“Regime-Change without State Collapse is Impossible in Syria,” Landis Interviewed by RT’s Sophie&Co

Sophie Shevardnadze of RT interviews Joshua Landis on Russian TV

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Joshua Landis

The following written version is a “cleaned” up “edited” version of my interview. I edited it for grammar, diction and clarity. None of the arguments made in the video (linked below) are missing or altered.

Sophie Shevardnadze: Professor Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma, and influential analyst on Syria, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you with us. Professor, President Obama is sending up to 50 SpecOps forces to Syria to coordinate the fight against the Islamic State. Fifty people is not a lot of help. What’s he hoping to change in the grand course of things? Is there a hidden point to this move?

JL: I think President Obama is trying to respond to his critics, more than anything else. 1. One set of critics are the 50 intelligence analysts who complained a month ago that the administration was spinning intelligence to suggest that the U.S. was winning the war against ISIS when it was not. 2, The Iraqis have been asking the Russians to help them bomb ISIS. They complain that the US isn’t doing enough. And 3, U.S. allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, have complained that Washington isn’t helping them enough. They complain that the reason Russia is moving into Syria is because the US has left a vacuum. So, Obama is inserting extra troops to satisfy his critics. At the same time, the troops are small enough in number to avoid getting the U.S. sucked into a third Middle Eastern war.

SS: Ok, but doesn’t that number strike you as not even symbolic? Fifty people? I mean, it’s pretty obvious that 50 people can’t really do anything…

JL: Well, I’m not sure they can’t do anything. We’ve seen some important actions by Special Forces. They liberated a bunch of captives in Iraq. In Syria, they killed Abu Sayyaf, the economic brains of ISIS, and captured his wife along with his computers which provided important information about ISIS. They can make a difference, but you are right; no one believes they will change the course of events in any significant way. They are not meant to defeat ISIS.

SS: Okay. 75% of American sorties in the anti-ISIS campaign come back without having fired. And that’s according to Senator John McCain. Should the U.S. air effort be more intense?

JL: Well, obviously, the US is trying not to kill innocent Syrians. They’re very worried about collateral damage. It is important to understand that the U.S. is not trying to destroy ISIS but to contain it and keep it weak enough so that it cannot kill Americans or destabilize Jordan and its neighbors. I think President Obama has largely abandoned the notion that he’s going to destroy ISIS. He is pursing a very narrow counter-terrorism campaign. Of course, many people expect them to destroy ISIS, because he said he would destroy it – but immediately after saying those words, he began to say “well, it’s going to take many years.”

SS: So, Iran has joined Syrian peace talks, sitting down with Saudi Arabia and the U.S. The two were staunch opponents of Iran taking part in the talks. So, what has changed?

JL: The U.S. wanted Iran at the table. Everybody knows that Iran is important. It has thousands of troops in Syria and funds Syria to the tune of billions of dollars. Hezbollah is also in Syria at Iran’s urging, to a certain degree. Iran is a key player. No peace agreement can stick without Iran. The U.S. understands that. And, in some respects, the Russia incursion in Syria has given cover for Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama to revise some of their past policies toward Syria.

SS: Neither the Syrian regime, nor the opposition were invited to peace talks. Why not? Do powers like Iran and Saudi Arabia have more control over the situation in Syria than Syrians themselves at this point?

JL: Well, that’s a very good question: everybody was been scratching their heads about the absence of Syrians at the talks. But it would be very difficult to get Syrians to the peace talks. Assad will not attend so long as the US and coalition members are demanding that he step down. The opposition is too fragmented and numerous. There are a thousand five hundred militias, according to the CIA. Of course, there are about 20-30 that are big, important militias, but they refuse to talk to Assad. So, if one waited for Syrians to attend, one would have to wait until hell froze over. I think that the Great Powers made the logical decision that “we’re going to meet anyway.” Moreover, all combatants in Syria depend almost entirely on outside powers for arms and money. If the powers could agree to stop sending arms into Syria, it would result in a dramatic decrease in the amount of people being killed. Syrians are so weak and poor that external powers, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia can make a tremendous difference even if they meet without Syrians.

SS: Assad has agreed to take part in early elections – can Syria in its current state hold the vote? Can there be a vote before Islamic State is beaten?

JL: First, Syria is in such terrible physical state and so many people have been forced from their homes or left the country that it would be almost impossible to have fair elections. Secondly, and more importantly perhaps, it is hard for anyone to believe that the outcome would be different from the elections held in the past 45 years? All ended up with a 99% vote for the President. There’s such distrust between all sides. Nobody puts much faith in the idea of elections. Most people understand that lurking beneath the question of elections is another question: “Can the Assad regime stay or not?” Now that Russia has intervened on the side of Assad, it’s quite clear the Assad regime is staying and will stay. How the West is going to accommodate itself to this fact is not yet clear.

SS: The Western-backed FSA commander Ahmad Sa’oud told AP: “What we care about is Assad leaving, not turning this from a war against the regime to a war against terrorism”. So, they don’t really care about the fight against Islamic State as well…

JL: You’re right. Most actors in Syria have other priorities besides destroying the Islamic State. Almost all rebel groups insist on destroying Assad before the Islamic State. They refuse to be drawn into what they call a “sahwa.” They do not want to become “agents of America” and so forth. The vast majority want nothing to do with the fight against ISIS before they have defeated Assad. Many members of the Coalition that are fighting ISIS also have other priorities. That is a big problem for both for the Russians and for the U.S. Indeed, the US has other priorities as well. We saw in Palmyra, Deir ez-Zor and elsewhere, the US would not attack ISIS if it believed Assad and his military would benefit. It preferred to have ISIS take Palmyra than to be seen to be helping Assad.

SS: So, why does the West keep supporting those rebels? For the West it’s not a fight about removing Assad rather than fighting Islamic State.

JL: This is true, but many top US generals, like the Syrian opposition, continue to insist that Assad is the magnet drawing ISIS into Syria and thus must be destroyed first. This argument makes little sense. After all, when did Al-Qaeda pour into Iraq? Only after Saddam was deposed and the Americans ruled the country. I don’t think any of the US generals who now claim that Assad must be destroyed in order to defeat ISIS would also argue that America had to be destroyed in Iraq in order to rid it of al-Qaida. If fact the US is building up the Iranian supported Shiite regime in Iraq to destroy ISIS, whereas it is seeking to destroy the Iranian backed “Shiite” regime in Damascus in the name of destroying ISIS. The American policy in Iraq is to kill al-Qaida not to accommodate it.

I think everyone can agree that Al-Qaeda spread in Iraq because the state was destroyed and insecurity prevailed. The same is true in Syria. When Assad pulled his army out of the East, al-Qaida and other forms of Islamic extremism spread. ISIS spreads where states fail.

The U.S. does not use the same logic in Syria that it uses in Iraq. This is simply part of the political landscape in America. You need to understand that the U.S. has two different metrics – one for Iraq and one for Syria.

SS: Does the U.S. have enough influence over the opposition they’re backing to make them agree to a political process in Syria?

JL: No. That’s the short answer.

SS: So people who represent the opposition in peace talks, are they controlling forces on the ground?

JL: No, they’re not. The strongest militias in Syria are the more extreme and more Salafist militias. The Islamists have a real ideology to sell; they are the militias who have national reach and representation in all provinces of Syria. The US backs the weakest militias in Syria. They are the non-ideological militias and are extremely local. For the most part, they are composed of clan and tribal leaders. They may hold sway over a village or two; they may command a thousand men, perhaps two thousand, but not more than that. The Islamic militants, such as Al-Qaeda, Ahrar ash-Sham, ISIS and the Islamic Army, have purchase over a broad segment of Syrian society that stretches from north to south. The US refuses to deal with Islamist militias. It insists on dealing only with the weaker ones, which operate with some independence, but in many cases have to defer to the tougher and stronger Islamist militias that hold sway in most parts of Syria.

The US policy of trying to bring forward moderate militias has failed three different times. It was never likely to succeed. I think Obama was correct not to go down the road of betting on the moderates. The US would have gotten stuck in a third Middle Eastern war. It would be committed to the impossible policy of making them win.  Those that argue that the US squandered its opportunity to train, arm and finance moderates to destroy both Assad and Jihadist militias delude themselves. The US is at a loss in Syria now that the policy of arming moderates has failed. Russians have an opportunity to shape the Syrian political landscape because of America’s confusion.

The US will not like what Russian is doing, but it will stand by without opposing Russia too much. We will see if the Syrian army has enough oomph, enough strength to do the things that it claims to be able to do, such as take Aleppo and Idlib. Right now, Russia is confident, the Syrian authorities are confident; they believe that they can win. But I think people in the U.S., the top brass, are thinking that Russia will fail. Obama explained that he believes Russia will be sucked into the Syrian swamp. Evidently Saudi and others are pumping in more TOWs and advanced weapons to ensure Russia does get sucked into a swamp. They will ensure that Assad doesn’t win; it should be easy. U.S. policy makers are betting that in a year’s time, or even less, Russia and Assad will come back to them on bended knee. We’ll see what happens. Of course, in that time, Syria is going to be further brutalized, and a lot more people will be killed.

SS: So, Professor, you were talking about America supporting moderate rebels just before the end of the first part of our program. A CIA veteran Graham Fuller told me that being a moderate and fighting a civil war contradicts itself. When you pick up a gun, that means you’re already not a moderate – what do you think?

JL: Well, there’s a lot of truth in that. None of the militias are taking prisoners. I don’t know what the US uses as its metric for determining moderation, but if human rights is one of the metrics, none of these militias are following anything remotely close to what the United States would consider moderate or acceptable. Separation of church and state? I’m not aware of any militias that call for secularism or separation of church and state as the US does. All want some form of Islamic state – how much is really the measure. I guess, the U.S. is trying to measure how long their beards are and whether they are really committed Salafists or not. America has sided with tribal and clan leaders, as I said before, that are not very ideological. The danger of this policy is that clan leaders are prone to become warlords who will side with anybody so long as they pay and provide arms.

They are more interested in carving out their own little territories to rule. They cannot presume to conquer Damascus or rule the country. They are teaming up with their cousins and other close relatives and friends in order to protect their families and villages. In the south, Jordan and Israel use friendly militias to build buffer zones. They ensure that radicals, such as al-Qaida and ISIS don’t become neighbors. They also provide their sponsors with leverage against Assad. They can hurt Assad when they need to. In the north, Turkey looks to its favored militias to give it leverage in Northern Syria and prevent Kurdish expansion. Turkey’s aim is to prevent the Kurds from joining Kobani to Afrin.

SS: But also, the rebels inside Syria, they haven’t united against Assad. Do they even want to unify?

JL: They claim to want to unify but have failed to do so because they all want to be the leader or “top dog” in their neighborhood. This is the problem with the larger Middle East – it’s very fragmented. Family, clan, and village still predominate over a sense of the nation. Compromise is a bad word that signifies weakness. It is an important reason for the failure of democracy and secular nationalism. Dictators dominate all the Middle Eastern states. Why? Because there are no ideological bonds that unite the people or democratic traditions. The socioeconomic and ideological prerequisites for democracy are weak.

SS: Does that mean that if Assad is gone, the power struggle between these factions will continue and there will be no unity – so we’re going to get another Libya on our hands?

JL: I believe so, yes. The West falsely believes that it can separate the regime from the state. It argues that it can pursue regime-change while simultaneously preserving the state and its institutions. Washington believes it can avoid the chaos it sewed in Iraq. I don’t believe it can. It wasn’t only Bremer that criminalized the Baath Party and disbanded the army. The Shiite politicians he empowered insisted on it. In most Middle Eastern countries, the regimes, for better or worse, have transformed the states into reflections of themselves. They have cannibalized the state. They have crammed their loyalists into every nook and cranny of the national institutions. They had to in order to coup-proof their regimes. They justified it in the name of bringing stability. State institutions are not autonomous.  Westerners believe that because their own state institutions are run by professional civil servants, Middle Eastern states are too. But they aren’t. Political appointees make up the entire edifice. They cannot simply be swapped out. Regime-change for an Arab country is not like administration change in a Western country. Destroying the regime means destroying the state. The price of regime-change is chaos. That is the situation in Syria today. It is the situation almost everywhere in the Middle East. Think of Saudi Arabia without the Saudi family. What would be left of the state?

Were the Russians to place a Sunni on top of the regime, as the US and opposition insist it do, the Sunni leader would have to smash the state and fire tens of thousands of state employees just as was done in Iraq. He would have to assume that they were disloyal and would seek to overthrow him. He would also in all likelihood insist on putting his cousins and those loyal to him in power. This is what happened in Libya, Yemen, and Iraq. This is the Middle Eastern dilemma. This is one reason U.S. led regime-change has failed so miserably. The United States claims the Middle East needs democracy. But democracy has failed, at least democracy promoted by regime-change. Perhaps, this is why so many people in the world today look at Russia and think: “maybe they’re right? Maybe, the Middle East does need strongmen.”

SS: What do you think Russia understands more about Syria that U.S. doesn’t? If you can say it in few words…

JL: Both countries, both Russia and the U.S. look at the Middle East and see themselves. The religion of the United States is democracy; It looks at the Middle East and thinks: “Oh, we can solve its problems by exporting democracy. Freedom will dry up the swamp of angry youth; it will dry up terrorism, which is the product of dictatorship. They believe that Jihadism and Salafism will vanish as merit-driven, young strivers embrace capitalism and self-improvement.

SS: And that never worked – what about Russia?

JL: Well, Russia looks at the Middle East and says: “We need a strong man; there needs to be stability or things will crumble”. Look at Russia at the time of Perestroyka, when insecurity reigned and the country was weak. I think, the President says: “We need somebody strong.” This reaction is wide spread. It is the reaction of all strong men. Turkish President Erdogan used the same logic and slogan to win recent Turkish elections: “You want stability – I am the only one who can save you from chaos!”. Unfortunately, in Syria, the Assads have been intoning this slogan of “Amn wa istiqrar“, “security and stability” for 45 years. Clearly, many Syrians were fed up with it and hoped to break out of this Hobbsian choice. But the situation in Syria has gotten so bad over the last four and a half years that many Syrians are embracing dictatorship again. They want authority over chaos and stability over insecurity, even at the cost of living under dictatorship and giving up political freedoms? We see this in the ISIS territory, where many people claim that they are happier under a cruel authority than no authority at all. They tasted militia chaos, which prevailed before ISIS swept through the region. They learned how dangerous it can be. They may not like ISIS, but they like the security, the institutions, and and semblance of order that ISIS has brought. Assad benefits from the same calculations on his side. He can point to the chaos and absence of state-supplied services that prevail in rebel territory. Of course, he is doing everything he can to ensure rebel chaos. But there is no getting around the fact that the rebels have failed. They could not unify. For the most part, they do not offer more freedoms than Assad does. The successful rebels replicate the authoritarian structures they complained of under Assad. The major difference is that rebels offer authoritarianism with a distinct Sunni-religious stamp, rather than a “secular” or “godless” Alawi stamp.

SS: Al-Qaeda has called on all jihadists to unite against the West and Russia. Are we entering a new phase of a War on Terror? One where Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and the Taliban all act as one against us and Americans?

JL: Would America openly sided with Russia? It’s hard to see that. Russia has been demonized in America for many years now, and the Cold War is not entirely dead. The Ukraine issue has returned the Cold War mentality to a certain extent. It’s hard to imagine the rebels uniting in Syria. I think it is more likely that they will continue to fragment.

SS: So, tell me something, you’ve just said that there’s probably no chance that America will openly sided with Russia on Syria, but why is it important for American politicians to look tough on Syria? What’s really so beneficial for America? For America to be involved in Syria, why does the U.S. even care?

JL: That’s an excellent question! It’s like asking why the U.S. drove Russia out of Afghanistan. One of the stupidest things America ever did was try to arm up the mujahidiin to drive secular Russia out of Afghanistan. Look what we got: we got Al-Qaeda, we got 9/11, and we got a war in Iraq from which we cannot escape. A lot of our troubles came from trying to drive Russia out of Afghanistan. And you could ask the same question about Syria. We were wrong to do it then, are we wrong to do it now? Syria is not that important to the U.S. so one might ask, “why not let Russia have it.” Of course there are people who think that in the U.S. administration. But it is very difficult for the U.S., which has been used to being the superpower, the Decider, and the policeman of the world, to come to the understanding that it can’t control places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. It is hard to relinquish the role of policeman to someone else, and particularly, to Russia.

SS: What does the U.S. see as a good outcome of the civil war? Who does it want to win? Or maybe it just wants to contain this whole thing for a couple of years to come?

JL: I think the U.S. is after containment. What does America want? America doesn’t know what it wants. It wants “moderates” to win, Syrians who have a secular and democratic vision for Syria. But moderates are not going to win in Syria; most liberals have been scraped off the top of Syrian society and now sit powerless in foreign countries; the moderate militias are too weak. Of course, moderates complain that they are losing because America doesn’t give them money and arms and didn’t stand by its red lines, but chances are, they’re too weak. Moderates have been beaten everywhere you look in the Middle East. God bless Tunisia. Tunisia is the exception that proves the rule. They have been too weak across the Middle East. They could not agree on a common vision of Syria and could not unite. The US gave them opportunities and sought to unite the international community with the Friends of Syria effort. A dizzying array of Syrians, of would be leaders, insisted that they could unite Syrians if only the CIA would give them the money and arms. Anyway, there have been a lot of recriminations. We may never know the truth of America’s squandered moderate opportunity.

Whom does America like today? It does not like any of the three major actors in Syria that could possibly win. They are Assad, Jaysh al-Fateh, and ISIS. The US has placed brutal sanctions on Assad and the 65% of Syrians that he controls; it arms rebels to attack him. It is bombing ISIS, which owns almost 50% of Syrian real estate; and it doesn’t like Jaish al-Fatah, which owns the province of Idlib because it has Al-Qaeda at its core and is dominated by Salafists. Consequently, America doesn’t have an answer. The result is that it will try to keep everybody weak. It doesn’t want Assad to win, but also doesn’t want ISIS or Jaish al-Fateh to win. The U.S. will let the Syrian swamp boil. As one U.S. military analyst joked to me recently: “We should build a stadium around Syria and sell tickets.” It was an attempt at gallows humor that horrified many State Department officials who were also in the room, but it expressed the dark mood and sense of futility many in the Obama administration share.

SS: So, I spoke recently to the former French PM Dominique de Villepin, and he told me that the federalization of Syria once ISIS is defeated may be the answer to its political problems. Do you think it will give Syria a chance?

JL: Each side in Syrian still believes that it can win. As long as they think they can win, they will not come to the peace table and talk about federalism, about ceasefires, and about sharing power. Federalism in this context is really about dividing Syria. Seventy percent of Syrians in a recent poll said that they were against dividing Syria. It will take more time before Syrians are ready to sit down and talk about federalism and dividing authority in Syria. They are still in love with their country as it used to be and cannot accept that it is gone.

SS: Professor, thank you very much for this interview. We’ve been talking to Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, influential commentator on Syria, making sense of the maze of country’s civil war and its effect on the region and beyond. That’s it edition of Sophie&Co, I’ll see you next time.

The Interview on video:

Comments (126)

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101. Steven Hunt said:

Yeah, NATO is the US colonial army.

Get rid of NATO, make friendship with Russia–and then everyone can deal with all terror groups and make progress.

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November 19th, 2015, 11:30 am


102. Sami said:

While Daesh is committing its heinous crimes, Assad continues to violate every international law that protects civilians.

Your attempt at painting Assad as respecting international law is laughable and juvenile.

Had Assad listened to the wishes of the Syrian people rather than attempt to stifle them with systematic violance, Syria would not have become an incubator for Daesh.

Blind faith in politicians only results in death.

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November 19th, 2015, 12:06 pm


103. Mina said:

Must read

Everything you ever wanted to know about Erdogan’s support for Da’esh

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November 19th, 2015, 2:26 pm


104. Observer said:

Ghufran is a racist and sectarian pro regime troll and he just uses enough critique of the regime so that he can skewer the majority of Syrians who want freedom and dignity
The same could be said about Algerians fighting for independence from France
One could say that if they stayed colonized they would be better off being part of France
There is no doubt that the regime and Russia are working to leave Assad and IS and eliminate the people of Syria altogether

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November 19th, 2015, 4:55 pm


105. jo6pac said:

93. SimoHurtta said:

Thank You

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November 19th, 2015, 5:51 pm


106. Ghufran said:

If Arab and Muslim Americans have any pride and loyalty left they will not give money or votes to any republican candidate:
(The Guardian)
Republicans voted on Thursday to make it more difficult for refugees from Syria and Iraq to come to the US as the fallout from last Friday’s Isis terrorist attacks in Paris continues.
In addition, more than half of the US’s governors have said they will no longer provide placement for Syrian refugees, arguing that they pose too great a risk to national security.
New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has said his state will not take in any refugees – “not even orphans under the age of five”.
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has said he has directed state police to “track” the Syrian refugees in his state, something his state police have played down.
GOP presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have suggested the US government prioritize Christian refugees.
Barack Obama has pledged to veto the legislation, and has condemned the anti-refugee comments as “un-American”, but experts worry the backlash could have dangerous consequences if these claims go unchecked.
“Sowing fear of refugees is exactly the kind of response groups like Isis are seeking,” said Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch, on Thursday. “Yes, governments need to bring order to refugee processing and weed out militant extremists, but now more than ever they also need to stand with people uprooted from their homes by ideologies of hatred and help them find real protection.”

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November 20th, 2015, 12:48 am


107. Hopeful said:

#94 Passerby

“Assad’s plan worked”

I agree with this assessment. It is unfortunate but it is the reality. ISIS is now Assad’s more powerful tool to stay where he is, and it must be taken away from him.

During the late 2000’s, Assad used the jihadis to keep the Americans busy in Iraq so they won’t turn their attention to Syria. It got so bad that even his biggest Iraqi ally (Maliki) complained about Assad publicly. But that problem was not solved until the Americans and the Iraqi Sunnis started cooperating to defeat the jihadis. Now the jihadis are back, being used by the same master, but for a different reason.

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November 20th, 2015, 1:07 am


108. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Assad will prevail. He knew from the beginning that all of Israel, US and of course Rusia and Iran would support his regime to the end.

This is why Assad had no limits in commiting all kind of massacres, crimes, erode entire cities, etc.

In fact, the talk about a brilliant future for Assad´s Syria with two pillars in Russia and Iran has been heard in Damascus even since before the revolution and speacially during the beginning of the troubles.

ISIS was the creation of all Assad, Iran, CIA and Putin. They have destroyed the revolution (Rebels to the west and kurds to the east) and created the world union to justify Assad in power.

Even France was redirected by creating the ISIS (CIA, Putin, Assad) hit in Paris.

The stangind question is how to make disappear the syrian population or how to ethnic cleanse them properly.

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November 20th, 2015, 2:53 am


109. SimoHurtta said:

How many times this claim that ISIS is a creation of Assad, Putin and Iran is going to be repeated? It has been already mentioned here in SC’s comments at least 498 times. If Assad, Putin and Iran are really so clever, that they manage to deceive Gulf Arabs to finance their “creation” and upkeeping, Americans to train and arm them, international radical Sunni clergy to take care of world wide recruitment, Turks to provide logistics etc, then what hope have the “stupid” Sunnis and “idiot” Americans? Come-on even Sunni leaders and American regime are not so stupid, that Assad and Putin could play with them in this style and scale.

Why repeat this ultra stupid claim of Assad’s, Putin’s and Iran’s responsibility if nobody except same level of low quality US/Israeli propagandists and more or less radical Sunni extremists playing to be “democrats” here pretend to believe in that claim. Average readers of this blog are far to educated and well informed not be believe in this Assad is behind ISIS bullshit.

This American “Syrian moderate opposition and rebels – we know who they are” claims begin to really comical, when most of US is so afraid of Syrians, that they do not even dare to take “moderate” Syrian women and children as refugees.

Happy day for Akbar, when his brother in religion and colleague in deeds and spirit – J. Pollard – is freed. Congratulations Akbar.

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November 20th, 2015, 6:49 am


110. Syrialover said:

Good read:

Iran’s Intervention In Syria Is Bold, Unprecedented — And Possibly A Disaster

Iran and its allies are confident the U.S. won’t do much to counter their gamble in Syria — for now. But the adventure may have other big costs.


Comment: Includes insight into the pointless disastrous situation Hezbollah is trapped in defending Bashar Assad.

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November 20th, 2015, 8:19 am


111. Hopeful said:

#106 Simo

You may want to check this page and follow the reference links to learn more about how the Assad regime cooperated with the jihadis: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghuraba_al-Sham

Isis Is not the creation of Assad, but two things are for certain:

1. Assad went after the moderate rebels and gave space to the jihadis. In fact, when Raqqa was “handed over” to the jihadis by the mayor and head of security in 2013, even some of Assad loyalists were stunned by the event and demanded to understand how and why it happened.

2. Without the emergence of ISIS, Assad would have had no chance to survive.

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November 20th, 2015, 8:37 am


112. Syrialover said:

HOPEFUL, #108 thanks for the link on this topic and reminder about the events in Raqqa two years ago. So much has been churned up and forgotten in the dust of what has happened in Syria.

The other giant-sized clue about Assad’s cooperation with ISIS is the fact the regime has consistently not fought it, instead putting all its efforts into barrel bombing Syrian civilians while ISIS thrives with impunity nearby.

There are excellent studies analysing and quantifying Assad’s lack of serious military engagement with ISIS. He abandons lowly poorly equipped conscripts to them as fodder for public atrocities (as in Palmyra), but actually fight them? Nah, they serve his agenda too well.

And ISIS sends little love tokens his way, like blowing up the Tadmor prison, an inconvenient giant symbol and mine of historical evidence of Assad family depravity and cruelty.

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November 20th, 2015, 9:19 am


113. Akbar Palace said:

Disproportionate NewZ

Russia kills 1300, and about 400 civilians and 90-some children.

Outrage?  Nope, it’s Russia not the Zio Entity this time.


Happy day for Akbar, when his brother in religion and colleague in deeds and spirit – J. Pollard – is freed. Congratulations Akbar.


Pollard is not my colleague.  It is not clear what damage he caused to America’s national security, but considering all the other spies the US has caught and tried, I think he paid his price.

You’re free to comment on all the other spies the US has caught if your interested;)


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November 20th, 2015, 9:53 am


114. Hopeful said:

#109 SL

A friend of mine asked: “how is it that ISIS, within 3 weeks, can bring down a Russian plane, attack Beirut with suicide bombers, and stage a spectacular terrorist act in Paris, but within 3 years, has not staged any terrorist act in the Syrian regime strongholds of Damasucs or Latakia?”

Not that I want to see ISIS’s terror in Damascus or Latakia, but I found his question very telling.

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November 20th, 2015, 10:32 am


115. Tara said:

Hopefull@ 111

Cc: Altair

Thank you very much for posing the question. I’d like to ask Altair the same question. Altair: do you have an answer? Is the Syrian rag tag mukhabarat much more powerful than KGB, the FBI , and the European intelligence combined so a terror attack in Damascus, Latakia, or even a remote city in Iran.
The world we live in is utterly blind and retarded for not posing this question publicly

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November 20th, 2015, 11:56 am


116. Ghufran said:

The animosity between the ruling regimes in Syria and KSA is deep
and personal to the point where a
near and workable deal that involves
the two is unlikely especially after KSA
has asked the US and NATO for a blank check for the opposition file to decide who and how and when.

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November 20th, 2015, 3:34 pm


117. ALAN said:

From the other side, the retribution for ongoing support of international terrorism is inevitable. It’s been clear all along that there’s a Qatari trace in the terrorist attack against the Russian aircraft over Sinai, that claimed the lives of 224. Even if Qatari security services were not planning this attack, in any case, it was carried out by the groups that have been sponsored by Qatar. This may lead to sanctions against the Wahhabi state, since the financial support of terrorism is a direct violation of a number of UN conventions. And then, the terrorist attack over Sinai was followed by the attack on France, which resulted in 132 people being killed. There’s a growing number of calls being voiced across the world to establish an international tribunal to prosecute ISIL and its sponsors, and Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been pretty active in the support they provided to those.

In addition to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which, in principle, are not hard to punish, there’s countries like the US, UK, Turkey, Jordan and others that supported terrorists too. Some US senators, including John. McCain met with the leaders of radical groups personally. The CIA and the Pentagon have been supplying them with weapons and trained their militants to create an “opposition” to the elected Syrian government. Turkey and Jordan provided their territory to deploy training camps, while allowing weapons and terrorists to flow into Syria across their territories. But there’s no prosecution of the United States officials due to the fact we are talking about one of the two major nuclear powers in the world. England will be protected from prosecution by Washington, since it’s a permanent member of the UN Security, while Turkey and Saudi Arabia play a “special” role in Washington’s policies. But nothing prevents American officials from throwing a dwarf emirate under the bus. The ruling dynasty will simply be replaced by a republican system of government in the process of “democratization” of the Middle East.

If Western countries are to prevent Qatar from being prosecuted, should its involvement in the downing of Russia’s Airbus be established, Moscow can proceed with the punishement on its own, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, that grants the right to self-defense in case of “an act of war” being committed. And Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has already classified the downing of A321 as act of war, so those responsible will not evade the prosecution.

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November 20th, 2015, 3:42 pm


118. ALAN said:

على المكشوف
PBS NewsHour Uses Russian Airstrike Footage While Claiming U.S. Airstrike Successes

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November 20th, 2015, 4:03 pm


119. Majedkhaldoun said:

Putin admitted that his action in Syria failed to reach its goal so far.
Putin in Tehran Monday, they will talk about Syria
UN just issued a resolution to do everything to defeat ISIS

Again you are wrong, when you remember all the facts and read what I wrote about ISIS, your argument is reduced to prejudice idea , and baseless one, ISIS is helping Assad, penetrated by Assad regime, trading with Assad, both are fighting the free Syrian Army ,which is the opposition to Assad
Fighting ISIS and defeating it in Syria is depriving Asad from his best card, that says ISIS is competing with Assad as who is more criminal
Assad released ISIS leaders from prison, Maliki did the same claiming that five hundred prisoner ran away from prison and later formed ISIS, Raqqa was handed to ISIS not lost by fight, the same in Palmyra
Simo you will never win this argument

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November 20th, 2015, 9:32 pm


120. Passerby said:

“how is it that ISIS, within 3 weeks, can bring down a Russian plane, attack Beirut with suicide bombers, and stage a spectacular terrorist act in Paris, but within 3 years, has not staged any terrorist act in the Syrian regime strongholds of Damasucs or Latakia?”

Good question.

I’d give the pat answer, not created by Assad, but he sure helped it grow, because he knew as long as it exists, he will stay in power. Saddam created Zarqawi/Al-Qaeda in Iraq/ISIS/IS for the same exact reason. He planted them in the no-fly zone to torment the Kurds, “See what happens if you don’t let me run my country, terrorists show up in the vacuum.” It’s the Saddam regime at the top, they’d cut a deal with the devil.


And I have a question that’s been bothering me, maybe someone can help. I’ll bravely sort through the inevitable conspiracy theories, who knows, some may contain a grain of truth.

Those 500 oil tanker trucks Russia blew up in a couple days a few days ago. (And the 100 the US blew up.) Had pictures of them all lined up. Seems there is a constant massive movement of those trucks between Turkey and IS. And it all goes through one point, actually controlled by the “FSA” who don’t mess with it because of mortal fear of IS, and the fact that IS can turn out the lights in Aleppo and a big chunk of the country.

Now, there’s always been reputable people saying all of it, but I always had the notion that it was being done secretly somehow. It’s right there in the open, huge commerce between Turkey and IS, and everyone knows it. The excuse given for the US not bombing them was the it would kill the innocent drivers. That the rules for the US bombing campaign is that if any innocent whatsoever could be hurt, they can’t drop the bomb. The excuse given for finally blowing some up, after Russia started, is that they dropped some leaflets to warn the drivers. Uh, ok, so how come they didn’t drop the damn leaflets a year ago? Why permit IS to make millions a day when you could instantly stop it. ANYONE could stop it.

You know, that’s what Donald Trump said all along, stop the flow of the money, bomb the oil. And the banking. He’s right.

Ok, conspiracy theorists, tell me why the US, France, Turkey, Assad, and the Gulf States, Jordan, etc. all the players, never cut off Assad’s money/oil? Even Jordan, mad after that very very brave man being burned to death in a cage? Jordan has the jets to shut that down in an afternoon.

What’s going on there?

And while on the subject, Turkey threated the Syrian Kurds with bombing if they went too far West, across the river. Just on a hunch, is that crossing they didn’t want the Kurds near, the one the massive backed up long lines of tanker trucks cross every day?

Thanks in advance.

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November 20th, 2015, 10:31 pm


121. Passerby said:

I was watching a long documentary on WWI. Concentrated horror far worse greater than Syria. Tens of thousands dying in an afternoon for nothing.

You’d think the sheer magnitude of the slaughter would have caused war-weariness on both sides, where they would cut a deal. But it was the opposite. Both sides had lost millions, and they just couldn’t tolerate the idea that it was for nothing.

A month or so ago I tried to get everyone to practice cutting a deal, do some negotiating. It was the same exact thing. More like hostility from both sides for the notion of a peace deal short of total victory because so many had died and suffered.

In WWI, the suffering had just started. It got a lot worse.


Hard to see how to cut a deal, there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the other side other than Al-Qaeda/ISIS and their allies. Cut a deal with anyone they’d just ignore it.

I thought the idea of giving the Alawites and their allies a very generous deal, if they did depose the Assads was a great idea, and it would be, but who makes the offer, it’s the same problem.

There are two big problems to cutting a deal, the Assad leaving or not thing, and that there are no rebels to cut a deal with, Assad/IS/Al-Qaeda and their allies decimated them. Am I wrong? Name the rebels if I am.


The clock is running out. IS realizes it’s doomed with Russia coming in, (sure hope they aren’t reading my stuff and I’m helping them sort it out.) That’s what all this international terrorism all of a sudden. Anything’s better than certain doom, change a losing game. And now that they’ve taken that path, there’s no turning back. It’s going to get worse. Just like WWI.

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November 20th, 2015, 10:54 pm


122. Passerby said:

Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin on Friday that Russian warplanes destroyed 15 oil refining and storage facilities in Syria and 525 trucks carrying oil during this week’s bombing blitz. He said this deprived IS of $1.5 million in daily income from oil sales.

…Russian state TV on Friday showed Russian air force ground crew writing “For Ours!” and “For Paris!” on bombs being attached to Russian warplanes.

According to Shoigu, Russian warplanes have flown 522 sorties and destroyed over 800 targets over the last four days. Russian long-range bombers and navy ships have launched 101 cruise missiles in four days, including 18 fired Friday by Russian navy ships from the Caspian Sea.

Shoigu said the strikes this week inflicted significant casualties on IS, including more than 600 militants killed in just one strike in the province of Deir el-Zour.


Nice shooting!

So, how some no one, from Jordan to Assad ended those millions of dollars a day ISIS was making? Why don’t they shut down their banking? I guess they finally will, now that IS realizes it’s a cornered rat and is acting up.

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November 20th, 2015, 11:26 pm


123. Altair said:

Tara, Hopeful:

The answer cannot be so simple. First of all, it’s not clear that there have not been any recent ISIS attacks in government-held territory. But assuming there have been none, does that necessarily mean collusion between the two?

ISIS hasn’t hit Tel Aviv or Amman either. Does that mean collusion with Israel or Jordan as well?

ISIS has hit Ankara, yet there are constant reports of Turkish government support for ISIS. Can that be true?

As I said before, there is a confused web of alliances in the region, alliances that change often. But there is also manipulation, and I held out the possibility, indeed probability that ISIS was manipulated by the regime.

ISIS makes the regime look good, or at least better, to many Syrians. It scares potential opponents or critics back into the arms of the regime. It has also served as a rearguard action against rebels fighting the regime, thus weakening them. ISIS has done much to discredit regime opponents, and its sectarian, bigoted attitude has guaranteed that some Syrians will fight to the death in support of Asad.

But then again, many ISIS leaders, including its phony “caliph”, were released from Abu Ghraib under U.S. management. Is there a story there? Or was it just incompetence?

I reemphasize: no simple answers. And we’re not necessarily dealing with rational actors either.

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November 20th, 2015, 11:31 pm


124. SimoHurtta said:

116. Majedkhaldoun said:

Well Majedkhaldoun then you as a well known Sunni extremist must ”explain” me how Assad (and allies) is leading a very large and active Sunni extremist movement operating in several countries, which gets its money and salaries from Gulf Sunnis, ammunition and arms from Americans, training from Americans, Jordanians and Turks, world wide recruitment organized and performed by Sunni clergy, free access to oil markets in Sunni Turkey and logistics from the same place. ISIS emerged and collected its strength in Iraq, not by that Assad’s and Iraqi regime released some hundred criminals and political prisoners from prison. The roots are in the US Iraq invasion and Sunnis loosing their positions in Iraq.

Loosing Raqqa without fight. Well one doesn’t have the military talents of Napoleon in order to understand after watching the map, that SAA had no hope in holding and supplying Raqqa. SAA has had difficulties to keep areas even in the populated western Syria. How could it hold Raqqa against an determined and skillful international Sunni terrorist army which just had invaded one third of Iraq and beaten the American trained Iraqi army by 10 to 0.

What is this repeating that SAA is not fighting against ISIS? Well how then SAA managed to break the siege by ISIS on Kweiris Airbase east of Aleppo.

Your only argument is in the end that ISIS must be a creation of Assad because ISIS has a very bad public “image” because of its own actions and its public history and links to Sunnis, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and USA. Well then some could say that the now extreme Sunni sects were created by Shia in order to make them look “good” and when Sunnis make themselves look “bad”.

Winning an argument? Well if repeating with your US and Israeli “collages” here that Assad is the secret ISIS Sunni leader and a dog waste (like your team likes to express it) etc more or less absurd propaganda without providing any real evidence and logical arguments thousand times is “winning”, then you must be winning. By the way M. I have seen here astonishing little critics and worry when Netanyahu just demanded USA to acknowledge Golan officially as a part of Israel, because Syria no more exists. Strange “free Syrian patriots and democrats” indeed.

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November 21st, 2015, 6:44 am


125. Majedkhaldoun said:

Please respect yourself and stop saying I am extremist, and stop this silly and stupid accusations that I am working with Israel collage as you said these are pure baseless accusations by prejudiced stubborn commentor
Simo I have argued with Akbar Palace on numerous occasions much more than you have done,
I presented facts prove that Assad regime penetrated ISIS , ,and they have deals selling Assad oil and getting money and protection, and facts that Assad released ISIS leaders from jail, that ISIS is fighting Syrian Rebels who are fighting Assad, I am saying that Assad and ISIS are allies, they have double leadership, Baathist cooperating with Assad and has a face of Islamist, a partnership, of Evil
You are pro Assad, the mastermind of criminality,

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November 21st, 2015, 8:35 am


126. Hopeful said:

#117 Passerby

I remember hearing during the civil war days in Beirut (yes I am old too), that the fighters across East and West Beirut would cease fire for a few hours a day, to let convoys of goods pass across in both directions. Commercial interests sometimes trump any other interests.

I personally know a person in Syria, who works for an “oil services” private company affiliated with the regime. This person’s job is to negotiate with ISIS to buy oil for Damascus.

Additionally, despite what everyone says, I believe the Allies have been careful to avoid both civilian casualties and civilian hardship (as much as possible). Bombing the oil refinery and oil tankers will surely punish ISIS, but will also create more economic hardship for the residents of ISIS territories. Creating hell in non-regime controlled areas is Assad’s game, but it is not the Allies game.

Your answer lies in a combination of the factors above.

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November 21st, 2015, 11:10 am


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