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The Syrian Arab Army may be on the verge of another set of victories that go far beyond those gained in the summer of 2013 when the Syrian army and Hezbollah took the rebel held city of Qusayr. The hotly contested battles rage in the major city of Aleppo and the much smaller mountain city of Yabrud. Major gains in either locale would be significant. Victories in both would raise questions about the various rebel factions and their ability to continue contesting for control of the country. (Image: Michael Swan)
Syria's commercial center and largest city, Aleppo, was divided at the start of the Syrian conflict in July 2012. The government lost control of half of the metropolitan area, key towns surrounding the city, and the international airport.
The situation has changed substantially since October 2013. The Syrian army captured key towns in the countryside surrounding Aleppo, a critical army base, the international airport, and scores of smaller villages. Government forces continue to take key locations in preparation for a final push to retake the city. The tactics on both sides are brutal. Syrian forces drop barrel bombs on Aleppo's rebel strongholds. Rebels recently executed twenty-one Syrian government sympathizers.
The Republic of Turkey is consumed by intense conflict, conspiracy charges, and underlying financial problems that simply won't go away. A perfect storm is brewing. (Image: Jordi Bernabeu Farrús)
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and supporters are charged with a secret gold-for-oil deal with Iran. The deal, in violation of trade sanctions against Iran, enriched the PM's ministers and other key supporters involved (including the PM's son), according to prosecutors. The deal also involved misreporting billions of dollars in trade, which, in turn, resulted in Turkey overstating national income and understating its current account deficit.
A more ominous charge focuses on Erdogan's open support of a wealthy Saudi known for funding al Qaeda and the PM's alleged support of Al Qaeda fighters engaged against the Syrian government. Just today, we saw this headline: Turkish governor blocks police search on Syria-bound truck reportedly carrying weapons . Erdogan is a strong supporter of the Syrian rebels, assumed recipients of the weapons.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan faces major challenges from the opposition and within his own party, the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party). Through his rash actions and compulsive need for control, the PM has paved the road to his political demise. He may fall as a result of the current scandal or his exit may be somewhat delayed. In either case, things will be very ugly in Turkey before PM's not so long good-bye is over. This will be at the expense of the Turkish people, who have done nothing to deserve this. (Image: Turkish PM Erdogan and former ally, Fethullah Gulen. WikiCommons)
On December 17, Turkish police and prosecutors brought corruption charges against members of Erdogan's cabinet and some of their family members. The charges came after a nationwide investigation of political corruption. As police in Ankara rounded up suspects, the Istanbul police chief refused to arrest 30 of those charged in that city.
Erdogan responded in a manic fit by firing prosecutors and key police investigators involved in the arrests. Then, the PM went on the attack with a blistering series of invectives aimed at the opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP), other outsiders, and the U.S. Ambassador. The death of a key Turkish corruption investigator in Ankara added fuel to speculation on the intensity internal politics surrounding the PM.
Erdogan versus Gulen?
Syria is a swirling cauldron of battles and tragedies as the thirty-day countdown begins for the January 22, 2013 United States-Russia sponsored peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland. (Image)
Syrian government sources reported between 80 and 100 killed in Adra, an industrial town northwest of Damascus. Al Qaeda aligned Al Nusra rebels and the Saudi sponsored Islamic front entered the town on December 12 after a series of defeats in the surrounding area. Reports indicate that Christian and Druze Syrians were singled out. According to local workers, rebels infiltrated factories then began shooting workers. Workers staged a protest on December 20 demanding a response by the United Nations and support from the International Labor Organization.
Battles between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and rebels heated up in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, and the mountainous Qalamoun region near the border with Lebanon.
The U.S. will surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2015, and be close to energy self-sufficiency in the next two decades, amid booming output from shale formations, the IEA said. Bloomberg Nov 12
Well, I guess that means every thing will be just fine. We'll have plenty of cheap fuel to drive gas-guzzlers and lots of walking around money from out new status as oil suppliers to the world. We might even have enough money to fund health care, Social Security, and fix our collapsing infrastructure. There's just one catch. But first, here's some more good news. (Image: Phillip Taylor)
Tim Johnson of McClatchy just wrote an excellent article outlining the geopolitical implications of our new energy wealth: "Rise of Saudi America will alter globe, prolong U.S. superpower role." Nov. 28. Rather than a slow decline from superpower status, Johnson makes the case that the rise in domestic shale oil production plus sought after U.S. oil industry services and technology will sustain the U.S. as a dominant superpower.
Dependence on Middle East oil will soon be a thing of the past. Johnson suspects that will make disasters like the Iraq invasion, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria a thing of the past. The shale oil boom, according to Johnson, has us fat and happy, counting our dollars from energy exports rather than bringing democracy (aka military action) to oil producing countries.
There's just one catch
"Diplomatic heavyweights including US Secretary of State John Kerry have flown to Geneva for nuclear talks on Iran, in a sign that there could be an end to a decade-long deadlock. However, Israel has resolved to reject any proposal under discussion." RT, Nov 8
Russian President Vladimir Putin scored a perfecta in September when he offered up two deals the Obama administration couldn't refuse. The first was chemical weapons disarmament by Syria. That was followed closely by an opening by Iran's new president to the United States and the West. Syrian disarmament has gone very well senior foreign ministry officials from Iran, Germany, the UK, and France began talks on Iran's nuclear program. (Image: AndrewDallos))
"This is all wrong, it's not obligatory [to fight the Syrian government]. These are feuding factions and one should not go there. I do not advise one to go there." Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia
After weeks of agitation for increased attacks on the Syrian government and its president, Bashir al-Assad, the Saudis signaled a 180 degree change in policy, based on the mufti's statement. Fighting with the Syrian rebels is no longer a sacred cause, it is something to be avoided, according to the Kingdom's most important Muslim cleric.
The mufti is not some closet liberal in the Saudi hierarchy. He's the top religious official in the Kingdom. His statements are used to interpret legal and religious policies. The King of Saudi Arabia, who asked him to speak on the Syrian conflict, appoints him.
The destruction of Syria, in many forms, is proceeding according to plan and on time. When the Western powers and their pals, the oil oligarchs, target your country, it's time to run just as fast as you can.
I wrote Welcome to the New Syria on August 27, 2012. Based on known events and outcomes from the UN-NATO military action against Libya, I offered a number of predictions about the governance of the New Syria presuming a victory by Syrian rebels. At that time, the United States, Turkey, the United Kingdom, France and Gulf oligarchies, Qatar in particular, were full of themselves for their destruction of Libya in the name of democracy and progress. Given the Libya template, it seemed obvious the following would occur in Syria.
The real story concerns the risks of calamitous military conflict erupting in the Middle East through accident or miscalculation. More on that shortly but first, here is a quick summary of the credibility of the UN.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon leaks results of report on September 13
Actually, Ki-moon couldn't leak the results of the report at a widely reported private speech on September 13 because, as he said at the time, he hadn't seen it. But the message was clear. Syria was the culprit.
Within the space of two minutes, Ki-moon said that the Syrian regime had committed "many crimes against humanity," that there would ben an accounting "when everything was over," and the inspector's document would be "an overwhelming report." USA Today and the Washington Post took the words to mean that the UN Secretary General had signaled a negative finding against Syria. (See video of Ki-moon 34:00-37:00)
President Barack Obama spoke as if his political future was on the line Wednesday evening during his address to the nation on the Syria crisis. He went through the horrors of the Syrian civil war, blamed the Syrian government for the August 21 chemical weapons attack, and provided verifiable (but, as yet, unverified) statements of fact concerning his certainty that the Syrian government initiated the chemical weapons attack. (Full speech)
Before acknowledging the deal that was done to prevent an attack -- the surrender of chemical weapons to Russia by the Bashar al-Assad government -- the president went through his rationale for planning an attack on Syria and his switch to unilateral action to congressional involvement. He then explained how he submitted his proposal to Congress.
As we were wondering if the president had already let missiles fly, he announced the plan for Syria to turn their chemical weapons over to Russia. This move, he argued, was the direct outcome of the threat of military force.
Leaders of the Democratic Party and their media side kicks are giving President Barack Obama a free ride on his proposal to attack Syria. Along with the Republican leadership, they're ignoring the strong opposition to any attack by citizens in both parties and independents.
The president's proposed military strike targets a government that has neither attacked nor threatened to attack us or our allies. Obama did so without any intent to get congressional approval and before any evidence was made public. He and the Secretary of State announced the attack without regard to clear international law which bars the unprovoked attacks on sovereign nations.
We are told, Trust me. I've made the decision.
Does this remind you of anyone? The president is Barack Obama but the words sound just like those of former President George W. Bush before the 2003 Iraq invasion.
The intelligence assessment sent to Congress by President Obama supports the president's request that Congress authorize military action against Syria. The assessment consists of a series of assertions about evidence available without any display of that evidence. The materials are "classified," according to the document. That means we won't see the evidence. It also means that Congress can't investigate or debate the quality and reliability of the evidence in public since that would reveal classified information.
Since the chemical incident on August 21, the White House has argued with increasing confidence that the Syrian government was responsible for initiating the attack.
Along with the request, the White House included a document describing the evidence used by the President to reach his conclusion on responsibility for the attack. The document is titled, U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013. This document is the foundation for the president's plan to attack Syria. As such, it is worth a serious look.
As he prepares to launch cruise missiles against the sovereign state that poses no threat to the United States, President Barack Obama's administration is spouting leaks of major proportion. (Image)
The Associate Press reports that
"… multiple U.S. officials used the phrase "not a slam dunk" to describe the intelligence picture -- a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet's insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a 'slam dunk' -- intelligence that turned out to be wrong." Associated Press, August 29
President Obama couldn't launch even one cruise missile before multiple U.S. officials began undermining the intelligence report that was to form the basis for confidence in military action against the Syrian government.
On Sunday and Monday, representatives of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that it is "too late" to effectively examine the nature and source of the chemical weapons event near Damascus, Syria last Wednesday (August 21). (Image: Tim Green)
Are these coordinated, self-serving statements by those who want to attack Syrian government without regard to the source of the chemical weapons attack?
The "too late" statements came four and five days after the attack. The clear implication is that the limit for a chemical weapons investigation is four to five days after the event.
The first clue to believability of the "too late" claim comes from events in Damascus prior to the attack. On August 18, a team of United Nations chemical weapons inspectors arrived in the capital of Syria to investigate three past incidents that generated accusations of chemical weapons use.
A rush to judgment is a rush to war.
Will the president wait for the completion of an objective study to determine the source of a chemical weapons in an attack on a Damascus suburb on August? Or, will he fix the results, declare the Syrian government guilty, and unleash some form of military attack? If he chooses the later option, the similarities to the George W. Bush WMD lies will be too close to ignore.
Added to Obama's refusal to get Wall Street crooks prosecuted, his weak efforts on jobs, the NSA spying on all citizens coupled with his outright denial of the effort, Obama's presidency will lack even the most rudimentary form of legitimacy.
Obama has been pressured to attack Syria since the start of the rebellion against the government of Bashar al-Assad began 2011. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled the world demanding that "Assad must go." Others in the perpetual war faction have lent their voices to the chorus.
How low will the Western powers stoop in the assault on the people and nation of Syria? You may be surprised. Here are three nightmares from the conflict. (Image: Neil Turner)
The United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey, and the Gulf oligarchies sponsored a rebellion in Syria that chose cities as the primary battleground. Syrian rebels entered the cities, took over without invitation by the residents, and battled the police and other representatives of the Syrian government. Nobody expected the government to simply surrender the cities to the rebels. This often-overlooked fact explains the scale of death and destruction in Syria.
The above listed cast of characters supported or looked the other way as foreign fighters from Al Qaeda in Iraq took on a major combat role. The group, known as Al-Nusra, is credited as the best combat force fighting the Syrian government. The group slaughters civilians and captured soldiers. A favorite targets for violence and kidnapping are the minorities of Syrian Christians and Kurds.
The latest news of the effort to depose a government that never attacked the United States and posed no imminent threat has more to do with hypocrisy than death and destruction. Craven, rapacious greed flowers in the context of a full tilt violence.
U.S. sanctioned Syrian rebel fundraisers "obsessed" with oil over revolution
Sparked by a public transportation fare increase in Sao Paolo a week ago, an estimated one million people showed up in cities across Brazil expressing discontent with the limited opportunities they face and an indifferent government.
"It's not really about the price anymore," said Camila Sena, an 18-year-old university student at a Wednesday protest in Rio de Janeiro's sister city of Niteroi. "People are so disgusted with the system, so fed up that now we're demanding change." USA Today, June 20, 2013
Like the protests in Turkey over the past weeks, this is an urban phenomenon dominated by the young. Many are college educated and under or unemployed. For most, these are their first political protests. They chafe at wasted public expenditures. In Rio, for example, the government spend millions for an international soccer tournament while the people idle away with few if any prospects for meaningful employment or a future. (Image: Brasilia June 20 Semilla Luz)
The war in Syria went from a seeming quagmire to a conflict that may reach a dramatic climax with the coming battle for Aleppo, a city of nearly three million people that was once the commercial center of the nation. Political leaders and events in two other cities, Istanbul and London, will play a central role in the outcome of the battle. (Image)
The Syrian Army finished off final rebel resistance in the city of Qusayr last week fighting alongside the Lebanese group Hezbollah. As a result, the rebel supply line from Lebanon is shut down and the major road from Damascus to Aleppo via Qusayr is open. The road will serve the supply line for an attack to end rebel occupation of half of that city.
A victory by the Syrian military in Operation Northern Storm, its name for the Aleppo effort, will leave the rebels with very little in the way of major influence or meaningful territory. From the start, the rebel strategy focused on urban warfare. The various groups would have little chance of survival in a conventional battle with the Syrian Army. With the shelter of cities and towns, the Syrian Army's advantage vanished allowing the rebels to carry on the conflict and prevail in key areas.
The citizens of this country are in no mood to see U.S. military involvement in Syria. Of course, it has already begun. Consultation, secret assistance, and money given for “communications” (which allows other money for weapons) all contribute to the military effort. For months, Hillary Clinton demanded that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad leave the country. He hasn’t cooperated. What does the toughest guy on the block do when you won’t cooperate?
Any project that increases greenhouse gasses above expectations at this moment in history, particularly a substantial increase, must be determined an imminent danger to the national interest if the people living in the nation are an interest in this determination.
The United States Department of State called for public comments on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The deadline is April 22, 2013 -- Earth Day. Since Keystone is an international project, Secretary of State John Kerry has authority to decide on starting or ending the proposed conduit for toxic oil from the Alberta, Canada tar sands, across the United States, to the Houston area for refining. From there, the oil goes straight to China.
Tar sands oil produces 17% more carbon dioxide per barrel than the average barrel of oil. With China's intense demand for fuel, the volume of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere will increase at a dangerous rate even beyond the current hazardous rate of pollution.
Public Comment follows the break
By Michael Collins
(Washington, DC 1/17) The nation's capital hosted over 40,000 citizens assembled to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The crowd urged President Obama to bring to reality his lofty words on climate change in the inaugural address just days ago. By stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the president would deal a blow to the rogue energy companies who, by their actions, are ready to sacrifice everything to transport oil from Alberta, Canada's tar sands, across the United States, for refinement in Houston, Texas and shipment to China.
The broader concern of the gathered citizens and march sponsors, 350.org, and the Sierra Club, represents the existential issue of our time. We need to get very real, very soon on the manifest threat to the earth's climate posed by fossil fuels and the threat to the human species embodied by insane ventures like the Canadian tar sands project. The verdict of science is clear. As leading climate scientist James E. Hansen said, the full exploitation of tar sands oil and use by China, or any nation, is "game over for the climate."
The survival of the Syrian government represents a major failure of the empire project to recolonize and dominate energy rich Middle Eastern and North African states.
In an abrupt change from months of anticipatory triumphalism, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius admitted that Syrian President Bashar Assad will not be leaving power any time soon. This is a radical departure from the NATO script and that of their stenographers in the corporate media. We've been fed a mix of articles over the past months predicting Assad's imminent demise, filled with speculation on how post-Assad Syria will look after he's gone. (Image)
Reuters reported the Fabius remarks on January 24:
"Things are not moving. The solution that we had hoped for, and by that I mean the fall of Bashar and the arrival of the [opposition] coalition to power, has not happened."
How quickly "things" have changed. In a July 2012 fit of grandiosity, Fabius announced that "Bashar Assad does not deserve to be on the face of the planet."
(Washington, DC 1/21) A long standing Money Party front, the Business Roundtable, wants you to wait until you're 70 years old before you get Social Security and Medicare benefits. This is just a reprise of the November 2012 dictate from the king of corporate cronyism, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. (Image: DonkeyHotey) (Greenspan statement)
The boss announced, "So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained." Lloyd Blankfein, CBS News, November 2012
That's easy for Lloyd to say. He makes tens of millions of dollars a year without so much as lifting a finger. You can be sure that Blankfein has a deluxe health insurance and retirement plan.
United States and European Union sanctions against Iran prevent much needed medical care for the Iranian people. Those with cancer, for example, have lost the option of treatment through chemotherapy while hemophiliacs are at high risk for any surgery due to a denial of essential pharmaceuticals. There are 85,000 new cases of cancer every year in Iran. Those with cancer and the newly diagnosed will have to do without effective treatments. A large percentage of them will die sooner than anticipated as a result. (Image: Fergal of Calldagh)
The Iranian medical community is unable to get required medicines due to financial restrictions in the sanctions regime. The restrictions effectively blocks pharmaceutical purchases by Iranian medical facilities. No ticket, no laundry is the policy of big and little pharma throughout the world. As a result, right now -- as you read this -- innocent Iranians are dying, sentenced to death by the U.S.-E.U. sanctions.
Who on earth would initiate and sustain such a policy?
(Washington, DC, 12/9) Here we go again.
A few days later, British Prime Minister David Cameron's foreign secretary claimed that he had evidence the Syrian government plans to use chemical weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against the rebels.
After Obama's December 3 warning, Syria denied any intent to use the weapons "no matter what the circumstances" as they had after an earlier Obama warning.
Does the government of President Bashar Assad intend to use chemical WMD?
(Washington, DC 11/24) It takes a real pharaoh to build a pyramid, especially one that lasts five thousand years. It took President Mohamed Morsy of Egypt one speech for the Egyptian public to see him for what he aspires to be - a new pharaoh, with powers beyond those of his predecessor Hosni Mubarak. On Thursday, November 24, Morsy stood in front of a government building and announced a de facto dictatorship. (Image: llee wu)
The two key provisions of his decree concern a new constitution for Egypt and his absolute powers. There can be no challenge whatsoever to "all constitutional declarations, laws and decrees" made by Morsy until the new constitution is ratified and a new parliament has been elected. Then, he gave himself this blanket guarantee of absolute power until the next election: "The president is authorized to take any measures he sees fit in order to preserve and safeguard the revolution, national unity or national security." Egypt Independent, November 22
(Washington, DC, 11/15) The bitterness of the neocons knows no limit. They're still having tantrums after being denied the unchallenged ability to pillage and plunder at will (and at our expense). Never mind that the public doesn’t want to hear it. The Congressional Republicans are jumping up and down over their big question: When did President Obama know about the affair between General Petraeus and Mrs. Broadwell? Talk about a misguided salvage operation. Their inquiries will spark some questions that they won't want asked. (Image)
The real questions concern the behavior and motivation of General Petraeus in the aftermath of the murder of the United States ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, on September 11, 2012.
When did General Petraeus know the sequence of events that preceded the murder of United States Ambassador Stevens, indicating the likely motivation for the murder?
The Petraeus CIA provided inaccurate information about events on the ground to the Obama Administration, particularly to President Obama and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. Did they know it was inaccurate?
If the Petraeus CIA mislead or withheld information from the White House or allowed that to happen, was it in the service of the Romney campaign or those clamoring for an attack on Iran?
Part I of this series suggested that there may well have been massive vote flipping for candidate Mitt Romney in the Republican primaries (Rigged Elections for Romney (10/22/12) The article and the initial research analysis were received broadly. In addition, highly motivated citizens across the country and a team of high school students contacted the authors for help replicating the research in their states. The researchers, Francois et al., point out that this can be done with their open source techniques.
The basic argument is straightforward. If you look at precinct level voting data arranged from the smallest to the largest precincts, you will see Romney's gains increasing substantially as the cumulative vote increases. For example, Ohio and Wisconsin show this clearly as do eleven other states presented here. This extraordinary vote gain from smallest to largest precincts is so out of line, that the probability that this would happen by chance alone is often less than 1 out of a number represented by 1 preceded by 100 zeros and a decimal point, a value beneath the statistical package’s lower limits. As a result, the researchers termed the suspected vote flipping for Romney the “amazing anomaly.” (The Amazing Statistical Anomaly)
By Michael Collins
A group of independent researchers caught a pattern of apparent vote flipping during the 2012 Republican primaries that consistently favored Mitt Romney. A form of election fraud, vote flipping occurs when votes are changed from one candidate to another or several others during electronic voting and vote tabulation. (Image: Dean Terry)
Vote flipping is difficult to detect because the vote totals remain the same for each precinct. In one of several possible scenarios, an instruction is given to a precinct level voting machine or to a county-level central tabulator. The corrupted totals from precincts are sent from county election officials to state elections board and published as final results. (Primary documents for this article: Republican Primary Election 2012 Results: Amazing Statistical Anomalies, August 13, 2012 and 2008/2012 Election Anomalies, Results, Analysis and Concerns, September 2012).
The group's analysis is based on raw data from primary sources, local precincts, and state and county election records. The pattern of vote flipping raises serious doubts about the Romney victories in the 2012 Republican primaries in Wisconsin and the Ohio. Apparent vote flipping was demonstrated in the group’s paper for at least nine other 2012 Republican primaries as well.
(Washington, DC 10/6) The United States and European Union are setting the stage for a Syrian invasion. (Image)
Turkey is the fall guy.
The Turkish parliament provided Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan with a broad authorization "to make the necessary arrangements for sending the Turkish Armed Forces to foreign countries" Hurriyet, October 4, 2012. The vote was on party lines with the dominant AKP party forming a majority. Muharrem İnce of the CHP opposition party said: "This motion has no limits. You can wage a world war with [it]."
The warning about the road to war may be near reality. McClatchy Newspapers just reported the following:
ISTANBUL -- One day after winning blanket authority to send forces into Syria, Turkey’s prime minister warned Friday that his country is "not far from war" and said that it would be a “deadly mistake” for the Syrian government to test Turkey’s will. McClatchy Newspapers, October 6, 2012