“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Are we getting our money’s worth from the US intelligence networks?

Use ISIS and the US trained Iraq army as an example:


The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a Lying Sack of Shit:

Those that knows Netanyahu agree:

Netanyahu is a liar:

Hamas and Islamic State on par: Netanyahu

In speech to the UN General Assembly Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau denounced the militant Palestinian faction Hamas as the equivalent of Islamic State Sunni extremists.

Netanyahu says Iran greater threat than ISIL

Israel's prime minister describes Iran, ISIL and Hamas as part of a single team, and compares them to Germany's Nazis.

In a hard-hitting speech to the UN General Assembly Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyanu denounced the militant Palestinian faction Hamas as the equivalent of Islamic State Sunni extremists who have murdered their way across the Middle East. And he lumped Iran’s Shiite clerical regime with a conglomerate of terrorist groups seeking Islamic world domination.
“ISIS (The Islamic State) and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree,” he said. “ISIS and Iraq share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control.”
He added, “the Nazis believed in a master race, militant Islamists believe in a master faith.”
Israel has been widely criticized for its actions in a 50-day war against Hamas in Gaza, which it says was necessary to end rocket attacks into Israel by Hamas.
The more than 2,100 casualties in the densely populated strip brought accusations of indiscriminate bombing and shelling, denounced as “genocide” by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in an earlier UN speech.
Netanyahu hit back at Abbas, saying he was responsible for “war crimes” committed by coalition partner Hamas. He said that Israel had warned Palestinians in advance of attacks and “was doing everything to minimize casualties, Hamas was doing everything to maximize civilian casualties.”
Dramatizing the point by holding up an image of what he said was a Hamas rocket launcher in an area near children, Netanyahu added that the militants —who won a parliamentary election in 2006 — “cynically used Palestinian civilians” as shields by stockpiling rockets in mosques and even hospitals and firing from populated areas.
Netanyahu offered no new initiatives for peace with the Palestinians, but stressed that any territorial compromise must leave Israel able to defend itself.
The thrust of his speech was to rally the international community against both Hamas and Iran, which he said shared the global aims of the Islamic State, carrying out dozens of terrorist attacks outside its borders.
If Iran’s nuclear program went unchecked, he said, “the world’s most dangerous regime in the world’s most dangerous region would obtain the world’s most dangerous weapon.”
Instead of a peace plan, Netanyahu suggested a regional security accord with Arab neighbours who have a common goal of defeating terrorism. The spread of terrorism, he said, presented “a historic opportunity” for co-operation.
Israel was not the only country attempting to reshuffle the diplomatic deck after the Islamic State’s rise.
Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Al-Moallem, told the General Assembly earlier that those battling terrorism — the West and former Arab enemies — were now fighting on the same side as the Assad regime, something that gives the West pause.
Nor did Moallem protest airstrikes on the Islamic State inside Syria by a U.S.-led coalition, but warned they would not succeed unless coupled with an end to support for funding and training “terrorist groups.”
In a speech aimed at positioning the pariah state in the fold of counter-terrorism, he said “it is due time to pool all our efforts against this terrorism, since imminent danger is surrounding everyone and no country is immune to it.”
Syria is ready for a political solution including “dialogue with all honourable national opposition members opposing terrorism in Syria,” he said, pointing to a widely disputed presidential election as proof that the government of Bashar Assad had renewed legitimacy to negotiate.
The war in Syria began in 2011 after the Assad regime attacked protesters, whom it claimed were foreign terrorists. Since then unrest spiralled and the Islamic State made major gains. More than 191,000 people have died, 2 million have fled as refugees and at least 6 million are internally displaced.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Who are the major fighting forces in Syria who have for years been holding the line against ISIS? Answer: the Syrian army, Hezbollah troops from Lebanon, and Iranians, backed by Putin’s Russia.


 Patrick J. Buchanan
“Once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end.
“War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.”
So said Gen. MacArthur in some of the wisest counsel the old soldier ever gave his countrymen.
Yet, “prolonged indecision” would seem the essence of the war the president has begun to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State.
For, following only one night of bombing in Syria, Gen. Bill Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs, asked to estimate how long this new war would last, replied: “I would think of it in terms of years.”
“Years,” the general said.
Yet, though we are already heavily into bombing, the president has no congressional authorization for this war in Syria.
Even Republicans are leery of voting for a war in Syria before the November elections. A third of the House GOP voted no to arming and training the Syrian rebels. The Democrats are even more wary.
And how are we going to “destroy” ISIS when Obama has ruled out U.S. combat troops and not one NATO or Arab ally has offered to send combat troops?
Consider Turkey. With its 400,000-man army, 1,000 planes, 3,600 tanks, 3,000 artillery pieces and self-propelled guns, the Turks, the largest military power in the Middle East, could make hash of the Islamic State.
Why have they not done so?
Because Turkish President Erdogan detests President Assad of Syria and has looked the other way as volunteers, including Turks, have crossed his border into Syria to join ISIS.
Up until now, this NATO ally has been a silent partner of ISIS. And, even now, Ankara has not volunteered to fight the Islamic State.
For Turkey is predominantly Sunni, and many Sunni see the Islamic State as a ruthless but effective ally against a Shia threat represented by Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Hezbollah.
If the Turkish army is not going to intervene in Syria against ISIS, and if Obama has ruled out U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq or Syria, where will the soldiers come from to dislodge the Islamic State from the Indiana-sized territory it has seized?
The Kurds can hold Erbil with U.S. air support. Iraq’s regime, backed by its Shia militias, can hold Baghdad. But can the Iraqi army retake Fallujah, Mosul or Anbar, from which they so recently ran away?
Who are the major fighting forces in Syria who have for years been holding the line against ISIS? Answer: the Syrian army, Hezbollah troops from Lebanon, and Iranians, backed by Putin’s Russia.
Denouncing the Islamic State for its beheadings of the two Americans and one British aid worker, Obama declared at the U.N.:
“There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
Strong words, some of the strongest our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president has used in six years.
Yet, for three years, it has been NATO ally Turkey and Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who have been clandestinely aiding this “network of death.” And it has been Assad, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia that have been resisting this “network of death.”
A year ago, the American people rose up to demand that Obama and John Kerry keep us out of Syria’s civil war, specifically, that they not carry out their threats to bomb the army of Bashar Assad.
Had it not been for Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, the network of death Obama, rightly excoriated from that U.N. podium, might by now be establishing its caliphate, not in Raqqa but Damascus.
Before we go any deeper into Syria, Congress needs to be called back to debate and vote on whether to authorize this new war.
For this war against the Islamic State seems, for some in that blood-soaked region, not so much to be a war of good against evil, but the first of several wars they want America to fight.
For them, the Islamic State is to be destroyed by the Americans. Then the Assad regime is to be brought down by the Americans. Then Iran is to be smashed by the Americans. Everyone in the Middle East seems to have in mind some new war for the Americans to fight.
How many such wars are in our vital interests?
While, undeniably, the Islamic State has shown itself beyond the pale with its beheading of innocents and its massacres of soldiers who have surrendered, let us not forget that our allies abetted these monsters, while adversaries we have designated as terrorists and state sponsors of terror were fighting them.
Lord Palmerston had a point when he said Great Britain has no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.
Those interests should determine our policy.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

If Bush and Blair had not embarked on their Iraqi adventure, does anyone think the US would be helping Assad to destroy his enemies today?

Galloway in six minutes wraps up the case against the newest plan for the Middle East:

Isis urges more attacks on Western ‘disbelievers’

Group spokesman Adnani seems to be encouraging attacks like the killing of Lee Rigby


Supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from all over the world should attack citizens of Western states such as the US, France and UK, according to a statement by the group’s spokesman.
Abu Mohammed al Adnani urged the group’s supporters: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be,” he said.

“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

Adnani seems to be encouraging attacks like the killing of Lee Rigby in 2012 who was knocked down and stabbed in London by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. The two Britons were members of al-Muhajiroun, a now-banned group which shared similar theories to Isis. There have been recent arrests of people suspected of planning similar attacks in Belgium and Australia.

Adnani also taunted US President Barack Obama and other Western “crusaders”, saying their forces faced inevitable defeat at the hands of Isis.

The US is building an international coalition to combat the extremist Sunni Muslim force, which has seized large expanses of territory in Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a caliphate erasing borders in the heart of the Middle East.

Adnani said the intervention by the US-led coalition would be the “final campaign of the crusaders”. “It will be broken and defeated, just as all your previous campaigns were broken and defeated,” he said.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the group’s call showed once again “the barbarity of these terrorists [and] why we must fight them relentlessly”.

In a statement, he added, using an Arabic acronym for the militants: “We must also eliminate the risk that Daesh represents to our security.”

US and French warplanes have struck Isis targets in Iraq, and on Sunday the US said other countries had indicated a willingness to join it if it goes ahead with air strikes against the group in Syria as well.
Isis recently killed a British aid worker, David Haines, and has threatened to kill another, Alan Henning. A third, John Cantlie, has appeared on an Isis video promising a series of reports.

British jets have carried out reconnaissance over Iraq but have so far not bombed any Isis targets.

Addressing Obama directly, Adnani added: “O mule of the Jews, you claimed today that America would not be drawn into a war on the ground. No, it will be drawn and dragged... to its death, grave and destruction.”

In his statement, Adnani criticised Kurdish fighters who are battling the Isis militants in both Syria and Iraq. “We do not fight Kurds because they are Kurds. Rather we fight the disbelievers amongst them, the allies of the crusaders and Jews in their war against the Muslims,” he said.

A US State Department notice described Adnani, born under the name Taha Sobhi Falaha, as the “official spokesman and a senior leader of Isis”. It described the Isis spokesman as the “main conduit for the dissemination of official messages”.

On Monday, Syrian Kurdish fighters halted an advance by Isis to the east of Kobani, a predominantly Kurdish town near the border with Turkey.

Don't Cry for Me, Damascus

When Irony Fails: Obama’s Syrian Airstrikes

The moment America expanded its anti-Isis war into Syria, President Bashar al-Assad gained more military and political support than any other Arab leader can boast. With US bombs and missiles exploding across eastern and northern Syria, Assad can now count on America, Russia, China, Iran, the Hezbollah militia, Jordan and a host of wealthy Gulf countries to keep his regime alive. If ever that creaking old Arab proverb – that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” – contained any wisdom, Assad has proved it true.
In his Damascus home, the Syrian leader can reflect that the most powerful nation on earth – which only last year wished to bomb him into oblivion – is now trying to bomb his most ferocious enemies into the very same oblivion. Sunni Saudis whose “charity” donations have funded the equally Sunni “Islamic State” now find their government supposedly helping the US to destroy it. As Shia Iran and its Hezbollah protégés battle the Sunni executioners and throat-slashers on the ground, US bombs and missiles rain down to destroy the enemies in front of them.
Not since Churchill found himself an ally of Nazi Germany’s erstwhile friend Stalin in 1941 can a president have found a fearsome antagonist transformed so swiftly into a brother-in-arms. But – and it’s a very big “but” – the Baathist Syrian regime is not so stupid as to take the word “friend” at face value. Neither should we. Obama is the last person with whom Assad would want to associate himself – as Vladimir Putin doesn’t need to remind him – and the Syrian regime will be watching with the deepest concern as America’s promiscuous use of air power spreads inexorably to include more and more targets outside its original stated aim.
Quite apart from the civilian casualties in Idlib province, America’s targeting of the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra suggests that the Pentagon has more than Isis in its sights. How soon, for example, before a missile explodes in a Syrian regime weapons depot – by “mistake”, of course – or other government facilities? Since the US has decided to fund and train the so-called “moderate opposition” to fight Isis and the Syrian regime, why should it not bomb both sets of enemies? And how will Syrians who support whatever is left of these “moderates” react to the American bombs in Idlib which killed their fellow civilians rather than Assad’s forces – bombs, indeed, which appear to have been just as lethal as the munitions dropped on them by Assad’s aircraft?
As for the Gulf Arabs, not one has so far shown evidence that it has physically bombed any targets in Syria. Only Jordan has claimed to have attacked Isis; the rest of King Abdullah’s allies in the Arab “coalition of the willing” – how quickly we have forgotten that this was George W Bush’s expression for those nations which supported his 2003 Iraq invasion – appear to have limited their co-operation to providing airstrips, refuelling planes and perhaps patrolling the peaceful waters of the Gulf. In his hearings on Capitol Hill last week, the Secretary of State John Kerry was given an impatient grilling from Congressmen over just how many Arab aircraft would be dropping ordnance on Isis. Kerry fluffed his answers.
The Gulf Arabs, after all, have been here before. They remember clearly the exaggerated claims of military success in the air – of smart bombs that did not slaughter civilians, of cruise missiles that destroyed bunkers and training camps and “command and control centres” in 1991 and 2003. It all proved to be a very dodgy war menu. Yet now the Americans are re-cooking these old snacks for the Isis conflict.
Were these Islamist “warriors” really sitting around – drinking tea, perhaps – at “training camps” so that the Americans could kill them? Does Isis boast anything like a “command and control centre” – a bunker of computers and blinking target indicators – rather than just a clutch of mobile phones? Yet a “command-and-control centre”, no less, was said to have been destroyed.
And, as so often amid the excitement of yet another conflict escalation, the “experts” and decrepit ex-ambassadors on our screens need to leaf through a history book or two before explaining “our” actions. The “Islamic State” was created out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which absorbed the anti-American resistance to American occupation, which in turn followed the illegal 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. If Messrs Bush and Blair had not embarked on their Iraqi adventure, does anyone think the US would be helping Assad to destroy his enemies today?
“Irony” doesn’t measure up to the words of the Middle-East’s “peace envoy” who this week transformed himself into a war envoy by holding out the prospect of more Western troops in the Muslim world. Is the Syrian regime supposed to laugh or cry?
Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

George Galloway’s Constant Fight for Truth and Justice and His Classic Take Down of The US Conga Line


‘I stand by the statement,’ ...’I will recommend… what it takes to destroy ISIS.’ Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Top general stands by claim that US boots on ground could be needed to destroy ISIS saying: ‘I will recommend…what it takes to destroy ISIS’ 

  • Dempsey reiterated that there isn’t an 'air power alone solution' and it may take the use of force on the ground to eliminate the terrorist group

  • He later indicated that ground troops ‘ could be comprised of Iraqis, Kurds and moderate Syrian opposition’ and not necessarily American forces

  • His remarks came as retired four-star general David Petraeus said he thought ground forces would be needed, as well

'I stand by the statement,' he said when asked about testimony before a Senate committee last week in which he first made the assertion. ‘I will recommend… what it takes to destroy ISIS.’

Dempsey reiterated that there isn’t an 'air power alone solution' and it may take the use of force on the ground to eliminate the barbaric terrorist group.

However, he indicated that ground troops ‘would be comprised of Iraqis, Kurds and moderate Syrian opposition' and not necessarily American forces, as was intimated from his previous remarks.

Dempsey had said last week that he may advice President Obama to boots on the ground in Iraq - something Obama has said he will not do - if the president's preferred strategy doesn't have the intended effect.

The four-star general told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee U.S. forces could engage in ‘close combat advising' if the circumstances called for it.

Hypothetically speaking, Dempsey said American troops could end up ‘accompanying' the Iraqi army during a skirmish with ISIS while taking back city of Mosul.

Dempsey revealed to the Senators that Obama told him privately 'to come back to him on a case-by-case basis' as far as boots on the ground are concerned.
The following day Dempsey told reporters that assessors sent into Iraq by the U.S. military found that 24 of the army’s 50 brigades were incapable of putting their sectarian differences aside to effectively work together.

The other 26 brigades would need additional training and more equipment, Dempsey said.
That same day Obama denied that he was considering going back on his promise that he would not put American troops into combat situations.

‘I want to be clear: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,' he told an service men and women at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, during a speech. 

As of today, the U.S. had already dropped 272 bombs and missiles on Syria and 374 on Iraq. 

Retired General David Petraeus said today that while he too believes ground troops could be needed to finish the job in Iraq and Syria, he thinks the Iraqi army may able to do it themselves, eventually. 
'What we’re doing right now is disrupting. We are gradually chipping away at the strength’ of ISIS, the former Bush and Obama administration said, according to Bloomberg.

Petraeus told business executives at a Tokyo hotel that it could take ‘many years' to resolve the situation in Syria.

In terms of Iraq, he said, ‘I do believe the Iraqis can be the ground forces that can deal with this over time, but again it will be months and years, not days or weeks.'

Petraeus' opinion on the situation in Iraq is notable given his position overseeing the so-called surge in Iraq at the end of George W. Bush’s second term in office.

The four-star general went on to serve as head of U.S. Central Command and Commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan before being promoted to President Barack Obama’s national security team in 2011.

Petreaus served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency until it was revealed in late 2012 that he’d had an extra-marital affair with his biographer.

Since then, he’d mostly stayed out of the public spotlight until the U.S. reinvolved itself in Iraq earlier this summer.

'We have invested a great deal in that country, we have given them hope on two different occasions and I think it’s very legitimate [that] United States officials are supporting a process that is led by Iraqi officials,' Petraeus said in June in remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival reported on by The Washington Times. 
Petraeus said on Friday that past experience battling al Qaeda in western Pakistan proves that if the U.S. leaves Iraq to it’s own devices now, terrorist threats will rise back up.

'We have seen this elsewhere,' he said. 'You have to keep on disrupting. If you let up the pressure, then al Qaeda senior leadership will come back.’ 

The retired military officer said he thought the Iraqis would eventually be able to solve their own problems and indicated that leaders should have more faith in the Iraqi army’s ability to ward off ISIS.

‘I believe you should not underestimate the residual capacity of the Iraqi security forces and we should not overestimate the capabilities of ISIL,' he said. 

Read more:
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Friday, September 26, 2014

The number of Europeans joining Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq has risen to more than 3,000, the EU's anti-terrorism chief has told the BBC.

Gilles de Kerchove also warned that Western air strikes would increase the risk of retaliatory attacks in Europe.

The number of Europeans joining ISIL terrorists has surged to about 3-thousand over the past few months. 
That’s according to E-U Counter-terrorism Chief Giles de Kerchove. He said the figure was just 2-thousand several months ago, but it has now increased by one thousand. The EU counter-terrorism chief said the rise might be due to the ISIL terrorists’ declaration of a caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why would Israel want peace with Palestine when war has been so profitable?

'Too many Israelis' ready to give up on peace, Obama laments


(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama lamented on Wednesday that too many Israelis" were ready to abandon Middle East peace efforts and urged them to reflect on the matter, saying the status quo with the Palestinians was unsustainable.

As part of a broader speech to the United Nations Assembly, Obama appeared to gently chide close U.S. ally Israel against giving up on peace a week before he hosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
While Obama used his address primarily to rally support in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, he also recommitted to the pursuit of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians despite what he called a “bleak” landscape. U.S.- brokered negotiations collapsed in April.
"The violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace," Obama said. Then, departing from printed remarks made available to reporters beforehand, he added: "And that’s something worthy of reflection within Israel."
“Because let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort – not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza," Obama said.
His comments followed a 50-day Gaza war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas that ended in late August with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and no clear victor.
Israel soon afterwards announced a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years, drawing Palestinian condemnation and a rebuke from its U.S. ally.
Since the Gaza war, Netanyahu has reaffirmed his bedrock demand that Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas back away from an April unity deal with Hamas Islamists that led Israel to quit the talks on peace and Palestinian statehood.

The conservative Israeli leader, who has a history of rocky relations with Obama, has also pointed to what he sees as the mounting dangers Israel faces from Islamic militants on its doorstep in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Netanyahu will visit the White House on Oct. 1 after his own U.N. speech.
“Leadership will be necessary to address the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis,” Obama said. “"So long as I am president, we will stand up for the principle that Israelis, Palestinians, the region, and the world will be more just and more safe with two states living side by side, in peace and security.”
He also said violence in the Middle East should cure anyone of the illusion the Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of the region's troubles, calling such claims “an excuse to distract people from problems at home.”
Asked by Reuters to respond to Obama's remarks, Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor declined comment.
The White House gave no explanation for the call for Israeli “reflection“ that Obama inserted into his speech. “That message is consistent with what we've said for a long time about the status quo being unsustainable,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
While Obama in last year’s U.N. speech cited resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the top priorities for the rest of his second term, he made no such assertion this time and also offered no new ideas for restarting negotiations.
Relations between Obama and Netanyahu have been strained amid tensions over failed peace moves and U.S. diplomacy with Iran, whose nuclear program Israelis view as an existential threat.
On a visit to the Oval Office in 2011 Netanyahu famously lectured the U.S. president on the long struggles of the Jewish people, as he sought to counter Obama's call to base any peace agreement on borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols and Jonathan Allen at the United Nations andJeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Howard Goller

Monday, September 22, 2014

US policy has an Alice in Wonderland absurdity about it, everything being the opposite of what it appears to be. The so-called “coalition of the willing” is, in practice, very unwilling to fight IS, while those hitherto excluded, such as Iran, the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the PKK, are the ones actually fighting

Only a Truce in Syria Can Stop ISIS

The Absurdity of US Policy in Syria

If the United States and its allies want to combat the Islamic State jihadists (IS, formerly known as Isis) successfully, they should arrange a ceasefire between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the non-IS Syrian opposition. Neither the Syrian army nor the “moderate” Syrian rebels are strong enough to stop IS if they are fighting on two fronts at the same time, going by the outcome of recent battles. A truce between the two main enemies of IS in Syria would be just that, and would not be part of a broader political solution to the Syrian crisis which is not feasible at this stage because mutual hatred is too great. A ceasefire may be possible now, when it was not in the past, because all parties and their foreign backers – the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran – are frightened of the explosive advance of the Islamic State. US Secretary of State John Kerry told the US Security Council on Friday that there is room for everybody “including Iran” in an anti-IS coalition.
President Obama was much criticised for admitting that he had no strategy to cope with IS and, despite his address to the nation on 10 September, he still does not have one. Assuming he is not going to send a large US land army to the region, he lacks a credible and effective local partner in either Syria or Iraq with the necessary military force to take advantage of air strikes, even if they are intensified in Iraq and extended to Syria.
Mr Obama won the assent of the House of Representatives last week to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria who are supposedly going to fight both Assad and IS. This is essentially a PR operation, since IS forces 30 miles from Aleppo are poised to move against the last rebel strongholds, while the Syrian army is close to regaining control of the city itself.
Likewise in Iraq, air strikes can only do so much. The government in Baghdad and the Iraqi army are still Shia-dominated and, however much the Sunni in Iraq dislike IS, they are even more frightened of its opponents. The US will try to split Sunni tribes and neighbourhoods away from the fundamentalists as it did in 2007, but there were then 150,000 US troops in the country and al-Qa’ida in Iraq was much weaker than IS. At the same time, it will find it difficult to advance further because, aside from
Baghdad, it has already seized the areas where live the 20 per cent of Iraqis who are Sunni Arab. In Syria at least 60 per cent of the population are Sunni Arabs, meaning that IS’s natural constituency is much bigger.
The case for a ceasefire in Syria is cogently argued by Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut in a paper entitled “To Confront the Islamic State, Seek a Truce in Syria”. He rightly says that “both the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the more moderate armed rebels arrayed against it are stretched thin, bleeding badly and in an increasingly vulnerable position …. Each has self-serving reasons to suspend military operations to confront the looming jihadist threat from the east.”
The Syrian army suffered heavy defeats at the hands of IS in July and August, though these were little reported in the West. Mr Sayigh cites figures of 1,100 government soldiers dead in July alone. It has long been clear that the army was short of combat troops and could only fight one front at a time. Mr Assad appears to have calculated that the rise of IS would be to his political advantage because most of the world would prefer him to the fundamentalists. But he underestimated the military strength of IS since they captured Mosul on 10 June.
No truce is likely to happen unless there is pressure on both sides by their outside backers – notably the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Much would depend on how realistic they are: the US and Saudi Arabia still want the departure of Assad, but this has been very unlikely since the second half of 2012. Demanding this at the Geneva II talks in February effectively killed off any diplomatic framework for negotiations to end the conflict. Critics of multilateral ceasefires argue that this would mean accepting that the Assad government stay in place, but the Syrian government is not departing in any case. The Assad government may believe that it is gradually reasserting its authority over the rest of the country, but these advances are at a snail’s pace and its grip on ground regained is fragile. The Syrian army might not be able to withstand an all-out offensive by IS.
IS is growing stronger while its opponents in Syria are weakening. It is recruiting fast in all parts of its caliphate: Mr Sayigh cites opposition reports that it began training 6,300 recruits in Iraq in July alone. A study by the National Security Adviser’s office in Baghdad showed that in the past, where jihadis took over an area with 100 fighters, they could recruit between 500 and 1,000. IS seems prepared for air strikes, evacuating its fighters and heavy weapons from buildings where they are identifiable. US air power did not win the war in Afghanistan and is even less likely to do so in Iraq or Syria.
A ceasefire in Syria would remove one of IS’s strongest cards, which is the fear of the Sunnis that, bad though IS may be, the alternative of government re-occupation is even worse. For its part, the government may fear no longer being able to face Syrians with a stark choice between Assad and jihadis who chop off heads.
The restoration of a more normal civilian life in Syria would be an immense advance. Some of the 3 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced people out of a total population of 22 million would be able to go home. There might be a re-emergence of more moderate individuals and groups marginalised or driven underground since 2011.
At the moment, the political landscape in Syria must look good from the point of view of IS. Its opponents are divided. The US is backing a group of moderates who barely exist and wants to weaken the Assad government. In the past week some of the heaviest fighting in Syria has been IS’s attack on the Kurdish enclave of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, close to Turkey. It is defended by the fighters of the YPG Kurdish militia who are the Syrian branch of the mainly Turkish Kurd PKK which the US labels as “terrorist”.
US policy has an Alice in Wonderland absurdity about it, everything being the opposite of what it appears to be. The so-called “coalition of the willing” is, in practice, very unwilling to fight IS, while those hitherto excluded, such as Iran, the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the PKK, are the ones actually fighting. A truce between the government and moderate rebels in Syria would enable both to devote their resources to fighting IS, as they need to do quickly if they are to avoid defeat.
Patrick Cockburn’s new book is The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.

US air war begins in Syria

The US military and partner nations from the anti-ISIS coalition have launched the first attacks on Islamic State targets in Syria, the Pentagon has confirmed.
The airstrikes against the Islamic State targets are currently underway in Syria, according to a Pentagon official.The strikes on targets in Syria reportedly involve a mix of fighter, bomber, and tomahawk land attack missiles.
"I can confirm that US military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL (ISIS/IS) terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,"Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

Hailed in Ankara as a triumph for Turkey, the freeing of the diplomats seized when Mosul fell to Isis on 10 June raises fresh questions about the relationship between the Turkish government and Isis

Turkey accused of colluding with Isis to oppose Syrian Kurds and Assad following surprise release of 49 hostages

Mystery surrounds the surprise release of 49 Turkish diplomats and their families held captive for three months by Isis. The Turkish government is denying any deal with the hostage-takers, making it unclear why Isis, notorious for its cruelty and ruthlessness, should hand over its Turkish prisoners on Saturday without a quid pro quo.

Hailed in Ankara as a triumph for Turkey, the freeing of the diplomats seized when Mosul fell to Isis on 10 June raises fresh questions about the relationship between the Turkish government and Isis. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the release is the result of a covert operation by Turkish intelligence that must remain a secret.
He added on Sunday that “there are things we cannot talk about. To run the state is not like running a grocery store. We have to protect our sensitive issues; if you don’t there would be a price to pay.” Turkey denies that a ransom was paid or promises made to Isis.
The freeing of the hostages comes at the same moment as 70,000 Syrian Kurds have fled across the border into Turkey to escape an Isis offensive against the enclave of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, which has seen the capture of many villages.
The assault on Kobani is energising Kurds throughout the region with 3,000 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in Iraq’s Qandil mountains reported to be crossing from Iraq into Syria and heading for Kobani.
The Turkish security forces closed the border for a period on Sunday after clashes between them and the refugees. They fired tear gas and water after stopping Kurds taking aid to Kobani according to one account, or because stones were thrown at them as they pushed back crowds of Kurdish onlookers, according to another. Most of those crossing are women, children and the elderly, with men of military age staying behind to fight.
Many Kurds are expressing bitterness towards the Turkish government, claiming that it is colluding with Isis to destroy the independent enclaves of the Syrian Kurds, who number 2.5 million, along the Turkish border. The pro-Kurdish Amed news agency asks “if Isis [is] the paramilitary wing of the of the neo-Ottomanism project of Turkey in the Middle East?” The Turkish government vehemently denies any collaboration with Isis.
Nevertheless, the strange circumstances of both the capture of the 49 Turks and their release shows that Ankara has a different and more intimate relationship with Isis than other countries. Pro-Isis Turkish websites say that the Turks were released on the direct orders of “the caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
They had been moved to Raqqa, the Syrian headquarters of Isis from Mosul, and both men and women were well-dressed and appeared to have suffered little harm from their imprisonment. This is in sharp contrast to the treatment of Alan Henning, the British taxi driver seized when taking aid to Syria, and of the journalists who have been ritually murdered by Isis.
A number of factors do not quite add up: at the time the diplomats and their families were seized in June it was reported that they had asked Ankara if they could leave Mosul, but their request was refused. It was later reported by a pro-government newspaper that the Consul-General in Mosul, Ozturk Yilmaz, had been told by Ankara to leave, but had not done so. Former Turkish diplomats say that disobedience to his government’s instructions by a senior envoy on such a serious matter is inconceivable.
Critics of Mr Erdogan and his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu say that since the first uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 they have made a series of misjudgements about developments in Syria and how Turkey should respond to them.
Having failed to persuade Bashar al-Assad to make changes, they assumed he would be overthrown by the rebels. They made little effort to distinguish jihadi rebels crossing the 560 mile long Syrian-Turkish border from the others. Some 12,000 foreign jihadis, many destined to become suicide bombers, entered Syria and Iraq from Turkey.
Only at the end of 2013, under pressure from the US, did Turkey begin to increase border security making it more difficult for foreign or Turkish jihadis to pass through, though it is still possible. A Kurdish news agency reports that three Isis members, two from Belgium and one from France, were detained by the Syrian Kurdish militia at the weekend as they crossed into Syria from Turkey.
The hostages had no idea they were going to be freed until they got a telephone call from Mr Davutoglu. While treated better than other hostages, they were still put under pressure, being forced to watch videos of other captives being beheaded “to break their morale” according to Mr Yilmaz. He said that Isis did not torture people though it threatened to do so: “The only thing they do is to kill them.”
The Turkish government may not be collaborating with Isis at this moment, but Isis has benefited from Turkey’s tolerant attitude towards the jihadi movements. As with other anti-Assad governments, Ankara has claimed that there is a difference between the “moderate” rebels of the Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda-type movements that does not really exist on the ground inside Syria.
‘The Jihadis Return: Isis and the New Sunni Uprising’ by Patrick Cockburn, published by OR Books, is available at