Small Wars Journal

Obama’s Endless War

Obama’s Endless War by Bing West, National Review

On September 10, 2014, President Obama pledged to destroy ISIS. Three years earlier, on June 22, 2011, he declared that “the tide of war is receding.” But since he made that claim, more than half a million people have been killed just in Syria and Iraq. Currently, ISIS numbers about 20,000 fighters and controls an area of thousands of square miles in Syria and Iraq populated by roughly 4 million Sunnis.

How, specifically, does the Obama administration plan to destroy ISIS? Here’s an answer from a Pentagon spokesman: “By degrading them in Phase One and then dismantling them in Phase Two, we believe that that will set us up for Phase Three, which, of course, is the ultimate defeat of this enemy.” There are two problems with that approach. First, the administration has ruled out the use of U.S. troops in combat — which means that “dismantling” the enemy is unlikely, never mind defeating it. Second, defeating ISIS should itself be only an intermediate goal: The ultimate goal is a stable, pro-Western government after ISIS. Our huge mistake in Iraq in 2003 was not having a sensible plan for who was to govern after we defeated Saddam’s forces. By not having a plan for what happens after ISIS, the U.S. administration is today repeating that mistake.

In Obama’s view, ISIS is not a serious threat. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, after interviewing the president, reported that “Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than . . . falls in bathtubs do.”…

Read on.


Question: Should we consider an "endless war" as a good thing; this, rather than as a bad thing?

Rationale: If a great nation is involved in an "endless war" against much weaker opponents, this would seem to indicate:

a. That the great nation has not made such a grave, politically-unsustainable error (think increase its forces on the ground) as would cause it (the great nation) to (a) lose political support at home and abroad, (b) provide fodder for the recruitment of many more enemy fighters and, ultimately, (c) force the great nation to lose/abandon the war and, indeed, the region/the theater. (As was the case with Vietnam and French Indochina?) And

b. That the great nation -- via ways and means other than increasing its forces on the ground (a move which plays directly into the hands of one's much weaker opponents' "political attrition" strategy) -- had (a) retained political support at home and abroad, (b) prevented the recruitment of huge new numbers of enemy fighters and, thus, had (c) achieved the ability to stay on and fight on in the region indefinitely.

(This, providing that the great nation -- via these much more intelligent and politically-sustainable means/measures [ex: the use primarily of air and special forces?] -- might, over time, attrite both its much weaker opponents' willingness, and indeed its much weaker opponents' ability, to stay in the fight.)

Conclusion: In the light offered above, an "endless" (i.e., a long but politically-sustainable) war must be seen more in terms of this being a good thing, not a bad thing. Yes?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 3:21pm

This confrims that in fact the USAF coalition has in fact stopped flying CAS missions against IS for the FSA...WHY is that?????

BUT WAIT I thought Obama was in a massive fight against IS?????

Sharp reduction of Intl Coalition support for Rebels vs #ISIS in N. #Aleppo last week: 21 ISIS targets destroyed, -60% from 2 weeks ago (52)

Does he not want success in fighting IS??.....BUT WAIT not from local Syrians...BUT from Kurds where the USAF is constantly flying CAS for them....

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 2:39pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Has AQ leader Zawahiri started a "conversation" with the West???

The question is did the Obama WH hear it as his Communique defintely parallels the thoughts of Petreaus and Ford towards Nusra (JaN)

More from the Zawahiri Geneva Communique.........

Quick note on Zawahiri statement. Unlike previous ones, this comes across as more nuanced & succinct. Most likely Nusra wrote it or co-wrote

IMO the course Nusra has decided is somewhere between a clear AQ-synced agenda without rushing into a state & working closely with Islamists

That's why I think the statement is a defining & timely one.

1) It shifts all focus to Syria as a source of legitimacy & recuitment.

2) The statement also comes at a time when AQ doesn't need to defend its gradualism. Zawahiri sounded assured. It's no longer 2014.

3) He spoke about an eventual Islamic entity that all groups agree on. He trolled IS by saying allegiance to AQ was voluntary & thoughtout.

4) Now, the Nusra gains recently give these words substance, i.e. it's not a fantasy world. Islamist can rally around the project in Syria.

5) Top level jihadists were killed in Syria but if one looks closely, it's clear that AQ & its orbit are on the rise in many respects

6) This also comes at a time when the space in which different ideas to flourish has become apparent. IS isn't necessarily directly affected

7) The bottom line, AQ & affiliates are no longer on the defensive ideologically but they're also sober about their ambitions. No rush.

8) Observers should also fight the impulse that this must be bad news for IS. Don't make a mistake that was made not long ago.

Also as Jolani in the Oct statement, Zawahiri warns of the slippery slope of political engagement & sitting at a table.

Zawahiri, like Baghdadi in his last speech, also focused on Saudi Arabia as the western world's executor in the Muslim world.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 2:22pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Hassan Hassan ‏@hxhassan

AQ's 'Geneva Communique', if you like: this is the basis for negotiations with Nusra. Work it out. Don't just ask it to break its AQ ties.

He said AQ would waver Nusra's bayat obligation if the latter agreed with the rest of groups/individuals to establish a form of Islamic govt

In addition to the above, Zawahiri did something important. He threw the ball in the court of those calling on Nusra to break away from AQ:

Arabic media have conflicting (inaccurate) headlines about Zawahiri statement: he OKs Nusra breaking ties with AQ; he Oks Nusra's emirate.

NOW notice how the linked article ties into the Zawahiri "Geneva Communique"....

EXCLUSIVE: US drone strike in Syria killed mediator trying to rein in al-Qaeda -

NOW expplain to me that there is no possibility of having an actual Syrian and IS just requires the stopping of the "spin".....

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 1:59pm

There have been some who have proposed something similar to a Syrian and IS strategy largely ignored by the Obama WH........

EXCLUSIVE: US drone strike in Syria killed mediator trying to rein in al-Qaeda -

TWO key portions of a long article well worth reading and asking why did this not come from the NSC and or WH......

Empowering hardliners

Similar efforts to rein in al-Qaeda’s Syria branch through co-opting "moderate" members was suggested last year by retired US Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus.

In 2006, Petraeus was in charge of US military operations in Iraq when Americans started paying Sunni groups, some of whom had previously fought the US, to cut ties with and fight al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of the "Anbar awakening".

Two years later, Petraeus told politicians in Washington that the strategy had reduced US casualties, increased security and saved money.

The question in Syria, he told CNN in September, was “whether it might be possible at some point to peel off so-called 'reconcilables' who would be willing to renounce Nusra and align with the moderate opposition (supported by the US and the coalition) to fight against Nusra, ISIL, and Assad”.

Both Nusra and Gamaa al-Islamiyya's designations by the US as terrorist groups would make it difficult – if not impossible - for the US to engage or use someone like Taha directly as a go-between.

But Robert Ford, the former US ambassador to Syria and a senior fellow with the Middle East Institute in Washington, says the US should be talking with Islamist groups who are not on the list, including Ahrar, which advocate that Syrians should decide how their country is ruled in the future.

Ford, who wrote about this strategy last year, said he had given this advice to high-level policy makers, including US President Barack Obama, repeatedly.

“The smart American policy is to engage with groups like Ahrar and Jaish al-Islam that, in turn, are able to peel people away from Nusra and bring them into groups that accept that there must ultimately a political process to decide the future of Syria’s political governance,” Ford told MEE.

MEE contacted the US State Department, Department of Defence and the Centcom military command to comment on Taha’s death and ask whether the US should be considering a strategy similar to that advocated by Petraeus and Ford.

The State Department referred questions to the Department of Defence which did not respond, nor did Centcom.

Distrust of Islamists

Ford said he believes the Obama administration, including policy makers and some analysts advising them, has not attempted this approach because it has “an instinctual distrust of Islamists".

“They have an inability to understand what is a jihadi versus what is a Salafi versus what is a Muslim brother,” he said.

“They don’t see any way for Assad to be removed and so their inclination - if forced to choose between Assad and Islamists – they’ll just go with something secular like Assad, mainly out of instinct.”

And while the US may have listed Nusra and Gamaa al-Islamiyya as terrorist organisations, Hassan, the Chatham House fellow, said regional backers of the groups are interested in supporting the kind of work Taha attempted to accomplish.

“The Americans are not on the same page,” he said.

“[The US military] doesn’t think about what Petraeus thinks. That’s not their strategy. Their strategy is to kill as many of these people as possible, disrupt the leadership, and prevent any sort of coalitions.

"They want to just basically disperse jihadists whenever and wherever they find them.”

Meanwhile, the lack of nuanced understanding, at least publicly, of the differences between Islamists in Syria drives militants to further extremes, said the sources familiar with Taha’s trip. His killing, they said, is an example of the exact ramifications of this broadbrush policy.

"Now after this air strike," said one of the sources, "basically we empowered the hardliners. I am not even sure the US knew who exactly was in the car."

"I’m sure [Taha] was not a friend of the US and the US was not a friend of him,” said the fighter. But with Taha’s mission in Syria "there were common interests".

“What would you like to face – an Islamist group that believes in a national project and a Syria after the war, or do you want to face a group with a global ideology?”

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 2:48am

For those SWJ readers/commenters who still fully believe we are "winning against IS" using the current Obama WH Syrian/IS strategy or maybe no strategy...need to pay attention to this from yesterday's Syrian 2016 thread comment. I had linked to an article written in Turkey that alludes to the fact that all Obama actions are in fact driving the Syrian moderates and they are moderates in Syrian into the arms of JaN (AQ)and that Obama is totally failing in his "war on IS"....OR that maybe he wants them in the arms of JaN (AQ)?????

You will notice in the Syrian 2016 thread from yesterday I posted a number of comments concerning the fact that the USAF coalition seems to be flying somewhere else in the ME but it is not attacking literally hundreds of IS targets inside Syria in support of the moderate FSA who has been constantly attacking IS while the US Kurdish proxy YPG/SDF has parked itself in a quiet corner and is attacking FSA...NOT IS....with US/Russian CAS support when they need it.

CrowBat...confirms your thoughts on Obama driving the FSA into JaN.......

You know, eventually, I don't even care if I'm right or wrong: I'm simply collecting data. Result of studying data is statistics, and statistics is speaking clear language.

Look: roughly 500 Saudis and about 300 Bosnians, Macedonians, Kosovars, perhaps even few Moslem Serbs (from Sandzak, southern Serbia) were routed into Syria to join the JAN the last few weeks.

I have no clue how they eventually reached their destination - nor time to try finding out. But they all turned up in Idlib and were trained there too. That's 800 people. It doesn't matter whether it's actually 500 or 1000, or really 800. What matters is that somebody issued a call for them to come, and nothing was undertaken against that person. Somebody then transported, fed, and trained them too. And nobody stopped them underway, nobody attacked their training camp, nobody interrupted the supply chain keeping them fed, and dressed, and getting potable water. Nobody at least attempted to hit their HQ.

Instead, Russians are bombing hospitals; Assadists are bombing IDP camps or IRGC troops (the latter by mistake), only to get visited by various parliamentaries from the EU and congratulated for 'fighting Daesh'; Americans are either flying their UAVs in circles over Incirlik, or playing 'we can't find Daesh' in northern Syria, or explaining everybody that it's more important to respect Iranian and Kurdish interests in Syria than help Turks avert Daesh killing 30+ of their citizens (in Kilis and in the last week alone); French are massacring entire families in Abu Kamal (but who cares: that's Daesh-held territory, 'nothing is confirmed', besides, Russians did the same even more often)... and, what a surprise then, anybody else trying to mix there is just finding him/her-self neck-deep in BS...

...and nobody of all of them actually gives a damn about the very people this all is about: Syrians.

Think about all of this and draw your own conclusions, everybody.

My conclusion happens to be that that somebody there was so endlessly dumb, so idiotically stupid as to think about himself as some kind of giant statesman that's in a position to sell Syria and its population of 24+ million to a combination of a high-class thief and his hodgepodge of genocidal sectarian murderers, a gang of quasi-religious-fanatics declaring themselves representatives of God on Earth, and a megalomaniac that's trying to heal his inferiority complex by ruining whatever was left of his own country and half the Europe.

And when that didn't quite work... oh hell: then force them (Syrians) into making their choice - a choice fitting solely the Western primitive prejudice: either Assad or extremists. After all, 'they do not understand any other language but that of violence'... isn't that what we've all been taught about Syria and Syrians for the last 70+ years...?

Well... Oblabla can be sure about one thing: he's going to be remembered for a very, very, very long time. That's guaranteed. At least a century is going to pass before the mess he - partially - left to happen and - partially - created intentionally, is going to be sorted out again.

CrowBat is offline

Think about it.....have we all be basically spun over Syria, IS and yes spun even about AQ?? Yes we have by a 38 year old foreign policy guru "novelist".

BTW some ME specialists with a long history of the ME would in fact say to the face of this Obama WH you are lying about IS and AQ and especially what is ongoing in Syria....BUT their voices are not being heard.... only that of Rhode's spin and that is dangerous for a democracy.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 05/08/2016 - 7:07am keep mentioning Germany and I mentioned they are far more concerned about Russia as that is an existential threat to them and the closet direct military threat to them.....IS is not....nor will ever be even with off and on terror attacks.....the same goes for the entire EU.

That awkward moment when #Russian TV films German "nationalists", waving #Russian flags.

More #Russian media awkwardness
German right-wing extremists are indeed (also) pro-#Russian

Berlin yesterday
Pro-Russian/anti-German propaganda is beginning to bear fruit.
Neo-Nazis march with Putin's tricolour.

The Russian propaganda machine Sputnik International stated there were 5,000 anti Merkel demonstrators....actually they never broke more than 2,000 and there was a counter demo of over 5,000 and 3,000 police involved to keep the two groups apart.

What RT wants to portrait is that Germany sinks in nationalist, far right violence.
What they actually show as that this scum is pro-#Putin.

Russia fully understands that it is Merkel who is keeping the Russian EU sanctions in place...replace her and the sanctions come down..thus the Russian propaganda campaign against her and Germany right now.

In the last polling Germans are now finally far more aware of the Russian threat to them...56% than say one year ago at 24%.......

We have got to get the argument back to "who" is more of an overall long term "existential threat" Russia or IS?....I have always since Crimea stated...Russia....

Outlaw 09

Sun, 05/08/2016 - 6:38am

RC....this confirms what I have been saying...WHILE FSA is attacking will notice the Obama/CIA/CENTCOM proxy YPG/SDF is sitting quietly and not attacking IS......BUT WAIT they are suppose to be attacking that is why Obama is supporting them.........or claims that is the reason.

AND the USAF is nowhere to be seen and I thought they were in the IS fight..BUT the Assad AF is attacking FSA NOT IS just as the RuAF was attacking 97% of the time FSA NOT IS??

Rebels launched a new offensive vs. Assad resumed air strikes on rebels.

RC...BTW you do not hear much in the US MSM about these Saudi events...

Saudi soldier killed in gunbattle with militants
Third deadly ISIS/troop clash in the Kingdom in a week

If this pace keeps up you will in fact see the KSA leading an Islamic unit into Syria.....

Outlaw 09

Sun, 05/08/2016 - 1:49pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Confirms that Obama's veto on weapons deliveries is having an impact....meaning it is driving them closer to JaN (AQ).

Al Qaeda chief tells jihadist fighters in Syria: Unite or die

When you see the Turkish SOF raid into Syria due to the FSA weaknesses in fighting IS along the border then one can in fact point to Obama's failures again....

When one looks at the FSA weaknesses in fighting IS along the border one will notice a distinct lack of USAF support BUT WAIT Obama was all in for destroying IS....

One item not talked about is US MSM..........the Assad resupply of IS on a standard cycle.........

SAA routinely performs tactical arms transfers which 'accidentaly' enables ISIS to outgun rebels.

Look at this warehouse Assad regime left for ISIS in Al Sha'ir in Homs. Nice one...

Alone in this capture of Al Sha'ir IS acquitted over 20 tanks......massive number of ATGMs and launchers and tons of munitions....

WHILE Obama keeps the FSA on a very short leash...

Outlaw 09

Sun, 05/08/2016 - 6:15am

RC......taken from the Syrian 2016 thread that indicates that the so called Obama/Kerry highly touted successful Syrian/IS defeat strategy that is actually driving the moderate and non affiliated Syrians into the arms of JaN (AQ) and IS......

That cannot be the Obama strategy???? You will notice it is all about delivery of weapons, supplies and funds...... will notice the comment that while the FSA and their affiliates are struggling to get supplies and weapons WHILE JaN is not regardless of what Obama and DoD is saying....

Notice the comments on the combat learning abilities of JaN as they roll up victory after victory against the IRGC.....

Originally Posted by OUTLAW 09 View Post
Exchange by CrowBat.....

Rebels have proven best way 2 defeat pro-Regime forces is fighting by uniting own forces & opening several fronts. "Regime" is less flexible

Not really. It is rather so that Oblabla has managed to convince mainstream/moderate insurgents, that the best way of fighting this war is to join Jihadists of the JAN: the latter are receiving supplies undisturbed, all the time.

Compare this with Oblabla's practice of all the time curbing the flow of supplies to insurgents....

Thanks to him - and his cooperation with Putler - within a month or so it's really going to become 'impossible' to distinguish mainstream/moderates from the JAN...

Anyway, the operation in southern Aleppo is run by the JAF (Jaysh al-Fateh), which is reconstituted, that's right: but now officially consisting only of the JAN's and Jund al-Aqsa's Jihadists, and the Ahrar ash-Sham - i.e. Wahhabists and Salafists, respectivelly.

The recently reinforced Faylaq ash-Sham - which is meanwhile also 'rather Islamist than mainstream' - might be participating too, at least in supportive function (primarily with its artillery).

BTW, below a very interesting reconstruction of how the JAF isolated the Liwa Fatimioun in Khan Touman and then destroyed a large part of this IRGC formation. After bushwacking Liwa Fatimioun in this style, on 5 May, the JAF went and bushwacked the newly-arrived Liwa Mazandaran (IRGC regulars from the 25th Kerbala Division IRGC) in al-Hmerah (NE from Khan Touman), yesterday, too.

If correct, it's an indication of the JAF's HQ learning a lot - from the IRGC. Namely, that's the way the IRGC used to operate against Iraqi Army, back in the mid- and late 1980s, or against the JAN and Daesh in Syria of late 2013. It only seems that IRGC's new arrivals are simply not of the same sort like it's original cadre of 'advisors' in Syria: meanwhile they're better at 'playing incompetent Assadists'.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 3:23pm

Iran Supreme Leader says "US current policy hinges on confronting Islam, Shia and Iran."

BUT does it really....??

Outlaw 09

Sun, 05/08/2016 - 3:26am

In reply to by RantCorp are right about TOWS and MANPADs.....BUT Obama literally held a veto over anything like that from going into Syria...ask the Saudi's who have been ready at a moments notice to ship and train.....

BTW behind that implied definitive NO is the not so subtle threat to cut any aid and or military equipment sales....never believe for a moment Obama does not have a leverage over any country that wants to supply...WHY do you think the Saudi's have long ago come to the conclusion you cannot trust Obama.

Seriously look at the Obama overall veto and then ask yourself does or are the Obama actions towards the anti Assad groups any different than Putin's and you will find the answer is surprisingly a very large NO.....there is not a thin single page of paper difference between them now.

Reference IS..BTW we have every opportunity to ease IS in non existence in 2003 through 2010 BUT outside of unleashing JSOC on a kill or capture mission....we did nothing from an UW standpoint to counter the various Sunni insurgency groups, address the underlying UW causes and to counter QJBR/AQI now IS.....AND we still have not thoroughly discussed the Iranian and Russian involvement in growing IS in both Iraq and Syria.

BTW...when we marched into Baghdad in 2003 there was already a major Sunni Salafist insurgency movement already at war with Saddam since 1991....when we arrived they simply shifted gears at went against us...that was a no brainer on their part...FOR the US we never even knew it existed and up through today still do not want to accept that even at the national IC levels.

No US boots on the ground...just a US command and control and AF participation... the Saudi's, Turks and the others...that is all they want to in the game in order to reverse the overall perception the US has long ago done a deal with Putin over Iraq and Syria NOT to mention the Iranians. They want the US to stand up and finally lead simple as that.

Right now by our not supporting 500% the anti Assad forces Ie the FSA with everything they need we are in fact driving the Syrians themselves into IS and JaN simply because they are far better armed, led,have money and here is the BIG difference they are in fact both on a winning binge....

BTW the ME has been the major center of our FP focus for over 70 odd years...the Europeans only needed the oil and business but they never drove a EU foreign policy into the fact it was the Germans who stood up and said no to Iraq which did not earn them any brownie points with Bush 2 ...go back an relook the German reasons in they seem to have been 400% correct.


Sat, 05/07/2016 - 4:38pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The US is not the only source of ATGMs. There are dozens of alternatives. Likewise MANPADS. If you insist on Made in the USA I imagine there are considerable stocks of TOW and Stinger etc that are legitimate property of every country in the region that the US has zero say in how they are issued and to who.

But once again I ask why aren't 500 million Europeans prepping their kids to fight in Syria. Likewise any number of competent European arms manufacturer providing as good if not better than we provide.

IMO the Gulfies are the problem. IS is their spearpoint. The notion that they will attack their proxy is the absurdity undermining all our efforts over the last 15 years.

But once again what are the Germans doing about it? Surely you're not suggesting US kids should be KIA/WIA protecting European interests before any European kid is called upon to do the same.


Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 2:31pm

In reply to by RantCorp is the core problem...let's see the Turks, Qatar, UAE, Jordan and the KSA with 12 other Islamic countries has in fact signed on long ago to basically moving into Syria to finish off IS militarily..that will not though address the political and info war side of IS..

That was what their large scale military exercise was for weeks ago...BUT Obama vetoed it at the same time him vetoed initially the extra TOWs during the first Assad/Russian ground offensive.

BUT and there is always a BUT when dealing with the US...THEY have all stated we will follow the US leadership into Syria...WHY the US leadership because they fully believe Obama wants no skin in the game.

Perfect example..was with a targeting team for Libya...deployed did the entire CTL and then waited for the WH....was on the verge of packing it in and returning to the US as the Obama WH could not honestly make a decision to go or not go .....even have a T-shirt stating such a COA was COA3 and then suddenly the WH went with no notice....

Do not think for a moment that the ME allies did not pick up on that.


Sat, 05/07/2016 - 1:50pm

I’m sorry Outlaw I don’t buy it.

The threat from the extreme far-right is just domestic politics. Look at the implosion of the conservative political voice in the US as a consequence of a Right-wing loud-mouthed property flipper who considers himself the true voice of the GOP. It is just a matter of time before it all blows over. The people will speak and the GOP will have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on. Hopefully somewhat wiser from the experience.

You have spent a great of time describing the 8 stages of non-linear warfare the Russians have been directing at NATO and the EU so I don’t accept a law-enforcement issue ala Red Brigade, Baader Meinhoff, Action Direct etc. or the political implications the far-right poses is remotely as pressing as the implications the slaughter that is currently underway in Syria has regards the security of the EU.
The strategic threat posed by the actors responsible for Syria - directed at Europe in general, and Germany in particular, suggests to me the failure in political leadership is first and foremost in the 28 Capitals of those countries under direct threat i.e. Berlin, Paris, London, Warsaw, Kiev etc. and the apathy of the general populations that inhabit those 28 EU nation-states.

A combined EU/Turkish army would have much more resources than any US expeditionary force and an unlimited number of recruits. Needless to say the acceptance of a European led/equipped prominently Muslim Army would have significant advantages over the past two US dominated efforts.

The message of such a show of intent need not be complex. Assad, the Fruitcake, the Mad Mullahs and all their cronies leave Syria or face invasion by a million-man conventional Army.

I dare suggest the no-brainer advantages of a EU / Turk Army massed on the Syrian border waxes much of the thinking within the WH. So I’ll pose the question to you again. Why aren’t the folks enjoying the sunshine on the Unter Der Linden talking about how best to send their children to Turkey and face the need to fight to defend the EU way of life?

Wer fur Auftragstaktik?


Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 12:27pm

For those that can remember the good ole days and I certainly know Obama and Kerry missed this.....REMEBER the "Non Aligned Movement" from the Cold War days...they are very much still alive and well....and being played by Iran...those so called Obama "moderates'......

It's like back-to-the-future. A hostile ideological government using the "Non-Aligned Movement" to attack the US.

120 nations accuse US top court of violating law over Iran


May. 5, 2016 7:16 PM EDT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The 120-nation Nonaligned Movement headed by Iran accused the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday of violating international law by ruling that nearly $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets can be paid to victims of attacks linked to the country.

A communique issued by the NAM's Coordinating Bureau follows an Iranian appeal to the United Nations last week to intervene with the U.S. government to prevent the loss of their funds. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the ruling an "outrageous robbery, disguised under a court order."

The NAM, comprising mainly developing countries, called the U.S. waiver of "the sovereign immunity of states and their institutions" a violation of U.S. international and treaty obligations.

It called on the U.S. government "to respect the principle of state immunity" and warned that failing to do so will have "adverse implications, including uncertainty and chaos in international relations." It also warned that a failure would also undermine the international rule of law "and would constitute an international wrongful act, which entails international responsibility."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on April 23 that the families of victims of a 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to Iran can collect nearly $2 billion in frozen funds from Iran as compensation.

The court's ruling directly affects more than 1,300 relatives of victims, some who have been seeking compensation for more than 30 years. They include families of the 241 U.S. service members who died in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut.

Iran denies any links to the attacks.

Iran's U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo asked that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon circulate the NAM statement to the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council.

The NAM called for "dialogue and accommodation over coercion and confrontation" to peacefully settle disputes.

In last week's letter, Iran's Zarif appealed to secretary-general Ban to use his good offices "to induce the U.S. government to adhere to its international obligations, put an end to the violation of the fundamental principle of state immunity."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in response that "U.S. laws and the application of those laws by the courts of the United States comport with international law."

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that the letter is being studied.

Iran has also complained to the United States that it is locked out of the international financial system.

It accused the U.S. of failing to fulfill its obligations under last year's nuclear deal which was supposed to give the Iranians relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbing their nuclear program.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Zarif on April 22, said the United States would not stand in the way of foreign banks or firms doing business with Iranian companies that are no longer subject to U.S. sanctions. He said the administration was willing to further clarify what transactions are now permitted with Iran, and he urged foreign financial institutions to seek answers from U.S. officials if they have questions.

WONDER what the 38 year old "messaging guru" novelist has for an answer to this.....????

Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 12:12pm

Obama administration set a narrative on AQ/jihadism/ISIS. A lot of people followed without questioning.
That narrative was & is wrong.

Thomas Joscelyn ‏@thomasjoscelyn
I've written a bunch of articles (& testified before Congress) explaining that their definition of AQ is not logical/factual

Thomas Joscelyn ‏@thomasjoscelyn
It is understandable that everyone is focusing on how Rhodes/WH spun the Iran deal.
Folks, they did the same thing on AQ/ISIS/jihadism.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 5:28am

In reply to by Outlaw 09…

This is a long read but worth it..

America Is Silent as Aleppo Is Massacred

The Obama administration prefers not to notice that its diplomatic strategy in Syria has fallen apart.

The Obama administration has chosen not to spotlight what by most definitions are widespread and systematic war crimes. On occasion, it blames the Syrian Air Force for bombing hospitals and other civilian targets but rarely discusses Russian violations. It doesn’t even share with the public the rampant infractions of the cease-fire it is overseeing. That’s all classified.

Instead, U.S. officials have repeatedly focused attention on al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front.

In a series of inaccurate or loosely worded statements, officials have implied Nusra Front has a major presence in Aleppo — assertions that the Russian and Syrian governments could interpret, or exploit, as an invitation to carry on with the bombardment.

The tally of missile, bomb, and artillery attacks on the city suggests that the primary target is civilians, not moderate rebel forces supported by the United States, and certainly not Nusra Front, whose presence in the city by most estimates is modest.

Syrian Civil Defense, the white-helmeted volunteers who say they have saved more than 40,000 people from the rubble after government attacks, published a daily listing of cease-fire violations until April 26, when its own training center in Atarib, west of Aleppo, was the target of a coordinated attack of two air-to-ground missiles and one surface-to surface missile, which killed five rescue workers.

But the group continues its rescue work and monitoring. Between April 24 and May 1, Syrian Civil Defense documented the following attacks in Aleppo: 260 airstrikes, 110 artillery bombardments, 18 surface-to-surface missiles, and 68 suspected barrel bombs.

Three medical centers were bombed out of service in that horrific week: al-Quds hospital, al-Marja Medical Center, and Bustan al-Qasr Medical Center, the group said. Altogether, 189 civilians were killed, including 40 children, and 394 civilians wounded, including 96 children.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring group, said that 279 civilians had been killed in Aleppo between April 22 and May 3 — 155 of them in opposition-held areas and 124 in government-held districts.

The Aleppo City Council said Sunday that 65 died at al-Quds hospital; a bakery, a medicines depot, a water facility, three mosques, ambulances, and multiple residential neighborhoods were also hit.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, laid the blame for the escalation at the feet of the Syrian government. “While all sides have contributed to the violence the military escalation was attributable largely to the actions of a singular party: the Assad regime,” she said this week.

But Osama Taljo, a member of the Aleppo council, told Foreign Policy that one of the rebel fighting groups, Tajamu Fastaqim, claimed that the warplane that bombed the hospital was Russian, based on the reports of plane-spotters stationed by rebels near regime and Russian air bases.

The only party that knows for sure the extent of Russian involvement is the U.S. government. But it won’t share its intelligence. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the Russians “are clear that they were not engaged or flying at that time” and said the Syrian government had a track record of bombing rescuers and health care workers. But he didn’t say what the U.S. government has determined from its own intelligence — nor does his spokesman when asked at daily briefings.

“We just continue to not find it helpful to read out every single violation,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said on April 28, when asked why the United States didn’t list recorded breaches of the cessation of hostilities. Asked specifically about the prospect that Russian airstrikes were breaching the partial cease-fire the following day, Kirby said that the current period amounted to “a test for the Russians” of their seriousness of adhering to the agreement.

With U.S. aircraft crossing Syrian airspace every day on bombing runs against the Islamic State, “I am 100 percent certain we know who is flying where,” said Christopher Kozak of the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington, D.C., think tank. “The fact we don’t want to talk about it is very distressing.”

A senior administration official told FP the information about which air force is bombing which target is classified to protect “sources and methods” of collection. Making it public “would also set a precedent of the U.S. reporting on foreign military activity. Where do you draw the line?”

The U.S. attempts to work with Russia amid the ongoing offensive, however, has damaged its credibility among opposition members.

“How can the international community accept that Russia is one of the countries who monitor the cease-fire while Russia is bombing? How can the criminal become a cease-fire keeper?” Taljo asked.

But there is logic to the silence. The administration “want[s] to work as brokers in the peace process,” setting up local cease-fire arrangements and mediating between the warring parties, said Kozak.

Kozak criticized the U.S government for becoming dependent on the good intentions of Moscow, long one of the Syrian regime’s most important international backers. “It feels very much as if we’ve pinned a lot of hopes on a great power political settlement of the conflict in which we are willing to believe the lies the Russians tell us to our faces in order to make it easier to believe in a settlement,” he said.

The senior U.S. official did not share that negative view of Russian behavior but acknowledged that much of U.S. policy was focused on working with Moscow.
The senior U.S. official did not share that negative view of Russian behavior but acknowledged that much of U.S. policy was focused on working with Moscow. “A lot of what we’re trying to do is de-escalation and refocus on positive counter-ISIL actions the Russians could be taking,” the official said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

The Obama administration even appears to have backed off its tentative warnings that it would consider using military force if the cessation of hostilities failed and it determined Russia was insincere in its diplomatic efforts. In February, Kerry referred multiple times to a “Plan B” if peace talks failed, saying the war “could get a lot uglier” for Russia in that event.

But with diplomatic efforts now in tatters and violence in Syria surging back to its previous highs, U.S. officials are denying that they ever had any intention to escalate the use of force. Kirby, the State Department spokesman, last week shot down any thoughts of an alternative to the current track, deriding what he described as a “mythical plan B.”

“Look, what I’m saying is our focus is on the political process,” Kirby told reporters.


Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 5:16am

Did the Obama WH actually give Putin's RuAF and Assad a "green light to bomb Aleppo"....this is actually a very valid question.

CENTCOM repeatedly stated that Aleppo was controlled by Nusra/AQ (JaN) when true area specialists knew otherwise...SO why did CENTCOM keep repeating it?

Warren's statement about Nusra and #Aleppo was wrong. Anyone aware of the situation knew.…

By CENTCOM's stating that Aleppo was under control of JaN then Russia and Assad could in fact "legally" bomb JaN BECAUSE they controlled JaN in Geneva 2 could be bombed at will.......

Words have meanings and words can cause an unintended impact if not wisely chosen.

So was the US actually complicit in the indiscriminate Russian/Assad killing of civilians in Aleppo????

Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 5:04am

WOW...those Obama "Iranian moderates" hard at work again.......

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered one of his most anti-American speeches in years @TheIranPulse

BUT WAIT was it not the Obama foreign policy guru "novelist" who "convinced us" there were moderates in Iran thus the need for the Iran Deal....???

The remaking of the ME in the image of Iran was certainly not the "messaging" from the Obama foreign policy guru "novelist"...was it?

Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 4:41am

Bill...reference the war crime committed this week by the RuAF in their air strike on a recognized IDP camp killing over 30 and wounding over 200 and that included women and children...

The DoS/Kerry...nothing directly from Obama response was ..."there is no excuse for this"...AND that was about it.

THEN today with no US info war response which should have been immediate, concise and clearly stated...."air strikes" on refuge camps is in fact a war crime.

Totally under the rubric of "too much vodka"....

Moscow suggest that "Nusra" is the one who attacked the IDP camp in rural Idlib killed 30 ppl 2 days ago.

BUT WAIT..the last time I checked neither Nusra/AQ, nor IS nor for that matter the FSA.......NONE of them have an AF......sure a couple of drones but nothing capable of dropping 250/500 lb bombs......

NICE... Russian flown SU24 bombs an IDP camp with a precision air strike THEN "false flags" it as Nusra/AQ.....

Eyewitness to attack on Idlib IDP camp tells @semaandiana @amnestyonline that one strike hit a school tent. 8 kids among the dead

AND outside of the initial US response nothing more was said was it.....?

That my friend is the Obama "novelist" foreign policy for Syria.....

At least Qatar condemned the airstrikes on refugee camp in Idlib with "Criminal acts against innocent women & children must not pass w/o accountability"

A tad different from the DoS statement of "no excuse"....

Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 4:20am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Bill...this the utmost perfect example of the failed Obama policies and what he is running from in Syria...meaning he has absolutely done nothing to stop the deliberate killing of civilians WHICH legally is called 1) a war crime and or 2) genocide.....REMEMBER his rebuke of his UNSC Ambassador Power who is a leading expert on genocides and how we should respond to them WHEN she brought up the subject in a WH meeting....

THERE have been numerous field accounts from the FSA who are in daily direct fighting with IS that the US coalition AF are over them but do absolutely with a BIG "A" nothing against tens of IS targets as they attack FSA positions.

EVER ask WHY that is????..for the answer follow us on the Syrian 2016 is there for all to see and read....

Originally Posted by OUTLAW 09

CrowBat...something for you ...confirms your previous comments on the fact that the USAF is actually doing little to nothing in Turkey...definitively not attacking identified IS positions.....

Col. Warren, spokesman for the CTJF-OIR, just explained that they have not provided 'technology to provide targets to the CTJF-OIR' to the insurgents in Azaz Pocket. His explanation are 'recent problems between the rebels and the SDF in Northern Aleppo'.

Sorry, but BS reason: insurgents were there - and fighting Daesh - long before the USA moved the SDF from Ayn al-Arab/Kobane to Afrin enclave.

Overall, the CENTCOM is back to 'daily discussions on deconflicting airspace' (over Syria) with Russians, and that's it: Putler's heroes are free to keep on killing civilians and bombing the FSyA, just like the JAN is free to keep on growing and flourishing.

Everybody is free, just the Syrians - not.
CrowBat is offline Report Post is the critical question...notice CrowBat's reference to the FULL US support of the Kurdish SDF in Afrin enclave ...BUT what CENTCOM and Obama do not tell you nor do they want to tell you the SDF is part and parcel of the YPG which is part and parcel of the Kurdish PKK a US named terror organization.

SO exactly why is the US/CENTCOM/Obama backing a known Kurdish terror group who is in a full attack now on Turkey?

AND WHY is the USAF NOT attacking IS positions WHEN Obama claims he ultimate goal is the destruction of IS.....

BTW...the reference by COL Warren concerning "problems between SDF and the FSA in northern Aleppo".....REFERS to the following.

SDF or really what is and should be called YPG attacks numberous Arab towns and villages in the Aleppo area attempting to destroy the Aleppo FSA pocket in order to link Afrin to the rest of the Kurdish territory along the Turkish border.

Those attacks were carried out using Russian CAS and Iranian mercenaries and Hezbollah and were pushed back by heavy FSA counterattacks.

AND here is the kicker of ALL kickers DONE in apparent coordination with IS attacks launched at the same time on FSA from IS positions.....

AND this is the US CENTCOM/CIA/Obama fully supported Kurdish proxy....fighting with Assad, Russia, IS and Iran against local Syrians....

NOW explain that Obama move?....

Challenge you to explain it in a way that is coherent and makes is all but impossible to without admitting Obama absolutely has no idea what the heck he is doing in Syria YET tells us his Syrian and IS strategy is highly successful...yeah right is all I can say.

BUT WAIT since the interview with his foreign policy guru novelist WE know it is all smoke and mirrors designed to convince us all is well in the fairyland called the Obama WH...

Kind of reminds me of a political poster I saw once in Belin in the early 1970s when the stationing of Pershing 2 missiles was being massively debated

It showed an old man in his 90s with no teeth wearing a white pilots helmet in a US flight suit and it stated....

"Sleep well for I protect you tonight...."

Outlaw 09

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 1:00am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill...I have never called for US boots on the ground...right now we have a fully trained combat tested and stressed FSA on the ground able and willing to fight and are fighting IS daily, but they are fighting our YPG proxy who is attacking them daily in their expansion of a Kurdish area, they are fighting Assad and the entire Iranian mercenary army, Hezbollah and Russia.....and are holding and to a degree expanding their controlled areas taken from IS and Assad.

AND most importantly they are Syrians...not Iranians, Afghani's or Pakistani's or Hezbollah or Russians..BUT local Syrians defending their own country ALL 90,000 of them.

All they are ask for is adequate weaponry and supplies...not the constant Obama veto on TOWs and MANPADs.

They want their own country free from a genocidal dictator and IS and along the way if they can kick out JaN then it is much better.

BUT is what they get instead.....

Obama interview w/@JeffreyGoldberg +Rhodes in @NYTmag use contempt for FP establishment as way of denigrating arguments 4 acting in #Syria

BTW...there is a day after already in place and it seems the Us and Russians have largely overlooked it because it does not match the "narrative".

In the areas free from Assad there are over 900 (NINE HUNDRED) democratically elected in free elections with a large number of women in them already managing their daily affairs and the HNC their Geneva negotiation is made up of 52 groups and technocrats and have shown in Geneva an amazing amount of cohesion......even Kerry's threats did not shake them.

THEN we have right now a Assad Central Prison in Hama in full riot mode under their control issuing what some might in fact call.."moderate" demands...REMEMBER Assad's state security system has over 200,000 prisoners under their control with most of them being tortured and or "disappeared"...

AND all of this in the face of daily war crimes and genocidal attacks.

So they cannot manage for the "day after"?...they are already in the "day after" just to survive......

Syrians are and were some of the best educated in the entire ME and are fully capable of "good governance"...just kick out Assad and watch them.....

AND what does Obama do..."argues" over who is a "moderate"......


From COL Joseph J. Collins' "More Lessons from a Long War" Small War Journal article of today:

"In future campaigns, when angry politicians call for American troops to take Raqqa or assault Mosul, the proper response to those advocating U.S. “boots on the ground” should be: “then what?” Keep asking that question until your interlocutor can explain how risky military operations will lead to some sort of effective governance. This will be a tough issue for a liberated Mosul and an even tougher issue for Raqqa in civil war-torn Syria."

(See the concluding paragraph of his added "Lesson 1.")

Note: COL Collins' "then what" question appears to mirror a similar question posed by the spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Ms. Maria Zakharova, in 2015:

“The problem is that the West cannot show one example of how they would manage the Syria story right after,” Ms. Zakharova said. “What is the West planning to do right after? Do they have a magic wand that will transform Syria from civil war to economic prosperity?”…

Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 4:23pm

This is really worth reading although a long long read......

Whose Side is America on in Aleppo?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 6, 2016


Whatever pretence there was left in Syria’s “cessation of hostilities” (CoH)—which was never more than a reduction in hostilities—enacted at midnight on 26/27 February is now at an end. Russia and the regime of Bashar al-Assad have never ceased attempts to militarily weaken the armed opposition and escalated with a concerted campaign of aerial bombardment against Aleppo City on 22 April. The insurgency fully mobilized in response on 5 May with a major offensive south of the city. The dynamics set in place by Russia’s intervention—the bolstering of the Assad regime and the strengthening of extremist forces in the insurgency—have been in full view with this latest crisis, as has the longer-term trend of the United States moving toward the position of Assad, Russia, and especially Iran in Syria.

Jaysh al-Fatah and the Aleppo Offensive

The Jaysh al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) coalition that drove the regime from Idlib City in March 2015 and expelled it from Idlib Province in September was reconstituted on Monday. Faylaq al-Sham (The Syrian Legion/Corps) has rejoined Jaysh al-Fatah, having left over ideological disagreements with Jund al-Aqsa, a group that started as an al-Qaeda front and is now—after its al-Qaeda leadership left—trending into the Islamic State’s (IS’s) orbit. Probably for this reason, Jund al-Aqsa has been excluded from Jaysh al-Fatah this time around. Faylaq al-Sham is a moderate Islamist group that has been drawn closer to the West recently, including having been seen in the last few months operating TOW anti-tank missiles, while expanding its influence throughout Aleppo. The only other change is the addition of the largely-Uyghur al-Hizb al-Islami al-Turkistani fil Bilad al-Sham (The Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria, or TIP)*, a Jihadi-Salafist group that is heavily dependent on Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

Jaysh al-Fatah retains as its dominant forces al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. Of the other components of the original Jaysh al-Fatah: the smaller Islamist groups Ajnad al-Sham (not to be confused with al-Ittihad al-Islami li-Ajnad al-Sham, the Sufi rebel group in East Ghouta that recently merged its forces in that area with Faylaq al-Rahman) and Liwa al-Haqq remain, as does Jaysh al-Sunna, a small, non-ideological faction that was absorbed by Ahrar in February.

When the offensive began in the early afternoon (British time) yesterday, it honed in on the regime-held Khan Tuman, south-west of Aleppo City, with reports of fighting in the adjacent district of al-Khalidiya and insurgent shelling against Barnah and Khalasa. It is likely that the intention is to clear the ground for a run at the important town of al-Hader further to the south and just east of al-Eis, which al-Nusra-led insurgents took over temporarily on 2 April and where a regime plane was shot down on 5 April. Iranian-led forces conquered al-Eis on 12 April, sapping the momentum of this insurgent push. The next attempt was not long in coming, however, when simultaneous offensives in southern Aleppo, Latakia, and Hama erupted on 18 April.

It was Ajnad that made the first formal announcement that Jaysh al-Fatah was moving in southern Aleppo and Ajnad and Jund al-Aqsa were the most visible for some time in terms of the social media and video output from Aleppo. Soon enough the centralized—effectively al-Nusra—output began. Al-Nusra deployed suicide bombers in Khan Tuman and the town appears to have fallen overnight. A video allegedly showing the capture of a member of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was filmed from a drone. Later in the day, Jaysh al-Fatah disclosed their capture of a foreign Shi’a jihadist, very likely an Afghan Hazara of Liwa Fatemiyoun, one of the many IRGC-run militias on which the Assad regime is now dependent for any offensive capacity and increasingly for defence, too.

Concurrent with this, in Zahraa district and New Aleppo on the western edge of Aleppo City and near the nearby military base, mainstream rebels vetted by the West recommenced an assault they had begun on 3 May, when Jaysh al-Tahrir (which contains the U.S.-vetted Division 46), Liwa Suqour al-Jabal, Division Sixteen, and (less formally in the U.S.-supported camp) al-Jabhat al-Shamiya (The Levant Front) were seen using TOWs.

Russia, meanwhile, was in the middle of staging a concert in Palmyra, a city whose partially-choreographed exchange between the pro-Assad coalition and IS had been the cause of such misplaced optimism in March when the propaganda of Assad guarding the boundary for civilization was so credulously accepted by so many. The concert was evidently meant to reinforce that narrative, but the pro-regime coalition’s responding to the Aleppo offensive by bombing the Kamouna refugee camp in the far-north of Idlib Province, thirty miles away from Aleppo City, killing thirty people and burning down more than fifty tents, was surely a far better indication of what Vladimir Putin and his client mean by “modern civilization“.

Al-Qaeda and the United States

The waves of insurgent offensives in Aleppo certainly have been pushed by al-Nusra, which found that during the reduction of violence the moderate opposition was reinvigorated. Without extreme violence imposed on Sunni communities by the Assad regime and its enablers, al-Nusra’s tactical usefulness to the opposition was diminished. For the first time in more than three years it was possible to hold peaceful protests of the kind that began the uprising. The nationalist, revolutionary discourse re-asserted itself, and it wasn’t long before al-Nusra cracked down, in Maarat al-Numan on 11 March, leading to a counter-reaction that threatened its long-term durability in Syria.

Needing to undermine the CoH, al-Nusra met with armed opposition leaders on about 20 March, Charles Lister reports. “They presented some convincing arguments,” an opposition commander who attended one of the meetings said. The argument doubtless will have been that the pro-regime forces continued their war against the rebellion, albeit at a lower level and in a more localized fashion, while the rebels were restrained from responding. This kind of one-sided restraint was never going to last, so al-Nusra had plenty to work with. “But,” added the commander, “mostly, it seemed we were being threatened: If we didn’t join the operation, we would be seen as an enemy.”

The U.S. has in recent weeks put a renewed emphasis on getting the mainstream rebellion to separate itself militarily from al-Nusra. While a defensible (and ultimately necessary) goal, the method has not been. As one FSA commander put it to Lister: “Don’t you think we would prefer not to have al-Nusra in our trenches? They represent everything we are opposed to. Sometimes, they are the same as the regime. But what can we do when our supposed friends abroad give us nothing to assert ourselves?” But rather than—finally—empower the moderate armed opposition so that it is not dependent on al-Nusra, instead, the U.S. effectively leveraged the prospect of Russian atrocities against its own allies and in practice tried to have them surrender Aleppo City to the pro-Assad forces.

On 20 April 2016, as Russia was clearly building up to an attack on Aleppo City, Colonel Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, came very close to saying that the U.S. position was one of support for Russia’s airstrikes against Aleppo City. While “concerned” about the Russian moves, said Col. Warren, “it’s primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities.”

But the eastern part of Aleppo City that is out of regime control is not held “primarily” by al-Nusra. The pro-regime coalition recently took control of parts of north-western Aleppo Province, cutting the final Aleppine supply-line for the rebellion into Turkey on 2 February. The pro-regime coalition broke the incomplete sieges on Nubl and Zahra the next day and began to move against the provincial capital after that. Al-Nusra had withdrawn from northern Aleppo in August 2015—and remains largely absent from that area, having no more than 100 fighters in the Azaz pocket—redeploying those forces from Aleppo to Idlib. On 26 January 2016, as the pro-regime forces were advancing in Aleppo, al-Nusra sent a convoy of up to two-hundred vehicles that by one estimate constituted 1,000 fighters to Aleppo City. This immediately provoked resistance, however, especially from the local, Free Syrian Army-style groups but also from Ahrar al-Sham, and by mid-February more than two-thirds of al-Nusra’s arrivals had been sent out of Aleppo City, either taking up residence in the south (and some in the west) of Aleppo Province or returning to Idlib Province, where al-Nusra is strongest.

Key: Red (regime), Green (rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra), Yellow-Green (Kurdish PYD), Black (Islamic State). [Original map by Thomas van Linge]
Key: Red (regime), Green (rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra), Yellow-Green (Kurdish PYD), Black (Islamic State). [Original map by Thomas van Linge]
So, al-Nusra has a presence in Aleppo City, and Ahrar al-Sham, too, is present, as is the Abu Amara Special Forces, a unit of 300 rebels led by Muhanna Jaffala, which joined Ahrar in October while remaining somewhat autonomous. But the rebel-held areas of Aleppo City are overwhelmingly under the control of Fatah Halab (Aleppo Conquest), an operations room that specifically excludes al-Nusra.


Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 3:37pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Robert....this was written two years ago and is telling when we read the Rhodes interview in the NYTs....actually this article is insightful now that we have had the recent WaPo article on the needed "messaging", then the Goldberg interview and then the Rhodes interview this week...

Michael Weiss
✔ ‎@michaeldweiss I think I got this right two years ago:

An unbelievably small presidency
Does the White House even want its token Syrian efforts to succeed?


Sometime in 2010, as the United States was preparing for its withdrawal from Iraq, a senior military commander was approached in a White House hallway by a senior Obama administration official. The commander was deeply disturbed by what he saw as a total lack of commitment to securing the hard-won gains in a country not yet ready for a categorical American absence. Would the Sunni Awakening be put back to sleep? Would al-Qaeda return in force? Was the administration aware of Nouri al-Maliki’s true character and political tendency, not to mention the foreign country to which he was actually loyal? The administration official’s response is something that the military commander never forgot, and neither should anyone trying to understand the United States’ role in the world today. “If our policy succeeds,” the official said, “we’ll take credit for it. If it fails and Iraq descends into civil war again, we’ll just blame George W. Bush.”

I’ve argued before in this space that the Obama administration does not have a foreign policy of which to speak; it has a public relations policy. “Strategic communications” has taken the place of actual strategy, and what Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin refers to as “political technology” has taken the place of actual politics. The formula here is quite simple because it was invented by people in their late 20s or early 30s with little real-world experience beyond applying for Rhodes scholarships or crowdsourcing campaign donations. Whenever some part of the world falls to pieces, or some fresh humanitarian catastrophe ensues, the immediate response is twofold: First, the president gives a speech making him appear decisive and in command; second, all the president’s men leak stories to an accommodating press suggesting that he is indeed decisive and in command and about to take necessary action. Never mind the details – those will come later. Just focus on the headlines.

And so the press invariably does. US policy is now changed, or adjusted – sometimes dramatically so – to incorporate new facts and fresh disasters, the newspapers tell us. The New York Times dutifully praises this theatre of leadership in its editorial page, mistaking moral cretinism for “caution” and cowardice for “pragmatism.” Then weeks, if not months, go by and people forget about the part of the world falling to pieces or the humanitarian catastrophe because something else has grabbed their attention. But then, quietly, the true original purpose behind the strategic communications-concocted policy is laid bare in a lead-burying item tucked away in the middle section of a national newspaper.

In his West Point speech last May, the president announced that he was “calling on Congress to support a new counterterrorism partnerships fund of up to $5 billion,” to help allied countries and pro-American proxies combat jihadism in Yemen, Libya and Syria, which was now a “critical focus” of this subsidy. “I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators,” he said, which some took to mean that the Defense Department taking over the training of rebels from the CIA would mean a significant investment in creating a Free Syrian Army that was both anti-Assad and anti-jihadist. It was soon thereafter established that of the proposed $5 billion, only $500 million – 10% – would be spent on the Syria crisis, which is by far the worst of all those Obama tallied off. A National Security Council spokesperson tried his or her best to elaborate that this money would “help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement.”

Help, stabilize, facilitate, counter and promote are words that mean nothing to most human beings, for good reason. But they meant a great deal to Fareed Zakaria, or perhaps his research assistant. In the course of arguing that the Assad regime had been a historical foe of radical Islamists and jihadists – such as the ones it dispatched into Iraq to kill American servicemen, or the ones it has armed and subvented in Lebanon and Gaza – this most correct of correct-thinking pundits pronounced that Obama was “likely to throw fuel onto a raging fire” by adopting such a bold new military program. Alas, this was because Obama had finally succumbed to the “general consensus” on Syria. (Zakaria seems to believe that a consensus can be anything other than general. He will one day make an excellent strategic communicator for some lucky White House.)

But his panic was unjustified, as was obvious back at West Point, where gobbledygook masqueraded as a volte-face. The Wall Street Journal reported on July 16 that Obama’s seemingly large investment is already subject to diminishing returns, with sentences that read as if they were out of Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief: “Preliminary military estimates, presented by officials to key congressional committees in closed-door briefings last week, call for training a 2,300-man force – less than the size of a single brigade – over an 18-month period that probably won’t begin until next year, according to officials.”

In other words, half a billion dollars is being spent to possibly kinda make soldiers out of a contingent of a little more than 12% of the Islamic State’s estimated total fighting force. And it’s going to take a year and a half just to do that. The Pentagon explained that this absurd holdup – in 18 months, there may be no Syrian opposition left to train or arm – was due to the “vetting issue.” Here again comes a perennial US excuse, which former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford wasted little time debunking once he lapsed into official retirement. Three years into the war, and the United States has trouble finding 2,000 credible proxies. Meanwhile, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is running four different countries all at once in the midst of international sanctions, has no trouble finding 150,000 militiamen of its own to wage counterinsurgency operations in Syria and Iraq under the guise of “protecting Shia shrines.”

There are also new hiccups for rebel boot camp that had not existed before. Jordan allowed the CIA to train rebels on its soil for two years (how were they vetted? do they have friends they can refer to other agencies in the US government?), but now says it doesn’t want the Pentagon to train rebels on its soil. This is an objection that no one in the Obama administration appears to have anticipated, which is implausible given the heavy presence of the CIA on Jordanian soil. So now location has become yet another impediment to seeing Obama’s grand vision for Syria realized.

Most revealing, however, is what one defense official told the Journal about the lack of interest or support for this policy at the very top: “I get the sense no one really wants to do it.” How right he is.

Mohammed al-Ghanem, the government relations director at the Syrian American Council, told al-Arabiya’s Joyce Karam that the White House is not “lobbying aggressively” for Congress to accept the Syria provision in the 2015 Defense Appropriations Act, which cleared the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee this week. The administration is “almost setting itself up for failure,” Ghanem said, although he might have added that it is doing so consciously because it does not want to succeed. This is the built-in trapdoor to all Obama policymaking. Executive torpor and lack of preparation in selling an executive-made policy ensures that failure becomes somebody else’s problem – George W. Bush’s, or a ####ty website provider, or the House and Senate.

Recall how the administration tried, not very convincingly, to convince Congress to authorize the president to wage “unbelievably small” airstrikes on the Assad regime after its deployment of sarin gas in Damascus last summer, which exceeded all the other “small-scale” chemical weapons attacks that the regime had already perpetrated. The administration deflected or parried arguments from legislators which it had invented to justify not attacking the Assad regime. Both the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff and the defense secretary looked on that occasion like two dogs that had been put through a car wash. John Kerry, who had compared Assad to Hitler one week, then had to praise him as cooperative in the early stages of chemical disarmament the next.

I asked Hadi al-Bahra, the newly-elected president of the Syrian Opposition Council, what he thought of the fine print of the administration’s already-faltering plan to rescue Syria. “The delay in taking any decisions or pushing laws or budgets into Congress without also pushing for its success – it will not serve any purpose that will advance any change on the ground,” he told me from Istanbul. “We have painted for the administration the full picture of the situation in Syria now, and we have explained the regional risks that we will face if we don't take a strong stand to deal with it responsibly.”

Is Bahra surprised that attempts to “contain” this nightmare have instead yielded a caliphate? “The regime is an incubator for terrorist organizations. From the start of the revolution the regime created this scenario, announced it, and now is executing it under the eyes of the international community. And we don’t see the right reaction. We have told the administration that [the Islamic State] is working right under the noses of the Iranian and Syrian regimes. But they’re not doing the right thing to combat that.”


Robert C. Jones

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 3:00pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


The horrific neoliberal policy flaws of what to do about Assad or Gaddafi or Mubarak, are only matched by the horrific neocon policy flaws of what to do about Saddam or Omar. Both cling to Cold War perspectives colored by their own extreme ideology; and neither work particularly well.

But that is another matter altogether from the current frustration we have with the Islamic State born of our policy foundering. A new brand of thinking is required, but I do not see much hope of that happening anytime soon. Strategic inertia is a powerful force.


Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 1:35pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Perfect example of what I was meaning.......

Not short of ammo but short of men.
FSA fires a TOW vs. advancing ISIS troops in Q.Mazrah

NO coalition AF aircraft to be seen anywhere in the area....YET total support of the Kurdish proxies.....

THIS is the DoD/Obama "war on IS".......

Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 3:32pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 1:24pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

What we are often missing in this is that in 2011 a Syrian civil society stood up and demanded initially in peaceful fashion the rule of law, transparency and good governance and a dictator brutally turned on them causing an ever cycling spiral of radicalization and violence…..resulting in over 500,000 killed, 8M IPDs and over 5M refugees.

Into this void stepped IS which has been largely tied document wise in the last year to Iran, Russia and Assad AND then AQ appeared…. also document wise tied to Iran and Russia in Syria.

Ever notice that the long list of documentation tying IS to Assad, Iran and Russia has largely been missed in US MSM as well as AQ being tied to Iran and Russia.

For now over four long years the initial anti Assad opposition has been fighting largely both JaN/AQ and IS, Assad, Iran with IRGC and Shia mercenaries, Iraqi Shia militias and now Russian troops and their RuAF with a number of outside supporters providing them the means to keep fighting Assad, IS and JaN with no thanks to the Obama veto and a Kerry constantly threatening them.

If one is to actually defeat JaN/AQ and IS WE meaning Obama and his Generals have missed opportunity after opportunity to actually swing in behind the Syrian civil society provide them the true means to defeat militarily both JaN and IS as both do not have a large pull inside the overall Syrian civil society.

THEN we got a ridiculous Obama WH debate on who is an or is not a “moderate” THEN we get CENTCOM and DoD falling in behind the Kurds and not realizing the intricate game of balance among the various Kurdish groups with now the anti Assad opposition ie FSA a quasi US proxy being beaten up on by Assad, the entire Iranian mercenary army and Russia….AND the Kurdish YPG a true US proxy….

IF in fact Obama had/has it right THEN he should have stood up, demanded DoD do something and then fired individuals if they did nothing……BUT he did nothing.

BUT IMHO he did not and for a number of reasons among them the main one being he is if one really looks at his moves over the eight years….he is an intellectual pacifist who does not like using force.

He relies too much on “messaging” and too little on actual leadership…….which means making tough decisions and then standing behind them.

All the while the solution to both IS and JaN/AQ is staring us literally in our faces….it is the Syrian civil society itself which has a resilience in the face of starvation, genocide and war crimes matched only by Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine and yet is still fighting IS and JaN/AQ….. on a daily basis while Obama and DoD talk.

Recently when under IS attacks after a series of successful attacks on them FSA got beaten back ALL the while the coalition AF circled above them doing nothing .......does that make any sense to anyone.

Inside Syria it will take brut force to kick JaN/IS out of every village, and town they currently control but it can be done if FSA has the support they need. right now FSA can kick out IS and or JaN but they cannot hold what they win as they cannot match the weaponry of both IS and or JaN so we see a constant back and forth...a war of attrition.

Outside Syria it is a true UW fight...and that fight we are losing and have been losing since 2003.

Right now due to the lack of Obama leadership and the level of Syrian fighting we are seeing it is getting to what Bismarck stated the "blood and iron stage"....a political solution is no longer on the table and for that I fully blame the Obama WH.

I also blame DoD, CENTCOM and CIA for putting into play proxies fighting proxies all supported by the US.....

REMEMBER since yesterday we know that the Obama foreign policy has been largely driven by a 38 year old "novelist" with a knack for "messaging"......

Robert C. Jones

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 8:16am

For what it's worth, IMO, President Obama's understanding of the strategic nature of ISIL is FAR more accurate than that of Mr. West.

I can see Mr. West's point if this were a Clausewitzian conflict between the US and ISIL (and if ISIL were not the government of what is possibly the weakest state on the planet throwing pathetic threats at the strongest state on the planet); but that is simply not the case. Do not apply Clausewitz to every problem, but do heed his sage advice, Mr. West: "Know what kind of war you are in." Or, when a political conflict is perhaps not really war at all...

I would also direct Mr. West to a particularly relevant insight from Sun Tzu:
“Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy. Next best is to disrupt his alliances by diplomacy. The next best is to attack his army. And the worst policy is to attack cities.”

“Thus, those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle. They capture the enemy's cities without assaulting them and overthrow his state without protracted operations. Their aim is to take all under heaven intact by strategic considerations. Thus, their troops are not worn out and their gains will be complete. This is the art of offensive strategy.”

What Sun Tzu advices is essentially what the President meant when he told the Generals and Admirals across the river to "defeat ISIL" - but what was sent in the spirit of Sun Tzu, was heard in the dogma of Western Clausewitz/Jomini based doctrine. The Generals (and their like-minded pundits like Mr. West) are frustrated that they have been given little of what they would need to impose a defeat in the terms they have interpreted the President's guidance. Perhaps they should ponder what type of defeat they might be able to effect with what they have been given? Particularly if they consider their mission in the context of the resources, authorities and permissions they have been given, it becomes clear that they must first step back and reframe how they think about the problem and then seek a victory in the context of that advised by Sun Tzu.

ISIL is employing a UW strategy. Counter the strategy, Generals. To simply attack the forces and seek to take their cities is folly, and is specifically what the President told you NOT to do. If anyone deserves to be frustrated with this campaign, it is not the Generals, it is the President.

It is not too late to turn this around. But the longest journey begins with the first step, and we have yet to take that step.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 2:45am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Bill...once you fully understand Obama then the US truly needs to fully understand Putin....and the Obama WH is a long long way from that right now....

This was from a solid UK journalist who speaks Russian and reports from Moscow.....

Roland Oliphant ‎@RolandOliphant
Thirty were killed in airstrike on a refugee camp in Syria yesterday - while Russia staged its concert in Palmyra.…

All the Obama WH could find in their "strategy" was again only words...."there is no excuse to bomb an IDP camp".

Sorry could the Obama WH have found a few "tougher words" to use....they are there but it takes a certain political "courage" to use them.....which this WH does not have and has never had ion almost eight years.

Could they have not found the "words" "Russian war crimes"...or better yet "Russian genocide"......

Outlaw 09

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 2:37am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill...before I shift gears......

One thing many here forget is that Europe has already gone through a revolutionary guerrilla war phase when the US was not involved from the 1960s through to the mid 1980s and came out on the other side.....

BTW triggered by the US in "Black September 1970"........and I was there for that one.

Countering terrorism and IS is just another form of an intensive security service and police issue not a military one.....if the US does ever notice after Paris....IS and their underground cells are having a tough time of it now throughout Europe. WHAT has not been attacked is the IS info warfare even with the latest and greatest words coming out of the US...IS info warfare has never been least the EU and NATO have taken on the Russian info warfare...the US has not even done that.

There are 28 members of NATO and 28 members of the EU...and they all must work on the principle of 100% togetherness or else nothing gets done...the US is a tad different.

NOW back to the core principle that this Obama WH had totally failed on any form of a foreign policy...literally wasted almost eight years that could have been used to rebuild what I mentioned yesterday....a new global security structure.......

BTW I am not the only one seeing the need for that new security system.....

The US must take the lead in realigning the global power architecture in such a way that the violence erupting within and occasionally projected beyond the Muslim world—and in the future possibly from other parts of what used to be called the Third World—can be contained without destroying the global order.”

-- Zbigniew Brzezinski

Sometimes the "Old Masters" fully understood the world far better than this Obama WH does on any given day.

Bill....take the WaPo article released by SWJ on the so called Obama successful Syria/IS strategy concerning "messaging"....then tie in the Goldberg interview with Obama and then tie in the NYTs article on his "messaging specialist" who has not a single page of training in IR, PS or diplomacy.......

THEN you have the total Obama "doctrine" a nutshell...."it is all about messaging".....

"Messaging" and the word "hope" have never been strategies that I know of..BUT it is if you think you are the greatest intellectual in the room....

Then you will fully understand what I have been saying for two years now....this has been one of the worst presidential periods in over 70 plus years when it comes to US FP.

BTW.....reference Paris...there is a number of us who actually feel the recent Paris attacks were in fact a "false flag".......the way the op was organized...who the so called leader met and on and on simply does not match known IS TTPs.AND that includes Iraqi IIS TTPs....and IS runs a standard set of TTPs if one takes the time to analyze IS attack ops.... did notice that the recent FBI arrests in the California jihadi attack included two Russian citizens...even the FBI is not sure of their nationality.....largely glossed over by US MSM but ears went up in Europe when the news broke....


RantCorps question to you below went something like this:

The problems of the Middle East and Russia are much more European problems than they are American problems.

("After all it is the Europeans who are the target of the Fruitcake, the Mad Mullahs and the ‘Bare-chested Idiot on a White Horse’ so IMHO they (the Europeans) should take the lead." ... "After all it is European kids who are being machine-gunned whilst clubbing or hanging out drinking lattes."

Based on this understanding, he then asks why are not the Europeans generally, and the Germans specifically:

a. The one's taking the lead -- in producing viable strategy/strategies -- to deal with these primarily European problems; this, rather than the U.S.?

And, why are not the Europeans generally, and the Germans specifically,

b. Supplying both the majority of the funding -- and the majority of the military forces (i.e., the "bodies;" the "youth") -- needed to see the military requirements of these missions through?

(Note #1: We should understand, I believe, that a strategy of retrenchment is, indeed, specifically designed to cause, for example, the Europeans (etc.), to shoulder more of their own tasks.)

(Note #2: One cannot, I believe, associate Woodrow Wilson with retrenchment before, during and/or after World War I; quite the opposite. The American people and their representatives, however, are to be properly [a] associated with the policy of retrenchment and/or isolationism following WWI and to be [b] properly blamed with what occurs post-the "war to end all wars." This, I believe, is the proper understanding/argument. Wilson, it is said, actually died trying to overcome such retrenchment/isolationism of ideas of the American people and their representatives.)

Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 5:08pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Have a high opinion of this writer as I had met him in Iraq were he was war reporter in the thick of things.... and have published two articles via him in the past......and he still writes his column for FP............

tom ricks ‎@tomricks1
If Obama is as smart as he thinks he is, Ben Rhodes will by Monday leave his job to spend more time with his family.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 4:27pm

No amount of "messaging" can cover up the massive killing of IFPs today in Syria....WHICH reflects a total Obama FP failure as the safe zones were recommended to him years ago ..AND he said no then and again this week.....then the massive killing of defenseless civilians in an IDP camp.........

Obama: Syria safe zone is a "practical problem".
Couple of days later..
White House: no excuse for air strike on Syria refugee camp.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 4:15pm

Bill...back to the Obama smoke and mirrors he sold the American public and that is what again....messaging equals FP.......????

How most Americans heard the #Iran deal presented "was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal"

Obama info warfare against the American public sounds much like Putin and his info warfare for his public does it wonder our allies have no earthly idea what Obama wants...not really sure he even knows outside of being the best intellectual in the room which has never equated to a great FP......

Hate to have been right for the last two solid years.........

Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 3:31pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09 the complete article and then sit back.....mull it over and then tell me I have be wrong about Obama and his FP for now going on two years .....

Foreign policy driven by a novelist...come on get wonder Putin is walking all over Obama and Kerry........over and over and over......

Two critical words stand out in the article..."narrative and spin" the key core elements of PROPAGANA...regardless of who drives it.....

Should also wonder why @nytimes has this story 8 years into the Obama Administration at the end, and not earlier?


Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 2:34pm back to my major complaint with Obama and his endless war or better yet a none engagement of IS......

Go back to the SWJ WaPo article where the Obama WH argued that in fact their Syrian/IS strategy was was just you and me we "did not get it" and you and me "just needed MORE messaging" in order to "get it".....

When it is all said and done and the historians get their hands on the Obama period you will be wondering just "how much messaging we have been fed by this WH".....and we are the people who put him in office.....

REFERENCE this messaging campaign of the Obama WH.....directed against Us citizens......…

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became
Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru

How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age.


Picture him as a young man, standing on the waterfront in North Williamsburg, at a polling site, on Sept. 11, 2001, which was Election Day in New York City. He saw the planes hit the towers, an unforgettable moment of sheer disbelief followed by panic and shock and lasting horror, a scene that eerily reminded him, in the aftermath, of the cover of the Don DeLillo novel “Underworld.”

Everything changed that day. But the way it changed Ben Rhodes’s life is still unique, and perhaps not strictly believable, even as fiction. He was in the second year of the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., writing short stories about losers in garden apartments and imagining that soon he would be published in literary magazines, acquire an agent and produce a novel by the time he turned 26. He saw the first tower go down, and after that he walked around for a while, until he ran into someone he knew, and they went back to her shared Williamsburg apartment and tried to find a television that worked, and when he came back outside, everyone was taking pictures of the towers in flames. He saw an Arab guy sobbing on the subway. “That image has always stayed with me,” he says. “Because I think he knew more than we did about what was going to happen.” Writing Frederick Barthelme knockoffs suddenly seemed like a waste of time.

“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”

It’s the day of President Obama’s final State of the Union address, Jan. 12, and the news inside the White House is not good. Luckily, the reporters on the couch in the West Wing waiting room don’t know it yet. The cream of the crop are here this early p.m. for a private, off-the-record lunch with the president, who will preview his annual remarks to Congress over a meal that is reported to be among the best in the White House chef’s repertoire.

“Blitzer!” a man calls out. A small figure in a long navy cashmere overcoat turns around, in mock surprise.

“You don’t write, you don’t call,” Wolf Blitzer, the CNN anchorman, parries.

“Well, you can call,” shoots back his former colleague Roland Martin. Their repartee thus concluded, they move on to the mutually fascinating subject of Washington traffic jams. “I used to have a 9:30 hit on CNN,” Martin reminisces. “The office was 8.2 miles from my home. It took me 45 minutes.” The CBS News anchor Scott Pelley tells a story about how members of the press destroyed the lawn during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and were told that they would be allowed back once the grass was replanted. The National Park Service replanted the grass outside the White House, but the journalists weren’t allowed back on the lawn.

Unnoticed by the reporters, Ben Rhodes walks through the room, a half-beat behind a woman in leopard-print heels. He is holding a phone to his ear, repeating his mantra: “I’m not important. You’re important.”

The Boy Wonder of the Obama White House is now 38. He heads downstairs to his windowless basement office, which is divided into two parts. In the front office, his assistant, Rumana Ahmed, and his deputy, Ned Price, are squeezed behind desks, which face a large television screen, from which CNN blares nonstop. Large pictures of Obama adorn the walls. Here is the president adjusting Rhodes’s tie; presenting his darling baby daughter, Ella, with a flower; and smiling wide while playing with Ella on a giant rug that says “E Pluribus Unum.”

For much of the past five weeks, Rhodes has been channeling the president’s consciousness into what was imagined as an optimistic, forward-looking final State of the Union. Now, from the flat screens, a challenge to that narrative arises: Iran has seized two small boats containing 10 American sailors. Rhodes found out about the Iranian action earlier that morning but was trying to keep it out of the news until after the president’s speech. “They can’t keep a secret for two hours,” Rhodes says, with a tone of mild exasperation at the break in message discipline.

As the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Rhodes writes the president’s speeches, plans his trips abroad and runs communications strategy across the White House, tasks that, taken individually, give little sense of the importance of his role. He is, according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders I talked to, the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself. The president and Rhodes communicate “regularly, several times a day,” according to Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, who is known for captaining a tight ship. “I see it throughout the day in person,” he says, adding that he is sure that in addition to the two to three hours that Rhodes might spend with Obama daily, the two men communicate remotely throughout the day via email and phone calls. Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.

Like Obama, Rhodes is a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal. He is adept at constructing overarching plotlines with heroes and villains, their conflicts and motivations supported by flurries of carefully chosen adjectives, quotations and leaks from named and unnamed senior officials. He is the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign-policy narratives, at a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press. His ability to navigate and shape this new environment makes him a more effective and powerful extension of the president’s will than any number of policy advisers or diplomats or spies. His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.

Part of what accounts for Rhodes’s influence is his “mind meld” with the president. Nearly everyone I spoke to about Rhodes used the phrase “mind meld” verbatim, some with casual assurance and others in the hushed tones that are usually reserved for special insights. He doesn’t think for the president, but he knows what the president is thinking, which is a source of tremendous power. One day, when Rhodes and I were sitting in his boiler-room office, he confessed, with a touch of bafflement, “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”

Standing in his front office before the State of the Union, Rhodes quickly does the political math on the breaking Iran story. “Now they’ll show scary pictures of people praying to the supreme leader,” he predicts, looking at the screen. Three beats more, and his brain has spun a story line to stanch the bleeding. He turns to Price. “We’re resolving this, because we have relationships,” he says.

Price turns to his computer and begins tapping away at the administration’s well-cultivated network of officials, talking heads, columnists and newspaper reporters, web jockeys and outside advocates who can tweet at critics and tweak their stories backed up by quotations from “senior White House officials” and “spokespeople.” I watch the message bounce from Rhodes’s brain to Price’s keyboard to the three big briefing podiums — the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon — and across the Twitterverse, where it springs to life in dozens of insta-stories, which over the next five hours don formal dress for mainstream outlets. It’s a tutorial in the making of a digital news microclimate — a storm that is easy to mistake these days for a fact of nature, but whose author is sitting next to me right now.

Rhodes logs into his computer. “It’s the middle of the [expletive] night in Iran,” he grumbles. Price looks up from his keyboard to provide a messaging update: “Considering that they have 10 of our guys in custody, we’re doing O.K.”

With three hours to go until the president’s address to Congress, Rhodes grabs a big Gatorade and starts combing through the text of the State of the Union address. I peek over his shoulder, to get a sense of the meta-narrative that will shape dozens of thumb-suckers in the days and weeks to follow. One sentence reads: “But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.” He retypes a word, then changes it back, before continuing with his edit. “Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages — they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence.”

Watching Rhodes work, I remember that he is still, chiefly, a writer, who is using a new set of tools — along with the traditional arts of narrative and spin — to create stories of great consequence on the biggest page imaginable. The narratives he frames, the voices of senior officials, the columnists and reporters whose work he skillfully shapes and ventriloquizes, and even the president’s own speeches and talking points, are the only dots of color in a much larger vision about who Americans are and where we are going that Rhodes and the president have been formulating together over the past seven years.


Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 1:13pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill and this goes to answer might actually be surprised how much the German "youth" is informed on what is ongoing in Syria BUT right now they are far more focused on the immediate threat to Europe as a whole....neo nationalism/neo Nazism....largely supported by Putin.

Actually what is interesting is that even though Germany was at first being overrun by Syrian and Iraqi refugees largely driven by IS and Assad with Russian and Iranian assistance.....the latest polling seems to indicate that the German population as a whole has largely accepted the immigrant invasion and is now believing that the integration of them is actually now possible and surprise of surprises Merkel's poll numbers are climbing and the neo right wing is slowly ever so slowly sinking.

Also they are taking on AfD and Pergida which is a far deeper threat to Germany than anything the ME can come up with right now....

We as Americans must realize that this younger generation of Germans has a far better understanding of the threat from the right....than say the US does with many Americans tilting to Trump WHO BTW is largely supported via a number of Putin associates.....

What we also forget is that WE the US have an inherent and deeper foreign policy in the ME almost any country in the world....AND if one really looks at the energy policies currently implemented in Germany they are far less dependent on the ME than say 10 years ago with an average of 32% of their energy demands being "alternative".....vs our what??

THIS might surprise you but in some aspects I agree with Obama....we can no longer act like a policeman....but his answer was to simply retrench much as the Wilson model of 1920....and we know were that went in 1939...

Obama should have used his eight years to put into play a new model that allows for the regional players to start maneuvering allowing the US to slowly disengage as a policeman....BUT here is the critical difference...ALLOWING the regional players to fully understand that there is still an "adult" in the room willing and able to use force if necessary to contain the outbursts that will occur from time to time....AND that policeman will moderate and assist in a solution built around the regional players.

BUT he did not do that did he...he immediately retrenched in a chaotic fashion and left nothing in place allowing for a reemerging Putin to place his stamp on the area and leaving the US basically looking like a kindergartener.

This applies as well to Europe and eastern Ukraine....

I will go a step further and state that we are seeing a foreign policy built on the ego biases of an individual who truly believes he is the greatest intellectual in the room....AND that is dangerous.

Remember Obama had absolutely no foreign policy experience and none when he was a junior senator....the core of this experience is his community activism built around negotiations..

BUT his former negotiations never involved parties that had the ability to destroy the US nor had the ability to match his moves and take it one step higher...

That requires a strategy... a strategy on anything would be great and he and Kerry and a 700 person NSC has largely forgotten to create anything and I take this back to his ego biases of a super intellectual.....unwilling to take advice and or criticism....

BTW....there is an article from a former CI type actually questioning the recent Paris attack...meaning was it in fact a very well executed Russian false flag attack similar to the 1995 attacks in Paris which in fact turned out to be false flag attacks.....

Paris was hit by false-flag jihadist terrorism in 1995 -- did it happen again in 2015? Here's what know so far:

False-flags happen. We need to take that term away from the tinfoilers and discuss some difficult realities.

We have seen FIVE false flag Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine and an Assad false flag attack this week...something to seriously think about.....

AND the WH has largely attempted to divert any questions about a well planned Iranian attack that was in the works for DC.....

So again answering RC...the German "youth" is doing well wish the US "youth" would become far more critical of Obama and US foreign policy than they currently are not.....seems they have forgotten how to ask the simply single word question...WHY????

Bill C.

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 10:28am


RantCorp posed this very interesting question to you below, but you may have missed it because of our exchange:


Until a European and Turkish Army masses on the Syrian border I don’t see why anyone else should be involved. After all it is the Europeans who are the target of the Fruitcake, the Mad Mullahs and the ‘Bare-chested Idiot on a White Horse’ so IMHO they should take the lead. Faced with such a commitment the US would certainly follow.

I suggest you ask some of the younger people drinking coffee on the Unter Der Linden if they feel the need to fight in Syria to avert the crisis that is impacting Germany more than anywhere else. I would be interested to know their attitude to take up the fight. After all it is European kids who are being machine-gunned whilst clubbing or hanging out drinking lattes.

Furthermore most of Europe travel on Gulf oil. The average American kid couldn’t find Syria on a map, but then they’re not being murdered watching Rock bands, and fracking - despite the Fruitcake’s best efforts - has made the US a net oil exporter.

Granted we don’t appear to have a viable strategy and you’ve pointed out that in spades. However, youself being uniquely qualified and positioned, perhaps you could find out why the Germans in particular, and the Europeans in general (who are under attack), appear to have less of a Grand Strategy than we have.


(Outlaw: To read RantCorps' entire reply-to-comment, see his "by RantCorp | April 29, 2016 - 4:57am" entry below.)

Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 10:07am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Truly worth someone who knows AQ and the ME.......

Kyle W. Orton ‏@KyleWOrton
Al-Qaeda prepares to "come out" in #Syria; only the rebellion can stop them.
via Charles_Lister

Actually a quite accurate assessment......BUT WAIT we know that the Obama WH really does not care as they are heading out the door in Jan 2017.....AND will never fully support FSA against JaN.

YET he is claiming he is fighting and defeating IS.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 9:41am

Is Obama and Kerry truly interested in defeating IS or are they just in it for the "going through the motions until January 2017"....

Rebels lost Khirbat Tel Sha‘īr, Khalfatli, Baghidin, the gas plant, Qarah Mazr'ah, Qarah Kubri, Dalhah and Al-Mazra'ah as-Suda since yday.

Situation for rebels along the Syr-Tur border is catastrophic.
Map shows #ISIS gains during last 24 hours.

NOT a single effort by both Turkey and the US to assist FSA in pushing back against a strong IS counter offensive.....high number of IS targets are available BUT it appears that Turkey and especially the US is not interested in damaging and or degrading IS....

Apparently all this Obama Kerry talk is just talk when it comes to actually attacking constantly IS....

Outlaw 09

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 9:29am

BUT WAIT....did not Russian verify to both the US and the UNSC that Assad regime was CW free....then just how does Putin explain this.....?????

Report that Assad regime used CWs against ISIS, likely Sarin. Would be first time Sarin was used since '13 massacre

APPARENTLY Putin lied to both the US and the UNSC...but what the heck it is just that is the Russian lie does not count does it with the Obama WH...???

Outlaw 09

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 3:56pm

Russia says it will NOT pressure Assad to stop bombarding Aleppo. At least they are honest.

And Obama and Kerry........?

Outlaw 09

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 2:42pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Now we know what Kerry's "plan B" was about: backing a regime offensive on Aleppo. His threat was intended for the opposition.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 2:39pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Talk is cheap with the Obama WH.......

U.S. denies abandoning Aleppo in Russian ceasefire deal, @John_Hudson reports

So after the last 72 hours of constant deliberate bombing against civilians and hospitals and an ever increasing loss of civilian life including women and children.....WOULD the Obama WH stand by this article....???

As I is really cheap inside the Obama WH....

22 minutes from Syria.....

Renewed Assad airstrikes in #Aleppo now & barrel bombs in Atshan east rural #Hama, #Syria

Outlaw 09

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 2:26pm

This is a sad and yet brutal statement concerning the total failure of the Obama FP whether in eastern Ukraine or now in Syria.....AND written on 9 FEB and where are we now in Aleppo???…

Enough is enough — U.S. abdication on Syria must come to an end

By Michael Ignatieff and Leon Wieseltier
February 9

Michael Ignatieff is the Edward R. Murrow professor of practice at the Harvard Kennedy School. Leon Wieseltier is the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution.

As Russian planes decimate Aleppo, and hundreds of thousands of civilians in Syria’s largest city prepare for encirclement, blockade and siege — and for the starvation and the barbarity that will inevitably follow — it is time to proclaim the moral bankruptcy of American and Western policy in Syria.

Actually, it is past time. The moral bankruptcy has been long in the making: five years of empty declarations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, of halfhearted arming of rebel groups, of allowing the red line on chemical weapons to be crossed and of failing adequately to share Europe’s refugee burden as it buckles under the strain of the consequences of Western inaction. In the meantime, a quarter-million Syrians have died, 7 million have been displaced and nearly 5 million are refugees. Two million of the refugees are children.

This downward path leads to the truly incredible possibility that as the Syrian dictator and his ruthless backers close in on Aleppo, the government of the United States, in the name of the struggle against the Islamic State, will simply stand by while Russia, Assad and Iran destroy their opponents at whatever human cost.

It is time for those who care about the moral standing of the United States to say that this policy is shameful. If the United States and its NATO allies allow their inglorious new partners to encircle and starve the people of Aleppo, they will be complicit in crimes of war. The ruins of our own integrity will be found amid the ruins of Aleppo. Indiscriminate bombardment of civilians is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. So is the use of siege and blockade to starve civilians. We need not wait for proof of Assad’s and Vladimir Putin’s intentions as they tighten the noose. “Barrel bombs” have been falling on bread lines and hospitals in the city (and elsewhere in Syria) for some time. Starvation is a long-standing and amply documented instrument in Assad’s tool kit of horrors.

Aleppo is an emergency, requiring emergency measures. Are we no longer capable of emergency action? It is also an opportunity, perhaps the last one, to save Syria. Aleppo is the new Sarajevo, the new Srebrenica, and its fate should be to the Syrian conflict what the fate of Sarajevo and Srebrenica were to the Bosnian conflict: the occasion for the United States to bestir itself, and for the West to say with one voice, “Enough.” It was after Srebrenica and Sarajevo — and after the air campaign with which the West finally responded to the atrocities — that the United States undertook the statecraft that led to the Dayton accords and ended the war in Bosnia.

The conventional wisdom is that nothing can be done in Syria, but the conventional wisdom is wrong. There is a path toward ending the horror in Aleppo — a perfectly realistic path that would honor our highest ideals, a way to recover our moral standing as well as our strategic position. Operating under a NATO umbrella, the United States could use its naval and air assets in the region to establish a no-fly zone from Aleppo to the Turkish border and make clear that it would prevent the continued bombardment of civilians and refugees by any party, including the Russians. It could use the no-fly zone to keep open the corridor with Turkey and use its assets to resupply the city and internally displaced people in the region with humanitarian assistance.

If the Russians and Syrians sought to prevent humanitarian protection and resupply of the city, they would face the military consequences. The U.S. military is already in hourly contact with the Russian military about de-conflicting their aircraft over Syria, and the administration can be in constant contact with the Russian leadership to ensure that a humanitarian protection mission need not escalate into a great-power confrontation. But risk is no excuse for doing nothing. The Russians and the Syrians would immediately understand the consequences of U.S. and NATO action: They would learn, in the only language they seem to understand, that they cannot win the Syrian war on their repulsive terms. The use of force to protect civilians, and to establish a new configuration of power in which the skies would no longer be owned by the Syrian tyrant and the Russian tyrant, may set the stage for a tough and serious negotiation to bring an end to the slaughter.

This is what U.S. leadership in the 21st century should look like: bringing together force and diplomacy, moral commitment and strategic boldness, around an urgent humanitarian objective that would command the support of the world. The era of our Syrian abdication must end now. If we do not come to the rescue of Aleppo, if we do not do everything we can to put a stop to the suffering that is the defining and most damaging abomination of our time, Aleppo will be a stain on our conscience forever.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 2:03pm

A case can in fact be made that the Kerry and Obama non actions in Syria are actually in full support to those actions being undertaken by Putin in in point...both Kerry, DoD and the spokesperson for the DoS have repeatedly stated "JaN" controls Aleppo....which those that fully understand the opposition and where they are located know is a and this is hard to say....."blatant lie" on the part of the US.....

Question is just why does the US continue to make those statements when they know they are lies.....????

These statements actually gave Assad and Putin a "green light" to move on and bomb Aleppo under the guise of "we are attacking JaN"......

THIS is coming in from the ME and the comments are telling.......

As #Assad/#Russia bombard the nationalist opposition in #Aleppo City, that opposition is driving #IS from towns in eastern Aleppo Province.

Issam Al Reis ‏@south_front_sy
If regime brutality does not stop in #Aleppo our forces will respond in the south. Syrian blood is the same whether in Aleppo or #Damascus

Becoming obvious that #US is now actively engaged w #Russia in the liquidation of #Syria's oppo & rebels.
#Aleppo excluded from truce-

Obama's complicity in Asad's crimes now goes much beyond inaction, as he now deliberately enables onslaught on Aleppo

Obama admin had no obligation to parrot Russia's rhetoric about Nusra in Aleppo. They've helped Putin-Asad reshape the narrative. Complicit

The mighty resistance; Obama must be proud, again. #Iran calls for boys to fight as CHILD SOLDIERS in #Syria