started already in the 80s and early 90s, when the Saudi government offered to support the covert CIA proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up madrassas, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis and Wahabis. Among them were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda in 1988.

The USA did not rely only on Saudi Arabia to promote Islamic extremism. US agencies in the 80s supplied Afghan schoolchildren with millions of textbooks containing violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance against the Soviet occupation. The books, which are filled with talk of jihad and feature drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers, and bombs, still serve as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum.

Some readers may object to the assertion, that the USA is using Islamic militants to destroy Syria and insist that the conflict is fought between Syrians without foreign interference. Such a stance is laughable considering the overwhelming evidence of foreign influence, here just a few recent examples:

Jacques Beres, co-founder of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, returned from Syria early September after spending two weeks working clandestinely in a hospital in the besieged northern Syrian city.

In an interview with Reuters in his central Paris apartment on Saturday, the 71-year-old told that contrary to his previous visits to Homs and Idlib earlier this year about 60 percent of those he had treated this time had been rebel fighters and that at least half of them had been non-Syrian.

It’s really something strange to see. They are directly saying that they aren’t interested in Bashar al-Assad’s fall, but are thinking about how to take power afterwards and set up an Islamic state with sharia law to become part of the world Emirate,” the doctor said.

There were several announcements about Turkish and Saudi Arabian officers detained by the Syrian army in Aleppo, and they seem to be substantiated now by apparent diplomatic efforts of Turkey to reach a prisoner swap deal. Turkey reportedly tries to convince the FSA (Free Syrian Army) to release about 70 Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese, and Syrian citizens, abducted over the past few months, in exchange for Turkish military personal in Syrian custody.

The FSA normally doesn’t take prisoners and executes captured soldiers without further ado, but kidnapping civilians has become a vital source of income for the FSA.

A student at Aleppo University who gave his name as Mohammed told about a FSA unit, known as the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq brigade, who kidnapped citizens to raise “funds for the revolution.” He found out about these fundraising operations when the FSA unit kidnapped the son of his uncle’s business partner and demanded 74,000 US$ for the release.

A former Catholic clergyman told journalists that he fled Aleppo when fighting reached his home and a number of acquaintances were kidnapped.

As I wrote already in the last blog post, the battle in Aleppo could be a pivotal moment in this conflict. It was not clear for a long time if this battle was a stalemate between the insurgency and the army or rather a mopping-up operation to clean the city from armed gangs.

The Western media published for several weeks triumphant reports about the progress of the insurgents who claimed to have liberated 60 percent of the city and who reportedly were setting up their own administration and infrastructure.

It has become rather quiet now on the media front and the every now and then published sentiment that the rebels presence in the city after five weeks of fighting alone is a victory against the tyrant Bashar al-Assad indicates, that this is not a stalemate anymore.

But one cannot call it a mopping-up operation either, as the Syrian government and the army have now adapted new strategies that implement Mao’s idea of mobile warfare and are combining conventional tactics and positional warfare with asymmetrical attacks by irregular forces and fluid frontlines.

The highly mechanized army (designed to fight the Israeli army) is now surrounding rebel-held areas and tries to hit rebel positions for some time with artillery and airstrikes before making incursions with infantry and paramilitary forces.

The government has surrendered some territory, which has shortened communication and supply lines and decreased the vulnerability of isolated army outposts. In Aleppo, the security forces have been in no hurry for over a month to storm rebel-held positions and are relying instead on snipers, artillery, and air power.

The areas under rebel control are usually cut off from public services like electric power, waste disposal, water and food distribution, forcing most of the population to flee. The rebels remain contained in depopulated territories slowly running out of ammunition, cigarettes, and other vital supplies.

A report from Reuters (which usually disseminates blatant propaganda but in this case inadvertently discloses some real facts) described life in rebel-controlled areas of Aleppo as unbearable:

Piles of uncollected rubbish are burnt every few days, replacing the stench of rotting detritus with that of acrid smoke. Food prices have soared and morning breadlines around bakeries stretch around entire blocks. Children play in the pools of burst water pipes and thousands have lost their homes in the mounting assaults on rebel-held neighborhoods.”

The Reuters article continues, that on the other hand “Several civilians who have moved around the city spoke of an eerie sense of normality in Aleppo’s government-held districts.”

This strategy of mobile warfare plus containment and siege of rebel hotspots seems to be producing an effect, as a growing number of Syrians who formerly were (and in some cases continue to be) critics of the government are now distancing themselves from the insurgency. French media is reporting widespread support for the government in Aleppo and Damascus, where the rebels temporary conquest of districts is regarded as a nightmare.

I’m normally not overly optimist but one has to acknowledge that at present there are several developments in favor of the Syrian government:

1. The Syrian supply lines are secured and the army is receiving weapons and personal from Iran and Russia either via Lebanon (Hezbollah), via Tartus or through planes across Iraq. Iran sent 150 senior Revolutionary Guards commanders to Syria who provide technical support as well as battlefield experience.

2. The Syrian government has increased its electronic capabilities and can track many rebel communications, even encrypted ones. A significant number of rebel computers have been infected with surveillance viruses (DarkComet RAT, Blackshade RAT, Skype encryption tool).

A German navy vessel equipped with communications and reconnaissance technology which is patrolling the coast of Syria and can observe Syrian troop movements up to 600 km inland was hacked and fed false information, allowing the Syrian army to conduct many successful military operations.

3. The already mentioned army snipers have become increasingly efficient and there are strong indications that highly capable Iranian and Russian special forces are involved.

4. Despite the staggering death toll of 8,000 killed soldiers and policemen, the Syrian security forces are intact and are (apparently successful) reorganized to meet the requirements of asymmetrical and irregular warfare. Mass defections haven’t occurred despite the openly offered bribes from Qatar, which has allocated 300 million US$ for this very purpose. If officers defect, they usually take the money and rather leave for good than join the rebels. Some officers remain in Turkey and obtain fictitious posts as rebel commanders, observing the fighting from a safe distance.

The main effect of the Qatari efforts is a purge of the Syrian society from its more dubious characters, this is quite similar to what happened in Cuba in the 70s.

Beside that, the army until now has not used its most advanced rocket and artillery systems.

5. The FSA is taking even higher losses than the government forces, losses which cannot be adequately replaced by the steady stream of jihadists, transferred to Turkey and Jordan from all around the world. Syria has become a meat grinder for Islamic fighters and the Western strategists will soon have to acknowledge that the number of unemployed young men, who can be transformed into religious fanatics and who are ready to die in a holy war against infidels, is limited.

Despite the failure of their initial strategic plan the Western alliance does not easily give in and is stepping up pressure on Syria with a variety of measures.

European Union foreign ministers agreed during talks in Cyprus that an increase in sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is needed.

France provides direct aid and money to rebels and is considering supplying anti-aircraft weapons. French agents flew six units of mobile tracking and eavesdropping equipment to Beirut International Airport and transported the material to Northern Lebanon. The Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, Mr. Ali Abdel-Karim, denounced this act and insisted that the Lebanese government immediately seizes the equipment and the spies but until now President Suleiman didn’t react.

False flag attack

NATO in coordination with Saudi Arabia is just putting finishing touches to a plot of framing President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces for using chemical weapons as a pre-cursor to a NATO intervention which will at the start use ambulances as humanitarian cover for a military assault.

(This is not a new idea, the CIA In the 80s used Red Crescent ambulances frequently for smuggling arms and fighters in Afghanistan and Turkey is also providing supplies to the FSA in ambulances. A British reporter who accompanied a FSA group bragged openly about being smuggled out of Syria in an ambulance.)

A Saudi company has fitted 1400 ambulance vehicles with anti-gas & anti-chemical filtering systems, a further 400 vehicles have been prepared as troop carriers.

The attack with white phosphorus, sarin, and mustard gas will most likely be launched against a heavily populated town near the Syria/Jordan border, possibly Daraa, after which the ambulance vehicles will pour in under the pretext of providing urgent humanitarian aid.

These ambulances, emblazoned with the slogan “Syrian People’s Relief,” are nothing short of armored personnel carriers. The vehicles will be used to create a buffer zone and the chemical weapons attack will lead to a NATO military intervention. The Washington Post in a recent article prepared the ground for this plan by worrying about the alleged Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles.

Turkey marches in

Turkey is getting directly involved in the war and Turkish army officers have assumed direct command of two Syrian rebel brigades, the North Liberators Brigade in the Idlib region and the Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo and in the Al-Bab area northeast of Aleppo. Turkish troops are also directly involved in several battles along the border and are leading the assault on Harem in Idlib province, which is only 2 kilometers from the border. 

Many of Harems 20,000 residents have taken up arms and are fighting alongside the Syrian army but the Turkish troops have completely surrounded the town and closed the main supply line by detonating an important bridge.

Turkeys military adventure is not without risk and Prime Minister Erdogan faces increased challenges and has to watch his back. 

The Turkish army’s morale is low after the forced retirement or detention of many high ranking Kemalists. Over 60 generals are in jail, accused of plotting a coup — and there is still the chance that lower-ranking officers may try it again. Alevis and Kurdish conscripts will refuse to fight this unnecessary war and the Turkish economy (especially the tourism business) will inevitably go down the drain.

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) has stepped up attacks which are now a daily occurrence.

The explosion of an ammunition depot in the Central Western town of Afyonkarahisar has killed 25 soldiers and wounded 55. It is rumored that the so called “Falcons of the Turkish Republic” set the military arsenal ablaze by firing two mortar shells into the compound, thereby detonating over 16,000 pounds of military TNT.

Needless to say that the Turkish population overwhelmingly opposes the war and that quite a few prominent Turks have criticized Erdogan for his irresponsible policy.

The strategy of the West is to bleed Syria economically by sanctions and terror acts. The rebels puppet masters right now don’t really care about conquering territory and they use the fanatical Islamists to cause as much destruction as possible in small towns and selected neighborhoods of bigger cities. They deliberately instruct the rebel fighters to hide in civilian areas and take pot shots at the Syrian army, knowing very well that the army will rain hell on these hideouts and kill most of the rebels.

While the rebels in Aleppo are on the retreat, the FSA’s Tawhid Brigade nevertheless managed it to blew up a main fresh drinking water pipeline, which feeds several big neighborhoods with over a million people. This is a catastrophe for the city and one can only hope that the pipeline can be repaired soon.

Compared with this atrocity the shelling of two churches and a monetary (Church of Mar Michael, Anglican Church in al-Jadidah neighborhood, Monastery of Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in al-Azizieh neighborhood) by the retreating rebels are minor incidents, but they nevertheless deserve mentioning because they show the real aim of the insurgency.

Initially I wanted to write about completely different issues but I got caught up in the quagmire of the Syrian conflict. It is now nearly impossible to get an idea about what is really going on in Syria. Mainstream media reports are fiction, alternative sources publish fiction too. What really happens can often not be publicly discussed because such a discussion would provide crucial information to the aggressor.

One has to filter out, guess, interpolate, look for hidden patterns and find the not so obvious explanations.

Some news bits left me scratching my head because they could not be easily classified either as lies, disinformation, distraction, encrypted messages, or slipped through truth.

DEBKAfile (Israel/Mossad) reported, that Russian naval vessels have unexpectedly departed the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartus and Russian arms shipments to Syria have been suddenly discontinued because the Russians expect a Western attack and want to avoid a military confrontation with NATO.

This would only make sense if Russia would also hastily evacuate the tens of thousands of advisors and technicians that are now in Syria. One has to wait and see, what that report means.

It is also still not clear if Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan (nicknamed Bandar Bush) is alive or was assassinated, as the Voltaire network reported. A photograph from mid-August was allegedly doctored to show Prince Bandar is still alive and Saudi friendly sources told of phone conversations with him but he was not seen in public since the reported assassination.

===============

Whatever happens, this conflict will go on and on with no end in sight, which may be fine for the US-American strategists, because the last thing the nation with the world’s biggest war based economy needs is an end of the conflict and the prospect of peace breaking out.

Just as a reminder: In 2011, the United States experienced its biggest year ever in weapons exports and overseas weapons sales jumped to 66.3 billion US$, which is more than three-quarters of the global arms market. Russia was with 4.8 billion US$ a distant second.

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