Saturday, April 08, 2017

A Prelude to War?

On April 6th, the US fired 59 "Tomahawk" cruise missiles at a cost of some $1.5 million dollars each at the Syrian Al Shayrat air force base located in Homs. The US and Western corporate media claimed there was extensive damage to the base, with between 23 and 26 top line fighters destroyed as well as damage to the runways, maintenance and storage outbuildings and hangers. The Syrian and Russian media outlets, however, reported that the damage was minimal, with only six planes destroyed and four suffering minor damage. A few of the reinforced dual hangers suffered some damage but remained functional. They confirmed that several of the outlining maintenance and storage buildings hit, resulting in significant damage, however none of fuel or weapons storage facilities were affected while the runways were undamaged. As proof, Russian and Syrian media showed footage of the base. In addition they reported that six individuals were killed and about a dozen were injured in the attack. As if to reemphasis the point, the following day, Syrian jets took off from the base's air strip. The Al Shayrat base is home to the Syrian 50th Air Brigade which is comprised of the 675th, 677th, and the 685th fighter squadrons (the 675th is made up of the MIG-23 "Flogger" while the other two are comprised of Sukhoi SU-22Fs). Russia's 120th Artillery Brigade is stationed there along with approximately ten "Hind" attack helicopters.

What prompted the US attack is a matter of some conjecture. Approximately two days earlier, fighter jets from the Al Shayrat base took off with instructions to knock out a rebel stronghold in the rebel controlled city of Khan Sheikhun, in the Idlib Provence, which allegedly contained a warehouse of various weapons, rockets, ammunition, and artillery shells. The Syrian jets successfully hit their objective and removed it as threat to Syrian government forces and the surrounding pro-Assad population. Shortly afterwards, came the first reports of a nerve gas cloud. Now, this is where things get a little murky, but first, let's explain who these rebels are. As everyone knows or should know by now, the US and a handful of Western nations have been battling Islamic extremist aka "the terrorists" in Iraq, Afghanistan . These terrorists are known variously as ISIS, ISIL, Al Qaeda, and so forth. In Syria, they are known as the Al Nusra Front. These are the same groups which were involved with the attacks on 9/11, and numerous other attacks in France, England, Germany, Russia, and most recently in Sweden.

However, Al Nusra opposes President Assad of Syria. Their goal, as always, is to create a Islamic Caliphate of the extremist variety. Syria, which has been generally pro-Western and secular since the end of World War I, has been a long time regional ally of Russia, and recently, chummy with China (Russia and China are also on friendly terms with Iran, while Iran funds and arms their proxy terrorist organizations, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza). Since the US would like to isolate Russia in the Middle East, we have tried to destabilize the Assad Government whenever and wherever possible. The current civil war, has proven to be an excellent opportunity. However, in order to do so, we have had to ally ourselves with the rebel opposing Assad; and yes, they are the very same people we are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and has been attacking the West is now our buddies in Syria. Amazingly stupid if you ask me.

Shortly after the recent attack, there was reports of what appeared to be a sarin gas cloud. News footage seemed to confirm that there had indeed been a release of the highly toxic never agent. Horrific scenes of dead and dying women, men, and children, along with brave attempts to save those still alive was broadcasted around the world. Condemnation from throughout the world was loud and swift. The only problem, however, was who did it? The US was the first nation to point the finger at Assad's government. It claimed that their intelligence reports "confirm" that the Syrian jets had dropped the sarin gas in a blatant disregard of international law or even basic respect for humanity. Based on the claims of the US Government, other nations joined in their condemnation of Assad.

However, there was a problem with this claim by the Trump Administration. Both Russia and the Syrian governments maintained that the Syrian military does not have any chemical weapons. They claim that the rebel warehouse must have stored the toxic agent and was released by the bombing, which is why there was such a limited exposure. Several years ago there was a similar incident in Syria where there was a sarin gas attack on a small pro-government neighborhood. President Obama, again acting on US military intelligence reports, quickly blamed the Assad Government and began demanding that the US military intervene in Syria's Civil War for "humanitarian" purposes. Both Putin and Assad insisted that the attack, which was made from nearby artillery fire, was the work of the rebels who were assaulting pro-government forces (and losing). Both Assad and Putin also stated that Syrian doesn't have sarin gas. Finally, in a last ditch effort to prevent a US military invasion of its ally, Russia produced satellite imagery and other intelligence reports confirming the Syrian military didn't fire on their own troops and pro-government neighborhood.

So here we go again. Same scenario. Different president. Meanwhile, Russian ships of the Black Sea Fleet are moving into the region. The speed at which Russia is able to move ships into region is another reason for Russia's long standing presence in the Crimea, which is home for the Black Sea Fleet. Additionally, Russia, which has about 9000 military personnel in Syria, is reinforcing its air defense networks in and around its bases while the US is positioning a carrier task force to bolster their resolve. The British and French navies also maintain a strong presence in the Mediterranean , along with other NATO nation countries, including Italy, Greece, and Turkey (which, ironically, had just concluded war games in the Black Sea with the same Russian ships who are now steaming toward the Levant).

President Assad is winning the Civil War, despite US support for the rebels. He has publicly stated that Syria will need to the support of other nations to help rebuild their infrastructure and the economy. President Putin has maintained from the beginning that his goal is to protect his friend and ally, plus remove the terrorist threat not just from the region, but from Russia as well. Russia has the longest unbroken border of any country with majority Muslim countries; many of whom had been former Soviet Republics back in the days of the USSR. However, Russia has faced a growing threat from radical Muslim terrorists since the 1980's, including violent attacks in Moscow and more recently, St. Petersburg, not to mention their war with Chechnyan guerillas in the Republic of Georgia.

As for the rebels, they have repeatedly shown in the alter identity as "terrorists" to have a complete disregard for human life. They have massacred thousands of Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, non-Muslims, gays, not to mention ordinary civilians. They have raped countless women and children and sold untold numbers into sex slavery. Their atrocities have prompted one of the largest mass exoduses in world history; most of which has descended on Europe with trickles coming to the US. Unfortunately, with this mass migration has come terrorist cells intent on spreading their hate and bloodshed. So, why would the US align themselves with the likes of these monsters? The only explanation I can come up with is the same of ole one---control. Control over the oil and gas fields. Control over shipping routes. Strategic control over territory to further helm in Russia. Plus, it could provide a staging area for an invasion, either directly or indirectly, against Iran. It would also separate Iran from Hezbollah and Hamas, which could relieve pressure on Israel and even Egypt and Lebanon. It would also secure Israel's northern border with Syria and end the standoff over the Golan Heights, which was seized in the Six Day War of 1967. In addition, it would prove to be an excellent investment for US and Western business. After all, "someone" has to help with the rebuilding and provide the investment capital right? Why not our friendly neo-fascist Oligarchy?

I think there's a lot of potential for missteps in this game of geo-politics; missteps that the world cannot afford. We need to put aside our outdated Cold War mentality and forget about trying to fight the last war. The world has changed. Old ideas of political ideology belong to the history books. Nowadays, we face a common foe who couldn't care less about Communism or Capitalism. This enemy fights for its religion. Nothing and no one else matters. It sees no different between Moscow, Berlin, Beijing, Paris, Mexico City, Ottawa, London, or Washington DC. The US cannot win this war alone. It needs committed allies. Russia appears to be willing to be that ally, but will the Oligarchy who rules this country let it? Will it allow us?

The Latest: US Calls for Transparency in UN Syrian Summit

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U.S. Missile Attack on Syria: What We Know and Don't Know

Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U.S. Blames Assad

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