Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
By Mike Whitney
“Syria is the summation of all the errors of a dysfunctional empire collapsing upon itself. History forgotten. Science ignored. Facts denied. Propaganda cannot hide that West is supporting and killing Islamists at the same time in a World War that risks escalating into a nuclear holocaust.” Vietnam Vet, comments-line, Sic Semper Tyrannis
September 29, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – “Counterpunch” – The attack on Deir Ezzor was a flagrant act of betrayal. For the first time in the five year-long war, US warplanes targeted an SAA military outpost killing 62 Syrian regulars. The surprise attacks — which lasted for the better part of an hour and were followed by a coordinated ground assault by members of ISIS– were intended to torpedo the fragile ceasefire agreement and send a message to Moscow that the US was prepared to achieve its strategic objectives in Syria whether it had to launch direct attacks on defenders of the regime or not.
The attacks–for which the Pentagon eventually accepted responsibility–were followed by a callous and thoroughly-unprofessional tirade by the administration’s chief diplomat at the United Nations, Samantha Power. Power dispelled any doubt that either she or anyone else in the Obama administration cared at all about the people who lost their lives in the bombing raid. She also made it clear that she didn’t care if the US had violated the terms of the ceasefire just two days before critical parts of the agreement were scheduled to be implemented.
Naturally, Moscow was taken aback by Washington’s reaction, it’s blatant disregard for the soldiers they killed, and its obvious determination to sabotage the ceasefire. Having reflected on Obama’s de facto rejection of the agreement, Putin pursued the only viable option left open to him; more war. As a result, he has intensified his efforts on the battlefield particularly around Aleppo where the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and crack-units from Hezbollah have launched a three-prong attack that will dispose of the US-backed jihadists that have destroyed much of Syria over the last half-decade and displaced over 7 million civilians.
Bottom line: Having foreclosed the political option for reducing the violence, the Obama administration will now face the consequences for its rejection.
Here’s an excellent summary of developments on the ground around Aleppo from decorated veteran and retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets) Colonel W. Patrick Lang. The article was posted on September 24:
“As of today, forces have been massed at Aleppo for the purpose of eliminating the East Aleppo rebel pocket. This pocket has now been without re-supply for an extended period. This is true for both the jihadi rebels and the civilian population, many of whom are rebel supporters.
IMO (In my opinion) the main effort by R+6 is taking place at the SE side of the East Aleppo pocket. That is now underway with massive CAS from Russian aerospace forces. At the same time Palestinian militia allies with CAS have attacked the fortified Handarat refugee camp at the NE corner of the pocket. IMO this is a secondary attack intended to prevent the rebels moving forces south to oppose the main R+6 effort.
This is an excellent plan.
At the same time there is an unconfirmed report from SOHR in London (pro-rebel) that a Russian force with 3,000 men has been positioned at al-Safir about 12 km. SE of the main attacks on the Aleppo pocket. If this report is correct this force is well positioned to reinforce the main attack or be used in a defensive move against a rebel effort elsewhere. It would be in the Russian operational tradition to pass a reinforcing “wave” or echelon of forces through the initial assault forces when they become exhausted by combat….
The foreign policy establishment (Borg) in the West wants to believe that war is obsolete as a factor in the story of humanity…. They believe that they have inherited the earth and that their cleverness will always prevail over mere force.
We will now have a demonstration that this is not true.” pl
(“Flash! Washpost discovers that Syria War may be “winnable.”, Sic Semper Tyrannis)
Obama’s de facto rejection of the ceasefire has created the conditions for a decisive military defeat in Aleppo. The fate of the CIA-trained “moderate” terrorists hunkered down in East Aleppo is not that different from that of General George Armstrong Custer at the Little Bighorn who was surrounded by a superior military force and summarily slaughtered to the man. This is the option Pentagon warlord, Ash Carter chose when he decided to sabotage the joint military implementation agreement and go rogue. Carter opposed the ceasefire deal and in doing so signed the death warrant for hundreds of US-backed extremists who chances for survival are growing slimmer by the day.
According to recent reports, pro-government forces are advancing on a number of fronts. At the same time, the Syrian and Russian air forces have intensified their bombing campaign reducing large swathes of the city to rubble and killing several hundred Sunni militants. While the jihadists have performed better than many had expected, their fate is no longer in doubt. The cauldron is encircled, their front lines are collapsing, their supply lines have been severed, and the end is in sight.
Aleppo will fall and the US-backed effort to topple the Assad government using a proxy army of Islamic extremists will fail.
A few things need to be said about the ceasefire to set the record straight.
First, there was never any chance that the US was going to abide by the terms of the agreement. The US has no way of separating the “moderates” from the extremists which was one of the main requirements of the deal. That was never going to happen. But, more importantly, the Pentagon –which opposed the agreement from the get-go –had no intention of complying with its demands.
Well, for one thing, as Syrian President Bashar al Assad said himself:
“…the United States doesn’t have the will to work against al-Nusra or ISIS, because they believe that this is a card they can use for their own agenda. If they attack al-Nusra or ISIS, they will lose a very important card regarding the situation in Syria. So, I don’t believe the United States will be ready to join Russia in fighting terrorists in Syria.”
Bingo. Assad is not suggesting that al-Nusra or ISIS are controlled by Langley. He’s merely saying that– inasmuch as the goals of these groups coincide with US strategic objectives (which they certainly do in Syria) Washington will continue to support their activities. In other words, Obama would rather see a “Salafist principality” emerge in Syria then allow an independent, secular government to remain in place. Everyone who has followed events closely in Syria for the last five years, knows this is true.
The other reason the Pentagon opposed the agreement was because they didn’t want to comply with the military-to-military coordination plan. The western media has been particularly opaque on this issue. For example, according to the New York Times deal would be “an extraordinary collaboration between the United States and Russia that calls for the American military to share information with Moscow on Islamic State targets in Syria.” (“Details of Syria Pact Widen Rift Between John Kerry and Pentagon“, New York Times)
Okay, but why is that a problem? Wouldn’t that be the most effective way to defeat ISIS and Al Qaida? Of course, it would. So, what’s the rub? Here’s more from the NYT:
“Chief among Pentagon concerns is whether sharing targeting information with Russia could reveal how the United States uses intelligence to conduct airstrikes, not just in Syria but in other places, which Moscow could then use for its own advantage in the growing confrontations undersea and in the air around the Baltics and Europe.”(NYT)
This is complete baloney. The fact is the Pentagon doesn’t want to have to get approval for its target-list (identify and verify) from the Russian military. That’s what’s really going on. And the reason for this is obvious, the strategic objectives of the US are exact opposite of Moscow’s. Washington has no interest in defeating terrorism in Syria, in fact, as we pointed out earlier, Washington is just fine with terrorism as long it helps them move the ball closer to the goalpost. What the US wants is to topple the regime, replace Assad with a US-stooge, splinter the country into multiple parts, and control vital pipeline corridors. These goals cannot be achieved if the Pentagon has to get a green-light from Moscow every time they go on a bombing raid. How are they going to assist their jihadist assets on the ground if they have to follow that rule?
They won’t be able to, which is why it’s no surprise that SECDEF Ash Carter put the kibosh on the deal by bombing the SAA positions at Deir Ezzor. The massacre effectively ended all talk about “coordination” with the Russians. Mission accomplished.
But even this does not completely explain why the Pentagon launched this unprecedented attack that killed 62 Syrian soldiers and moved the two superpowers closer to a direct confrontation. To grasp what’s really going on behind the endless recriminations, we need to understand that the Obama administration has abandoned its original plan to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and moved on to Plan B; partitioning the country in a way that establishes a separate Sunni state where US troops will be based and where vital pipelines will be built to transfer natural gas from Qatar to the EU.
This ambitious plan is more than a redrawing of the Middle East and a pivot to Asia. It is a critical lifeline to a country (USA) whose economic prospects are progressively dimming, whose credit card is maxed out, and who is counting on a Hail Mary pass in Syria to save itself from cataclysmic economic collapse and ruination. Washington must succeed in Syria because, well, because it must, because the red ink has finally penetrated the pinewood hull and is fast filling the galley. A defeat in the Middle East could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, the tipping point in the agonizingly-protracted unipolar-new-world-order experiment. In other words, it’s Syria or bust. Here’s a little background that will help to clarify what’s going on:
“Washington has previously made it clear that if it cannot achieve its plan A; regime change, it will go for its plan B; to balkanize the country and help to create a Kurdish and/or Sunni state in eastern Syria…
Attacking the Syrian Army, and allowing ISIL to capture the city will make Deir Ezzor a probable target for the US-backed proxies to attack and annex.” (“The Ceasefire Failed; What happens now?“, The Vineyard of the Saker)
So, Washington wants to control Syria’s eastern quadrant (where Deir Ezzor is located) for military bases, pipeline routes, and a Sunni homeland, which is more-or-less the pretext for continued military occupation. Here’s more from an article by Christina Lin:
“Writing in Armed Forces Journal4, Major Rob Taylor joined numerous other pundits in observing that the Syrian civil war is actually a pipeline war over control of energy supply, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey needing to remove Assad “so they can control Syria and run their own pipeline through Turkey.”….
…if the Saudi/Qatar/Turkey backed Army of Conquest can control just enough land in Syria for a salafist statelet (aka–Sunnistan) to build the Qatar-Turkey pipeline, then these sunni states can finally realize their pipeline dream. Indeed, the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report6 corroborates their desire to carve out a salafist statelet in Syria east of Assad-controlled territory in order to put pressure on his regime.” (“Chinese stratagems and Syrian buffer zone for Turkey-Qatar pipeline“, Christina Lin, Times of Israel)
The idea of splintering Syria into numerous fragments (and controlling the eastern portion of the state) has been promoted by western elites across the board, from neocon John Bolton who said:
“Today’s reality is that Iraq and Syria as we have known them are gone…..Washington should recognize the new geopolitics. The best alternative to the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and western Iraq is a new, independent Sunni state.
This “Sunni-stan” has economic potential as an oil producer….and could be a bulwark against both Mr. Assad and Iran-allied Baghdad.” (“To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State“, New York Times)
Liberal interventionists at the Brookings Institute are pushing for the same balkanization remedy. Here’s a clip from an article at Brookings titled “Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war” by chief military analyst, Michael O’ Hanlon:
“…the only realistic path forward may be a plan that in effect deconstructs Syria….the international community should work to create pockets with more viable security and governance within Syria over time… Creation of these sanctuaries would produce autonomous zones that would never again have to face the prospect of rule by either Assad or ISIL….”
(“Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war“, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Brookings Institute)
So, there you have it; divide and conquer. Split up the country, install new leaders, and let the plundering begin. Sound familiar?
But the Russian’s will have none of it, in fact, Putin has responded to Carter’s escalation by escalating himself. The circle around Aleppo has closed, supply lines have been cut, the airstrikes have intensified, and the three-pronged ground assault has already begun. So while Washington may have big plans for Syria, they appear to be failing where it counts most…..on the battlefield.