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CONFIRMED: Syrian army crushes Al-Qaeda counter-offensive in Aleppo

The Al-Qaeda led attempt to break siege of Jihadi held eastern districts of Aleppo was repulsed with heavy losses.

Alexander Mercouris

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Reports from Aleppo confirm that the Al-Qaeda Jihadi counter-offensive to break the siege of the Jihadi held eastern districts of Aleppo has for the moment at least failed.  

The Syrian army has recaptured all the points captured by the Al-Qaeda Jihadis in the first two days of their counter-offensive.  

Reports also agree that the Jihadis have suffered heavy losses, though there is as usual wide disagreement about the extent of these losses.

The Syrian army has achieved this victory without the intervention of the Russian Aerospace Forces, which have played no part in this fighting.  If Vladimir Putin refused the Russian General Staff’s request to resume bombing in Aleppo because he was confident that the Syrian army would win by itself, then events have proved him right.

It is possible that after pulling back Al-Qaeda will try again, and will launch yet another counter-offensive to break the siege of the city.  However for the moment this Jihadi counter-offensive looks to have not merely failed but to have been a lot less effective than the previous Jihadi counter-offensive, which was launched at the end of July. 

That counter-offensive, though it eventually failed, did succeed for a time in punching a hole through the Syrian army’s lines.  It took the Syrian army several weeks of intense fighting, and heavy bombing by the Russian Aerospace Forces, before the hole was closed and the Jihadis were finally driven back.

Whilst it is very difficult through the fog of war to know why things were so different this time, it is possible to guess, and two factors appear to have been in play.

The Jihadi counter-offensive in July was launched literally days after the end of a Syrian army offensive in the northern part of the city which captured the previously Jihadi held Castello road. 

This meant that when the Jihadis launched their counteroffensive against the Ramousseh district in the south west of the city in July, the Syrian army’s best units in the city were still concentrated in the north of the city, along the Castello road, away from the centre of the fighting in the south west.

This time the Syrian army has had 3 months to consolidate its positions in the city, including both in the city’s suburbs in the north and in the south west. 

Indeed the Syrian army spent much of the time following the defeat of last summer’s Jihadi counter-offensive capturing hill positions to the south west of the city, in what appears to have been a successful attempt to strengthen its defences in the area in preparation for the second Jihadi counter-offensive it obviously knew was going to come.

If the Syrian army in Aleppo appears to be stronger than it was in July and August, the Jihadis may have grown weaker. 

Whilst it is not known how many Jihadis were involved in the latest counter-offensive (the highest estimate puts the number at 16,000), the best estimate is that the number was around 3,000.   If so that would be significantly below the 10,000 Jihadis who are supposed to have taken part in the counter-offensive in July and August.

Heavy Jihadi losses appear to be taking their toll, and Al-Qaeda and the other Jihadi groups may be struggling to replace them. 

According to the CIA, 2,000 armed Jihadis were crossing the border from Turkey into Syria every month during the peak period of the war in 2014 and 2015, in January of this year, following the arrival of the Russian Aerospace Forces, that number fell to 200 a month, and it has probably fallen further since.

The belief in the unlimited number of fanatical Jihadis that Al-Qaeda and other Jihadi groups in Syria can call upon was always something of a myth, and it looks like the pool may now be running dry. 

Meanwhile, according to the Iranian news agency Fars, there are already bitter recriminations underway between the Jihadis over the failure of their latest counter-offensive in Aleppo, with the blame for the debacle being placed on Saudi cleric Dr Abdullah al-Muhaysini, the nominal leader of the so-called “Army of Conquest”, the Jihadi umbrella group behind which Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch Jabhat Al-Nusra operates. 

Apparently al-Muhaysini is being criticised for his “totally wrong strategy” and for his “naive plans” which have “sent hundreds of fighters to meet their death”. 

Fars even reports social media comments by Jihadi supporters complaining that

“….. al-Muhaysini has sent the foreign members of the militant groups to the Aleppo battlefield to get rid of them.”

Meanwhile reports confirm that Colonel Suheil al-Hassan, the semi-legendary commander of the Syrian army’s elite Tiger Forces, is now in the city with his troops, who are supposedly equipped with advanced Russian T90 tanks, and who include a group of commandos of the Syrian army’s Desert Hawks Special Forces Brigade.

There are also reports that the Russian fleet, which includes the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and the nuclear powered missile battle cruiser Pyotr Veliky, has now reached the north African coast, and that it has been joined by two Shchuka-B (“Akula”) class nuclear powered submarines equipped with cruise missiles, and that it is about to enter the Mediterranean.

It seems that just as the Jihadi counter-offensive in Aleppo has been defeated, Syrian and Russian forces possibly earmarked for the operation to storm the Jihadi held eastern districts of the city are gathering.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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