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CONFIRMED: Syrian army resumes advance in Aleppo

Following end of ‘humanitarian pause’ Syrian army resumes attack on Jihadis in south west suburbs of Aleppo.

Alexander Mercouris




Though inevitably it has been overshadowed by the US election, the situation on the ground in Syria continues to develop with further advances by the Syrian army being reported on all the fronts in western Syria in which it is engaged.

In the key battle ground of Aleppo the Syrian army, having repulsed the latest attack by the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis, appears to be preparing for a major advance in south west Aleppo. 

Following the end of Friday’s ‘humanitarian pause” – which as expected the Jihadis ignored – the Syrian air force has been back in action, bombing Jihadi positions in south west Aleppo.   The Syrian army has also made inroads in the strategically important 1060 apartment complex (the very latest reports suggest it may have captured it entirely). 

There are also reports – so far unconfirmed – that the Russian Aerospace Forces have been in action again, attacking Jihadi positions in south west Aleppo in conjunction with the Syrian air force (the Russian Defence Ministry is however denying reports that the Russian Aerospace Forces have been in action against Jihadi supply lines west of the Aleppo battlefront in Al-Qaeda controlled Idlib province).

The Syrian army’s Chief of Staff – Lt. General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub – has recently inspected Syrian army positions in Aleppo, apparently in preparation for the offensive, and the Iranian news agency Fars is reporting that it will take place within the next few days.

The Syrian army’s battle strategy in Aleppo is dictated by one overriding factor – its lack of any decisive numerical advantage over the Jihadis it is fighting.

According to the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura there are 8,000 Jihadis trapped inside eastern Aleppo (though he claims absurdly that only 900 of them are Al-Qaeda connected Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters).  According to Russian, Syrian and Iranian news agency reports, around 16,000 Al-Qaeda led Jihadis attacked south west Aleppo during the last two Jihadi counter offensives.  That would make for a total of 24,000 Jihadi fighters fighting the Syrian army in and around Aleppo during the recent fighting.

No similar breakdown of the total number of Syrian and allied troops in Aleppo has ever been provided, save that a few weeks ago there were reports that 8,000 Shia militia for Iraq had joined the Syrian troops there.  A Daily Telegraph report in September however put the number of Syrian troops in Aleppo at about 15-20,000. 

It seems therefore that the two opposing forces fighting in Aleppo have roughly equal numbers.  If the highest estimates for the number of Jihadis (24,000) and the lowest estimates for the number of Syrian troops (15,000) are both true, then it is not impossible that the total number of Jihadi fighters fighting in and around Aleppo actually outnumbers the total number of Syrian and allied troops fighting there.

Compare this situation with the one in Mosul, where US intelligence claims that there are between 3,000 to 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul itself supplemented by a further 1,500 to 2,000 ISIS fighters in a zone outside the city, pitted against a coalition force consisting of Iraqi troops and anti-ISIS forces whose total number is put at anywhere between 40,000 to 100,000.

It is this lack of a decisive manpower advantage that explains the incremental strategy the Syrian army has been obliged to follow in Aleppo.  Quite simply, the Syrian army has never had the numbers to storm eastern Aleppo in a single operation.  Its strategy, undoubtedly planned with the help of the Russians and the Iranians, has instead been to advance to its goal step by step: first by re-opening and securing its supply lines to government controlled western Aleppo, and then by isolating the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo until their position becomes so untenable that they can put up little resistance when the Syrian army eventually attacks them. 

What that means in practice is a strategy of first surrounding the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo, then of repulsing Jihadi counter-offensives to break the siege of eastern Aleppo, whilst at the same time pursuing a strategy of continuously recapturing more and more of the countryside around Aleppo in order to isolate even further the Jihadi controlled pocket in eastern Aleppo to the point where it loses all connection to its hinterland.

It is the Syrian army’s steady recapture of the surrounding villages and strong points in the Aleppo countryside which explains why each successive Jihadi counter offensives is having diminishing success.  As the Jihadi fighters during the intervals between their offensives incrementally lose positions in the Aleppo countryside, they lose the bases from which they launch their attacks.  As a result their attacks are increasingly failing to gain traction.

In time, as eastern Aleppo becomes completely isolated, the expectation is that cut off from all hope of supply or reinforcement it will fall easily into the Syrian army’s hands like a ripe fruit when the moment comments for it to be stormed. 

That is the strategy.  What it involves in practice is gruelling attritional warfare, with long pauses – which the Syrians and the Russians make use of politically by calling them ‘ceasefires’ and ‘humanitarian pauses’ – as each side replenishes and consolidates in preparation for the next round.

The planned Syrian offensive in south western Aleppo is a continuation of this strategy.  It is in this area that the Syrian army is most vulnerable since it is there that its main supply lines to southern Syria are located. 

By gradually driving the Jihadis away from this area the Syrian army is not only securing its main supply lines, but it is further isolating the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo by reducing the prospects of a Jihadi breakthrough there.

Ultimately, since there is little to no prospect of the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo ever giving up, the area will eventually have to be stormed.  However until its positions in south west Aleppo are fully secured, the Syrian army is not in a position to do this.

The fighting in western Syria is of course not only confined to Aleppo. 

Reports of the fighting elsewhere speak of the Syrian army making rapid advances.  In recent months it has cleared most of the countryside around Damascus of Jihadi fighters, with just a few pockets of resistance left in eastern Ghouta, whilst the Syrian army is now reported to control 85% of the territory of Hama province. 

As I have discussed previously, the Jihadis’ transfer of fighters from other Syrian fronts to Aleppo is causing their positions elsewhere in western Syria to collapse.

As to why the Jihadis are doing that, it was recently again explained by no less a person than Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who the Iranian Fars news agency reports as saying

“If we succeed, having won Aleppo, which I’m sure we will do, the West will have to rethink its mistake.”

In other words if the Syrian army recaptures Aleppo any possibility of regime change in Damascus is gone.  For that reason that the Jihadis in Aleppo will hold on in eastern Aleppo at any cost, even if by doing so they are hastening their eventual defeat in the war.

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New York Times hit piece on Trump and NATO exposes alliance as outdated and obsolete (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou



RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the New York Times hit piece citing anonymous sources, with information that the U.S. President dared to question NATO’s viability.

Propaganda rag, the NYT, launched its latest presidential smear aimed at discrediting Trump and provoking the establishment, warmonger left into more impeachment – Twenty-fifth Amendment talking points.

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Via The American Conservative

The New York Times scored a serious scoop when it revealed on Monday that President Trump had questioned in governmental conversations—on more than one occasion, apparently—America’s membership in NATO. Unfortunately the paper then slipped into its typical mode of nostrum journalism. My Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “nostrum” as “quack medicine” entailing “exaggerated claims.” Here we had quack journalism executed in behalf of quack diplomacy.

The central exaggerated claim is contained in the first sentence, in which it is averred that NATO had “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is wrong, as can be seen through just a spare amount of history.

True, NATO saved Europe from the menace of Russian Bolshevism. But it did so not over 70 years but over 40 years—from 1949 to 1989. That’s when the Soviet Union had 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops poised on Western Europe’s doorstep, positioned for an invasion of Europe through the lowlands of Germany’s Fulda Gap.

How was this possible? It was possible because Joseph Stalin had pushed his armies farther and farther into the West as the German Wehrmacht collapsed at the end of World War II. In doing so, and in the process capturing nearly all of Eastern Europe, he ensured that the Soviets had no Western enemies within a thousand miles of Leningrad or within 1,200 miles of Moscow. This vast territory represented not only security for the Russian motherland (which enjoys no natural geographical barriers to deter invasion from the West) but also a potent staging area for an invasion of Western Europe.

The first deterrent against such an invasion, which Stalin would have promulgated had he thought he could get away with it, was America’s nuclear monopoly. By the time that was lost, NATO had emerged as a powerful and very necessary deterrent. The Soviets, concluding that the cost of an invasion was too high, defaulted to a strategy of undermining Western interests anywhere around the world where that was possible. The result was global tensions stirred up at various global trouble spots, most notably Korea and Vietnam.

But Europe was saved, and NATO was the key. It deserves our respect and even reverence for its profound success as a military alliance during a time of serious threat to the West.

But then the threat went away. Gone were the 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops. Gone was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Indeed, gone, by 1991, was the Soviet Union itself, an artificial regime of brutal ideology superimposed upon the cultural entity of Mother Russia. It was a time for celebration.

But it was also a time to contemplate the precise nature of the change that had washed over the world and to ponder what that might mean for old institutions—including NATO, a defensive military alliance created to deter aggression from a menacing enemy to the east. Here’s where Western thinking went awry. Rather than accepting as a great benefit the favorable developments enhancing Western security—the Soviet military retreat, the territorial reversal, the Soviet demise—the West turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own, absorbing nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere of control and pushing right up to the Russian border. Now Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg after the obliteration of the menace of Soviet communism) resides within a hundred miles of NATO military forces, while Moscow is merely 200 miles from Western troops.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has absorbed 13 nations, some on the Russian border, others bordering lands that had been part of Russia’s sphere of interest for centuries. This constitutes a policy of encirclement, which no nation can accept without protest or pushback. And if NATO were to absorb those lands of traditional Russian influence—particularly Ukraine and Georgia—that would constitute a major threat to Russian security, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to emphasize to Western leaders for years.

So, no, NATO has not deterred Russian aggression for 70 years. It did so for 40 and has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since. The problem here is the West’s inability to perceive how changed geopolitical circumstances might require a changed geopolitical strategy. The encirclement strategy has had plenty of critics—George Kennan before he died; academics John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert David English; former diplomat Jack Matlock; the editors of The Nation. But their voices have tended to get drowned out by the nostrum diplomacy and the nostrum journalism that supports it at every turn.

You can’t drown out Donald Trump because he’s president of the United States. And so he has to be traduced, ridiculed, dismissed, and marginalized. That’s what the Times story, by Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper, sought to do. Consider the lead, designed to emphasize just how outlandish Trump’s musings are before the reader even has a chance to absorb what he may have been thinking: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” Translation: “Take that, Mr. President! You’re an idiot.”

Henry Kissinger had something interesting to say about Trump in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history,” said the former secretary of state, “who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” One Western pretense about Russia, so ardently enforced by the likes of Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper (who, it may be safe to say, know less about world affairs and their history than Henry Kissinger), is that nothing really changed with the Soviet collapse and NATO had to turn aggressive in order to keep that menacing nation in its place.

Trump clearly doesn’t buy that pretense. He said during the campaign that NATO was obsolete. Then he backtracked, saying he only wanted other NATO members to pay their fair share of the cost of deterrence. He even confessed, after Hillary Clinton identified NATO as “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,” that he only said NATO was obsolete because he didn’t know much about it. But he was learning—enough, it appears, to support as president Montenegro’s entry into NATO in 2017. Is Montenegro, with 5,332 square miles and some 620,000 citizens, really a crucial element in Europe’s desperate project to protect itself against Putin’s Russia?

We all know that Trump is a crude figure—not just in his disgusting discourse but in his fumbling efforts to execute political decisions. As a politician, he often seems like a doctor attempting to perform open-heart surgery while wearing mittens. His idle musings about leaving NATO are a case in point—an example of a politician who lacks the skill and finesse to nudge the country in necessary new directions.

But Kissinger has a point about the man. America and the world have changed, while the old ways of thinking have not kept pace. The pretenses of the old have blinded the status quo defenders into thinking nothing has changed. Trump, almost alone among contemporary American politicians, is asking questions to which the world needs new answers. NATO, in its current configuration and outlook, is a danger to peace, not a guarantor of it.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

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Nigel Farage To Back Another “Vote Leave” Campaign If UK Holds Second Brexit Referendum

Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition.



Via Zerohedge

Pro-European MPs from various political parties are pushing back against claims made by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government that a second Brexit referendum – which supporters have branded as a “People’s Vote” on May’s deal – would take roughly 14 months to organize, according to RT.

But while support for a second vote grows, one of the most notorious proponents of the original “Vote Leave” campaign is hinting at a possible return to politics to try and fight the effort.

After abandoning UKIP, the party he helped create, late last year, Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition. Farage also pointed out that a delay of Brexit Day would likely put it after the European Parliament elections in May.

“I think, I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50. There could be another referendum,” he told Sky News.

According to official government guidance shown to lawmakers on Wednesday, which was subsequently leaked to the Telegraph, as May tries to head off a push by ministers who see a second referendum as the best viable alternative to May’s deal – a position that’s becoming increasingly popular with Labour Party MPs.

“In order to inform the discussions, a very short paper set out in factual detail the number of months that would be required, this was illustrative only and our position of course is that there will be no second referendum,,” May said. The statement comes as May has been meeting with ministers and leaders from all parties to try to find a consensus deal that could potentially pass in the House of Commons.

The 14 month estimate is how long May and her government expect it would take to pass the primary legislation calling for the referendum (seven months), conduct the question testing with the election committee (12 weeks), pass secondary legislation (six weeks) and conduct the campaigns (16 weeks).

May has repeatedly insisted that a second referendum wouldn’t be feasible because it would require a lengthy delay of Brexit Day, and because it would set a dangerous precedent that wouldn’t offer any more clarity (if some MPs are unhappy with the outcome, couldn’t they just push for a third referendum?). A spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street said the guidance was produced purely for the purpose of “illustrative discussion” and that the government continued to oppose another vote.

Meanwhile, a vote on May’s “Plan B”, expected to include a few minor alterations from the deal’s previous iteration, has been called for Jan. 29, prompting some MPs to accuse May of trying to run out the clock. May is expected to present the new deal on Monday.

Former Tory Attorney General and pro-remainer MP Dominic Grieve blasted May’s timetable as wrong and said that the government “must be aware of it themselves,” while former Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee, who resigned his cabinet seat in June over May’s Brexit policy, denounced her warning as “nonsense.”

As May pieces together her revised deal, more MPs are urging her to drop her infamous “red lines” (Labour in particular would like to see the UK remain part of the Customs Union), but with no clear alternative to May’s plan emerging, a delay of Brexit Day is looking like a virtual certainty.

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The National Security Agency Is A Criminal Organization

The National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Paul Craig Roberts



Via Paul Craig Roberts…

Years before Edward Snowden provided documented proof that the National Security Agency was really a national insecurity agency as it was violating law and the US Constitution and spying indiscriminately on American citizens, William Binney, who designed and developed the NSA spy program revealed the illegal and unconstitutional spying. Binney turned whistleblower, because NSA was using the program to spy on Americans. As Binney was well known to the US Congress, he did not think he needed any NSA document to make his case. But what he found out was “Congress would never hear me because then they’d lose plausible deniability. That was really their key. They needed to have plausible deniability so they can continue this massive spying program because it gave them power over everybody in the world. Even the members of Congress had power against others [in Congress]; they had power on judges on the Supreme Court, the federal judges, all of them. That’s why they’re so afraid. Everybody’s afraid because all this data that’s about them, the central agencies — the intelligence agencies — they have it. And that’s why Senator Schumer warned President Trump earlier, a few months ago, that he shouldn’t attack the intelligence community because they’ve got six ways to Sunday to come at you. That’s because it’s like J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids. . . . it’s leverage against every member of parliament and every government in the world.”

To prevent whistle-blowing, NSA has “a program now called ‘see something, say something’ about your fellow workers. That’s what the Stasi did. That’s why I call [NSA] the new New Stasi Agency. They’re picking up all the techniques from the Stasi and the KGB and the Gestapo and the SS. They just aren’t getting violent yet that we know of — internally in the US, outside is another story.”

As Binney had no documents to give to the media, blowing the whistle had no consequence for NSA. This is the reason that Snowden released the documents that proved NSA to be violating both law and the Constitution, but the corrupt US media focused blame on Snowden as a “traitor” and not on NSA for its violations.

Whistleblowers are protected by federal law. Regardless, the corrupt US government tried to prosecute Binney for speaking out, but as he had taken no classified document, a case could not be fabricated against him.

Binney blames the NSA’s law-breaking on Dick “Darth” Cheney. He says NSA’s violations of law and Constitution are so extreme that they would have to have been cleared at the top of the government.

Binney describes the spy network, explains that it was supposed to operate only against foreign enemies, and that using it for universal spying so overloads the system with data that the system fails to discover many terrorist activities.

Apparently, the National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately for Americans, there are many Americans who blindly trust the government and provide the means, the misuse of which is used to enslave us. A large percentage of the work in science and technology serves not to free people but to enslave them. By now there is no excuse for scientists and engineers not to know this. Yet they persist in their construction of the means to destroy liberty.

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