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Bitter battles rage around Palmyra as ISIS goes back on the attack

Recapture of Palmyra – if confirmed – to be an ephemeral victory for ISIS given importance of the city for Russia.

Alexander Mercouris

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Even as the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’ approaches its conclusion, confirmation that the elimination of the Jihadi pocket there will not end the war came with an ISIS offensive to recapture Palmyra in central Syria.

ISIS launched this offensive on Thursday, and it is apparently being given heavy publicity by ISIS in its various media outlets. 

As is always the case in Syria, the fog of war is heavy, and it is not possible to know exactly what is going on. 

However it seems that ISIS captured part of Palmyra yesterday but was then driven back by Syrian army counterattacks supported by the Russian air force. 

The very latest reports however suggest that this morning ISIS attacked again, and that it is now in control of most of Palmyra.

A number of points can be made about these events.

Firstly, if ISIS has indeed recaptured Palmyra, then its possession of the city will be brief. 

Though Palmyra’s military significance is debatable, its significance for the Russians as a cultural symbol which they liberated in March is huge.  That guarantees the Russians will commit whatever forces are necessary to retake it – including Russian Special Forces which reports say are being sent there – and that in turn guarantees that if ISIS has indeed taken Palmyra it will be retaken from ISIS shortly.

The ISIS offensive against Palmyra does however illustrate a number of important points.

Firstly, it is clear that ISIS is not a spent force. 

According to the Russian military ISIS has brought together 5,000 fighters for this offensive, sending fighters from Iraq, Raqqa in Syria, and from its forces besieging the eastern Syrian desert city of Deir Ezzor. 

By the standards of the Syrian war this is a large force, and it is a certainty that the Syrian troops defending Palmyra have been heavily outnumbered.

ISIS has been able to launch this offensive notwithstanding US claims that it is fighting for its life as  it faces US led offensives against Mosul and Raqqa. 

There is in fact no sign of a serious US led offensive against Raqqa, whilst the offensive against Mosul has stalled.  I said this some weeks ago on 19th November 2016, and recent reports in the Western media have confirmed it.

Obviously if ISIS really were under serious pressure in Raqqa it would not be able to send fighters from there to attack Palmyra.  ISIS’s latest offensive against Palmyra is therefore proof that the US led offensive against Raqqa is a fiction, whilst the fact ISIS has sent fighters from Iraq to Palmyra shows it is still a formidable force in Iraq as well.

Secondly, the ISIS offensive against Palmyra has obviously been timed to coincide with the Syrian army’s offensive in Aleppo, which has obliged the Syrian army to redeploy many of its best troops to Aleppo.

Inevitably there will be suspicions that ISIS’s offensive against Palmyra is intended to relieve pressure on the Jihadis in Aleppo by forcing the Syrian army to redeploy troops from Aleppo to fight ISIS in Palmyra.

This is certainly possible.  Collusion between ISIS and Al-Qaeda (which is leading the Jihadi resistance in Aleppo) has definitely occurred previously, as I discussed here on 2nd November 2016.

ISIS is however a highly opportunistic organisation.  Its method is to launch lighting attacks that exploit its adversaries’ moments of weakness.  It is not impossible the attack on Palmyra is simply an example of this, with ISIS taking advantage of the Syrian army’s distraction by its focus on the battle for Aleppo.

Thirdly, the extent of ISIS’s success in this latest offensive once again highlights a key fact about this war, which is the limited manpower resources of the Syrian army. 

Quite simply, the Syrian army does not have the men to be strong everywhere.  As its focus over the last few months has shifted to clearing the countryside around Damascus and to liberating Aleppo – cities of far greater importance to Syria than Palmyra – it has been unable to press home the advantage it gained in the spring in Palmyra, and it has had to draw down its forces there.

That is why the Syrian troops in Palmyra were both heavily outnumbered by ISIS, and have had to pull back. 

To get a sense of this consider this report from Al-Masdar, which has sources within the Syrian military

“The militants consequently captured Al-Amariyah district and a hilltop of the same name, Officers Housing complex, and the Citadel of Palmyra, which made any further attempts to hold positions inside the city completely senseless.  According to several reports, some Syrian Arab Army units still remain in the city providing cover to their comrades that retreat westwards. After retreat is complete these units will withdraw as well.”

(bold italics added)

The Russians, whose military ethos when placed in such situations is to fight on until relieved (consider for example the conduct of Russian peacekeepers in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali during the 2008 war there) must find this attitude baffling and deeply frustrating, and it is easy to imagine the recriminations between them and the Syrians that must now be underway.

The reality is that Syrian troops throughout the war have shown no lack of courage, and some of their officers have shown themselves to be determined and courageous battlefield commanders. 

However their lack of numbers means that they simply cannot afford to risk the potential losses that come with heroic stands.  It makes more sense for them in these situations to pull back, saving themselves so that they can go back on the attack later.

In summary, this latest ISIS offensive will not change the course of the Syrian war.  It will not prevent the fall of what is left of the Jihadi pocket of eastern Aleppo, which the Syrian military now says will take place within the next 48 hours.  Nor will ISIS retain control of Palmyra for very long if as the latest reports suggest it has captured it. 

However it does show that the war in Syria is far from over, that ISIS remains a formidable enemy, and that is under far less pressure in Raqqa and in Iraq than US claims suggest.

It also shows that the Syrians and the Russians are still hampered by the Syrian army’s lack of numbers, which has heavily conditioned the way it has fought the war.

What that means is that the war will continue at least for some time even after the Jihadi pocket in eastern Aleppo is finally extinguished, and that there is much bitter fighting ahead.

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US media suffers panic attack after Mueller fails to deliver on much-anticipated Trump indictment

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

RT

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Via RT


Important pundits and news networks have served up an impressive display of denials, evasions and on-air strokes after learning that Robert Mueller has ended his probe without issuing a single collusion-related indictment.

The Special Counsel delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr for review on Friday, with the Justice Department confirming that there will be no further indictments related to the probe. The news dealt a devastating blow to the sensational prophesies of journalists, analysts and entire news networks, who for nearly two years reported ad nauseam that President Donald Trump and his inner circle were just days away from being carted off to prison for conspiring with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Showing true integrity, journalists and television anchors took to Twitter and the airwaves on Friday night to acknowledge that the media severely misreported Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as what Mueller’s probe was likely to find. They are, after all, true professionals.

“How could they let Trump off the hook?” an inconsolable Chris Matthews asked NBC reporter Ken Dilanian during a segment on CNN’s ‘Hardball’.

Dilanian tried to comfort the CNN host with some of his signature NBC punditry.

“My only conclusion is that the president transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and therefore, Mueller decided it wasn’t worth the subpoena fight,” he expertly mused.

Actually, there were several Serious Journalists who used their unsurpassed analytical abilities to conjure up a reason why Mueller didn’t throw the book at Trump, even though the president is clearly a Putin puppet.

“It’s certainly possible that Trump may emerge from this better than many anticipated. However! Consensus has been that Mueller would follow DOJ rules and not indict a sitting president. I.e. it’s also possible his report could be very bad for Trump, despite ‘no more indictments,'” concluded Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, who presumably, and very sadly, was not being facetious.

Revered news organs were quick to artfully modify their expectations regarding Mueller’s findings.

“What is collusion and why is Robert Mueller unlikely to mention it in his report on Trump and Russia?” a Newsweek headline asked following Friday’s tragic announcement.

Three months earlier, Newsweek had meticulously documented all the terrible “collusion” committed by Donald Trump and his inner circle.

But perhaps the most sobering reactions to the no-indictment news came from those who seemed completely unfazed by the fact that Mueller’s investigation, aimed at uncovering a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin, ended without digging up a single case of “collusion.”

The denials, evasions and bizarre hot takes are made even more poignant by the fact that just days ago, there was still serious talk about Trump’s entire family being hauled off to prison.

“You can’t blame MSNBC viewers for being confused. They largely kept dissenters from their Trump/Russia spy tale off the air for 2 years. As recently as 2 weeks ago, they had @JohnBrennan strongly suggesting Mueller would indict Trump family members on collusion as his last act,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

While the Mueller report has yet to be released to the public, the lack of indictments makes it clear that whatever was found, nothing came close to the vast criminal conspiracy alleged by virtually the entire American media establishment.

“You have been lied to for 2 years by the MSM. No Russian collusion by Trump or anyone else. Who lied? Head of the CIA, NSA,FBI,DOJ, every pundit every anchor. All lies,” wrote conservative activist Chuck Woolery.

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom was more blunt, but said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

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Canadian Lawmaker Accuses Trudeau Of Being A “Fake Feminist” (Video)

Rempel segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career

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Via Zerohedge

Canada’s feminist-in-chief Justin Trudeau wants to support and empower women…but his support stops at the point where said women start creating problems for his political agenda.

That was the criticism levied against the prime minister on Friday by a conservative lawmaker, who took the PM to task for “muzzling strong, principled women” during a debate in the House of Commons.

“He asked for strong women, and this is what they look like!” said conservative MP Michelle Rempel, referring to the former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has accused Trudeau and his cronies of pushing her out of the cabinet after she refused to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to a Quebec-based engineering firm.

She then accused Trudeau of being a “fake feminist”.

“That’s not what a feminist looks like…Every day that he refuses to allow the attorney general to testify and tell her story is another day he’s a fake feminist!”

Trudeau was so taken aback by Rempel’s tirade, that he apparently forgot which language he should respond in.

But Rempel wasn’t finished. She then segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career. This from a man who once objected to the continued use of the word “mankind” (suggesting we use “peoplekind” instead).

The conservative opposition then tried to summon Wilson-Raybould to appear before the Commons for another hearing (during her last appearance, she shared her account of how the PM and employees in the PM’s office and privy council barraged her with demands that she quash the government’s pursuit of SNC-Lavalin over charges that the firm bribed Libyan government officials). Wilson-Raybould left the Trudeau cabinet after she was abruptly moved to a different ministerial post – a move that was widely seen as a demotion.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he put in a good word on the firm’s behalf with Wilson-Raybould, but insists that he always maintained the final decision on the case was hers and hers alone.

Fortunately for Canadians who agree with Rempel, it’s very possible that Trudeau – who has so far resisted calls to resign – won’t be in power much longer, as the scandal has cost Trudeau’s liberals the lead in the polls for the October election.

 

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Why Joe May be Courting Stacey

Joe Biden has a history on compulsory integration dating back to the 1970s that Sen. Jesse Helms called “enlightened.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


Of 895 slots in the freshman class of Stuyvesant High in New York City, seven were offered this year to black students, down from 10 last year and 13 the year before.

In the freshman class of 803 at The Bronx High School of Science, 12 students are black, down from last year’s 25.

Of 303 students admitted to Staten Island Technical High School, one is African-American.

According to The New York Times, similar patterns of admission apply at the other five most elite high schools in the city.

Whites and Asians are 30 percent of middle school students, but 83 percent of the freshman at Bronx High School of Science, 88 percent at Staten Island Technical and 90 percent at Stuyvesant.

What do these numbers tell us?

They reveal the racial composition of the cohort of scientists and technicians who will lead America in the 21st century. And they tell us which races will not be well represented in that vanguard.

They identify a fault line that runs through the Democratic Party, separating leftists who believe in equality of results for all races and ethnic groups, and those who believe in a meritocracy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed anger and frustration at the under-representation of blacks and Hispanics in the elite schools. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have ignored his pleas to change the way students are admitted.

Currently, the same test, of English and math, is given to middle school applicants. And admission to the elite eight is offered to those who get the highest scores.

Moreover, Asians, not whites, are predominant.

Though 15 percent of all middle school students, Asians make up two-thirds of the student body at Stuyvesant, with 80 times as many slots as their African-American classmates.

The egalitarian wing of the Democratic Party sees this as inherently unjust. And what gives this issue national import are these factors:

First, the recent scandal where rich parents paid huge bribes to criminal consultants to get their kids into elite colleges, by falsifying records of athletic achievement and cheating on Scholastic Aptitude Tests, has caused a wave of populist resentment.

Second, Harvard is being sued for systemic reverse racism, as black and Hispanic students are admitted with test scores hundreds of points below those that would disqualify Asians and whites.

Third, Joe Biden has a history on compulsory integration dating back to the 1970s that Sen. Jesse Helms called “enlightened.”

Here are Biden’s quotes, unearthed by The Washington Post, that reflect his beliefs about forced busing for racial balance in public schools:

“The new integration plans being offered are really just quota systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with.

“What it says is, ‘In order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son.’ That’s racist!

“Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?

“I am philosophically opposed to quota systems. They insure mediocrity.”

That was 44 years ago. While those views were the thinking of many Democrats, and perhaps of most Americans, in the mid-’70s, they will be problematic in the 2020 primaries, where African-Americans could be decisive in the contests that follow Iowa and New Hampshire.

Biden knows that just as Bernie Sanders, another white male, fell short in crucial South Carolina because of a lack of support among black voters, he, too, has a problem with that most loyal element in the Democratic coalition.

In 1991, Biden failed to rise to the defense of Anita Hill when she charged future Justice Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was a law-and-order champion responsible for tough anti-crime legislation that is now regarded as discriminatory.

And he has a record on busing for racial balance that made him a de facto ally of Louise Day Hicks of the Boston busing case fame.

How, with a record like this, does Biden inoculate himself against attacks by rival candidates, especially candidates of color, in his run for the nomination?

One way would be to signal to his party that he has grown, he has changed, and his 2020 running mate will be a person of color. Perhaps he’ll run with a woman of color such as Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia.

An ancillary benefit would be that Abrams on the ticket would help him carry Georgia, a state Donald Trump probably cannot lose and win re-election.

Wrote Axios this morning:

“Close advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are debating the idea of packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president.”


Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”

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