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Here’s an update on ‘The Great Battle of Aleppo’

Rebel advances in southwest Aleppo likely to be ephemeral.

Alexander Mercouris

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News of the capture by Jihadi rebels led by Jabhat Al-Nusra on Saturday morning of a Syrian military technical college in the outskirts of Aleppo in what the rebels are now calling ‘the Great Battle of Aleppo’ has led to a rush of claims in the media that the siege of Aleppo had been broken.

These reports reflect a misunderstanding of the fighting around Aleppo.  As I discussed previously the Syrian army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies simply do not have the numbers to mount a siege of eastern Aleppo similar to a medieval siege.  Here is what I said before:

“Here it is important to make some qualifications.  This is not the sort of siege that used to happen in the Middle Ages when an army would surround a town or castle whose garrison and population would then be completely cut off from the outside world.  The Syrian army does not have the manpower to besiege the rebels in Aleppo in that way.  It cannot control every inch of the territory around Aleppo and there are still plenty of ways for rebel fighters both to enter and exit the area of the city they control.”

To conduct the sort of encirclement of eastern Aleppo some people in the media has been talking about the Syrian army and its allies would need a force of more than a hundred thousand men, which is probably more than the total number of men the Syrian army has under arms across the whole of Syria.

Given this lack of manpower it is inevitable that the Syrian military will face periods when it becomes overstretched and has to make tactical retreats in the face of overwhelming rebel attacks.  This happened on several occasions during the Syrian military’s offensive in February when rebel counter-attacks for brief stretches of time succeeded in closing the road links to Aleppo.  It happened again in March when rebel offensives near Aleppo led by Jabhat Al-Nusra temporarily recovered some ground.

If it is true that as many as 10,000 rebel fighters have been involved in the rebel offensive in south west Aleppo over the last week, then it is a certainty that the Syrian military in the area of the technical college has been heavily outnumbered.  This was almost certainly the case even if the number of rebel fighters was much lower, closer to the lowest figure given, which is 3,500.  Probably the total number of Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters defending the technical college numbered no more than a few hundred men at most, with the greater part of the better units of the Syrian army that are located in and around Aleppo still positioned in its northern outskirts where they recently closed the Castello road.  

When thousands of rebels stormed the college late on Friday night – apparently with the help of seven suicide bombers driving trucks laden with explosives – the Syrian troops and their Hezbollah allies defending the college kept themselves alive (and therefore able to fight another day) by sensibly retreating first to the northern part of the college and then by withdrawing from the college completely on Saturday morning.  To have done otherwise would have invited a mass slaughter to no purpose, with the practice of the Jihadi fighters being to take no prisoners.  As Frederick the Great is reputed to have said, he who defends everything defends nothing.

The point is that this is almost certainly an ephemeral victory achieved by the rebels at horrendous cost.  The rebels cannot use the small corridor they have punched through the government lines to re-supply the rebels in eastern Aleppo to any great degree, since the corridor can be easily bombed and shelled by the Syrian military and the Russian air force.  Any rebel units stationed at the college will quickly become a target for Syrian and Russian bombing and shelling, and reports say that this is already happening. 

More important still is that in order to maintain the momentum of their offensive the rebels are having to pull in men and supplies from across Syria and to concentrate them in a confined space where they are becoming easy targets for the Russian air force.  It is a common myth that the rebels can always replace their losses because they have unlimited numbers of jihadi fighters at their disposal.  If that were true the rebels would have won the war in Syria long ago.  In reality as previous wars in Chechnya and Iraq show the pool of such people is actually relatively small.  If the rebel losses the Syrians and the Russians are claiming are anywhere close to being true, then the rebels simply will not be able to sustain this effort for very long.  As the rebel effort slackens, repeating the pattern of previous battles fought in Syria over the last few months, the Syrian military will counter-attack, recovering all the ground it has lost (including the technical college) and gaining more besides.  Already there are reports of Syrian army units and Hezbollah fighters being redeployed to the area, probably precisely in preparation for the launch of such a counter-offensive.

The essential point is that what is being fought in and around Aleppo is a battle of attrition, which without external intervention the rebels cannot win.

In addition the rebel offensive has demonstrated something else, which is politically important in the context of the continuous dialogue the Russians are having with the US and – perhaps even more importantly in the aftermath of the coup attempt – with President Erdogan of Turkey.  At the time of the “cessation of hostilities” agreement in February the US agreed that Jabhat Al-Nusra is a terrorist organisation and that the rebels in Syria should dissociate themselves from it.  This agreement – and therefore this demand – were subsequently enshrined in a Resolution of the UN Security Council, and is therefore binding on the Turks.

Not only have the rebels in Aleppo completely failed to dissociate themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra but over the last few days they have enthusiastically joined an offensive in which Jabhat Al-Nusra under its new name has provided the leadership.  The reason for that is of course that all the rebels in and around Aleppo either belong to Jabhat Al-Nusra or to groups associated with it and are all Jihadis.  The “moderate rebels” supposedly holding out in Aleppo against overwhelming odds simply don’t exist outside the imaginations of certain Western politicians and Western writers.

The US and the Turks will of course try to counter that what has supposedly driven the “moderate rebels” in Aleppo to unite behind Jabhat Al-Nusra is the Syrian offensive and the Russian bombing. That is however a threadbare argument and in their private discussions with the Russians Kerry and Erdogan and their diplomats will both find that following the rebel offensive their argument has just been made weaker.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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