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Russia ready to shoot down US aircraft and missiles in Syria. The US military knows it.

Russia has repeatedly warned it will shoot down US aircraft and missiles in Syria if its troops are threatened. The US has always heeded these warnings.

Alexander Mercouris

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There has been some discussion, especial on social media, as to whether or not Russia might shoot down US aircraft or missiles attacking Syria, and of the circumstances in which that might happen.

There have even been some suggestions that there are no circumstances where the Russians would ever shoot down US aircraft or missiles in Syria, and that the whole Russian military position in Syria is limited to fighting Jihadi terrorists and with respect to the US is essentially a bluff.

This is certainly wrong and is contradicted by the Russians’ own statements and by the actions they have taken.  Since this is a vitally important point, I have decided to discuss it in some detail.

Firstly, it is necessary to go back to the summer of 2015, when the Russians decided to intervene militarily in Syria.

At that point the military situation in Syria was in deep crisis.  With Saudi and Turkish support Al-Qaeda had brought together a coalition of Jihadi groups under the umbrella title of the ‘Army of Conquest’, which stormed the province of Idlib, capturing the provincial capital and threatening Aleppo, which by the late summer was completely surrounded and was about to fall.  Simultaneously ISIS, which had declared its Caliphate the previous year, captured Palmyra and brought all the eastern territories of Syria previously captured by the Jihadis under its control.

The greatest threat to the Syrian state came however from a plan – widely and openly discussed in the Western media and agreed by the US and Turkey – for the US to declare a no-fly zone over Syria whilst the Turkish army established ‘safe havens’ supposedly to protect civilians in Syria, but in reality intended as a cover for an armed invasion of the country.  As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, in Western parlance ‘no-fly zone’ means today unrestricted bombing campaign, and that is undoubtedly what in the summer of 2015 was being planned.  Subsequent events shows that it together with the Turkish invasion was planned to start sometime in September 2015.

The Russians were informed of these plans and were told that unless they arranged a ‘political transition’ (ie. the removal from power of President Assad) the Syrian government would soon collapse as a result of the Jihadi offensives, the incursions by the Turkish army and the US bombing campaign, and that ISIS would be in control of Damascus by October.  This was confirmed by Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, in an article published in the British media written in February 2016

Last summer we were told by our Western partners that in October Damascus would fall to IS (ie. the Islamic State – AM).

What they were planning to do next we don’t know.  Probably, they would have ended up painting the extremists white and accepting them as a Sunni state straddling Iraq and Syria.

Yakovenko’s claim received unexpected but conclusive corroboration when Wikileaks published secret recordings of comments US Secretary of State John Kerry made to a group of Syrian opposition leaders at the UN General Assembly last year.  During those comments – which have received startlingly little attention – Kerry frankly admitted that the US had not been fighting ISIS in Syria before the Russians intervened there because it was using ISIS to scare President Assad into stepping down.  Here is what Kerry said

And we know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that DAESH [the IS] was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened.  (We) thought, however we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate, but instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him.  I lost the argument for use of force in Syria.

The entirety of Kerry’s highly revealing comments can be heard here.

As Kerry admitted, the ploy failed because rather than allow the US to put its plans into effect and risk the fall of Damascus to ISIS Russia unexpectedly chose to intervene militarily in Syria.  The Russian action was intended to forestall and defeat the US plan, which it succeeding in doing.  In October 2015 the Financial Times admitted that the Russian deployment had scuppered US plans to declare a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria.

Implicit in all of this is of course the implicit threat of military action by the Russians in the event that the US were to attempt to carry out its plan despite the Russian military presence in Syria.  The point is that though the Russians took on no legal obligation to defend Syria from US attack when they deployed there, there was no doubt even then that they would defend themselves in Syria if threatened or attacked, which is what imposing a ‘no fly zone’ would have required.  The US was not willing to take on the enormous risks of doing it, and this made the whole ‘no fly zone’ plan effectively impossible.

This became even clearer in November 2015 after the Turkish air force shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter bomber in Syria.  The Russians responded by deploying the S-400 surface to air missile system to Syria.  The purpose of that deployment was to defend Russia’s military forces from air attack – whether by Turkey or anyone else – with no conceivable reason to deploy such a system to Syria for any other purpose.

The US military fully understood this, which is why in September 2016, when talk of the US declaring a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria re-started in the West in connection with the attack on the humanitarian convoy earlier that month and the fighting in Aleppo, General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Congressional testimony, said this would require the US to take control of Syrian air space, which would risk war with Russia

Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia

General Dunford’s full comments can be heard here.

The talk of the US imposing a ‘no fly zone’ and thereby intervening in the fighting in Aleppo, together with the US air raid on Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor in September 2016, provoked the Russians in October to deploy the S-300VM Antey-2500 surface to air missile system to Syria to supplement the S-400 system already deployed there.  The S-300VM Antey 2500 system is specifically designed to shoot down cruise missiles as well as aircraft.

The Russians also publicly declared that they would defend their troops in Syria if they were attacked, and warned the US of the capability of their air defence system in Syria.  This is what General Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman of the Russian Defence Ministry, said

Most officers of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of the Warring Parties currently work ‘on the ground,’ delivering humanitarian aid and conducting negotiations with heads of settlements and armed groups in most Syrian provinces. 

That is why any missile or air strikes on the territory under control of the Syrian government, will create an obvious threat for Russian military.

And finally, I draw attention of ‘hotheads’ that after a strike on Syrian troops in Deir ez-Sor by planes of the coalition on September 17, we have taken all necessary measures to rule out any such ‘mistakes’ against Russian military and military facilities in Syria (NB: this clearly refers to the deployment of the S-300VM Antey-2500 systems to Syria – AM).

The crews on duty will hardly have the time to calculate the missile’s flight path or try to find out their nationality. As for the laymen’s illusions about the existence of ‘invisible planes’ they may confront a disappointing reality.

These missile deployments and warnings from the Russians caused the US a week later to back down and declare publicly that they had no plans to intervene militarily in Syria.  Subsequently, a few weeks later, James Clapper, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, confirmed in Congressional testimony the capability of the Russian air defence system and Russia’s readiness to use it if its personnel were threatened

I wouldn’t put it past them to shoot down an American aircraft if they felt that was threatening to their forces on the ground.  The system they have there is very advanced, very capable and I don’t think they’d do it – deploy it – if they didn’t have some intention to use it

Simultaneously articles began to appear in the media obviously sourced from the US military that spoke of the US military’s apprehensions about the capability of the Russian air defence system and of the irresponsibility of calls by certain politicians and journalists to challenge it.

Thus an article appeared in The Washington Post which said the following

While there is some disagreement among military experts as to the capability of the Russian systems, particularly the newly deployed S-300, “the reality is, we’re very concerned anytime those are emplaced,” a U.S. Defense official said. Neither its touted ability to counter U.S. stealth technology, or to target low-flying aircraft, has ever been tested by the United States.  “It’s not like we’ve had any shoot at an F-35,” the official said of the next-generation U.S. fighter jet. “We’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300

Whilst an article appeared in the Guardian sourced from retired US military officials saying the following about Hillary Clinton’s talk of declaring a ‘no fly zone’

Retired senior US military pilots are increasingly alarmed that Hillary Clinton’s proposal for “no-fly zones” in Syria could lead to a military confrontation with Russia that could escalate to levels that were previously unthinkable in the post-cold war world.

The proposal of no-fly zones has been fiercely debated in Washington for the past five years, but has never attracted significant enthusiasm from the military because of the risk to pilots from Syrian air defenses and the presence of Russian warplanes.

Many in US national security circles consider the risk of an aerial confrontation with the Russians to be severe….

…..the most distinguishing feature of a Syria no-fly zone in 2017 would be the aerial presence of another great-power air force with an objective which is diametrically opposed to Washington’s.

Russia and the US currently share the skies above Syria and maintain a military-to-military communication channel to avoid confrontation.

But since they operate over different parts of the country and with different objectives – the US in the east against the Islamic State, Russia to the west against Assad’s opposition – a US-imposed no-fly zone would put their objectives into conflict. No one knows how either side would respond if Russian aircraft violated a US air cordon, nor how to de-escalate a clash before it spiralled into extended combat.

In recent days, in connection with the US missile strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base, the Russians have again reiterated their warnings about the capabilities of their air defence system in Syria and of their willingness to use it defend their troops there.

Thus five days ago, on 8th April 2017 – the day after the US missile strike – Lieutenant General Viktor Gumenny, Russian Air Defence and Missile Defence Troops commander and Aerospace Forces deputy commander, went on the radio station Ekho Mosvky to say the following

We have set up a group of forces in Syria over the past two years in line with the decision of the supreme commander-in-chief and the defence minister. Our bases in Khmeimim are protected today. Navy facilities in Tartus are protected. In such a way, we ensured our Aerospace Forces’ activities in terms of aircraft use

The Russians have made their position completely clear, and they have been doing so since the start of their intervention in Syria in September 2015.  Whilst they have taken on no legal obligations to defend Syria from external attack, they have repeatedly said they will defend themselves if they are themselves attacked or threatened in Syria, and they have also said they have the capability to do it.

The US for its part has repeatedly said it understands and accepts this.

Given that the US – as General Dunford has admitted – cannot intervene militarily to overthrow the Syrian government by for example declaring a ‘no fly zone’ over the whole of Syria without risking military confrontation with Russia, in any half-ways rational world that in effect rules the entirety of that option out.

This is why the US was so careful to inform Russia in advance of the missile strike on Sharyat air base, why the US has gone to such lengths since the missile strike to say that it is not planning a wider intervention in Syria to overthrow President Assad’s government, and why the US has been obliged to scale back its air operations in Syria since the Russians switched off the deconfliction hotline between their military in Syria and that of the US.

I have laboured these points because there seems to be some doubt about the extent of Russian willingness to shoot down US aircraft and missiles in Syria.  This is strange because the Russians have issued repeated warnings that they are prepared to do it, and that they will do it if they decide their personnel in Syria are being threatened, whilst the US for its part has gone out of its way to say that it has heeded these warnings and has adjusted its strategy in Syria in response to them.

Everything I have just said is a matter of fact and of public record.  It has been confirmed in public statements by members of both the Russian and US militaries.  It has also been confirmed by their actions. To refuse to recognise it is an exercise in denial.

None of this is to say that the situation has not become much more dangerous since the missile strike.

The point is that both the Jihadis in Syria and the regime change hardliners in Washington and elsewhere have now been emboldened, and an inexperienced US President obsessed with demonstrating his ‘toughness’ has shown that he can be easily pressured and manipulated by them.  The seeds for further escalation are now there, and unfortunately one can no longer be confident it will not happen.

However it is a fundamental error to think that if a truly major escalation – one going far beyond an isolated and ineffectual missile strike on a single Syrian air base – is threatened, the Russians will simply sit back and let it happen.  On the contrary they have clearly signalled that they won’t, and the US military has repeatedly made clear that it recognises the fact.  The Russian decision to switch off the deconfliction hotline is intended as a reminder to the US of this reality, and the scaling down by the US military of US air operations in Syria is intended at least in part as an acknowledgement of this signal.

General McMaster’s public comments show that he fully understands the situation, and that in his role as the President’s National Security Adviser he is explaining it to the President, and the President’s public comments show that for the moment he is listening to General McMaster’s and the US military’s advice.

The big unanswered question is whether the President – if he is goaded again – will continue to listen to the advice of General McMaster and of his other military chiefs, and what they – McMaster, Mattis and Dunford – will do if one day he does not.

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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