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Shhhh! Russia Can Like Something and It Can Be Good.

2017 July 21
tags:
by Ian Welsh

I know, I know. Russia is evil, the worstest of the worst and is made worse by Trump, because it’s Russia’s fault that Trump is President, not because Clinton ran a terrible campaign and Obama presided over an economy that worked for only about 3 percent of the population.

But maybe, just maybe, even though Russia is the Antichrist and Trump is the Devil (or the Devil’s Jester), it is possible that Trump might do something that Russia likes, and it might be good.

Like Trump telling the CIA to stop smuggling weapons to rebels in Syria? By which we mean, mostly people who are nasty Jihadis?

I know, I know, Assad is bad therefore anything bad that is done to him is good, even if it means causing a civil war which has cost many lives; far more lives and suffering than if there hadn’t been a civil war.

So, since Trump is bad, and Russia eeeevil, and Assad is evil, it therefore follows that giving guns to nasty people so they can ruin an entire country is good.

Or maybe, just maybe, Assad and some Russian policies and Trump can be bad, but it can still be possible that sending weapons to cause and fuel a civil war is a bad idea? Especially one where the main opposition are a bunch of Wahhabi insurgents with a truly ugly ideology; far worse than Assad’s?

It’s just a thought that perhaps, sometimes bad people and bad countries (has Russia done more evil than America in the last 30 years? Readers may wish to think carefully…), might do the right thing. They might even do the right thing for reasons you think are bad, and that right thing, despite being done by bad people for bad reasons (is having good relations with Russia by ending support for a terrible civil war bad?) might be…good?

Well, who knows. Trump is the worstest of the worst, and Putin is his puppet master, and… yeah, sorry, can’t keep up with the current story line.

Still, I can’t help but think that it might not be a bad idea to stop sending weapons to Syrian rebels, irrespective of whether I have any sympathy for any of them. It might be that helping start the Syrian civil war and keeping it going was bad policy; in both realpolitik and ethical terms, and it might be that Trump is doing the right thing here, whether or not he is doing it for the right reasons.

Maybe.

Perhaps, on those rare occasions when a politician we hate does the right thing, we should honestly admit it. Perhaps if we don’t, there is something wrong, not just with him, but with us?

Or heck, perhaps we prefer to live in a world where people we hate are always wrong, no matter what they do, and change our definitions of right or wrong to suit their actions?


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52 Responses
  1. Willy permalink
    July 21, 2017

    ”perhaps we prefer to live in a world where people we hate are always wrong, no matter what they do, and change our definitions of right or wrong to suit their actions?”

    Many go along with that instinctive impulse, a few know better. But until one experiences the truth behind the old Chinese proverb:

    You do not truly know someone, until you fight them.

    it’ll be hard to understand the truth about power.

  2. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    July 21, 2017

    I agree that America should not be funding Thugs in Syria and should not continue the stoking of a Civil War in Syria. I agree for different reasons than Trump and Putin, though. I think you do too. And that needs to be spelled out.

    Trump agrees with it because he’s in love with Putin’s Ass and will pretty much do anything Putin asks of him so long as Vlad let’s Donald lick his Ass clean every day all day. Putin agrees with it because he believes every Russian Client State should be run as an Autocracy subservient to Russia and Russia’s interests and in return Russia will grant it protection while it takes its skim.

    These are the four choices in order of acceptability. The first two are acceptable, the last two should never be considered but all too often are.

    1.) Right Action For The Right Reasons
    2.) Right Action For The Wrong Reasons
    3.) Wrong Action For The Right Reasons
    4.) Wrong Action For The Wrong Reasons.

  3. Tom permalink
    July 21, 2017

    Foreign supplied weapons account for less than one percent of Syrian Rebel Arms whose armament comes from captured Regime Depots, half the Regime Military defected after-all.

    Also the Majority of the Syrian Rebel Groups are not Wahabist and don’t want a Sharia State.

    Nor is Assad a secular dictator as Sharia Law is on the books in Syria and has been expanded as his forces increasingly incorporate Shia Militias from abroad. Said Militias are just as brutal as ISIS and just as eager to post beheadings on social media.

  4. July 21, 2017

    You mean good and bad are analog and not digital? Jeez, now you gonna make me have to think about this stuff … weight it, consider the amplitude of it … rather than just pulling out the good or bad card. Shoot …

    Z

  5. EmilianoZ permalink
    July 21, 2017

    Yeah but any of the following may happen:
    1) A unit in the CIA will go rogue and continue the smuggling.
    2) The US will sell arms to the Saudis and the Saudis will do the smuggling.
    3) If the Saudis are too incompetent to do it the Mossad will do it.

    Also, I dont think we need to split hairs with this right reasons wrong reasons. Reminds me of Rumsfeld’s things we dont know that we dont know.

  6. Chiron permalink
    July 21, 2017

    The Alternative-Right and Trump have grown because the Center-Left was taken over by Neoliberals who are more Neocon than the Neocons.

  7. Bill Hicks permalink
    July 21, 2017

    “…has Russia done more evil than America in the last 30 years?”

    Russia did one thing for which the world should be eternally grateful–it voluntarily and peacefully dismantled its empire. I do not expect that America will do the same.

  8. July 21, 2017

    All War All the Time. Seven billion people on a planet that can barely sustain one. Do the math.

  9. V. Arnold permalink
    July 21, 2017

    Ten Bears

    Yeah, Usian’s are prisoners of war.

  10. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    July 21, 2017

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Horseshoe_theory

    I find the section called “Vladimir Putin’s Fan Club” particularly interesting…

  11. EverythingsJake permalink
    July 22, 2017

    No one telling us to hate Putin gives a shit about whether Putin or Russia is evil or bad. It’s just war in the Middle East is played out. The Cold War is a distant enough, but also nostalgic memory (a better time), and those who profit considerably from the U.S. being in a constant state of war and their PR folk understand it’s time to shift the focus to a “New and Improved” enemy! Honestly, it feels like a Whisk ad intended to bring me back to their ring-around-collar solution, now minus or plus a molecule. meanwhile, as the elite hope to find an improbable solution to the problem of environmental catastrophe that does not compromise their wealth and status, tick, tick, tick…

  12. July 22, 2017

    We are all, V, “prisoners” of War.

    Doesn’t have to be that way. T’is what is.

  13. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    July 22, 2017

    IBW, this is an equally important quote from your link to The Horseshoe Theory.

    From the other direction, abuse of the horseshoe theory can lead to the balance fallacy and appeals to moderation. This is a problem common among Very Serious People and radical centrists, who, in their desire to avoid slipping into one partisan extreme or another, often have the opposite problem and go out of their way to characterize both sides as being fundamentally crazy, even if one side or the other may very well be clearly in the right in this instance. More cynically, it can be abused by those in power to frame all opposition to their rule as extremist by connecting their more grounded, legitimate critics with the crazies. Also it should be noted that at one point or another throughout history, people who advocated for a lot of the things we take for granted in the modern West (democracy, abolition of slavery, rights for women and LGBT people, religious freedom, etc.) were often derided as extremists.

    On another forum in the past week I was insultingly referred to as Fox News Watching Nutter for saying something akin to what Ian says here at his blog. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a Fox News Watching Nutter, but it doesn’t matter to these people. They have to categorize you & dismiss you immediately because otherwise, their Cognitive Dissonance will drown them, so they put up their hand and say, “talk to it because I’m not listening.”

  14. marku52 permalink
    July 22, 2017

    Jeez, yes. The damage we have done in Iraq and Libya is more than enough. My favorite bumper sticker:

    “I’m already against the next war.”

  15. Morongobill permalink
    July 22, 2017

    TSMB, you really outdid yourself this time.

  16. jackiebass permalink
    July 23, 2017

    Supplying weapons to” bad guys” has been a big part of US foreign policy for decades.This is why countries all over the globe have groups that hate the US. Our South America policy illustrates this well. The definition of good and bad isn’t what most people think. Good is doing the bidding of the US while bad is refusing to play ball. The US population has been brain washed to believe that the US is exceptional. The US only does good things and never anything bad. The way history is taught facilitates this. It’s a glossed over version of the real thing where everything the US does both at home and overseas is good . Today the news about US war making is very controlled , never showing the bad and only the good. Today one has to go to foreign news sources to get the full picture. I believe this is a result of the Vietnam war where every night on the national news there were clips of the horrors of war. This led to mass protest and eventually the end of that war. Government learned from this that they had to control the news that came out of a war zone. The general public doesn’t have a clue about the dark side of American history.

  17. V. Arnold permalink
    July 23, 2017

    jackiebass
    July 23, 2017

    You’re closing line; The general public doesn’t have a clue about the dark side of American history.
    Now there’s the rub; just what do you suggest to solve that historic problem?
    I would suggest there is no solution; U.S. propaganda is in a full court press to suppress all factual reportage…
    About anything not in line with U.S. propaganda…
    The fact’s are all out there, for anyone to see; but see; they will not!
    It’s just too bloody horrifying for most to deal with…
    Denial is the course of the day; and it goes on and on and on and on, ad infinitum…

  18. July 23, 2017

    While History only repeats to those paying attention, it is rewrit by those in a position to get away with it. Gaslighting the rubes, unaware of their own conditioned ignorance.

  19. Willy permalink
    July 23, 2017

    I see Trump as a sort of cross between PT Barnum and Chauncey Gardiner. But even he can have good ideas, even if by accident, and even if the motivation isn’t there. Maybe in some future better time things like ‘actual results’ will trump (devil’s jester, love it) the cult of personality too many citizens seem to need.

    Anybody know how to cure cognitive dissonance, or the most dysfunctional forms of “cognitive closure” which Arie Kruglanski talks about, or Dunning–Kruger? Obviously successfully evil people know how to exploit such maladies. How does a regular guy counter their manipulations?

    Putin? He reputedly still has Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring. A cross between Teddy Roosevelt and Stalin?

  20. Altandmain permalink
    July 23, 2017

    It looks like this may be the equal of the “Obama Birthers”, only for the Democrats. There were plenty of valid reasons to criticize Obama, but his birthplace was not one of them and was motivated strictly along party, along with racial lines.

    Likewise, the criticism of Trump and Russia seems increasingly to be what the Democrats want to believe. Otherwise they would be forced to acknowledge the failures of Obama, Clinton, and that swing voters have legitimate economic grievances. The Sanders base would have a very good narrative otherwise.

    IN that regard, ideologically, you are not going to be able to persuade them to not change. There is no facts and evidence that can persuade people who do not want to believe.

    Trump is awful, make no mistake, but that does not mean that the doubling down on Russia hysteria is the right response.

    One ray of possible sunlight and off topic, – in the UK Cobryn will not commit to a single market:
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/23/labour-would-leave-single-market-jeremy-corbyn?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

  21. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    July 23, 2017

    Willy, how does it feel to be on the same brainwave as Jonah Goldberg?

    The resentment of the managerial class and its middlebrow intelligentsia: Trump doesn’t look like them, doesn’t talk like them, isn’t of them, so he’s illegitimate as their boss. They call him a fool, but who was ever consumed with hatred for a fool? Their own words betray them.

  22. wendy davis permalink
    July 23, 2017

    i do admire you for thinking that herr trump ending the cia program will mean fewer weapons, fewer deaths, ian welsh. and i don’t think putin is evil, but that’s irrelevant to this conversation. the AJE piece is longish, so i admit i started scanning until i got to bleeping bomb libya! juan cole’s ‘beliefs’. there’s plenty for herr T to want in syria, esp. pipelines, etc., and more especially if his friend bibi wants him to want more.

    but wsws.org has a slightly different take on it: ‘Trump pulls plug on CIA’s Syrian “revolution”

    “The ending of the CIA’s arming and funding of the largely spent Al Qaeda-linked “rebels” signals not an end to the conflict in Syria or any significant rapprochement with Moscow, but is rather part of the preparations for a wider war.
    The Pentagon is continuing to train and arm its own proxy forces, both the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces—comprised primarily of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia—in the north, and Sunni militias in the southeast, near the US special forces base established at al-Tanf near a strategic Syrian border crossing with Iraq and Jordan.

    This is only one of a string of bases set up by the US military in what amounts to a stealth invasion and occupation of Syria. The Turkish state-run news agency, reflecting the hostility of the regime in Ankara to the US alliance with the Syrian Kurds, published an article pinpointing the location of 10 secret US bases in the north of Syria, along with detailed information about the number of troops and type of weaponry and equipment deployed at each of them. Earlier this month, the Trump administration asked Congress to vote its approval for the building of new “temporary” bases in both Iraq and Syria.”

    and from all accounts, the US and israel are arming those doughty female YPG anarchists in rojava pretty durned well; they seem to excite the imaginations of many, like david graeber. (smile) but part of the intention is to balkanize syria, of course.

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/07/22/pers-j22.html

    robert parry’s ‘Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars’ at consortium news, subtitled ‘Russia-gate is empowering Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to strong-arm President Trump into escalating the Syrian war by abandoning a recent cease-fire and challenging Iran and Russia ‘ makes a pretty good case for his reasoning. i won’t leave the link, but it’s easy enough to find.

  23. Willy permalink
    July 23, 2017

    @BOO
    They call him a fool, but who was ever consumed with hatred for a fool?

    When the fool carries such power. You’ve never had a boss whose primary qualifications were knowing the right people and watching the right television? I’ve had one destroy a company I worked at. Leadership should carry responsibility.

    Trump publicly claimed that Australia has better health care than America, while trying to take American health care in the exact opposite direction. Now maybe this is part of some clever strategy he has which will get the US that better system, at the end of the day.

    But I don’t think so. Based on his past behavior, I highly doubt he even knows or cares what that better system even is.

  24. Peter permalink
    July 23, 2017

    @WD

    Netanyahu’s colorful rhetoric leads to much speculation and hand-wringing among ME watchers but Israel needs to be reassured about the details of this cease-fire and the coming transition negotiations. There can be no loophole that allows Iranian or Hezbollah forces to remain in bases in or near the Golan after that conflict ends. This is the Israeli bottom line and they might be willing to blow up the cease-fire to see that demand met.

    Putin has much control on the ground in Syria but he seems to have little say in what the Iranians are up to so there may be problems coming because of that.

  25. S Brennan permalink
    July 23, 2017

    From my Fbook post

    S Brennan
    July 20 at 9:38am ·

    Good; the regime change policy of Bush/Obama administration that has cost millions of civilians their lives ends. And what did those innocents die for? To create hellish distopias in the few Arab countries where women, if not equal, did not have to live as chattel?

    Of course, many of my “liberal” neocolonialist/[aka neocon] friends will cheer…should the CIA not follow their bosses order and continue the US war in Syria…just as they cheer Mueller’s efforts to secure Pence the presidency…all so the slaughter can continue in Syria. But my “liberal” neocolonialist friends are wrong, it is high time this national disgrace ends and good on Trump for trying to do the right thing against the clearly expressed wishes of theDeep-State[D]-or-[R].

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-ends-covert-cia-program-to-arm-anti-assad-rebels-in-syria-a-move-sought-by-moscow/2017/07/19/b6821a62-6beb-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html?utm_term=.19185c7ef155

  26. Peter permalink
    July 24, 2017

    @SB

    If Trump cut off this funding to appease Putin, which I doubt, it is little more than a symbolic move because if the fighting has ended there is no need for training or arms replacement. The US has cut off funding to these about a dozen groups before and resumed funding later.

    These vetted Syrian groups are not the most successful anti-Assad forces but they have played their part well and proved useful when part of the Army of Conquest.

    Living under Assad’s sectarian Alawite dictatorship is not healthy for women or men and it’s possible the Russians can help lead them to a more representative interim government.

  27. Merasmus permalink
    July 24, 2017

    @Tom

    I have literally no idea where you’re getting the idea that half the Syrian army revolted. That the bulk of the military, both grunts and officers, stayed loyal is one of the major reasons that the foreign plans for a quick overthrow of Assad failed.

    As for how many weapons are foreign supplied, it’s a hell of a lot more than 1%. Especially when it comes to heavy and special weapons (the American made TOW that has been key to militant efforts against Syrian armor is particularly conspicuous).

    The ‘opposition’ literally consists of almost nothing but different flavors of Al-Qaeda. This may or may not have always been the case (though jihadist elements have been present since the very start of all this in 2011), but such moderates as ever actually existed have either disbanded and gone home or left the country, fled north to join the Kurdish SDF, or are dead. Idlib province is the heartland of the ‘rebellion’, and has been a cesspit of jihadist infighting for years. The two dominate factions have long been Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Al-Qaeda) and Ahrar al-Sham (Al-Qaeda with the serial numbersfiled off). HTS seems to have just finished cutting the heart out of Ahara al-Sham and now completely dominates, totally controlling the provincial capital and the Turkish border tolling that is the only remaining source of significant income. There is no one left who remotely resembles a ‘noble freedom fighter’, if there ever were any such people to begin with.

    And in the east of the country the only ‘opposition’ is ISIS.

  28. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    July 24, 2017

    Willy, I still say your words don’t cohere from one sentence to the next. On the one hand Trump is a fool, on the other hand your basis of criticism is that he won’t do what Democrats couldn’t or wouldn’t do under Messiah of Color’s once-in-a-generation majorities. That’s setting the bar pretty high for a purported fool. In reality Trump would be a fool to try for an insurance overhaul after the Australian model.

    By the way, do you know what the Australian system is? I think it’s a good one, but I doubt your political cohort would. It’s two-tiered. Everyone gets basic, public coverage, which means poorer facilities and wait times for non-urgent procedures. You can pay for better, private coverage. Somehow I think that any move in that direction would bring screams of “sending African Americans back to the back of the bus”. The courts may even strike it down under an expanded “disparate impact” doctrine.

  29. Peter permalink
    July 24, 2017

    @Mer

    It’s difficult to get any accurate numbers about the SAA but many defectors were reported and the FSA is one force they lead. Young Syrian men of draft age in Assad controlled areas joined the refugees to avoid conscription and I’ve read that what remains of the SAA is mostly Alawite volunteers.

    Assad friendly media reports on the victories of the SAA but the self described Jihadist Hezbollah and the Iranian proxy militias seem to be doing most of the actual fighting as is happening near Arsal Lebanon.

    There are no moderates in an armed conflict but your attempt at pigeonholing the rebels as all ‘flavors of al Qaeda’ smells of SANA propaganda and the orientalist’s Islamophobia. The fact that some of them are fighting each other exposes your lie because if they are all like AQ there would be no reason for conflict.

    The rebel forces in Syria are mostly Syrians who are also Sunni Muslims from the majority fed up with sectarian minority rule. Conservative political Islam is gaining support in the ME and that fact frightens Western imperialists and the Russian imperialists because it shows a way to counter western dominance.

  30. Willy permalink
    July 24, 2017

    BOO,
    My quote: “I see Trump as a sort of cross between PT Barnum and Chauncey Gardiner.
    Trump’s quote: ” Everybody’s got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say because a lot of times they say, ‘No, no, the lower 25 percent that can’t afford private’… I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”
    If he wanted something so “un-Republican”, then why did he run as one? Is there even a single quote from Trump about the difficulties he’s had in converting the Republican majority to his vision?

    You still have not disproven that Trump is “a sort of cross between PT Barnum and Chauncey Gardiner”.

    But you do bring up Obama’s failure to do the same thing even with “once-in-a-generation majorities”. I won’t remind you that that was only 8 years before the current once-in-a-generation majority, but I digress.

    The important point is that neither Obama nor Trump did what the American majority wants, which they promised to do. Why is this? Oh, that’s right. We’re here at a blog where this has been explained repeatedly. And since voting one way or the other doesn’t seem to work, we’re trying to come up with working solutions.

  31. Mallam permalink
    July 24, 2017

    The main function of this supplying arms program was to control the flow of supply of arms — as in, preventing manpads from flowing in. It really wasn’t about the supply so much as the control over what Turkey and Arab states were giving. Also, even if we accept your absurd premise that the rebels are enthralled with Wahhabism, and that the rebels are just all ISIS/AQ, and that ISIS is genocidal (which it is), they haven’t killed 400,000 people because of a refusal to step down when the Syrian people revolted en masse. To say “ISIS/AQ” whatever is “worse” shouldn’t even be on anyone’s radar. But then, this is the Russia-apologist left. Syria should be controlled by Syrians, not Russian and Iranian imperialists. Assad would have fallen had Russia not intervened, and Iran before that. Really, US and Russian intervention into Syria has been about regime preservation, not regime change. But seeing things through such a geopolitical lens comes naturally from attachment to states as opposed to standing with people’s.

  32. Merasmus permalink
    July 24, 2017

    @Peter

    “I’ve read that what remains of the SAA is mostly Alawite volunteers.”

    I have no idea what you’re reading, but it’s nonsense.

    http://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-assads-army-has-not-defected-15190

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/05/assads-sunni-foot-soldiers-syria/

    https://warontherocks.com/2016/08/washingtons-sunni-myth-and-the-civil-wars-in-syria-and-iraq/

    “There are no moderates in an armed conflict but your attempt at pigeonholing the rebels as all ‘flavors of al Qaeda’ smells of SANA propaganda and the orientalist’s Islamophobia.”

    Wooooooooooooooooow.

    “The fact that some of them are fighting each other exposes your lie because if they are all like AQ there would be no reason for conflict.”

    Is it news to you that different groups of ideologically similar headchopper nutjobs fight each other?

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2016/05/isis_and_al_qaida_are_fighting_each_other_in_syria_what_happens_if_they.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idlib_Governorate_clashes_%28January%E2%80%93March_2017%29

    @Mallam

    I love the idea that in a multi-way conflict only one side is responsible for deaths. I also love the idea that not supporting foreign backed jihadists and wanting a war that has dragged on for more than half a decade to end makes me an enemy of the Syrian people.

  33. Peter permalink
    July 24, 2017

    @Mer

    The first link you provided is a perfect example of a SANA style Op-Ed rant. The conscripts who are fighting and dying to overthrow Assad barely earn a dismissal but a handful of elite quisling officers show the real strength of Assad’ sectarian regime because they happen to be Sunni. This type of accommodation and subservience always develops under autocratic rule and it helps mask the facts of who actually makes the decisions that affect everyone.

    The writer of this opinion piece did eventually admit that the SAA has been hollowed out by attrition and is unable to conscript from the young Sunni population so that leaves Alawites to fill the ranks, if they get filled.

    You’re confusing the Islamic State (head choppers) with the Syrian rebels (liver eaters} even if there was only one nibble.

    I think most Syrians want the war to end but the version of the end with Assad holding ultimate power means the killing and torture won’t end. With Iran and their proxy forces turning into death squads terror will reign. If the Russians can control this sectarian reprisal there might be a chance for a relatively peaceful transition in Syria.

  34. Mallam permalink
    July 25, 2017

    @Merasmus

    If Assad had stepped down like Mubarak, there wouldn’t have been hundreds of thousands of deaths. Every death is his fault simply because he refused to step down when he should have. If you want to stand with a murderous dictator and defend his actions against the revolution from his point of view, that’s your prerogative. But stop hiding behind Islamaphobia to defend it. Do we care that Hamas are “jihadis” when we talk about Israel’s injustices? Well, a lot of “respectable” people do, rather than standing with the Palestinians against The State that makes their life hell.

    When did “the left” abandon basic solidarity with people’s in favor of states simply because those states are (nominally) opposed to US foreign policy? And even there you idiots don’t have the basics right because you accept Assad’s talking points at face value.

    For the record, I did not support the CIA program. Doesn’t mean I have to turn into a Baathist propogandist as a result.

  35. Merasmus permalink
    July 25, 2017

    @Peter

    “You’re confusing the Islamic State (head choppers) with the Syrian rebels (liver eaters} even if there was only one nibble.”

    Because there is no difference.

    The ‘opposition’ is entirely dominated by Salafist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra/Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham. Any ‘moderates’ who still exist are so weak they’re (being generous here) forced to ally with the headchoppers to accomplish anything. The major attempt to break the siege of East Aleppo, the defeat of which seems to have completely broken the back of the opposition, was almost fully an AQ show.

    @Mallam

    “If Assad had stepped down like Mubarak, there wouldn’t have been hundreds of thousands of deaths. Every death is his fault simply because he refused to step down when he should have.”

    Step down to what? A foreign backed jihadist insurgency? You seem to be under the impression that there was a massive peoples uprising against the Assad government. But the ‘rebellion’ never succeeded in taking more than one of the fourteen provincial capitals. When the people of Aleppo and Deir Ezzor failed to rise up, ‘insurgent’ forces from outside had to come in and try to force the issue.

    “If you want to stand with a murderous dictator and defend his actions against the revolution from his point of view, that’s your prerogative. […] When did “the left” abandon basic solidarity with people’s in favor of states simply because those states are (nominally) opposed to US foreign policy? And even there you idiots don’t have the basics right because you accept Assad’s talking points at face value.”

    Funny, here I was thinking I was standing with the Syrian people in wanting a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displayed millions to end. I don’t have any love for Assad, but I have far less for freaking jihadists. Syria was a much better off place before this ‘civil war’ started.

    I’ll also point out that none of these opposition groups ever stood much chance of outright winning, at least on any kind of reasonable timescale. Without the Russian intervention the Syrian government would likely have been reduced to a rump, and the rest of the country divided up amongst different factions (being generous, maybe one or two of them would have been passably ‘moderate’). The most likely scenario is an Afghanistan Civil War one in which the country is a multi-way free-for-all for years to come. We can see a miniature version of this in ‘rebel’ dominated Idlib province. And if ever one faction did come out on top, it’s pretty clear it would either be one of the powerful AQ franchises, or ISIS. Either way, it wouldn’t be anyone sympathetic to democratic elections or a secular state.

    “But stop hiding behind Islamaphobia to defend it.”

    Ah, yes, I’m so Islamophobic I want a country of Muslims to stop being destroyed by foreign powers. Look up the major players in the ‘opposition’ yourself. They’re literally all slightly different flavors of Salafist Wahhabists. Calling literal terrorist groups terrorists isn’t Islamophobia. I’m not calling Muslims terrorists; I’m calling takfiri head-choppers terrorists.

    “For the record, I did not support the CIA program.”

    You seem not to have much of a problem with the Turkish and Gulf State programs, though.

    “Doesn’t mean I have to turn into a Baathist propogandist as a result.”

    I don’t care about the Baathists. And the objective reality that the ‘rebellion’ has far more foreign than domestic support is not propaganda.

  36. Emma permalink
    July 26, 2017

    This is an old post, but as someone potentially in the demographic you’re targeting here (?), I want to say:

    1.) Trump is a pig. If he grew wings and healed lepers, he’d still be a pig; he’d just be a pig with some interesting extraneous characteristics.
    2.) Russia is as bad as, but not worse than, the US.
    3.) That isn’t inspiring.
    4.) As long as they’re not fucking with us, Russia’s political and social climate isn’t any of my, or any other American’s, business.
    5.) I’m much more concerned about Trump’s financial ties to foreign oligarchs, dark money, and American organized crime than any hypothetical connection to Putin. (Although.)
    6.) The more the US stays out of other countries’ business, the less evil we’ll be and the more money we’ll have to spend on poor people and fixing shit.
    7.) Do we really think “Trump,” as such — the guy who thinks young dudes get health insurance for $12 a year & spends 23.7 hours a day crying on Twitter — had a lot to do with this less-bad-than-usual decision?
    8.) Why are so many True Leftists™ determined to find (or invent) something to respect about Trump? Is it because you hate Democrats so much? Democrats are terrible, but shit, man. Put down the lipstick. It’s not even his color.
    9.) I notice you weren’t as fond of, for example, President Obama. Obama was very awful in many ways, but he was objectively less awful than Trump. I don’t remember so much of this ethical hand-waving happening during his administration, though.
    9.) Also Obama is better-looking.
    10.) I have a pretty good health insurance policy that costs me less than $100/month. Just saying.

  37. realitychecker permalink
    July 26, 2017

    Put Emma down as “Undecided” lol.

    Only $100/month? How old, and what deductible, one wonders.

  38. Peter permalink
    July 26, 2017

    @Mer

    The Syrian war is a confusing mess and trying to simplify it with Manichean divisions and branding makes it easier to believe the propaganda coming from the Assad factions. The problem now is that the most conservative of the Syrian rebel groups are the most successful in battle and lead on that level if not on many others. There are no formal foreign forces fighting with the rebels, they are Syrians with individual volunteers from other Muslim countries. The formal foreign forces are propping up Assad’s regime and economy with Russia and Iran supplying the manpower and material. Without this foreign interference this war would have ended long ago possibly before the more extreme groups became dominant.

    You have to admire the tenacity of the rebels who face unlimited air attacks, foreign forces and have survived and continue to fight. They have no real anti-aircraft or heavy weapons capabilities, enforced by the US, but they carry on.

    The Russians are stuck to this Syrian tar-baby now and Trump seems willing to let them try to sort it out while the US concentrates on the IS.

  39. DMC permalink
    July 26, 2017

    Assad never wanted to kill half the people of Syria. The Takfiris objectively do. The Kurds just want some place where they are in a majority. The Turks want to prevent this and Erdogan doesn’t like Assad(too secular? Likes the Wahabis better? Dunno.) The Russians and the Iranians DO like Assad for various reasons the main one being he’s preferable to the Takfiris. The Saudis and Emiraties and some of their pals like the Takfiris because they advance the interest of a Wahabist Caliphate at the expense of Iran specifically and Shi’ites generally. Israel also likes the Takfiris for those reasons and that it keeps Syria weak.

    There, what could be simpler?

  40. realitychecker permalink
    July 26, 2017

    @ DMC

    “There, what could be simpler?”

    Indeed, and what could be more simple-minded than to not have realized the idiocy of ever getting involved on the ground in the Middle East in the first place, and thinking we could ever figure it out.

    We do binary. Anything more complex is above our abilities.

    And all the costs of that hubris just keep on mounting up . . .

    (But nobody should ever die for causing all that useless and unnecessary death and destruction. Especially if they managed to make a nice profit along the way. Got it.)

  41. Merasmus permalink
    July 26, 2017

    @Peter

    “The Russians are stuck to this Syrian tar-baby now and Trump seems willing to let them try to sort it out while the US concentrates on the IS.”

    Have you looked at a battlemap of Syria recently? Or ever, for that matter? Also, it’s the Russians and the SAA who are doing the bulk of the heavy lifting against ISIS in Syria.

  42. Peter permalink
    July 26, 2017

    @Mer

    The Syrian and foreign forces moving east and into areas formerly held by the IS seems to be an Iranian project. They’re trying to open up the Iran/Iraq/Syria rat-line to directly deliver arms to Hezbollah and stop the Rojavans from eventually controlling the whole Syria/Iraq border.

    If the US and the Kurds weren’t advancing on Raqqa and the IS hadn’t pulled much of their forces back for defense even with the Russian support I doubt the SAA would have made much progress. They tried twice before and were stopped dead in their tracks by the IS.

  43. Merasmus permalink
    July 27, 2017

    @Peter

    Like I said, when was the last time you looked at a battlemap? Pushing east to retake valuable oil and gas fields and to end the siege of Deir Ezzor, has always been an SAA goal. After securing Aleppo and reducing or eliminating various ‘rebel’ pockets, and forcing the remaining ones to adhere to ceasefires, the SAA has the manpower to turn its full attention east.

    The notion that the US-Kurdish assault on Raqqa is taking up a majority of ISIS’s manpower is completely wrong. ISIS gave up on holding Raqqa the better part of half a year ago and moved their capital to Mayadin in Deir Ezzor province (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/04/21/isis-moves-its-capital-in-syria.html, http://www.icsve.org/brief-reports/is-isis-moving-its-capital-from-raqqa-to-mayadin-in-deir-ez-zor/, http://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2017/06/15/messy-fight-awaits-islamic-state-s-next-syrian-capital-at-mayadeen/). There were at most 2,000 fighters left in Raqqa at the beginning of July (http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/12/politics/us-troops-more-exposed-raqqa-mosul-isis/index.html). The bulk of the rest of their forces in Syria are attempting to stop the SAA. Jane’s/IHS Markit estimates that for more than a year the Syrian Army has been the primary opponent of ISIS (http://news.ihsmarkit.com/press-release/aerospace-defense-security/study-shows-islamic-states-primary-opponent-syria-governmen). ISIS spends more than twice the amount of time and effort fighting rival headchoppers than it does fighting the US-backed Kurds.

    Also, Iran has never had a problem supplying Hezbollah (as most clearly demonstrated by the 150,000 rockets Hezbollah has stockpiled), either by ships offloaded in Syria, via ground transport through Turkey into Syria, or flying them via Iraq. They’ve always had ‘direct delivery’. And the Kurds controlling the whole Syrian-Iraq border? That ship sailed quite a while ago.

  44. DMC permalink
    July 27, 2017

    Troll Fight! Troll Fight!

  45. realitychecker permalink
    July 27, 2017

    Calling somebody a “troll” is an attempt to destroy their online persona completely and forever.

    We have nothing but our credibility when we participate in these threads. As someone who has been called a troll by dozens of assholes of every political persuasion from left to right (hey, they can’t all be right!) I would like to implore the thoughtful folks here not to stoop to that tactic.

    We need people who offer thoughts and ideas that do more than just echo the local hallelujah chorus. If being challenged that way is too scary for anyone, maybe debating issues on these threads is not something you should be doing.

  46. Willy permalink
    July 27, 2017

    Everybody plays the troll, sometimes…

  47. Peter permalink
    July 27, 2017

    @Mer

    You seem to base most of your projections about the Axis forces on al-Masdar and al-Manar spin and propaganda so the links to Janes/IHS was refreshing. It seems that the Axis forces can’t help but run into IS forces wherever the march to. They’re still fighting them around Palmira, did they ever retake that tourist trap?

    The battle for Raqqa is ongoing and will be costly with a small IS force holding off a much larger invasion and inflicting heavy losses on the attackers. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in deir ez zor where the IS seems to have strong support.

    The water and air routes for Iranian arms to Hezbollah would be cut immediately if there is war with Israel. The land line would be exposed also but could be defended somewhat. I wonder where you get the idea that Turkey would allow anything to go to Hezbollah through their territory, that’s insane.

    Most of Hesbollah’s insanely large stockpile of rockets seem to be more terror weapons than tactical munitions. They have some long range accurate rockets and we may get to see how effective Israeli high tech air defenses are.

  48. DMC permalink
    July 28, 2017

    Whereas calling people “burro-fucker” raises the level of the conversation to Algonquin Round Table heights of sophistication, hmmmm?

  49. Merasmus permalink
    July 28, 2017

    @Peter

    “They’re still fighting them around Palmira, did they ever retake that tourist trap?”

    Months ago, as well as a large amount of territory in all directions from it. They’re attacking Al-Sukhnah, 70 km east of Palmyra, right now. Seriously, again, when was the last time you look at a battlemap? http://syriancivilwarmap.com/

    “The battle for Raqqa is ongoing and will be costly with a small IS force holding off a much larger invasion and inflicting heavy losses on the attackers.”

    Yes, with a force of no more than 2,000 fighters willing to fight to the death against a Kurdish force that while effective light infantry are at a disadvantage in heavy city fighting.

    “The water and air routes for Iranian arms to Hezbollah would be cut immediately if there is war with Israel.”

    Yeah, good luck with that.

    ” I wonder where you get the idea that Turkey would allow anything to go to Hezbollah through their territory, that’s insane.”

    Gee, it’s almost like Turkey is a cesspool of corruption that can be bribed and deceived, or something.

    http://www.nysun.com/foreign/iranian-shipments-to-hezbollah-strain-israeli/38364/

    http://www.haaretz.com/iran-rearming-hezbollah-via-turkey-mi-says-1.240646

    http://www.jpost.com/Defense/In-Depth-How-Iranian-weapons-go-through-Syria-to-Hezbollah-314313

    “Most of Hesbollah’s insanely large stockpile of rockets seem to be more terror weapons than tactical munitions. They have some long range accurate rockets and we may get to see how effective Israeli high tech air defenses are.”

    The effectiveness of the missiles is immaterial to this discussion, which is about whether Iran is having difficulty getting supplies to Hezbollah. It isn’t. A ‘Shia Crescent’ may indeed by a thing in terms of creating a power-block to counter Saudi influence, but the meme that it’s needed to supply Hezbollah is simply incorrect.

  50. realitychecker permalink
    July 28, 2017

    I respond to direct attacks with direct counter-attacks, but I never bite first. I believe in reciprocity, not in pacifism. Sorry for you if that upsets you. FYI, the burro-fucker has attacked me more times than I can count before I ever gave him that label; somehow, you never leaped to my defense lol.

    Calling someone a troll just because you disagree with what they say is different, and I think you know that.

    I was not addressing my comment only to you, in any event. There are many who yell troll just because it’s easier than responding to an unapproved POV. I don’t think either Peter or Merasmus are trolls. I think they are sincere in what they write, even when I disagree with them.

    Marketplace of ideas?

  51. Peter permalink
    July 29, 2017

    @Mer

    Minutiae is sometimes interesting but often a diversion for propagandists trying to sell certainty where none exists. I imagine most Iranian arms are flowing to the Hezbollah forces in Syria and Israel does seem to regularly interdict shipments headed for Lebanon.

    The fact that Russia doesn’t interfere with the Israeli attacks on Hezbollah in Syria shows that Putin may be wary of Iranian plans for the region. Russia seems to be settling in for a long imperial stay in Syria and the alliance of convenience with Hezbollah/Iran there may not last.

  52. Win permalink
    July 29, 2017

    http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/.premium-1.783338
    Anti-Assad? You Are Supporting the Murder of Christians

    Whoever fights Assad wants to remove Christianity from the Middle East, and the hands of those who support Saudi Arabia or Qatar are covered with the blood of Coptic worshippers
    https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Letter-from-a-Syrian-Christian-Britain-must-support-Assad-to-end-our-war
    Letter from a Syrian Christian: Britain must support Assad to end our war
    16th January 2017

    Elaina Nana – a Christian who lives in Damascus, Syria – says its time for a change in British policy toward her country
    https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2017/04/12/syrian-nun-honored-us-says-assad-not-dictator/
    Syrian nun honored by U.S. says Assad is ‘not a dictator’
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/july/syria-christians-assad.html
    Syria’s Christians Back Assad
    Church leaders say the embattled president should stay on.

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